In the calm air there was a layer of moisture, the sign that a storm was coming to cleanse away the sins of humans. The grey clouds were hanging low, depressed by some gale that had passed them by. The trees above the couple were swaying, swaying to the melody of the love that was harmony between them, blessing the couple once again, but shaking their branches out at Rhaïd Mahalle, the unwilling victim, the unwitting villain.
When she had calmed down enough to stem the flow of her tears, Alexandra looked up into the world. The afternoon was becoming chilly now, and, having separated away from Christophe, she rubbed her arms for to create a little self-warmth. In the distance, a figure slowly approached: a gentleman wearing a long tan coat over his dark business suit of matte tweed material. He walked in great strides and did no longer give off the air of a businessman.
“Well, I hadn’t a clue it was going to be so jolly easy to ensnare Mr. Newton,” said Inspector Whitting as he approached. “All thanks to your Mr. Mahalle, eh, Miss Alexandra?”
He noticed the figure on the ground, and raised his eyebrows, saying nothing, however.
He had spoken into the great silence, and Alexandra finally was able to lift herself completely away from the space of Christophe, walking to another segment of the exterior wood as she pushed away the echoing memories of the day passed.
“Inspector Whitting? I thought that you would be gone by now…Sir.”
“Don’t be so sure, Miss Alexandra. Wherever there are crooks, there are loose ends to tie up with them.”
Alexandra giggled slightly at how clichéd his sentenced sounded. As the colour flushed back into her cheeks, and heat returned to her soul, she started to feel more confidence and less afraid of the moment. Inspector Whitting saw her unease and turned to Christophe, taking another weight from the day off his mind.
“I say, Christophe, you did a jolly good show back there. How would you like to keep an eye on the household and its acquaintances from now on? Just as a matter of police-work, of course.”
However, Alexandra and Christophe could see right through to the Inspector’s true meaning. The turned and gave each other an eyebrow-raised look before Christophe replied:
“Spy, Sir? I’m afraid that I’m not partial to that sort of work. Besides, I have much work to do for this household alone.” He grinned at Alexandra.
“Very good. You know where you stand, I see. If you ever want a second job, though, just give the station a ring and I’m sure you’ll be welcomed.”
The silence was warm as Inspector Whitting surveyed the scene. Nature had not been disturbed, and only the wicked events that had played out in Alexandra’s eyes had caused a change to what was the flow of life there. Alexandra rubbed her ankle, but the red swelling was already beginning to go down.
“Chris…you said Mr. Newton tried to escape?” she finally found the courage in the conversation.
“Yes. But it didn’t take us long to get the blighter back where he belonged,” offered Inspector Whitting.
“Once he knew that it was useless to lie, he shut his mouth up so tight that none of us could get a confession out of him. I didn’t matter, though, seeing as we knew enough to convict him, and I’m sure Miss Glass will happily lend a word as proof that he was the leader of the drugs and prostitution gangs. I gather that their relationship was one that would have ended in a marriage of convenience to bring the two gangs together, and so that they could both rise in power. He had one foot in GoldenFire’s empire already, and all he needed to do was to get closer to Daphne… Poor, Miss Glass, a fool for love and a pawn for money too.”
“It’s such a shame!” Alexandra mused. “Those well-to-do people could have been great in their own right, but they chose to fall in with the wrong society and live a life of something else. Oh, Christophe, how cruel is fate!”
“I blame Mr. Newton. That cad’s sweet words would have been enough to entice the innocent, flowering women over to his life of crime. His money was just the bonus after the gleam in their eyes. In the end, I’m afraid, everybody was ultimately working for him.”
He paused, as Alexandra weakly leant into Christophe again. The butler put his arm around her. Whilst the Inspector was not embarrassed by such romance, he turned away for the sake of giving them a little space. A minute later, on a second thought, he turned back.
“Oh, and Mr. Winters will be glad to know that we found his wife’s knife upon Joshua’s person. I think his daughter probably passed it to him during the electricity failure. Sharp little blighter, that one, and the knife’s dangerous too. GoldenFire were known for their trading in illegal goods and weapons; perhaps Daphne gave it to him for safekeeping. It would have fetched a grand price. They would have got away with it too, if not for Mr. Mahalle…”
Alexandra sighed as the Inspector checked Rhaïd’s pulse.
“It’s alright, Miss Alexandra, he’s alive. I’ll bring a man over to guard him, and to take him over to the waiting car when he’s conscious. You coshed him one quite hard, Miss, if you don’t mind me saying; I think he’s going to be out for a while.”
“What I don’t really understand is how Mr. Newton could take advantage of not one, or two, but three people, and, as you say, possibly take hold of the whole criminali. Indeed, they were not entirely innocent themselves, but why did he choose to put the fate of his own well-being over someone else’s? How could he live with that knowledge that whilst he had saved his own skin his lovers rotted in prison together? Did money really matter to him that greatly?” Alexandra pondered out loud.
“He did not want to involve and incriminate himself, I presume,” the Inspector sighed. “By using others, Mr. Newton seemed to have a foolproof system to enable him to receive more of the criminali’s money without arousing the constabulary's suspicion of him. Unfortunately, he was that type of man who was prepared to throw away what was left of the women he was involved with and which he had somewhat scorned. His thoughts were merely upon himself-”
“-And love for love’s sake was something that did not pass his cruel mind, something with which he was not accustomed to in the world.”
The man relieved Alexandra of the cane, and stood, studying it, with his frown set upon his face again.
“One of the most sought-after canes inBritain, I believe. It is laid with the world’s most expensive (not to mention, largest) black diamond at its head, the Cartonaise. She was recently manufactured as part of the new diamond trade, at the heart of Belgium’s diamond polishing capital, Bruges, along with her sister-stone, the Leonaise. They’re beautiful things, but treacherous too. Oh-so treacherous. This was the first priceless object that GoldenFire stole. How they got their operatives into the vaults of London bank, I don’t know.”
At the mention of the diamonds’ names, recognition flickered faintly through Christophe’s eyes, but he did nothing to interrupt the Inspector.
“Once again, this is something that Mr. Newton has masterminded and slung onto the back of some lower criminal. I believe Mr. Winters knows that it wasNewtonwho sold this travelling cane to him, as a way to pass on the concealed drugs to his daughter. It was that which caught his eye and alerted him to the troubles, whilst it was also catching the eye of our troubled friend here. I don’t know how Mr. Newton thought he was going to get it back now that Daphne had been discovered, but he would have found a way…and a way not to incriminate himself once again.”
“Perhaps he was of the idea that Rhaïd was to return to him once they were both free of the law,” Alexandra said sadly. “In fact, that it would never have been, as Rhaïd was so…demented that he believed he could have a future away from service, and that the cane…well, you heard the tale of necromancy that he weaved.”
“Indeed, it seems that Mr. Mahalle, although being our disgrace at first, was eventually our route to capturing a notorious man, whom the police have spent many hours beforehand searching for.”
The wind made moan through the trees, rustling them with an unnoticeable coldness. The only chill that Alexandra felt was that one in the base of her soul. Here was Christophe, one hand supportively around her, the root of all fiery warmth, yet Alexandra was able to sense the shock that the day had brought upon her still.
Inspector Whitting gathered the remainder of his own coat around himself and studied the maid.
“Did you see Cynthia's great emotional change, Miss Alexandra? One minute she was determined with her questions, the next she was shaky and all over the place.That was certainly not part of her acting. I gather that I was the only one who spotted Mr. Newton slipping something into her drink. Drugs. He wanted her to react in the way that she did to the chemicals so that he would be able to use her as a scapegoat if actions became suspicious, as he eventually did. He wanted her to appear unstable so that she would be less believable in her defence of what was the truth.”
“Well, she certainly was that. It’s such a shame how an attractive trouble-maker caused so much unnecessary pain.”
“I was watching her,” added Christophe, “and, in the end, she was stronger than he anticipated. She did, as you both saw, identify Mrs. Winters in her folly. Perhaps, that young lady is more virtuous than we saw at first. She will be one to look out for.”
“I hope to see better of Miss Glass now that she is no longer under his influence. In fact we have, as was shown in her attentive speech when she finally knew whom that ‘marderer’ was. We should judge well from that; it shows that the girl has quite a mind upon her. That is the person who you should be talking to about police work, Inspector.”
“We shall see, Miss Alexandra. I’m afraid it’s up to time to tell how she will recover from today’s events. Love, especially the unrequited type towards such a menace as Mr. Newton, can really destroy women of her standing.”
“How much better she would have been if she hadn’t met that dirty little trickster…” Alexandra said, hugging her arms around her slim body.
“A ‘dirty trickster’ indeed,” remarked Christophe. “I’m gladdened that the police have him in their custody now.”
“Quite.” Alexandra watched a family of birds clustering around the entrance of a thick, horizontal, dead tree-trunk nearby. The mother bird was plucking dry leaves from the ground as she began to make the nest for her chicks. The little birds chirruped happily as she covered them with the softness of her dainty wings and the warmth of her maternal body heat. The male of the pair appeared to be patrolling the perimeter around the log in a proud fluff of brightly-coloured feathers, shrilly squawking at any other birds he saw, and lunging for the passing insects.
“How can someone be that way to their own kind?” Alexandra wondered aloud.
“I guess it depends on the way in which one is brought up,” Christophe replied, leaning across and taking her hand, pulling her away from the trunk, Mr. Mahalle- and back to himself.
“And, sometimes, just sometimes, having no parents is for the better.”