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I SAW doubt war with apprehension in Mycroft Holmes’ features, and I realized he must have heard something of this before now, or he would not have been so quickly ambivalent. I glanced toward our visitor, and addressed him myself. “Why do you say this, Mister Kerem? Have you proof? It is a most infamous accusation you are making.”

“Alas, I have only tangential proof, not anything direct but what I have been told, and what I have surmised,” said Mister Kerem. “It is not to my liking to have nothing more substantial to offer you, but—” He shrugged in a hopeless way. “You may find it incredible, yet what I know I will impart, and pray Allah will give you more wisdom than He gave me.”

“That is very good of you,” said Mycroft Holmes, recovering himself somewhat. “Do you say there are those in England who support this most nefarious of trades?”

“I fear it is so,” said Mister Kerem. “My brother tried to warn me, I think, but I did not listen. I could not attribute such villainy to any European. It seemed so far-fetched: a European in the slave-trade to Europe, where, as you say, such business is illegal. But when he vanished, and then the policeman investigating his disappearance was found hacked to death near the harbor, I knew I had been a fool. I should have given my brother as much faith as I gave my various employers.” He gazed into the middle distance. “He was a good boy, my brother. Yujel. Not a name that comes easily to English lips, but as good a name as any in Turkish.” He attempted to smile and failed utterly.

“This Yujel was taken, you believe?” Mycroft Holmes asked with a crispness of tone that implied he was not eager to be detracted by memories.

“He was,” said Mister Kerem. “There was a man in our town, a foreigner, a European, who said he was looking for places to plant orchards, but he spent most of his time watching the young men.” He made a resigned gesture. “As what man does not?” Mister Kerem glanced at me and then at Mycroft Holmes, one eyebrow lifted knowingly.

I could think of nothing to say to this, but fortunately my employer was not as nonplused as I.

“Indeed,” he said in a very urbane tone. “Tell me more of this foreigner who claimed to be planting orchards.”

There was a burst of sound from the kitchen. Tyers must be busy, I thought, and continued to write.

“Well, he was much like many Englishmen. He might have been a Dutchman, or even a Swede. He was fair and his face was florid. He walked with a limp. He was of middle years, and he spoke with an accent that some said was French, but I did not think so. His words were harsher.” Mister Kerem cleared his throat. “I did not speak to him more than once myself, and that briefly and in English, so I cannot tell you very much about that. I only saw him a few times.”

I realized the man he was describing could be Jacobbus Braaten, a notion that chilled me.

“Did you have any reason to think he was planning an abduction? Was there anything obvious about him?” Mycroft Holmes asked; if he had noticed the man’s resemblance to Braaten, he gave no indication of it.

“Not as such. Why should I suspect such an infamous thing?” Mister Kerem frowned. “This man was a stranger, and so we all watched him, but we also ignored him.”

“How do you mean?” I asked, for although I had had a brief sojourn in Turkey, I could not claim that I understood the Turks.

“I mean that he was kept apart, not so obviously that he would be offended, but enough to indicate he was a stranger among us. He was aloof by nature, I supposed, as so many Europeans are. So no one extended themselves to befriend him, but also no one was wholly unaware of him.” He paused. “I do not intend to confuse you.”

“Of course not,” said Mycroft Holmes smoothly. “I know the insularity of which you speak. Turks are not the only ones to practice it.” He essayed a chuckle. “The English villager is much the same.”

“It may be so,” Mister Kerem conceded, returning to his topic with full deliberation. “I cannot think what I am to do. I have come this far and now my trail grows cold, and I fear this can only mean dire consequences for Yujel, though I try not to despair of finding him. I know my brother came here on the Princess Fatima and arrived five weeks ago. Other than that, I can find nothing to point to what has become of him.”

“Did you go to the police?” Mycroft inquired, with a quick glance in my direction to make sure I put down the answer fully and accurately.

Mister Kerem scowled. “They did not listen to me. One of the senior officers told me I was mistaken. They would do nothing.”

“And so you sought me out. Now why is that?” Mycroft Holmes asked in a voice so bland that I was instantly on the alert.

“I was told by an official at the Admiralty that you might be able to help me.” He shrugged. “So I determined to find you.” He looked down at his feet. “It was no simple thing, I can tell you. I must assume you have enemies, Mister Holmes?”

“What public servant does not?” Mycroft Holmes answered, dismissing the possibility with such sangfroid that I was more alarmed than before. “You learned my direction and came to me with some difficulty.”

“Yes,” said Mister Kerem. “I was chased by hooligans down an alley. They threatened to beat me and rob me—”

“That, lamentably, might have happened anywhere in London, and for no reason other than you are a stranger here,” Holmes told him. “Why do you say that it was connected to me?”

“Because one of the men warned me to stay away from you.” Mister Kerem looked a bit shamefaced admitting this. “I was very much shocked.”

“So might you be,” said Mycroft Holmes, and rose. “I am going to see what has become of Tyers and our tea. Do you Guthrie, look after our guest.”

I mumbled some words that might be assent, and I made a bigger show of opening my portfolio to take more notes. “You were saying about this European man, whom you believe is responsible for the disappearance of your brother ...” I left the end open, so that he would be inspired to expand on his suppositions.

“It was a most dreadful thing,” said Mister Kerem. “I had paid no heed to anything my brother told me, yet he had expressed his apprehensions most clearly.”

“How was that?” I asked, and paused at the sound of something breaking and a muffled oath from the back of the house. I recovered and went on. “Precisely what did he say?”

“He said that he had seen the man watching him,” said Mister Kerem in the dramatic manner he had used before. “He knew that the man wanted more than kisses.”

“But a look and his suspicions would not be enough for such conviction as you have now, surely,” I said, hoping to draw him out.

“You do not understand how it is,” said Mister Kerem in exasperation. “If you had seen this man, you would have known that he would attempt anything nefarious.”

“You did not listen to your brother, but you had similar apprehensions?” I pursued.

“I did not comprehend the whole of the danger,” said Mister Kerem.

I considered my next question. “You did not respond to this threat until your brother’s misfortune—is it possible there might be another explanation?”

“It was the foreigner who took him,” Mister Kerem insisted with some heat.

“You believe this because he was a foreigner?” I asked, and saw that I had offended the Turk.

“That would be inhospitable,” Mister Kerem declared, sulking.

I wondered what I might do to recover the advantage I had had only moments ago. Fortunately, Mycroft Holmes chose that moment to return, carrying the tea-tray and smiling affably.

“I’m sorry to have taken so long,” he said to the room at large. “There was a minor accident in the kitchen and Tyers is busy setting things to rights.” He put the tray down. “I think you’ll find you’ll be more the thing, as my grandmother used to say, when you’ve had a cup of tea. There will be baked eggs in a short while.”

Mister Kerem shook his head, somewhat mollified. “I am distraught about my brother.”

“Small wonder,” said Mycroft Holmes. “I am distraught about mine, when he goes missing.” He glanced at me. “Would you be good enough to lend Tyers a hand for a moment, Guthrie? I fear he may need some assistance.”

“Of course,” I said, rising and preparing to leave the two of them alone. As I set my portfolio down, I saw Mycroft Holmes signal me to be gone for at least five minutes. I gave him a slight nod to show I understood and said, “Whatever Tyers needs, I am his to command.” I hoped I had not overdone it.

“Excellent fellow,” Holmes approved, and gave his full attention to Mister Kerem.

Walking down the corridor to the kitchen at the rear of the flat, I began to wonder what my employer thought my absence would accomplish.

Tyers was fitting a cut section of wood veneer over a broken window-pane; he glanced my way and favored me with a single nod. “The courier was shot as he came up the steps,” he told me. “The first shot was wide of the mark.” He indicated the shattered pane.

“Is the courier ...” I did not want to ask if he had succumbed.

“In the rear. Behind the rack of disguises Mister Sutton has provided,” said Tyers, as if this were an every-day occurrence, requiring nothing more than the most minimal attention.

“How seriously is he injured?” I asked, appalled.

“He’s bled a great deal, but the wound is clean; if he escapes a bad fever, he should be right as rain in a month or so. He is wrapped in blankets and resting comfortably. I will shortly go to inform the Admiralty of this unfortunate event, and ask Doctor Watson to step ’round for a look at the lad.” Tyers managed a slight, inscrutable smile. “We don’t want this getting out, do we?”

“Good Lord,” I exclaimed. “I should hope not!”

“Exactly,” said Tyers, implying a wealth of misfortune in that single word. He picked up the dustpan which had been lying before the cooker. I had not noticed it until now, and I saw it was full of shards of broken glass. “I’ll be back in half a tick,” he said, and went to dispose of the dustpan’s contents.

Left to my own devices, I paced around the kitchen; the familiar smells of bread and grilled meats awakening my hunger. I recalled that Mycroft Holmes had mentioned breakfast and my mouth watered. I could feel the heat coming from the cooker; I hoped this meant that breakfast would soon be forthcoming. Even as I realized this, I was shocked at my lack of feeling, for surely I must be callous beyond all reckoning to care more for my next meal than the Admiralty courier who lay in the next room. Had I become indifferent to human suffering as a result of my work for Mycroft Holmes? I did not want to think so.

Tyers returned, wiping his hands after he hung up the dustpan in its place. “Good to see you’re keeping your head, if I may say so, Mister Guthrie,” he told me as he cut half a dozen rashers of bacon and put them into a pan to cook.

I was astonished. “Why do you think so?”

“You haven’t gone blubbery on me, thank God fasting.” He turned the bacon as it began to spatter. “There’s more to this Turkish cove than meets the eye. You mark my words.” He opened the oven and peered in. “Almost done,” he announced.

“And the courier? What do you make of his ... misfortune?” I asked.

“He is lucky to be alive,” said Tyers, busying himself with readying plates for breakfast. “I am sorry he was injured, of course. But he is in the service of his country, and men have paid a far higher price than he for such.” He opened the drawer containing the eating utensils. “Get the serviettes for me, will you, Guthrie? They’re in the second drawer on the left.”

I retrieved the serviettes and offered them to Tyers, who indicated the tray he was preparing. “Just there, sir, if you would.”

“Mister Sutton hasn’t arrived yet?” I said, thinking of the courier.

“Not yet,” said Tyers. “He’s a knowing one. He’ll take care to come disguised.”

“Did a message reach him?” I was mildly surprised, wondering how word had been got to him.

“No, it didn’t,” said Tyers.

“So. You have set out the cock, have you?” It was a signal device that Mycroft Holmes sometimes used to warn Sutton to put on a disguise. The little red weather-cock had seen better days, but it was innocuous enough to make it possible for its use without attracting any attention. “Why could you not get a message to him?”

“He’d left the theatre,” said Tyers. “This way, he’ll take precautions.” He took a plate of scones out of the warming oven, and then pulled the butter out of the ice-chest and set them on the breakfast tray. “Marmalade and butter. Should we include honey, do you think? The Turks like honey.” He did not wait for an answer, but went to fetch a stoneware jar of it from the pantry. “Better put it out, just in case,” he said.

I felt as if I had nothing to do. I stood beside the table where the tray waited. “Should I check on the courier?” I asked.

“If you would. Take him some of this.” He handed me a mug filled with an aromatic toddy of brandy, honey, and a mixture of herbs. “Make sure he drinks it.”

“That I will,” I said, taking the mug in hand and going out the rear of the kitchen.

The rack of clothing from which Mycroft Holmes and Edmund Sutton assembled their disguises took up most of the side of the long, dark chamber. The windows that looked onto the rear steps and the service alley were kept dusty deliberately, so that no one could easily look in and see what was stored here. Not that it mattered at this hour. I saw the gaslight was shining softly, hardly more than a glow, giving just enough illumination to save one from tripping over the array of shoes accompanying the clothing. I parted the items on the rack, going between a dove-grey morning coat and a multi-caped coachman’s cloak.

The courier was lying on a narrow cot, a candle standing in a dish on the table behind his head. His shoulder was thick with hastily wrapped bandages, but I could see that a red stain was seeping through. The man’s face was pasty, with sweat on his upper lip and forehead. His eyes were half-closed and he was breathing with an effort. He was a trifle younger than I, with a shock of light-brown hair slicked close to his skull and the indentation of spectacles on the bridge of his nose.

I pulled the blankets up to his chin. “There you are, sir,” I told him as I bent over him. “They’ll warm you up.”

The courier’s eyes opened, but did not truly focus. “What?” he asked. “Who?”

“I am Paterson Guthrie, Mycroft Holmes’ confidential secretary. He sent me to check on you.” It was near enough the truth that my conscience did not twinge at this slight mendacity. “I have brought you something to drink. It will help you to feel better directly.” I held up the mug so he could see it. “Tyers has just made this for you. I will help you drink it.” I dropped down on one knee beside the cot, and reached out to raise his head so he could sip the strange-smelling brew Tyers had made. “Here. Try it, there’s a good fellow.”

The courier drank as I tried to hold the mug for him. Some of the liquid rolled down his chin, and I was annoyed with myself for failing to bring a serviette to wipe his mouth for him. He sighed, and more of the liquid sloshed out. Then he tried to swallow and ended up coughing.

“Take it easy,” I recommended, moving the mug so that it would not spill any more while he recovered.

“Sorry,” he muttered, and his head rolled to the side, off my supporting hand.

I feared the worst had happened, and I put my hand to his forehead only to hear him moan. “You lie still,” I told him, and rose. “You’re pretty badly hit.”

“I am,” he agreed vaguely. “Cold.”

“No doubt,” I said, remembering how I felt after I had suffered a flesh wound the first time. “The doctor will call soon. Be sure he’ll fix you up all right and tight.”

The courier sighed again. I could not think of anything else to say. In a moment I went back through the hanging garments and into the kitchen, setting down the mug near the sink.

Tyers glanced at the mug and shook his head. “Is he complaining of cold?”

“Yes,” I said, knowing it boded ill.

“Then we must hope Watson will come quickly,” he said. “I shall be off in a shake.” He had the tray almost ready. “If you’ll carry this for me, I will be most grateful, Mister Guthrie.”

“If it will mean more speed to help that poor wretch,” I said, and reached for the tray.

“Tell Mister Holmes that I have gone out on an errand. He will take my meaning.” He removed his apron and reached for his frockcoat that hung on a peg on the back of the door. “I think I will go to Watson first. Then to the Admiralty. I fear the courier needs help more urgently than I supposed at first.”

“He may do so,” I said, not wanting to sound panicked. “Best hurry.”

“I will be back before sun-up,” said Tyers, and went out the rear door as I turned toward the front of the flat.

Mycroft Holmes was nodding sympathetically as I came into the room. “Mister Kerem, any reasonable man must feel for your predicament.”

“Do you suppose Englishmen are troubled by Turkish youths being sold as slaves in their brothels?” Mister Kerem countered. “I think not. I think Englishmen who want boys to serve them do not care how the boys came to that state.”

“No doubt you are right,” said Holmes with a subservient manner that was so startling to me that I almost dropped my tray. “Ah, there you are, Guthrie,” he said as if he had only just noticed me. “In good time.”

I put the tray down beside the tea-tray on the table. “Tyers has gone out on an errand,” I told him as I made sure the tray was fully supported. “Baked eggs, bacon, scones, marmalade, honey, butter, and a fruit comfit.” I pointed these out as I drew up my chair and chose a cup-and-saucer for my tea. I was now quite hungry and awake enough to know I needed food.

“At home I would have figs and yogurt,” said Mister Kerem. “And coffee. But this is quite handsome.” He took a plate and filled it with helpings of all that was offered.

“Mister Kerem has been telling me about this curious reverse white slavery. I think he may have stumbled across something quite significant. I shall have to make a full report of it to the Prime Minister at our next briefing.” He had assumed that deferential manner that I knew to be most uncharacteristic of him. “It may demand our attention.”

Something in the tone of his voice warned me to pay attention. I poured my tea and said, “It is an embarrassment to the government if it is true.”

“No doubt,” said Holmes, watching Mister Kerem as he began to devour his food. “I am shocked that so great an outrage as this should have existed for as long as Mister Kerem informs me it has, and we know nothing about it.”

“Criminals can be very subtle,” I said, trying to suit my remarks to his purpose.

“That they can.” He took two baked eggs and three rashers of bacon, and began to eat them, chewing thoughtfully.

“May I pour you some tea?” I asked, seeing that his cup was empty.

“Yes, thank you, Guthrie,” Mycroft Holmes answered, his face turned away just long enough to whisper, “Return to the kitchen.”

Baffled, I did as he ordered. “I believe I have left the kettle on the cooker,” I told Mister Kerem as I made my way to the door. Once there, I helped myself to a bit of egg still in the pan before going to check on the courier once again.

He was not improving. His breath was shallow, and his pulse, when I tried it, was thready. He was only half-ware of me, and that, too, was distressing to me. I put a second blanket over him and wiped his brow. Watson had better arrive quickly, I thought, or he will have wasted his journey.

As I turned to go, the courier spoke. “I ... was shot.”

“Yes, old fellow, I know,” I said in as calm a tone as I could.

“It was ... ambush.” He panted now to get enough breath to finish.

“Yes; on the rear stairs,” I said, paying closer attention now that I realized he was not wandering in his thoughts as much as I feared.

“It was ... intended for ... for Mister Holmes,” said the courier. There was a febrile shine in his eyes, and an urgency that compelled my interest.

“How can you be certain?” I asked, fearing this might be a delusion resulting from his wound, and, at the same time, fearing it might not.

The courier blinked and strove to organize his recollection. “I heard ... someone say, That’s him. That’s ... the other Holmes.”

“The other Holmes?” I repeated, disbelievingly. “Are you certain that is what you heard?”

“It struck ... me as odd,” he said, almost apologizing. “I stopped on ... the stairs because it was ... odd.” He was weakening quickly.

I put my hand on his sound arm. “Good work, lad,” I said, wondering as I did what it might mean. The courier was fairly tall—he took up the length of the cot—and a cloak might give him the appearance of a more portly body than the trim young man possessed. But why should any assassin expect Mycroft Holmes to come up the rear stairs? Unless, I thought suddenly, they were looking for his brother, who, though as tall, was slighter. He had often come to the flat up the rear stairs, and he had his share of enemies among London’s criminal element.

Withdrawing from the protected area behind the costume rack, I mulled over my reflections and decided that there had to be some merit in my conclusion. Now I was annoyed that Mister Kerem was with us, for I could not discuss this deduction with Mycroft Holmes while the Turk was here. No matter how pressing his problem, I could not help but believe this was rather more urgent. I returned to the front of the flat and tapped on the study door. “Sir?”

“Come in, Guthrie. Come in,” Mycroft Holmes greeted me sincerely through the door.

I did as he asked, noticing that the study was now quite warm. I could see that Mister Kerem was more comfortable now than Mycroft Holmes; the Turk was sitting at his ease, putting honey into his tea. “Tyers is still out,” I said.

“He may be some little time,” said Holmes as if untroubled by such a prospect.

“I hope he may be swift enough,” I remarked.

Mycroft Holmes lifted a heavy eyebrow at my observation, but said only, “You must help yourself before the eggs are entirely cold.”

“That I will,” I said, and took up a plate, discovering as I did that my appetite had deserted me. I knew I had to eat something, and so I contented myself with a single baked egg and a scone. As I poured out the strong, black tea into my cup, I tried to think of some way I might gain a few moments with my employer to tell him all I had learned.

“Mister Kerem has presented a most persuasive argument,” said Mycroft Holmes, again in a self-effacing manner that was at once amusing and unnerving.

“He has?” I said, taking my seat and putting my cup-and-saucer on the small end-table next to my chair.

“It is something that we must investigate, or so I now believe,” said Holmes, refilling his cup and adding milk and sugar. “There are so many unanswered questions.” He nodded to Mister Kerem. “This man has suffered a great deal, and I must conclude his is not the only family to be so disrupted.”

“No, indeed,” said Mister Kerem, drinking his very sweet tea with gusto.

“And it troubles me that we in England should have any role in this unsavoury business.” He shook his head. “It must be looked into, and in a timely manner.”

I was somewhat startled by this announcement, for while I knew Mycroft Holmes to be opposed to slavery in general, I did not suppose he would submit it to the Admiralty for action. “When might that be, sir?” I asked, trying to negotiate the conversational maze he had laid in my absence.

“Why, at the weekly review I attend,” he said, waving this away with a negligent gesture, which told me more than anything that he was misleading Mister Kerem for some purpose of his own: he had daily dispatches from the Admiralty, and there was no weekly review he attended.

“An excellent venue, sir,” I said, guessing this was expected of me.

“I should hope so,” Mycroft Holmes said unctuously.

Mister Kerem smiled and finished his tea.


The Admiralty courier is badly hurt, I fear. Watson has said he cannot remove the bullet here; I do not know if he can be saved, without such surgery, for the man’s condition is deteriorating; Watson agreed. In any case, I despair of moving him safely, and not simply because of the gunman who might still be waiting to finish his work; the courier is so weak. If there is any reason to hurry, the welfare of that young man provides it. I will try to arrange for his removal to hospital at once. I shall not linger over these pages any longer ...

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