Authors: Paula Paul
For Dead Men Only
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
An Alibi eBook Original
Copyright Â© 2016 by Paula Paul
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Alibi, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Cover design: Caroline Teagle
Cover image: Â© Valentino Sani/Trevillion Images
Soon Jeremy Fitzsimmons would return to the temple, but first he wanted to devour her with all of his senses. He had spotted her through the mist as he was walking from his seaside house. She was a lovely specter, so fair, so delicate she seemed to have been spun from silk. Her dark hair loosened from its pins and fell down her back as she turned to face the sea, holding her bonnet in her hand. The breeze lifted the dark mane slightly and floated strands across her face. He knew that face well, knew the patrician lines of it, the emeralds that were her eyes, the blush of her cheeks against creamy white skin. He had often admired the curve of her breasts above her bodice, her delicate hands, the cruel sound of her laughter.
Behind her, in the distance, was the temple, a dark swelling of hard stone with the Cyclops eye of God staring in judgment from between the two pillars of Boaz and Jachin. He should leave now and return there, but he knew she hadn't seen him, and as long as she was distracted, he could watch her unnoticed. He could fully take in the way she moved, her limbs gliding beneath billowing skirts while her hips undulated. He could secretly study the ivory tower that was her neck, the nip of her waist.
He continued to watch as she turned her back to the sea, and it struck him that everything about her was turned away from all openness. He had wanted her to open her heart to him. There were times when he'd even imagined she loved him, but in the next moment she might slash his soul with a scornful glare. He was fainthearted, she said, weak, cowardly.
He saw that her eyes were fixed on the temple, or, more precisely, on one of the four rounded protrusions at each corner that housed the secret chambers. The intensity of her gaze made him uneasy, as if her jade stare could somehow defile the secret chambers. Of course the temple was no place for women.
The wind tore her bonnet from her hand and pulled more strands of her hair around to caress her face. Even as she walked away, moving parallel to the sea, she never turned back to fetch her bonnet. When she was almost out of sight, he turned from his original route and plucked the bonnet from the bramble that had grabbed it, holding it close to his chest for a moment before he resumed his route and walked away from her and toward the Temple of the Ninth Daughter.
The dark stone building rose to a height of four stories and sat on a low hill covered with brush and trees at the edge of the village of Newton-upon-Sea. Its distance from the main part of the village and its imposing height gave it an air of aloofness and mystery. There were thirteen lichen-covered stone steps situated between the pillars Boaz and Jachin, the same names given to the pillars of the ancient Temple of Solomon.
Using his key, Fitzsimmons unlocked the heavy wooden doors and pushed both of them open. He felt a rush of cold air and took in the familiar heavy scent of things ancient and mystical. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, then he could make out the altar in the middle, a velvet rope defining its boundaries. Behind it, a distance away, was the ornately carved throne of the Grand Master. His throne. Two curved stairways leading up to the secret chambers flanked the throne. A double row of chairs lined the side walls that seemed to hover over the hall. The walls were etched with red, gold, and black figures, some of them oddly Egyptian, along with a depiction of the Paschal Lamb, a knight astride a horse, the Rose-Croix, and the sacred blue slipper.
Above the throne was a large carving of a square and compasses surrounding the letter
that stood for both the one God and for the holy and sacred discipline of geometry.
The sound of Fitzsimmons's footsteps on the stone floor echoed from the dark and ornate walls as he walked across the long space to the altar, where he placed the bonnet. He was startled when he noticed someone watching himâa figure slouched in the corner. He immediately retrieved the bonnet, fearing the person watching him would think he had defiled the altar. Naturally, the watcher would be a fellow Freemason. There would be no reason for anyone else to enter the temple. Fitzsimmons, as Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of the Ninth Daughter in Newton-upon-Sea, knew that better than anyone.
“Who's there?” he shouted, and in the same moment recognized the figure as Saul Mayhew. “Brother Mayhew, why are youâ”
Mayhew slowly slipped to the floor, and Fitzsimmons, when he saw the gaping mouth and unblinking eyes, realized he was dead. Saul wore his Masonic apron. Fitzsimmons gasped when he saw that the apron that symbolized purity and cleanliness had been defiled with dried blood, yet there was no sign of a wound on Saul's body.
The official cause of the death of Saul Mayhew was heart attack. Since she was not called to examine the body, it never occurred to Dr. Alexandra Gladstone to question Constable Robert Snow's conclusion. The constable had mentioned a bit of dried blood on the man's Masonic apron, but said it had no bearing on his death, since it was obviously an old stain.
Nancy, her nurse and maid-of-all-work, commented on the announcement. “Never knew Mr. Mayhew had heart problems. Rather young for that, actually. Not much past thirty,” she mused as she and Alexandra sat in the parlor, sipping tea at the end of a busy day of seeing patients.
They both welcomed the temporary respite from their duties and household chores. Today they'd seen three cases of barber's itch, and Alexandra had prescribed an oxalic-acid wash in each case, along with her repeated caution not to share towels at the barber's shop and to make certain the men provide their own razors, since the disease was highly contagious. Anna Speigle, a young mother, had brought her six-year-old son, convinced he was infected with smallpox. It was Nancy, in this case, who had pointed out that the pustules lacked the middle indentation characteristic of smallpox and was instead most likely chicken pox. Anna left, much relieved, with instructions to give her son baking-soda baths. There were also the usual complaints of gout and rheumatism and numerous scrapes and bruises, which the two of them dealt with routinely.
The relationship between Alexandra and Nancy did not quite follow the orthodox regimen of mistress and maid. They'd been friends since childhood and often dropped some of the customary formality.
“Mr. Mayhew seldom came to the surgery with any complaint,” Alexandra said in response to Nancy's observation, “but heart disease can be a silent killer and no respecter of age.” Alexandra picked up a paper from the table next to her to read while Nancy settled in with a romantic novel. It was their custom to relax just so in the parlor before bedtime.
Dr. Alexandra Gladstone was the only doctor in the village of Newton-upon-Sea in Essex. She'd taken over the medical practice of her late father. Although she had an equal amount of training and experience, perhaps even more, she was not allowed to use the title of physician. She was forbidden for no other reason than that she was female. That was astonishing to some people, given that the nineteenth century had progressed beyond eight decades. It was not particularly astonishing to most of the citizens of Newton-upon-Sea, however. They were, in general, quite content to have things done the old way. It was difficult enough for them to adjust to the idea of the first Dr. Gladstone dying, and even more difficult, for some, that he'd left his practice in the hands of his daughter. It had never occurred to any of them that a woman could be a doctor. Now, even though almost five years had passed since her father's death, Alexandra was still struggling to earn the trust of some of the citizens.
The paper she was reading explored the possibility of the existence of several pathogens that could not be seen with a microscope. She might not have given Saul Mayhew another thought all night, had not Jeremy Fitzsimmons knocked on her front door.
Zack, Alexandra's Newfoundland, stood up to his full enormous height and barked once. Two barks would have meant a patient was knocking at the surgery door near the back of the house.
Nancy placed a hand on the dog's massive head to reassure him and went to open the door.
“Good evening, Mr. Fitzsimmons,” she said when she saw him standing outside the entrance.
“I must see Dr. Gladstone.” Fitzsimmons moved himself into the doorway without being invited. “This is not a medical call, but a personal one.” He was stretching his neck, doing his best to see around Nancy, who was doing her best to block him.
“Dr. Gladstone is resting at the moment,” Nancy said, sounding both polite and protective.
“I have an urgent matter I must discuss with the doctor,” he insisted. “A most urgent personal matter.”
Nancy was about to protest again when Alexandra entered the vestibule behind her. “How can I help you?” Alexandra asked as Nancy reluctantly stepped aside.
“I'm Jeremy Fitzsimmons,” he said, while both hands fumbled with his fashionable bowler.
“Of course, Mr. Fitzsimmons, I remember you,” Alexandra said, grateful that he'd given her a name to go with his familiar face. “You came to me once with a sprained ankle.”
“Yes, yes,” Mr. Fitzsimons said. “Clumsy accident, but that's not why I'm here. It's aboutâ¦” He paused and glanced toward Nancy, seemingly unwilling to continue.
Alexandra hastened to reassure him. “It's all right. You may speak in front of Nancy. She is my nurse.”
“As I said, it's not a medical matter. It'sâ¦”
“Yes, Mr. Fitzsimmons?”
“It's about Saul Mayhew,” he blurted out after an uneasy pause.
Of course Alexandra had heard that Saul had been found dead in the chambers of the Freemasons' temple and Jeremy Fitzsimmons was the Grand Master of the lodge. Naturally, he would be upset.
“Please come in. Nancy will fetch some tea,” Alexandra said, leading him into the parlor. “Mr. Mayhew was a friend of yours, I believe.”
“He was a member of the lodge. A fellow Freemason,” Fitzsimmons said, settling himself into the wingback fireside chair Alexandra had indicated for him. “I'm the one who found him,” he added.
“Indeed? I hadn't heard that. It must have been a terrible shock for you. Perhaps some sedative powders would help calm you. Is that why you've come?”
“I told you this is not a medical matter. I don't need your powders. I need to talk.” Having grown even more agitated, he was now sitting on the edge of the chair.
“Wise of you,” Alexandra said. “It's best to avoid medications when possible. Ah, look. Here's Nancy with the tea. Now, that can be soothing and is quite harmless to your body.”
“Saul Mayhew did not die of a heart attack. He was murdered.”
Nancy almost dropped the tea tray, but she managed to settle it on the table with no more than a rattling of the cups.
Alexandra was just as taken aback. “Murdered?”
“He was.” Fitzsimmons moved deeper into the chair and let his shoulders drop, as if getting the awful word out in the open had relaxed him.
Alexandra, on the other hand, had grown tense. “And what, exactly, makes you think Mr. Mayhew's death was an unnatural one?”
“He was a healthy sort,” Fitzsimmons said. “Not the kind to have a heart attack.”
“I'm afraid, sir, that it's not always possible to know who is or is not the sort of person to have a heart attack. It's not unheard of for people even younger than Mr. Mayhew toâ”
“Someone killed him! I'm sure of it.” Fitzsimmons had lost the modicum of calm he'd managed to acquire and was almost shouting.
“If you believe there was foul play, you should speak to the constable,” Alexandra said.
“Constable Snow wouldn't listen to me, either. I thought you would. That's why I came here tonight. You would know the difference between murder and a natural death. I thought you would be able to convince the constable, and then he would actually start a real investigation. But you're just like him. Won't listen. No one will listen.”
“Mr. Fitzsimmons, calm yourself, please,” Alexandra said. “I'm quite willing to listen.” She hoped her quiet voice would soothe her guest.
It worked, at least enough for Fitzsimmons to drop his voice several levels. “You didn't examine his body, I know, and the constable said there were no marks on it. But that doesn't prove anything.”
“You're quite right. I didn't examine the body,” Alexandra said. “I'm not always asked to do that, especially if there's no cause to believe the death wasn't natural. Apparently, Constable Snow didn't thinkâ”
“Doesn't matter what he thought! Seth was killed. I'm certain of it. Just as I'm certain there'll be others who will die.” He was shouting again, returning to his agitated state.
“What exactly is your reason for being so certain?” Alexandra's voice had become firmer, less placating. “I am asking you for a motive, Mr. Fitzsimmons. Why would anyone want to murder Saul Mayhew and anyone else you believe may now be in danger?”
Fitzsimmons wilted in the chair. “That I cannot tell you.”
“Because you don't know?”
“Because it is impossible for me toâ¦to say. It's a matter of honor, you see. I can't possibly explain to anyone who is not aâ¦” His voice trailed off to silence.
“I think it best you explain all of this to the constable,” Alexandra said. “If you believe someone has a motive, then it is surely your duty to divulge whatever it is you know.”
Mr. Fitzsimmons jumped to his feet. “You sound just like him. The constable kept dismissing everything I said, even though he's a fellow Freemason. Yet I am duty bound toâ¦” Fitzsimmons turned quickly and hurled himself toward the door. “I should have known. When even Robert Snow, himself a member of the brotherhood, refuses to understand, then no one will.”
He left, slamming the door and rushing into the night, leaving traces of rage lingering behind him like the scent of sulfur.
The next morning Alexandra, riding her mare, Lucy, was on her way to make her first house call at the home of Riddell Crome near the edge of the village. As she neared the Masonic Temple, she heard a shriek and saw a man fleeing the building. He stumbled down the steps, falling as he ran and landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom. Alexandra urged Lucy into a run toward the fallen figure, but he was already up and standing by the time she reached him. She recognized Uriah Parr, who served as janitor for the temple. He had stopped his screeching, but his face was bloodless.
“Mr. Parr! Are you all right?” she asked, sliding from her sidesaddle as quickly as her skirts would allow.
He didn't answer, but looked at her with frightened eyes. “Dead,” he said finally.
“I beg your pardon.”
“Master Fitzsimmons,” he said. “Dead. In there. In the corner where Mayhew was.”
Since Uriah seemed to be in reasonably good shape after his fall, except for a lump on his forehead, Alexandra turned away, hurrying up the stone steps to the still-open doors of the temple. She stopped as she entered the massive dark hall, trying to orient herself. She'd never been inside the temple before and, in fact, had no idea of whether or not women were allowed inside. She took no time to ponder the question and quickly spotted Fitzsimmons's slumped body in a darkened corner near a curving stairway. Hurrying to his side, she saw there were no marks on his body. Oddly, however, there was a smear of blood on the white Masonic apron he wore.