Little Clarendon Street had been adopted by Oxford’s jeunesse dorée as a fashionable destination. Expensive clothes shops, chic coffeehouses, cocktail bars, and colored anbaric lights strung overhead made it seem like a corner of another city altogether—Malcolm couldn’t have known what made tears come to Lyra’s eyes at that point, though he did notice the tears: it was her memory of the deserted Cittàgazze, all the lights blazing, empty, silent, magical, where she had first met Will. She brushed them away and said nothing.
He led the way to a mock-Italian café with candles in straw-wrapped wine bottles and red-checked tablecloths and travel posters in splashy colors. Lyra looked around warily.
“It’s safe here,” Malcolm said quietly. “There are other places where it’s risky to talk, but there’s no danger in La Luna Caprese.”
He ordered a bottle of Chianti, asking Lyra first if that was what she’d like, and she nodded.
When the wine was tried and poured, she said, “I’ve got to tell you something. I’ll try and keep it clear in my head. And now I know about you and your dæmon, it’s something I can tell you, but no one else. Only I’ve heard so many things in the last couple of days and my mind’s in a whirl, so please, if I don’t make sense, just stop me and I’ll go over it again.”
She began with Pan’s experience on the Monday night, the attack, the murder, the man giving him the wallet to take to Lyra. Malcolm listened in astonishment, though he felt no skepticism: such things happened, as he knew well. But one thing seemed odd.
“The victim and his dæmon knew about separating?” he said.
“Yes,” said Pan at Lyra’s elbow. “They weren’t shocked, like most people would be. In fact, they could separate too. She must have seen me up the tree when he was being attacked, and thought it would be all right to trust me, I suppose.”
“So Pan brought the wallet back to me at St. Sophia’s . . . ,” Lyra went on.
“And that was when Asta saw me,” Pan put in.
“. . . but other things got in the way, and we didn’t have a chance to look at it till the next morning.”
She pulled her bag up to her lap and took out the wallet, passing it to him unobtrusively. He noticed Pan’s tooth marks, and noticed the smell too, which Pan had called cheap cologne, though it seemed to Malcolm something other than that, something wilder. He opened the wallet and took out the contents one by one as she spoke. The Bodleian card, the university staff card, the diplomatic papers, all so familiar; his own wallet had held very similar papers in its time.
“He was coming back to Oxford, I think,” Lyra said, “because if you look at the laissez-passers, you can trace his journey from Sin Kiang to here. He’d probably have gone on to the Botanic Garden, if they hadn’t attacked him.”
Malcolm caught another faint trace of the scent on the wallet. He raised it to his nose, and something distant rang like a bell, or gleamed like the sun on a snowy mountaintop, just for the fraction of a second, and then it was gone.
“Did he say anything else, the man who was killed?”
He addressed the question to Pan, and Pan thought hard before saying, “No. He couldn’t. He was nearly dead. He made me take the wallet out of his pocket and told me to take it to Lyra—I mean, he didn’t know her name, but he said to take it to your . . . I think he thought we could be trusted because he knew about separating.”
“Have you taken this to the police?”
“Of course. That was almost the first thing we did next morning,” Lyra said. “But when we were waiting in the police station, Pan heard one of the policemen speak.”
“He was the first killer, the one who wasn’t wounded,” said Pan. “I recognized his voice. It was very distinctive.”
“So we asked about something quite different and then left,” Lyra went on. “We just thought we shouldn’t give the wallet to the very man who’d killed him.”
“Sensible,” said Malcolm.
“Oh, and there’s another thing. The man who was cut on the leg. He’s called Benny Morris.”
“How d’you know that?”
“I know someone who works at the mail depot, and I asked him if there was anyone there who’d hurt his leg. He said yes, there was a big ugly man called Benny Morris, who sounds just like the man we saw.”
“And what then?”
“In the wallet,” Lyra said carefully, “there was a left-luggage key—you know, the sort you get with those lockers at the station.”
“What did you do with that?”
“I thought we ought to go and get whatever was in it. So—”
“Don’t tell me you did
“Yes. Because he’d sort of entrusted it to us, the wallet, and what was in it. So we thought we ought to go and look after it before the men who killed him realized and went to look for it themselves.”
“The killers knew he had some sort of luggage,” said Pan, “because they kept asking each other if he’d had a bag, if he’d dropped it, were they sure they hadn’t seen it, and so on. As if they’d been told to expect one.”
“And what was in the locker?” said Malcolm.
“A rucksack,” Lyra said. “Which is under the floorboards in my room in Jordan.”
“It’s there now?”
He picked up his glass and drained it in one, and then stood up. “Let’s go and get it. While it’s there, you’re in great danger, Lyra, and that’s no exaggeration. Come on.”
Copyright © 2019 by Philip Pullman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.