Tempt Me at Twilight Page 95

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“What’s happening?” Leo asked.

Hembrey’s attention switched to him. “My lord, Mr. Rutledge’s disappearance was reported in the Times this morning, along with the promise of reward money. And his physical description was given. With the result that every tall, dark-haired swindler in London will appear at Bow Street today. The same thing is occurring at Scotland Yard.”

Poppy’s jaw dropped as she glanced at the gathering in the hallway and realized that at least half of them were men who vaguely resembled her husband. “They’re . . . they’re all claiming to be Harry?” she asked dazedly.

“It would seem so,” Leo said. “Accompanied by their heroic rescuers, who have their hands out for the reward money.”

“Come to my office,” Special Constable Hembrey urged, leading them along the hallway. “We’ll have more privacy there, and I’ll apprise you of my latest information. Leads have been pouring in . . . people claiming to have seen Rutledge drugged and put aboard a ship to China, or robbed at some brothel, things of that nature . . .”

Poppy and Valentine followed Leo and Hembrey. “This is abominable,” she told Valentine in a low tone, glancing at the line of imposters. “All of them posturing and lying, hoping to profit from someone else’s misfortune.”

They were forced to pause as Hembrey tried to clear a path to the doorway of his office.

One of the black-haired men nearest Poppy bowed theatrically. “Harry Rutledge, at your service. And who might you be, my fair creature?”

Poppy glared at him. “Mrs. Rutledge,” she said curtly.

Immediately another man exclaimed, “Darling!” He held his arms out to Poppy, who shrank away and gave him an appalled glance.

“Idiots,” Hembrey muttered, and raised his voice. “Clerk! Find some place to put all these damned Rutledges so they don’t crowd the hallway.”

“Yes, sir!”

They entered the office, and Hembrey closed the door firmly. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Rutledge. I assure you, we’re doing everything possible to locate your husband.”

“My brother, Lord Ramsay,” she said, and Hembrey bowed respectfully.

“What is the latest information?” Leo asked.

Hembrey went to pull out a chair for Poppy, speaking all the while. “A stable boy in the mews behind the fencing club said that around the time of Mr. Rutledge’s disappearance, he saw two men carrying a body through the alley out to a waiting carriage.”

Poppy sat hard in the chair. “A body?” she whispered, cold sweat breaking out on her face, nausea rising.

“I’m sure he was only unconscious,” Valentine told her hastily.

“The stableboy had a glimpse of the carriage,” Hembrey continued, returning to his side of the desk. “He described it to us as black lacquer with a small pattern of rosemaled scrollwork across the boot. The description matches a brougham in the mews of Mr. Kinloch’s Mayfair residence.”

“What next?” Leo asked, his blue eyes hard.

“I intend to bring him here for questioning. And we’ll proceed by taking inventory of Mr. Kinloch’s other properties—his arms manufactory, realty he may own in town—and obtain warrants to search them methodically.”

“How do you know for certain that Rutledge isn’t being held in the Mayfair house?” Leo asked.

“I went over every inch of it personally. I can assure you that he is not there.”

“Is the warrant still applicable?” Leo persisted.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Then you can return to Kinloch’s house for another search? Right now?”

The Special Constable looked perplexed. “Yes, but why?”

“I’d like to have a go at it, if I may.”

A flicker of annoyance appeared in Hembrey’s dark eyes. Clearly he regarded Leo’s request as nothing more than a bit of self-important showmanship. “My lord, our previous search of the house and grounds was comprehensive.”

“I have no doubt of that,” Leo replied. “But I trained as an architect several years ago, and I’ll be able to look at the place from a draftsman’s perspective.”

Jake Valentine spoke then. “You think there’s a hidden room, my lord?”

“If there is,” Leo said steadily, “I’ll find it. And if not, at least we’ll annoy the devil out of Kinloch, which should have some entertainment value.”

Poppy held her breath as they waited for the Special Constable’s reply.

“Very well,” Hembrey finally said. “I can send you in with a constable while I bring Mr. Kinloch in for questioning. However, I will insist that you abide by our codes of practice during the execution of the search—and the constable will make certain you are aware of those rules.”

“Oh, have no fear,” Leo replied gravely. “I always follow the rules.”

The Special Constable seemed rather unconvinced by the claim. “If you’ll wait but a moment,” he said, “I will confer with one of the magistrates, and he will assign the constable to escort you.”

As soon as he left the office, Poppy leapt up from her chair. “Leo,” she said, “I’m—”

“Yes, I know. You’re going, too.”

The Kinloch home was large and fashionably gloomy, the interiors done in dark crimson and green, the walls oak paneled. The cavernous entrance hall was paved with uncovered stone slabs that caused their footsteps to echo repeatedly.

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