Alexandra held the struggling, scowling Daphne at arms’ length as the rest of the gathered group looked upon the girls. Mrs. Winters, pale and aghast, was gasping, persisting with pestering her husband to “do something”, which of course he wouldn’t, having set up this scene knowing well the full extent of his offspring’s trickery.
Azura and Peter Stones were giving off the air of being disgusted, though Alexandra would have argued that Mr. Stones had no right to judge when Daphne’s arms were no different from the man’s thieving fingers.
By now, it was also apparent to those shocked few that Joshua was on his feet too (although still beside his place), and bristling with uncontained worry and fury. Cynthia, confusion littering her light eyes, tried to grip his wrist, but he was more than contented to keep pushing her away.
“My dear Daphne, what is it that you’ve been up to behind your parents’ backs?” the Inspector tutted.
“Don’t try it, Detective,” Daphne snapped. “I only did what was necessary, and it is not my fault if things got out-of-hand, carried away, diverted from the original path. Times are tough for the upper-class. Money is short, and dreams vanish along with the pounds and shillings. Ask all the local families if you want, they’ve all played a part in the operation at one point in their little lives; in fact, most of the younger chaps were quite willing to help when they heard what I’d do for them.” She casually unpinned a lock of her hair, letting it drip down on to her face as she stared intently at the Inspector. “Some people even did worse things than those thoughts of my old dreams…”
Inspector Whitting’s scowl deepened to a crease in his brow that handed a rugged handsomeness to his face.
“Please don’t try your flirtatious, childish mind-games on me, Miss Winters. They won’t work. Besides, think of your reputation if they heard you’d tried to seduce a man of law.”
As Alexandra marvelled at how the man could be mocking yet sincere, savage and yet most orderly, and have looks as mysterious as Christophe’s, she heard Mrs. Winters say:
“Oh, how very beastly…” She was being guided into her chair by her husband, and Christophe appeared by her right side, offering an ice-cooled glass of water.
“You must know the leader of the other criminali. For prostitutes do not run themselves. Tell me, who is your right-hand man?”
Daphne’s eyes flickered across to the ‘couple’, and she observed their furious faces for a second, fists were clenched, but their horror painted a different picture.
“My operation is entirely female-run. Cynthia Glass is the woman you are looking for.”
“What?” cried Cynthia as the policeman advanced towards her. He pulled her away from Joshua, clasping her small wrists behind the light floral dress she had chosen to wear on the afternoon. Cynthia’s eyes were wide, pleading without regret, as though she had nothing to deny, nothing to hide; she spread her gaze hopefully around the rest of the miniature room. She was met with disgusted glares from all sides, especially from Joshua, who made his way over to the crowd by Daphne.
“I…I…” Cynthia began to weep, reaching out with her voice now she could not with her hands, “Tell them, Mr. Newton, tell them that I’m not the other one that they’re looking for. How can they trust a woman who has lied before?”
Mid-step, Joshua turned back to look at his fiancée, reading her expression for barely another second. He turned away to face Daphne in Alexandra’s grasp. His face was set, unreadable.
“She’s the one,” he said emotionlessly.