“I’m perfectly capable of seeing the other girl today,” Charity growled as they left Bethlem Hospital.
“Your hypnotism took hours as it was,” Matthew told her. “Then another three hours to convince the earl that his daughter running away with the groom was the best thing for all parties involved.”
“The greedy bastard was holding out for free horses,” Harrison growled, his brows knit together in frustration.
“I’ve never met a more shameful English peer,” Thomas muttered, his brogue thick with emotion. “To put money over his own child.”
“Well at least we know none of you would behave so with your own daughters,” Charity told them with a smile. “Not all fathers can be as perfect as the three of you.”
“You do make a valid point,” Matthew admitted, making her laugh.
“It’s already dusk, Lady Charity,” David told her as they walked to the gates. “It’s safer for you to be at home than here after dark.”
She rolled her eyes. “Even with four such men to keep me safe?” She sighed. “Fine. But I want to be back here to see the other girl first thing after breakfast.”
“As you say, my lady,” David replied as he held the gate open for them to pass.
The voice that called out had David cringing as he closed the gate behind them.
“Inspector Mills were you visiting the two witnesses today?” the man asked, stepping toward them from the fence line.
“I cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, Mr. Bradley,” David said, his tone nearing a sneer.
“But why else would a Scotland Yard Inspector be at Bethlem Royal Hospital where two such witnesses have been committed?” he asked. The man was quite young, rather rough looking, and held a notepad in front of him, ready to take notes.
“That would be none of your business, Mr. Bradley,” he replied, pushing past.
The man whistled, a quick sharp sound, and a bright flash momentarily blinded them.
“Got it,” a second man said from behind a large camera that David hadn’t noticed.
“Your Grace,” Mr. Bradley turned to Harrison. “Are you assisting the Inspector with his investigation?”
“I cannot comment,” Harrison replied stonily, following David’s lead.
“What of you, Lord Killiney?” he called as he turned to Thomas. “Since you’re present with your brother-in-law, is it perhaps your wife, Lady Helena, who is receiving treatment?” Thomas lunged at the man, but Harrison held him back.
“And you, my lord,” he turned to Matthew, a sly grin on his face. “The Marquess of Scarborough, is it not?”
“It is,” Matthew grunted, taking Charity’s arm and pushing past the man.
“This isn’t your wife, as I’ve seen the marchioness a few times before, but she looks much like her,” the man continued, oblivious to the men ignoring his questions. “This must be one of her sisters. Lady Charity perhaps?” Charity faltered when he said her name and he grinned. He’d noticed her misstep and knew it meant he’d guessed right. “Did Lady Charity need treatment at Bethlem today, my lord?” he called out.
Matthew had turned to address the intrusive question, but David had hed past them and grabbed the man by the collar, hauling him against the fence and lifting him until his feet were dangling above the ground.
“This investigation and anyone involved in it is a private matter that the press need not know about,” he growled. “And Lady Charity is certainly none of yourbusiness.” Harrison’s hand on his shoulder had him dropping the man to his feet again.
“As you say, Inspector,” Bradley said, pulling at his collar to loosen it. “I was only asking a few questions.”
“You can take your questions to the desk at Scotland Yard, Bradley,” David growled before turning away. He took Charity’s arm and led her away from the gathering crowd, missing the smile that had spread across Bradley’s face.
“What on Earth was that all about?” Charity asked as they waited for the coach. “He was only asking a few questions.”
“Mr. Bradley is a reporter for The Daily Telegraph and known for releasing classified information to the public.”
“How does he come by such information?” Harrison asked.
“Usually by general trickery,” David answered, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the oncoming headache. “He’s been caught hiding to overhear conversations that would have otherwise been private. He’s been arrested for it three times now.”
“He didn’t find anything out today though,” Charity assured him. “He doesn’t know we got any information from one of the witnesses.”
“But if he puts your name in the paper naming you as someone helping the investigation it could put you in danger.”
Her eyes widened as she scoffed. “Danger from what?”
“From the murderer,” he growled. “He’d likely do anything to avoid being caught, including removing anyone getting close to discovering his identity.”
Her face went pale as she realized the truth to his words, and how dangerous her volunteering to help had really been. She squared her shoulders. “I’m not afraid.”
“You should be,” David whispered, his voice dark. “You are putting yourself in grave danger by helping me… helping Scotland Yard.”
“It’s worth it,” she insisted though she couldn’t hide the shaking in her voice. “You saw how I was able to help Miss Bunting.”
“She’s a stranger to you,” David insisted. “Putting your life at risk is worth saving hers?”
“Yes,” she answered without hesitation. “Besides, I’m not in any real danger. Matthew, Harrison, and Thomas will see me safe.”
“Of course, we will,” Matthew told her, though the look he shared with the men didn’t ring as confident.
“Are we still going to see the other girl tomorrow?” Her voice was quiet as she asked.
David didn’t reply but continued to watch the people on the street as they passed, searching for something.
“If you think you can help and you want to try,” Matthew answered.
“I do,” she replied with a lift of her chin.
“Then we’ll be at Bethlem by ten tomorrow,” he assured her. “Does that work for you, Inspector?”
“I’ll be there,” he answered, still watching the street.
“Join us for dinner?” Matthew asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“Thank you, but I have to add these notes to my files at Scotland Yard,” he replied, tapping his vest pocket where the notepad lay.
“Or course,” Matthew replied genially. “We’ll see you tomorrow.” David nodded and Matthew offered his hand to Charity to help her into the coach.
She shook her head. “A moment with the Inspector if you would?” Matthew smiled and gave a nod, gesturing for Harrison and Thomas to climb in before following them. She waited until the door had closed before turning back to him. “Thank you, Inspector.”
“For what?” His voice was gruff, and she smiled gently at him.
“For allowing me to help, even when you didn’t want to.”
“I’d not put you in danger,” he whispered.
“But you needed my help regardless,” she finished, smiling again when his eyes narrowed. “I’m not afraid, Inspector, and I’m willing and able to help. Please don’t use my sex as a reason to doubt what I can do.”
“It has nothing to do with you being a woman,” he growled, reaching for her hand but dropping it back to his side before he’d touched her. Her brother-in-law was just inside the coach after all.
“But you wouldn’t be as worried over a man volunteering to help,” she argued. “It must be because I’m a woman.”
“It’s because you are you,” he hissed, a rare blush streaking across his cheeks. “I’d not put you in danger, Charity,” he repeated. She smiled, seeming to sigh with it. Damned if it made his heart lurch in his chest.
“Thank you, Inspector,” she murmured and reached to open the door of the coach.
He offered his hand to help her up the step and she turned to smile at him again before the door shut and the coach was away. He watched until it had rounded the corner, thinking only that she still hadn’t said his name.