‘You believe Father was murdered,’ Mr Willcombe sighed, fingers massaging his brow as his eyes closed. Jane glanced at Mr Pierce, standing by the study’s hearth, the crackling fire making him appear like some demon, though Jane knew he wasn’t.
And not solely because of that…display of concern in Mr Willcombe’s room, which had warmed her, and made her tingle more than the tainted water. She’d longed to lean up and capture his lips—
After her discovery, that…moment, he’d asked if she was certain. She’d said yes, he’d nodded, then told her to wait for him here whilst he fetched Mr Willcombe. She was to brook no argument—not that she would’ve. She was…too concerned, angry, relieved.
She’d wondered at the wisdom of informing Mr Willcombe whilst his grief was so fresh—but he deserved to know. Much needed doing to uncover this crime, and perhaps God knew that; hence trapping them all here.
To bring the truth to light. All of it.
‘I know this is hard to believe…’
Mr Willcombe began laughing, maniacally, shaking with bitter mirth, and Jane exchanged another glance with Mr Pierce.
The complicity of it felt almost as nice as his unwavering belief in her—
‘Quite the opposite, John.’ Both looked to Mr Willcombe, who bore a mocking smile on his lips. ‘Though he may have called them friends, our guests all suffered Father’s controlling hand, and stubbornness. Only the servants of Aconite House held him in any esteem,’ he added, raising a brow at Jane; a breadth of questions in his gaze. She bowed her head, acknowledging that truth. ‘Each of the guests has some unpleasant history with my father, be it foiled plans, or jilted hearts. The Hansons excepted—they only arrived here a few weeks ago. Even Dr Merrow—Father blamed him for not saving Mama.’
John nodded grimly.
Mr Willcombe’s eyes returned to her, and Jane thought, this is your chance, but then Mr Pierce spoke.
‘Whoever did this… There was forethought. Knowledge of his habits. It was made to look…innocent, down to how the poison was administered. We’ll need to inform the magistrate, and I’ll speak to the servants, see if anyone has been asking questions they shouldn’t. Perhaps speak to the gardener, see if there’s monkshood here.’
‘Lead the charge, John. You know best. Anything you need, it’s yours.’
‘I’d like to conduct a search of the rooms, quietly. If I could retain Miss Powell’s services…’ Mr Willcombe assented, and Jane’s heart skipped a beat, honoured Mr Pierce asked for her help; though it was likely to not involve others in this. ‘I’m sorry, Fred. It must be a blow.’
‘In truth, it’s a relief. That it wasn’t a cruel Fate, twisting the strings of my life.’
‘We’ll solve this,’ Mr Pierce promised, looking to Jane.
She smiled gently, and nodded.
It’s the very least I can do.
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