FROM A SPY IN THE HOUSE
I originally wrote this scene from James’s point of view. While editing the book, I realized it didn’t make chronological sense; nowhere else in the book do I loop back in time, and it seemed weird to start doing it now. So I re-wrote it from Mary’s perspective while trying to change as little as possible – I was very fond of the scene as it stood.
SPOILER ALERT: if you don’t already know what happened to Alfred Quigley, this scene’s going to wreck it for you.
Murderer. Murderer. Murderer. James was unaware of how long he’d been standing at the edge of the building site, staring at the river, with that chant running through his head. Alfred Quigley’s death was his fault. There was no room for argument there. And instead of having the courage to tell Mrs. Quigley the news himself, he’d given Huggins the address and left it at that. There was no particular reason for him to remain on site, except that he couldn’t think what else to do. Going back to the comfort of his house seemed like a retreat of sorts.
His gaze passed over the knot of people on the sticky riverbank. Disappointed scavengers, most of them. Except for – his eyes noted a familiar figure gliding past the embankment. What the devil was she doing on his site? Sudden anger fired him and before he remembered that he’d sworn not to think of her again, he ran across the churned-up mud to intercept her.
“What the blazes are you doing down here?” He barked the question as soon as he was within earshot.
She turned and looked around and down. She seemed surprised to see him. “Good afternoon to you, too.”
He scrambled up the bank, wiped his palms on his ruined trousers and glared at her. “You should be safe at home. Don’t you have a job to do?”
“Listen to me,” she said quietly. She stepped closer, wrinkling her nose slightly at the fetid mud that coated him. “There are new developments.”
He didn’t want to talk about new developments. All he wanted was to roar at her until she cried and then pack her off somewhere safe — wherever that might be. He opened his mouth to begin, but she was already talking.
“Thorold’s been arrested. The police raided one of his ships near the warehouse.” She had no idea why the schedule had been pushed forward from Monday to Sunday.
He froze, suddenly alert. “Go on.”
“Two detectives from Scotland Yard came to the house during luncheon. They took him away. The warehouses are being searched and his files seized. It was a complete surprise — even Thorold hadn’t an inkling. He thought they’d come to interview him about the warehouse break-ins!”
“What was he charged with?”
“Smuggling stolen goods.”
“Stolen goods?” This was new.
In a low tone, she summarized the matter of the Indian artifacts. He listened intently, frowning at the ground. Finally, he asked, “Where is Gray?”
“At the house. The detectives told him to present himself at the Yard tomorrow.”
“And Mrs. Thorold?”
“I was following her carriage. She called on a solicitor — I assume to arrange for Thorold’s bail and defense. I stopped when you hailed me, but she was on her way home.”
He considered her in silence. She seemed pleased — even blooming — with the excitement. “You’re certain she didn’t see you?”
“I was careful.”
“I hope so, for your sake.”
“What does that mean?”
An image of Alfred Quigley’s dead face, muddy and blue-lipped, flashed before his eyes. “I can’t explain,” he said in a tense voice. “But listen to me, Mary. We’re clear of this situation. Thorold’s affairs will be thoroughly investigated. There’s nothing left for you to do. Get yourself a new post and don’t think about it any further.”
“If a trail exists for your friend Gladys — and I very much doubt it does — the police will find it. The best thing you can do is keep yourself clear of this mess.”
She glared at him. “Because I’m a mere, weak woman?”
“No. Because you’re a novice, and a reckless one at that, and there’s nothing you can do to help anybody.” He tried to sound as cold and matter-of-fact as he could.
Her eyes widened with hurt.
“Mary?” He hated playing the brute. “Don’t look like that.”
She didn’t move or reply.
“You’ll be fine, Mary. You’ll find another place. You can still get a letter, a character, from your old school, can’t you? You were only with the Thorolds for — “
Angrily, she shook off his hands. “Don’t touch me.”
He hadn’t realized he’d reached for her. “Very well. But tell me — “
“I have to go.”
“At least let me take you home.”
She straightened and met his gaze, and now instead of distress, he saw anger. “As you pointed out, Mr. Easton, we are both well rid of this mess. Therefore, there is no reason for us to continue this conversation or for you to be concerned for me.” She waved away his attempt to speak. “Thank you for your assistance. I wish you well in all your business endeavours.”
“So…” He studied her face carefully. “This is farewell forever?”
She lifted her chin. “Aren’t you pleased? I know I am.”