She had wondered what he had made of the Holmes family—and whether he had been disappointed in their father, even though he couldn't have expected much to begin with. To Sir Henry, Myron Finch had only ever been an abstract inconvenience addressed via family solicitors. How had Mr. Finch felt then, standing before the father who did not know what he looked like—nor had ever cared to find out? "We are not the easiest people to work for."
"You and Miss Livia are all right."
They met a minimum standard of decency and consideration. But their parents . . .
Charlotte nodded. "An excellent strategy. I thought you were more than you let on—but often people are. I didn't in the least suspect anything while I lived here."
"When did you realize? And how?" he asked, as if the questions had only then occurred to him.
In his nonchalance, this brother might be more similar to her than any of the siblings with whom she had shared an upbringing. "Very recently. When I went to your old school and asked to see photographs of cricketers from your batch."
"And what prompted you to do such a thing?"
"It's a long story."
She gave him a condensed version of the maneuvers, on the part of a Moriarty ally, to find him. The ally, who had known of both Charlotte's connection to Myron Finch and that she was taking consulting clients under the guise of Sherlock Holmes, had asked Sherlock Holmes to find the errant Mr. Finch. And the irregularities of the case had eventually led Charlotte not only to unmask Mr. Finch but also to expose the Moriarty ally.
He listened without interruption. And except for a widening of the eyes when she mentioned that she was Sherlock Holmes, he could have been nodding along to a stranger's account of garden pests.
But when she fell silent, he exhaled, a shaky breath—he was not free from fear, after all. "I knew that if they found me, I'd be dead. But I had no idea so much effort had been expended toward that end."
If he only knew. She had not told him that the Moriarty ally was none other than her friend Lord Ingram Ashburton's estranged wife, who had been passing along crucial information that she'd gathered from spying on her husband, himself an agent of the Crown. As a result of coming to Sherlock Holmes, her secret had been exposed. And she was now a fugitive, her children essentially motherless.
But Lady Ingram's fate was not Mr. Finch's concern. He had enough of his own worries.
"I understand you have taken something of value from Moriarty," said Charlotte. "But I imagine, theft or not, he must make an example out of everyone who deserts him—or his other minions might think they could abscond at will."
"Not many wish to. Then again, those who do choose not to express that desire aloud. Jenkins and I were unusual in that we knew each other before we pledged our fealty to Moriarty. Most others come into his service singly and alone."
"And his organization becomes the only family they know."
She wondered, then, and not for the first time, what had compelled him to leave this "family". Had it been the culmination of years of ever-increasing urge? Or had he, like her, made up his mind within minutes, when his circumstances deteriorated abruptly?
She did not ask that question. She asked, "If you don't mind my curiosity, what did you do for Moriarty, exactly?"
"I was his cryptographer."
Similarities. "I had to solve a Vigenère cipher recently. It nearly broke my will to live."
He smiled and made no response.
Charlotte took a sip of her tea, a strong, brisk Assam, served without milk or sugar. "What do you plan to do now?"
"I think you know I plan to disappear again. But that isn't what you are asking, is it?"
"You are correct," said Charlotte. She nibbled on her slice of plum cake, which had held up well despite having spent the evening in her rather cramped handbag. "I am more interested in what you intend to do with what you stole from Moriarty."
"I didn't steal anything from Moriarty," said Mr. Finch.
Charlotte raised a brow.
He smiled slightly. "That is the official version. Moriarty will deny, to his dying breath, that anything has been taken from him in
an unauthorized manner. I don't know how you came by your information, but it most certainly wouldn't have been one of his
usual agents. To them he would have said only that we were traitors—and that would be reason enough to hunt down and eliminate us."