I departed the Adell estate a defeated man. For all my desire to protect the innocent Miss Adell from the questionable character who sought her hand, I could do nothing to help her. Such was my dismay at my abysmal failure, that I scarce paid heed to my movements. In fact, I dare say, I was halfway to the University lawn before I realized I had even left the Adell estate.
As I moved through campus, I glimpsed the assortment of students as they wandered between studies, quite ignorant of the larger issues that plagued the city around them. Even the tragic event of a student’s death the previous term was far enough from them that it held no thought in their mind for very long. I laughed softly at the realization that if I’d never met Donaghey Cross, I too, might be one of these unconcerned, blissfully ignorant scholars whose only concerned thought was given to upcoming exams.
My own concerned thoughts should have been centered on my studies and the professional path I had chosen. Yet, that was not to be, so long as I allowed myself to remain in the company of Mr. Donaghey Cross. As it was, I was consumed with the methods it would take to convince Miss Mary Adell of her impending danger. And, short of that, the words I might use to inform Cross that I had failed in my assigned task.
So bright was the afternoon sun and so pleasant the walk should have been, I was quite disturbed to feel so helplessly depressed on the inside. The greenery, the bird’s song, the laughter of courting couples strolling along the hedge, none of these could distract me from the dark thoughts that were consuming me. I had been shocked to learn of Corbet Adams’s death. I was petrified when we were presented with the suitor’s threat. I was aghast at the attack on Cross. And, if I were to soon learn that Miss Adell had met with some tragic end, I most assuredly would go mad.
I knew there must be easier ways to live one’s life, but, it did seem as if Donaghey Cross was determined to set himself squarely in the middle of life’s tragedies. And, I’m afraid, that his plans also included myself, however loudly I might protest to the contrary.
As I turned the corner onto the street that housed my rooms, I was startled by a shadow that passed behind me. Even in my distracted state, I was aware enough of what was going on around me to be on the alert. Very little had happened over the last few days to relieve me of my constant need of alert, and as the tragic events began to mount, I wondered if, indeed, the alertness of my subconscious would ever subside.
I spun around to find no person or animal on my heels, so, the answer to the passing shadow remained obscured. But, the thump of the heart in my chest stayed as a reminder. As I pushed open the door to my rooms, I was helpless to stop the chain of events that followed.
The passing shadow suddenly consumed the light in the doorway and as I spun around this time, I was met by Miss Mary Adell’s suitor, Manuel. I had led him straight to my door and now he blocked my only escape. A wild, mad look in his eye, his chest heaving and a long knife bared in his hand, Manuel took several heavy steps toward me. “I told you to stay away from my fiancée.”