The Duchess of Duke Street: Trouble and Strife

Louisa emerges from the hotel, apparently on her way to a cross-channel trip. She fires off some last-minute instructions to Mary, kindly predicts she’ll come back to a huge mess, and then sets off in her new car with the Major behind the wheel. Mary and Starr wave her off, and Starr takes note of a frizzy-haired woman watching them from across the road before he and Mary go inside.

They’re not in the door two seconds before some bird-faced woman comes downstairs with her equally pinched maid to complain about the maid finding a cockroach in her room. Mary apologizes and Starr offers to give their rooms a sweep. Mary returns to the kitchens and Merriman comes in to hand Starr a letter a young woman just left for him at the back door. Starr asks him to keep an eye on things and steps out.

He heads to the local pub, where Frizzy waves to him from a table. Starr goes over to her, looking stern, and he reluctantly sits when she offers him a seat. She babbles a bit and he finally asks her (and gives us a name: Lizzy, so I wasn’t so far off to begin with) what she wants. She says she tramped all over London looking for him and claims just to want to say “hi.” Yeah, nobody puts that much effort into finding someone just to say hello. Starr knows it too and sharply asks her to tell him what she wants and be off. She tells him she wants a job at the hotel, and that she’s desperate, because it isn’t easy being on one’s own. He scoffs that she almost certainly hasn’t been on her own, but she counters that she has. There’s clearly some messy backstory here. Starr’s still not willing to help her, so she tries blackmail, bringing up some mysterious past of his. He calls her a bitch, wishes he’d never seen her, and finally offers to help her get a laundry maid job at the Bentink.

The next day, the candidates for the laundry maid position are all lined up, waiting for interviews to start. Mary comes sailing down to the kitchen areas and gets started, ignoring Merriman’s attempt to give her a hand. Frizzy Lizzy comes in last and takes her place in line.

Later, Merriman makes his way up to the foyer, finds Starr, and sends him downstairs, presumably to give Frizzy Lizzy a reference.

Mary’s conducting the interview by asking Lizzy how she’d tackle a particular stain. Lizzy answers wrong, but then promises to pick things up as she goes along. And in the meantime, people will be getting their clothes ruined, Lizzy. A top-tier hotel is not the place for on-the-job training of this type. Starr comes in and Lizzy tells Mary that Starr was her late husband’s best friend in the army, and that Starr was with said husband when he was killed. Hmmm. Starr stiffly agrees that’s true, and after an awkward pause, Mary sends her out to wait in the hall. Mary says Lizzy’s the best she saw (really? Did the others not know what soap was or something?) and asks Starr what he thinks. He gives a rather noncommittal answer, but Mary makes up her mind and gives Lizzy the job.

In the foyer, the Major’s having tea with a lady, who invites him to join her bridge game later.

Downstairs, Lizzy’s hard at work. Mrs. Cochrane, the cook, comes in and starts bonding over their mutual widowhood. The two ladies join the other servants for tea, and Lizzy almost immediately bonds with Fred. She also starts spewing all kinds of information about Starr, such as the fact he was in the rifle brigade in Madagascar, which clearly makes him uncomfortable. She utterly fails to notice.

Starr heads into his room later and finds Lizzy there in her underwear. She claims she had just taken a bath and thought the room was spare, but Starr’s furious and tells her to hurry up and clear out. She continues to get dressed and complains about how hard the work is. Starr, in his turn, complains about her blabbermouth. She squeals that she had no way of knowing he hadn’t told them anything. Starr tells her he’s played things close to the vest, but now that she’s started spewing info, people will start to ask him questions, and he’s not quite as good with lying as she is. She promises not to say anything else and asks him if he’ll take her for a drink. Starr turns her down, since he’s on duty. He does ask her where she’s living and learns she’s in Whitechapel, on her own. He watches her go through his bedroom window, then sits down with Fred.

Seems Lizzy’s got a nasty commute: in the early morning hours, she’s sitting at a table in the kitchen, sporting a shiner while Mrs. Cochrane gets a bowl of water and starts dabbing the wound with a rag. Starr comes in and asks what happened; Cochrane tells him some thug attacked Lizzy on her way to work. Mary comes in, asks if she’s ok, and orders up some fresh linens for a few rooms before leaving with Mrs. Cochrane to plan an upcoming dinner party. Once they’re alone, Starr offers to see her home that evening. This can’t end well. Plus, there’s something fishy about this woman. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn she gave herself the black eye, with his offer being her precise goal.

Later, Starr and Lizzy are in the pub, and she observes people are looking at them oddly, probably assuming he’s the one who gave her the black eye. She starts to talk about going hop picking in the summer, and he clearly starts to warm to her. As she talks, going off on a dark tangent as she says she wants to die young, Starr notices a man lounging against the bar, staring at them intently. He asks Lizzy who the guy is and she glances at him and says, a little too quickly, that she has no idea. Starr won’t let it go and is sure the guy knows her. Lizzy turns and looks at the guy again and says he spoke to her the other night, but it wasn’t a big deal. Starr decides it’s time to take her home and offers to stop for jellied eels on the way. Yum! She counteroffers with some halibut she has at home.

They arrive at her sad little one-room flat and she sets about cooking the halibut while Starr pokes around and finds a razor and a man’s jacket on the floor. He demands to know whose they are and she claims not to know, because she shares the flat in a rotation with other people she doesn’t even know. She sets about making the bed with some sheets she secretly laundered at work, and soon enough, she and Starr are rolling around on them. Uh, ok, then.

Back at the Bentink, Merriman’s going about his business when he hears Fred whining. He releases little Fred from Starr’s room and lets the dog outside, then wanders off without letting Fred back in. Starr, meanwhile, is fast asleep in Lizzy’s bed.

The following day, the servants are having their tea and Merriman’s asking about Starr’s time in the army. Starr’s in a really good mood and starts telling stories, punctuating one of them with a wink at Lizzy that does not escape Merriman’s notice.

The bitchy bird lady from the beginning, Miss Heyword, has brought a complaint of theft to the Major. Mary comes upon the scene, and finally everyone is hustled into Louisa’s office. Miss Heyword claims three sovereigns disappeared from her room the previous day. Mary says she made up the woman’s room herself the previous day, so the only people who were in the room were Mary and Miss Heyword’s own maid. Morgan. Miss Heyword indignantly says it couldn’t have possibly been her maid, and threatens to call the police. The Major tries to diffuse the situation and points out that, since there are no locks on the doors to the rooms (there aren’t? Since when? How was Sir George keeping his wife locked in her room, then?) anyone could have stolen the money. He asks her to leave the matter to him for the time being.

Everyone sweeps out of the office and Starr asks what’s going on. The Major fills him in, then moves the conversation to Starr’s military service, asking if he served with a friend of the Major’s. Starr blanches a bit when the name is mentioned and mumbles that he did, in fact, serve with the guy. The Major offers to invite the guy over so they can all have a chat, but Starr shoots him down.

Lizzy’s heading out for the night and comes across Merriman. She asks if Starr’s around and learns he’s out with Fred.

In the hall, Starr nervously wonders aloud if Lizzy might be the sovereign thief. Meanwhile, the Major makes his way into the office, where Mary shows him a postcard from Louisa. Apparently France sucks and Louisa’s coming home early. The Major shrugs and says he’s figured out who stole the money, by eliminating staff and other guests and narrowing the list down to visiting servants. He’s determined the visiting Frenchman’s valet did it because, you know, he’s French. Plus, he left that morning, so they can put a conclusive end to the whole thing and just deduct the missing money from Miss Heyword’s bill.

Morgan the Maid simpers into the hall and asks Starr for Miss Heyword’s mail. He’s just sorting it out now, but he gets distracted when he sees Lizzy coming down the stairs and hurrying through a staff entrance. He hastily hands the mail over and dashes down to the laundry room, where Lizzy seems to be in a pissy mood about having to run up and down the stairs. She asks him where he was the night before and pouts a bit as she wonders if he was avoiding her. She turns on the coy smile and asks him if he’ll help her get out of her crappy studio and move somewhere closer, so they can hook up more often. He suddenly jumps her, out of nowhere, and she giggles as she pushes him away. Where the hell did this guy come from? This just seems so totally unlike the Starr we know. Not to mention, it feels really, really fake, because these two have zero chemistry, and there was no decent buildup to them getting together. He seemed to hate her, and then all of a sudden he’s trying to nail her in the laundry room? Talk about a slap, slap, kiss relationship.

He offers to help her with the linens she just brought down, but she tells him not to worry about it. Before he leaves, she catches him in an embrace, just as Morgan the Maid comes in. Starr dashes off and Lizzy rudely asks what she wants. Morgan hands over some laundry and starts going on and on about how they’re leaving the next day, and she’ll be happy to go, what with all the goings-on in the hotel. Lizzy sends the woman on her way, and once she’s done, she pulls some stolen coins out of the linens she brought down earlier, hiding them in her corset.

That night, Lizzy heads into the hall to find Starr, but learns from Merriman that Starr’s out on an errand. She gets annoyed and leaves through the front door, a big no-no, as Merriman tries to stop her.

She returns home to her crappy studio, watched by Starr, who’s hidden in a doorway across the street. She throws open the door and sees the man who was staring at her in the bar earlier. She clearly knows him and irritably asks what he’s doing there, because she might have brought Starr home with her, and then how would they explain? He grabs her bag and asks what she’s got for him. There’s only one coin in it, but for some reason, she pulls out the coins she had hidden in her corset and hands those over too, telling him that’s the last he’ll ever get. I highly doubt that, Lizzy. He takes two of the three coins, but she tosses the last coin at him and asks him to leave, because she’s finished with him. He accuses her of going soft, grabs her and tells her to remember that he’s her protector and she’ll do what he says. He gets rough with her, and when she starts screaming Starr, who’s been listening outside the door this whole time, bursts in and starts tussling with the guy (whose name is Frank, by the way). Starr finally gets the upper hand when he slashes Frank’s arm with the razor. He stares at the bloodied razor in horror, then runs out.

Star’s back at the Bentink, bloodied and weepy, telling Fred he should have listened to his instincts and learned his damn lesson the first time he dealt with this woman. And speak of the devil, here she is, hammering on his window and wailing so loudly he has no choice but to let her in. She weepily tells him Frank made her do it, forced her to get the job and start stealing, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and he was also the one who gave her the black eye. She wails that it was really Starr she wanted, and he bitterly says that she had him once, and she wrecked it that time too.

Lizzy falls back on the “I was young and stupid” excuse that never, ever flies with me and apparently doesn’t fly with Starr, either. It seems she messed around while Starr was off in battle. But, you know, the other guy “took advantage” of her youth and inexperience and…yeah, now I’m just tuning her out. Starr wins some applause from me by shouting that it always seems to be someone else’s fault, with her. She’s always the victim. She says she loved him, but he was too high and mighty for her. “Oh, you’re blaming me now, are you?” he says. “Well, why not, it can’t all be my fault!” she sobs. Yes it can, lady! Be a frigging grownup!

Starr, his voice shaking, tells her he loved her, and that when he saw her again his mind just went right back to Malta. She tries to prey on his kindness, saying they could make it work, she could stay on at the hotel, but Starr’s had enough. He grabs her arm and drags her out of his room and outside, even as she cries and begs him not to send her back there. He slams the door right in her face and goes back to his room, where he hollowly tells Fred she’s gone, and good riddance.

The next day, Merriman’s having a word with the admiral who’s staying there as the Major walks past. Merriman draws him aside and tells him the admiral’s had some money disappear too. The Major doesn’t seem surprised, since he never seriously thought the French valet was guilty anyway. He suggests Merriman give the admiral some brandy on the house to make up for it.

Maid Morgan comes down all in a tizzy and asks the Major where the porter is, because he hasn’t answered her rings. The Major heads into the laundry room, where Mary and Mrs. Cochrane are wondering where Lizzy is. They don’t know where Starr is either, but the man himself comes in just then, still pretty banged up and wearing his civilian suit. Naturally, they all ask what’s up and Starr tells them he’s quitting for private reasons. Cochrane immediately guesses this has something to do with Lizzy, and he admits it is, in part, connected with her. The Major refuses to take these weak and evasive responses and he and Mary urge Starr to sit down and explain everything.

Starr tells them Lizzy’s been stealing money, and he feels he should leave, since he was the one who recommended her and all. They all tell him her stealing wasn’t his fault. The Major, being a man of the world, realizes there’s more to this, and he takes Starr to Louisa’s office to talk man-to-man. Starr spills all, going all the way back to his time in Malta. Turns out Lizzy had no husband at all, not a legal one, anyway. She was a sort of common-law wife to Starr, though. But then he went and fought in Egypt and came back and found her messing around with someone else. During the confrontation, he lost his temper and cracked the other guy’s skull, which got him court martialed, jailed, de-pensioned, and dishonorably discharged. The Major’s friend spoke in Starr’s defense, so he knows the whole story too.

The Major still doesn’t see why Starr has to leave, since nobody but him knows the story, but Starr isn’t interested in being the subject of gossip. The Major urges him to stay, reminding him that nobody else will put up with Fred, and anyway, he’s part of the hotel now. Starr seems to be considering it, just as Mary comes in to say there’s an inspector from Scotland Yard who wants to speak with Starr. The Major asks her to show the inspector into the office. Mary joins them and the Major does all the introductions.

The inspector starts asking questions about Lizzy, who’s apparently quite well known to the inspectors under several names, including Mrs. Joseph Starr. Mary’s shocked, but the Major calmly corrects him to say Starr was never the woman’s legal husband. Well, it’s a moot point now anyway, because Lizzy’s dead, found in the river early that morning. She either jumped or was pushed. Damn. Poor woman, I didn’t hate her that much. Starr looks gutted and tells them they want to find a man called Frank Carelli.

Later, Starr’s in his room with Fred, caressing the flag he brought back from battle, staring off into the distance and trying to tell himself to buck up and keep moving forward.

Louisa and the Major drive up to the hotel in the motor, and she asks if anything happened while she was away. The Major says no, it’s been fairly quiet, really. Mary and Starr emerge to greet her, and Mary parrots the Major’s line about nothing happening. Louisa asks after the laundry maid, and Mary said they had one, but she left. Louisa rolls her eyes and says she’ll choose the maid, then. She goes inside and the Major and Starr exchange a significant look before following her in.

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