Chapter no 68 – JAMESON

The Brothers Hawthorne

They found matches in the kitchen in a drawer near the stove. All too aware of each minute that passed—of the fact that elsewhere on this grand cliffside estate, the competition was playing for the same prize—Jameson raced back to the start once more.

This time, Avery beat him there. She was fast when she wanted to be. Single-minded. She skidded to a stop just past the doorway, and as Jameson did the same behind her, he saw why.

Zella was in the room, sitting on top of the table. She ran her fingers along the open and empty compartment. “Your doing, I hope? Branford can’t have all the fun. He’ll be insufferable.”

In other words: The duchess knew that Branford had found the first key. Given that Zella also seemed to have realized that a second had been found here, she had to be thinking that she had just one chance left for this game to go her way.

She doesn’t seem bothered by that. Jameson rolled that thought over in his mind for a moment or two, which was just long enough for Zella to notice what he held in his hand.

“Matches?” The duchess studied them—then her gaze flicked to the fireplace. “No rest for the wicked. Of course Rohan would play it this way.”

Something in her tone made Jameson wonder just how much history the duchess and the Factotum had—and what sort.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Zella said, strolling across the room to stand beside the fireplace. “Light it up.”

Jameson considered his next move carefully. Doing this in her presence

will put us on even footing—but if we don’t do it, we’ll have to wait until she leaves. Who knew what Branford and Katharine would be doing in the meantime—or what they might find?

“If there’s a key in there,” Avery said, her chin coming up as she met Zella’s eyes, “it’s ours.”

“There isn’t a key in there, Heiress,” Zella replied. On the duchess’s tongue, Jameson’s nickname for Avery sounded wry and pointed. “Two in one room? I hardly think so. But, yes, certainly. If you set that fire and immediately find a key, consider it yours.”

Zella picked up a log from the wall, and Jameson realized that although he and Avery had left the logs on the floor, they were stacked neatly now.

She saw them. She read the words. And then she put them back, so no one else would read them.

“Can we even burn those logs?” Avery’s voice broke into Jameson’s thoughts. “Didn’t our instructions say to leave everything in the condition in which we found it?”

Jameson saw the logic in her questions. “You can’t unburn a log.” He hadn’t come this far to be disqualified on a technicality. “We need something else to burn.”

Without missing a beat, Jameson began unbuttoning his waistcoat. Securing the key—temporarily—between his teeth, he took off the waistcoat, then the shirt underneath. Slipping the waistcoat back on, his chest now bare beneath it, Jameson tossed his shirt into the fireplace.

“Now,” he told Avery and Zella, “we light it up.”

It took more time than he’d anticipated for the shirt to really catch fire, but once it did, the flames seemed to multiply quickly. Jameson watched his shirt burn, watched the flames dance, watched the fire lick at the stone walls of the fireplace.

And then he watched words slowly start to appear on the stone. Invisible ink. Heat was a common trigger. Piece by piece and bit by bit, the writing became solid before his eyes. Four letters, three numbers, one clue.

DIAL 216.

“Thank you very much, Jameson Hawthorne,” Zella murmured. A moment later, the duchess was gone.

Jameson turned back to Avery. “Let’s hope she’s headed for a phone,” he said, his voice a heady whisper, for her ears only.

“And we’re not?” Avery gave him a look.

Jameson was aware that the smile that crossed his lips then was one that other people might have described as wicked. “You tell me, Heiress.”

Avery stared at him, like the answer could only be found behind his emerald eyes. He saw the exact moment that she had it.

Leave no stone unturned,” Avery said, her own eyes blazing with certainty and purpose. “Dial two-one-six. Back in the stone garden, there was a sundial.”

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