The Noble Coachman Chapter 6

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Chapter 6
Family Secrets?

 

Two hours later, Kip returned to the rear of Parliament to find his father. He walked to the steps and waited. Finally, his father exited the building.

As they approached Kip’s coach, his father asked, “Where’s your driver? Has he run off?”

“Father, your driver, is here,” he said as he took the wheel peg and lifted into his box with a broad smile.

Shocked but laughing, Earl Caldwell said, “Are you not supposed to open my door?”

“Have you forgotten how they operate, milord?”

Lord William Caldwell climbed in, astonished at what just occurred. He remembered his son had written that he was a coachman, but never did he think he’d see the likes of such doings. He thought how someone of his prestige would be embarrassed to have a son in that chosen trade. There were too many hurts in the family’s past to give that weight. He still had hoped, if he didn’t push, that Trevor would return to their home, the land with its people and his obligations. Sadly, he thought how the death of his daughter had forced his son’s forbearance from nobility and life in general. He was most happy to see him looking better.

As they arrived at the fine-dining area within the elite hotel, Kip allowed the hotel’s footman to exit his father. He parked the team around back and entered through a side door. His father was already seated.

When he came to the table, his father stood and readily shook his son’s hand.

“And how are you, milord?” Kip asked.

“Trev, none of that. ‘Father’ it will always be to you and your brother. Perhaps in the company of others, I will permit it but never when it is just us. I am . . . I guess I should say, I am taking what the world gives me. My heart is not in Parliament any more, but the alternative is worse. You look rather well. That is a fine coach, and your team is exquisite. I see you haven’t lost your love of the Friesian. You seem to have taken to your chosen path with great flourish.”

“Father, it is what I needed. I still need it; in case you are wondering why I had to see you. I cannot say when I will return, but I believe ‘never’ has left my words. How is Augustus?”

“He is finally starting to take an interest in life again, too. He has a young lady whom he is seeing, now. She lives here in London. Any day I expect to hear him tell me to find him a flat. Where are you living, son?”

“I am here, in London. I have been since I left home.”

“All this time? Where?”

“I have a very nice stable and small flat on the edge of London. I rent two holding stalls in the center of town where drivers can keep their teams and coach in the city if the job warrants it. Mostly, I go to my flat. Father, I like my anonymity and want to keep it that way.”

“If you wish. I will say that you are not an embarrassment to me as you are, and never will be, no matter your decisions in life. I know you would have well thought it through. Happiness is all I want for my boys. Although the honor of the family heritage and name is significant, it can never be more consequential than our loved ones. My, how those thoughts have changed over the last year.”

“Was there ever any news on Mary’s killer? I watched the papers for a long time.”

“Trev, I wanted to believe that the assailant was someone whom we knew was there that night. The police were confident he was not because of the missing eye. Inspector Marshall was there for a week or more. He found a boot print that did not match anyone there. It was not a gentleman’s shoe, either. It was quite fresh. However, hidden in the dirt from the ice house floor, he discovered a human eyeball. The detective said it had to be the killer’s, as it was recently removed.” His father hung his head. “The detective felt your sister fought bravely and gouged his eye out.” Tears welled in both their eyes. It was unbearable to think of the struggle she had endured.

“Yes, I knew that much when I last talked to him as I was leaving. An eye. An eye! It now makes sense!” Kip exclaimed.

“What are you talking about, Trevor?”

“In her final moments, Mary gasped out the word ‘I.’ I thought she was trying to tell me something that she did. She would have started with ‘I.’ I don’t think she was totally conscious at the time. I spoke with her, trying to get her to talk to me. I listened to the rattle in her throat but heard nothing further. An eye. She was trying to tell me he had one eye. Is this detective still at the Met?”

“Yes, he lets me know from time to time that nothing has been uncovered.”

“This murderer may have gotten a glass eye. I’ve since stopped looking for only an eye patch on someone. Father, I will never give up. I hear more than people know in this trade. This is why I had to talk to you.”

“Yes, yes. Go on.”

“Do you know a Lilith Caldwell?”

“I remember hearing about the birth of a daughter long ago. I have no idea how she would be related. It is some distance from you or me. Why?”

“She may have disappeared last night. She was attending a ball. Two men escorted her there. I was hired to drive her cousin, Lucy Blevins, niece to Sir Thomas Blevins. My rider was to meet her cousin and be introduced to the second gentleman. Miss Blevins felt that there were some harsh words between Lilith and her gentleman. I had been asked to stay for an hour to see how Miss Blevins thought she would enjoy her evening.  An hour later, she came looking for me. Her cousin, Lilith Caldwell, and the two men left. Shortly, I will go to the police and tell them what I know, which is nothing. I never saw the men or the coach, although I think a friend, another driver, may have noticed the coach and coachman. We, the coach drivers, are investigating that. I have been worried about the fact that this is a second Caldwell woman to … well, I don’t know what will be the outcome. I find it difficult to believe that this may be a coincidence. I have to ask you is there anything in our family’s past that could lead to these horrendous crimes against our family? I wonder if you were or are being blackmailed.”

Lord William Caldwell looked stunned.

“What is it, Father? Tell me.”

“No, son. I am not being blackmailed. We cannot have another tragedy in this family. She must be found. I will see her uncle today. I will also talk with the Metropolitan. It does sound hard to not be coincidental.”

“They are aware of it, of course. I do not know if they know of your connection with that family. I believe there are other Caldwell’s in London, who are not of us. Miss Blevins was trying to explain, and even she does not know how she is exactly related to Lilith but knows there is an Earl in her lineage.”

Lord William Caldwell pulled a bit of paper from his brief and wrote his address on it for Trevor. “I want to know what you know.”

“As I, you. Father, if we meet in some type of gathering, please do not recognize me. I am called Kip. I used mother’s surname of Kipling. My friends think I am Trevor Kipling, and they call me Kip.”

“I say . . . are you Kip, that coachman?”

“You’ve heard of me?”

“And handsomely, I might add. You have been recommended in my company several times. Of course, I have our driver Briggs. I am proud to know of the gentleman of honor that you have remained. Thank you, son.”

“Flicking a card out of his jacket and handing it over, “Father, I have heard about you, too.”

“Rumors of me? Under what circumstances?”

“I believe you have a lady friend. I am happy for you. Shouldn’t you make an honest woman of her?” Kip grinned.

“My God, my son, a driver, knows of my romantic interests. Is there nothing sacred?”

“Among drivers, no. However, we are a brotherhood, and it never goes beyond our own boundaries as gentlemen.”

“I met this widowed woman when I was very low after Mary’s death.”

“Father, I understand more than you know. I do not need for you to tell me. As for your reputation in secret liaisons, you are very low on the interest list. You are a gentleman widower; she is a widowed lady. There would be no interest at all if you were not an Earl. I wish you the best and hope you find some happiness, yet, in this life.”

“How about you, Trev? Any lady in your life?”

“There is one who I have recently met. I am quite smitten, but we’ve only just started to speak.”

“Son, don’t lose a chance to be happy. We do not know when it will be taken from us.”

“Thank you, Father. I think I know that all too well. I must return you to the realm. Tell Augustus I am in good health, and in London. I do not know how well he could keep my secret, so I doubt I will tell him. I really have the best of two worlds, Father.”

“He knows what you are doing. I told him when you wrote. Neither of us knew you were here. If he moves to London, he will have his own driver as well. I will talk with him.”

Kip and his father finished their lunch with a bit more news to each other before he was driven back to the House of Lords. They promised to stay in touch.

 

Arriving at the Metropolitan, Kip entered the building and spoke with an officer at a front desk about the Lilith Caldwell investigation. He was told that the detective was not in and to seek him in the afternoon. Leaving, Kip decided to ride by the Blevins home, checking whether the detective was there.

 

He knocked, and the door was opened. “I am not expected. I do not wish to intrude, but might the detective be here? I could not catch him at the Met.”

Lucy asked him to enter, and she would find out if he could be seen.

“Let me ask, Kip. The detective’s name is Marshall. He and Uncle are talking. I have had my interview. Please wait.”

“Marshall? Very good, miss. Wait …, please. Can you tell me if either man with your cousin that evening wore an eye patch?”

“Yes, one did. How did you know? I only remembered it this morning.” Lucy disappeared for a moment and returned with her uncle.

“Kip, this is fortunate timing for the inspector. Do come in. I think he was about to find you next.”

Kip handed his top hat and gloves to the footman and followed Sir Blevins into his study.

Introductions acquitted; everyone sat but Kip. He could feel the eyes of the Inspector recognizing him. He wondered if he was being looked at as a suspect. Please don’t ask me if I am Lord Trevor.

“Do sit, Kip,” said Sir Blevins.

“I prefer to stand, Sir.”

Kip felt his father would meet the Met detective and find that the same man was on Lilith’s case, as on Mary’s. He would not bring it to light now. Kip wanted to speak with the Inspector alone.

“Kip, is it?” The detective began, squinting.

“Yes, sir. Excuse me but is it detective or inspector?”

He smiled and knew exactly who he was talking to, but why was he using the name, Kip? Why was he dressing as a coachman? “It’s actually Detective Inspector Marshall. Tell me in your own words anything you witnessed that relates to this case.”

“Sir, I witnessed nothing at all. The only person that I had a brief occasion to see was Miss Lilith Caldwell. I did not see either gentleman with her. Upon learning of a potential mystery about two hours later, I asked the other drivers to speak with each other about the driver or coach. I will be seeing them sometime today and will let you know if we have anything.

“Sir Blevins has given me your address should I need anything further. Thank the drivers for any support they can offer. We shall speak again.”

“Indeed. Good day, then.”

 

Kip passed up several hailings as he headed just outside of London’s center to The Coachman’s Box. It wasn’t near lunch yet, but he needed a pause in time to collect himself. The eatery was nearly deserted. The long trestle tables waited to be occupied, smells wafted from the kitchen, and men were rolling in barrels of ale. He picked the smallest table in the darkest corner after ordering from the bartender, who he knew. Kip set his hat beside him and placed his head on the table. Countless images were vying for his attention.

“You, alright there, lad?” asked the bartender setting two pints in front of him.

“Just a headache, Liam. I think these will fix me up,” Kip lied as he picked up the first mug.

“It should be quiet in here for another hour. Take your time, son.” Liam walked away.

Mary was clamoring for attention. The man who attacked her was making his presence known through her eyes. It was frightening. A chill ran down his back, causing stomach cramps. He didn’t know if the next visions were going to be from her eyes, as he rutted atop her. Kip slipped out the back door and vomited. Bent over, hands upon his knees, drool spilling from his mouth, Mary was back again, happily picking her flowers. She was speaking to him. He knew that now. He wasn’t going mad. All the images, until now, were ones he could have seen when she lived. This one was new, and he knew it was an image only she could project. Mary, you are with me.

Finally, a breath of fresh air carried him back into the eatery on the wings of a small white dove with dimples. Squeaks was visiting at his insistence. Perhaps she was coming to his rescue. He thought he was a whole person until he met her, but virtues, he hadn’t thought about for a long time, were peeping their head above the parapet since he first talked with her. Virtues such as prudence, tenacity, and humility. However, her world was going to collide with his someday; he could feel it.

 

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