In Bed with the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 1)(83) by Lorraine Heath
“Apparently, he’s lost a good deal of money to you. He’s in financial straits and he’s quite angry about it.”
“And how do you know all this?”
“Because he approached me and told me that he would help me regain my title if I promised to pay him what you’d stolen from him once I inherited.”
“Help you regain it by having me murdered?”
“I didn’t know that was part of his plan. I told him that I wanted to do it legally through the courts. I thought he understood, but I learned too late that he is quite the madman.”
“And you didn’t think I needed to know this when I came before?”
“I was ashamed that I’d become involved with him. And quite honestly, I was terrified.
He indicated that he’d killed before, and I have little doubt he spoke the truth.”
“I appreciate your honesty.”
“For what it’s worth, I always thought you were a decent chap—well, except for killing my father, of course.”
“He brutally raped a twelve-year-old girl. That’s the reason I killed him. And while until recently, I had no memory of my parents’ murder, maybe a part of me did recognize him
—for I hesitated not at all in delivering what I considered justice.”
“You can’t always tell from looking at a person what he’s really like.”
Luke placed his hand on Marcus’s shoulder. “I don’t think you’re like your father.”
“Thank you for that. I’d best get back to Mother. While it’s not obvious, I suspect she’s taken all of this news rather hard.”
After watching his cousin disappear into the drawing room, Luke turned his thoughts to the problem of Avendale. He was going to take a great deal of pleasure in dispensing with the fellow.
The missive went out to three of them. There was a time when it would have gone to four.
They slipped into Luke’s library as quiet as the night, coming into the residence through their various preferred entrances. Bill entered through the kitchen. Jim climbed a tree and came in through a bedchamber window. Frannie preferred slipping in through a door that led off of the terrace.
Catherine was there. She’d come in through the front door as though she no longer had a need to hide what they were doing. But Luke knew the truth of it. What they were about to do they would have to carry with them to the grave.
They all sat in chairs in a circle.
“Let’s begin,” Luke said.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Jack?” Bill asked.
“He’s not invited.”
Bill looked at the others, as though he expected someone to object, to defend Jack, and when no one did, he settled back. He was the healer among them. He always wanted to fix things, make them right. But some things, once broken, would never be the same.
“As you’re aware, I set up an opportunity to confront Avendale at Heatherwood.
Presently, he is my prisoner, being kept in the manor’s cellar. The man is a danger. To his wife, his son, Catherine, and me. If it were only me, I’d let it go and deal with him one on one, but I’m not willing to risk the others.” He especially wasn’t willing to risk Catherine.
“So what’s the plan?” Jim asked.
“If any of you have doubts, you should walk out now.”
They all stayed seated.
Luke felt the tightening in his chest, cleared his throat at the demonstration of their faith in him. Apparently Jim wasn’t the only one who would follow him into hell without asking why they were taking the journey. “Thank you for that.”
Taking a deep breath, he gave his attention to Bill. “We need a body. A man, recently buried, would no doubt be best. We’ll want him dressed in these items, as well as the two rings. I’ve included a note that tells which ring goes on which finger on which hand.” Luke took a bundle from where it rested beside his chair and extended it to Bill.
He’d taken Avendale’s clothing and jewelry before leaving Heatherwood.
Bill took the parcel without hesitating. “It’s been a long while since I’ve done any grave robbing, but it’s a skill once learned, never forgotten.”
“After he’s dressed, we’ll want him burned beyond recognition.”
Bill nodded. “I’ll see to it.”
“Take comfort in the fact that his final resting place will be very grand indeed.” Luke turned to Jim. “I’m looking for someone being transported to a penal colony for life.
Age doesn’t matter, as long as the documents can be changed to reflect a man of thirty-four.”
Jim nodded somberly. “A boy of fourteen was recently sentenced to transportation to Tasmania. I believe it was for life, for picking pockets.”
“Bloody hell, that could have been any of us,” Bill said. “Whose pockets did he pick?
“That was my thought—but for the teachings of Feagan, there go I.” Jim looked at Frannie. “Can you make a fourteen look like a thirty-four?”
She grinned cockily. “In my sleep.”
“I’ll get his papers to you.”
“We’ll also want to arrange respectable employment for the lad,” Luke told her.
She gave him an odd look before nodding. Probably because that would have been Jack’s job, to see that the lad was placed somewhere safe.
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