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“THIS IS a great honor,” exclaimed the German gentleman wearing the Order of Saint Karolus on the deep-blue sash that angled across his chest. He was between fifty and sixty, hale but marked by age. His light-brown eyes were almost tan, and his hair had faded from ruddy-brown to a shade the Dutch call mauve. He struck me as a fine painting might that has faded over time. Even his manner, which was cordial, seemed but an echo of earlier heartiness. He was in the library of the luxurious house just off Berkeley Square, currently the residence of a German industrialist, who was acting as the Baron’s host during his stay in London. The industrialist, Dietrich Amsel, was conveniently from home, attending a meeting in Antwerp.

We had been escorted to the library by the household butler, a man of such self-importance that he minced along holding his head as if trying to escape a bad odor. He had ordered the upper servants to line the hall and to curtsy or bow as we passed by. I could tell Mycroft Holmes was somewhat embarrassed by this; he walked as if he wanted to be invisible. By the time we reached our destination within the house, my employer was trying to contain his annoyance.

“Baron von Schattenberg,” said Mycroft Holmes, executing a perfect Prussian bow to the man.

“Mister Holmes: delighted. My aides, Helmut Kriede, Paul Farbschlagen, and Egmont Eisenfeld.” Each bowed as the Baron said his name: Kriede and Eisenfeld were fair, blue-eyed men, neither of them more than twenty-five; Farbschlagen was dark-haired and grey-eyed, and seemed to be a few years older than his fellows. Looking at them, I wondered which of them were part of the Brotherhood, if, indeed, any of them were.

“And my aide, Paterson Guthrie. You will discover he has some ability in your tongue.” Mycroft Holmes bowed again, and I winced, recalling my instructions to speak German like a novice, although I was fluent in the language.

“Good fortune indeed,” said the Baron, and pointed to a table in the corner of the library, the one place not given to floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. It was flanked by windows, just now with draperies drawn against the dreary afternoon. I imagined that in spring and summer they would provide a pleasant prospect of the small park that lay behind the house.

Mycroft Holmes took the seat proffered, and signaled to me to sit beside him. “We had a minor accident in our cab on the way here, so I trust you will excuse the somewhat disordered appearance my aide presents.”

“An accident?” The Baron halted in the act of sitting.

“You know what it is to be on the streets these days,” Mycroft Holmes said, almost apologetically. “It is dark and everything is wet—mishaps occur.”

“So they do,” said the Baron, sitting down and telling his aides in rapid German to sit at the adjoining table. As he settled into his place, folding his pale hands on the table and crossing his legs at an angle to the table, he went on, “I am grateful you would take the time to help us ... smooth over any possible difficulties we may encounter.”

“And I am pleased you would ask for my assistance,” said Mycroft Holmes with equal smoothness.

“It is always awkward, is it not, when an estranged married pair seeks to be reunited?” The Baron offered his conciliative, plausible smile. “Particularly when their respective countries must—perforce—be part of their considerations.”

“Truly,” said Holmes in a manner to match the Baron’s. “And yet, do you know, I think it must be said that this prospective reunification would be more easily done if both parties were willing to effect their meeting in Scotland.”

The Baron laughed richly. “Oh, no, no, no, my new friend. No, Sir Cameron must not have so great an advantage over his wife. They must meet here, in London, where they are both away from their own grounds.” He favored Mycroft Holmes with a slight nod. “You can see why we must honor her request.”

“I see why it is one means of accomplishing their ends,” Mycroft Holmes countered. “But I believe it is her uncle’s condition, not hers.”

“She is a good woman, willing to be guided by the men who love her,” said the Baron. “Would that more women followed her excellent example.”

Mycroft Holmes shocked me when he replied, “Amen,” for he was not a man given to religious exclamations. “Still,” he went on at his most amiable, “I am surprised that she has stipulated that she must be accompanied by her uncle, two cousins, and another relative whose degree of blood I have not entirely grasped.”

“She is a woman of high rank and dignity. She wishes not to be alone with her husband until she is certain they will be able to resume their marriage.” The answer was so easily given, I knew it had been rehearsed; Baron von Schattenberg looked directly at Mycroft Holmes and gave him a pleasant nod. “You must know what it is to have a woman of position undertake travel to a foreign country.”

“Indeed,” said Mycroft Holmes, and made an attempt to bring the conversation back to the topic he wished. “And yet, I cannot help but feel there may be a more appropriate escort for her than the one she has proposed. The Kaiser would be open to providing men and women to accompany her who would more easily be welcomed into the company of our Queen.”

I had to mask a near-cough to cover my astonishment. That Mycroft Holmes should say so much, and with such apparent candor, shocked me to the core. He might as well have accused the Baron directly of acting contrary to the wishes of the Crown. Opening my portfolio, I removed my notebook and pencils, as if preparing to record the rest of the conversation.

“It would not please Sir Cameron’s wife to be treated as a complete stranger, for although she has never visited these isles, she is married to a most distinguished Knight, an acknowledged hero and popular leader. To subject his wife to the kind of treatment reserved for foreigners will do nothing to hasten their reunion.” The Baron still spoke easily, as if he had nothing against such a suggestion, and sought only to end a minor misconception. “You must know that the establishment of a more regular relationship between Sir Cameron and Lady MacMillian must be the goal of all we do.”

“Just so,” said Mycroft Holmes, matching the Baron suavity for suavity. “Still, I cannot help but think that that which pleases Her Majesty must please Sir Cameron as well.”

“It is possible, of course. But it is Lady MacMillian who has instigated these efforts, not Sir Cameron, and for that, I would suppose she is within her rights to conduct herself as she believes she must.” Baron von Schattenberg shrugged. “Perhaps we should address other aspects of this coming visit and return to this matter of escort when we have concluded our other discussions?” Although his English was excellent, I could hear the language roughen; to me this indicated some tension or anxiety, but nothing in his manner supported such a likelihood.

“No doubt she is doing as she had been advised by her family,” said Mycroft Holmes, making this observation carefully, since he was keenly aware that he might easily give offence.

“It is the work of her uncles to guide her with her husband absent,” said the Baron pointedly but maintaining his affable smile.

“As she must be aware,” said Mycroft Holmes, “in coming to see Sir Cameron, she puts herself in her husband’s hands.”

“Not until she arrives. Should she decide to return to Germany, she will need to have companions. It would not do for her to travel in the company of strangers.” The Baron paused to snap his fingers; Eisenfeld jumped to his feet and all but saluted. “We have need of some schnapps. If you will ask the servants to bring the tray?”

“At once, mein Baron,” said Eisenfeld, and left the room with alacrity.

While Mycroft Holmes and Baron von Schattenberg continued their fencing, I took a little time to study the two remaining aides, to see if I could discern anything in their demeanor that might hint of a larger purpose: Paul Farbschlagen was edgy, but he had the look of a man who was always so, from the redness at his cuticles and ragged nails, to the intensity of his grey-eyed stare; Helmut Kriede seemed a typically German mix of steely discipline and sentimental cordiality. Both of them watched the Baron as if he were their master and they his hounds. I had an uneasy moment when I wondered if I appeared the same to them. Then I had a swift recollection of the Japanese aides—Messers Banadaichi and Minato—who had been involved with the death of Lord Blackenheath, and I squirmed inwardly at the memory of how that ended.

“Guthrie,” said Mycroft Holmes to me, his voice sharp enough to break into my thoughts, “do you happen to have to hand the information on Sir Cameron’s arrival?”

I flipped through the sheets in my portfolio. “It says here he is arriving tomorrow at noon, according to your records,” I said, proffering the paper with the information on it.

“Ah, yes,” said Holmes, as though it had slipped his mind, although I knew it had not. This tactic had some other purpose than informing Baron von Schattenberg of Sir Cameron’s itinerary; I gave my full attention to their discussion again. “Since he will be here tomorrow, we might best postpone our conversation until he may be included in it.”

“Are you certain that will serve your purpose? He may well agree with our position,” said the Baron with a keen smile.

“So he might,” said Mycroft Holmes, somewhat wearily. “But if it will resolve our problems to our mutual satisfaction, then I think it is a better use of our time and energy to include Sir Cameron in our deliberations.” He looked around as Helmut Eisenfeld came back with a tray on which stood a bottle of schnapps and two chimney glasses.

“In time to drink to our success, Mister Holmes: to the fruits of our efforts,” said the Baron, so warmly that I supposed he assumed he had won this round. “To the reunion of Sir Cameron and Lady MacMillian.” At this signal, Eisenfeld poured out two glasses of the clear, potent liquid; the Baron handed one to Mycroft Holmes and kept the other for himself. “Prost!” he exclaimed, and downed the schnapps in one go.

“Hear, hear,” said Mycroft Holmes, and tossed his off as well.

Baron von Schattenberg held out his hand to Holmes. “Tomorrow then, at—shall we say?—four o’clock?”

“That is suitable to me, providing Sir Cameron has no objections,” Mycroft Holmes said as if that would be an unlikely event.

“He must see the advantages of settling this matter,” said the Baron.

Little do you know, I thought. What was Mycroft Holmes up to this time? I pondered the various possibilities, but nothing suggested itself.

“I am sure he will give you his full attention,” said Holmes, and I knew then that he had some mischief in mind. Turning, he addressed me. “Gather up your things, Guthrie: portfolio and valise. It is time we left our hosts to their evening.” He inclined his head toward the Baron. “Thank you for your hospitality, Baron, and for your candor. I will have much to tell Sir Cameron when we meet him tomorrow.”

“I thank you for coming.” He bowed, clicking his heels as he did. “It has been most ... instructive.” He made a motion, and Paul Farbschlagen moved to accompany us to the door of Herr Amsel’s house.

It was nearly dark out as we left the house behind us, and Mycroft Holmes sighed. “I wish I knew what happened to Hastings.” He looked about the street for a cab to hail. “I do not like summoning a jarvy I do not know,” he said under his breath. “This is a most damnable situation.”

“Do you want me to find a cab for us, sir? I could go to the corner and choose one not on this street.” This was not an idle suggestion, for it would tend to ensure a safer ride than selecting a cab from those on this street: there were always cabs to be had at Berkeley Square. I had a notion my valise and portfolio could become uncomfortably heavy if we walked any distance.

“No,” he said. “No, I think we might as well walk a ways, until I can sort out my thoughts.” He buttoned his cloak and went into the thickening mists.

I followed after him. “Why did you cut the discussion short?” I asked when we reached Berkeley Square. I was aware I was only a few blocks away from my rooms in Curzon Street, and yet I was about to turn my back on them once again; I would not see my door for many hours.

“That was no discussion, Guthrie, and well you know it,” he said to me as we turned along the Square and made toward Conduit Street and Saville Row, with the intention of making his way down to Vigo Street, thence to Sackville Street, to Piccadilly, to Church Place, down to Jermyn Street to Duke of York Street, to Saint James Square, and then to arrive at Pall Mall. “This was maneuvering, pure and simple.”

I lengthened my stride to keep up with him. “It did have that feeling about it,” I said.

“As well it should. You have been with me six years now, and you must know what you saw in there.” He was not quite disgusted, but he was far from pleased. “That Baron von Schattenberg is too plausible by half!”

“Do you think he is part of the Brotherhood?” I could not keep from asking.

“If he is, he is a fool, since the Brotherhood seeks the downfall of all European nations so that it may assume power. As a Baron, he would be among those slated to be removed.” He slowed his pace enough to blend in with the others on the street. “But he may have been promised advantages if he helps them, or they may be blackmailing him. Whatever the case, he will not entertain any suggestion I may put forth.”

“Then why propose adding Sir Cameron to the discussion?” I asked. “Sir Cameron is stubborn as a Derby pig and self-centered as a Bishop’s cat.” I made no apology for my animadversions.

“And drunken to boot,” said Mycroft Holmes. “And once he decides a position is to his advantage he will not budge, though the earth crumble before him.” He nodded twice. “Exactly. All we must do is show him that what Baron von Schattenberg expects is to his disadvantage and he will oppose it until the Thames flows backward.”

“That he will,” I said, comprehending now what my employer planned. “If they give him any of the schnapps, he will very likely consume it in quantity, as well, and that will only serve to add to his implacability.” I could not help but chuckle. “I hope the Baron isn’t too distressed.”

“I hope that he is, so he will give away something—anything—that will give us some means of assessing the danger of the Brotherhood’s current activities. The way things stand, we are operating in the dark.” He stopped abruptly and held up his hand for silence; the throngs around us parted and rejoined as if we were islands in a stream.

“What is it?” I asked, nervous in spite of myself.

Mycroft Holmes shook his head several times, and I held my tongue. Finally he lowered his hand. “I think I was in error. For a moment I thought I heard the two horses from last night. The loose shoe—I thought I heard it.”

“I’m afraid I didn’t notice ...” I began, and let the words trail off.

“With all the noise, it is an easy thing to mis-hear a sound,” said Mycroft Holmes as if trying to convince himself. At the corner, we turned toward Pall Mall, making our way at a steady pace as night settled in over London.

By the time we reached the steps to his flat, Mycroft Holmes had stopped twice more to listen for the sounds of pursuit, and twice more assured himself that he had erred; I was jumpy as a springtime cricket, for every carriage passing in the streets now seemed the haven of sinister Brotherhood assassins, as had been the case in Constantinople, not so many months ago. It was most unnerving to believe there was an unknown and unseen enemy pursuing us. At least I had sufficient presence of mind to keep from being overcome by my anxieties, but they were preying upon me.

“I want you to come up for tea and a brandy, Guthrie. We still have much to discuss.” Mycroft Holmes did not wait for an answer, but hurried up the stairs, none the worse for his walk. I trudged after him, keeping my thoughts to myself.

Tyers met us at the door, as I expected he would. “There is water just coming on to boil, sir,” he said. “And I have asked Sid Hastings to come up after he has delivered Sutton to the theatre.”

“Very good,” said Mycroft Holmes. “I trust the afternoon courier arrived without incident?” He handed his cloak to Tyers as he spoke.

“Yes, and the pouch he brought has a dispatch from Amsterdam that may be more urgent than the rest.” He took my overcoat and valise, but allowed me to keep my portfolio.

“Amsterdam, is it?” Mycroft Holmes said in alarm. “Jacobbus Braaten?”

“I was not informed one way or the other, sir,” said Tyers, opening the door to Mycroft Holmes’ study. “The fire is new-laid and I will shortly have your tea.”

“Very good,” Mycroft Holmes approved.

“I have put the pouch on your main table, as you can see,” he added before closing the door.

Mycroft Holmes approached the table as if he expected the pouch to perform some untoward act. “Dear me,” he remarked as he pulled back the flap. “Something on Turkish affairs as well as news from Amsterdam. I don’t like it, Guthrie,” he said as he sat down and proceeded to open the pouch—which was, in reality, a large leather brief-case with a double-lock on it.

“I can understand why you might not, sir,” I said, going to the chair I usually occupied. My portfolio felt as if it weighed ten stone. I was delighted to put it down.

Holmes had opened the dispatch and spread it out on the table, reading it quickly and with amazing comprehension. Finally he slapped the flat of his hand down on the table and burst out, “He shall not!”

I looked up, startled by his fervor. “The Brotherhood, sir?”

“More specifically, Jacobbus Braaten. He has eluded his watchers and they now believe he may be on a ship bound for Ireland. From there, he is expected to cross to Manchester. He may already have done so.” He sighed explosively. “So much for all the precautions we have in place at Dover. He and Vickers will be on English soil before Lady MacMillian arrives, and that troubles me. It smacks of more intent than simply returning the Brotherhood to Britain—it suggests they may already have some nefarious purpose in mind. Why that possibility should surprise me,” he added with ironic humor, “I cannot think.”

“There is still time to alert Manchester, isn’t there?” I suggested, feeling a degree of apprehension I had not experienced since my last encounter with the Brotherhood.

“Possibly,” said Holmes darkly.

“Then I shall prepare an order, if you like,” I told him.

“Yes. Do that. It is little enough, but it is better than nothing.” He lowered his head, brooding. “I am troubled that the Brotherhood has been able to act so quickly, and deceptively.”

I rose to collect the embossed paper on which such orders were issued, and while I was at the secretary, Tyers returned to the study with the tea tray that contained—beyond the teapot, the sugar-bowl, and creamer—a basket of fresh scones and a tub of fresh butter, as well as a jar of potted ham.

“Set that down if you would, Tyers,” said Mycroft Holmes, not bothering to look up from the paper before him.

“That I will,” said Tyers, then added, “Sid Hastings has just returned. Shall I ask him to come up now, or would you rather speak to him later?”

Holmes put the paper aside, turning it face-down in the process. “Tell him to come up now. My question is pressing.”

“Very good, sir,” said Tyers, and left us in the study together.

“Are you going to ask him about why he was not in his appointed place?” I inquired.

“Yes. It is so much unlike him.” His frown was more eloquent than words would have been. “What troubles me most is that he can be threatened. After all, he is a man with a family and I cannot ask him to put my interests, or those of the government, above those of his wife and children.” He smiled, a trace of sadness in his demeanor. “Men like Hastings cannot make such choices without being broken by them. I would offer him a poor reward for his long devotion if I required that choice of him.” He paused. “It is to his credit that he is so devoted to his family.”

“I should say so,” I agreed; I went to pour a cup of tea for myself and for Mycroft Holmes.

“No, Guthrie,” said my employer. “Many men of Hastings’ station are incapable of doing more than bringing children into the world and leaving them to grow up as mudlarks, or worse; we see the results of their indifference every day.”

“Some of the highest ranks treat their children from the wrong side of the blanket worse than they treat their hounds,” I observed.

“Sadly it is true. But not all men—high or low—are thus. Sid Hastings has always put the interests of his wife and children ahead of his own, and for that, he is a laudable example of what even a poor man may do to benefit his family.” He accepted the tea I held out to him. “That is why I would never want to impose upon him, for such a conflict of loyalties would be hard for him to bear.”

“So might it for any man,” I said.

Mycroft Holmes shook his head. “Guthrie, dear boy, I wish I could concur. But, alas, I cannot. And neither can you.” He reached for a scone, broke it and buttered the smaller portion, then popped it into his mouth.

“Every man has some loyalty,” I said. “It may not be to family, but there is something that commands his allegiance.” I meant what I said, and apparently Holmes understood that.

“You are still an idealist, my lad,” said Mycroft Holmes with a faint air of self-deprecation about him. “I am grateful for that.”

I took a mouthful of tea and swallowed, finding the heat most welcome. “Why do you say that, sir?”

Whatever his answer, I was destined never to hear it, for Tyers knocked on the door just then, saying that Sid Hastings was with him.

“Come in, come in,” sang out Mycroft Holmes. “Have a cup of tea— Tyers, bring a cup for Hastings, will you?”

“Of course,” said Tyers, and withdrew.

Sid Hastings seemed dreadfully uncomfortable standing before us, his cap in hand, his muffler loose around his neck under his thick tweed jacket. “I left my oilskin in the kitchen,” he explained, staring up at the ceiling.

“Come, Hastings, don’t be ill-at-ease. Have a seat.” When Mycroft Holmes chose to, he could exude such bonhomie that any man would be hard-put to resist it; Sid Hastings sat down in the one straight-backed chair available.

“I’m told you wanted me to stay on duty this morning,” said Hastings, turning brick-red at his own boldness.

“I was rather surprised when I did not find you at the agreed-upon place,” Holmes said mildly. “It struck me as most unlike you, not to be at our appointed place. I hope it does not mean any misfortune had befallen your family?”

“No, no, sir,” said Hastings, all but pulling his forelock. “All’s well with them, even my daughter, thanks to you. We have naught to complain of, especially since you took an interest in our Fanny, as she calls herself now.” He spoke of his child whose mathematical skills had secured her a position in a casino on the Continent where she was flourishing.

“Good of you to say,” said Mycroft Holmes. “Give her my regards when next you write to her.”

“Don’t do that often,” said Hastings. “But the Missus’ll be sending her a letter at Christmas, as she does. Good with her letters, my Missus is. Writes regular. You may be sure we’ll include your kindness to her.” He had begun to relax a little. “We had a letter from her not long ago: she’s saved more than an hundred pounds since taking up her post; she says she wants to buy shares in a railroad. I near to fell over when I heard that. Shares in a railroad! Who’d’ve thought she’d—” He stopped. “Not to take up your time, sir.”

“I, for one, would have thought she would find a way to make her earnings work for her,” said Mycroft Holmes. “Still, you’re right—oh, thank you, Tyers”—this was for the cup-and-saucer Tyers brought from the kitchen—“we should discuss how you came to leave your place this morning.”

“Well, I did what the copper told me to, didn’t I?” Hastings said, a little too loudly.

“Did you?” Mycroft Holmes asked with no trace of blame in his voice. “What copper was that?”

“The one you sent,” said Hastings, not touching the cup-and-saucer.

“Tell me about him,” said Mycroft Holmes; I listened intently as well.

“Well, he was ... just a copper. A proper constable. I know a right copper when I see one, and he was right to his boots. He said I was to go on until the afternoon, when I would be wanted again. He pointed to your rear door and said you were occupied with a Turkish gentleman, or you would tell me the same yourself. Since he was a policeman in uniform, I decided it was all right to obey him.” He paused. “I shouldn’t have, should I?”

Mycroft Holmes stared down into his tea. “No, Hastings. You did as you ought.” He raised his eyes. “But I find it most perturbing to realize that the man who shot the courier and attempted to kill me is a member of the police.”


It has been a difficult afternoon and the evening is no less so: I have just given Sid Hastings a sandwich and sent him on his way, and must shortly seek out former Police Inspector Durward Strange. MH tells me that this is one of the few men who can be trusted to be wholly candid about police matters. It seems that MH is reluctant to go directly to Scotland Yard with his newest revelation for fear that if what Hastings says is accurate, admission of the danger would serve only to escalate it. Therefore, it is MH’s intention to speak with PI Strange for the purpose of gaining as objective an opinion as possible. I understand that PI Strange is considered bitter by many on the force, and for that reason alone is not much sought-out ...

Sutton is off at the theatre and will not return until well into the night. He has said that these last few performances are important to him, as they are very likely the last time he will essay such a major role in so important a theatre in London. He says it is not wise for him to become too recognizable, as continuing major roles would cause him to be, so he intends to make the most of this opportunity. He looks upon this as a grand gesture, one that will bring him the satisfaction of having made his mark among the important MacBeths of this decade. He is resigned to playing in less prestigious theatres and in less well-known works, but he is not above being pleased that his work has been well-received, and in so demanding a role as Macbeth.

Another package has been sent by Sir Marmion with the admonition that he must have its contents returned by no later than day after tomorrow. I have conveyed this to MH, who has said it is most frustrating to have so monumental an opportunity and so little time in which to take advantage of it. He has sworn to read the material provided until Sutton returns.

G has returned to Curzon Street for the night and will likely not be back here until six-thirty tomorrow morning to resume his duties. I have told him he will not be disturbed except in an emergency, which is a prudent thing to do, as it is most important that G, who is MH’s right hand and second pair of eyes, be fully alert in these next few days.

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