Man, Sunday is almost over and I haven’t posted a snippet of A MOST MALICIOUS MURDER yet, my bad! Today’s entry features Eddy running into the murdered chambermaid’s sister and a potential suspect. Enjoy!
Eddy slipped inside the doors to the Mitre, glancing around the small lobby. Venables was not behind the desk. Instead, a tall, rawboned young man stood there, staring at the top of the desk with reddened eyes.
He looked up at Eddy’s approach. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked, his voice as raw as his eyes.
“Oh, I’m a guest,” Eddy said, waving in the general direction of the staircase. “I was hoping the worst of the excitement was over by now. I wonder, have the police left?”
The young man’s attention turned back to the desk top, as if hoping to find answers there. “Yes, sir. They took—” He stopped, swallowing so hard Eddy could hear the click. “They’re gone, sir.”
“Ah.” Could this be the mysterious ERS, mourning for his dead love? Or the murderer regretting his actions? “You have my deepest condolences,” he added, trying to look appropriately sympathetic. “Jane struck me as a fine young woman. I take it you were an acquaintance of hers?”
The young man’s throat worked. “We—we were friendly with each other, sir. We liked to talk about books and such. She loved to read, you see.”
“Yes, so I gathered. I was pleased when she asked me to sign a book of my poems.” He decided it was worth a try. “She wanted to give it to someone—you, perhaps?”
A look of pain flashed over the young man’s face. “I—she never said, sir.”
Before Eddy could continue his questioning, a girl in a brown dress and white pinafore ghosted into the lobby, stopping in front of the desk. Her huge dark eyes were swimming with unshed tears.
The clerk came around, crouching down. “Maggie, you need to go home,” he said gently.
She shook her head, dark curls bouncing. “Ma sent me, Will. I’m supposed to get Jane’s things—” Her chest hitched in a soft sob, and tears began trickling down her cheeks.
Eddy caught the names. The little girl had to be a relative of Jane’s, a niece perhaps or younger sister. And she called the clerk Will, so he can’t be ERS.
“I’m so sorry to intrude, young miss,” he said, crouching a bit and keeping his tone respectful. “I take it you’re Jane’s sister?” When the girl nodded he continued, “I signed one of my books for her yesterday. She struck me as a very sweet and pleasant young woman. You and your family have my deepest sympathies on your loss.”
Maggie sniffled. “Are—are you the poet? The American one?”
He essayed a nod. “That I am. Edgar Allan Poe, at your service.”
She sniffled again. He had the bright idea to whip out his handkerchief and offer it to her, expecting her to blow her nose on the snowy linen. Instead, she dabbed at her nose and mouth with surprising grace. “Jane read me some of your poems. She liked them. They scared me.”
The clerk flushed, but Eddy shook his head with a smile. “Well, you may be a bit young for them, my dear,” he admitted. “Tell me, do you know what happened to the book?”
Maggie shook her head. “Jane said she was giving it to her beau.”
From the corner of his eye, Eddy caught Will’s expression go stony. “And who would that be?”
“I don’t know his name. But Jane said he was going to take care of her and—” She stopped, biting her lip.
“Sir, I need to get her home.” The clerk deliberately interjected himself between the two of them. “If there’s anything else you need, I’ll have it sent up to your room.”
“Yes, of course, thank you.” Eddy watched him hustle the little girl into the bowels of the hotel. Judging from the younger man’s attitude, he had been sweet on Jane at the very least. And a clerk would know the layout of the hotel and the chambermaids’ schedules.
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