‘No,’ Bradamant said bitterly. For a moment her face betrayed genuine emotion: anger, bitterness, and sheer thwarted curiosity. ‘I was given the strong impression that it was better for me not to know.’
Irene worked out times and dates in her head. ‘Then, when you met myself and,’ she almost said Kai, but caught herself in time, ‘Mr Strongrock, on our way to our assignment, this was after you’d discovered the book was a fake?’
‘It was,’ Bradamant agreed. See how honest and forthcoming I’m being, her vague smile said, her expression under control again. ‘I thought that if I could intercept you on the way, then I could try to find the real book without your interference. Pardon my phrasing.’
‘Of course,’ Irene said blandly. She was conscious of the three men listening. ‘So after that, you decided to come through anyhow?’
‘I had the advantage of already knowing this place,’ Bradamant said. ‘I didn’t expect you to work as fast as you did.’
Irene glanced round at the three men. Somehow they shared a similar demeanour, whatever their reaction to this new information. Perhaps it was a kind of aristocratic poise, an inbuilt certainty that the world was going to cooperate with their needs.
She wished she shared it.
‘Wyndham is the obvious candidate to have created the fake, since records show he had the original book,’ Vale said briskly. ‘Inspector Singh, if you would – ’
‘Of course,’ Singh said. He pulled a sheaf of papers from his briefcase. ‘The clerks and difference engines at the Yard have tabulated records of Lord Wyndham’s last few weeks. He only obtained the book two and a half weeks ago, at an auction of the late Mr Bonhomme’s effects. And it was certified as genuine by the auction house at the time, which resulted in a quite remarkable price being set on it.’
Vale nodded. ‘I managed to trace one of the proxy bids to Lord Silver, through the solicitor that he employed. We can be sure of his interest.’
‘There were some threats after the auction, too,’ Singh went on. ‘This all resulted in the book being under tight guard. So if he had the fake made, then it was within that time period.’
‘Could it have been done that quickly?’ Irene asked, startled.
Vale leaned back in his chair. ‘There are precisely three forgers in London at the present moment who could have done it,’ he said. ‘And even they would have taken at least two weeks to do so.’
‘So there are,’ Singh agreed. ‘And a delivery came from one of them—’
Vale held up a hand. ‘Matthias?’
‘No, Levandis,’ Singh said smugly.
‘I thought Matthias was the one he’d dealt with before,’ Vale said.
‘Possibly why he chose not to deal with him this time,’ Singh said. ‘In any case, one of our people was watching Levandis at the time – the Severn matter, you know – and she confirms that he was making daily trips to Wyndham’s house. The servants agree that he called, but they had him down as a workman doing some alterations on the panelling in Wyndham’s study. They can confirm that was where he was spending his time daily. He sent a final delivery to Wyndham three days before Wyndham’s murder, and didn’t visit again after that.’
Vale nodded. ‘Convenient.’
‘Sometimes we get lucky,’ Singh agreed. ‘She wasn’t able to determine what was going on at the time, but given this other business . . .’
‘Wait,’ Kai said, frowning. ‘Assuming that Wyndham had a forgery made for some reason and then displayed it, what did he do with the original?’
‘He hadn’t given it to Lord Silver,’ Irene said thoughtfully, remembering the encounter in Wyndham’s study. She saw Singh’s lips twitch in an expression of distaste. ‘Silver was searching Wyndham’s study and his safe, and I think it was the book that he was looking for. Maybe Wyndham had intended to give it to Silver, or promised it to him.’
‘If Silver’s involved, there could be all sorts of reasons Wyndham might have had a fake made,’ Bradamant agreed. ‘If the book was hugely valuable, Wyndham might have wanted to safeguard it by only displaying the fake. Or perhaps he meant it as bait for Silver to attempt to steal it; we know that the Fae love things they can’t have. Also they had a very close, if antagonistic relationship at times – the papers have made a great deal of that. Maybe Wyndham wanted to show off by loaning Silver the real thing, or had even promised him it to repay a favour. Or maybe he meant to fob him off with the fake. It’s impossible to know without questioning Silver.’
Or maybe the copy was meant for Alberich, Irene thought. Was that where Alberich fitted in all this? But if that was the case, then why didn’t Alberich already have the book?
‘Lord Silver was certainly Wyndham’s best-known ally and contact,’ Vale was saying. ‘As well as one of his best-known enemies. Fae relationships.’ His lips pursed in disapproval. ‘But in that case, the book may still be in Wyndham’s house.’
Singh was shaking his head. ‘If it is, sir, then it’s very well hidden.’ Irene suspected the sir was due to the presence of outsiders. ‘We, ah, searched the place thoroughly after Lord Wyndham’s murder. We did find a number of interesting items and documents, which have been enlightening with respect to other cases, but the Grimm book was not there.’