In Brittle Glass, the final instalment of To Prove a Villain, Richard’s reign will end the way it began – with blood.
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
An interrogation room. Quarter to twelve. As Harriet had confessed everything – not just her own guilt in connection to Hastings’ murder but the fact this had been done at Richard’s behest and that he had murdered Edward – the officer questioning her had, rightly, become more and more incredulous. He was pacing in front of the table she was sat behind now, a stark contrast to her continued calm. The second officer, standing by the door, simply looked on.
“These are some very serious allegations you’re making, Miss Stafford.”
“They’re not just allegations, they’re the truth. Everything I have told you – about Hastings’ murder, about Edward’s, the rigged elections – it’s all true.”
There was an earnestness in her voice, calm as it was, that could not be denied. Yet the officer looked as though he was going to laugh. He stopped pacing, then, resting his hands on the back of his own chair, gave an incredulous shake of his head before looking directly at Harriet once more.
“Forgive me, Miss Stafford, if I take everything you’ve told me with a large pinch of salt. It’s in a politician’s nature to lie, and you’re as political as they come. The speaker of the council accusing the mayor-”
“If I was lying, would I be here?” Harriet snapped, her calm demeanour swiftly fading at the prospect of her story – no, the truth – not being believed. In all the ways she had envisioned this scenario in her head, she hadn’t imagined one in which she wasn’t believed. But, it was a truly twisted, incredible story. Two people dead and the elections rigged, and one of the men who had died was the brother of the man who currently controlled the city…
“If I was lying, officer, would I have turned myself in for murder?”
If the officer was surprised at the question he did not show it, responding as swiftly as she had to his statement about politicians lying by nature.
“You kept this secret until now, you covered it up. Why are you only telling us this now?”
“That’s the point I’m trying to make,” Harriet replied, a slight note of desperation in her voice now. “I should have come to you before, hell, I shouldn’t have done any of this, but I’m here now and-”
“Were you trying to protect him, is that it?”
“Why would I want to protect a man who threatened to kill me?”
The officer sighed and turned away, moving over to his colleague at the door. They exchanged a few brief, hushed words before the first officer exited, presumably to speak with his colleagues behind the one-way mirror. An uncomfortable silence followed for the next couple of minutes until the officer returned, and when he did, his expression was unreadable.
“I’ve dispatched officers with a warrant for the mayor’s arrest,” he explained. “A story like that…you couldn’t make something like that up.”
Richard looked from the broken phone on the floor to the hand that had thrown it. That hadn’t been the wisest move. He needed to stay in touch with Ratcliffe as she was the only connection he had to Harriet’s situation at this point. But, even Ratcliffe’s telling him what had happened didn’t mean Richard could believe it. The repercussions from the Times article that morning had come far sooner than expected; it had been a blank cartridge, this was the bullet. That Harriet had turned herself in, Richard did not doubt – what else would she have been arrested for, and so soon after the re-opening of the Hastings investigation too?
No, she had planned this. She had planned to betray him, even as she professed her loyalty, even after he had reminded her of the fate she would face if she went against him… He was so furious he was sure he could have killed her himself – and why hadn’t he? Entrusting the job to Ratcliffe – what had he been thinking? Now not only was Harriet still alive but she was doubtless telling the NYPD exactly what had transpired between them over the past months. How he had persuaded her to conspire alongside him, how he had murdered his brother, how he had forced her to murder William Hastings, how they had both rigged the elections, just to drive home the point that murder – and fratricide – simply hadn’t been enough…
But what was strange about all this – aside from this unprecedented betrayal – was the fact that Richard found himself both angry enough to want to kill Harriet, yet he also wanted to speak to her. He wanted her to tell him exactly why she had done what she did. Why, after everything they had done, equally guilty and bloodstained, she had chosen to destroy them both. He almost wanted to know what it felt like. Guilt. What emotion, what mere feeling, could be strong enough to overwhelm her reason like that, to make her ignore all the threats, the warning signs, and doom herself?
He would not say she had doomed them both. No, he wouldn’t say that again. Harriet may have been willing to surrender to the law, to let justice be done and endure the punishment she felt she deserved, but Richard was not such a coward as to hide behind the law he had defied for so long. After all, in his mind, he was not guilty. He did not deserve arrest, trial, a lifetime behind bars. In his mind, his actions were not crimes. Edward and Hastings, both of them had deserved to die. And as for the rigged elections, well, the people were too stupid to elect the right man, so he had taken matters into his own hands. They should be thanking him. Edward and Hastings had not been fit to lead the city but he, Richard, he was not only fit for the job but he deserved it, he deserved it more than they had ever done. He had suffered and this had been his reward. This had been his reward, no, this was his reward. It still was. If he was going to give it up, he would do so on his own terms. Richard Plantagenet would not come quietly – quite the contrary.
It was only then he realised he had been pacing, frantic, wild, like an animal trapped in a cage, his thoughts becoming his words, muttered, frantic.
“They all deserved to die, I’m not guilty, I’m a villain, I’m not, I did what I had to do….”
Then came others, his words, others’ words, old words, all in quick succession.
Whether these words were memories or he said them aloud, he no longer noticed, no longer cared.
“I’m not asking you to kill him, Harriet. I am perfectly capable of doing that myself.”
Richard continued to pace across the floor.
“I’ve always trusted you, Richard, you know that.”
He stopped and shook his head. Edward shouldn’t have trusted him, Harriet shouldn’t have trusted him, not when he couldn’t trust himself…
“You expect me to be like you, is that it, to feel nothing, not to feel the slightest shred of remorse for anything…I’m not like that, Richard, I’m not like you!”
Did he really feel nothing, as he professed? Why was he dwelling in these words, these memories? If his suspicions were true they would be coming for him even now…
“You won’t regret this. Trust me.”
He moved towards the desk, filled with a sudden clarity even amidst the voices in his head, the voices in which he spoke out loud. He now knew what he was going to do, and he would not regret it.
“Don’t worry Edward. I’ll see you again soon, I promise.”
The sound of footsteps in the corridor.
Will Catesby’s voice.
“You can’t just barge in there-”
Richard opened the drawer. The door to his office burst open and the officers strode in.
“Richard Plantagenet, you’re under arrest.”
He simply stared, for a moment or two. But his gaze was dead, unseeing. He removed the gun from the drawer. Immediately the officers reached for their own guns and one of them yelled for him to drop the weapon. Instead he raised it higher, higher, till it was pressed against his temple. Now the others had joined in, insistent, commanding; drop it! Richard wasn’t listening. All he could hear now were the voices inside his own head, and they said the opposite.
“Execution? Yes, it will come to that.”
I would like to thank Catriona for this fantastic contribution over the academic year. It’s been so enjoyable reading every episode – and what a great finale!
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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