Chase sighed. "Please do not ask me to investigate some girl. I have my standards."
Chase was Nicholas's closest cousin, and the one to whom he would turn for advice on some girl when the day came. As for investigating—Chase had created a profession for himself In doing discreet enquiries.
"No, although when the time comes, that is not a bad idea. I want to talk about uncle's death. I think it is time to address that again."
Chase's expression turned sober. "Are you sure you want to? Think hard. If it was as we suspect, the culprit is probably among us. Not Kevin, but another."
"I have thought hard for too long. Your investigation after he died was well along when we stopped it. I think you should dust off those notes and lists of yours. If there is a killer among us, I want to know."
"Once you know, then what?" Nicholas sat taller.
"I'll decide then."
"It won't do to have a member of a duke's family hang, cousin."
That had been part of the problem from the start. Justice should be blind to pedigree, but it wasn't. Possibly, a judge would avoid a hanging if a jury found one of his other cousins guilty of murder. Which was not likely to happen, what with juries also bowing to ducal prerogatives.
"Aside from the matter of trials and punishments, I need to know," Nicholas said. "Don't you?"
Chase hesitated before answering. "Of course. Perhaps it will be an obscure business associate, if it was anyone at all."
Chase leaving the cause of death an open question was a nice touch, but they both believed uncle had neither fallen by accident from that roof walk fourteen months ago, the way the official report read, nor thrown himself to his own death, the way some whispers claimed. He was pushed.
Chase sidled close to the desk and paused. His gaze lit on the letters and he sent Nicholas a mischievous smile. Then he lifted the newspaper from the desk.
"Educating yourself on the radicals' demands?"
"I read many papers. Uncle Frederick subscribed to that one. I let it continue."
"And you read it."
"I need to know what is claimed and thought, even by those elements I may not agree with. It is how it is done, if a member of Parliament is responsible."
Chase smiled sympathetically. "No one expects you to be him."
"I hope not. I'm not nearly eccentric enough."
"I was not talking about Uncle Frederick."
No, he was talking about Nicholas's father. The true heir. The one who should now have the title. The one who had prepared for it while Nicholas enjoyed life as a man-about-town. An image came to him, of the last time he saw his father. He hated that the image his memory summoned was always the last one.
He pretended Chase had not broached that subject. "You mentioned business associates. I also want you to look into several of the partnerships uncle burdened me with. I think my partners in two of them are—" Nicholas was about to express his suspicions when the study door opened once more. Powell, the butler, entered, bearing a silver salver with a card upon it. From the butler's expression of excitement, Nicholas wondered if it was the king who had called. "I thought you would want to see your caller, Your Grace." Powell thrust out the tray.
Nicholas lifted the card and read it. The arrival of the king would not have surprised him more. He looked at Chase. "She is here. Right here. In this house. Now."
"Stop babbling. Who is here?"
Nicholas handed over the card. Chase's expression fell into one of shock. "Iris Barrington. I'll be damned."
"We have been looking for her for over a year, and now she just knocks on the door?"
"She must have heard about the will and her inheritance. Where else would she knock?"
"After a year? We had to ferret out the other two women who inherited from uncle. For this one to just arrive on the breeze is suspicious."
"Too easy, you mean."
"Hell, yes, too easy." Nicholas felt his cravat and checked his waistcoat.