And Leo closed the door in Michael Bayning’s astonished face.
Poppy stared at her brother desperately. “Do you think Michael had anything to do with Harry’s disappearance?”
“No.” Leo reached up to signal the driver. “He’s not in a condition to plot anything other than where he’s going to find his next drink. I think he’s essentially a decent lad, drowning in self-pity.” Seeing her distraught expression, he took her hand and squeezed it comfortingly. “Let’s go back to the hotel. Perhaps there’ll be some word about Harry.”
She was silent and bleak, her thoughts taking the shape of nightmares.
As the carriage jounced along the street, Leo sought for a remark to distract her. “The interior of Marlow’s wasn’t nearly as pleasant as I’d expected. Oh, there was quite bit of mahogany paneling and nice carpeting, but the air was difficult to breathe.”
“Why?” Poppy asked glumly. “Was it filled with cigar smoke?”
“No,” he said. “Smugness.”
By morning, half of London was indeed looking for Harry. Poppy had spent a sleepless night waiting for news of her husband, while Leo and Jake Valentine had been out searching gentlemen’s clubs, taverns, and gaming halls. Although Poppy was frustrated by her own enforced inactivity, she knew that everything possible was being done. The cracksman, Mr. Edgar, had promised to use his network of thieves to find any possible scrap of information about Harry’s disappearance.
Special Constable Hembrey, for his part, had been exceedingly busy. Sir Gerald at the War Office had confirmed that Edward Kinloch had threatened Harry during their meeting. Subsequently, Hembrey had procured a search warrant from one of the Bow Street magistrates, and had questioned Kinloch early in the morning. However, a thorough search of Kinloch’s residence had revealed no trace of Harry.
The Home Secretary, who was the acting head of the Metropolitan Police Force, had directed his Criminal Investigation Unit—comprised of two inspectors and four sergeants—to apply their skills to the case. They were all engaged in questioning various individuals, including employees at the fencing club and some of Edward Kinloch’s servants.
“It’s as if he’s disappeared into thin air,” Jake Valentine said wearily, lowering himself into a chair in the Rutledge apartment, taking a cup of tea from Poppy. He gave her a haggard glance. “Are there any problems with the hotel? I haven’t seen the managers’ reports—”
“I went over them this morning,” Poppy said scratchily, understanding that Harry would want his business to continue as usual. “It gave me something to do. There are no problems with the hotel.” She rubbed her face with both hands. “No problems,” she repeated bleakly, “except that Harry is missing.”
“He’ll be found,” Valentine said. “Soon. There’s no way he can not be found.”
Their conversation was interrupted as Leo entered the apartment. “Don’t get comfortable, Valentine,” he said. “Bow Street has just sent word that they have at least three men claiming to be Harry Rutledge, along with their ‘rescuers.’ It’s assumed they’re all impostors, but I thought we’d go have a look at them in any case. Perhaps we’ll find a chance to talk with Special Constable Hembrey, if he’s there.”
“I’m going, too,” Poppy said.
Leo gave her a dark look. “You wouldn’t ask to go if you knew what kind of riffraff parades through that office every day.”
“I’m not asking,” Poppy said. “I’m telling you that you’re not going without me.”
Leo contemplated her for a moment, and sighed. “Fetch your cloak.”
The Bow Street court was universally regarded as the foremost London magistrates’ court, where the most publicized criminal cases were investigated and prosecuted. The Metropolitan Police Act had been passed more than twenty years earlier, resulting in the formation of what was still called the “New Police.”
However, there still remained a few law enforcement establishments outside the Home Secretary’s direct control, and Bow Street was one of them. Its mounted patrol and half-dozen Runners were answerable only to the Bow Street magistrates. Oddly, the Bow Street enforcement office had never been given a statutory basis for its authority. But that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. When results were needed, one went to Bow Street.
The two buildings that comprised the court and office, nos. 3 and 4, were plain and unassuming, giving little hint as to the power that was wielded inside.
Poppy approached Bow Street with Leo and Valentine, her eyes widening as she saw throngs of people milling around the building and along the street. “Don’t speak to anyone,” Leo told her, “don’t stand close to anyone, and if you hear, smell, or see something offensive, don’t say you weren’t warned.”
As they entered no. 3, they were surrounded by the mingled smells of bodies, sweat, brass polish, and plaster. A narrow hallway led to various holding rooms, charge rooms, and offices. Every inch of the hallway was occupied with jostling bodies, the air thick with exclamations and complaints.
“Hembrey,” Jake Valentine called out, and a lean man with close-cropped gray hair turned toward him. The man possessed a long, narrow face and intelligent dark eyes. “He’s the Special Constable,” Valentine told Poppy as the man made his way toward them.
“Mr. Valentine,” Hembrey said, “I’ve just arrived to discover this lunatic gathering.”