Shocking ! Le général Balantyne ne décolère pas contre cet inconnu qui a eu le mauvais goût de venir mourir sur son perron de Bedford Square. Pour Thomas Pitt, chargé de l'enquête, l'existence d'un lien entre la victime et le vieux militaire ne fait cependant aucun doute, mais pour le découvrir il va lui falloir explorer les arcanes de la haute société victorienne. Et lorsqu'il s'agit de s'introduire dans ce milieu huppé, aucune aide ne lui est plus précieuse que celles de sa femme, l'intrépide Charlotte, de son amie Lady Vespasia, et de l'indispensable bonne Gracie. Ensemble, ils vont peu à peu découvrir l'odieux chantage dont étaient victimes six des personnages les plus influents du royaume et qui menaçait leur bien le plus cher dans cette société impitoyable : leur réputation.
Traduit de l'anglais
par Anne-Marie Carrière
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About the Author
Anne Perry, née en 1938 à Londres, est aujourd'hui célébrée dans de nombreux pays comme la reine du polar victorien grâce au succès de ses deux séries, les enquêtes du couple Charlotte et Thomas Pitt, et celles de l'inspecteur amnésique William Monk. Elle s'est depuis intéressée à d'autres périodes historiques telles que le Paris de la Révolution française (A L'ombre de la guillotine), la Première Guerre mondiale (la saga des Reavley), ou encore Byzance au XIIIe siècle (Du sang sur la soie). Anne Perry partage sa vie entre Inverness (Écosse) et Los Angeles.
Hometown:Portmahomack, Ross-shire, U.K
Date of Birth:October 28, 1938
Place of Birth:Blackheath, London England
Read an Excerpt
Pitt leaned out of the bedroom window in his nightshirt and looked down into the street below. The police constable was standing on the pavement staring up at him. The constable's face, yellow in the gaslight from the street lamps, was tense and unhappy, and it was for more reason than simply having woken the commander of the Bow Street police station at four o'clock in the morning.
"Dead, sir," he answered Pitt's question. "An' I can't see as 'ow it could a' bin an accident, not 'ow 'e is, an' w'ere I found 'im. An' I oughta be gettin' back, sir. I darsen't leave 'im there by 'isself, sir. Someone might move 'im, like ... mess wif evidence."
"Yes, of course," Pitt agreed. "Go back, Constable. You did the right thing. I'll get dressed and I'll be there. I presume you haven't had a chance to call the surgeon or the mortuary van?"
"No sir, I come straight 'ere, seein' as w'ere 'e is."
"I'll call them. You go back and stand guard."
"Yes sir. I'm sorry, sir."
"Don't be. You did the right thing," Pitt repeated, pulling his head in and shivering involuntarily. It was June-at least nominally summer-but in London the nights were still chilly, and there was a faint mist hanging over the city.
"What is it?" Charlotte sat up in bed and fumbled for a match. He heard it scrape and then saw the flame as it caught the wick of the candle. It lit her face softly, gleaming on the warm, dark color of her hair, which was falling out of its long braid. She looked worried.
"They've found a body in Bedford Square," he answered. "It seems as if he was murdered."
"Do they really need you for that?" she protested. "Is it somebody important?"
Since his promotion Pitt had been asked to concentrate on those cases which were of political significance or threatened scandal.
"Maybe not," he replied, closing the window and walking over to where his clothes were hanging across the back of the chair. He took off his nightshirt and began to dress, not bothering with collar or cravat. There was water in the ewer, and he poured it into the basin. It was cold, but there was certainly no time to light the kitchen stove and heat it so he could shave. Unfortunately, there was also no time for a cup of tea, which he would have liked even more. He splashed his face and felt the sharp tingle of coldness, then with his eyes shut, felt for the towel.
"Thank you." He took it from Charlotte's outstretched hand. He rubbed his face vigorously, feeling the rough cotton stir the blood and warm him. "Because apparently he was on the front doorstep of one of the big houses," he replied.
"Oh." She understood the implications. London was peculiarly sensitive to scandal just now. In the previous year, 1890, a scandal had occurred at Tranby Croft. Now the trial was rocking the entire country. It was all very regrettable, a matter of gambling at a country house party, an accusation of cheating at baccarat, an illegal game, and of course an indignant denial. But what could not be hidden or excused was that the Prince of Wales had been involved and was now to be called to the witness stand to give evidence. Half of London opened the daily newspapers with bated breath.
Pitt finished dressing. He put his arms around Charlotte and kissed her, feeling the warmth of her skin and pushing back the heavy hair with his fingers, enjoying its softness with an all-too-fleeting pleasure.
"Go back to bed," he said gently. "I'll be home when I can, but I doubt it'll be for breakfast." He tiptoed across the floor and opened the door quietly, not to waken the children and Gracie, the maid, asleep up on the top floor. The landing gaslight was always left on very low, and it was sufficient for him to see his way downstairs. In the hall he picked up the telephone-a fairly recent acquisition in his home-and asked the operator to connect him with the Bow Street Station. When the sergeant answered, Pitt instructed him to send the police surgeon and mortuary van to Bedford Square. He replaced the receiver, put on his boots and took his jacket from the hook by the front door. He slid back the latch and stepped outside.
The air was damp and chilly but it was already beginning to get light, and he walked quickly along the glistening pavement towards the corner of Gower Street and turned left. It was only a few yards into Bedford Square, and even from that distance he saw the unhappy figure of the constable standing alone about halfway along the pavement. He looked immensely relieved to see Pitt striding towards him out of the gloom. His expression brightened visibly and he waved his bull's-eye lantern.
"Over 'ere, sir!" he called out.
Pitt neared him and glanced where he was pointing. The dark figure was easy to see lying sprawled on the front steps of the large house immediately to their left. It seemed almost as if he must have been reaching for the doorbell when he fell. The cause of death was apparent. There was a deep and bloody wound on the side of his head. It was difficult to imagine how he could have come by it in any accident. Nothing that could have occurred in the roadway would have thrown him so far, nor was there another wound visible.
"Hold the light for me," Pitt requested, kneeling down beside the body and looking at it more closely. He touched his hand gently to the man's throat. There was no pulse, but the flesh was still just warm. "What time did you find him?" he asked.
"Sixteen minutes afore four, sir."
Pitt glanced at his pocket watch. It was now thirteen minutes past. "What time did you come this way before that?"
"Abaht quarter afore three, sir. 'E weren't 'ere then."
Pitt turned around to look up at the street lamps. They were off. "Find the lamplighter," he ordered. "He can't have been here long ago. They're still lit on Keppel Street, and it's barely daylight enough to see anywhere. He's a bit sharp as it is."
"Yessir!" the constable agreed with alacrity.
"Anyone else?" Pitt asked as the constable took a step away.
"No sir. Too early for deliveries. They don' start till five at the soonest. No maids up yet. 'Nother 'alf hour at least. Bit late fer partyers. Most o' them's 'ome by three. Though yer never know yer chances, like. Yer could ask...."
Pitt smiled wryly. He noticed that the constable had abandoned doing it himself and considered Pitt the one to work the gentry of Bedford Square and ask them if they had happened to notice a corpse on the doorstep, or even a fight in the street, as they returned from their revels.
"If I have to," Pitt said dourly. "Did you look in his pockets?"
"No sir. I left that fer you, sir."
"I don't suppose you have any idea who he is? Not a local servant or tradesman, suitor to one of the maids around here?"
"No sir, I in't never seen 'im afore. I don't reckon as 'e belongs 'ere. Shall I go an' find the lamplighter, sir, afore 'e goes too far?"
"Yes, go and find him. Bring him back here."
"Yessir!" And before Pitt could think of any more questions for him, he put his bull's-eye down on the step, turned on his heel and strode off into the broadening dawn light.
Pitt picked up the lantern and examined the dead man. His face was lean, the skin weathered, as if he spent much of his time outside. There was a faint stubble of beard across his cheeks. His hair had little color, a dark mousy brown that had probably been fair in his youth. His features were pleasant enough, a trifle pinched, upper lip too short, eyebrows wispy, the left one with a pronounced break in it as if from an old scar. It was a face easy to see and forget, like thousands of others. Pitt used his finger to ease the collarless shirt back an inch or two. The skin under it was fair, almost white.
Next he looked at the man's hands. They were strong, lean, with fingernails chipped and far from clean, but they did not look like the hands of a manual worker. There were no calluses. The knuckles were torn as if he had been in a hard fight very recently, perhaps only moments before his death. The bleeding was slight in spite of the ripped skin, and there had not been time for bruising.
Pitt slipped his hand into a jacket pocket and was startled to close his fingers over a small metal box. He pulled it out and turned it over under the light. It was exquisite. He could not tell at a glance whether it was gold-plated or solid, or possibly even pinchbeck, that brilliant imitation of gold, but it was intricately modeled like a tiny cathedral reliquary, the sort used to house the bones of saints. The top was decorated with a tiny reclining figure, relaxed in death and wearing long clerical robes and a bishop's mitre. Pitt opened the box and sniffed gently. Yes, it was what he had supposed, a snuffbox. It could hardly have belonged to the man who lay dead at his feet. Even if it were pinchbeck it would be worth more than he had seen in a month, perhaps in a year.
But if he had been caught stealing it, why was he left here on the doorstep, and above all, why had whoever killed him not retrieved the box?
Pitt felt to see if there was anything else in the pocket, and found only a short length of string and a pair of bootlaces, apparently unused. In the man's other pockets he found a key, a piece of rag for a handkerchief, three shillings and four pence in small change, and several pieces of paper, one of which was a receipt for three pairs of socks purchased only two days before from a shop in Red Lion Square. That, if diligently followed, might possibly tell them who he was. There was nothing else to indicate his name or where he lived.
Of course, there were thousands of people who had no homes and simply slept in doorways or under railway arches and bridges, or at this time of the year in the open, if tolerant police did not disturb them. But looking at this man, Pitt deduced that if such misfortune had happened to him, it must have been recent. His clothes were all hard worn; there were holes in his socks-these were not the new ones! The soles of his boots were paper-thin in places, but he was dry. He had not the inlaid grime or the musty, moldy smell of someone who lived outside.
Pitt stood up as he heard footsteps along the pavement and saw the familiar, awkward, angular figure of Sergeant Tellman approaching him from the Charlotte Street direction. He would not have mistaken Tellman even in the lamplight, but the dawn was now whitening the eastern sky.
Tellman reached him and stopped. He was hastily dressed, but it was noticeable only in his jacket, buttoned one hole crooked. His collar was as tight and straight as usual, his cravat as plain and neat, his hair wet, combed back from his lantern-jawed face. He looked dour also, as usual.
"Some gentleman too drunk to avoid being run down by a hansom?" he asked.
Pitt was used to Tellman's opinion of the privileged.
"If he was a gentleman he was on extremely hard times,"
he replied, glancing down at the body. "And he wasn't hit by a vehicle. There isn't a mark on his clothes other than where he fell, but his knuckles are grazed as if he put up quite a fight. Look at him yourself."
Tellman eyed Pitt sharply, then bent as he was told and examined the dead man. When he stood up again, Pitt held out his hand with the snuffbox in it.
Tellman's eyebrows shot up. "He had that?"
"Then he was a thief...."
"So who killed him, and why here on the front doorstep? He didn't go in or out that way!"
"Don't reckon as he was killed here either," Tellman said with a hint of satisfaction. "That wound on his head must have bled a good bit ... heads do. Cut yourself and you'll soon see. But there's not much on the step around him. I'd say he was killed somewhere else and put here."
"Because he was a thief?"
"Seems a good reason."
"Then why leave the snuffbox? Apart from its value, it's the one thing that could trace him back to the house he stole it from. There can't be many like it."
"Don't know," Tellman admitted, biting his lips. "Doesn't make sense. I suppose we'll have to start asking all 'round the square." His face reflected vividly his distaste at the prospect.
They both heard the clatter of hooves at the same time as a hansom came from the Caroline Street corner of the square at a brisk clip, followed immediately by the mortuary van. The van stopped a dozen yards along the curb and the hansom drew level with them. The frock-coated figure of the surgeon climbed out, straightened his collar and walked over to them. He nodded greeting, then regarded the dead man with resignation. He hitched the knees of his trousers slightly, to avoid stretching the fabric, and squatted down to begin his examination.
Pitt turned as he heard more footsteps, and saw the constable coming with a highly nervous lamplighter, a thin, fair-haired man dwarfed by his pole. In the dawn light through the trees he looked like some outlandish knight-at-arms with a jousting lance beyond his strength to wield.
"I din't see nuffink," he said before Pitt could ask him.
"You passed this way," Pitt reaffirmed. "This is your patch?"
There was no escaping that. "Yeah ..."
"S'mornin'," he replied as if it should have been obvious. "'Bout first light. Like I always do."
"Do you know what time that was?" Pitt said patiently.
"First light ... like I said!" He sent a nervous, sideways look at the body, half obscured by the surgeon as he bent over it. "'E weren't 'ere then. I din't see 'im!"
"Do you have a watch?" Pitt pursued, with little hope.
"Wo'for? Gets light different time every day," the lamplighter said reasonably.
Pitt realized he was not going to get more exact than that. The answer, from the lamplighter's point of view, was sensible enough.
"Did you see anyone else in the square?" he said instead.
"Not this side." The lamplighter shook his head. "There were an 'ansom on t'other side, takin' a gennelman 'ome. Bit the worse fer wear, 'e were, but not fallin' down, like. Din't come 'round 'ere."
"No one else?"
"No. Too late fer most folks from parties, an' too early fer maids an' deliveries an' like."
That was true. At least it narrowed it down a little more. It had been dark when the constable had been on his previous round, and barely light when he had found the body. The lamplighter could not have been around long before. Which meant the body had been put there within the space of fifteen or twenty minutes. It was just possible, if they were very lucky, that someone had awoken in one of the houses on this side and heard footsteps or shouting, even a single cry. It was a forlorn hope.
"Thank you," Pitt accepted. The sky was pale now beyond the heavy trees in the center of the square, the light shining on the far rooftops and reflecting mirrorlike in the top-story windows above them. He turned to the surgeon, who seemed to have completed at least his superficial examination.
"A fight," he pronounced. "Short one, I'd guess. Know more when I see him without his clothes. Could be other abrasions, but his coat isn't torn or stained. Ground was dry, if he fell over or was knocked. Wasn't on the street, anyway. There's no mud on him that I can see. No trace of manure or anything else. And the gutters are pretty wet." He glanced around. "Rained yesterday evening."
"I know," Pitt retorted, looking at the glistening cobbles.
"'Course you do," the surgeon agreed, nodding at him. "Don't suppose I can tell you anything you don't! Have to try. What I'm paid for. One very heavy blow to the side of the head. Killed him. Probably a length of lead pipe or a candlestick or a poker. Something of that sort. I'd guess metal rather than wood to do that much damage. Heavy."
"Likely to be marks on the person who did it?" Pitt asked.
The surgeon pursed his lips thoughtfully. "A few bruises. Per-
haps where the fist connected. Judging by the splits on his knuckles, most likely a jaw or head. Clothes or soft flesh wouldn't do that.
Face would be bruised, hand wouldn't show. Other fellow had a weapon, this one didn't, or he wouldn't have had to use his fists. Nasty."
"I'm not arguing," Pitt said dryly. He shivered. He was getting cold. "Can you say anything about time?"
"Nothing you can't deduce for yourself," the surgeon replied. "Or about the poor devil here," he added. "If I can improve on that, I'll send you a message. Bow Street good enough?"
"Certainly. Thank you."
The surgeon shrugged slightly, inclined his head in a salute and went back to the mortuary wagon to instruct his men in the removal of the body.
Pitt looked at his pocket watch again. It was just after quarter
"I suppose it is time we started waking people," he said to Tellman. "Come on."
Tellman sighed heavily, but he had no option but to obey. Together they walked up the steps of the house where the body had been found, and Pitt pulled the brass doorbell. Tellman rather liked Pitt's refusal to go to the tradesmen's entrance, as someone of the social order of policemen should do, but while he approved the principle, he also loathed the practice. Let Pitt do it when Tellman was not with him.
It was several long, uncomfortable minutes before they heard the bolts slide and the lock turn. The door swung inward and an extremely hastily dressed footman, not in livery but in ordinary dark trousers and jacket, stood blinking at them.
"Yes sir?" he said with alarm. He was not yet practiced enough to have the really superior footman's supercilious air.
"Good morning," Pitt replied. "I am sorry to disturb the household so early, but I am afraid there has been an incident which necessitates my making enquiries of both the staff and the family." He held out his card. "Superintendent Pitt, of the Bow Street Station. Would you present it to your master and ask him if he will spare me a few moments of his time. I am afraid it concerns a very serious crime, and I cannot afford the pleasantries of waiting until a more civilized hour."
"A crime?" The footman looked startled. "We haven't been burgled, sir. There's been no crime here. You must have made a mistake." He started to close the door again, relieved to shut the whole matter outside on the street. It was somebody else's problem after all.
Tellman moved forward as if to put his foot in the doorway, then resisted. It was undignified. He hated this. Give him ordinary people to deal with any day. The whole notion of being in service to someone else was abomination to him. It was no way for a decent man, or woman, to make a living.
"The burglary is incidental, if indeed there was one," Pitt said firmly. "The murder is my concern."
That stopped the footman as if frozen. The blood fled from his face.
"The ... the what?"
"Murder," Pitt repeated quietly. "Unfortunately, we found the body of a man on your doorstep about an hour ago. Now, would you please be good enough to waken your master and inform him that I need to speak to everyone in the house, and I would like his permission to do so."
The footman swallowed, his throat jerking. "Yes ... yes sir. If ... I mean ..." His voice trailed off. He had no idea where one left policemen to wait at five o'clock in the morning. Normally one would not permit them on the premises at all. If one had to, it would be the local constable, perhaps for a hot cup of tea on a cold day, and that in the kitchen, where such people belonged.
"I'll wait in the morning room," Pitt said to assist him, and because he had no intention of being left shivering on the step.
"Yes sir ... I'll tell the General." The footman backed in, and Pitt and Tellman followed him.
"General?" Pitt asked.
"Yes sir. This is General Brandon Balantyne's home."
The name was familiar. It took Pitt a moment to place it. It must be the same General Balantyne who had previously lived in Callander Square when Pitt was investigating the deaths of the babies, nearly a decade before, and who had also been involved in the tragedies in the Devil's Acre three to four years later.
"I didn't know that." It was a foolish remark, and he realized it the moment it had crossed his lips. He saw Tellman turn to look at him with surprise. He would have preferred not to discuss the past with Tellman. If he did not have to, he would let it lie. He walked smartly across the hall after the footman and followed him into the morning room, leaving the door open for Tellman.
Inside was so exactly what Pitt expected it jerked him back sharply, and for a moment the intervening years disappeared. The shelf of books was the same, as in the previous house, the dark brown and green-leather furniture, polished with use. On the mellow wood of the small table was the brass replica of the cannon at Waterloo, gleaming in the gaslight the footman had lit and turned up for them. On the wall over the mantelpiece hung the picture Pitt remembered of the charge of the Royal Scots Greys, again from Waterloo. The Zulu assegai was on the wall next to the fireplace and the paintings of the African veld, pale colors bleached by sun, red earth, flat-topped acacia trees.
He had not meant to look at Tellman, but he turned and caught the sergeant's eye accidentally. Tellman was staring, his face a mask of disapproval. Tellman had not even met the man, but he knew he was a general, he knew that at the time of his service officers had
purchased their commissions rather than earned them. They came from a few wealthy military families, all educated at the best schools, Eton, Rugby, Harrow, and then possibly a year or two at Oxford or Cambridge, more probably straight into the army-and at a rank no working-class man could hope to achieve even after a lifetime's service, risking his life on the battlefield and his health in foreign climes for no more recompense than the king's shilling.
Pitt knew Balantyne, and liked him, but there was no point in saying that to Tellman. Tellman had seen too much injustice and had felt it too keenly among his own people to hear anything Pitt would say. So he kept silence, and waited, standing by the window watching the light broaden across the square outside and the shade deepen under the trees in the center. The birds were loud, starlings and sparrows. A delivery cart rattled by, stopping regularly. An errand boy on a bicycle came around the corner rather too sharply and steadied himself with an effort, his cap falling over his ears.
The morning room door opened, and Pitt and Tellman both turned to face it. In the entranceway stood a tall man with broad shoulders. His fair brown hair was graying at the temples and beginning to thin. His features were powerful, with an aquiline nose, high cheekbones and a broad mouth. He was leaner than when Pitt had last seen him, as if time and grief had worn down the reserves of his strength, but he still stood very upright-in fact, stiffly, his shoulders squared. He was wearing a white shirt and a plain, dark smoking jacket, but it was easy for the mind's eye to see him in uniform.
"Good morning, Pitt," he said quietly. "Should I congratulate you on your promotion? My footman said you are now in charge of the Bow Street Station."
"Thank you, General Balantyne," Pitt acknowledged, feeling a faintly self-conscious flush in his cheeks. "This is Sergeant Tellman. I am sorry to disturb you so early, sir, but I am afraid the beat constable found a dead body in the square at about quarter to four this morning. He was on the doorstep just outside this house." He saw the distaste on Balantyne's face, and perhaps shock, although of course the footman had told him, so he was not taken by surprise now.
"Who is it?" Balantyne asked, closing the door behind him.
"We don't know yet," Pitt replied. "But he had papers and other belongings on him, so we shall almost certainly be able to identify him quite soon." He watched Balantyne's face but saw no discernible change, certainly no tightening of lips or shadow across the eyes.
"Do you know how he died?" Balantyne asked. He waved one hand at the chairs to invite Pitt to be seated, and included Tellman in a general way.
"Thank you, sir," Pitt accepted. "But I should like your permission for Sergeant Tellman to speak to your household staff. Someone may have heard an altercation or disturbance."
Balantyne's face was bleak. "I understand that the man did not meet a natural death?"
"I am afraid so. He was struck across the head, most likely after a fight, not long, but very fierce."
Balantyne's eyes widened. "And you think it happened on my doorstep?"
"That I don't yet know."
"By all means have the sergeant speak to my staff."
Pitt nodded at Tellman, who left eagerly, closing the door behind him. Pitt sat down in one of the large, green-leather-covered armchairs, and Balantyne sat a little stiffly in the one opposite.
"There is nothing I can tell you," Balantyne went on. "My bedroom is at the front of the house, but I heard nothing. A street robbery of such violence would be extraordinary in this area." A fleeting anxiety puckered his face, a sadness.
"He wasn't robbed," Pitt answered, disliking what he must do next. "At least not in any usual sense. He still had money." He saw Balantyne's surprise. "And this." He pulled the snuffbox out of his pocket and held it out in the palm of his hand.
Balantyne's expression did not change. His face was unnaturally motionless; there was no admiration for the beauty of the piece, no amazement that a murdered man involved in a fight should be in possession of such a thing. But all the self-mastery in the world could not control the blood draining from his skin and leaving him ashen.
"Extraordinary ..." He breathed out very slowly. "One would think ..." He swallowed. "One would think a thief could hardly miss such a thing." Pitt knew he was speaking to fill the emptiness of the moments between them while he decided whether to admit owning it or not. What explanation could he give?
Pitt stared at him, holding his eyes in an unwavering gaze. "It raises many questions," he agreed aloud. "Have you seen it before, General?"
Balantyne's voice was a little husky, as if his mouth were dry. "Yes ... yes, it is mine." He seemed to be about to add something, then changed his mind.
Pitt asked the question he had to. "When did you last see it?"
"I ... don't think I remember. One gets used to seeing things. I'm not sure I would have noticed its absence." He looked profoundly uncomfortable, but he did not evade Pitt's eyes. He anticipated the next question. "It's kept in a cabinet in the library."
Was there any point in pursuing it? Not yet.
"Have you missed anything else, General Balantyne?"
"Not so far as I am aware."
"Perhaps you would be good enough to check, sir? And I'll see if any of the servants have noticed anything moved, signs of a burglar in the house."
"It sometimes happens that burglars have called at the house earlier, to make an assessment or to-"
"I understand," Balantyne cut across him. "You think one of us may recognize him."
"Yes. If you, and perhaps your butler and one of your footmen, would come to the mortuary and see if he is known to you, it may help."
"If you wish," Balantyne agreed. He obviously disliked the idea, but he accepted the inevitability of it.
There was a sharp knock on the door, and before Balantyne could answer, it opened and a woman came in. Pitt remembered her immediately. Lady Augusta Balantyne was handsome in a dark, cold way. There was strength in her face, but it was inward, self-contained. She, too, must have remembered him, because there was instantly a chill in her when she saw him, more than could be accounted for by the fact that he had disturbed the household so early in the morning. But then, after their two previous encounters she could hardly think of him with any memory except that of pain.
She was dressed in a dark silk gown of formal cut, suitable for making morning calls, fashionable but subdued, as befitted her age and dignity. Her dark hair was streaked with white at the temples, and grief had faded her skin but not the intelligence or the iron will in her eyes.
Pitt rose to his feet. "I apologize for waking you so early, Lady Augusta," he said quietly. "Unfortunately, there has been a death in the street outside your home, and it is necessary that I enquire if anyone here was aware of the disturbance." He wished to spare her feelings as much as possible. He did not like her, and it made him even more careful than he would have been otherwise.
"I assumed it was some such duty that brought you, Inspector," she answered, at once dismissing any possible social contact between them. This was her home. He could only have come in the course of his trade.
Ridiculously, he found himself clenching inside, as aware of an insult as if she had slapped him. And he should have expected it. After all that had passed between them, the tragedy and the guilt, what would he have presumed differently? He tried to make himself relax his body, and failed.
Balantyne was on his feet also, looking from one to the other of them, as if he, too, should apologize-to Pitt for his wife's condescension, to her for Pitt's presence and for another tragedy.
"Some unfortunate man was attacked and killed," he said b