Four months until Skin Like Silver is published in the UK. That’s plenty of time to introduce you to some of the characters. Not Tom Harper or Annabelle, not Billy Reed or Superintendent Kendall. Not even Ash. But some of the others who populate this book – there are over 60; I counted.
They’re relatively minor characters, but they all have their stories to tell. About once a fortnight until publication you’ll get to meet some of them. One of them could well be a killer. Or perhaps not. But when you read the book and come across them, you can smile and say ‘I know you.’
Read the first Tale within a Tale, about Patrick Martin, here.
This time it’s Robert Carr
And you can read more about Skin Like Silver, of course.
Three places were laid at the table, cutlery gleaming, glasses shining in the gaslight from the sconces. But only two men were sitting and eating.
‘Why?’ The younger man tilted his knife towards the empty plate across from him. ‘For God’s sake, father, she’s been gone two months now. It seems desperate.’
Robert Carr look down his nose. He was balding, the long mutton chop whiskers thicker than the hair that remained on the top of his head. The two sticks on the floor by his chair helped him walk. But his mind was still sharp.
‘You think what you like, Neville.’ There was a whip edge to his voice. ‘But it’s my house, I’ll do things as I choose.’
He began to chew some of the beef. It tasted stringy, cheap. Far too dry. Throwing down the knife and fork, he pushed the meal away and took a sip of whisky.
The cook would never have served the meat like that when Catherine was here, he thought. She kept an eye on things. She knew. But then, she should; she knew just what the servants were like, she’d been one. He could still feel her in the house.
‘Mine’s fine,’ his son said.
Carr snorted. His son might be good at running the factory, but beyond that he was useless. Couldn’t keep his own boy in line. He’d heard the tales about the lad, the gambling and whoring. Carr might not get out much these days, but words reached him.
‘How’s the business this week?’ he asked.
‘A new order from the Army.’ Neville spoke with his mouth full. ‘Boots for India. It’s good money.’
‘A little extra gone to the right people.’
‘Of course, Father,’ he replied. ‘No need to worry about it. Everyone’s been taken care of. The next order’s in the bag, too.’
Robert had built up the business his father started on Meanwood Road. A few years before, he’d handed it to Neville. He’d trained his son well. Polite to the buyers, generous to those who placed the orders, firm with the men in the factory. It worked well. They made good money.
He had his house in Chapel Allerton, Neville his own close by. His son also had the mistress he kept in Headingley. An actress, of all things. No imagination. Not even a good actress, by all accounts. He hoped she played well in bed.
The Empire kept Carr & Sons in business. Boots for troops in all the colonies, and God knew there were plenty of them. Long may it continue.
Neville had cleared his plate, sitting back and drinking his wine.
‘I’ve been thinking,’ he said. ‘We ought to start making boots for working men.’
The old man shook his head.
‘Don’t be so daft. The market’s sewn up. You’d be trying to break in. We do what we do. Don’t rock the bloody boat.’
‘I was just trying-’
‘Don’t,’ Carr warned.
‘You’ve had an edge on you since she left.’
‘She’ll be back. I told you.’
Of course she would. She’d come to her senses soon enough. He’d make her pay for it, and he’d keep reminding her, but he’d have her back. Stupid, he knew that. Weak. She’d made her decision to leave all this. Money, everything she could want. He’d tried to stop her. Beaten her. But she’d gone.
He glanced over at his son. A weak man. A drunken one now, to judge from the dull glint in his eyes.
‘I told you not to marry a servant. It’s like a novelette. But reality was less successful, wasn’t it?’
‘Shut up, Neville,’ he warned.
‘Sometimes I wonder which was stronger, her love of this ridiculous suffragism or her hatred of you?’
‘You’d better stop now,’ Carr told him as he reached down for a stick. ‘Right now.’