Rita gripped the basin on the escritoire with white knuckled hands in an attempt to stop the shaking. The water swirled, a dull pink, as the blood leached out of the once white cotton cloth. The rug in which she had concealed Connor’s body had done an admirable job of keeping the floor stain free, but the silk damask of the settee was stubbornly refusing to come clean.
The aging Madame had managed to drag her employer’s corpse to the steam driven elevator in the corner of his cabin, and had ridden with it down to engineering where Bucky had helped to hide it. Connor had said no one was to know, but Rita simply could not face the tragedy without some help. With Just in the SSA for his father’s funeral, she had no one else. The Chief Engineer was quick to understand the precariousness of the situation, and he was discreet. After they had found a barrel large enough, and found a quantity of high-grade scotch to fill it, Rita shucked her blood-drenched dress. The two, as lovingly as possible, folded Connor’s long legs into the barrel and bathed him in the amber scotch. Rita had never heard a sound as mournful as the hammer on the nails that sealed the barrel’s lid over Connor Graves.
Leaving Bucky with orders to destroy the rug and her discarded dress, Rita returned to the elevator. The only physical evidence that remained of the murder was the stained settee and Rita was damned if she would rest before it too had been restored to order.
The front of her shift was soaked through and bore the marks of the night’s horror. Her usually flawless chestnut hair was a corona of wisps and drooping tendrils. All trace of the mannered, contained and highly refined woman had been wiped away by an assassin’s knife, and what was left was shaking with bone-deep ague. A sob escaped her lips, and Rita raised one fist, biting her knuckles to stop the tears. There would be a time for grieving, but this was not it.
Pulling herself together, Rita wrung out the cloth and carried the basin to the French doors on Connor’s beloved taffrail. The assassin had entered through them earlier, and they stood open still, letting in the rotting stink of London. Connor had always hated London, and now Marguerite would join him in that hatred. She flung the pinked water over the balcony and into the Thames with a grimace of disgust.
Tomorrow they sailed for America. The thought of telling Just was a lead weight in her belly as she attacked the blood stained settee with fresh cloths and clean water. The crossing would be difficult as well, but her early life in a brothel had prepared her for the gentle lies and the masking of true feelings that would be required. She knew how to smile through pain, and flirt past despair. Those skills never truly went away, no matter how long they lay unused.
Briefly, she wondered if the Palace would revert to the time honored template for a brothel now that Connor and his vision of egalitarianism were gone. She shook her head in emphatic denial of that idea. The only method she now had of honoring her dear friend and mentor was in maintaining his shining ideals.