Dreaming Spies

Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King Read Free Book Online

Book: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurie R. King
Tags: Fiction, General, Mystery & Detective, Crime
civilians—particularly those large and energetic near-boys apt to work off excess energy by launching into a ship-wide game of tag or blind-man’s bluff, oblivious of any small children and aged ladies in the vicinity. And if he could offer an informal shipboard course with no cost to the ship, so much the better.
    Miss Sato had no doubt intended the voyage to be a time of quiet before a busy homecoming. Instead, she was in danger of becoming the centre of an impromptu, three-week-long Japanese university.
    “I don’t know that Miss Sato needs to spend her days doing what a decent guide-book could accomplish,” I said repressively, and began to clear away the bits of paper that had accumulated, to illustrate just how much work she had already put in that morning.
    But Miss Sato would not be protected. “I do not mind in the least,” she said. “Perhaps we could arrange for use of the library in the afternoon.”
    The library steward, whose job seemed to be reading his way through the books on his shelves, stirred, and not from an abundance of enthusiasm.Without missing a beat, Miss Sato continued. “Or perhaps the Palm Lounge would be better. That would give us more room, if others were interested.”
    The young hearties looked as relieved as the steward, if for different reasons. A time was arranged, and the pack eagerly fled the disapproving gaze of a thousand book spines. Miss Sato’s smile was amused.
    “Sorry,” I told her. “I don’t imagine you’d intended to spend your whole voyage teaching Westerners.”
    “It will help the time to pass quickly.”
    The purser proved happy to host Miss Sato’s Lectures for Young Men. In fact, so happy was he that, following the boat-wide lifeboat drill, a notice was posted on the boards beneath the day’s news headlines, directing the passengers’ attention to a talk by Miss Haruki Sato on the topic of Japanese Customs, in the Palm Lounge at 2:30.
    When Holmes and I walked in, we found potted palms shoved back to the walls, rows of chairs arrayed before the band’s stage, and a surprisingly large portion of the First Class eager for enlightenment, or at least entertainment. While the purser’s men were bringing more chairs up from the dining room, he bent his head to consult with Miss Sato. Behind them on the low stage stood a half-circle of older Japanese persons, two women and a man. The two older women were snugly wrapped in bright native dress. The man wore a suit and high collar. All held fans.
    At 2:31, with sufficient chairs added, the purser and Miss Sato turned to the room. On her face was the firm, expectant look of an experienced school-teacher. Chatter quieted, attention was paid. She gave the room a bow of approval, bowed more deeply to the purser, then took a little step back to grant him the floor.
    “Good afternoon,” he said, a vestigial Australian accent emerging as he raised his voice. “You know why you’re here, so I won’t delay matters, but before Miss Sato begins, I’d like to know if anyone here has seen the occupant of cabin 312? Her name is—yes?”
    His attention had been caught by a stir at the back of the room. After a minute, Clifford Adair spoke up. “Oh, it was nothing—just that Tommy here has the next rooms.”
    “Sorry, I didn’t see her,” Tommy replied: Thomas, Viscount Darley. The purser craned his head a bit to see the second speaker, who was considerably shorter than his hulking fellows.
    “Did you hear her at all? Moving around?”
    “I probably had the gramophone going,” young Darley said.
    “Ah, yes.” The purser might have added, So, you’re the one the complaints have been about . But he did not voice his rebuke, merely returned to the question at hand. “The young lady’s name is Miss, er, Roland—Wilma Roland? An American lady, travelling by herself. Did anyone see her? No? Well, no matter,” he said by way of reassurance. “Miss Roland seems to have got left behind, so we’ll ship her cases

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