Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Cambridge Fellows Mysteries by Charlie Cochrane

Cambridge Fellows Mysteries
If the men of St. Bride’s College knew what Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith got up to behind closed doors, the scandal would rock early-20th-century Cambridge to its core. But the truth is, when they’re not busy teaching literature and mathematics, the most daring thing about them isn’t their love for each other—it’s their hobby of amateur sleuthing.

Because wherever Jonty and Orlando go, trouble seems to find them. Sunny, genial Jonty and prickly, taciturn Orlando may seem like opposites. But their balance serves them well as they sift through clues to crimes, and sort through their own emotions to grow closer. But at the end of the day, they always find the truth . . . and their way home together.

Lessons for Idle Tongues #11
Cambridge, 1910 

Amateur detectives Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith seem to have nothing more taxing on their plate than locating a missing wooden cat and solving the dilemma of seating thirteen for dinner. But one of the guests brings a conundrum: a young woman has been found dead, and her boyfriend is convinced she was murdered. The trouble is, nobody else agrees. 

Investigation reveals that several young people in the local area have died in strange circumstances, and rumours abound of poisonings at the hands of Lord Toothill, a local mysterious recluse. Toothill’s angry, gun-toting gamekeeper isn’t doing anything to quell suspicions, either. 

But even with a gun to his head, Jonty can tell there’s more going on in this surprisingly treacherous village than meets the eye. And even Orlando’s vaunted logic is stymied by the baffling inconsistencies they uncover. Together, the Cambridge Fellows must pick their way through gossip and misdirection to discover the truth.

When I found out that there was going to be, not one but two, new entries in the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries this year I was so excited.  Within 36 hours of the arrival of Lessons for Idle Tongues on my Kindle, I reached the final page and can I just say that Charlie Cochrane did not disappoint.  Jonty and Orlando are faced with another intriguing mystery that may or may not be an actual mystery but that doesn't stop their investigation.  Now I'm even more hungry for Lessons for Sleeping Dogs and October is seeming way too far off.

As for the overall series, Cambridge Fellows is a great historical mystery with humor, romance, and characters that mesh together perfectly, even when they seem more enemy than friend.  I came across this series last summer when I was searching for historical fiction and even though there were 10 books to the series, I decided to give it a try.  Well, less than 30 days later I had finished all 10.  I will say that the publishers label them as standalones and I guess as far as the mysteries go, yes they do qualify as standalones but because of the growing relationships amongst the different characters, and not just Jonty and Orlando, I highly recommend reading them in order of the chronological timeline, which I included below after the excerpts before the author bio.


Lessons in Love #1
St. Bride's College, Cambridge, England, 1905.

When Jonty Stewart takes up a teaching post at the college where he studied, the handsome and outgoing young man acts as a catalyst for change within the archaic institution. He also has a catalytic effect on Orlando Coppersmith. Orlando is a brilliant, introverted mathematician with very little experience of life outside the college walls. He strikes up an alliance with the outgoing Jonty, and soon finds himself having feelings hes never experienced before. Before long their friendship blossoms into more than either man had hoped and they enter into a clandestine relationship. Their romance is complicated when a series of murders is discovered within St. Brides. All of the victims have one thing in common, a penchant for men. While acting as the eyes and ears for the police, a mixture of logic and luck leads them to a confrontation with the murderercan they survive it?

Lessons in Desire #2
With the recent series of college murders behind him, Cambridge Fellow Jonty Stewart is in desperate need of a break. A holiday on the beautiful Channel Island of Jersey seems ideal, if only he can persuade Orlando Coppersmith to leave the security of the college and come with him. Orlando is a quiet man who prefers academic life to venturing out into the world. Within the confines of their rooms at the university, it's easy to hide the fact that he and Jonty are far more than friends. But the desire to spend more time alone with the man he loves is an impossible lure to resist. When a brutal murder occurs at the hotel where they're staying, the two young men are once more drawn into the investigation. The race to catch the killer gets complicated by the victim's son, Ainslie, a man who seems to find Orlando too attractive to resist. Can Stewart and Coppersmith keep Ainslie at bay, keep their affair clandestine, and solve the crime?

Lessons in Discovery #3
On the very day Jonty Stewart proposes that he and Orlando Coppersmith move in together, Fate trips them up. Rather, it trips Orlando, sending him down a flight of stairs and leaving him with an injury that erases his memory. Instead of taking the next step in their relationship, they’re back to square one. It’s bad enough that Orlando doesn’t remember being intimate with Jonty—he doesn’t remember Jonty at all. 

Back inside the introverted, sexually innocent shell he inhabited before he met Jonty, Orlando is faced with two puzzles. Not only does he need to recover the lost pieces of his past, he’s also been tasked by the Master to solve a four-hundred-year-old murder before the end of term. The college’s reputation is riding on it.

Crushed that his lover doesn’t remember him, Jonty puts aside his grief to help decode old documents for clues to the murder. But a greater mystery remains—one involving the human heart. 

To solve it, Orlando must hear the truth about himself—even if it means he may not fall in love with Jonty the second time around…

Lessons in Power #4
The ghosts of the past will shape your future. Unless you fight them.

Cambridge, 1907

After settling in their new home, Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart are looking forward to nothing more exciting than teaching their students and playing rugby. Their plans change when a friend asks their help to clear an old flame who stands accused of murder.

Doing the right thing means Jonty and Orlando must leave the sheltering walls of St. Bride’s to enter a labyrinth of suspects and suspicions, lies and anguish. 

Their investigation raises ghosts from Jonty’s past when the murder victim turns out to be one of the men who sexually abused him at school. The trauma forces Jonty to withdraw behind a wall of painful memories. And Orlando fears he may forever lose the intimacy of his best friend and lover.

When another one of Jonty’s abusers is found dead, police suspicion falls on the Cambridge fellows themselves. Finding this murderer becomes a race to solve the crime…before it destroys Jonty’s fragile state of mind.

Lessons in Temptation #5
For friends and lovers Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart, a visit to Bath starts out full of promise. While Orlando assesses the value of some old manuscripts, Jonty plans to finish his book of sonnets. Nothing exciting…until they are asked to investigate the mysterious death of a prostitute.

Then Orlando discovers that the famous curse of Macbeth extends far beyond the stage. It’s bad enough that Jonty gets drawn into a local theatre’s rehearsals of the play. The producer is none other than Jimmy Harding, a friend from Jonty’s university days who clearly finds his old pal irresistible. Worse, Jimmy makes sure Orlando knows it, posing the greatest threat so far to their happiness.

With Jonty involved in the play, Orlando must do his sleuthing alone. Meanwhile, Jonty finds himself sorely tempted by Jimmy’s undeniable allure. Even if Orlando solves the murder, his only reward could be burying his and Jonty’s love in an early grave…

Lessons in Seduction #6
This time, one touch could destroy everything...

The suspected murder of the king's ex-mistress is Cambridge dons Orlando Coppersmith and Jonty Stewart's most prestigious case yet. And the most challenging, since clues are as hard to come by as the killer's possible motive.

At the hotel where the body was found, Orlando goes undercover as a professional dancing partner while Jonty checks in as a guest. It helps the investigation, but it also means limiting their communication to glances across the dance floor. It's sheer agony.

A series of anonymous letters warns the sleuths they'll be sorry if they don't drop the investigation. When another murder follows, Jonty is convinced their involvement might have caused the victim's death. Yet they can't stop, for this second killing brings to light a wealth of hidden secrets.

For Orlando, the letters pose a more personal threat. He worries that someone will blow his cover and discover their own deepest secret... The intimate relationship he enjoys with Jonty could not only get them                                                                                   thrown out of Cambridge, but arrested for                                                                                  indecency.

Lessons in Trust #7
He thought he knew who he was. Now he’s a stranger to himself. 

When Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith witness the suspicious death of a young man at the White City exhibition in London, they're keen to investigate--especially after the cause of death proves to be murder. But Police Inspector Redknapp refuses to let them help, even after they stumble onto clues to the dead man's identity.

Orlando's own identity becomes the subject for speculation when, while mourning the death of his beloved grandmother, he learns that she kept secrets about her past. Desperate to discover the truth about his family, Orlando departs suddenly on a solo quest to track down his roots, leaving Jonty distraught.

While Jonty frantically tries to locate his lover, Orlando wonders if he'll be able to find his real family before he goes mad. After uncovering more leads to the White City case, they must decide whether to risk further involvement. Because if either of them dares try to solve the murder, Inspector Redknapp could expose their illicit--and illegal--love affair.

All Lessons Learned #8
He's at the end of his rope...until fate casts a lifeline.

The Great War is over. Freed from a prisoner of war camp and back at St. Bride's College, Orlando Coppersmith is discovering what those years have cost. All he holds dear--including his beloved Jonty Stewart, lost in combat.

A commission to investigate a young officer's disappearance gives Orlando new direction...temporarily. The deceptively simple case becomes a maze of conflicting stories--is Daniel McNeil a deserter, or a hero?--taking Orlando into the world of the shell-shocked and broken. And his sense of Jonty's absence becomes painfully acute. Especially when a brief spark of attraction for a Cambridge historian, instead of offering comfort, triggers overwhelming guilt.

As he hovers on the brink of despair, a chance encounter on the French seafront at Cabourg brings new hope and unexpected joy. But the crushing aftereffects of war could destroy his second chance, leaving him more lost and alone than ever...Product WarningsContains sensual m/m lovemaking and is a three hankie story, two of which you'll need for the happy ending.

Lessons for Survivors #9
Cambridge, September 1919

Orlando Coppersmith should be happy. WWI is almost a year in the past, he's back at St. Bride's College in Cambridge, he has his lover and best friend Jonty Stewart back at his side and-to top it all-he's about to be made Forsterian Professor of Applied Mathematics. With his inaugural lecture to give and a plagiarism case to adjudicate on, Orlando's hands are full, so can he and Jonty afford to take on an investigative commission surrounding a suspected murder? Especially one which must be solved within a month so that a clergyman can claim what he says is his rightful inheritance? The answer looks like being a resounding "no" when the lecture proves almost impossible to write, the plagiarism case gets turned back on him and Jonty (spiced with a hint of blackmail), and the case surrounding Peter Biggar's death proves to have too many leads and too little evidence. Orlando begins to doubt their ability to solve cases any more, and his mood isn't improved when there seems to be no way of outsmarting the blackmailer. Will this be the first failure for Coppersmith and Stewart? And how will they maintain their reputations-professional, private and as amateur detectives?

Lessons for Suspicious Minds #10
An invitation to stay at a friend of the Stewart family’s stately home can only mean one thing for Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith—a new case for the amateur sleuths! With two apparently unrelated suicides, a double chase is on.

But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the chance of discovery (and disgrace) is ever present—how do you explain yourself when a servant discovers you doing the midnight run along the corridor?

The chase stops being a game for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. And the solution presents them with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve had to make...

Lessons for Sleeping Dogs #12 (Coming Oct 12, 2015)
Cambridge, 1921

When amateur sleuth Jonty Stewart comes home with a new case to investigate, his partner Orlando Coppersmith always feels his day has been made. Although, can there be anything to solve in the apparent mercy killing of a disabled man by a doctor who then kills himself, especially when everything takes place in a locked room?

But things are never straightforward where the Cambridge fellows are concerned, so when they discover that more than one person has a motive to kill the dead men—motives linked to another double death—their wits get stretched to the breaking point.

And when the case disinters long buried memories for Jonty, memories about a promise he made and hasn’t kept, their emotions get pulled apart as well. This time, Jonty and Orlando will have to separate fact from fiction—and truth from emotion—to get to the bottom of things.

Lessons in Love #1
St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, November 1905 
“That is my chair, sir.”

The voice was deep, sharp, and shattered Jonty’s concentration. He looked up to see a stern-looking young man towering over him. Well, not necessarily that young, he must be nearly my age, but he has such a lean, youthful look about him, you might think he’s just an undergraduate. Jonty swiftly took in a pair of chocolate brown eyes—eyes that lurked below curly black hair that seemed to want to cover them—a handsome face, and a very bony frame.

He rose. “I do apologise, sir. I’ve only arrived at St. Bride’s today and I haven’t been appraised of all the customs and habits. I hope that you’ll forgive me.” He produced what he hoped was a winning smile and bowed.

The other man harrumphed and nodded in return. “There are a number of traditions we cling to here, Mr…”

“Stewart, Dr. Stewart. The college authorities saw fit to forget the indiscretions of my undergraduate years here and have appointed me to a fellowship in English. The Kildare Fellowship.” Jonty grinned again, not surprised he didn’t get one in return. His mother always vowed he’d been born to wear a smile, while this man appeared as if he’d never smiled in his life.

“Well, Stewart, we are great ones for resisting change, and the particular chair a man inhabits after High Table is regarded as sacrosanct.” The severe-looking man pointed to the empty seat next to him. “This place never seems to be occupied. Perhaps you might like to use it?”

Jonty could guess why that chair was never used but decided he’d take the risk. “How long have you been at St. Bride’s? I can’t place you from my earlier time here.” He would have remembered if he’d met him before, of course. He’d noticed this man at High Table, not just for his striking good looks but for his apparent unease with joining in the conversation around him—except for one occasion when he seemed to be extremely animated and the words “differential calculus” could be heard across the table. Bet he’s a mathematician. They’re all as mad as hatters.

“I’ve been here six years, Dr. Stewart, ever since I took my degree. I have the honour to be working under Professor Moore, teaching mathematics.” For the first time the stranger looked fully into his companion’s face. “I suppose you’ll be with Professor Goodridge?”

“Oh, no, not clever enough by half to be with the fellows who delve into Anglo-Saxon. The Bard of Avon is my concern.” Jonty saw the puzzled expression on the other man’s face and grinned. “Shakespeare, I mean. As a man of logic and higher reasoning you’ll please forgive the whimsy of a mere playgoer.”

The other man looked closely at him again, obviously suspicious that he was being made game of, then seemed to decide that the remarks were kindly meant. He almost smiled. “Even a pupil of Euclid can recognise the value of Shakespeare’s works. Indeed, I was named after one of his characters.”

Jonty couldn’t have been more stunned—the man’s hard-faced exterior didn’t suggest a romantic name. “Hamlet, Jacques—which is it?”

“Orlando. I was christened Orlando.”

Jonty waited to see if a surname would follow, decided that it wouldn’t, so spoke himself. “You’re very lucky. My parents saw fit to name me Jonathan—the only thing in my life that I’ve not forgiven them for. I’m Jonty to all those who want to use the name.”

The mention of parents had caused a small cloud to pass over Orlando’s face and he began staring at his feet. Jonty pressed on, unable to stop gabbling in the face of such studied non-communication. “Are there any other customs I must seek not to break?”

The question never got answered, as the Jove-like figure of Dr. Peters, the Master of St. Bride’s, approached. “I beg you not to get up, gentlemen. I was coming to introduce you to each other, our numerical genius not having been here before dinner when Dr. Stewart met the rest of the fellows—but I see that you’ve already made Dr. Coppersmith’s acquaintance.”

Coppersmith—no wonder he was so unwilling to tell me. His parents certainly gave him an unlucky combination of names, perhaps that’s why he always looks so cross. “Dr. Coppersmith has been instructing me in the college ways, in case I make some dreadful error of etiquette.”

Jonty inclined his head to express his gratitude; his mathematical colleague looked sterner than ever.

“I’m honoured to be able to share some of our little ways with Dr. Stewart and hope he’ll profit from being back at our college. I wish you good night, gentlemen, I have a lecture to deliver in the morning and must take my rest.” Dr. Coppersmith rose, bowed his head and departed, leaving the other two men speechless.

Later, as Jonty strolled back to his rooms, he chuckled to himself. I’d give a five-pound note to be at that mathematics lecture tomorrow and I bet most of the students would give five pounds to miss it. But for all that his new colleague seemed—on the surface at least—to be a pompous prig, his stern face and deep voice stayed in Jonty’s mind until he fell asleep.


St. Bride’s wasn’t one of the most notable Cambridge colleges, lacking the grandeur of St. John’s or Trinity. It formed a little backwater where life had changed very little over the last four hundred years, but small adjustments were made from time to time. The chair next to Coppersmith’s soon became associated with Stewart. They now sat together almost every evening after High Table, chatting over coffee or port.

The dons who’d known Coppersmith since his arrival at the college were astounded. He was notorious for being a solitary fellow, never one to indulge in college chat or even in most of the discussion in the Senior Common Room. Unless it was about maths, of course, when he would contribute freely and with amazing perception, before clamming up if the subject strayed a little.

And yet there he was, evening after evening as November passed into December, talking away to Dr. Stewart, and sometimes even smiling. What they talked about, none of the other dons would’ve hazarded a guess, nor understood why they’d struck up such an unlikely alliance.

If they’d have asked Stewart, he’d have told them he’d come back to his old college hoping to make a fresh start and acquire new friends in the process. He’d have wondered along with them about the fact that he and Coppersmith had hit it off immediately, after their first meeting, putting it down to them realising the few things they had in common were more interesting than the things in which they differed.

He wouldn’t have told them that he found Orlando Coppersmith very attractive or that being with the man was a constant pleasure. Only in his thoughts would he compare their meeting to that of Rosalind and her Orlando, an instant magnetism drawing him to the other man. He wasn’t stupid enough to confess such a thing. Even if the traditions of this college, within this university, made it possible to remain an old bachelor surrounded by other old bachelors and have no one raise an eyebrow, there were still dangers. Public disgrace, prosecution. He would risk them both if he formed, again, an alliance with another man within the walls of St. Bride’s. For the moment he would have to savour the budding friendship with this strange young mathematician and hope against hope the attraction might prove to be mutual.

Anyone asking Coppersmith the same question, about why he’d suddenly found himself an acquaintance, wouldn’t have received any sort of an answer. Not just because he kept his feelings to himself, but because he couldn’t say at this point why he felt so differently about Stewart than he felt about all the other dons. About anyone else he’d ever met. He couldn’t tell why he should want to spend time with the man, when he’d been solitary all his life. The university part of his mind might have said it was the classic case of opposites attracting, the properties of poles of magnets or particles of different charge. The personal part wouldn’t have commented as it had no idea what was going on.


“You didn’t take your degree here, Coppersmith. Which seat of learning did you grace with your incredible skills?”

“I was at Oxford, Stewart—Gabriel College.” Orlando settled into his usual seat in the Senior Common Room, more comfortable than he’d been at any point since he came to Cambridge. More comfortable than he’d been since he was a child. For the first time in his life, it seemed like he’d made a friend and the experience was all a bit startling.

“If I had known the university would stoop so low as to take someone from the other place, I would never have agreed to return.”

Stewart grinned—he seemed to spend half his life grinning, or smiling, or smirking, and that unsettled Orlando, too, although he couldn’t work out why just yet. He wondered whether there was some fixed amount of cheerfulness allowed in the universe, and if his companion’s excess compensated for his own apparent lack of it.

He’d become quietly accustomed to the happy presence in the adjacent chair, even though such a thing would have horrified him only four weeks ago. He’d never wanted to share his thoughts with anyone else—unless they were to do with numbers—and now he was gossiping away like one of the college cleaning ladies. He cast a furtive glance at his companion, who was struggling with a pair of nutcrackers and a wayward walnut.

Stewart’s unruly blond hair was all over the place, his blue eyes showed unusual depths of concentration and his tongue was poking out a bit, as it often did when he tackled a difficult task. Orlando had never appreciated that Stewart possessed a handsome face and the realisation was a great shock to him. He could define the most obscure bits of calculus, look at a problem and solve it almost instantly, but he’d never really understood what people meant when they mentioned beauty.

Not until now, when it was sitting right next to him.

“Got the little bugger in the end!” Stewart beamed in triumph, offering his friend half of his newly released treasure. No one had ever used the word bugger in the Senior Common Room before, no one was ever likely to again, but somehow the more colourful aspects of Stewart’s speech were tolerated in a way which would be unlikely with anyone else.

They often talked about sport—discovering that they’d each won a rugby blue but hadn’t managed to play against the other, being picked in different years. Orlando had been a wing three-quarter, naturally, given his wiry physique—lacking in grace but fast. He’d scored twice in the Varsity Match, despite finishing on the losing side.

“I suppose you were in the front row?” Orlando drew his conclusions from Stewart’s muscular frame.

“Excuse me! Do my ears look as if they have spent time in a scrum?”

They didn’t. Orlando thought they were rather shapely ears and that was a shock to him, too. To be sitting in the SCR of his college and musing about how attractive the man sitting next to him seemed was beyond his imaginings. Making a friend had been enough of a surprise—this sensation staggered him, whatever it signified.

“I was scrum half, and a very wily one was how The Times described me. Shame we lost that year, like you the next—your selectors seemed to have imported an entire troop of gorillas to play in your pack. One of them broke my finger.” Stewart held up the joint in question and smirked. “I broke his nose.” He began to laugh, his bright blue eyes crinkling up with the sheer joy of being alive and in the company of someone he liked.

Orlando began to laugh, too—for the first time in what seemed ages. When they stopped, out of breath and in disgrace with the rest of the fellows, he knew that their friendship had been cemented.


Orlando was supposed to be marking papers from his students, work attempted when they’d been at home for the vac, having their stomachs stuffed with chestnuts and goose enough to addle their brains. But he was more interested in watching, through his window, the progress of a golden head across the court.

That’s my friend Dr. Stewart. He walks along the river with me and listens to all my latest theories, even if he doesn’t understand a word of them.

Back in November, Orlando had no one in his life he could ever call friend. Then, into his world of gown-black and stone-grey, half-tones and half a life, had come this vision of blue and gold, like a ray of spring sunshine against a cloudless sky.

My friend Dr. Stewart. We go to chapel together and he’s never bothered that I sing all the hymns and responses out of tune.

Orlando thought it strange, if other people were anything to go by, that he’d reached the age of twenty-eight without finding anybody he wanted to be close to. His life had been bound by the university, the college and mathematics, all of them important and serious. And now he’d found that most frivolous of things—someone to share his thoughts and ideas with—although in reality Stewart had come along and found him, stealing his chair in the process.

It made Orlando feel more alive than he’d ever felt and more than a little frightened. He’d not been able to get the man out of his head the ten days Stewart had spent celebrating Christmas and New Year with his family, and he was still there, butting into Orlando’s thoughts when he should be working. He wasn’t sure it was right to be so obsessed, but didn’t know what he could do about it. Even a nice bit of Euclid couldn’t obscure the memory of a pair of piercing blue eyes.

My friend Dr. Stewart. He comes along and says, “We’ve been invited to drinks, Dr. Coppersmith, so get your best bib and tucker ready.”

We. Suddenly Orlando had a social life, whether he wanted one or not, and it was as part of a pairing. Somehow all the things he’d always dreaded—making small talk, being sociable—had become possible, so long as he had his colleague with him to jolly him along. Unexpectedly, life had a distinctly more enjoyable flavour.

Orlando turned his attention back to the papers on his desk, only to find that he’d written My friend Dr. Stewart on the topmost one and now had to scratch it out furiously before anyone noticed.


“Will you come and take a cup of coffee or a glass of port in my rooms, Stewart?”

It was evening and the Senior Common Room had been overrun by strangers. There were women visiting, patronesses of the college to be sure, but still female and therefore to be treated with caution by most of the fellows. Especially by Coppersmith, who, though he was now brave enough to talk to almost any woman, even one from Girton, was still unhappy in their company.

Jonty almost choked on his answer. He’d been waiting nearly two months for an invitation to his colleague’s set of rooms. All he’d managed so far was to poke his little nose around the door before being whisked away—and now it had come like a bolt out of the blue. The bright potential of 1906, a new year and a new term, seemed to have made Coppersmith bold.

“I think we’d better. Don’t look just now, but there are two skirted bottoms occupying our chairs.” Jonty sniggered.

Coppersmith looked horrified, as though he’d have to have the things fumigated before they could sit there again. “Come on, then, before we’re forced into conversation.” A sudden disconcerting thought must have occurred to him. “Unless you want to stay, of course?”

One of the ladies was quite young and Coppersmith had earlier asked Jonty whether she would be described as pretty. Perhaps, he had suggested, Stewart would like to talk to her, he always seemed to have no problem chatting with females and they always flocked around him.

Jonty took his time before answering. “No, I’d be more than content with a glass of some pleasant brew and a little peace and quiet.”

In Orlando’s set they found a whole bottle of a really good port—most welcome, as both of them had been extremely sober at table due to the unnerving presence of the petticoat brigade. Jonty settled into one of Coppersmith’s worn but comfortable armchairs and enjoyed the glow from the fire. While his friend poured the port, Jonty drank in his surroundings.

The room contained the usual Bride’s mix of the academic, the sporting and the personal—very little of the last compared to the first. It was what his mother would have described as “being part of a house, dear, not a home”, and it gave away very little about its owner. He found that disappointing, as his family had plied him with questions about the mysterious Dr. Coppersmith all over the Christmas break and he’d not been really able to answer them adequately.

“He’s my friend, Mama, and I enjoy his company very much,” had been as far as it had gone, even under his mother’s third degree. Although if he were being honest, Coppersmith meant a lot more to him than just being a colleague. Jonty’s opinion of his friend had gradually changed from pompous ass to treasured companion, and he realised he was beginning to harbour more than just platonic thoughts about the man.

Being in his rooms now, simply watching him wrestling with a Brazil nut and the crackers, was a true pleasure. The fire’s glow highlighted Coppersmith’s dark hair and a halo of light gave him the appearance of one of the more studious angels. Jonty felt his heart beating faster as he savoured the sight.

“Much nicer here than in with those women, eh, Dr. Stewart?”

“It is indeed, Dr. Coppersmith. Deal us a hand of whist and we’ll make an evening of it.” Jonty watched his friend poke around in a drawer for a deck, admiring the fact that even his rummaging was a neat and ordered process.

Coppersmith truly was both the strangest and loveliest of creatures.


“Why don’t you call me ‘Jonty’? I think, Dr. Coppersmith, we’re friends enough now to lose some of the formality.” Stewart had just lost his third consecutive game of cards, the clock’s hands were nearing half past ten and the evening had been enjoyable for them both.

Orlando considered—it was as if he had to find the second differential of “Jonathan” before he could answer. “I think that I could call you Jonty here in my rooms, but I don’t think it would be appropriate anywhere else.” He was embarrassed enough about all the occasions he’d doodled My friend Dr. Stewart on things; it would be awful if he were caught writing My friend Jonty. “I suspect I’m far too set in my ways.”

“That would be absolutely fine—if I may call you Orlando, in return?”

It was the strangest thing, but Orlando felt decidedly peculiar when his friend said “Orlando”—the first time Stewart had ever used the name. The first time Jonty had used it.

This was turning out to be an evening of firsts. The first time he’d had another one of the fellows of St. Bride’s in his set other than on college business. The first use of his Christian name. The first time he’d had this peculiar fluttering in his stomach that he couldn’t put a cause to. “It would be an honour so to be addressed.”

Jonty—it would be Jonty and Orlando from now on, at least within these rooms—smiled in the face of such affectation, rather than breaking into his usual laughter. Orlando knew his own weaknesses better than anyone, and now Jonty was recognising them. It was true he became pompous when he felt some deep emotion and Jonty must have picked it up. Perhaps the man found this trait rather touching.

Whatever he was thinking, Jonty rose and moved to the mantelpiece, picking up a gilt-framed photograph, the only one in the room with no obvious university link. “May I, Orlando? Is this your mother and father?” Jonty was watching his face out of the corner of his eye and must have seen the discomfort there.

Orlando nodded. He didn’t really want to speak as he was sure his voice would tremble and he had no idea why that should be. It wasn’t just at the mention of his parents—every time he looked at Jonty, the fluttering got worse.

“It’s extraordinary how much you resemble your mother. Do you see very much of them?” Jonty held the picture at arm’s length and compared it to the man across the room.

There was a long pause. “They’re both dead—my mother didn’t survive to see me take my degree.” Orlando studied his hands, deliberately looking anywhere but at his friend, or the photograph.

Jonty’s voice shook with remorse. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I can’t imagine what life would be like without one’s parents in the background—it makes me sad to think that yours didn’t see the success you’ve made of yourself.”

Orlando looked blankly around his room to see if he could see any signs of the success to which his friend referred—there wasn’t any obvious evidence. “I have some more pictures of them,” he said after an awkward pause, “if you’d like to see them.”

“But of course I would.”

Jonty sat down again while Orlando rummaged in another drawer and produced a small photograph album. He brought it over, sitting on the floor next to Jonty’s feet and placing the book on his lap, accidentally brushing his hand against the man’s leg in the process. Just the barest touch, no more than a hairsbreadth of contact, but it had sparked like static between them.

Orlando froze, his heart racing at the effect the touch had made on him. This feeling was unlike anything he’d ever known before and he still couldn’t put a name or meaning to it. He gingerly placed his hand next to Jonty’s on the velvet cover of the album—their eyes met and held, dark staring into light, until they could look no more.

“Orlando,” Jonty whispered, raising his hand until it was almost touching the other man’s face. “I…”

There was a loud and persistent rapping at the door and Orlando became aware of three things. Firstly that his heart was pounding so strongly he wasn’t sure any ribcage could contain it. Secondly that Jonty was muttering, “Damn it. Damn it and blast it,” over and over. Thirdly that someone might just be trying to gain their attention.

He rose and stumbled to the door.

“Dr. Coppersmith, sir.” It was Summerbee, red-faced and out of breath from running up from the porters’ lodge. “It’s young Lord Morcar. I thought I would come straight to you, seeing as he is one of your pupils.”

“And what is it about Lord Morcar that can’t wait until morning?”

“He’s dead, sir. His friends found him not five minutes since—we’ve sent for the doctor, but I thought you should…” Summerbee tailed off, unsure of himself.

“Has the Master been informed?”

A frightened look on the porter’s face showed he was hoping the hard-nosed Dr. Coppersmith would take that particular burden from him.

He would not. “You must do it immediately. I’ll go to his lordship’s room—which is it?”

“The Old Court, J7, sir.” Summerbee touched his bowler and departed, no doubt full of dread at the prospect of knocking at the hallowed door of the Master’s lodge.

Orlando turned and saw Jonty watching him. He wondered whether his friend would be astounded at the command that he’d shown with the porter, how a shy, socially uncomfortable man had transformed into a figure of authority and action. Orlando had astounded himself, although he felt proud at his newfound courage. Even if he was disappointed at the interruption. “Will you come with me?”

Jonty didn’t hesitate. “Of course, if you want me to.”

“It’s not a matter of wanting. I’m going to need you there, I think.” All the flutterings in Orlando’s stomach had faded now, driven off by the thought of a dead man, but he still wanted Jonty beside him.

As they made their way over to the Old Court, they regretted their lack of prudence in terms of overcoats. The harsh East Anglian wind—straight from Siberia, the locals said—carried snow with it, and they felt chilled to the bones.

A crowd of undergraduates had gathered at the bottom of the staircase, being kept from the room itself only by the burly form of Lee, another of the porters. Orlando tried to make his way through them, but they took no notice of him; they were excited and afraid, and some of them were beginning to show signs of hysteria.

This time Jonty took control. He was popular among the undergraduates, being the most open and approachable of all the fellows at St. Bride’s. Although he was merciless in pulling apart any essay he felt was poorly written or ill-researched, he did it with such kindness and good humour that none of them took umbrage, and they all tried harder the next time.

“Gentlemen!” Jonty’s tones split the night and brought all the chattering to a halt. “Thank you. It does no one any good, you staying out here freezing to…” He was about to say “death” but thought better of it. “Freezing to the ground. I would suggest that unless you have something useful to say about this to either the doctor or the Master, you return to your own rooms.”

The gathering broke up, aided by the threat of Jove’s imminent arrival and the especial efforts of one young man who Jonty suspected had a bit of a crush on his English tutor and who was, no doubt, determined to see his idol obeyed.

Orlando was able to get up the stairs at last and into the room, leaving Jonty with Lee to await Dr. Peters. He was gone what felt an inordinate length of time, making Jonty bold enough to venture up. He found his friend standing rigidly over the half-dressed body of a lad of about twenty—a slim, angular young man, pale in life and milk white now. The room was freezing, the window being open wide. Jonty reached over to shut it.

“Don’t touch anything.” Orlando’s voice was as icy as the glittering windowpanes. “Look at this, Dr. Stewart.” He pointed to the young lad’s throat, ashen but mottled with ugly contusions. “I believe Lord Morcar has been strangled.”

Jonty shivered. It had certainly been a night full of revelations, and this had been perhaps one surprise too many.

Lessons in Desire #2
Chapter One
St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, June 1906 
“A holiday will do us both the world of good.” Jonty was sitting in his chair in the Senior Common Room of St. Bride’s College discussing the long vacation and plans he had for it. These, naturally, involved Orlando, who in the past had usually holidayed by visiting other seats of learning, with the occasional dutiful visit to his grandmother in Kent interspersed among the academic outings.

Orlando had no concept of just going off to some place of leisure and relaxing, frittering the time away on walks or sightseeing or bathing. His eyes widened as his friend recounted the sort of things he’d got up to in the past—the Riviera, visiting archaeological sites, cruising in the Mediterranean. This seemed to be yet another alien world the sophisticated Jonty was introducing to his naïve friend. When he suggested they should go somewhere together, Orlando was appalled.

“Consider it, Dr. Coppersmith, the world is our oyster. Now, before you begin to quibble about the costs, I would remind you my grandmother left her favourite grandson extremely well off, so money is no object. Name where you would like to go and we’ll organise it. Shall it be Monte Carlo or the rose red city of Petra?” A glorious smile lit Jonty’s face as he made the suggestion, brightening the Stygian gloom which usually infested the room.

“Must we go anywhere, Dr. Stewart?” Orlando was quite content here in his own college among the places and things he knew well. No further unrest had come to St. Bride’s since the murders of the previous winter, allowing his love affair with Jonty to blossom as beautifully as the magnolia trees gracing the Fellows’ Garden. In his eyes, life was perfect here and now, so why should he go off searching for anything else?

Jonty narrowed his eyes. “Of course we must. I have no intention of spending my long vac festering here. If you won’t go with me, I’ll go alone.” He sniffed. “Though I have gone alone on holiday too often in the past. I was hoping so much that you would see fit to coming with me, so we could share the excitement. Think of the novelty, the exotic food, the flora and fauna that East Anglia can only dream of. Strange languages. Mysterious sights.”

It was the novelty Orlando couldn’t stop thinking of, or so he told his friend. He’d encountered quite a lot of new things these last few months, particularly when he and Jonty were first acquainted. Now he was hoping for a period of relative calm before the new academic year ensued. The minute he looked into Jonty’s eyes, he knew he was beaten—the man was desperate for this break, the chance of a trip with his lover at his side. Who was Orlando to deny him it?

They eventually reached a compromise—three weeks’ leave, travelling no further than the Channel Islands. Jonty would find them some nice establishment on Jersey and book tickets for the ferry from Southampton. It would be adventurous, although not too much so; the food would be English (with perhaps a little native cuisine included) and there would be no language barrier. Orlando was particularly pleased about that, as modern languages were not his forte—moreover, as he admitted, the thought of being around exotic foreign ladies terrified him.

For the next week Jonty beavered away with the Red Guide, simultaneously picking his mother’s brains about hotels, the Honourable Mrs. Stewart being a great source of information about many things, until finally settling for the Beaulieu at St. Aubin.

“It boasts Three acres of terraced gardens with lawns, Private Tennis Courts, Fishing, and Bathing from the Hotel,” he gleefully explained to Orlando, waving the brochure about. “There are private bathrooms, so you won’t risk ladies walking in on you should you forget to shoot the bolt. The additional cost for that will only be sixpence per night, so you won’t be risking bankrupting me. Convenient for the train, too.”

“It sounds delightful, Jonty,” Orlando said, with liar written plain on his face. “You should book it.”

“Already done. They alleged they were fully booked, August being high season, until they found themselves up against Mama. She spoke to the manager, the owners, probably to King Edward himself—she’s wangled us the best two-bedroom suite in the house. I never really appreciated how wonderful it is to have quite such a formidable mother until now…”


“Do you still want ‘Jerusalem’ sung at your funeral, Dr. Coppersmith?” Jonty began to gently rub his friend’s back as the poor man clung to the ship’s rail, green to the gills as though desperately trying to fathom out whether he would feel better if he were sick again or not.

“I no longer care, Dr. Stewart. I think I would prefer to die with the minimum of fuss, plus the maximum of expediency. I have enjoyed these last ten months, though I’m greatly afraid I won’t survive the journey.” Orlando finished his speech with dignity, then sped off to the toilet again.

Jonty looked out at the sea and tried not to think of what would be going on in the gentlemen’s conveniences. He felt a more than a bit guilty about bringing Orlando on this trip, but how was he to have any idea that his lover would suffer quite so much from seasickness? Orlando hadn’t even known it himself, having been on nothing more adventurous than the paddle steamer out of Ramsgate.

There were at least two hours of the voyage left before they could feel decent, solid ground under their feet again, then there was the awful prospect of having to do the journey all over again, back to Southampton, in a fortnight’s time.

The nightmare of the crossing eventually ended, all the passengers reaching terra firma with much thanks. Orlando swore, afterwards, he’d felt tempted to kneel down and kiss the solid earth beneath his feet at the quay. Plenty of carriages were waiting for custom, so they were soon riding around the wide bay to St. Aubin, able at last to admire the innocuous-looking waters which had managed to wreak such havoc on a delicate digestive tract.

Orlando was recovered enough to smile when he saw their hotel. It was everything the rather overblown brochure had promised and more besides. Their bags were whisked away with just the right amount of efficient deference, the reception clerk was welcoming without being unctuous. Even the suite, once Orlando was entirely convinced it was quite normal for friends of the same sex to take sets of rooms together, was pronounced to be above reproach.

They hadn’t long begun to unpack before Jonty suggested it was time to find a small sherry or some such before dinner. He assured his friend it would be the right medicine to enable him to recover his appetite enough to tackle at least some of the delights that they’d spied on the hotel menu.

Orlando was rather affronted, wanting everything to have found its proper place in the suite before they ventured out, but Jonty insisted, so he struck his colours. Orlando changed into his dinner jacket, newly purchased on his lover’s orders, as the old one looked more suited to the stalls at the music hall. Properly attired, they went down to the bar.


The dining room was full, mainly married couples of various ages, from the bashful newlyweds who sat in the corner blushing at every remark made to them to the elderly couple—all wrinkles and bright smiles—who sat at a table directly opposite the two Cambridge fellows. This couple, the Tattersalls, had taken a great shine to the two young men as they’d chatted with them over pre-dinner drinks, insisting they reminded them of their sons at a similar age. They seemed won over by Jonty’s smile, his obvious good breeding, and Orlando’s gravity and beautiful manners.

There were some families at dinner—two had brought their grownup daughters with them. Both girls were plain and seemed rather smitten with the two young men, if blushes or girlish sighs were anything to go by. The only other unmarried couple present was a man perhaps three or four years older than Jonty, accompanied by what could only have been his father, given the strong family resemblance. The younger was a handsome chap whose dark curly hair framed deep blue eyes.

Not that the two fellows of St. Bride’s had eyes for anyone else, but one couldn’t help noticing these things. They also couldn’t help noticing the palpable tension between the two men, shown in their strained politeness and inability to maintain eye contact with each other.

After dinner Jonty and Orlando made up a four for bridge in the sun lounge with the Tattersalls. They proved excellent company, the lady in particular having an impish sense of humour. She chatted away to Jonty, the pair of them giggling like two schoolchildren, despite her being old enough, just, to be his grandmother.

The father and son formed their own bridge four with another married couple, although they were obviously not having half the enjoyment that Orlando and his friend were. Jonty was fascinated, keeping a surreptitious eye on them all evening.

When they got back to their room, Jonty had clearly decided it was character analysis time, despite the fact that Orlando was struggling to arrange, into some sort of acceptable order, the mass of items his friend had strewn everywhere in an attempt to unpack. “That young man’s not happy to be here, Orlando. I think his father has made him come, while he’d rather be at home with his sweetheart, not entertaining a surly old curmudgeon.”

“I hope you don’t feel like you’ve been dragged along to entertain a surly young curmudgeon.” Orlando grinned. “Anyway, it’s nothing to do with us.” He picked up the tie he’d worn for the journey, finding somewhere to put it carefully away.

“Aren’t you even a little bit curious? This is such an opportunity to meet new people, the sort of folk we might never meet at college. Like that delightful old couple—she certainly had the measure even of you at cards, Dr. Coppersmith.” Jonty yawned, stretching like a great ginger cat. “This is going to be such a delightful holiday. The hotel is perfect, the food is excellent, I have great hopes for the company and you look less green than you did this morning. Such a lovely colour in your cheeks now.” He drew his hand down his lover’s face, across his lips. It was the first time they’d touched with any degree of intimacy since they’d left St. Bride’s. The caress made Orlando shudder afresh, as if they were touching for the first time. “We may have two bedrooms, but do we really need to use them both? It’d be easy enough to slip across before the early morning tea arrives, if we set your alarm clock.”

Orlando looked up, determined to refuse. He was still feeling skittish about staying in a suite of rooms with his lover. Sharing a bed was beyond any imagining although, ironically, the item in question was a glorious double bed such as he’d dreamed, on many an occasion, of sleeping in with Jonty. “I’m not sure I feel sufficiently recovered from the journey to want to do anything except sleep.” He studied his hands, the shirt he was trying to hang up, anything but his lover.

“That would be fine. I’m as happy to simply slumber next to you as anything else. There are plenty of other days for romance—we could just be fond friends tonight, or pretend to be that old couple we played cards with. Still very much in love yet beyond the thralls of passion.” Jonty gently touched his friend’s hand.

Orlando felt as if a spider was crawling down the back of his neck, and his discomfiture must have been plain. “What if we slept apart, just for tonight?”

They had reached the crux of why he’d been so keen not to come on holiday. He was frightened of taking their relationship outside the college walls, displaying it to the world. Within the ivy-clad, male-dominated locality of St. Bride’s, it had been easy to maintain a friendship which was more than close without raising a suspicious eyebrow. He’d spent little time with Jonty out of Cambridge, apart from a visit or two to London, where they’d stayed in the relatively safe environs of the Stewart family home. To be with the man in a strange place was to put himself at risk of making a demonstration of his affection by an unguarded look or touch.

Any footman could walk through the streets of town in his bowler-hatted Sunday best, hand in hand with a parlour maid. A pair of dons could never be allowed such freedom; not in Cambridge and certainly not on Jersey. If they ever were mad enough to be tempted, all they had to do was remember the law—two years of hard labour and public disgrace would be no holiday.

Jonty slammed down the toothbrush he’d been unpacking. “Oh, go and sleep in the bath if you want to! I haven’t the heart to put up with this nonsense. I’m going to sleep in my own bed, in my own soft pyjamas, with my own book. If you change your mind and decide to join me, make sure you knock, because I might just have found other company.” He spun on his heels, entering his bedroom with a slam of the door which caused the windows to shake.

Orlando contemplated opening the door again to give his friend a piece of his mind, but didn’t want to end up in a full-blown row in a public building. He also contemplated going in and giving Jonty the most comprehensive kissing he’d ever received. He decided against that, as it was probably exactly what the little swine wanted, so must be avoided at all costs. Even at the cost of a miserable night alone.

Eventually, after tidying everything to his own immaculate standards, he trudged his weary way into his bedroom and readied himself for sleep.

At two o’clock in the morning the heavens opened, torrential rain driving against the windowpanes while thunder pealed as loud as cannon fire. Orlando leapt out of bed without a second thought, making his way through their little sitting room into Jonty’s bedroom. He didn’t knock, knowing by now that any threats from his friend about finding company were all bluster, to find him standing by the window, shivering.

“Come on, Jonty—you’ll get cold, you know.” Orlando put his arms around the man’s shoulders, which felt icy through his silken pyjama jacket. Jonty both hated thunderstorms and was fascinated by them. Orlando had often found him looking out of the window of his room at St. Bride’s while the lightning rent the sky, making the college’s very foundations seem to shake. He could go into an almost dreamlike state, distracted and seemingly unaware of his surroundings, having to be coaxed back gently into the real world. Orlando wondered whether some of the awful things which had happened to Jonty at school had taken place during storms, although he’d never been brave enough to ask.

Orlando took his lover to bed, tenderly soothing him back to sleep, holding tight as each new clap of thunder brought a shuddering through Jonty’s frame. Eventually the storm passed eastwards and they could both fall asleep, Jonty as content as a child in his mother’s arms. Orlando felt masterful, protective and very much in love. If anyone walked in, he had a legitimate medical excuse to be present. Or so he assured himself.


Thanks to Orlando’s innate body clock, the chambermaid delivering the early morning tea found the two men in their own separate beds, above reproach.

Jonty soon brought his cup into the other room and snuggled under the sheet, the night having been too muggy to need blankets. “Will you wear that tie today, the one I bought you at Easter? The ladies would be very impressed.”

Only a snort came in reply. “Most of the ladies I meet seem impressed at anything.”

“Do you meet very many ladies? Seems you’re living a double life, then, because I never see you talking to them.”

Orlando thumped Jonty around the back of the head with his pillow. “Imbecile. Well, I’m going to take advantage of the ‘private bathroom at sixpence a night extra’ to prepare myself for the day. You can shave at the basin while I’m in the tub.”

Tea shot out of Jonty’s nose, making him splutter in an undignified manner. The thought of Orlando issuing an invitation to be viewed in the bath—such a thing hadn’t happened since the afternoon the man had got drunk at St. Thomas’s college, not even when they’d shared a bathroom while staying at the Stewart family home. It seemed marvellously out of character.

“I’ll certainly take up the offer or we’ll never see breakfast. I can smell the bacon already, although that might just be an olfactory illusion. Breakfast, then church—I saw you wince, but we are going—then off to the beach.” Jonty squeezed his lover’s thigh. “I saw you wince when I mentioned beach as well, so you’ll just have to apply your stiff upper lip.”


Jonty sat down on a rock to get on with removing his shoes and socks.

“What are you doing?”

“Going paddling, Orlando.” The holiday air had affected them both, so using Christian names now seemed acceptable, even outside their suite. Jonty suddenly looked up at the awkward figure which towered over him. “Oh, Orlando. You’d never been in the Bishop’s Cope, you’d never been punting—please, please don’t tell me that you have never paddled.”

“I have actually paddled on a number of occasions, when I was taken to see my grandmother in Kent.” Orlando attempted to look a man at once dignified and completely au fait with the delights of the seaside.

Jonty assumed a sly look. “When exactly was the last time you indulged in this wild activity?”

Orlando mumbled, “When I was seven.”

Jonty giggled. “Then you had better ruddy well get your socks off and your trouser bottoms rolled up, because you’re coming with me.”

Orlando felt distinctly miffed. He contemplated refusing to do any such thing, but decided to obey orders, stuffing his socks into the toes of his shoes, then tying the laces together in imitation of his lover. The reason for this strange procedure became obvious when Jonty slung his shoes around his neck, leaving his hands free to continue picking up stones for skimming or shells for stuffing in his pockets.

As he watched Jonty turning over rocks to search for tiny crustaceans which he then let run over his palms, it struck Orlando more than ever that at heart his friend was just an overgrown boy. An enormous crab got rooted out, a good three inches across the carapace, which Jonty expertly picked up to wave at his friend.

“What a whopper—look!” He passed the creature over, grinning as Orlando inevitably grabbed it the wrong way, earning a sharp nip on his fingers.

He flung the offending animal away, shaking his sore hand and cursing like a sailor.

“Such language!” Jonty hooted with laughter. “Look, take him across the back, so all your fingers are out of his reach.” He demonstrated the technique, then made his friend do the same.

Orlando took up the vicious creature, more gingerly than if it had been a bomb, breaking into a smile of delight when the method worked. “He’s a beauty. Not big enough for tea, though.” Laughing, he placed the crab down among the rocks, returning to follow his friend.

The tide was ebbing, revealing rock pools full of shrimps which Jonty caught in his hand, then let spring out of his grasp with a giggle. Orlando soon learned that game too, proving much more adept at catching the little invertebrates and the darting fishes than his lover. It was like being a child again, except there hadn’t been that much room for play in his childhood, so there was time to be caught up. Yet again, he could experience a freedom with Jonty that he’d never known before they met.

Jonty picked up a huge ormer shell, holding it to the light so that they could both admire the mother-of-pearl glittering in the sunlight.

“Beautiful. Eh?”

“Indeed.” Although Orlando didn’t mean the shell so much as the man holding it.

Tired, eventually, of annoying the occupants of the rock pools, they walked along the waterline, the warm sea just lapping over their feet. The occasional wave came in with slightly more force, making them jump out of the way, splashing and laughing.

It took a whole mile of wandering for Jonty to begin to make mischief, starting to splash just a little too deliberately in a particular direction. Orlando didn’t notice at first, blaming the splatters on his trousers on the swell. When he did realise what was going on, he handled the situation admirably, deciding that revenge is a dish best eaten cold. While he would have loved to dunk Jonty head to foot, there and then, more pleasure was to be had by quietly removing himself from flying water range before making his plans.

Seaweed wasn’t the most pleasant thing to handle straight from the sea. Jonty usually found it disagreeable on the feet when he had to wade through it, but it was truly disgusting when someone forcibly stuffed it down the back of his trousers. Orlando had executed his vengeance.

“You swine!”

“You’re no longer dealing with some naïve young man who’s spent all his days in a haze of academia. I’m learning, so you’d better watch your step.” Orlando looked smug, strikingly handsome in his triumph.

Jonty fished down his pants to extract the offending piece of algae. He flung it at his friend, missed by a mile, then laughed. “I’ve only ever wanted you to be my equal, Orlando. I’m looking forward enormously to the day when you tease me both mercilessly and with aplomb.” He reached out his hand to take his lover’s, remembered they were in public, shrugged in apology and walked on.

They strolled the length of the beach till Jonty’s pockets were so full of shells he’d begun to rattle. Drying off their feet on their handkerchiefs proved largely ineffective, as did hopping madly about so that the clean, dry foot couldn’t be infected with sand before it made its way into its sock. Sand always found its way into every available crevice and was bound to begin to creep into their shoes, regardless, before they were halfway off the beach. The long walk back to Corbière station would be uncomfortable, although it wouldn’t spoil the delights of the previous hours.

Jonty felt the glow which always came with having enlightened his friend, introducing some new pleasure—innocent or not—into the man’s life. Orlando had shown a spark of delight in having effectively taken a rare revenge and Jonty wondered whether he was plotting other ways of getting one over on him. This holiday is showing every sign of being more than enjoyable.

On the station platform they saw the young man from the hotel looking much happier without his usual companion. He acknowledged them with a tilt of the head, which was all the encouragement Jonty needed to effect an introduction. “I believe you’re staying at the Beaulieu, as we are? My name is Stewart. This is my friend Coppersmith.” Jonty waved his hand to indicate Orlando, who had yet to venture any closer.

“They call me Ainslie, sir. Matthew Ainslie. I’m delighted to meet you.” The man held out his hand, producing an engaging smile in the process.

“Have you been on Jersey long, Mr. Ainslie?”

“Matthew, I insist you call me Matthew.” He smiled again. “I…we arrived three days ago. My father and I always come to one of the Channel Islands once a year—he feels the air agrees with him.”

“I hope it will agree with us, too. It’s our first time here and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised so far. I dare say we’ll be picking your brains about the best places to visit.”

“Your friend over there is enjoying himself, too?” Ainslie indicated Orlando, who looked nothing like a man enjoying himself.

A man trying to win the most surly face competition, perhaps. “I believe he is, although he doesn’t often show it. He enjoyed playing bridge last night with the Tattersalls. Such a delightful couple.”

Ainslie smiled. “They beat us soundly on Friday night. I wouldn’t like to meet Mrs. Tattersall in a rubber if high stakes were in order, although she could charm the birds out of the trees.” His face suddenly changed. “Please excuse me. I can see my father—he’ll want me to attend him.” A smile and the man was gone, leaving Jonty’s interest more piqued than ever.


After another excellent dinner, the fours for bridge were different from Saturday evening. The Ainslies played against Mrs. Tattersall, who was paired with Orlando, Jonty and Mr. Tattersall having opted to observe the fun. The Tattersall-Coppersmith pair trounced the opposition, even when they were obviously not trying, which made it ten times worse. The elder Ainslie’s temper was beginning to fray as rubber after rubber went down, until he snapped at his son, on whom no blame could be fairly laid. Matthew was a far more competent player than his father.

For Jonty the fascination lay not with the play (that was a foregone conclusion) but in what the eyes around the table were doing. Orlando watched Ainslie’s hands in fascination as he skidded the cards over the table. This man was a talented shuffler and dealer, the sort who would be interesting to see playing alongside a competent partner. While Orlando watched Ainslie’s hands, the man watched his. Orlando had long, delicate fingers, fingers with which Jonty was intimately acquainted, which he found both beautiful and capable of causing havoc in the bedroom. Ainslie followed the graceful movements his partner’s digits made as they picked up and sorted his hand, caressing the backs of the cards.

Jonty observed the way that Ainslie was watching. He would not forget it.

Lessons in Discovery #3
St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, November 1906 
Champagne. A dressed Cromer crab. Strawberries.

How Jonty Stewart could have got hold of strawberries on the fifteenth of November only the angels could say, but there they were on the table along with a jug of cream and a bowl of sugar to indisputably prove their existence. Orlando Coppersmith reached across to take one of the little ruby-like fruits but a sharp slap to his hand stopped him.

“No pudding until firsts are done with, you know that.” Jonty grinned like a schoolboy and heaped crab upon their plates.

“Why all this opulence? I’ve not seen such a lunch in ages.” The bright noontime sun slanted in through the latticed windows of Jonty’s study, the mellow gold stone of St. Bride’s college shining with a warm lustre.

“Do you really not know, or are you teasing me again, in revenge for all the times I’ve teased you?” The blank look on Orlando’s face seemed to show that he really had no recognition of the significance of the date. “It’s exactly a year to the day that I came back to St. Bride’s and so underhandedly stole your chair in the Senior Common Room. Don’t you remember?”

Orlando smiled. “The day is forever etched into my memory. That afternoon was the last time I enjoyed any peace and quiet, for one thing.” A crab claw came flying through the air but he swerved neatly to avoid it. “This champagne is truly extraordinary.”

“Mother sent it, she always has champagne on her wedding anniversaries.” Jonty admired the sunlight-kissed bubbles then took a deep draught. “Do you know, the man who invented this compared it to tasting stars. He was absolutely right.”

Orlando looked at his glass with a degree of suspicion. “Just why did your mother send us champagne?”

“For our anniversary, of course. Do I need to spell it out to you like I spell out As You Like It to my dunderheads of students? She wanted us to have something special today, as she and Papa do.”

The answer didn’t mollify Orlando. He knew that Helena Stewart was aware of exactly what went on between him and her son, but this gift seemed a touch too blatant. He drank it nonetheless, enjoying the food, which he guessed Jonty’s mama had also had a hand in providing.

“Seems appropriate, really—” Jonty had finished his seafood and was ready for more chatter, “—as I often feel like we are a married couple in all but name. Oh, I say, let me slap your back.”

The food and drink had conspired to attempt an attack on Orlando’s lungs and he began to choke. A whack from Jonty’s strong hand dislodged the offending items, enabling him to take several breaths, and another glass of bubbly, to recover. “You feel like we’re married?”

“Of course I do, don’t you?”

“I’ve never thought of it. Still, I guess that marriage of any kind has never really entered my head.” Orlando frowned, having to mull over that common thing, a revolutionary thought from Jonty.

“Consider this. We spend as much time as we can together, we often share a bed, we take holidays with each other, we are absolutely faithful—well I am, I have my suspicions about you and that chap from the college next door—so many things that any respectable married couple would do. It’s only the matter of getting children that makes us different and neither of us have the anatomical requirement to oblige on that score.”

“And we can’t take the vows, Jonty, the marriage vows. No respectability for us.” Orlando knew it galled his lover, not being able to walk hand in hand together along the river, never to be able to dance together or show any untoward display of affection. Perhaps one day the world would be a more understanding place, but not now.

“Bit of a shame, if you think about it, because we live by them. ‘For better or worse, cleaving only to one another’ and all that. Think we might do a rather better job of it than some of my father’s friends.” Jonty sighed, refilled their glasses and ushered his guest from the table to the deep armchairs before the fireplace. “Such a shame that I can’t show everyone how much you mean to me.”

Orlando’s chest swelled with pride. He knew exactly how much they loved each other, and couldn’t help but bask in the glow every time Jonty said something like this. He reached for Jonty’s hand. “You mean the world to me, too.”

Jonty looked at him as if he was making absolutely sure of what he was about to say, which wasn’t a usual Stewart trait. “The university is modernising. These are new times. We don’t need to live in college anymore, you know. We could take a nice property up on the Madingley Road and set up house together. As long as we had a housekeeper who wouldn’t be too fussy about how many beds had been slept in. Miss Peters could probably find us a suitable one.”

“A house?” Dining out of college had been shock enough, going on holiday a jolt to the system, but to live outside of St. Bride’s, that was unheard of. “And why Miss Peters? You don’t think that she suspects about us?” Ariadne Peters was the sister of the Master of St. Bride’s, and the only woman apart from the nurse permitted to live in the college’s hallowed grounds.

“I think it quite likely that she does, she being possibly the most perceptive person in St. Bride’s. In any case, she’d be far too discreet to say anything as this college has seen enough scandal. Nonetheless think on the idea of a house. I don’t propose it idly.”

“I will think on it, but you must let me recover from my surprise at the suggestion before I can make a rational decision.”

Jonty nodded and they refilled their bowls with the last of the fruit. When there wasn’t even the merest hint of the existence of a strawberry left, Orlando wiped his hands with great precision then reached into his pocket. He drew out a small red box, which he handed to his friend. “Thought you might like this, as a memento of the last year.”

“So you did remember, you cunning old fox.” Jonty opened the lid and immediately shut it. “I can’t accept this, it must have cost you a small fortune. Take it back, get the money and put it in your savings.” He flushed red and couldn’t even look his lover in the eye.

“I will not take it back and you will accept it. You were the one who spoke of marriage, so perhaps this is an appropriate gift.” Orlando opened the box himself, taking out an exquisite signet ring—Welsh gold, of an amazing hue—that had been made specially to his order, great subterfuge and a piece of string having been used to gauge the size of Jonty’s little finger as he slept. “Please put it on for me.” He admired the golden circlet as it twinkled in the late-autumn light. Jonty could walk around Cambridge wearing his ring and it would always be symbolic of their union.

Jonty slid the band over his finger, pronounced amazement at the accuracy of fit, and grinned. “I’m ashamed to say I have no equivalent gift for you.”

“No need, strawberries in November are priceless. And you’ve given me the best year of my life.”

“Truly? Even including murder most foul, an unwanted suitor and our lives endangered?”

“Absolutely. Never been so happy.”

“And is that you talking or the champagne?” Jonty put his head to one side, like a bird.

“Oh, definitely me. The drink would make me say much naughtier things.”

Jonty smiled, indulgence lighting his face. “Let’s take a walk up to the lock and enjoy this unseasonably mild weather.” Through the latticed window the piercing blue of the sky, found only in England in spring and autumn, mirrored Jonty’s eyes. “Then we can come back here and read the sonnets together. Even number eighteen.”

Jonty liked the early sonnets, although Orlando had been terribly shocked to find out that the intended recipient had been a man. When he’d discovered number twenty-nine it had brought tears to his eyes, speaking to him so clearly of his own situation—the death of his father, the years of brooding and then the arrival of Jonty.

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate…

Orlando always read it every time he felt low, which was less and less often, now.


It was such a fine afternoon, they ventured far beyond the lock to a stretch of river where a few rowing eights were practicing, their red-faced coaches cycling along the towpath, scattering ducks and little old ladies as they went.

“Did you ever attempt rowing, Dr. Coppersmith?” They’d been content to use Christian names when they were in public on holiday, but back in their own city they’d gone back to their usual formality.

“I did, with no great success. Every time I took to a boat I seemed to have acquired an extra pair of knees and all four of the bony things kept trying to smack me in the ear.”

Orlando laughed and Jonty laughed with him. Orlando’s attitudes had changed beyond all recognition this past year. Before Jonty had come and stolen his chair, he’d been sullen, unsmiling, someone who viewed intercourse as akin to the preparation of Egyptian mummies—he knew the procedures existed, but the mechanisms were a puzzle and the process itself of no interest. Neither love nor easy laughter would have been possible before Jonty came along. Anything was possible now, even intimacy. Now they made love for all sorts of reasons, not just for gratification but in friendship, for consolation, because they were happy or because they were sad.

Jonty smiled indulgently as they walked along, even while he was sniggering just a little at the sight of a seven-foot oarsman suffering a tongue-lashing from a cox who was all of four foot eleven. He could see this idyllic life stretching long into the future, God willing, with his true love by his side and a bank balance full of his grandmother’s money to support them in whatever they decided to do. To buy a little house, with an apple tree in the garden and a flowering cherry outside the bedroom window, that would be ideal. Some of the furniture held in store for him up in London or down in Sussex could grace it, although it might seem rather grand for a little villa up the Madingley Road. If Orlando would ever agree to their buying one.

The two men tired of watching the rowing, turned and began to amble back to the college, a slight anticipation starting to bubble up in Jonty’s stomach. There was every chance that he could get Orlando into a bed this afternoon, and that would be an absolute delight. Even if the mattress wasn’t visited there would still be at least a hug or two on the sofa which was always very pleasant. They’d reached a stage where the last favours were not the be-all and end-all, wonderful as they were. Jonty cast a glance across at his lover and caught him, unquestionably, in the same act of anticipation.

Orlando blushed, something that hadn’t happened for a long time. I know what you’re contemplating, Jonty mused. Great minds definitely do think alike.

Their pace quickened and by the time they reached the Bishop’s Cope they were no longer just ambling but striding along with great purpose. Their tempo was brisk by the time they passed the porters’ lodge and they positively sped up Jonty’s staircase, eager to find themselves alone and safe to express their affection.

Orlando was taking the steps two at a time, as usual, in his desire to be in the room as soon as possible. He misjudged the edge of a particularly worn stair, which had endured hundreds of years’ worth of treading and wasn’t inclined to be kind anymore, then slipped. Perhaps nine times out of ten a man might have done that and suffered no worse than bruised knees or a scraped hand. Orlando suffered the ignominies of the tenth, and went clattering halfway down the flight.

It was ironic. Orlando normally led the way, making the joke that Jonty should be behind him in case he slipped, so that there would be adequate padding to break his fall. But this day Jonty was ahead, even more eager to reach the room than his friend was. He heard the tumble, turned—dismayed—and rushed back.

“Orlando!” Their rule about names was immediately broken. This was a moment of crisis, as the minute Jonty looked down he could see that his friend wasn’t moving. “Can you hear me? Are you all right?” He reached the crumpled body, was relieved to see the chest rising and falling and to hear that the breathing sounded clear.

But there was no response, not even a moan, and blood had begun to trickle from the back of Orlando’s head.

Jonty leapt up, his heart racing and a nauseous feeling filling his stomach. He knocked at the nearest door, demanding that the occupant go to the lodge to make the porters fetch a doctor. The inhabitant of the next room was sent for Nurse Hatfield. He returned to keep an eye on Orlando, making sure that he was comfortable and not about to do anything dramatic like swallow his tongue. It was all he could do, apart from worry himself sick.


Nurse Cecily Hatfield steamed up the stairs like a great ocean liner, cleaving a path through the knot of ghoulish students who’d formed to observe the scene and who’d ignored Jonty’s instructions to “bugger off”. They didn’t dare ignore the nurse’s rather more politely worded invitation to do the same.

“Don’t know why they do it,” she complained, kneeling down and efficiently checking Orlando over for breaks or bleeding. “Nothing interesting in another person’s distress, is there? Well, there are no bones broken as I far as I can see and I think—” she gingerly felt around Orlando’s head, “—the skull’s intact too. Bit of bleeding, but his breathing’s nice and steady. Not been sick, has he?”

Jonty shook his head, afraid to speak in case his voice betrayed him. He was petrified that the words No, he’s just lain there would actually come out as Please don’t let him die, I love him so much.

The doctor arrived promptly, the same man whom Jonty had first met over the dead body of a murdered man, years ago it seemed now. He made his own examination, confirming Nurse Hatfield’s initial diagnosis and advising that the man could be moved on a stretcher to the sick bay.

Jonty sped off to the porters’ lodge to organise the people and equipment to do this, glad to have something to do that was helpful and practical. Something which took his mind off the poor bloodied head lying on his staircase.

Time became distorted and things passed in a daze. It seemed to take forever to get Orlando onto the stretcher, then only a matter of seconds before he was being put onto a bed in the sick bay and the nurse was thrusting a piece of paper into Jonty’s hand. It was a list of things the patient might need, carefully written down,

“Because I’m not sure you’ll remember otherwise, Dr. Stewart. Not in your present state.” She’d no doubt recognised his need to be busy, filling him up with heavily sugared tea to give him the resources to do it. “I don’t want another young man falling down those stairs, this time because of fainting or delayed shock.”

While Jonty was away fetching Orlando’s nightclothes and wash bag, Orlando recovered consciousness and the extent of his injuries became clear. Or so Dr. Peters informed him as they met outside the door to the sickroom, his firm grip stopping Jonty barging straight in to greet his now-awakened friend.

“Dr. Coppersmith’s just with the doctor at present.” Peters saw Stewart’s worried look and smiled kindly. “He is in no danger, our medical friend seems quite confident about that. But there is something you should know before I let you in there. He’s lost some of his memory.”

“I don’t understand. Is this usual with a head injury?” Jonty was full of renewed concern. He’d heard Orlando go flying and seen the way his skull had struck the step; it worried him enormously.

“The doctor assures me that it is not abnormal. He may regain all that he has forgotten, eventually. He can remember the students coming back for the start of Michaelmas term…”

“Poor Orlando. He’s been hard at work on a treatise these last few weeks and now I suppose he’ll have to rethink it.” Jonty smiled tentatively.

“No, Dr. Stewart, I have expressed myself poorly. It is the Michaelmas term of last year he remembers, nothing since. I think it’s even possible that he will not recognise you.”

Lessons in Power #4
 Cambridge, February 1907 
“I’ve been reading a book.”

“I remember you saying that once before. We were both stark naked in front of a fire just like this one and by rights should have been making a first consummation of our passion.”

Orlando Coppersmith swatted at his friend’s head with the first thing that came to hand, which luckily for Jonty Stewart wasn’t one of the fire dogs but a bread roll. “It’s a constant amazement to me that you’ve ever shut up long enough for a consummation to take place. Blether, blether, if they made it an Olympic event you’d be so certain to be champion that no one else would turn up to oppose you.”

“And the point of this conversation was?” Jonty flicked some toast crumbs from his cuff.

“This book concerned the meaning of names and it struck me how apt yours was. Well, it struck me at the time—after the latest bit of tomfoolery I’m not so sure.” Orlando, once a potential Olympic frowning champion, smiled happily.

“Handsome, lovely, is that what it means? Statuesque? Desirable?” Jonty chirped away like a little bird, full of the joys of a day which suggested that spring might be just around the corner, if the light filtering into the dining room was any indication.

Orlando grabbed his friend’s hands. “Stop it. I’m in deadly earnest. It means ‘God has given’. Now if that’s not an apt description of you for me then I’ve no idea what is.”

Jonty had the grace to blush. “You’ll have to tell Mama. She alleges the choice of Jonathan was all Papa’s. She wanted to call me James.”

“I think I’ll start calling you Godgiven or some such thing when you’re at your most annoying. It might get you to calm down.” Orlando buttered his toast with great energy, as if it were his friend’s bottom that was getting a whack.

Jonty poked out his tongue, although his lover couldn’t be sure whether he was thinking or being insulting. “And what does Orlando mean? Irritating? Insatiable?”

“It’s from Roland.”

“Well, I’m none the wiser with that.”

“Neither was the book, to tell the truth, although it’s supposed to be something to do with a famous land. I suspect it means ‘he who gains fame throughout the country’.”

Jonty turned up his nose. “More likely ‘he who spends hours in the bathroom’. Luckily we have two in this place or I’d never be ready in the morning.”

In fact there were three bathrooms in their house, but the one in the self-contained annexe—which itself contained Mrs. Ward, their housekeeper—never got taken into the reckoning as they never got to go near it. It was part of the “servant’s quarters”, as the house agent had referred to them when they’d first enquired about the property, only connected with the rest of the building via a rickety flight of stairs which led to the kitchen.

Not that Mrs. Ward ever complained. Her suite of rooms had been decorated and kitted out beautifully, along with all the rest of the house, prior to the men taking occupation. A sailor’s widow in her mid-forties, and with her only son now himself at sea, she’d been recommended to them as a lady who relished the prospect of something to set her abilities to. As the recommendation had come from Ariadne Peters, sister to the Master of St. Bride’s college, Jonty and Orlando had paid close attention to it. They didn’t want their jobs at the college proving surplus to requirements overnight. Mrs. Ward had a big heart, an open mind and a light touch with pastry, which were the best possible qualifications, and in the fortnight they’d been in residence, the men had no complaints.

Their house, a cottage dating to Tudor times but adorned with later extensions and amendments, had previously belonged to an old lady who’d died. Jonty had spied the property out before Christmas and fallen in love with it. He’d whisked Orlando up there the very evening he agreed to buying a house and the cottage had weaved its magic on him too. They’d bought it before anyone else could, then set to with plans for improvements.

Or, to be accurate, Helena Stewart, Jonty’s mother, had descended on her broomstick and taken all the plans for enhancements in hand, as “her lads” were so busy with university business. Soon the Madingley Road was alive with decoration, renovations, plumbing and installation of proper central heating, all without losing an ounce of the property’s charm. It was only a matter of weeks before it was habitable and on February the first they took possession.

“Should I carry you over the threshold?” Jonty had been barely able to restrain the bliss in his voice when they’d taken possession. “Or you me? We could even go in, then come back out so we both get a go…” His words had been stopped in the most effective way, by a single, protracted kiss—allowable only as no one else was within a half a mile’s sight.

Now it felt as if they’d lived in this house forever. Orlando, whose home for many years had consisted of a set of rooms in St. Bride’s in which no one but his students and the Master were allowed—and a chair in the Senior Common Room which no one cared to sit next to—was amazed that his horizons had expanded so far. He kept a room back in college for supervisions, as did Jonty, and their chairs still stood side by side in the SCR, inviolate, but now Orlando had a cottage which he shared in joint names with his lover. He also had second, third, call-them-what-you-would homes in both Sussex and London with the rest of the Stewarts, for whom he was a cross between a fourth son and a favourite son-in-law.

Forsythia Cottage was spacious, affording them each a study to fill with their books, pictures and general clutter. It was well appointed with bedrooms for household and guests, although only one of their beds ever seemed to be slept in on any given night. They always took breakfast together, Mrs. Ward serving up ridiculous quantities of bacon and eggs or—as this morning, when talk turned to names—kedgeree, which was spicy and succulent.

“Shall we have Matthew Ainslie up to Bride’s for High Table?” Jonty’s little nose rose above the newspaper, making him look even more like a small inquisitive mammal than usual.

“Why?” Orlando had managed to avoid having the man visit them through the Michaelmas term, and didn’t want things to change now.

“Because we’re meeting him at the rugby on Wednesday. It would be terribly rude to just shake his hand after the match, say ‘Sorry the university slaughtered Blackheath’, and then just leave him there.”

It was true; Orlando had to admit that would be shoddy treatment. Even for someone who had once made a pass at him up in the woods. He no longer hated Matthew for past indiscretions, nor wanted to kick him in the seat of his pants, but he was sometimes jealous of the affection Jonty felt for a man they’d only met on holiday. “I suppose so. We can let Miss Peters get her teeth into him if he gets out of hand.”

“I’d pay money to see that happen.” Jonty drained his cup and poured another. The late Mr. Ward had tasted the excellent coffee supplied in foreign parts and had taught his wife how to make a good brew.

“I suppose in that case we should see about accommodation for him?”

“No need. He’s been talking about staying at the University Arms, which seems a better idea than having him here. Then he won’t have to listen to your snoring.”

“For the one-hundred-and-ninety-third time, I don’t snore.”

“Don’t you?” Jonty stood up and reached over the table for the marmalade, which his lover had appropriated. “Well, some bloke comes in my bed of a night and reverberates. Perhaps it’s a farmer driving his pigs to market. Ow!”

Orlando had taken advantage of Jonty’s position and landed a hearty slap on his backside. “You’ll get another one of those every time you accuse me of snoring.”

“Seems a positive incentive to keep on doing it then.” Jonty sat down gingerly, although he didn’t mind being whacked by his lover—it often led on to something much more pleasant. “I’ll ring Matthew at lunchtime, then.”


“Coppersmith! Orlando Coppersmith!” A chap the size of the great north wall of the Eiger came into view, cutting a lane through the throng of people along the touchline. He grabbed Orlando’s hand and pumped it up and down until all the blood flow seemed to cease.

“Morgan.” Orlando was pleased to have remembered the name. “I thought you’d have been playing.” He jabbed a finger at the pitch, a field as muddy as only Cambridge could produce in early spring.

“Dodgy leg.” The man mountain grimaced. “Come to cheer the team on.” He offered his hand to Jonty.

“This is Dr. Stewart.” Orlando made the introduction with pride. “He played here in about 1876.”

“Turn of the century, thank you. I think I may have played against you at some point, Mr. Morgan.” Jonty eyed the man’s broken nose and had the vaguest memory that he might just have been responsible. “You beat us then, but I hope we’ll make amends today. Ah, please excuse us…”

A hubbub broke out pitchside, which seemed to consist of repeated sayings along the lines of “Matthew, you old dog” or “Jonty Stewart, when are you going to get a decent haircut?” Together with muttered harrumphs from Orlando, which might or might not have been welcoming, this was all accompanied by an outbreak of backslapping, handshaking and general bonhomie. At least two of the three present were pleased at the reunion. For Ainslie, meeting Jonty and Orlando was the one positive thing to have come out of last summer’s holiday on Jersey, during which his father had been murdered and these two bright young men had solved the case.

“It’s wonderful to be here at last.” Ainslie breathed deep of the fresh Cambridge air, so much healthier than the latest London smog.

“All we needed was for you to get here.” Jonty’s grin couldn’t have been wider. “Now we can get a pint of IPA inside ourselves before kick-off. Need the warmth and sustenance.”

It proved just as well; the first half of the match was slow, more laboured than they’d hoped, and only the thought of another pint of beer was going to see them through if the second half turned out just as dire.

Orlando went off to find the little boys’ room and discussion turned to matters of dangerous binding in the scrum, when Morgan clapped Jonty on the back, sending him sprawling.

The man had been standing close by for the first half, obviously privy to the flow of wit and repartee which passed between the two fellows of Bride’s and their guest. “I’d never have thought to see old Coppersmith in such high humour. What happened to him the last few years to make such a change?”

“Oh—” Jonty was, for once, lost for words. Why did people have to ask such bloody awkward questions? Ones to which the wrong answer could lead to two years’ hard labour? “Ah, he, um, met a lady who had an extraordinary effect upon him.”

“The old dog. I was always convinced he would turn out to be a confirmed bachelor. Any sign of wedding bells?”

“I doubt it. She loves another, you know. Still, he burns a light for her.” Jonty was surprised by Orlando slapping his shoulder. He wasn’t certain whether his lover had heard what he’d said, although the man would have to be blind not to notice Ainslie’s secretive grin.

The game began again, with a bit more swashbuckling spirit on display and, as always seemed to happen, some wag asking whether the referee might benefit from borrowing Stewart’s spectacles. A stiff talking-to had no doubt been delivered with the half-time oranges and the end result of two goals all was regarded as being fair.

“Close call, eh?” Ainslie kept his voice low.

“The match or what he asked?” Jonty looked sidelong at his guest.

The crowds were wending their way back to colleges, pubs, the train station, wherever they’d come from. Morgan had buttonholed Orlando and was bending his ear up ahead on the path from Grange Road to the river. It was getting dark, the lights of Cambridge appearing like stars in the gloaming.

“It’s always the same old story, isn’t it? Lies and subterfuge.” Ainslie shivered, as did his host. The growing coolness in the air didn’t chill them half as much as the thought of the many little deceptions which pervaded their lives.

“I know.” They’d reached the river Cam, Orlando still being regaled with rugby tales and looking like he was desperate to escape. “We’re off to college to change. Meet us in my set for a sherry before dinner.” Jonty shook Ainslie’s hand, watched his neat, strong frame make its way along past St. Catherine’s, then set off to rescue his lover.


“Why did you have to say that?” Orlando’s room in St. Bride’s provided a sanctuary; here a man could talk freely.

“Say what?” Jonty had forgotten all about the halftime banter. That was forty minutes of rugby, a pleasant walk and a glass of sherry ago.

“About me meeting a lady who loved another. I could hear your voice a mile away. What sort of an impression will they have of me? I thought you didn’t approve of lies.” Orlando was fuming. Far from making him mellow, the beer had turned him belligerent.

“I don’t. Everything I said was true. You met my mama, who is without doubt a lady, and she has had a great effect upon you. And you could never marry her, could you, even if you wanted to?” Jonty looked with regret at the old leather chair by the fire. A nap would be nice but he didn’t suppose he’d be allowed one.

“That’s being pedantic. It may have been the literal truth but it told a misleading story.”

“Well, would you rather I’d said that you’d discovered the delights of my bed, which is the reason why you’re so much more confident and worldly wise? Think of the impression that would have caused, Dr. Coppersmith.” Jonty knew that he was in the right, and he always made the most of moral superiority.

Orlando was about to argue, then sighed and shook his head. “No, I think this was one occasion when the truth wouldn’t have paid.” He stared out of the window, musing. “I did wonder why he was being so friendly. He never used to make a point of talking to me.”

“You probably used to tell him off for sitting in your chair. Or standing on your bit of the pitch. Now that you’re a man of wide social experience, you give off a notable aura of bon viveur. Morgan no doubt sees that you’ve become much more fun to associate with and wishes to become one of your intimates.” Jonty began shifting his clothes, or else they’d never make Hall.

“Don’t rag me. I was incredibly lonely at times at Oxford. I could have done with a bit more beer and camaraderie then.” Orlando hated referring to the loneliness of his pre-Jonty days (or “the blessed times of quiet” as he called them) and if he was doing so now, he must be feeling the emptiness of them.

“Oh, my love. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. We can’t ever go back and change things can we? If we could, our formative years would all have been quite different.”

“I’m sorry.” Orlando’s loneliness now seemed very small beer compared to the horrors Jonty had been forced to endure at school, experiences it had taken him a great deal of time to recover from. “I didn’t mean to—”

“Of course you didn’t, whatever it was. Look, we’re neither of us the men we were and I daily thank God for it.” Jonty, the beer still making his body and spirit glow, felt as though he’d made the wisest pronouncement since the days of Solomon, one which was beyond answer. He was wrong.

“Quite right, too.” Orlando fiddled with his cufflinks. “I know you hate it when I speculate about what would have happened if we hadn’t met, but I can’t help doing it.”

“What if we’d met earlier? I mean what if we’d been opponents in the Varsity Match? I couldn’t have failed to notice you, all gangly legs and unruly curls. I’d have thrown you into touch a few times then we’d have shared a few beers in the bar. It would have been so nice…” There was something about the combination of rugby and beer which made the best of men maudlin.

Orlando snorted. “Well, we could hardly have commenced a relationship out there on the pitch, could we? No, please don’t favour that with an answer. It gives you far too much capacity for making obscene jokes about releasing the ball in the tackle.”

“I do fantasise sometimes, about what it would have been like to find myself at the bottom of a maul with you on top of me. Shame you mathematicians think it beneath yourselves to rummage up a rugger team—the English mob could organise a fixture and, assuming your old Achilles was up to it…” Jonty drifted off into pleasant reverie. He’d never seen his lover play the beautiful game, so it had become a favourite pastime to try to imagine it.

“Perhaps I can persuade them.”

Jonty almost dropped his collar stud. “Do you mean it?”

“Indeed. There’s a few chaps new to the university who could well be encouraged to turn out. And I’d enjoy it, too.” He smiled, full of mischief.

“Oh yes, Orlando? Being able to take me down in the tackle?”

“And rubbing your little nose into the mud a few times. Can’t think of anything better. On a rugby field that is,” Orlando added with a grin. “In here, that’s another matter…”

But the other matter was never explored, any investigation cut short when Matthew Ainslie knocked on the door in search of his glass of sherry.

High Table was excellent, a corner cut of beef being set off with fiery horseradish, and Yorkshire puddings as light as a feather. Ariadne Peters, whose plain looks were always eclipsed by her sparkling conversation, proved as entertaining as ever, and her brother charmed Ainslie with his intelligent interest in publishing.

They took coffee, cheese and fruit in the Senior Common Room, and when Ainslie accidentally sat in Orlando’s chair, the company waited with bated breath for the inevitable explosion of wrath. He astonished them all by sitting in the chair on the other side, letting Jonty take his normal seat. It was a gesture at once simple in its hospitality and profound in its sacrificial nature.

Jonty felt immensely proud of his lover’s good grace and resolved that he’d get an adequate reward when they returned home. The conversation meandered on, the wine, quantities of food and warm atmosphere having a soporific effect, so that Orlando soon suggested they take a little air before they all fell asleep. As the three men strolled along, the night air immediately counteracting the feelings of sleepiness, Ainslie spoke.

“Are you free for coffee tomorrow morning at, shall we say, eleven? I didn’t want to spoil this evening with business, although tomorrow I’d be grateful if I could—” he seemed to be thinking of the correct term, “—consult you on a professional basis.”

Jonty bowed, with only a hint of facetiousness. “That makes us sound conspicuously like Holmes and Watson. I’m available—are you, Dr. Coppersmith?”

Orlando’s face illustrated all the frustration he felt. “No, I’ve college business. And on a Saturday too.” He rolled his eyes.

“Then Dr. Stewart will have to take excellent notes, won’t he?” Ainslie smiled and strolled off, leaving his friends to find a cab to take them back up the Madingley Road.


Ainslie had found a part of the University Arms where he and his guest could take coffee and talk without being overheard, an important element in his plan, given the potentially delicate nature of the discussion. A University College London man himself, he was enjoying his visit to such a hallowed seat of learning (still hallowed despite Jonty’s tales of his less-than-bright students).

Ainslie had ended up with a degree in literature, a taste for port and some interesting connections, which meant he could indulge his inclination towards other men with both discretion and pleasure. A discretion which had temporarily deserted him on Jersey although, thank the Lord, not one which had stood in the way of his friendship with Stewart and his more aloof companion.

He welcomed his guest at eleven on the dot, pouring out a cup of what proved to be an excellent brew. They chatted amiably for a few moments, mainly about the university’s prospects in the forthcoming cricket season, then Stewart felt it was time to open his own batting.

“You wanted to talk to us about some sort of case, I take it?”

“Indeed. I remember with extreme gratitude your help on Jersey and I know of your success both before and after it.”

Stewart grinned. “You’ve been reading The Times, I suppose, and now you want us to poke our noses into something?”

“That’s an unusual way of putting it, but yes.” Ainslie was impressed to see Stewart produce, along with his glasses, an elegant notepad and an equally elegant propelling pencil with which he began to make notes. The air of objective authority helped to make a painful situation rather more bearable. “I won’t beat about the bush. I have a friend who has been accused of murder. He assures me that he’s innocent and I believe that to be the truth. I would like you to see if you can find any evidence to support his case.”

“When is this due to come to court?” Stewart’s pencil tapped on the page.

“There’s likely to be a delay while an important medical witness is recalled from abroad, but we can’t be looking at much the other side of Easter.” The window gave a faint reflection. Ainslie, catching sight of his face, was shocked at how pale he’d turned.

Stewart was concerned. “And does his own counsel give him any hope?”

Ainslie stared out of the window, at the children playing on Parker’s Piece, their delight in running on the grass meaning nothing to his unseeing eyes. “Not very much.” All he could see was a face—not his own this time—a handsome young face. One that, time was, had been his greatest delight.

Stewart considered his next question. “If we find evidence that your friend is indeed guilty, what then?”

Ainslie turned, his keen eyes fixing his guest’s equally candid ones. “Then he hangs. I’ll not have facts suppressed just to bring about the desired result. I want the truth.” It hurt to speak every word, yet each had to be said.

Stewart patted his friend’s arm. “Good man. Couldn’t have taken the job without you having said that. Now can I have some details? What’s your friend’s name?”

“Alistair Stafford.”

“Should I know him? I’m sure I’ve heard the name before.”

“He’s the man who sent that letter to Jersey, detailing my alleged sins to someone who wished to besmirch my reputation.” Ainslie watched the children playing yet didn’t see them, still registering in his mind’s eye a happier time and place.

“Matthew, I don’t understand, why should you choose to defend him of all people?”

“We were once lovers, Jonty, very fond and close. We had a misunderstanding, a series of them really, and we couldn’t come to any sort of a resolution. We separated under very unsympathetic circumstances—there was a lot of bitterness on his part.” Ainslie’s gaze remained fixed outside. “Which is why he was keen to give information to my business rival. Spite. Or revenge.”

“It’s very magnanimous of you to be going to his aid. Was there some rapprochement over the last few months?”

“No, it was his sister who approached me.” Ainslie remembered Angela Stafford with fondness—she had never betrayed his friendship. “His mother and father decided to sever ties with him when they discovered where his affections lay. Miss Stafford knew we’d been very close, knew we’d parted, but had no idea, obviously, of Alistair’s subsequent betrayal. I didn’t enlighten her.” He at last brought his gaze back into the room.

“Of course not. Yet you still agreed to help?” Stewart looked so outraged that Ainslie smiled, despite the turmoil in his mind.

“Not there and then, but I agreed to meet him and hear his side of the tale. I was sufficiently convinced—well, to be here now.”

Stewart laid down his pencil for a moment. “I feel unworthy to be given such a responsibility. The things we’ve been involved with in the past haven’t been that important, or rather our role within them hasn’t. The police would have solved those first two crimes anyway, irrespective of our input. Is there no one else you could ask for help? Someone more competent?”

“There may be, but there’s no one I trust half as well as I do you and Dr. Coppersmith. I can be completely candid with you and I’m learning to be so with him. If there’s anything to be found, I’m sure that you’re the men to find it.”

The intellectual detective tried hard not to beam and poised his pencil again. “Can I take a few details?”

“I have some notes here for you—” Ainslie produced a large envelope, “—although I can give you a summary. A man was found dead in his house in Dorking, down in Surrey, the back of his head smashed in with a poker. Alistair was known to have argued violently with him just days before, threatening his life.”

“And the man’s name?”

“Lord Christopher Jardine.” Ainslie almost flinched, so sudden was the change in Stewart’s normally good-humoured face. “Did you know him?”

“There was a boy of that name at my school.” Stewart was making his face a blank, a mask over it to hide all feeling.

“He’d be a few years older than you.”

“Then I did know him.” Stewart fiddled with his pencil, some deep emotion welling up, threatening to engulf him.

“I’m sorry.” Ainslie’s words were sincere but they sounded feeble.

“So am I, Matthew. Sorry I ever made his acquaintance."

Lessons in Temptation #5
“Stewart? Jonty Stewart?”

An attractive American brogue split the air, making Orlando and Jonty spin around. They’d been standing admiring Ralph Allen’s folly and watching the activity surrounding it. The rudiments of a stage was going up, business being worked out at the same time, groups of people rehearsing scenes or looking at properties. It had made an amusing scene and they weren’t prepared for interruption.

“Harding! What the deuce are you doing here?”

“Putting on a play, of course.”

“You’re producing the Shakespeare here? The Scottish play?”

“Say it—say Macbeth. Surely you don’t believe in that old chestnut about it being unlucky?” The newcomer smiled, an expression which was immediately mirrored by Jonty.

“Macbeth it is, then.”

“Good. Don’t you dare say it around the rest of the company, though. They’re all infected with the usual superstitions. I have to refer to ‘himself’ as the Thane or some other euphemism—I need someone I can talk to without the nonsense or I’ll go mad.” He grinned again.

“You’re not going to play Macbeth yourself, surely?” Jonty, almost dancing with delight, waved eagerly at the stage.

“No, I’ll be Banquo. And I’m producing, of course.” The actor swept his hand around, encompassing all the properties and players.

Orlando could stay silent no longer. “Am I to be introduced?”

“I’m so sorry.” Jonty touched his arm, lightly. “Dr. Coppersmith, this is Mr. Harding. Jimmy, this is Orlando.”

Orlando felt bad enough that he’d been ignored, left out of this obviously happy meeting, but for Jonty to break one of their cardinal rules was scandalous. He’d used Christian names in public and they weren’t on holiday, or hadn’t declared themselves as being so yet. He could feel the hackles rising, a knot of anger moving up his spine. “Pleased to meet you, Dr. Harding.”

“Mr. Harding.”

“My apologies, Mister Harding.” If Orlando had openly said I don’t like you or your smarmy face, go away and leave us alone, his feelings couldn’t have been plainer.

“We were at University College together.” Jonty had picked up the ice in his lover’s tone and sought to smooth the situation with pleasantries. “Jimmy studied English literature at home, in America, then came over to improve his already considerable knowledge of the Bard. Now he runs his own productions on both sides of the Atlantic.” He looked uneasily from one man to the other, knowing he’d committed a terrible social faux pas in not introducing them straightaway. In the sheer delight of seeing his old friend all decorum had fled from his brain.

“They told me there was some guy from Cambridge who’d been lurking about and offering his services…”

Orlando bridled at the unflattering description of what Jonty had been doing. Only he was allowed to make fun of or criticise the man.

“I’d have never in a million years guessed it was you.” Harding smiled, the genuine pleasure he felt at seeing his old acquaintance again shining through.

“You don’t mind the prospect of me hanging around getting under everyone’s feet?”

“Not at all. I’m sure you’ll put me right on all my mistakes of interpretation. You were always pretty hot about the nitty-gritty of production. And we’ll have to find you a part to play.” A huge grin crossed the American’s face. “Lady Macbeth will need a handmaiden or two. Fancy being a traditional player?”

Luckily, Orlando didn’t catch this remark, his mind being full of visions involving his fist and Harding’s face.

“Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.” Jonty laughed but couldn’t shake off his discomfort. “I’ll be the porter if you need one, or else just a part of Birnham Wood.”

“I’ll see what I can work out. Will you join me for dinner? Both of you?” Harding added as an afterthought.

“Not tonight, I’m afraid. Tomorrow perhaps?”

“It’s a deal then. Come and watch us practise tomorrow, though. I’d like your input on the Out damned spot bit.”

Jonty nodded. “Tomorrow then.”

Harding smiled and held out his hand to Jonty to be shaken. “Excellent.” He offered Orlando his hand as well. The man grasped it grudgingly.

Jonty strode down the hill. He could sense Orlando’s unease—anyone not completely oblivious would have—and felt the need to be away from the makeshift theatre, getting a chance to clear his mind. Jimmy Harding had been a pleasant enough young man back in the London days, but somehow in the intervening three years he’d matured, like a wine or cheese which gradually reaches the peak of its perfection. He had been agreeable, now he was gorgeous. Heart-stoppingly gorgeous.

Realising this simple fact caused a curious and unsettling sensation in Jonty’s brain. The last two years he’d had eyes for Orlando alone and now he’d been “brought up with a round turn”, as his papa might term it when at his most extravagantly eloquent. The sheer charisma of Harding had knocked all the social proprieties out of Jonty’s noddle, threatening to reduce him to a gibbering wreck if he didn’t take a close rein on himself.

The horse-drawn two-seater cab that had brought them up the hill was waiting for them, Jonty having insisted they retain it. Orlando wasn’t as talkative for the journey back down to the Grand as he’d been coming up.

“What is eating you, Orlando?” Jonty could have answered the question easily enough, but he wanted the air cleared.

“How well did you know him in London?” The inquisition started.

“Jimmy? We knew each other for a couple of years at University College.” Jonty looked out the window, at the floor, avoided Orlando’s gaze. “Met at lectures, naturally, and then we discovered we were members of the same club. His father had arranged his membership, so he’d have an easier time of it when he first came over. Not that Jimmy finds it hard to make friends.”

“I can see that. Very easy going. Have you kept in touch?”

“Just cards at Christmas, with a few words of news. Thought you’d have spotted them on the old mantelpiece in my set of rooms at St. Bride’s.” Jonty kept his tone light and easy, yet inside the prickles of tetchiness were breaking out.

“I don’t go through your post, sir.”

“Orlando, whatever is the matter?” Jonty grabbed his lover’s hand, turning to face him for the first time in the journey.

“Isn’t it supposed to be Dr. Coppersmith in public? We aren’t on holiday.”

Jonty could feel his blood starting to boil—this was all getting so bloody silly. “I’ve declared it holiday time, Orlando. Now would you be so kind as to tell me what’s bothering you? You’ve been like a bear with a migraine ever since Harding hove into view.”

“I don’t like him.”

“Oh, is it Mr. Ainslie all over again? Afraid he’s going to take you off behind the castle and ravish you?”

Orlando didn’t reply. Clenched hands and muttered, indistinct words made any reply unnecessary.

“Well, is it?” The truth suddenly dawned. “Or do you think he’s going to take me off and ravish me?” Jonty didn’t need to wait for an answer. The pathetic look of feigned innocence on Orlando’s face was enough to tell him all he needed to know. “Maybe you think he’s already done that, back in London and that I somehow neglected to tell you? Oh sorry, Orlando, it wasn’t just you and Richard Marsters I’ve been to bed with, I had Jimmy as well. And Clive and Gerald and Francis and the entire second fifteen. What sort of man do you think I am?”

He tapped on the roof to get the cab to stop, then stepped out, ignoring Orlando’s sudden shocked protest—not a voiced one but a hand firmly grabbing his arm.

“I may see you later, Dr. Coppersmith. Or maybe not.” Jonty slammed the door shut and made his way off into the crowd.


Orlando sat in the hotel room quietly cursing himself—the last hour had been a catalogue of errors and all of them his fault. Why on earth had he accused his lover, or to all intents and purposes accused him, of being unfaithful with Harding? Jonty hadn’t even known Orlando at the time he’d last seen the man in question, so technically he couldn’t be guilty of adulterous behaviour even if a liaison had occurred. And what evidence had he based these accusations on? The horribly condemning facts that Jonty had been a bit free and easy with their Christian names and had, for once, not quite observed the proprieties of social etiquette.

Orlando put his head in his hands, moaning theatrically even though no one was there to hear him. It all seemed so stupid now, as he recalled all they’d said, then analysed every word for its meaning. Jonty had just been displaying his usual friendly character, genuinely pleased to be meeting an old friend, and he’d acted like a big soppy schoolgirl, all pouting jealousy. One who needed a slapping.

Then to have crowned all the idiocy by going and misplacing Jonty in the crowd. He’d been a fraction too slow in getting out of the coach, half his mind on throwing some money at the cabman, only to find he’d lost sight of that golden head in the throng. Jonty had never gone off before. And the only time he’d threatened it—after an argument over some shrubs, for heaven’s sake—Orlando had reminded him that Mrs. Stewart would give him a piece of her mind should he turn up on her doorstep. Then she’d tie the little beast up until he came to claim him.

Wandering the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of his lover, his anger soon dissipated to be replaced by panic. What if Jonty just took off somewhere? The thought that he might take himself straight off to Harding flitted through Orlando’s brain but was soon dispatched as being too uncomfortable for consideration.

Logic eventually reasserted itself, as Orlando quartered the area around the Abbey. Jonty would have to return to the hotel for all his things, so that was where he had to go and station himself. When the shocking thought occurred to him en route that his friend might just decide to leave all his things behind, along with his discarded lover, Orlando ignored that, too.

But Jonty was not, and had not been, back at the Grand. Now Orlando was beginning to despair of him ever appearing; if there’d been sackcloth and ashes to hand, then he would have indulged in them. No one wanted him to do detecting, he couldn’t cure Jonty, and now he’d even failed at keeping a hold on his lover.

He was beating himself about the proverbial head, if not the literal one, when the door creaked slightly and a familiar tread came over the threshold. Orlando swung around, leapt up, then bounded over to his lover. “Jonty, please forgive me. I was stupid and I won’t blame you if you decide to shout or punch me. But I beg you not to leave me.”

Jonty shook his head. “I was never going to leave you, I just needed some time to calm down, you should know me by now.”

“I bet you’re fuming with me. I was completely wrong saying those things, I never meant to be so hard. This stupid disagreement is all my fault, I’m sorry.” The words tumbled out randomly, pouring all Orlando’s emotions with them.

“If there’s any more of this I’ll start calling you Dr. Hairshirt. In the Senior Common Room if need be.” Jonty grinned.

“Don’t joke, it isn’t funny. I was worried sick.”

“I’m a grown man, Orlando. I wasn’t going to come to any harm walking the streets for an hour.” The grin turned itself off.

“You might have if you’d gone back to the folly.”

“And what precisely do you mean by that?” The grin had become an icy, thin-lipped glare.

Orlando didn’t dare answer. If he’d got it all wrong, Jonty really would kill him and if he’d got it right, Jonty would be off again like a shot.

“I’m waiting.”

“I think I misunderstood what was going on up there, when we talked to Harding. I made some rash assumptions.” Orlando studied his shoes, but they didn’t reassure him.

“You certainly did.” The icy edge in Jonty’s voice eased into weariness. “Look here, Jimmy was only ever a friend, I promise you. He meant nothing more to me than Lavinia’s Ralph does.” Jonty leaned up to kiss his lover’s brow. “Now shut up about it. We need to get changed for dinner or else there’ll be nothing left except stale bread and rancid butter.”

They might now be lacking a turn of pace on the rugby pitch, but getting into dinner jackets Orlando and Jonty could tackle like sprinters. They did justice to the rack of lamb, although conversation over dinner was a bit stilted, but the port over coffee, taken sitting in the lounge, loosened their tongues. It seemed, for the moment, as if the whole incident regarding Harding had never happened. Or maybe it was just too painful to refer to at present.

A muffled wailing coming from the street outside drew them to look out of the window. A small, obviously spoiled boy was leading his keeper a merry dance. Orlando wasn’t impressed. His experience of children was admittedly limited to the smaller Stewarts, all of whom had beautiful manners even if they were high spirited, and all of whom were given appropriate discipline when the situation demanded.

“That child should be given as good a spanking as Mama gave you.” For the first time since lunch, Jonty’s voice has its old spark of mischief.

Orlando grimaced. When they’d broken their journey at the Stewarts’ home, Jonty’s mother had walloped his backside, for nothing worse than dosing her husband with an experimental analgesic powder. All purely in the interests of science and not appreciated by his hostess. “I suspect I still bear the mark. I can certainly feel the imprint of her hand even now, if I lie awkwardly.”

“That has to be the most blatant lie. It was days ago.” Jonty signalled for the waiter to refill their glasses. The memory alone deserved two ports.

“It may well have been days, but I swear that I’ll carry the scars, emotional and physical, to my dying day.”

“You are wonderfully dramatic. Have you considered offering to play Lady Macbeth?”

Why on earth did Jonty have to mention that wretched play again? Just when Orlando had got his thoughts away from handsome, smarmy Americans and onto happier times. “The less said about that hussy, the better.” He yawned, equally theatrically. “I need my bed.”

“So do I. I could sleep for a week.”

The fact that Jonty obviously meant the sentiment, that he wasn’t acting a part in public, left Orlando both disappointed and unnerved.


Despite what he’d said, Jonty couldn’t sleep. Normally his head would hit the pillow and he’d be oblivious until dawn, yet tonight he couldn’t locate the magic switch to turn off consciousness. In truth he was feeling rather uncomfortable, not at his display of petulance on the way home from the folly—something he felt was justified in the face of an accusation of disloyalty—but at some of the thoughts which had been flitting through his own brain this last hour.

Jimmy Harding had attracted him enormously. That simple fact had been a great shock. There was a whole raft of guilt loading him down concerning this man’s animal magnetism, or whatever it was. Jonty had never looked at any other man since he’d met Orlando, had never wanted to, yet he’d have been happy to look at Harding all afternoon. It was wrong, Jonty knew it was, and earlier he’d wrestled with a tangle of emotions as he’d wandered around the city or sat in the gardens deep in thought.

How could he in all honesty be cross at Orlando when he’d hit so near to the truth of things?

Lessons in Seduction #6
Dr. Coppersmith and Dr. Stewart felt nervous, as anyone in their situation would, standing outside the hallowed sanctum of the Master of St. Bride’s like a pair of naughty schoolboys summoned to see the headmaster over fighting in the dorm. It felt like the end of the world. Their future at the college, or at least the immediate part of it, was at present being discussed in Dr. Peters’ study the other side of the heavy oak door. No matter how hard Orlando stared at the thing, willing it to yield its secrets, it was keeping them in ignorance.

“Now I know how young Ingleby felt when he was summoned here for playing his ukulele too loudly. I’m scared enough—he must have been petrified.” Jonty grinned, but he was obviously nervous and not at all his usual witty, confident self.

“This is a serious business, Dr. Stewart. I just wish they would reach a decision more quickly. How long can it take to work out whether we’re leaving the college?”

“Perhaps the longer they take, the better, assuming…” Jonty didn’t have the chance to finish his sentence, as the door swung open, making Orlando jump and produce what Jonty always alleged afterwards was a squeal.

“Gentlemen, come in.” Dr. Peters beamed, beckoning them into the room. Tall, handsome and rather austere, when he smiled his appearance changed from medieval abbot to chevalier. “Chief Inspector Wilson has persuaded me that he needs you much more than your university will these next few months. You’re both to be granted a sabbatical.” He indicated two august figures behind him. “And these gentlemen have reluctantly agreed, given the special circumstances of this case, to allow it. Mr. Wilson can be very persuasive.”

Anxiety turned to smiles, they shook hands all round and a decanter of sherry appeared almost from thin air.

“Are we to be told exactly what’s going on?” Jonty could barely stop the glass shaking in his hand, from what Orlando hoped was excitement, not fear. Whichever it was, this was clearly going to be a two sherries, at least, conversation. “All we know is that Chief Inspector Wilson requires our services but we don’t know how long or what for.”

“As much time as is required.” The dean, Dr. Peters’ second-in-command, spoke through clenched teeth. No one would have been pleased at being deprived of two such shining stars.

“I have negotiated a little something with the relevant parties to oil the wheels.” Chief Inspector Wilson resembled neither abbot nor chevalier. He looked like a headmaster with an enormous intellect and radical views, and he carefully avoided the use of the words “bribe” or “douceur”. Whatever had been employed, it had at least stopped the bursar vetoing things. He was clutching his sherry in a happy financial haze.

“Gentlemen, I refuse to agree to anything until I know who these parties are and what they expect of us.” Orlando’s commanding streak, which only appeared in moments of great importance—or high passion—asserted itself.

“A lady has been found dead, in a fashionable hotel just outside Pegwell Bay in Kent. I believe you know the area, Dr. Coppersmith?” Mr. Wilson raised both an eyebrow and his sherry glass in enquiry.

“I do. My grandmother lives nearby.” The combination of a suspicious death and familiar ground eased the tension; so far, so good.

“Two doctors couldn’t agree whether it was due to natural causes. A third doctor, one who said he could see nothing suspicious, swayed official opinion.”

“And?” Jonty had finished the first sherry and was eyeing the decanter hopefully.

“The identity of the victim meant cogs got set into motion.” Mr. Wilson inclined his head. “Lady Jennifer Johnson was the mistress of the king for the best part of two decades when he was still Prince of Wales. Those initial doubts have put a bee in His Majesty’s bonnet. He wants his old friend’s death investigated properly.”

“I wonder if there would have been all this interest if it had just been one of the chambermaids found dead?” Orlando sniffed, derisive of the class system which seemed to make one death worth more than another.

“I can just imagine him talking to Papa.” Jonty produced an uncanny impersonation of the king’s tones. “I have a feeling in my bones that she’s been murdered, Richard.” He turned to Dr. Peters. “I’m right in assuming my father got involved in this somehow?”

“So I believe.” Dr. Peters nodded his austerely handsome head. “The chief inspector says His Majesty knows all about your penchant for sleuthing.”

“No doubt. Papa must have bored him about it enough times.” Jonty seemed pleased to see his glass refilled; one needed all the help one could get in this sort of situation. “I can imagine the palace applying pressure on the University.”

Wilson nodded. “Quite so. And on the constabulary. What’s needed here is efficiency.”

Peters glowed with pleasure—probably totting up how many high calibre students would be attracted to St. Bride’s on the back of another successful investigation. “I feel we should be paying for the privilege of you taking on the case.” The Master ignored the bursar nearly dropping his glass. “This college’s name was in the descendant at the turn of the century and the case of the St. Bride’s murders didn’t help. But for a college to have its own Holmes and Watson is without precedent.” Of course it was—now Bride’s star shone and its fame had been renewed throughout the land.

Wilson inclined his head. “When I was asked in to solve a case needing the utmost diplomacy, where else would I turn? I wanted the very best men alongside me. Having someone—” he nodded towards Jonty, “—with a connection to the nobility will be a great advantage. This pair will prove invaluable.”

Orlando was deep in thought, wondering what attributes he could possibly possess which would make him invaluable. Apart from his brains.

“We’re to travel down there as soon as possible, I take it?” The sherry had worked its emboldening effect on Jonty. “Have we rooms booked?”

“Ah. For Dr. Stewart, yes.” Wilson suddenly found his sherry glass to be of great interest. “Dr. Coppersmith, we have a special commission for you. Almost in the nature of espionage.”

Orlando’s ears pricked up, like a horse in sight of the winning post. “Are you suggesting I take a post at this hotel to spy from the inside?”

Wilson nodded, at last brave enough to face Orlando eye to eye. “You would gain the confidence of both staff and guests, while Dr. Stewart works in a more obviously formal capacity.”

Jonty grinned. “Splendid. Even old Sherlock Holmes puts on his dressing-up clothes to further investigations.” It wasn’t the best example to give.

Orlando started. “Dressing-up clothes?”

“We thought the role of professional dancing partner would be an ideal one.” Mr. Wilson addressed a spot just behind Orlando’s left ear. “For accessing confidential information. His Majesty is relying on us. On you.”

The door bursting open forestalled Orlando’s disgruntled reply.

“Is it settled then?” The Master’s sister swept into the room, grinning broadly. “Dr. Coppersmith’s off to be a gigolo?”


Jonty almost danced all the way back up the Madingley Road, full of the prospect of the seaside, dancing and high society.

“Of course, you’ll love every moment of this investigation.” Orlando took a swipe at a branch which had dared to get in his way.

“Absolutely. And so will you. Don’t pretend you won’t be thrilled to have a murder to solve. You like them as much as your beloved mathematical puzzles.” Jonty’s broad, handsome grin made him look like a boy at Christmas, bouncing with excitement at the prospect of the weeks ahead.

“I suppose so. Only…”


“I was just wondering—” Orlando felt himself colour, not just with annoyance, “—what a gigolo actually does.”

“I love Miss Peters more than any other woman to whom I’m not related, but I could cheerfully have killed her today, coming in and saying that. In front of the bursar and all. You will not be a gigolo.” Jonty sighed. “No one expects you to be anything more than a professional dancing partner at the hotel.”

“Why can’t you do the gigolo bit? Why does everyone say it has to be me?”

Jonty threw up his hands. “If we were going to the farthest-flung parts of the empire perhaps, but some of these people will have met me. Besides, look here.” He turned Orlando’s face towards his own. “This face, the Jonty Stewart fizzog, it’s a case of once seen never forgotten, isn’t it?”

Orlando looked at his lover’s fine profile as if seeing it for the first time. The bright blue eyes were as stunning and unnerving as when they’d first met, the nose perfectly formed and the mouth full of promise. He snorted. “It’s a face getting too big for its own flannel if you ask me.”

“For once I wasn’t being vain. My mother and father are both striking-looking creatures and anyone who’d met them would take one look at me and think there’s a Stewart sprog if I ever saw one. It just can’t be done.”

“But I’m hopeless with women. I can’t flirt or make small talk. They’ll turn their noses up at me.”

“You don’t have to flirt. You can dance, can’t you?”

Orlando nodded.

“In fact you dance very well. That’s all you’ll need to do, dance with them and talk a little about current affairs. You’ll be stern, aloof and handsome and it will drive them absolutely insane, just like it did me when we first met. They’ll be like putty in your hands and you’ll get all sorts of information out of them.” He drew closer to Orlando, laid his hands briefly on the man’s lapels and looked into his eyes. “Besides, you look absolutely gorgeous in a dinner suit. If there are any women who don’t fall in love with you they’ll either be followers of Sappho or have hearts of absolute stone.” He quickly spoke again, grinning as he did so. “And I won’t under any circumstances give an explanation as to the significance of that minx.”

They’d reached their house, a little Tudor cottage with a lot of recent refurbishment, and turned in by the gate and through the door into their haven of security from a world which wouldn’t approve of how they lived.

“But that can’t be all a gigolo does or why would everyone keep smirking when the term is used?”

Jonty produced a radiant smile. “Ah, well, you see, it’s a term that can also be applied to a man who—um—sells his services to women.”

“What sort of services?”

“If you have to ask the question I’m not sure you’ll understand the answer. Bed. You know.” Jonty tipped his head towards the stairs and winked.

Orlando worked his mouth, temporarily unable to speak. This was scandalous. “They never do.”

“Oh yes, it goes on all over the place. I told you when we were in Bath that there had always been male and female prostitutes.”

“But I assumed they were like the boys we came across in the course of solving that very first murder. Sold themselves to men, I mean.”

“They don’t restrict themselves to that, although whether it’s the same chaps doing the selling, or others, I have no idea and don’t want to find out. Women pay and these men oblige.”

“Well, I’m shocked. The absolute cads. And however did Miss Peters learn such a disgraceful term?”


Forsythia Cottage was becoming used to being the scene of discussion of crime and Mrs. Ward, the housekeeper, had become accustomed to the arrival of members of the constabulary to consult her gentlemen. Just so this fine late September afternoon when Mr. Wilson appeared bearing his most solemn look and praising her baking to high heaven. She’d borne forth the fruits of her kitchen then retreated there to leave her lads to their endeavours.

“I’ll have to find some excuse for being there, at the hotel.” Jonty had indulged in some pastries and while his inner man was satisfied, he wasn’t pleased about his position in the investigation. “It’s easy for you, you just change your name to hide the fact that you’re the Dr. Coppersmith of The Times fame and you can get away with anything. But even if I change my name, there are plenty of folk who would recognise me in the circles in which we’ll move. I bet some of them even remember dear old grandmamma and I’m said to be her image.”

“Could you invite your family along and make it some innocent Stewart excursion?” Wilson raised a distinguished eyebrow and gestured with his teaspoon.

Orlando shook his head. “I won’t have Mrs. Stewart seeing me dressed as a dancing partner. If she’s involved then I’ll give up the case, immediately.”

“What about Papa? We could pretend he’s had an operation or something and needs the sea air for convalescence. We’ll have to find a way to make him look in less than ruddy good health of course, but it might just work.” Jonty found the idea more and more appealing. “Then I could have a legitimate reason to be there, to look after the old geezer. And, Chief Inspector, if you think Dr. Coppersmith does the business in terms of charming the ladies, you should see my father. He can turn the heads of girls young enough to be his granddaughters.”

“I can’t believe that. Your father is such an adherent of the Ten Commandments—no adultery and all the rest.” Orlando found this a shock to top all the rest. “He’s the scourge of—what does he call them—those who ought to know better. I can’t imagine him chatting up women.”

“That’s half the appeal of him, Dr. Coppersmith. The women know they’re absolutely safe and so do their husbands or fathers, so he’s told all sorts of things that other men wouldn’t be privy to.” A thought occurred to Jonty. “Actually, do we need to have an innocent excuse? Ever since The Times printed that story we’ve been labelled as Holmes and Watson. No one would believe I was at Pegwell Bay for any other reason than to look into this business. Why not use that fact to our advantage?”

“It might work, you know. If people there think you’re doing the sleuthing they might be more likely to let some little indiscretion slip to Dr. Coppersmith. No secrets then—you can be there with your deerstalker and everyone can know it.”

Jonty grinned; he was looking forward to this case, not least because it postponed meeting his dunderheads of students. This new intake was said to be particularly obtuse. “Now, Chief Inspector, I have my notebook to hand and no doubt Dr. Coppersmith has his, sharpened pencil and all. Before he gets to the matter of writing his packing list, might we have a resumé of the case as you know it?”

“Of course, Dr. Stewart. I’ve prepared a set of notes for you to read—perhaps you might peruse them now, and then I can try to answer any of your questions?” Wilson produced two identical documents and let his hosts read them.

The matter as set out was fairly straightforward. Lady Jennifer Johnson had been found dead in her suite on September 21st 1907, just the previous week, at the Regal Hotel, Pegwell Bay. The chambermaid, bearing early morning tea and a biscuit, had found the body, spilt said tea and run to fetch the housekeeper and, via her, a doctor. His report said the woman had died peacefully in her sleep, probably of heart failure. Agnew, the hotel manager—who had seen Lady Jennifer taking plenty of exercise and always appearing hale and hearty—had called for a second opinion.

The second physician had some doubts that the matter had been entirely natural, but by this time the police had already been called in and the chief constable notified, via his godson, who happened to be the same Mr. Agnew. The third medical opinion—heart failure—had proved decisive in most people’s minds. No one had been ordered to stay at the hotel as the police supposedly had no case to pursue. They’d just taken contact details from all who had been present at the time, under the police’s favourite guise of Routine, sir. Normal procedures, ma’am.

Orlando and Jonty were struck by the similarity between this and the last case they’d tackled, except the thing seemed to be turned on its head. The last time, a suspicious death had been deliberately treated as natural to deflect attention from the important personages who’d been involved with the victim. Here was a case where what might well turn out to be an innocent event was being treated as suspicious, partly because the victim had contacts in very high places, ones who were determined to see that justice would be done.

“What was she like, Mr. Wilson?” Orlando laid down the papers and smoothed them.

“Lady Jennifer wasn’t a great beauty like her alliterative counterpart Lillie Langtry.” The chief inspector smiled. “I understand she was plump, pretty and more like a dairymaid than a great lady. They say she was sweet natured and exceedingly discreet.”

“I suppose she was.” Jonty rubbed his nose where his reading spectacles pinched a bit. “I’ve been on the telephone to Papa. He says her relationship with royalty went on for years, but it’s only coming to light now. Was she a great favourite of the prince, as he was then? I don’t remember her name being mentioned by my father until now.” Mr. Stewart had always taken a pretty dim view of the morals of royalty. Jonty remembered seeing some lady at a function wearing a huge brooch which she’d been given for services rendered. Papa had muttered under his breath that it would probably be easier to give some sort of a badge to those women who hadn’t rendered services to His Royal Highness. It would certainly involve fewer pieces of jewellery.

“I think she was someone with whom he could relax and be entirely himself. I’ve spoken to someone else who knew her and their opinion is that she was a genuinely nice woman who rarely spoke ill of anyone nor sought to further herself above her station. She was content in life and didn’t nag others about how they lived theirs. Both of them are endearing qualities.”

“And yet she was the mistress of a married man.” Orlando’s voice was quiet, disapproving.

“That’s the rub. Some nice people do things which horrify you and some nasty people obey every jot and tittle of what they believe to be the law. Remember Mrs. Tattersall?” Jonty smiled, knowing full well that the world was full of people who did things Orlando didn’t approve of. No wonder he got on so well with Papa.

“I shall never forget her.” Orlando shivered, even though it remained a mild and pleasant day.

“We must never judge those we seek to find justice for.” Wilson stared out of the window, addressing his sermon to the trees. “The law must be absolutely neutral, in spite of what some of my colleagues feel. Although I do worry that the investigation of this crime will be given much more precedence than if the victim had been of less illustrious stock. Money and influence talk.”

“I’d still seek to find the killer whatever the station in life of the victim, and even if I absolutely hated them.” Orlando cast a sideways glance at Jonty; they were both aware of the consequences of such a course of action.

“What happens next I will leave to you, but I believe the truth must be served, whatever the circumstances.” Wilson stared into his empty cup, as if he might find some desperate criminal hidden under one of the stray tea leaves at the bottom.

“Had the lady any family? Papa and Mama would be useful in gaining information about and from them, I’d warrant.” Jonty had his pencil ready to take down the names.

“She’d been widowed these last ten years, but she has a son, Sir Laurence Johnson—he’s been travelling in Egypt with his bride and was contacted with the sad news as soon as possible. Otherwise there is a sort of cousin who acted as companion, a Miss Lynette Jordan, and she was at the hotel at the time. Those are the only close kin. You’ll be able to see both of them in Kent, I hope.”

“Are there any enemies spoken of?” Jonty had little hope that some threatening letter or wronged acquaintance might turn up and make life easy. In his growing experience, nothing about murder was straightforward and the only constant between their cases was that Orlando would try to seduce him at every opportunity. The thought that the chances for such fun would be rather limited this time around made him suddenly sad. Finding opportunities to be together would present just as much of a challenge as the solving of the case.

“Lady Jennifer doesn’t seem to have made enemies, or so the initial gossip has it. But the fact remains that someone must have disliked her enough to kill her in cold blood—if this is murder—and we need to find out everything we possibly can about what’s been going on down at Pegwell Bay.” Wilson fixed Orlando with an intent but kindly gaze, like a headmaster outlining his expectations of a pupil’s performance in an entrance examination. Orlando wouldn’t let the policeman down. “Now, we have to find you an alias.”

“An alias? Why?”

“Oh, for goodness sake.” Jonty punched his friend’s arm. “If I can’t hide my face you can’t hide your name. Coppersmith is becoming a bit too well known, with all those newspaper reports of our detective prowess. Here.” He fetched a dictionary of names from the bookshelf.

What seemed like hundreds of names and their meanings were consulted, but the intended bearer rejected every one of them as inapt.

Jonty soon lost patience. “What about Duncan Disorderly or Ivor Grumpyface?”

“Don’t be stupid.” Orlando ignored all the suggestions, even when they verged on the obscene. “I rather like the name Hugh.”

Jonty couldn’t hide an enormous grin. “I can think of lots of surnames which would work well with that. What about Jamp…” Before he was allowed to divulge any more he was unceremoniously bundled out of the room and not allowed to return until he could be sensible.

Wilson suggested they use the initials O.C. “It would mean any monogrammed articles won’t seem out of place and you might have more of a chance of remembering to respond to it.”

“Oliver Carberry.” Orlando put down books and notepad. “That’s a name I could use.”

“Oliver Carberry it is.” Wilson made a careful note. “Now, you should travel to Kent as soon as possible—probably tomorrow—and have a day or two to settle in as the new dancing partner, escort, or whatever smart title they bestow upon you.”

“And you can assure us that this Agnew is beyond all suspicion of murder?” Jonty had been looking through the police report again. “We can’t have Mr. Carberry walking into the lion’s den.”

“White as snow. He was staying with the chief constable of the county the night in question. We’ve had him party to the plan from the start and we’ve turned his scepticism around. He sees it would be much better to have respectable persons, albeit ones incognito, conducting the investigations rather than clodhopping policemen getting into everything and upsetting the guests.” Wilson knew the value of maintaining the hotel’s reputation. “Once Oliver Carberry is ensconced and beginning to make headway, you can arrive, with your father.”

“Then the fun can really begin.” Jonty rubbed his hands in anticipation. “And I suppose you’ve some strange lines of communication established as neither of us can be in touch directly with Orlando.”

“And I daren’t talk directly to the police.”

“It’s all in hand, gentlemen.” Wilson rose to take his leave.

Jonty began to be excited at all these little aspects of the case. He loved subterfuge and playing games so the whole thing struck him as enormous fun. Only when he looked at Orlando, to find him casting a peculiar longing glance in his direction, did the glamour begin to wear off things. They would be apart but together, close but not intimate, able to talk but not in any depth, separated socially and physically. Most importantly of all, not able to kiss or touch, and this status quo would remain until the end of the case.

Suddenly, playing at detectives didn’t seem such an attractive prospect.

Lessons in Trust #7
White City, London, 1908
“If you think I’m going up on that thing…” Orlando Coppersmith looked at the great metal creation. It seemed to reach up miles into the sky, higher than the Eiffel Tower or anything he’d ever seen. Even though the measurements, the beautifully accurate and logical measurements, meant it couldn’t be as high as he perceived it was, his eyes wouldn’t believe his brain.

“Why not?” Jonty Stewart’s eyes were ablaze with awe and wonder. “Everyone goes on the Flip Flap.”

“I’m not everyone.” Orlando knew all about his lover’s delight in bell towers, follies, any high places which gave panoramic views. “Anyway, you’ll be sick.” It was a feeble, inaccurate shot, inevitably missing its target.

“I’m never sick. Sorry.” A wide grin crossed Jonty’s handsome face, attracting the attention of two passing maidens. He raised his hat to them and carried on blithely, “I correct myself. I was once sick when some idiot took me on a helter-skelter two hours after a sporting dinner at St. Bride’s, but that was when I was a mere stripling.” No fellow of such an august Cambridge college was going to admit that he’d also been horribly ill just three years previously, after sledging with his nephew down a snow-covered hill. That was before he’d met Orlando and therefore both pre-historic and confidential.

“I’ll be sick.”

“Ah. Good point. I’ll never forget the ferry crossing to Jersey.” Jonty looked crestfallen, so disappointed at thwarted ambition that it knocked any argument out of Orlando’s mind.

“Oh, blow it. Let’s go on the thing then.” It was worth suffering just to see the delight on his friend’s face. “And if I’m sick I’ll do it in your hat.”

The Flip Flap. Everyone was talking about it, even the people who hadn’t yet been to the Franco-British exhibition at the great White City which was the talk of the country. There were songs about it in the music halls and Ella Retford wasn’t the only one singing “Take me on the Flip Flap”. Jonty and Orlando had heard a group of youths warbling it just the day before as they’d been wandering down Regent Street. Even Jonty’s father had been on the contraption, becoming so loquacious about his experience that Mrs. Stewart had been forced to have words. “I told your father, Jonathan,” she’d addressed her youngest son so loudly over the telephone that Orlando had been able to hear from the other side of the hall, “that if he doesn’t shut up, I’ll be filing for divorce and naming the Flip Flap as co-respondent.” Much to her dismay that conversation had made Jonty decide he and his lover had to visit the White City as soon as possible to see for themselves.

Orlando had been reluctant despite Mr. Stewart’s glowing reports. He’d seen Paris and been stunned by both the simpering Mona Lisa and the oddly masculine Venus de Milo. He’d strolled through Monte Carlo, as urbane a boulevardier as if he’d been born to the role, or at least a good imitation of one. Why should he want to see imitations of glory when he’d encountered the real thing? The unanswerable argument was that Jonty wanted to see these things and what Jonty wanted, he got. The dunderheads had gone home from the university, back to families who would be astounded by their brains even if Cambridge wasn’t, and the long vac stretched ahead, full of promise. And a visit to the White City could incorporate a visit to the Stewarts’ London home, which would brighten anyone’s summer.

So they were here, in the Court of Honour, Orlando with his eyes as wide as a child’s, taking in the sights. He was pleased the skies were slightly overcast, certain he would have been overwhelmed if the white buildings had been in full sunlight, dazzling against a piercing blue background. Dull white against hazy blue-grey made the whole thing manageable. It was still astounding. He knew it wasn’t real, just a form of structural prestidigitation, wood and concrete and plaster creating a wonderful illusion of buildings which had stood since time immemorial. It wasn’t the Louvre, or Sacre Coeur, but it was magnificent.

“Flip Flap it is, then I’m off to look at the jewellery.” Orlando picked up his pace.

“Jewellery? Isn’t that coming it a bit effete?” Jonty’s blue eyes were alive with excitement. “I thought you’d be dragging me off to the Machinery Hall to look at the lift turbines or whatever it was Father was getting in such a state about.”

“I’ll get round to them eventually, but I think I’ll be needing something a bit lighter and less taxing than mechanical contraptions after going up in that thing.” Orlando pointed towards the Flip Flap, visions going through his mind of being dragged off to the scenic railway and any other pleasure rides Jonty could find before he’d be allowed a sniff of something like a nice noisy engine or a big gun.

“There’s plenty of time to do it all. We can stay late tonight and see the lights then come back tomorrow and the next day. You’ll be satiated.” Jonty’s walk was almost a series of dance steps, the obvious excitement he felt bubbling into all parts of his being. “Imagine that.” He lowered his voice. “You, satiated. Wonders will never cease.”

Wonders certainly didn’t cease over the rest of the day. It would have been impossible for anyone to tread the paths and bridges of the White City and not feel all their senses being assaulted. The magnificence of the buildings, the press of people, the sheer volume of sights and sounds and information—it would have exhausted lesser men. But the fellows of St. Bride’s were made of sterner stuff and no Palace of Fine Arts was going to defeat them nor any exhibition of education be allowed to bore them.

They stopped for a late lunch, glad to rest weary feet and take a break from endless exclamations of, “Have you seen that?” or “Isn’t this amazing?”

“Mother will kill me, but I’ll have to side with Father.” Jonty placed an order for a chop, some new potatoes and a little salad—a light meal just in case the scenic railway was to be attempted again, but enough to sustain a man through an afternoon of seeing the sights. “It’s extraordinary. Like having the whole world in your back yard.”

“It’s certainly an interesting way of seeing things, even though I have to keep reminding myself it’s not authentic.” Orlando poured a reviving drink of water. He wasn’t going to risk alcohol in view of Jonty’s eagerness to be on the rides again.

“Even Father admits it’s all a bit unreal here, although he felt that was half the appeal. Like the theatre—you know that fairy can’t be flying across the stage but you suspend disbelief. It’s magical.” Jonty swept his arm around. “And, if we can get around all of it, there’ll be all sorts of places you can tick off your list for future holidays as you’ll have already ‘done them’.”

Orlando grinned at the shared joke. For years he’d been reluctant to travel farther than one of the outlying Cambridge colleges. “You mean I won’t have to be dragged to Australia if I visit their exhibition hall? That sounds splendid. I wish all travel could be as simple.” He settled into his chair in pleasurable anticipation of steak, new potatoes and peas, although whether the meat would be as good as that which Mrs. Ward, their housekeeper, regularly roused out from their butcher, he wasn’t sure. That was another thing about spreading one’s wings and taking to pastures new—you couldn’t guarantee the quality of the nosebags’ contents.

“You know what would make this even better? Seems sinful to want it, but…” Jonty shrugged.

“I know. I’d feel guilty if it came about, of course I would, although I wouldn’t complain.” A look passed between them, the years of closeness bringing about a form of communication that no longer needed words. They’d reached the point where looks and some sort of telepathy built of familiarity sufficed. “Been a long time.”

Murder. Mystery. Anything which presented a problem and let a man get his wits around solving it. The last time they’d had anything really worthy of their skills had been the autumn of 1907, and the year before that had been full of unexplained killings to be solved. Since then they’d barely got a sniff of a case, certainly not any they’d like to take on. There’d been a stream of correspondence addressed to Drs. Coppersmith and Stewart, Detectives, St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, which had galled Orlando and made the porters snigger. There had been times he’d been grateful for the notoriety produced by Mr. Stewart’s article in the Times about their sleuthing—it had helped in more than one case. But when the letters began to trickle in, asking for help in finding missing husbands or getting to the bottom of whether Granny really had been poisoned for her savings in 1873, he’d been increasingly annoyed.

They’d responded to them all with polite refusals—Jonty took charge of that, his lover not to be trusted in case he made some caustic remark in the process. One poor soul had written that they’d already been in contact with Mr. Holmes but to no avail and now they were turning from Baker Street to Cambridge. Orlando had wanted to take the first train to Manchester, where this unfortunate correspondent lived, and upbraid him on his own doorstep. Whether he’d taken umbrage at being compared to the dreaded Sherlock or whether it was because he’d been turned to second, not first, Jonty wasn’t sure, but he’d almost had to lock Orlando away to prevent him being a murderer himself rather than a catcher of them.

Other than that it had been a nice enough and highly productive time. Jonty had got his book on the sonnets proofread and published, and Orlando had been doing some excellent work both on Boolean algebra and for his grandmother’s fund for brilliant but impoverished students. All worthwhile, all—along with teaching in college and doing further work on their cottage and garden—enough to keep them busy, although something had been lacking. And while it felt wrong to be actively hoping a corpse would somehow appear and the police would be so baffled they’d have to call the two amateurs in, Orlando was beginning to feel desperate, worried he’d never feel the thrill of that particular chase again.

Jonty could quite happily have gone another twelvemonth without a killer to catch, especially after the emotional traumas of the last few cases, but he hated to see his lover unhappy. Especially on such a glorious summer’s day as this.

“Maybe they’ll find my father dead at the foot of the scenic railway.” Jonty took a swig of beer. “No, belay that, I’d hate to see the old chap go. Perhaps he could just be found beaten up—nothing too serious, nothing worse than the sort of thing you’d get from a nasty scrum—and you could solve who’d done the ghastly deed.”

Orlando laid down his glass of water, rolled his eyes and gave his lover a withering look. “I suppose studying Shakespeare doesn’t require an ability to think logically. There’d be nothing to investigate. If your father was found here in a state of disarray, the culprit would clearly be your mother, fed up with his obsession with the place. Like everyone would know it was me who’d done it, if you were found strangled with a pair of driving goggles.”

“And why would you want to kill me, my dearest friend and colleague?” Jonty thought he could guess the answer, but it was fun riling his lover.

“Because of it. The great metal monster.” Orlando looked as if murder really was about to be committed and Jonty was pleased to see the arrival of the waiter with their order. He deftly turned the conversation to other things, like whether rump was a tastier cut than sirloin and why vegetables always tasted better when they came out of your own garden. It was by far the safest route to take.

Fires stoked up for the work ahead, they started off around the exhibition again, admiring a picture here, sampling a glass of champagne there, buying a box of chocolates to take home for their hostess. Their enthusiasm never palled, even if there were no dead bodies in the offing. By the time the illuminations began to twinkle over the lake in the gloaming, Orlando was stifling yawns.

“Think we’ve done enough for today, old man.” Jonty clapped him on the shoulder. “There’s always tomorrow.”

Orlando nodded. “Aye. I think I’ve had an ample sufficiency today. I need a good night’s sleep to ready myself for another dose.” He looked around, the lights’ reflections dancing in his dark eyes. “I’m so glad we came. Now for the journey home.” He drew himself up to his full height, as if about to face the executioner.

From the first time they’d met, nearly three years previously, Orlando had been prone to dramatic moments, rolling his eyes for emphasis and generally overacting when cross at something his lover or the dunderheads of students had done. When he’d had to mark a particularly useless set of algebra exercises, his eyes would almost disappear around the back of his head. He was at his most theatrical now.

“For goodness sake, it’ll be fine. Nice fresh air—better than being stuck with the hordes of humanity on the train.” Jonty tugged on his arm. “Come on, Mama will be waiting for us with coffee and port.”

“I’ll need both.” Orlando gave another roll of his eyes, shuddered and trudged towards the exit.

Any decent human beings would have arrived at the White City by underground railway, alighting from the Central London line at Wood Lane and joining the masses as they headed for the exhibition. But Jonty Stewart wasn’t, as Orlando often averred, a decent human being. He might have been an angel in a very effective disguise, or an overgrown cherub who’d lost his wings and his way, but in the matter of his uncivilised—as far as Orlando was concerned—humanity, he was unique. They’d arrived at the White City in a motor car, Jonty’s brand new Lagonda, or, as he told people interminably, his six-cylinder, twenty-horsepower Torpedo. It was black, sleek, shiny, beautiful, and Orlando hated it.

He knew it was stupid, feeling so jealous of a car, but jealous he was. Ever since it had arrived, Jonty had seemed to lavish huge amounts of praise and affection on it, affection which by rights belonged to Dr. O. Coppersmith alone. He polished and buffed it, soothed and caressed it. Orlando wouldn’t have been surprised if Jonty would have liked to spend his nights curled up in the thing, caressing its curves and lines in his dreams, as he often caressed his lover’s. For two months it had been polluting a small piece of hard standing at Forsythia Cottage, their little home up the Madingley Road, far enough from the dunderheads to make it a haven of peace and refinement.

At least it had been a haven until the metal monster had arrived, and there was still no sign of Jonty tiring of it and sending it off to the scrap yard or some other place where it deserved to be. If it hadn’t presented a risk to his lover’s life, Orlando would have been happy to see the Lagonda in a ditch, a twisted and tormented lump of steel or whatever Godforsaken stuff they used to make such things.

He had been forced out in it, of course, more than once—and once should have been enough for any man with a speck of decency about him. Now he’d been dragged through London in the monster, a city in which the natural way to travel was foot, horse-drawn cab or railway. And he was having to process back through the city to the Stewarts’ home, hiding his face in case he was seen by any eminent mathematicians from the capital’s seats of learning.

“Well, what did we think of it?” Richard Stewart must have been watching from the window, given the speed with which he’d opened the front door. Perhaps he’d even barged Hopkins the butler out of the way en route. The man was bouncing on his toes like a big schoolboy, just like Jonty did when excitement overcame him.

“Wonderful, Papa. Everything you said it would be and more.” Jonty took off his gloves and goggles, laying them on the little lacquered table where they might send out a siren call to his father. If Mr. Stewart wanted to convert his son to the glories of the Anglo-French exhibition, then his son wanted to reciprocate by getting him interested in motoring.

“You went on the Flip Flap?” Mr. Stewart’s eyes were aglow.

“Richard!” Mrs. Stewart’s voice cut through the air like a sabre through butter. “What are we not to mention in this house?”

“Tell me later,” Mr. Stewart whispered as his wife swept into the hall and scooped up her favourite boys.

Mrs. Stewart must have been stunning in her youth—the portraits on the stairs were evidence of it—and even in late middle age she was striking, silvery gold hair and blue eyes mirroring her son’s colouration. She and her husband still turned plenty of heads, not all of them mature.

Supper was excellent, as it always was when Jonty’s parents entertained: smoked salmon, lightly scrambled eggs, tiny tomatoes sweeter than honey, all washed down with champagne. As they ate, Orlando waxed lyrical about the sights they’d seen, allowed much more leeway to praise the exhibition than his almost-father-in-law was clearly allowed. But then he avoided all mention of a certain ride which took you up in the air and left your stomach on terra firma.

“And you’ll go back tomorrow?” Mrs. Stewart scooped up the last bit of her egg onto a piece of toast.

“Certainly. We’ve not covered the half of it, not properly, anyway.” Jonty wiped his mouth on the thick damask napkin. “Will you come with us?”

“I would love to, my dear, but there’s a meeting I must attend. My fund for unfortunate girls. Maybe another time?”

“Helena!” Mr. Stewart smote the table. “I’ve offered on four occasions to take you to the White City and every one of them you’ve refused to even consider.”

“That’s because you’re not Orlando, Papa. Mama wants him to squire her around the site so that all the other women will look and be jealous.” Jonty cast a sidelong glance at his mother, who was wearing an unusually demure expression. “Or is it the lure of the car?”

“It might be nice to be taken for a little drive…” Mrs. Stewart’s ears turned a delicate shade of pink. “It’s such a fine machine—very comfortable-looking and with such beautiful upholstery.”

“Oh, Mrs. Stewart, not you too.” Orlando would have put his head in his hands if such a gesture wouldn’t risk being told off for having his elbows on the table. “Is there no one in the world who isn’t smitten by these awful contraptions? Has everyone—” he was about to say lost their sanity but the vision of being strung up by his bootstraps from the Stewarts’ lintel forestalled him. “Has everyone got to be besotted with them?”

“I can’t say I see the appeal, Orlando.” Mr. Stewart raised his hand to silence any dissent from wife or son before he’d had his say. “I don’t mind a nice journey on a train or a steamship—there’s grandeur for you, and science in action, applied for the benefit of mankind. But automobiles…” His face looked like he’d found something unpleasant on his boot.

“Richard.” Mrs. Stewart didn’t raise her voice to the volume she normally applied to an argument. It was all the more chilling for its measured tone. “Jonathan has always been a forward-thinking young man, and I’d like to think myself a woman whose mind and spirit are younger than her contemporaries. I’d be delighted to embrace the twentieth century and go for a ride.”

“That’s the spirit, Mama. At the first mutually convenient moment I’ll make sure you get your heart’s desire. Not like some old fuddy-duddies I could mention.” Jonty looked sideways at his father. “And make sure you get Papa to buy you a suitable outfit. A nice coat and skirt, lightweight but warm, a new hat and a dashing scarf to tie said hat on would be a good start.”

“I’ll call in at the milliner’s on the way home from my meeting—the sooner I’m kitted out the better.” Mrs. Stewart looked more like a schoolgirl contemplating her first ball than a respectable grandmother. “Now, are there any rules I’ll have to know? Will I need to join the Automobile Association as you have?”

“How did you know about that?” Orlando had never before been quite so bold with his almost-mother-in-law but the situation was reaching crisis point.

“I inspected that handsome badge on the—is it called the grille, dear?”

“That’s right, Mama. But you won’t need to join, not as a passenger. I only became a member to…” Jonty hesitated, “…to be a responsible driver and learn about keeping the Lagonda in decent nick.”

Orlando could stand the half truths no longer. He appealed to Caesar, in the venerable form of Mr. Stewart. “Do you want to know why your son joined the Automobile Association? It’s nothing to do with being a considerate driver and it’s certainly nothing to do with maintaining that…that…monster. It’s so he can be warned about the police speed traps.”

“No, it isn’t.” Jonty’s reddened cheeks gave the instant lie to his words. “Well, not entirely. And you have to admit that would be useful, if we wanted a jaunt down to Brighton. You wouldn’t want me to be caught by the constabulary, would you, Papa? Wouldn’t do the old reputation any good. Now, what would you say to Brighton, Mama? Fancy a spot of sea air?”

“That sounds lovely.” Mrs. Stewart turned her head, as sharp as any schoolmistress to the hint of a snort. “I heard that, Orlando. Don’t you appreciate the seaside?”

Orlando snorted again. “I always welcome the sea air, but the proper way to get there is in a train. Somehow the combination of your son, the open road and that machine seems like pure chaos. I get a headache just thinking about it.” He adopted his best lecturing-to-the-dunderheads tones. “I can see it now. ‘My lords’—he’d have to be tried by them, no ordinary jury could cope with him—‘I strongly believe that Dr. Stewart should never be permitted around anything both mechanical and more complicated than a pocket watch. The threat to public safety is too great. I have done the calculations.’” Orlando waved his napkin in lieu of the papers he’d have to exhibit in the House of Lords.

“Hear, hear.” Mr. Stewart, who was entitled to sit in the House of Lords but couldn’t be bothered to stoop so low, applauded.

“Please don’t encourage him, I’ve had weeks of this.” Jonty’s handsome face was screwed up in mock agony. “Still, if he doesn’t want to walk all the way tomorrow, he’ll have to swallow his pride—and his calculations—and get into the passenger seat.” A sly look crossed his face. “Maybe you could learn to drive, Orlando. It’s very logical, you know, almost a mathematical process. You’d take to it like a duck to water, just like you did with punting.”

“At least if I drove and you were just the passenger, there’d be less risk of killing the entire population of London.” Orlando drew himself up in his chair, changing his expression to the one he used for addressing particularly stupid undergraduates. “I wouldn’t need to fear any policemen as I wouldn’t be going too fast.”

“I don’t believe that for a moment. Not once you’d got the bit between your teeth. And don’t you think he’d look so handsome in a driving hat and goggles? Ow—no kicking.” Jonty rubbed his shin. “He kicked me under the table, Mama, just like Clarence used to do.”

“Then, like Clarence, he’ll have to go to bed.” Mrs. Stewart grinned. She’d sent them to bed before, even though both were nearly thirty at the time. And she considered neither of them too old for a whack on the backside. “Go on, off to bed. The pair of you. And separate rooms.”

“Your mother said separate rooms.” Orlando struggled into his nightgown, which seemed to be fighting back tonight. Perhaps it needed a kick and being sent upstairs, although upstairs from his room would mean it spending the night in the servants’ quarters.

He’d never have coped with such a bold remark being made to him a few years ago. Now he was either inured to other people—selected others—knowing about his relationship with Jonty, or he didn’t care. He still marvelled at the Stewarts being so understanding. His own parents would have sent him packing if they’d known that he and Jonty lay together, and not content with just a despatch to some far-flung part of the Empire, they’d have probably informed the police en route. The scandal could never have been borne, the Coppersmith name had to be protected.

Funny how the Stewart name, much more eminent, had managed to find itself untarnished, but then the Stewarts would never have reported their son for being in love. They’d even somehow managed to maintain, without actually lying, the belief amongst their social circle that Jonty would remain a confirmed bachelor only until the right girl came along. She was just taking a long time coming.

“I’ve only come in to say goodnight.” Jonty draped himself over the fireside chair. “And to show you the bruise on my shin.” He hitched up his trouser leg to reveal an elegant calf.

“That’s dirt from the scenic railway. And you deserved a kick for the me-in-goggles remark. I suppose you imagine me doing all the hard work behind the wheel and yourself sitting there in the passenger seat, looking attractive in a long buff coat and some rakish hat.” Orlando let out a sigh.

“Sitting and looking pretty is one of my most notable accomplishments.” Jonty’s sprawling posture confirmed his words—even just lazing in a chair looking insolent he was alluring. “I’ll wear that blue scarf Mama gave me, the one which matches my eyes. I’ll have to eschew goggles for the occasion as they’ll obscure the natural beauty of my gaze.” He sprang up, stabbing his lover in the chest with a particularly sharp finger. “And I heard that remark. You need to learn to whisper a little less loudly. I’ll give you ‘vanity, thy name is Stewart’. Don’t you think I’d look dashing in my scarf and hat getup though? I’d say I’d turn quite a few heads—you would, too, in some smart cap set at a jaunty angle on those curls.” Jonty ruffled the items concerned.

“I wouldn’t let you out on the road, passenger or not, if you weren’t wearing goggles. You’d get a piece of grit in your eye and make yourself blind.”

“I’m glad you take such care of my health.” Jonty slid his hand along his lover’s arm. “Old softy.”

“No such thing. I’m less concerned for your health than mine. If you ended up losing the sight of one eye, your mother would flay me alive.” Orlando pressed his lover’s hand, rubbing the flesh on the knuckles. “Seriously, get her to find you something in brass or some such outlandish material, whatever’s the height of fashion among the nobility who drive these wretched things. But please look after yourself.”

“Don’t I always?” They took a long embrace, a goodnight kiss which turned into a series of kisses. “Separate beds tonight. A long time since we’ve done that.”

“Maybe it’s as well. If I want to have energy enough for the Flip Flap tomorrow.” Orlando slapped his lover’s backside and shooed him towards the door.

“The Flip Flap again? You’re getting as bad as Papa.” Jonty turned his lover’s face to the light. “There are even times you look like the old man.” He ruffled Orlando’s hair. “More jungle here though, rather than desert wastes.”

“My father had a fine head of hair. Right to the end.” Orlando swallowed hard. There were times it didn’t hurt to refer to his family, many of them since he’d met Jonty and learned to be happy, but this wasn’t one of them. For some reason—maybe his lover’s flippant remark, maybe being in a house so awash with joy—he couldn’t help feeling melancholy at the memory of the Coppersmiths.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have been so frivolous.” Jonty took one last kiss. “See you in the morning.”

Orlando turned off the light and lay in bed, but sleep seemed very elusive tonight. His thoughts were filled with his mother and father, whom he’d loved and who’d not known how to love their son in return. And his grandmother, who’d been the light of his young life. And of a little boy who still didn’t really understand why there had been such a knot of pain, kept hidden, but clear in its effect, within the Coppersmith family.

All Lessons Learned #8
High Table was excellent as always and coffee back in the SCR was almost as good as the stuff Matthew had tasted in Boston with Rex. “I didn’t think you could get coffee like this in England. Camp Coffee seems to be the standard fayre and that’s hardly worth the effort of putting in the hot water.”

“Might as well drink diluted shoe polish,” Orlando agreed, with a smile. “The world’s changing, Mr. Ainslie, and I’m not sure I like the way it’s turning out.” Outside the security of his study they were back to surnames, just as it had always been his custom with Jonty. They wouldn’t change things, especially now the driving force for change had gone. “Goodnight, Dr. Panesar.” Orlando waved a greeting as the man in question departed, grinning madly as he dragged a poor unsuspecting guest off to the labs to show him his latest heap of metal masquerading as a technological breakthrough.

“He was on good form tonight. Certainly lights this place up.” Matthew tipped his head towards the other occupants of the SCR, only half a dozen remaining now and three of those apparently asleep.

“Aye, Panesar keeps this college alive at times. All the rest seem to have descended into semi-torpor.” Just so must life in St. Bride’s have been prior to 1905.

The comparative solitude gave the opportunity to speak more openly than usual in this room. “Why did you sign up for the army? You were doing such a worthwhile job already in Room 40.”

“Worthwhile? I suppose it must have been. It was certainly safe, if you’re really asking why anyone should turn up a cushy number in search of a surefire way of getting himself killed.” Orlando couldn’t hide the bitterness in his voice.

“I’m not asking that. It just occurred to me that your brain was maybe more usefully employed doing things that only men of your intelligence could do.”

“As opposed to being cannon-fodder like any other man with two arms and two legs and who cares how much brain?” Orlando frowned, passing his hand over his face. “I’m sorry, that was uncalled for. Your argument’s a fair one and I had it put to me on more than one occasion. How best to serve my country and all that.” He closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead as if soothing away the years. “Too many of them had died, Mr. Ainslie. My students. Did you know the Stewarts turned the Manor into a sort of hospital-cum-convalescent home? Opened the doors to a stream of soldiers—not just officers, other ranks as well—who needed some peace and quiet and care. My Italian sort-of-cousin took charge of the medical side and Mrs. Stewart was quartermistress.”

“Ah, the Italian connection.” Matthew grinned. “I saw the Baron Artigiano del Rame in The Times recently, taking over as chairman of Mrs. Stewart’s charity for—what did she call them? Unfortunate girls.”

“That’s the one.” Orlando couldn’t hide his pride in the family he’d never known he had, not until he was a grown man. “They’ve become quite pally, the houses of Coppersmith—Italian version—and Stewart. There’ll be an intermarriage with one of the latest batch of offspring, no doubt. One of Paolo’s girls and young George Broad is where the smart money lies.” Shame the really great love match between the two families could never have been officially recognised.

“Do you see a lot of them?”

“Not as much as I should, I suppose. I like them, don’t get me wrong, and they’ve welcomed me beyond all I could have hoped for, but it’s not like it was with the Stewarts.” Once experienced, nothing could compare to that family’s love and generosity.

“The hospital at the Manor…” Matthew brought the conversation back before the silence became awkward.

“Of course. I went down and visited one of my ex-students there.” Orlando shuddered in remembrance. “Physically it looked as if nothing had touched him and his mathematical capabilities were all still there, better than most of my dunderheads. But something had snapped inside him.”

Matthew nodded. “Never to be put together, no matter what any of the king’s horses or men could do?”

“It was that visit which made up my mind for me. How could I sit in a safe little room playing with letters and numbers when young men I’d had in my study trying to understand vectors, were being sacrificed? Little more than boys, who’d not seen anything of life, some of them.”

“So young.” Matthew shook his head, staring into his coffee cup. So many fresh faced lads he’d seen, passing through on their way to the front, enthusiastic and emboldened. He’d seen a few of them passing back—broken shells, bare remnants of humanity.

“So many.” The silence of the SCR was broken only by a murmuring from the other end of the room, one whispered conversation and the droning of gentle snores. “We had to go. We couldn’t not go, in all conscience.”

“At least you didn’t have to lie about your ages.”

“We’d have only had to if we’d been quick off the mark. By 1916, they weren’t so choosy.”

“I wish they’d been more scrupulous. Dear God, some of the lads I saw looked no more than schoolboys.” Such meticulous and painstaking checking there’d been at some of the recruitment centres, such desperation to get bodies into the system. Seventeen, did you say? Go out and come back in and then answer the question again, there’s a good man. Babes in arms, literally.

“There were times I didn’t think there’d be one of us left standing.”

“I still can’t believe I’ll never see Mrs. Stewart again. Oh, I’m sorry.” Matthew worried whether he’d overstepped the line, if the pain of bereavement was still too close for anything more than formal expressions of condolence. Orlando’s face suggested too much hurt still lingered.

“No, please talk about them. So few people do talk of the dead.” Orlando managed an unexpected smile. “A world without Mrs. Stewart’s kind heart seems a much colder place. She meant a great deal to me.”

“I saw the obituaries in the papers, although they didn’t do either of their subjects justice.” Matthew drew out his wallet. “I kept the clippings, just in case you wanted them and hadn’t been able to get hold of the newspapers. I’ll understand if you would find them too painful.”

Orlando put out his hand, which was shaking slightly. “I’d appreciate them very much, thank you.” He took the little pieces of paper without reading them, putting them in his notebook for later scrutiny. Perhaps.

“It was the flu, they said, that took both of them. Or complications following it.” Matthew slipped his wallet back into his inside pocket, the action giving him time to choose his words. “The newspapers weren’t very clear.”

“Lavinia said they’d made a bit of a mess of things, one of the so-called correspondents getting all the details wrong. There was quite a stir, I believe, among the family.” Orlando studied his hands. “I wish I’d been here to help, to clear up the mess. I felt so bloody helpless, miles from anyone.”

The uncharacteristic swearing—especially in the SCR—the equally uncharacteristic baring of the Coppersmith soul, took Matthew aback. Still, it was understandable. He had Rex to tell his troubles to, if the occasion arose, but Orlando hadn’t a confidante in all the world, except for him.

“The news shook me up pretty badly. God knows, I saw enough death out there, but that…” he ran his hands through his hair, “…that was almost the last straw. Something snapped inside me.”

Matthew held his tongue. There’d been at least one occasion in the past when things had snapped, when things had overwhelmed Orlando to the extent he’d upped sticks and left, leaving Jonty and his family bereft and desperate to find their prodigal.

“I volunteered for a mission from which I didn’t expect to return.” Orlando raised his hand to prevent any interruption. “I was an idiot, I know. And apparently they didn’t expect me to return, either. Missing, presumed dead, that’s what everyone was told.”

“Couldn’t you get word back?”

“I did as soon as I could. Trouble is I was out for the count for a fortnight. I woke up in a German hospital and couldn’t even remember who I was for the first few days. Lost a lot of blood, with it.” Orlando passed his hand over his eyes, in remembrance of the previous time he’d lost his memory. Some mysterious part of his brain seemed inclined to shut down when it decided he needed protecting. “It seemed to take forever to get word back that I was still alive. It must have been the October of last year.”

Matthew waited as Orlando gathered himself again. He knew what it was like to lose someone you loved to a violent death, but for loss to have piled upon loss… No wonder something “had snapped”. Maybe it could never be repaired.

“I’m sorry, I sound like some snivelling child.”

“That’s fine, old man. God knows it doesn’t bother me.” Matthew reached into his pocket again. It was time for decisive action. “This may not be the opportune moment, but I’ve got something here—I’d be grateful if you could cast your eye, and your mind, over it.” He produced an envelope, which he put in Orlando’s shaking hand.

The effect was better than he’d hoped, his friend showing an instant, if slightly grave interest in the letter the envelope held. “It’s from Collingwood.” The genuine note of curiosity in Orlando’s voice was a good sign. “Isn’t he retired by now?”

“Do solicitors ever retire? He keeps his hand in, for favoured clients. He remembered the time you helped us and he wanted to turn to you again.” Matthew was heartened by the glint in his friend’s eye, one he hadn’t seen there for a long time. “If you’re still willing to take a commission.”

“Willing?” Orlando turned the letter in his hands, as if he was trying to remember what a commission might entail, why it was being brought to him. He smiled, suddenly and unexpectedly. “Of course I will. It’ll give me something to live for, Mr. Ainslie. I thought I would never have that feeling again.”

Lessons for Survivors #9
Cambridge, 1919
Chapter One
“Stand still.”

“I am standing still.”

“You aren’t. You’re jiggling about like a cat after a pigeon.” Jonty Stewart made a final adjustment to Orlando Coppersmith’s tie, then stood back to admire his efforts. “I think that’s passable.”

“You should wear your glasses, then you wouldn’t have to go back so far. You can’t use that old excuse about your arms getting shorter so you have to hold the paper farther away.” Orlando turned to the mirror, the better to appreciate the perfectly tied knot. “Faultless. Thank you.”

The hallway of Forsythia Cottage benefited from the full strength of the morning sun through the windows and fanlight, enough for even the vainest creatures to check every inch of their appearance in the mirror before they sauntered out onto Madingley Road. Still, what would the inhabitants of Cambridge say to see either Jonty or Orlando less than immaculate, especially on a day such as this?

“It’s as well you had me here to help, or else you’d have disgraced yourself and St. Bride’s with it.” Jonty smiled, picking at his friend’s jacket. If there were any specks on it, Orlando had to know they were far too small for Jonty to see without his glasses. “I’m so proud of you. Professor Coppersmith. It will have a lovely ring to it.”

Orlando nodded enthusiastically, sending a dark curl springing rebelliously up, a curl that needed to be immediately flattened, although even the Brilliantine he employed recognised it was fighting a losing battle.

His hair might have been distinctly salt and pepper, but he was still handsome, lean but not angular, nor running to fat like some of his contemporaries. He’d turned forty when the Great War still had a year to run, so there was a while yet before he hit the half century. Jonty was a year closer to that milestone and never allowed to forget it. “I won’t believe it until I see the first letter addressed to me by that title.”

“Conceit, thy name is Coppersmith.” Jonty nudged his friend aside and attended to his own tie. Silver threads lay among his own ruddy-gold hair now, and the blue eyes were framed with fine lines. He knew he could still turn a few heads and young women told him he was handsome. If the young women concerned were his nieces . . . well, that didn’t invalidate their opinions.

Orlando snorted. “Conceit? That’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.” He slicked back his hair again, frowning.

“You seem unusually pensive, even for the new Forster Professor of Mathematics.” Jonty stopped his grooming, turned, and drew his hand down Orlando’s face, remapping familiar territory. Coppersmith and Stewart. Stewart and Coppersmith. They went together like Holmes and Watson, Hero and Leander, or strawberries and cream. Colleagues, friends, lovers, and amateur detectives, they were partners in every aspect of their lives, and neither of them entirely sure whether the detection or the intimacy was the most dangerous part.

“I was just thinking how sad it is that neither your parents nor my grandmother are here today.” Orlando fiddled with his tiepin, at which Jonty slapped his hand away and straightened the offending object once more.

“Leave that alone. I’d only just got it right.” Jonty stuffed a hat into Orlando’s hands—not the one he was going to wear today, but one he could twist nervously to his heart’s content, with no damage done. “Perhaps it’s as well they’re not here for your inaugural lecture. They might have had to put on a magnificent act to cover their boredom. Computable numbers? Hardly the stuff of gripping entertainment.” Jonty smiled, trying to keep his lover’s spirits up. He knew how deeply Orlando still felt the horrible series of losses he’d suffered during the years of the Great War.

So many people he’d been close to, now gone; it had left a gap in his life that Jonty knew even he couldn’t entirely fill. Not that, as Orlando swore, he loved Jonty any the less—nor, as Orlando frequently said, was there any less of him to love. The reports of the college veterans’ rugby matches still referred to him as a little ball of muscle, and Orlando said he was beautiful beyond the power of words or numbers—even imaginary ones—to describe. Both of which were nice, if perhaps biased, compliments.

“Thank you for your vote of confidence.” Orlando ruffled his lover’s hair, grinning smugly as Jonty scurried back to the mirror to begin priddying again.

“My pleasure. I’m looking forward to the lecture, of course. I’ve a list of keywords that I’ll tick off as they come. If I get them all, I’ll win five quid off Dr. Panesar.”

“Does he have a list as well? Does everyone?” When they’d first met, Orlando would have been thrown into a panic at such a statement. Now he was older, wiser, and alive to Jonty’s attempts to make game of him. “And do I get a cut of the proceeds? I’d write my lecture specifically to help out the highest bidder.”

“That’s the spirit. I’ll start the bidding.” Jonty leaned forward and kissed Orlando as tenderly as when they’d first been courting. “That’s the deposit. You can guess what constitutes the rest of the payment.” He was pleased when Orlando, visibly happier, returned the kiss; he couldn’t let Orlando succumb to melancholy now. The man might start blubbing through his inauguration.

“Oh, Lord, look at my hair!” The romantic interlude earned Orlando a return to the mirror to repair the damage to his coiffure. “No more of those before the big event, thank you.”

“We’re not turning into a pair of sissies, are we? I don’t ever remember spending as much time in front of a looking glass, not even when I was in my twenties.” Jonty resisted the temptation to have another glance at his reflection.

“This is an occasion without precedent. We can take as long as we want. You said it was a matter of the college’s honour—surely we can’t have people thinking St. Bride’s is inhabited by scarecrows!” Inhabited by old duffers, eccentrics, and a pair of amateur detectives who had the habit of getting their names into The Times, certainly. “Anyway, make the most of that kiss. There may be no more forthcoming before I give my lecture.”

“That’s hardly the spirit I expect, Orlando. If I were ever to gain a Chair in Tudor Literature or some such wonderful thing, I’d insist on regular romantic activity to fortify and inspire me. A man can’t live by hair pomade and computation alone.” Jonty made good the knot in his lover’s tie for what seemed the umpteenth time. “How far have you got with your first draft, by the way?”

“First draft? At this rate, it’ll never get written. Too many distractions. You being at the top of the list.” Orlando screwed up his face. “Perhaps I should simply write it on the subject of ‘Equations quantifying the known nuisance values of Jonathan Stewart.’”

“That would be impossible to quantify, I’m afraid. Didn’t you tell me there are no numbers bigger than infinity?” Jonty pulled down his lover’s brow to reachable level, but had second thoughts about kissing it, just in case hair and tie both got mussed up again. “If you’re that distracted, we should deem it protocol to sleep in separate beds the next few nights. Then you could scribble away to your heart’s content.”

“It could be done. And the thought of resumption of bed sharing would be a positive incentive to get the wretched thing sorted out. I need something to give me the proverbial boot up the backside.” Orlando deliberately moved away from the mirror. “Right, that’s it. If I’m not fit for public view now, I never will be. Thank goodness it’s just the official bit today and the lecture’s all of a fortnight away.”

“At least that’ll give Lavinia the chance to buy a dress suitable for the occasion. She’s dragging her heels about getting the right outfit. Worse than you. And she’s almost as nervous as you are. Feels she’s representing all the Stewarts and has to be on her best behaviour.” Lavinia Broad, Jonty’s sister and the matriarch of the family now that their formidable mother had died, was developing into the role with surprising dignity and good sense.

“She’s bound to be better behaved than you, so everyone will be relieved.” Orlando smiled, a twinkle in his eye to show that he didn’t mean any—or at least much—of what he’d said.

“And you’ll have Antonio there, to represent your illustrious relatives.” Jonty took out his spectacles and gave them a special polish in honour of the occasion. Not that he intended to wear them. “He can sit next to Lavinia, looking proud and patriarchal.”

“At this point, I’m glad my grandmother had to change her name. Professor Artigiano del Rame sounds a bit pretentious. And they’d never manage to paint all of that on the sign at the bottom of the staircase at Bride’s. They had enough trouble with O’Shaughnessy.” Orlando made one final adjustment to his jacket, ignored Jonty’s whisper of I was right when I said ‘Vanity, thy name is Coppersmith,’ and turned to the door. “It shows you what a state I’m in that I don’t object to turning up in the metal monster. If I was quite myself, I’d have insisted on a horse-drawn cab.”

“The metal monster” was one of the kinder ways Orlando referred to whichever one in the procession of Jonty’s cars was currently standing outside the house, allegedly polluting the vicinity. Only the fact that one of the earlier incarnations had helped save Jonty’s life made the possession of an automobile tolerable, even if the current version was one that Orlando deemed deficient in the number of required wheels.

“You love it, really. Especially since we got the Morgan.” Jonty grabbed their academic gowns, opened the front door, and ushered his lover through it. “Come on, let’s get the bride to the altar.”

“Not the analogy I’d have chosen, but it’ll do. Lead on, Macduff.”

“Lay on, Macduff, you mean. You’re worse than the dunderheads at times.” He closed the door behind them and took a deep breath of the autumn air. “It’s going to be a glorious day, in more ways than one.” As they reached the car, he dropped his voice to barely a whisper. “That moratorium on my bed doesn’t have to start until tomorrow. Only don’t think about that fact while you’re being inaugurated or invested or installed or whatever it is they’re about to do to you, as you won’t look very good in the photographs with a lascivious grin all over your gob.”


Investiture or not, Orlando couldn’t resist calling into the porters’ lodge en route to see if he had any post. It was customary for him when entering or even passing St. Bride’s to see if anything of importance had appeared in his pigeonhole. Or failing that, just some desperate set of calculations from one of the dunderheads. No matter how Jonty tried to break him of the habit—“Once a day is enough for any man, and I do mean checking your post and not anything else, Mr. Filthy Mind.”—the practice was ingrained.

“Dr. Coppersmith!” Summerbee, head of the porters’ lodge in spirit if not in title, greeted him with a huge grin. “The lads were hoping you’d drop in today. We all wanted to wish you the very best.”

“Thank you.” Orlando couldn’t help grinning in return. He’d always liked the denizens of the lodge, and today they felt like the absolute salt of the earth. There couldn’t be a college in Cambridge with a more stalwart set of men in its employ, and they’d taken good care of him back in the darkest days when it had seemed like there was no light left in the world.

Tait, a relatively new porter who still seemed totally in awe of Orlando, whispered something to his colleague.

“Ah, thank you for reminding me. Dr. Coppersmith, would it be an imposition to ask a favour? The lads wondered if there’ll be any photographs taken today for the newspapers and the like. And if so, maybe we could have a copy of one of them, to go up in the lodge?” Summerbee looked imploringly and as like an eager schoolboy as a fourteen-stone, middle-aged man could manage.

“If there are, you can.” Orlando felt slightly overwhelmed by such a request; it always astonished him that anyone should take a genuine and affectionate interest in his affairs.

“Thank you, sir.” Summerbee bent his head as Tait conveyed another whispered message. “Oh yes, that’s right. And if it could feature Dr. Stewart as well, that would be very gratifying.”

Gratifying? Orlando couldn’t help wonder if the porters had twigged the exact nature of the domestic arrangements up at Forsythia Cottage. Well, if they had, they didn’t seem to be showing any signs of disapproval. Not in public, anyway.

“I doubt we’ll be able to keep the little blighter out of range of any cameras. Remember when His Majesty visited the college? Dr. Stewart seemed to get his nose into just about every photograph that was taken.”

“He did that, sir. Mind you, he’s what you might call photogenic.” Summerbee grinned. “We could do a roaring trade with the ladies if we made postcards from those pictures of him dating back to when he was naught but a student here.”

“I beg your pardon?” Orlando had once been taken to see The Tempest and had lost the plot around Act II, Scene 1. He felt the same way now.

“We keep photograph albums of college life—the students and the dons, the sports teams and the like. They go back years. When we have our Christmas party here, some of our missuses and sweethearts like to look through them.” Summerbee tipped his head towards the inner sanctum where the picture albums were stored. “They always pick out Dr. Stewart, especially the one of him with the rest of the rugby fifteen.”

“So long as it’s not a picture of me milking a goat in the lodge, we should be thankful for small mercies.” Jonty, distinctly red-faced as though he’d heard every word of the praise, entered the lodge bearing a handful of letters. “Mr. Summerbee, have you any idea how these ended up in my room and not in my pigeonhole?” He held up his bundle of post.

“Wasps.” Tait at last seemed to find the courage to speak aloud, even if it was only in a monosyllable.

“Wasps?” Jonty and Orlando asked in unison.

“Yes. We’ve got a wasps’ nest behind the wainscoting and we had the little blighters smoked out only yesterday. Trouble is, the smoke seeped through and was pouring out of a crack in the wood.” Tait, gaining in confidence, illustrated his story with dramatic gestures representing pumping smoke and fleeing insects. “It was coming out into your pigeonhole and Dr. Panesar’s, so we decided to rescue both sets of post in case either got damaged. We felt it was safest to put it in your rooms, rather than leave it in the lodge and risk it going astray . . .” Tait’s burst of courage was clearly waning under Orlando’s beady eye. “I’m sorry if we overstepped the mark.”

“Not at all.” Jonty smiled, dispersing all worries about people fiddling with his personal property. “Better safe than sorry.”

Orlando shuddered at the thought of wasps, smoke, or worse still, porters interfering with his letters. “I think I’ll just nip my post up to my study, if there’s any risk of arthropod intervention.” He smiled as if he’d made a wonderfully witty joke, and the porters indulged him with a chuckle. Naturally, it was human intervention that would have bothered Orlando more than the other two.

“It shouldn’t happen again, sir.” Summerbee was conciliatory. “We think we’ve got shot of all our unwanted visitors. A shame we can’t employ the same techniques when we get waifs and strays from the college next door in here.”

The college next door—how every true St. Bride’s man loathed it. Often, although not always, with good cause. A den of plagiarists, scoundrels, cads, and cheats, or so every good Bride’s man swore. The archenemy, camped at the gates. Jonty always said every dark cloud had a silver lining, and maybe he’d be proved right. All the great and the good of the mathematics department had been called to attend an urgent meeting on Thursday morning to discuss a case of possible plagiarism by one of their members, which was not an enticing prospect. But at least the suspect was someone from the college next door.

“Maybe you could get your man with the smoke to make a secret raid on Dr. Owens’s lodge and see if he dislodges something worse than wasps.” Orlando sniffed, clutching his post to his chest as if Owens, head of the much-reviled institution and thief-in-chief, was going to sneak around and purloin it. He’d stolen things from St. Bride’s before and had even tried to get his hands on the notorious, precious, and totally befuddling Woodville Ward papers. Those papers had provided the key to solving a mysterious disappearance that had puzzled scholars for centuries. “Shall I put your letters somewhere safe, Dr. Stewart? Just in case you lose them halfway up King’s Parade?”

Jonty sorted through the pile of correspondence, picked out two items to put in his inside pocket, then handed over the rest. “If you’d be so kind, Dr. Coppersmith. They’ll make a terrible bulge in my jacket otherwise. Two whole papers to check through and both of them on King Lear, so that’ll be a bundle of laughs. I’ll hang about the Old Court while you do the necessary.”

Orlando nodded and swept all the letters and papers to safety before any more wasps—or porters—could get at them. He was too consumed with thoughts and worries about the forthcoming ceremony to entertain any curiosity about the letters in Jonty’s jacket. As he came down the stairs from his room, he found Jonty lurking by the entrance, looking concerned.

“I was just a bit worried that you’d lock yourself in and refuse to take part.”

“Don’t tempt me. The thought’s crossed my mind several times.” Orlando hated fuss. Although there was more than that; he was distinctly miffed that he couldn’t be Orlando Coppersmith, Sadleirian Professor of Pure Mathematics, as he’d always had a fondness for real analysis and Fourier series. But short of assassinating the present incumbent of the post—who looked like he had a good few years in him yet—there seemed to be little chance of him getting the job. So Forster Professor of Applied Mathematics he would be, and if anyone noticed that the title had been endowed by his almost-sister-in-law in honour of his almost-mother-in-law (courtesy of the handsome inheritance Lavinia had received), then they were too polite to mention it.

“You deserve this position. Completely and utterly. If anyone so much as hints otherwise, I’ll belt them one. Anyway, you weren’t even the first person to hold the post.” With that, they began a slow, stately walk over the college lawns.

“True.” Orlando had been in the trenches of France when the chair had first been created. The honour of being the original professor had gone to someone from the college next door, shoehorned into the post by that toad Owens, who had probably used blackmail to get his own slimy way in terms of the appointment. “Your Lavinia said Professor Mann was almost a gentleman, even if he came from such a disreputable place.”

“Did she? Well, the old girl’s always had good sense when it comes to getting the measure of someone, so I suppose we must give him the benefit of a rather large doubt.” Jonty grinned, the great scar on his cheek—his souvenir, along with two medals, of the Great War—tipping up and giving him a piratical air. “She didn’t arrange to nobble him, did she?”

Professor Mann had come to a sticky end, literally, falling into a vat of flour and egg when on a visit to a biscuit factory to observe particle and liquid flow through hoppers and tubes. He’d developed a phobia of machinery as a result and had retired to Devon a broken man. The professor elect wouldn’t do anything as rash.

Orlando was pleased they’d not brought the motor car. Sauntering along King’s Parade with Jonty at his side and not a cloud in the piercingly blue sky, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that the shades of Helena Stewart and Grandmother Coppersmith were walking alongside him as well. He wasn’t sure he believed in God or heaven, even though Jonty was enthusiastic about both, but the thought of the two formidable women who had so shaped his life for the better being in cahoots in some ethereal realm, bossing the angels and telling Gabriel off for going around without his vest on, made the day even brighter.

All he needed now were two things. The first was for the ordeal of the next few hours to be over swiftly and without incident. Please God, his dodgy Achilles tendon, which hadn’t given him any gyp this last five years, wouldn’t decide that today was the day it had its revenge for presumed maltreatment and gave out, sending him arse over tip in the face of the congregation. The second was for his guardian angels, if they did exist, to send him a nice juicy problem to solve. And if they couldn’t manage a murder (which didn’t seem like the sort of thing to be praying for), then some other mystery, maybe one that had evaded all solution for years on end and that he and Jonty alone could master.

“Are you thinking about violent crime of some sort?” The perky voice at his side cut into Orlando’s daydream of knives, victims’ backs, and convoluted inheritances.

“How did you know?” How did Jonty Stewart always seem to know what was going on in his brain? Did it read like ticker tape all over the Coppersmith fizzog?

“You’ve got that look in your eye. The one that only comes when it’s been too long between cases.” Jonty grinned, and Orlando had to admit he was right. Time was when he would have bitten anyone’s hand off at the chance of a nice, complicated crime to investigate. Maybe those times were returning at last.

While there’d never been lean years, there had been the odd stretches of lean months when nobody had come forward with so much as a telegram gone astray that needed to be tracked down, let alone an unsolved murder for him and Jonty to get their brains about. They didn’t count the war years, when they hadn’t felt any need to investigate anything; Room 40 work had kept their wits occupied long enough with cryptography and the like, and when they’d been at the front, they’d shut all curiosity off. If ever there’d been a time when Orlando hadn’t wanted to think too deeply, that had been it.

“Is it too much for a man to want a little diversion when he’s got such weighty matters as an important lecture on his mind?” Orlando tried to sound as if he believed passionately in every word he said. “It would help oil the wheels of contemplation. Working on one would aid the other, naturally.”

“You talk such rot at times. I hope you don’t stuff that lecture with such obvious lies.” They stopped to let an idiot undergraduate from the college next door—instantly recognisable by the vile college colours he adorned himself with—hurtle past on a bike. “That reminds me of something Dr. Panesar was saying in the Senior Common Room about the circulatory system. A clot may be transported in many ways.”

Orlando groaned, rolling his eyes. “And you have the nerve to accuse me of speaking rot.”

“At least I don’t deny doing it.” They carried on walking, safe for a while from being impaled on anyone’s handlebars. “You just won’t admit that you miss the thrill of the chase. You’re like a foxhound. You’ve smelled blood once and now you have to have your share of it. Regularly.”

Orlando stopped, eyeing his friend closely. “And are you saying you don’t?”

“Of course not. There’s nothing I’d like more than a mystery. Been too long.” Jonty’s expression was rueful; their last case had been in the spring and solving it had been bittersweet. “It would prove to me that everything was back to normal. That the last five years hadn’t spoiled the world forever.”

They walked on in silence, each with his thoughts.

“Do you really think that the world’s been spoiled?” Orlando hated to hear his friend so glum. This wasn’t the Jonty Stewart he knew, loved, and sometimes had the overwhelming desire to murder. Especially when he changed cars and became besotted all over again with some metal monstrosity.

“It’ll certainly never be the same. I feel we’ve all passed through the fire.” Jonty slapped Orlando’s shoulder. “Still, there’s no point in grumbling. Some things are above and beyond the passage of time and the cruelty of the world affecting them. Maurice Panesar still tells appalling jokes.” He lowered his voice to barely more than a whisper. “And we still love each other. Which is a miracle in itself when I consider what a miserable swine you are.”

Orlando grinned, finding the insult a welcome sign that the old Jonty was back. “And you’re still the cheekiest toad in Cambridge.” If they’d been home at Forsythia Cottage, sod would have been substituted for toad, but that wasn’t appropriate for King’s Parade.

“Toad, am I? Then I might not feel inclined to give you the little treat I have here.” Jonty patted his jacket through his gown.

“A reward for getting through this afternoon without strangling the vice-chancellor?” Orlando eyed the thick material, as if the layers might become as glass and yield the secrets of the inner pocket.

“Something like that. But you’re not going to find out unless you stop frowning. Do try to smile at least once.”

“Will whatever it is be worth it?”

“Oh yes. Trust your Uncle Jonty. It’s even worth rousing a smile for Dr. Owens.”

Lessons for Suspicious Minds #10
Chapter One
Cambridge, June 1909
“Post, Dr. Coppersmith, Dr. Stewart.” Mrs. Ward, the housekeeper at Forsythia Cottage, bustled through the dining room door before neatly arranging the morning post on the table for her gentlemen to read once they’d dealt with their bacon and eggs.

“Thank you.” Jonty Stewart eyed his post eagerly. “That looks like Lavinia’s writing. I’ll save her epistle as a postprandial treat.”

“Unless you’re in trouble with your sister, again, in which case it’ll be a postprandial punishment.” Orlando Coppersmith, having put away the last bit of egg, picked up the other letter. It was addressed to him even though the handwriting was clearly that of Jonty’s mother. Her style could have been spotted a mile off, let alone from the other side of the table.

“Why’s Mama writing to you?”

“Not having the ability to see through paper, nor being able to read her mind, I couldn’t say.” Orlando deliberately took his time in opening the envelope and reading the contents, aware of Jonty almost bouncing with curiosity. It would do the man good to develop some patience. “We’ve been summoned. July. A visit to London and then off to somewhere called Fyfield. I’ve never heard of it.”

“Fyfield?” Jonty almost dropped his bacon in surprise. “It’s a house. Well, a house with a great big estate. I’ve not been there since I was a boy. Mama’s godmother lived there.”

“She still does, if she’s a dowager duchess. Alexandra Temple?”

“That’s the very one.”

“I thought as much, as your mother says she’s a very old friend of the Forsters. Is this Fyfield a nice place?”

“Nice?” Jonty consumed the bacon before it got either cold or dropped again. “It’s spectacular. Knocks the Old Manor into a cocked hat.”

“Oh.” The Stewarts’ country home in Sussex, an unfinished Tudor castle with later additions (ones never envisaged by the original owner, even before he—literally—lost his head), had seemed to Orlando the height of class and opulence. If Fyfield was better, it must be spectacular indeed. “Sounds like a treat, then.”

“Sounds like a case.”

Orlando looked up sharpish. A case. There’d been a steady stream of them over the last few months. Two had involved breaking old codes—which was meat and drink for him—and another had been solved by Jonty finding a parallel with Shakespeare and producing an outrageous piece of what he said was deduction and what Orlando vowed was pure luck. There was always room for another.

“What do you know that I don’t?” he asked.

“Nothing in the way of facts, but much regarding how my parents’ minds work.” Jonty made a face. “Must we go?”

Orlando could have sworn he’d heard his lover—colleague, best friend, fellow detective, everything that mattered—express a lack of enthusiasm for the invitation. He must have misheard. “I beg your pardon?”

“Must we go? To Fyfield.”

“Yes, we must.” Orlando tapped the letter. “This is articulated in the most forceful yet polite of terms, staying just this side of a three-line whip. And if there’s the chance of a case to investigate, we’d be mad not to go.”

“But I’ve a million things to do.” Jonty tapped the table with his fork, defiance writ large over his handsome face, although he seemed to be evading Orlando’s gaze. Could the contents of the man’s teacup suddenly have become so fascinating?

Orlando thought awhile before replying. This wasn’t how things usually went between the inhabitants of Forsythia Cottage. He was usually the one reluctant to take up offers of holidays or other novel, exhilarating experiences.

Drawing a bow at a venture and trying to hit bull seemed the best way forward. “This is not like you. You’re hiding something. When you act out of character, you’re usually up to no good.” How couldn’t Orlando know when he was being given the runaround? Especially when he’d seen that belligerently innocent look used many a time on the rugby pitch, usually when Jonty had dirty work afoot at the base of the scrum. “Out with it.”

“Guilty as charged.” Jonty smiled, then folded his hands together as if in prayer. “Forgive me my dissemblance. A sin of both commission—wanting to get out of the trip—and omission—not telling you about some of the things that happened there in my childhood years.”

“Oh.” The wind was taken out of Orlando’s sails. He knew how Jonty’s schooldays had been terribly blighted by bullying of the worst kind. Was this more of the same?

“No, not that,” Jonty said quickly, evidently reading his mind. “They’re a formidable family, the Temples. They always made me feel like a seven-year-old who’d been caught scrumping apples. Even when I wasn’t and hadn’t.”

Orlando grinned, delighted at seeing his lover’s discomfort. “You’ll just have to be brave.” How could either of them turn down a summons from Jonty’s mother, especially if it involved a commission? Even Admiral Nelson himself would have quaked in his shoes at the thought of crossing Helena Stewart. “We’ll have to discharge our responsibilities.”

“Our familial responsibilities? You’re a Stewart now?” Jonty grinned.

“As good as. We may not have spoken vows in a church, but am I not as wedded to you as your Lavinia is wed to her Ralph?”

“I suppose you’re right.” Jonty sighed. “And it’s been an age since I’ve seen Mama’s godmother. I suspect I was barely above being dandled on her knee. At least I don’t recall her being overpowering.”

“How old is the dowager duchess? And how has she avoided contact with such a gregarious rogue as you?”

Jonty lifted the lid of the teapot, looked disappointed, got up, and rang the little bell on the mantelpiece. “None of your business, and the Atlantic.”

“Atlantic?” Orlando frowned, as the housekeeper bustled in.

“Atlantic, Dr. Coppersmith? It’s an ocean.” Mrs. Ward smiled indulgently, as if doctors of mathematics had no knowledge of geography. In the case of most Cambridge mathematicians she might well have been right, but Orlando was that rare beast who occasionally got his nose out of Euclid and into an atlas. “Are you thinking of sailing it single-handed?”

“No such luck, Mrs. Ward.” Jonty grinned. “Could you oblige us with a pot of tea—we need more sustenance.”

“Coffee for me, please.” Orlando forced a smile, not sure whether he’d murder Jonty or their housekeeper first. Not that he’d ever commit the deed, but devising undetectable ways of doing it always gave him intellectual satisfaction.

“My pleasure. Any more toast?”

“No, thank you,” Orlando replied, just as Jonty piped up, “Yes, please.”

“Right you are, then.” Mrs. Ward, used by now to the contrasting ways of her two gentlemen, took it all in her stride. Half a rack of toast would appear with the tea and the coffee just as, on notable occasions, an apple crumble might appear on the table alongside a treacle tart.

“Where do you put it all?” It must be the umpteenth time Orlando had posed the question. Why Jonty wasn’t the size of St. Bride’s chapel was a mystery in itself, given the quantity of fodder he stuck away.

“Bottomless boots.” Jonty took his rightful place again at the breakfast table.

“And the significance of the Atlantic?”

“Alexandra Temple—the dowager duchess, remember?—has been living in America, Boston, I believe, the last few years, with her younger son. And before that she was globe-trotting. Getting over the shock of being made a widow at . . . at an age too young to be made one.” Jonty waved his hand airily.

“What did her family think of that? Plenty of scope for scandalous speculation, I’d have thought.”

“You’ve not met her, Orlando. Not yet, anyway. She’s such a pillar of rectitude she should be exhibited in Trafalgar Square as an example to the young people of today. She’ll be behind this commission, whatever it is. She likes righting wrongs.”

Orlando groaned. If the whole family were like that, no wonder Jonty felt cowed by them. “If she’s so self-righteous, I’m not sure I want to meet her.”

“I didn’t say she was self-righteous. Do you really think Mama would want somebody like that in charge of her favourite son’s spiritual welfare, even at one remove?” Jonty’s voice was laden with affection. “She probably went round the world doing good deeds—the sort of ones people actually want done to them as opposed to the usual kind—and hiding her light under a bushel en route.”

“We’ll see how kindhearted she is when she finds out what a rogue you’ve turned into. She’ll hand in her grand-godmotherly cards. Or whisk you off to a monastery. You’re certain there’s a case involved?”

“I’d put a tenner on it. Ah, thank you, Mrs. Ward!” The welcome arrival of the housekeeper with toast and tea took precedence over conversation.

“Coffee’s on its way, Dr. Coppersmith. I didn’t quite have enough hands.”

“Let me come and get it.” Orlando rose from the table, catching Jonty’s look of concern from the corner of his eye. What was that about?

By the time he’d returned, pot in hand, Jonty was buttering toast and getting crumbs everywhere—as usual—and reading the newspaper.

“Interesting article here about a man who lost his hat on a train and found it four days later in a cab.” Jonty pointed at the paper with a triangle of toast, signally thinking he’d changed the subject. Orlando wasn’t going to let the little toad get away with it.

“What’s up? Apart from having to go back to where you’ve clearly misbehaved as a boy?”

Jonty jerked his head away from the paper. “Why should there be something up? And I didn’t misbehave. I was angelic. If you want misbehaviour, talk to my brother Clarence.”

He was at it again, deflecting attention from where it should be. Same as on the rugby pitch, making it look like somebody else was playing dirty—usually one of the opposition.

“Come on. This isn’t like you, to be so reluctant to go somewhere.” Orlando leaned over and ruffled his lover’s hair. “No secrets, remember?”

Jonty smiled, leaning into the caress. “No secrets, then. I was just a touch worried you’d react to a new case in the wrong way. After last year and all the upset it caused after your grandmother died.”

Orlando rubbed his hand slowly and thoughtfully along Jonty’s cheek. His grandmother’s death, and the challenge she’d left him to identify the family who’d disowned her, had led to his finding he was the scion of a noble—and rather nice—Italian family. But it had almost lost him his reason, as it had probably cost his father his sanity. His great-grandfather’s rejection of his daughter had left a legacy of disquiet down the generations.

“You needn’t worry about me. I’m not a child.” Orlando felt inclined to slap Jonty’s backside for being such a fuss-box, but the chairs and the table precluded him. “I’ve never known you to refuse an invitation to join your parents, or one to visit somewhere you’ll be plied with food, drink, and recreation. No wonder the alarm bells started to ring.”

“I’m sorry. I really do have reservations about the Temples, but not about their cellar or kitchens. Nor their gardens.”

“Gardens?” Orlando rolled his eyes. “I won’t be dragged round them and given a long list of Latin plant names to bore me rigid?”

“Rigid? I love it when you’re rigid.” Jonty grinned.

“You can’t mollify me with smutty talk.” Not at that time of the morning, with their housekeeper in the offing, anyway. “And keep your voice down. Mrs. Ward will hear.”

“And do you think she would care? Do you think she doesn’t notice there’s only ever one bed slept in out of the nominal two?”

“I’m sure she does, but there’s a world of difference between us all knowing something and keeping quiet about it, and shouting the fact from the rooftops.” Discretion had always been their safety net—that and most people thinking they’d ended up having to share a house because no other sane person, woman or man, would put up with either for five minutes.

“Right, Fyfield. We’ll go, and we’ll take what we’re given, whether it be vintage champagne or a murder to solve.”

“Both, I’d hope. And some stunningly good vintage of red wine.” Jonty’s eagerness was waxing. “I’m almost looking forward to it.”

“Just so long as you don’t get so deep in your cups you spend all the time telling your grand-godmother about my foibles.” Orlando wrested one last cup of coffee from the pot.

“If I try to do that, she’ll soon knock some sense into me, as will Mama.”

“If your mother hasn’t managed to knock any sense into you by now, there’s no chance.” Orlando got up from the table with a yawn, a stretch, and a nod. “Summer’s sorted, then. Maybe for once we’ll get a nice, quiet holiday.”

“I really wish you hadn’t said that. Go out of the room, turn three times, and knock on the door to be let in or something.”

“I know I shouldn’t ask this, but I will. Why?”

Jonty pushed his cup and saucer from him with a sigh. “Because it’s as bad as mentioning Macbeth. Nice, quiet holiday? The universe will hear what you said and is bound to make us regret it.”

Lessons for Idle Tongues #11
Chapter One
The Stewarts’ home, London, 1910
“Thirteen for dinner. It’s desperately unlucky, Jonathan.” Mrs. Stewart pronounced the fact as though it were gospel truth that disaster must follow upon such a situation. “It can’t be countenanced.”

Jonty Stewart — expert on Shakespeare’s sonnets, distinguished fellow of St. Bride’s College, Cambridge, but apparently barely more than a seven-year-old boy as far as his mother was concerned — rolled his eyes. He was obviously already in trouble, given her use of the full version of his name.

“Thirteen’s certainly a cursed number,” Orlando Coppersmith agreed. As the most brilliant mathematician at the same august institution, he should have been in the best position to know, but he usually had no truck with associating luck — good or otherwise — with ordinal numbers.

Jonty rolled his eyes again. “You’ve changed your usual tune.”

Orlando drew himself up to his full, impressive height, his exceptionally handsome appearance complemented by the perfection of his dinner jacket. His abundant locks were, as usual, only just being kept under control. He’d always been a fine-looking creature, and at last he had begun to believe it, which added to the overall impression.

“If you’d let me finish,” he said, “I was about to say it was cursed in people’s minds, from full-blown triskaidekaphobia to simply not wanting to live in a house bearing the number.”

“I’d agree with that.” Mr. Stewart nodded enthusiastically. He was a splendidly handsome creature as well, even though his head bore barely a hair. Given the splendour of the costumes on show and the natural good looks of the four people wearing them, anybody peering through the window of the Stewarts’ drawing room might have labelled the tableau A typical representation of the cream of the new Georgian society, seen in its home.

But there was nothing typical about the Stewarts. Mr. Stewart was a lord but refused to use his title; Mrs. Stewart was the daughter of an earl but had been known — in her younger days — to lay out unwanted suitors with a right hander that wouldn’t have disgraced a prize fighter; and the youngest Stewart was not only a Cambridge fellow, but indulged in amateur sleuthing with his colleague.

And, of course, the least typical thing about them was that Jonty and Orlando were lovers, a situation of which the Stewarts were aware and seemed supremely unbothered.

It had become a matter of routine for Jonty and Orlando to spend part of the long vacation in the company of Jonty’s parents, usually en route to more exotic climes. This summer was no exception, the south of Italy being on the menu and a few days in London being a delightful hors d’oeuvre.

“I think it’s the superstition itself that brings bad luck, like it probably does on Friday the thirteenth,” Jonty said airily. “All those people looking over their shoulders, worrying about the slightest thing; it’s bound to make something daft happen, isn’t it? Maybe all the little mishaps which occur every day of the week get counted that particular Friday, in the same way they might be counted when someone’s walked under a ladder. And maybe exactly the same mishaps would be forgotten about if they happened on Tuesday the twenty-first, or after the person concerned had gone round the ladder in question.”

Mr. Stewart nodded. “Excellent point. Like so many things, it’s all in the mind. It must go back to the Last Supper, of course,” he continued.

At the theological reference, Jonty switched onto automatic mode, nodding and saying, “Oh, yes, I see,” and taking little notice. It tended to be the most effective strategy when being lectured. He’d had plenty of practice, during all those hours when Orlando was twittering on about vectors or random numbers or some such nonsense.

The Last Supper — yes, Jonty had always suspected there’d been more people milling about than reported in the gospels. And hadn’t Judas gone sneaking off at some point to leave just the twelve, which made the unlucky number aspect all a bit illogical? Whatever the reasoning behind it, the thing was just bloody stupid.

“I said, ‘Wouldn’t you agree, Jonathan?’”

“Absolutely.” Jonty nodded enthusiastically. He hadn’t actually heard his mother’s question, but — statistically, as Orlando would appreciate — there was a ninety percent chance that it was safest just to agree with whatever she had said.

“I was saying that I shouldn’t feel cross at Dr. Roberts’ having let us down at the last minute,” Mrs. Stewart continued, in a manner suggesting she was perfectly aware that her youngest son hadn’t been listening. “I’m sure he didn’t intend his appendix to explode, or whatever appendixes do to themselves to require being removed immediately.”

“Of course he didn’t.” Mr. Stewart, who had been having his annual check — ensuring the working of his engine, as he described it — at the time, had witnessed it all. “He was midconsultation when he just keeled over, face like a ghost. I thought he’d died.” Mr. Stewart had called for an ambulance, the physician in question clearly not being able to heal himself.

“I’ve sent him flowers” — Mrs. Stewart made a helpless gesture — “but they won’t be any use in rustling up a guest for tonight at the last moment. I suppose we’ll have to find somebody to draft in. I did wonder about Simon Bouverie, seeing as he’s in town.” Mrs. Stewart seemed to be deliberately avoiding her nearest and dearest’s gaze. “If he wouldn’t mind —”

“If he didn’t mind, then he damn well should.” Mr. Stewart rapped a tattoo with his knuckles on the chair arm.

“Language, Richard.”

“Sorry, Helena, but poor Simon gets a bad enough deal from this family. Ignored eleven-twelfths of the time and then expected to drop everything just to help us out.” Mr. Stewart turned to Orlando with a frown. “You won’t have met Simon, will you? He’s been abroad most of the time since you hove onto the horizon.”

“Richard, Orlando is not a battleship! He did not hove onto the horizon or any such nonsense.” She favoured Orlando with a charming smile, as a consequence not seeing Mr. Stewart rolling his eyes and grinning, which was just as well or he’d have had a full broadside. Mrs. Stewart could always be relied on to take her not-quite-son-in-law’s part against all comers, even in precedence to her husband’s and son’s. The smug little grin — quickly hidden — on Orlando’s face acknowledged how much pleasure he drew from that fact. Jonty didn’t begrudge him it, not really — he’d had precious little affection from his own family.

Mr. Stewart took up the account again. “Simon had the bad luck to be born to a wastrel of a father, Charlie Bouverie, a one-time friend of my uncle. He always hung about with us when we were younger. Nice lad. Officially he was Charlie’s ward, but then it turned out he was the natural son, born the wrong side of the blanket. Poor Simon became a bit of a . . . social embarrassment might be the best way to describe it. I mean, my family was very polite to him, of course, didn’t ban him from the house or anything, but there was always an air of being tainted by association. Or condescension, which is possibly worse.”

“Poor chap.” Orlando spoke with evident feeling. The Stewarts could have found him an embarrassment, or an object for pity, but he’d always been treated as Jonty’s equal. Mrs. Stewart circulating the story that he was her ward had, naturally, helped to keep up that standing with society as a whole. Had anybody discovered the truth about Orlando’s father’s bastardy and suicide, and then dared use that against him, the full might of the Stewart family would have come down upon them.

“Can we please get back to the matter of my dinner table and how I avoid disaster?” Mrs. Stewart wrung her handkerchief. “Is there nobody you could conjure up for me?”

“What about Dr. Peters?” Orlando said from the direction of the bookshelf, where he’d been greedily eyeing a book about the use of codes by Queen Elizabeth’s secret agents.

“Is he in town?” Mrs. Stewart’s distressed tone had disappeared, to be replaced with girlish enthusiasm. Dr. Peters, the master of St. Bride’s, was charming, handsome, and erudite. “Could you get him to come? He would be an ornament to any woman’s table.”

Not least because he was remarkably good-looking, Jonty thought, but wisely kept to himself. His mother had an elastic arm that could slap one of her offspring, irrespective of age, at about twenty yards. It was a shame that Ariadne, the master’s sister, wasn’t in the city; she would provide the erudition and charm without reducing Mrs. Stewart to drooling.

“He’s advising on an exhibition at the British Museum,” Orlando said. “I believe we should be able to contact him via the St. Bride’s porters’ lodge. Would you like me to try?”

“Please do, dear.” Mrs. Stewart beamed. “Avail yourself of all our facilities. Say there’s a lady who needs a white knight. Or a man on a white horse. Or something.”

Unfortunately, all the facilities at the disposal of St. Bride’s couldn’t actually connect Orlando with his quarry, although a message was left at his hotel to ring the Stewarts as a matter of urgency.

“What about the cat?” Mr. Stewart suddenly asked, in the sort of voice and with the sort of expression Archimedes must have used when he discovered his principle.

“What cat?” Orlando and Mrs. Stewart replied in unison.

“The cat they keep at the Dauphine Hotel. Great wooden monstrosity that gets wheeled out when there aren’t the required number of people at dinner and some superstitious soul wants to make the numbers up. He takes the fourteenth place.” Mr. Stewart looked suitably pleased with himself. “We could ask to borrow him.”

“Him? Are you sure he’s wooden and not some horrible moggy?” Orlando had no great love for feline creatures, or indeed for small furry animals of any sort. Apart from Jonty.

“He’s wooden all right,” Mr. Stewart assured him. “You can rap him on the head and check if you want. Would he work, Helena?”

“He certainly would. If you could ask, please, Richard.” Mrs. Stewart sounded and looked as she must have done when they were courting, all girlish enthusiasm and a dimpled smile. No wonder Jonty’s papa had been so smitten.

“I’ll get round there right now and talk to the manager. I’m sure he couldn’t resist an entreaty on behalf of a damsel in distress. Come on.” He gestured to his sometime fellow investigators. “You can add your most persuasive voices to the entreaty.”

“I’d love to, but I think I should stay here.” Orlando returned to his chair. “Just in case Dr. Peters returns our telephone call.”

“Excellent point, dear.” Mrs. Stewart reached across to pat his arm. “And you can keep me from fretting. I can always lay a fifteenth place if we end up with both Dr. Peters and the cat, but thirteen will not happen.”


Jonty hadn’t been in the Dauphine in years, but it didn’t seem to have changed that much. His father always averred that it was almost the same as when he used to take Jonty’s mother there — chaperoned, of course — in their courting days. The Stewarts still wandered over sometimes to have dinner, and not just for the sake of nostalgia.

“Mr. Stewart!” A tow-haired chap, maybe Jonty’s age, greeted them as they came through the revolving door. “A pleasure to see you, sir. Will you be gracing us with your presence at lunch?”

“No, alas, Mr. Chuter.” Mr. Stewart spoke to the man with the same easy respect with which he addressed anybody, from highest to lowest in the land. “Taking the nosebag at home today. You’ll not have met my youngest, Jonty . . .” He effected the introductions between his son and the deputy manager of the hotel with his usual practiced grace. “Is Mr. Wilmot available, by any chance?”

“Not at present, sir. Would I be able to help you?” Chuter looked disappointed at being passed over. He also eyed Jonty with a slight degree of trepidation, something that was becoming common now that the combination of Stewart and Coppersmith — not Coppersmith and Stewart, the cadence was all wrong with that combination — were gaining such public notoriety for their feats of amateur detection.

“I’m sure you would.” Mr. Stewart nodded sagely. “It’s about the cat. Montgomery.”

Chuter couldn’t have looked more relieved if he’d been in the thick of things at Mafeking when the siege was lifted. “Oh. Begging your pardon, gentlemen, but I assumed you were here on . . . detective business. I was concerned that one of our guests or — heaven forfend — one of the staff had blotted their copybook.”

“Nothing like that.” Mr. Stewart patted the man on the shoulder. “Although we’ll have blotted ours if we return home empty-handed. Montgomery’s services haven’t been booked for this evening, by any wonderful chance?”

“Not that I’m aware of, sir. Do you need him at your table?”

“I’m afraid I’m seeking more than that. We wondered, Helena and I, whether we could take him home and let him be our guest for dinner? We’d bring him back first thing tomorrow,” he added, maybe in case Chuter thought they’d never see the cat again.

“That should be quite in order.” Chuter smiled, inclined his head at Mr. Stewart’s profuse thanks, and summoned over a porter. “Launchbury, could you fetch Montgomery? He’s going to have an outing.”

“Well done, Papa.” Jonty tipped his head to one side, admiring, in an abstract sort of way, the neat cut of the porter’s trousers — or maybe the neat line of his backside. “Looks like your plan’s going to save the day. Maybe we have time for a snifter?”

“Oh, that sounds an excellent idea. Mr. Chuter, might we . . .” Mr. Stewart’s question died on his lips as Launchbury reappeared, looking alarmed and going at the fastest lick acceptable on the marble of the Dauphine’s entrance hall. He shattered all their plans on that same floor.

“He’s not there, Mr. Chuter. Montgomery.”

“Maybe he’s just been moved, or taken for cleaning,” Chuter said airily, although his wrinkled brow suggested concern.

“That’s what I’d have thought, sir, if it weren’t for —” Launchbury produced a piece of paper. “This was left where he should have been.”

Chuter unfolded the paper, looked even more alarmed, then handed it to Mr. Stewart.

Montgomery has gone on his holidays. He’ll be back once he’s helped light some fires.

“He’s been nicked!” Launchbury immediately corrected himself before Chuter could. “Purloined, I should say.”

“It certainly looks like it.” A gleam had appeared in Mr. Stewart’s eye that Jonty associated with the thrill of the chase.

“Mr. Stewart, Dr. Stewart,” Chuter said, addressing each man in turn. Jonty knew what was coming next. The deputy manager had At least we have the right men for the job on hand written all over his face. “I know such a matter would probably be beneath your notice, but would you consider helping us to find him? He’s an asset to the hotel and . . .” He spread his hands helplessly.

Jonty hid a smile, aware that Montgomery gave the Dauphine an advantage over other similar establishments, and that business might suffer due to his absence.

“He’s been taken on a previous occasion, I recall?” Mr. Stewart looked at the note again.

“Yes, it must be thirty years ago.” Chuter wrinkled his nose. “A rugby dinner. Blackheath. He was returned the next week looking slightly worse for wear but with money to cover French polishing. I just hope that bit about lighting fires isn’t literal.”

“I’m sure it isn’t.” Jonty felt less optimistic than his words suggested. “Not if he’s supposed to be coming back. We’d be delighted to help you find him, although I suggest it’s always best to start on your own doorstep. My colleague Dr. Coppersmith often loses things and then finds they’ve just been moved slightly, probably by him. He’s walked past them half a dozen times, taking no more notice than if they were part of the wallpaper pattern.” If the same could be said of Jonty, he’d keep that to himself for the moment. “I’ve no doubt that you will look everywhere, unlike Dr. Coppersmith, but it’s entirely possible Montgomery’s been moved by somebody to another location within the hotel. Note notwithstanding.”

“Good thinking, Dr. Stewart. We’ll scour the place for him and let you know if it turns out your services are not required.” Chuter nodded, then added ruefully, “He went halfway round the world the last time he was taken.”

“Let’s hope his wanderlust has been assuaged and he manages no farther than the home counties, then.” Mr. Stewart still eyed the note as though it should be telling him something but he couldn’t quite work out what. “The lads can’t manage to search the entire world before Michaelmas term.”

Chuter left them with the note in their custody, a poor substitute for the cat. He was clearly dreading having to report Montgomery’s disappearance, but at least he could also report securing the services of a distinguished pair of amateur detectives, should they be needed.

“The Dauphine will sorely miss that cat,” Jonty said, once they were alone.

“He went before. He’ll return. Whether with our assistance or without it.” Mr. Stewart had the voice of total confidence, even though the look he gave Jonty suggested he expected the game would soon be afoot.

“Let me tell Orlando about helping to find Montgomery.” Jonty cuffed his father’s elbow. “It’s been a while since he had a proper case to dig his teeth into, and he might get a bit upset at having another one that he feels is beneath his powers. Lost items pale into insignificance compared to murders or codes.”

“Point noted.” Mr. Stewart produced a sympathetic smile. “Maybe we could put his mind to this.” He held out the piece of paper.

“What’s bothering you about that note?”

“I don’t know. What is it I’ve heard you say? It’s like an insect buzzing about my head, that I can neither identify nor swat.” Mr. Stewart studied the piece of paper yet again. “It rings a bell — although whether that’s because I’ve seen the writing before, or the wording is familiar, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s damned annoying.” The use of such a strong word, in public, illustrated the depth of his perplexity.

“That note won’t help you when we get home.” Jonty shuddered. “We’re still only thirteen. Should we go and drag somebody off the street so Mama doesn’t have to spend all evening waiting for somebody to drop dead? Or pray that Montgomery will return, maybe by magic, within the next thirty seconds?”

“We could pray for a miracle.” Mr. Stewart looked ashen. “What on earth are we going to tell her?”


They manfully resisted going for a drink at the bar, having come to the conclusion that it would delay them and this was the sort of crisis in which time was of the essence. More significantly, any alcohol would be sniffed on their breaths, and they’d both be sent to bed with no dinner, on a charge of dereliction of duty. Jonty tried to persuade his father that would solve all their problems in one fell swoop, given it would reduce the numbers around the dinner table to eleven, but the argument fell on deaf ears.

The journey home was the longest short walk Jonty could ever recall. Worse than having to go to see the master of St. Bride’s back in his undergraduate days about the incident involving milking a goat in the porters’ lodge. A gating couldn’t be as bad as facing his mother’s wrath.

They entered the house with trepidation, to find Mrs. Stewart with a beaming smile on her face, Orlando at her side, and a marvellous lack of concern at the nonappearance of a suitable wooden feline. The miracle had obviously happened, even if it hadn’t involved the return of the cat.

“No Montgomery, I see? Well, never mind. Your Dr. Peters has come up trumps.” Mrs. Stewart rubbed her hands gleefully.

“You’ve dragged him away from his hieroglyphics or cartouches or whatever he’s poking around with?” Jonty asked, much relieved. “I’m not surprised he —”

Whatever Jonty was or wasn’t surprised at was interrupted by Hopkins’s announcement of luncheon.

“I’ll tell you at the table.” Mrs. Stewart took Orlando’s arm and led him triumphantly into the dining room.

“Unfortunately Dr. Peters himself can’t grace us with his presence, as he has a dinner appointment already,” Mrs. Stewart said, once they were settled and lunch had been served. “But he has suggested an admirable replacement. His cousin’s boy — an Oxford man, like Orlando — who’s helping with this exhibition. The young man hadn’t been invited to the dinner, and Dr. Peters was feeling very guilty about not being able to entertain him adequately when he’s been working so hard. He was on the verge of having to get his sister to come down from Cambridge to look after him, so we were the answer to each other’s prayers.”

“I bet you were,” Jonty thought. Ariadne wouldn’t have been best pleased to be dragged away from her nematode worms or whatever she was annoying at the moment.

Mr. Stewart nodded enthusiastically over his omelette. “What’s his name?”

“Barritt. With an ‘i,’ not an ‘e.’” Mrs. Stewart delicately loaded her fork with salad. “I don’t know the family. But he’s said to be very keen to meet you.”

“I suppose Dr. Peters’s recommendation should be enough,” Mr. Stewart replied. “Even for — excuse me, Orlando — an Oxford man.”

Orlando smiled, fully aware that any aspersions cast on his university were just part of the ancient rivalry. “I can provide some further information. He’s just come down this year with a glowing first. Bright as a button, keen on cricket and Egyptian mummies, in that order.”

“Well put, dear.” Mrs. Stewart offered Orlando a dish of mushrooms. “The physical description we’re uncertain on, Richard. We could hardly ask Dr. Peters for a set of Bertillon measurements, could we? So we’ll have to assume that any young man who turns up at the right time and in appropriate dress will be young Barritt, rather than somebody collecting for the dogs’ home.”

“He sounds fascinating,” Mr. Stewart replied, eyeing the mushrooms, rather like a spaniel might, until his wife took pity on him.

“And if he isn’t, then we need never invite him again, need we?” Mrs. Stewart helped her husband to the chanterelles.

“Pragmatic as always, dear.” Mr. Stewart smiled.

“He’s keen to meet us, is he?” Jonty gave Orlando a quick glance and a wink. “That sounds very promising.”

“You scent the possibility of a case at every juncture.” The glint in Orlando’s eye showed he’d considered the possibility too. Shame he’d have to settle for something more mundane in the meantime.


The afternoon was supposed to be given over to a walk in the park, but a sudden shower of rain put paid to that. Orlando settled for a second best activity of sitting in the study and reading up a small tome on obscure forms of coding — but a certain large furry pest came in and interrupted his concentration, wittering on about small furry pests.

“We’ve been asked to investigate a missing cat?” Orlando rolled his eyes, then looked daggers at Jonty. “That’s what we’ve been reduced to? Missing pets. I suppose somebody will have misplaced their rabbit next and we’ll be expected to look down every hole in London to find it.”

“I do wish at times you’d listen. Properly. But I guess that’s what I deserve for waking you up to tell you something.”

“I was not asleep. I was in deep thought, working out if one of the codes in this book” — Orlando tapped the tome, as though it would bear witness to the truth of what he said — “was actually usable or whether it was stuff and nonsense.”

Jonty muttered something along the lines of, “There’s only one load of stuff and nonsense here,” before saying, with his usual devastating smile, “Forgive me for interrupting your contemplations.”

“You’re forgiven.” Orlando gave a gracious wave of his hand.

“This cat is not your average moggy. It’s Montgomery, from the Dauphine. I know how much you dislike the feline genera, but as it’s only made of ebony, could you please view it in a favourable light?”

“Oh. That cat.”

“Yes. Of unknown current whereabouts. And the good people at the Dauphine want the matter rectified.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Not an unusual situation; Jonty rarely seemed to show evidence of an orderly mind.

“That’s because I haven’t had the chance to tell you about our adventure at the hotel.” Jonty produced a neat and surprisingly logical account of the events. “So it’s a nice little puzzle, with just that note and Papa’s bee in his bonnet to go on.”

“It strikes me that if he can’t pin that bee down — don’t tease me about mixing my metaphors, this is neither the time nor the place — then we’d likely be on a wild-goose chase.”

“Quite a menagerie!” Jonty sprawled in a leather armchair with the sort of smile that set Orlando’s heart — and trousers — all aflutter. How could a man concentrate on matters investigational when matters carnal pressed (quite literally) for his attention? “Mama and Papa are very fond of the Dauphine. It would be a shame to let them — or the hotel — down. I wouldn’t ask such a thing if it wasn’t important to them.”

“No, no indeed.” Orlando would do anything within, or without, reason to oblige the Stewarts. Of course Jonty knew that and made use of it, the toad. “Do you think there might be more to this than meets the eye? That bit about lighting fires is interesting.”

“It is. I can’t promise hidden depths, but if something’s itching in Papa’s investigational cortex — if that makes any sense outside of my head — then we should give our very best to scratching it.”

“You do talk twaddle.” Very attractive twaddle, it had to be admitted, but twaddle nonetheless. “Why should anyone take the thing? I guess it’s just some sort of a prank.”

“There could be many other reasons,” Jonty said insouciantly, evidently well aware he was further baiting the trap. Orlando was happy to fall into it. “What if the cat was hollow, and something was hidden inside? It would be blooming heavy if the whole thing were solid wood. What if that something is so important that somebody needs it back before anybody else can find it?”

“It could be.” Orlando ignored the lack of evidence and gave conjecture free rein. “What if it’s actually worth a fortune and had been given to the hotel as a form of safe keeping until it could be reclaimed? Which it now has been, to light the darkness of those in poverty or something. Or what if it’s been used as a weapon, and has to be hidden so the discovery of said crime can be delayed? Lighting the fires of revenge?”

“Extraordinary.” Jonty shook his head. “So many theories. Not a scrap of evidence for any of them. No wonder your dunderhead students love you so much. You’re as bad as they are.”

“I will not honour that remark with an answer. I was merely suggesting reasons why anyone might purloin an article, not offering you solutions to this mystery. Anyway, you little swine, you’ve done what you wanted to do.” Orlando laid aside his stuffy expression in favour of a lascivious grin. “I should know you can play me like a violin. Well, I’m interested. Does that suit your purposes?”

“You always suit my purposes.” Jonty leaned closer and dropped his voice. “Is there any chance of going back to Cambridge right now and making use of that rather large and lonely bed I have in my room?”

“I will not honour that remark with an answer, either. Do your thoughts never veer above your trouser line? No, don’t answer that,” Orlando added, with a raised hand and a worried look. “I suppose it’s all the time you spend reading that smut Shakespeare churned out.”

“Shakespeare knew what he was about. Smut gets laughs. Smut gets patrons on seats or standing in the pit. Smut makes money, as do violence and fights and high drama. He knew his business, which was entertaining an audience.” Jonty sighed. “Sometimes what I do seems entirely pointless, analysing why the man wrote a certain scene or what it signifies, when its only significance was probably entirely mundane, like allowing a costume change for the principal characters.”

“It’s never pointless.” Orlando cuffed Jonty’s sleeve. “I know nothing about Shakespeare, but I’ll wager there were always two sets of thoughts going on in his head. It’s like solving a maths problem. There’s the problem itself — that’s the expedient bit, like him having to get people offstage so they can change the scenery, or having to write a play that will steal customers from their rivals — then there’s the bigger picture, the beauty of the numbers and their relationship. That’s the bigger, hidden meaning he’ll have woven into his words.”

“You never cease to amaze me. For somebody who says they know nothing of the Bard, you’ve made an eloquent case for his genius. I shall watch some of those scenes with a fresh eye.” Jonty rubbed his forehead, looking confused and heart-meltingly attractive. That settled the matter.

“I’ll help find the cat.”

“Thank you. I know it’s not a proper use of your brains, but it’s a start. Maybe it has been used to kill someone, and you’ll find a murder en route. You’d like that.”

Orlando would like that. While he always felt a stab of guilt at hoping a murder would land in their path, he couldn’t deny one would be very welcome. It was far too long since they’d had a proper case.

Chapter Two
Jonty was just coming down for dinner as the doorbell sounded. There was a particular point on the stairs where, he’d discovered as a boy, one could see who was waiting outside through the window in the hall, and he habitually stopped there to have a look. This time he immediately flew down the rest of the flight to open the door — much to Hopkins’s chagrin — and found his sister on the step waiting to be scooped into his arms.

Lavinia Broad had blossomed with motherhood, and her firstborn child, George, was the family’s favourite. And now she was blooming again, with a brother or sister for him due to arrive in the autumn. She entered the house like a great galleon, with her husband, Ralph, like a frigate in her wake.

“Hello, stinker.” His sister kissed him affectionately. “Are you behaving yourself?”

“Of course I am, spoilsport.” Jonty laughed, disentangling himself to shake hands with his brother-in-law. “Ralph! How’s my godson?”

“Thriving. We’d have brought him tonight, but he’s got a slight snuffle. Will you drop in and see him tomorrow?”

“We will, won’t we, Orlando?” Jonty said over his shoulder, as his lover descended the stairs.

“Of course.” Orlando came over to shake Ralph’s hand, then waited for Lavinia, who was being embraced by her father, to kiss his cheek.

“George has a favour to ask of you. Or would if he could speak,” she added, patting Orlando’s hand. “Would you stand godfather to his younger sibling? We can’t guarantee it’ll be a boy, but . . .”

“I would indeed,” Orlando said with the extreme stateliness that always indicated he was fighting to hide deep emotion.

“Splendid.” Lavinia slipped her arm through his to lead them to the drawing room to join the other guests.

“You’ve made his day,” Jonty whispered to Ralph as they followed. “He’s a bit low, as usual when we haven’t had a case for a while.” He was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell ringing again, and Hopkins almost sprinting to answer it. “I’ll tell you all, later. I wonder if that’s Mama’s knight in armour?”

It was, and Jonty knew that Barritt had been given the seal of approval before the chap even sat down. Mrs. Stewart — who’d always had a fond spot for handsome young men — was positively purring over him. Even Lavinia had stationed herself in prime position so that the man, when he’d got his glass of sherry, would be perched between the two ladies of the household.

He could see the appeal. Barritt was tall, willowy, elegant, with a charming smile and a slight lisp, which gave his deep voice a soft edge. Not that he was smitten, of course, but a man couldn’t help noticing these sorts of things.

Mrs. Stewart had invited various ladies in their capacity as board members of her charity for fallen women (or those whose mothers had fallen in the begetting of them), and these ladies soon began peppering Barritt from all directions. This meant the other gentlemen could get on with discussing weightier matters, like the best prospect for the cricket county championship.

Mrs. Stewart graciously allowed Barritt to take her in to dinner, which earned her at least one envious look from a woman old enough to know better, but that was a hostess’s privilege.

The topic of triskaidekaphobia and the cat inevitably came up over dinner; Mr. Stewart related the adventure at the Dauphine with relish, and all the ladies assured Barritt that they’d rather have him than an ebony moggy any day.

Barritt, clearly becoming a little unnerved by the gushing female attention he was getting, said, “The Dauphine is my parents’ favourite hotel when they get up to London. Lovely place. I’d forgotten about Montgomery.”

“You haven’t by any chance got him about your person? It would be wonderful to solve the case for them in under twenty-four hours.” The wine — or maybe the young man’s extreme good looks — seemed to be loosening Orlando’s tongue. Maybe, with any luck, it would be loosening his trousers later.

“Alas, no. His disappearance is recent, and I haven’t been in the place for months. Although,” Barritt added in the tone of voice that always set the investigational part of Jonty’s heart leaping, “some friends of mine were there quite recently. They might know something.”

“Not rugby players, perchance?” Jonty asked.

“No-o.” Barritt was evidently uncertain of the significance of the question. “No, it was my maiden aunt and her companion, neither of whom play the game, although some might say they have the build for it. I doubt they purloined him.”

“I should hope not.” Orlando grinned. “They didn’t notice any rugby players acting suspiciously?”

“Not that they said. Just a rather staid lot of chaps called the Company of Leg-breakers. No —” he raised his hand to allay the ladies’ fears “— not ruffians. Just cricketers. I could ask my aunt if she or her friend noticed anything amiss. Maiden aunts often notice things. Women in general do, I find.”

“Quite right. Lavinia’s the brightest among us,” Jonty sailed in on a tide of fraternal affection. “The things my sister knows about amphibians would put most of the dunderheads to shame.”

“What a lot of nonsense you talk.” Lavinia burned crimson, but she was clearly delighted. “I must apologise for my family, Mr. Barritt. They have the annoying habit of talking in riddles. When I was just a little girl, Ralph famously threw a frog at me. My annoying pest of a brother —” she squeezed Jonty’s hand and gave him another dazzling smile “— calls it love at first amphibian.”

“Eccentricity possibly runs in your family too.” Jonty nodded at Barritt, quickly adding, “Not that I’m thinking of Dr. Peters, but his sister is certainly a pearl without price.”

Barritt smiled, affection shining in his eyes. “We all say she takes after one of our dim and distant ancestors, who’s said to have taken her life in order to avoid marrying a man she didn’t want. Only it turned out she hadn’t died at all, just pretended to have.”

“How extraordinary.” Mr. Stewart shook his head.

“So she was free to marry somebody else? Maybe the man she had wanted to in the first place?” Orlando posed the question that many of the company must have had in mind.

“No.” Barritt shook his head. “That would be terribly obvious, I think.”

“But isn’t the obvious and the mundane what usually happens?” Jonty cut in, aware that Orlando had begun to heat up at Barritt’s offhand remark. “In our experience, it often is something terribly simple at the bottom of a problem, something so simple you pass over it. Occam’s Razor and all that.”

Barritt, flinching slightly under Jonty’s polite assault, inclined his head. “You’re quite right. I apologise. One must never discount something just because it is so evident. But truth, you’ll agree, can extend into areas where fiction — were it to replicate it — would be said to be far-fetched.”

“It can.” Orlando pressed on. “So what was so extraordinary about this case?”

“She didn’t marry anyone at all. She went off travelling across the world, where it was said she — I hope the ladies will excuse me if I’m totally frank — spent some time in the seraglio of an eastern potentate. She used the opportunity to free herself from all shackles, not just those of an undesirable suitor.”

“How monstrous!” Mrs. Stewart said, so belligerently they all jumped. “No, not the seraglio bit — that must have been between her conscience and God — but faking one’s own death in order to escape. Her poor family. They must have been heartbroken.”

“Perhaps they were the monstrous ones, Mama.” Lavinia gave Jonty a quick smile. “Not every child is blessed as we have been.”

“You’re quite right.” One of the other ladies, who’d clearly tired of Stewart family speak, proceeded to launch into a discussion of the good works the charity had done, which lasted until they’d left the table.

Once they’d all returned to the drawing room, Ralph, whose wheels were by now well-oiled, asked, “You don’t feel inclined to share any stories about Dr. Peters, do you? He’s always struck me as being about the most perfect man I know. Surely he has a dark secret or three?”

“Ralph, dear, your nose for scandal will get you into deep waters one day.” Lavinia struck her husband lightly on the arm. “Ignore him, Mr. Barritt. He’s just envious of your cousin’s brains and looks.”

“We all are, I’m afraid. Even his sister says —”

“He’ll be back, once he’s helped light some fires!”

Thirteen faces turned towards Mr. Stewart, all dumbstruck except for his wife’s.

“Dr. Peters will be home when he’s lit which fires, dear?” she asked.

“Not Dr. Peters.” Mr. Stewart wagged his finger. “Montgomery. That’s what the note said.”

“Yes. Indeed.” Now Jonty felt as perplexed as his mother had.

“Sorry. I’ll explain. Remember that thought buzzing in my head, Jonty? I’ve swatted it.”

“I think we’ll leave you to your sleuthing, Helena.” Lady Sheringham rose regally from her chair — much to her husband’s dismay, as he clearly wanted to hear the story — and the party members made for their carriages or to call for cabs. Lavinia looked tired, so all family talk centred on ensuring she took care of herself, with Mr. Stewart insisting his own driver take her and Ralph home.

By the time everyone was gone, it seemed like the business of sleuthing would have to be put off to the morrow, so Jonty was surprised to hear a knock at his bedroom door, followed by his father’s voice.

“Are you too tired to talk cats?”

“Never.” Jonty hastily slipped on a dressing gown over his underwear and opened the door. “Excuse the state of me.”

Mr. Stewart waved his hand. “Never mind about that when we need to get down to business. The missing cat.”

Jonty grabbed his father’s arm, pulling him into and along the corridor. “Don’t tell me yet. Orlando’s cross enough at being asked to solve a case beneath his dignity, but missing out on your revelation would infuriate him.”

Orlando already looked infuriated when he opened his door to their knock.

“Something up, old man?” Jonty asked, concerned.

Orlando ushered them in. “I’ve dropped a collar stud, and now I can’t find the bloo . . . blessed thing.”

Jonty immediately looked up, towards the top of the wardrobe.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Stewart shook his head. “That collar stud won’t have defied gravity.”

“Sorry, Papa. Force of habit. I’ll explain at some point, when other things aren’t so pressing. Let’s find that stud or Orlando will never be able to concentrate properly on what you have to say about the cat.”

Orlando’s eyes lit up. “No, leave the stud. What you have to say is clearly worthy of note if it can’t keep until morning, so maybe it will help fire my investigative powers.”

Mr. Stewart beamed. “I’ve worked out why the note was bothering me. Those words. ‘He’ll be back once he’s helped light some fires.’ Particularly the ‘lighting some fires’ bit. It was an expression an old pal of mine used when he was referring to putting people right on things: lighting the fires of knowledge. I know that seems tenuous, but there’s more to it.”

“And this friend is . . .” Orlando looked less bothered at the loss of the collar stud by the second.

“Edward Faversham. And it gets better than that. Young Barritt mentioned that cricket team, the Company of Leg-breakers, didn’t he?”

“Yes.” Orlando was positively straining at the leash to hear more.

“The Favershams were very big in cricket. His team were an offshoot of J.M. Barrie’s team. Faversham felt his lot didn’t take the game seriously enough.”

“Scandalous,” Jonty said, for once not being facetious. “There’s only one way to play cricket — or rugby — and that’s as if it’s the most important thing in the world.”

“Absolutely, my boy.” Mr. Stewart beamed again, with parental pride at the filial values being espoused.

“Is Faversham’s team the Company of Leg-breakers?”

“I think so.” Mr. Stewart nodded. “Although I wouldn’t swear to it in court. His team had an outlandish name, and they always used to have their dinners at the Dauphine. It’s a tentative connection, but . . .”

“Tentative but worth pursuing.” Orlando’s brow creased in thought. “Is your friend the sort to go purloining things? Like cats?”

“Not him. Not now, anyway.” Mr. Stewart shrugged. “But the younger members of the family have always been less restrained than their elders, as the generations have progressed. Rather like us,” he added, with a look of innocence that wouldn’t have fooled a blind man. He’d played many a high-spirited prank in his younger days.

“So we’ve got a lead. Any chance of making use of it before Jonty and I go off to Italy?” A much-anticipated holiday, in search of more of Orlando’s long-lost relatives — they couldn’t put it off for a wooden cat.

“Quite possibly.” Mr. Stewart’s great mind had obviously been at work on this. “I’ll drop into my club tomorrow and see if I can find out if the Company of Leg-breakers have a match this weekend. I’ll get us invited to watch it.”

“That sounds excellent. Then we can interrogate them.” Jonty rubbed his hands gleefully.

“And if there’s no match? Or nobody to invite us to it?” Orlando still habitually expected the worst.

“In the first case, then we’ll have to defer investigations until after your sojourn abroad. In the second, we just turn up,” Mr. Stewart said, with a smile and a shrug. “Between us, we’re bound to know somebody there.”

“Although how a wooden cat can scotch any rumours or —”

“What’s that?” cried his father.

“What’s what?”

“That thing under the bed.” Mr. Stewart may have needed glasses for reading this last thirty years, but he could tell a hawk from a pigeon at a hundred yards.

“Maybe it’s your —” Jonty bent down, reached under the bed, and produced a small object “— collar stud! Well done, Papa. You’re on top form today.”

“Make sure you tell your mother that. I’ll need all the goodwill I can muster.” Mr. Stewart edged towards the door. “The last time I was in the vicinity of Faversham and his cricket cronies, I became rather . . . um . . . tired and emotional. She won’t welcome me renewing the acquaintance.”

“Orlando will tell her it’s essential to the cause of investigation. She’ll deny him nothing.” Jonty made a theatrical flourish.

“And if I can’t charm her, we’ll ask young Barritt,” Orlando suggested, as Mr. Stewart took his leave.

“What a nice lad Barritt was. Class clearly runs in that family.” Jonty dallied by Orlando’s door, unsure whether to stay for a while or wend his weary way to his own bed. “I hope he finds himself a nice girl. Or a nice chap if that’s his preference. Somebody to make a home with or for.”

Orlando nodded, suddenly seeming to have lost his voice, or maybe to trust it not to betray his depth of emotion. He could have written a book on being alone, prior to Jonty sweeping into his life and turning everything upside down.

“A chap, I think.”

“I beg your pardon?” Orlando jolted out of his thoughts and, looking a bit confused, nearly dropped the stud again.

“For young Barritt. I think he’d prefer a nice chap to a nice girl.” Jonty, leaning against the doorpost in a deliberately seductive manner, smiled mysteriously.

“And on what do you base this statement?”

“On the fact that he was surrounded by women, if that’s not topsy-turvy. Having a whale of time talking to them but not being flirtatious.”

“They were none of them available, and all far too old for him. Even your Lavinia.” Orlando sniffed. “So what logic you have in your argument eludes me. I’ve never particularly liked women, for a start.”

“Ah.” Jonty slipped into the room and lowered his voice. “But you can’t escape the fact that he kept eyeing you up. Quite smitten, I’d have said.”

“Nonsense,” Orlando protested, although his self-satisfied smile — quickly hidden — showed it was secretly a pleasing thought.

“Well, maybe you’re right. Perhaps it was just your brains he wanted you for. Your investigative facilities,” he said, then waited for the import of the words to sink in.

“Oh. And what makes you think that?”

“This.” Jonty reached into his pocket and produced a piece of paper, which he let Orlando unfold and read. “He slipped it into my hand before he went. I assumed it was a billet-doux.”

Once you’ve completed your present investigation, I’d be very grateful if you’d consider letting me consult you. Cousin Ariadne says you’re the men for the job.

“Just as we’d suspected. I wonder what he wants.”

“I have no idea. So we’d better find that damned cat as soon as possible. This could be a proper case.”

Orlando smiled, even more smugly. “It could indeed.”

Timeline(Some are short stories - links available on the author's LiveJournal):
Lessons in Love November 1905
Lessons in Desire August 1906
Lessons in Discovery November 1906
Lessons in Power Spring 1907
Lessons in Temptation July 1907
Lessons in Temptation missing scene July 1907
What the Mathematician said to the Statue Summer 1907
Lessons in Seduction September 1907
What the Mathematician said to the Engineer November 1907
My true love sent to me December 1907
Lessons in Trust Summer 1908
Resolution January 1909
Lessons for Suspicious Minds, set in summer 1909, re-releasing in 2015.
On the occasion of their anniversary November 1909
Bloody Mathematicians Spring 1910
Lessons for Idle Tongues 1910
May our days be merry and bright Winter 1910
A fit employment for a gentleman Summer 1912 (crossover 'fanfic')
Once we won matches Aug 1912
Ring in the New December 1913
All Lessons Learned Spring 1919
Lessons for Survivors, set in autumn 1919, re-releasing in 2015.
The Boy from Kings 1932
A random collection of silly things:
Pride, Prejudice and all the rest.
Drabbles 1 Edwardian
Drabbles 2 Edwardian
Splitting Infinitives Edwardian, crossover 'fanfic' 
Ten plus five plus eight = twenty three Edwardian crossover 'fanfic' 
Love Letters, 1911 to 2011 

Author Bio:
As Charlie Cochrane couldn't be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice - like managing a rugby team - she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, predominantly historical romances/mysteries, but she's making an increasing number of forays into the modern day. She's even been known to write about gay werewolves - albeit highly respectable ones.

Her Cambridge Fellows series of Edwardian romantic mysteries were instrumental in seeing her named Speak Its Name Author of the Year 2009. She’s a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and International Thriller Writers Inc.

Happily married, with a house full of daughters, Charlie tries to juggle writing with the rest of a busy life. She loves reading, theatre, good food and watching sport. Her ideal day would be a morning walking along a beach, an afternoon spent watching rugby and a church service in the evening.


Lessons for Idle Tongues #11

Lessons in Love #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Desire #2
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Discovery #3
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Power #4
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Temptation #5
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Seduction #6
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Trust #7
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

All Lessons Learned #8
B&N  /  KOBO  /  iTUNES  /  ARe

Lessons in Survivors #9

Lessons for Suspicious Minds #10

Lessons for Sleeping Dogs #12(Coming Oct 12, 2015)