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Tea and Treachery
by Cora Buhlert
Copyright © 2017 by Cora Buhlert
All rights reserved.
Cover image © AtelierSommerland via CanStockPhoto
Pegasus Pulp Publications
Tea and Treachery
“Your Excellency…” The bespectacled head of his secretary popped into the study, snivelling as always, “…I beg your pardon to disturb you. But you have a visitor. From England.”
“From England? Again?” With a sigh, Count Danilo Ostrowsky returned the silver flask filled with most excellent vodka to a drawer of his desk. “What do they want this time?”
“The same as usual,” the secretary, one Mr. Wurm, replied, “Beg for mercy for the pirate.”
“Send them away then.” Ostrowsky punctuated the order with a dismissive wave of his hand. “The matter is settled. The pirate will be hanged tomorrow at sunrise, together with his comrades.”
Privately, Ostrowsky wondered just why the British were so very interested in the pirate anyway. Whenever a foreigner was sentenced to death here in the Kingdom of Dragomir, you normally had to deal with an overworked consulate clerk, an ambassador at the very most, if the condemned was particularly important or notorious. The pirate, however, had drawn not just the British ambassador to his study, but even an undersecretary from Whitehall. All of which suggested that the man was no mere pirate after all, but a spy. Just as Ostrowsky had suspected from the very beginning.
Oh well, by this time tomorrow, the matter was academic anyway. The pirate and his crew would swing and there was nothing anybody could do about it.
“But Sir…” Wurm’s normally corpse-pallid cheeks had taken on a hint of red, as if an overzealous undertaker had smeared rouge on them. “…the visitor… it’s a lady.”
“A lady?” Now that was a surprise. Ostrowsky hadn’t even known that Whitehall employed ladies. “Is she pretty?”
“Well, Sir, not that I’m an expert in these matters, but… yes, I think one could say that she is quite attractive.”
Ostrowsky sighed. For if there was one weakness apart from fine vodka that he had, it was pretty women. “Well, send her in then.”
As Wurm ushered the lady into the study, Ostrowsky saw that for once, Wurm had not exaggerated.
For the lady was indeed very attractive. She was well-proportioned with gentle curves that were clearly a gift of nature rather than a corset, though she was wearing one, of course. Her hair was the colour of ripe chestnuts. Her gown was of cut according to the latest Parisian fashion. The colour was a deep rich violet, edged in black.
Half-mourning. Interesting. Though certainly appropriate, since the man for whose life she’d come to plead would hang tomorrow.
Ostrowsky rose as the lady entered and rounded his desk to greet her. “My lady.”
He took her gloved hand and bent down for a kiss, his lips barely touching the soft leather of her gloves. “I am Count Danilo Danilovich Ostrowsky, prime minister to His Majesty Roderick III of Dragomir. And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
“Lady Violetta Chesterfield,” the lady said. Ostrowsky noticed that she was carrying what looked like a picnic hamper. Goodness, was she trying to bring food to the incarcerated pirates?
“Enchanted.” Ostrowsky kissed the lady’s hand once more for good measure. “Most enchanted, Lady Violetta. I heard that you — ahem — wanted to talk to me about a matter of some importance.”
“Indeed I do,” Lady Violetta replied, “However, I believe that matters of any importance are best discussed over a nice cup of tea. It’s so much more civilised. Wouldn’t you agree, Count Ostrowsky?”