was a gaping cavern full of blunt teeth.
Ham Brooks stared, his face stiff. He was watching the smoky-haired individual for signs of deceit.
“What?” repeated Monk dully.
The man nodded somberly. “The long and short of it is, the homelier the man, the more Davia is spellbound. Ah had sent her to New York on a vacation, but decided to follow just to keep a fatherly eye upon her. After the last adventure in which she took up with an oil-field roughneck, Ah kind of hoped she’d gotten that homely-fellow taste out of her mouth.”
Monk muttered for a third time, “What?”
“When Ah learned from the staff of the hotel at which she was staying that Davia was running off with you, Mr. Mayfair, Ah knew Ah had to put a stop to it. So as any father would, Ah waylaid her in Pennsylvania Station. Ah guess the sight of her old father showing up unexpectedly made her go haywire. Not that there is anything new in that. Davia has been haywire most of her life.”
Monk’s mouth shut like a steel trap. His tiny eyes seemed to sink into his round skull, and disappointment was written all over his apish physiognomy.
“My apologies to you for the behavior of my dear daughter,” Raymond Lee continued, “but you are not the first hairy-chested brute Davia’s tried to sink her hooks into. Nor, Ah fear, will you be the last one.”
As Monk absorbed the full weight of these words, Ham Brooks started to laugh. The mirth began as a restrained titter, turned into a giggle, and before long he threw his head back and was laughing uproariously.
“Oh, this is too rich!” he howled. “Wait until the others hear about this! Monk is the victim of a love-struck woman who is only attracted to ugly men.”
“Ah would not say ugly , but rather ill-favored,” countered Raymond Lee. “Homely, if you will. Ah believe there is a difference, after all.”
Monk stared at the smoky-haired individual, then his eyes seized upon Ham Brooks convulsing in laughter, and for a moment the hairy chemist did not appear to know what to do with himself. His fingers worked into fighting fists, then opened up again several times.
Suddenly, he leaped, seized hold of Ham Brooks’ elegant cane and bent it over his knee without seeming to give it any more effort than necessary. The fine Malacca wood of the barrel splintered alarmingly, and the flexible blade inside bent nearly double.
“My word!” Raymond Lee burst out, aghast.
Ham Brooks abruptly ceased laughing and retreated behind the big table of a desk, whose protection was doubtful.
Monk spun on Raymond Lee, and barked, “I don’t believe you! I don’t believe a word of it!”
“Ah would hardly have come here to offer such a tall tale if Ah were not who Ah claim to be,” the abashed man pointed out.
Monk glared at him. “Where’s Davey now?”
“After calming her down, I put her on another train.”
“Which train?” demanded Ham in his best lawyerly style.
“We have kin in Virginia. I sent her to Richmond.”
Monk and Ham exchanged looks, and some of the irate skepticism seemed to leak out of the hairy chemist while Ham Brooks appeared to become slightly more skeptical. Of course, that was their way. They were always assuming contrary postures toward one another. Rarely did they agree upon a subject, and if one’s mind ever changed, the other party invariably switched sides in response.
“It is my firm intention to join her there by evening,” resumed Raymond Lee. “Ah realize the ruckus Ah created in the train station, and assumed there might be repercussions. Hence, my appearance here, which is my pitiful attempt to explain the excitement of this morning.”
Ham Brooks stated, “We will check your story out, Mr. Lee.”
“Ah expect you to do so. You’ll find the Lee family is of impeccable character, and above reproach.”
“I imagine that I will,” Ham said smoothly.
“Well, now that you have my story, Ah am obliged to take my leave and catch up with my wayward
Maureen Child, Kathleen Kane