"I can't. I must report this."
"Take me to Melinda Crawford, then. While they do what must be done here."
Rutledge forced himself to look away from Bella Masters. The sight was already seared in his mind.
This was how Ben Shaw had looked. And so many others . . . But without the terrible indignity of the hangman and the warden and the witnesses.
"I'm sorry." It was all he could find to say. He wasn't certain whether the apology was to Bella Masters, or her husband. He walked out of the hall, and closed the door behind him.
Masters said, "It doesn't matter, you know. The doctor told me the last time I was in London that the infection is moving quite rapidly. I won't live to see Christmas, even if they cut off my leg. It's taken hold, the gangrene."
"Brereton told me you were improved-"
"He wasn't in the room during the consultation. And I lied to him afterward. I didn't want Bella to travel to London with me, you see. I didn't want Bella to know the truth. Not yet. Not until I'd made peace with it myself. I was afraid."
Rutledge, grateful for the blessed darkness of the drive, asked, "Why didn't you stop her? If you knew what was happening, in God's name, why did you let it continue! why did you let it continue!"
Raleigh Masters turned to face him across the bonnet of the motorcar. "I didn't know in the beginning, not until Webber was already dead. The second victim. She came up late to bed that night, smelling of wine-depressed, on the verge of tears. And then-suddenly I didn't want to know. I didn't have the courage. I told myself the time might come when I would be glad to drink wine by the fire and go to sleep forever. But the time has has come, you see. And it's too late. She was right. I could never kill myself." come, you see. And it's too late. She was right. I could never kill myself."
He opened the passenger door. "If there's any mercy left in you, get me out of here!"
But the lights from the hall seemed to pursue them down the drive until the trees finally blotted them out. And still they blazed brightly behind each man's eyes.
ALSO BY CHARLES TODD.
A Test of Wills
Wings of Fire
Search the Dark
Watchers of Time
Legacy of the Dead
A Fearsome Doubt
The Murder Stone
A Cold Treachery
A Long Shadow