The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 15


“It made sense. Not only are you injured, but you and I have several things we need to discuss. I’d prefer to work these matters out when we have time, not in the middle of a potentially dangerous case.”

The words sounded reasonable, but all she could hear was the sound of rushing thunder in her ears. “Don’t you dare push me off this case.”

“Christ,” he snapped, his roughened accent emerging in the heat of his temper. “This ain’t...” He closed his eyes and took a breath. “This has nothing to do with your worth, Perry. This entire case has been a mess from the start, and I don’t even bloody know what we’re arguing about!”

They glared at each other. Perry turned away first. She wasn’t entirely certain why she was so angry with him.

Or perhaps she knew exactly why.

I don’t even bloody know what we’re arguing about… And he didn’t. Garrett was completely oblivious to the way she felt about him.

She’d been oblivious.

Perry had always known he carried on affairs, but Garrett was discreet and usually conducted them outside guild matters. Usually she only realized what was going on when she smelt a hint of perfume on his skin. She’d never been present during the start of the flirtation, and it had rocked her to see him smiling and flirting with Miss Radcliffe, whom he obviously found attractive.

And why wouldn’t he? The young actress was beautiful, gracious, and brave. Everything that a young lady should be, and everything that Perry wasn’t. Perhaps that was the true problem? Miss Radcliffe was so perfect - the kind of young woman that Perry had once wished she could be, before realizing that no matter how hard she forced herself, she would never fit that mold.

She’d accused him of letting his emotions and flirtations interfere with their work, when she’d compromised it far more severely.

This was all her fault.

“Perry, are you all right?” The floorboards creaked as he took a step toward her. “I didn’t mean to say I didn’t wish to work with you. I didn’t mean–”

“I know you didn’t.” She’d made a right royal muck of things. “I shouldn’t have made you feel like you’d compromised your professionalism. You didn’t. It was only–”

“No, you were right. I was attracted to Miss Radcliffe, and I couldn’t see it, so don’t apologise for that.” Garrett stepped into her vision, taking her by the upper arms. This time his grip was firm, his expression more confident than it had been before. “Apology accepted?”

“Apology accepted,” she repeated. “Back to Nelly’s apartment tomorrow?” she asked, forcing her voice to lighten, as though nothing had ever occurred between them.

He nodded. “I’ll try and track Millington down today with Byrnes, and see if he has any answers. You just rest. Tomorrow we’ll see if we can find anything at Nelly’s that we missed in the first sweep, now we know what to look for.”

Determination filled her. Cases could often be slow, but Perry needed to find some answers now, with three people dead. Poor Lovecraft, he’d never stood a chance...

I’ll find them, she promised Lovecraft silently. And I’ll make them pay for what they did to the pair of us, for what they did to Nelly and Hobbs...

The darkness of the hunger surfaced within her at the thought.


MILLINGTON WAS AT The Cap and Thistle, in Holborn, with several fellows who met for darts each Sunday. The Cap and Thistle was an old pub, with diamond-shaped windowpanes, and mahogany paneling inside. It stunk of smoke and beer, and laughter rocked its small confines.

Garrett strode in and located his target, throwing darts in the corner.

“That him?” Byrnes asked, at his side.


Millington swilled a mugful of beer, laughing at something someone had said. It had taken three hours to track him down - both by rumor of his habits on his day off, and his scent trail. Byrnes was almost as good at tracking as Perry was.

Millington saw them enter over the rim of his mug, and choked a little on his beer. Garrett tipped his chin, indicating he wanted a word, and Millington handed the pair of darts in his hand to someone else.

“Christ,” the man muttered. “Ain’t you fellows finished up, yet? Thought we got him.”

Garrett’s smile was tight. “We’re not entirely certain Lovecraft had anything to do with Nelly Tate’s murder, but what I want to speak to you about is what occurred when you shot him. Specifically, if there was another individual in the area when you arrived on scene.”

Millington grumbled under his breath as he dragged out a barstool, the whites of his eyes flashing as he eyed the dartboard longingly. “I can’t bloody remember. Were about a dozen of us, all told, and it all happening at once...”

“And the pistol you were carrying at the time?” Byrnes asked.

“A Colt 1862 Trapper. Why?”

A .36 caliber. “No reason.”

Garrett grilled him for the next half hour but the story didn’t change. Millington seemed uninterested.

“Bloody hell, we got him, didn’t he?” A sneer curled his lip. “Took care o’ matters when you lot couldn’t. You ain’t got any proof that clockwork menace did it? Hell, you only had to look at him!”

“In the Nighthawks, we prefer facts.”

“Attacked Miss Radcliffe, he did!”

“Did he?” Garrett murmured, then deliberately set out to fish for information. “I was under the impression that she simply got in his way.”

Millington’s eyes narrowed. “Saw it with me own eyes. You ask Lord Rommell! He were there, too.”

“Yes, we’re aware that Rommell was standing there. Makes us all kinds of curious.” Byrnes cut him an enigmatic smile that could have meant anything.

“Rommell’s a good man,” Millington blustered. “Took care of matters when you lot didn’t.” He drained the dregs of his beer, and slammed the mug down. “I’ve had enough of this. The monster’s dead. Case is solved. You ought to move on.”

“The problem is, that whoever the other person is that shot Lovecraft, is also responsible for assaulting my partner, Perry.” Garrett bared his teeth in a smile. “I’m afraid I’m not just going to let that sit.”

Millington paled at the threat. “The lass as dresses like a man?”

“Yes.” Garrett stood, shrugging back into his leather coat. “I’m fairly certain that when she wakes up, she’ll be able to point us in the right direction. I was hoping you might have had an idea, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait for Perry.”

“Interesting tactic there,” Byrnes commented as they strode along the footpath. “I thought Perry was awake.”

“She is,” Garrett replied.

“You suspect something?”

“Millington?” His brows shot up. “I’m not certain. He was very defensive.”

“Covering for someone?”

“Possibly. Either that, or he doesn’t like us very much.”

“If he does know who did it, then that somebody just received fair warning,” Byrnes pointed out.

Garrett felt a tight smile stretch over his face. “Good. I want them to be warned. I want them on edge about what Perry might know. So far we’ve got very little. Maybe this will push the murderer into revealing his hand.”

Byrnes laughed under his breath, an evil sound. “That sounds like something I would have done.” He looked impressed and clapped a hand on Garrett’s shoulder. “Perhaps you’re not such a hopeless case, after all.”


NELLY’S FLAT was near Portman Square. It was a cosy little one-bedroom flat, and far more ordinary than Perry had expected. Nelly’s dressing room at the Veil was that of a theatre starlet; her home belonged to an entirely different woman indeed. The quilt on the bed was handmade, and much mended - as though it had been a treasured item - and dozens of poetry books and plays lay scattered around the sofas that sprawled through the main room.

Morning light streamed through the lacy curtains. Perry ransacked the room, taking less care this time to disturb matters. Poor Nelly was dead - she wouldn’t care - and they needed to find information. Time was ticking out on them. Rommell had withdrawn the private commission that morning, considering the case to be solved.

Lynch had given them two days to find something, or he was going to have to pull them from the case, and put them on something else.

“Over my dead body,” Garrett had muttered, as they left to search the flat. Tension rode his hard frame, and it was clear he was still taking her assault personally.

For the first time in days, they were working as one, the way they always had. It was both a relief and a frustration - like poking at a sore tooth. The argument had fallen behind them, but she still felt as though it chafed deep inside her. Her own raw feelings, threatening to dislodge this tentative peace.

She had to keep them hidden away.

“Found anything?” Garrett asked, poking his head into the bedroom.

“Nothing.” She tossed aside a pair of pillows, running her hands under the mattress. “Anything from the neighbours?”

“We’re in luck. Since our last visit, the lady next door asked her granddaughter if she’d seen anyone calling. The granddaughter was cleaning her grandmother’s windows one day when she said she saw Nelly meet a young man across the street. She’d never seen him before, but she noted that he handed Nelly a posy of peonies,” he emphasized the word with a waggle of his eyebrows, “and that she laughed, and tucked her arm in his, before they hopped on the omnibus. This was about three weeks ago.”

“I wonder why Nelly was so secretive?” Perry mused. “Why meet him at the park? She’s an actress, so it’s not as though she has any great reputation to protect - and I mean that with all due respect.”

“Interesting thought... You’re right. She’s acting as though she has something to hide.”

“But from whom?” Something else occurred. “The granddaughter said he looked young? Hobbs was middle-aged. How old is the granddaughter?”

“Almost twenty, perhaps.”

“She’s not going to think Hobbs was young. Any other description?”

“He was wearing a cap, so she couldn’t see his hair. Tall, somewhat lanky, wearing a tweed suit. It was too far away to get a good view, but she definitely recalls the incident. Remembers thinking to herself how lovely it was that Nelly had a beau. Nelly’s always been good to her grandmother, you see. Keeps an eye out.”

And Miss Radcliffe had mentioned the card attached to the flowers Nelly had received, from someone named Nick or Mick, or something similar. What if they’d been wrong all along? What if Nelly had been seeing someone in secret? Someone they didn’t yet know about? “Let’s keep searching then.”

Together, they turned toward the living areas. Several long fruitless minutes passed.

A typeset play with dog-eared pages rested on the edge of the chair by the window, as if Nelly had been going through it the day before she disappeared. Little handwritten notes filled the margins. Perry had glanced at it before, and dismissed it after a brief glimpse, but now she flipped through it.

‘Oh, Ned, I love this line. It’s brilliant! And so naughty.’

She was about to put the play down, when a name caught her eye.

‘You wicked man! I know exactly who this Edward Mayhue character is based on. It’s James to a T! All puffed up importance, and I-know-what’s-best! I wonder if Clarissa is going to turn out to be his secret sister, hmm?’

Perry paused, her thumb ruffling the corners as she flicked through the pages. Another little scrawl caught her eye.

‘And now Clarissa meets the stable hand? I’m practically dying of laughter here. It’s brilliant! I wonder if James will even recognise it all when he sees it on stage? I wonder if Rommell will? Please tell me his pompous lordship meets a bad end instead of marrying poor Clarissa?’

Perry flipped back to the start, and began reading. It seemed to be a comedy, in which the heroine, Clarissa Donovan, was pursued by the odious Lord Carthark, much to the disgust of her half-brother, Edward. Clarissa meanwhile, was in love with her brother’s stable hand, right beneath the noses of both Edward and Lord Carthark.

The humour was considerably bawdy, and some of Clarissa’s antics made her eyebrows lift. It was the type of play Garrett would have loved.

“What have you got there?” he asked, noticing her absorption.

“I’m not entirely certain. I think it’s telling us something. I think Nelly did have a beau - this Ned. Come look!” She flipped back to the note about James. “I don’t think James was her beau, after all. I think he’s her brother.”

It was the closest they’d come to finding any sort of background on Nelly. The woman was a mystery.

“Ned,” he muttered. “There’s a stagehand named Ned, isn’t there?”

“And two Edward’s. One’s an actor, the other works in costuming, and as an usher.” And what was the bet that the flowers Miss Radcliffe had seen that day, had been sent from a ‘Ned’?

Garrett graced her with a smile. “Excellent. Time to go question some Ned’s then.”

The first Ned was a handsome young usher who lifted his brows incredulously when they asked him if there had been any sort of relationship between he and Nelly.

“Me and Nelly Tate?” He repeated, a flush of heat burning into his cheeks. “Cor, if I ‘ad been seein’ ‘er, you’d ‘ave known it. I’d be shoutin’ that from the rooftops. Blimey, to ‘ave ‘alf the luck!” Then his delight faded. “Or mebbe not. Lord Rommell wouldn’t ‘ave cared much for that.”

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