His Lucky Charm - Cover

His Lucky Charm

Copyright© 2012 by Argon

Chapter 29: Detective Work

At 354 Hanover Lane, they were received by the lady of the house, Mrs. Warner. The house belonged to Mr. Albert Warner, a grain trader of obvious means. Jim introduced himself and Ned.

"Madam, I am Major James Tremayne, and this is Mr. Ned Thrush. We call on you to ask whether Alison O'Hare is in your employ."

Mrs. Warner was alarmed. "Yes, indeed. She is a good girl."

"I shall never doubt your word on that, Madam. The reason we came, is that with your permission, we'd like to interview Miss O'Hare for a few minutes."

"May I ask for the reason?"

"Yes, of course. We investigate the attempt on Sir Hamilton Crewes' life, on behalf of Lady Crewes I may add who was falsely accused in the matter. We are trying to establish her innocence, and since Miss O'Hare was once in Sir Hamilton's employ we hope that she might remember a thing or two that may give us a lead."

"Oh, I read about the case. Isn't her guilt established?"

"Decidedly not, Madam. In fact, I give you my word that she is an innocent victim."

Jim could be very convincing, and Mrs. Warner nodded. "We can use my husband's study."


John Barstow corrected the seat of his necktie before he knocked. He had made inquiries about Major James Tremayne. The man had shown an exemplary conduct as a field officer, but he had left England after the Crimean War. Tremayne had returned from America ten years later and as a rich man. Some of Barstow's sources claimed that he was worth over £100,000, all the result of a major gold find. He was married to a beautiful American woman and he lived off his capital investments.

The door was answered by a woman of perhaps twenty-five years who was wearing the apron of a housekeeper.

"Good day! I am John Barstow, Public Prosecutor at the Central Criminal Court. I wish to interview Lady Crewes."

It was immediately clear to Barstow that his popularity in the household was very low.

"I shall ask my mistress for instructions," the woman said and closed the door in his face!

Barstow shrugged. He could not expect a warm welcome, and he had no right to enter the house of a gentleman without invitation. Fortunately, his patience was not tried for long, for the door opened and the housekeeper showed again.

"My mistress will see you," she said while giving him the evil eye.

He was shown to a lovely winter garden. A very beautiful woman sat in an upholstered chair. Her creamy skin showed sprinkles of freckles, and her hair was of a glorious shade of red. She was also far advanced in a pregnancy.

"Welcome to Heyworth House, Mr. Barstow. Please excuse me for staying seated, but the last days have been exhausting to say the least."

There was more than a trace of American to her speech Barstow noted. He stepped forward and bowed, accepting her hand for a formal kiss.

"Thank you for indulging me, Madam. I was informed that Lady Crewes was released into your husband's care. I had not the opportunity to interview her in proper surroundings, and I was hoping to find her available."

"Her husband disavowed her and left her to rot in a common cell with whores, thieves, and whatever criminals the magistrate has under lock."

"Madam, I had no idea!" Barstow protested, his face hot with embarrassment. "Once I found out, I found her an adequate cell. You find me shocked, Madam, and not a little disappointed at Sir Hamilton's conduct."

"I am certainly glad to hear of that, and I must thank you for your gentlemanly conduct. Poor Priscilla will be down shortly. You have to understand that she is destitute, not even able to access her clothes."

Barstow cringed a little. He knew very well that the case against Lady Crewes was weak to begin with, and while he felt it his duty to prosecute her, he was very much giving her the benefit of the doubt as to her guilt. That she had been thrown together with the dredges of London's lowest classes was still filling him with guilt.

The door opened and the young woman entered. He looked at her and immediately saw the bruises and the scratches on her long and graceful neck. They showed stronger than three days before. His feelings could only be summed up as mortification.

"Mr. Barstow! It is good to see you again. Again, my thanks for your assistance! You asked for an interview?"

Her voice was pleasant, of medium pitch, and her speech was cultivated. He could not help it that his eyes took in her appearance. She had a trim figure, almost girlish, and her bosom was still high. There were some worry lines around her eyes and on her forehead, but she looked much younger than her thirty-one years.

"You asked for an interview?"

Torn from his reverie, Barstow blushed again over his oafish behaviour.

"Hrhm! Yes, indeed. I missed the opportunity to interview you at ... Firstly, let me assure you that I had no idea of the deplorable circumstances under which you held at Newgate Prison. I apologise profusely for the ordeal that you had to undergo. I had assumed that your husband..."

"Funny you should call him that," she answered with cold disdain in her beautiful blue eyes. "I myself have come to call him my second blunder. I do seem to have an unlucky hand in picking my husbands."

"Madam, do you feel able now to answer a few questions?"

She shrugged and flinched a little with pain. "I shall be more than happy to refute the outrageous accusations against me."

She sat in a chair, and he could see that she was in pain. She smirked.

"My fellow prisoners did not confine their attention to my face."

Again, a wave or mortification washed over Barstow. She made a negligent gesture.

"I shall get over it. Pray, start your questioning."

With an effort, Barstow focussed on his purpose. With few questions he made the young woman recount the last days. Of course, she denied any involvement in the poisoning of her husband and maintained that she had not touched the leftover chicken soup. It all sounded credible, but somehow somebody had tainted the soup with poison, and Lady Crewes was the only viable suspect. Then she challenged him.

"How do you know that the poison was in the soup?"

"Er, your husband performed a test, the Marsh reaction, and found arsenic in the soup leftovers."

"Did you order an examination by an expert?"

"Er, no. I was under the impression that your husband is an expert."

"He was a schoolmaster at an obscure boy's school in the Midlands before he inherited the title from his grandfather."

Barstow felt the blood in his face again. Somehow, Mellard had made it sound like Crewes was an expert. He rallied back though.

"Nevertheless, your husband was poisoned."

"Or so he claims," she returned.

"There are ways to establish the poisoning, and I shall order such tests performed."

She just shrugged. He tried to engage her eyes next.

"Madam, if you were to confess the attempt on your husband's life, and given that he survived with little or no ill effects, I could recommend a lenient sentencing."

"Lenient?" she asked, her eyebrows arched.

"Not more than ten years. Your friends could petition the Queen for a pardon, too, if you showed remorse."

She pointed at her face. "Ten years of this? No, Mr. Barstow, I'd rather take the gallows. Besides, I am confident that my innocence will be established and my name cleared."

"Very well, Lady Crewes. I hope that you are making the best decisions."

"I can count on the help and advice from my friends."

"I wish you luck, Madam. Mrs. Tremayne, I thank you for the hospitality and ask you to convey my respects to Major Tremayne."

"I shall do that," she answered politely. "He will be disappointed to have missed your call."

All things considered, he was thoroughly confused when he left the Tremaynes' house. The woman had left him with a very favourable impression, but he knew from bad experience that the outward beauty of a woman was no measure for her character.

Seven years before, John Barstow had been courting a young lady of great beauty. She had been responding encouragingly to his courtship and he had high hopes. After a half year of courtship, as was proper, he had been prepared to ask for her hand. Only, when he finally thought the right moment had come, he was too late. Another man, bolder than John Barstow, had been introduced to her, and that man, a wealthy cloth merchant from Birmingham, had asked for her hand within a week of meeting her. To John Barstow's horror, the girl of his dreams accepted the proposal without so much as a second thought.

He shook himself out of his sad reverie when he arrived at the Old Bailey. Inspector Mellard was waiting for him, and he looked satisfied.

"The case is clear now, Sir. A glass vial labelled as 'White Arsenic' was found among Lady Crewes' possessions in her bedroom."

John Barstow was shocked at first. He had begun to believe the woman, and now this! His jaw set.

"Then it is settled. I shall charge her with murder," he declared. "Kindly leave your report with me."

In his office, John Barstow began to dictate the written charge, and when it was finished, he signed it with so much force that he almost broke the nib. Damn all beautiful women!


Jim and Ned returned to Heyworth House in good mood. They reported their findings about the involvement between Sir Hamilton and his housekeeper. Everybody agreed that it was a first important step towards establishing alternative motives and suspects.

Priscilla gave both men a grateful smile.

"I should be entirely without hope were it not for my loyal friends. I am disconsolate over being entirely dependent on your support."

Jim shook his head. "Cilla, what nonsense! You have given us so much in the past years. What's a little detective work against that? No, tomorrow we shall widen the radius around Crewes' house to find the chemist where somebody purchased the arsenic. The Wharton woman must be known in the neighbourhood."

"Perhaps she did not buy it at all close to the house," Rose mused. "What would keep her from taking a cab and make the purchase somewhere where she is not known?"

"A valid point, darling," Jim responded. "It is certainly something we should consider. In that case, we could never trace her."

"Well, I wouldn't know 'bout that," Ned cut in. "There was a bunch of them cabs waiting 'round that corner. She might've hired one of them."

"We'll have to interview the cab drivers, ask them about an unusual fare. We shall have to ask them for a good looking brunette woman."

"She looks striking enough," Priscilla said slowly. "I should be surprised if a woman like her did not catch the cab drivers' eyes."

"I suppose we'll try."

Rose had an idea. "Wait! Jim, let us try to involve Miss Martin! If she was calling on Crewes' house, Wharton might answer. Miss Martin could sketch her from memory."

Jim bent down to kiss Rose. "You are brilliant, darling! Let us do that first thing tomorrow."

With that, the Tremaynes and their guests settled into a rather uneventful evening.


Rose insisted on paying the call on Miss Martin herself. She was not even close to her delivery, and she was the closest to Miss Martin. Jim insisted on accompanying her, and in the end, Ned, Amanda, and Priscilla joined them. They were in luck. Miss Martin was at home and received them on short notice. She smiled at Rose.

"I had hoped to see you again, Mrs. Tremayne. And you brought friends?"

Jim introduced their group, and Miss Martin's eyebrows shot up at learning that the notorious Lady Crewes was among the visitors. Rose explained hastily.

"My dear Miss Martin, we came to ask your help. We have good reason to believe that our friend, Lady Crewes is the victim of a conspiracy. We believe in fact that her husband's housekeeper has poisoned Sir Hamilton. Only, we somehow must establish her as a possible culprit. For that, we need to investigate her movements prior to the attempt on Sir Hamilton's life. What we need is a good sketch of the woman's face so the men can show it to cab drivers and shop owners."

Miss Martin considered the request, but only briefly. "How am I to sketch her?"

"We thought you might come with us when we collect Lady Crewes' personal effects at Sir Hamilton's house. Standing back, you might memorise her features for a sketch."

Miss Martin smiled widely. "But why so complicated? There is a much better way to do that."

She explained her plan, and it was so simple and beautiful that they all agreed.

An hour later, Miss Martin arrived at the steps to Sir Hamilton's city house with a disreputable Ned Thrush in tow who carried an oblong wooden case. She rang the bell and waited. It took only a minute for a very good looking brunette woman to open.


"Madam, is this Sir Hamilton Crewes' house?"

"Indeed it is," came the proud answer.

"I am looking for Miss Wharton," Melissa Martin announced. "My name is Melissa Martin, and I am currently working for the Morning Chronicle."

"I am Miss Wharton. What can I do for you?"

"I am so proud to make your acquaintance!" Melissa gushed, gripping and shaking Miss Wharton's hand. "I was sent to ask for the favour of taking your picture. It has come to Mr. Campbell's attention – he is the editor of the Morning Chronicle – that you thwarted and discovered the evil plot of Lady Crewes against her poor husband. Would you be so kind as to stand for a photograph?"

Unconsciously, Miss Wharton checked the seat of her hair and her bow tie, but she grew by an inch and stuck out her chest proudly.

"I really don't know what to say!"

"Please, say yes! Our readers would love to see your picture together with the tale of your brave actions. Sir Hamilton must be so grateful to you! And doesn't she look quite like an angel, Mr. Thrush?"

"Oh, aye, that she does," Ned replied.

"What would you need?" Miss Wharton asked excitedly. She was hooked properly. Now to net her, Melissa thought.

"If you were to just stand here in front of the steps? I need but a minute to set up my camera."

Indeed, within a minute's time, the tripod had been erected and the camera mounted. The plate was already loaded, and Melissa disappeared under the black hood. With short commands, she directed the unsuspecting Miss Wharton to look straight into the lens and then asked her to stand still and hold her breath. She opened the shutter and counted to three. Then she emerged from under the hood and gave Miss Wharton a brilliant smile.

"Excellent, Miss Wharton! I cannot thank you enough. I shall have a copy of the article sent to you by day after tomorrow. You may expect quite a lot of friendly mail!"

Ned had already disassembled the camera and packed it back into the case. They left the woman standing and left walking briskly. Once around the next corner, they met Jim and Rose waiting in their coach and climbed in.

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