Someone had died. No-one had told me anything about this and Fredrick insisted that he knew nothing about it.
"It's probably just the locals trying to make the whole thing more exciting than it really is. You know what people get like when things like this happen."
I understood what he meant but it didn't help calm me down. I knew Alexandra couldn't be dead, at least not in the fire that had led to the capture of Jon and the girls, but I was still scared. I didn't know if I could cope with the death of one of our spies, whoever it was. I couldn't even begin to imagine how I would start writing the letter to their family that told them the child was dead.
I knew my fast pace was unwise but I wanted to get as close to the palace as possible to stand a chance of hearing any news of Alex. If she had been caught I wanted to know about it so I might still be able to save her.
I called the group to a halt when we were a few moments away from the garrison.
"Right then men," I said, turning my horse round and addressing the group behind me, "we've arrived. Now it would be inadvisable for all of us to enter the garrison at once; we'd draw too much attention to ourselves. So the plan is I will take Fredrick and Lewis to do a first scout of the building and try to work out if our spies are still being held here."
"What about me sir?" Luke stepped forward, his eyes blazing with anger. "My sister is one of the girls being held hostage, shouldn't I be allowed to go."
"It is for exactly that reason I am leaving you behind," I said in a far firmer tone than I would have normally used. "I cannot have emotion compromising this mission."
"Sir, I don't mind staying with the rest of the men if Luke wants to go," Lewis volunteered.
"That is not the point Mr Evans," I said. "The point is I have chosen you for this mission, not to exclude either of the Elliots, but because you are the right man for this job. I will not have my orders undermined because you want to see your sister Mr. Elliot. You will remain with the men until given further orders. Is that understood?" I knew I being dictatorial with Luke and it hurt me to do so because I knew exactly how he was feeling, but I had to do it in order to stop situations like these occurring again.
"Orders understood, sir." Luke's face strongly resembled a thundercloud as he took his place back in the ranks of the soldiers.
"Good," I said, dismounting. "Then Fredrick and Lewis come with me, the rest of you stay here and make sure no-one sees you."
I had no idea how this was going to work. Although I had been organising the spy network for months now I still had no idea how my spies got their information without being caught. I was relying entirely on Frederick to get us in and out again safely.
"Sebastian I suggest we split up," Fredrick said when the building came into view. "I'll try and get in through the east wall, you head for the west one and Lewis takes the north."
"Who will be covering the south wall?"
"It's too dangerous to send someone in there; it's where most of the guards are posted."
"Then that's settled," I said. "Meet back here. If someone hasn't returned in an hour from now then we'll assume they've been caught."
The two men nodded and we dispersed. I ran west, keeping under the cover of the trees that bordered the western wall. I couldn't see any people around but that didn't mean they weren't watching.
There were windows along the ground floor and I thought if I could find one accidentally left open I would be able to get in. I made a break for it, running from the cover of the trees until my back hit the wall of the garrison. I edged along the wall, ducking under the windows so no-one would see me.
I was almost at the end of the wall when I saw a crack in between a window and the windowsill. This was my way in.
I tentatively looked in at the window to see if there was anyone in the room before I opened the window. It was deserted. I managed to get my fingers into the gap in the window and gently pull it open enough so I could swing into the room.
I landed surprisingly quietly, my heart pounding with adrenaline and fear as I took in my surroundings. I was in what I assumed was a room for the guards to sleep in. There were beds against the walls and no other furniture within my line of sight.
I moved quickly out of the room, entering a corridor and turning left. I kept my head down so if someone passed me I wouldn't be noticed, at least that was the idea.
But as I turned a corner I went crashing into someone coming the other way. So much for being stealthy.
"Sorry," I mumbled, not looking at the face of the person I had run into and trying to keep walking.
"Stop there," the man bellowed at me. A hand went under my chin and forced my head up. "Do I know you?"
"I don't believe so, sir," I replied, trying to stop myself from shaking with terror. My cover couldn't be blown, not now. I still had to find Alex.
"I didn't think so," the man said, his eyes looking me up and down with such scrutiny it was like he could see right through me. "I would definitely remember someone like you; so well spoken and with such unusual clothes. What did you say your name was?"
"Stephen Field, sir," I responded, thankfully remembering my alias under pressure.
"Did I give you clearance to be in this garrison Stephen? Because I don't remember you coming to see me."
I had no answer for this. My brain was turning to mush and my mouth was refusing to work at a time when I needed them very badly. I could see the suspicion being confirmed in the man's eyes and his grip on my face tightened. I knew that if I didn't come up with a plausible excuse soon I was as good as dead.
"Stephen?" A new voice interrupted. "Where have you been? I've been looking for you."
A man marched up to us and my attacker let go of my jaw.
"What are you still doing hanging around here Hurst?" My attacker questioned.
"I still have some work to do for the Queen. She sent this man down to help me with her inquiries as she cannot come down to ask them herself."
The man didn't look very impressed with my saviour's response but clearly couldn't see any way of disproving is because he stood back, nodded to the man he had addressed as Hurst before walking away.
"Walk with me," Hurst ordered, leading me in the opposite direction. "You don't need to worry, I'm a friend. Now why are you here?"