The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 12

“Miss Radcliffe,” she said. “The woman on the stage. Why did you attack her?”

Lovecraft shook his head, frustration making him restless. “Nuh. Nuh. Lovecraff.. not hurr-t.”

“Easy.” She took his hands, and put them back on his wound. “I believe you.” A hesitation. This wasn’t going to be easy, but someone had to try. “You didn’t try to hurt the woman on the stage, did you?”

He shook his head.

“Was it one of the men there?” There was no response, but she tried again. After all, Rommell had been standing near Miss Radcliffe – perhaps the witnesses had misconstrued Lovecraft’s intended victim. “Did you see the man who hurt James?”

This time there was a nod.

Perry’s breath caught. Rommell. It had to be Rommell. “We have to leave,” she said. “It’s not safe for you here. Come with me, and I’ll help remove you, without being seen. I’ll take you to the Guild. It will be safe there. It will–”

His eyes focused on something over her shoulder. The hairs along her neck rose as she heard a faint, shuffling footstep.

She caught just a glimpse of a man’s legs behind her, then something smashed into the back of her head with a sharp pain. Everything went dark, the sound echoing with a ringing peal through her head. The next thing she knew, there was a furious sound, men snarling as they grappled... and the imprint of the floorboards beneath her cheek.

Blinking through the pain, Perry tried to pull herself together. Her fingers refused to move, her body weighing as heavy as one of the sandbags they used for the curtains. Someone... had hit her... Lovecraft... What was happening?

Come on. Move.

All she could smell was blood. Her blood. But deep inside came that sinuous shifting as the predator within caught a teasing hint of it too. The craving stirred, washing through her vision with frightening intensity.

A shot rang out. Perry jerked, and somehow made it onto her hands and knees as something heavy hit the floor behind her. Oh, God. She reached for her pistol with clumsy hands, barely able to see–

Strong hands caught her up, shoving her forward behind a curtain. Her body simply wouldn’t work. Couldn’t fight, couldn’t get her head to stop spinning–

“Meddling bitch.” The word sounded so far away. “Time to see if you can swim too.”

Something hard struck her across the back of the head again.

Then the floor gave way beneath her, and Perry tumbled down, down, into the cold splashy blackness of water.


THE SOUND OF a shot ringing out punctured the silence. Garrett slammed to the edge of the railing above the theatre, where he’d been trying to get a bird’s eye view, his heart kicking into his throat. He’d returned not five minutes past, after sending a telegram to the Guild for reinforcements.


Where the hell was she? She was supposed to wait in the theatre for him. He couldn’t hear anything through the aural communicator, and she wasn’t where he’d left her.

Two more shots rang out in rapid succession. “We’ve got him!” Someone yelled.

Garrett charged down the ladder, hitting the theatre floorboards, and running into the darkness behind the curtains. Men were pouring out of the shadows, clapping hands, laughing...

And then he realized why.

The scene was a gruesome one. One of the lighting hands - Millington, he thought - was standing over a large, fallen figure. Blood spilled from beneath Lovecraft’s vacant face, and pooled beneath his massive chest. A bullet had taken him straight through the temple, and there were two more in his back.

The creature’s clockwork hand twitched once - then twice - as though the clockwork mechanism hadn’t realized the body attached was dead. It was somewhat eerie.

“Well done!” Rommell clapped Millington on the back, one of his feet hooked up on Lovecraft’s head, like a man posing for a daguerreotype with his ‘trophy’. “Hoorah, boys! The menace is dead!”

They all cheered. Garrett felt ill. And where the hell was Perry? She should have heard that, and come running.

Rommell saw him standing there, and sneered. “No thanks to you Nighthawks.” He clapped Millington on the shoulder again. “Needed some real men on the case.”

Garrett met Rommell’s eyes, the darkness within stirring through him. Rommell’s smile froze as though he sensed some of the menace, and Garrett turned away. Let them have their fun. He was here for business.

He knelt by the body. Hot red blood puddled out, soaking into the timbers, but nearby was a splash of something darker in the shadows by the back curtain. Almost a handprint of bluish-red blood, small, like a woman’s hand.

No. His gaze locked on that print, and he scrambled toward it. Only those stricken by the craving virus had bluish-blood. It was what gave the blue bloods their name.

Which meant it had to have come from Rommell - or Perry.

And Rommell wasn’t injured.

She’d been here. Fury and rage flooded through him, along with fear. Most of the men were still laughing, and someone had sent for the photography equipment so they could immortalise the image of Rommell standing by Lovecraft, with one fist curled in the creature’s hair.

Garrett shoved his way into the shadows, searching for more signs of Perry. There - another spatter of dark blood flicked up the walls. He knew the type of blood pattern. She’d been struck by something hard. Had it been Lovecraft? What the hell had happened here? And where was she? Christ, he should have been here with her. Not letting her go off alone–

“What’s wrong?” Miss Radcliffe was there, one hand on his sleeve, and Garrett realized the darkness within him had almost blinded him to his surroundings.

“It’s Perry,” he said. “She was here. She was bleeding.” But she wasn’t here now. Panic closed his throat until it was hard to breathe. “I don’t know where she is now. She has to be hurt, but I don’t know where she’s gone.”

Miss Radcliffe’s dark eyes swam into his vision, looking worried. “Perhaps she’s in one of the dressing rooms?”

He eyed that blood spatter pattern. Someone had hit her, and now she was gone. Things just weren’t adding up, and he had a horrible feeling deep inside, turning his bones to lead. Instinct. The same instinct that had led Perry to believe Lovecraft wouldn’t hurt her. “How could Nelly have gone missing so easily?” he murmured to himself. “No one saw her go, she just disappeared, and now Perry’s vanished too, as though she was never here. How? There are only three exits from the theatre, and the place is always full of people.”

“Well, there are the tunnels beneath us,” Miss Radcliffe said, then her eyes widened in horror. “Oh, goodness.” She slapped a hand to her mouth. “The tunnels! They were there when the new theatre was built over the last one, during the fire. They’re full of water now, but I know some of the men use them to dump refuse into.”

His blood was like ice in his veins. “Where?” Garrett asked hoarsely.

Miss Radcliffe swept a curtain out of the way, revealing a hidden trapdoor in the floor. “Right here.”

There was a drop of dark blood on the timber floor in front of it.


“PERRY!” GARRETT yelled, his fists clenched into tight balls at his sides.

His voice echoed through the tunnels, then faded, leaving him in a ringing silence that knotted each muscle in his gut. Garrett spun, staring at the three tunnels in front of him. Water drifted slowly through them, leading to one of the underground rivers that afflicted London. Where was she?

Water sloshed about his knees as he started forward, peering into the darkness of first one tunnel, then the next. “Perry?!” Damn you, answer me.

His heart was starting to beat a little faster now, a little harder. She had to be down here somewhere, but why wouldn’t she answer?

His mind supplied a brutal image in response to that, and Garrett shied away, shoving it deep. No. No, no, no. He waded further into the left tunnel, sniffing the air, desperate to find some trace of her. He’d never been a good tracker - his skills lay elsewhere - but he had to try.

A whisper of sound reverberated through the aural communicator. Garrett stared across at the other tunnel, every muscle in his body locked tight as he cupped a hand over it, trying to pinpoint the origin of the sound. Static hissed in his ear, but that meant she had to be close, didn’t it? Within two hundred feet, for the frequency to have picked up its matching communicator.

Lifting the phosphorescent glimmer ball high, he waded back into the main tunnel, and peered into the smaller access sewer across from him. Down there? There was no further sound, no scent, nothing, just the faintest of hopes.

Garrett took a step forward... and fell up to his h*ps in the cold, stinking water. Gritting his teeth, he surged forward, the water deepening. Its cold fingers penetrated his leather body armour, restricting the movement of his legs.

Nothing to say where she’d gone, only a certain restlessness, a need, a drive to find her. Garrett staggered through the dark, ending up chest deep in the water. The tunnel began to narrow, barely a foot above the top of the water. If she’d come this far... He hesitated.

Please. Please God, let her be alive. Words he hadn’t uttered for over twenty years, when he’d been a young human lad, growing up in the rough streets of Bethnal. Blue bloods didn’t believe in religion; or perhaps religion didn’t believe in them. Only as demons, who deserved to die.

Garrett glanced back. Ridiculous to even think she’d come this way, through the deepening waters. Maybe he should go back? Try one of the other tunnels?

His gaze swung between both directions, but the gloom of the tunnel was calling him, and the static in his ear seemed a little louder. Just a little further.

Holding his breath against the frigid water, Garrett swam through the darkening depths, reaching an archway. The water was an inch from the ceiling here. Despair filled him.

“Perry!” he called again, the desperate echoes of his voice ringing in the tunnels. Where the hell are you?

He turned to swim back the way he’d come, but something caught his eye through the archway. Garrett gulped a mouthful of filthy water as he swung the glimmer ball that way desperately, clutching at the arch as he gagged on the water.


Still, his heart thundered in his ears. He ducked under the arch and kicked forward, coming up into a larger cavern. The glimmer light stained the world green and...

There. Something shiny-slick in the water.


His heart leapt into his throat, and he splashed forward, his feet finding purchase as he half-strode, half-swam. There was definitely something in the water. Thank God.


Grabbing hold, he dragged her into his arms. Perry was heavier than he’d anticipated, a solid weight in his arms that surprised him. Her pale, frigid face surfaced out of the water, lips painted an eerie blue.

“Perry?” he whispered.

Not a sign of recognition. Not a sound.

She wasn’t breathing.

Everything in him went cold.


Don’t you dare die on me.

Garrett hauled Perry into his arms, kicking out for the nearby ledge. He dragged her out of the water, and let her fall onto the cold stone, jerking at her coat, and the tight silver buckles on her armoured corset. She had to breathe. Had to. He wouldn’t accept any other possibility.

Her head lolled bonelessly to the side as he resorted to using his knife, cutting the tight, wet leather corset, and tearing its edges apart with desperate hands. “Come on,” he snapped, stroking the wet hair off her pale face as he rolled her to the side, and thumped her hard in the centre of the back, her wet undershirt clinging to her skin.

Water spilled from Perry’s mouth. Not enough though. Garrett tried again and again, on her side, on her back, using the pressure of his hands to shove at her abdomen. Her head was bleeding, and he felt the pulpy softness at the base of her skull that indicated where she’d been hit from behind.

“You stubborn bitch.” Heat warmed the back of his eyes as he cupped her face in his palms, leaning over her. He could feel each tick of the minutes slowly thudding by, the weight of time pressing down on him. How long had she been in the water? His mind raced. Ten minutes? She’d been missing for a good twenty.

Garrett leaned forward, pressing his lips against her cold ones, and breathing into her mouth. He’d seen it done once before, when a young lass tumbled into the Thames when he’d been a boy.

The girl hadn’t survived.

But Perry wasn’t human. The only ways to truly kill a blue blood were by decapitation or removing the heart. The craving virus could heal anything.

Couldn’t it?

Garrett breathed for her again and again. She was so cold, like ice. Despair broke over him. “Come on. I’m going to tan your hide when you’re breathing again.” He couldn’t stand the cold of her, using his hands to rub her chest and arms, pausing just long enough to force air into her mouth. “Come on.”

A sudden cough spilled water into his face. Garrett jerked back in shock as her eyes sprung wide, and she choked on the water in her mouth and lungs. He shoved her onto the side, thumping her hard in the middle of the back as water vomited from her mouth in hideous retching noises.

“Perry. Oh, God, Perry.” He dragged her into his arms as the sound of a breath tore through her throat; the most painful - and wonderful - sound he’d ever heard. A hand caught at his, a terrified cry ripping through her raw throat as her body bowed.

He rocked her against his chest. “I’ve got you. You’re safe. I’ve got you.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies