Who Speaks for the Damned (Sebastian St. Cyr #15) - C. S. Harris Page 0,1

staring at the house for the past five minutes or more.”

Sebastian pushed up from the floor and went to stand beside her. The streets of London were filled with children, many of them ragged, barefoot paupers eking out a precarious existence. This boy looked to be perhaps eight or nine, but he was no beggar or street sweeper. His clothes were those of a tradesman’s son or shopkeeper’s apprentice, sturdy and respectable. As they watched, he took a step forward, only to stop, then lean his back against the lamppost and throw an apprehensive glance around.

Hero said, “Have you ever seen him before?”


As if sensing their attention, the child looked up, the brim of a round hat lifting to reveal delicate features and wide eyes. It was a haunting, vaguely exotic face, and there was something about the child’s troubled expression that caught at Sebastian in a way he couldn’t have explained.

“Whoever he is,” said Sebastian, “I think something’s wrong. Perhaps we should—”

He broke off at the sound of the kitchen door opening below. As they watched, Sebastian’s valet, Jules Calhoun, climbed the area steps toward the child. A slim, lithe man in his thirties with even features and straight fair hair, Calhoun had been with Sebastian for almost three years now. At the sight of the valet, the unknown lad’s chest jerked with what looked like a sob and he threw himself forward.

Sebastian heard Calhoun say, “Ji, what is it?” But the child’s answer was lost in the rattling thunder of a passing brewer’s dray drawn by a team of six stout shires.

Uncomfortably aware of inadvertently witnessing something personal, Sebastian went to retrieve his watch from his teething son. But a few moments later a quick step sounded on the stairs, and Calhoun appeared in the drawing room doorway with an apologetic bow.

“I beg your pardon, my lady.” The valet’s normally cheerful face was uncharacteristically serious, his voice tight with strain. “If I might have a word with you, my lord?”

Hero came to scoop the baby into her arms. “I’ll take Simon upstairs to Claire. It’s nearly dinnertime.” Her gaze met Sebastian’s, but all she said was “Tell Papa good night.”

“We saw the lad outside,” said Sebastian as Hero turned toward the door. “I take it he’s brought a message?”

“He says there’s been a murder up at Somer’s Town, in Pennington’s Tea Gardens. The victim is Nicholas Hayes, the youngest son of the late Earl of Seaforth.”

“Nicholas Hayes?” said Sebastian in disbelief. Nicholas Hayes had been a legend in England for nearly twenty years, his life a cautionary tale used by alarmed parents as a dire warning to curtail the wayward behavior of their rebellious offspring. It wasn’t often an earl’s son was convicted of murder and transported to Botany Bay. “I thought he’d died ten or fifteen years ago.”

“Reports of his death were . . . premature.”

“Evidently. The message came from Bow Street?”

“No, my lord. The lad found the body himself. Unless someone else has reported it, the authorities have yet to be informed.”

Sebastian remembered the child’s relief at the sight of the valet, and Calhoun’s quick Ji, what is it? “Why did the boy come to you with this?”

“I . . . It so happens I was somewhat acquainted with Hayes.”

Sebastian studied his valet’s guarded face. “And the boy knew this?”

Calhoun blew out a shaky breath and nodded.

“Did he see the murder?”

“No, my lord. He says Hayes had arranged to meet someone in the gardens, but Ji—that’s the boy—doesn’t know whom. By the time Ji found him, Hayes was dead. Someone stabbed him in the back with a sickle.”

“Good God. And what is this child to Hayes?”

“They came together from China.”


“Yes, my lord.”

“The boy is downstairs in the kitchens?”

“He is, my lord.”

“Best bring him up right away.”

“Yes, my lord.”

But when Calhoun went back downstairs, the child was gone.

* * *

Hero watched Devlin toss a black silk cape over his shoulders. “You’re going to investigate a murder dressed in evening clothes and a chapeau bras?”

“I am. I know your father is expecting you at tonight’s reception, so please go ahead without me, and I’ll catch up with you there later if I can.”

“You’ve sent a message to Sir Henry?” Sir Henry Lovejoy was one of the Bow Street Public Office’s three stipendiary magistrates. Not so long ago, when Sebastian had been on the run for a murder he didn’t commit, Lovejoy had been responsible for bringing him to justice. But in the years since, the two men had