Greeley glanced at the pile of documents on his desk, then reluctantly pulled a colorful print out from among them and unfolded it.
It was a commentary from several months ago by the infamous A. J. Quill, London's most popular satirical artist. Greeley paid little attention to current events, preferring to keep himself cloistered within the ivory tower of academia, but he was aware of the man's work and appreciated his clever drawings and scathing humor.
Everyone knew that the moniker was only a pen name, and speculation as to A. J. Quill's real identity was a parlor game throughout the beau monde. Senior government official, high-ranking military officer, a titan of the Bank of England or the East India Company—given all the intimate information that A. J. Quill knew, the assumption was that he had to be someone within the highest echelons of power.
A man who knew how to ferret out every secret in London, no matter how well hidden.
Greeley studied the print for a moment longer, then made himself push it away, feeling a little foolish for letting it upset him. It meant nothing. The earlier recurrence of the disturbing memory had put him on edge, that was all.
Opening the ledger that came with the crate, Greeley drew in a calming breath and began the meticulous task of cataloguing the manuscripts.
He worked in peaceful contemplation as the familiar sounds of the library quieted after the closing hour. But then, without warning, the bedeviling memory once again exploded inside his head. And all of a sudden, a long-ago moment—two men huddled together, their whispers teasing through the night breeze—flickered free of the muddled haze. The words were no longer just an amorphous buzz. They sharpened to a startling clarity.
Oh, surely not.
And yet, as he shot a glance at the print he had put aside, a chill ran through him, as if cold steel had kissed up against his spine.
What if the scene that I am remembering is true?
He sat for a moment longer, the question bedeviling him, and then rose abruptly.
Several hours later, after studying the recent newspapers in the reading room and doing some research in the West Wing's archives, he had uncovered enough unsettling information to send him rushing back to his office to dash off a letter. A glance at his pocket watch showed that there was still time to hand it off to the late-night Royal Mail coach heading to London. After returning to the library, he resumed his work. Shadows flitted over the books and papers on his desk. A breeze tickled against the ancient leaded window. Looking up, he released a sigh. "Perhaps I have let my imagination run wild." At the moment, evil seemed very far away.
Still, as Greeley put down his pen and shuffled through the hastily scribbled notes he had made concerning his suspicions, he was glad he had sent the letter. Truth—I must know the truth. And if anyone was capable of discerning truth from lies, it was the man to whom he had sent the letter.
He paused and once again picked up the print by A. J. Quill, the candlelight flickering over the colors as he re-read the captions. Damnation. He folded it up and shoved it back into the jumbled pile of papers on his desk, willing himself to put the matter aside for now.
But on suddenly recalling another book in the West Wing that might help confirm his hunches, he got to his feet. The challenge of fitting the pieces of a puzzle together—especially this one—had his blood thrumming. Taking up the glass-globed candle on his desk, he went to fetch it.
As he retraced his steps, a flutter of light caught his eye. It was coming from his office.
Moving quietly, Greeley crossed the corridor and slipped into the room. A man was riffling through the crate of rare manuscripts. A grunt of satisfaction sounded as he grabbed one of them—
"Stop!" commanded Greeley. The intruder whirled around.
No—this cannot be. Greeley blinked. And then blinked again. "Y-You!"
"Yes, me." A smile. "How nice to see you, Neville. It's been what...six years?"
Greeley didn't reply. He had forgotten how the man's slate-dark eyes always seemed to hold a touch of malice.