Blackstone and the New World

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Authors: Sally Spencer
Patrick O’Brien express was that he could not provide a better life for his family,’ Alex Meade said. ‘Oh, don’t get me wrong, you’ll find the apartment pleasant enough – but Mary O’Brien was born into better.’
    ‘So Mrs O’Brien comes from a rich family, does she?’ Blackstone asked.
    ‘The family has a nice house in the city, a mansion on Long Island, a small army of servants and three or four carriages,’ Meade said seriously. ‘But that’s not rich by New York standards.’
    ‘Certainly not! New York rich is when you maintain a large ocean-going yacht. New York rich is when you throw a large party and all the men who attend it are offered cigars rolled in hundred dollar bills.’
    ‘New York rich is when you’re trapped somewhere between the vulgar and the obscene,’ Blackstone said sourly.
    ‘Now you’re getting the picture,’ Meade said. ‘Of course, Mary’s family want to be rich – they’ve made that perfectly plain.’
    ‘By the way they’ve gone about expanding their empire. Mary’s father is a cigar manufacturer, and her two elder sisters made what I’m sure he would call “good” marriages, which is to say they married not only within their class but also within the cigar industry.’
    ‘Conquest by marriage.’
    ‘But I take it that Mary wasn’t prepared to follow in her older sisters’ footsteps?’
    ‘No, she wasn’t. She was a rebel right from the start – someone who wanted to make her own mark on the world. So she told her father she was going to train to be an actress, and he told her if she did, he’d cut her off without a penny. That was meant to bring her to heel, but it didn’t. Knowing her as I do, I expect it made her even more determined to follow her dream.’
    ‘So she trained to be an actress, and ended up playing Lady Macbeth on Broadway,’ Blackstone said, remembering the poster on the wall of Inspector O’Brien’s office.
    ‘How did you know that?’ Meade asked, astonished.
    Blackstone grinned. ‘I’m a detective, remember,’ he said. ‘A famous Scotland Yard detective.’
    ‘I still don’t see how you could have . . .’
    ‘So was Mary any good as an actress?’ Blackstone asked.
    ‘I’m too young to have ever seen her on the stage myself, but Patrick – who was very proud of her – kept some of her reviews.’
    ‘And what did these reviews say?’
    ‘The only one I remember clearly was on her Lady Macbeth – which I still haven’t worked out how you could possibly have known about,’ Meade said, studying the other man’s face for clues.
    Blackstone grinned again. ‘A magician never reveals how he does his tricks,’ he said. ‘So what did the reviewer say about her?’
    ‘He said that despite the fact she was actually far too young to play the role, she was stunning in it. And I think she must have been, because even though she’s not exactly beautiful – as you’ll soon see for yourself – she had scores of admirers, and dozens of marriage proposals, several of them from millionaires.’
    ‘And yet she chose to marry Patrick O’Brien, an honest – and therefore relatively impoverished – policeman.’
    ‘Yes, she did. And you’d have understood the reason for that if you’d ever met him,’ Meade said, with a sudden passion. ‘Patrick wasn’t particularly imposing physically, and you certainly wouldn’t have called him handsome, but there was an honesty and integrity about him which could be quite overwhelming at times. It was almost like . . .’ He struggled to find the right words. ‘It was almost like being in the presence of a column of pure white light.’ Meade looked down at his hands, as if he thought he’d embarrassed himself. ‘I think I must sound rather foolish to you,’ he mumbled.
    ‘Not at all,’ Blackstone assured him. ‘There’s nothing wrong with—’
    ‘We’re here,’ Meade interrupted, as if eager to leave further discussion on

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