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“AN EMBARRASSMENT of riches,” said Mycroft Holmes as he studied the pages before him.

“Sir Marmion’s case histories, sir?” I asked as I continued my usual duties of copying out his memoranda of yesterday. We were back in his study and he was at the main table and I at the drop-front antique secretary.

“The number of them.” Holmes put his hand on the expanding file and shook his head. “I am most impressed by his thoroughness, particularly in regard to the mad. I confess I do not always follow his deductions in regard to these unfortunates, but I believe that there are answers to be found.” He pushed back from the table and stretched his arms out. “Dear me. One in the afternoon. How quickly time goes by.”

“Very true, sir,” I agreed, feeling a bit stiff. “There is a meeting scheduled for half-three today, as you will recall.”

“The Germans,” said Mycroft Holmes, with a ducking of his head as if in capitulation to the inevitable. “It will be awkward. If only Her Majesty and the Kaiser were not such close relatives.”

“That can’t be changed,” I said, a bit wryly, for if anyone could make such an alteration, it would be Mycroft Holmes.

“No, probably not,” he conceded. “But it does make our posture more problematic.” He got up and began to pace. “Sutton will have to walk across the street to the club for me, I fear. The Germans will not be finished with us in time.” He lowered his head. “Six more performances,” he said, meaning for Sutton as MacBeth.

“Tonight, two performances tomorrow, then dark three days, then the last three performances,” I said, realizing I had picked up the theatrical jargon of calling non-performance nights dark from Sutton.

“A pity in its way, but probably necessary.” Mycroft Holmes took a turn about the room, stopping before the fire to warm himself, for this November day had remained sere from dawn until now. “He has received excellent notices. I am once again troubled that he is being deprived of greater opportunities because of me.”

“You and he have discussed this, have you not?” I said, wishing that Tyers would bring a fresh pot of tea; the one Mycroft Holmes and I had shared for morning was down to the coldest of dregs.

“Certainly,” said Holmes. “And Edmund assures me he is gratified to be my double and my creator of disguises, but when I think of his abilities, I wonder if he realizes how great his gifts are.”

“If he is content, how can you question his decision?” I, too, rose and shook the knots out of my muscles. “Your memoranda are almost complete.”

“Very good.” Mycroft Holmes came over to the secretary and looked down on the pages I had stacked. “Excellent work as usual, my dear Guthrie.”

“I should have had it done three hours ago,” I remarked.

“We had a somewhat disrupted morning,” Mycroft Holmes pointed out. “I hope that young courier survives. He should not have to give his life in this.”

“If the Brotherhood is behind it,” I said, “lives are the coins they play for.”

“You and I know that, Guthrie. That courier does not. He came into this without sufficient warning, and that may be my fault.” He went to the door, about to call for Tyers.

“You’ll wake Sutton,” I cautioned Mycroft Holmes, for the actor was sleeping on the day-bed in the sitting room, the curtains closed not only to keep out the sun, but to provide protection for Sutton in case this flat was still under surveillance.

“I trust not.” Mycroft Holmes closed the door. “The Germans. What have you prepared for our meeting?”

“I have copies of all recent treaties and agreements between our governments,” I said, indicating the file case on the second shelf of the secretary. “I have all correspondence related to this visit, except, of course, private correspondence.”

“Of course,” said Holmes, his heavy brows drawing together. That was what troubled him the most—that the Kaiser and the Queen might have a private understanding on these matters about which we knew nothing. “Well, gather them up, Guthrie. And put on your swallow-tail coat. I believe it is hanging in the closet opposite the front door.”

I had got used to leaving my swallow-tail coat here, to save myself the dash back to Curzon Street to get it. “Yes. And my cuffs and collar are just cleaned.” I essayed a smile. “I shall be ready directly.”

“Good. We’ll have a bite to eat and then summon Hastings.” He took Sir Marmion’s papers and put them back in the expandable file, then handed them to me. “Make sure they are under lock and key before we depart.”

“That I will,” I said, putting the file on the shelf above the German papers. “There.”

“Very good.” He called to Tyers again, not quite as loudly this time. “We need tea and some cold beef and mustard sauce.”

“Shortly, sir,” Tyers called back.

“Oh, and Tyers, if you’ll nip off to hospital and inquire after the courier?” Mycroft Holmes asked for this as readily as he asked for mustard sauce.

‘That I will, sir,” said Tyers.

“You’ll want to wash up,” said Mycroft Holmes to me. “Tend to it, there’s a good lad. I shall change my clothes directly.”

Since I knew the difference between a suggestion and an order, I did as I was told.

Upon my return to the study, much improved from my efforts, I saw that Tyers had put out a tray on the table and brought a fresh pot of tea. I sat down to pour a cup for myself when I heard a rap on the door, and in the next instant, Edmund Sutton came into the room, his fair hair as mussed as a boy’s, his tall, lanky frame wrapped in a paisley dressing gown. “Good afternoon,” he said in a dazed voice.

“And to you. Tea?” I did not wait for his answer but began to pour a cup for him. “It’s fresh.”

“Wonderful. Not that I’d notice,” he added. “The courier?”

“Is off to hospital. That took place shortly after you retired.” I handed a cup to him, and pointed to the creamer.

He added sugar and a dollop of milk, then sat down in the straight-backed chair in front of the secretary and stared at the wall in a superb blankness of expression. “Did he live?”

“He was alive when he left,” I said. “Tyers has gone off to make inquiry.” I took a sip, and although the liquid was almost scalding, it was warming and I was glad to have it. “We’re off in a short while.”

Sutton nodded. “I’ll make the traditional cross to the club at the traditional hour and return promptly. I’ll need Hastings to get me to the theatre when I’m through. I have no wish to be late for curtain.”

“Of course. I can’t imagine that Holmes would refuse such a reasonable request.” I sighed as I took another sip. “It is going to be a long day.”

“It’s the Germans, isn’t it?” Sutton was waking up more visibly now. His blue eyes were sharper and his voice more resonant. “I shall come back here after the performance, in case Mister Holmes has more work for me to do.”

“Fine,” I said, hoping I would be in my rooms in Curzon Street and fast asleep by then. I was about to throw caution and manners to the wind and help myself to the cold sliced beef when Mycroft Holmes surged into the room in full diplomatic rig. I stood up. “Good afternoon, sir.”

“Oh, sit down, Guthrie, do,” he said. “I will have enough ceremony to choke a horse before this day is ended.”

“Just so, sir,” I said, and sat down again.

“Good afternoon, Sutton,” said Mycroft Holmes, going to clap his double on the shoulder. “You have a pressing agenda today, I fear.” He came back to the table and poured himself some tea. “The Germans will serve schnapps, of course, and it will go to their heads. They are welcome to Sir Cameron in their cups. No doubt they deserve one another.” He paused. “I am in a foul mood. I apologize to you both for this spasm of mine. I dislike being watched, more so when I cannot identify the watchers.”

“Well, eventually they will slip up and then you will know.” I had hoped this would mollify his state of mind somewhat, but it did not.

“It is how to identify them that troubles me,” said Mycroft Holmes. “They may be Brotherhood, they may be Turks, they may be Germans, they may be some group of whom I have no knowledge. It is demeaning enough to have them shoot at me, but when they go so far as to wound a courier it is beyond all limits.” He drank down most of his tea and poured more; I was glad that Tyers had used the largest pot. “Sutton, you must be very careful. Keep a weather eye out for anything unfamiliar, and take no chances.”

Sutton managed an engaging smile. “I won’t. I have to perform tonight.” He came up to Mycroft Holmes, saying, “Don’t fret about me. I will be careful as a nun.”

“Don’t tell me you’ll wear that habit you have in the back?” Holmes finally relaxed.

“I may, leaving here for the theatre, if I have time.” He poured himself more tea. “Think a moment. If you are the target, I would do well to resemble you as little as possible once I leave your club.”

“You have the right of it,” Mycroft Holmes conceded. “Well, I’m sorry I won’t see you in ... in Orders, but I must applaud your strategy.”

“Better than an evening with the Germans,” said Sutton.

“Truly,” Holmes agreed, looking somber once again. He glanced at me. “How soon can you depart?”

“Ten minutes if I have a bite to eat. Two if I don’t,” I said, looking longingly at the sliced beef.

“Guthrie, dear boy, eat. Who knows when you will have such an opportunity again? For we will have to be careful with the Germans. There are too many members of the Brotherhood with them, and it would not be prudent to dine too freely with them.” He reached out and rolled one of the slices, picked it up and bit into it. “There. Now have as much as you would like,” he recommended as he chewed.

“That I will,” I said, and reached for the mustard sauce to spread on the next slice of beef. Considering how little appetite I had had an hour before, I found that this one taste of food made me famished. I drank more tea and had four more slices rolled up with mustard sauce before I took my serviette and wiped my fingers. “I am at your service, sir.”

“I shall want to leave in five minutes. Gather your things and get your overcoat. It is drizzling and no doubt we will have rain within the hour.” He waved me from the room, then addressed Sutton. “When you cross the street, have a care. Do not linger on the steps. Report any irregularity to Tyers. And have another superb performance tonight.”

I went down the hall to the sitting room where I gathered up my clothes and shoved them into a valise I kept at Holmes’ flat for that purpose. I would leave the valise with Sid Hastings, but I would carry my overcoat and portfolio with me.

“With all we have dealt with today, I suppose I should be grateful that it is only Germans we must face—not Hottentots or Chinese or Red Indians.” Holmes grumbled as we met in the corridor. He had his tiered cloak over his arm and was pulling on his gloves. “We’re going out the rear door, and through the alley. Be prepared to run.”

“Aren’t we tempting fate—going out where the courier was shot?” I could not bring myself to be at ease about his decision.

“We may be,” Mycroft Holmes replied, “but a shooting in Pall Mall would cause a panic that I cannot accept. We will take our chances in the alley.”

“But surely we should be armed,” I said.

“The Germans would be offended.” Mycroft Holmes gave me an abrupt stare. “If there is going to be trouble, best to be near the cab for escape, and in a place where there will not be confusion.”

This seemed unlike my employer, but he had been putting forth an impression of himself today that was peculiar as any I had seen. “Would the attackers be so foolish? To attack in a busy street?” I asked, unwilling to think it possible.

“Boldness and foolishness are often judged by their success or failure,” said Mycroft Holmes. “Get ready.” He started toward the kitchen with an energy I found hard to summon in myself. I hurried after him, wondering if I should have my pistol in my pocket as a precaution.

“Is Sutton staying in the flat?” I asked.

“Until he has to go to the club in my stead, yes.” As he secured the door from the outside, Mycroft Holmes made a swift scrutiny of the alley. “I think we will do well enough if we hurry.”

I felt a trifle silly as I began to rush down the stairs. I was on the second landing when I heard the crack of a rifle and saw the wood of the railing next to me splinter. I faltered for only a moment, then plunged ahead, holding my portfolio to guard my head. Behind me, Mycroft Holmes moved with an alacrity that would have astonished me during my first year in his employment, but which I now recognized as typical of the man. Portly he might be, but active he certainly was. I increased my speed until I was afraid I would plunge headlong to the paving stone. At this hectic pace I was almost to the alley when a second shot rang out and I heard Mycroft Holmes curse.

Reaching the cobbles of the alley, I paused long enough to try to see where the shot had come from. Then I turned back to see Holmes wiping blood from his forehead. “Sir!” I expostulated. “You’re hurt.”

“And I don’t want to be shot again, thank you, Guthrie,” he responded, his terseness filling me with relief. “Keep moving. Hastings will be waiting at the corner.” He was running, keeping up with me and sounding only slightly breathless. “Hurry!”

I complied, racing as fast as I could on the slippery, uneven stones. I rounded the corner and saw the cab waiting. In a last rush, I made for the cab, Mycroft Holmes immediately behind me.

“Guthrie!” Holmes cried suddenly, halting two steps behind me. “Stop! That’s not Hastings!”

I skidded to a stop on the cobbles and looked in dismay. “Not Hastings?” I called out.

“Look at the horse!” he shouted, and turned with remarkable agility to run the other way. “It’s not Lance!”

To be sure, the horse between the shafts, now I came to look at it, was a mouse-colored gelding, not Sid Hastings’s new bay. Even as I followed Mycroft Holmes in his dash, I feared we were being herded into a trap, for as I swung back toward the alley courtyard, I saw the cab begin to move after us; as I ran, I dropped my overcoat, and would have tried to pick it up but that I heard the cab approaching. This goaded me on; as I rounded the corner once again, I almost tripped over Mycroft Holmes’ foot; he had taken shelter at the edge of the basement stairs of the building opposite the back of the one in which he lived.

“Behind the dustbins, Guthrie!” he ordered me.

I needed no more incentive than that. I slipped into the first open shed and leaned against the wall. The sound of the horse’s hooves grew louder, and I was compelled to attempt to shrink myself into the smallest possible space in the hope of remaining unseen while I railed inwardly at myself for not bringing my pistol. I clung to my portfolio and valise as if they could save me while I strove to keep out of the line of fire.

There was an exchange of shots, one from across the alley where Mycroft Holmes was hidden, and two from a rooftop. I heard a window open somewhere above me, but could not see who had done it, or where. I hoped the opener would not regret that action. Then there was a fourth shot, very loud, and a fifth. The cab stopped, the driver swayed on the box, falling forward.

Holmes emerged from his hiding place to catch the frightened horse before it could bolt; the animal and the cab provided him some protection. “Guthrie! Get onto the box!”

I was aware this might be reckless, but I answered his summons at once, hurrying across the narrow space that separated me from the cab. I tossed my valise and portfolio into the box-well, sprang onto the rear of the cab and scrambled up to the box. The driver was slumped forward, a large patch of red spreading across his brown stuff jacket. I mastered my revulsion and moved the man away from the reins, taking them in hand and pulling the horse to order. “Done, sir!”

I felt Holmes get into the cab, and then heard his tap on the frame. “Back out of here. They won’t shoot the horse. Too much attention.”

Making the kissing-whistle I had heard jarvys use to back their horses, I began to coax the mouse-colored gelding back out of the alley. It was a tricksy business, for the horse was sweating, mincing, and flinging his head in distress. Finally we reached the road and I guided the cab into traffic, looking about for Sid Hastings as I went.

“Go ’round to the Fatted Calf,” Mycroft Holmes told me, his voice calmer now.

“Sir, I have a dead man here in the box with me,” I exclaimed, looking about to see if anyone had taken notice of this distressing fact.

“All the more reason to go to the Fatted Calf. It’s where jarvys gather; if anyone should ask, say you are seeking help for him.”

“Help?” I repeated incredulously. “He’s dead, sir. There will be no help for him.” I looked about in case I had been overheard, but it seemed I had not.

“Ah, but few will know that if you appear to be tending to a stricken man. You are in clothing that, however scuffed, indicates a station well above the jarvy’s. So if you behave as if he has been taken suddenly ill, I doubt anyone will question you. Take the rug out of the well and put it over him, as if to keep him warm.”

I did as he ordered, all the while repressing the scandalous urge to laugh. I noticed that one or two passers-by looked at us in curiosity, but no one attempted to detain us. I took this as a good sign for now, but wondered if the people in the street would be equally inattentive were I the one injured, or worse? And I began to wonder who had shot the driver of the cab.

The Fatted Calf was a pub off Tottenham Court Road, an old building with an almost black front, and a large yard behind where jarvys put their cabs while they had a meal and a pint. I found a slot where the cab could go, steered it there and halted the gelding.

Mycroft Holmes got out of the cab at once, shaking off his clothing as he stood beside the vehicle and I climbed down from the box, my valise and portfolio clutched in my hands. “Leave it as it is, my boy. He will be found soon enough, and I will wager you a month’s wages that it will be discovered that the man was no jarvy. I would reckon he will be unknown to all the jarvys in London.” He watched as I came down from the box, and as I stepped onto the flagstones, he began to swat at my coat. “Most untidy. We will have to give the Germans a plausible explanation for your unkempt appearance, and when we return this evening, do you give your coat to Tyers to repair.”

I looked at my valise. “My suit-coat is in here, Mister Holmes,” I reminded him. “It is not as correct attire as this coat would be, but it is neat enough, and might be better than this.”

Mycroft Holmes considered this; I saw the bloody line on his face had dried, and felt intense relief that he had not been seriously injured. “It is the lesser of two evils,” he conceded at last. “Very well. Change your coat. But be quick about it. We do not want to be discovered here.” He bent down and opened my valise, pulling out the coat inside and reaching up for the one I was removing. This he thrust into the valise and then he closed it as I shrugged into the other coat. “Come. Walk quickly but not too much so.”

I did as he said, missing my overcoat as the damp wind cut through me. “What about Sid Hastings?” I asked as we walked.

“I hope nothing has happened to him,” said Mycroft Holmes as we came to the front of the pub and crossed the street away from it. The sidewalk was busy, but not so crowded that we could not keep up a good pace. “We will flag down a cab a bit later. We do not want to be remembered in context with that dead man.”

My stomach did a lurch at my recollection of his demise. “What of him?” I asked, rather more pointedly than I had intended.

“What do you mean, Guthrie?” Mycroft Holmes inquired as he picked up the pace. “The Germans had better appreciate our efforts to meet with them.” As a joke it fell sadly flat. “Not that you or I will tell them about it.”

“I should hope not,” I agreed, but I would not be put off the point. “Do you know who shot that man back in the cab?”

“Of course I do, dear boy,” said Mycroft Holmes as if the whole of it were obvious. “And so should you.”

I frowned. “Tyers was out,” I said, thinking aloud. Then I stared at him. “Gracious! You cannot mean that Sutton shot him? Sutton?”

Mycroft Holmes nodded as he adroitly dodged a flock of mudlarks rushing along the street, their high, young voices rising above the general rumble of traffic. “Who else?” He chuckled at my expression of dismay. “He is not nearly as incapable as you think him.”

“No,” I said as I increased my stride to keep up with Mycroft Holmes. “Apparently not.”


The physicians on the courier’s case tell me his condition is grave, and not from loss of blood alone, but in the distress to his system he has suffered. They are planning to clean his wound in the hope of preventing a major infection, and they tell me the next forty-eight hours will tell the tale. Watson has said he is not as confident as his colleagues. From his years in the army, he has come to know something of these injuries, and he is more concerned about the cold the courier claims to be suffering from than from the wound itself. I have paid close attention to all he has said, for I put great stock in the wisdom of military doctors.

I have also called upon Chief Inspector Alexander, who deals with Customs in regard to all manner of illegal activities and given him a report in regard to Mister Kerem’s claims. CI Alexander has given me his word to look into the matter as discreetly as possible. He has some useful connections in the criminal classes who are willing to betray their comrades if it serves their advantages. He himself does not put much credence in this accusation, but he is willing to investigate it on the off-chance there are vestiges of truth in it. I have asked him to keep us apprised of any developments he may have in the case, including any indication that Mister Kerem’s fears are baseless.

I am now going to prepare a soothing draught for Sutton, who is much distressed at having to shoot a man; he saved MH’s life, which he is glad to have done, but it does not mitigate the realization that a man who was living is now dead at his hands, a realization that is increasingly afflictive to him. He has to go to MH’s club shortly, and then to a performance of MacBeth, both of which require that he have his wits about him. I suppose I should not be surprised that he has experienced such upset at his act, for it is never easy to kill another man, and no time is more difficult than the first. As an actor, he has performed killing many times, and dying, too, for that matter, but it is not the same as doing it.

MH and G should be with the Germans just now. If the meeting goes well, I should see them before eight of the clock ...

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