Fatal Enquiry
conscience. He’s using you, lad. You’re risking life and limb in the rebel camps, knowing the punishment for spying is beheading, while he sits in his tent all afternoon drinking and shining his boots, or tending to his charger.’
    “I had to admit, I attended to his boots and his horse.
    “Of course, I didn’t want to believe it. Sebastian was my best friend, possibly my only one. His ruthlessness, however, was something I suspected. He had a way of deflecting any of what he considered the weaker virtues. Privately, he called the Chinese no better than cattle, but then he felt much the same about the English. He didn’t care a fig about people unless he knew them well, and even then he could go cold suddenly, as if his compassion were shut off with a gas cock. Perhaps I knew it all along, but was too ashamed to admit it. I was out in the enemy camps away from our own soldiers who might have warned me. To them, I was a Chinese orderly, there to wash clothes and cook meals. Perhaps, I reasoned, he had isolated me so I wouldn’t hear how he was putting my intelligence to use.
    “When I returned to his tent after walking Caleb back, Nightwine seemed genial enough, and asked if he would be willing to interpret for him. They were raiding the hills near the Old Armory.
    “I offered to go with him, but he refused, telling me, ‘You’re too valuable for that. One stray arrow and where would the Ever Victorious Army be?’
    “I should have seen it, Thomas. I should have recognized it from Second Samuel. David wanted to rid himself of Uriah the Hittite, and so he led him into battle and then ordered his men to withdraw.”
    “Oh, no,” I murmured.
    “Even though I was forewarned, I didn’t think Nightwine capable of such base treachery then. I went off blindly northward toward my next assignment, where my commanding officer sent me. When I found the rebel camp two days later, they were in the midst of a major celebration. Word had arrived that Ward had been killed. It was said that the Devil Soldiers were withdrawing. There was confidence among the rebel forces that the Ever Victorious Army would finally lose. I was in the wrong place. I turned about and began the long march back to Shanghai.
    “The rumor proved to be true. The Americans were withdrawing in disorder and Nightwine was nominally in charge, while England decided on a more permanent and high-ranking successor. The war over China would go on. I searched for Caleb and learned from some of the Chinese soldiers that he had fallen in battle, pierced by no less than three arrows. He hadn’t so much as a pocketknife to defend himself. After all my searching and my bloody walk from Foochow, I had spoken with him for less than half a day and wasted most of that precious time arguing about Nightwine’s character in a vain attempt to make them like each other. I have no doubt that it was deliberate murder. Sebastian Nightwine killed my only brother, and I will never forgive him.”

    The following day, and the start of our working week, Cyrus Barker actually refused a prospective client. A manufacturer in Leatherhead by the name of Ferguson was convinced one of his employees was stealing designs and plans and selling them to his competitors. He had no wish to make accusations without proof and risk losing some of his better employees. As he explained his predicament, the Guv pulled a slip of paper from his desk and wrote a name and address upon it. The man’s explanation trailed off as the paper was set in front of him.
    “What’s this?” he asked suspiciously.
    “It is the name of a rival of mine who is better suited to this case. He is young and ambitious and you will find him competent.”
    “You’re turning me down?”
    “This sort of work requires someone working within your company for days or weeks. Even if I could afford the time, I’m too recognizable and would be quickly spotted.
    “Sending my assistant would leave me with

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