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Authors: C. S. Harris

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #General, #Amateur Sleuth

When Falcons Fall

BOOK: When Falcons Fall
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The Sebastian St. Cyr Series

What Angels Fear

When Gods Die

Why Mermaids Sing

Where Serpents Sleep

What Remains of Heaven

Where Shadows Dance

When Maidens Mourn

What Darkness Brings

Why Kings Confess

Who Buries the Dead

OBSIDIAN

Published by New American Library,

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

This book is an original publication of New American Library.

Copyright © The Two Talers, LLC, 2016

Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

Obsidian and the Obsidian colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information about Penguin Random House, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-16788-9

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN
-PUBLICATION DATA:

Names: Harris, C. S., author.

Title: When falcons fall: a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery/C. S. Harris.

Description: New York, New York: New American Library, [2016] | Series:

Sebastian St. Cyr mystery; 11

Identifiers: LCCN 2015041045 | ISBN 9780451471161 (hardback)

Subjects: LCSH: Saint Cyr, Sebastian (Fictitious character)—Fiction. | Great

Britain—History—George III, 1760–1820—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION/Mystery &

Detective/Historical. | FICTION/Mystery & Detective/General.

| GSAFD: Regency fiction. | Mystery fiction.

Classification: LCC PS3566.R5877 W474 2016 | DDC 813/.54—dc23

LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2015041045

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

In memory of Banjo, Scout, and Indie, my three forever-kittens

Acknowledgments

M
y profound and heartfelt thanks, first of all, to my agent, Helen Breitwieser, who has stuck with me through thick and thin for twenty years now. And to my amazingly insightful editor Ellen Edwards, who guided this series through its first eleven books; you have taught me so much, and you will be missed more than you’ll ever know.

Thank you, Danielle Perez, who has enthusiastically picked up where Ellen left off. Thank you, Gene Mollica, for your wonderful cover art, and for so generously permitting me to use your images on my Web site. Thanks to publicists extraordinaire Loren Jaggers and Danielle Dill. Thank you, Claire Zion, Kara Welsh, Sharon Gamboa, Adam Auerbach, Daniel Walsh, and the rest of the great crew at NAL/Berkley. And a huge shout-out to the wonderful folks at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, Murder by the Book in Houston, Poisoned Pen in Phoenix, Powell’s in Portland, and Seattle’s Mystery Bookshop; thank you for everything you do.

Thank you to my daughters, Samantha and Danielle, for putting up with my bouncing plot ideas off you since before most children know what a plot is. Thank you to the Monday-night Wordsmiths—Pam Ahearn, Rexanne Becnel, Elora Fink, Charles Gramlich, Steven Harris, Farrah Rochon, and Laura Joh Rolland—for years of friendship, conversation, laughter, advice, encouragement, and commiseration.

And finally, thank you again to my husband, Steven Harris, for being you.

Say, will the falcon, stooping from above,

Smit with her varying plumage, spare the dove?

 . . .

Admires the jay the insect’s gilded wings?

Or hears the hawk when Philomela sings?


A
LEXANDER
P
OPE

Chapter 1

Ayleswick-on-Teme, Shropshire

Tuesday, 3 August 1813

I
t was the fly that got to him.

In the misty light of early morning, the dead woman looked as if she might be sleeping, her dusky lashes resting against cheeks of pale eggshell, her lips faintly parted. She lay at the edge of a clover-strewn meadow near the river, the back of her head nestled against a mossy log, her slim hands folded at the high waist of her fashionable dove gray mourning gown.

Then that fly came crawling out of her mouth.

Archie barely made it behind the nearest furze bush before losing the bread and cheese he’d grabbed for breakfast.

“There, there, now, lad,” said Constable Webster Nash, the beefy middle-aged man who also served as the village’s sexton and bell ringer. “No need to be feeling queasy. Ain’t like there’s a mess o’ blood.”

“I’m all right.” Archie’s guts heaved again and his thin body shuddered, but he swallowed hard and forced himself to straighten. “I’m all right.” Not that it made any difference, of course; he could say it a hundred times, and word would still be all around the village by noon, about how the young Squire had cast up his accounts at the mere sight of the dead woman.

Archie swiped the back of one trembling hand across his lips. Archibald Rawlins had been Squire of Ayleswick for just five months. It was an honor accorded his father, and his father before him, on back through the ages to that battle-hardened esquire who’d built the Grange near the banks of the River Teme and successfully defended it against all comers. One of the acknowledged duties of the squire was to serve as his village’s justice of the peace or magistrate, which was how Archie came to be standing in the river meadow on that misty morning and staring at the dead body of a beautiful young widow who had arrived in the village less than a week before.

“’Tis a sinful thing,” said Nash, tsking through the gap left by a missing incisor. “Sinful, for a woman to take her own life like this. The Good Book says, ‘If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’ And I reckon that’s as true for a woman as for any man.”

Archie cleared his throat. “I don’t think we can say that yet—that she took her own life, I mean.”

Constable Nash let out a sound somewhere between a grunt and a derisive laugh as he bent to pick up the brown glass bottle that nestled in the grass at her side. “Laudanum,” he said, turning the bottle so that the
POISON
label faced Archie. “Emptied it, she did.”

“Yes, I noticed it.”

Archie stared down at the woman’s neatly folded spencer. It lay to one side with her broad-brimmed, velvet-trimmed straw hat, as if she had taken them off and carefully set them aside before stretching out to—what? Drink a massive dose of an opium tincture that in small measures could ease pain but in excess brought death?

It was the obvious conclusion. And yet . . .

Archie let his gaze drift around the clearing. The meadow was eerily hushed and still, as if the mist drifting up from the river had deadened all sound. The young lad who had stumbled upon the dead woman’s body at dawn and led them here was now gone; the creatures of forest and field had all fled or hidden themselves. Even the unseen birds in the tree canopy above seemed loath to break the silence with their usual chorus of cheerful morning song. Archie felt a chill dance up his spine, as if he could somehow sense a lingering malevolence in this place, an evil, a disturbance in the way things ought to be that was no less real for being inexplicable.

But he had no intention of uttering such fanciful sentiments to the gruff, no-nonsense constable beside him. So he simply said, “I think you should put the bottle back where it was, Nash.”

“What?” The constable’s jaw sagged, his full, ruddy cheeks darkening.

Archie tried hard to infuse his voice with a note of authority. “Put it back exactly as you found it, Constable. Until we know for certain otherwise, I think we should consider this a murder.”

Constable Nash’s face crimped. His small, dark eyes had a way of disappearing into the flesh of his face when he was amused or angry, and they disappeared now. But he didn’t say anything.

“There’s a viscount staying in the village,” said Archie. “Arrived just yesterday evening. I’ve heard of him; his name is Devlin, and he works with Bow Street sometimes, solving murders. I’m going to ask for his advice in this.”

“Ain’t no need to go troublin’ no grand London lord. I tell ye, she killed herself.”

“Perhaps. But I’d like to be certain.”

Archie readjusted the tilt of his hat and smoothed the front of his simple brown corduroy coat. Standing up to the village’s loud, bullying constable was one thing; Archie had only to call upon some six hundred years of Rawlins tradition and heritage.

But approaching the son and heir of the mighty Earl of Hendon and asking him to help a simple village squire investigate the death of a stranger was considerably more daunting.

BOOK: When Falcons Fall
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