Runcorn strode to the door indicated and banged on it once then threw it open. Monk was at his shoulder.

The room was very masculine, all paneled wood and deep colors, but it was extraordinarily beautiful. They barely had time for more than an impression. Fuller Pendreigh was lying on the bed, his face gray and his eyes already sunken. He clutched a folded towel around his throat and neck, but the scarlet blood was seeping through it and the stain was spreading.

Hester moved forward to him and then stopped. She had seen too much death to mistake it easily. He had more stamina than most men to have made it this far. There was nothing she could do for him, even were it in mercy rather than a prolonging of pain.

“She saw you in Swinton Street the night of Elissa’s death, didn’t she?” Monk asked softly. “She didn’t know who you were then, but she recognized you in court, and when you saw her looking at you, you knew it. It was there in her face, and it was only moments before she would tell someone. What were you hoping to do? Make her look like a suicide? Another gambler driven beyond sanity? But she’s not dead. We got to her in time.”

“Why did you kill Elissa, sir?” Runcorn asked in the silence. “She was your own daughter.”

Very slowly, as if he barely had strength to lift it, Pendreigh let go of the towel and put one hand up to his face, trying to waken himself from a nightmare. “For God’s sake, man, I didn’t mean to kill her!” he said in a whisper. “She flew at me, lashing out with her fists, clawing at my face and screaming. I only wanted to fend her off, but she wouldn’t stop.” He struggled for breath. “I didn’t want to strike her. I put my hands on her shoulders and pushed her away, but she kept on. She wouldn’t listen.” He stopped, his face filled with horror as if a hell of reliving it over and over again had opened up in front of him, always with the same, terrible inescapable end, worse now because he knew it was coming.

“I stepped back and she lunged forward and slipped. I tried to catch her as her feet went from under her. She turned, and I caught her face in my hands. I couldn’t hold her. I meant to take her weight. . I. . she broke her neck as she went sideways. . ”

Hester wet a corner of the sheet in the pitcher on the table beside the bed and touched Pendreigh’s lips with it.

“Why did she attack you?” Monk asked.

“What?” Pendreigh stared at him.

“Why did she attack you?” Monk repeated. “Why were you there anyway?”

Runcorn looked at Hester, his eyes wide with question.

“Why were you there?” Monk said again.

“I had an appointment to see Allardyce,” Pendreigh said hoarsely. “I was going to give him an interim payment for the picture. I know he needed it. But I was delayed. I was late.” He gasped and was silent for a moment.

Hester bent forward, then looked at Monk, shaking her head minutely.

Seconds ticked by. Pendreigh opened his eyes again. “He’d grown tired of waiting for me, and angry, and he’d gone out. But I wasn’t going to pay him without seeing the picture first.” His voice faded to a whisper. The scarlet stain was soaking through the towels. His face was gray. “It was beautiful!”

Runcorn drew his brows together. “So why was Mrs. Beck lashing out at you?”

Pendreigh’s face was a mask of horror. “When I got there his model answered the door to me. She was alone, half dressed, and staggering around with drink. She fell over and her robe slid off, leaving her half naked. I tried to help her up. I. . I was sorry for the woman.”

He stopped while Hester wet his lips again.

“She was heavy and kept sliding away,” he went on, determined now to talk. “I had her in my arms when Elissa came in. She misunderstood and assumed she had interrupted some sexual assignation. She worshiped me. . as I did her! She couldn’t bear it. .”

Monk could picture it easily. Elissa’s own shame of her appetite beyond control, suddenly finding her adored father, who she believed had so perfectly mastered his own life and virtue, in the arms of a drunken, half-naked woman. “She flew at you in rage for shattering her ideal of you, for betraying her dreams. The idol was clay all the way up to the waist!”

Pendreigh’s voice was no more than a sigh. “Yes.”

“And you killed her accidentally?”


“But you killed Sarah Mackeson on purpose!” Runcorn burst out, his face ravaged by fury and an anguish he did not know how to express. “You killed that woman only because she’d seen you! You took hold of her and you twisted her neck until you broke it!”

Pendreigh stared at him. “I had to. She would have told Allardyce, and it would have ruined me. She would have prevented all the good I could have done.”

Runcorn shook his head. “No she wouldn’t. Any real friends would have stood by you. . ”

Pendreigh seemed to find a last strength. “Friends. You imbecile. I would have made Parliament! I would have changed the laws. Do you know how easy it is for a greedy man to take everything and leave a woman destitute? Do you?”

Runcorn blinked at him. “That’s got nothing to do with it.”

“It’s got everything. .” Pendreigh sighed, and his breathing grew more labored, his chest rattling. The shadow of death was on his face. “One woman sacrificed. . I wouldn’t have chosen it, but it was unavoidable. . to get justice for millions.”

“And Kristian?” Monk asked. “Is it worth it for him to hang for murders he did not commit? What about all the sick he could have cured? What about the discoveries he might make that could heal millions? What about the fact that he is innocent? What about truth?”

“I could have. .” Pendreigh began. He did not finish. He let out his breath in a long sigh and his eyes ceased to focus.

Absolute silence filled the room, and Hester leaned over and passed her hand over his face, closing the lids gently.

“God help us,” Runcorn said in a whisper. He swallowed hard and turned to Monk. “I’ll go and tell them. . and. . and get a constable.”

“Thank you,” Monk said. He reached across and touched Hester’s arm. He felt an ease inside that resolution always brought, but no victory yet. Kristian would be freed, of course, but he still had shattering truths to accept. He himself was not who he had believed he was. His heritage, his very blood, was different. He was one of the people he had been brought up to think of as outsiders, somehow inferior, and yet a people who had given the Western world the core of its soul, and so of its culture also. The thought was almost too big to grasp, but he would have to.

As he turned it over in his mind, Monk became aware of an intense need within himself to know his own roots, the meaning of his identity that hung only in shadows and pieces in his own mind. Who were his people? Where did they fit in the history of his land? What had they believed, lived for or died for? What had they given anyone?

It was not enough to ask; he must begin to look for the answers. The truth about everyone else was important. It was his job. What of the truth about himself? Who were the people he should have felt the bond with that Hester felt for Charles? Where was his blood tie to the past?

Runcorn came back, closing the door behind him. He looked first at Hester, then at Monk.

“You all right?” he asked.

“Yes, of course,” Monk replied, tightening his grip on Hester’s arm.

“Good,” Runcorn replied. “I’ve got a constable with me, and another coming.” He glanced at the silent figure on the bed. “What a terrible waste,” he said, shaking his head a little. “He could have done so much.” He turned back to Monk. “Cook’s got up and made us a pot of tea,” he added. “Look like you could take a cup.”

Monk saw kindness in his face, even a flash of the old friendship.

“Thank you,” he said, smiling, although he had not meant to. “That’s a very good idea. Let’s do that.” And guiding Hester in front of him, he went out of the room and along the passage side by side with Runcorn.

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