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The next morning Eva and Kate attended the king promptly as he broke his fast. Their suite had, as promised, lacked for nothing, and the ladies were able to spend the night in physical, if not mental, comfort.
Eva could not help but notice that the king ate very little for breakfast. The sight of food seemed to appall him and he turned away dish after dish. He attempted to mask his obvious discomfort through pleasant conversation, but although he did not touch on the events of the previous night, the pleasantries were strained and awkward.
Jonathan arrived halfway through the meal, looking slightly disoriented and upset. He bid them all a good morning, though he avoided making eye contact with Eva and the smile he gave to Kate seemed a little delirious. He sat down with barely more than a salute to his brother and tore into a roll.
“Any news?” he asked Phillip during one of the more painful silences.
Phillip raised one eybrow, as though to suggest that his younger brother lacked decorum. Nevertheless, he wiped his mouth on the corner of his napkin and answered. “Nothing, for the moment. The Falconer has yet to report.”
The words had hardly left his mouth when a steward entered. Bowing to the king, he announced that the Falconer Imnir awaited his pleasure.
“Under normal circumstances, I would postpone state affairs to after breakfast, for I find it gives terrible indigestion and makes for irritated or impatient guests. But today you might wish to hear his news. Should I call him?” he asked.
“Your wish is ours, Your Majesty,” Eva replied. Her face betrayed no emotion other than polite attentiveness. Kate looked as though she wished to say something sarcastic – then rearranged her expression so that she bore the same look as her mother.
Phillip nodded to the steward. The man bowed again, then departed. A minute later, the Falconer strode in. He was dressed in the same attire he had worn the previous evening and the tangled state of his hair suggested that he had neither slept, nor stopped to make himself presentable. He walked up to the king and bowed perfunctorily, then stood with his hands folded, waiting for permission to speak. He ignored Eva and Kate completely, as though he had never spoken to them in his life, let alone arrested them not twelve hours previously. Though he had worked through the night, his eyes were still bright and fierce. He looked as though he could easily have another night with no rest.
The king was sipping a cup that looked like tea but smelled strongly of brandy. He nodded his permission and the Falconer began.
“Preliminary searches have yielded no evidence that Lord Gallow was a collaborator,” he said. “My men will continue to search the city for the responsible parties, but I would request permission to follow the Southern road. If he were apprehended on the way to respond to a call of emergency, we may still be able to find clues.”
“So you believe us now,” Kate said.
As soon as the words left her lips, she seemed to realise it had been a mistake to utter them. The Falconer appeared to notice her for the first time – his face snapped toward her and his cold gaze settled on her. She blanched, but did not – could not – tear her eyes away. After a long moment he replied. “What I believe is that preliminary searches have yielded no evidence that your father was a collaborator,” he said in his peculiar cruel tone. “I am not convinced that you are not a family of liars.” Following this statement, he turned back to the king, leaving Kate speechless and pale with fury and fear.
Jonathan seemed on the point of speaking, but Phillip did not reproach the Falconer for his speech out of turn, nor even acknowledge that he had heard the exchange. “By all means, pursue the Southern road if you think it will bring useful information. How long do you expect to be away?”
“Not longer than the day. If Lord Gallow was abducted it could not have been so far along the road. While I am away, Gilltrin will serve as an adequate substitute for domestic matters. My other teams will, of course, continue their search within the city.”
“Go, then,” Phillip bade him. With one last bow, the Falconer turned away and left the hall as swiftly as he had come.
When breakfast was finished, Eva and Kate retired again to their suite. Here Eva pressed Kate to write some of the letters she was owing to several friends and acquaintances who wished to be well-remembered by their family. Kate sat down to the task with much agitation, and crumpled her first three attempts on the floor complaining of the imperfect penmanship.
“Do not be so aggrieved by the Falconer,” her mother said gently after the last outburst. “It would only please him.” Kate was silent. “He enjoys having the last word and the feeling of superiority, particularly over those who surpass him by birth. He is a common man whose uncommon talent for heartlessness has made him some degree of useful. But he has never demanded the respect that established families and estates have – he has only inspired loathing and fear.” Her speech was perhaps unfair to the Falconer, but Eva had never seen much in him to respect, and no reason to be more civil than was demanded by society. And his behavior that morning had irked her at least as much as Kate – perhaps more so, for when Kate went back to writing, with a slightly mollified air, Eva concentrated very avidly on the book she was reading, yet never turned a page.
An hour or two had passed when the personal manservant of Jonathan Lytra called on them. His master, he said, requested Lady Gallow’s presence at her earliest convenience.
Eva had half a mind to tell the footman to go away, so that she could let Jonathan wait for as long as she pleased. But it was never a good idea to get on the wrong side of princes, and she feared it might have something to do with Daniel. So she contented herself with shutting her book with a very loud snap and telling Kate that she would be back within the hour. She followed the manservant out with all the silent displeasure she could muster.
Jonathan sat in his office, an ordinarily sunny room. His writing desk sat just in front of a wall made of windows that let in all the natural light he could wish for as he worked. Unlike Phillip’s dark and comfortable office, his seemed bright, clean, austere.
Today, there was not sufficient light to read his papers without the aid of a desk lamp. Dark blue clouds roiled above the palace, heavy with rain. The first few, fat drops had already fallen into the courtyard directly outside his window.
When Eva came in he waved his manservant away and the man disappeared, shutting the door discreetly behind him. Eva sank into her customary curtsy. “Enough of that,” he said impatiently. “Come over here. I need to ask you something.”
“I am at Your Majesty’s disposal,” she said, without much sincerity.
His clear blue eyes bore into her own grey-green ones. “Was Daniel responsible for the arson at the train station?” he asked.
Two bright red spots appeared in her cheeks and her insolence was replaced by rage. “How dare you – ” she began.
“Answer!” he commanded.
“He was not, and never could be, the responsible party,” she snarled through gritted teeth.
At once, his manner seemed to change. He sat back in his chair and exhaled slowly. He seemed relieved, as though the exchange had put to rest all of his fears. “That’s good,” he said. “I’m glad to hear it.”
She stared at him for a moment. “I beg your pardon,” she said finally, “but is that the only reason you called me to your office? To ask me a simple question, the answer to which I gave you last night?”
“No,” he admitted. “But I did feel the need to ask. The Falconer never judges a man based on his character, so he will suspect your husband until indisputable proof is found that Daniel is either guilty or innocent. But I do judge character. And not only am I convinced that I can judge my friend’s character to be honest, true and loyal, but you have persuaded me that you believe what you say.”
“I suppose I am glad to hear it,” she said as she fiddled with the cuff of her gown. Her voice was still full of resentment.
“Let’s not think on that any more,” he said gently. He was trying to make amends, though she felt he did so very poorly. “I also called you here to inform you of something.” He pulled a note from his stack of papers and, as he spoke, glanced at it for reference. “At 9:45 this morning, well after the Falconer took up his pursuit on the Southern road, a man was arrested. In his home were found several items of equipment that would have been invaluable in any endeavor of arson. This man was a clerk and an accountant. It is my thought that his papers, if searched, might provide some clue as to his compatriots and patrons. I intend to make a preliminary investigation of the property before seizing it and bringing it back here to be studied.”
“Wouldn’t the Falconer prefer to do it, or set one of his men to the task?” she asked.
“It is I who am master of him, not the other way around,” he replied with a touch of coldness. “I do command the army as part of my duties, and they will be the ones to seize the property. And while the Falconer is making his own investigations, this is not something I feel can wait. I merely thought it might relieve you to know that the investigation is moving forward and, with good fortune, your acquittal might be secured before matters get more complicated.”
Eva nodded, as though she understood the sense in everything he said. Then, “I want to come with you,” she told him.
Jonathan’s quick manner evaporated. “What?” he repeated stupidly.
“I’m as much a part of this as you are, and my future is at stake. For the sake of my husband and my daughter, I wish to go with you.”
“I…don’t think that will be possible.”
“You owe it to me,” she murmured. “You, who have always doubted the rightness of things.” That made him turn a bright red, and he looked down at the table. “I have a quick eye, you know that. I might be of some help to you.” And you owe me. Those words, cruel and cutting and undeniable, still hung in the air.
Click here to read Chapter Six.