A great pounding startles me awake, unrelenting and insistent.
Newspaper crinkles against my face as I rise, attempting to traverse the room. I unlatch the door feeling dazed and provoked, wishing for the first time that Julia was still employed to handle such unpleasantness.
“Excuse me sir, sorry to bother you.”
A bobbie stands before me in high collared tunic, pulling a notebook from his pocket.
“Lord Attwood? I am from New Scotland Yard with orders to escort you to Whitehall Place. If you would come with me please.”
I brush sleep from my eyes, not sure if I’m dreaming. Then, my mind clears, a burst of optimism opening in my heart.
“Do you have news of my wife? Have you found her?”
He is reluctant to speak. “It would be best to discuss this at the station.”
How dare he! “Officer, I must know. Has she been located? Is she alright?”
He takes a step forward, removing his helmet. “It is not my place,” he says, yielding to my insistence, “but I can tell you, that there was a fine piece of police work done by our men near Fleet Street yesterday. If they had not been on their toes, our suspects would have slipped right out of London.
Our men in the west end have been tracking a shady but seemingly harmless character by the name of Gavin McFlannery, who was accompanied by his wife, Maggie, since they made a sale of questionable items last month in Liverpool, items way above their station, if you know what I mean? The couple was nabbed attempting to sell a women’s ring of precious gems, which we believe may have belonged to your wife.”
“And?” I ask.
The policeman is feeling proud now, willing to entrust even more details of the investigation.
“They have admitted to taking that and other items from a dead woman in early spring near the River Derwent. We need you to come to Scotland Yard to identify the ring. It won’t take much of your time.”
A dead woman. His words pierce my heart, backing me into the room to sit down. “Are you sure she was dead?”
He follows me in, standing rigid in winter greatcoat and shiny black boots, a whistle suspended from a brass chain on the second button of his tunic. There is a moment of quiet when he realizes he may have divulged too much.
“These are things to discuss at Scotland Yard, Sir, but yes, dead. That is what the man said, that was his justification for stealing the goods. His wife, who was with him at the time, concurred. We need you to identify the jewelry and a few other items of clothing. We believe from the fullness of their pockets, that other belongings must have already been sold.”
I look around at the chaos in the drawing room, as if seeing it for the first time, the reality in his words striking a severe blow.
“Has the body been retrieved?” I ask, feeling numb.
He is formal again. “You’ll need to accompany me to the station.”
“Yes, of course, of course,” I mutter, wondering what to bring.
The policeman waits, folding his hands on his dutyband, unaware of the anguish he’s delivered, while I grab a stack of official papers, confused, thinking I may be required to stop at the House of Lords when I finish, as if I were going out for afternoon tea. What was it Lord Higgins said? They needed my vote to block Ireland’s home rule and something about the regulation of movable dwelling for the gypsies. Surely delay is best, for if Ireland is granted home rule, who would be next and what would become of England’s power?
I sit at the table in front of a cold fireplace, paralyzed, legislative papers in my hand, my body and thoughts motionless.
The officer breaks the silence, his words hanging in the air as cold as the room. “You may want to begin with muffler and overcoat, Sir. There is a stern wind blowing.”