Defining Moment

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In Which a Murder Occurs

The morning dawned clear and bright, and the sun shone dazzlingly through the leaded glass windows of the disorderly library, lighting upon two figures who yet slumbered, one seated at his desk, his head upon his arms, his dark hair mussed, and the other curled upon the floor before a smoldering fire, a heavy shawl draped over her.

Eustace stirred, and opened his eyes, rubbing them, recalling where he was, and more slowly, the proceedings of the night before. Rising and stretching, he made his way through the stacks of books and general clutter to where Maggie lay, her bright hair scattered over the rug.

"Maggie –" he knelt and gently shook her. "Maggie, it's morning. We went to sleep in the middle of the battle of the Armada."

She exhaled a sigh and tugged the shawl closer about her shoulders, her eyes still closed. "I'm still tired..."

"So am I, but I'll make tea, and we should finish the English side at least," Eustace said, straightening with a wince, and moving stiffly over to the table upon which the tea service reposed. Stirring the fire to life, Eustace put on the kettle to heat as Maggie sat up and pushed her hair back from her face, offering Eustace a groggy smile.

"You are indefatigable," she murmured, tossing the shawl aside, and rising to her feet. "And you will wear yourself out." She straightened her dress and hair, and began to tidy up the room which was in disarray from their last night's work. It was a wonder they got any work done at all, so happy were they in their new-found love for each other, so long ignored by both parties; but as a matter of fact, Eustace asserted that he never did better work than that night when his heart was full of love, writing furiously by candlelight, opposite the girl he admired who sat sketching on the other side of the table.

Little did the two young historians know the sort of day they had awakened to; the sort of day that marked a great divide in their lives – another defining moment, if you will.

It was a Tuesday; an age seemed to have passed between yesterday morning when Maggie had first taken Eustace forth from his haunt and introduced him to Phillip, and the present time.

Phillip, since we must return our focus to him, much as we would like to forget that fickle individual and spend all our time with Eustace and Maggie, rose in the early hours of the morning, bent on his revenge. How awful it would prove none knew – not the people passing the silent mansion in it's awful grandeur, not the scholar hidden in the garret library, not the haunted, reclusive Esquire that even now was living somewhere in a far-off wing of his mansion... none but the young spurned lover, full of envy and hatred, and the tawny-faced delivery man, keen for intrigue, and riches.

"The door is never locked," the coffee man whispered, as Phillip, dressed in the habiliments of a traveling peddler, with a wide-brimmed hat, dusty cloak, and broken shoes masking his usual appearance slipped into the alleyway to which the side door of the Cadogan Manor opened. "The girl spends all her time in the upper stories of the house."

"And where is Cadogan?" hissed Phillip, his eyes red-rimmed and wild, for he had not slept last night, nor the night before, but imbibed strong liquor and plotted his vengeance with a devotion terrible to behold, proclaiming he would have no rest until Mortimer Cadogan Esq. lay dead in his own dark manor.

"That is your look-out, young Melville," cackled the coffee man. "I be not setting foot inside."

"But you'll keep a vigilant watch, as agreed?"
He nodded. "Even so, even so."

Phillip seized him by the front of his mouldering shirt and said,

"Do not fail me."

"Do not fail me," the coffee man wheezed, smiling toothlessly. "I too want a share of the Cadogan fortune."

"And you shall have it. What did we decide was to be done with the others? Leave them? Kill them? What did we determine? Answer me –! My mind is crazed with anger and I know not what I do!" Phillip vociferated, fumbling wildly for his pistol which he concealed under his ample cloak.

"We didn't," the coffee man whispered with maddening ambiguity.

"Didn't what?" demanded Phillip.

"Determine. Leave I also that to your good judgment, master."

Phillip cursed under his breath, and laid a shaking hand upon the latch.

"I will not be foiled by the girl my father once took under his protection! Better he pinched her nose and left her for dead than brought her here. Once she was a means to an end – now her end will come by my means!"

"Easy, easy. Remember who is the real threat."
"That boy. That scholarly weakling –" he gasped. "Kill him." The coffee man let out a throaty chuckle. "Calm down, Melville. You vowed to have Cadogan's fortune. So kill him, and it is ours. That fainting runt can't stand in our way, right."

"Right," Phillip ground his teeth, and swinging open the manor door, slipped within, his hand beneath his cloak at the ready.

Eustace and Maggie heard the gunshot, then a good deal of crashing, and then all was silent. Maggie and Eustace's eyes met, a silent horror mirrored in their gazes, and both burst forth from the study and hurtled down the stairs.

Doors that had not been opened for decades, furniture not disturbed for years, rooms that had not seen daylight since Cadogan retreated here to nurse his bleeding heart and foster his inward bitterness were irreverently defiled by Maggie and Eustace's hurried step, and frantic calls of, "Godfather! Godfather Cadogan!" The cries bounced madly about the empty rooms, echoing on and on, mocking their panic, and bewildering the two who strained their ears for a response and their eyes for any signs of what could have possibly happened. They searched everywhere, and yet found no sign of Godfather Cadogan's habitat nor traces of the reason for the gunshot.

Eustace nearly fell down the grand staircase, and bounded across the atrium, Maggie on his heels.

"What are you doing? There is nothing – " Maggie shrieked after him, but stopped short as Eustace yanked aside the heavy curtains that obscured what Maggie always assumed to be a window, revealing a dark doorway, and a shadowy wing of the house beyond.

"Come on," he urged, and beckoning her wildly after him, Eustace disappeared down the corridor, opening door after door, and calling the old man's name. Finally, Eustace threw open one last door, and strode into a large library, not unlike his own, but covered with papers that held drawings of – Maggie sucked in her breath – of the young woman in Eustace's picture. Throwing open a door and nearly falling headlong into a sleeping chamber, Eustace stopped short, and Maggie crowded behind him.

There lay Mortimer Cadogan, Esq., dressed in his turkish dressing gown, and lying in a pool of blood upon the rug. The bedclothes were mussed, and the curtains of the chamber still closed against the morning's intrusive light.

"Get out of here," Eustace said in a deep voice, but Maggie did not listen, remaining instead in the doorway as Eustace crossed the floor and knelt beside the old man. Taking his huge rough hand, Eustace felt for a pulse – the large wrist was limp and cold. Tears welling in his eyes, he looked up to see Maggie still standing there in shock.

"Get help," he choked. Maggie flew to obey, frantically opening door after door, like a trapped animal, in trying to get out of that terrible corridor. When she finally found herself in the atrium again, Maggie dashed to the side door, and threw it open, racing out into the street to do she knew not what.

A small crowd of people had gathered, and Maggie looked in panic from one face to another as they all peppered her with questions.

"What has happened?"

"We heard a gunshot!"

"Is Master Cadogan inside?"

"Who are you? Do you live there?"

Just then, Maggie ran headlong into a tall figure, and looked up into the face of -

"Phillip!" He looked as he always did, and Maggie put aside all thoughts of their past dealings, throwing herself upon him, and begging, "Phillip, we must get help! A doctor – a constable– something...!"

"What has happened?" he demanded, pushing her away from him, and shaking her. "In heaven's name, what is going on? There has been talk of gunshots –"

"My godfather is dead," Maggie gasped. "Eustace is with him now. Please – do something. We need a constable – someone to find the assassin... Phillip, send for the police, please, or do something, anything you think would help," Maggie said frantically as the crowd pressed close around the manor, demanding,

"What happened?"

"Is he dead?"

"Who is dead?"

"Phillip – please," she begged. "Get the police."

"I cannot," he said.

"Why on earth not?" shrieked Maggie.

"I wish more than anything that I could, but I fear the culprit is long gone, and it would do no use, and I cannot – "

"Did anyone see anything?" Maggie shouted above the hubbub. "Did anyone see someone come inside the manor? Anyone!"

But the commotion was too much to make any sense of the shouting, and when Maggie turned back, Phillip was gone. Maggie ignored the pressing bodies and grappling hands, and pushed her way back through the throng, gaining the door, and barring herself in. She called Eustace's name, and then made her way back to Godfather Cadogan's private rooms.

"Eustace!" She called. "Eustace, there's a terrible crowd outside, and I don't know what to do –" She stopped short, not seeing him at once, but a moment later sighting him in a heap upon the floor near the doorway.

"Eustace – !" Maggie fell to her knees by his side, and rolled him over, praying that he was alright, and in a fit again, not dead... He was pale and trembling, gasping for breath as Maggie did her best to hold him still and listen to his heart as it beat irregularly within his heaving chest.

Somehow the police were called, and they quickly dispersed the crowd, and began an orderly search of the premises, calling out,

"Any one in this house?"

"Here!" Maggie called, "He's in here!" Eustace groaned and subsided into a faint again as the tramping of booted feet was heard, and presently several officers entered the room.

"Keep back," the sergeant ordered his men, as he approached and laid a hand upon Maggie's shoulder.

"What is the matter with him? Was he shot too?"

"No – it's just these fits that come over him. He has been having them more and more often, I think they're brought on by agitation... my godfather is there," Maggie pointed.

"Get him out of the room, then," the sergeant ordered, and several officers came forward to bear Eustace out of the room. "Take him to the hospital. You had better go with him, miss, unless you can furnish us with any information about the incident."

"I know nothing except I was upstairs and heard a gunshot."

"Very good. Do you suspect anyone of this crime? A man has been placed under arrest – a witness said he was sighted in the alleyway in the early hours of the morning, a delivery man. My inspector will be here shortly. Do you know anything about it?"

Maggie's head was spinning, and she was almost driven distracted by suddenly hearing Eustace's voice protest as he was carried down the hall,

"Really, I'm quite alright – please... you needn't –"

"I don't know," she managed. "I will be at the hospital if I am needed further."

"May I take your names," the sergeant said, pulling out a notebook.

Maggie looked about her in exasperation.

"I am Mortimer Clancy."

"What relationship to the deceased?"

"Mortimer Cadogan's goddaughter. I am always called Maggie. The young man is Eustace Reid."

"Of what relationship to the deceased?"

Maggie realized that there was no use concealing the truth now.

"Mortimer Cadogan's son," she said, and left the room.

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