the handle and put his head around.
“Mr. Thorne, sir, I have a Superintendent Pitt here, from Bow Street, I think. Mr. Chancellor asked me to bring him along.” He stopped abruptly, realizing he knew no more. He withdrew and pushed the door wider for Pitt to go in.
Jeremiah Thorne was superficially not unlike his political master. There was a difference in his bearing which was immediate, but equally it was indefinable. He was seated behind his desk but he appeared also to be of a good height. He had widely spaced eyes, dark hair, thick and smooth, and a broad, generous mouth. But he was a civil servant, not a politician. The difference was too subtle to name. The assurance with which he bore himself was based on generations of certainty, of being the unseen power behind those who campaign for office, and whose position depends upon the good opinion of others.
“How do you do, Superintendent,” he said with a lift of interest in his voice. “Come in. What may I do for you? Some colonial crime in which the metropolitan police is interested?” He smiled. “In Africa, I imagine, or you would not have been directed to me.”
“No, Mr. Thorne.” Pitt came into the room and sat down in the chair indicated. He waited until the door was closed and Fairbrass had had time to retrace his steps along the passage. “I am afraid the crime almost certainly began here in the Colonial Office,” he answered the question. “If indeed there is a crime. Mr. Chancellor has given me authority to enquire into it. I need to ask you several questions, sir. I apologize for taking up your time, but it is essential.”
Thorne sat back in his chair and folded his hands.
“Then you had better proceed, Superintendent. Can you tell me what this crime is?”
Pitt did not answer directly. Jeremiah Thorne was privy to most of the information in the Colonial Office. He was almost certainly in a position to be the traitor, however unlikely it was that so senior a person would do such a thing. The other possibility was that he might inadvertently either warn the traitor simply because he did not believe the person capable of such duplicity, or that he might do it through sheer inexperience in suspecting one of his own colleagues.
And yet if the man were naive enough not to understandthe purpose of the questions, he was hardly competent to hold the position he did.
“I would prefer not to mention it until I am certain there has been a crime,” Pitt hedged. “Would you tell me something about your principal staff, sir.”
Thorne looked puzzled, but there was considerable humor in his dark eyes, masking any anxiety, if indeed he felt it.
“I report immediately regarding African affairs to Garston Aylmer, Mr. Chancellor’s assistant,” he said quietly. “He is an excellent man, very fine mind. A First at Cambridge, but I imagine it is not his academic qualifications you are interested in.” He lifted one shoulder infinitesimally. “No, I thought not. He came straight to the Colonial Office from university. That would be some fourteen or fifteen years ago.”
“Then he is close to forty?” Pitt interrupted.
“About thirty-six, I believe. He really is outstanding, Superintendent. He obtained his degree at twenty-three.” He appeared about to add something else and then changed his mind. He waited patiently for Pitt to continue.
“What was his subject, sir?”
“I doubt you do.” The smile was back in Thorne’s eyes, bright like a hidden laughter. “He is an excellent all-round scholar, and a man with a profound knowledge of history. He lives in Newington, in a small house which he owns.”
“Is he married?”
“No, he is not.”
Then Newington was a curious place for him to live. It was south of the river, across the Westminster Bridge to the east of Lambeth. It was not far from Whitehall, but hardly fashionable for a man of such excellent position, and presumable ambition. Pitt would