What’s the Game: Hammersmith (twenty-one)
What’s the Game
“Jane, are you feeling braced?”
She lowered her voice; she didn’t bother whispering. Curach, again sitting across from them, in a cab once more, could not only hear…his posture—leaning, hands on knees—showed him an active listener.
Jane was looking sleepy, but she absorbed the question. She widened her eyes, and with a palm flat against the interior flocking, pulled herself upright.
“Is that what you mean?”
Aimee, having meant nothing very portentous, stole a glance at Curach. Curach proved himself equal to gleaning conversation from the chaff of obscurity.
“Madame Mossbunker,” he remarked, “is likely enough to bung you in a parlor, just to wait dinner. Don’t think she’ll insist on chewing the fat, being that she,” he broke for a laugh, “is a foreign lady, is what it comes down to. I haven’t myself been asked up to the manor house, so I can’t say…”
“Wait,” Aimee interrupted. “Mr. Curach.”
“Ah! Curach to my friends.”
“Is there a park, or quiet street, we might get out and walk…?”
He set up at once, banging the cab’s roof.
They left Jane, to rest and breathe the freshened air, at the edge of a fountain, centered in an octagon of paving blocks; and strolled, keeping themselves in her sight, the promenade that enclosed the whole—tulip beds, piazza, founder straddling a boulder, over which water streamed.
“Curach, what’s the game?” Aimee said.
He beamed. “Why, ma’am, it’s the big one. Now, if I were to prepare myself a pipe, would it bother you to have me smoke?”
“No, please,” she said. “Do you mean, because we’re at war?”
“Well, I mean, if you like, that Mossbunker, in the ordinary way, hasn’t got much to do with us. And why should any of them,” Curach cocked his head in the direction of the Schuylkill, busying himself for a moment with a match, “give a thought to the low end of town, or cut bargains with Mr. Piggott, in the ordinary way of things, except, you’ll appreciate… Mossbunker wants his man in the governor’s seat, and he wants his man in the senate, and filling his pockets with useful cronies, so, he wants all the custom can be sent his way…and he can do very well, rich as he is, building a town of his own, and populating it, too. Then it’ll be only a matter of how you draw the districts. And that done, of course, he don’t need a Piggott. He’ll have taken his business out of the city.”
“Well…that’s well and good…” She stopped. “I don’t know why I say it. It’s Hammersmith Mossbunker is building up, you mean. Maybe I ought to take that room of Mrs. Krabill’s, and stop pretending to be good enough to live there!” None of this was what she’d thought she was getting at. She tried again.
“Piggott has served Mossbunker up the professor. Keeping in good?”
“It’s the genius of the man. He looks far into the future.”
Curach meant, she thought, Piggott. “Is Mr. Shaw a detective, then?”
“I’ve nothing to do with Shaw, so I couldn’t say.” He pulled his pipe from his lips, and whistled a bar or two.
“Well, I’d better lay my cards on the table. We can’t keep a tycoon’s wife waiting.”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)