The following morning, Bart went directly to the accounting office of Duncan Cargo, having missed the previous afternoon because of the accident at the dock.
"I'm sorry I couldn't be here yesterday, but....." Bart began to apologize to the manager of the department, who interrupted with a wave of his hand to indicate the apology was unnecessary.
"I've heard all about it," the manager said, "and we're proud of your behavior. Why don't you take the day off and come in tomorrow?"
Bart shook his head. "No, thank you, sir, I've got a few ideas for reorganizing those files in the storage room. I'd like to get to it now."
Bart needed the time alone. No one disturbed him as he moved boxes from shelf to shelf, arranging them according to the new categories he had decided upon. This activity occupied both his body and his mind.
Rummaging through the stacks, he found little but routine accountings of shipping and lading. They were interesting to him not only for their indications of Duncan Cargo's international scope, but also for what they taught him of the business that had been the basis for his and Annie's sustenance.
Time passed quickly without any revelations of note.
As the afternoon came to a close, he stumbled across a cache of files tucked away behind a cabinet. Whereas everything else was stored somewhat carelessly in wooden boxes, these were carefully wrapped in parchment and inserted into leather portfolios distinctive for their elegance and costly workmanship.
The location in which he found them suggested they were not meant to be easily found. He noted after opening them that the portfolios were each embossed with a familiar monogram identifying them as the property of Simon Shirley.
Bart's initial reaction was to return them to their hiding place, sensing their discovery to be a violation of Simon's privacy. Second thoughts caused him to take them out again. Presumably, Simon knew they were there, but Bart now conceived the opposing idea that they might have been misplaced, or even stored without Simon's knowledge.
All the clerks had gone home when he carried the portfolios into the adjoining office. He opened them with the intention of scanning the contents in order to identify them to Simon.
What he found occupied him until six the next morning.
Bleary-eyed from mentally calculating hundreds of columns of figures, Bart looked a wreck when the department manager came into the office early to do the paperwork for an important cargo scheduled to arrive that day.
"Bart!" the manager exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Mister Shirley and your brother are worried about you! They nearly called out the police!"
Bart slumped wearily in a chair. "If I could have some coffee, please," he muttered, "and say nothing to my brother and Mister Shirley about finding me here. Not for now, anyway."
The manager nodded. "Whatever you want, Bart. I'm just glad to know you're alright."
Before the rest of the staff arrived, Bart returned the portfolios to the storage room. He spent the rest of the morning closeted there, going over the documents repeatedly.
Finally, when the old ship's clock in the department began its noisy clanging of the eight bells that signified noon, Bart roused himself, put on his jacket, and went to Simon's office.
The male secretary had already gone to lunch, leaving the door to Simon's reception area standing open. Bart could see that Simon still sat at his desk in the room beyond. Without a word, he strode into the office and roughly pushed the door shut. It struck the jamb with such force it bounced back, then swung slowly until it came to rest, remaining slightly ajar.
Startled by Bart's thunderous entry, Simon looked up and sprang to his feet.
"Bart, boy! Thank God you're....." he started to say, but the deadly expression on Bart's face halted the words.
"Goddamn you, Simon Shirley," cursed Bart through clenched teeth, "sit down!"
Shocked and confused, Simon plopped down with a thud.
At that moment, an elegant carriage driven by a coachman resplendent in gray livery turned into State Street and drew up at the curb in front of the Duncan Cargo headquarters. An Irish lad stationed at the company's entry hastened to open the door of the coach.
Out stepped Irene, parasol in hand, as prettily gowned in French batiste as might be any rich girl in the city. The boy helped her descend to the sidewalk. She accepted his assistance disdainfully.
"Is my father in his office, Charles?"
"Yes, Miss Irene, he said for you to go right in."
She called up to the coachman on his perch: "Wait here, Michael. My father and I will be out shortly. We'll be lunching at the new hotel on Kilby Street."
She turned again to Charles.
"You trot over there and tell them to save us a nice table by the window in the main dining room," she commanded him.
"But...but Miss Irene...I have to stay here," stammered the boy. "I can't just....."
Irene harrumphed and started inside. "You'd better do what I say, Charles Flaherty, or I'll have my father dismiss you!"
"Yes, Miss Irene!" He set off at a run.
Without a word of acknowledgment, she passed an elderly employee who tipped his hat and murmured a respectful greeting.
Once inside, she went straight to Simon's reception room. As she entered, she heard a strident voice rising and falling. The office door stood ajar. Recognizing the voice as Bart's, she made a grimace and sat primly on the edge of a chair to wait, neatly folding her hands in her lap.
Although alone, she affected an elaborate show of disinterest as she listened in on the conversation.
"I don't know whether I'll tell the captain or not," Bart was saying. "I ought to. Why did you do it? How could you do it? He's let you have free rein with Duncan Cargo for years. He trusted you, just as he trusted Annie to rear Ardie and me in good faith and love. What happened to your good faith? What happened to your love?"
Simon sounded weak and beaten when he replied: "Bart, you just don't understand. You're too young. You don't know anything about the...tension...between a man and a woman. It makes you...do...strange things."
Irene strained to hear when Bart spoke more softly than before.
"What do you mean by that, Simon?" he asked, thinking of his sexual encounter with Bridget. "I may know more about that sort of thing than you think."
"I mean love, Bart. I mean when a man loves a woman as I loved Jane. She was so beautiful. I worshiped her. You don't remember."
"Oh, I remember her very well," Bart muttered acidly. "I remember she was a thief! I remember the day in Baltimore when that vicious creature broke my nose, and....."
"Don't say it, Bart," Simon cried, his voice choked with emotion. "I couldn't stand to hear it! She didn't mean it! I took her to Maine after that. I...put her away...like a prisoner. When she got well, I brought her to Boston. I couldn't live without her. Irene needed her, too. Everything went so well for the next few years. I gave her everything she wanted....."
"Are you saying you embezzled all that money just to buy things for your wife?" queried Bart incredulously.
"You have no concept of what it is to need a woman as I needed Jane, to want her to be admired by all the world, to want my daughter to be proud of her mother," Simon rambled on. "The house in Louisburg Square, the carriages, the horses, the stable, the servants, the clothes, the jewels, the furs, the best of everything for Irene, the charities, the requirements of society - she demanded all of these. I could not resist her! Oh, Bart, how could you, a mere boy, understand? Then, when she got...ill...again...when she tried to kill me, I had to send her back to Maine. God, Bart, please try to understand. I loved her! I loved her so much!"
"I think it's disgusting that you betrayed the captain, regardless of the reason!" Bart sputtered. "And why are you talking about your wife as though she were dead?"
"Dear God, Bart, she is! My Jane is dead!" Simon broke down and wept.
In the reception room, Irene stiffened. Her breath stopped short. Her fingernails cut deeply into her palms. Droplets of blood oozed on to her lap.
She took no cognizance of the shocked, but kinder, tone Bart used when he asked her father, "What happened?"
"Just a month ago, on Squirrel Island," Simon wept, "she escaped from the keepers. She had been raving about Irene. She wanted to see her. She jumped into a little boat tied up on the shore and rowed madly toward Boothbay. A fisherman saw her, but before he could get to her, a squall came up...and...the waves overwhelmed her. No one ever saw her again. I...I haven't even had the courage...to tell Irene!"
Simon's head was cradled in his arms on the desk, his body racked with sobs. Bart, his face a study in remorse for having been so brutal, stood over him. His hand gripped Simon's shoulder in a gesture of heartfelt sympathy.
That was the way they looked together when Irene threw open the door.
She stood with her bloodied hands clenched at her sides. The effect of the spattered gore was magnified by the stark white of her dress.
Appalled not only by her frightening appearance, but also by the implication of her presence, that she must have heard everything, Bart sucked in his breath sharply.
"Irene!" he gasped.
Simon lifted his head, turning ashen when he saw his daughter's contorted features. Her black eyes simmered demonically in a face drained of all color.
She took a step toward Bart.
Curling back her lips like a she-wolf's, she snarled at him: "My mother told me what you did to her! Because of your lie that she was a thief, she was torn away from me! That statuette should have been given to her! You people already had everything. All I had was her! I was only a baby! I needed my mother, and because of you, she was sent away! I shall hate you all my life!"
She took another step, this time toward her father.
"And you! You locked her away! My mother, the woman you said you loved, you treated her like a common criminal! And now you've killed her! You beast! You've killed my mother! I hate you! I hate you!"
She raised her fists above her head as if to strike him, but the rage in her heart proved stronger than her fragile body could bear.
Without a cry, her eyes rolling upward, Irene fell in a dead faint to the floor.
When Bart carried her, unconscious, to the carriage with Simon, they encountered Ardie coming in from an exhaustive search for his brother.
"My Lord!" he cried at sight of Irene in her blood-splashed dress. "Is she seriously hurt? What can I do?"
Simon jumped into the carriage. Bart passed the limp figure to him.
"Ardie, you go with them," suggested Bart. "I'd better not be there when she wakes up. Facing one of us will be enough."
He looked directly at Simon who, in turn, looked away.
Irene revived as they drove into Louisburg Square. She leapt from the carriage and rushed to her suite on the third floor.
She locked herself inside.
Simon placed a chair in the hallway nearby and sat there hoping she would come out.
Only once, late in the evening when he heard her close the window nearest the door, did he speak.
"Beloved," he begged, "please forgive me. You are all I have left."
She opened the door.
He started from his chair, but she ordered him sharply to stay where he was.
"Beloved?" she echoed mockingly. "Beloved? If you love me as you loved my mother, what would you do? Jail me and keep me a prisoner for the rest of my life? I shall never be your beloved again! Go away!"
Finally, the following morning, he did.
He retreated to the office.
Simon sat at his desk motionless until his secretary brought in a cablegram from Philo. It outlined his plans to take part in the Centennial celebration with Annie and President Grant in Baltimore. His ship would dock briefly at Boston to pick up the boys.
"Please join us and bring Irene," the message concluded. "God willing, our little family will be together again soon."
Simon lay the cablegram on his desk, lifted a tintype image of Irene, and kissed it.
Slowly, he took a pistol from the drawer and aimed it at his head.
"I'm coming, Jane...my love!"
The shot rang out.