Excerpt: A Murderous Malady

    I still stood in the main hall of the Establishment, not making sense of the letter in my hand.  What did Sidney mean that there had been an attempted murder of his wife?  Why would anyone wish to harm Liz?

    Well, I wasn’t about to waste time sending another letter back to him, even if there would be at least one more postal pickup for the day.

    “Goose?” I called out, knowing that my faithful companion, Mary Clarke, would be somewhere nearby.

    Sure enough, she materialized next to me in moments.  “Yes, Miss Florence?” she said.  “What may I do for you?”

    She had once been the beloved wife of my old childhood tutor, Milo Clarke.  He had unexpectedly died of a stomach obstruction, leaving behind a grieving widow with no means of support.

    My mother had sent the stout and sturdy Mary to me, ostensibly as a companion, but without question as someone to watch my movements here at the hospital, a place Mother considered no better than a brothel.

    Because of her sometimes silly and frightened manner, I had quickly dubbed Mary “Goose,” which she didn’t seem to mind.

    “I need to go to Herbert House,” I announced.

    She immediately smoothed back one side of her graying hair and said, “I’ll get my notebook.”  She turned on her heel to retrieve her writing implements, as she had quickly learned that I always had thoughts, ideas, or notes that needed to be committed to paper.

    “No.”  I stopped her with a hand to her shoulder.  “I will go alone.”

    Mary frowned.  “Alone?  The streets are always so much safer when we walk in pairs, aren’t they?  Even in the middle of the day.”

    She clasped her hands and I knew she was resisting the urge to wring them together.

    “I cannot have you there.  I think it is too private a family matter.”  I held out Sidney’s succinct note for her to read.


    Herbert House



    Flo, come quickly—Liz was attacked in her carriage—nearly murdered—do not want police involved.



    Mary handed it back wordlessly.

    I took Sidney’s letter back, and in its place handed her the rest of the mail, which included a letter from Richard, for her to place in my study.  Much as I wanted to scurry to my room and read his missive over and over to make sense of why he was reaching out to me now of all times, I had to put him resolutely from my mind.  There would time enough to dwell on him later.

    Mary’s skin had taken on the pallor of a rotten lime.  She swallowed several times before asking tentatively, “But why would someone wish to harm a friend of yours?”

    Until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that an attack on Liz could have anything to do with me.