The House Of Smoke

The House Of Smoke by Sam Christer

Book: The House Of Smoke by Sam Christer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sam Christer
followed fast-moving water as it broke white on rocks and tumbled around the sharp bend of a river.
    What I did not see was any other house or sign of civilisation. Moriarty’s home was isolated. Hidden. And judging from the number of men patrolling the distant hedges and fences, it was a fortress.
    I descended the grand main staircase and studied a wall filled with oils. They depicted generations of men bearing varying resemblances to Brogan Moriarty. Some were grandfatherly figures, standing behind chairs that bore women and babes in arms. Others were more heroic: men on horseback, in battlefields or hunts. All had the same piercing stare as the one I had first encountered back in Manchester.
    I had some time before my lessons so I explored the corridors, more out of boredom than curiosity. Raised voices spilled through a door left slightly ajar at the foot of one landing. Sirius Gunn and Surrey Breed were in heated conversation. I pressed myself to a wall so I could hear but not be seen.
    ‘The Chinese are
not
a threat,’ insisted Gunn. ‘The old man is obsessed with them. Just because they want more profit from their opium and are interested in gambling, doesn’t mean they are becoming our enemies.’
    ‘Raising prices is not a friendly thing to do.’
    ‘Nor is it a sign of war. Moriarty should look more to the tinkers and the English gangs massing in London; they present far greater dangers than the Chinese.’
    ‘Do they? The professor says the Chans are more organised than the English and one day opium, cocaine and even laudanum will be illegal.’
    ‘Illegal? What poppycock! Surrey, you really should confine yourself to concocting poisons and trying to look more feminine. You are not informed enough to comment sensibly on these matters.’
    ‘I’ll confine myself to kicking your bollocks,’ she retorted. ‘If Moriarty sees the Chinese as a threat, then that’s good enough for me.’
    ‘Good Lord, woman, do you not know that we get more opium from India than we do from China? We should forge
closer
ties with Chan and his clan and not fear them. There are but a couple of hundred Chinese in London. We can muster as many men in an hour.’
    I must have moved my weight a little because a floorboard creaked beneath my right foot.
    ‘What was that?’ asked Surrey.
    ‘What was what?’
    ‘There was a sound. Outside.’
    I had been rumbled, and had no choice but to walk to the door and open it fully. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘I am lost and looking for Lady Elizabeth.’
    They glanced at each other and then at me.
    ‘Have you been listening in?’ asked Gunn.
    ‘I have just told you what I have been doing,’ I answered curtly. ‘Now can you please tell me where I might find Lady Elizabeth?’
    ‘I’ll show him,’ said Surrey. ‘Follow me, Simeon.’ She walked past me and into the corridor. For a second or two, Gunn and I glared at each other.
    ‘Don’t you have a
lesson
to go to?’ he said sarcastically.
    ‘I do. But I would gladly delay it to teach
you
a lesson.’
    ‘Simeon!
’ shouted Surrey.
    I left to catch her up. ‘One day, I will swing for him,’ I said as I drew level with her.
    ‘He’s not your enemy. None of us is. You just have to get used to us.’ She gave me a friendly look. ‘We’re not so bad, given a chance.’
    ‘I believe that of you, but not him.’
    ‘Did you really forget where the drawing room was?’
    My face owned up to the lie, even before I did. ‘I was bored, so walked around awhile before my lesson. I wasn’t listening in, honestly.’
    ‘
Honestly?
’ She laughed. ‘Be wary of anyone who says “honestly”, Simeon. It is always an attempt to conceal a lie.’
    ‘I’ll remember that. Why are you worried about the Chinese?’
    ‘Oh, so you
were
listening!’ She seemed pleased to have got it out of me.
    ‘I heard only a few words.’
    ‘Then you will hear the rest soon enough.’ We descended the main stairs, turned a corner and she gestured to

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