In Chapter Twelve: Parker poses as a servant while providing security at a very important gathering for a friend.

“If I didn’t think you’d appreciate it, I wouldn’t have served it, lad.

“We’ve been together a long time, Miss Briony and I. We met when she was six years old, and I was fourteen. Her uncle gave her a pony, see — and I was the groom that was to take care of it and teach her how to ride it.”

Roberts poured two glasses of the golden whiskey, handed one to me, then sat down and took a tentative sip.

“Aah. Buttercup, the pony’s name was. That was — yes, 53 years ago today. We’ve been together, man and mistress, that entire time. Well, except for … but that’s a tale for another day.

“And in that time, we’ve developed our own way of communicating. See, a contretemps is a situation that requires action. A slight one means possible trouble, a small one is minor trouble, a minor one is major trouble that requires immediate action. When I told her we had a minor contretemps she knew there was big trouble coming — and when she told me she did not need to tell me how to do my job, she was saying she would take action to safeguard her guests.

“Never think, lad, that the car in the square had eluded her notice. She always sits in that seat — it gives the best view of the window, just as your station beside the buffet does — and she had probably marked the car for herself, at least as soon as you did.” He smiled. “Not much gets past her, even now.”

At that last, I had not realized I had the glass halfway too my lips until I went to reach for it. I had been listening avidly to Roberts’ tale. I took a swig of the whiskey and set the glass down.

I knew the two had a long history. Yet, fifty-three years worth was a long time. Long enough to where the two had perfected the language they used to communicate with each other, yet seem normal to other ears. No less surprising, but quite expected was Miss Mathers’ perceptiveness and foresight in her choice of seats.

“I take it the other servers were cleared out of the room as well,” I asked, needlessly I was sure. But I needed to know that there were no deaths at all. If there were, I intended to make sure their families were taken care of as well even though I had no hand in their deaths personally.

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