Authors: Catherine Stovall,Cecilia Clark,Amanda Gatton,Robert Craven,Samantha Ketteman,Emma Michaels,Faith Marlow,Nina Stevens,Andrea Staum,Zoe Adams,S.J. Davis,D. Dalton
Edited by Catherine Stovall
Cover Art by Rue Volley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, including photocopying, recording, or transmitted by any means without written consent of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Characters, establishments, names, companies, organizations and events were created by the author. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events, companies or organizations is coincidental.
Published by Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Text Copyright 2013 held by CHBB Publishing and the Individual Authors
Edited by Catherine Stovall
The cogs in time turn with precise precision.
rinding away the years of indecision.
The cold metal of the machine, ebb and flow
The life that is given to that which has no soul
Madness is chaos is mayhem
Seconds are hours are days without end
The clock tower stands, master of all
Watching the world crumble and fall
nto the darkness of the mechanical age.
Humanity bows off the stage
Gears turn and the springs wind
Just another moment in time
No escape from the bell
The machines have all the power
in time turn with precise precision.
icking away at the human condition.
By Robert Craven
My old friend Frederick Devereux summoned me to a gaslight supper at The Farringdon Restaurant in Leicester Square, one hot July evening in the year 1898. His hangdog assistant, Pennington, having traversed the metropolis of London by hansom cab, had delivered his card to my lodgings close to Adelphi Terrace.
Standing in my reception, I noticed Pennington’s suit was frayed around the elbows and knees. His shoes, though polished, were soiled around the heel, no doubt on some assignment around the wharves and opium dens that had sprouted up along the Thames. His collar, appeared freshly starched, but had a faint rim of grime. As for the Derby hat perched uneasily over his oiled hair, it gave off a definite air of defeat.
‘‘I’m afraid Mr. Devereux is quite insistent you dine with him this evening, sir.’’ He replied when I questioned the lateness of the hour. His accent was Lancastrian, each word carefully measured. We had met once before during Cowes week, when I had helmed Devereux’s yacht
‘‘Well, Mr. Pennington, let us go and see what is so urgent, then shall we?’’ I donned my smartest frock coat and silk top hat despite the cloying heat, and reached for my walking cane.
My limp wasn’t as pronounced in the summer as in the dank days of November last year. The cane; a recent addition to my ensemble, was a gift from the Admiralty. I checked myself in the mirror, ensuring everything was as it should be; tie pin and watch chain correctly placed. Leaving a note with my housekeeper, Mrs Kelleher, not to leave a supper out, I followed the hulking Pennington to the waiting cab.
The hansom was idling in the street, the horse nodding indolently in the balmy night. London’s gaslights flickered like distant fireflies and the hour rang up the Thames from Big Ben
— the very beating heart of the Empire. The driver, a lean Irishman with lush grey sideburns and small eyes, leaped nimbly down and opened the door with the slightest hint of insolence.
‘‘Lovely evening, gentlemen, where to?’’
The cab clipped smartly from the square into the main thoroughfare. Pennington remained silent throughout the journey, occasionally glancing out and looking back, his right hand inside the lapels of his jacket. I suspected he had a revolver concealed in there.
Within the hour, we were at the restaurant. We negotiated a rate with the cab driver to remain outside, though it was a hard bargain, we reached a suitable arrangement. Leaning back into his seat, the Irishman produced a long, thin clay pipe and lit it.
The faint waft of exotic tobacco, laced with laudanum, drifted from him. Leicester square was ablaze with gas-lit and new electrical signage, pulsing to sounds of conversations, music halls, sideshows and organ grinders. Pennington’s eyes darted over every passer-by. Satisfied there was no immediate threat, he shook my hand firmly,
‘‘Mr. Devereux wishes to see you alone, sir.’’ As soon as he uttered this, Pennington had walked away, blending into the night amid the bustling cacophony of humanity.
I found Devereux in his usual booth. He had his leather-bound tome of music scores on the table. He could often be found in the stalls of an evening concert, one hand waving out the tempo, the long index finger of the other hand following the orchestral score, every note performed, subjected to a forensic analysis. Music was a passion we both shared, along with astronomy. Beyond the booth, at the tables, showgirls, painted ladies and stage-door Jonnies sat, drank and smoked into the small hours. Known for its discretion, The Farringdon was a favourite with several members of parliament.
‘‘Good to see you again, Wentworth, I trust your leg is improving?’’
‘‘I’m afraid when it was re-set, the surgeon was working under an excessive consumption of cognac. My own fault for enlisting him. It will never be right again.’’ Sometimes on freezing winter days, I wished the leg had been removed. I brandished my ebony walking cane with the silver handle fashioned into a fox, triumphantly.
‘‘My parting gift.’’
‘‘Along with a suitable pension, I hope?’’
‘‘Perfectly adequate, thank you.’’
‘‘The South China seas aren’t for the faint-hearted, my dear boy.’’ He agreed.
Devereux had about him the self-contained air of nobility, earned from a substantial fortune made from his weaving mills in Manchester and his recently sold bicycle factory. He wore a golden pince-nez, fashionably styled coat and trousers, his thick mane of grey hair pomaded in the style of a lusty Italian poet. His beard was full in the radical style of Marx.
It was then that I noticed his companion. A dainty female, dressed entirely in black, sat still at the other end of the table. By candle light, I could not discern her features as they were masked by a heavy black veil. I could make out the blood red of her lipstick, a small mouth, possibly oriental. Her dress was an exotic, rich, black and two long, unadorned, elegant hands rested on the table. A lady travelling incognito.
‘‘Ah! Forgive me, Wentworth, allow me to introduce you. Captain Wentworth, R.N., may I introduce Lady Beatrice Holyfield.’’
I rose, a little disconcerted at my poor manners, and bowed. She gave the most delicate of nods.
‘‘And now, my dear Wentworth, let us dine.’’
I noted he didn’t order for his companion.
After a sumptuous supper of pheasant, Devereux and I lit cigars and swilled a heavy Burgundy as we waited for coffee. Lady Beatrice never stirred through the meal; though her head inclined politely to us each time we spoke. Her stillness, I found quite fascinating.
‘‘Have you your pistol, old boy?’’ whispered Devereux, leaning in close. A heavy curtain covered the booth, though a gap in the drapes made me visible to anyone in the restaurant.
I twisted and pulled on the handle of my cane, a long, thin blade whispered up from it.
‘‘Made by a legendary Japanese sword smith, Ishikawa, of the Mino school.’’
‘‘Ah, a shinken, I see, you can never be too careful, Wentworth. I have something of great importance to show you. Have you a cab?’’
‘‘Excellent, have him drive around the back, we’ll meet you there.’’
I rose and bowed to the mysterious lady in the shadows, who acknowledged me with a gentle nod. I asked the driver could he fit the carriage into the alley, he replied jauntily that he could ‘fit it through the eye of a needle if the price was right’.
I heard a single report as the cab pulled into the alleyway.
‘‘Hoa! Peace!’’ shouted the driver. I alighted with blade drawn. A man was wrestling with Devereux and the gentle Lady Beatrice lay at his feet, sprawled. With a yell, I lunged at the man who broke free of Devereux, turning his pistol toward me. I ran him through below the ribcage, the blade making short work of his greatcoat and leather tunic. He expired with a grunt, his pistol, still cocked and smoking in the death grip.
The driver jumped down and ran to the fallen lady.
‘‘Lamb of jaysus….’’ He muttered. His complexion had turned waxen.
Devereux leaned over her, draping her with his coat. I stood over the fallen assassin. Removing his hat, I could see a ruddy, weather-beaten complexion, thick moustache and goatee, full lips sneering in a morbid mask. His style of dress suggested a man comfortable with working outdoors.
‘‘No time to waste. We must leave now!’’ snapped Devereux lifting up Lady Holyfield with the tenderness of a lover.
‘‘We need to summon the constabulary. A doctor.’’ I cried.
‘‘No time. Grab my book of score sheets. To the docks. Quickly now!’’
The Irishman took my arm as I bent to pick up the leather bound book,
‘‘She ain’t normal, sir, not normal, I tell ye!’’ His eyes were slightly glazed from either alcohol or the contents of his pipe. His hand was shaking through my sleeve.
Devereux had placed Lady Holyfield into the cab. I replaced my blade in its scabbard after wiping it in the fallen man’s coat. It had retained its lustre and keen edge; I quietly thanked Mr. Ishikawa’s craftsmanship.
‘‘Is she dead?’’
‘‘How badly injured?’’
‘‘Will tell you later. You!’’ Devereux handed the driver two Guineas. ‘‘The docks. I have a place there.’’ He whispered into the man’s ear.
The Irishman had regained his composure and bounded up onto the cab. As I entered, he cracked his whip and within moments, we clattered pell-mell into the night.
‘‘Allow me, Devereux, I have some experience of dealing with gunshot wounds.’’
I opened the coat; a small hole had burned through her dress. I pulled the fabric away from her skin. There was a wound just above her right breast, but there was no blood. Instead seeping from the bullet hole was a rivulet of mercury.
‘‘I’ll tell you all, once we are somewhere safe,’’ murmured Devereux.
Devereux’s warehouses were situated at St Katherine’s docks, a vast sprawling expanse of wool warehouses, bridges, ships and outbuildings. The hansom pulled up, and I looked up and down the length of the roadway to see if we had been followed. The roadway was clear.
Devereux carried Lady Holyfield into his private office. Laying out our coats on a leather chaise in his private office, he laid the injured lady upon them. I threw the leather-bound score to the floor and offered assistance.
‘‘Who was that man who shot her?’’
‘‘A neo-luddite from Massachusetts, Hopkins, I think was his name.’’
He removed her hat, a lush cable of flaxen hair fell about her shoulders, her profile was delicate and her complexion in the gaslight seemed luminous. Tenderly, Devereux removed her stole and placed it delicately on the chaise’s arm.
‘‘I’ll need your help, Wentworth.’’
I helped him turn the lady onto her front. A gaping wound appeared out of her shoulder with more mercury seeping from it. I went to the desk at the office and brought over the desk lamp. In the wound, glinting, were minuscule cogs, sprockets and wheels.
‘‘No, Wentworth, a magnetic field of ten thousand gauss.’’ He smiled up at me, ‘‘The real Lady Beatrice Holyfield, alas, has been committed to a mental institution, so her distraught husband, New York financier, Nathanial Holyfield has sunk his fortune into buying his title, Lord Holyfield and this facsimile. Look.’’
He removed part of her dress, and pressed firmly on a spot against her pearl white back. A small portal appeared. In the shadows, I thought I could discern a spinning wheel rotating furious revolutions. He moved to block my view,
‘‘The damage is superficial. Wentworth, top drawer of my desk, open it.’’
The desk was piled with the detritus of Devereux’s colossal mind; books, pages of formulae, and letters, some stamped with official and royal seals lay strewn across it. I found the side drawers and opened the top one. Inside was small leather pouch.
I threw it to him. I spied a loose panel in the drawer and moved it. Beneath the drawer I could see the drawers below all hollowed out. In the space, I could see a long thin pole acting as a fulcrum for the numerous spinning rings hovering in the air at equidistant spacing.
‘‘Wentworth, I see you have discovered an energy point.’’
I swallowed hard, for my throat had dried. In Devereux’s voice, I detected a nuance of menace. I leaned on my cane, giving the handle the slight twist to release the blade. My leg throbbed from the hours I had been standing on it.
‘’Yes, I have, Devereux.’’
‘‘No matter, I have several around in this building and in my private lodgings. A recent experiment I’ve been dabbling with.’’
He rose from his labours on Lady Holyfield, wiped his hands in a handkerchief from his breast pocket, placed the thin, surgical-like instruments into the pouch, and rolled it up. He strode to the desk, and rummaging about his papers, produced a box of cheroots. He lit one and offered me one too.
‘‘What an adventure! Hand me my score please, tonight’s performance at the Bedford Music hall was utterly painful to endure’’