If I had been any other person, a stranger that knew nothing about the lady Alexandra, I probably wouldn't have thought much about our encounter other than the fact that most ladies are seldom in a hurry. When I tried to slow her down, her response - including her subtle body language - told me that something wasn't right.
She escaped around a corner but was coming back my direction a few moments later. Her determined demeanor had been replaced by tears. She wiped them away, obviously trying to regain her composure. She managed to speak despite her heavy breathing.
"I need help!" After I asked what was wrong, she continued, "I think Miss St James has been kidnapped." Alexandra reached out with shaky hands. I took both of them into my hands without hesitation, gripping them just enough to steady her.
"What makes you say that?"
Alexandra hesitated in answering, lowering her head. Gently I placed my finger under her chin and raised her head so that she was looking at me again. She didn't flinch or fight back, a little to my surprise. I raised my eyebrows, urging her to speak.
"I saw two people at her front door. The guy had her in his arms. They ran off. I wanted to scream, but ..." Her words continued to pour out, but I was lost in my own thoughts by this point. Eventually Alexandra's words were replaced with tears and sobs. She mumbled something, which sounded like: "I don't know what to do."
Trying to remain calm myself, I asked, "Did you get a good look at the kidnappers?" Alexandra's eyes went wide; my question obviously took her by surprise.
"No, not really." She frowned. "Why do you ask?"
"Because I think I know who took her." I looked around to make sure no one was near. I couldn't be sure, but there was no time to find a better place to talk. "Was one of them a woman?"
Alexandra's eyes darted in one direction and then quickly in the opposite. "I think so, but I can't be sure."
"This changes things," I muttered, half to myself.
Alexandra changed gears, realizing what had just taken place. "I don't know what is going on, but we must hurry. Maybe we can catch up, and you can do something."
"No, it's too late for that." I gestured, waving one hand across my body. "Besides, this wasn't a simple kidnapping." At Alexandra's worried expression, I added, "Miss St. James will not be harmed. It wouldn't make sense to hurt her now. Something must have happened. She must have had a reason. She wouldn't have done it otherwise."
"Who? Who are you talking about?" Alexandra asked, her brows furrowed.
"Rebecca Mays." My answer sparked a different emotion in Alexandra, a kind of delayed recognition. "I'm almost certain of it. No one else would have had a reason."
"How do you know about Rebecca ... I mean ... Miss Mays?" Alexandra closed her eyes and slowly shook her head. She was obviously trying to regain composure, and I admired her effort.
"There have been whispers. She has been trying to convince some in the court that there are spies among us. Few believe her. She wouldn't have kidnapped Miss St. James if she didn't have just cause." Then, I fell into a whisper. "If only I knew."
"If you only knew what?" Alexandra tilted her head to one side, gazing directly into my eyes. I took a moment to collect my thoughts, deciding to take my little masquerade to the next logical level.
"The queen assigned me to keep an eye on you." I paused to let that sink in some. "Since Miss St. James was new to court like yourself, there is likely someone assigned to her as well. I don't know who."
Alexandra raised her eyebrows, opening her eyes wider. I had a feeling she knew who I was referring to, but she was hesitant to let me know. "If you know something, now is the time to speak. There is no more time for secrets."
Alexandra spoke two words, a name: James Newberry. "That makes sense," I replied, nodding slightly. "He might know something. We need to find him."
"How will we find him?"
"By going to the one person he would report to ... the queen."