“Good God!” Sergeant Major General exclaimed. “An opium den? What business could a fine upstanding citizen like Lord Worlzeham have at an opium den?”
“Forgive me, Miss Worzleham, but was your father in any financial trouble?” asked Kirk Bill, frowning, but not in an unattractive way.
Miss Worzleham shrugged. “Not that I am aware,” she said. “In fact a boat arrived from his holdings in India just last week, full of cotton and tea and spices and furs and so forth. He has always been lucky in business. He never has problems with boats sinking or native uprisings or his plantation managers being crushed by elephants or struck down by curses or anything. His competitors are jealous of his good fortune.”
“We must storm this den of iniquity,” blustered Sergeant Major General, “and sweep out those cads and bounders who plotted against the worthy Lord Worzleham!”
“Storm it!” cried Miss Worzleham. “I should say not! I won’t let you!” She stamped her foot, elegantly clad in a cream satin slipper with floral beading.
Sergeant Major General stared at the young lady, mouth agape. Kirk Bill turned his head slightly to one side and narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
“I own it!” Miss Worzleham drew herself up to her full not-very-tall height. “It was a present from my father on my eighteenth birthday!”
“I say, Bill old chap,” General whispered sometime later, as they followed Miss Worzleham through embroidered curtains into a room lit with gaslight and upholstered in velvet. “Whatever happened to giving young ladies a simple necklace on their coming of age?”
“These are changed times,” Kirk Bill said, seriously, “and Lord Worzleham was extraordinarily wealthy.”
Miss Worzleham led the two men past various iniquities to an elegant lady with dark hair piled on top of her head (elegantly) and painted eyes. (She had real eyes, only enhanced with mascara and eye paint). She wore a gold cheongsam, even though (Sergeant Major General suspected) she was not Chinese.
“This is my manager, Madame Rostropovich,” said Miss Worzleham.
“Miss Worzleham. Gentlemen. How can I be of assistance?” Madame Rostropovich had a deep voice and an Eastern European accent.
“What can you tell us about the man Lord WorzLeham met with last night?” asked Kirk Bill.
“Lord Worlzeham met with no man last night,” Madame Rostropovich announced. “He met with – a lady!”
“Good God!” gasped Sergeant Major General.
Kirk Bill was unruffled. “Then what can you tell us about this lady?” he asked.
“She was very beautiful,” said Madame, tipping her head in thought and inhaling smoke from her meerschaum pipe inlaid with mother-of-pearl. “She wore a gown of blue shot silk. Brown hair. I could not see her face, for she wore a veil.” Here Sergeant Major General made as if to speak, but Kirk Bill stopped him with a gesture. “They spoke at length. They drank cognac. The lady was calm, Lord Worzleham increasingly agitated. She left first, handing him a single sheet of paper as she left.”
“The drawing of the eye,” Sergeant Major General whispered to Kirk Bill, who looked vaguely irritated at the stating of something so obvious, but only those who knew him well and were smarter than Sergeant Major General would have noticed.
“Anything else?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Madame. “She wore a fabulous necklace, gold filigree set with a large stone. It was unusual, not a diamond or an emerald or sapphire. It was a satiny brown, with flashes of red and stripes of gold”.
“I know what that stone is,” said Kirk Bill, grimly. “Semi-precious, of the quartz group. A stone more commonly called – TIGER’S EYE’.
TO BE CONTINUED