A few days sleeping on my couch and Cross was beginning to sound like his old self again. His movements were still weak, but he was clearly on the up swing. And, in the meantime, the papers wrote a very discouraging account of the fire, noting that it was believed that a certain Donaghey Cross had perished among the inferno, but that his remains had not yet been uncovered in the rubble. Cross chuckled as I read the article aloud.
“That should set our friend’s edgy nerves free. Now, I’m sure, he believes that he’s at liberty to do just as he pleases!” With the most peaceful look on his face, Cross closed his eyes, his characteristic grin stretching across his lips. He was honestly enjoying the charade.
So, there I was, with a dead man on my couch and a murderous man roaming free and me, the uninterested man stuck in the middle of it all.
“Can you tell me, honestly, what purpose any of this serves? How is your death going to aid us in uncovering anything?” I tossed the paper to floor beside the couch Cross was reclined upon.
“My dear, Martin, it’s perfectly simple.” Cross reached cautiously over the edge of the couch to pull the paper to him. I could see the color drain from his cheeks. Though he made no complaint, it was clear that his injuries were far from healed.
“Our friend, like any other self-important criminal,” Cross continued when the color had returned to his face and his breath had steadied, “will scour the papers for news of his crime. The more dramatic the descriptions, the more praise he awards himself. He will see it as a triumph, a badge, or proof that he really is a mastermind.”
“I still don’t see—”
“Though the article never mentions his name, he will know the story is speaking of his actions, of his power, this will give his ego a very unnecessary boost, which, in turn, will make him very careless.” Cross paused for a moment, pulling the paper up to his face. “He will see this as a mark of his strength and will be less concerned about shielding himself and his actions. He got away with murder, surely he must be untouchable.”
“Okay, I follow you now. But, this whole plan of yours is suddenly dependent on the level of one man’s ego to outweigh his level of caution.”
“When have you ever known a careful man to commit murder? A careful man would ensure his hands and face were nowhere near the scene. No, our friend is not a careful man, his ego will betray him.” Cross folded the paper neatly and laid it on the back of the couch. “And, when it does, we’ll be around just to see and hear what those secrets are!
“I am convinced that this suitor of Mary Adell is the actual murderer of Corbet Adams, in fact, I’m certain of it. The only thing that remains is to uncover exactly how he did it and why.” Cross slipped into the unconsciousness of sleep.
As I watched the knots from his furrowed brow release, it struck me exactly what we were going up against. If Cross was right about the ego of the suitor, then it could mean that one, even two deaths were just a means to bolster his reputation. But, what if he found out that one of those deaths, that he was using to prop up his credibility, turned out to not be a death at all? What would it mean for Cross if this man suddenly realized he was still alive? What would it mean for me when the suitor found out I had given Cross refuge?