The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 14

“I’d rather she didn’t,” Garrett said bluntly. “Let me and Byrnes handle it.”

“The answer to that is no. I don’t give a damn what the argument between you pertains to. You will, however, discover a means to deal with it between the pair of you. You will work with her, Garrett, and you will do everything in your power to keep her safe, and to solve this murder. I will expect nothing less of you.”

“Yes, sir.”

Lynch’s dark head lowered again. “Dismissed.”

Dawn spilled through the thin metal slats that covered the window. Someone had opened them. Perry winced, dragging the sheet up over her aching head, and burrowing into the warm mattress beneath her.

A hand snuck beneath the blankets, and tickled her bare foot. Perry jerked upright, her knees drawn in against her chest.

“No time for that,” Garrett said. “You’ve been asleep for two days.”

Finding herself wearing little more than an old nightshirt someone had dressed her in - hopefully not Garrett! - she dragged the blankets around her chin. “What are you doing in here?”

Garrett lounged back onto her bed, sprawling on his elbows. “I wanted to see how you were.”

She swallowed, feeling the faint echo of rawness in her throat. “Why? What–” Looking around, brought her the realization that she was in the Guild. The last thing she could recall was falling through the trapdoor into the icy cage of water. Feeling it crawl up her body, the pressure of it tight on her lungs, leaving no room, no air for her, no–

Garrett caught her hand, his jaw set in a firm line as he avoided her gaze. “Aye, I know.”

“How did I get here?”

“I found you.” The expression on his face was devoid of emotion, but his fingers tightened on hers, and all of a sudden, something darkened in his eyes, as if he saw something she didn’t. Or relived it, perhaps. “You weren’t breathing.”

Of course not. She remembered the water washing through her lungs, burying her under it until there was no air... Garrett’s grip bought her back into the world.

“You’re safe now,” he said hoarsely. “And if you ever bloody go off by yourself again, I’ll tan your hide. You went after Lovecraft, didn’t you?”

Everything came rushing back. Perry tipped her chin up. “I had a job to do.”

“We had a job to do. That doesn’t mean–”

“You were busy.” She threw aside the blankets. “And despite what you thought, I was right. Lovecraft was the key to it - he saw the man who shot Hobbs. Perhaps you should have listened to me - instead of hurrying to placate that blue blood leech - and then none of this would have happened.”

There was a decanter of blood on the small table by the bed. Perry’s hand shook as she forced herself to pour a glass of it. Decorum. Still, as it wet her lips, she drank in greedy gulps. Finally the lingering silence caught her attention.

Garrett looked as though she’d kicked him in the cods. His entire face had paled, dark shadows ringing his eyes. For the first time she noticed the strain there. Had he even slept? He looked dreadful. Garrett never looked anything short of impeccable, but now she saw that his coppery hair was ruffled, as though he’d run both hands through it, and his clothes were rumpled so severely that it looked like he’d slept in them.

And then she realized what she’d said to him. Careless, spiteful words. She might as well have used her knife. “Garrett–”

“No. You’re right. You nearly died, and it’s my fault. You think I don’t know that? You think I haven’t played out every possible scenario for the past two days, wondering what might have happened if I didn’t turn down that tunnel, where I found you?” His voice hardened. “I’m sorry. God, I’m so sorry, Perry.”

The abject misery in his expression stole her breath, and when she reached out, he clasped her hand in his, and cupped it against his face, his lashes curtaining his eyes. The roughened stubble along his jaw grazed her palm, and Perry brought her other hand up to cradle his cheek.

“I shouldn’t have gone after Lovecraft by myself,” she whispered. “I should have waited for you. This is as much my fault as yours.”

“I wish I could believe that.”

He looked up, and the choking blue of those eyes made her heart ache in her chest. Guilt wielded a heavy lash. Perry’s shoulders softened, “I’m sorry too.”

Another moment of hesitation, of doubt, and then he dragged her into his arms, the scent of his clothes enveloping her, and her face tucked tight against his throat. The tight crush of his grip drove the breath from her body, and Perry realized her br**sts were pressed hard against his chest. A part of her wanted to stay there, just as she knew that she shouldn’t. Longing ached within her, that horrible yearning she was trying not to let herself feel. Perry closed her eyes and drank in the sensation. Just this once.

And only once, would it be. With a sigh, she pushed at him, but his strong arms only tightened.

“Please,” Garrett whispered. “Just let me hold you.”

Perry gave in, her entire body relaxing into his grip. His cool breath stirred against her cheek, one of his hands sliding down the centre of her back, tracing the indentations of her spine. His breath eased from his body in one long exhalation, and he turned his face into the curve of her throat. The intimacy of the moment was uncomfortable. How she’d longed for something like this – for him to say those words, or for him to hold her. If he ever guessed… The thought was like a wet drip of icy water down her spine, and she cleared her throat. “Garrett? This is indecent. I’m only wearing a nightshirt.”

“Christ, I’ve seen you in your unmentionables before - that time when I didn’t realize you were getting changed and barged into your room. It’s not as though I think of you as a woman, Perry.”

Her heart broke. With a stiff nod, Perry turned away, and poured herself another glass of blood. Of course, he didn’t care. What did it matter if he saw her bare legs? It wasn’t as though she were female in his eyes. Perry knew that. She’d worked hard to never let him know what beat in her chest, or how much it hurt every time she saw him with another woman.

Just once, she’d like to let him know she had needs and desires too. To give into the yearning that burned in her heart... To kiss him...

Instead, she drained the glass. Then another. She couldn’t risk it. What would she do if he laughed at her? Or worse, looked at her with a guilty expression as he tried to carefully explain that he didn’t feel the same way.


She could never tell him. Just bury it deep, where it didn’t hurt anymore - or if it did, she could pretend that it didn’t.

Garrett, of course, was oblivious. “Did you see who hit you?”

The events were hazy, and Perry shook her head.

That made him sigh, but he reached inside his coat, and removed a long narrow box, tied with pretty ribbon. “I have something for you.”

“What is it?”

“It’s a present,” he said. “People give them to each other. Usually the purpose of the idea is to–”

Perry tugged the ribbon open.

“Oh.” Her breath caught. “It’s–” Exquisite. She lifted the sheathed dirk out of the tissue paper and drew the blade. It was eight inches long and stiletto-thin. The kind of weapon meant to slip between a pair of ribs, rather than a slashing blade. Perry rolled it over her fingers, learning the weight and balance of it.

Garrett took it from her, sheathing the blade. “I meant to keep it until your birthday, but it seemed…” He shrugged. “Here, it’s made to be sheathed inside your corset, so that you can keep it hidden.” He showed her the way the sheathe had been specifically designed for the purpose. Perry couldn’t take her eyes off his face, but he didn’t notice.

“Thank you,” she said. “It’s perfect. It’s the most beautiful present anyone has ever given me.”

That earned a smile. “Well,” he drawled. “I thought about ribbons and perfume and fripperies, but then I saw this and realized it’s the perfect accessory for the lady who likes to kill things. But in all seriousness…” Those blue eyes lost their focus again, the smile fading. “It will help protect you, Perry, when I’m not there to do it. Promise me you’ll keep it on you at all times.”

The vulnerability in his gaze made her skin itch. “I think you hit your head,” she said, trying for lightness. “You seem to have mistaken me for some sort of damsel in distress.”

“I don’t mistake you for anything you’re not,” he countered. “But even the most trained professionals can become vulnerable, and I won’t ever allow anything to happen to you again.”

“You can’t protect me from the world.”

“I can try.” Gruff words. He glanced away, as if holding her gaze was too much for him at the moment.

Perry looked away too, fingers toying with the edge of the knife. What to say to that? The conversation had veered rather uncomfortably into areas she wasn’t certain she liked. It only gave her treacherous heart hope, when she knew there was none.

Clearing her throat, she said: “So what have I missed? I assume you’ve been working on finding Miss Tate?”

That made his lips thin. “Actually, we found her...” He filled in the details of the last two days – and how he’d found poor Nelly’s body, discarded in the water with her.

“A blow to the head, according to Gibson, in much the same manner as yours.” Garrett’s expression darkened, and she knew he was thinking of that moment again. “Byrnes and I have been keeping an eye on Miss Radcliffe, though things at the theatre seem to have settled since Lovecraft’s death. We’re not certain if he’s the one who assaulted her in the alley that day, or someone else. They’re starting their run again tomorrow night, so the theatre’s been mostly closed. It’s given Byrnes and I time to examine it.”

“Nothing new?”

“Only one thing. We’ve found a dressing room trunk near the chute, shoved out of the way with some props. There’s blood in it. I need Eliza to look at it, and see if the trunk belonged to Nelly. It’s very similar in design to another in Nelly’s dressing room, and I was wondering whether that’s how her body was removed to the chute without anybody noticing. She might have been unconscious inside it.”

“And... Lovecraft? It was quick?”

“Immediate.” Garrett hesitated. “I know you felt a sense of responsibility for him, but–”

“He had no one else,” she replied, her gaze lowering, and her arms hugging tight around her abdomen. I know what that feels like. To be alone without any hope in the world, and only enemies everywhere you looked...

At least she’d found the Nighthawks. Lovecraft had never had an opportunity like that, and she felt a guilty little squeeze in her chest. Could she have done more? Heard her attacker coming, perhaps? Or if she hadn’t been so focused on Lovecraft, or distracted...

Garrett caught her chin. His expression was firm. “He was with someone who cared for him when he died, Perry. That’s the least that anyone can ask for. You are not to blame for this. You didn’t shoot him, did you?”

“Who did?” Her memories of the event were so damned hazy...

“Arthur Millington.”

“The stagehand?”

He nodded. “Rommell’s crowing about it as though he held the pistol himself.”

That made no sense. “Millington...” His face swam to mind as the man who’d taken Miss Radcliffe away to see to the lighting. “Why would he have any cause to attack me?”

“He wouldn’t, but there were three bullets that hit Lovecraft. The one through the chest was a .442 - the same bullet as the one that killed Hobbs. The other two shots were fired from a different pistol.”

“So Millington shot Lovecraft twice, just before the murderer added his own bullet?”

“The results came through this morning, so I haven’t had a chance to question Millington about who else was accompanying him.”

“It could be Rommell,” she mused, with a small frown. “He was there too, you said.”

“My money’s on Rommell, though I’m not certain his lordship would carry a Webley - he’s the sort to purchase a more expensive weapon, and we still don’t have motive for Hobbs’ murder.”

“Yes, we do,” she snorted. “Nelly’s easy - she refused to be his mistress, and it’s clear he’s jealous of his possessions. Maybe he discovered that Hobbs was sending Nelly roses? Maybe he realized they were lovers?”

“We don’t know that they were lovers,” he said. “We don’t have any proof. This is all guesswork, Perry, and if it is Rommell, we need cold, hard facts, or the courts will eat us alive. The Echelon won’t like knowing that one of their own is involved in this.”

“That’s true.”

He rubbed at his mouth. “We need to find the link between Nelly and Hobbs.”

“Has Fitz had any luck with the coded diaries in Hobbs’ storeroom?”

“Yes. They’re mostly files on the mech enhancements he’d performed in the last few years. There’s no reference to Nelly, dash it all, but it was a good thought. I’m hoping we’ll be able to get a lead tomorrow.”


“Doctor Gibson needs to clear you for duty.” There was a faint hesitation from him. “Lynch intends for us to work together to finish the case. I asked if I could work with Byrnes until it was finished but–”

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