RUDGE sat back in his chair, twirling the pen between his fingers. Before him on the desk was the Trigg ledger. He had been sifting through it in hope of finding some clue previously overlooked. So far, nothing.
Thanks to a gorgon of a housekeeper, his endeavour to speak with the Dawnes had failed. Alice Courtney had been easier. She walked often in the park and had seemed glad to talk.
Rudge pursed his lips. What problems that one had stirred, with her scheming and petty jealousies. Hamilton Catchpole had apparently accepted her misdoings. Not many would have been so forgiving! He’d lay a pound to a penny Gideon Trigg wouldn’t be once he was told the full story.
Sunlight slanting in through the window fell across the desk. Absently Rudge watched the dust motes dancing in its beam, mentally picturing Emma’s final moments with her family.
He saw her distress, felt the hurt and shock at the revelation of her begetting. Maisie Catchpole had been obliged to speak in haste. What effect had the rushed words had upon the girl?
His reverie was broken by the hail of the post boy outside. Rudge went to the door and was handed three letters. The first two, bills, were tossed aside to be dealt with again.
The third letter bore a Plymouth postmark.Rudge ripped open the envelope. Caspar Widdecombe’s name blazed up at him.
My dear sir,
I am writing to inform you of something that may be pertinent to the matter close to the hearts of my dear wife and myself, and in which you have a professional interest. I recently received some correspondence from a relative at Peckforton. My cousin states that she took on a young lady companion who bore an uncanny resemblance to poor dear Verity. The young woman’s surname (which would have meant nothing to my cousin) was Trigg.
Sir, this may be of import to you. Should you opt to pursue the matter I am pleased to supply my relative’s name and direction. She is Miss Rosamund Platt, Hillside House, Peckforton, Cheshire.
I remain your humble servant,
The page shook slightly in Rudge’s hand. Peckforton! A veritable maze of tree-lined lanes that dipped and twisted and forked unexpectedly off into sandy tracks that wound endlessly into rugged, gorse-clad hills. Small wonder the young miss had remained so elusive, if indeed this was whom they sought.
Rudge left the letter among the clutter on the desk and went to stand by the window, gazing out at the busy street. Was he on the verge of running his quarry to ground at last?
Trigg was a common enough name hereabouts, and ladies’ maids ten a penny. There had been so many false trails, such dashed hopes and disappointment. Was this to be yet another?
Faintly, at the back of his neck, Rudge felt that skin-prickling sensation that generally indicated a positive outcome. So be it. Other issues required his immediate attention. First thing tomorrow, he would saddle up for the mazy lanes of Peckforton.
* * * *
Alice tripped lightly along the Rows towards Rudge’s place of work. For once, darling Suzette had been left behind. Dogs, Master Rudge had confided, made him sneeze.
Such a triviality would not normally have been a consideration but with events currently moving in her favour, Alice could make allowances.
A smile touched her lips. How she loved Hamilton! How wonderful to know that her love was returned! Alfie, too, was walking out with someone else – a huge relief.
The only cloud on her sunny horizon was Emma, hence this visit to the dingy little office on the Watergate.