The inspector stared at me for a moment before speaking.
"Lady Hector... You're still in your nightclothes," he said, self consciously holding his cap in front of him.
"Yes, Clarke, well observed. Can you expect anything more when you call upon people unannounced at such times in the morning? Now, I'll ask again: what can I do for you, inspector?"
I motioned for him to sit as the maid poured us tea. I thanked her and waved her away. She retreated from the room, leaving the inspector and I alone.
"I'm afraid that I have some unpleasant news for you, ma'am..." he said hesitantly.
"Go on, Clarke. I'm in no mood for dallying. I had quite the sleepless night."
He placed his teacup on the silver tray beside him. It was untouched, full to the brim with the sweet, brown liquid.
"Is that so? Very well, ma'am. I'm sorry to say that no less than four human corpses have been found in the grounds of your house this morning."
I almost cursed, catching myself just in time. Damn my optimism. "Corpses?"
"Yes, Lady Hector. Badly mutilated, each one. I wanted to ask if you knew anything that could be of use to us in our investigation. Of course, if you had a sleepless night, maybe you... saw something?"
I studied his face. He was insinuating something, and I didn't like it. Our eyes met. I was aware that he was studying me, too, but for what? Signs of guilt perhaps? Or maybe it was something more?
I stood up.
"No, I'm afraid I know nothing that would be of use to you. Now, I apologise, but I really must be getting dressed," I said, perhaps too bluntly. I thought he looked hurt, but I may have been imagining it.
"Of course, ma'am. You can expect some more visits from the police- I'll try to attend you personally, I am afraid the rough manners of some of the officers could cause you offence."
Was he serious? "Clarke, don't be ridiculous."
He smiled to himself. "Very well. But in the meantime, please inform us if you remember anything- anything at all. These may help you to remember-" he said, removing something from his pocket and placing it on the table between us. It appeared to be an envelope.
"Good day, Lady Hector," he said, bowing slightly before swiftly exiting the room. I stared after him for a moment, and then returned my gaze to the brown package in front of me.
After a pause, I lifted it from the table. I was surprised how light it was, and I opened it carefully, tipping the contents onto my lap. There were four photographs, and I turned them over so that I could see.
I was confronted with the pictures of four bodies. Mutilated bodies.
The bodies from my nightmares.