Daniel rang the doorbell, then stepped back. He realized with amazement that he was suddenly nervous. Why? This was his parents’ home, the house he had grown up in. At twenty-five, he still returned quite often for dinner, for news, for comfort and pleasure in conversation. What was different this time?
What was different was that his elder sister, Jemima, was back from America with her husband and small daughters, Cassie and Sophie. Daniel had not seen Jemima for four years, and he had not met her husband, Patrick Flannery, nor his new nieces at all. Both his and Jemima’s lives had changed radically in that time. He had earned his degree at Cambridge, then passed his bar exams, and was now actually practicing the law he had dreamed about so long. Jemima was married and had lived in New York, and now Washington, D.C. “Idealistic and naïve” she had once called him. Of course, he had changed a little, but she might have changed a lot. Theirs was a relationship he had always taken for granted. It was comfortable; they could disagree over important things, and trivial and silly things, because they knew that underneath, everything that ever mattered between them was unbreakable. She was three years older than him. She had been there all his life.
Did he resent the fact that she had married an American, and so had gone to live across the ocean? Not really, if it made her happy. She was bound to marry someone, and loyalties shifted, grew in time to include others. She had bossed him around when she was nine and he was six. He wouldn’t tolerate that now, although she would probably try since it was an old habit.
But he had missed her. He could remember vividly the day they had been measured against the door, and for the first time he was taller. Their roles had reversed. For twelve years she had protected him, or it felt like it. Now, his father had explained, he must protect her. But that was not always necessary. His mother did not need anyone to protect her. If she was angry, she was the equal of anyone, and not afraid at all! Sometimes Jemima was like that, too.
Nowadays one could cross the Atlantic very quickly, in a mere five days. But five days there, five days back, and the visit: it was a long time to be away. Too long for him to have visited her during exams time. And too expensive on a student’s budget.
He was reaching out to pull the bell a second time when the door opened, but instead of a servant, his mother stood in the entrance. She was a handsome woman, quite tall, with an auburn light in her hair that he had inherited. She was over fifty now, and there were touches of gray, but her vitality had not faded in the slightest. He would find that change painful to accept, but it was far in the future, if ever.
“Daniel!” She threw her arms around him and held him tightly for a moment, then stepped back. “Come in! Jemima is dying to see you, and of course you must meet Patrick. And Cassie and Sophie! You’ll love them, I promise!”
He had no overcoat to hang up. It was August and London was too warm for a jacket, even at this time of the early evening. He followed his mother into the withdrawing room, where the door at the far end was still open to the evening air and the last light was shimmering on the leaves of the poplar trees. It was all so incredibly familiar. His father was there, standing with Jemima and the man who must be her husband.
Jemima came forward. She was familiar, too, and yet she had changed in slight ways. Her hair was still the same, darker than his, and curly like their father’s. She was quite ordinarily dressed, slender in pale green, yet she looked lovely, with an inner happiness that gave her a special grace. He wondered if she would find him changed and in what way: still tall, of course, and slim, his auburn-tinged brown hair still unruly and his face neither handsome nor plain.
Automatically, he held his arms out, and she walked straight into them and hugged him hard. Then, as quickly, she stepped away and turned. “This is my husband, Patrick. Patrick, meet my brother, Daniel.”
Patrick Flannery was tall, roughly the same height as Daniel, but there the likeness ended. His hair was black and his eyes very blue. His features were less regular than Daniel’s and had not their sensitivity, but the humor and individuality in them made him attractive. “I’ve heard so much about you from Jemima. I’m happy to meet you at last.” His voice had the softness of his Irish forebears clearly overlying his American accent.
“Welcome to London,” Daniel said quickly, taking Patrick’s hand and grasping it.
“Thank you,” Patrick replied. “I thought New York was big, but this is . . . enormous.” He said it with a smile to rob it of any offense.
“Lot of villages all run into each other,” Daniel replied. “We’ll have to show you around. Take a trip down the river, perhaps. Or up it?” He glanced at Jemima to see if she approved of the idea.
“I’ve got it planned,” she said with a smile. “But there’s two more people for you to meet before we have dinner. Sophie’s sound asleep and Cassie’s half asleep, but she was determined to stay up to say hello to her uncle Daniel. Come with me . . .” She held out her hand. Her face was shining with pleasure and pride, and nervousness.
“Excuse me,” Daniel said to his parents, particularly his father, to whom he had not even spoken, and followed Jemima obediently.
Upstairs, Jemima showed Daniel baby Sophie in her cot in Jemima and Patrick’s room. The child was fast asleep, her soft downy hair dark against the pillow. Wordlessly they gazed at the baby, then smiled at each other and tiptoed across the corridor.
In the nursery, the first room Daniel could ever remember as a tiny child, Jemima pointed to the bed. A very little girl had fallen asleep sitting up and toppled sideways onto the pillows. She had dark hair, almost black, and soft flawless skin. He would have guessed her to be three, even if he had not known.
Jemima kneeled down beside her and woke her gently, before Daniel could tell her not to disturb the child.
Slowly she sat up, then looked past her mother to stare at Daniel. She had not her father’s blue eyes. Hers were soft gray like Jemima’s, and like Thomas Pitt’s.
“Hello, Cassie,” Daniel said, stepping forward. “I’m Daniel. It was very kind of you to stay up so I could meet you.” He was not sure whether to hold out his hand.
She blinked a couple of times. “ ’S all right,” she replied. “We came all the way to see you. In a big ship.”
“How exciting,” he said. “I’ve never been in a big ship.”
She smiled slowly and a little self-consciously, half turning away and moving an inch closer to her mother.
“Please will you tell me about it, one day?” Daniel asked.
She nodded. “My daddy is a policeman . . .”
“That’s funny, so is mine,” he replied.
She looked at Jemima again. “Is that your daddy, too?”
“Yes. We’re all family. Your family,” Jemima answered.
Cassie sighed and gave a wide smile.
“I think it’s time you went to bed, young lady.” Without waiting for argument, Jemima tucked her up and looked over Cassie’s head at Daniel. “Tell Mama I shall be down in about ten minutes. Don’t wait dinner for me. And . . . thank you . . .”
“She’s gorgeous. They both are,” he replied.
Jemima held her child a little closer. She was clearly asleep again. “Thank you,” she whispered, pride and relief shining in her eyes. Had she really imagined Daniel would be anything but completely enchanted, and just a tiny bit envious?
Daniel went out onto the landing and down the stairs. Jemima had changed, but not radically. As a little girl, she had never wanted dolls, but she had held toy animals with just that same tenderness. It was strange which memories were indelible.
He relayed to the family Jemima’s message about not waiting for her, but of course they did. The time afforded Daniel the chance to speak to his father. Now, in 1910, Pitt was in his early sixties, very gray at the temples, but it suited him. He was still head of Special Branch, that part of the services that dealt with antiterrorist activities within the country. It had been formed originally to take care of the Irish Fenian bombers. Much of his work was secret, as it had always been, from the time he had left the regular police. He had been knighted for services to the Crown in the last year of Victoria’s reign, but even his own family did not know exactly what those services had been. In spite of his openness in so many things, he kept his professional secrets close. He answered questions with silence and a smile, and Daniel tried to do the same.
“How is it going with Marcus?” Pitt asked conversationally. He was referring to Marcus fford Croft, the head of the legal chambers where Daniel worked, as a new and very junior lawyer.
Daniel liked Marcus. He appreciated his quirky personality—“eccentric” was almost too mild a word—but he worked with him very little, and most of the cases he was involved with were pretty pedestrian. But he could not admit that to his father, who he knew had gained him the position. It was one that could become exciting, prestigious, and highly rewarding if he proved to be both dedicated and skilled enough.
Daniel smiled. “Nothing as exciting as the Graves case,” he said ruefully, alluding to the case in which he’d played a surprising role earlier in the summer. It was a double-edged remark, said with humor but also a clear memory of the very real fear the Graves case had caused. Many people stood to lose something; even Sir Thomas himself would have faced ruin if Russell Graves had been allowed to publish his false and incendiary accusations. “But I don’t need that again,” Daniel sighed.
“Most cases are fairly ordinary,” Pitt answered. “But they are of intense importance to the people concerned. They’ll get bigger and more complicated as you refine your skill. You don’t want a case beyond your ability.”
Daniel hesitated a moment. Was his father remembering the darkness of the Graves case? He had shown it very little at the time, but he must have felt his world collapsing around him. Daniel had let the relief of the case’s outcome carry him like a flood tide away from the pain. Perhaps his father had not? He should remember that. Cases that went wrong hurt a lot of people, and all of them were worthy of consideration.
Jemima returned from upstairs, and they all went into the dining room to eat. Conversation became very general, pleasant but not remarkable. Jemima told them about their apartment in Washington, the neighborhood, and the climate. Patrick said little about his job, but with obvious affection described his family, brothers, sisters, warmhearted mother, eccentric father, and numerous aunts and uncles.
Daniel listened intently, not only because the narrative was colorful and charming, but because the people of whom Patrick spoke with such love were Jemima’s new family, so different from the one she had left in England. Pitt had no family at all. He was an only child, and both his parents were dead before he married. It was a story they did not discuss. Charlotte had one living sister, and Emily was a big part of all their lives, as were their cousins. Did Jemima miss them?
They touched only on happy memories at dinner, but all the way through, Daniel had the impression that Patrick had something weighing on his mind.
He learned what it was when the two of them took an evening walk after dinner, alone in the garden, in the pleasant, rose-scented darkness. Daniel was thinking how to broach the subject, when Patrick immediately took it out of his hands.
“There was another reason I came to England,” Patrick said after only a moment or two. It was as if he knew time would be short, and he had something to say that was very important to him.
“Oh? Something to do with me?” Daniel asked, trying to keep his voice friendly and noncommittal. He did not mention that he had noticed Patrick’s preoccupation.
“I want you to have something to do with it,” Patrick said, his voice already thickening with emotion. “I need to tell you the story from the beginning or it doesn’t make sense.”
“If Jemima comes out—”
“She won’t. She knows I’m going to tell you.”
“She didn’t mention anything . . .”
“She wouldn’t,” Patrick said quietly. “But she cares about it, I think as much as I do.”
Daniel leaned against the trunk of one of the silver birch trees and waited.
Patrick cleared his throat. “One of the oldest and most socially important families in Washington is the Thorwoods. Not politically, but they are very highly thought of, and philanthropists to many good causes, especially to the police.” He hesitated, perhaps to see if Daniel understood their importance.
“I see.” Daniel nodded. “Go on. The Thorwoods . . .”
“They have only one child, a daughter named Rebecca,” Patrick continued. It was growing darker and Daniel could hardly see his face, but he could not miss the urgency in his voice. “She’s around twenty. She’s got money, position. She’s very attractive in a quiet way.”
Daniel wanted to interrupt and tell Patrick to get to the point, but with an effort he controlled himself. Patrick had said this would be a long story.
Patrick went on, his voice becoming more strained. “Just over a month ago, she woke in the middle of the night, in her own bedroom, to find a strange man there. He assaulted her, ripped a valuable diamond pendant off her neck, tore her nightclothes.”
Now Daniel was listening in horror.
Patrick’s voice was tight. “She screamed several times and tried to fight him. He struck her pretty hard. As he was fleeing, her father met him in the corridor and tried to catch him, but he escaped down the stairs. Mr. Thorwood went into Rebecca’s bedroom and found her hysterical, bruised, with minor cuts where the chain of the pendant had torn her skin. She was terribly distressed. I . . . I don’t know what else he may have done to her . . .”
Daniel could imagine it. It must have been terrible, unforgettable. “But how could I help?” he asked in some confusion.
“Tobias Thorwood recognized the man, because it was someone he knew,” Patrick replied. He was standing rigid now; this much was obvious even in the darkness.
“So, you arrested him? Or the police did?”
“No. We couldn’t, because he was a British diplomat. Philip Sidney. He fled to the British Embassy, and we couldn’t get in there. It’s legally British territory.”
Copyright © 2019 by Anne Perry. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.