Thomas Cresswell személy
„Hurry along, then,” I said, grabbing my orchid and securing it safely in my journal. „I want to sit by the window.”
„What now?” I asked, losing patience.
„I usually sit by the window. You may have to sit in my lap.”
Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes”—he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper—“you’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.”
Thomas eyed the silver buttons lining the front of my black riding habit, coaxing a scowl from me. His look implied my choice of attire—including a pair of matching breeches—should make for an easier time walking about.
“I’d like to see you carry on with a corset digging its bones into your rib cage,” I said, returning the favor and eyeing his clothing. “And manage a skirt still covering most of your breeches and whipping around your thighs in this wind.”
“If you’d like to see me out of my breeches, simply ask, Wadsworth. I’m more than happy to accommodate you on that front.”
“I cannot believe you’d buy me a beautiful flower only to ruin it with smoking,” I said, scowling. “How incredibly rude.”
Smoking in front of a girl without her permission was against social mores, but Thomas didn’t seem to care for that rule one bit. I set the orchid down, staring at him through a fringe of slitted lashes, but he only took another drag, slowly letting the toxic air out before dismissing the waiter.
He reminded me of the caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, sitting upon his giant mushroom, lazing about without a care in the world. If only he were small enough to squish beneath my boots.
“That’s a disgusting habit.”
“So is dissecting the dead prior to breakfast. But I don’t scorn you for that unseemly habit. In fact”—he leaned closer, dropping his voice into a conspiratorial whisper—“it’s rather endearing seeing you up to your elbows in viscera each morning. Also, you’re quite welcome for the flower. Do place it on your nightstand and think of me while dressing for bed.”
“What I’m talking about is trying to solve a riddle or crime. Emotions play no role there. They’re too messy and complicated.” He leaned on his elbows, staring into my eyes. “But they’re good in other situations, I suppose. For instance—I’ve not yet figured out the formula for love or romance. Perhaps I shall learn one day soon.”
“The young lady has made her case, Doctor. From this point forward I shall pretend she’s as capable as a man.”
I glared harder. “Pretend I am as capable as a man? Please, sir, do not value me so little!”
“Also,” he continued before I exploded, setting his teacup down on its matching blue and white Staffordshire saucer, “as we’re now treating each other like equals and peers, I insist on you calling me Thomas, or Cresswell. Silly formalities needn’t apply to equals such as we.” He grinned at me in a way that could be considered a flirtation.
Not to be outdone, I lifted my chin. “If that’s what you want, then, you’re permitted to call me Audrey Rose. Or Wadsworth.”
Uncle stared up at the ceiling rose, sighing heavily. “Back to our murder, then,” he said, removing spectacles from a leather satchel and securing them on his face. “What else have either of you got for me besides the promise of a splitting headache?”
“My name is Robert James Lees. I am a medium. I communicate with spirits who’ve passed on. I’m also a spiritualist preacher.”
“Oh, good.” Thomas wiped his brow in a gesture of relief. “And here I thought you were simply insane. This’ll be much more fun.”
“Seems a bit odd, don’t you think?”
“No, Wadsworth,” Thomas said blandly, “sending a kidney through the mail is quite ordinary. I do it at least three times a week to remain fashionable. You ought to try it. Really impress the girls at tea.”