Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : A.J. Matthews
Word Count :34698
Publication Date :2022-02-18
Series : Veronica Nash#7
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-4874-3481-6
Bell, book, and scandal.
Did Veronica’s father attack a shop assistant, leaving her for dead? The retired magistrate is too ill to answer questions, so the Ladies look for an explanation.
Their quest leads to a historic family scandal and a legendary lost hoard of gold that almost toppled the Crown of England. With a dangerous stranger dogging their footsteps, the stakes are high. For Veronica, solving the case could lead to so much more than clearing her father’s name, but fate has another shock in store.
Wednesday, 3rd June 1925.
“Murder?” Veronica bit off the word.
Tommy gestured for her to lower her voice. “Do keep it down, Ronnie. Not everyone needs to know our family’s business.”
Claire stood by her side, holding Baby John. She looked anxious and clasped Veronica’s arm. “Oh my God, darling! How awful for your father.”
John gurgled, enthralled by the bustle around them.
They stood on the platform at Kings Cross Station, London, where the early train from Sheffield had arrived minutes before. Veronica’s exclamation drew the attention of passengers passing nearby. Some regarded her with raised eyebrows or concern. Others moved away from their little group and hurried toward the ticket barriers with expressions of horror.
Tommy glanced around and indicated they should go somewhere quieter. “I couldn’t keep you abreast of the situation while you were on the train,” he explained as they walked. “The worst news is, I’m afraid Father’s now in hospital. He’s rather ill.”
“Oh, Christ, Tommy.” Veronica pinched the bridge of her nose. “Tell us everything.”
“I shall do so.” They passed through the barrier, handing their tickets to the clerk. Tommy drew them to an unoccupied space off to one side. “Here we are. We can talk undisturbed.”
He drew a deep breath, looking sombre in his official Whitehall mandarin’s garb of black morning coat and grey silk top hat.
“Yesterday afternoon, a constable found Father at the rear door of an antiquarian bookshop on Charing Cross Road. He was standing over the body of a young woman shop assistant holding an antique book in his hands.”
Veronica stared at him, appalled. “Dear God!”
Claire clasped her hand.
“I’m afraid so.” Tommy shook his head. “The young woman had been clubbed, hard. Father protested his innocence but was arrested and taken to the nearest police station, where he subsequently suffered a heart seizure. He’s now in Guy’s Hospital in Southwark.”
“Is…is the shop assistant dead?” Veronica whispered.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.” Tommy rubbed a hand over his face, ruffling his moustache, his normal calm demeanour slipping. “Really, old things, there’s only so much I can do before the police cry Home Office interference!”
“We understand,” Claire told him. “What do we need to do now?”
“We can at least try to visit Father in Guy’s. I have a car waiting outside.”
“Does Mother know?” Veronica asked as they hurried across the concourse toward the exit.
“She does. I phoned her as soon as I heard yesterday. Mother said she’ll come up to town this afternoon.”
Outside, the Victorian Gothic edifice of the station seemed to radiate heat from its red brick facade. The forecourt bustled with activity. An official car waited at the kerb, watched over by a constable who saluted Tommy as they approached.
“Thank you, constable,” Tommy said, helping the ladies aboard.
The constable saluted again. “A pleasure, sir. Mind how you go, now.”
Tommy directed his driver to Guy’s Hospital. The policeman walked off as the car drew away.
“The police are the salt of the earth until you find yourself in their sights,” Tommy muttered, settling back in his seat.
“I’m concerned this might reflect badly on you, Tommy,” Claire remarked.
Tommy sat looking pensively out the window at the passing scene, his top hat sitting square on his lap. London basked in the early summer warmth, the heat mitigated by a stiff breeze. More than one passer-by held onto their hats.
“Certain people within the Home Office’d like to see me taken down a peg or two.” He looked grim. “They’re not above using Father’s situation to their advantage.”
Claire patted John’s back, and he burped. “It’s a jolly rotten show.”
Veronica clasped Claire’s free hand. “We were going to set off on honeymoon today.” She sighed sadly. “I was rather looking forward to seeing the South of France again.”
Her brother sighed, making Veronica frown. Tommy looks as if he’s trying to refrain from rolling his eyes at the word honeymoon.
“It’ll still be there when all this is over, darling,” Claire assured her.
“Although I wouldn’t mention your so-called marriage to Mother when you see her.” Tommy’s expression was severe. “She has enough on her plate right now.”
So-called, indeed! Veronica shared an angry glance with Claire. “We’ll keep the peace,” she managed through clenched teeth.
They crossed the Thames by the elegant new bridge to Southwark, pulling into the great eighteenth-century forecourt of Guy’s Hospital. The institution bustled around them as they entered and were shown up to a corridor lined with private rooms.
The familiar figure of Detective Inspector Milton stood outside the room assigned to Veronica’s father. He was conferring with a white-coated doctor and a uniformed constable.
Milton glanced up as they approached and stiffened, his eyes flicking to take in their faces, then Baby John, now cradled in Veronica’s arms. He touched the brim of his fedora, a wry smile on his lips. “Good morning. I can’t say I’m surprised to see you two here.”
“Good morning to you, too, Inspector,” Veronica replied. “On the contrary, I’m rather surprised to see you.”
He rubbed the back of his neck and gave a half-hearted smile. “After that business over Gabriel Sibfield-Murray, I had your names flagged for my attention should they ever appear at the Yard. Including your maiden name, Mrs. Nash.” He jerked his thumb toward the room. “I took charge of your father’s case this morning.”
“How is he? May we see him?” Veronica asked, glancing at Claire, who’d stiffened at the mention of her murdered brother’s name.
“I’ve no objections. It’s not as if the poor old chap can run off, the state he’s in.” Milton cocked an eye at the medic. “Doctor?”