Poppy regarded her brother gravely. “Her circumstances must be quite desperate, for her to confide in you like that.”
Leo’s reply was forestalled as Harry entered the apartments, his coat and hat streaming with water. “Good afternoon,” Harry said, flashing a smile. The maid took the sodden hat and coat, and Poppy approached him with a fresh towel.
“You walked?” she asked, her gaze sweeping from the sodden hems of his trouser legs to his rain-dappled features. She reached up to dry his face with wifely solicitude.
“I very nearly swam,” Harry told her, seeming to enjoy her ministrations.
“Why didn’t you take a hackney or send for a carriage?”
“All the hackneys were taken as soon as the rain started,” Harry replied. “And it’s a short distance. Only a milksop would send for a carriage.”
“Better a milksop than to catch your death of cold,” Poppy fussed, following as he drew near the hearth.
Harry smiled and leaned down to steal a kiss from her as he worked at the wet knot of his cravat. “I never catch cold.” Drawing off the damp length of linen, he tossed it aside and stood by the fire. He glanced at Leo expectantly. “What of your meeting with Miss Darvin?”
Leo sat and leaned forward with his elbows braced on his knees. “Never mind that, tell us about the visit to Bow Street.”
“Special Constable Hembrey has considered the information you provided, and he’s willing to take up an investigation.”
“What kind of investigation?” Catherine asked, looking from Harry to Leo.
Leo’s face was impassive as he explained. “A few years ago, Lord Latimer invited me to join an exclusive club. A kind of rakehell society, with secret meetings held in a former abbey.”
Catherine’s eyes widened. “What is the purpose of the society?”
Harry and Leo were both silent. Eventually Leo replied in a flat tone, his gaze fixed on a distant point outside the rain-streaked windows. “Unmitigated depravity. Mock religious rituals, assaults, unnatural crimes. I’ll spare you the details, except to say they were so distasteful that even at the height of my debauchery, I turned down Latimer’s invitation.”
Catherine watched him carefully. His face was set, a small muscle in his jaw flexing. The firelight gilded the taut lines of his face.
“Latimer was so certain I would want to participate,” Leo continued, “that he went into some detail regarding some of the crimes he was involved in. And by some fluke I happened to be sober enough to remember most of what he said.”
“Is the information enough to support prosecution?” Catherine asked. “And as a peer, doesn’t Lord Latimer have the right of freedom from arrest?”
“Only in civil cases,” Harry told her. “Not in criminal ones.”
“Then you think he’ll be brought to trial?”
“No, it won’t come to that,” Leo said quietly. “The society can’t allow their activities to be exposed. When they realize that Latimer is the focus of an investigation, they’ll probably force him to leave England before he can be prosecuted. Or better yet, they’ll see to it that he ends up as a floater in the Thames.”
“Will Constable Hembrey want to depose me?” Catherine brought herself to ask.
“Absolutely not,” Leo said with reassuring firmness. “There’s more than enough evidence against him without your involvement.”
“However it plays out,” Harry added, “Latimer will be far too busy to trouble you further, Cat.”
“Thank you,” Catherine told Harry. Her gaze flickered back to Leo as she added, “That is a great relief.” After an awkward pause, she repeated herself lamely. “A great relief, indeed.”
“You don’t seem all that relieved,” Leo observed lazily. “Why is that, Marks?”
This lack of sympathy, along with his earlier taunts about Miss Darvin, were too much for Catherine’s shredded nerves.
“If you were in my position,” she said stiffly, “you wouldn’t exactly be dancing a jig, either.”
“You’re in a fine position.” Leo’s eyes were like blue ice. “Latimer will soon be gone, Rutledge has acknowledged you publicly, you’re a woman of means, and you have no obligations or commitments to anyone. What could you possibly want that you don’t have?”
“Nothing at all,” she snapped.
“I think you’re sorry to stop running and hiding. Because now you have to face the unfortunate fact that you have nothing … and no one … to run to.”
“It’s enough for me to stay still,” she said coldly.
Leo smiled with provoking insouciance. “That brings to mind the old paradox.”
“About what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.”
Harry and Poppy were both silent, looking back and forth between them.
“I suppose I’m the immovable object?” Catherine asked sarcastically.
“If you like.”
“Well, I don’t like,” she said, scowling, “because I’ve always thought that was an absurd question.”
“Why?” Leo asked.
“There is no possible answer.”
Their gazes clashed and held.
“Yes, there is,” Leo said, seeming to enjoy her rising fury.
Harry joined in the debate. “Not from a scientific standpoint. An immovable object would require infinite mass, and the unstoppable force would require infinite energy, neither of which is possible.”