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(Heroine introduced on page 3. Would you keep reading?)
From the third floor window above the wide intersection of Broadway and Ann Street, the holiday shoppers looked like a flock of disgruntled blackbirds fighting the bracing wind. The swiftest of them huddled in coats that wouldn’t last another winter, whilst the better wrapped made their way at a more considered speed. Those cocooned in their carriages moved at the most enviable pace of all.
Divisions of class, Darrow mused, were never more distinct than in foul weather.
Not that he’d given the matter of class much consideration, other than coming to the regrettable conclusion he’d been born into the wrong one. It wasn’t a circumstance that troubled him as often, these days. Being born into the right class didn’t grant a fellow perfect contentment—judging by the ongoing row between poor old Emlyn and the latest in a line of irascible Herald editors.
“Mr. Mowbray, please understand.” If he was still hampered by upper crust restraint after six years among the lower, Emlyn hadn’t lost the ability to enhance it with knife-edged disapproval. “You may print your trash about me. I don’t care. But it’s beyond the pale to bring my family into it. They’ve nothing to do with my decision to make a go on my own. That I paid for an advertisement doesn’t give you leave to turn it into an opportunity—”
“I’m a newspaper editor, Mr. Strickland. Opportunity is my bread and butter.” Walter Mowbray settled back in his leather chair, folding ink-stained fingers over a substantial gut. “You’re not much of a story, neither you nor Mr. Gardiner,” he added with a glance in Darrow’s direction. “But throw in Josiah Strickland of Strickland Steamship and the sad tale of a wayward son—”
“Wayward?” The word slid as cleanly as a blade through Mowbray’s jugular, but the man didn’t flinch.
Not altogether sure of his ability to contain a grin, Darrow turned back to the window and debated the usefulness of adding his voice to an argument that could not be won. No plea for sympathy or threat of suit would produce the desired retraction. Still, Emlyn—as unreservedly as he loathed his family’s company—would not leave them to suffer the slings of the popular press; and his stubborn streak might push a busy editor into seeking police assistance. A night in the Tombs meant their lucky last-minute booking at the Fourteenth Street Theater would be lost, along with the first week’s rent.
An ounce or two of prevention seemed called for.
The leather sofa situated invitingly in a patch of pale sunshine—that would suit. Darrow dropped onto it, and tucking a fringed pillow behind his head, propped his feet on the armrest opposite. As soon as he had Mowbray’s bemused attention, he smiled ingratiatingly. “Do you mind? The last time we went to the papers for an apology, we were in with the editor till well after supper.”
Mowbray’s brows briefly rose before swooping downward, along with the corners of his mouth. “I’ll have you both removed—”
“You might want to take into account one or two things, beforehand.”
“Well…” Darrow folded his hands behind his head and contemplated the cloudy sky beyond the glass. “It should be apparent there’s still some family loyalty among the Stricklands. You wouldn’t want the Times or the Sun to beat you out on the juiciest society news for the next couple of years?”
“That’s how you’re playing it. All right.” Mowbray let out an arch laugh. “I’ll say I can’t quite picture old Josiah Strickland running to the Times to spill the latest gossip, but…” He pushed up out of his chair, standing. “If it’s only an apology you want—”
“A published apology.” Emlyn rose, turning just long enough to throw Darrow a warning glance.
Darrow fished out his pocket watch, to find the hour well past four. It would be decidedly better to bear up under Emlyn’s wrath rather than the stage manager’s. “We’ll take any apology you’ve got.”