“And Lazar Dragovic,” Blantyre added. “He was a traitor to Austria. But you can’t prove any of it.”

“Austria is not my territory,” Pitt told him. “London is.”

“Austria is the heart of Europe, you provincial fool!” Blantyre said between his teeth. “Get out of my way.”

“And London is the heart of England,” Pitt replied. “Which is irrelevant, except that it is my responsibility. You blackmailed Tregarron into trying to kill Duke Alois, and only ended up killing his friend instead. But one dead man is as important as another.”

“You can’t prove that either, without exposing Tregarron, and his father, and the whole sordid mess of treason. And you’ll expose Duke Alois as well, of course,” Blantyre said. “So there isn’t a damn thing you can do. Now get out of my way, and don’t oblige me to hurt you.”

Pitt stood still, his heart beating so violently he felt certain he must be shaking. His hand ached, gripping the revolver.

Blantyre moved the knife a little so the light caught its blade.

“What are you going to do, stab Alois?” Pitt asked, his voice rough-edged.

Blantyre paled a little.

“Because you can’t afford to leave him alive,” Pitt added.

There was a flash of understanding in Blantyre’s eyes, perhaps of the knowledge that he couldn’t afford to leave Pitt alive either. For an instant he moved the knife a fraction, then let it fall again.

“You can’t arrest me; you’d only make a fool of yourself. And you don’t have the nerve,” he said very softly. “I’m walking out of here and I’ll find Duke Alois another time. Perhaps I’ll follow him back to Vienna. No reason I shouldn’t. You’re out of your depth, Pitt. Pity, because I liked you.” He gave a slight shrug and took a step forward.

Everything that Blantyre said was true.

Pitt raised the revolver. “God forgive me,” he said to himself, and fired.

The sound was deafening.

For an instant Blantyre’s eyes were wide with amazement, then he staggered backward against the cubicle door and it crashed open behind him. He fell, his chest soaked in red. He slithered to the floor, and lay still.

Pitt forced himself to walk over to the cubicle and look down. Blantyre’s eyes were still open, and sightless. Pitt felt his stomach twist violently with regret. Hours seemed to pass before he heard shouts and footsteps along the corridor. He put the revolver back in his pocket and took out his identification. He had it in his hand when two men in dinner suits flung the door open and stopped abruptly. Narraway was immediately behind them, Jack Radley on his heels.

“God Almighty!” the first man exclaimed, his face ashen, staring first at Pitt, then past him to the open door, and Blantyre covered in blood, lying on the tiled marble floor.

Narraway pushed past him, then stopped.

Pitt started to speak, cleared his throat, and started again.

“I am Thomas Pitt, head of Special Branch. I regret to say that there has been an unpleasant incident, but there is no danger now. You might be civil enough to inform Duke Alois Habsburg that the immediate danger to his life is over.”

The first man gaped, then turned very slowly to Narraway.

Narraway looked at him, his eyebrows slightly raised.

“Quite right, Ponsonby,” he said. “He is precisely who he says he is, and the facts are as he states. Be a good chap and get everyone out of here while we have someone clear this up, will you?”

When they were gone, too numb with shock to argue, Narraway closed the door.

“Well done, Pitt,” he said quietly. “It’ll hurt like hell. You’ll dream about it as long as you live, but that’s the price of leadership, making the gray decisions. Black-and-white ones are easy; any fool can deal with those. You’ll have to live with it, but if you hadn’t done it, you would have had to live with every grief that followed because of it.” He smiled very slightly. “I always knew you’d do it.”

“No, you didn’t,” Pitt replied, his voice hoarse.

Narraway shrugged. “I believed it more than you did. That’s good enough.” Then he smiled and held out his hand.

Pitt took it, and held it, hard.

“Thank you.” Simple words, but he had never meant them more.

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