The Earl of Wrexford possesses a brilliant scientific mind, but boredom and pride lead him to reckless behavior. He does not suffer fools gladly. So when pompous, pious Reverend Josiah Holworthy publicly condemns him for debauchery, Wrexford unsheathes his rapier-sharp wit and strikes back. As their war of words escalates, London's most popular satirical cartoonist, A. J. Quill, skewers them both. But then the clergyman is found slain in a church—his face burned by chemicals, his throat slashed ear to ear—and Wrexford finds himself the chief suspect.
An artist in her own right, Charlotte Sloane has secretly slipped into the persona of her late husband, using his nom de plume A. J. Quill. When Wrexford discovers her true identity, she fears it will be her undoing. But he has a proposal—use her sources to unveil the clergyman's clandestine involvement in questionable scientific practices, and unmask the real murderer. Soon Lord Wrexford and the mysterious Mrs. Sloane plunge into a dangerous shadow world hidden among London's intellectual enclaves to trap a cunning adversary—before they fall victim to the next experiment in villainy . . .
Release date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 370
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Murder on Black Swan Lane
“The Devil’s brew,” he murmured, leaning back in his desk chair and staring at the brightly colored satirical print propped up against a stack of books. “Though I give the artist credit for coming up with a far more poetic phrase.”
Satan’s Syllabub. Pitchforks had been drawn in to replace the two l’s of the print’s red-lettered title. As for the caricature of him . . .
A mirthless laugh slipped from his lips.
A pair of scarlet horns poked out from the tangle of long black hair. “I must remember to visit my barber this week,” he murmured, brushing a strand of the shoulder-length locks from his collar. “And is my nose really that beaky? I have always thought it rather elegantly aquiline.”
Shifting his gaze lower, he saw that the artist had drawn him without his trousers on and that his bare hairy legs—a gross exaggeration—ended in cloven hooves. The fine print of the caption explained that he was in the habit of concocting his noxious brews right after enjoying an amorous interlude with his latest conquest.
“Lies,” muttered Wrexford wryly, taking a moment to eye the clever caricature of a near-naked lady peeking out from the large copper crucible cradled between his knees. The deft pen strokes had captured Diana Fairfield’s petulant pout with frightening accuracy.
Yes, the face was perfect, but the implied timing was all wrong.
“I never mix business with pleasure.” For one thing, performing chemical experiments in the nude could have very painful consequences.
But then, he supposed the artist couldn’t be blamed for taking poetic license. A. J. Quill had earned a reputation for creating London’s most scathing satirical prints, and no doubt earned a pretty penny for his merciless skewering of those caught up in the latest Society scandal.
Be damned with truth. Ruthless images, cutting commentary—that was what the paying public wanted. Misery loved company, especially when the sufferer was one of the Privileged Few.
“Ah, I see you’ve found today’s delivery from Fores’s print shop.” The door to the workroom closed quietly behind Tyler, the earl’s valet and occasional laboratory assistant, as he carried a tray of chemicals to the small worktable by the spirit lamp.
“Yes. And this latest one is really quite upsetting.” Wrexford glanced back at his timepiece and waited ten more seconds before turning off the flame. “Quill has made my legs look awfully spindly, and you know how vain I am about my shapely calves.”
“It’s gone beyond a jesting matter, milord.”
A gentleman’s gentleman would not ordinarily dare to rebuke his master. But Tyler was no ordinary valet, reflected the earl. To begin with, he didn’t swoon over the task of removing foul-smelling stains and singe marks from a finely tailored evening coat. More importantly, his scientific education made him far more useful in other matters.
Tyler cleared his throat with a brusque cough—never a good sign. It meant a lecture was coming, a blunt one, delivered in a rough-cut Scottish brogue. “Perhaps you ought to consider ignoring Reverend Holworthy’s attacks from now on. Engaging in a public war of words isn’t doing your reputation any good.”
Wrexford picked up the half-empty glass of brandy by his inkwell and drained it in one prolonged swallow.
He hadn’t initiated the hostilities. The first salvo had been fired off several weeks ago when the Reverend Josiah Holworthy, a clergyman of rising oratorical note, had preached an emotional Sunday sermon decrying the corruptive influences of dissolute debauchery on a civilized society. Holworthy had used the earl as an example of Wickedness Personified, describing his recent behavior in lurid detail.
Wrexford knew restraint would have been the wiser course of action, and had the man’s rhetoric been halfway clever, he would have let sleeping dogs lie. But the attack had been crude and so he couldn’t resist sending a rebuttal to the editor of the Morning Gazette.
It had been published in the newspaper the following morning, and from there, the trading of insults had escalated, much to the glee of the rest of London.
A miscalculation. He wasn’t as careful in his personal life as he was with his scientific experiments. Holding his empty glass up to the Argand lamp, Wrexford watched the shards of light refract off the cut crystal for several long moments before replying.
“Since when have you known me to care about my reputation?”
His valet carefully rearranged the chemical vials into two neat rows before fetching one of the decanters on the sideboard and crossing the carpet to pour out a fresh measure of brandy.
Or perhaps it was hemlock. Of late, his mercurial moods had no doubt made him an awfully difficult fellow to deal with.
“It’s just as well, I suppose,” intoned Tyler. “For if that sanctimonious, self-anointed saint keeps attacking you as the Devil Incarnate, and you keep stirring the flames to a hotter burn with your outrageous comments on Society’s narrow-minded morality, the only reputation you’ll have will be black as sin.”
“But it’s so amusing to stick one of those clever French self-igniting matches up his pompous arse,” muttered Wrexford, “and watch smoke come out his ears.”
“Playing with fire is dangerous, milord.”
He expelled a sigh. “He called me a witch.”
“And you promptly corrected him,” said Tyler, “pointing out that ‘witch’ refers to a female and he should properly refer to you as a warlock.”
“I was right,” retorted the earl. “The man is a bloody idiot.”
“I believe what you called him in print was an illiterate widgeon, whose brain could fit twice over on the head of a pin.”
“Ye god, can you blame me? All that blather about how my soul needs to be transmuted to a higher plane—”
Tyler cleared his throat to cover a snicker.
“Remind me again why I keep you in my employ,” grumbled Wrexford. “Aside from your obsequious respect for my exalted person.”
“I have concocted a polish for your boots that outshines Beau Brummel’s secret recipe,” replied Tyler.
“Dare I hope that you will tell me what’s in it before I toss your insolent arse into the street?”
“Eye of newt, frog sweat—”
The earl let out a bark of laughter. The fact that Tyler didn’t take his ill-tempered caustic comments to heart was also a mark in his favor.
“Pray tell, what is the point of all your chidings?” When his valet didn’t answer right away, Wrexford pressed, “You think I should take steps to end this debate?”
Tyler shrugged. “It might be wise. Things appear to be on the verge of getting out of control.”
“I shall consider it.” Wrexford rose and stretched. Keeping precise control of the liquid’s temperature and timing the addition of each ingredient had left him feeling fidgety. The conversation hadn’t helped. Tyler was right—baiting a religious fanatic had been a bad decision.
Only one of many he had made in recent weeks.
But Wrexford pushed such musings aside for now. “There’s no need for any further work here this evening. The liquid must cool completely, so we will wait until morning to continue with the experiment.”
“You are going out again, sir?”
“Yes. I need a walk to clear my head.” He reached for the print and folded it into a neat square before tucking it into his coat pocket. “And then I may stop at the new gaming hell on St. James’s Street. Don’t wait up. I shall likely be late.”
“Good luck at the tables, sir. But then again, you usually do come away with your pockets stuffed with blunt.”
“Luck is said to be a Lady, and you know that I have the devil’s own way with women.” The more accurate explanation probably lay in not giving a damn whether he won or lost. He gambled because watching the frenzy of brandy-fueled emotions—sweaty fear, giddy exultation, blank despair—play across the flushed faces was a diversion that kept boredom at bay.
“So we shall see how the cards fall.”
“M’lady! m’lady!” The boy skidded to a breathless stop in the entrance hall and poked his head into the tiny parlor. “Bloody hell, ye’ve got te move yer pegs! The fancy church cove wots roasting His Nibs—”
Charlotte Sloane set down her pen and waved for silence. “Speak English, Raven.”
“But I was!”
“The King’s English. Pronounced clearly and like a gentleman,” she chided. “And no swearing.”
“Gentlemen swear,” he shot back. “A lot.”
Charlotte bit back a smile. “True. But under this roof, you must temper your tongue.”
“Hurry! Hurry!” Raven’s younger brother peltered through the front door. “Wot’s keeping ye?”
“Put a cork in it, Hawk. I’m trying te tell her.” Drawing a deep breath, Raven turned back to her. “You must come quickly, milady,” he said, this time enunciating his words like a proper little Etonian. “The churchman in your drawings has just been murdered. Skinny, the streetsweep who works the corner by St. Stephen’s Church on Black Swan Lane, heard the watchman scream and run off to fetch the magistrate. If we move fast, you’ll have time for a peek before they return.”
Charlotte flinched, nearly spilling the bottle of ink over her unfinished cartoon.
“Skinny said it’s horrible,” volunteered Hawk in an awed whisper. “The reverend’s head is near cut off and there’s enough blood pooled round the body to float a forty-gun frigate.”
She hesitated. It wasn’t that she was a ghoul, but a look at the scene would give her a great advantage over her competitors. In her business, knowledge was money.
And God knows, she needed money.
Having all the gruesome details at her fingertips . . .
Shooting up from her chair, Charlotte gestured at the stairs leading down to the tiny kitchen. “Fetch a lantern. I’ll just be a moment changing into my breeches and boots.”
A short while later, garbed as just another grubby urchin prowling the unlit streets, Charlotte squeezed through the back gate of the churchyard and followed the boys as they picked a path through the crumbling gravestones. Scudding clouds hid the crescent moon and the faint mizzle of starlight was lost in the thick malodorous mists drifting up from the river. Somewhere in the trees, a lone owl hooted.
Quickening her pace, she darted into the alcove between the buttresses and crouched down in front of the iron-banded side door. Raven was already at work on the lock, the thin shaft of his steel pick probing, probing . . .
The massive hinges swung open with a rusty groan.
“Keep watch out here,” whispered Raven to his brother. “The usual signal—two sharp whistles—if we need te scamper quick-like.”
Hawk nodded solemnly.
“I’ll go first, m’lady.” Raven drew a short cudgel from inside his jacket.
“No, stay behind me.” Charlotte slipped past him into the chill gloom. The air was damp and heavy with a cloying odor. The smell of old bones and moldering sadness. For those who lived outside the glittering opulence of Mayfair, life in London could grind even the brightest dreams into dust.
Shaking off such mordant thoughts, she waited to hear the door shut, then struck a flint to the lantern’s wick and eased back the shutter.
The oily beam flickered over the thick granite columns, the age-blackened oak pews, the mortared stone tiles....
“Holy hell,” hissed Raven through his teeth.
“Don’t come any closer,” Charlotte rasped as a spurt of bile, sharp and sour, shot up to burn the back of her throat. Swallowing hard, she crept closer to the body sprawled on the floor by the ornately carved lectern.
Dear God—so much blood.
Up close, the sight was more hideous than any demon-demented nightmare. The Right Reverend Josiah Holworthy—yes, she recognized him despite the disfigured face—was lying on his back, his arms outstretched as if in supplication to God for mercy.
If so, the plea had fallen on deaf ears.
His head . . .
Charlotte choked back a gag.
The slash of a blade had nearly severed the man’s neck, and his head, attached to his body by only a few bits of tendon, bone, and flesh, had fallen awkwardly to one side. A dark, viscous pool was spreading out from beneath the crumpled coat collar, and rivulets of rusty red were snaking a serpentine trail over the grey stone.
Careful to avoid leaving any telltale scuff, Charlotte edged around for a different angle of view. Steady, steady. Her hand was trembling as she pulled a small notebook and pencil from her pocket.
“Cor, someone must have hated him awful bad,” murmured Raven, who had snuck up behind her despite the order to the contrary.
“Hold this,” she said, passing him the lantern to keep him occupied. It seemed pointless to argue with him. Having grown up in one of London’s roughest slums, he was no stranger to violence.
But this . . .
Dark spots discolored the reverend’s sightless eyes and his cheeks were badly burned by some sort of chemical. Faint streaks of a greenish-yellow substance had dribbled down to his chin and a white powder flecked the pitted flesh where the liquid had started to dry. Forcing her mind to concentrate on the tiny details helped control the violent churning in her stomach. She opened the book to a fresh page and hurriedly made some notes.
The powder, she noted, was also caked at the corners of his mouth and the protruding tongue had turned a mottled black. A strange smell . . .
She crouched down and sniffed, then jotted down a few more lines.
A low sound gurgled in Raven’s throat.
“If you are going to cast up your accounts, kindly step outside,” said Charlotte coolly, hoping the challenge would make him forget his nausea. “We mustn’t leave any sign that someone has been in here.”
“I ain’t—I’m not—gonna shoot the cat,” he vowed.
“Then move the light a little to your left.”
“We gotta be going now.” Raven shot a nervous look down the main aisle towards the front entrance.
“In a moment.” Charlotte rose and slowly circled the corpse, making a few quick sketches. Stepping back, she noted a faint partial footprint in the dust of the side transept. Curious, she went to take a look. A boot—an oddly small one, with a distinctive mark cut into the heel.
Another quick crouch, another quick sketch.
“Yes, yes.” Charlotte stepped into the shadows to see where the footprints led, then changed her mind. The crime wasn’t her concern, just the gristly details. She returned to the body and crouched down for a last look.
Raven let out another impatient hiss. As she turned slightly to chide him, she caught sight of something caught in the dead man’s right-hand shirt cuff. A scrap of paper? After hesitating just a fraction, Charlotte reached out—
A sharp whistle, followed by another, shattered the silence.
“We gotta flee!” called Raven. He blew out the lamp.
Her fingers plucked the paper free, just as Raven grabbed her sleeve and yanked her to her feet.
Half stumbling, half running, Charlotte let herself be led. The boy was nimble as an alley cat and seemed to be able to see in the dark.
Thuds, shouts, and the clatter of boots echoed behind her. Up ahead, a sliver of starlight glimmered in the arched entryway.
“Hurry, hurry,” urged Hawk in a frantic whisper as he pushed the door a touch wider.
Raven bolted through the opening, dragging Charlotte with him. She thought her lungs might burst, but somehow the boys hurried her to an even faster pace over the clotted earth and loose stones of the graveyard. Finally, after they were two streets away from the church, Raven allowed her to slow to a walk.
Pulse pounding in her ears, heart thumping hard enough to crack a rib, Charlotte bent over and braced her hands on her knees. “That,” she gasped, “was close.”
And then she began to laugh.
“You’re mad, m’lady,” wheezed Raven. “Mad as a Bedlamite.”
“Yes, no doubt I am.”
Wrexford took a seat at the gaming table to the chant of “Satan, Satan,” from the other five men engaged in play.
While the others punctuated the words with a rhythmic pounding of their palms against the green felt, Fitzwilliam, a portly baron with a bald pate and ginger sidewhiskers, waggled a hand at one of the serving girls. “Bring us a bowl of syllabub!” he trilled. “Served hot as the devil’s pitchfork.”
“Stubble the attempt at humor, Fitz,” growled the earl as the others laughed uproariously. “You have more hair than wit.”
“Is it true that this morning’s cartoon showed the Divine Diana as your latest paramour?” asked Pierpont, once the hilarity had died away.
“Aye, she was shown curled in a crucible under his chair— and wearing naught but a fancy sapphire necklace from Rundell and Bridge,” piped up Sachem. “A price tag was attached to the clasp. If you looked closely with a quizzing glass you could make out the amount—fifteen hundred guineas.” He looked at the earl. “True?”
“True,” confirmed Wrexford.
“I didn’t know you had seduced her away from Radley,” went Pierpont. “When did that happen?”
The earl shrugged off the question.
“I heard it was only three days ago,” offered Fitzwilliam.
“How the devil does A. J. Quill know these intimate details?” queried Sachem sourly. “The information he had on Greeley’s affair with the countess were of a very private nature.”
A good question, thought Wrexford.
“Hell’s teeth, the dratted scribbler must have spies everywhere. Perhaps Wellington should consider giving the fellow a general’s commission and assigning him to combat Bonaparte,” suggested Fitzwilliam. “The war would likely be over in a month.”
“Speaking of war,” said Pierpont, “things are getting awfully bellicose between you and Holworthy. If I were you, I would be tempted to march up to the pulpit and bloody his beak for mouthing such scurrilous slanders.”
“There are other ways of silencing him,” growled Wrexford. “But I’d rather not exert myself. What a pity A. J. Quill can’t dig up some prurient scandal concerning the holier-than-thou reverend—”
“Well, I don’t know about the scandals,” interrupted a familiar voice. “But apparently Heaven has heard your prayer about silencing the pompous windbag.”
Wrexford looked around. Excellent—if anyone could tease him out of a sullen mood it was Kit.
Christopher Sheffield, the earl’s closest friend since their Oxford days, sauntered up to the table and slouched against the back of Wrexford’s chair, a sardonic smile on his unshaven face.
“Or perhaps I should rather say hell has caught wind of your incantation.” Sheffield had a flair for theatrics. He picked at a thread dangling from his cuff, deliberately drawing out the moment of suspense.
“Cut wind, Sheffield,” growled Pierpont as he gathered up the cards for a new hand. “If you’ve something to say, spit it out. We’re in the midst of serious play here and are in no mood for interruption.”
“Ah, but another far more interesting game is afoot,” replied Sheffield, shifting his stance just enough to catch Wrexford’s eye. “I’ve just come from White’s, which is all abuzz with the news that the Reverend Josiah Holworthy has just been found dead in St. Stephen’s Church on Black Swan Lane, his face burned by a noxious chemical, his throat cut from ear to ear.”
The shuffling ceased.
“And wagers are already filling the betting book that you, my dear Wrex, are the odds-on favorite to be taken up for the murder.”
Her blood was still thumping against her temples as Charlotte slid into her chair and began to sharpen her quill.
Breathe, she reminded herself. Although her lungs were once again functioning normally, she couldn’t seem to flush the ghastly metallic smell of death from her nostrils. That and the putrid stench of chemicals and scorched skin.
Like Raven, she had been a mere hairsbreadth away from puking at the horrible sight of Holworthy’s ravaged face, though she had taken great pains to appear unmoved. Life in London’s rougher areas was a hardscrabble existence. The boys needed a touchstone of steadiness and strength to set an example that poverty did not need to rob a person of hope or humanity.
So, too, had her late husband, reflected Charlotte, carefully working the penknife over the delicate tip of the goose feather. An uncharitable thought, perhaps. But no less true.
Anthony had often behaved more like a child than the two homeless urchins who had taken to sleeping in the entrance hall of her rented house. His resilience had slowly been worn away by the constant grind of survival, his optimism giving way to bitter complaints about the unfairness of life. While the young brothers showed a stoicism and resourcefulness beyond their tender years.
The oil lamp on her desk flickered weakly. Charlotte paused to turn up the wick, her gaze straying for an unwilling moment around the shadow-shrouded room. This was not how she had imagined her life either—mistress of naught but cramped quarters furnished with humble necessities. Squeezed cheek by jowl into a row of other similar structures, the razor-thin building was crumbling around her ears. The stove gave off a weak heat in winter, while the tiny windows did nothing to relieve the stifling heat of summer. In hindsight—
But looking back was a waste of time. All that mattered was the future and how she was going to create a more stable life for herself. Yes, her prints were becoming more and more popular, and earning more each week. Yes, she could afford better than this.
And yet Charlotte knew how fickle Fate could be. Just as she knew how poverty threatened to grind away one’s hopes and dreams. After slowly paying off Anthony’s debts, she had resolved to live frugally for the time being and save most of her earnings to build up a buffer against ever having to suffer through such hardships again. Perhaps there would come a time....
Be that as it may, for now she must focus on the present.
She shifted, and suddenly remembered the small scrap of paper she had plucked from the shirt cuff of Holworthy’s lifeless hand. A whispery crackle stirred the air as she pulled it from her pocket and took a peek. It was nothing more than a scribble and for a brief moment she was tempted to get rid of the tangible proof that she had fiddled with the evidence.
What’s done was done—she couldn’t very well turn it into the authorities without risking her own neck.
But Charlotte hesitated. She had learned that having information no one else possessed, however insignificant it seemed, was a key to survival. Life and death—one must fight tooth and claw.... Repressing a niggling sense of guilt, she quickly unlocked the hidden compartment in her desk, the place where she kept her most precious secrets, and hid it away.
Taking up the penknife, Charlotte finished making the last few cuts to the quill, then dipped her pen into the inkwell and set to work.
“Coffee, Thomas—and quickly.” Wrexford squinted at the sunlight pouring in through the high arched windows of the breakfast room and shaded his eyes. “Do make sure it’s strong and scalding hot.”
“Yes, milord.” The footman hurried off, taking extra care to move noiselessly over the Aubusson carpet.
The staff, observed the earl, had likely been warned that his temper was not to be trifled with this morning. They were a well-trained lot, working with oiled efficiency no matter his moods. He reminded himself to have Tyler send a bottle of brandy to the servants’ table tonight.
As for himself . . . Wincing, Wrexford pressed his palms to his brow. In penance for the previous night, he ought to have naught but bread and water.
Thomas returned with the coffee, and then discreetly disappeared.
To hell with his sins. Wrexford poured a cup and closed his eyes, savoring the rich burn of the brew as he took a long swallow.
“You’re up early.” The door banged open, allowing Sheffield to saunter in uninvited.
“It’s nearly noon,” replied Wrexford. “Which begs the question of why you aren’t sleeping off your revelries and allowing me to enjoy my breakfast in peace.”
“Normally I would be dead to the world at this hour.” Pulling out one of the Chippendale chairs, Sheffield sunk into a sinuous slouch and ran a hand through his unruly shock of wheat-gold hair. He was nearly as tall as the earl, but less broad in the shoulders, which accentuated the whippet-like grace of his movements. “However, I expect you’ll have a visit from the magistrate this morning and I wouldn’t miss such theatre for all the tea in China.”
“Thank you for the moral support.
“Besides, I’m famished,” added his friend. “And my pockets are temporarily empty. I lost heavily at the tables last night.” He plucked a muffin from the basket of fresh pastries. “Luck really is a duplicitous bitch.”
“You abuse her goodwill,” pointed out Wrexford. Though that, he admitted, was rather like the pot calling the kettle black.
“True.” Sheffield exhaled a penitent sigh. “I should reform, I know. But I haven’t your mental discipline.” He rose, just long enough to help himself to a heaping plate of shirred eggs and gammon from the chafing dishes on the sideboard.
Wrexford watched his friend wolf down a bite. “Remind me to inform Riche that you are to be barred entrance here until your table manners improve.”
“Ha, ha, not a chance. He likes me more than he does you,” retorted Sheffield. “I don’t bite his head off half a dozen times a day.”
The earl let out a grudging laugh.
“Now, will you kindly ring for more coffee.”
As a footman entered with a fresh pot, the earl’s butler followed behind him, frowning apologetically through the trailing plume of steam. “Forgive me for interrupting your meal, sir. But a Runner—Mr. Griffin by name—is here from Bow Street demanding to speak with you.”
“Right on cue,” quipped Sheffield. He rubbed his hands together with an ill-concealed grin of glee. “This should be highly diverting.”
“You have always found farces amusing,” growled Wrexford.
“It’s only natural, seeing as my own life veers to the absurd.”
The earl made a pained face. “Show him in, Riche.”
The butler reluctantly escorted in a tall, stocky fellow wearing a heavy overcoat and a fierce scowl. His red vest was garishly bright in contrast to the dull coloring of his other garments.
Wrexford winced. “Would you be so good as to step out of the sunlight. You are hurting my eyes.”
If the Runner was intimidated by the ornate surroundings, he didn’t show it. Ignoring the request, he pulled a notebook and pencil from his coat pocket and set to work. “Lord Wrexford, the magistrate at Bow Street has sent me here to ask you a few questions concerning the bad blood between you and the Reverend Josiah Holworthy. He was murdered last night.”
“I have heard the news.”
“I wish to enquire about—”
“About my whereabouts?”
“Precisely, milord.” Griffin waited expectantly.
Wrexford took a bite of toast and chewed thoughtfully.
“Would you care for a cup of coffee, sirrah?” asked Sheffield. “It’s black and scalding as the Devil’s arse.”
“I prefer not to accept His Lordship’s hospitality,” came the curt reply. “Especially when it concerns anything liquid.”
Wrexford felt his lips twitch. At least the fellow possessed a sardonic sense of humor to balance his wretched taste in fashion. But then, a red waistcoat was required for the job, so perhaps it wasn’t his fault.
“Now, as to your whereabouts, sir. Aside from a gaming hell on St. James’s Street.”
He put down his fork. The man, as befitting his sleuthhound job, had already begun sniffing around. “I was out walking.”
“Alone,” confirmed . . .
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