First thing Saturday morning, Hugo telephoned Molly Doyle. He told her he had important news, gave her their home address and requested she come as soon as she was able. While they waited, Hugo and Theodore discussed how much of the truth they were going to tell her. On the one hand, they both felt she deserved an honest explanation. On the other, she didn’t share their incentive to keep the truth quiet.
‘Her husband was trying to get the Hammam shut down because of people like us,’ said Theodore. ‘What if she’s the same? What if she finds out about us and turns us in?’
‘She might,’ Hugo agreed, ‘but she still deserves to know what happened to her husband.’
‘Say Butterfield hadn’t killed him. Say he’d called us to help him instead. We’d be on his side. Keegan would be our enemy.’
‘But we wouldn’t have killed him, would we?’ Hugo wore a little smile.
Theodore gave Hugo a withering look. ‘Of course I’m not suggesting Butterfield was right to murder him. All I’m asking is does she deserve the truth so much that we should put ourselves at risk?’
‘It scares me too,’ Hugo admitted. ‘But if Butterfield thinks dishonesty is justified when protecting yourself, I want to prove I’m a better man than he is.’
Theodore pursed his lips. ‘I hate it when spoil things with sense.’
When the doorbell rang, Theodore nearly dropped his teacup in surprise. Hugo opened the door, and Molly stepped inside, her hair hidden beneath a patterned headscarf. Theodore stood to shake her hand, introducing himself as Hugo’s work partner. He offered tea but she declined. The three of them sat and there was nothing else for it.
They told her everything. That Keegan had been searching for proof about the staff’s indiscretion. That Butterfield had killed him for it and made it look like he’d been killed for being queer. That they had been hired by Butterfield to investigate the crime, but in truth were being used to hide the body. That they had confronted Butterfield but been blackmailed into keeping quiet. And, though Theodore’s heart was in his throat the whole time, they told her that they were lovers and their detective agency existed to help others like them.
‘So you see,’ finished Hugo, ‘we are putting ourselves at your mercy. You have every right to go to the police with what you know and have your husband’s killer arrested. But if you do, it could mean that we and many like us will be arrested as well. You have no reason to help us. All we can do is respectfully request you don’t repeat what we’ve told you.’
Molly had listened to the whole thing with the same silent interest she had worn when Hugo had accused her of murder. Now the story was finished, she studied the detectives intently. Theodore held his breath until she spoke.
‘Can I see him?’
The detectives exchanged a look. Then, wordlessly, they rose to lead Molly to the spare room.
They’d laid Keegan’s body out on the bed. The perfume bath had helped the smell somewhat, though it was impossible to remove entirely. They’d also dressed him in his suit, though without shoes they’d had to leave his feet bare. The ugly scars on his chest were concealed, and Theodore had covered the bruise on his cheek and the blotchiness of his skin with some powder and rouge. He actually looked somewhat peaceful.
Molly approached the bed. The detectives waited near the door. The room had taken on a peculiar stillness. Theodore fancied that his would make no noise even if he dared to speak. From where they stood, the detectives couldn’t see what expression Molly was wearing, but Theodore spotted her gently brush the back of her fingers against Keegan’s cheek.
With a long, heavy sigh, she turned to the detectives. ‘All along, you’ve hidden his body here like a stolen purse. Twice, you could have told me, but you didn’t.’
‘Yes,’ said Hugo, feeling no sense in making excuses.
‘And now you want me to let his killer go free, to save yourselves and other perverts like you?’
‘Yes,’ Hugo said again. He felt Theodore bristle beside him.
Molly swallowed, her face set into a heavy frown. Yet, for a few moments, she didn’t speak. Theodore didn’t dare entertain the thought that she might still be making up her mind. So when she inhaled deeply and said, ‘But,’ Theodore didn’t think he’d ever heard a sound do beautiful.
‘But,’ she said again, ‘you told the truth. If it hadn’t been for you, I might never have learned what happened. The police gave up investigatin’ the bathhouse. And it would have been easy for you to keep the truth from me, to save your own necks. But you didn’t. So. So I suppose it would be wrong if I didn’t repay your honesty.’
Theodore couldn’t contain his sigh of relief. ‘Thanks, madam. All the rest is mute.’
‘On one condition,’ said Molly. ‘The man who did it, this Butterfield person. Don’t let him get away with it.’
‘We don’t intend to,’ said Hugo. He held her eye so she’d know he meant it.
Satisfied, she turned back to the body. ‘What will you do with him?’
‘Our plan was to leave him somewhere the police would find him,’ said Hugo. ‘It’s undignified, we know, but it would at least mean the body would be conveyed to you.’
Molly was still looking at body. ‘Is that all you can do?’
Hugo glanced at Theodore. Theodore said, ‘We also have a friend in the London Necropolis who could… make him disappear.’
Molly nodded. ‘He has “sodomite” carved into his chest, yes?’
‘Yes,’ said Hugo.
Molly glared at Hugo. ‘I was right. He was a good, Catholic man. If the police find him and see that word, they’ll make assumptions. I’d rather he disappear than be remembered like that.’
Her words stung. She could so easily have said, ‘Like you.’ But Hugo was counting his blessings, so he said, ‘Of course.’
For one last time, she looked at Keegan. In that moment, she seemed to forget all about the detectives. She placed her hand on his and muttered, ‘You stupid, reckless man.’ Then, without another word to the detectives or even the slightest backwards glance, she left the spare bedroom, went straight to the front door and was gone.