The Last of August

Page 35

“Which means?” August asked.

“Which means I’m headed to Thailand. Tonight. I need my own eyes on the situation.” He smiled thinly. “I’ll be back soon. I do have a war to run, you know.”

I remembered Alistair saying that. I was the architect of several wars. Clearly the impulse to take on the world ran through the Holmes family. But his sister didn’t have his same scope of his ambitions. Hers had a laser focus.

Milo was giving his sister a rundown of what agents she could turn to if she needed help, though I wasn’t sure if she was listening. For his part, August was preoccupied, his eyes fixed on the cart as Peterson rolled it out the door.

“We have that lunch with Phillipa, which I’m sure will be totally fine and not at all awful and insane. And then Holmes and I are going to the East Side Gallery tonight,” I told August, though she and I hadn’t discussed it. “That professor, Nathaniel, had a standing appointment with Leander. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he doesn’t show up. Especially because—is he that dealer that Leander approached? Before he left?”

But August was hardly listening. “He trusts me,” he said. “He just . . . laid all of that information out, about my family, like it was nothing. He trusts me not to tell them what he knows or what he’s doing.”

I looked at him sharply. “Will you?”

“No,” he said, barking a laugh. “I never would. I told you I came here to make peace, and I meant it. He’s just never confided in me like that before. I don’t know what changed.”

Holmes was touching Milo’s shoulder, leaning forward to say something in his ear. He shook his head, and kissed her briefly on the cheek. “I’ll see you soon,” he said, and with a nod to us, he left.

“Congratulations, August. You’ve been given codeword clearance to the file on your own family.” She tugged at her CHEMISTRY IS FOR LOVERS shirt. “Can we please get on with our day? It’s already seven a.m., and I want to have this wrapped up by midnight.”

HOLMES ASKED AUGUST AND ME BACK TO THE ROOM TO “strategize” before our lunch with Phillipa, but August begged off, saying he needed to work.

“On what? You don’t exactly do anything.” Holmes raised her eyebrow at the look I shot her. “What? He talks constantly about how he does nothing. I don’t see how it’s impolite for me to acknowledge that fact.”

He put his hands firmly on her shoulders, like he was her tutor again. “Charlotte. I don’t have any work to do. I’m—very politely—trying to ditch you so I can get an hour to myself. Unlike the two of you, I start to feel ragged after too much of all this togetherness.”

“You could have just said so.”

With a shake of his head and a smile, August took off toward the elevator.

I wondered where he was going.

“Don’t tell me you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the polite no,” I said to Holmes as she opened the door to our room.

“I’m not. I simply expect more from my friends. Honesty is far more efficient than lying.”

“Milo is just telling him that information to see what he’s going to do with it.”

“Of course. But I trust him. He chose to erase himself rather than turn me in. I doubt he’s gone and changed his mind now.” She thought about it for a moment. “And anyway, even if he is off trying to tell on us, he’s overdue for a little selfishness.”

“You’re feeling that cavalier about it?”

Her smile was all teeth. “I said he could try. I’m fairly sure Milo still has a target on August’s back. Hadrian can try getting information from a smoking pile of ash, but I don’t think he’ll succeed.”

It was such an awful image that I had to laugh. “You’re chipper this morning.”

“I am,” she said. “Gird your loins. I need to run through our strategy for our lunch with Phillipa.”

“THE RAW BAR IS EXCELLENT,” PHILLIPA WAS SAYING. SHE lifted a subtle finger, and like a bit of magic, a white-clad waiter appeared at her elbow. “Could I please have a split of champagne. Whatever your house champagne is, nothing fancy.”

“Isn’t champagne by definition fancy?” I asked.

“It’s barely midday,” Holmes said without looking up from her menu.

“Children.” Phillipa smiled thinly. “Don’t tell me you’ve never rinsed your oyster shell with champagne. What are they teaching you at that wretched school?”

I lifted an eyebrow. “How to frame children like us for murder.”

This whole business was absurd. Phillipa had insisted on choosing the restaurant; Milo had been sent an address ten minutes before we left. He’d raised an eyebrow when he saw. “That restaurant opened in 1853,” he’d said, loading us into a car, “and since 1853, it’s been overpriced. Enjoy the Italian marble. I’ll send some discreet security to sit nearby.”

But we walked in to find that Phillipa Moriarty had booked the entire restaurant. She waited at a table in the back, under a glittering mosaic of a dragon. “Hello, all,” she’d said pleasantly. “I hope this suits you?”

“Absolutely not. Unacceptable,” Holmes said. “I want my brother’s men to see us through the windows. Up. Let’s go.” And she led us to a table by the window, like we were children she was taking to the principal’s office.

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