01. Mystery in the Dark

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Silently, I gazed down the street, my eyes sweeping from right to left, looking for movement, for the glint of watching eyes, for any sign that someone might be following us. Nothing. Nothing but the dark, and howling wind, the whirling flakes of snow. But it wouldn't last. Someone would see. Someone would find out. And then...

My hands clenched into fists.

'Karim?'

'Yes, Sahib?'

'Let's go.'

'Yes, Sahib.'

Ducking out of the shadowy archway, I started down the street. Every step in the thick, white blanket of snow was like a drumbeat in my ears.

Thud.

Don't do this.

Thud.

Don't do this.

Thud.

Don't do this.

At a street corner, I ducked behind a tree and Karim followed, melting into the shadows. We waited. Waited while snow fell, and wind whistled. Nothing. No pursuers. No one following. But still...I wasn't going to cease being vigilant. Not in this case.

Double back! I silently signalled at the big, weather-beaten Mohammedan, the only person in this world I trusted.

Mostly.

With one possible exception.

Damn! No! This is no time for thoughts of he—

I cut the thought off ruthlessly before it could end in fiery disaster.

We doubled back and checked for pursuers. Still nothing. I didn't relax one little bit, however. Not with what I had planned for tonight. I could hardly believe that I was doing it. The very thought of it made me shudder, and yet, and yet...

My feet kept moving, one in front of the other.

No one must find out. If anyone finds out...

I couldn't think about that. No one would find out. It was that simple. And if someone was unfortunate enough to see me...

Sliding into my tailcoat, my hand caressed the butt of my trusted revolver. There were solutions to every problem.

Suddenly, a shadowy figure stepped out of a doorway in front of me.

'Karim!'

Reacting out of instinct, I grabbed the stranger by the collar, driving my knee into his guts.

'Rrrg!'

Most kind of him to double over like this. My hands clenched together in one fist, and I brought them down on the stranger's neck, with a crack. Gurgling, he landed in the snow.

In an instant, Karim was beside me, picking the man up as if he weighed no more than a feather and pinning him to the wall. A gleaming blade appeared at the neck of the soon-to-be-deceased individual.

'Speak or die!' Karim hissed. 'Who sent you? Who told you to follow us?'

'Grrk. Ng. Agl.'

Slowly, Karim reduced the pressure on the man's throat. 'Speak!'

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