My dearest Amelie,
The news is not good, and I am glad that you insisted on remaining in Bois-de-Bas, especially in light of your condition. Indeed, I only wish I could be sure I might return home before the baby is due in October.
At noon today I arrived at the appointed inn for a meal with Cousin Jack—and there I found not him, but rather Mr. Trout—the little Cumbrian man who brought me my master’s chain last October. I have not said much about him to you—for your own safety, for he frightened me—but now I believe I must tell you that Trout is an agent of the King, or, at least, of some dark chamber within His Cumbrian Majesty’s government. He brought me my chain of office, but would not relinquish it to me unless I promised to carry out any orders he might give me during the course of the war. He made dire threats, and I was forced to acquiesce in order to receive my chain and so my office, from which I hope so many blessings will come for you and our children.
But little came of it, for the war ended here in Armorica shortly thereafter; and Lord Doncaster was able to come to Mont-Havre and take control with no help from me. At that time I had dared to hope that I had seen the last of Trout. But here he was at table in the little private room to which I was brought, in the same subfusc lawyer’s garb he’d worn in Bois-de-Bas.
“Trout,” I said. “I suppose it was always you I was to speak with, and not His Lordship.”
“Indeed, Master Massey.”
“The name is Tuppenny.”
“As you wish.” Trout is hard to read—he has no expression, and the glass in his square spectacles is thick—but I thought that I amused him.
“Where is my Cousin Jack?”
“Your cousin is a man who knows how to obey orders, Master Tuppenny. As, so I shall continue to presume, are you.”
I suppose I mustn’t say too much about what followed: Trout is no man to cross, and though he made no overt threats he did inquire after your health. We have friends; see that you keep them close. In particular, seek help from Jean-Baptiste and Brigitte!
Trout tells me that the fighting is going well in Provençe. Le Maréchal’s forces have been broken and Toulouse has been captured. But Le Maréchal himself is still at large. To point not too fine a point on it, he has fled with a small but sturdy force, and has taken refuge—somewhere. Somewhere difficult. I am told that my skills are required.
I believe I will be allowed to stay here in Mont-Havre for the time being, working at the Guild Hall. I hope I will need to roam no farther than that—his Lordship will provide materials, and I shall provide the forming. I could use Luc here, but I think he will be more valuable in Bois-de-Bas tending our investigations. If he discovers anything of interest please send it on—it may be crucial. In the meantime, though, I do need help from someone I can trust. Would you please have Marc speak to M. Laveau? I should like him to send young Bertrand to me.
There is more I wish I could say; for now, please speak to Marc, for he knows everything that passed between Trout and I last year. You may show him this letter; and then, I suppose, you ought to burn it. Speak of this to no one by Marc!
I am writing this in M. Suprenant’s study, and will send it to you by arrow; if you have need to contact me quickly, do reply to me here in the same manner. And do send me more usual news about the shop and our Anne-Marie by M. Suprenant’s drovers, as is usual. Everything must seem normal.
I have managed to have a quiet word with Cousin Jack, who I may say is furious at the deception that has been practiced on me. He had no idea of Trout’s existence until he was told not to come meet me today. He tells me that Sergeant Allen is one of his men, stout-hearted and a man to be trusted, and no creature of Trout’s; and that he is under orders to give you any assistance should you need it.
I shall return to you as quickly as I may; and if anything changes—if, in particular, I am required to leave the city—I will send you an arrow.
In all haste,