“Why else would natives want an Englishwoman? I’m not privy to the details but I believe the werewolves were blamed. It was supposed to be a cushy job, transporting the taxes and bringing the brigadier’s wife back from the hills. Yet the pack botched it. They are rather in disgrace. I’m surprised Mrs Godwit invited them.”

Rue said only, “Ah, I see.” She was thinking, however, that Kingair had a reputation for botching up their assignments. Troublesome, her father had called his former pack whenever Rue asked about her Scottish relations. He’d thought it best that Rue not meet them.

“Lady Akeldama, could I beg your indulgence for a moment of private conversation?”

Rue only then registered that, as they talked, Lieutenant Broadwattle was steering her away from the party towards the far end of the pond and the privacy of several bushes there.

“Lieutenant Broadwattle, we have only just met!” To arrive at a garden party and immediately disappear in the company of an eligible man – she was as near to causing a serious scandal as she had ever got in her whole life. And it was Prim’s good name at stake – since everyone thought Prim was Rue, it must follow that they also thought Rue was Prim. She could just imagine Aunt Ivy’s face should reports of her daughter’s behaviour reach London.

She drew back, intending to return to the party.

“But, Lady Akeldama, I have some very important information to impart. From Lord Akeldama.”

Rue gasped. Lieutenant Broadwattle was Dama’s contact?

She lowered her voice. “About tea?”

“I have been trying to get you alone since you arrived, but first those blasted customs officials – local spies for the Rakshasas of course – and now this party. No one here can be trusted,” Lieutenant Broadwattle whispered darkly. “Especially not with tea.”

Rue looked around. Everyone seemed to be respectably upper crust: the hats were in order, the hair was curled, the uniforms were crisp, even in the heat. “If you say so, lieutenant.”


He bent over as though murmuring romantic nothings. “I do apologise, but we must give them reason to believe that my interest is genuine. I cannot be suspected – things have already gone pear-shaped.”

Rue reluctantly agreed. “Quickly, then.”

“I have been instructed to tell you that I have a message but you will need the honeysuckle.”

“What? Oh. Yes, I see.” He most likely had a cypher for Aunt Ivy’s book and a message of encouragement from Dama.

Lieutenant Broadwattle angled himself so as to shield Rue with his body from the curious eyes of party attendees. He handed her a slip of paper. Rue glance at it briefly – it was notations on a grid, which she recognised as a received aetherographic transmission. Unfortunately, there were no letters but instead it featured only a series of numbers and spaces.

Rue knew a code when she saw one. This was some kind of message. “No cypher?”

The young man looked genuinely shocked. “My dear lady, I am only the redundancy agent. Newly minted, I am not privy…”

“Yes, yes, you are not privy to any secrets.” Rue tucked the slip of paper down the bodice of her dress, much to the young man’s embarrassment. “Now that Miss Tunstell’s reputation is in tatters, shall we rejoin the party? I believe we have given them enough gossip for one evening.”

“Indeed. Possibly even more than the kidnapping. At least that was respectable. This is good for my reputation, however.” The young officer smiled at her and Rue wondered if he really was one of Dama’s boys, as it were, and needed to establish notoriety as a lady’s man. Or if he were simply referring to barracks bragging rights.

A thought occurred to her as they strode back, arms linked. “What happened to his previous agent?”

“Lord Akeldama didn’t give you the name of your contact?” Lieutenant Broadwattle was surprised.

“He did not.” Rue was beginning to regret her decision to sneak off in the wee hours of daylight without saying goodbye to Dama. Clearly, she had missed more than fond farewells. “I departed precipitously, for fashion reasons.”

“His first agent was Mrs Featherstonehaugh.”

“Oh dear,” said Rue dropping his arm.

As soon as they joined the throng about the refreshment table, Quesnel and Prim abandoned Mrs Godwit and attached themselves, one on each side of Rue.

“Rue,” hissed Primrose. “What are you about? My reputation!”

Quesnel added, “Yes, her reputation. Not to mention you’re flirting shamelessly with that sorry excuse for an officer.”

“Oh, stop it, both of you. He’s Dama’s not-so-specialist tea contact.”

“What?” said both accusers as one.

“Keep your voices down. We’ll discuss it later.”

Quesnel would not let the matter drop. “You seemed to be enjoying yourself.”

This inexplicably annoyed Rue. “Mr Lefoux, I always enjoy myself at a garden party. And now, I believe the regimental werewolves have arrived.”

The werewolves made a grand entrance. They could hardly do otherwise. The pack was a standard size, looking to be eight or so members, but above-standard on an individual level. Each man was built on the brick wall end of the spectrum of human shape. They were also scruffy, boisterous, and wearing exotic formal wear. This involved a plaid skirt-like object instead of trousers. Luckily, Rue had been warned of this garment on more than one occasion.

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