Charles poured the tea, “Are you alright, Francis? No injuries from the weekend?”
“Not yet,” the constable sighed as he received his teacup. “The Hill brothers have headed back to their claim for now. Is Miss Winston all right?”
He grunted, giving a small nod to cover his anger, “You need a way to keep the eldest from getting out of hand.” The doctor settled back with his cup, and thought back to his year at Lauriston Place. “Eli is the one with the heaviest hand. You get him to toe the line, his brothers will likely follow.”
“He is quite insistent that Miss Winston is to not step out without him, never mind that she wants nothing to do with him.” Francis frowned, “I would not like to have to arrest Sam Winston for murder, even if it were in defense of his family. On the other hand, I would not wish Eli Hill on anyone.”
“Too true,” Charles watched his friend fret, and an idea began to form. “No chance of you getting another constable in to lend a hand?”
Francis shook his head, “Too few of us to pull someone in right now. I can deputize local citizens, but only for something serious.” His mouth twisted in distaste, “And even if I think the Hill brothers have been working up to taking terrible steps, my supervisor has had other ideas.”
The doctor put his cup and saucer down as his anger rose. He had so few of the china pieces left, and knew his temper. “That toffee-nosed git has no idea what thugs they are.”
“I agree with you,” Francis looked down at his hands, somewhat surprised he was shaking from the effort of holding back his fury. Gently placing the cup by the teapot, he stood at parade rest, breathing evenly to gain control again. “However, my sergeant is not of the same mind.”
“Don’t tell me - that idiot said she should be happy someone is courting her!” Charles frowned as Francis’s lips tightened, and he stood to pace beside his friend, “Bloody fool! She can do better, and will, after we figure how to take the starch out of Eli.”
Francis startled out of his anger, asked, “We?” He had a small suspicion that the doctor had more than community spirit behind his offer to help, but buried the hurt that came with it. “Who else has been calling on her?”
“You don’t think young James would be better for her, once he’s done with his apprenticeship?” Charles dropped into his chair, reaching for another scone.
“Ah, of course,” the constable settled in his chair, hiding his relief in the rim of his teacup, as well as his confusion. “Back to the ‘we’ part of your statement….”
“Well, you don’t think I’d let you take them on alone, do you? One at a time, aye - but not if there’s a chance they’ll gang up on ye.”
“When you said you would not let me take them on alone, this is not quite what I thought you had in mind,” Francis murmured out of the corner of his mouth.
“Aye, I know. But when you and Sam would not let Miss Winston be bait for the trap, this was the next best choice,” Charles adjusted his bonnet to make sure the netting still obscured his face. “Besides, you don’t have the figure to match Miss Mavis.”