on the side of the desk, and made a pronouncement, much as God himself did after creation.

“It is good to be back.”


Barker picked up the post and began looking through it. “There seems to have been an uncommonly large group of people in need of my services while I was recuperating,” he noted.

“With your permission, sir, I’d like to recommend a client who might take top priority.”

Barker turned his face toward me. I’d gotten his full attention.

“And who is this client?”

“It is I, sir.”


“Yes, sir.”

“You wish to hire me?”

“I do not think I can make myself any plainer, sir. Yes, I wish to avail myself of your services. My bank account is now such that I can afford you, in a limited capacity, at least.”

He turned his head to the side in a way I’ve seen Harm do when I’d done something that puzzled him. I suppose he was wondering about the ethics of taking on his assistant as a client. Finally he shrugged. “Very well.”

“I need-”

Barker raised a hand, then gestured in front of him. “The client’s chair,” he said.

I got up from my desk and moved to the chair. It was the first time I had ever sat in it. From there, I had to say that Barker looked most imposing, even with his spiky hair.

The Guv lifted up the cigar box and opened it, offering it to me. I shook my head. He was enjoying this little masquerade.

“Very well, Mr. Llewelyn,” he said, putting down the box and resting his thick fingers on the blotter. “What can I do for you today?”

“I wish you to locate the remains of my late wife, which are probably in Oxford, though I cannot be sure. I want to give her the burial she deserves.” I reached into my pocket and took out a check, drawn of course on my private account. “This is to retain your services.”

Barker looked at the check in his hand, read it over, and looked at me. Then he put it on the far edge of the desk, nearest my own, and sat back in his chair.

“I accept.”

There was no other man in London I would trust with such a task. For that matter, there was no one else in the world.

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