The classic team role-playing game of conspiracy and strangeness
The Eater of the Dead
December 26th, 6 pm
‘Why do we need a Plan C?’ enquires Rupert, his brow furrowed suspiciously.
‘Um, well, um, I told your dad a sob story to try and appeal to his compassionate side – that didn’t work so I tried the heavy approach. I put on a knuckle-duster and waved a knife in front of him.’
‘And…?’ Rupert interrupts, growing more concerned for his fathers well-being at the hands of Donald.
‘I thought it was working at first he looked pretty scared, I thought he’d spill the beans.’ Donald stops talking abruptly and scratches his head.
‘Get to the bloody point will you.’ Rupert appears to be getting impatient now.
‘It backfired, in a big way, he attacked me with one of those ruddy cane-sword things. I had to defend myself, I hit him in the gut a couple of times to wind him and get that thing off him, he could have poked my bloody eye out with that.’
‘Donald, for God’s sake tell me what you did to him, will you. You said you wouldn’t be too rough!’
‘I was geared up to give him a right slapping at that point, he was lying on the floor, I’m yelling at him to get up, then I realise what’s happened. I’m sorry Rupert but I think I’ve killed your father, don’t worry there aren’t any witnesses, I’d hate to have to start killing off the hired help as well.’
‘WITNESSES!!,’ screams Rupert, ‘You kill my bloody father and you talk about witnesses!’
‘FUCK!!’ shouts Rupert, and punches the car window nearest to him, venting his anger and frustration. As Donald watches in horror the window cracks and splinters, cutting Rupert’s left hand in the process. Rupert however seems not to notice the blood beginning to pour from his lacerated hand.
Donald stares at his feet, realising he hasn’t been very tactful, again.
‘If you weren’t able to beat me to a bloody stump I’d knock a hole in you right now.’ threatens Rupert, waving his bloodied fist in Donald’s face, so the blood splashes over Donald’s cheeks.
‘Calm down Rupe, your old boy tried to puncture me, I defended myself, he’s an old man, he might have already had a health problem that I aggravated. The coroner’s report will reveal that.’ Donald is desperately trying to calm down to understandably upset Rupert.
‘Not only have you murdered my father, but you’ve also killed our only real source of information. First Arabella gets kidnapped now you kill Father. My brother will be back soon, do you want to have a pop at him as well?’
‘I don’t think I should kill the new Viscount just yet, do you? Besides haven’t you noticed that all the stuff we’ve done with SITU seems to go tits up somewhere in the middle and we still come out on top, don’t we?’
‘Oh, that’s alright then,’ mutters Rupert bitterly,’ As long as it turns out alright in the end, who cares.’
Donald, feeling awkward, starts to say, ‘Look, Rupert, I really didn’t…’
But Rupert interrupts him. ‘For God’s sake, the last thing we need is a hitman snivelling. I’m pissed off, yes. With you, yes. But more so with my father and with life in general. My father was a pain in the arse, but he was my father. We never ever saw eye to eye, and now we never will. Look, Donald, I know it wasn’t deliberate, but you could have been a damn sight more careful. Now I suppose we’ll have to arrange a funeral. Are you OK to come back in with me to see my mother and Charles, and act surprised?’
Donald lights up another cigarette, a bit miffed that Rupert has suggested that he was careless. After all, he only hit the guy a couple of times. Careless is when you start beating someone’s head into a brick wall. He thinks he’d better leave this particular line of thought alone for now: this won’t help a ticked-off Rupert at all. ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll come back in and act surprised. I have an alibi for us as well, if there are any questions of course – you were the last person seen going in, you were talking to your Dad and he got lairy with you, you had a fight he waved his cane about in front of you, you lashed out in defence, he threw you out, then he went back to his office and must have had a heart attack or something as you left, I was in the car all the time so I didn’t see anything, you came back out to get me so I could go in and try and calm down the situation and there he was, his death will most likely be an accident and that’s it. You can tell your Mum that though.’
‘Listen, John, what do you think of my plan to replace the maid?’ asks Karyn impatiently.
‘Er, I hadn’t actually given it much thought I’m afraid,’ John replies. His mind has been firmly elsewhere.
Karyn irritatedly turns to Professor Westwood. ‘Can you cast a glamour on me? So I look like this maid girl? That way she won’t suspect me.’
‘But if she does have even a small reason to suspect, she’ll ID you straight away,’ protests John. ‘She’s already been inside your mind, remember.’
‘You may not have noticed,’ Karyn says icily, ‘but this mission seems to be coming up short on avenues of investigation. It’s a risk, but I don’t mind taking it, if I can just get a little bit of support around here!’
‘OK, OK,’ says John placatingly.
Professor Westwood has been stroking his beard consideringly. ‘Sure, I can do a glamour. Have you got a picture of the person you’re imitating?’
Karyn shakes her head.
‘Or have you seen her yourself, got a good mental image?’
‘Jesus! I’m not a miracle worker, you know.’ He starts to stand up.
‘I’ve seen her,’ puts in John quickly. ‘Can you read the mental image out of my mind?’ Why am I suddenly talking like this guy is a real wizard, he wonders. But Professor Westwood flashes him a sardonic glance, and John recalls that he has witnessed a number of rather odd things these past few years.
‘Donald, I need a gun. With all the crap flying around I may need to protect myself. Who knows what psychopathic moron may try to kill me, or even give me a heart attack.’ Rupert appears riven with bitterness as he adds, ‘It’s the least you can do.’
‘All right, but you need training,’ sighs Donald. ‘Let’s find a place I can give you some practice without us getting arrested.’
Donald first takes Rupert into the nearby woods, with a small revolver. ‘This is yours. There are a few rules I live by – never point it at someone unless you mean it, always make sure there is one bullet in it at all times, keep the first chamber empty, never shoot yourself in the foot with it and never get caught with it.’
Rupert weighs the gun in his hand, a determined expression on his face, and settles to practice, aiming at a tree stump.
Donald watches him for a little while as his aim improves. ‘How did that feel?’
Rupert gives Donald a half-hearted smile. ‘Fine, I think. Just fine. Perhaps now things will start to change for me. It’s been one long pile of crap from morning to dusk for the last week or so. And it’s getting worse day by day. Well, I’ll show that Shareena Nefertiti bitch. This is now very, very personal.’
Donald nods. ‘Right, now we have to develop your aim and give you some sort of “killer instinct”. This is a bit riskier...’ He glances around. ‘Which way’s the village?’
Rupert only realizes how much risk Donald used to put himself in when he finds himself peeping over the estate wall in broad daylight, with Donald’s sniper rifle in his hands, looking at the distant village green.
‘Right, what you need to do is prop the gun on the wall, stare down the lens and find your target. Then follow it around, get the feel of the rifle. Doesn’t matter who.’
Rupert looks at Donald cautiously. ‘Why did you just say “it”? Not him or her?’
‘A target is never a person. Detach yourself emotionally, and it’s easier.’
Rupert sets himself up and finds a target: he lines himself up with a rather large chap sweeping dead leaves from in front of his cottage, and follows him around using the lens. He thinks to himself, ‘This isn’t a person, he’s an it, or should that be, it’s an it. Crap, I can’t do this. No wonder Donald’s a bit flaky.’
Donald crouches down next to Rupert, and Rupert feels the cold touch of metal against his head, ‘Now pull the trigger,’ hisses Donald. ‘Or I’ll pull mine. You want to be a killer, you have to know how it is to be on the other en,d as well as being the one holding the gun.’
Rupert is shaking like a leaf, ‘You bastard! I can’t do this!’
‘Don’t think about it, just do it.’ Donald whispers in his ear. ‘I’ll give you to the count of 5…
There is a click from Donald’s rifle.
Rupert start to cry.
Donald pulls his trigger as well, the gun clicks, nothing happens. He gives Rupert an astonished look. ‘Jesus Christ, you would have done it.’
‘Screw you, you are so fucked up.’ Rupert is fuming at Donald, again.
‘Calm down… you want to kill someone with a gun, it’s going to be like this every time for a long time. You have to be prepared to pull the trigger and end a life without thinking. I’m sorry I’m harsh, but this is how it is. Let’s pack up and I’ll get some brandy in you..’ He gives him a wink. ‘… Killer.’
‘You said never have an empty gun and never point it at someone unless you meant it! You are such a hypocrite.’
Donald shrugs his shoulders, ‘Your gun would have fired if I had taken the safety off. And I also said keep the first chamber empty, didn’t I?’ He passes Rupert his revolver, Rupert opens the gun up and sees one bullet in the top chamber. ‘If I pulled the trigger twice, well…’
His matter-of-fact way that winds Rupert up even more. ‘Arsehole!’
By the time Rupert and Donald return to the house, the body has been discovered. They are met at the door by a solemn-looking Charles. ‘Rupert old fellow, bad news I’m afraid. It’s Father. He’s… passed away.’
Rupert experiences a strange mix of emotions – guilt, annoyance, and at the same time an acceptance of the inevitability of what happened, given his father’s heart condition. Also, oddly, surprise. Being told of the news rather than having to ‘discover’ it himself makes it still somehow rather shocking.
‘Yes, poor old chap,’ continues Charles, ‘his ticker seems to have packed in. Must have been the strain of your visit.’ He at once looks guilty. ‘I say, I didn’t mean it like that… not trying to suggest it was your fault or anything, honestly.’
‘Don’t worry Charles, I know exactly what you mean,’ responds Rupert, his voice heavy. ‘How’s Mother?’
‘She’s not taken it too well, to be frank,’ says Charles over his shoulder as he leads them into the house, Donald skulking guiltily at the rear.
That this is something of an understatement can clearly be seen when Rupert follows Charles into the drawing-room: Lady de Montfort is in screaming hysterics, her clothing rent, her hair torn out in chunks, and ash from the grate heaped on her head. She looks like a minor character from Euripides.
‘There, there, Mother, don’t take it so hard,’ mutters Charles embarrassedly, patting her lightly on the shoulder, with no apparent effect.
A maid rushes in and attempts to apply a cloth soaked in lavender-water to the Viscountess’s forehead. A flailing arm sends her flying.
‘Er, perhaps I should take you to where the old man died,’ says Charles. ‘The sawbones is with him now, not that there’s much he can do at this stage.’
The three sombrely troop upstairs to the late Viscount de Montfort’s study, where he is lying on the floor more or less as Donald left him. The village doctor is fussing around, but Charles dismisses him with a wave.
Rupert is shocked – not by the death, but more at the ignominious way his father, a big, strong man, looks – crumpled and small, like a shrivelled spider. To his surprise he finds himself starting to cry, as the reality of the situation confronts him.
‘There, there, let it all out, that’s right,’ says Charles sympathetically.
Rupert furiously quells his tears. ‘Oh God, I wish we could have made peace before he died.’
‘I’m sure he’s smiling down on you now, Rupes, from a better place,’ Charles comments piously.
Rupert himself is not so certain about where his father has ended up. ‘Well, Charles, looks like you’re the new Viscount. Good luck to you, that’s all I can say. I hope you have more joy with it than father seemed to.’
Charles pales. ‘Gosh, that hadn’t struck me. I suppose you’re right. I’ll have to sit in the House and so forth.’ He runs a hand through his hair, perplexedly.
Donald gains a thoughtful expression. If I kill Charles, he muses, Rupert will become the new Viscount: this could get him into the Palace, and us in as aides or minders. He is mindful not to say this aloud, as it might be thought a trifle tactless. One to discuss later, when Rupert is a little calmer.
‘Listen, Charlie, could you just leave me alone with Father for a moment? Pay last respects, and so on.’
‘Of course, old chap, I understand perfectly. I’ll be downstairs with Mother.’ Charles politely exits, although he is a little surprised when Donald doesn’t come too.
Rupert at once starts fingering through his dead father’s clothing, while Donald rifles the rest of the office. He finds straight away sets of keys for all three houses, clearly labelled, and a small black leather-bound diary. This he pockets, as it would take forever to copy out the salient information. He also finds the key to the bedroom safe. He slips this all into his jacket, his hand coming up against the cigarette case Charles gave him. He pulls the case out, checking it over for signs of significance, but it seems just like a standard nice silver item, probably bought at Garrard’s or Asprey’s: it is new and unused. Shrugging he slips it back into his pocket.
Donald meanwhile has found the late Viscount’s notes on his book, which were stuffed out of sight at the back of a drawer. Apart from those, the rest of the office just contains estate business.
‘Right, let’s get moving,’ says Rupert crisply. He strides downstairs, bidding his mother and brother a perfunctory farewell.
‘Er, what about the funeral, old chap?’ calls Charles.
‘As soon as possible,’ says Rupert firmly. ‘Can we get moving on that straight away?’
‘We have to wait for the police to come by… just a formality,’ says Charles.
‘OK then, keep me posted,’ says Rupert. He has definite thoughts that whoever turns up at the funeral may be of interest to the SITU investigation.
‘By the way, what happened to your ear? – are you all right?’ calls Charles after him, but Rupert ignores him.
‘Rupe,’ says Donald as they walk down the steps, ‘I’m thinking of not going to the funeral, that would be too weird, even for me. I was thinking that, well, the house should be pretty empty when it’s happening. I was going to have a sneak around in his office and see what else I could find. I need your permission though, I don’t want to just do it.’
‘I’ll think about it,’ says Rupert, climbing into the car.
Donald opens the passenger door, but Rupert notices that the boot is still open. ‘Can you close the boot Donald, I must have been so much in shock and full of memories I forgot to shut it properly.’
‘OK,’ says Donald agreeably and he gets back out to shut the boot. As soon as he has done so, though, Rupert floors the accelerator and speeds off, spraying Donald with gravel as he stands perplexed in the drive.
Donald’s expression is entirely one of blank surprise, as Rupert glances at him in the mirror and mutters ‘You arsehole Donald. On another day I’d show you exactly where to stick your bloody gun. Git!’
As he reaches the end of the driveway, swaying about the road rather, he passes an old red Jaguar cruising in through the gates. At the wheel is the unmistakable figure of Detective Chief Inspector Seymour of the Thames Valley Police: he glares suspiciously at Rupert as they pass.
‘I’ve had the most curious email,’ says George, coming back downstairs. He passes it to Martin.
hi from maddy!!!
i’m with the group in india chasing kali and I did some automatic writing. there’s a funny squiggle which looks like the outline of a church or something. when i heard about martin keyes seeing that church where the hellfire club was, with the big globe halfway up the spire, i thought it might be that. could you find a picture of medmenham abbey and email it to me so i can see if it really really is that one?
‘It’s from Madeleine Hook, one of the other operatives. I’ve never been on a mission with her, but she’s very experienced, I think.’ He does not say what John has occasionally said about Maddy’s ‘eccentricities’.
‘I’ll send her the pictures,’ says Martin agreeably.
Just then the phone rings: it is Rupert, calling on his mobile. ‘George, old chap, this is very important. I have two things to tell you. Firstly…’ a brief pause and a swallowing noise, ‘… Firstly Donald, in a rather too enthusiastic frame of mind, killed my father. It was an accident. At least that’s what he said. My father died of a heart attack.’
‘Oh dear, I’m terribly sorry to hear that…’ starts George unhappily.
‘Oh, don’t worry about me,’ interrupts Rupert. ‘This whole investigation is a pile of shit, and my family appear to be at the centre of it. I just think to myself what our relationship could have been. As it was we parted on the worst possible terms.’ He regains his composure. ‘But anyway, I have far more important and less self obsessed things to say. I am going to the secret house my father bought. I will confront that bitch Shareena el-Ahmar. Who knows where it’ll get me, but at least I can try. I want two things from you lot. Firstly the amulet from Martin. I may need all the protection it can give me. Secondly the dubhium John has. I will be waiting in the car outside the house until midnight. If no-one comes by then I will go in anyway.’
‘Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ asks George guardedly. Rupert sounds quite odd – his voice might almost be described as steely. Must be the breeding telling.
‘Don’t try to talk me out of this! I am well and truly pissed off, and I need to vent my spleen.’
John makes a beckoning motion, and George passes him the phone. ‘Hi Rupert… sorry about your father. But I heard George saying something about you going to London to confront Shareena el-Ahmar? Do you need a hand down there? Serum, gun. Anything else? OK I’ll see if Martin wants to join us.’
Marty, who has returned from mailing pictures to Maddy, looks surprised.
‘I’m going down to London to meet Rupert at his father’s unofficial place. Martin, he’s asked if I can take the amulet down to him as well….unless you fancy coming along?’
Marty is certainly not going to let the disk get away from him. ‘Yeah, OK then, I suppose so.’
‘Thanks, John,’ comes Rupert’s crackly voice. ‘I didn’t expect anyone to help me. At least there’s another person in this group as mad as I am. See you there then, and thanks again.’
As he hangs up the phone, John thinks he hears a muttered aside: ‘Well he may be an ex-army git but at least he can be more human then Jo was.’
‘So we’re all going, then,’ says George briskly, striking his hands together. ‘I’ll drop Mahmoud off at Daphne’s on the way.’ He does not say what he plans to tell Donald about this arrangement.
Donald, shrugging, starts walking back towards Wycombe and the railway station. As he passes through Montfort village he is overtaken by Inspector Seymour’s red Jaguar, travelling at high speed.
‘Right Swahn, Blaize, whoever you are.’
‘It’s Andre Swahn. Is that Rupert?’
‘You are going to listen now, and say nothing,’ continues Rupert forcefully. ‘You have seen my emails, and you know what I feel about things. I’m going to confront Nefertiti, in the form of Shareena el-Ahmar. I want answers, and since you won’t give me any I’ll have to seek them elsewhere. That’s a fait accompli, and I’m not discussing it at all.’
‘Are you all right? We heard about your…’
‘If I get answers from her, so much the better. If she makes sense to me then who knows. I am telling you now. Get onto our contacts at the island of Nauru. Tell them that I want answers. If I get them from Nefertiti and she can help me more than you, who knows whose side I will come out on. You have my mobile number. I expect a call before midnight.’
Rupert snaps the phone shut before the spluttering Swahn can do anything about it.
Sean has been brought up to date by phone, waiting outside the de Montfort townhouse in Bruton Street, which is being decked out in mourning weeds. The death of Rupert’s father is a pain in the whotsit, he muses. I didn’t want any confrontation like that, it needed to be done just right to trigger a reaction from the enemy that could be used to our advantage. The old guy may well have known the place was bugged and would not say anything whilst others were listening in. Getting him to talk needed to be done away from the bugs! I get the feeling that the old guy died when someone decided he might become a liability. I still feel we’re being manipulated.
He shifts position, dropping another cigarette butt. It was not a good result!
It is getting late, but the servants are still active around the house, covering up portraits with black cloth and so on. I still suspect that the Karyn possession business was fishy. I can’t see the reason for doing it except to hide the identity of the enemy. So far the enemy seem to be somewhat arrogant. So why play silly games when they don’t have to? They do seem to like taking the limelight when possible. But then this whole affair is a series of silly games designed to keep us chasing our tails. He sighs heavily. I don’t know where to go with this!
At that point the receiver next to him in the cab bleeps softly. Sean tenses, picks up the headphones, and narrows his eyes as he hears Daphne’s voice. ‘… so, Sarah, I thought it was so odd seeing Peter’s picture like that. I hope you don’t mind me calling you like this.’ She sounds definitely nervous.
‘Of course not,’ says another woman’s voice – clipped and businesslike, an educated Englishwoman, in her forties Sean guesses.
‘It’s been such a long time…’
‘Only a few years. And true friends never forget each other, Daphne.’ The mysterious Sarah’s voice is definitely ironic in tone.
‘Well, I’ve called you now. I’m sure you can understand how I didn’t want to, after all that business.’ Daphne sounds slightly defiant.
‘I don’t need reminding about it, thank you,’ says Sarah. ‘Anyway – Peter Lovell. You’re quite sure it was him?’
‘Of course! I’d know him anywhere. And, Sarah, he had the strangest mark on his forehead. One of George’s friends – George is my, er, –’
‘I know. George Wellington Hardy, Royal Engineers, retired.’
‘How did you know that?’ Daphne is amazed.
‘We know all sorts of things. Anyway, what did this friend of George’s say?’
‘That the mark was the name of Nefertiti – you know, the Egyptian queen.’
There is a long silence.
‘Sarah? Are you still there?’
When Sarah’s voice returns there is a hard frost in it. ‘I see. So this is the way things have progressed in Air Staff 2A since I left.’
‘Well, there were some changes,’ Daphne gabbles. ‘When Viscount de Montfort took over…’
‘Aha. Right, thank you, Daphne. I think I’ve heard enough.’
‘Oh! But I was thinking that maybe we could meet up and catch up on…’
‘Yes. That would be a very good idea. We’ll definitely be meeting up. But I have to make an urgent report now.’ Sarah’s voice is barely containing its excitement. ‘Then you can be sure that I’ll call you, Daphne. There are lots of things we want to catch up on with you. Especially your George – all his hobbies and interests. I’m sure he’s a wonderful man.’
‘He is, rather…’ But the phone is hung up before Daphne gets a chance to finish her sentence. The last thing Sean hears is her muttering to herself ‘What a very odd woman she can be at times!’
Rupert is coming past the old Hoover factory when he hears sirens behind him. Along with the rest of the queue of traffic, he pulls over to let them past, but instead the vehicles – a red Jaguar and a squad car – stop right alongside him. Out of the first steps Inspector Seymour and Sergeant Harris, out of the other two officers who Rupert is surprised to see are carrying guns.
Seymour raps on the window, displaying his badge. Rupert, sighing, winds it down. ‘Was I speeding, officer?’
‘Very funny. Rupert de Montfort, you’re under arrest.’
‘What? What on earth for?’ Rupert instinctively glances around, but there is no ready means of escape – his car is hemmed in. He could dive through the passenger door and out that way on foot, but the police would be quickly on his heels. He remembers the cold weight of the gun Donald gave him – just under his seat, it is in easy grabbing range, but to try and shoot it out with all these witnesses around would be madness. Unfortunately the items he took from his father’s body are all still in his jacket pockets, which is bound to look rather incriminating.
‘For the murder of Percival de Montfort.’ Seymour nods, with great satisfaction.
‘… and, if you’ll allow me to finish, sir, for the murder of Joanna Wilton, and for the suspected murder of Arabella Robyns.’
Rupert’s world very suddenly becomes a place full of cold, hard edges. He barely hears Harris’s apologetic voice saying ‘… may be taken down and used in evidence against you.’
‘Well, here we all are, but no sign of Rupert,’ says John warily, glancing up and down the mews.
‘Mm, not like him to be late,’ says George. ‘No, hold on, what am I saying. It’s exactly like him to be late. But not this time, I think. Something might have gone wrong.’
At that point Sean saunters into the end of the mews. ‘Well howdy there, fellas. I heard youse all talking –’ he pats the pocket where his listening devices live ‘– and thought it might be good to compare notes. The junkie’s not coming along. He’s just been arrested.’
‘What? How do you know?’
‘Car radio, police frequencies.’ Sean explains what has happened to Rupert. ‘So…’ He suddenly notices the young blonde woman standing next to John. ‘Hey! Who’s the babe?’
Karyn simpers in what she imagines to be a maid-like manner.
‘Oh! … pretty good, chickie, pretty good.’ Sean tries to snatch a handful of Karyn, but she slaps his hand aside. ‘But you’ve got to have a hole in your head if you reckon you can fool the Ylid that way.’
‘It’s worth trying,’ says Karyn sullenly.
‘Well, the maid’s due back at eight in the morning, so that’s when you want to strike,’ says Sean helpfully. ‘But I’ll be here too, to cover.’
‘I don’t need you, thanks, I’ve got John as backup.’
‘The more the merrier, chickie, the more the merrier.’ Sean nods, thinking of the trusty old WWII submachinegun with silencer in the back of his van. It surprises one just how much stuff is buried in the bogs. Shame no-one ever had the ability to use it with skill and forward planning… He considers. ‘I think I prefer you as a blonde. And maid’s uniform will definitely be an improvement.’
He turns to the others. ‘I’m beginning to think we should just start working our way through the players in this little drama, taking them out. We’re just being given the runaround here, and it’s getting away from us.’
‘No bloodbaths, Sean,’ says George warningly.
‘And what about this Lovell guy? With the picture painted on his fore head… this is getting silly. He needs to be talked to. But why do I get the feeling think he might have been possessed and will have no memory…’ He falls silent, remembering the tone in ‘Sarah’s’ voice. She didn’t sound like she was planning to do Lovell any favours, particularly if she was Daphne’s old boss Sarah St John, as seemed likely, and so Lovell was her ex-boyfriend. Perhaps it might be better to get to Lovell sooner rather than later. But he’d been right about Daphne! Now how to break it to George? He might not like the idea that Sean has bugged his girlfriend.
‘Well, anyway, what are we going to do now? We may as well go ahead with Karyn’s plan in the morning,’ says John. ‘But there’s no point us just standing around here like this.’
‘And what about Rupert? Should we try and rescue him?’ puts in Karyn.
‘From the police?’ George is shocked, but if Sean has with him the kind of arsenal he usually favours, it would certainly be possible.
‘Or like bail him out or something. Or get his family too, they’re like lords or whatever.’
‘They might not be very keen to, if they shopped him to the cops,’ says John doubtfully.
‘I don’t think they can have,’ says George stoutly. ‘From what Rupert’s said about them, Charles and his mother wouldn’t have the brain or the nerve. More likely this is a mad theory of Inspector Seymour’s.’
‘Well, we can’t just stand around here all night: the neighbours will talk. Let’s get a hotel somewhere nearby and get some sleep.’
Donald arrives back at George’s house to find no-one present. Sighing, he waves down a cab and heads over to Daphne’s.
She answers the door rather flustered, and Mahmoud at once shoots out around her and clings fiercely to Donald’s legs. His hair is moistened and combed flat, the first time that has been true in his troubled young life.
‘He looks such a handsome little fellow when he’s spruced up’ says Daphne apologetically. ‘Do come in, Donald. I’m afraid George and the others have gone to London. But you’re very welcome to stay overnight.’
‘Mm, thanks, I think I will,’ says Donald. Perhaps, with George away, he will be able to find out the real story about Daphne at last.
December 27th, 1 am
Donald: at Daphne’s house
Rupert: at Bow Street police cells
Everyone else: in the Hotel Gainsford