to take care of the injuries, and it had been decided that when Colin was well enough to travel, he would tell his brother, Caine, about the letters and ask his assistance."

"What happened to sour this plan?" Richards asked.

Jade frowned at Caine again. "He soured it," she announced. "Pagan had been made the scapegoat for Nathan and Colin's deaths, as you know, and Caine decided to seek vengeance. His timing couldn't have been worse. The remaining members of the Tribunal couldn't take the risk of Caine finding the pirate

and having a talk with him. So Caine had inadvertently put himself in danger."

"It wasn't inadvertent," Caine interjected.

She shrugged. "Colin had made Pagan promise not to tell Caine anything. His brother knew Caine

would . . . charge right in, you see, and Colin wanted to explain everything. In truth, I do believe Colin wasn't thinking the thing through, but he was in terrible pain at the time and he seemed obsessed with protecting Caine. Pagan agreed, just to placate Colin."

"And where do you fit into this scheme?" Lyon asked.

"Nathan is my brother," Jade answered. "I returned to England and went to stay at his country estate. There were several of Pagan's men with me. They took turns watching out for Caine. Several attempts were made to get him, and it was then decided that I would find a way to get Caine away from his hunt. Two days before I was supposed to leave, a series of incidents took place. On the first morning, when I was taking my usual walk, I came upon three men digging up my parents' graves. I shouted, for I was in a rage, you see, over what they were doing. I drew their notice, of course. One of the villains shot at me. I ran back to Nathan's house to get help."

"Weren't Pagan's men still guarding you?" Richards asked.

Jade shook her head. "They were all needed to keep Caine safe. Besides, I had Nathan's butler, Hudson, and the other servants to assist me."

"And then what happened?" Lyon asked.

"It was too dark for the servants to go to the graves. It was decided to wait until morning. That night, the house was pillaged," she continued. "I slept through, however, and never heard a sound. Even my bedchamber was turned upside down."

"You must have been drugged," Richards announced.

"I can't imagine how it was done if I was drugged," Jade said. "The following morning, I rode one of Nathan's mounts back to the graves to see if any evidence had been left. Nathan's butler, Hudson, was having a difficult time believing me, you see, and I wanted to convince him. As it turned out, I never made it to the graves. The villains were obviously waiting to intercept me. They killed Nathan's horse.

I went flying to the ground."

"Good Lord, you could have been killed by the fall," Richards said.

"I was most fortunate, as I only sustained a few bruises," she explained. "I went running back to the house, told Hudson what had happened. He sent men to chase after the villains. When they returned, they told me they couldn't find any evidence of foul play. The horse had vanished. I'm not certain how that was accomplished. Caine said it would take more than three men to lift it into a wagon and cart it away."

She paused to shrug, then continued. "1 decided to go to London with all possible haste and immediately ordered the carriage made ready. Yet, as soon as we'd traveled down the first hill, the coachman shouted that there was a fire. We could see the smoke. I returned to the house just in time to witness the full fire. Poor Nathan's house was gutted to the ground. I then ordered Hudson and the other servants to go to Nathan's London residence, then once again set out for my own destination."

"And where was that?" Lyon asked. "Were you also going to Nathan's town house?"

Jade smiled. "No, I was going to a tavern called the Ne'er Do Well. I had a plan, you see, to get Caine away from his hunt."

Lyon nodded.

"1 don't understand," Richards interjected. "What exactly was this plan? Caine isn't one to be easily fooled, my dear."

"I'll explain it all later," Caine interjected. "Let her finish with this now."

"On the way to London, the carriage was waylaid. I was hit on the side of my head. The blow made

me sleep, and when I awakened, I found that the carriage had been torn apart. I was able to squeeze through the window after I'd widened the frame with the heel of my boot."

"And then?" Richards asked-

"I walked."

"All the way to London?" Lyon asked.

"No," Jade answered. "Not all the way. I was able to ... borrow a horse from a way station. It was unattended. The owner was probably inside having his supper."

Jade finished her accounting a few minutes later. She never mentioned the fact that she was Pagan, and Caine assumed he would have to be the one to tell Sir Richards and Lyon.

Just what was her game? Lord, by the time she'd finished her recitation, she was dabbing at the corners

of her eyes with Richards' handkerchief.

The director was obviously shaken by her explanation. He leaned back in his chair and shook his head.

"Do you know who the other members of the Tribunal are?" Jade asked him.

"No."

"But you knew Hammond, didn't you?" she asked. "I understood that the two of you started out together."

"Yes, we started out together," Richards agreed. "Yet after a number of years, my dear, we were each given a different division within the War Department. Hammond had so many young men under his direction back then. He ran his own section. I met quite a few eager young saviors, but certainly not all

of them."

"We have several telling clues," Lyon interjected. "It shouldn't take us long to find out the truth."

"The first letter was signed by a man named William. They hadn't been assigned their operative names yet. Hell, that's the most common name in England," Caine added. "How many Williams work for the War Office?"

Jade answered his question. "Actually, there were only three in Hammond's files."

Everyone turned to look at her. "Pagan read the files," she whispered. She blushed, then added, "It was necessary. There's William Pryors, William Terrance, and William Clayhill. All three worked for your department, Sir Richards. Two are still alive, though retired from duty, but William Terrance died four years ago."

"You're certain of these facts?" Lyon asked.

"How did Pagan get to our files?" Richards was obviously disconcerted. "By God, no one can get through our security."

"Pagan did," Caine said. He took over the conversation then, explaining in more detail how the pirate

had set out to protect him. He told them about Colin's and Nathan's near miss with the sharks, too.

When he was finished, no one said a word for a long while.

Jade was gripping her hands together. It wasn't a pretense now, but the memory of the sharks that made her so agitated.

"Three eager young men, bent on saving the world," Richards whispered. "But the lust for power

became more important."

Jade nodded agreement. "Did you notice, sir, that the first letters were signed with the wording, 'for the good of England,' but as time went on, and they grew more and more bold, they changed the wording?"

"I noticed," Sir Richards muttered. " 'For the good of the Tribunal' was how they signed their notes," he added. "And that does say it all, doesn't it. There can be no misinterpretation here."

"Her father was killed by the two others when he refused to go along with their plans, and then Hammond was murdered," Caine said.

Richards nodded. "We must find the other two," he muttered. "Lord, there's so much to take in." He let out a weary sigh, then said, "Well, thank God Pagan seems to be on our side. When I think of all the damage he could do with those files, my blood runs cold."

"Oh, Pagan's very honorable," Jade rushed out. "Most thieves are, sir. You mustn't worry that the information will fall into the wrong hands."

"Did that bastard read my file?" Lyon demanded.

Caine didn't answer him. He didn't think there was any reason to share the truth with his friend. It would only upset him.

"The very fact that there were sharks in those waters," Richards whispered, changing the topic. "Do you realize the courage it must have taken . . ."

"Have you finished your questions?" Jade interrupted.

The director immediately reached out and patted her hands again. "We've exhausted you, haven't we, my dear? I can tell how distressing this is for you."

"Thank you for your consideration," she whispered. She stood up and didn't protest at all when Richards embraced her.

"We'll find the culprits, I promise you," he said.

Jade hid her hands in the folds of her gown, then walked over to Lyon. He immediately stood up. She leaned against him. "Thank you, Lyon, for helping us. Please give my love to Christina. I cannot wait until I can visit with her again."

She turned back to Richards and hugged him again. "I forgot to thank you as well," she explained.

She pulled away from the director, bowed, and turned to leave the room.

"Jade?"

"Yes, Caine?"

"What was all that about?"

She turned around to smile at him. "You said a man's pride is very important, didn't you?"

"I did."

"You also said that when a man is manipulated or deceived, his pride suffers, too."

"I did say that." He leaned forward. "And?"

"Well, if others were also . . . fooled . . . friends who have earned their own legends and England's respect, then wouldn't the blow be less painful?"

He finally understood. His wink was slow, his grin arrogant. "I shall go and ask Colin and Nathan to join you now," Jade announced before she left the room. The door closed softly behind her.

"What was she talking about?" Richards asked.

"A personal matter," Caine answered. He turned to Lyon then. "Well? What do you think of her now?"

His friend refilled his goblet with more brandy before he answered. "She's still damned beautiful," he said. "But I'm once again thinking she's awfully timid. Must come from being around you."

Caine laughed. "You're back to thinking she's timid?"

"What am I missing, Caine?" Lyon asked, genuinely perplexed. "What's the jest you find so amusing?"

"Put aside this talk about women," Richards ordered. "Now, son, you must promise me something."

"Sir?" Caine asked.

"Have you actually met this Pagan fellow?"

"I have."

"When this is finished, you must find a way for me to meet him."

Caine leaned back in his chair. Jade had been right. She had just given him his pride back.

"I must meet Pagan," Sir Richards demanded again.

Caine nodded. "Sir Richards, you just did."

Chapter Fifteen

"Jade, come back here." Caine shouted that order while his two friends were trying to absorb the news he'd just given them.

When she didn't respond to his summons, Caine called for Sterns. The butler must have been standing right outside the door, for he immediately rushed inside the library. He bowed to his employer, a courtesy he never ever extended when they were alone, and then asked, "You wished something, mi'lord?"

"Bring Jade back here," Caine ordered.

"I believe she heard your bellow, mi'lord," Sterns announced in that highbrow voice of his, "She has declined the invitation to rejoin you, however. Was there something more you wanted?"

Caine wanted to strangle Sterns, but he pushed the notion aside. "Bring her to me. Drag her in here if

you have to, but bring her to me. That's what I want, Sterns."

The butler nodded, then left on his errand. Caine turned back to his friends. He lost some of his irritation when he saw Lyon's grin. His friend seemed to be taking the news of Pagan's identity much better than Sir Richards was. The director still looked quite stunned.

"Hell, Caine, I should have guessed," Lyon said. "She was so timid ... yes, I should have known, all right. You aren't one to be attracted to... and Christina did say that I should look below the . . ."

"Son," Sir Richards interrupted Lyon's rambling. "This isn't the time for jests. We've a serious matter here."

Jade opened the door in the middle of Richards' protests. "I was fetching Nathan and Colin for you, Caine. What is it you wanted?"

"Give them back, Jade."

His voice had the bite of a pistol shot in it. Jade pretended innocence. "Whatever are you talking about?" she asked. She pressed her hand to her bosom in mock fear and fluttered her eyelashes at him.

He wasn't at all impressed. "You know damned good and well what I'm talking about," he roared.

"Give them back."

"Caine, it isn't polite to raise your voice to me in front of visitors," she instructed. Her voice had risen

an octave. "It's plain rude."

"They know who you are."

"They know?"

She marched over to the front of his desk and glared at him. Her hands were planted on her h*ps now. "Exactly what do they know?"

"That you're Pagan."

She let out a gasp. "Why don't you just post it in the dailies?" she shouted. "Then you wouldn't have to spend so much time . . ."

"I had to tell them," Caine interjected.

"You could have waited until after I'd left."

"Since you aren't leaving, that wasn't possible, now was it?"

"My God, it's really true?" Richards interjected in a near shout of his own.

Jade glanced over her shoulder to frown at the director. "No," she snapped. "It isn't true."

"Yes," Caine countered. "It is."

"Damn it, Caine, don't you know how to keep a secret?" She didn't give him time to answer that

question but turned to leave.

"I told you to give them back, Jade."

"Why?"

"These men happen to be my friends," he answered. "That's why."



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