Happy Thursday! Here’s my latest snippet from A Most Malicious Murder from now until release day, just to whet your appetite. This snippet follows on a few minutes after the last snippet, and features Eddy trying to figure out how the heck he’s going to get out of Oxford in one piece. Enjoy!
I’m caught, like a rat in a cage.
Eddy rested his forehead against the door’s smooth wood, his gut aching from more than old wine. It was bad enough that he’d passed out in the same room as a corpse. Now he was trapped in Oxford until the police caught the murderer. Gossip flew on the wind; if the other stops on his tour caught word of what was happening, they could very well cancel his appearances, putting an end to his dreams for The Stylus and his career.
Elmira. He closed his eyes, thumping his forehead against the smooth oak with some force. For two years he had remained faithful to his temperance pledge, the only thing she’d required of him. If she learned of the shameful scene in the pub last night, he might lose his marriage as well as his career.
Or worse. They could arrest him for the chambermaid’s murder, and he would hang.
Eyes still shut, he stared at the pulsing starbursts in the darkness as if they could tell him what to do. Should he throw himself on the mercy of the local constabulary? Admit that he’d staggered dead drunk into the room opposite and passed out on the bed? Could he prove without a shadow of a doubt that he had nothing to do with that poor girl’s murder?
On the other hand, if he did stay quiet and they found out where he’d slept, he might as well sign a confession and march into the jail cell. He wanted to curl into a ball and weep. Tomlinson was useless, Ponsonby was in London and might as well be in Timbuktu, and he didn’t dare call on Elmira. Dear God in heaven, he was truly alone in this.
A hysterical laugh bubbled up in his throat. Not alone, no. How could he forget his looming guardian angels Collin and Furnow? His reputation, his marriage, his very life depended on the wit of two provincial police officers, when what he really needed were the services of—
Dupin. His eyes popped open. One of his greatest literary inventions, C. Auguste Dupin was a detective who had starred in four spine-chilling tales of mystery and murder. In each story Dupin had used ratiocination, or the process of logical thinking, to winkle out the killer.
Granted, Dupin was merely a fictional creation. But the brilliant detective was a product of his own imagination, and thus gifted with certain of his own characteristics, wasn’t he? If he used the same process of ratiocination, surely there was a chance that he could solve this crime himself, thereby clearing his name and saving his life in the process?
Returning to the room’s wooden chair, he dropped onto it. So what would Dupin do?
The answer was immediate—he’d start with the body. But I can’t go back and look at it—her.
Then again, perhaps he didn’t need to. Deliberately he closed his eyes again. The horrible image of the girl’s flayed belly with those crimson symbols carved over it came into view. Blindly, he scrabbled for his quill, dipping it into the ink pot by feel and scribbling the glyphs over his partial poem.
Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and studied what he’d written. To his surprise, he recognized the symbols he’d scratched out; Ancient Greek letters, arranged in five groups. As if they formed a sentence.
He chewed his lip, trying to puzzle out out the letters. While some of the symbols were familiar, he had no idea what the actual words said. He needed a translator to work out the message. Surely in this center of learning, Tomlinson would know of someone fluent in that classic language—
Tomlinson. Eddy groaned. Ponsonby’s man was supposed to arrive at noon to escort him to the train station for the second leg of the book tour. But if Furnow had already interrogated him about the events of last night, Tomlinson was undoubtedly telegraphing London for instructions on how to handle a writer under suspicion of murder.
Grabbing his coat and hat, Eddy folded the paper and stuffed it into his coat pocket on the way out the door. He had to find Tomlinson, and quickly.
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