found a book he fancied, and sat in one of the old leather chairs and gone to sleep with it open in his lap.

Matthew was waiting, staring at Pitt with mounting anger.

“Who is saying this?” Pitt asked.

Matthew was taken aback. It was not the question he was expecting.

“Uh-the doctor, the men at the club …”

“What club?”

“Oh-I am not being very clear, am I? He died at the Morton Club, in the late afternoon.”

“In the afternoon? Not at night at all?” Pitt was genuinely surprised; he did not have to affect it.

“No! That’s the point, Thomas,” Matthew said impatiently. “They are saying he was demented, suffering from a sort of senile decay. It’s not true, not even remotely! Father was one of the sanest men alive. And he didn’t drink brandy either! At least, hardly ever.”

“What has brandy to do with it?”

Matthew’s shoulders sagged and he looked exhausted and utterly bewildered.

“Sit down,” Pitt directed. “There is obviously more to this than you have told me so far. Have you eaten? You look terrible.”

Matthew smiled wanly. “I really don’t want to eat. Don’t fuss over me, just listen.”

Pitt conceded, and sat down opposite him.

Matthew sat on the edge of his chair, leaning forward, unable to relax.

“As I said, Father died yesterday. He was at his club. He had been there most of the afternoon. They found him in his chair when the steward went to tell him the time and ask if he wished for dinner. It was getting late.” He winced. “They said he’d been drinking a lot of brandy, and they thought he’d had rather too much and fallen asleep. That’s why nobody disturbed him before.”

Pitt did not interrupt him but sat with an increasing weight of sadness for what he now knew would come.

“Of course when they did speak to him, they found he was dead,” Matthew said bleakly. The effort of control in his voice was so naked that for anyone else Pitt would have been embarrassed; but now it was only an echo of what he himself was feeling. There were no questions to ask. It was not a crime, not even an event hard to understand. It was simply a bereavement, more sudden than most, and therefore carrying a kind of shock. But looked on with hindsight it would probably be a loss such as happens in most families sooner or later.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.

“You don’t understand!” All the rage built up in Matthew’s face again. He looked at Pitt almost accusingly. Then he drew in a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. “You see, Father belonged to some sort of society-oh, it was benevolent, at least he used to think it was. They supported all sorts of charities….” He waved his hand in the air to dismiss the matter. “I don’t know what, precisely. He never told me.”

Pitt felt cold, and unreasonably betrayed.

“The Inner Circle,” he said, the words grating between his teeth.

Matthew was stunned. “You knew! How did you know, when I didn’t?” He looked hurt, as if somehow Pitt had broken a trust. Upstairs there was a bang and the sound of running feet. Neither took notice.

“I’m guessing,” Pitt replied with a smile that turned into a wince. “It is an organization I know a little about.”

Matthew’s expression hardened, almost as if some door had closed over his candor and now he was wary, no longer the friend, almost brother, that he had been.

“Are you a member? No, I am sorry. That’s a stupid question, isn’t it? Because you wouldn’t tell me if you were. That’s how you knew Father was. Did you join with him, all those years ago? He never invited me!”

“No I did not join,” Pitt said tartly. “I never heard of it until recently, when I tangled with them in the course of my work. I’ve prosecuted a few of their members, and exposed several others for involvement in fraud, blackmail and murder. I probably know a great deal more about them than you do, and just how damnably dangerous they are.”

Outside in the corridor Charlotte spoke to one of the children, and the footsteps died away.

Matthew sat silent for several moments, the emotions that churned through his mind reflecting in his eyes and the tired, vulnerable lines in his face. He was still suffering from shock; he had not accustomed himself to the knowledge that his father was dead. Grief was barely in check, the sudden loneliness, regret, a little guilt-even if he had no idea for what: simply chances missed, words unused. And he was terribly tired, wrung out additionally by the anger which consumed him. He had been disappointed in Pitt, perhaps even betrayed; and then immensely relieved, and again guilty, because he had accused him wrongly.

It was no time to require apologies. Matthew was near to breaking.

Pitt held out his hand.

Matthew clasped it so tightly his fingers bruised the flesh.

Pitt allowed him a moment or two of pure emotion, then recalled him to his story.

“Why did you mention the Inner Circle?”

Matthew made an effort, and began again in a more level voice, but still sitting far forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees and his hands under his chin.

“Father was always involved only with the strictly charitable side, until quite recently, the last year or two, when he rose higher in the organization. More by accident than design, I think. He began to learn a lot more about them, and what else they did, who some of the other members were.” He frowned. “Particularly concerning Africa …”

“Africa?” Pitt was startled.

“Yes-Zambezia especially. There is a lot of exploration going on there at the moment. It’s a very long story. Do you know anything about it?”

“No … nothing at all.”

“Well naturally there’s a great deal of money concerned, and the possibility of unimaginable wealth in the future. Gold, diamonds, and of course land. And there were all sorts of other questions as well, missionary work, trade, foreign policy.”

“What has the Inner Circle to do with it?”

Matthew pulled a rueful face. “Power. It always has to do with power, and the sharing out of wealth. Anyway, Father began to appreciate just how the senior members of the Inner Circle were influencing policy in the government, and the South Africa Company, to their own advantage, regardless of the welfare of the Africans, or of British interests, either, for that matter. He got very upset about it indeed, and started to say so.”

“To the other members of his own ring?” Pitt asked, although he feared he knew what Matthew would reply.

“No … to anyone who would listen.” Matthew looked up, his eyes questioning. He saw the answer in Pitt’s face. “I think they murdered him,” he said quietly.

The silence was so intense they could hear the ticking of the walnut clock on the mantelshelf. Outside in the street, beyond the closed windows, someone shouted and the answer came back from farther away, a garden somewhere in the blue twilight.

Pitt did not dismiss it. The Inner Circle would quite readily do such a thing, if it felt the need great enough. He doubted not its resolve or ability … simply need.

“What was he saying about them, exactly?”

“You don’t disbelieve it?” Matthew asked. “You don’t sound shocked that distinguished members of the British aristocracy, the ruling classes, the honorable gentlemen of the country, should indulge in the murder of someone who chose to criticize them in public.”

“I went through all my emotions of shock and disbelief when I first learned about the Inner Circle and their purposes and codes of conduct,” Pitt replied. “I expect I shall feel anger and outrage all over again sometime, but at the moment I am trying to understand the facts. What was Sir Arthur saying that would make it necessary for the Inner Circle to take the dangerous step of killing him?”

For the first time Matthew sat back in his chair, crossing his legs, his eyes still on Pitt’s face. “He criticized their general morality,” he said in a steadier voice. “The way they are sworn to favor each other secretly, and at the expense of those who are outside the Circle, which is most of us. They do it in business, banking, politics and socially if they can, although that is harder.” His smile twisted. “There are still the unwritten laws that govern who

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