“Denton’s – that would not endear him to potential spouses or their families,” James mused. It was a high-stakes gaming club, not quite as exclusive as the ones he himself frequented. “A gambler? This could explain much.”
“Why are you so interested in this unimportant fellow?” Alphonse asked. Bob Nostruther and Alistair Monk, two other friends he had been consulting, also looked at him enquiringly.
“Conway has been pointed out to me as a possible bigamist and a certain scoundrel. I want to rid London of his presence. Call it a deed on behalf of the London ladies.”
“Oho, that sounds interesting!” Alphonse instantly responded. “Count me in!”
“Me also,” both Bob and Alistair chimed in.
“That would be very welcome,” James was grateful for their support. “First we need to find out as much as possible about the man – where he lives, what his background is, what he’s up to. Then we get rid of him.”
“Murder, James? Or a duel?”
“I doubt that violence will be necessary. If he gambles, that might offer a possible lever to pry him loose. I’ll go to Denton’s myself tonight to see what he has been doing there.”
“We’ll come along to keep an eye on you,” Alphonse said, and the other two nodded.
“Fine, then – let’s meet here at ten and go together. And maybe you could ask your servants to find out what they can about Conway. My valet is already busy on that task, but the more the better. This is quite urgent.”
“Urgent?” Alphonse sent him a penetrating look. ”I get the feeling there is something you have not told us about this man.”
“He may prove to be dangerous to a friend. That is all I can say for now.”
“Well, then, until later!”
As he dressed for an evening in the gaming hell, James tried to envisage possible scenarios. He had little respect for gamblers, although he himself played quite frequently. James had a knack for figuring odds, and avoided strong drink while playing. For these simple reasons, he tended to win far more often than he lost, for he preferred the games where he needed his wits, rather than dicing and other games of chance. These merely bored him.
It would have surprised his solicitor and his family to learn that gambling provided a sizeable additional cash flow to James. Since the income from his estate and the funds his father had left him were sufficient for his needs, for the past three years James had established a habit of handing the extra moneys he had gained by gambling and betting to his friend Jonathan Durwent. Jonathan was working in the city since leaving university, and invested the sums for James in a variety of ventures, so far very successfully.
There had been handsome profits already, which were also re-invested. James liked the knowledge that he owned shares in ships and mines, shops and manufactories. Durwent had proposed shares in a new building venture recently, and James reflected that he might do worse than win extra capital at Denton’s tonight, to increase his stake. Lately he had not played much, finding it increasingly boring.
James knew when to cut his losses, if the cards occasionally ran against him, and was not worried about losing. He believed that he tended to win so often because he did not truly need the money on the table. Caring less allowed him to keep his nerve better than the more passionate or desperate gamblers around him.
Once he was married he would give it up altogether.
Married …? Where had that thought come from? The only woman he was currently interested in was already wed. Could it be his brother’s wedding that had put the idea of marriage into his head?
George was several years older, and the earl. He had to marry. James did not envy him the title, or the wealth and influence that came with it. But sometimes it irked him that so little was expected of him, the younger son. Even in his own mother’s eyes, he was merely the spare, the son who would