Posted on 2012-10-31
Detective Tommy 'Porky Corky' Coughlin took one look at the slab and lit up the only cigarette he'd allotted to himself for the day. It's always a dame. You could have greed, anger, even revenge. But, in the end, there's always a dame.
"So, what happened?" he asked the coroner. "Jealous husband? Jealous boyfriend? Maybe both?"
Mr. Patrick Ward silently handed over a plain folder containing the victim's information.
The sadness in Patty's eyes caught Corky's attention. "Who is she?" he asked nervously as he flipped open the file.
"Mrs. Jane Bingley," was the morose answer.
Corky's eyes widened noticeably. "What?"
"The one and only."
"Damn," Corky muttered. He tipped back the cheap trilby on his head and scratched his receding hairline. "I got less than three weeks to retirement and now this."
The Coroner reverently pulled back the sheet to reveal a face fair and serene. Even death could not mar the porcelain skin or the perfect bone structure. The only thing the detective couldn't see was the famous baby blues.
Corky remembered her pictures plastered all over the society columns. A woman born of grace and gentle intelligence, who married a bona-fide war hero because she loved the man and not because he came with a sizeable inheritance. She reminded him of an angel with her slight smiles and long, elegant fingers. He also recollected Mrs. Bingley's tireless work with wounded veterans: the boys who came back proud but broken, with bodies splintered from battle and minds darkened with images from horrors they've witnessed all over Europe and the Pacific.
"Such a waste," Corky said, staring down at the late Mrs. Bingley. "I can't imagine what her husband must be going through right now."
Patty pulled the sheet over the face, and tucked the ends in so no errant movement could pull it loose and reveal the corpse.
"Do you have anything more?" Corky asked as he flipped through the meager three pages in the file.
"Jack's heading the scene and I had a chance to talk to him. You're going to get a kick out of this one: they were doing one of those mystery dinner things."
Corky pinched the bridge of his nose and winced. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Wish I was, but no, I'm serious."
"Let me guess: there was going to be a murder?"
The coroner gave a grim nod. "It was for charity. The Bingleys donated their house and hosted the event. Everyone was dressed up to the nines. Dames and detectives, even some gangsters were present."
"Jesus, the things the rich do to make themselves happy." Corky took one look at the Coroner's face and offered, "Want a smoke, Patty?"
The man nodded and took the proffered cigarette. With a grateful sigh he inhaled deeply with the first puff.
"Doesn't she have sisters?"
"Four, the youngest is at Vassar, but the rest were present when it happened," Patty answered. "Hey, all these years I've known you I never asked for any favors, but could you go easy on them?"
The detective quirked an eyebrow. "Why?"
"I met the second daughter, Elizabeth Darcy, last July Fourth picnic when she went chin-to-chin with that Senator…"
"Oh, yeah," Corky smiled. "I read about that. She took a slice off of him, right?"
"My son was one of the boys who was living in that halfway house the blowhard wanted to close," Patty explained. "I had no idea the kid was in so much trouble. He never told me he'd lost his job and his place. Anyway, it was because of Mrs. Bingley and that stubborn mule of a sister that the city didn't shut it down."
"They opened up more boarding houses, didn't they?"
"Two, actually," Patty answered. "And now that they've got funding from the state, the local USO can hire more doctors into looking in on the kids."
"How's he doing?" Corky couldn't remember the son's name and felt badly for it.
"Bill's doing better."
"Was it the drink?"
"That and the fact he's missing a leg," Patty commented wryly. "Bill is becoming more like his old self. Slowly, but it's my son I'm seeing more and more every day."
"All right, then," Corky grounded out his cigarette under his shoes. "Just keep her cold for her husband to officially identify her. I think he'd appreciate his wife keeping her looks just a little longer."
Patty rolled his eyes and handed over a small envelope. "The bullet and the casing. Jack still has the gun."
Corky smiled and patted his friend on the back before leaving.
The drive was quiet, but then Hemlock Avenue always was at this time of night. The Rockefellers who lived here demanded absolute peace after their chauffeurs have driven them home. After all, a hard day's work playing with other people's money would take a lot out of a man.
After five years Corky still couldn't figure out if moving to Wellington was a good idea. The workload was definitely easier; this murder was the first of the year and it was already September.
But what a murder, Corky thought. Well, that's what you get for working in a rich town. Anyone dies: it's a sure bet that the person's important. And probably got a gaggle of friends all connected to the Mayor, a Senator, and hell, even the President come to think of it.
It was easy for Corky to identify Bingley's mansion. There was a retinue of fancy cars, all blocked in the circular driveway by police vehicles. There was even a Black Maria skulking in the shadows like a sullen girl who got dumped by her date.
Corky took a deep breath and stepped out into the rainy night.
"Hey, Porky," was the greeting he got from the senior officer on the scene.
"Hey, Jack," Corky said, not holding any grudge since 'Porky Corky' was actually a term of endearment if also a blunt testimonial about his waistline. "Got statements from everyone?"
"Sure did," Jack said, handing over a stack of notepads, a bound volume that looked suspiciously like a movie script, and a paper bag that contained the gun. "I knew you wouldn't care if we took them, unlike some hoity-toity Harvard types we got down at the Big House now."
Corky actually didn't mind the educated younger men making detective grade. He liked their chutzpah and a lot of them were vets, so it was next to impossible to shake them up or shake them down. Of course this was exactly why the old guards hated them.
"How about the sisters? How are they handling it?" Corky asked.
"They are a right mess," Jack said, his voice dropping few octaves. "Pretty little things. Could see why they made such a dent in the social circuit."
"Do they need doctors? Maybe lawyers?"
"Nah, none of them asked for anything, actually," Jack answered. "Watch out though, the one called Elizabeth? Remember her hubby?"
Corky gave a single nod and a long sigh. It was impossible to forget the tall Englishman who'd landed on this side of the Atlantic after the war. The recently retired Captain Darcy was a decorated officer in the Royal Navy and should have been buried at sea if half the rumors of his exploits were true. The real irony was that he'd survived the suicidal missions, went to visit his relatives in London, and nearly died in the Blitz. Crippled, angry, and not a little bitter, the gimp met up with a friendly Yank by the name of Charles Bingley who somehow managed to dull down his prickly exterior and convince the man to come to America in order to start afresh.
From all the society pages Corky had read, Captain Darcy seemed more than capable of ripping apart anyone who would dare intrude into his life, crippled or not.
"I'm guessing the Anglo isn't too keen on us talking to his wife?"
"I honestly thought he'd beat my head in with his cane when I asked Mrs. Darcy for a moment of her time," Jack said, dramatically wiping his brow. "A real butter-won't-melt-in-my-mouth type of guy!"
"And the widower?"
"Shattered," Jack said quickly. "And I don't think you're going to get anything coherent out of him tonight. Maybe ever."
"Shock wears off…"
"Corky, he was the one who pulled the trigger."
"It was pretty fancy party," Jack said, caressing an errant bottle of brandy like a lover would his girl.
Corky looked down at the bloodstain on the rug. "Yeah, but I bet most of these don't end in real murder."
Jack gave a dry chuckle. "No, they certainly don't."
"So, they were really playing an Agatha Christie here?" Corky asked, looking around the loggia. In spite of the over-indulgence of carnations in the floral arrangements, it was obvious the Bingleys were rolling in dough.
"Definitely," Jack answered, handing over an elegant invitation.
Corky flipped it open and read, "Murder is served. Bring your own bodyguard."
He gave a derisive snort and began reading the statements Jack had taken. It took him less than ten minutes to finish everything as Corky had been blessed with the ability to read quickly, and flawlessly retain the information.
Something tickled in the back of his mind so Corky recollected what he'd just read.
Suddenly, the corner of his vision went dark as an idea clawed its way into his conscious mind.
Slowly and deliberately Corky studied the gun before handing it back to Jack. "Make sure there's somebody competent guarding over it. We can't afford to mess up this one."
Jack gave a terse nod and disappeared back into the mansion.
Corky went to the library where the gun was usually kept. He opened the drawer and looked at its empty case lined in deep blue velvet. It was curiously fancy when compared to the simple revolver. He then opened the boxes stacked next to it and found bullets for the gun. He pulled out a few and examined them thoroughly.
Corky then took out the bullet and its casing from the envelope. He compared them and felt his suspicions solidify.
He heard Jack's heavy footfall behind him and the question, "It's murder, ain't it?"
"It most surely is."
"I was hoping it was some freak accident. I mean - who could hate such a lovely girl enough to kill her?"
"There's more than enough hate in the world to kill a million Jane Bingleys," Corky answered. "Where are they?"
"In the dining room," Jack said. "Mrs. Darcy wanted to go to the kitchen, but I thought it might be a wee bit too dangerous considering."
"You're not wrong," Corky said. He wrote out names and gave the list to Jack. "Just these folks, let everyone else go."
Jack didn't look at all annoyed to be given yet more footwork and left quickly, leaving Corky to ponder upon the level of greed and hate that took the life of Mrs. Jane Bingley: Wellington's greatest and most beloved jewel.
Corky immediately knew who Charles Bingley was even without introduction. The man was sagging in a chair, bookended by a brunette and a man holding an elegant cane. His eyes were wide, his shoulders curved around a weight so great it threatened to crush him altogether. It was obvious to Corky that the man was about a day away from following his wife to the grave.
The detective studied the occupants, mentally going through the names on his list and matching them against the faces.
"Do you have anything, Detective?" the man's accent was a dead giveaway.
"Yes, we do," Corky answered cordially enough. He saw the look of surprise on Mr. Darcy's face and tempered down the ill will to smile.
The brunette on Bingley's right reached around his back and placed a calming hand on Mr. Darcy's shoulder. That single touch was enough to change the bristling, antagonistic man into a sadder, less hostile one.
"When can we bring her home?" the woman asked.
"As soon as you are able, Mrs. Darcy," Corky replied respectfully. It took one look at her tearful face for Corky to lie, "She didn't suffer."
Of course Mrs. Darcy saw right through it but smiled in gratitude. "Thank you."
Corky noticed the younger women take some solace in his words so he didn't feel too bad being caught out the way he did.
"What happened?" Mr. Bingley asked; his voice grated by grief and guilt. "I don't understand … what happened?"
Corky pulled up a chair and sat down. "If you're asking who killed her, I can definitely say it wasn't you."
The husband's face spasmed once but that was all the emotion he'd show. Corky knew the man wouldn't let go of his grief over such a trifle pronouncement. After all, why would he when grief was all he had left?
"From what I understand, there wasn't supposed to be a real bullet in the chamber?" Corky prodded gently. He knew it was grubby to start so abruptly but he wanted to get the show on the road.
A young man, still in army uniform, shook his head violently. "No, Detective, no real bullets."
"And you're Lieutenant Denny, correct?" Corky asked, already knowing the answer. He wanted to establish a connection with this particular witness.
"Yes, I am," the young man answered nervously. He looked around the room before adding, "I'm an armament specialist. It was up to me to make something that would go off with a harmless bang. And that was most certainly not a bullet!"
"So, you made a fake one and then placed it in the revolver?"
"Yes, I did," the officer answered vehemently. "You have to understand, anything that involves gunpowder is bound to be volatile. I didn't want anyone touching the fake, so I had it with me until right before the party started."
"When you placed it in the chamber?"
"Charlie showed the gun drawer to me as soon as I arrived. He gave me the key so I wouldn't have to walk around the house with the fake in my pocket."
"And then you locked the cabinet and gave the key to Mr. Bingley?"
Here the lieutenant hesitated. "No, I actually gave it to Mrs. Bingley."
All eyes turned to Mr. Bingley who gave a nod. "Yes, and Jane gave the key to me."
"When you opened the cabinet to get the gun for the party, did you notice anything strange?"
The question earned an actual response and not a vapid reply from the husband. "What are you asking?"
"When you turned the key, did you notice anything? Feel anything?"
There was a long silence so Corky knew the man actually considered the question.
"No, nothing," was the final answer.
"The lock was messed with," Corky said flatly. "It couldn't be locked at all."
The wave of disquiet was expected so Corky let it pass through.
"What are you saying?" Mr. Bingley asked. "That this was deliberate? Someone wanted Jane dead?"
"Oh God, no," Mr. Darcy said and turned to his wife. He looked almost as pale as his friend. "Elizabeth…"
It was then the now-oldest Bennet sister fully understood. "It was supposed to have been me."
Lieutenant Denny piped out, "What are you going on about?"
Corky admired the man's gumption. "It was supposed to have been Mrs. Darcy who was to be the victim, am I correct?"
Mr. Darcy gave a jerky nod and stood up to be with his wife. For the first time Mrs. Darcy looked as frail as she must have felt.
"Elizabeth agreed to play the victim," Darcy volunteered reluctantly. "But I … I put the kibosh on it because I couldn't bear…"
His wife reached over and placed her hand over his. "He didn't like the idea."
"I hated it," the man stated vehemently, "the idea of someone pointing a gun at my wife. I saw too much during the war and I still have a hard time about certain things."
"It's not your fault," Mr. Bingley whispered.
Mr. Darcy actually looked guilty by his friend's pronouncement. "I asked Elizabeth this very afternoon if she could bow out, but she refused. I then convinced her if she could … well, play another part."
Mrs. Darcy nodded. "I called Jane and she was more than willing to switch places."
"And what part might that be?" Corky prodded.
"The part of the jealous lover," Mrs. Darcy answered. "The woman who ruined everything."
"The party was supposed to have started with the murder," Mr. Darcy continued. "Then the guests would spend the rest of the evening trying to find out why she was killed."
"Mr. Bingley?" Corky asked. "You were supposed to play the part of the killer?"
Mr. Bingley nodded mutely.
Noticing his friend's reticence Darcy explained, "He was the husband whose life was destroyed by the woman's actions. But…"
"There was more to the story," Mrs. Darcy continued. "The script was actually very good. We all had a part to play, and as long as we did everything as written, it was very plausible one of the guests could have solved it."
"I'm Mary Bennet," the bespectacled girl introduced herself. "I wrote the story and …"
He saw pitiful tears form behind the glasses and said, "I read the script already, Miss Bennet. You don't need to tell me."
There was a moment where she looked relieved before Miss Bennet lost control of her grief. She buried her face in her hands and cried quietly.
"You think this was a murder, don't you?" a man asked.
This one is a lot trickier than the rest, Corky thought. At first glance, he screamed of military background. But there was something slippery - no, sly - about him, which completely contradicted the initial impression.
"I'm George Wickham," the stranger introduced himself. "Lydia's husband."
Corky immediately noticed the small but frosty distance between Mr. Wickham and his wife. While Mrs. Darcy had her husband within her reach, Lieutenant Denny was standing closer to Mrs. Wickham than Mr. Wickham was.
And from Mrs. Wickham's body language, it was obvious she was taking comfort in Denny's presence and not her husband's.
They're having an affair, Corky concluded. And unless the husband's a complete idiot, he knows.
"Is there something else?" Mr. Darcy prompted the detective.
"I know you were the original the victim, Mrs. Darcy, but I think either of your deaths would've sufficed."
Corky sat back and took a quick glance through the windows and felt comforted by the sight of policemen prowling around.
Mr. Darcy's lips narrowed in anger. "I suggest you answer my wife's question."
Corky chose to ignore him. "I was wondering what Mrs. Darcy, Mrs. Bingley, and Mrs. Wickham were talking about the last few days. All three of you mentioned that you were busy calling each other, and something tells me it was just because of this party."
It was Mrs. Wickham who had the most telling reaction: she became even paler.
Mr. Darcy looked at his wife. "What is he talking about?"
Mrs. Darcy closed her eyes. "Lydia wanted to … she wanted to leave George, for a while."
The husband did not look at all surprised by the confession. "I see."
Mr. Wickham actually looked bored. He saw Corky's interested glance. "Every marriage has its ups and downs. If Lydia feels she needs to take some time away from me, I can hardly stop her."
Darcy's eyes narrowed as he, for the first time, studied the detective. "You know something, don't you?"
"Perhaps," Corky answered succinctly but not impolitely. "Do I believe it was murder? Yes, but … but it is not without innocent mistakes."
"What does that mean?" Mrs. Darcy cried out in frustration.
Corky took a deep breath and began. "It was murder. Or at least it started that way."
"Do you think it was me?" Lieutenant Denny asked weakly. Since his introduction his hands began trembling noticeably: an unusual weakness for someone who regularly dealt with explosive materials.
"No, not at all," Corky replied immediately, trying to comfort the hysterical man. "I think you all needed to hear this, which is why I had ordered the men to keep you here."
"I thought you were going to arrest us," Mrs. Wickham said nervously.
"Oh, someone's going to jail," Corky said conversationally, "but I wanted all of you to know why this particular person is going to jail while someone else is not."
"Please get on with it," Mr. Wickham drawled out. "It's been a damn long and very ugly evening."
"Of course," Corky said. "It really is a case of someone trying to do something right, and have everything go so very, very wrong.
"Miss Bennet, you said you had a headache late in the day? And that you rested in the parlor?"
She nodded slowly. "Yes, sudden weather changes have always given me headaches."
"And that you were asleep in the parlor from three until thirty minutes before the party began?"
Miss Bennet nodded calmly. Corky knew then she was definitely lying. Only moments before she was nearly hysterical, and now there was this self-control.
Miss Bennet looked taken back by the question. "Because I was in pain?"
"But that room faces west, Miss Bennet," Corky said. "And the curtains, even if drawn, were so sheer they would've let the sun in. How could you sleep through that for two hours?"
At first she paled, then a healthy blush chased it away. She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out.
All her sisters stared at Mary. It was Mrs. Darcy who spoke first.
"What is he saying?" she asked, confused.
"Mary?" Mrs. Wickham asked hoarsely. "Where were you?"
"She was in Mr. Bingley's office, right across the hall," Corky said. "The drapes there were drawn which signifies that someone was in the room and didn't want the sun. So, that part is true - that Miss Mary Bennet was resting, but your sleep was interrupted, wasn't it?"
Miss Bennet closed her eyes and shook her head like a child facing a monster from her worst nightmares. Corky could almost hear the chanting in her head:
If I can't see it, it'll go away. If I can't see it, it can't see me.
Mrs. Darcy reached over and grasped her sister's trembling hands. "Please, tell us what you saw."
"I … I saw Denny come in with Jane. I was in too much pain to say anything. I watched Denny put his bullet in." Miss Bennet wiped the tears off her face. "But later … Lydia … she came in and replaced it."
Mrs. Wickham didn't deny her sister's statement. Instead, her chin rose higher as if in defiance of all the incredulous stares she received.
"And what happened then?"
"I didn't know … I didn't know what to do," Miss Bennet sobbed openly.
"You knew of her affair?" Corky asked.
She nodded weakly, her grasp on Mrs. Darcy's hands so tight that Corky could see the white of the knucklebones under the skin.
"And that in Mrs. Bingley's will, all her sisters will receive a share of the inheritance, including Mrs. Wickham. I'd imagine the same holds for Mrs. Darcy's will."
Mrs. Wickham remained mute, even as the pallor spread across her heart-shaped face and down her throat.
"How did you know?" Mr. Bingley asked weakly, his gaze firmly planted on his sister-in-law.
"The bullet casings," Corky answered. "The numbers didn't match. The bullets were the same kind, but for some reason the killer replaced the one in his care instead of using the ones you had."
"That doesn't make sense," Mr. Darcy said. "Why would anyone do that?"
Corky smiled grimly. "Exactly my thought. Either the person didn't know the bullets were kept in the same drawer or wanted to make sure the killing bullet came from someone else's cache. Or, for reasons unknown, didn't have time to use Mr. Bingley's personal arsenal."
"But that person must be familiar enough with the workings of a revolver," Mrs. Darcy added. She looked sharply at Mrs. Wickham. "Somehow I can't see Lydia being that proficient with a gun. To get a bullet that would fit the revolver's chamber, and to know where to place it - I can't see you being that cold blooded."
"No, indeed she wasn't," Corky said. "It was a very neat setup. And if it weren't for you, Miss Bennet, I would've arrested your sister and be done with it."
"But you're saying she's not responsible for Jane's death?" Mrs. Darcy asked.
Corky shook his head. "No, she had a part in it, but not what we think. I believe she honestly thought the bullet Lieutenant Denny placed in the revolver was the genuine article."
"What?" Mr. Darcy cried out softly.
Corky nodded. "Yes, somehow Mrs. Wickham became convinced her lover was setting up her sister's murder for the inheritance. She knew he wasn't very rich and that by running away with him she would, for all intents and purposes, cut herself off from her husband's modest wealth and whatever stipend she receives from her family. But she was willing to do it because she loved the Lieutenant.
"But she couldn't let him commit murder: not on her behalf. So, she replaced what she thought was the real bullet with the fake one."
"But Jane still died," Mrs. Wickham cried out hoarsely. "She died because I was stupid and selfish and I didn't know any better!"
That was enough for the lieutenant who rushed to her side while her husband coolly watched the couple with open contempt.
"No, she died because you were seen," Corky said heavily.
Mrs. Darcy understood it first. She whirled to face Miss Bennet. "Did you do something?"
"I saw what Lydia did," Miss Bennet whispered, "and I took the gun. I went upstairs to the coatroom. I found the tin Denny used to carry the fake bullet … and I … I switched it. I didn't know. I didn't know it was the real one."
"That still doesn't make sense," Mr. Bingley cut in hotly, finally showing some signs of life. "Jane…"
"No, it doesn't," Corky agreed readily. "Let's think this through: Denny had the fake bullet; Mrs. Wickham had the real one though unwittingly. So Miss Bennet should have replaced the real one with the fake, but that's not what happened."
"Unless the fake bullet wasn't in the tin when Mary found my coat," Lieutenant Denny said hoarsely.
"Mrs. Wickham, what convinced you that Lieutenant Denny was plotting your sister's murder?"
Lydia looked at her lover for a moment then at her husband. "Nothing solid … just … conversations, really."
Corky looked at Mr. Wickham and then at the Miss Bennet. "Did you see anyone when you came out of the library?"
Miss Bennet raised her gaze to him. "What did you say?"
"Did you see anyone when you came out of the library?" Corky repeated patiently.
Miss Bennet blinked rapidly as if remembering something that occurred in the distant past. "Yes, I did." She looked at Mr. Wickham. "I saw you."
Corky finally saw an inkling of discomfort in the cuckolded husband. "Mr. Wickham, why did you not mention you saw Miss Bennet step out of the library in your statement?"
"Because I didn't," he answered. "I was going upstairs."
"He was," Miss Bennet corroborated.
"He was, indeed," Corky said. "But, Mr. Wickham, how did you know it was at that moment that Miss Bennet saw you?"
Wickham opened his mouth but nothing came out.
"What are you saying?" Mrs. Wickham asked weakly.
"Mr. Wickham, you stated that you were making calls all day and were tied up with business matters, even though you were in this house?"
"Yes, I was," Mr. Wickham answered. "I needed to make some calls to San Francisco and Jane was gracious enough to let me use the one in the sitting room."
"The phone isn't there," Mr. Bingley said. "It was last week but Jane had the line moved to the summer room because it was next to the loggia. She did it in case the guests needed to use the line immediately. The work was done yesterday."
"Detective, exactly what are you exactly accusing me of?" Mr. Wickham asked bluntly.
"Miss Bennet saw you go up first because you had to. You knew your wife had replaced the fake one with the real bullet, but when you realized Miss Bennet was in the library, and that she was about to mess up your carefully-laid plans, you had to cut her off at the pass.
"So, you ran upstairs only to find out you didn't have bullets from Mr. Bingley's drawer. Out of desperation you used one of your own. That's why the bullets don't match."
Mr. Darcy sat straighter. His body was facing his wife, but his gaze was leveled on Mr. Wickham.
"The gun should still be on him," he said, his voice betraying no anxiety.
Corky saw it first but then he was a cop. Mr. Darcy was a close second. Even hampered by his injuries, He lashed out quickly and hit Mr. Wickham with his cane as the man stood and whirled backwards to run. The fleeing man tripped and fell flat on his face.
"Careful, he's got a gun!" Corky warned even as Mr. Wickham dug into his jacket pocket.
Mrs. Wickham slammed down her shod-foot onto his wrist with such strength Corky heard the wrist bones snap.
Mr. Wickham cried out in pain and tried to roll away but met with the chair Mrs. Darcy had swung towards his face. That was enough abuse for the man to stop moving.
Corky took his time as he jostled the injured man onto his feet. In fact, he was rather rough in the handling but nobody complained. Mr. Wickham kept his charming façade even as he was handcuffed.
"I'll need to speak to my lawyer," Mr. Wickham said smoothly as Jack shoved him towards the doorway.
Corky flapped his fingers, mimicking a talking puppet. Mrs. Wickham actually cracked a crooked smile when she caught him mocking her husband. Miss Bennet reached out towards her as did Mrs. Darcy.
He watched as the women gathered in a protective circle around Mr. Bingley, as if shielding him from any further pain.
Corky tipped his trilby as a way of saying goodbye when Mrs. Darcy caught his eye and walked outside. In the two some hours he was inside, a thick fog had crept in.
Probably from the sea, he concluded when he smelled brine in the air.
"That was worthy of an Oscar," a dry voice said from behind him.
Corky turned around to see Mr. Darcy approaching him. The limp was pronounced but he had the injury for so long, the man didn't look hampered in the least.
"Do you think?" Corky asked.
"You have your tells, you know," Mr. Darcy commented as he offered his cigarette case.
Corky gratefully took one and lit up. The first inhale told him Darcy's tastes ran rich, even in his smokes.
"I wasn't bluffing, much," Corky confessed.
"Why did you take such a risk?" Mr. Darcy asked. "You could have solidified your case later, when the evidence could back you up."
"Mary Bennet," Corky answered reluctantly. "The poor girl needed to know she wasn't responsible for her sister's death."
Mr. Darcy didn't smile, but something told Corky that the man was considering it.
"Besides, I didn't want to give Wickham a chance to bolt."
"There is that," Darcy said. "Lydia's going to have a hard time after tonight."
"Might do some good," Corky said with a snort. "Take some wind out of her sails."
"Actually, Denny's a good man," Darcy said. "He was heartbroken when Lydia married George."
"You can never tell, can you?" Corky said with a shake of his head. "Well, hopefully Mrs. Wickham has seen the error of her ways and now will fully embrace reform, if not for her health then for her sisters'."
Mr. Darcy didn't voice his opinion in this matter, which Corky considered as a tactful agreement of sorts.
"Thank you, Detective," Mr. Darcy said as he finished his cigarette. "If you ever need help from my end of the stick, please, do call."
"I'm going to retire in twenty days," Corky informed the man. "So, hopefully never."
"Never does sound promising," Darcy said, the laughter definitely in his voice if not on his lips. "Good night, Detective."
"Good night, Captain."
Darcy's eyes turned soft at that bit of kindness, and for a moment he allowed Corky to see the man Elizabeth Bennet had fallen in love with and married.
Corky pulled down the trilby as the coldness started to seep into his bones. He looked at the fog softly blanketing over everything, and the mansion lit beautifully if also mysteriously behind him.
"What the hell," Corky whispered to himself. He'd caught a murderer, helped a family down the path to healing, and he did it all in one night.
The detective began to hum the theme to Laura as he walked down the cobblestone path, towards his fellow brethren.The End