We are delighted to see the return of Catriona Scott‘s To Prove a Villain serial this semester. In the seventh instalment of the series, Wear These Honours For A Day, we join Richard Plantagenet a month after his victory, succeeding the brother he murdered as Mayor of New York City. All appears to be well, but it can’t remain that way for long…

Dramatis Personae

Richard Plantagenet – Mayor of New York City.
Harriet Stafford – Speaker of the New York City Council and confidante to Richard.
Katherine Woodville – Harriet Stafford’s partner
William Catesby – Richard’s chief of staff
Frank Lovell – Richard’s aide
Rebecca Ratcliffe – Richard’s aide

Wear These Honours for A Day

MARKED SUCCESS FOR MAYOR PLANTAGENET

Having now been in office for over a month, the Times can report that Mayor Richard Plantagenet has already delivered on a number of his campaign promises, including, but not limited to, increasing the resources and spending the government has dedicated both to higher education and medical services. These improvements, along with Mayor Plantagenet’s lifting of martial law, have established his popularity among the people as being more than just campaign fervour, and Mayor Plantagenet himself as a man worthy of his new position.

In terms of new policies and changes to come, Mayor Plantagenet has expressed a wish to lower the crime rates – not just to pre-martial law levels, but ideally until they are even lower than before. How Mayor Plantagenet plans to implement this ideal remains to be seen, but for the present the Times can report that the city is impressed with his new methods of government and hope for its future continuance.

A spokesperson from City Hall stated that Mayor Plantagenet should be proud of what he has managed to achieve after such a relatively short time in the mayor’s seat, and assures the Times that his success looks set to continue.

*

Richard smiled to himself as he re-read the article for what must have been the third time that morning. It wasn’t as if he had bribed the writer of the article, as he had had his associates do in the past – this was the real thing. He, Richard Plantagenet, was the Mayor of New York City, and he was delivering on his promises. Everything was going as if he had planned it – and that was what was so strange and so amusing to Richard about the whole situation. He had not planned this. Beyond being sworn in as the Mayor of New York City, he had not thought of where he might take the position, what he might do – at least, not to the same extent he had orchestrated his seizure of the role. Yet here he was, in office, no matter the path he had taken to get there, and the people were impressed with him, they respected him, they were proud of him. How droll.

He stood then, folding the newspaper and setting it aside, moving from his desk to the window. This would have been more of a power trip were he able to see the city, but as it was, his office instead afforded him a view of City Hall Park. He could not really complain about it, though – for the park felt as though it was his, as much as the city itself did. He was in power, he was in control. Now all that remained was to maintain it.

That, Richard thought, would not be difficult. He was backed by loyal associates, and Harriet in particular was in this as deeply as he; she was just as implicated, were anything untoward to arise. Were she to turn on him – which she wouldn’t – she would not be able to destroy his reputation, his position, his power, without destroying her own. But now was not the time to think of destroyed reputations, not when it was little over a month since he had ascended to the highest position of power in the city government.

A light knock on the door broke Richard from his contemplations and he turned away from the window in time to see his chief of staff, William Catesby, enter – tailed by a taller but surprisingly less intimidating looking aide, Frank Lovell. Frank was carrying a tray with cups and a cafetiere of coffee; perhaps that was the reason.

As Lovell set the tray down on the low coffee table in the space to the right of Richard’s desk, Catesby began to address the mayor, but even as he began to speak Richard cut across him, confused.

“I don’t recall asking for this, Lovell,” he said, his tone one of mingled confusion and irritation – amongst all of his aides, Lovell was the one he considered to be the most incompetent, but then, Richard considered the same of most other people.

Lovell looked up from the tray and smiled.

“I thought you might need it anyway, sir. I’m afraid Catesby’s got a lot for you to deal with this morning.”

Richard was surprised to find himself returning the younger man’s smile, even if it was on a smaller scale.

“Thank you, Lovell,” he replied. “That will be all.”

Frank looked as though he wanted to stay and be privy to the discussion, but a look from William Catesby sent him scurrying towards the door. It was as he turned back to Richard that the mayor addressed him in turn.

“I apologise for that interruption, Will. What were you going to say?”

Catesby shifted the weight of the files in his arms before he spoke.

“Well, first of all sir, I wanted to congratulate you on that article in the Times this morning. I’ve heard similar words of praise in the corridors of this building over the past few days, but it’s always good to see them confirmed by the press – hopefully that means we’ve convinced the public.”

He paused as Richard motioned him towards the sofas by the coffee table, taking the proffered seat and setting his folders on the table as Richard sat down opposite him, before pouring them both a cup of coffee.

“One of the most…interesting comments I’ve heard is that you’re like some sort of Mayor Plantagenet 2.0,” the younger man continued, as he picked up one of the cups. “A bit disrespectful to your brother, I thought, but – ”

He stopped himself as Richard laughed.

“I’m sure Edward wouldn’t have minded the comparison,” he said, his laughter subsiding as he, too, reached for the coffee. “In fact, I think he would have appreciated it. He was always something of a joker.”

Catesby nodded, somewhat uneasily.

“Yes indeed, sir. He was.”

Both men took sips of their coffee. As Catesby set his cup down to add a spoonful of sugar, Richard spoke again.

“I trust you didn’t just come here this morning to offer your congratulations, Will,” he said, with a small smile. “What do you have for me to look over?”

Here he indicated the small pile of folders on the table in front of his associate.  Catesby immediately set down the cup he’d been about to take a sip from, all business, as he picked up the folder at the top of the pile.

“There’s some bills the Council passed in their meeting last week that they need you to look over,” he began, handing the folder over and picking up the next. “And this is…”

Richard wasn’t usually one to get lost in his thoughts unless he was alone, but something about the current situation rang false to him, and he found he was no longer listening to Will. He and Harriet were collaborators still, working behind the scenes to keep his regime secure. But ever since he had ascended to the mayor’s office, it seemed that his associate had become…more distant, somehow. Even if she were present in the room, she would speak and act as she normally would, but there was something in her smile that didn’t quite meet her eyes.

He had not been worried, at first – he knew Harriet wasn’t planning to turn against him, after Hastings’ murder secured her place beside him in complicity. But her avoiding him had become more pronounced recently – as evidenced by the fact Will Catesby was bringing him these bills, and not Harriet herself, as she usually did. But then – had this not started even before he took the mayor’s seat? After Hastings’ death? Harriet had sent him a message to tell him the deed was done rather than tell him in person – he had excused that, assuming she would need some time to come to terms with her actions; she had been reluctant to kill the man, after all. But then, on the night the election results were announced…she had been working on his speech, true, but not at City Hall, not in his office or even in her own, but at her apartment. Had that been to simply avoid the clamour and bustle as the votes were counted, or was there something more to her actions?

“Sir?”

Richard refocused his attention on Catesby then, who was looking at him with an expression partly concerned, partly irritated at having been so clearly ignored for the past few minutes.

“Sir, did you get any of that?” After a small pause. “I mean…is something wrong?”

“Did Harriet Stafford give you these reports?”

“No, sir, I got them from her secretary. Does that matter?”

“It’s just that she usually brings them to me herself. You know that.”

Catesby nodded.

“If I may, sir…speaking of Miss Stafford…”

Richard’s expression was now somewhat wary, much as he would have wished to hide such feelings.

“Yes?”

“She’s been behaving rather…rather strangely over the past few days, if I’m honest with you. Maybe it’s been longer than that and I just haven’t noticed…I know it isn’t any of my business, but the two of you are close…”

“What sort of strange behaviour?”

Richard would never have admitted it, but there was an uncomfortable, knotted feeling in his stomach. He had thought, the murder committed, that Harriet would no longer be a risk to him, but what if he was wrong?

“Well…” Catesby was now looking more uncomfortable than before, and that was saying something. “It’s sort of difficult to explain, it seems the strangest things have been setting her off… She and one of her staff were discussing something or other that was in the Times, and her colleague mentioned a murder that took place in the Bronx and Harriet…apparently she just left the room. And then someone else brought her the wrong set of documents or something, she said it was no trouble and went to get them herself, but this person, whoever it was, they kept apologising, they said it was their fault – she almost had them in tears as she shouted at them, telling them it was her fault, it was all her fault…and then her secretary tells me she’s got a whisky decanter in a cabinet in her office – ”

Richard held up a hand to stop him. He did not need to hear any more. The mention of murder, insisting something was her fault, the drinking – these were minor incidents, true, but they added up, and they were only sure to get worse. Was it possible that she felt – Richard knew he didn’t, thought he never would – but could Harriet be feeling guilty for what she had done, the role she had played in Richard’s plots, in Hastings’ murder?

“Thank you, Will, you don’t need to say any more.”

“I’m sorry, sir, I should have told you sooner, but – ”

“It’s fine. I believe I know enough to be able to look over the rest of these by myself.”

Here he laid a hand on the remaining folders.

“I’m sure you have other business to attend to. Please, do so.”

“You don’t want me to get Harriet on the phone?”

“I said you don’t need to say any more, Catesby. I will handle this.”

Richard waved his hand, the gesture clearly dismissive. Catesby got to his feet, smoothing his tie as he did so before turning on his heel and leaving the office. Richard remained seated, resting his chin on his clasped hands, for a moment or two, before he reached into the inside pocket of his suit for his cell phone.

He called Harriet – the phone rang once, twice, three times… After the tenth ring it went to voicemail. He tried again – three rings and the call was dropped. When he tried for a third time, an automated message informed him that the phone he was calling was powered off.  He looked at the device for almost a full minute, incredulous. This had never happened before, and he never would have expected it. What the hell did Harriet think she was playing at?

The mayor stood, returning the phone to his suit jacket pocket and striding from the office, allowing the door to close with an impressive bang behind him. He could hear his secretary calling after him, something about a meeting in half an hour, but he ignored her.

It may just have been his paranoia, or perhaps it was just common sense, but Richard thought that preventing his fellow conspirator from saying anything which could incriminate them both for murder was far more important than a meeting.

Catriona Scott

Disclaimer:
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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