CHAPTER SEVEN

 

That summer of 1837 remained fine through July and August; long, quiet, sunny days with just occasional flurries of rain, mostly late in the evening. The meadows blossomed with scabious and moon-daisies, chervil and buttercups, and the bumblebees explored sleepily amid the yellow gorse.

     Even the sea was indolent, the waves rolling in long and lazy, making little fuss as they tipped over the golden sands of Hendrawna Beach in sparkling frills of white lace.

     Cornwall was little troubled by the violent gale of early August which cause havoc in Sussex and Kent, and little troubled by the general election – only the third since the Great Reform Act - which returned Lord Melbourne and his Whigs to government, albeit with a slightly reduced majority.

     Even the news of the long-expected death of the old King, which had reached them two days after the party at Nampara, had little impact. The young Princess Victoria, who had now ascended the throne, may be the first Queen Regnant of England for over a hundred years, but Cornwall was a long way from the interests and intrigues of London, and that was the way they liked it.

     Ross was particularly glad of it. After many years of service to the Palace of Westminster he felt he had earned his retirement. The farm needed his attention - after the long cold damp winter, the crops were at last catching up, but after discussing it with Harry he had decided to delay the harvest for two weeks. The weather seemed settled so it was worth the risk.

     Bella and Chris had returned to London, and from there would be touring with the theatre company until October. Towards the end of August Clowance and Edward returned to stay for a couple of weeks with the children – they were returning via Falmouth from a trip to France, where they had stayed with an old school-friend of Edward’s, the son of emigrés who had been fortunate enough to regain their family’s chateau and estates with the restoration of the monarchy.

     It was always a slightly melancholy connection for Ross, who had never forgotten his brief friendship with another emigré, Charles de Sombreuil, whose story had had a much sadder ending.

     The day after the family left, as Betsy Martin was clearing away the breakfast things, Harry came in with a copy of the Mercury and a handful of letters which he tossed onto the table.

     “I saw the Sherbourne man outside, so I brought the post in. Mmm – fresh rolls.” He plucked one off the plate as Betsy picked it up to take it away.

     “Sit down if you haven’t had breakfast,” Demelza scolded. “You were never taught to eat standing up.”

     “Would ‘ee like some butter with that, Master Harry?” Betsy enquired.

     “Don’t spoil him. Is there anything interesting in the post, Ross?”

     “One for you, from Caroline, to judge from the writing.” He passed it over to her, and shuffled through the rest, scanning a few and laying them aside for later. One he frowned over, then passed it to Harry.

     “What is it?” Demelza asked, glancing up from her own letter.

     “From Drake,” said Harry. “He mentioned to me at the party that he’s been having a problem with pilfering at the boatyard these past few months. Just a little at first – equipment, stock. But it seems it’s getting worse.”

     Demelza took the letter, and read it through. “He sounds worried.”

     Ross picked up his pipe and checked the bowl. “I’d best ride over and see for myself.”

     Demelza looked at him with a frown. “It’s a long ride. Why not take the gig?”

     He shook his head. “I think I can manage to ride that far. But I need to stop in Truro on the way, and I don’t want to drop in on Drake and Morwenna late in the evening, so I’ll have dinner and sleep over at St.Austell.”

     “I’ll come with you, said Harry eagerly. “It’s years since I’ve been to Looe.”

     Ross glanced up at him and nodded. “Good idea. You need to be familiar with the boatyard. Can you be ready to leave in an hour?”

     “I’ll go and tell Rachel.”

 

Jem Carter had saddled Seymour and brought him round to the side door. Demelza walked out with Ross, waiting while he strapped on his saddlebag. When he had mounted she handed up his water-bottle and a couple of pasties she had wrapped for him.

     “Be careful how you go,” she said as he leaned down to kiss her goodbye.

     “Of course. Don’t look for me to be home before Saturday – it could take some days to figure out what’s going on.”

     “Of course.” But she gripped his hand for a moment as Harry clattered into the yard on his own handsome roan, Rufus. “Both of you be careful,” she repeated as they waved briefly and rode out of the yard.

     Harry grinned as they turned onto the path towards Sawle. “Mama does worry, doesn’t she?”

     “Always. I think she has a superstition that if she doesn’t remind me to be careful I’ll forget, and some awful fate will befall me.”

     Harry laughed.

     It was pleasant riding along the coast road, with the sea beside them sparkling in the warm September sun. Their cows and a couple of goats were peacefully cropping the grass of the fallow field, and overhead a kestrel was circling on her graceful wings, seeking out an unwary field-mouse or vole.

     “So what do you think is happening at the boatyard?” Harry asked.

     “It’s hard to say. Drake is certain it isn’t one of his employees – most of them have worked for him for years. That’s one reason I felt I should go – I would have a more detached eye on the evidence.”

     Harry nodded. “I see you’ve brought your pistols.”

     “You mother wouldn’t let me travel without them.”

     “Is that the only reason?” 

     “Be prepared for any eventuality.”

     “An old soldier’s motto?”

     “No.” Ross grinned. “Just plain common sense.”

     They reached Truro a little before mid-day. Ross needed to call in at the bank to sign some papers which would release funds from the Trencrom Trust to pay for the on-going work at Killewarren. Then they dropped in to the Red Lion for a jug of ale and a bite to eat before continuing their journey to St.Austell.

     Sometimes they rode in silence, the only sound the creaking of saddle-leather and the steady clop of their horses’ hooves. At other times they talked – of the prospects for the china clay industry which was now producing such good results for them, of the new copper mine at Caradon which Ross had invested in, of the outlook for the country with a young queen on the throne.

     By the time they reached the town, Ross was privately glad that he had decided to break the journey there. Much as he fought against it, he was forced to acknowledge that sometimes he felt his advancing years.

     They stayed at his regular inn – it was almost three years since he had last been this way, but they remembered him. They ate their supper in a private parlour, dining well on a tender cut of beef, some capons and a very good apple pie.

     Later, he enjoyed a reasonable night’s sleep – though he never slept as well away from home as he did in his own bed, with Demelza beside him. It was rare now that he spent a night without her, and he missed the soft sound of her breathing, the way her hand would sometimes rest on his arm as she slept.

     He woke early to find Harry already up and shaving. “Ha! Hello there sleepy-head.”

     Ross grunted as he sat up. “Have a little more respect for your father please. What time is it?”

     “Not quite seven. I’ve spoken for breakfast.”

     “Good.” He swung himself out of bed, pleased to find that there were no lingering aches or twinges from yesterday’s ride.

     They set out again shortly after breakfast, crossing the Fowey by the Bodinnick ferry and reaching Looe at around midday. Ross had always thought it a pretty little town. The river here was quite wide, flowing between steep-sided banks of rolling green hills.

     The town had been in something of a decline since the end of the war, but a canal had recently been built to carry sea sand and lime for agricultural needs inland to Launceston. If the copper lode at Caradon fulfilled its promise, it would bring the mineral ore in the other direction, to be loaded onto ships in Looe harbour.

     The boatyard was on the east bank, but Drake and Morwenna lived on the quieter west bank, in the pretty white-walled cottage they had lived in since they had first come to Looe. Fifteen years ago, when Ross had made Drake a partner in the boatyard, he had bought it from the family from whom he had been renting it, and shortly afterwards had bought the one next door, and had knocked the two together to make a more spacious but equally charming home.

     They had barely dismounted when a long, skinny ten-year-old with a curly mop of ginger hair came bouncing down to meet them. “Uncle Ross! Uncle Harry! Grandpa said you would be coming.”

     Harry caught him and swung him high in the air. “Hello there Turnip!”

     “Don’t call me Turnip,” the child protested with all the dignity of his scant years. “I’m called Tom.”

     “Turnip.” Harry dropped him back on his feet and tickled him, causing squeals of laughter which brought his grandmother to the door.

     “Ross! We hoped you would come, but we didn’t expect you so soon.”

     “Drake’s letter sounded urgent. I hope we won’t be putting you to any inconvenience?”

     “Not at all. Do come in. Drake is over at the yard but I can send Tommy to fetch him. Would you care for some tea?”

     “Thank you.”

     Ross would have preferred something stronger, but though Drake had never been so devoutly Methodist as his older brother Sam he had never been one for strong drink, and never kept it in the house. Tea would have to do.

     The cottage was as charming inside as out - light and bright, with colourful chintz curtains at the windows, and a woven carpet on the floor. Drake had made all the furniture himself – as a young man he had shown great skill as a carpenter, and Ross had been happy to employ him when they had been renovating the old library at Nampara. He clearly still kept his hand in – the gleaming mahogany sideboards on each side of the fireplace were new.

     The years had been kind to Morwenna. She had never been a beauty, but she had always had a quiet elegance which made up for it. Her fine dark eyes were troubled now behind her spectacles.

     She rang for the housekeeper to bring in their tea, then sat down, her long slender hands twisting in her lap. “We really don’t know what’s going on, Ross. Drake is so upset – the thought that it could be one of our own people… We’ve known them all so long.”

     “I’m sure we’ll be able to sort it out,” Ross assured her.

     “He thought at first he’d made some mistake himself, but he checked the books through three or four times, and things were still missing – more and more each time.” She looked as if she was ready to cry. “He’s asked questions around town, but no-one knows anything – or they won’t say if they do know. He’s been so worried, and so have I. It isn’t his fault, Ross – I know he’s the manager so he’s responsible for everything that happens, but it isn’t his fault.”

     “No, of course it isn’t. Don’t worry, Morwenna, I certainly don’t blame Drake for this.”

     They all glanced round as the sound of the front door opening announced the arrival of Drake himself. Ross had always been struck by his similarity to his sister – he had Demelza’s speaking dark eyes and her wide, beguiling smile.

     But he wasn’t smiling now. He looked tired and anxious. “Ross – thank you for coming so soon. Thank you. I don’t know what else I can do.” Agitated, he paced across the room and back. “I’ve spoken to all the men at the yard, and none of them know anything about it.”

     “Drake, sit down and have some tea. One thing I want to say first - you have my absolute trust. I’ve known you how many years now? You’ve been my brother-in-law, my comrade in arms, and my friend. As for this business, we’ll sort it out together – don’t worry.”

     Drake nodded and sat down on the settee as his wife poured him a cup of tea.

     “Firstly,” said Ross, “I need a list of everything that’s gone missing, and when you noticed it was gone. Then I want a list of all your men, and when they’ve worked.”

     “Of course, I have it all in the office.”

     “Good. Then I want to interview each of your workers. I know you’ve done that already.” He held up his hand. “But as an outsider, I may get something different from them.”

     Drake nodded. “I’ll arrange it. When do you want to start?”

     “As soon as possible. We’ll begin with the paperwork, and then tomorrow morning we’ll come down to the yard and speak to the men. Morwenna, are you able to put us up for a few nights? We can just as easily put up at the Swan or the Ship.”

     “That you will not!” she declared at once. “Of course I can accommodate you. I’ll tell Ellie to make up your beds.”

     “Thank you.”

 

Ross and Harry spent the afternoon going through the paperwork with a toothcomb. After several hours Ross sat back, rolling his shoulders to ease his muscles, and removing the glasses he sometimes used for reading.

     “Nothing. There’s nothing here that helps us at all.”

     “What were you hoping to find, Papa?”

     “Anyone who was around every time stock went missing, or anyone who was never around. But there’s no pattern to it.”

     “So we’re going to have to interview all the workers?”

     Ross nodded grimly. “I don’t like to do it – it casts a cloud of suspicion over everyone. But there’s no help for it, it has to be done.”

     Harry picked up the list of missing items. “This last lot – three rolls of sailcloth, one hundred ells of jute rope… Those are heavy, bulky - you couldn’t smuggle them out under your coat.”

     “No.” Ross took a pause to light his pipe. “It would have to have been done at night.”

     “Which suggests something more than petty pilfering.”

     Ross nodded. “He – or they - would have had to break into the yard somehow. So far as I know, only Drake and Robert Kittow, and Mably the workshop supervisor, have keys, beside the set that’s kept in the office for emergencies. We need to check that those aren’t missing.” 

     “And more than that, they would have needed mules or a pack-horse to get the stuff away,” suggested Harry.

     “More likely a horse. Mules are likely to be noisy.”

     “So that’s something else we need to check out. I could do that tomorrow, unless you want me to sit in on the interviews with the men.”

     “No – it would be more useful for you to spend your time making enquiries around the town. But be discreet – and be careful.”

     “You sound like Mama.”

     “I wish your mother was here now - she has a very perceptive eye. I have a feeling she’d get to the bottom of this in half the time it would take you and me together.”

 

By the following evening Ross was wishing all the more that Demelza could have been there to coax him out of the megrim brought on by a miserable, unproductive day.

     He had hated having to act like a magistrate – a role he had rejected long ago – interrogating each man who came before him. Some had been nervous, some sullen, a few resentful. But there was nothing he could identify which might point to any one of them as being guilty.

     And he hadn’t finished yet – there were more to see tomorrow.

     “I hope you had better luck.” He and Harry sat smoking their pipes before the fireplace in the comfortable parlour of Drake’s cottage.

     “Not a great deal. There are just two blacksmiths in town, so I enquired of them who might have mules or packhorses for hire, but they knew of no-one in the area. Then I went down to the harbour and got chatting to the fishermen to find out if anything had been offered for sale cheaply – again nothing.”

     Ross leaned back in his armchair and closed his eyes drawing deeply on his pipe. He was weary to the bone, not just from the long ride but from the unpleasant task he was being forced to undertake. Maybe he should have let Harry deal with it – he was quite capable.

     “Maybe we should advertise a reward?” Harry suggested. “That might loosen a few tongues.”

     “I’ll consider it,” Ross conceded. “Anyway, I’m going to bed. Perhaps things will look better in the morning.”

 

But they didn’t – they looked considerably worse. They were still eating their breakfast when there was a loud rap on the door. Ellie, the housekeeper, hurried in. “If you please, Mr Drake, it’s young Alfie from the yard. Says he ‘as a message.”

     Drake glanced at Ross, then nodded to Ellie. “Show him in.”

     A thin young man came in, clutching a knitted cap between his hands. “Sur, I’m sorry sur, but there’s been another one,” he blurted out. “Robbery, I mean. Mr.Mably do tell me to come and fetch ‘ee.”

     “Mr.Mably?” Drake frowned. “Not Mr Kittow?”

     “No sur, I’m sorry sur, but Mr.Kittow b’ain’t come down to the yard yet.”

     “Oh… Thank you Alfie. Tell Mr.Mably that we’ll be down at once.”

     The lad nodded nervously and backed out of the room. Drake rose to his feet.

     “No, sit down and finish your breakfast,” Ross insisted. “A few more minutes won’t make any difference.”

     Drake sank back into his chair, his face pale. “What can have happened to Robert?” Absently he picked up a roll and put it down again. “It’s not like him to be late in.”

     “Perhaps he’s ill?” suggested Morwenna, though her face was just as pale.

     Drake shook his head. “He would have sent a note.”

     Ross understood their concern. Robert Kittow wasn’t just Drake’s assistant manager, he was also his son-in-law, married to his daughter Loveday for almost fifteen years and the father of three hopeful children, including Tommy, who had welcomed them on their arrival.

     “I’ll walk down and see.” Morwenna hesitated a moment. “I’m sure he has nothing to do with what’s going on.”

     “No, no, of course not,” Drake assured her quickly. “Come down to the yard and let us know how he is.”

     It was a silent trio who walked down the hill and across the long, narrow medieval bridge to the east bank. All were deep in their own thoughts.

     Like Drake, Ross found it hard to imagine that Robert Kittow could be involved in the robbery. He recalled a square-built, stolid man – Demelza had said he was ideal for Loveday, who like her mother had always been a quiet, shy creature, with the same dark brown, rather short-sighted eyes.

     But there was no denying that it was a very odd coincidence. Of course his non-appearance at the boatyard could have a perfectly innocent explanation… Well, they would find out soon enough.

     The boatyard was a short distance from the bridge, fronting directly onto the river. It was bounded at the far end, beyond the dry dock, by the blank back wall of a cotton warehouse, and on the other two sides by a thick thorn hedge. It had a wide wooden gate which bore the sign Poldark & Carne, Boatbuilders.

     Inside the gate was one large workshop and one smaller one, a storage shed, and a slip-way and quay where an elegant ninety-foot brig was awaiting the last of her trim before heading out to the open sea.

     The yard was always busy, but today it was in uproar. Already there had been a fight between two of the carpenters because someone had said a wrong word to another. Ted Mably, the workshop supervisor, was standing in the middle of the yard with a piece of paper in his hand, frowning and anxious as men ran from the warehouse to the dry dock and back to report to him.

     “Oh Mr Carne, thank goodness you’re here. It’s worse even than last time – a whole wagonload of stuff is missing. Most of the good cedar that was delivered just last Monday, that we hadn’t even started cutting for trim yet.”

     “A wagon-load?” Ross frowned. “They didn’t come by boat?”

     “No sur, I don’t b’lieve so. See – there’s been a wagon by here.” He walked them back to just outside the gate, to show them a distinct wheel-mark in the soft grassy verge beside the gravel road. “We b’ain’t had no wagons along here for more’n a week.”

     Ross nodded. “Well spotted. So, they broke open the gate?” He studied wooden panels and the stout iron lock, but could see no sign of damage.

     Mably shook his head. “No sur, that’s the strange thing. It were all locked up last night, same as usual, and it were still locked this morning.”

     Ross glanced at Harry and Drake. “So they had a key,” said Harry.

     “What about the set that are kept in the office?” Ross asked. “Are they still there?”

     As one, they turned into the main workshop. The office was at the back, up a flight of open wooden stairs built against the wall. The door was still locked. They all looked at each other, then Drake drew a set of keys from his pocket and inserted one in the lock. It turned smoothly, and he pushed the door open.

     It was a small, busy space, with a window overlooking the workshop and another looking out over the town. Ledgers fought for their place on the shelves, plans and timber samples littered every available surface. There was a desk and two chairs.

     Ross took the seat behind desk as Harry strolled over to the window and checked the shutters. They were firmly locked. He opened them and peered out.

     “I can’t see anyone getting in this way,” he said. “It’s right out onto the main road, and that hedge would stop anyone getting a ladder up.”

     Drake unlocked a cupboard and took out a strong-box. He unlocked that. Inside were some silver coins and a fold of paper bank notes – and a set of keys that matched his.

     “Which leaves Kittow,” Harry said.

     “Which leaves Kittow,” agreed Ross heavily.

     Drake shook his head, his distress showing on his face. “I can’t see why he would do such a thing. Throw everything away like this…”

     “We don’t know yet that he did,” said Ross. “Let’s wait and see what else comes up. What about the watchman? Was one posted?”

     “Yes, sur,” said Mably. “It were Dan – Dan Couch.”

     “And where is he?”

     “He’s lying down, sur. He took a nasty crack to the head.”

     “Can he say how it happened? Did he see anyone?”

     “He says not, sur.”

     Ross nodded. “Very well. I think we need to speak to him first, if he’s well enough.”

     “I’ll go and fetch him, sur.”

     A moment later he was back, accompanied by a man with a face as weather-beaten as old leather. The breeches he was wearing looked as if they belonged to a shorter, plumper man, and he had a rough blanket around his shoulders.

     Ross recognised him as one of those he had questioned the previous day. He had answered then with a calm steadiness that reminded him of his miners and tenants back at Nampara - he really hoped he wasn’t mistaken in him.

     “This is Couch, sur,” said Mably.

     Ross nodded, and indicated to the man to take the seat opposite him. Drake and Mably had moved over to the far corner of the room, while Harry stood by the door, leaning against the wall, his feet a little apart and his arms folded across his chest. Ross reflected briefly that if a man had something to hide he would find that presence quite intimidating.

     “So, Couch, how are you feeling?”

     “I got a mortal headache, sur.” He touched his hand gingerly to the side of his head, where a large bump was showing beneath his tangled hair.

     “No other injuries?”

     “Don’t think so, sur. I’ll come brave soon enough.”

     “Very well.” He spoke gently – there was nothing to gain by bullying the unfortunate man when he was already injured. “Do you feel up to answering a few more questions?”

     “Ais, sur.”

     “Thank you. First, tell me how you came to be on guard last night.”

     “We all volunteered, sur. After that last big batch went missing, Mr.Carne do figure it were someone as got in at night. We none of us liked that, sur – we all works hard here, from Mr.Carne down, and it didn’t sit right that someone was coming in and taking what weren’t their’s. This is a good place to work, Mr.Poldark sur – ee and Mr.Carne always do fair by we. So every one of us was willing to give a night to keep watch, like.”

     “And why was it you last night?”

     “We drawed lots, sur.”

     “I see.” Ross glanced up at Mably for confirmation. He nodded. “So tell me what happened – from when the yard closed for the evening.”

     “Ais, sur. Well, sur, I seen all the lads go. Mr.Carne and Mr.Kittow, they locks up the sheds like usual, and says goodnight to me. Then I goes to our little hut, where we brews up tea and that, and sits me down for a while. It were a nice evening, sur, and I sat watching the fishing boats come in, and the sun set, and all the stars come out, pretty as anything.”

     “Yes, yes – so what did you do after it got dark?” He was accustomed to rambling explanations of this kind from his miners and farm-hands – it took some degree of patience to get a story out of them.

     “Well, I walked up and down for a bit, and then I sat for a bit and has another dish of tea, and then I walked up and down a bit more. It was all quiet, sur - there weren’t no-one around. Then I hears a noise.”

     “What time was this?”

     “It’s hard to say, sur, me not having a pocket watch and all.” He scratched his rough cheek with dirty fingernails. “But I reckon it were coming on for midnight, near enough.”

     “So what did you hear?” asked Ross. He suspected the man may have fallen asleep, but it seemed unfair to challenge him on that, at least for now. His story was more important.

     “Like I said, sur – a noise. Like someone tapping. Tap-tap, tap-tap.” There was an earnest simplicity in his eyes; Ross found it difficult to believe that he was anything but honest. “At first I weren’t sure, then I hears it again. So I goes to have a look-see. And that’s when they must have scat me on me nod, sur – the next thing I remembers is waking up all wet in the bottom of the dry-dock, and it were starting to get light.”

     “And when they hit you, you saw no-one?”

     “No sur. I swear it on the good book.”

     Ross nodded. As a story it had the ring of truth. Being tumbled into the dry-dock would account for him being wet – there was often a little water in the bottom. Hence the blanket and the ill-fitting breeches. He was fortunate that he hadn’t landed face down – an unconscious man could drown in even a few inches of water.

     “What happened when you came round?”

     “Well, sur, I were all dizzy for a while, and I were hard put to even climb out of the dry dock, so I just sat down for a bit. Then Nick Geake and Mark Nance came by and found me and put me in these dry things, and sent urgent for Mr.Mably.” He worked his mouth around his few remaining teeth. “I’m that sorry, sur. It were my job to be on watch, and I let ee down. I’m that sorry.

     Ross shook his head. “You did your best, Couch. And that’s a very nasty bump on your head. Mably, get an apothecary to come and have a look at him, then send him home. He’s to have two days off with pay. But no drinking until Saturday, mind – that will only make you feel worse.”

     “No sur. Thank ee, sur.” He rose to his feet and bobbed a kind of bow, and shuffled from the room.

     Ross looked around at the other three men in the room. “Well, what do you think?”

     “I think he’s telling the truth,” said Harry. “I doubt he could make up a story like that - he doesn’t seem like the brightest candle in the row.”

     “He’s not,” Drake agreed. “But he’s a good worker. Diligent.”

    “He certainly did take a nasty knock, to judge by that bruise,” Ross remarked, frowning. “It seems…”

     His words were interrupted by the sound of light footsteps hurrying up the stairs. The door opened and Morwenna appeared, her face pale and her eyes wide behind her spectacles.

     “Oh!” She gazed round at the four men, then ran into Drake’s arms. “Oh Drake. I don’t know what to make of it. Robert hasn’t been home all night.”

     Drake stroked her back. “Come, m’dear,” he said gently. “Try to tell us slowly exactly what has happened.”

     “Loveday is in pieces - she believes he has a mistress.”

     Harry snorted with laughter. “Kittow?”

     Ross silenced him with a frown.

     Morwenna swallowed a sob as Drake coaxed her into the chair recently vacated by Dan Couch. “Loveday said he’s been going out late these past few nights, giving her no explanation.” She clutched at Drake’s hand, gazing up at him with anxiety etched on her face. “She was afraid to ask him where he was going. Then last night he went out after nine, and didn’t come back. She waited up all night for him, but there’s been no sign.”

     Drake squeezed her hand. “He didn’t leave a note?”  

     She shook her head. “Nothing.” She lifted questioning dark eyes swimming with tears, and looked from one to the other. “You don’t think… Surely you don’t think he could have had anything to do with the trouble here?” she pleaded. “Not Robert.”

     Ross hesitated. He didn’t think it likely, yet he couldn’t say for sure that he did not. Somebody had used a key to open the gate and storage shed – and Kittow’s set was the only one unaccounted for.

     With a sigh he shook his head. “We don’t know yet what happened. Look Drake, you take Morwenna back to Loveday’s and see what more you can find out. We’ll meet you back here later.”

     Drake nodded, and helped his wife to her feet, tucking her hand into his arm as they walked down the stairs.

     Ross leaned his elbows on the desk and steepled his hands. “Well, what do you think?” he asked.

     Harry shook head. “Seriously, I can’t see Robert being the type to have a mistress. But nor can I see him being the type to get involved in something criminal. Why would he? For the paltry amount he might make out of these thefts he stands to lose so much more.”

     “I agree. Of course it could be that his disappearance has nothing to do with either of those possibilities. But… What I’m afraid of is that he was set upon by someone who knew he had the keys.”

     “But what was he about, at that time of night?” Mably frowned. “He would have been at his Town Meeting on Monday evening, him being a Burgess and all. But there were no Town Meeting last night.”

     “We won’t know what he was about until we find him.” Ross spoke grimly. “Mably, can you spare any men from the work today?”

     “I b’lieve so, sur.”

     “Then set them to go around searching for any word or any sign of Kittow. As many of them as you can manage.”

     “Yes sur.”

     As he left the office, Ross looked up at his son. “This is getting nasty,” he said. “Very nasty.”