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“GUTHRIE! Guthrie, my boy! Come down at once! At once!” The sound of my employer’s voice in the front hall of the Curzon Street house where I had rooms brought me bolt awake and running for my dressing gown and slippers for all that it was a few minutes past three in the morning. I strove to bring my thoughts into order as I presented myself at the top of the stairs. Below, Mycroft Holmes was waiting, dressed formally and wearing a dark cape with shoulders shining with rain; I surmised he had been to the theatre again earlier in the evening.

He held his silk hat in one hand and a pistol in the other. “Make haste, Guthrie. Make haste. I need you to dress and come with me immediately.”

I asked for no explanation, nor did I expect one. “I’ll dress as quickly as possible, sir,” I assured him, and turned back to my room. It was two nights after our evening at the theatre; Holmes had ventured out to the play again. That alone would not account for his appearance here, at such a time of night. No caprice would bring Mycroft Holmes to summon me at this hour, I knew; I rarely saw him with a pistol, but on those occasions when I had, it had boded ill. My alarm increased as I flung my dressing gown aside, shivering a little in the sudden chill.

“Make haste,” Holmes shouted up at me again.

This very order—uttered thrice—brought me fully awake, for it was rare that Mycroft Holmes issued such commands in so brusque a tone; when he did, it meant that the urgency was genuine and immediate. Spurred by this certainty, I rushed back to my room and grabbed for my clothes On the wooden valet even as I tugged off my night-shirt; I ignored the gooseflesh rising on my arms and shoulders as I sorted out my clothes, then pulled open my drawer for underwear. I tossed them atop the rest. For an instant I longed for a cup of strong tea and a bit of oatmeal to help wake me, but I abandoned that wish as I heard my employer climbing the stairs, a sound that goaded me to swifter action. “What is the matter?”

Holmes was standing in the door, a large figure of imposing presence that even after more than seven years’ association still had the capacity to impress me. “I have not half an hour since received a message that alarms me. I fear that Vickers has come to light again.”

“Vickers,” I repeated, pausing in the act of pulling on my singlet. “I had hoped we had seen the last of him. The Brotherhood, too.”

“And I, dear boy, and I,” said Mycroft Holmes heavily.

I knew by the tone of his voice that this was not good news. “What has happened?” I tugged my shirt over my head as I listened.

“Earlier this evening, I was summoned from the theatre at the second interval to wait upon—well, shall we call him a man of the highest rank and leave it at that?—who solicited my help in evaluating the work of Sir Marmion Hazeltine, which I assured him I would do with as much dispatch as possible. The person making this appeal is hopeful that Sir Marmion may have found a way to deal with the mad in a more constructive and humane manner, and to diagnose their ills more scientifically. I will, of course, do as he asks.”

“Of course,” I said, thinking that alone would not bring him here at such an hour or in so urgent a state of mind.

“Shortly before I left the castle, an informant from the Admiralty sent me word that Vickers has been summoned here for a meeting with other members of the Brotherhood—German members.” He sighed. “There is no legitimate reason to refuse them entry to the country.”

“But why not?” I asked as I fumbled with my buttons.

“The men are not officially listed as non grata, for the Crown does not recognize the existence of the Brotherhood, at least not in any way that would extend to diplomatic dealings. It would be a dreadful mistake to accord them such legitimacy as declaring them non grata would do. It is bad enough that they exist; it would be worse if we should lend them even the suggestion of legitimacy by recognizing them in any official way, which such a declaration would do.” He cleared his throat, a sure sign of distress. “The trouble is, they are being very clever, and this puts me in a doubly awkward position, which I must suppose is their intention.” He stumped over to my single chair in the bow of the window and looked out on the street. “I have been cudgeling my brains for some acceptable excuse to keep them out of the country, but without success. To deal with Sir Marmion on the one hand, the Brotherhood and the Germans on the other is not an easy prospect.”

“Can nothing be done? Is there not some way to delay the Germans until you have delivered the information on Sir Marmion for your ... your inquirer?” I asked as I stepped into my under-drawers. It was cold enough that I could feel the goose-flesh on my back and arms; I noticed that the small cat my landlady had taken in had come into my room, and sat staring, in the way of cats. I had found that cat myself, in these very chambers, covered in red paint; for that service the cat, a handsome, brindled creature now called Rigby, occasionally displayed a contemptuous affection for me: this was one such moment.

“No, not without causing embarrassment to a German noblewoman, and possibly leading to difficulties with the Turks,” Holmes said with a brief, cynical chuckle.

“Oh, yes, the Turks,” I said, continuing to dress.

“They are a complication, making swift action now all the more necessary.” He pulled at his lower lip. “The crux of the matter is that German noblewoman.”

“Good God!” I expostulated as I put on my trousers, tucking in my shirt-tails and adjusting the braces before I reached for my waistcoat. “What a coil! How comes a German noblewoman to be caught up in this?”

“Well might you ask. We have had word from Scotland. Concerning Sir Cameron.” He glanced back toward the stairs. “We won’t be overheard, will we?”

More and more tangles! What had Sir Cameron to do with this? I wondered, not doubting for an instant that the sottish Scottish knight could be part of this imbroglio. “No; only by the cat,” I said in answer to his question. My landlady was not only the soul of discretion, she was a woman who valued sleep; she would not deprive herself of rest in order to eavesdrop.

Holmes looked reassured. “Well, you do recall that Sir Cameron’s second wife is German?”

“Yes; I thought they were estranged.” I had assumed that since I had first encountered the bumptious Scot in Munich on my first mission for Mycroft Holmes. “She has almost never been seen in his company. Not that I blame her.”

“Just so,” said Mycroft Holmes drily.

“Have they reconciled?” I asked, thinking it unlikely.

“Not as yet. But it seems she has come into a tidy fortune from her uncle, and now Sir Cameron is all alacrity to reestablish—er—rapprochement with her. Apparently she is of a similar mind—although I cannot fathom why. She has made the first move for reasons I can only speculate upon. His acceptance, on the other hand, is easily guessed: it would suit him very well to have his hands on her money.” His smile was without humor. “His advantages are readily apparent should they reconcile. Hers are less so, which makes her pursuit of him so puzzling, although that is precisely what it appears is happening. She, it would seem, is encouraging him, which has to be something new in their marriage. Until now she has been at pains to avoid him. Yet as of two weeks ago she has sent word that she intends to visit him. She has said she will come to England to see him, to determine if she wishes to renew their—um—intimacy.”

“That is a bit embarrassing,” I said as I knotted my tie, then opened my sock drawer and pulled out a rolled pair. “But I do not see what that has to do with this emergency.”

“Her uncle, it turns out, had some close associates,” said Mycroft Holmes grimly. “In the Brotherhood. They will be her traveling companions according to the telegram she has sent to him. I have only just learned of this, or I would have advised against permitting her to have them escort her. It would have been much better to have her accompanied by half a dozen officers of one of the better Scots regiments.”

“Is it too late to make such an arrangement?” I was standing on one foot, my sock held at the ready; Rigby watched inscrutably.

“I fear it is. Should I make such recommendation at this point, it would lead, I fear, to precisely the suspicions I would like to avoid.”

I faltered as I pulled on my socks and looked for my boots. “Are you certain? That they are part of the Brotherhood? Are your sources accurate? This is not the sort of accusation you would want to make without persuasive evidence.” I retrieved them from under the bed, and shoved my feet into them. “Considering what has happened to Sir Cameron, I wouldn’t think that—”

“As certain as I may be without seeing their blood signatures on their oath. Your caution is laudable, my boy, but in this instance it is also misplaced,” he answered, a grim note coming into his voice as he got out of the chair. “And there is the report on Sir Marmion, which should not be delayed. Are you ready?”

This shocked me; I nodded, and rubbed my chin. “I haven’t shaved, sir,” I said as I realized it for myself.

“Tyers will lend you a razor when we reach Pall Mall. It is a good thing you keep a change of clothes at my flat; you may not return here for a day or two. We haven’t time for shaving now. Sid Hastings is waiting for us and time is passing. Come along, Guthrie. And be careful.” He was already at my door, holding it open for me; Rigby slipped out of the room ahead of us. What could I do but don my coat, take my cloak from its peg on the door, and follow Mycroft Holmes down the street?

Sid Hastings brought his cab up to the kerb and let down the steps. “Gentlemen, do come in,” he said calmly, as if this were midafternoon and not the dregs of night; we climbed in and closed up the front of the cab. “Walk on, Lance.” His new horse, a slapping bay with Cleveland blood in him, obeyed his signal properly, and soon we were moving along at a good trot to Pall Mall, the hollow clop of the horse’s hooves echoing eerily in the empty streets.

The dark streets were wet from the mizzle that came in off the Thames. I took a deep breath of the night air, as much in the hope it would waken me as to avail myself of its benefits. After going several blocks in silence, Mycroft Holmes spoke. “It is the most damnable thing,” he said with emotion as he swung around, holding his pistol at the ready.

“Damnable? The Brotherhood?” I had not been privy to the thoughts that led him to this expostulation, and heard him now with a sense of apprehension; I could not see whatever it was that had alarmed him.

“Damnable,” reiterated Holmes, squinting into the foggy darkness. “We are being followed,” he declared. “Two men on horseback.”

Again I looked and saw nothing, although I did hear the sound of a pair of horses not far behind us. “Are you certain?”

“Guthrie, dear boy, I left the theatre early in part because I was given a warning that there might be an attempt on my life tonight; the summons from the castle was fortuitous in that regard. There was a pair of horses behind me then, there was a pair of horses behind me when I left the castle, and there is a pair behind us now. If you listen, you will hear one of the horses has a loose shoe. You will hear no wheels, so you must assume the horses are being ridden, not driven.” He shook his head, still twisted about in the cab in order to keep a watch on what was behind us. “And there is other trouble to deal with tonight. It is a difficult situation.”

“What trouble?” I asked.

Mycroft Holmes did not answer directly. “The Brotherhood are busy again, as I told you. Vickers has been out of the country for almost a year, and I had reason to hope he would remain abroad, fixed in Germany, where we had our last report of him; after all he suffered as the result of our pursuit of him, I would have supposed he would wash his hands of Britain. Any prudent man would. But prudence is not one of the Brotherhood’s virtues, is it?” He did his best to chuckle at this observation, an effort that ended on a sigh. “I have it on good authority that he intends to meet with these German Brotherhood members while they are here, which indicates he will be back, and protected by their position and rank. His return can only mean that the Brotherhood are resuming their efforts to find like-minded friends in Britain. They have more than enough of those already. The timing of the visit is suspicious.” He pulled at his lower lip, a sure sign of consternation. “If the Turkish delegation had not set Sunday week for the start of their visit, I could view the Brotherhood’s activities with a less jaundiced eye. It is all too pat. I have wanted to believe that this is mere co-incidence. But as it is, I cannot allow myself the luxury of hoping for the possibility that these incidents are only happenstance.”

“You aren’t surprised at this, are you, sir?” I asked, recalling the many times he had given warning to his colleagues in the government regarding the activities in the Brotherhood. “That the Brotherhood are trying once again to reestablish themselves in England?”

“No, not surprised,” said Mycroft Holmes heavily. “It was only a matter of time until Vickers found a way to work mischief again, and with the Turks coming, the opportunity must seem too promising to pass up. There is tension enough between Eastern Europe and the Turks to offer the Brotherhood the very opportunities they seek, and Vickers is not one to miss such a chance. In his position, I would probably have done the same thing. Still, I hoped we would have a little more time to prepare for their return.” He slapped his thigh through his cloak, a dark frown on his broad brow. “Well, it is not to be.”

“I suppose not,” I said, coughing diplomatically. “The situation must be urgent, for you to fetch me at this hour.”

“Unfortunately, it is.” He lowered his voice. “I received word tonight—along with the warning of a possible attempt on my life—that Jacobbus Braaten is arriving in five days at Dover. He is the first of the Brotherhood to come; he is here supposedly to confer with a group of Oxford dons. I have no doubt he will do it, and try to sound them out, to determine if he might have an ally or two among them.” He stared into the night as if he could see the pernicious Dutchman approaching through the mists.

“Jacobbus Braaten!” I exclaimed. I had not heard him mentioned for more than three months; of all the many villains in the Brotherhood, Jacobbus Braaten was without doubt the most baneful. When his steam-launch blew up last year, I hoped we had seen the last of him.

“You will have to be very careful around him, if you happen to encounter him again. I have heard he holds you responsible for the explosion and his limp.” Holmes gave a quick smile. “That was excellent work, Guthrie my boy.”

“It wasn’t deliberate,” I had to admit. “I had to escape from him as best I could. Breaking his leg was a fortunate by-product of my improvised bomb.”

“And a wise decision it was, putting those explosive on the boiler,” Mycroft Holmes approved. “I wish he had not survived, but so it is.”

The pair of horses behind us dropped back a way, so that the sound of the hoofbeats was only a distant counterpoint to our words. Sid Hastings remained unperturbed.

“If Braaten is coming, we must suppose the Brotherhood is serious about regaining its standing among the radicals in England.” I could feel my apprehension increase in spite of my intention to remain detached from the threat. “No wonder you are apprehensive about the Turks being here at the same time. Braaten has sworn to exact vengeance for Constantinople.”

“The Turks would say Istanbul,” Mycroft Holmes reminded me.

“Constantinople,” I insisted. “Though it does not matter what the city is called: if Jacobbus Braaten is determined to exact a price for his misadventures there, nothing we do can change it.”

“The Brotherhood has never been anything less than serious about its goals,” said Mycroft Holmes in a voice made deep with the burden it implied. “You have as much reason as I to know this. You have seen them at work.”

I nodded. “I have never had cause to believe they would not go to any lengths to achieve their ends. Indeed, I have every reason to know they are ruthless and relentless.” I shoved some unpleasant memories out of my mind for the time being: it was not the Brotherhood’s past villainy that demanded my attention, but the plans that might be underway for new acts of mayhem. “Particularly Jacobbus Braaten. He’s worse than Vickers.”

“I know Vickers has spent some time with Braaten; two of our agents have confirmed it, one at the cost of his life,” Mycroft Holmes went on as if he were discussing a social event rather than the plotting of dire men.

“Was that the information you had from Amsterdam last month?” I ventured, recalling the very correct Dutch officer who had called at Holmes’ flat unannounced.

“That was the beginning of it, yes,” said Holmes, his attention fixed on the road ahead. “I very nearly dismissed the report as being groundless; thank goodness Sutton had the presence of mind to review the communications the Dutch officer brought with him, or I might well have overlooked one of the crucial notes amid all the rest. I had not been as acute as I should have been. There was very careful phrasing in the text, so constructed as to seem innocuous. It was so well-done that I fell into its trap.” He began to twiddle his watch-fob. “I had read the missive one way; Sutton showed me it had an alternate meaning.”

“Did he,” I said, curious but not particularly surprised, for Sutton was very sensitive to nuances of language—the result of his occupation.

“I admit it.” Mycroft Holmes cracked a chuckle. “I’m not often caught napping, but this time I very nearly was. I cannot express the scope of my gratitude to Sutton; there are not words of sufficient obligation.” He glanced back, as if to ascertain we were not being followed, and then he looked directly at me. “You will have to tread carefully; we must not alert any of the Brotherhood to the fact that we have been apprised of their scheme.”

“Of course, sir,” I said, a bit perplexed that he believed that I should need such a warning. My past experience with the Brotherhood made me keenly aware of the danger they represented. “You need have no doubts of me.”

“Certainly not, dear boy,” said Mycroft Holmes as we reached the turning into Pall Mall. “You will see that the Brotherhood are—” He stopped as the cab pulled up at the front of his building in Pall Mall, across from his club. “Come up, come up.” He opened the door and let down the steps, saying to Sid Hastings as he did, “If you will return at eight, I will have work for you.”

Sid touched the brim of his hat in salute. “Eight it is,” he said, and signaled Lance to walk on just as I got down and flipped up the steps.

“Tyers is waiting for us,” said Holmes as he began to climb the stairs. “I have arranged to have an Admiralty courier to be at our disposal from now until midnight. He is expected directly, and will arrive at the rear of the flat to decrease the possibility of observation. We may well have need of him.” He reached the first landing; I was close behind him. “Be alert, Guthrie. I am very much afraid that we are swimming in deep water this time.”

“We have done so before, sir,” I said, gamely keeping up with him.

“Ah, but this time we are at risk as we have not been before. To face Vickers and Braaten at the same time is to compound the danger. To fight them in England is a peril of its own.” He was almost to the second landing when he stopped abruptly. “If you are willing to face the Devil, you will have my greatest thanks.”

“Surely it is not so desperate as all that,” I said as we headed upward to his door; I glanced back down the street, wondering if I should see the pair of horses that had been following us.

“I would like to believe it is not, although all my senses warn me that it is.” He was about to knock when Tyers opened the door for him, as neat and self-possessed as if this were three-thirty in the afternoon instead of the darkest hour of the night. “Ah, Tyers. You see me returned in good time. What news?”

“The Turkish gentleman is waiting in your study, Mister Holmes,” said Tyers as calmly as he might have told us that the post had been delivered on time.

Turkish gentleman? I thought. One coming in advance of the delegation perhaps?

“Yes. Thank you, Tyers. I trust he has been provided a better-fitting pair of boots?” Mycroft Holmes shrugged out of his cape and handed it, his hat, and silk muffler to Tyers. “And he has had something to warm him?”

“Yes, sir. You were quite right in saying he would need a sticking plaster; he has a blister the size of a nut on the base of his heel.” He took my overcoat from me. “I have water on for tea. We’ll have you warm soon enough, Mister Guthrie.”

“Very good,” I said, feeling awkward to be noticed. I stifled a yawn and made myself stand very straight. “I beg your pardon. I am not entirely awake yet.”

“What time did you go to bed?” Mycroft Holmes asked me as he motioned me to come with him down the hall to his study.

“Just after one,” I said. “I was busy with the translations you requested from the German newspapers. I must say, I did not find anything suspicious in the pages, other than that the price of pork seems to be rising more than usual for this time of year.” I still had the uneasy feeling that there was something I had not seen, something so obvious that when Mister Holmes pointed it out to me—as I was certain he would do—I would be mortified for not perceiving it instantly.

“What do you think such a fluctuation could mean?” Holmes suggested as he tapped on the door of his study. “Mister Halil Kerem. Do you mind if we enter?”

A muffled answer came from beyond the door, and then Mister Kerem himself opened the door, dressed in good English clothes, with a silken tie that was a trifle over-bright and a bit too wide, but otherwise quite acceptable, although clearly he was not a diplomat. He was wearing one boot and holding the other in his hand. “Mister Holmes,” he said in very good English. “I am eternally grateful to you for taking me in. May Allah give you many worthy sons for your kindness.”

“It is I who am grateful, Mister Kerem. You have alerted me to a most urgent problem that needs prompt attention.” He motioned his guest to return to the over-stuffed chair he had clearly just vacated—a sock was lying on the floor in front of it—and strode in to take his usual place on the old-fashioned settle in front of the hearth. “Come, Guthrie, let me present you.” He signaled to me. “This is my personal secretary and general assistant, Mister Paterson Guthrie: Mister Halil Kerem.”

“It is an honor to meet one who has the privilege of serving Mister Mycroft Holmes,” said Mister Kerem, in that effusive and flowery way they consider good manners among the Turks.

“The honor is mine, to meet one who has come so far to be of use to Mister Holmes,” I said in what I hoped was enough expansiveness.

“Guthrie is going to make notes on our conversation so that I may be certain that I have your information down in all its particulars,” said Mycroft Holmes, glancing up as Tyers appeared in the doorway. “Yes? What is it?”

“Tea is almost ready, Mister Holmes,” said Tyers, unflappable as always. “Do you want anything more than toast and marmalade to accompany it?”

“That will suffice admirably, for the time being. We’ll want breakfast directly, but tea first, if you would,” said Mycroft Holmes, giving me a moment to retrieve my leather-bound portfolio in which I kept paper and writing implements. “You will join us, of course, Mister Kerem?” It was not actually a question, only courtesy due a guest, but the Turkish gentleman considered his answer.

“I am generally fond of tea,” he said, “but not with milk. Sugar will suit me very well.” He smiled as he disposed himself in the chair again. “You are kind to ask. So often you English put in milk without bothering to ask.”

“Yes. Well.” Mycroft Holmes laid his arm on the table as he took his seat. “Perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me of your misadventure this evening, so that I may offer you what assistance I am able to?”

Tyers stepped back and closed the door; I could hear his footsteps as he went toward the rear of the flat.

Mister Kerem did not like being prodded, but he took it well enough. “At such an hour, I can well comprehend your testiness. I will bring myself to the point at once.” He paused. “It is slavery, Mister Holmes—slavery.”

I had begun to write, but his mention of that most heinous institution caused me to stop my efforts and wait for further instructions: I glanced at Mycroft Holmes to see what his response might be.

“My dear Mister Kerem, much as I lament the enslavement of my fellow-humans, I am powerless to interfere with Turkish sovereignty. It is a deplorable state of affairs, I grant you, but it is also beyond my powers to correct. If you wish to stir up public sentiment, it is a journalist you want, not a minor official such as I am.” He spoke smoothly enough, but I saw he had begun to twiddle his watch-fob, a sure sign of agitation on Holmes’ part.

“Not in Turkey, Mister Holmes,” said Mister Kerem as dramatically as an Italian. “No. Nothing of the sort. Slavery here in England.” He waited a second or two, and added, “You must stop it.”

“Slavery here in England?” Holmes said in a tone of utter revulsion. “Nothing of the sort, my good man. Nothing of the sort. There are laws ...” His voice trailed off and an uncharacteristic expression of doubt settled on his features. “Why do you say this?”

“Because my own brother was taken from our family,” said Mister Kerem. “A lad of sixteen. And he is not the only one.”


The arrival of the Turkish gentleman, Mister Kerem, has alarmed MH in a singular manner—so much so that he went himself to fetch G at this late hour for the purpose of having him record what is said; MH himself was returning from a most private interview with HRHE when my note reached him. It appears to me that MH is more troubled by Mister Kerem than circumstances would seem to justify, which gives me to wonder what more MH knows of the situation that he has kept to himself ... I must believe that MH has some special understanding that has been alerted by recent events.

This evening I reported to MH that this flat was under observation from the rear. In a flat opposite this one from the service alley, there has been a man in what must be servant’s clothing who has done nothing but watch the alley and the stairs leading to this flat. I thought at first I might be mistaken, but now I can have no doubt. I have informed MH of this and he has acknowledged this intelligence with a nod ...

What has puzzled me is the generous welcome MH has ordered to offer Mister Kerem. It is not like him to be so unquestioning regarding those admitted to this flat. No doubt he will explain it in good time.

I will have to find a way to warn Sutton not to approach this flat from the front, or to come in disguise, I expect him within the hour, when we will have to improvise, for MH does not want Sutton seen at this flat, except in his disguise as MH himself.

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