Authors: Carola Dunn
Also by Carola Dunn
THE DAISY DALRYMPLE MYSTERIES
Death at Wentwater Court
The Winter Garden Mystery
Requiem for a Mezzo
Murder on the Flying Scotsman
Damsel in Distress
Dead in the Water
Styx and Stones
Rattle His Bones
To Davy Jones Below
The Case of the Murdered Muckraker
Mistletoe and Murder
A Mourning Wedding
Fall of a Philanderer
The Bloody Tower
A Daisy Dalrymple
ST. MARTIN’S MINOTAUR
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
. Copyright © 2008 by Carola Dunn. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Black ship : a Daisy Dalrymple mystery / Carola Dunn.—1st ed.
1. Dalrymple, Daisy (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Women journalists—Fiction. 3. Police spouses—Fiction. 4. Americans—England—Fiction. 5. Liquor industry—Great Britain—Fiction. 6. Smuggling—England—Fiction. 7. Criminals—England—Fiction. 8. Nineteen twenties—Fiction. 9. London (England)—Fiction. I. Title.
First Edition: September 2008
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To my “full-service” agent,
Alice Volpe of Northwest Literary Agency, Inc.,
and to Alan (and Slick), with thanks
My thanks to Scott T. Price, historian, of the U.S. Coast Guard, for the book
Rum War at Sea
, by Commander Malcolm F. Willoughby, which, with
The Black Ships
by Everett S. Allen, provided a great deal of invaluable information about rumrunners and their opponents. Thanks also to Drs. Larry Karp and D. P. Lyle for medical information; Lynne Connolly for help with Manchester speech and Kate Dunn for New England speech; Norma and Dick Huss for nautical tips; and my brother Tony for rugger and cricket details.
teeth-rattling sneeze escaped Daisy as she stepped out to the front porch. The tall, spare solicitor, locking the door behind them, gave her a worried look. That is, she thought she detected anxiety, though the layer of dust on his pince-nez obscured his expression.
Having dusted off his hat, Mr. Irwin carefully settled it on his thinning hair, then took out a large white linen handkerchief to polish the pince-nez. “Oh dear, I expect I ought to have had cleaners in before I showed you the house.”
Being too well brought up to voice her hearty agreement, Daisy said politely, “It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t taken the dust sheet off that rocking chair and wafted it about a bit.” Glad she’d worn grey gloves, she brushed down her lovat green costume.
“I’m afraid the late Mr. Walsall’s staff let things slide. The butler and housekeeper were as aged as he himself, having been with him for a great many years. The unfortunate condition of the interior may deter you from taking up your abode in the house; perfectly understandable.”
“You said the electrical system is quite new.”
“It was installed in 1910, I believe. I should not describe fifteen years as precisely new. There have been great improvements in such things in the past fifteen years.”
“New enough. The building itself seems sound. No damp patches in the attics, no creaking floorboards, no smell of drains.”
“Structurally,” he said with obvious reluctance, “I believe the house is comparatively sound.”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“Though there’s no knowing what defects a surveyor might find. Dry rot, perhaps? If you decide to sell the property, I shall, of course, be happy to handle the conveyancing for you.”
“But, if I understand you correctly, the way my husband’s great-uncle left things, we don’t inherit his money unless we live in the house. It goes to the Home for Aged Donkeys.”
“Superannuated and Superfluous Carriage Horses.”
“I suppose there must be a great many about, what with motor-cars and all.”
“I dare say,” Irwin grunted. He didn’t seem any happier at the prospect of the horses getting the money than at the prospect of the Fletchers moving into his late client’s house. “It is only one of several worthy causes to be benefited according to the instructions in Mr. Walsall’s last will and testament, should you decline to reside in the house.”
“Does that include the proceeds of the sale of the house?”
He cheered up. “No. The proceeds would be yours—your husband’s—free and clear. Apart from any taxes due, naturally. So you’ll be able to purchase a more suitable residence elsewhere.”
More suitable? Daisy gazed across the cobbled street at the communal garden in the middle of the ring of houses. In central London, it would have been a square, but one couldn’t very well call it a square, because it was round.
In the slanting sun of the late September afternoon, it was bright with neat beds of chrysanthemums and the red and gold leaves of bushes and the ring of trees that enclosed the whole.
Directly opposite her, a paved path sloped down across the lawn, levelling off to circle the marble-rimmed pool in the centre, with park benches on either side. The pool had a fountain, a marble maiden in vaguely Greek draperies holding an urn on her shoulder from which water spilled.
Three small children toddled about under the watchful eyes of a pair of uniformed nannies. In next to no time, Miranda and Oliver would be old enough to play with them.
“Mrs. Fletcher?” the lawyer ventured tentatively.
“Sorry, Mr. Irwin, I was thinking. Is that an alley I see between those houses down there, on the other side of the communal garden?”
“Not exactly an alley. It might better be described as a foot passage, leading down to Well Walk.”
“How convenient! And where is the Heath?”
“Hampstead Heath. It can’t be too far away?”
“Oh, the Heath. Just around the corner—literally. If you would care to descend the steps and walk to the corner …”
Running up the side of the house and garden was a cobbled alley leading to a block of carriage houses now used as garages for motors. Beyond these, the way narrowed to another foot passage ending with a gate onto a lane, and on the other side of the lane was the Heath. It couldn’t be more perfect for Belinda and her friends, and for the twins when they were old enough. They’d have many of the advantages of both town and country life.
Not to mention being able to give the dog a good run without the dreary trudge through the streets to Primrose Hill. Daisy would walk Nana much more often when it was so easy, and perhaps at last she’d take off a few of those extra pounds.
Once again, Daisy apologised for her abstraction. As she pondered, she had strolled back to the foot of the steps up to the front door of number 6, Constable Circle. Now she stepped backwards to the edge of the pavement and looked up at the
façade. It was an attractive place, a detached house built in the last decade of the nineteenth century of red brick, the first floor hung with matching tile in alternating bands of plain and patterned. The front porch was set back between protruding wings, and the paired gables in the tile roof had a dormer between. Four stories from semibasement to attics, it was considerably larger than their semidetached in St. John’s Wood.
Now that the twins were mobile, Nurse Gilpin really had to have a nursery maid whether they moved or not. Their present house would be terribly crowded when Belinda came home from school for the holidays. Besides, poor Bel deserved more than the tiny box of a room she had nobly put up with over the summer. For Alec, the journey to Westminster would actually be easier from Hampstead when he went in by tube, not having to change at Baker Street, and by car it was very little farther. Nor would Daisy and Belinda be far from their St. John’s Wood friends.
The rates were bound to be higher, plus their share of the upkeep of the garden, and Mrs. Dobson would need the help of a house-parlour maid as well as a full-time daily woman. But if they kept the house, they’d keep old Mr. Walsall’s fortune, as well.
Logic told her to jump at the prospect. Then why did it make her so uneasy?
Perhaps her reluctance was just sentimental, an atavistic—was that the word she wanted?—attachment to family land, bred in the blood by her aristocratic ancestors. But, Daisy’s brother having been killed in the War, the Dalrymple estate now belonged to a distant cousin. The suburban semi bought two or three decades ago by Alec’s father was scarcely in the same category as Fairacres.
More likely, Daisy decided with cynical honesty, she just didn’t want to face the disruption of the move. Yet if they sold, the sensible thing to do with the money would be to buy a bigger house elsewhere, which would involve hunting for one, as well as the horrors of moving.
“We’ll keep it!”
“But Mr. Fletcher hasn’t even seen it yet.”
“He said it’s for me to decide.” Though Daisy might wish Alec had not left the decision to her—it was
great-uncle’s legacy, after all—she wasn’t going to acknowledge that to the solicitor.
“But … but—”
“I’m the one who’ll be spending most of my time here, with the babies and working.”
“Yes, Mr. Irwin, working. I’m a journalist.”
“Oh. How … how enterprising,” he said weakly. Then he rallied. “Mr. Fletcher will have to sign all the documents, of course.”
“Naturally. Mr. Walsall was his relative. I’m afraid he’s out of town at present, though, and I don’t know when he’ll be back.”
“I suppose in his … er … his occupation, he is often away.”
Daisy was inured to the way even the most law-abiding people looked askance at a Scotland Yard detective, not to mention his wife. The average suburban solicitor rarely, if ever, came into contact with a criminal investigation.
Mr. Irwin must have carried out his own investigation into Alec’s life before approaching him about his great-uncle’s will, if only to make sure he was really the heir. Old Mr. Walsall seemed to have cut off all connection with his sister’s family long ago. Alec had only the vaguest memory of his mother once mentioning a rich uncle.
Naturally, Daisy was dying to know the reason for the breach.
She wouldn’t dream of asking her mother-in-law, though. The elder Mrs. Fletcher would not only undoubtedly refuse to tell her, she’d make snubbing remarks about people prying into other people’s business and curiosity killing cats. Which was most unfair, as what was Alec’s business was surely his wife’s business, and if one didn’t ask questions, how was one ever to find out anything?