Monday, 5 February 2007
The Dancers' Secret by Jennifer Mueller
When a dancer in WW 1 Constantinople holds the key to a British spy's assignment, he can only trust his instincts. She's not telling how getting her out alive will save the lives of thousands of men and with a traitor to catch, instinct is all he has as his network falls apart around him...
The smoking room of the Travelers club in London always enjoyed the visits of Richard Ellington late of the foreign office in London, but he had served in Syria, Arabia, and Iraq. He was a gentleman with a good post, subject to rapid promotion and not to mention, a substantial income from his portfolio. His residence at Berkeley Square No. 51 was a desirable address indeed. If the gossip was any indication, he was a great favorite with the ladies. Richard was the quintessential gentleman in his Saville Row suits, Lobbs shoes and James Lock hats that were the standard of the day. He was friends to all the right people, member to all the right clubs, one who always seemed to find time for shooting weekends across the continent and Scotland, yacht excursions in the Mediterranean and other exotic ports, and parties given by every form of nobility imaginable across Europe.
Richard though was different from the other members. He was one of those odd English gentlemen born to a father who was a Government official and had wanderlust. They were in a new post every few years if not yearly. Richard grew up speaking any number of languages, among them Greek, Arabic, Persian, Armenian, and several of the Turkic dialects. He could read Latin, Greek, and Arabic. He was only in his thirties, thirty-four to be exact, but had traveled the length and breadth of the Middle East and every time he came to the club, he told the most wondrous stories over cigars and brandy. He was in the midst of one such rousing story when the page brought forth a message. ‘Report office immediately F’ was all it said.
“Sorry gentlemen, but a lady beckons.”
“But the story.” One listener argued.
“Very well, I shall end the suspense for you. The Kurds had the fair Marguerite and her father tied to a stake . . .” He went on with the story watching the clock all along. Then he excused himself to make an appointment with the exotic upcoming actress, Vivian Mountebank. No one ever thought about it to realize they had never heard of her, the description he left was enough to excite their imaginations. It should have, they were the best assets of the women that made their living as prostitutes on a street no one in the Travelers Club would ever be seen entering.
Richard alighted from the handsome cab along the river in front of the Foreign Office and was admitted immediately.
“No problems?” The man opening the door asked.
“None Harold, I am beckoned by a lady a sight better looking than you.”
“So what took you so long?”
“I can’t cut out in the middle of a brush with death from the Kurds and not arouse suspicion. They’d believe no woman had that much pull on me. I came as soon as I rescued the damsel and escaped by the skin of my teeth.” Harold watched him out of the corner of his eyes as they made their way through the long halls.
Richard was soon let into an office that looked more like the study of a country manor, then was left alone with the man in the chair. Richard had often decided that Mr. Farmington had sprang to life from a description of Mycroft Holmes -Sherlock Holmes brother in the stories, in particular the most recent remembrances that had come out just that year, The Bruce Partington Plans. Mr. Farmington could easily be described as the British Governments central clearinghouse, his word deciding national policy. Richard had considered it the other way too, that Arthur Conan Doyle had met Mr. Farmington for even the description fit closely. Heavy build, massive brow, steel gray deep set eyes that showed the intelligence that the government trusted with its secret affairs. But whereas Mycroft Holmes was massive and inactive, Mr. Farmington, was indeed massive, but instead quite active, resting his mind from work in a good game of Rugby that he had played first as a school boy and then at Oxford. An odd grouping but he fit either group equally well.
“What story did I interrupt tonight?” He asked grinning from his large leather chair.
“A brush with the Kurds.” Richard seated himself in the matching chair across from the fire.
“Ahh yes, our first meeting when you saved my life. I hope I was suitably disguised.”
Richard grinned. “Quite. You’re the archeologist father of a beautiful French maiden with alabaster skin, raven black tresses, dark eyes like a deep forest pool and a mouth as red as a rose that I was able . . . Ah well you were there. You know how it ended.”
A deep laugh emanated from Mr. Farmington. “Too bad I don’t.”
“And with your reputation, I’m sure not a soul doubted you?”
“Of course not, but you could have asked me this tomorrow. What is so important to pull you away from the wife and kids at this time of night?”
The smile on Farmington’s face fell away in an instant and the jokes were over. “When was your last trip to Constantinople?”
“A year ago. They’re not as frequent as I like with the war going on of course.”
Mr. Farmington settled more comfortably in his chair thoughtful for a moment. “You leave in the morning. Get there as soon as possible with as little notice from anyone at all as you can. Harold will provide you with any papers you think you might need. No one’s to know you're going.”
Richard raised an eyebrow. “You suspect a leak.”
“You’re officially going to America on business. I don’t know if there’s a leak or not, but details that shouldn’t be known seem to be in the open.”
Mr. Farmington stroked his chin. “The two informers you recruited on your last trip some weeks ago, separately began telling similar stories, but then they told of a troop stand still. Now tonight, neither has sent a report. For some reason neither has even tried to reach the contact. It’s important we know what the troops are doing before we have another Gallipoli on our hands. Very few knew of the informers before these troop movements started. Their existence had only recently become known to more than a few. Now they’ve gone and missed their first contact ever. Someone leaked news of them I swear it, but I have no proof.”
Harold had been saved from prison when Mr. Farmington saw use of his skills as a forger. His work had been faultless, only his choice of a mark had been his undoing. He was wholehearted in his reformation knowing that if he relapsed, he would be seeing the inside of a prison until he died. Mr. Farmington made the conditions of the job very clear. Prison would be his punishment for breaking the trust of Mr. Farmington not the actual worth of this crime. “Do you know about Mr. Farmington? No one seems to be able to tell me anything about him that they are positive about. All they talk of is rumor and much of it from long ago.” Harold asked as he unlocked the front door to let Richard out.
Richard smiled. He knew far more about the man than Farmington liked to admit. “Why don’t you just ask him yourself? Would you believe they’re just scared of him? They all assume he’s hiding something.”
“Good Luck.” Harold called out the door with a wave and then headed up to ask the truth. He heard the true and equally amazing story of a brush with the death from the Kurds. His estimation of Richard grew that night as well even before Mr. Farmington unlocked Richard’s office. There on the wall of an office he hardly ever used were pictures of him receiving the Founder’s gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society as well as him with sheiks, princes, and warriors from across the Arab World.
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Don’t be afraid of the dark, embrace it!
The Dark Castle Lords
Posted by DCL Publications at 12:29 pm