Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница

There wasn't nary a noise. It was silent, like... it was just me breathin' and that was the only sound.

Three witnesses.

Three testimonies.

But the same word: silent.

And that about breathing being the only sound... what possible coincidence could that be? Also the repeated phrase whole world by both Buckner and Garrick... it defied reason to think both men would speak the exact same words.

Unless... without knowing it... all three of the witnesses had been told what to say.

Matthew felt a chill skitter up his spine. The hairs on the back of his neck moved Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница. He realized he had just had a glimpse of the shadow he sought.

It was a terrifying realization. Because the shadow was larger and darker and more strangely powerful than he had dared believe. The shadow had been standing behind Jeremiah Buckner,

Elias Garrick, and Violet Adams there in the gaol, all the time they'd been giving their accounts.

"My God, " Matthew whispered, his eyes wide. Because he had realized the shadow was in their minds, directing their words, emotions, and counterfeit memories. The three witnesses were no more than flesh-and-blood poppets, constructed by the Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница hand of an evil beyond Matthew's imagining.

One hand. The same hand. A hand that sewed six gold buttons on a Satanic cloak. That created a white-haired imp, a leathery lizard-like manbeast, and a bizarre creature that had a male penis and female breasts. The same hand had created these scenes of sickening depravity, had painted them on the very air to display to Buckner, Garrick, Violet, and probably other citizens, who had fled for their sanity. For that's what the scenes were: air-paintings. Or, rather, paintings that came to life inside the minds Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница that were spelled to accept them as truth.

That was why Buckner could not recall where he'd put his cane, which he was unable to get around without, or whether he had worn a coat outside in the cold February air, or whether he had taken his shoes off when he'd climbed back into bed.

That was why Garrick could not recall what clothes he had worn outside to go spew, or whether he had put on shoes or boots, or what pattern the six gold buttons were arranged in though he clearly noted their number.

That Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница was why Violet Adams had not noticed the reek of a decaying dog's carcass, or the fact that the Hamilton house was overrun by canines.

Not one of the three witnesses had actually witnessed anything but these mental paintings, constructed by a shadowy hand that had emphasized some details for the purpose of shock and disgust—the kind of details that would make for damning court testimony—but had omitted other details of a more commonplace nature.

Except for the pattern of gold buttons on the cloak, Matthew thought. That was where the shadowy hand had been... the Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница only word Matthew could think of was precious.

The hand had made the oversight of not detailing the arrangement of buttons for Buckner or Garrick, but had attempted to make up for it by providing that detail to Violet, who collected buttons and therefore might be more observant as to their pattern.

It occurred to Matthew that the shadowy hand might have placed the poppets under the floor of Rachel's house, and then painted the dream by which Cara Grunewald had seen an item of importance hidden there. He would have liked to have spoken to Madam Grunewald, to learn Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница if, when she'd gone to sleep that night, everything was silent, as if the whole world was feared to breathe.

Matthew turned through the pages to another point he recalled of Garrick's account. It was when he had challenged Garrick concerning the arrangement of the six gold buttons, and had pressed his question to the man's obviously confused agitation.

Garrick's response had been a whispered It was a silent town. Silent. The whole world, afeared to breathe.

Matthew realized that what he had heard was Garrick repeating a phrase supplied to him by the owner Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница of the shadowy hand. Garrick had been unable to answer the question, and had unwittingly fixed on that somnambulistic phrase in a moment of great stress because it was one of the clearest things he did remember.

And now there was the question of Linch's voice, singing in the dark at the Hamilton house. If Violet had not actually set foot in the house, how could she have heard the ratcatcher singing his grotesque ditty from the back room?

Matthew put aside the documents and finished his cup of tea, staring out the window toward the slaves' quarters and Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница the darkness beyond. He might have decided that Violet had been dreaming the involvement of Linch as well as the rest of it, but his own exploration of Linch's dwelling told Matthew the ratcatcher had concealed the secrets of his identity behind a cleverly constructed front.

Linch was literate and obviously cunning. Was it possible his was the shadowy hand that had guided the three witnesses?

But why? And how? By what form of sorcery had Linch—or whomever—caused three individuals to see similar apparitions and believe without a doubt they had been viewing Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница reality? It had to be black magic, of a sort. Not the kind popularly associated with Satan, but the kind that evolves from a corrupt and twisted human mentality. But also a mentality that was well ordered and precise, as Linch's must be.

Matthew couldn't understand how Linch, or anyone else, might have done it.

Such a thing—the guiding of three minds toward a common fiction—seemed to be absolutely impossible. Nevertheless, Matthew was certain that was exactly what had occurred.



And what of the question of motive? Why go to such lengths—and such incredible Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница risk—to paint Rachel as being a servant of the Devil? It had to be much more than simply covering the tracks that led away from the murders of Reverend Grove and Daniel Howarth. In fact, those killings seemed to Matthew to have been committed to add weight of suspicion upon Rachel.

So the point was to create a witch, Matthew thought. Rachel was already disliked by many of the citizens before Grove was murdered. Her dark beauty could not have aided her popularity among the other women, and her Portuguese heritage reminded the men of how close the Spanish territory Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница lay to their farmland. She had a tongue, a willful spirit, and courage that ruffled the feathers of the church-guarding hens. Therefore Rachel was from the beginning a perfect candidate.

Matthew chewed on another biscuit. He looked at the stars that glittered above the ocean, and at the candle that burned within the lantern's glass. The light of understanding was what he sought, yet it was a difficult illumination to unveil.

Why create a witch? What possible reason was there for it? To hurt Bidwell? Was all this engineered by the jealous ravens of Charles Town to destroy Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница Fount Royal before it could grow to rivalry?

If that were so, wouldn't Winston have known Rachel was innocent? Or had the Charles Town elders planted another traitor or two within Fount Royal's midst and for the sake of security not informed Winston?

And then there was the question of the mysterious surveyor, and what might lie in the mud at the fount's bottom. It struck him that tomorrow night—very late, after the last lantern had gone out and the final celebrants swept from Van Gundy's tavern—he might try his strength at Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница some underwater swimming.

Though the tea was certainly sturdy enough, Matthew still felt weariness pulling at him. It was his mind that needed rest just as much—if not more so—than his body. He needed to climb into bed, sleep until dawn, and awaken ready for a fresh appraisal of what he suspected, what he knew, and what he had yet to learn.

Matthew relieved himself at the chamberpot, then undressed and lay down upon the bed. He left the lantern burning, as his realization of the shadowy hand's strange and compelling power had made him Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница somewhat less than easy with the dark.

He tossed and turned in the first bout of what would be a nightlong grappling with the hot gearwheels of his brain. At last, though, he relaxed enough to sleep for a time, and except for the occasional barking of a mongrel the town was ruled by silence.

twenty-nine

UPON AWAKENING AT FIRST LIGHT and the rooster chorale, Matthew hurriedly pulled on his breeches and crossed the hall to look in on the magistrate.

Woodward was still sleeping on his stomach, his breathing harsh but steady. Matthew was curious as to the state of Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница the blisters on Woodward's back, and so carefully lifted the gown to view them.

Instantly he wished he had not. The blisters had flattened into ugly ebony bruises surrounded by circles of mottled flesh. Streaks of red ran underneath the skin, attesting to the pressures that the magistrate's body had endured. It occurred to Matthew that this procedure of heat and blister cups was more suited for the torture chamber than the sickbed. He lowered Woodward's gown again, then dipped a cloth into the bowl of water that sat atop the dresser and spent Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница a moment wiping away the green crust that had accumulated around the magistrate's nostrils. The magistrate's face was damp and swollen, the fever radiating from him like the calidity from a bellows-coaxed blaze.

"What..." Woodward whispered, his eyelids fluttering. "What is the day?"

"Thursday, sir."

"I must... get up... and about. Can you help me?"

"I don't think it's wise to get up quite yet, sir. Possibly later in the day."

"Nonsense. I... shall miss court... if I don't get up." Matthew felt something as keen as an icy dagger pierce his Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница guts. "They... already think me... lax in my duties, " Woodward continued. "They think... I am more fond... of the rumpot... than the gavel. Yes, I saw Mendenhall yesterday. That peacock. Laughing at me... behind his hand. What day is it, did you say?"

"Thursday." Matthew's voice was hushed.

"I... have a larceny trial to hear. This morning. Where are my boots?"

"Sir?" Matthew said. "I fear... that court has been postponed for the day."

Woodward was quiet. Then, "Postponed?"

"Yes, sir. The weather being so bad." Even as he spoke it, he could hear birds singing in the Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница trees around the spring.

"Ahhhhh, the weather, " Woodward whispered. His eyes had never fully opened, but remained hidden behind the fever-inflamed lids. "Then I shall stay indoors today, " he said. "Shall light a fire... drink a hot rum."

"Yes, sir, I think that would be best."

Woodward said something that was more gibberish than language, as if he were losing control over even his speech, but then he spoke clearly enough for Matthew to make out the words, "My back. Pains me."

"It will be well soon. You must lie still and rest."

"A bottle, " Woodward said, drowsing off once Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница more. "Will you... bring me a bottle?"

"I shall, yes, sir." It seemed a small but helpful untruth. The magistrate's eyelids had ceased their war against gravity and he lay quiet again, his breathing returned to its accustomed rasp like that of a rusted hinge being slowly worked back and forth.

Matthew finished his task of carefully cleaning Woodward's nostrils. When he left the room, he was stricken in the middle of the hallway by what might have been a crushing weight suddenly applied to his shoulders. At the same time, the icy dagger that had Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница entered his entrails seemed to twist toward his heart. He stood short of his own door, one hand clasped to his mouth and above it his eyes wide and brimming with tears.

He was trembling, and wished to make it cease but could not. A sensation of utter powerlessness had come upon him, a sensation of being a leaf stripped from a tree in a high wind and blown through a terrifying altitude of lightning and rain.

He had realized that every day—every hour—brought the magistrate closer to death. It was not now a question of whether the Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница magistrate might die, but when. Matthew was sure this bleed-ing-and-blistering treatment was not sufficient; indeed, he doubted the ability of Dr. Shields to heal a man who was only half as ill as the magistrate. If Woodward could be gotten to Charles Town, to the attentions of the urban doctors who commanded fully equipped infirmaries and a benefit of medicines, then there was a chance—be it however diminished—that he might be cured of this savage malady.

Yet Matthew knew that no one here would volunteer to carry Woodward the long distance to Charles Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница Town, especially if it meant denigrating the abilities of their own doctor. If he undertook to convey Woodward there, he would lose at the very least two vital days from his investigation, and by the time he returned here Rachel would likely be a black smudge on a charred stake. Woodward might not be his father, it was true, but the man had served in as near that capacity as was humanly possible, saving him from the drear almshouse and setting him on a path of purpose. Did he not, then, owe the magistrate at least something?

He Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница might persuade Winston to take Woodward to Charles Town, under threat of revealing the incriminating bucket, but should such a disloyal dog be trusted with a man's life? Winston could as well leave his charge on the side of the road for the animals to eat, and never return.

No, not Winston. But... would Nicholas Paine be willing to do the job?

It was a spark, but it might kindle a flame. Matthew pulled himself together, wiped his eyes clear with the back of his hand, and continued into his room. There he shaved, cleaned his teeth, and Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница finished dressing. Downstairs, he found Bidwell clad in a lime-green suit at the bountiful breakfast table, the foxtail of his wig tied with an emerald-hued ribbon.

"Sit down, sit down!" Bidwell offered, his mood jovial because the day promised to be as sunwarmed and beautiful as the one before. "Come have breakfast, but please let us announce a truce on the subject of theories."

"I haven't time for breakfast, " Matthew said. "I am on my way to—"

"Oh, of course you have time! Come sit down and at least eat a blood sausage!" Bidwell indicated the platter heaped Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница with sausages, but their color was so similar to the ebon collapsed blisters on the magistrate's back that Matthew couldn't have swallowed one if it had been shot into his throat from a pistol. "Or, here, have a pickled melon!"

"No, thank you. I am on my way to see Mr. Paine. Can you tell me where he lives?"

"To see Nicholas? Why?" Bidwell speared a segment of pickled melon with his knife and slid it into his mouth.

"Some business I wish to discuss."

"What business?" Bidwell now was truly suspicious. "Any business you have Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница with him is also business with me."

"All right, then!" Matthew had reached his zenith of frustration. "I wish to ask him to take the magistrate to Charles Town! I want him placed in an infirmary there!"

Bidwell cut a blood sausage in two and chewed thoughtfully on half of it. "So you don't trust Dr. Shields's method of treatment? Is that what you're saying?"

"It is."

"I'll have you know, " and here Bidwell aimed his knife at Matthew, "that Ben is just as good a doctor as any of those quacks in Charles Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница Town." He frowned, knowing that hadn't come out as he'd intended. "I mean to say, he's an able practitioner. Without his treatment, I'll grant you that the magistrate would have been deceased days ago!"

"It's the days hence I'm concerned about. The magistrate is showing no improvement at all. Just now he was speaking to me in delirium!"

Bidwell pushed his knife into the second half of sausage and guided the greasy black thing into his mouth. "You should by all means be on your way, then, " he said as he chewed. "Not to Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница see Nicholas, but to visit the witch."

"Why should I wish to do that?"

"Well, isn't it obvious? One day after the decree is delivered, and the magistrate lies at death's door? Your skirt has placed a curse on him, boy!"

"That's nonsense!" Matthew said. "The magistrate's condition has worsened because of this excessive bloodletting! And also because he was required to sit in that cold gaol for hours when he should have been in bed resting!"

"Oh, ho! His sickness is now my fault, is that it? You cast about for blame from everyone except Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница that to whom it rightly belongs! Besides... if you hadn't pulled your stunt with Seth Hazelton, the witch's case would have been heard in the public meetinghouse—which has a very comfortable hearth, I might add. So if you wish to blame anyone, go speak to a mirror!"

"All I wish to do is find the house of Nicholas Paine, " Matthew said, his cheeks flushed and his teeth gritted. "I don't care to argue with you, for that is like trying to outbray a jackass. Will you direct me to his house, or not?"

Bidwell busied himself Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница by stirring the scrambled eggs on his plate. "I am Nicholas's employer, and I direct his comings and goings, " he said. "Nicholas will not go to Charles Town. He is needed here to help with the preparations."

"By God!" Matthew shouted, with such force that Bidwell jumped in his chair. "Would you deny the magistrate a chance at living?"

"Calm your vigor, " Bidwell warned. A servant girl peeked in from the kitchen and then quickly drew her head back. "I will not be shouted at in my own house. If you wish to spend time hollering down Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница the walls at the gaol, I might arrange it for you."

"Isaac needs better medical attention than what he's getting, " Matthew insisted. "He needs to be taken to Charles Town immediately. This morning, if possible."

"And I say you're wrong. I'd also say that the trip to Charles Town might well kill the poor wretch. But... if you're so willing to gallop in that direction, you should load him on a wagon and take him yourself. I will even make you a loan of a wagon and two horses, if you will sign a note of Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница agreement."

Matthew had stood listening to this with his face downcast, staring at the floor. Now he drew in a deep breath, his cheeks mottled with red, and he walked purposefully to the end of the table. Something in his pace or demeanor alerted Bidwell to danger, because the man started to push his chair back and rise to his feet—but before he could, Matthew had reached Bidwell's side and with one sweep of his arm sent the breakfast platters off the table to the floor in a horrendous echoing crash.

As Bidwell struggled Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница to stand up, his distended belly jiggling and his face dark with rage, Matthew clamped a hand on his right shoulder and bore down with all his weight, at the same time thrusting his face into Bidwell's.

"That man you call a wretch, " Matthew said, in what was barely more than an ominous whisper, "has served you with all of his heart and soul." Matthew's eyes blazed with a fire that promised to scorch Bidwell to a cinder, and the master of Fount Royal was for the moment transfixed. "That man you call a wretch lies dying Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница because he has served you so well. And you, sir, for all of your wealth, fine clothes, and pufferies, are not worthy to clean the magistrate's boots with your dung-dripping tongue."

Bidwell suddenly laughed, which made Matthew draw back.

"Is that the worst insult you can construct?" Bidwell lifted his eyebrows. "Boy, you are a rank amateur! On the matter of the boots, however, I'll have you recollect that they are not the magistrate's. Indeed, every item of your own clothing was supplied by me. You came to this town near-naked, the both of you. So Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница remember that I clothed you, fed you, and housed you, while you are flinging insults in my face." He noted the presence of Mrs.

Nettles from the corner of his eye, and he turned his head toward her and said, "All's well, Mrs. Nettles. Our young guest has shown his tail, that's—"

The noise of the front door bursting open interrupted him. "What the bloody hell?" he said, and now he brushed Matthew's hand aside and hoisted himself to his feet.

Edward Winston came into the dining room. But it was a different Winston Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница than Matthew had seen; this one was breathing hard, as if he'd been running, and his face was drawn and pale in the aftermath of what seemed a terrible shock.

"What's the matter?" Bidwell asked. "You look as if you've—"

"It's Nicholas!" Winston put a hand up to his forehead and appeared to be fighting a faint.

"What about him? T^k sense, man!"

"Nicholas... is dead, " Winston answered. His mouth gaped, trying to form the words. "He has been murdered."

Bidwell staggered as if from a physical blow. But instantly he righted himself and his Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница sense of control came to the forefront. "Not a word about this!" he told Mrs. Nettles. "Not to a single servant, not to anyone! Do you hear me?"

"Yes sir, I do." She appeared just as stunned as her master.

"Where is he?" Bidwell asked Winston. "The body, I mean?"

"His house. I just came from there."

"You're sure of this?"

Winston managed a grim, sickened half-smile. "Go look for yourself. I promise you won't soon forget such a sight."

"Take me there. Clerk, you come too. Remember, Mrs. Nettles: not a word about this Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница to a single soul!"

During the walk in the early sunlight, Bidwell maintained his pace at a quick clip for a man of his size. Several citizens called a morning greeting, which Bidwell had the presence of mind to answer in as carefree a voice as he could manage. It was only when one farmer tried to stop him to talk about the forthcoming execution that Bidwell snapped at the man like a dog at a worrisome flea. Then Bidwell, Winston, and Matthew reached the whitewashed dwelling of Nicholas Paine, which stood on Harmony Street four houses northward of Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница Winston's shuttered pigsty.

Paine's house was also shuttered. Winston's pace slowed as they neared the closed door, and finally he stopped altogether.

"Come along!" Bidwell said. "What's wrong with you?"

"I... would rather stay out here."

"Come along, I said!"

"No, " Winston answered defiantly. "By God, I'm not going in there again!"

Bidwell stared at him openmouthed, thunderstruck by this show of impudence. Matthew walked past both men, lifted the door's latch, and pushed the door open. As he did, Winston turned his face and walked away a few strides.

Matthew's first impression was Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница of the copious reek of blood. Secondly, he was aware of the buzzing of flies at work. Thirdly, he saw the body in the slanting rays of vermilion light that entered between the shutter slats.

Fourthly, his gorge rose and if he had eaten any breakfast he surely would have expelled it.

"Oh... my Jesus, " Bidwell said softly, behind him. Then Bidwell was overcome by the picture. He hurried outside and around the house to vomit up his blood sausage and pickled melon where he would not be seen by any passing citizen.

Matthew stepped across the threshold and Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница closed the door to block this sight from view of the street. He stood with his back against the door, the fresh sunlight reflecting off the huge pool of blood that surrounded the chair in which Paine was sitting. Indeed, it appeared that every drop had flowed from the man's veins onto the floor, and the corpse had taken on a waxy sallow color. Matthew saw that Paine had been tied in an upright position, ropes binding his arms behind him and his ankles to the chair legs. His shoes and stockings had been removed, and Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница his ankles and feet slashed to sever the arteries. Likewise slashed were the insides of both arms beginning at the elbows. Matthew shifted his position to see that the deep, vein-slicing cuts continued down the forearms to the wrists. He moved a little closer to the corpse, careful that he not step into the crimson sea of gore.

Paine's head was tilted backward. In his mouth was stuffed a yellow cloth, possibly a pair of stockings. His eyes, mercifully, were closed. Around his neck was knotted a noose. On the right side of his forehead there was a vicious black Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница bruise, and blood had flowed from both nostrils down the white of his shirt. A dozen or more flies crawled over the gashes in Paine's corpse and supped from the bloody banquet at his feet.

The door opened and Bidwell dared enter. He held a handkerchief pressed to his mouth, his face gleaming with beads of sweat. Quickly, he closed the door at his back and stood staring numbly at all the carnage.

"Don't be sick again, " Matthew warned him. "If you are, I shall be as well and it will not add to Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница this prettiness."

"I'm all right, " Bidwell croaked. "I... oh dear God... oh Christ... who could have done such a murder as this?"

"One man's murder is another man's execution. That's what this is. You see the hangman's noose?"

"Yes." Bidwell rapidly averted his eyes. "He... he's been drained of blood, hasn't he?"

"It appears his arteries have been opened, yes." Matthew walked around to the back of the body, getting as close as possible without sinking his shoes into the quagmire. He saw a red clump of blood and tissue near the crown of Paine Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница's head. "Whoever killed him beat him first into insensibility with a blunt object, " Matthew said. "He was struck on the head by someone standing behind and above him. I think that would be a requirement because otherwise Paine would be a formidable opponent."

"This is the Devil's work!" Bidwell said, his eyes glassy. "Satan himself must have done it!"

"If that is so, Satan has a clinical eye as to the flow of blood. You'll notice that Paine's throat was not slashed, as I understand was done to Reverend Grove and Daniel Howarth. Whoever Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница murdered Paine wished him to bleed to death slowly and in excruciating fashion. I venture Paine might have regained consciousness during the procedure, and then was struck again on the forehead. If he was able to return to sensibility after that, by that time he would have been too weak to struggle."

"Ohhhh... my stomach. Dear God... I'm going to be sick again."

"Go outside, then, " Matthew directed, but Bidwell lowered his head and tried to ward off the flood. Matthew looked around the room, which showed no other signs of tumult, and fixed his attention on a Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница nearby desk. Its chair was missing, and probably was the chair in which Paine had died. On a blotter atop the desk was a sheet of paper with several lines written upon it. An inkpot was open, and on the floor lay the quill pen. A melted stub in a candlestick attested to his source of light. Matthew saw drops and smears of blood on the floor between the desk and where the chair was positioned. He walked to the desk and read the paper.

"I, Nicholas Paine, " he recited, "being of sound mind and of my own Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница free will do hereby on this date of May eighteenth, sixteen hundred and ninety- nine, confess to the murder of..." And here the writing ended in a blotch of ink. "Written sometime after midnight, it seems, " Matthew said. "Or close enough that Paine scribed today's date." He saw something else in the room that warranted his attention: on the bedpallet was an open trunk that had been partly packed with clothing. "He was about to leave Fount Royal, I think."

Bidwell stared with dread fascination at the corpse. "What... murder was he confessing?"

"An old one, I believe. Paine Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница had some sins in his past. I think one of them caught up with him." Matthew walked to the bed to inspect the contents of the trunk. The clothes had been thrown in, evidence of intention of a hurried departure.

"You don't think the Devil had anything to do with this? Or the witch?"

"I do not. The murders of the reverend and Daniel Howarth were—as I understand their description—meant to kill quickly. This was meant to linger. Also, you'll note there are no claw marks, as in the other killings. This was Book: Speaks the Nightbird 36 страница done with a very sharp blade by a hand that was both vengeful and... shall we say... experienced in the craft of cutting."

"Oh my God... what shall we do?" Bidwell lifted a trembling hand to his forehead, his wig tilted to one side on his pate. "If the citizens find out about this... that we have another murderer among us... we won't have a soul in Fount Royal by the end of the day!"


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