Excerpt 1

Startled, Allen stepped back to make room for the angry woman who burst forth from the tent. Mumbling an apology, he averted his gaze the moment he saw the hurt in her soft, brown eyes and the streaks of make-up running down her mature face. Brushing past him, the Duchess hurried away before blending into the shadows of the enormous tent.

Left alone, he hesitated. Perhaps now wasn’t a very good time to question the Master. There had obviously been some dispute and, no matter if it was just some domestic quarrel, would undoubtedly leave him in an uncooperative mood. So Allen, out of respect for the investigation and their marriage, turned to leave, when he heard, “Detective?”

. . .

Seated uncomfortably in the comfortable seat, Allen cleared his throat. “So it’s quite alright if you’d prefer I return at a later time.”

“I thought this investigation was one of utmost urgency. Isn’t that why you’ve chained my family to this godforsaken hell?”
“I’m sorry. I know it’s not you or any of your employees who committed the murder, but we’re getting desperate here. The chief himself got your injunction.”
“Are you always so obedient to blind men?”
“Only when there are lives at stake.”

The thin man sighed as he covered his eyes. Silence creeping into the room, the two men sat quietly, one sullenly and the other with frustration.

“Detective, you must understand, I have a small child that I’m responsible for. Dinah, she’s only four years old.”
“No, I do understand, I just-”
“I don’t enjoy divulging this information, and I pray you don’t repeat this to anyone, but Dinah is soon to be an older sister.”
“Congratulations,” he said pathetically.
“So you can see why I’m particularly eager to leave this town, can’t you?”

Allen nodded. Of course he could. But it was strange; he hadn’t known the Duchess had been expecting another child. By all means, she certainly hadn’t looked like it, but maybe that was why she had been so upset.

“I give you my word I’ll do my best to lift the injunction.”
“Thank you.”

Of course, there was little he could actually do – even with his seniority, it didn’t mean that the chief was going to listen to him – but if he could at least put the Master at ease, then that was enough. He’d take what he could get. Maybe now that he’d soothed him some, the investigation would go by faster.

Ducking out of the tent, he reached into his pocket to fish out a cigarette, when a young voice said, “Hey! No smoking!”

Looking up, he saw Dinah pulling along Chester. Chester smiled apologetically at him, making Allen blush. How could someone call a girl so pretty a witch?

“You can’t smoke! It smells bad, and Papa says it’s bad for Chester!”
“I’m sorry. I’ll take it out…”

Allen stared at Chester’s figure. It was normally so willowy and petite, but today, for some reason – perhaps she had had a big lunch today – but her midsection was decidedly prominent. A hand covering the bump, she looked away with embarrassment.

Oh.

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