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11

I know that it is highly unlikely that I can talk you out of this venture, Emma said. Nevertheless, I feel I must try. There are so many risks involved.

Louisa got to her feet and went to the garden window. I have taken risks before.

Not like this. You have never investigated a murder.

That is precisely why I cannot pass up this opportunity. A story about the shocking murders of two women in Society that can be tied to Elwin Hastings is simply too important to ignore. Men like Hastings rarely pay for their crimes. This is a chance to drag one to justice.

Keep in mind that you do not know for certain that Hastings murdered anyone. You have only Mr. Stalbridges opinion of the facts to go on at this point. I told you, he may have his own reasons for wanting to fix blame on someone.

Louisa looked out into the garden. I do not think that he is pursuing this investigation solely to clear his own name, Emma. Frankly, I do not believe that he gives a fig for Societys opinion of him. My intuition tells me that he is genuinely convinced that Hastings murdered Fiona. He is determined to obtain justice for her.

Perhaps you want to attribute such noble motives to him because you would like to believe that the two of you have something in common, Emma said gently. Both of you seeking justice, et cetera, et cetera.

I suppose you may be right. Louisa turned around. But either way, I am determined to see this through.

Do not mistake me, dear, I have nothing but admiration for your work as a correspondent, but I fear that you are becoming reckless in your pursuit of justice in the Polite World.

I appreciate your concern, and I promise you I will be careful.

Emma sighed. It is your old anger and fear of Lord Gavin that drives you. The man is dead, but he haunts you still.

I will not quarrel with you on that account. What happened last year is a nightmare that will be with me to the end of my days. Perhaps I have allowed it to push me into a risky business. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that I am doing what I was meant to do. My work as I. M. Phantom satisfies something in me that nothing else can equal.

You are determined to go forward with this arrangement you have made with Anthony Stalbridge, arent you?

I have no choice. Louisa gripped the edge of the windowsill. She fell silent for a moment. He must have loved her very much, Emma.


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