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“There are some people you can trust to keep a secret,” she said, laying down her quill and lifting her gaze to meet his eyes. “Their lips seal upon it instantly, and no amount of duress or torture can force it from them.”

He smiled thinly. “Such people are rare, madame.”

She nodded. “Indeed. More useful, then, are those more easily found. Those who will spill a secret without a second thought. Those whose lips are looser than a wanton’s corset.”

He frowned. “Useful, mistress?”

“Of course.”

She stood up and crossed the room to the window. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was the first time in all the years he had served her that he had seen her away from her desk.

“Gathering information is only half of my task, Marten,” she said, gazing out towards the bay. “Disinformation, handled correctly, is even more powerful.”

The spymistress turned to look at him, standing silhouetted against the tower’s window. The lines of lead between the panes of glass seemed to spread from her like the legs of an enormous spider.

“But even the most useful agent of disinformation can become a liability if held too close to one’s chest.”

He blanched. She didn’t know, he told himself. She couldn’t know.

“Goodbye, Marten.”

© Kari Fay