Catriona Scott sends us the fourth instalment of her ongoing serial To Prove a Villain.
Richard Plantagenet – Comptroller of New York City.
Edward Plantagenet – His brother, Mayor of New York.
Elizabeth Plantagenet – Edward’s wife.
Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.
Katherine Woodville – Elizabeth’s sister and Harriet’s partner.
William Hastings – Public Advocate and good friend to Edward.
Dr Shaw – Doctor at King’s County Hospital.
In When Most I Play The Devil, things take a turn for the murderous. It has been almost a month since Edward was admitted to hospital, and Richard will ensure his brother does not leave…unless he’s covered in a white sheet.
When Most I Play The Devil
It had been almost a month since the attempt on Edward’s life on the steps of City Hall. For a while now it had seemed he would recover and the papers had even predicted his return to the mayor’s office a week or so ago. But it was not long after that announcement that his health had taken a turn for the worse – gossip columns and even the more reputable newspapers were unable to cite the true cause, instead speculating on complications with his treatment or underlying issues relating to his injuries that had somehow been overlooked. But none of these contained the truth. The true factor behind Edward’s unstable condition was his brother.
Richard was able to disguise what he had done with relative ease, whether through misinformation given to the doctors in order to change Edward’s treatments, and bribing others to keep the truth a secret. His family took everything these doctors said at face value and so, when Edward’s condition worsened and their explanation was a complication in his treatment, which they had slightly altered in the hopes of speeding him towards recovery, none of them thought to question it. All the better for them.
Elizabeth was still a near constant presence at her husband’s bedside. George came in occasionally and brought the children with him, as he was taking care of them in Elizabeth’s place, but they did not stay long – the boys were restless, and Lizzie, for her part, found it almost too distressing to see her father in this state. There had only been a few occasions where the three brothers had been together, but even then Richard was quick to take his leave – as de facto head of the city government in Edward’s place, his duty to the city weighed heavily upon his familial duty, his duty as a brother – or so he would claim. In reality, he had no desire to spend any longer at his brother’s bedside than was necessary to keep up appearances – and soon he would no longer need to use that excuse. Edward’s condition was worsening by the day; it was only right that Richard should end his suffering, rather than prolong it. Surely.
He greeted the officers at Edward’s door with his usual nod, a gesture which they returned before one of them opened the door to allow him to enter. As he had expected, Elizabeth was at Edward’s side. She held one of her husband’s hands in hers – just as she had done on the day he was shot, Richard was quick to recall – and her red rimmed eyes told him she had been crying. He couldn’t say he was surprised; Edward had been so well as to leave his hospital bed a few days ago, even managing an unsteady walk down the corridor and back, yet now he was consigned once again to the bed, hooked up to machines as though nothing had changed. Richard was surprised, therefore, to see that his brother was awake, and to see him look up and him and smile as he entered.
“Richard! Good to see you!”
Elizabeth did not seem glad of Richard’s arrival in spite of her smile. She did, however, pick up an old copy of the New York Times from the chair beside her and place it on the bedside table to allow him to sit down at Edward’s bedside with her. Richard smiled and took the offered seat, looking back over at his brother having done so.
“It’s good to see you too, Edward, though not in this state. I thought you would have been out of this godforsaken place by now.”
“Godforsaken indeed,” Elizabeth snapped, her grip on Edward’s hand tightening a little as though to protect him from the wrath of the man upstairs for having said so. “He should have been, but those doctors – ”
“Please, Liz,” Edward interrupted her. “You shouldn’t be so angry with them – if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t – ” He cut himself off, seeing the look on his wife’s face. “Sorry.”
Richard observed this exchange in silence, making no move to intervene himself. He knew he had spoken unwisely with his use of the word godforsaken, but it was true enough…not just in that Edward was here in the first place, but now that he was in the room with him, even God wouldn’t be able to save his brother now. He continued to be amazed, even now, at this turn of fortune – he had wanted to do something to be rid of Edward for years, but the idea of murder had only entered his head recently. It was so simple; he didn’t know why it had taken him so long to come to the conclusion. And then the gunman, or gunwoman, whoever they were – they had almost done the job for him. The task had been well begun, and Richard was here today to ensure it reached completion.
He dealt Edward and Elizabeth an apologetic smile.
“I’m the one who should apologise,” he said. “I spoke without thinking.”
There was a small pause – Elizabeth nodded, stiffly, and Edward returned his brother’s smile.
“What’s the latest from the outside world then, Richard?” he asked, after a moment. “I’ve been trying to keep up with events, but it’s difficult – everything seems to be happening so quickly.”
“There’s nothing good to report, I’m afraid,” Richard replied, his attention now focused entirely on his brother. “There have been more protests and we still seem to be no closer to tracking down your attacker…and there have been some unpleasant accusations regarding their identity, so my sources tell me.”
“What sort of accusations?” Elizabeth interjected. “Who on earth are they blaming?”
“Believe me when I say you’d rather not know,” Richard replied.
He knew he had spoken out of turn again, but it had been deliberate – he took great delight in watching Elizabeth’s become angry, watch as her alarm swiftly turned to panic. She was paranoid, and had every right to be considering recent events, but even before then she had been wary, supposedly undeserving of her title as First Lady due to her once lower status as some claimed. Richard resented her for this rise in fortune, it was true, but it was not Elizabeth Woodville towards whom he should be directing his displeasure at present, enjoyable as that was. Before she could interject, as he saw her beginning to, he spoke again, his tone slightly softer than before.
“Elizabeth, may I speak with Edward alone?”
Elizabeth was indignant.
“Anything you have to say to him you can say in front of me; I’m his wife, for God’s sake.”
“And I’m his brother. Please, Elizabeth. This won’t take long.”
He smiled having said this and as Elizabeth looked from him to her husband, this small smile did not fade. It would not do to be seen as a threat, in any capacity – not now. He saw Edward squeeze his wife’s hand, saw the encouraging smile he gave her – looks and gestures to which he felt he should not be witness. He turned away for a moment, observing the various monitors and machines on the other side of his brother’s hospital bed – primarily the ECG monitor and the drip he was hooked up to. As he did this, he checked in the inside pocket of his suit jacket. The small plastic bag was there, barely an inch wide, and in it was the powder he would need to get the job done. Strangely enough, there had been letters laced with this particular poison sent to Edward’s office before, but the toxin had been quickly identified and no harm was done. This time Edward would not be so lucky – Richard would make sure of it.
He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of Elizabeth’s heels clicking on the floor as she stood.
“I’ll be just outside, love. Do you want me to get you anything?”
“I’m fine thanks, Liz. I’ll see you in a bit.”
He turned in time to see her leave the room and stood almost as soon as the door closed behind her. He moved closer to Edward’s bedside, looking over the cards and flowers, noting the labels attached to the latter – well wishes from mostly female admirers. Edward’s floozies, no doubt – Ellie Butler, Jane Shore, Marguerite Saint-Just…
“You have plenty of admirers, don’t you Edward?”
“I always have,” Edward replied, with a small laugh. “And Liz is chief among them. I’m sorry about that – she doesn’t want to leave me alone for more than five minutes, just in case anything happens. It’s a bit excessive, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t say so, Edward. She loves you and she wants to be with you as you recover – what’s excessive about that?”
Edward nodded, sighed.
“Good point. I just wish we could spend this time together without me having to be in a hospital bed.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll be out of here soon enough. This is just a temporary setback while the doctors adjust your treatment, isn’t it?”
“I’m not so sure anymore,” Edward replied, and there was a note of urgency in his voice now, a note of fear. “They don’t want to tell me much, they don’t want to worry me, but I’ve overheard them talking to Liz…”
Richard sat down then, took his brother’s hand in both of his.
“You’ll be fine, Edward. You’re a lucky man – that’s what you always say, isn’t it? You’re a lucky man and you’ll be fine – trust me.”
As he looked at Edward, Richard saw his brother’s smile return. It was cruel of him to say such things, he knew – Edward’s luck had run out; he would not be fine, and he most certainly could not trust Richard – but then, the poison in his words was nothing compared to the poison he would use to kill the man. It would not be a quick death either – Richard’s research and sources told him the symptoms would only manifest themselves after a few hours, perhaps even days. The dose he had was strong enough for the former, he knew – but this timing was crucial in order to avoid suspicion. If he were to enter Edward’s room when he was still alive and to leave it minutes later with him lying dead – that would not do, even though he planned to use the assassination attempt as a cover up. That would not do at all.
“I’ve always trusted you, Richard, you know that. We’ve had our differences, you and I, but you’ve always had the right idea and done what was best in the end, especially when it comes to running the city.”
His smile faded a little then, and he sighed once more.
“I’ve really screwed things up recently, haven’t I? Who am I kidding, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
Well, Richard couldn’t really deny that, and he was sure Edward knew it. Therefore, instead of trying to comfort his older brother with falsities, he replied:
“I’m not going to lie to you, Edward, that’s true enough. But you didn’t exactly deserve this as a response to your proposed tax increase – now that’s something I’d call excessive.”
Edward laughed, but the laughter was clearly painful for reasons other than it being a little forced. Instinctively Richard looked over at the various monitors and machines – and it was then he noticed that the IV drip which was delivering Edward’s medication – some of it, at least – was running low. Perfect. What was it he had said to Harriet – ‘All in good time’? That good time had come.
He let go of his brother’s hand and stood. Edward looked confused until Richard explained the cause for his movement, and told his brother he would go and find one of the doctors to arrange a replacement for the drip. Edward thanked him and Richard left the room, proceeding immediately to the office a couple of doors down, the office of a certain Dr. Shaw whom Richard had entrusted to administer the means of his brother’s death. The good doctor had not required too hefty a bribe, to Richard’s surprise, but he wasn’t about to question the man lest he ask for more. Shaw was waiting for his arrival, having been forewarned of the afternoon’s potential; having removed the new IV bag from its protective packaging and ensured it contained the necessary dose of medication, he took the small bag from Richard’s hand and tipped its contents into the IV bag in one fluid motion. The powder dissolved on contact, and dissolved clear. Dr. Shaw glanced over at Richard, having sealed the IV bag, and – seeing the youngest of the Plantagenet brothers was smiling – he smiled too.
When they returned to Edward’s room it was to find Elizabeth was there before them, two takeaway cups of coffee on Edward’s bedside table. She stood as Dr. Shaw and Richard entered, greeting them with a smile.
“Dr. Shaw, good afternoon,” she said, with a slight nod before sitting down once more.
“The same to you, Mrs. Plantagenet,” Shaw replied, returning her smile as he moved over to the IV drip and began the process of replacing the bag, before addressing Edward. “And how are we feeling this afternoon, sir? Any better than this morning?”
“A little better, thanks,” Edward admitted, shifting a little on the bed to allow Shaw to check the drip’s connection to the vein in his arm, his voice slightly indignant when he spoke again. “But I was much better last week.”
“I know, sir, I know, and I apologise,” Shaw said – he sounded it, he looked it, but Richard, the master dissembler, knew an act when he saw one. It was a good one though – it certainly had his brother fooled. “But never fear – you should be up and about and out of here within the week – at least, that’s what one of my colleagues has said.”
“Some good news at last,” Elizabeth said, looking visibly relieved. “Thank you, doctor.”
“My pleasure, madam,” Shaw replied, stepping away from the drip to check the charts at the foot of Edward’s bed. As he did so Richard glanced over at the IV and the monitors, casual as anything, but even with so small a gesture he was sure Shaw had done his job. Now all that remained to be seen was how long it would take for the toxin to take effect.
“Well, everything seems to be in order here,” Shaw said after a few moments. “I’ll show myself out – and if you need anything, as ever, just let me know.”
Edward and Elizabeth thanked Shaw in near perfect unison and the doctor left the room. Elizabeth then turned to Richard and handed him one of the cups of coffee.
“This one’s for you, Richard – I thought you’d be needing it, with all the work you’re having to do back at City Hall.”
Richard smiled and took the proffered cup.
“You’re too kind, Elizabeth. But you’re right, I do have a lot to attend to and I really should get back to it. It’s been a pleasure to see you both again – I’ll come back tomorrow.”
With that he smiled and made as though to take his leave, but as he did so he spoke in an undertone to Elizabeth – Edward had turned his head away, towards the monitors, as though hoping Shaw’s arrival would have changed their data for the better.
“Call me if there’s any change, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Elizabeth replied. “Thank you for coming, Richard. I know it does Edward good to see you.”
Richard smiled. He was glad to hear it. Before he moved to the door again he set the coffee cup down and moved to embrace his brother; Edward seemed surprised at the gesture but returned it wholeheartedly. In fact, the hug was so prolonged that it caused Elizabeth to speak up once more.
“For goodness sake, you’re acting as though you won’t see each other again! Ed, love, let Richard go – he’s got work to get back to, and you should really try and get some sleep.”
Edward laughed and did as his wife bade him, but even as he did so he whispered to Richard – three small words but words which were almost painful to hear, which reverberated inside Richard’s mind long after they had been said.
“I love you.”
It was normal, familial – what one brother would be expected to say to another. But Richard found the words stuck in his throat even as he tried to return them – instead he simply smiled and nodded.
“Don’t worry Edward,” he said, having picked up his coffee again and with his free hand on the door handle. “I’ll see you again soon, I promise.”
And with a final smile, he was gone.
MAYOR PLANTAGENET DEAD – THE CITY MOURNS
It is with great sadness that The New York Times can confirm the death of Mayor Edward Plantagenet who died in the early hours of this morning from complications in his treatment, having suffered a gunshot wound in a failed assassination attempt last month. Mayor Plantagenet was in the care of medical staff at King’s County Hospital in Brooklyn, and a spokesperson from the hospital has stated on its behalf their regret at being unable to save him. He was forty five years old.
Over the course of the past month it had seemed the mayor’s condition was improving, but his health took a turn for the worse two weeks ago and this is being cited as the cause of his death. The full details surrounding the circumstances of his death have yet to be disclosed. The hospital continues to serve as a secure area with a limited media presence, and the mayor’s family has asked for privacy at this most difficult time.
Mayor Plantagenet’s death is not only a cause of grief for his immediate family and friends, but for the city as a whole. The Plantagenets have been a prominent political dynasty in this city for over twenty years, and Edward Plantagenet’s policies helped ensure improvements within the city, as well as in his role as a leader due to his high approval ratings and popularity. A spokesperson from City Hall stated that Mayor Plantagenet’s death is ‘a tragic loss, both for the city and its people; New York will not be the same without him’.
In light of Mayor Plantagenet’s death, the martial law which was introduced last month in order to safeguard the city (due to the terrorist threat made on Mayor Plantagenet’s life) was lifted early this morning by Richard Plantagenet, who worked as mayor in his brother’s stead whilst he remained in King’s County. Richard Plantagenet shall remain as mayor in this period following Mayor Plantagenet’s death, until such time as elections can be held to establish New York City’s new leader.
The New York Times would like to express its deepest sympathies with Mayor Plantagenet’s family during this period of mourning, and would like to assure them that the city mourns with them. Edward Plantagenet was a great man, and he did great things for this city; he should not have been taken from us so soon.
Mayor Edward Plantagenet is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Plantagenet, his two brothers, George and Richard, his daughter, Elizabeth (Lizzie), two sons, Edward (Ned) and Richard (Dickon) and his step-son Thomas.
The New York Times will have updates on the details of Edward Plantagenet’s death as they become known.
This serial is inspired partly by historical fact and partly by historical fiction (that being Shakespeare’s Richard III); however, as the setting (New York City) is very much a real location – as are other businesses and events I have used – I felt the following disclaimer to be necessary. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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