The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Menace Page 5

“Do you have any leads at all?” Lynch asked.

“By all accounts Nelly Tate was well-liked,” Garrett answered. “We’ve questioned the acting troupe, and nobody seemed to hold any animosity toward her. For the lead actress, she was rather more considerate than most, it seems. Miss Radcliffe, her understudy, said that Nelly had been helping her with her lines, which is almost unheard of.”

Perry hesitated and Lynch saw it.

“Yes?” he turned to her.

Garrett stiffened at her side.

“Nothing, sir.”

Lynch looked between the pair of them. Perry stared at the wall above him, her face impassive. The seconds tripped by, highlighted by Lynch’s clock. If he expected either of them to break, then he underestimated their experience in handling him.

“Very well.” Lynch’s voice was so smooth it was clear he didn’t believe her. “If there’s nothing else to add… then you’re dismissed.”

Perry relaxed and turned toward the door.

“Oh, and Perry?”

She turned.

“Trust your instincts,” Lynch told her, before giving her a brisk nod. “Whatever they might be.”

Garrett shot her a dark look as she escaped through the door.


GARRETT FOUND HER in the training room; the sound of grunts and striking blows drawing him down the corridor. They’d parted ways after the debriefing in Lynch’s office, and Perry had used the distraction of several Nighthawks to slip away from him.

Perry’s eyes flickered to his as he entered the room and Byrnes, one of his fellow Nighthawks, used the distraction to kick her in the chest. She staggered back, her fists coming up defensively and a scowl darkening her face.

They’d be at this until one of them cried uncle, which, knowing the pair of them, could be hours.

“Show me what you’ve got, princess,” Byrnes taunted.

Perry’s eyes narrowed and she launched into a stinging series of blows that Byrnes barely deflected. The other man’s eyes were watchful though, and Garrett could see where Byrnes was goading her into an attack. She extended her punch a fraction too far and Byrnes was on her, flipping her over his shoulder and driving her down onto the mat. He yanked her arm up behind her back and ground the flat of his palm between her shoulder blades. Perry’s eyes blazed with fury at herself – and no doubt a little bit of it for him.

“Can I step in?” Garrett asked.

Byrnes looked up. They’d never been friends – Byrnes had an edge of coldness that Garrett didn’t entirely trust, and in return Byrnes saw Garrett’s unwillingness to hurt a sparring partner as a weakness – but they often worked together as part of the ranking officers of Lynch’s Hand.

“Ready for a rest, Perry?” Byrnes asked, letting her shoulder out of the lock.

“I wasn’t referring to her,” Garrett corrected.

Byrnes looked between them. Perry froze on her hands and knees, then seemed to gather herself as she stood. “Go on,” she said to Byrnes. “I’ll claim a rematch later.”

“Might just stay and watch this one,” Byrnes said, no doubt picking up on the tension.

“I’d suggest you don’t.” Garrett stared him down, pushing past him onto the mats that padded the sparring floor. He stripped off his coat, flinging it behind him, toward a chair, then started working on his waistcoat.

That set curiosity burning in the other man’s eyes, but after another slow look, he melted away, shutting the door to the training room behind him.

Garrett locked it.

When he turned, Perry was still standing in the middle of the mat, her knees softened and her feet set defensively.

“I told you we needed to discuss what happened today.”

Perry tipped her chin up. “Is that what this is? A discussion?”

“Maybe.” He smiled. It wasn’t nice. “Later.”

Her eyes turned smoky and dangerous. “Then get your boots off.”

“With pleasure.”

The very pleasantness of the conversation belied the fury surging beneath his skin. It had been bad enough with her questioning his actions in regards to Miss Radcliffe, but that moment in Lynch’s study… She’d let Lynch see her doubts and knowing the Nighthawk himself, Lynch wouldn’t let well enough alone until he knew what the matter was. Lynch had the tenacity of a dog at a bone once he realized someone was keeping secrets.

Rolling up the sleeves on his shirt, Garrett discarded his boots and stepped onto the mat. This… this was exactly what he needed. The hunger of the craving virus lit through his veins, igniting his anger. It took quite a lot to push him to this point, but Perry had touched a nerve. If they wanted to sort this matter out so that they could work together, then he needed to deal with this now, regardless of her feelings on the matter. Knowing her as he did, she’d much prefer to pretend nothing had happened and skulk off to her room to nurse her grudge.

They touched fists, then separated. Garrett’s knees softened, his eyes watching her like a hawk. The martial arts that had come from the Orient were taught to all of the novices, but when they sparred, all bets were off. It was a combination of pugilism and bartitsu, plus wrestling moves. Garrett knew his strengths as well as he knew hers. Perry would try to keep her distance, whilst lashing in for devastating blows. She was quick, but she knew enough to keep out of the circle of his arms, as he was much stronger than she.

He worked her lightly at first, dancing forward, then retreating when she went on the attack. It helped get the blood flowing in his veins and he knew she was holding back until his muscles had heated.

“Let’s dance,” Garrett told her, when he felt he was ready.

He took the attack directly to her.

If she was surprised by the onslaught, then she didn’t show it, fighting grimly to keep him at a distance.

He rarely pressed her this hard in their sparring sessions, nor any of the other Nighthawks for that matter. Sometimes these sessions could get careless, and Garrett had never desired to hurt someone just for the sake of a match. Perhaps because he’d grown up in the streets of the East End, near Bethnal Green, where people didn’t fight for entertainment or to enhance their skill.

There, it had been man pitted against man, for blood, coin or survival. Garrett had learned how to fight and to kill at an early age, and he didn’t see the point of winning a bout here at the Guild. It earned you nothing, ultimately, though Byrnes and Perry, and some of the others didn’t see it that way.

Perry’s eyes narrowed and she danced out of the way as he lunged forward, the heel of her foot whipping toward his throat. Anger bubbled beneath the surface, and he met her, blow for blow. Faster. Harder. A writhing, graceful dance that earned a grunt here and there, and would leave the pair of them blackened and bruised by morning.

“This is… ridiculous,” she panted, ducking and weaving.

“Really?” he snapped, drawing her into the cage of his arms and trapping her there in a lock. “Well, I’d have preferred to simply discuss the matter, but you kept retreating. So, let’s not talk about it. Let us simply get this out of the way.”

She broke free. “Fine,” she snapped.

“You said I was unprofessional.” Both of his palms hit her at the shoulders, staggering her backward. Perry’s face darkened and she slapped her arms up inside his, slamming a ringing blow to his right ear.

“You were,” she snapped. “A pretty blonde caught your eye and that–” A punch to the face that missed, “–was the end of any rational discourse.”

“My interest in Miss Radcliffe is the same as any other male’s. She’s a beautiful young woman. She’s clever and polite... Perhaps you should try that last one more often?” He was moving before he thought, one hand a distracting strike to her face that missed, whilst he slammed an open-handed blow against her abdomen. “But that’s all it is.” The movement was so natural he didn’t realize how hard he’d hit her, until she crumpled over it, staggering back.

Bloody hell. He’d never intended to truly hurt her. The heat drained out of his face and Garrett took a step toward her, “Are you all–”

A narrow eyed glare was all the warning he got. Perry launched herself at him in a flying leap, her thighs locking around his throat. The momentum caught him off guard, and she flipped low, sending him crashing to the mats. Garrett rolled free, narrowly avoiding a punch to the face, but he didn’t retaliate.

“Polite?” she snapped. “How about this? Fair warning, sir, I’m about to incapacitate you.” A knee drove up between his legs, and he twisted out of the way, taking it to the hip, instead of the balls.

That did it. Garrett rolled to his feet with a snarl, fists held up to block the next punch. She was on him, punching and striking.

The strike to the balls had been a clear warning. If he was going to back down with her, then she would make him regret it.

Garrett backed away, holding up his hand to indicate a cessation. Perry instantly stilled. He flipped open the top button on his shirt, then dragged the entire thing over his head and threw it toward the rest of his clothes. He caught just a glimpse of her face as he tossed the shirt aside – a frozen, almost hunted look – before she smoothed her expression.

“First to cry ‘mercy’,” he warned. Usually their bouts ended with him giving her a nod and a cheery “good fight.”

As if understanding the sudden seriousness of the matter, her eyes narrowed and she moved her right foot back, fists held up in front of her. A defensive position again, which was interesting. Maybe she knew she’d been in the wrong?

They went at it again, hands and feet flying. Garrett caught her foot, locking it against his thigh.

“This… is ridiculous,” she snapped. “We barely argued.”

“Really?” He twisted her foot, and her eyes widened as she realized what he was about to do. “And Lynch? That moment in his office? ‘Trust your f**king instincts, Perry…’ Would you care to explain that? Or perhaps you’d prefer to speak to him about it, to tell him how you think I crossed the line, with a potential suspect?”


The words died as he took her down. Perry kicked at his grip on her foot, but he twisted her ankle, forcing the rest of her body to roll with it, until she was flat on her stomach. She tried to gain her hands and knees, but he jerked her foot back, dragging her down again. After a mad scramble, he rolled her onto her back, his legs pinning her thighs. The second she tried to sit up, he slammed her back down.

“I didn’t cross the line,” he snarled.

“Does Miss Radcliffe think the same?” she shot back hotly, glaring up at him. “You don’t even know the effect you have on women!”

Garrett pinned her, breathing hard. Fuck, she was strong. He fought her as she tried to break free, but his weight was too much for her, his bare chest pressed against the leather protective corset she wore. “Say it,” he demanded. “Say ‘mercy’.”

“Bugger. You.”

Stubborn bloody chit. Perry strained, and Garrett let his grin show as she realized that his weight was too much for her to shift. He enjoyed every second of her frustration, until she finally slumped back in defeat, her gaze dropping away from his, and her breathing quickened.

He certainly wasn’t letting her go, however. Not until she said the words.

They lay there for long seconds, breathing almost in unison. He could feel her chest straining against his. No doubt he was getting heavy, but she wore that mulish expression he hated so much. It often meant an argument he wouldn’t win, but this time he wasn’t backing down.

Come on, you stubborn chit. Just say it. “One little word, my lady peregrine.”

Perry squirmed. Whatever she saw in his expression made her lips thin as she collapsed again. “Mercy.” She spat the word.

“I’m sorry? Did you say something?”

If looks could kill… Perry’s gaze incinerated him. “Get off me. I concede.”

He could feel the fight leaving her, the muscles in her wrists slackening. Rather than straining against him, she softened, his hard body sinking into hers. He’d always known she was lean and lightly muscled, but it was somewhat of a surprise to realize that there were faint curves there, beneath the hard planes of his own body.

Garrett let go of her wrists, lifting himself off her. He hovered there, however, the muscles in his biceps flexing effortlessly. “We’re not finished with this discussion.”

Then he pushed up onto his knees, kneeling over her. Her thighs were trapped between his. She didn’t like it, her expression carefully blank as she levered herself up onto her elbows.

“Get dressed,” she said. “I’m not arguing with you in these… circumstances.”

Garrett rolled his eyes. The men often fought bare-chested. Clothing could get ripped or torn in the bouts, and Lynch kept a tight rein on uniform expenses. It also gave your opponent nothing to hold onto. “Christ, it’s not like you haven’t seen a man with a bare chest before.”

That earned him a searing look. “It’s indecent.”

“I often am.”

“You wish to discuss what happened today, with all these vulnerable areas showing?” Perry gave him the sweetest, evillest smile he’d ever seen. “Besides, perhaps you should save such a treat for Miss Radcliffe. She might appreciate it.”

Garrett rolled to his feet. He didn’t offer her his hand, turning to snatch up his shirt, and drag it over his head. Miss Bloody Radcliffe. It was starting to make the vein throb in his temples. “Anyone would think you a jealous wife. What is it about Miss Radcliffe that riles you so? Do you know her?”

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