“Good God!” Sergeant Major General was confounded. “Do you mean to say that this Mybug fellow has left the country?! Absconded?!”
“Yes sir, I believe that’s what I just said,” said Mr Mybug’s secretary timidly, twisting her hands nervously. Miss Lacewing, for that was her name, was a demure young lady wearing thick spectacles and her hair in a tight bun. “He said it was for business reasons.”
Kirk Bill and Sergeant Major General were standing in the offices of the recently departed (but not in a dead way) Mr Mybug, after trouncing the less-than-impressive gang of thugs.
“When did Mybug leave?” asked Kirk Bill, pacing the room. He had acquired a smudge on one cheek during the exchange and his shirt collars were no longer perfectly starched, but apart from that he could have stepped straight from the pages of a men’s fashion plate.
“This morning, sir, on the packet to India,” said Miss Lacewing.
“India! Good God!” exclaimed Sergeant Major General.
“Lord Worzleham’s business interests were in India,” said Kirk Bill, still pacing. “I’m beginning to see a connection.” He stopped suddenly. “We must follow the trail to India as well!”
“But dammit, Bill, I have a card game at my club this evening!”
Kirk Bill made an extravagant gesture with one hand. “Justice, General! Justice must prevail! We must follow his murderer, even if to the ends of the earth! And our quarry has just left for India. Pack your pith helmet and some quinine tablets, my friend. Before we leave, however,” said Kirk Bill, his face suddenly softening, “I must call upon my dear sweet fiancé, and tell her that we shall be parted for some weeks.”
“Heigh-ho,” said Sergeant Major General gloomily, who in general had little patience for the feminine distress that manifested whenever Kirk Bill left the immediate vicinity.
The two gentlemen hastened for home, stopping in at the Lady Larchmoor’s grand house. “Kirk! Oh Kirk!” wept the good lady, as she pressed her face into Kirk Bill’s neck, melting into his strong embrace. Sergeant Major General scowled and kicked at something imaginary on the floor. “I do not think I can bear to be parted from you for such a time!”
“There there,” said Kirk Bill, gently, “start a new embroidery, and the time will be passed before you know!”
“You are quite right, of course,” she sniffed, drawing back and dabbing at her eye with a delicate lilac lace handkerchief that beautifully matched her satin gown, which was dressed with candy-striped ribbons and ostrich feathers. One thing about Lady Larchmoor, Sergeant Major General thought grudgingly, she did have exquisite taste in handkerchiefs.
“Sit next to me on this divan,” she implored of Bill, “and tell me you’ll be careful. Tell me you love me!”
“Of course I love you , my sweet!” Kirk Bill said, “and it is but a little while!” He carefully didn’t say anything about being careful for fear of wounding General’s manly sensibilities. Besides, he knew he would face danger and violence on the journey and didn’t wish to tell untruths.
“I know!” said the Lady Larchmoor, brightening suddenly. “I could come with you!” Sergeant Major General barely repressed a shudder.
“India is no place for a lady, my dove,” said Kirk Bill soothingly.
“But what about all the ladies that live there?” Lady Larchmoor looked charmingly puzzled for a moment but then fell again into despair. “You’re right of course. I would probably only slip and twist my ankle at a most inconvenient moment. And I’d need to take several trunks and bandboxes with me, which would prevent you from travelling quickly by horseback.”
“As ever, you are a vision of truth and wisdom,” said Kirk Bill, kissing her hand and rising to leave.
“Wait!” she said, gripping his hand with her own. “Take this with you, for luck.” She reached into her reticule and drew forth a simple chain. A golden chain, with a golden pendant. A golden pendant of a golden TIGER, with a single ruby for its glittering EYE.
TO BE CONTINUED