The Earl of Diamonds
The London fog drifted slowly around him as Cedric tossed three more bracelets into the Thames. Patting his pocket with the 24 diamonds, "These, added to the others, will bring a tidy fortune in cash," he sighed. "How careless these witless females are with their jewelry! I would have taken the rest if I were sure it was not fake. But the bracelets I know are real, and taking just these will throw the blame on some jealous lover of Raynhurst's."
As he made his way through the foggy night, his mind turned to how he could hurry along Raynhurst's demise. Pondering on ways to bring about a duel, he speculated on which person would most likely challenge him. "Ah, Lord Pennsworth will do nicely. A very hot tempered, jealous man. His wife is a wanton flirt, and I know he will be grateful to receive an anonymous note about his wife having one of Raynhurst's famous bracelets. I'm sure he will never believe her, if she denies knowing Raynhurst intimately," he smirked, "Poor Lady Pennsworth, getting blamed for the only affair she didn't have."
Cedric turned into an alley, and knocked on a door. A buxom woman, overdressed, with heavy makeup, opened it, and glared at him.
"Did Bigley make the arrangements?" he asked, stepping into the dimly lit, tawdry room.
"Aye, 'e did, 'n 'twill be th' last! Ye whupped me last gel so fierce she went 'n died, 'n me boys 'ad to git rid o' 'er."
"Stop harping old hag, you are paid well for the little effort you use in plucking girls off the street. No one is ever going to miss them if they don't survive, so quit worrying," he said with contempt.
He headed for the basement stairs with a demonic smile, contemplating how he would take his time to savor this little interlude. If the girl survived, he would use her again. At the bottom of the stairs, he opened the heavy wooden door, and stepped into the soundproof room.
Raynhurst arrived at his Town House in Berkeley Square, after the long journey from Bath, and instructed his servants to ready the rooms for the arrival of his mother, Aunt Emily, and the dowager Duchess of Westborough. He did not mention his wife yet, as he wanted to get to the newspaper office first before the servants circulated the gossip through the ton
All the way to London he thought about his wife, how their night together had been more than he could ever have expected. It seems she filled all the lonely, empty emotional spaces in him, that he had been looking for in the other women over the years. He hated to leave her after only that one night, but getting this announcement made, and made the right way, had to take priority. She and his son will arrive with his mother, and the others, next week. "My son" he murmured, and shook his head in amazement. He couldn't believe that he had a son, and that he was already two years old. Raynhurst smiled as he remembered the look on the boy's face, when he reached out to touch his birthmark.
After a bath, and a change of clothes, he went to the London Times Newspaper Office. Raynhurst related the story of his marriage directly to the Editor, George Samuels, who had been a friend since their days at Oxford.
"Congratulation, Raynhurst! I never thought you would ever get leg-shackled . . . and here you've been that way for three years!" he laughed, "Let us have a drink to celebrate," he added as he walked to the cabinet in the corner of his office.
Pouring the drinks, he casually asked, "Do you intend to give up your distribution of the diamond bracelets?"
Handing a glass to Raynhurst, he added grinning, "You are going to disappoint a lot of ladies who are waiting for their turn with the Earl of Diamonds!"
Raynhurst shook his head, and said, "I don't know what I was thinking when I started that foolishness. Those bracelets were a whim in my salad days. Since I have been back from the war, only two have been given as gifts. The others were given out before I met my wife. I guess I was just frustrated in not locating her, and tried to ease the frustration. It was no use, I could not find anyone like her," he confided.
Mr. Samuels looked at him thoughtfully, as he sipped his drink, and inquired, "What do you think of the bracelet thefts? As of last count it was five. There are more theories floating around, then there are Bow Street Runners chasing them. Did you know White's betting book is filled with names of possible high-flyers you might have rejected? Now it seems that they are trying to find a mysterious redhead from Covent Gardens."
Raynhurst listened astonished at this incredible report. He thought only two bracelets were stolen, and never realized this had been going on while he had been out of town. He was dismayed at the thought of Elise and his mother hearing all of this news.
"Is there anyway to end this gossip?" he asked anxiously, and added, "My wife is coming to town next week, with my mother and Elise's grandmother, the dowager Duchess of Westborough."
"Not a chance! Especially since the betting book is full. The only hope you will have, is the announcement of the news of your marriage, and the heir you acquired from it. That will surely cause a sensation in the ton. Everyone will be gossiping about what type of woman had bewitched you into matrimony, and will be anticipating her arrival in London so they can compare her looks with all your other beauties," he said wryly.
Raynhurst frowning, growled "There is no comparison! And I had better not hear one slanderous remark where she is concerned." He rose from his chair, and added with malice, "In fact, put that notice in immediately. I am going to White's to make my own announcement regarding these damn bracelets!"
Raynhurst's next stop, was at his solicitor's. When Mr. McKennon saw the Earl of Raynhurst coming through his door, he became nervous. He had not found any more information about Raynhurst's wife, and he was afraid his lordship would be in another of his black moods.
"My lord, I was not expecting you back so soon," he stammered as he rose to greet Raynhurst.
With an understanding smile at the solicitor's apprehension, Raynhurst said, "I am here with good news, Mr. McKennon. I have found my wife and son. It will no longer be a confidential matter, as I had just placed an announcement in the London Times."
A visible sign of relief came over Mr. McKennon's face, then composing himself, he said, "My lord! That is good news! Is she here in London with you?"
"No, she will be arriving with my son, next week. He is a fine boy," he answered proudly.
Then getting serious, he said, "I have come to have you add my wife, and son, to all of the estate papers, in regard to the inheritance. Also, please set up a quarterly stipend for her use. If you will come by my London House, sometime after next week, with the papers, you will meet the Countess," Raynhurst said.
"I will be most happy to oblige you, my lord," Mr. McKennon said beaming, as he saw Raynhurst to the door. He was relieved to have this all over after the years of searching, and with a satisfactory conclusion.
That evening at White's Gentlemen's Club on St. James Street, there was an unusually large group of men. Word had gotten out that the Earl of Raynhurst was back in town, and everyone was speculating on whom he thought might be the bracelet bandit.
Sitting alone at a table in the lounge, Lord Pennsworth was sullenly becoming inebriated. He brooded about the quarrel he had with his wife that afternoon, after receiving an anonymous letter, alluding to an affair between his wife and Lord Raynhurst. Also, this unidentified person claimed he saw her wearing one of the diamond bracelets. In a fit of rage he had hit her hard enough to bruise her face, and she was still denying the whole thing, swearing it was not true. He refilled his glass, and muttered venomously, "She is lying, and I will not be the cuckold by any man."
Raynhurst had no sooner entered the Club, when he was surrounded by a group of young men clamoring for his attention. Nodding his head in greeting, he continued passed the group without saying a word, and headed straight for the Betting Book. While scanning the long list of names, he muttered, "Good God! This must contain every actress, and demimondaine in London!"
Lord Pennsworth who had heard the commotion when Raynhurst arrived, picked up his drink and made his way drunkenly toward Raynhurst. He focused all his pent-up guilt for hitting his wife, on the person who was the cause of his misery.
His thoughts on the book, and what he was to do about it, Raynhurst did not hear Lord Pennsworth call his name. Suddenly he was being pulled around, and felt the cold splash of the drink being tossed at his face.
There was a collective gasp from the men standing nearby, before absolute silence covered the room.
Taking a handkerchief from his pocket, Raynhurst wiped his face, and dabbed at his ruined coat. A servant came up hurriedly to assist him. Looking coldly at Lord Pennsworth, he said callously, "Well, you have just made a challenge, which of course I accept. Before we go further, you do have a reason I presume."
Swaying drunkenly, as two men were trying to hold him back, he said furiously, "Stay away from my wife, Raynhurst! When I find that bracelet you gave her, I'll shove it down your throat!" as he tried to lunge at Raynhurst, before he was restrained.
"Sorry to disappoint you, Lord Pennsworth, but I do not know your wife, or have I ever bestowed any gifts on the lady. But have your second confer with . . . Sir Harry will you do the honors?" as Sir Harry nodded, Raynhurst continued, "Thank you. Now, I believe, I have the choice of weapons . . . Sir Harry, inform his second it will be pistols," he said, and handed the liquor-sodden handkerchief to the servant standing anxiously waiting.
"She said it wasn't true, and I didn't believe her," Pennsworth muttered, as he was escorted to the Club entrance by the two gentlemen who tried to calm him.
"He so soused, I doubt if he will remember tomorrow that he challenged you to a duel," Sir Harry said, as he watched Pennsworth leave.
"Bloody Hell! I have been out of town less than three months, and return to find I am the center of the most bizarre gossip!" shaking his head in amazement, "But I'm going to put a stop to that right now," he said firmly, as he turned to face the large group of men observing him with interest.
"Gentlemen, I would like to make an announcement. I am pleased to inform you that I am a married man, and have been for the past three years. Also, I have a son and heir." He paused at the uproar caused by his statement. Holding up his hands for a plea of silence, he continued.
"My wife and I had gotten separated after the war, when I was wounded . . . and . . . I decided to wait until she was located before announcing the marriage . . . but you will read all about that tomorrow morning, in the London Times. Right now, I want to get this business of the bracelets settled. There is no further need to gossip about how many bracelets or mistresses I have. I will not be giving out any more bracelets! There will be no more affairs. I repeat, no . . . more . . . bracelets, . . . and . . . no . . . affairs!" he waited again until the chuckles of skepticism, and ribald remarks faded.
"As for this mysterious robber's identity you are wagering on, I am calling in the bets. I will pay everyone triple their bet, and destroy the betting list." Another loud burst of cheers, and questions filled the room. Holding his hand up again, he continued.
"There are so many names on that list, I doubt any of you would be a winner. So you are better off with my payoff. The reason is . . . my wife is coming to London next week and I want this gossip dead and buried.
"Now I hope you will all agree, like true gentlemen," he looked stonily at each, and every face, then added, "otherwise, you will meet me on the field of honor."
He watched as they nervously nodded their agreement.
"Gentlemen, I thank you, and now, let me buy a round of drinks to celebrate my marriage, while I pay off your wagers. Would someone bring me that cursed list?" he yelled, as the laughter and cheers escalated.
In the far corner of the room, Cedric leaned slumped against a wall, as he listened in shock at the news of Raynhurst's marriage, and heir. He had come to White's hoping to see Lord Pennsworth issue the challenge. He wasn't disappointed. Everything had gone according to his plan. But when Raynhurst said he had a son, Cedric's world fell apart. He would be cut out of any chance to inherit the title. If Raynhurst is killed in the duel, his son would be next in line.
Discreetly he left the Club unobserved as everyone was crowded around the Earl of Raynhurst.
When Raynhurst came down to breakfast, he informed the servants of his marriage, requesting them to prepare his wife's, room and the nursery for his son. Concealing their astonishment at the news, they quickly departed to carry out their duties.
While reading the morning paper, he silently congratulated himself on the well-worded article of his marriage, and the way he handled the ending of the bracelet gossip.
He looked up as Martin, the butler entered. "A Bow Street detective to see you, milord."
"Show him into my Library, Martin, and I will be with him in a moment," he replied, wondering what else could go wrong since he had come to town.
Entering the library, Raynhurst shook hands and quickly concluded, though elderly, this was a sharp, perceptive man. His black hair was flecked with grey, his blue eyes alert, and his body trim and fit.
"Good morning, Lord Raynhurst, I am Mr. Davidson. I would like to get some information regarding the diamond bracelets."
"Sit down, Mr. Davidson, may I offer you something to drink?" inquired Raynhurst.
"No thank you, my lord, I won't be taking much of your time. I need to know which jeweler designed, and sold you the bracelets. Also, how many are there? I understand that you have distributed more than fifty of them around London," he said, with an incredulous look at the Earl of Raynhurst.
Groaning, Raynhurst ran his hand over his face in exasperation, and said, "How do these rumors get started?" he sighed and continued, "No, Mr. Davidson, my reputation as Don Juan is highly exaggerated. I bought those bracelets, when I first became the Earl of Raynhurst. I had them exclusively made for me, from a design I created, and had ordered twenty-five, each one has a number on the back. I guess you could say, it was a whim of amusement, or I did it in defiance of my mother nagging me to get married, whatever the reason I am not sure anymore . . . I have had so many people ask me about them. God, I wish I never laid eyes on these bracelets!" Raynhurst shook his head in disgust.
"Since my marriage . . ."
"You're married, my lord?" Davidson asked surprised, not having heard that revelation.
"Yes, it is in the morning paper, but actually I have been married three years . . . it is a long story . . . but as I was saying, . . . since my marriage, there have been only two bracelets given. My wife has a bracelet, number twenty, and I have three in my safe here at home."
Rising from his chair, he went to the safe. "Let me show you the ones I have. Also, I will give you the name of the jeweler."
As Raynhurst was busy at the safe, Davidson surveyed him and thought, he may not think he is a Don Juan, but "twenty-two" seems excessive to me. I wonder if he kept count before he started handing out bracelets?
Laying the bracelets out on a velvet cloth in front of Mr. Davidson, he showed him the numbers on the back of each.
"That is a beautiful design, let me make a sketch," as he drew a pad from his pocket. "These should be easy to trace if we circulate the sketch around town."
"Do you really think someone would be foolish enough to try and pawn jewelry with that unique design? I would imagine it would be smarter to remove the diamonds and discard the bracelets. The diamonds are flawless, and alone they are worth quite a fortune," he suggested.
Looking at him with admiration, Davidson agreed. "Your right, my lord, and I will also have them check for . . . let's see . . . five bracelets . . . eight diamonds each . . . Good God! Forty diamonds! That is a fortune!" he said astonished.
After they had concluded, Mr. Davidson put the sketch, and jewelers name, in his pocket. Being a married man, he inquired, out of curiosity, before leaving the room, "This is none of my business, Lord Raynhurst, but I was wondering. Does your wife know what the number stands for on the back of her bracelet?"
Stunned, Raynhurst stared at him before he answered "No, I never thought about it . . . I had given it to her when I was . . . uh . . . before our marriage . . . Bloody Hell! ... what a catastrophe if she found out!"
"Well, good luck, your lordship," he said, sympathetically, "I appreciate your help, and will keep you informed as to our progress."
When Raynhurst closed the door, he thought, I have got to get that bracelet from her before she finds out about the numbers.
An hour later, Sir Harry was announced.
"Did you meet with Lord Pennsworth's second?" Raynhurst asked.
"Yes, Lord Montbanke, a rickety bloke, can't say he will be of much use though," he answered, running his fingers through his light brown curly hair, as he slouched in a chair with his legs stretched out. "We are all set for dawn tomorrow. I say, I truly hate those chilly mornings! Why ever do they not pick a more convenient time for such ramshackle doings?"
Laughing, Raynhurst said, "Since dueling is frowned upon, I should think the only other time, would be at midnight . . . and then you cannot see whom you are shooting."
"You don't seem a bit nervous about all this. Are you still a crack shot?" Harry said, worried about his friend.
"As for nervous, . . . no . . . for being a crack shot, from what I heard of Lord Pennsworth, he has such bad eyesight, I doubt if he will be able to shoot straight," Raynhurst said sarcastically. "I cannot imagine why he would want to go through with this fiasco."
"From what I had heard, after you left White's, he had received an anonymous note that morning, about you and his wife. After giving her a thrashing, he came there looking for you. It seems strange that it should happen the same day you arrived in town. Just as if he was expected to challenge you. Do you think someone is out to get you, or him, permanently out of the way?" Sir Harry suggested.
"Hmm, that is odd. I have never met his wife, yet I have heard that she is an accomplished flirt, and Lord Pennsworth is well known for his jealousy," Raynhurst mused.
"Do you think there is a connection between the duel and the theft of the bracelets? I know that is far-fetched, but you have to admit it seems you are at the center of it all." He sat up with sudden inspiration. "What do you say to a little pistol practice at Manton's this afternoon?" Sir Harry inquired, "I have not been there myself in ages."
"Splendid! While we have a nuncheon, we can discuss the amount of the wager I am going to win from you . . . on who is the best shot," he said good naturedly.
When the servant had left the room, Cornelia Lovell put down the morning paper, and glared at her son across the small table in the breakfast parlor.
"Have you read this?" she hissed, "Raynhurst is married with an heir!"
"I did not have to read it. I was there when he made the announcement at White's," he said, putting another fork of eggs into his mouth.
"You knew and you did not say a word?"
"I did not have the pleasure of your company until this morning, Mother dear, and as you were already reading the paper, there was no need to mention it," he said sarcastically, as he took another bite of his breakfast.
"Well! This puts us in a fine fix! Your inheritance is gone, and you have not even tried to meet any eligible heiress. Lord knows what you have been doing with your time! The repairing lease you were supposedly on, you had spent your days gambling at the Newmarket races. Without the prospects of the title, your creditors will be pounding on the door. Stop eating and listen to me!" she screamed, as she threw the newspaper across the table.
Cedric calmly laid down his fork, touched his napkin to his mouth. Getting up out of his chair he said coldly, "I am thirty-two years old, and I do not need my mother directing my life. You can yell all you want but I do not have to stay and listen. Good day, Mother," he nodded in her direction and left the room.
"Come back here! Don't you dare walk out until I am finished talking to you!" she shouted as the door closed behind him.
Cedric shut the door of his bedroom, and picked up the brandy bottle on the table. With a trembling hand he poured himself a glass. Holding the glass with both hands, he took a large swallow.
If all goes well with the duel . . . I doubt Pennsworth will be honorable enough to give Raynhurst a chance to shoot . . . then I will only have a child to eliminate.
Tonight though, the Lacey chit will be out to a private theatre party, and I will have plenty of time to get the bracelet. That loud-mouth, Drury Lane actress has been strutting around, flaunting her bracelet, and bragging about being the first one to have been honored by Raynhurst. She deserves to have it stolen!
The late night breeze gently blew the sheer curtains of the open window, as Cedric, shaken, looked down at the girl lying crumpled on the floor with her head twisted at an awkward angle.
"The bitch shouldn't have tried to scream," he muttered, giving the body a kick with his boot.
She had come in while he was going through the jewelry box, and lunged at him making a grab for the box. As soon as she started to scream, he put his hand over her mouth and held tightly. During her struggle, as he held her, he whipped his hand in a sudden twist, breaking her neck. Now looking at her, he saw the bracelet on her arm. I should have known she would be wearing it! Well, that was her bad luck to come home early. He reached down to undo the bracelet, and noticed it was caught in the weave of her jacket. Giving it a quick pull to free it, her small wrist snapped, and the clasp, entangled in the material, broke off.
Shoving the bracelet in his pocket, while looking around the room to see if he had left any evidence of his being there, he climbed out the window.
The fog lifted and blended with the grey-light of dawn over the field at the far end of Green Park, as Raynhurst's carriage pulled next to Sir Harry's curricle and Doctor Warner's chaise. Stepping down from the carriage he looked around the field, before pulling out his watch.
"Did you inform Lord Montbanke of the correct place?" he asked.
"Well, I did not write it down, but I am sure he heard me," he answered contritely.
"Is there a limit to waiting, Doctor?" Sir Harry inquired.
Doctor Warner shrugged, "This is not generally my line of work. I am doing this as a favor to Lord Raynhurst."
"I appreciate it, Doctor, and I am sorry for getting you out so early. If he and his second do not show within fifteen minutes, I'll send my groom to Lord Pennsworth's house," he said leaning against the carriage.
Five minutes later a coach came into view at a brisk pace.
"At last, will get this over with," sighed Raynhurst.
The coach pulled up, and Lord Montbanke quickly jumped out. Mopping his head nervously with his handkerchief, he mumbled his apologies and explained that when he arrived at Pennsworth's house, the servants were all in a state of chaos, for it seems that Lord and Lady Pennsworth hastily left in the middle of the night with no instructions to the household.
"When I saw him last night at White's, he had been drinking heavily again, agonizing about what a fool he was not to have believed her . . . and how he was going to perish in a duel over somebody's treacherous lie. I insisted he go home and get some rest which I assumed he did when I left, but now . . . ," looking at Raynhurst for guidance in this quandary.
"It is a deuced shame. We are losing good sleep in a warm bed, while that odious Pennsworth is having a nice trip to the Continent," Sir Harry complained.
"Yes, I agree. Let us all go home and worry about the repercussions later. One thing I intend to discover, is the name of the person that sent the slanderous note to Pennsworth," Raynhurst said firmly.
Frank Davidson, stooped down next to the body of Karen Lacey, and carefully, he separated the heart-shaped gold clasp on the broken wrist, from the material of the jacket.
He was sent here this morning, after she did not show up for a rehearsal at the Drury Lane Theatre, and her landlord was asked to check if she was ill, found the body. It did not look like robbery, since all of her jewelry was still in the open box on the dresser. It had looked like someone had waited for her to come home to assault her.
"But this changes the picture entirely," he murmured, looking at the heart-shaped clasp. "It appears the thief who had taken the other bracelets, . . . is no longer just a thief, he has become a murderer."
Turning the clasp over he looked at the back. There was a number one engraved on it.
"So, Miss Lacey, you were the very first one in a long series of numbers," Davidson thought, as he looked at the lifeless body of a once very beautiful woman.
"The rumor about some jealous female taking the bracelets has to be wrong. No woman has the strength to do that, especially one who would be the type Raynhurst would like," he mused as he left the apartment.
Raynhurst greeted Mr. Davidson as he ushered him into his study. "Well, Mr. Davidson, are you making progress with the theft investigation?"
"It is not exactly progress, my lord. It is more like a complication," he said as he sat down. "Last night the thief committed murder while stealing one of your bracelets."
Shocked, Raynhurst stopped as he was about to sit down in his chair behind his desk. "A murder! Who? .....Which one?" he asked apprehensively.
"It was the actress, Karen Lacey. The gold heart-shaped clasp had the number one engraved on the back."
Raynhurst sat down heavily onto his chair. A vision of a happy, energetic girl, with raven black ringlets around her pretty faced, flashed through his mind. He remembered how thrilled she was when he put that bracelet on her wrist, the sparkle in her big brown eyes . . . and now she's dead.
Looking at the anguish in Raynhurst's face, Davidson thought he must have had a special feeling for all of his ladies.
After a moment, Raynhurst asked, "He killed her and did not take the bracelet? I mean, if you know what number was on it. Does that not mean it is not the bracelet thief?"
"No, I said the heart clasp. He took the bracelet from her by force snapping her wrist, but apparently the bracelet had snagged on her clothes, and broke the clasp off. No other jewelry or anything else was taken, and her neck was broken."
"Her neck broken," moaned Raynhurst, as he put his head in his hands.
"Yes, which brings me to another reason I am here. I have heard all these rumors of some lady you rejected being the guilty party. But it would be impossible for a female to have broken her neck like that, unless she was built like an amazon," Davidson informed him.
"I have no idea, Mr. Davidson, why anyone is stealing the bracelets. And why on earth they are not taking the rest of the jewelry, while they are already stealing. It is a hanging offense either way," he said puzzled.
"It appears you are the target of whatever this person has in mind," he answered.
Raynhurst thought about that and the duel this morning.
"You know, that might be true. The other evening, I was accused in an anonymous note to Lord Pennsworth, of having an affair with his wife, and he challenged me to a duel. The whole thing was a lie, for I have never met Lady Pennsworth."
At the surprised look on Mr. Davidson's face, he continued "The duel did not take place, for it seems Pennsworth fled to the Continent last night."
"If this person's intent was a duel forced upon you, then he must want you out of the way either temporarily from injury . . . or permanently. Do you have any enemies?"
"None that I know of, but of course, with all these rumors about fifty some odd bracelets, I suppose it is possible some man is afraid his wife will be next in line," he said sarcastically.
"I don't think you should treat this lightly, Lord Raynhurst. There is one murder committed already," he reprimanded.
"I am not treating it lightly. I am angered that I am the object of someone's madness. I cannot believe that this has escalated to murder!" he said infuriated.
"Since it has, I suggest you start thinking of who it might be," he said as he rose from his chair. "I would appreciate you calling me if anything comes to mind."
Also rising, Raynhurst said, "Thank you for telling me about Karen, Mr. Davidson. "And I will keep in mind what you said."
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