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

First to arrive was Commissioner Alexander, a bluff, hearty man some 20 years Miss Mathers’ senior. Still vigorous, he held his spine erect as he joked with Roberts, who unbent so far as to crack a slight smile.

“Cocktails in the dining room, sir,” Roberts said. I heard Commissioner Alexander say “Briony, my dear, as lovely as ever …” as I carried his hat and overcoat away.

Sir Miles McFarland came next. A couple of years younger than Miss Mathers, his was at first thought to be a purely political appointment. Nevertheless, he has risen, rather well, to his situation, and has proven to be an able, if not showy, administrator.

Anton Greydon and Air Vice Marshal Reese arrived simultaneously. Both had come by taxi. The Air Vice Marshal was a tall, wintery man with iron-grey hair and a forbidding expression on his face. He was every inch a military man. His eyes, surprisingly, were a warm brown, which seemed utterly incongruous with the frosty aura he projected.

Anton Greydon, who arrived at the same time, didn’t look pleased to see him. I had seen Anton before, of course, but we had never actually met. He glanced at me and nodded as I took his coat. I silently let out a breath I had not realized I was holding. That was one.

The Air Vice Marshal was wearing, of all things, an evening cape. Arrogantly he shrugged out of it, letting it fall where it may. I almost forgot my role in this when I gathered the cloak before it had the chance to hit the floor.

I had always felt sorry for the people who had to “clean up” after arrogant sods like AVM Reese. True, servants are seldom seen unless needed, but they are human as well. Reese’s arrogance put me in mind of various wealthy nobles of old and modern day wealthy persons who looked down their noses at the working class people. Such as the farmers and builders. I wonder if they realized who it was that built their homes and supplied the food they ate.

Before they could be ushered by Roberts into the drawing room, Briony, with unerring instinct, was in the hall with us laughing, being hugged by Anton and holding her hand out to Air Vice Marshal Reese. “Air Vice Marshal, how very good of you to take time out of your busy schedule!”

“Not at all, Miss Mathers.” Gallantly, he bowed over her hand. “A pleasure. Always.” He allowed her to lead him towards the drawing room.

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