Why I followed Donaghey Cross from the lab that day, I still have no sane reason to offer. I believe, now, that I was swept away by his contagious energy and a burning need to know exactly what was going on with the Corbet Adams’ death that had him so obsessed.
We stormed from the building and moved quickly across the school’s lawn. I was hard-pressed to keep pace with his long stride, and he showed no concern that he might leave me lost, wondering which direction he had taken. But, I would not be lost and spent the next twenty minutes running after him.
Cross stopped, finally, when we came upon one of the city's finer homes. It wasn’t as large a home as the country estates and manors that are so often connected with visions of money and wealth. But, it was indeed grand. The masonry of the stone wall surrounding the property had been etched with delicate designs, flowing vines and ivy. Through the wrought-iron gate, a lush, exotic garden swallowed the lawn, sweet scents of pungent nectars drifted around our heads. And, behind the garden, nearly obscured from view—whether purposely or not—a stately home sat, its marble columns an exquisite façade that hinted to the grandeur within.
“This is the stately home of Mary Adell.” Cross made a sweeping motion with his arm. “Well, it’s the stately home of Mary Adell’s father, but as she lives with her father, it’s the same as.”
“Okay, so she lives in a fine house, how does this have anything to do with—”
Cross’s hand met my mouth and his hushing whisper brushed against my ear. “Look.”
The fury that blazed in my mind at being choked to silence came within moments of unleashing itself on Donaghey Cross. Had I not seen the intense concentration in his face and the sudden guarding of his frame, I might have let my reflex actions get the better of me. But, there was something in his stance, something about the way he protected the both of us from whomever he was now watching that stayed my hand.
“And, that, is Miss Mary Adell and, unless I’m very much mistaken, her new suitor…the one who took the place of the late Corbet Adams, right before he was the late Corbet Adams.” The tremors in his hushed voice and the manner in which he held himself against the stone wall, made my curiosity a stronger emotion than my anger.
I slid myself along the wall, holding close to the granite, until I could just edge my face to the first gap between the iron bars. I took care that no other part of my body would be visible to the couple that we were spying on. I could see Miss Adell, who, even from as great a distance as we stood, I could tell was indeed a handsome woman. Her poised stance spoke of the grace that so often comes to practiced dancers and I’m quite sure if we had been closer, there would have been no doubt, as to why such a woman would have such ardent and persistent suitors.
The gentleman, who Cross believed to be Miss Adell’s powerful suitor, turned, suddenly, heading for the very gate where we stood. In the few seconds I watched him walk, I couldn’t help but note his exaggerated movements, his roguish stride, the way he carelessly addressed Miss Adell over his shoulder.
“Quick!” Cross’s long fingers pulled at my shoulder. It was then that I realized his face must have peered through the bars above my own and upon seeing the exiting suitor, panic at being caught set in.
I was pulled along the edge of wall until we turned the first corner. Cross pushed me back against the granite and peered around the corner, keeping his long splayed fingers across my chest. “Now!”
Cross turned me around the corner, his hand guiding me from between my shoulder blades, until we were walking side-by-side, a good ten yards behind Miss Adell’s suitor. When we passed the gate that would have led us to the Adell home, I understood that our intent was to follow the suitor. A sudden heaviness sank into the base of my stomach. “Mr. Cross, what exactly are we doing?”
“We are following Miss Mary Adell’s suitor.” His tone was so garbled that I couldn’t identify whether what I heard was annoyance, excitement, impatience, anger or some mixture of those.
“I can see that! Why are we following the suitor?”
“Why, to see where he leads us, of course!”