The Affair of the Porcelain Dog

Free The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday

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Authors: Jess Faraday
they found 'im in that alley next to Crossing'am's," Nate finished. He drew a finger across his throat. "Cut open like a slaugh'er'ouse pig."
    My first instinct was to dance a little jig. Wilson had been a menace. Ironically, the East End would be a much safer place short this one copper. But the combination of that quiet inner voice and the way Nate was looking at me made me think. Crossingham's doss-house was right across the street from the lamppost where Goddard and I had met every Friday for the past four months. That alone meant nothing. But Goddard had been both blunt and persistent in his questioning about my attack. When I'd refused to give up Wilson's name, he'd badgered me for other details from which one might identify a man. It had been almost as if he'd taken my beating personally. Who was Cain Goddard, I wondered, that he could divine Wilson's identity from my insensible ramblings in the space of a few short hours, and mete out such decisive justice?
    Who was he that he actually would ?
    "Fuck me," I said.
    "Fuck you in the arse, mate, half the East End saw him beatin' on yer."
    "They fink I done it?"
    Nate shushed me, glancing around as if expecting a bevy of blue-bottles to descend any moment.
    "I didn't say nuffin'. I won't say nuffin'. But a wise man would disappear for a while, at least until they finds someone to hang for it. Don't yer fink?"
    "I s'pose," I said. The day suddenly seemed much colder. I jammed my hands beneath my arms and tried to stomp the numbness from my feet.
    "'Ere, take this," he said, slipping me a stack of coins. He smirked. "Last night were a good one."
    "Every night's a good one when you look like this." I flicked the brim of his hat.
    He smiled, but then his face went serious.
    "D'yer have somewhere to go?" he asked.
    Did I? God alone only knew. Goddard had given me a bed the night before and invited me back for lunch. If he really was behind the constable's murder, then he'd put me in this position and would bloody well owe me a place to hide until it all went away. And if he wasn't, maybe he could be convinced to offer me shelter for a night or two until I decided what to do. But I was expected for lunch, and I was quickly coming to the conclusion that whoever Cain Goddard was, he was not to be kept waiting.
    I made it back to York Street as the Great Clock was striking one. With the prescience that would prove to be his hallmark, Collins opened the door even before I'd reached the top stair. Once again, he took my coat and hat and ushered me into the morning room.
    "Mr. Adler," Goddard said as the manservant closed the doors behind me. He stood before the arched window on the opposite wall, light filtering around him through an artful arrangement of tall, leafy plants. "Right on time."
    He crossed the polished wooden parquet with the subdued grace of a predator. He had forgone the formality of a jacket and waistcoat, but his linen shirt and crisp woolen trousers were expensive enough to make the point this was no mere academic.
    "I trust that the events of the morning have been to your satisfaction," he said.
    "I--ah--the eggs and coffee did go down a treat, sir, thank you, sir," I stammered.
    Though my suspicions were growing regarding his role in the constable's murder, there was no profit in sharing them at that point. Cain Goddard held my fate in his hands. If my suspicions were correct, he was an incredibly dangerous individual. If I was wrong, he was still my only hope until the matter of the murdered constable was put to rest. Mentioning I'd suspected his guilt could make an enemy of him.
    "Sit, please."
    Knees shaking, I lowered myself onto a divan upholstered in olive-colored velvet. Goddard sat beside me and pressed a glass of sherry into my hand.
    "It's a dangerous world." He tutted, shaking his head.
    "Drink," he commanded. I did. "I say, if an officer of the law can't even walk his beat without finding himself sliced up like a slaughterhouse pig..."

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