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Authors: Fleur T. Reid

Private Investigation

BOOK: Private Investigation
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A Total-E-Bound Publication



Private Investigation

ISBN #978-1-78184-013-9

©Copyright Fleur T. Reid 2012

Cover Art by Posh Gosh ©Copyright June 2012

Edited by Laura Hulley

Total-E-Bound Publishing


This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.


Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.


The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.


Published in 2012 by Total-E-Bound Publishing, Think Tank, Ruston Way, Lincoln, LN6 7FL, United Kingdom.




This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has a
heat rating
and a


This story contains 47 pages, additionally there is also a
free excerpt
at the end of the book containing 4 pages.



















Fleur T. Reid





In a Victorian world of clockwork and conspiracy, private investigation gets personal...

In another London, not entirely like our own, Miss Elizabeth James is one of the new Victorian working women.

She answers an advertisement placed by inventor John Dermott for someone to bring order to the life of his companion, flamboyant private detective Lucien Doyle.

She can sort out the shocking state of his paperwork, but the weird contraptions and unexpected explosions weren’t on the curriculum at the Metropolitan School for Shorthand. And while she can type, file and take dictation, she didn’t expect to have to take a string of apparently motiveless murders in her stride. She’s an expert at finding lost files, but how does one deal with the lost souls of the bewildered dead?

Lilly’s life becomes even more confusing when she discovers that Lucien and John plan to do a bit of very private investigating—of her person.






For the lovely Laura, who was a wonderful editor. All my love and best wishes for the future.




Trademark Acknowledgement



The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmark mentioned in this work of fiction:


The Times
: News Corporation



Chapter One




Miss Elizabeth James upset her cup and swore in a most unladylike fashion as hot tea splattered her hand and wrist and soaked into that morning’s copy of
The Times
, obliterating the advertisement for Professor Mainwaring’s Patented Nerve Tonic. It was her own fault of course—she had been trying to breakfast and gloat at the same time. She had graduated from the Metropolitan School for Shorthand in Chancery Lane, and what’s more she had graduated top of her class in typing, shorthand, filing and arithmetic. And she had been the only girl in the class to master the stencillographic oscillator—a complicated clockwork device that transcribed dictation, although sometimes the spelling was a little suspect.

She sucked her burnt fingers. She was so happy and distracted that she had already spooned marmalade into her tea and tried to sip her toast. As one of London’s new Typewriter Girls, she would be able to find work as a secretary or an author’s assistant. Even as a copying clerk for a government official. Although perhaps not that last. To become a typist in a government department, a girl had to be at least five feet in height without boots or shoes. Lilly might just squeak through under that requirement if the person doing the measuring was lax with her tape measure and counted her rather wild, frizzy hair. Still, she had a whole world of options open to her—all perfectly genteel. Given that these days girls were running off to be explorers and fly dirigibles and goodness knows what else, she felt practically prim and proper in her choice of career.

The five guinea fee had been a struggle. She had managed to scrape her rent together, but had subsisted during the course of her training mainly on the breakfast of toast and tea her landlady grudgingly provided each day. But now she was a professional woman, and could expect to earn anywhere between fifteen shillings and two or three pounds a week.

She mopped ineffectually at the spilt tea with her handkerchief, and sighed. Perhaps she might even be able to move to lodgings where the taps didn’t scream and clank and dispense brown, brackish water, where the bed wasn’t lumpy with a spring that dug into the small of her back no matter how she tossed and turned, and where the landlady didn’t look at her with chilly disapprobation every time their paths crossed.

Mrs Langley did not approve of working women—but then Mrs Langley did not much approve of anything. A skinny, middle-aged woman with a pointed, rather red nose that she enjoyed poking into other people’s business, she had lost her husband after twenty years of childless marriage—which was probably something of a relief to the poor man, since it meant he could finally get some peace. Except, of course, he couldn’t—every Thursday evening at six o’ clock, Mrs Langley trotted off in her respectable coat and her sensible button boots with her capacious handbag tucked under her arm to visit the shade of her late, lamented husband at Doctor Moriarty Caine’s House of Spiritual Solace. When she got a message from the other side, she came back in good humour. When no message was forthcoming, she was even more officious and sour-faced than usual.

Lilly suspected that the night before the late Mr Langley had not appeared at the séance, because this morning Mrs Langley had brought up lime marmalade with the breakfast things. Lilly cordially detested lime marmalade, and had told her landlady so many times.

Her suspicions about Mrs Langley’s mood were confirmed when the landlady swept in, sniffed disapprovingly at the tea-saturated newspaper and the toast crumbs in the butter, and gathered the dirty crockery onto her tray with a series of pointed crashes and clatters.

She scowled at Lilly, snatched the soaked newspaper off the table with a haughty sniff, leaving its sopping remnants clinging to the surface of the table, and marched out of the room without so much as a ‘good morning’, head held high.

Lilly rolled her eyes, then allowed them to drop to the sad, soggy scrap of newspaper the landlady’s cursory housekeeping efforts had left behind. Then she narrowed her eyes as an advertisement caught her eye. She squinted to make out the words, the ink of the newsprint having bled and smudged into the surrounding white space, which in any case was now stained with tea and half-dissolved marmalade. Perhaps she needed eyeglasses. Perhaps she’d even invest in a pair of those new-fangled inspectacles all the fashionable girls at Chancery Lane had been swooning over lately. Not that she had much in common with them—in her opinion they would benefit from devoting more time to their studies and less to chattering, gossiping and obsessing over the latest style in hats.

She picked up the sticky, soggy remnant, holding it carefully so that the wet newspaper didn’t come apart in her hands.

‘Wanted, a young lady, of good habits and clean in her person, with a facility for filing, typewriting and shorthand, to bring order to a gentleman’s papers and effects. Remuneration will be to the sum of six pounds a week, for as long as the task requires of her. Enquiries should be made of Mr John Dermott at 43a Jermayne Street’.

Six pounds a week! Six pounds a week would enable her to find new lodgings, and to have whatever she liked for breakfast. Perhaps even to expend a little money on new gloves and handkerchiefs and underthings—little extravagances she had had to forego while undertaking her training at Chancery Lane. Her needlework frankly wasn’t up to much, and some of her clothes were beginning to look distinctly careworn and shabby. She wasn’t obsessed with fashion like some of the featherbrains in her typing classes, but really, there were limits.

She determined to go to Jermayne Street at once and speak to this Mr Dermott. A few moments in front of the mirror tucking in an errant strand of her rather frizzy, dark hair and perching her hat fetchingly in place on the back of her head—holding it in place with vicious jabs of a number of wicked-looking hatpins—and she was on her way.



Chapter Two




Jermayne Street proved to be a reasonably well-to-do area, the sort of place where men rented living quarters or professional consulting rooms from genteel widows.

Lilly dodged a velocipede-made-for-two, its pistons working, the gentleman at the front cranking the valves, his lady friend bouncing uncomfortably in the saddle behind him as the machine juddered over the cobbles, belching steam. The lady was wearing what looked like gentlemen’s trousers and her hair was tucked under a tight leather cap that Lilly supposed was meant to protect it from soot and from getting too windblown. She looked less than thrilled by the experience as she clung grimly on to her companion, and Lilly thought that the whole experience looked utterly ghastly.

A discreet brass plaque by the smart, black-painted front door of number forty-three read, ‘Mr Lucien Doyle, Consulting Detective’. Lilly raised her eyebrows. Even Mrs Langley couldn’t disapprove of such an association. Of course, she imagined consulting detectives sometimes got involved in rather dangerous situations and had a certain amount to do with the criminal element, but Mrs Langley was a devotee of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Indeed, on one occasion Lilly’s landlady had met Dr Doyle himself at a meeting of spiritualists. She had come home pink-cheeked and in high good spirits despite the fact she had had no message from her husband that evening. Since then, on the rare occasions when she felt in the mood for conversation, she had blushingly referred to him as ‘Dear Dr Doyle’.

Perhaps Lilly wouldn’t have to find new lodgings after all. A hint that she was working as a clerk for a consulting detective and a modest increase in rent might work a change in Mrs Langley’s waspish nature.

Of course, the advert had said she should enquire of a Mr John Dermott, not of this Lucien Doyle, so perhaps the position was nothing so intriguing. The detective might well share the house with another professional gentleman—a lawyer or a medical man, perhaps. After all, Sherlock Holmes shared his lodgings with the long-suffering Dr Watson, did he not?

Suddenly, she realised that, if anyone was watching from the net-curtained windows of the house, standing on the doorstep and dithering would not give the impression of decisive efficiency she thought a professional woman should project. She straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath, and rapped the doorknocker.

BOOK: Private Investigation
2.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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