Quesnel was dressed in the part of her curator. Showing less skin, sadly, although his trousers were fantastically tight. His favourite top hat was turned to the seedy side through the addition of some very loud plaid ribbon. He’d even donned a small waxed moustache.

The fortress was quiet – presumably most of the military were off looking for the missing Mrs Featherstonehaugh, or fighting dissidents, or wheeling cheese, or whatever. The werewolves, unable to work during the day, would no doubt be conducting the night-time search. Rue hoped to catch them before they left. Or more precisely, she hoped to catch her Uncle Lyall.

There was a sleepy guard posted at the side entrance. He jumped to his feet at Quesnel’s throat clearing, but didn’t seem to know quite what to do when faced with a flesh dealer and his wares.

“Good evening,” said Quesnel. “Mr Pinpod and a lady to call upon the Kingair Pack. Please inform them that we are here.”

The man stuttered, “I wasn’t told. That is – your names are not on the list. Sir and, uh, lady.”

“They most certainly are,” insisted Quesnel.

The young man looked terrified. He couldn’t leave his post to check with his superiors, and he didn’t want to cause a scandal.

“Oh dear. If you could wait a moment, miss, my lady? They should be surfacing soon.”

No doubt he meant it literally. Werewolf attachments were often housed underground, for everyone’s safety.

“At ease, private,” came a calm soft voice, and Uncle Lyall materialised out of the shadows behind the relieved guard. “The lady is not unexpected.”

Rue batted her lashes. “La, sir!” she simpered.


The guard eagerly ceded all responsibility to Lyall’s authority. He resumed his post while the werewolf guided them inside and out of sight around the corner of a munitions building. “Herself is in a temper. I wouldn’t bother her if I were you. Can I help?” He didn’t even flinch at Rue’s attire.

Rue smiled hopefully. “Actually it was you I wanted to see. It’s Mrs Featherstonehaugh – I think she may be more important than anyone realised. I’d like to know more about her. Anything you can tell me would be useful.”

Uncle Lyall shrugged. “We didn’t socialise, I’m afraid. The brigadier is happy to have a werewolf attachment but unhappy to have a Scottish one. The pack was never invited to his private functions. Mrs Featherstonehaugh seemed nice enough, rather young. Bookish.”

Rue perked up. “What did she like to read?”

“I never had the opportunity to ask. Do you think it important?”

“I’ve been charged with investigating,” Rue replied cautiously. Was this estranged former member of Paw’s pack trustworthy?

Uncle Lyall didn’t seem to take this amiss. “Have you indeed? Well, my offer stands.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the brigadier’s quarters are there, second storey window. You could borrow my form and take a look for yourself if you like. He’s out of town. Guards on the first floor.”

Rue considered. “If I’m seen, Kingair would be blamed.”

Uncle Lyall shrugged. “We’re already in the soup for losing the chit in the first place.”

Quesnel looked suspicious. “That’s right. It was pack acting escort. You’re certain you didn’t socialise with Mrs Featherstonehaugh at that time? It’s a long journey back from the hills.”

Uncle Lyall didn’t resent his honesty being questioned. “I wasn’t with them. Left behind to act as pack anchor.” His tone spoke volumes. Clearly he felt that if he had been with them, they wouldn’t have lost the girl, and he blamed himself for not having kept a closer eye on things.

Rue thought for a moment. “Then I accept your offer. Have I ever stolen your form before, uncle?” She had been a holy terror in her childhood on this matter.

Uncle Lyall chose not to answer.

Quesnel said, “Mon petit chou, shouldn’t you consider your nice dress?”

Rue snorted at him.

Quesnel managed to look both guilty and determined. “Well, I suppose we could get you another one.”

Rue wasn’t sure why but something in his tone both embarrassed and thrilled in a way that no romantic comment would have. He likes it when I look a little less buttoned up, does he? I’ll have to remember that.

Uncle Lyall looked sharply at the young man but was too much a gentleman to say anything. Rue had the distinct impression he was taking mental notes on the flirtation.

Rue took her gloves off and touched the back of Uncle Lyall’s bare hand to distract him.

It was painful. It was always painful. More painful even than the day before she got her monthly courses. She remembered, before she had matured as a woman, that the shift had not hurt when she was a child. But when she stopped growing and her bones firmed into their adult shape, the fracturing of those bones into wolf was no longer mere discomfort – it was agony. But she had withstood it before and she would again.

Her revealing tight velvet bodice tore beyond repair. The skirt, tight over hips and posterior, also ripped. Rue wanted to console the crestfallen Quesnel that she could certainly lay her hands on more tight dresses. Goodness, if that was what it took to get him looking at her like that, she’d start a new trend as soon as they returned to London.

The hat stayed on her head. It was small enough to perch between her ears. Rue let it be. At least she could save one article of clothing.

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