Authors: Kat Martin
Lindsey made the four-block walk to the stable at a brisk pace, enjoying the slight breeze and the crisp chill in the air. The sun shone overhead, promising relief from the overcast that had darkened the city for nearly a week.
“'E's ready for ye, miss.” The groom, Artemus Moody, a round-faced, stocky man who had been in her father's employ since she was a girl, stood next to a tall, leggy sorrel.
Dancer, a five-year-old gelding and her favorite in the stable, nickered at her familiar scent. The horse pranced at the end of his reins, eager for his morning workout, almost as eager as Lindsey.
“Easy, boy.” She patted the animal's sleek neck, and with a knee up from Mr. Moody, swung a leg over the back of the flat leather saddle.
“E's full o' 'imself this morning, miss. A bit of a run is what 'e needs.”
“A bit of a run is what we both need.”
Artemus smiled as she nudged the tall sorrel forward out of the barn, into the sunlight. The groom knew her well enough not to underestimate her skills and simply stood back as Dancer jumped sideways, then snorted at the rustle of leaves in the bushes along the path.
“Settle down, mister,” Lindsey commanded, and as if the horse understood, he obeyed, settling into a steady walk, moving eagerly off toward the open air track around the park.
This early, the place was empty and as soon as she reached the wide dirt path, she increased the pace, urging Dancer into an easy gallop. Several rounds later, they were running full out, Lindsey grinning at the rush of air against her cheeks and the thrill of controlling such a well-bred animal.
As much as she enjoyed life in the city, Renhurst Hall was the one place she would rather be. On her father's twelve thousand acres, she was safe from prying eyes, safe to do as she pleased. She could ride whenever she wished, stay out all day if she wanted.
In truth, she had been restless lately for Renhurst. If it weren't for Rudy, she would have left last week, carved out some time from her busy schedule to relax and enjoy the country. But until the Covent Garden Murderer was found or Rudy proved innocent, she was forced to remain in the city.
Dancer was sweating, lathering up a bit when she pulled him into a slower gait. She banished thoughts of Rudy and managed to relax in the saddle. It would be foolish to ruin such a beautiful morning with thoughts of murder and intrigue.
Letting her gaze travel over the lovely flowers blooming along the path, Lindsey rode at an easy pace. Before she returned the horse to the stable, she would take him round once more at the brisk pace he seemed to crave, then it would be time for her to resume her city persona and get herself off to work.
Thor leaned back against the wrought-iron bench beneath a sycamore tree, his gaze fixed on the young rider he had been watching. He had seen the lad several times before when he had come to the park this early. The boy was a masterful rider, one he couldn't help but admire.
And the horse was amazing, long and lean, with powerful flanks and legs that ate up the ground at a pace unlike any Thor had seen. In Draugr, he had ridden often. Having won more races than any other man, he was considered the best rider on the island. He even beat his brothers, all of whom were excellent horsemen.
But the animals there were nothing like this one. They were strong but smaller and shaggy-haired, without the beauty of the gelding he had seen racing full speed round the track. His palms itched to trade places with the lad, to hear the thunder of hoofbeats, feel the rush of the wind, the strength of the horse beneath him.
Since his arrival in London, Thor had walked or traveled by carriage. Now as he watched the young man turn the magnificent animal back the way he had come and ride out of the park, Thor vowed that one day he would own a horse like that one.
n a day dress of russet silk, the full skirt flaring out over a printed cream-and-russet underskirt, Lindsey opened her matching silk parasol and made her way along the street to the front of the small cafÃ©. The Pear Tree was a very respectable coffeehouse that also served an assortment of teas, tiny finger sandwiches, and sweets. It was decorated in yellow and leaf-green, the walls stenciled with pear trees whose branches covered the ceiling overhead.
Lindsey had carefully timed her arrival to be ten minutes late so that Michael Harvey would be waiting. Unfortunately, when she walked inside, the policeman wasn't there.
A young blond hostess seated her at a small, linen-draped table and she ordered a cup of jasmine tea. As the minutes ticked past, she began to wonder if Lieutenant Harvey had forgotten their meeting or if some unexpected problem had come up.
She was halfway finished with her tea when she spotted him walking through the door. The bright smile she gave him slipped at the angry expression on his face.
He stopped right in front of her. “I should apologize for keeping you waiting, but I don't intend to. I just discovered exactly who you are, and I can tell you, Miss Graham, I am not the least bit pleased.”
No wonder he was angry. “Do sit down, Lieutenant. People are beginning to stare.”
For several moments, he just stood there, the color high in his cheeks. He sat down abruptly, a dark look on his face. “Rudolph Graham is your brother.”
“Yes, he is.”
“You are here on his behalf, are you not? Last night was a complete and utter sham. You were hoping to glean informationâwhich is the reason you are here today. You are hoping I will disclose something that might be useful to your brotherâthe prime suspect in the Covent Garden murders!”
Though inwardly she flinched, Lindsey faced him squarely across the table. “My brother is innocent! I am trying to find a way to clear his name. If your brother were under suspicion of committing two heinous murders, you would do the same!”
The lieutenant studied her intensely, trying to read her thoughts. “I cannot help but admire your loyalty. Not many women would take it upon themselves to try to solve a murder in order to protect someone they love.”
She relaxed a bit, managed a tentative smile. “I am sorry for the deception. I did, however, enjoy our waltz. You are quite a good dancer, Lieutenant.”
The tension around his mouth began to ease. He was still upset, but perhaps in some way he understood.
“Since all of this is now out in the open,” she continued, deciding to press her luck, “is there anything you can tell meâwithout giving up police secretsâthat might be of help? Sometimes it is difficult to know if what is reported in the papers is correct.”
He released a sigh, raised a hand to summon a waiter. “I supposeâ¦since I am already hereâ¦I might as well stay long enough to enjoy a cup of tea.”
She smiled, grateful he seemed to have forgiven her. “Yes, please do.”
A server arrived with a nice aromatic Ceylon, a choice Lindsey approved. She joined him in a second cup and sipped casually, hoping he would answer the question she had posed earlier.
“As I told you last night, I am not at liberty to divulge information. I
tell you that if you are providing your brother with an alibi for the night of the latest murder, you are putting yourself in jeopardy, and sooner or later the truth will come out, no matter what you do.”
“As I said, Rudy isn't guilty. Since he was drunk that night and doesn't recall where he was, I need time to discover his whereabouts for him. I won't stand in the way of justice, but I need a chance to help him if I can.”
“Are you saying he
at home that night?”
She hated to lie. She clamped down on an urge to tell him the truth. “I am not changing my story. Perhaps in the future, I shall recall the evening a bit differently.”
“They can put you in prison, Miss Graham.”
“I shan't wait long, I promise.”
He sipped his tea. “You are either quite brave or terribly foolhardy.”
She looked up at him. “Perhaps a little of both.”
“I will tell you what is public information, some of which may not have been printed in the paper.”
She grabbed her reticule and drew out pencil and paper. “Go on.”
“Both victims were found within four blocks of each other. The first one, Molly Springfield, was a mother with a six-month-old child. As she had no husband, she sold herself on the street to feed her baby.”
“The second woman was an actress of sorts. She played bit parts, but her dream was to become famous. She liked pretty things and spent time with men who bought her baublesâ¦jewelry and clothes and such.”
“Can you tell me exactly where the women were killed?”
“I suppose that wouldn't hurt.” He took a sip of his tea. “Molly Springfield lived in a third floor garret above a tavern called the Boar and Fox. She was killed in the alley behind the building. The second victim, Phoebe Carter, lived with two other prostitutes in a flat just off Maiden Lane. She died on the street not more than a block away. It was late, there were no witnessesâ¦at least none we've found so far.”
“What about the murder itself? Was there anything distinct about the killings?”
The lieutenant leaned back in his chair. “I'm afraid that is confidential.”
“Can you at least tell me if the women wereâ¦were violated?”
“No, they were not.”
“I'm sorry, I've given you as much as I can.”
“And I appreciate itâtruly I do.”
His mouth edged up. “I have tried to stay angry at you, but I seem to have failed. My great uncle, the duke, is putting together a party to attend the theater. I would ask you to join us but I am afraid that being seen in company with the sister of a murder suspect might put a blight on my career. Perhaps when this is overâ¦”
She was surprised to hear herself reply, “I believe I should have liked to go. As you say, perhaps when this is overâ¦” She glanced up. “Friday next, your uncle, the duke's good friend, Lord Kittridge, is having a ball in honor of his daughter's eighteenth birthday. I was planning to attend. Perhaps I will see you there.”
His smile broadened. “Yes, I am certain you will.” He rose from his chair and helped her up from hers.
“Thank you for coming, Lieutenant.”
“Be careful, Miss Graham. This is murder you are dealing with.”
“I'll be very careful.”
The lieutenant paid the bill, then walked her back to the front door of the office. As she started up the steps, she noticed a big dark shadow standing at the window. Thor was scowling, she saw, looking at her the way he had last night when she had been dancing with the lieutenant.
For whatever reason, the sight gave her a lift. Lindsey smiled as she opened the door.
“You are behaving like a light-skirt.”
“Do you truly wish for the company of that man or are you just practicing your womanly skills?”
She shrugged. She liked the lieutenant. But standing beside him didn't make her heart beat the way it was now. The thought sent a jolt of alarm racing through her. It was simply Thor's astonishing good looks, she told herself. Any female under the age of eighty would feel a bit light-headed when Thor looked at her with those incredible blue eyes.
“I like him well enough. Besides, it's a woman's prerogative to flirt with a man if she wants to.”
“What is this word
“It means I have the right to engage in a harmless flirtation if that is my wish. Besides, you like those sorts of women. You like a woman who acts helpless and simpering. You should be pleased.”
“I am not pleased.”
She gazed up at him and batted her eyes. “Oh, Thor, would you help me over to my chair. I am feeling a little weak. I am afraid I might swoon.”
“I've seen the way women act when they are around you. Perhaps from now on I should behave the way they do.”
“He will believe you want him in your bed.”
Color rushed into her cheeks. “Well, I don't, so do not concern yourself.” Marching over to her desk, she plunked down in her seat and busied herself straightening the papers on top.
Thor walked up beside her. “Did he tell you what you wished to know?”
“Not exactly. He discovered I was Rudy's sister and he was angryâ¦at least at first. I'm hoping that in time, I'll win a bit of his trust and he will be willing to help me.”
Thor's dark eyebrows slammed together. “You are seeing him again?”
“I'm sure our paths will cross somewhere.”
He looked at her hard. “Just how far are you willing to go, Lindsey, to get this information?”
Her eyes widened at the implication. Angry heat rushed into her cheeks. “You areâ¦you are no gentleman, Thor Draugr, to suggest such a thing.”
“No, but mayhap my words will remind you to behave like a lady.”
Lindsey bit back a sharp retort as Thor walked away. He was clearly unhappy with her interest in Michael Harvey. For the second time that day, Lindsey found herself smiling.
Feeling a renewed burst of energy, she sat down at her desk and plucked her pen from the inkwell, eager to work on her column for next week.
Lindsey spent the next two days interviewing Rudy's friends. Tom Boggs was a spoiled rich boy, fourth son of an earl, the ringleader of a group of wealthy young dandies who gambled and associated with disreputable women and generally went about looking for trouble. Mothers cautioned their daughters about Boggs and his friends, who were not considered suitable company for a proper young lady.
At least Tom had the decency to stop by the house, as Lindsey's message had requested of all four men in her brother's closest circle of friends.
After briefly greeting her aunt, Tom followed her into the drawing room and each of them took a seat. Lindsey didn't bother to offer him refreshment.
“Rudy says he was attending a party at your town house the night of the murder. He remembers leaving with the victim, an actress named Phoebe Carter. Apparently he was so stinking drunk he doesn't remember dropping her off at her home.”
Tom shifted on the sofa. “He left with her. I remember he had his carriage brought round.” Boggs was a good-looking man a few years older than Rudy, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He played on his attractiveness and from what she had heard, had seduced any number of lonely widows and wives.
“Phoebe was a pretty little thing and accommodatingâ¦if you know what I mean.”
She knew. Thanks to her brother, she was beginning to know a lot more about ladies of the evening than she did a few weeks ago.
“So Rudy took her home in his carriage.”
“That was where he was headed. I guess since she was murdered, she never got there.”
Lindsey refrained from rolling her eyes. “I guess she didn't. Since we both know my brother isn't a murderer, he must have left her off somewhere else. Do you have any idea where that might have been?”
Tom cleared his throat. “There was another party that nightâ¦not the kind you and your lady friends would attend, you understand. This was the sort of place where a man could getâ¦well, whatever he wanted. Phoebe's flatmates were going. Figured they could pick up a little extra blunt. I thought Phoebe would take Rudy up to her place, but maybe he took her to the party instead.”
“Where was this other party being held?”
He got up from the settee, paced over to the window. “I'm not sure I should say. Don't want to make enemies, you know?”
Lindsey came up from her seat. “You listen to me, Tom Boggs. My brother is supposed to be your friend. Do you want to see him hang?”
He turned to face her. “No, of course not.”
“Then tell me where the party was held.”
“A place called the Blue Moon. It's a gaming hall. The party was in one of the upstairs rooms.”
Lindsey frowned. “Rudy said he woke up in the back room of a gaming establishment called the Golden Pheasant. Do you suppose he got mixed up?”
“The Pheasant is just round the block. Could have gone there instead or maybe he went there later.”
Lindsey mulled over the information, trying to fit the pieces together. Perhaps Rudy dropped the woman at the Blue Moon then went over to the Golden Pheasant, where he passed out and woke up in the morning. “Is there anything else, Tom, anything at all that might help Rudy?”
He gave her a dopy, slightly embarrassed grin. “We were all pretty well foxed that night. Lucky to remember where I was myself.”