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The Bulgarian ambassador is found eviscerated in his London quarters, and Major Sonja Slade of the Prussian Army searches for his killer while trying to forget her own ties to the dead man.

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Monday
Jun242013

Week 20

Kitty, The Cub Reporter

I meant to just take a little bit of a rest. Instead I woke up groggy to a room filled with afternoon light, and it took me a minute and a bit of a panic to remember where I was and what I’d resolved to do. They’d left me another tray, this one with a thermos of the darkest coffee I’d ever seen and a funny sort of pastry bread with jam. It must have been there for a while, though, because the coffee was barely warm, thermos or no. I ate and dressed and then held my breath when I tried the door: and astonishingly enough, it opened. So I stepped out into the hall and then worked out I wasn’t sure where to go. A nice-looking young man in a uniform must have heard me, because he leaned around the corner and then rushed over to me. “Miss Kinsey? Is there something you need?”

It was time to be bold. I put my chin up and my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes, just the way I always do with the Sullivan children when I’m watching them. “I want to go out into the city.” I said.

He looked surprised. “Oh! I’ll need to check if—“

I narrowed my eyes further and raised my voice a bit. “You are going to tell me how to get around Midway,” I said. “And you’re going to give me a, a key if I need it, or some sort of pass, and maybe some currency—“

He waved his hands at me. “No, no, of course you can go, Miss Kinsey. I just need to check if it’s still all right, or if the commander needed to speak to you first. We thought we’d be back by now. I was meant to escort you around town this morning — Midway isn’t always safe for a lady — but since you were asleep for so long — we thought perhaps you wouldn’t be up to it today.” He was charmingly contrite, and even had a dimple on his cheek when he smiled.

I nodded curtly. “Of course,” I said.

He looked at me carefully. “Are you feeling well, by the way? I understand you might not be feeling your best.”

“Whyever not?” I asked.

He jumped, for all the world like a startled cat. “From — from the travel, of course. Travel does take a lot out of one, miss.”

I tossed my head. “I’m perfectly well. Let’s go.”

He said something in code into a curious miniature wireless set at his desk, and then we set out together so I could see the sights of Midway. We walked, of course; but I was surprised that the roads were cobbled, and the streets could have been from any charming postcard of a foreign city you ever saw, once we got away from the ugly block of a building we’d come from.

His name was Charles, as it happened, and he was just in the service barely a year. He was terribly awkward around me, and I thought it might be because he thought me pretty, in that way that boys sometimes have. Still, as flattering as that was, it wouldn’t do to have him hanging around and tracking my every move. I tried to get the lay of the city in my head, and then we stopped for a cup of coffee together near the famous salt fountain at the heart of Midway. Time to show them Kitty Kinsey was nobody's pawn to shuffle around.

I asked to use the ladies' facilities, but instead squirmed out the high, narrow window at the back of the cafe and fled, shoes in hand so I could make better speed.

I ran and ran like there were demons chasing me, my father’s demons maybe, and didn’t stop until my legs were rubber and my breath unrecoverable. I crouched in a doorway for another several minutes, watching the passers-by for signs of somebody who might be after me, or anyone in a uniform. There was no-one.

Then I just wandered the streets of Midway, sure I’d at least got rid of Charles. But I found myself suddenly unsure of what to do next. Before long, I was all the way to the city’s edge. You could see the arch of the bridge from here, and the massive steel beams that held the city up. I expected I’d see nothing but horizon to the north, ocean and sky to the limit of human vision, but instead discovered a curious vista. There was a massive ice floe or glacier of some sort floating moored to Midway, with aeroplanes lined up in a row on it, and people marching around determinedly on their varied errands. The glare of light off the ice dazzled me, and spots swam in my eyes.

“Don’t look for too long, or they’ll come to see why,” murmured a voice in my ear.

“Pardon?” I turned to see a fair-haired man leaning on the rail beside me. He was blessedly not military, though odd enough in his tweed jacket and a red sweater under it, for all that it was a hot afternoon. I hadn’t noticed him arriving.

He turned to me, his expression sad and growing sadder. “They’re right. By god, if Sam were a woman,” he said, “He would be you.” He grasped my hand. “You must be Katherine.”

“Kitty,” I said. And then, “Did everyone here know my father?” I demanded.

He raised an eyebrow. “Why, who else did you meet here?”

“Some woman with an accent.”

“Hm.” His expression didn’t change. “No matter. Listen, your father and I were — we were very close. And if you’re here, that means you’re in terrible danger.” My head had begun to pound, and the dazzle from the ice grew worse, like my eyes had been smeared with oil.

“No, I think it’s sorted out now, since that women cut my hands.”

“Cut your—“ he turned my hands over and stared at the pinpricks in my palms. “Kitty. Listen carefully. Before they did this, did she put something on your skin?”

“It’s all right,” I said. “I washed the poison off, I didn’t touch my mouth, just like she said.” But the world had begun to spin around me, and I felt like I was floating a yard above my own head.

The fair-haired man swore. “You have to go back there,” he said. I could hardly hear him over the roaring in my ears. “It’s in your blood now, they did it to keep you close. Devious bastards, playing with an innocent’s life like that— Katherine? Kitty?”

And that’s— I think that’s when I fainted.

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