Maggie MacKeever

Maggie MacKeever by The Baroness of Bow Street Page B

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Authors: The Baroness of Bow Street
alarm.” Willie clasped his hands and gazed heavenward. “Of course, Leda’s release from prison might make me change my mind.”
    “Even now,” retorted Dulcie, though with a hint of amusement, “there are those who wish to see you committed to Newgate to await trial for complicity in murder and robbery.”
     Willie lowered his gaze. “That wretched Crump has been hounding me.”
    “It is no more than you can expect,” the Baroness replied severely, “when you go out of your way to antagonize him. Contrary to what you may believe, Crump is a very clever man. He may reach the truth through incredibly tortuous routes, but reach it he does.”
    Willie sighed. “I have a very unpleasant vision of myself taken into safekeeping for a variety of crimes. Is there nothing we can do to avert this great calamity?”
    “Are you a gambler, Willie? Among your other sins? If so, you may be of some assistance.” Dulcie paused. “I don’t suppose you know how to read the Tarot cards?”
    “The what? ”
    “I thought not. Ah, well! You are fond of Leda, I gather, and even fonder of the opportunity to publish your columns. This newspaper might prove useful, if you print what I tell you.”
    Willie crossed his arms. “The difficulties of newspaper publishing are great, Lady Bligh, and the rewards small. The tax on printed matter will soon reach four pence per sheet on every newspaper of one and one-half sheets. Many small businesses have already gone under. Leda may have had unexpected resources at her disposal but, as you have already pointed out, I hardly have the funds to undertake such an expensive enterprise. Nor do I care to be set up in the pillory at the Old Bailey, there to be saluted with garbage from Fleet Street.”
    “You are sadly lacking in courage, are you not? Very well, I will supply you with what you need.”
    “Are you suggesting that I can be bought? I am a true artist, Lady Bligh!”
    “You,” retorted the Baroness, “are a jackanapes. You’ll have the money you need to produce your play, but I expect more than ample return for my investment.”
    “You’ll have it.” Willie slid off the table to clasp and pump her hands. “You are a woman after my own heart, Lady Bligh.”
    The Baroness regarded her new associate wryly. “I doubt that very much. Cease your capering, Willie, and listen to what I would have you do.”
    Willie dropped to his knees at her feet. “Baroness, for you I will do anything.”
    “You may have cause to regret that remark,” Dulcie retorted. “Do get up off the floor. First, you will not further antagonize Crump. Secondly, you will ferret out for me the truth of those ‘unexplained resources’ of Leda’s to which you referred. And thirdly, you will mingle freely with your theatrical connections and report to me all you may hear.”
    “My theatrical connections?” Willie, rising, resembled a long-legged spider. “What link can there be between Warwick’s murder and the stage? Can it be you have an urge to tread the boards, Lady Bligh?”
    “What I have,” retorted the Baroness, “is a most unpleasant hunch. You need know no more than that.”
    “Tell me one thing.” Willie abandoned his posturing to reveal himself as a very worried young man. “Do you think Leda innocent?”
    “As innocent as you are yourself.”
    “I’ve sometimes wondered if Warwick’s death is somehow connected with these robberies,” Willie said unhappily. “No, hear me out! It’s not as farfetched as it sounds. A considerable amount of money was stolen from Warwick’s quarters. It is common knowledge, though apparently not to Bow Street.” Willie watched the Baroness pace back and forth. “I don’t know what to make of it, Lady Bligh.”
    Dulcie paused in her perambulations. “Are you trying to tell me that there was something unusual about those notes?”
    “Unusual, indeed, Baroness.” Willie’s crinkled up his face. “If what I hear is true, those stolen banknotes

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