"Alright Fitzroy, let's hear why the job in London shou--"
"I have information."
"Excuse me?" I looked up from the ledger where the candidates' names were listed and at the nervous man sitting across the table from me.
"I have information. I'll tell you everything I know, just don't send me. I'm not ready to leave. Don't send me up there."
I crossed my arms like I'd seen Brooks do so many times when he thought one of the men was attempting to wheedle a benefit out of him. "No deals when it comes to employ, you should know that. What information do you have?"
"Really, Miss. I can't leave here yet. I. . .I. . ."
"What information do you have?"
I put down my pen.
"What do you know? And this better not be made up."
Fitzroy coughed and then readjusted himself in his wheelchair by clapping both hands on the armrests and lifting himself up and around. "The morning of the day he, you know, I was tidying up the room I share with Tiller. It was early yet. Not quite light out yet. Just getting there. I'm an early riser. Not as early as Tiller, but still. "
I nodded, encouraging him to go on.
"Well, Montgomery, he was pacing up and down the hall like he was out taking the morning air in the woods or something. I didn't pay him any mind. He had some peculiar habits and we all just let him be."
"Where was Link?"
Fitzroy shrugged. "No idea where Archie was. I was in my room. Tiller was already off to the kitchen to bring us back some breakfast."
"Go on. Montgomery was pacing the hall."
"Right, and I was tidying. And then suddenly, I heard a god-awful shrieking. Split your eardrums, it could've. And it just went on. You know, not just one scream but a whole battery. Well, I wheeled myself to the door quickly-like to see what the matter was, but when I got there, there wasn't anybody in the hallway. Not Montgomery and not anybody else either. I know who it was, though. No doubt. I know who was shrieking like that."
So did I. My hands began to flex into fists.
"Who?" I had to hear it out of his mouth.
"That new housemaid, Amelia. And not long after, I see Montgomery rushing out. With his kit. I guessed he was after going back to his place in the woods. After that, none of us saw him again until, well, you know."
If the anger that had boiled under the surface before was hot, the one that broke the surface now was cold. Stingingly, bitingly cold. I'd wring that woman's neck. I'd put my hands round her throat and wouldn't stop squeezing until she was as limp as a dishrag. How dare she barge her way into our lives and take one of my men from me? How dare she!
"Why didn't you say anything before now? Certainly, you knew what you heard was important."
He shrugged. "I thought about it, but, damage done and all. Didn't know what it would help."
"You can go now, Fitzroy."
"It's not going to be me, is it? You're not going to send me up there?" His fingers danced across the table top and fear sat in the wide-opened eyes that stared imploringly at me. In truth, I did have half a mind to send him if he thought keeping back that kind of information wasn't going to land him in trouble, but that could wait. There were perhaps others who had heard that screaming and not said a word.
YOU ARE READING
England 1921. For fifty handicapped veterans left without home or job after WW1, the only person standing between them and utter destitution is Olivia Altringham. Lacking sufficient funds and a support network, Olivia has managed to keep her vetera...