The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 13

Fingers curled in the wet lapels of his coat. Another rasping breath of sound made his chest tighten... but at least she was breathing again.

Garrett pressed his cold lips against her forehead, screwing his eyes closed. He didn’t want to let her go, but reason demanded that he keep them moving, and get some blood into her. She’d be weakened now, as the craving virus sought to heal her scarred lungs.

Cutting his wrist, he held it to her lips. Perry’s eyes darkened as the hunger caught hold, but he didn’t like how unfocused they were.

“Drink,” he encouraged, holding her mouth to his wrist.

Perry’s mouth locked over his skin, and the hunger within her flared to life. The hot bite of her saliva flooded the wound, and Garrett let out a breath of relief as she started drinking.

Someone had shoved her down that trapdoor into the water. Garrett rocked her gently in his arms as she collapsed back against him. Her eyelashes fluttered, and she was sated and sleepy now, his blood already flushing through her system. She’d heal.

But someone else wouldn’t. Garrett was going to tear the bastard who’d done this limb from limb.

As soon as Perry woke up and told him who it was.

Curling her in his arms, Garrett turned and waded to his feet. He passed the main tunnel, the gleam of the discarded glimmer ball floating beneath the eerie darkness of the waters. Something pale ghosted beneath the surface, and Garrett caught a glimpse of pallid flesh. What the hell? He paused and nudged the glimmer ball he’d dropped closer to the shape.

A bloated set of fingers floated into view.


“I’M SORRY TO ask this,” Garrett murmured, pushing open the door to the autopsy room at the Guild headquarters. “But we need a positive identification, and in the absence of Nelly’s familial background, it has to be someone she worked with.”

Miss Radcliffe swallowed, looking pale. “Of course.”

Doctor Gibson looked up from his file, then gestured the actress toward the autopsy table. “There is some mild decomposition,” he murmured, lifting back the sheet a couple of inches. “It’s not very pleasant to look at. Please let us know if you’re feeling unwell.”

One glimpse. That was all it took.

Miss Radcliffe’s eyes filled with tears, and she managed a brief nod, before turning away to cup her hands over her face. Garrett gestured for Doctor Gibson to drag the sheet up over the dead woman’s face, and slid a hand over Miss Radcliffe’s shoulder.

“Is it Nelly?” he asked, though he was certain. What other woman would have only one leg?


Seeing her distress, Garrett ushered her out into the corridor, away from the stale scent of formaldehyde and death. Miss Radcliffe burst into a storm of weeping, and he gently rubbed her between the shoulder blades.

“I’m sorry,” she hiccupped, cleaning her face with the handkerchief he offered.

“Don’t be. You’ve had a horrific day, Eliza, and this is only another nightmare to add to it. Thank you for your help. It’s very important to the case.”

“I truly thought she was going to come home to the theatre,” Miss Radcliffe whispered. “I kept believing it was just a few more days until she was back, and now here she is... and she’s been there all along and none of us even knew and–”

“We’ll take care of it,” he promised, rubbing her upper arms.

“Was it... deliberate?”

Garrett’s lips thinned and he nodded. After what had happened to Perry he had a good idea of how poor Nelly had met her end. Doctor Gibson needed to inspect her lungs, but the obtrusion on the back of her head indicated she’d been struck with something at some stage, then she’d probably drowned, slipping beneath those dark waters without even a struggle.

So he had the means of her murder now, but not the why of it. Or the who.

Rommell? Or Beckham?

No. No, it had to be someone who knew the theatre well enough to know the water-filled tunnels were below. The idea of Rommell having knowledge of an illicit means to dump refuse was ludicrous.

The assault had happened in Nelly’s dressing room, as evidenced by the blood spatter. Then the murderer had somehow removed her without anybody seeing, and dumped her down the chute without so much as a by-your-leave.

“That trapdoor you showed me,” he said. “Is that the only access to the tunnels from within the theatre itself?” He knew there were other exits - he’d removed Perry through a small sewer grate in the nearby streets.

Miss Radcliffe nodded. “As far as I’m aware of. It’s not something one pays a great deal of attention to. You would have to ask the stagehands, or the cleaning staff.”

He certainly intended to ask. Now that they had Nelly’s body, and knew what had become of her, he had a good solid lead.

Seeing Miss Radcliffe into a steam-cab with a few more questions, he found his steps heading toward the infirmary. The worst was over. Garrett knew that, but from the knot in his guts, his body didn’t.

Garrett checked on Perry for the fourteenth time that day, easing the infirmary door open and just staring. Perry lay curled on her side, the short shock of silky dark strands darkening the pillow, and the half circle of her lashes fluttering uneasily against her pale cheeks.

The soft sound of her breathing was the only thing that grounded him.

She was tall for a woman; lean and strong, but here in the infirmary she looked frighteningly pale, and so small beneath the sheets. Garrett crossed the room on cat-silent feet. He didn’t know how long he stood there, until Doctor Gibson made a sound of disapproval behind him, clearing his throat. Garrett spun, holding up his hands in surrender as the good doctor jerked a thumb toward the door.

Gibson mainly handled autopsies, but in the event of a serious injury, he often saw to the Nighthawks themselves. It was rare that a blue blood couldn’t heal from an injury, though occasionally Gibson’s dab hand with a needle sped the process up. The craving virus took care of the rest.

The moment the door was closed, Gibson sighed. “Christ, lad. I told you to let her be. She needs rest and blood, and she’ll be hale in no time.”

Garrett couldn’t quite explain the obsessive need to check on her. He’d spent most of the day pacing the hallway, fighting the horrible certainty that she’d stopped breathing again.

He still didn’t know what had drawn him down that tunnel. Instinct? Some sound or scent that his mind hadn’t quite recognised? What if he’d turned around, and gone back? He couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Gibson saw it on his face. “Fine, lad. Just don’t wake her up when you check on her.”

“I won’t,” Garrett promised, relief flooding through him as he turned to stalk through near-silent corridors.

He left Perry alone, pacing into the depths of the guild. Smoke curled through his nostrils, tainted with chemical. Fitz’s dungeon. Garrett strode past, then paused, rapping sharply on the door.

It jerked open, and Fitz blinked through a pair of magnifying goggles at the sight of him. “Garrett. Come in.”

Feeling restless, he paced in front of the fire, rubbing at the back of his neck. “I need you to do something for me.”

The room was a mess of benches, all of them smothered in an assortment of gears and metalwork, with fine tools hanging from hooks on the walls. “Of course. What is it?”

Garrett surveyed the gleaming glass eye that stared back at him from some sort of mechanical creature the young man was creating. He took a deep breath. “I need you to create a device for me, a method of tracking a person. It needs to be small and subtle, so that she’s not aware of being traced.”

“A case?” Fitz asked dryly, “or is this some new concept of courting a woman that I’ve not heard of?”

Of course he wouldn’t have heard. Down here in the bowels of the guild, Fitz rarely came up for air - let alone conversation. The young blue blood was so absorbed in his mechanics that he rarely mingled with others.

“Neither. I’m going to put it on Perry.”

Fitz winced. “Good luck with that.”

Garrett privately agreed. She’d have his guts for garters. No doubt she’d think it some insane notion that he didn’t respect her skills.

How to tell her that there was another reason entirely? That it would allow him to work with her again, without sending him into a rousing panic that something might happen to her again?

He couldn’t lose her. He’d never precisely thought of it in terms of such, but their friendship was one of the things he valued most in the world.

“Just create something for me,” Garrett said. “I’ll do the rest.”

Somehow he’d discover a way to put a tracking device on her.

Then he’d never lose her again.

The summons came that evening.

Garrett climbed the stairs to the second floor where Lynch’s study and personal rooms were, his heart as heavy as his feet. Taking a deep breath, he rapped his knuckles on the door.

“Come in.”

Fire crackled in the grate, and Lynch’s focus was entirely on the case file in front of him as he made notations. Garrett waited in front of the desk, his hands clasped behind him.

Lynch finished what he was doing, and put his spring-pen aside, leaning back in his chair. He crossed his hands over his middle. “So what happened?”

“I assumed you saw the briefing note?”

“Yes, but I’m asking you. There are some inconsistencies that I’m not quite certain how to interpret.”

Hell and damnation. Garrett turned aside, crossing to the window to look out. He knew exactly what his superior was asking of him, and he hated to know that he’d let both Lynch and Perry down in this circumstance. “I made a mistake.” One hell of a mistake. His fingers curled into a fist. “I accept full responsibility for what happened.”

“Which was?”

Shaking his fist, Garrett slowly uncurled it, and rested his fingers on the windowsill. “Perry and I… There was an argument between us during the initial questioning on the day Miss Tate disappeared. Then another argument… and another. It just kept escalating. I let my anger with her direct my actions, and when it came to that day at the theatre, I... I cast doubt on her intuition and we argued again.” The weight of it was like a mountain, sitting heavily on his shoulders. “I let her remain behind alone, when I shouldn’t have. I let…” And this was the hardest admission of all. “I let an attraction I felt for a witness compromise my case, and my duty toward my partner.”

The only thing that broke the silence was Lynch’s sigh, a sound so filled with disappointment that Garrett had to swallow the furious lump in his throat. Why the hell had he been so bloody stupid? Arrogance and petty anger had nearly cost him his partner’s life.

“I’ve never had this problem with either of you. You always work exceptionally well together. Why now? What drove this argument? Your personal involvement with the witness?”

“At first.” The words came spilling out of him, the story grudging, but he had made the mistake. It was his duty to rectify the situation. With every word, Garrett felt like he was looking at the situation again, and seeing it in a new light. Wondering why the hell certain things he’d said had seemed to infuriate Perry. Even looking back now, he still couldn’t work it out.

By the time he’d finished, some of the weight had shifted from his shoulders. Not all of it, but some. “I made a monumental mistake, and Perry nearly paid for it. I almost got her killed.” Garrett’s voice roughened. “It will never happen again. Never.”

Lynch looked thoughtful. “That explains your part in it, but the idea behind a partnership is that there are two people involved. From what I understand, Perry let pride – or God knows what – drive her to search for a potentially dangerous witness on her own. She should have waited for you, regardless of an argument. Do you think that something is bothering her? Something outside the case?”

“I don’t know,” Garrett admitted, and it bothered him. The whole damned mess bothered him. “We’ve been... dancing around each other a little.” Not working together at all.

“It seems out of character for her.” Lynch frowned. He’d been making notes the entire time Garrett had been speaking, which was utterly humiliating.

Garrett knew Lynch kept files on all of his Nighthawks, but for this to be written up…He didn’t say anything however. It was only pride again, eating at him. He’d earned whatever scorn Lynch could cast his way.

“She’s usually more careful than this.”

“Sometimes… she takes risks when her gender is challenged,” Garrett said carefully. “And Rommell was getting under her skin. I– I didn’t support her when Rommell accused her of making a foolish decision, because she’s a female. Perhaps she felt she had something to prove.”

“Hmm.” Lynch drummed his finger on the desk. “Do you think she’s a risk to herself in the field?”

In the field…? “Sir, she’s barely–”

“She’ll heal.” Lynch looked up from beneath hooded eyelids. “But in the meantime, I certainly don’t intend to see my two best Nighthawks on scullery duty.”

“That’s it? You’re not punishing us?”

“Do I need to offer punishment?” Lynch quirked a brow. “Or are you simply looking for something to absolve you of your guilt?”

“Sir, I–”

“Finish the case,” Lynch cut him off, uncapping his pen. He dragged open another case file and began perusing it. “I shall give Perry another day to recover – Doctor Gibson informs me that the craving virus has healed all of her wounds, and that she’ll be well in no time. In the meantime, you will work with Byrnes. Once Perry is on her feet, she’ll rotate in.”

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