Midnight Pleasures with a Scoundrel(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 4)(64) by Lorraine Heath
“Yes, sir.” Swindler turned to go.
Swindler gazed back over his shoulder. “Yes, sir?”
“Take extreme care with this matter. Not a whisper of it is to make the rounds. Keep everything discreet, man. There could be a knighthood in it for you.”
“Your orders came from that high up?”
Sir David simply stared at the river.
The marquess has accepted our invitation for a private game at Dodger’s at midnight. Enjoy your freedom.
According to the note from Claybourne, the new Marquess of Rockberry might be mourning the death of his brother, but not enough to give up all his pleasures and vices. Swindler had heard the younger possessed a weakness for games of chance. And no man with such a weakness would pass up an opportunity to pit his skills against Claybourne, Greystone, and Dodger. The men were legendary in their conquests of the gaming tables—when they indulged. Since taking wives, all three were rarely seen at the tables. Who could blame them when their wives were the loveliest ladies London had to offer?
With the exception of Emma, of course, who wasn’t really of London. Still, James thought her by far the most appealing. It amused him now to think that he’d once thought no one would surpass Frannie for his affections. Yet Emma had managed to do exactly that. Swindler waited behind the hedgerows at the marquess’s London residence until he saw the man’s carriage rattle by at half past eleven. Then he waited another half hour for the servants to settle in after their master’s departure before making his way to the servants’ entrance. Kneeling, he removed a small candle from his pocket, lit the wick, studied the lock, and within seconds was inside the kitchen.
An incriminating item such as the choker would be in one of two places: the library or the master bedchamber. Swindler decided to start with the library, remembering its location from his previous visit, when he’d come to inspect the scene of the crime. Using the small light from his candle, disturbing nothing, barely breathing, he cautiously crept along the corridors, like a silent wraith. No servants crossed his path. He hadn’t expected any to be about. When the master was away, sleep beckoned.
Opening the library door, he stepped through and closed it behind him. Holding the candle aloft, he made his way around the numerous small sitting areas to the large desk at the far side of the room. He noted that the carpet was a different pattern than when he’d last been in the room. No surprise there. Blood seldom made an attractive decorative accent. After setting the candle on the desk, he began opening drawers, searching for latches that would release hidden compartments. The former marquess wouldn’t want his secrets easily discovered. But that was not unusual for the aristocracy. Hence the reason Feagan had trained them regarding the mysteries of a desk.
“Looking for something, Inspector?”
Swindler jerked his head up to see the new Lord Rockberry stepping out of a dark corner. Thinking himself quite alone, he hadn’t bothered to check the areas to the side or behind him. The new marquess didn’t carry the stench that his brother had, so Swindler hadn’t noticed his scent. Unfortunate, that. He was trying to devise a logical explanation for his presence when Rockberry held up his hand. Silver dangled from it.
Swindler realized he was definitely losing his edge. He’d become so obsessed with ensuring Emma’s freedom that he was becoming careless when it was critical that he be his most diligent. Closing the drawer he’d just opened, he held out his hands in acquiescence. “How did you know to expect me?”
“An invitation from the infamous Lord Claybourne for a private game with the notorious Dodger himself, not to mention a duke of the highest caliber? Me? A new marquess who has yet to fully embrace his title? Besides, I know that you all have ties to each other and the gutter.” He shrugged. “I’m young but I’m not a fool. I suspected someone wanted me out of my residence for a reason.”
“So you sent an empty carriage.”
“I did indeed. I must say I thought it very clever on my part.” He took a step nearer. “I know I didn’t lie about what I saw that night when my brother was murdered, which means that you lied about the woman being with you.”
“I didn’t lie.”
“Which must mean that you were with her and helped to kill him. Perhaps you plunged in the dagger. Jolly good for you. Pour yourself a drink, man. It’s well deserved. As I’ve recently discovered, my brother was as vile as they came. I won’t take the blame for a murder I didn’t commit, but I’ll do what I can to get you and the lady out of the country.”
“I didn’t lie about my lady not being here that night. And I can prove it.”
“Twins!” Rockberry exclaimed, looking and sounding astounded.
“Triplets,” Eleanor said tartly, “until your brother destroyed our sister.”
Swindler had brought Rockberry to Greystone’s, knowing the ladies would be awake, waiting to see if he’d met with success in finding the silver. The gentlemen, too, were in the library, suspecting trouble and having returned when Rockberry failed to show for their private game.
In appearance, Rockberry favored his brother very little. He was slender, but not as tall. His facial features were not marred by arrogance. He looked back at Swindler. “I found his journal. He wrote of his shameful exploits in minute detail. Why he would keep an accounting regarding his abhorrent behavior is beyond me.” He turned back to the ladies. “To which of you do I owe an apology for Cremorne Gardens?”
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