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Authors: Elizabeth Bear

Tags: #Vampires, #London (England), #Fantasy, #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Historical, #Occult & Supernatural

Seven for a Secret

BOOK: Seven for a Secret
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Seven for a Secret
Elizabeth Bear
Subterranean (2009)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Vampires, London (England), Fantasy, Fiction, Science Fiction, Adventure, Historical, Occult & Supernatural
From Publishers Weekly

Hugo-winner Bear's sequel to 2007's
New Amsterdam
will please fans of the earlier book, a series of alternate history novellas. Lady Abigail Irene Garrett and wampyr Don Sebastien de Ulloa resurface in a 1938 London that has been under German rule for over a decade. With the British king in exile in the Americas and the German Chancellor gathering a force of werewolves, the amateur detective duo plan to use magic to defeat the occupation. While other writers might have used the concept for a lengthy novel, Bear's decision to keep the story short lets her easily maintain suspense, and her superior prose will engage the interest of both new readers and fans of Abby and Sebastien's earlier exploits.
(Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description

The sequel to New Amsterdam!

The wampyr has walked the dark streets of the world's great cities for a thousand years. In that time, he has worn out many names--and even more compatriots.

Now, so that one of those companions may die where she once lived, he has come again to the City of London. In 1938, where the ghosts of centuries of war haunt rain-grey streets and the Prussian Chancellor's army of occupation rules with an iron hand.

Here he will meet his own ghosts, the remembrances of loves mortal--and immortal. And here he will face the Chancellor's secret weapon: a human child.

Seven for a Secret
Copyright © 2009 by Sarah Wishnevsky. 

All rights reserved.

 

Dust jacket Copyright © 2009 by Patrick Arrasmith. 

All rights reserved.

 

Interior design Copyright © 2009 by Desert Isle Design, LLC. 

All rights reserved.

 

 

ELECTRONIC ISBN

9781596063785

 

Subterranean Press

PO Box 190106

 

 

 

 

 

…it is clear that the Devil can make a Werewolf.

—Montague Summers, 

The Werewolf in Lore and Legend
, 1933

London

1938

1. 

They say the secret to getting away with murder is to tell no living soul. Well, the secret to getting away with lying is to believe with all your heart.

That goes for lying to yourself, even more so than lying to another.

The wampyr turned to watch two girls in the uniform of the Chancellor’s Bund Englischer Mädel cross under one of London’s new electric streetlamps, while motorcars rattled over the cobblestones and pedestrians gave the young collaborators a wider berth than strictly necessary. That, the wampyr thought. That was the core of the problem. He didn’t believe his own lies anymore. He hadn’t for decades. His artifices had grown shallow, without structure or craft.

He could no longer inhabit them. Not the way these girls, a golden-blonde and a paler blonde, inhabited their uniforms and the tissue of lies that constructed them.

The wampyr observed the girls sidelong, sound and motion and the taste of their warm, healthy bodies on the air. They laughed as if they had no idea that the epaulets on their grey wool shoulders were the color of blood. Jack would have been so outraged to see them. The wampyr thought he might have had to be physically restrained from a confrontation.

But then, that was the Jack of old, youthful and full of fire. He would be almost sixty now, if he had not been killed. If he had survived the intervening years, as well—those years that had so changed the wampyr. Perhaps they would also have changed Jack.

Why must he think of Jack now?

Because, he thought, the more golden of the two girls was slight and snub-nosed and looked younger than she was. Because, although she wore a revolver at her hip and the Iron Cross on her breast, though she was part of the conqueror’s army, when her voice floated to him on the breeze, her words were in English and its accents were not German.

And if the first girl reminded him of Jack, the other one was as pale as Phoebe, but taller and broader-shouldered, her bearing limber and martial.

The wampyr thought the girls harbored a lot of courage, and not a little foolhardiness, to go out in London unescorted. True, England had a long history of consuming its conquerors—in the end, the descendents of Celts and Saxons and Romans and French all became English after the fact. And true, the Germans had been in power eleven years, the younger generation was coming to maturity accepting foreign rule as the way of things. Also, the girls would be relatively safe here, on a public thoroughfare, with Schutzpolizei—the Schupo—visible every few blocks. But plenty who still inhabited London would not scruple over what became of two young collaborators, should they stray too far from a crowd.

The wampyr, himself, did not hold it against them. He was old enough to recognize that a seed could only grow where it was planted. Times changed, and those who would thrive must change with them.

The ways of London, however, did not change so much as all that. The girls led him through the tight medieval streets of ancient London-town, which still followed well-worn Roman pathways, familiar to the wampyr from the experience of centuries past. He altered his course through the pedestrians, past the bright glitter of shop windows in gray buildings, and came around to trail the girls at a distance. Phoebe and Abby Irene would not necessarily expect him home before dawn, even if they were wakeful, and it would do him no ill to see that the girls reached their destination in safety.

The act of following proved undemanding. Time-consuming, however, as the cadets seemed in no hurry to reach a destination. Instead they walked arm-in-arm, breaths streaming in the Christmas cold, footsteps falling in unison, laughing under their caps. They entered no stores, but seemed content to window-shop and giggle. Exactly as if they were not fifteen-year-old soldiers in the service of a conquering lord.

The crowds began to thin as the clocks struck ten; even in London, not much beyond pubs and gambling halls stayed open later. The wampyr dropped back, making more distance between himself and the girls. He was not terribly tall, and nondescript among London’s men in his black city hat and greatcoat, but the habit of caution had kept him in the world a long time now and even distraction could not cause him to abandon it.

Now they huddled closer, using each other’s bodies as a shield from the long night’s chill. The golden one tugged the pale one’s sleeve; they turned together down a winding way near the vast medieval Gothic cathedral of St. Paul’s. The alley they chose kinked sharply. It would have been far too narrow for an automobile. The wampyr paused a moment to look up at the streaked spire of the ancient church rising above surrounding buildings like a white hen presiding over a mismatched clutch of chicks.

He shook his head, glanced over his shoulder to find himself unobserved, and slipped to the top of the crooked street and stole a glance down. The smell of the young women came clearly on the still cold air; they had stopped in the alley, and were filling the narrow space with scent—their own, the light sweet scent of girls; the wool and gun
oil and leather of their harness; their perfume—one wore
violets, the other lilies; and another thing. A rank undertone of animal fur, like damp dog.

There were no streetlamps along this way, so the girls no doubt believed themselves concealed by darkness, and to any eyes but the wampyr’s, they would have been. But the dark was his domain, his refuge, his office, and he saw through it as clearly as if through a thickness of black net. And he could hear them clearly, though they spoke in murmurs intended only for each other.

“…we can’t get away with this forever,” said the pale one. The wampyr heard every bit of worry in her voice as she said, “We could lose our positions.”

The golden one was not concerned. The wampyr could find her scent clear on the cold wind, so he knew she was pleased and thrilled, running on excitement. She muffled her laughter with her hand and said, “We’re
expensive
, Ruth. It’s not so easy to replace a couple of sevens who are ready to graduate. Don’t
worry
so much.”

Her voice, a low ebullient whisper, told him before his eyes what he was about to witness. The girls did not embrace, because that would have rumpled their uniforms. But the pale one—Ruth—took the golden one’s face between her gloved hands. The golden one’s knee pressed up the hem of Ruth’s skirt, her foot advanced for balance, her hands were on Ruth’s upper arms, laid there lightly, with decorum.

There was no decorum to the kiss.

It was an invasion to observe them, but for a moment, the wampyr could not help but stare, mouth tight across his teeth, hands tightening on the silver head of his ebony cane. Envy, stark and simple, and after that a bright steel-tasting rush of worry for their sake. It was unwise, what they did. Brash and youthful and beautiful, and so sharply, perfectly unwise.

The wampyr heard the Schupo approaching long before the girls could have. He froze, elbows pressed to his ribs, and listened hard before he turned his head. The clip of the steel-toed boots on cobbles was unmistakable.

The wampyr could slip into the alley and be gone before the Schupo reached the corner. But then he would be leading the officer right down on the girls, like a fox leading the dogs upon the henhouse. And unlike that fox, the wampyr felt a sense of moral obligation.

He turned his back on the dark gap between buildings, leaned back against the red brick wall, and closed his eyes, the cane dangling from limp fingers. He didn’t need to see. Close upon the Schupo’s footsteps came his scent, tobacco and aftershave and the leather of his holster and his truncheon strap. Would anyone who smoked so much even be able to tell if the wampyr reeked of alcohol? Did it matter?

The footsteps closed, and stopped. „Wie heißen Sie?”

The wampyr opened his eyes, shaded them from the dazzle of the Schupo’s electric torch, and shrugged. He had, he realized a little too late, forgotten what lie he was meant to be living.

In the alley, he heard the rustle of cloth, the girls’ hesitant footsteps as they realized their peril and faded back, away, around the corner and into the dark dead end. They halted there, and the wampyr could imagine them huddled in the shadows, hearts racing like the hearts of hunted rabbits.

A coarse line was drawing itself between the officer’s
eyebrows. „Sind Sie krank?”

The wampyr held up his empty right hand, fingers extended, and made a gesture to his inside coat pocket. “My papers,” he offered, in English.

The Schupo’s squint relaxed marginally. He lowered the torch, away from the wampyr’s eyes, but kept it trained on the center of his torso. Now his face was revealed; he was perhaps in his thirties, with a sandy moustache under the spiked cap.

“Yes,” he said. His accent was better than the wampyr had expected. “Your papers, please.”

Slowly, one-handed, the wampyr reached into his coat and produced them. They were a forgery, of course, but he was confident in them. What Lady Abigail Irene forged, no mere night watchman could put asunder. As he opened them for the Schupo, he glanced at his own name.

The papers read,
Dr James Chaisty Jr., M.D.

“Doctor Chaisty,” the officer said. “Have you been to visit a patient?”

“No, sir.” Too easy to check a lie. “I visited a professional colleague. On the walk home, I was contemplating a tricky problem, and I seem to have lost track of time. I’m just on my way home now.”

“It says here that you are the Garrett woman’s personal physician.”

The wampyr let himself smile, just a little. Abby Irene seemed as incapable of avoiding notoriety as a child of avoiding mud puddles. “Lady Abigail Irene is my employer.”

BOOK: Seven for a Secret
11.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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