‘Careful, Silver,’ Vale said. His grip on his swordstick was no longer quite as casual as it had been a few seconds ago. ‘You wouldn’t want to have any witnesses to illegal actions on your part, would you?’
‘Illegal actions?’ Silver turned to his manservant. ‘Johnson! Have I committed any illegal actions?’
Johnson checked his watch. ‘Not within the last three minutes, sir.’
Silver turned back to Vale. ‘There you have it. Rest assured that I am not at the moment committing any illegal actions. I am merely promising this hireling here that if he hands over the book I am looking for, then he will receive rewards beyond his wildest imaginings.’
‘Well, if there’s nothing illegal in it . . .’ Ramsbottom said vaguely. His eyes followed Silver dreamily, watching his every gesture, his every breath. Irene remembered the glamour that Silver had tried to lay on her, back in Wyndham’s study.
‘My dear sir,’ Bradamant said, with a nerve that Irene wasn’t quite sure she’d have managed to muster, ‘you still have not explained how you managed to track us here.’ She stepped to her left, forcing Silver to take his attention off Ramsbottom if he wanted to keep his eyes on her.
Silver waved a hand vaguely. ‘The simplest of matters. I subcontracted. Knowing that I could not track an agent of the Library – ah, you fooled me once, but not again! – I approached the elder Miss Olga Retrograde.’
Irene and Bradamant exchanged quick shocked looks. It was one thing to think that Silver might be aware of the Library – many Fae and dragons were, after all, just as the Library was aware of them – but to have him say it so baldly and in front of witnesses was rather worrying, in that it suggested there would shortly be no witnesses. And how had Silver known, in any case? What had he seen? How much did he know about the Library?
Vale, meanwhile, looked outraged. ‘You dealt with her?’
‘Merely a matter of convenience,’ Silver said airily. ‘Normally she is far too sordid for me to do more than invite her to my parties. I don’t suppose you would care to comment on that, would you, my dear private detective? From a, shall we say, family perspective?’
Vale looked even more furious, if that were possible. ‘I have nothing that I would wish to say about her,’ he spat.
‘Then allow me to clarify,’ Silver said with great satisfaction. ‘Her scrying attempts proved useless until you left your lodgings this morning. She caught the directions given to the cab-driver. From then it was simply a matter of reaching this museum first, and having my minions here locate your destination.’ He smiled at the hirsute thugs.
‘We know Mr Vale’s smell,’ one of them growled, his tongue coming unsettlingly far out of his mouth as he panted. ‘We all know Mr Vale’s smell. There’s a lot of us want to have a nice quiet little chat with Mr Vale down some dark alley sometime.’
‘There, there,’ Silver said. ‘I’m sure you’ll get your chance some day very soon now – if Mr Vale doesn’t advise his Library associate to comply with my requests.’ He smiled at Bradamant dazzlingly. Irene felt a little of the overspill of it, the burning surge of slavish desire and passionate adoration, and felt the brand across her back burn like raw ice in reaction. She also felt a quick burst of relief that apparently Silver hadn’t recognized her as a Library agent. She was still incognito for the moment.
Ramsbottom’s hands fell to his sides, and he gave up all attempts to be helpful to stare at Silver in mute fascination. Vale didn’t seem to be affected. Irene was tempted to look behind her to see what Kai was doing, but as a dragon, he should surely be immune to anything that Silver could throw at him. At least, she hoped so.
Silver thought that the book was still here. There had to be some way that they could use that. At least Bradamant was playing along and keeping Silver occupied.
‘But how did you know I was from the Library?’ Bradamant asked, edging still further to the left.
One of the thugs twitched forward as if to make a grab for her, but Silver shook his head. ‘No, my adversary deserves to know at least that much. How well you fooled me, my dear! I was quite distracted by your mousy little minion over there in her drab dress,’ he gestured at Irene, ‘and by your cunning thefts. How could I have realized that you were the mastermind behind it all? It was only after I put it all together that I saw you in your true light.’
Irene was torn between relief that he wasn’t focusing on her, and a certain amount of irritation that she was apparently a mousy little minion unworthy of his attention. Was she so utterly unnoticeable? Why wasn’t he pointing a finger at Irene and declaiming about her being an impressive mastermind? In fact, why was Silver claiming that there was a mastermind at all?
Part of her was aware that this was an incredibly stupid attitude to take, a reaction to his Fae charm or something. The same thing that was making her want to pout and preen at him. Maybe bare a shoulder or breathe deeply or somehow get him to notice her. To have him touch her with those beautiful long hands, his body pressing. . .
A thought at the back of her head was trying to get her attention. This is the problem with interacting with the Fae. An instructor’s voice from back at the Library, talking to half a dozen trainees while they made notes (or surreptitiously tried to plot out best-selling novels), droning away while rain spattered against the window that looked out onto a deserted grey stone square full of empty market stalls. They see everything in terms of their own personal drama. If you are not careful, they will drag you into it. This is in fact a problem and a risk with all chaos-infected alternates . . .