Chapter 1 Philadelphia 1903 ONE They were driving sheep through the middle of town again. The office window was open and Sebastian Becker could hear them from his desk. All through the afternoon Oakes, the bookkeeper, had been finding reasons to look down into the street. Now he had another. Sebastian laid down his pen and tilted back his chair. His eyes hurt. He yawned and stretched and pressed the heels of his palms into them and wondered, not for the first time, whether he needed to be checked out for eyeglasses. Then he realized what he was doing, and cut the yawn short as best he could. He said, "Are you expecting someone, Mister Oakes?" Oakes looked back into the office. "Only the boy with the bag from New York," he said. "The boy's been and gone," Sebastian said. "There was nothing that can't wait until Monday." Oakes hesitated for a moment and then moved out of the slanting sunlight and away from the window. There were at least half a dozen other desks in the room, none occupied, but all of them piled high with paperwork. One chair had a waistcoat slung over the back of it. Another, a gun belt. As Sebastian lifted his pen again, Oakes gathered together some ledgers and moved them from one place to another. The sheep were almost out of earshot now, their eerie half-human cries pursued by the impatient clanging of an obstructed streetcar. Oakes began to straighten chairs. Despite Sebastian's permission, he seemed reluctant to leave. "Mister Oakes . . ." Sebastian prompted him. Oakes said, "Mister Bearce has said he's unhappy with my work." "We'll find some way to change his mind," Sebastian said. "On Monday. Go home, Mister Oakes." "If you're certain . . ." Oakes said, fishing for further reassurance. But Sebastian just looked at him, so he went. Alone now and with one less distraction, Sebastian tried to return his attention to the words on the page. Despite having left the room, Oakes was still somewhere in the suite of offices. Sebastian could hear him moving around, bothering someone else, finding a few last things to do . . . almost as if the building might absorb his dedication, and then whisper of it to the absent Mr. Bearce. The General Business letter was a report on the ongoing work of the agency. Compiled every two weeks and sent to George Bangs in New York City, it covered all the investigations that were under way and any new business that might have come in. Bangs would draw together information from all the agency offices and then deliver his summary to the Pinkerton brothers. Sebastian had been an assistant superintendent for just over a month. The paperwork called for skills he could muster but didn't enjoy using. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and he and most of Philadelphia were in a weekend mood. There was also the distraction of the telegraph message that he'd tucked under the corner of his blotter. Personal to him, it caught his eye every now and again. When the letter was finished, he dropped the handwritten pages into the out-tray for the stenographers and reached for his coat from the back of his chair. He was stiff from sitting, and his eyes ached from the sustained concentration. Sebastian Becker was a man in his early forties. He had not yet gone to seed, and some thought him handsomehis wife, for one. When he looked in a mirror, what he mostly saw was the face of his father coming through. That, and some of the traces of old pain. Intending no offense to his late father, he didn't see handsome at all. He folded the telegraph message and slipped it into his pocket. ThenGallagher, Stephen is the author of 'Kingdom of Bones ', published 2007 under ISBN 9780307382801 and ISBN 030738280X.