WARNING: Ellington isn’t getting flowers.
Charlotte takes revenge on Ellington.
London – 1840
I was sure that guard dogs were supposed to run towards the invader, not away, but dogs had never liked me.
I watched the dogs disappear into the darkness, tugged my hood a little lower and walked around the perimeter wall where the shrubbery was thickest. I’d watched Ellington’s guards, memorised their routes, the time they went out and the time they took. They were sloppy, they went around the middle of the lawns assuming they could see everything but if you stayed between the wall and the shrubs you were invisible. Granted, you had to be small to fit.
The house was a large grey-white stone baroque design, with big windows, lots of big windows. There were a lot of big houses like that, I wondered if he’d had it built to match the toffs, or he’d brought it off a toff family that had sunk. It didn’t much matter, it was new money greasing old gears either way.
I crawled under the shrubs and peered out at an empty stretch of grass that swelled towards the house until it met stone steps and a little seating area with wood furniture. Ellington really needed more tall obstructions in his garden, I’d stand out climbing the side of the house.
A young man built like a prize fighter walked passed carrying a lantern.
Face touching the dirt I waited for him to round a corner and the glow of his lantern to disappear. I slid out from under the bush, ran across the grass, jumped a table, unlocked the door and was into the house. It was dark and quiet, except for wood groaning as it settled.
I walk silently through the room, a sitting room, my fingertips brushed the expensive fabric of a chair as I pass. The work was so fine it felt silk smooth.
The hallway was broad, lined with tables of ornaments, they sell for plenty but God knew who’d want to look at them. The third step on the stairs was creaky so I missed it out.
Footsteps sound in the distance, muted by the carpet. I stepped through a doorway I reached and pushed it too. The room was a spare bedroom, of which there were many. Someone was snoring in the bed. I leant against the doorframe and peeked through the gap, keeping my breaths a quiet as possible.
Elizabeth Ellington passed the door dressed in her nightgown and her footsteps descended the stairs.
I waited, one eye on the sleeper.
What felt like an eon tick by before she passed again carrying a book. The glow of her candle retreated and a door clicked shut. I stepped out and carried on.
Ellington slept alone but a lot of rich married people seemed to. It must be what happened when you pursued someone for their money, but that was what first drew me to Bran and we always slept in the same bed. I couldn’t imagine not sleeping with him if we were together.
The door wasn’t locked.
Ellington was asleep in preposterous four poster bed. I kept finding them in rich people’s houses but I still couldn’t see the appeal, I had to wonder if all they got them from the same place. He looked very peaceful for a man who worked people to death. I had to wonder how he did that. While I slept very well I’d never killed anyone who might be termed ‘innocent’, I didn’t think I’d sleep well then. Somehow I doubted it was what the glass and have empty decanter on the bedside table were for. He stank of spirits.
I poked him.
He stirred, looked up at me, hazy with sleep and frowned. ‘Who?’
I bent towards him. ‘You sent men after my children.’
I snatched a pillow and jammed it over his face. His groans were muffled, he writhed and shoved at me. His struggles lessened.
It was a long time they stopped.
Once I was certain I put the pillow back in place, shoved him into a more peaceful sleep position and straightened his sheets. Norman Ellington had died in his sleep, it happened sometimes. Maybe it would salve Father Brennan’s conscience, I doubted it, he and Bran could start a guilt club.
At the door I peeked into the hallway but the house slept on, oblivious to anything amiss. I followed my steps down the stairs, locked the door behind me and disappear back into the shrubbery as if I’d never been there.