A PERFECT SERVANT FOR A SPY

For several years, Latham makes do without a personal manservant, trusting to mirrors attached to his hat brim to detect followers, and temporary hires. But a surprise attack convinces him to interview his sub-agent’s beloved nephew. Latham was satisfied from his sub-agent’s description that the youth had enough speech defects that if he betrayed his master no one would believe him. You’ll meet fictional Joris Boels in Chapter 8:

A renaissance youth, as Joris might have looked

‘Pieter Boels ushered a gangly youth of about sixteen into Latham’s receiving room. Holding his cap in big, rough hands, Joris Boels stood braced in utmost opposition, young mouth set in pinched angry lines. Apart from this extreme mood, his looks were ordinary: light brown eyes, straight brown hair, a moderate nose in a face free of pockmarks, moles or freckles. Easily forgotten, Latham thought approvingly, if he could relax. “I hear you draw well,” Latham began.

The youth nodded sullenly. Latham dismissed Pieter and handed Joris paper, quill and black ink. “A man attacked me last year,” Latham continued.

A flicker in the noncommittal eyes.

“I don’t know who he was, but listen and draw.” Latham described the Douai novice’s square jaw, the angle of his ears, his cold blue eyes, his build, his walk, everything he remembered, including garlic breath and grunts.

Joris sat and looked at the ceiling then bent to the paper. His scraped-knuckle left hand became a delicate instrument, making tiny movements to fix facial details and sweeping ones to capture the attacker’s aggression. He brought the Douai novice to life, first full-faced, facing left, then right.

“It’s very like him,” Latham exclaimed in astonishment.

A faint smile spread the boy’s lips. “Eng–––el,” he attempted.

Latham interrupted. “Engelsman?”

The boy’s momentary openness slammed shut. He glared.

“You think he’s English?” Latham tried again. “Why?”

Joris shrugged.

“No matter.” Latham was angry with himself. Pieter had warned him about condescending, yet he’d fallen into it right away. He handed Joris more paper and coloured inks. “He could disguise himself, so make him an artisan, a wounded veteran, a liveried servant, a physician.”

The novice became these characters.

“Would you recognise him anywhere?” Latham asked, settling in to wait as long as it took for the answer.

Joris focused on the ceiling. “Mm-INE!”

He was saying that he now owned this man. It was a subtle concept.

“Very good, Master Boels. One of your duties would be to follow my followers, draw them and map where they stay. Now, your uncle says you can fight.”

Joris nodded. Flexing his hands, he ambled after Latham to the courtyard, where a pugilist waited.’

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