Sunday, January 11, 2009

An out-take from MLAS

Here's an outtake from My Lord and Spymaster.
I refer to it in a later post. Here it is, in full, for anyone who wants to see it.

In a much modified form, this scene made it into the book.


Adrian was propped against the wall in the stuffy closet they used as a listening post, reading from a black, bound notebook. He crooked a finger in invitation and kept reading. "Close the door."

There wasn't room for three in the cubbyhole. He slid in behind the table, the rack of pistols on the wall poking into his back. Trevor, the spy in training, sat at the table, his ear pressed to a brass ear trumpet that emerged from the wall and wrote, scribbling fast. The only light in the room came from the dark lantern at his elbow. Three sides of that were closed, the fourth open. In the bright oblong it cast, his pencil made a manic, dancing shadow across the page. Three books, like the one Adrian held, lay to his left. Another dozen were stacked and ready.

This was where the British Service watched and listened to what went on in the library. Jess was right -- the walls were full of rats.

He waited till Adrian looked up. "Don't question her again."

"Ah." Adrian gave him the same meditative consideration he'd been using on the book. "You're feeling protective."

"I can't deal with her when she's so scared she can barely think. You're making it worse."

"Naturally. We are, in our own small way, His Majesty's government.[which caps?] " Adrian shrugged. "We didn't haul out the bastinado, [date, sp] you know. Fletch chatted with her once, politely. Pax coaxed at her as if she were a kitten hiding under the sofa. Galba attempted reason. Reason is always a mistake, I feel."

"You've put this in my hands. Leave her to me. No more badgering."

"Our attempts to badger were, if I may say so, water off a duck's back. Do you want to see her badgered? Let's take a look at that interesting reunion next door." An angry rumble vibrated the walls, coming from the study. It had been going on for some time. "That's Josiah, disapproving of her recent exploits."

"Or he's annoyed she didn't follow his orders well enough."

"I don't think you're a fool. Do try not to disappoint me." Adrian flipped back to the beginning of the book he held. "Here are today's notes. Eight o'clock -- breakfast with Galba, discussing the market for fake antiquities." He thumbed forward. "Macleish, at ten, much incensed over problems in inventory and complaining about Pitney. He is followed by Pitney, at noon, complaining about Macleish. Pitney then enlivens everyone's day by peaching on Jess, who has been a very naughty girl. You must curb her tendency to climb four-storey buildings. [check hyphen]"

"I intend to. Let me see that." He helped himself to the book. To give him credit, Trevor wrote a clear hand and filled in later what he missed the first time through. "Damnation. Pitney knew what she was up to and didn't stop her. She took a bloody ferret with her. Can no one control that woman?"

"Good men have tried." Adrian reached across and turned forward a dozen pages. "This is what you want to see. At three o'clock, matters become interesting. Sergei Orkoff visits. What do you know about Sergei?"

"Attaché with the Russian Embassy. [check legation? Check possible titles] Smooth. Amusing. I see him at Claudia's soirees, hanging on the fringes of the Foreign Office and War Ministry crowd, listening. Very friendly to men who talk more than they should. My guess is he's in your line of work."

"Discerning of you. He is also an old friend of Josiah's.

"Orkoff is everybody's old friend."

"Too true." Adrian watched him read. "You will see they greet one another with glad cries, in French. That is to keep us on our toes. Some discussion of where to get decent pastry in London. The rain. Orkoff reminiscences of bordellos in Heidleburg."

And there was page after page of it. "Why did you let him in?"

"The Russian Embassy asks us to. And I was curious. Next -- you'll come to it -- Josiah discusses bordellos in Munich. In German. Sergei relates a filthy but inventive story involving animals and a Prussian Grand Duke [check title margravane]. Trevor finds this all very interesting. One seeks to educate the young."

"Fascinating." He turned the page. "They've switched to ... what? Russian."

Trevor stopped pretending to take notes. "That's because Orkoff's Russian. Or ... koff. Russian."

Adrian said, "Russian isn't one of your languages, is it? I'll have Trevor do a translation tonight."

The stripling looked mutinous.

"Tonight, Trev." Adrian's voice was gentle.

"He's not going to read it." Trevor [some action]. "The Captain's made up his mind. He's not here about Whitby. All he's doing is bullying Jess into bed with him."

"Then Jess will slice him stem to stern and laugh girlishly while he writhes in his own blood. Nonetheless, you will deliver the full translation to his house tonight." Adrian let that settle in. "A careful translation."

The mutter might have been, "The hell I will." Or it might not. Fortunatly, Trevor was Adrian's problem. [look for echo in earlier scene]

"Just tell me."

"Always the practical man. Let's see." Adrian took the book and turned it into the light. "We continue in the same vein. Customs officials in Athens. Cheeses. An anecdote concerning the Swedish legate [check] in Vienna."
Adrian laid the notebook on the table, held flat under his spread fingers. "And here, in passing, Orkoff mentions the transfer of a tourmaline from Josiah to a certain Levgenny Gregoritch Petroff Romanovski,[check Russian names]. For safekeeping."

He felt a dry prickle across the back of his neck. A warning of danger. "A Romanoff?"

"A minor, but perfectly genuine, Romanoff. He has vast estates overlooking the Black Sea." [check political geography] Adrian waited.

"Whitby doesn't deal in jewels." It took a minute. "The tourmaline is Jess."

"Regrettably, yes."

Trevor's hands, on the table, clenched into fists. "She won't do it. I won't let her."

"How nice for you both. Let us see what Sebastian has to say about this, shall we?" Adrian smoothed his way along Cryllic [caps?] letters with his fingertips [check frequency of fingertips]. "Reading between the lines ... the Russian Embassy [ambassador, legate, legation] offers to intervene on Josiah's behalf with his His [cap?] Majesty's Government. Josiah leaves the country. His holdings in England are forfeit to the [devolve? confiscated] crown [caps?] -- that's the sweetener for the Foreign Office [what office deals with treason?] -- and Jess marries a minor Romanoff. That's the payment to the Russians."

Jess, God help her, would marry a syphilitic dwarf if Josiah told her to. But it wasn't going to happen. Even in the first blank instant of rage, he knew that much. "Damn the Czar anyway."


"Whitby wouldn't live six months."

"He would meet some elegantly Byzantine end. The Russians are so good at that sort of thing."

"Whitby dead. Jess inherits half the shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean. Quite a coup for the Romanoffs."

But Jess wasn't destined for some Russian lordling. That wasn't what Adrian was warning him about. He did a quick mental tour of the labyrinth of Russian Imperial politics and didn't like what he found. "It's not ships the Russians want."

"Not ships. Not the indecent pots of money. Not warehouses. It's the [arabic word or turkish word for 'contacts'] prestige. The influence. Whitby knows everyone. He has a network of spies and commercial agents from the Crimea to Khartoum."

"It's the Whitby name they want."

"I can almost hear the Russians slavering."

That was the East. He'd sailed those waters for a decade. Every trade, every encounter, was an intrigue of boxes nested within boxes, wheels within wheels, layer after layer of subtlety. England played intricate, rough games in the ports and palaces. So did the French and the Austrians and the Russians. "It changes the balance of power. The Foreign Office can't allow it."

"They'd see the company, and both the Whitbys, destroyed first."

"Both Whitby's. They'd have to destroy both of them." Jess did collect enemies, didn't she?

He rubbed his chin, feeling the beard. He'd been up all last night searching the Whitby warehouse and he hadn't shaved. He looked like a pirate and Jess still didn't even have the sense to be scared of him. "No wonder she doesn't trust the government. Did the Foreign Office frame Whitby?"

"I think not. Probably not." Adrian closed the book. "They are not, strictly speaking, that clever. And Whitby's has heretofore presented no problem."

"They'll find out Orkoff was here."

"Certainly. They will eventually figure out why. Some bureaucratic popinjay will then panic." Adrian met his eyes. "He will fix upon one of the two obvious solutions. That is why Jess will return to your house every night, mon ami. Your footmen will stick to her like so many nautical mustard plasters [date] every day, and my own men will lurk in the shadows lending just that soupçon [check]of official support. This is the last time she gives us the slip. She must not fall into the hands of the Foreign Office."

Behind the wall, in the study, the grumble of a man's voice continued, words muffled to unintelligibility. Jess was getting yelled at.

Outside, the real storm was gathering. He could protect her against Cinq. Could he protect her from his own government? "The Foreign Office doesn't want her dead. They want her married to an Englishman."

"To their chosen Englishman. I doubt Jess' consent is considered strictly necessary. Sit down, Trevor." That was directed at the boy. "There is insufficient space for strenuous heroics."

Trevor subsided, muttering.

The boy was right about one thing. "They can't make her do it. Not Jess."

"I will back Jess against triple her fighting weight in Foreign Office lackeys. And Josiah's been diddling the diplomatic service for years. I suggest we listen intelligently to what he has to say to Jess." Adrian set his hand on the small, square panel in the wall behind him.

This wasn't what he'd come for. "I don't –"

"... You don't listen at keyholes. Have I ever told you how much I admire gentlemanly scruples? You read the transcripts. You pass a quiet hour pawing through her bedroom. But you won't eavesdrop. These distinctions escape me. Douse the lights, Trev."

Without a word, the boy closed the door of the lantern and threw them into total dark.

"Sebastian, they know I'm watching. They expect it. Think of it as a sort of game." The sound of tapping fell into the darkness. That would be Adrian's fingers, restless on the table or the edge of the chair. "I specialize in betrayals. I assure you, this hardly qualifies."

"You and Josiah are playing games. Jess isn't."

"Then it's time she did." Adrian was still a moment. "Josiah knows what I am. Eventually, Jess will. Do you know, there are times I do not find being Head of Section at all amusing. Shut up, now. When I open this they can hear us."

If you want to go back to the post where I was talking about this, it's here.

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