The closed sign dangled in the window of Digby’s shop. Anthony ignored it and tried the door. It was locked. He took out the lock picks that he always carried in his boot and went to work. He was inside the darkened shop in ten seconds. A bell chimed when he opened the door.
“Who’s there?” an anxious voice called from the rooms above the ground floor. “Go away. The shop is closed for the day.”
Anthony walked across the shop and halted at the foot of the stairs.
Digby looked down. He seemed nervous.
“Sorry to intrude,” Anthony said. “I’m Stalbridge. I trust you remember me. I was here about the Milton.”
Digby peered at him. “I remember you well enough. What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for Mrs. Bryce. Have you seen her?”
“Not today, thank the Lord. I’ve had enough trouble.”
“You sent her a message earlier this afternoon.”
“I did no such thing.”
“Are you certain of that, sir?”
“Of course, I’m certain.” Digby scowled. “I had no reason to send her a message.”
“Are you sure that she didn’t arrive around five o’clock today?”
“I just told you, she wasn’t here. Now please leave, sir. I’m not feeling quite myself.”
“Are you ill?”
“Not now.” Digby put a hand to his brow, looking worried. “At least I don’t think so. Had a bit of a spell earlier. Don’t know what happened. Must have fainted. Came to on the floor of my back room. Decided it would be best to take to my bed.”
“You were unconscious for a period of time?”
“Yes. Half an hour or so at most. What of it?”
“What time did you return to your senses?”
“See here, I wasn’t looking at a clock.” Digby gestured in an irritated manner. “I suppose it must have been shortly after five.”
“May I take a look around your back room, Mr. Digby?”
“Why?” Digby’s expression darkened with deep suspicion.
“I am concerned for Mrs. Bryce’s safety.”
“Then you must look elsewhere. I told you, she wasn’t here today.”
“I’ll just be a moment,” Anthony assured him.
He walked into the back room of the shop and turned up a lamp.
“See here, sir,” Digby yelped from the top of the stairs. “You can’t just barge in there and rummage around.”
Anthony ignored him, studying the cluttered back room with a growing sense of impending disaster. A carton of books lay on its side. It looked as if it had been kicked over. He went closer to the carton, pausing when he saw a glove on the floor. An icy chill tightened his insides. He picked up the glove.
“What have you got there?” Digby demanded from the doorway. “It looks like a lady’s glove.”
“It is a lady’s glove.”
“How did that get there?” Digby looked both annoyed and baffled. “I’m the only one who goes into this room.”
“An excellent question.” Anthony prowled through the cartons and spotted a crumpled handkerchief. “Is this yours, Digby?”
Digby reluctantly came closer to get a better look. “No. I don’t carry fancy embroidered handkerchiefs. That’s a gentleman’s style.”
A faint, sweet scent drifted up from the handkerchief. Not perfume, Anthony thought. It took him a second to place the odor. When he did, a wave of dread threatened to consume him.
“I believe I know what caused your fainting spell this afternoon, Digby,” he said. “Someone used chloroform on you.”
“Devil take it, are you certain?”
Anthony was about to respond when he noticed the muff. It was on the floor near the alley door.
The ice inside him expanded, chilling the blood in his veins. He scooped up the muff. The notebook and pencil that Louisa carried everywhere were still inside.
He thought about Mrs. Galt’s comments regarding Louisa’s visit to Swanton Lane. He reached into the muff, took out the notebook and opened it to the most recent entry.
The first thing he saw was the name Quinby. Next to it was a small arrow that pointed to another name: Madam Phoenix.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER he knocked on the back door of the little house on Swanton Lane.
A stern-featured woman looked at him through an iron grate.
“Gentlemen are not allowed on the premises,” she said.
“My name is Stalbridge. Anthony Stalbridge. I’m a close friend of Mrs. Bryce. I believe she is in grave danger. I need your help.”