Jack O' Connell held his head in his hands, his elbows resting on the dark mahogany table. In front of him, several newspapers were laid out, their bold black headlines screaming for his attention.
To his left, was his mother, his sobbing mother, who held a lace handkerchief to her face and continued to cry as she had been doing so since early that morning. She hiccupped and whimpered and sobbed and sobbed, and though her performance may have been a bit theatrical, no one could doubt its sincerity.
To his right were two more women. The one sitting closest to him, his fiancée, Veronica Winstore, was not exactly crying, but she did have her head bowed and her hands were clenched tightly together, almost as if she were praying. Gentle tears dribbled down her cheeks. Her golden hair was pulled back away from her face and her pretty blue eyes were staring mournfully down at the floor.
On Veronica's other side was the only woman at the table who did not have tears in her eyes, although her alternative was not much better. Elise was small, with big brown eyes and blonde hair, though of a less golden variety then Veronica's. She was sitting, staring into space, a deadened expression in her eyes. She was wearing a plain, gray dress, with a delicate sweetheart neckline that drew attention to her pretty mouth, and normally, her pretty smile. Her mouth was pressed into a flat line, and she looked as though someone had just pulled her world out from under her. Which, actually, they had.
The four of them sat in the elegant dining room, collapsed into four chairs with deep crimson velvet cushions, their feet sinking into expensive oriental carpets. On the wall next to them, a tall grandfather clocked chimed into the silence, its deep melodic bell telling them all it was nine o'clock. The dining room had a window, which looked out onto the busy London streets. Horses and buggies and cars drove by, the people outside cheerfully dressed in shades of gray and black as they meandered down the cobblestones, as if this was any other normal day. The room spoke of taste and elegance, of old money more importantly, but its residents less occupied with the beauty of the room and more focused on the grainy white and black newspapers that had been laid on their doorstep that morning.
All four of them stared at the newspapers that were laid out on the table in front of them. The silence in the room, save for the hitched breathing of his mother and the incessant chanting on the clock, was driving Jack slightly mad. Gingerly, he reached out and picked up the closest paper – the London Daily News. On the grainy cover, a thick black headline screamed one word. MURDER.
Jack's jaw tightened as he examined the front cover. His dark, black eyes narrowed on the photograph, taken of William at the latest Museum benefit. Jack and William looked somewhat alike; while William's hair was blonde and his features lighter, and Jack had his father's black hair and eyes, their features were similar. They had the same crooked smile, the same prominent jaw and cheekbones. It was excessively eerie to see his brother's picture like this in the paper, not in the least because it meant he was dead, but also because William looked an awful lot like himself.
The paper went on to proclaim that late last night, young William O'Connell was found dead in the midst of London's slums. While this was normally a tragedy, it was a double blow for London was William O'Connell was the heir to his father's fortune, and thereby the richest man in all London. Frank O'Connell, William's father, was the owner of O'Connell Enterprises, a business which made its money by importing and distributing cars from France. William O'Connell was a darling of society that year, the year that centuries changed and all of a sudden the 1800s had become the 1900s, and everyone had to adjust to a new century, and new things like cars and telegraphs. William O'Connell had an old world charm about him that appealed to the masses ; he had a pretty wife, pretty young children, and a charming smile. His wedding had been the event of the century, and now it seemed his funeral would be as well.
There was a knock on the door, and Jack got up from the table, pushing his chair back with a screech. Finally.
He walked out of the dining room, through the sitting room and passed the ballroom before finally reaching the door and the front foyer. He swung the door open, staring into the swollen, red face of the local policeman.
Jack regarded him calmly for a moment before promptly slamming the door in his face. The sound echoed through the silent room and Jack had to consciously unclench his fists, his mouth pressed into a thin, hard line. He stared blankly at the closed door.
"Mr. O'Connell…" the man called hesitantly through the thick oak door. "You have to understand…"
Jack stood, staring at the closed door, willing himself not to put his fist through it. "I'm sorry, sir," Jack said, his voice cold and hostile. "But I do not understand. I do not bloody understand at all."
"Sir.." the policeman began. "I'm terribly sorry about how you were informed. We don't know how the paper got a hold of it before we did and I---
"I fail to understand," Jack interrupted, his voice getting louder and louder as he talked over the policeman, his tone icy with contempt, "how the Daily News reporter seem to have gotten to the scene before you did, my honorable constable. I fail to understand what idiotic person deems to acceptable to allow the family of a victim to be notified of the event by a bloody newspaper!"
"Sir.." the policeman said, sounding pained. "If you'll just open the door…."
Jack took one swift step towards the door and flung it open. The startled policeman stared blankly at him, and Jack looked him up and done in a quick, furious glance. He had a chubby, porcine face that was sweating profusely and flushed a bright red. He had on a regular blue police uniform, a shiny gold badge displayed prominently on his shoulder. His rather large stomach protruded out sharply from his narrow hips and shoulders, and Jack was tempted to ask if he was pregnant.
Deciding on his course of action in one swift motion, Jack grabbed the man by his collar and threw him up against the door.
"Ah!" the policeman yelped, wiggling under Jack's viselike grip. "Put me down! I say, listen to me! Put me down!"
Jack held the man up, his arms easily flexing and holding the heavy load against the dark wood of the door. His muscles strained against the white constraints of his dress shirt, and the black tie that hung around Jack's necks rivaled the blackness of his eyes.
"No," Jack growled, his dark eyes narrowed and murderous. "You listen to me. If I were a woman, I'd slap you and as a man I'm tempted to take a pistol to your face. Do you understand that, constable? Do you understand how fiercely I despise you right now?"
The man nodded, his many chins trembling. He has a tiny little mustache growing over his thick lips, and it shivered as the man's lips trembled. "Yes, sir, Mr. O'Connnel," he squeaked out. "If you'll just put me down…"
Jack let go. The man fell to the floor in a heap, gasping and rubbing his hand around his neck. He looked up at Jack, who stepped over him without a second glance.
"Now, constable," Jack continued, his voice brisk and flat as he stepped over the man and walked back into the cool interior of the townhouse. "If you'll just come inside and be so kind as to inform my mother as to how exactly her eldest son died. If the Daily News hasn't already done it for you, I suppose."
The policeman winced, glaring after Jack, still slumping in the doorway. This was going to be even less fun then he'd thought.
Fifteen minutes later, Jack was again tempted to hang this man by his ears.
He slammed his fist down into the dark wood of the dining room table. The loud noise startled both his mother and Veronica, who jumped, but did nothing to arouse Elise, who just continued to stare blankly. The papers, still laid out haphazardly on the table, jumped slightly as the table rocked.
The policeman was almost afraid to meet his gaze. Jack leaned forward, his chin jutting out, his teeth almost bared in a feral growl. When he spoke, each word was like a knife, flying across the room in brutal fashion. "What the hell do you mean, no suspects? My brother was shot dead in cold blood and you mean to tell me you haven't the slightest clue whose responsible? Not even a guess?"
The policeman, Officer Kernel, winced and rubbed a hand down his pudgy face. "I mean, there are no suspects as of yet, sir. There was no one at the scene but a passerby who stopped when she heard shouts, but says she say nothing."
Jack cursed, loudly under his breath, abruptly standing up from the table, unable to sit still. He paced the room in silence, his angry footsteps pounding in the silent room.
After a few minutes of furious pacing, he paused and looked at Officer Kernel. "Do you truly have no suspects, Officer?" he asked, his voice low. His dark gaze was locked on the other man's, his features almost tortured. "Or do you have a suspect that you just cannot name?"
The policemen kept his gaze for as long as he could; but finally, he had to look away. "We have no suspects," he repeated stubbornly, but in his hesitation, he had thrown Jack a bone.
"None at all?" Jack clarified, his pacing suddenly frozen. He turned to face the man, slipping his hands into his pockets. His dark eyes were narrowed intently, his voice mockingly innocent. Still seated in the chair at the table, Veronica gently placed her hand on his. Her light blue dress was old fashioned, with a corset that pushed her able bosom up and spilled it over the neckline of the blue empire dress, its sleeves slightly ruffled. The blue brought out the blue in her eyes, and Veronica turned her face toward her fiancée's, her voice gently and soothing. "Jack, dearest," she soothed, her voice like a caress. "Be calm, please.."
Jack looked down at Veronica's soft, white hand over his larger tan one. Slowly, staring at it, he pulled it out of her grasp. Embarrassed by the silent rebuke, she let her hands fall back into her lap and tilted her head down again, silent.
Again, he locked gazes with the constable. "How could you not have any leads?" Jack asked, and instead of being challenging, or demanding, this time his voice was almost pleading. His hands dropped to his sides, lost. His brother was gone, and they had no idea who was responsible for it.
Mrs. O'Connell, who had been quietly sniffling to herself, suddenly broke into loud, gasping sobs. Trembling, she got up from the table and rushed from the room, the large oak door swinging besides her. With a reproachful look at Jack, Veronica got up and chased after her. Elise remained, staring blankly at the grandfather clock.
The policeman stood and wordlessly put on his hat. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice softas he headed towards the door. "Truly, I am."
Jack said nothing and the man showed himself out, leaving Jack and Elise alone in the large, expensive dining room. A crystal chandelier, with dangling crystals shaped like raindrops, twinkled above them.
Jack fell back into a chair, across the table from Elise. The clock bell chimed again. Ten o clock. Jack's heads fell once again in his hands, his tan fingers raking through his black hair.
"Jack," Elise suddenly said, and Jack was so startled by the sound of her voice, he glanced up, his eyebrows raised.
His sister-in-law stared at him, her brown eyes still empty, but gleaming with something, something he couldn't name. She reached across the large table, her small hand resting on its own as she leaned towards him. His eyes locked with hers.
"You must find out who did this," she said, her voice low and quiet with a lack of emotion. She paused as he nodded, fever blinking back tears. Her voice lowered, slightly; it was husky now with unseen emotion. "You must find out who did this," she repeated. "And then you must kill them."