Episode 9 - "Antonio's Itinerary"
by Camille LaGuire
But then a group of about five or six young women came giggling and sauntering up from the direction of the park. The man fixed his gaze on them as though they might all be runaway baronesses. With a sharp glance in each direction, he headed in their direction.
Plink picked up the suitcases and stepped right out onto the walk and headed in the other direction, striding purposefully, head down, like a man with a long walk to the train station.
When she reached the nearest corner she turned, not looking back for fear of him seeing her face. No one chased her.
After a block her fear let up, and the suitcases and questions began to weigh her down. After two blocks, she lost her fear altogether and was lost in thought.
Fact: these men had not expected her to arrive with a suitcase at Antonio's door. Therefore they had not gone to his house to look for her. And that meant they were not drawn by the rumor that she was running away with Antonio. She had not sent Antonio to his doom with her frivolous story.
Another fact: These men were searching the house. And they said Antonio had lied to them, and they had lied to him. Ergo, he had a relationship with these men, and they were in his house for something to do with Antonio.
And quite possibly none of this had anything to do with Plink. Perhaps it had been Antonio who had inadvertently sent Plink to her sooty, iron-railed doom. Or nearly did.
That seemed much more likely.
Antonio was a professional friend and confidant. He knew everyone's secrets, and if he was above blackmail himself -- which she couldn't honestly say he was -- he would certainly be of great interest to a criminal sort of person.
And it depressed her a great deal to think that this was about Antonio, because the boss man -- Mr. X, as she thought of him -- had said he had the police fixed.
She didn't believe that for one minute. The Imprish police were stolid fellows. Hard working. Not corrupt. She couldn't imagine a stubborn bulldog like Sgt. MacGreevey looking the other way to help a gang of foreign crooks. The man wasn't even forgiving of a little matter of a pony in a teashop!
But that chief superintendent, the one who looked like a politician, had been so determined to dismiss Plink's story of killers. A politician, given the word from those above to keep something quiet, would easily, thoughtlessly, redirect those under him, or even let them do their work, and bury the results.
She, a baroness, would be all right. She didn't think he would intentionally cover her murder. But would he have any compunction at all about a crime against a foreigner like Antonio? No, she was sure he wouldn't.
And that made her angry.
She stopped and set down the suitcases. She was on a major street now. She could call a cab. She could head straight for the police and bash them in the face with whatever it was in Antonio's suitcase. Lord that case was heavy. She'd thought it must have books in it at first, but as she walked, it had seemed more like anchors. Or perhaps, given his relationship with gangsters, hot lead. But now, as her arms ached and her already sore feet throbbed, she was of the opinion that Antonio had a suitcase full of a special kind of condensed gold, twice as heavy as regular.
She shook out her arms and looked around for her purse to find money for a cab. The purse was in her suitcase, though, so she pulled out Antonio's wallet instead. He'd have money for a cab, wouldn't he?
It was a large wallet, more of a travel document case, really. There was a couple of fivers right in the front pocket and when she pulled them out she saw his tickets and reservations....
A reservation in the name of Anton Nestlegraf.
Odd. Was he planning to meet this fellow? And if so why was Antonio carrying the man's reservation? And how convenient that they both had similar first names.
Plink searched further in the wallet to find the passport. She was in luck. She found three.
Three passports: One for this Nestlegraf fellow, one for Antonio, and one for a Countess Antonia Bishnoria. But only one travel ticket.
The passports contained very similar physical descriptions -- weight, height, eye color. And suddenly Plink recalled one of Antonio's impressions. He was so funny and so real when he pretended to be an extravagant exiled countess. All he needed was a dress.
She knealt right down there on the busy street and opened his suitcase. There was nothing heavy inside at all. Just some clothing and personal items -- but there was also not as much space inside as it appeared outside. She decided not to search for the secret compartment there on the street. Instead she shut the suitcase and hailed a cab.
She did not go to the police.
Sergeant MacGreevey could say what he liked about her riding ponies through tearooms, but he really didn't know the half of it. That had been just a warm up for when she rode a charger into the male-only equestrian sabre charge competition of the Annual Cavaliers of the Queen's Boot Tournament, wearing a long fluttering banner which read "Votes For Women." She'd won, too, at least according to Minnie Haverstock. The offical timekeeper had refused to clock her time, but Minnie had a fine timepiece of her own.
The Barons of Beethingham did not shrink from a challenge, even if they weren't as fond of duty as others of the same rank.
Plink told the cabbie she needed to catch the one o'clock boat train, but first to make a short stop in the theatrical district along the way.
Stay Tuned For Episode 10 - "A Diplomatic Expedition"
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