I have been committing fanfic in the last few weeks. Not that it explains my silence from this blog, but it's one of the thousands of reasons I've not written here. I've been writing elsewhere.
I'm putting here the completely unbeta-ed first part of the current fic. Read at your own risk. When it's beta-ed and finished, I'll put it up at A03.
Title: Games, and the People Who Play Them
Series: The Dancing Suite (fic one)
Fandom: Murdoch Mysteries
Rating: Teen (off-screen violence)
Summary: It's the fall of 1899. James Pendrick has been kidnapped. Can Detective William Murdoch find who took him before they both loose everything?
Note: The Dancing Suite is planned as a three part series meant as a continuation of the very engaging Dancing in the Light series by CameoSF at A03. It's probably better to have read it before reading the following, though things should be self-explanatory regardless. I found Dancing in the Light completely delightful and inspiring. I was saddened to read at the end of the fifth instalment that CameoSF was "going to take a break from this series for a while. I need to catch up on canon and decide whether it's feasible to re-integrate this universe with the one in which James Gillies has become such an intriguing adversary." That was in 2014. I do not know if they are ever going to continue the series, but the way to go seemed completely obvious to me. So I wrote it. Here goes.
Games, and the People Who Play Them
Detective William Murdoch sat at the worktable in his office at Station House no 4, magnifying glasses on his nose, frowning at the flecks of dirt taken from the latest murder victim’s clothes. He'd hoped re-examining the trace evidence might reveal a hitherto missed clue. Yet, the particles of dried dung, hay fibres and powdered stone were unremarkable and indistinguishable from the ground where the headless body had been found. He had to conclude what trace evidence there was had been transferred when the corpse was dropped in an laneway behind Gerrard Street near Seaton. This was another dead end.
The case had plagued him for the last week and drove him to distraction. The corpse's head was still missing. Dr. Julia Ogden had confirmed the man had originally died of a strychnine-induced cardiac arrest and was probably middle-aged. Little else could be known with certainty, even the time of death. The body bore no identifying marks. He had been washed and seemingly kept in cold storage for at least a week, though no ice house in the area had revealed any clues. The stomach and bowels were empty and traces of inflammation indicated the possible use of an enema shortly before death. No more than a day before having been found, the body was thawed. Before the process was complete, the man’s hands and feet were destroyed with a strong acid, confirmed by Julia as oil of vitriol. Someone had dressed the body with care. The clothing was pristine, of very high quality and no doubt expensive, though no tailor marks or tags indicated its provenance. None of the fine tailors in Toronto had recognized the silk suit, ascot, trousers or shirt as coming from their workshops. The shoes were fine, Italian-made but nondescript, and no one had ever walked in them. Furthermore, the corpse did not match any missing person in and around Toronto, nor in Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston or New York. Constable Crabtree volunteered to inquire more broadly, but there were limits as to how many telephone calls and telegrams the station could afford.
To make matters worse, the case had made the front page of this morning’s Toronto Gazette.
Ripping his glasses off in frustration, Murdoch looked up in time to see James Pendrick being ushered to his office door. This was a rare occurrence, since he avoided the station as much as possible, claiming memories of too many wrongful arrests. Dressed in his driving clothes, Pendrick must have taken his motor car to the station house. William had cycled to work from the house they shared in the early morning as was usual, and was surprised to see him in this part of Toronto today. He headed directly to the Detective’s office, holding a garment bag.
"Still plagued by Ichabod, I see." James had been referring to the case as such for three days now, and it was starting to grate.
"Don’t make fun of the dead, please. This is murder."
"I apologize. I don’t want to make light of this. It just so happens I’m in an irrepressibly good mood." He hanged the garment bag on the nearby coat tree, smiling broadly. "You forgot to take these this morning. You'll need to change into proper attire for tonight." Murdoch was about to object that he planned to change at home, but Pendrick continued. "Or do I have to remind you that we, and the good Doctor Ogden, are dining out tonight? I'll be reserving a table at Le Petit Paris’s dining room as soon as they start taking calls. You need to be properly dressed."
"Looking forward to it." It was the truth, but Murdoch felt ambivalence. He'd still have preffered to celebrate at home. Formal evening wear made him terribly uneasy. And Pendrick knew it. After almost three years of borrowing from his lover's vast wardrobe, the latter had finally convinced the detective he needed his own full-dress suits. The clothes fit him wonderfully, and James obviously loved to undress him when he wore them. Still, he missed the secret intimacy of wearing James's fineries, though he would never admit it. When Pendrick made no move to leave, he added: "Should you not be on your way to your solicitor?"
William knew his partner was to meet with his lawyer at ten-thirty to file a patent related to an automatic light-signal system he had developed for motor cars. With the flick of a button, a driver could turn on a sign installed above the car boot, flashing the words STOP in red, RIGHT or LEFT in green. It was quite ingenuous and would no doubt prevent accidents.
"Yes, but one more thing. I’m in such a good mood, I decided to share this with you. Since last Monday, I have been getting missives from a secret admirer."
It was time for Murdoch to smirk. "An admirer, you say? How unusual!" Pendrick handed his lover five opened velum envelopes, keeping one in hand. Each contained a white deckled-edge note card with machine-typed amorous words, all unsigned. The Detective was no stranger to the misguided adoration of those who followed his exploits in the newspapers. Although rather embarrassing, they were harmless and dismissible, save perhaps for that one marriage proposal received last year, about which Pendrick was still joking. To his knowledge, the latter had never gotten such mail before.
"I know I promised never to hide things from you. I didn’t mentioned them because you were too immersed in your current murder mystery. And I thought them unimportant. Besides, it's not as if you share all the letters you get from your adoring public?" Murdoch grumbled, having no choice to concede the last point. "I mean, ’You have the most beautiful eyes, but they pale compared to your brilliance.’ Obviously this woman is correct, but that is not why I’m bringing the letters to you now. I thought you might like the distraction."
The quick flash of worry in Pendrick’s eyes belied his jovial tone and set Murdoch on edge. To anyone else, it would seem the man was making light of the situation. Murdoch knew better; his partner was uneasy. "What does it say?"
Pendrick handed him the last envelope. Like the others, it was postmarked in Toronto. It contained an identical note card on which someone had machine-typed, 'Your eyes are so beautiful. They should look at me.'
"I see. You are right, there is a change in tone. The first notes were simply admirative, but this one reads as more... insistent. It may still be innocuous. Just promise to show me any other notes you might get from now on, especially if the tone changes again."
"Of course. I did bring them to your attention the moment the wording gave me pause, didn't I? Nevertheless, my friend, it's time I leave to meet my solicitor, then my banker. Tonight, we celebrate. I’ll be back here around seven o’clock to pick you up. Be ready."
Pendrick was all assurance again. With a rye smile, he quickly made his way to the station-house exit, nodding salutations along the way. Murdoch had to admire how his lover displayed confidence and composure in almost every situation. This ability had served him well in business and would no doubt continue to do so. With that thought, he asked Higgins to examine the notes for fingermarks. Just in case.
Two hour later, Higgins popped his head through the door. "Sir? About the notes, sir. I called around and they're from a stationary set available from Mr. Eaton's store. Quite common. As for the fingermarks, I only found yours and Mr. Pendrick's on the note cards themselves."
"What of the envelopes?"
Handing the papers back, "I found dozens, sir. The envelopes were covered with fingermarks, but all badly smeared."
"Which is consistent with going through the post. Thank you, Higgins."
The rest of the morning was spent drafting a preliminary report on the headless body in a way that did not let his frustration transpire. Just past noon, Murdoch was called to the scene of a death on Sumach Street. The case was open and shut. A drunk and enraged husband had pushed his pregnant wife under a delivery carriage. She had died instantly and there were dozens of witnesses. The miscreant claimed his wife had been stealing his wages. If she did, no doubt it was to keep herself and her young daughter fed while he drank his fill. Such sad events were all too common at Station House no 4, whose district straddled Cabbagetown and Corktown. By mid-afternoon, Murdoch was done with the interviews; by five-thirty he’d handed in his report. No doubt, the man would hang. The girl would likely be sent to the Sisters of St. Joseph's orphanage. The day had turned dour but he didn't want to bring James' celebrations down. There was only just enough time to open his afternoon mail before his lover returned.
Among requests from other police departments and an invitation from the Mayor, there was another velum envelope. This time it was addressed to Murdoch himself, which was odd. Using tweezers to pull the contents, the note card bore the single typed word 'Interesting'. With it was a photograph showing the James and himself lounging on the terrasse at the back of Pendrick House. William froze, nauseated and faint all at once. He recognized where and when it had been taken: two Sundays ago in the afternoon. The picture showed nothing compromising, but a few moments later, James had made a particularly salacious suggestion leading to fervent kissing. They had only made it as far as the music room divan before acting on their passion. The photographer must have observed them closely. And no doubt had caught them in the act. Murdoch almost swore.
Closer inspection showed no obvious anomaly. The angle of view implied the photographer was most likely standing near the workshop Pendrick had built for his experiments, probably along the east elevation. Since neither man had noticed an intruder, Murdoch could not discount the photographer had stood inside the building itself. The workshop manager Jerold Simmons and his men never worked on Sundays, but the alarm system James had installed throughout the property should have sounded an intruder’s entrance. This was most distressing. He would need to examine the site for evidence.
Even knowing their privacy had been violated, what worried him more was the fact this last note had been sent to him. This 'admirer' was now addressing him directly and it made the change in tone of the morning's missive sound ominous. He needed to warn James, but it was just past seven o'clock and the man should be walking into the station any minute. Murdoch picked up a chalk stick to create a timeline of the messages, to see if that would reveal any clues in the short time he had left in his office.
From Monday to Thursday, a single note had arrived in the morning post, each lauding Pendrick's intellectual accomplishments, each with greater emphasis. Yesterday morning's note continued the trend. Yesterday afternoon's note card, that James had quoted earlier, commented on his eyes, which was the first time a physical feature was mentioned. Including the change in tone in this morning's note and the sudden change in addressee this afternoon, the admirer, whoever she was, sounded more and more possessive. The last note and picture were a warning. Since the photograph had been taken two weeks prior, he concluded the writer had known of their secret for an entire week before sending the first note. What that meant, he did not yet know.
Such were his conclusions when Julia entered his office, apologizing for her lateness. It was half past seven and she had been delayed at the City Morgue by Detective Slorach of Station House no 5. There was still no sign of Pendrick. Apologizing to Julia, he called the house, in case his lover had simply been delayed. After letting it ring longer than necessary, the operator declared the owner was obviously not at home and Murdoch should clear the line. Instead, he asked to be connected to James' solicitor. The clerk who took the call was brusk. "I regret to say we are currently closed, sir."
"I understand. This is Detective William Murdoch from Station House no 4. Can you tell me when Mr. James Pendrick left your office this morning, please?"
"Oh, well Mr. Pendrick did not make his appointment today. He didn't even call to cancel."
Thanking the clerk before hanging up, Murdoch's heart sank. Something was very wrong. His worry must have shown because Julia closed his office doors and asked, "What happened?"
"I'm not sure. James is late. And he missed his appointment this morning." Picking up the telephone again, he asked to be connected to the Dominion Bank, hoping someone would answer despite the hour, to no avail. Julia's eyebrows were growing more knitted by the second. As a last resort, William asked the operator for Le Petit Paris restaurant, where an accented man cooly responded they did not have a reservation for a Mr. Pendrick that night. It was now fifteen minutes to eight. "Something's happened to James. I have to tell the Inspector."
Murdoch took the photograph and all but the latest note. That one would lead to too many questions. He crossed the bullpen to Brackenreid's office, Julia in tow. The station was full; it was shift change. Constable Crabtree, who seemed to be ready to go home, jumped to follow them.
The Inspector was sorting papers on his desk like he did at the end of every day. Upon seeing the trio cross his door, he dropped everything. "What is it, Murdoch?"
William took a deep breath hoping to slow his heart. "I think something's happened to James Pendrick. He was supposed to join Julia and me here at the station about an hour ago. He missed one important appointment this morning and did not make a call he's planned this afternoon."
"I gather this is not like him."
"Not at all, sir. And then there's this." He showed them the photograph. "This picture was taken two weeks ago and came in the afternoon post." Seeing his colleagues' confusion, he recounted what he all understood of the mysterious admirer's letters. Crabtree looked convinced, but not Brakenreid, so he continued, "Sir, I know Mr. Pendrick quite well. He would not have missed an appointment with his sollicitor without cancelling and he told me he was looking forward to filing that particular patent. Something's wrong."
"Sir, you're sure he would not have had another appointment that got him waylaid somehow? Or maybe he's gone the check up on the church reconstruction in Leslieville?" George had a point, but Murdoch thought it unlikely.
"He went to the site yesterday. He told me the foundation work was on schedule, so I see no reason he'd return today. Granted, I'm not privy to all of Mr. Pendrick's schedule, but he did not mention any other business."
Brakenreid made up his mind. "All right. If you think something's not right, I believe you, but let's not assume the worse just yet. You and I should try to retrace his steps from the last time you saw him here." He snapped his fingers. "Does Pendrick keep an appointment book? It might have information you didn't know about."
Murdoch mentally rejected the idea, but wouldn't entirely discount the possibility. He fished his house key from his pocket, handing it to Crabtree. "George, James keeps his daybook on his desk in the library. Please retrieve it for me. His desk is the one with scorched marks."
"I remember, sir. I'll return as soon as I can."
As Brakenreid was grabbing his hat and walking stick, Julia asked "May I study the letters more closely, William? I know they contain only a few words, but it may still be possible to deduce some information about the sender from them."
"Thank you Julia, that is an excellent idea. I trust your analytical skills."
They caught up with Constable Worseley just as he too was exiting the station. He'd manned the front desk that morning. The red-haired constable remembered Pendrick's entrance and departure, but had not seen where the gentleman had parked his car.
Once outside, Brakenreid turned toward the station's carriage house but Murdoch crossed the street, keeping his eyes to the ground, pointing as he walked. "When James drives me to the station, he usually turns on Wilton from Yonge Street. So he would have parked the motor car in front of the station facing east, just about here. Sadly, it looks like what tracks it might have left were erased by the carts and carriages passing through since then. Knowing him, to get to his solicitor on Adelaide, he would have taken Sackville Street." He pointed eastward and started walking, Brakenreid at his heels.
Looking into the side streets and laneways, they walked toward Sackville. The evening was falling but street lights were not yet on. It was Brakenreid who saw it first. Pendrick's motor car, recognizable for its silver accented driving signals, could be seen half on the sidewalk on the corner of Blair Avenue and St. David's Street. Murdoch ran to it. "It looks like he's stopped the car quickly, without even trying to properly park it." Pendrick's driving gloves were on the floor near the pedals.
"Well, now we know why he missed his appointment, right? He never went farther than around the corner!"
"Yes, sir." Murdoch's mind was racing. "Blair ends in a cul-de-sac passed Sydenham, but since the car is pointing towards St. David's, we should look this way first." It didn't take long for them to find a clue: James' driving cap sat in a mud puddle a few feet inside the first laneway. The sight felt like a blow. A carriage wheel had run over it and despite the disappearing light they could see the ground showed signs of a scuffle. "He was taken here."
"All right, this is officially a kidnapping. Let me get some lights and constables to secure the laneway. You go back to the car to look for clues."
Murdoch couldn't move, his head was spinning. Someone had taken his lover. What should he do?
"Murdoch!" Brakenreid's voice broke through the ringing in his ears. "We'll find him. Go do your job!" That spurred him.
While the Inspector ran to the station, he hurried back to the car. All indicated it had been on the street corner since morning. Birds had made a mess on the hood. The motor was cold. The boot was closed but empty. His shaky hands worked the magnetic lock he'd installed on the compartment under the driver seat as a birthday surprise. His lover's .22 revolver was still inside and his leather portfolio contained all the papers, patent applications and banking statements, he'd have needed for his appointments. Everything here pointed to James being kidnapped minutes after he'd left the station. Kidnapped. Taken.
Footsteps down the street indicated the Inspector was back already. He was panting and red-faced, with Constables Hodge, Hogen and Quentin behind him. They reached the laneway and started cordoning what was now a crime scene. More constables arrived within minutes. Brakenreid ordered them to canvas the area. Most stores were closed for the night, but anyone still on site were to be questioned, as well as all upstairs residents. The rest would be contacted in the morning.
As the men spread around him, Murdoch was still examining the motor car, but there was nothing more to be gleaned. His thoughts were whirling. He needed to find James! Why were there no clues? As he turned to go back to the laneway, Brakenreid stopped him with a hand on the shoulder. "Come on, Murdoch! We'll take the car back to the station. Let the lads to their jobs." He reluctantly let himself be guided to the vehicle and drove it to the station's Constabulary Entrance at the back. Kidnapped! Once inside, he was guided to the Inspector's office. Taken! Murdoch sat hard on a chair and found himself holding a glass of scotch. Brakenreid sat on the desk's edge, leaned in and whispered "Get a hold of yourself, Murdoch! Or you'll end up revealing things I shouldn't know about. Come on, drink up!"
The idea of drinking alcohol when his intellect was needed seemed so preposterous, he did not immediately realize what the Inspector had just let on. "Sorry, sir. What did you say?"
Grumbling, Brakenreid closed his office doors. "I said that you'd better watch how you behave on this one, Detective. People are watching and you do not want to raise any questions whose answers I'd have to act on, if you get my meaning."
Murdoch forced himself to concentrate on the warning. His superior was no fool. No doubt after nearly three years, he suspected there was more to his detective's rooming with a wealthy gentleman than getting access to the latter's library. He'd just implied as much. Holding the Inspector's gaze, he nodded in understanding. So long as all was left unsaid, that there were no proof nor admissions, they were safe from prosecution. For now. Reigning his feelings in, he stood and set the still full glass on the desk. He would not be of any use to James if he lost his wits.
Brakenreid opened the door again to let Dr. Ogden in. George Crabtree was back, panting. Julia addressed them first: "Gentlemen, I've finished my analysis, what little there is, but I believe the Constable has more pressing information."
"Indeed, sirs. Here is the daybook you asked for. By the way, I took the liberty of sending Constable Baker to the house to secure the grounds. You said you believed you were under surveillance, yes?"
"Thank you, George. Good initiative." Murdoch was appreciative. "Surely, this is not all."
"Unfortunately not, sir. This envelope was pinned on the main station door when I came in. I sent Constable Briscoe to ask if anyone saw the person who left it. Er... Sir... It's addressed to you. It's identical to the others."
"Could be a ransom letter," Brakenreid added.
Asking God for strength and hoping it did not contain anything that would condemn him, he pulled out the card and another photograph by the top edge. It said 'His eyes are even more beautiful in person'. The photograph showed a close-up of Pendrick's face with a bloody nose and a split lip. A woman's hand wearing a white net glove was cradling his chin. He looked terrified.
Hearing Julia's whispered "Dear God!" and the Inspector's curses broke Murdoch's shock.
Murdoch had to take charge, of his emotions and of the situation: "Julia, what have you, please?"
"Yes. Well... since the notes only contained a few words each, there was little more to infer than what you had already concluded. I do agree with your analysis of the timeline. However, er, I think you were the intended target of the letters all along, William." She was choosing her words carefully. "I think the notes addressed to James initially aimed to raise your curiosity about their sender. Maybe act as an amusing puzzle. Then, with a more possessive tone, the sender used your friendship with Mr. Pendrick to cause a stronger reaction in you." Murdoch noticed she had pointedly not said jealousy. "Adding this latest note and photograph of James, each message is trying to create an ever greater emotional reaction. The timing of the kidnapping is consistent with this goal."
The implications were too easy to imagine. Crabtree expressed them first: "That means we should expect the messages to increase in intensity, becoming more graphic each time."
"Alright, seeing this latest photograph, it looks like that munz-watcher of a woman's not looking for riches but for thrills. She won't want Pendrick dead until you're at your wits-end, Murdoch."
"Let's hope she doesn't want him to die at all!" Murdoch wasn't able to keep the desperation from his voice.
The Inspector was right, of course. Obviously, whoever was behind the kidnapping had no interest in Pendrick's money. Rather, this person was playing with his emotions, by endangering the most important person in his life and dangling indiscernible clues. "Mr. Pendrick is the means she uses to affect me. I'd like to know why... I feel like I'm being played." If he were to be honest, he'd been feeling this way for longer than since morning. "It's been days of frustrations, really. But... but, that's neither here not there. George, you were going to say..."
Crabtree was about to answer, but Julia intervened, "A moment George. William, please tell me: since when have you had this feeling, of being played, as you say?"
He started rubbing his forehead. He'd been doing that a lot in the last week. Yes, that was it. "I've been frustrated since we found our John Doe, really. At times, I've felt that body is taunting me. But I don't see how this is related to finding the woman who is holding James."
"Sirs, Doctor," Crabtree finally said, "Are we still thinking this is the work of a woman? Not the murder, sir, but Mr. Pendrick's kidnapping. It's just that, do we think a woman is strong enough to seize a tall healthy man like that? In a laneway in broad day light, and rough him up like in the picture?"
"She might not be working alone," said the Inspector.
"I can't tell from the notes whether they came from a woman or a man wishing to pass for a woman. This most recent photograph shows a woman's day glove, but a man could be wearing it." Julia became hesitant again. "However, there is another possibility we should consider. Sally Pendrick could be behind it all."
The men objected, but Julia added "Terence Meyers told us she was to be tried in Montreal, yes? But we have no proof she ever went to court. For all we know, she could be dead, but she could just as well be alive and in prison. Or she could free."
Murdoch stopped himself from swearing for the second time that day. It had not occurred to him that devil of a woman could be involved. The possibility was terrifying. She had already masterminded multiple crimes, including several brutal murders, with no sign of remorse. Worse still, when she was last in Toronto, she had organized a brutal attack on James, ending in his rape, for the simple pleasure of enacting revenge on both James and himself. What horrors she would invent for James now? "I hate to say it, but you are right, Julia. However unlikely, we cannot discount it. She has as much reason to hate me as she does James. If it is her, then James is in mortal danger." And more with every passing minute.
"You are in danger too, Murdoch. You foiled her plans. You brought her down."
Murdoch was trying to remain objective; his fear was making it nearly impossible. "I shudder to think what she would do to James, but we can't be sure it's Sally. It could still be anyone." They needed a plan. They needed to find who the kidnapper was exactly. "Inspector, if I may, I'd like to bring an additional constable to the house. The security system Mr. Pendrick installed should have alerted us to the presence of an intruder and if she, or he, circumvented it, I'd like to know how. There could be trace evidence as well. Whether or not Sally is back, I don't want to take any chances."
Brakenreid's muttonchops were moving over his cheeks and he was turning redder by the second. He was going to refuse his request.
"Sir, I know I'd be safer if I remained at the station, but I'm useless here. I need to do something! You can always telephone me if there are developments. With constables on site, I should be safe enough tonight and we can canvas the grounds come first light."
After several seconds of mulling it over, the Inspector relented. "All right, Murdoch. You can go home, but only if you take Mitchell and Jackson with you. Try to get some sleep. That's an order. One of them will stand outside your bedroom door all night, is that clear?" He didn't wait for Murdoch's acquiescence. "Take your 'murder bag' with you and after you've looked the property over tomorrow morning, come back here and we'll assess the situation. I'll take care of contacting Terence Meyers." Turning to the constable, he added "Your shift's over, Crabtree. Go home. You'll be needed fresh tomorrow."
Julia raised a hand to stop him from continuing. "Inspector, I do plan to go home as well, but I just remembered I forgot something at the morgue. I'll see you all tomorrow morning." She hugged William, turned and left. Murdoch recognized Julia's tactic; she'd had an idea and did not care for the Inspector to order her home before she'd explored it. He just wished she'd told him what it was.
He turned to his superior to add, "Sir, I will go home shortly, as you ordered, but I'd like to examine James's appointment book before I go. If that's all right?"
Brakenreid nodded his assent before pouring himself another drink.
As Murdoch feared, the day book did not reveal any more clues. He was aware of every appointment James had had in the last month. Each item was pithily entered with a date and time. Each had a check mark to indicate they had occurred. All except yesterday's. Today's entry simply said 'Compression,' which meant he'd planned to spend the day with Simmons and his assistants in the workshop, solving a problem with the air circulation system he wanted for the new St. Joseph's church. There were no other notes, marginalia or paper that revealed anything he did not already know.
It was approaching 10h30 when he left the station. James had been missing for just under 12 hours. The drive back home felt interminable. All he could think about were ever nastier ways Sally could torture her ex-husband. Jackson and Mitchell tried to engage him in conversation at some point, but they soon gave up. At Pendrick Estate, they found Baker already standing guard by the front door. Murdoch sent Jackson to the back with a lantern and asked Mitchell to follow him inside. He'd have preferred to send to man out back as well, but Brakenreid would no doubt interrogate the constables in the morning and they didn't deserve their superior's wrath.
Besides, if he were honest, Murdoch appreciated the presence of a bodyguard. He didn't think he would ever feel safe in the house again. Empty, with the lights out, it was cavernous and foreboding. The security devices had somehow malfunctioned. That someone had spied on them, and now having her way with James, filled him with dread. That this woman could be Sally made it worse. Mitchell's tall frame was a small boon.
Leaving the constable in the upstairs corridor, he closed the door to what was officially his bedroom. He was immediately struck by its emptiness. The room smelled like home, but felt nothing like it should. There was the bed they normally shared. He did not think he could lie alone in it tonight. Walking to his dresser, he pulled out a pyjama he almost never wore anymore; they normally slept in the nude. He changed quickly and put on the house coat he'd hardly ever taken out since leaving Mrs. Kitchen's boarding house. It smelled a bit musty. Sighing, he grabbed a soft cover from the bed and opened the door once again. "Mitchell, I think I'll sleep in the library tonight. To be near the telephone."
If the constable suspected anything, he didn't let on. They walked back down the broad staircase in silence. Mitchell bid Murdoch goodnight as the latter closed and locked the library door.
The books were reassuring. The library was their space. All the knowledge he and James had accumulated here. The memories. The hundreds of hours spent fiddling on the now giant steel maze. Or discussing a difficult case. Or working on an invention together. True, the ballroom was special, in that it was where William's reserve slowly loosened; he'd learned to come out of his shell as James led him on the dance floor. But the library held the core of their relationship. Their true meeting of the minds had happened here. If the worse happened, a possibility he was definitely not contemplating, the memories in this room would remain. Somehow, these thoughts were keeping the horrors his imagination could produce at bay.
He checked all the windows. The security devices seemed to engage normally. He chose to sit in his reading chair, playing memories of their relationship in his mind. He managed to fall asleep, James's laugh echoing in his ear.