He was lying at the foot of a wall, his legs half under the dressing table’s bench. There was light in the room, now his eyes were accustomed; the French doors were pale rectangles in the dark, and he could make out the shape of the thing that was hunting him. It was man-shaped, but oddly hunched, and swung its head and shoulders from side to side, almost as though it meant to smell him out. Which wouldn’t take it more than two more seconds, at most.

He sat up abruptly, seized the small padded bench, and threw it as hard as he could at the thing’s legs. It made a startled Oof ! noise that was undeniably human and staggered, waving its arms to keep its balance. The noise reassured him, and he rolled up onto one knee and launched himself at the creature, bellowing incoherent abuse.

He butted it around chest-height, felt it fall backward, then lunged for the pool of shadow where he thought the table was. It was there, and feeling frantically over the surface, he found his dagger, still where he’d left it. He snatched it up, and turned just in time to face the thing, which closed with him at once, reeking and making a disagreeable gobbling noise. He slashed at it, and felt his knife skitter down the creature’s forearm, bouncing off bone. It screamed, releasing a blast of foul breath directly into his face, then turned and rushed for the French doors, bursting them open in a shower of glass and flying muslin.

Grey charged after it, onto the terrace, shouting for the sentries. But the sentries, as he recalled belatedly, were in the main house, keeping watch over the governor, lest that worthy’s rest be disturbed by . . . whatever sort of thing this was. Zombie?

Whatever it was, it was gone.

He sat down abruptly on the stones of the terrace, shaking with reaction. No one had come out in response to the noise. Surely no one could have slept through that; perhaps no one else was housed on this side of the mansion.

He felt ill and breathless, and rested his head for a moment on his knees, before jerking it up to look round, lest something else be stealing up on him. But the night was still and balmy. The only noise was an agitated rustling of leaves in a nearby tree, which he thought for a shocked moment might be the creature, climbing from branch to branch in search of refuge. Then he heard soft chitterings and hissing squeaks. Bats, said the calmly rational part of his mind – what was left of it.

He gulped and breathed, trying to get clean air into his lungs, to replace the disgusting stench of the creature. He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d seen the dead on battlefields, and smelled them, too. Had buried fallen comrades in trenches and burned the bodies of his enemies. He knew what graves smelled like, and rotting flesh. And the thing that had had its hands round his throat had almost certainly come from a recent grave.

He was shivering violently, despite the warmth of the night. He rubbed a hand over his left arm, aching from the struggle; he had been badly wounded two years before, at Crefeld, and had nearly lost the arm. It worked, but was still a good deal weaker than he liked. Glancing at it, though, he was startled. Dark smears befouled the pale sleeve of his banyan, and turning over his right hand, he found it wet and sticky.

‘Jesus,’ he murmured, and brought it gingerly to his nose. No mistaking that smell, even overlaid as it was by grave-reek and the incongruous scent of night-blooming jasmine from the vines that grew in tubs by the terrace. Rain was beginning to fall, pungent and sweet – but even that could not obliterate the smell.

Blood. Fresh blood. Not his, either.

He rubbed the rest of the blood from his hand with the hem of his banyan, and the cold horror of the last few minutes faded into a glowing coal of anger, hot in the pit of his stomach.

He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d killed. He’d seen the dead on battlefields. And one thing he knew for a fact. Dead men don’t bleed.

Fettes and Cherry had to know, of course. So did Tom, as the wreckage of his room couldn’t be explained as the result of a nightmare. The four of them gathered in Grey’s room, conferring by candlelight as Tom went about tidying the damage, white to the lips.

‘You’ve never heard of zombie – or zombies? I have no idea whether the term is plural or not.’ Heads were shaken all round. A large square bottle of excellent Scotch whisky had survived the rigours of the voyage in the bottom of his trunk, and he poured generous tots of this, including Tom in the distribution.

‘Tom – will you ask among the servants tomorrow? Carefully, of course. Drink that; it will do you good.’

‘Oh, I’ll be careful, me lord,’ Tom assured him fervently. He took an obedient gulp of the whisky before Grey could warn him. His eyes bulged and he made a noise like a bull that has sat on a bumblebee, but managed somehow to swallow the mouthful, after which he stood still, opening and closing his mouth in a stunned sort of way.

Bob Cherry’s mouth twitched, but Fettes maintained his usual stolid imperturbability.

‘Why the attack upon you, sir, do you suppose?’

‘If the servant who warned me about the Obeah-man was correct, I can only suppose that it was a consequence of my posting sentries to keep guard upon the governor. But you’re right,’ he nodded at Fettes’ implication. ‘That means that whoever was responsible for this – ’ he waved a hand to indicate the disorder of his chamber, which still smelled of its recent intruder, despite the rain-scented wind that came through the shattered doors and the burnt-honey smell of the whisky, ‘ – either was watching the house closely, or—’

‘Or lives here,’ Fettes said, and took a meditative sip. ‘Dawes, perhaps?’

Grey’s eyebrows rose. That small, tubby, genial man? And yet he’d known a number of small, wicked men.

‘Well,’ he said slowly, ‘it was not he who attacked me; I can tell you that much. Whoever it was, was taller than I am, and of a very lean build – not corpulent at all.’

Tom made a hesitant noise, indicating that he had had a thought, and Grey nodded at him, giving permission to speak.

‘You’re quite sure, me lord, as the man who went for you . . . er . . . wasn’t dead? Because by the smell of him, he’s been buried for a week, at least.’

A reflexive shudder went through all of them, but Grey shook his head.

‘I am positive,’ he said, as firmly as he could. ‘It was a live man – though certainly a peculiar one,’ he added, frowning.

‘Ought we to search the house, sir?’ Cherry suggested.

Grey shook his head, reluctantly.

‘He – or it – came from the garden, and went away in the same direction. He left discernible foot-marks.’ He did not add that there had been sufficient time for the servants – if they were involved – to hide any traces of the creature by now. If there was involvement there, he thought the servant Rodrigo was his best avenue of inquiry – and it would not serve his purposes to alarm the house and focus attention on the young man ahead of time.

‘Tom,’ he said, turning to his valet. ‘Does Rodrigo appear to be approachable?’

‘Oh, yes, me lord. He was friendly to me over supper,’ Tom assured him, brush in hand. ‘D’ye want me to talk to him?’

br />

He was lying at the foot of a wall, his legs half under the dressing table’s bench. There was light in the room, now his eyes were accustomed; the French doors were pale rectangles in the dark, and he could make out the shape of the thing that was hunting him. It was man-shaped, but oddly hunched, and swung its head and shoulders from side to side, almost as though it meant to smell him out. Which wouldn’t take it more than two more seconds, at most.

He sat up abruptly, seized the small padded bench, and threw it as hard as he could at the thing’s legs. It made a startled Oof ! noise that was undeniably human and staggered, waving its arms to keep its balance. The noise reassured him, and he rolled up onto one knee and launched himself at the creature, bellowing incoherent abuse.

He butted it around chest-height, felt it fall backward, then lunged for the pool of shadow where he thought the table was. It was there, and feeling frantically over the surface, he found his dagger, still where he’d left it. He snatched it up, and turned just in time to face the thing, which closed with him at once, reeking and making a disagreeable gobbling noise. He slashed at it, and felt his knife skitter down the creature’s forearm, bouncing off bone. It screamed, releasing a blast of foul breath directly into his face, then turned and rushed for the French doors, bursting them open in a shower of glass and flying muslin.

Grey charged after it, onto the terrace, shouting for the sentries. But the sentries, as he recalled belatedly, were in the main house, keeping watch over the governor, lest that worthy’s rest be disturbed by . . . whatever sort of thing this was. Zombie?

Whatever it was, it was gone.

He sat down abruptly on the stones of the terrace, shaking with reaction. No one had come out in response to the noise. Surely no one could have slept through that; perhaps no one else was housed on this side of the mansion.

He felt ill and breathless, and rested his head for a moment on his knees, before jerking it up to look round, lest something else be stealing up on him. But the night was still and balmy. The only noise was an agitated rustling of leaves in a nearby tree, which he thought for a shocked moment might be the creature, climbing from branch to branch in search of refuge. Then he heard soft chitterings and hissing squeaks. Bats, said the calmly rational part of his mind – what was left of it.

He gulped and breathed, trying to get clean air into his lungs, to replace the disgusting stench of the creature. He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d seen the dead on battlefields, and smelled them, too. Had buried fallen comrades in trenches and burned the bodies of his enemies. He knew what graves smelled like, and rotting flesh. And the thing that had had its hands round his throat had almost certainly come from a recent grave.

He was shivering violently, despite the warmth of the night. He rubbed a hand over his left arm, aching from the struggle; he had been badly wounded two years before, at Crefeld, and had nearly lost the arm. It worked, but was still a good deal weaker than he liked. Glancing at it, though, he was startled. Dark smears befouled the pale sleeve of his banyan, and turning over his right hand, he found it wet and sticky.

‘Jesus,’ he murmured, and brought it gingerly to his nose. No mistaking that smell, even overlaid as it was by grave-reek and the incongruous scent of night-blooming jasmine from the vines that grew in tubs by the terrace. Rain was beginning to fall, pungent and sweet – but even that could not obliterate the smell.

Blood. Fresh blood. Not his, either.

He rubbed the rest of the blood from his hand with the hem of his banyan, and the cold horror of the last few minutes faded into a glowing coal of anger, hot in the pit of his stomach.

He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d killed. He’d seen the dead on battlefields. And one thing he knew for a fact. Dead men don’t bleed.

Fettes and Cherry had to know, of course. So did Tom, as the wreckage of his room couldn’t be explained as the result of a nightmare. The four of them gathered in Grey’s room, conferring by candlelight as Tom went about tidying the damage, white to the lips.

‘You’ve never heard of zombie – or zombies? I have no idea whether the term is plural or not.’ Heads were shaken all round. A large square bottle of excellent Scotch whisky had survived the rigours of the voyage in the bottom of his trunk, and he poured generous tots of this, including Tom in the distribution.

‘Tom – will you ask among the servants tomorrow? Carefully, of course. Drink that; it will do you good.’

‘Oh, I’ll be careful, me lord,’ Tom assured him fervently. He took an obedient gulp of the whisky before Grey could warn him. His eyes bulged and he made a noise like a bull that has sat on a bumblebee, but managed somehow to swallow the mouthful, after which he stood still, opening and closing his mouth in a stunned sort of way.

Bob Cherry’s mouth twitched, but Fettes maintained his usual stolid imperturbability.

‘Why the attack upon you, sir, do you suppose?’

‘If the servant who warned me about the Obeah-man was correct, I can only suppose that it was a consequence of my posting sentries to keep guard upon the governor. But you’re right,’ he nodded at Fettes’ implication. ‘That means that whoever was responsible for this – ’ he waved a hand to indicate the disorder of his chamber, which still smelled of its recent intruder, despite the rain-scented wind that came through the shattered doors and the burnt-honey smell of the whisky, ‘ – either was watching the house closely, or—’

‘Or lives here,’ Fettes said, and took a meditative sip. ‘Dawes, perhaps?’

Grey’s eyebrows rose. That small, tubby, genial man? And yet he’d known a number of small, wicked men.

‘Well,’ he said slowly, ‘it was not he who attacked me; I can tell you that much. Whoever it was, was taller than I am, and of a very lean build – not corpulent at all.’

Tom made a hesitant noise, indicating that he had had a thought, and Grey nodded at him, giving permission to speak.

‘You’re quite sure, me lord, as the man who went for you . . . er . . . wasn’t dead? Because by the smell of him, he’s been buried for a week, at least.’

A reflexive shudder went through all of them, but Grey shook his head.

‘I am positive,’ he said, as firmly as he could. ‘It was a live man – though certainly a peculiar one,’ he added, frowning.

‘Ought we to search the house, sir?’ Cherry suggested.

Grey shook his head, reluctantly.

‘He – or it – came from the garden, and went away in the same direction. He left discernible foot-marks.’ He did not add that there had been sufficient time for the servants – if they were involved – to hide any traces of the creature by now. If there was involvement there, he thought the servant Rodrigo was his best avenue of inquiry – and it would not serve his purposes to alarm the house and focus attention on the young man ahead of time.

‘Tom,’ he said, turning to his valet. ‘Does Rodrigo appear to be approachable?’

‘Oh, yes, me lord. He was friendly to me over supper,’ Tom assured him, brush in hand. ‘D’ye want me to talk to him?’

‘Yes, if you will. Beyond that . . .’ He rubbed a hand over his face, feeling the sprouting beard-stubble on his jaw. ‘I think we will proceed with the plans for tomorrow. But Major Cherry – will you also find time to question Mr Dawes? You may tell him what transpired here tonight; I should find his response to that most interesting.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Cherry sat up and finished his whisky, coughed and sat blinking for a moment, then cleared his throat. ‘The, um, the governor, sir . . . ?’

‘I’ll speak to him myself,’ Grey said. ‘And then I propose to ride up into the hills, to pay a visit to a couple of plantations, with an eye to defensive postings. For we must be seen to be taking prompt and decisive action. If there’s offensive action to be taken against the maroons, it will wait until we see what we’re up against.’ Fettes and Cherry nodded; lifelong soldiers, they had no urgent desire to rush into combat.

The meeting dismissed, Grey sat down with a fresh glass of whisky, sipping it as Tom finished his work in silence.

‘You’re sure as you want to sleep in this room tonight, me lord?’ he said, putting the dressing-table bench neatly back in its place. ‘I could find you another place, I’m sure.’

Grey smiled at him with affection.

‘I’m sure you could, Tom. But so could our recent friend, I expect. No, Major Cherry will post a double guard on the terrace, as well as in the main house. It will be perfectly safe.’ And even if it wasn’t, the thought of hiding, skulking away from whatever the thing was that had visited him . . . no. He wouldn’t allow them – whoever they were – to think they had shaken his nerve.

Tom sighed and shook his head, but reached into his shirt and drew out a small cross, woven of wheat stalks and somewhat battered, suspended on a bit of leather string.

‘All right, me lord. But you’ll wear this, at least.’

‘What is it?’

‘A charm, me lord. That Ilsa gave it to me, in Germany. She said it would protect me against evil – and so it has.’

‘Oh, no, Tom – surely you must keep—’

Mouth set in an expression of obstinacy that Grey knew well, Tom leaned forward and put the leather string over Grey’s head. The mouth relaxed.

‘There, me lord. Now I can sleep, at least.’

Grey’s plan to speak to the governor at breakfast was foiled, as that gentleman sent word that he was indisposed. Grey, Cherry, and Fettes all exchanged looks across the breakfast table, but Grey said merely, ‘Fettes? And you, Major Cherry, please.’ They nodded, a look of subdued satisfaction passing between them. He hid a smile; they loved questioning people.

The secretary, Dawes, was present at breakfast, but said little, giving all his attention to the eggs and toast on his plate. Grey inspected him carefully, but he showed no sign, either of nocturnal excursions or of clandestine knowledge. He gave Cherry an eye. Both Fettes and Cherry brightened perceptibly.

For the moment, though, his own path lay clear. He needed to make a public appearance, as soon as possible, and to take such action as would make it apparent to the public that the situation was under control – and would make it apparent to the maroons that attention was being paid and that their destructive activities would no longer be allowed to pass unchallenged.

He summoned one of his other captains after breakfast, and arranged for an escort. Twelve men should make enough of a show, he decided.

‘And where will you be going, sir?’ Captain Lossey asked, squinting as he made mental calculations regarding horses, pack mules, and supplies.

Grey took a deep breath and grasped the nettle.

‘A plantation called Twelvetrees,’ he said. ‘Twenty miles or so into the uplands above King’s Town.’

Philip Twelvetrees was young, perhaps in his mid-twenties, and good-looking in a sturdy sort of way. He didn’t stir Grey personally, but nonetheless Grey felt a tightness through his body as he shook hands with the man, studying his face carefully for any sign that Twelvetrees recognised his name, or attributed any importance to his presence beyond the present political situation.

Not a flicker of unease or suspicion crossed Twelvetrees’s face, and Grey relaxed a little, accepting the offer of a cooling drink. This turned out to be a mixture of fruit juices and wine, tart but refreshing.

‘It’s called sangria,’ Twelvetrees remarked, holding up his glass so the soft light fell glowing through it. ‘Blood, it means. In Spanish.’

Grey did not speak much Spanish, but did know that. However, blood seemed as good a point d’appui as any, concerning his business.

‘So you think we might be next?’ Twelvetrees paled noticeably beneath his tan. He hastily swallowed a gulp of sangria and straightened his shoulders, though. ‘No, no. I’m sure we’ll be all right. Our slaves are loyal, I’d swear to that.’

‘How many have you? And do you trust them with arms?’

‘One hundred and sixteen,’ Twelvetrees replied, automatically. Plainly he was contemplating the expense and danger of arming some fifty men – for at least half his slaves must be women or children – and setting them essentially at liberty upon his property. And the vision of an unknown number of maroons, also armed, coming suddenly out of the night with torches. He drank a little more sangria. ‘Perhaps . . . what did you have in mind?’ he asked abruptly, setting down his glass.

Grey had just finished laying out his suggested plans, which called for the posting of two companies of infantry at the plantation, when a flutter of muslin at the door made him lift his eyes.

‘Oh, Nan!’ Philip put a hand over the papers Grey had spread out on the table, and shot Grey a quick warning look. ‘Here’s Colonel Grey come to call. Colonel, my sister, Nancy.’

‘Miss Twelvetrees.’ Grey had risen at once, and now took two or three steps toward her, bowing over her hand. Behind him, he heard the rustle as Twelvetrees hastily shuffled maps and diagrams together.

Nancy Twelvetrees shared her brother’s genial sturdiness. Not pretty in the least, she had intelligent dark eyes – and these sharpened noticeably at her brother’s introduction.

‘Colonel Grey,’ she said, waving him gracefully back to his seat as she took her own. ‘Would you be connected with the Greys of Ilford, in Sussex? Or perhaps your family are from the London branch . . . ?’

‘My brother has an estate in Sussex, yes,’ he said hastily. Forbearing to add that it was his half-brother Paul, who was not in fact a Grey, having been born of his mother’s first marriage. Forbearing also to mention that his elder full brother was the Duke of Pardloe, and the man who had shot one Nathaniel Twelvetrees twenty years before. Which would logically expose the fact that Grey himself . . .

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