The Twisted Root

The Twisted Root by Anne Perry

Book: The Twisted Root by Anne Perry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne Perry
the figure of his wife in the garden beyond, her pale dress outlined against the vivid colors of the herbaceous border.
    "You have news, Mr. Monk?" Stourbridge said almost before the footman had closed the door from the hall. He looked anxious. His face was drawn, and there were dark smudges under his eyes as if he had slept little. It would be cruel to stretch out the suspense. It was hard enough to have to kill the hope struggling in him as it was.
    "I am sorry, it is not good," Monk said bluntly. He saw Harry Stourbridge’s body stiffen and the last, faint touch of color drain from his skin. "I believe I have found your coach and horses," he continued. "And the body of a man I am almost certain is Treadwell. There is no sign whatever of Mrs. Gardiner."
    "No sign of Miriam?" Stourbridge looked confused. He swallowed painfully. "Where was this, Mr. Monk? Do you know what happened to Treadwell, if it is he?"
    "Hampstead, just off the Heath. I’m very sorry; it seems Treadwell was murdered."
    Stourbridge’s eyes widened. "Robbery?"
    "Perhaps, but if so, what for? He wouldn’t be carrying money, would he? Have you missed anything from the house?"
    "No! No, of course not, or I should have told you. But why else would anyone attack and kill the poor man?"
    "We don’t know..."
    "We?"
    "The police at Hampstead. I traced the carriage that far, then went to ask them," Monk explained. "A young sergeant called Robb. He told me he was working on a murder and I realized from his description that it could be Treadwell. Also, the carriage and horses were found half a mile away, quite undamaged. I have looked at them, and from what you told me, they appear to be yours. I am afraid you will need to send someone to identify them—and the body—to be certain."
    "Of course," Stourbridge agreed. "I will come myself." He took a step forward across the bright, sunlit carpet. "But you have no idea about Miriam?"
    "Not yet. I’m sorry."
    Verona was walking towards them across the grass, her curiosity too powerful to allow her to remain apart.
    Stourbridge squared his shoulders as she came in through the door.
    "What is it?" she asked him, only glancing at Monk. "You know something." That was a conclusion, not a question. "Is it Miriam?"
    Monk searched her expression for the slightest trace of relief, or false surprise, and saw none.
    "Not yet," Stourbridge answered before Monk could. "But it appears he may have found Treadwell..."
    "May?" She picked up the inference instantly, looking from her husband to Monk. "You did not approach him, speak with him? Why? What has happened?"
    "He has met with misfortune," Stourbridge put in. "I am about to accompany Mr. Monk to see what else may be learned. I shall tell you, of course, when I return." There was finality in his voice, sufficient to tell her it was useless pressing any further questions now.
    Monk’s relief at not having to tell Lucius what he had discovered was short-lived. They were crossing the hall towards the front door when Lucius came down the stairs, his face pale, eyes wide.
    "What have you found?" he demanded, fear sharp in his voice. "Is it Miriam? Where is she? What has happened to her?"
    Stourbridge turned and put up his hands as if to take Lucius by the shoulders to steady him, but Lucius stepped back. His throat was too tight to allow him to speak, and he gulped air.
    "I don’t know anything about Mrs. Gardiner," Monk said quickly. "But I may have found Treadwell. I need someone to identify him before I can be certain."
    Stourbridge put his hand on Lucius’s arm. "There was nothing to indicate that Miriam was with him," he said gently. "We don’t know what happened or why. Stay here. I will do what is necessary. But be discreet. Until we are sure, there is no purpose in distressing Cook."
    Lucius recalled with an effort that he was not the only one to be affected, even bereaved. He looked at Monk. "Treadwell is dead?"
    "I think it is Treadwell," Monk replied. "But he was

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