The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 12

Down dark steps he ran, down to that dank, bleak place where he had left the crate.

Left her.

He raced into the catacombs as if those hellish hounds were after him again. Or maybe the flames he felt were just remnants of his dream—of her.

Jack stopped.

The crate was gone. Frantic, panting for breath, his gaze scanned the area. This was the right spot. Wasn’t it? No, it was. It was. He had left it right here.

There was nothing—not even an impression in the dust and dirt. It was as though he’d never been here—or something had taken care to make it look that way.

Where had they taken it? Who had taken it? There wasn’t so much as a track—not even a footprint.

Jack sagged against the rough stone wall, folding his arms over his chest. The scent of amber teased him like a cruel joke. Was it real or just his imagination?

She was gone. Lost. Whatever happened to her now was out of his hands.

And entirely his fault.

* * *

Payment from Abernathy arrived later that day via messenger. Jack didn’t even open it. He just tossed the package on his desk and poured himself a whiskey. He wasn’t much of a drinker, preferring to keep his wits about him, but this was one of those times that getting pissy-eyed drunk appealed to him.

He had returned home from the station ill-tempered and guilt-ridden. The woman who had been in his bed was gone, leaving a thank-you note on his pillow. He tossed it in the fire without reading it, and then went to take a very hot shower. He scrubbed until his skin felt raw and the water turned icy. Only then did he dry off and pull on clean clothes.

He still felt dirty. It wasn’t a feeling he liked. Wasn’t one he’d experienced in a very long time.

He threw himself into work. Lots of business opportunities to investigate—legitimate ones. The average life expectancy of someone in his line of work wasn’t terribly long. Spending the rest of his days as a criminal wasn’t what he wanted. Making something of himself—something real and good—was the best revenge he could get on his father, and the best way he could honor the sacrifices his mother had made for him.

Finley had sent him a note. He didn’t read it either. He paced the length of the carpet in front of his desk, hands clasped behind his back. His attention kept going back to the packet from Abernathy.

Piss on it.

He grabbed the payment and stormed from the room. He snatched his hat, coat and walking stick and collected his steam carriage. He made the drive to Mayfair in record time. He drove like a madman—reckless, with no regard for himself or others. It was badly done, but he was a lucky bastard—that’s what he’d been told—and he made it unscathed. Of course he did. That was his luck. His charm, right? Finley would call it his talent. It wasn’t natural and he didn’t care.

He took the steps to Abernathy’s door two at a time and jabbed at the button. The housekeeper’s voice greeted him a moment later. “Name and business.”

“Jack Dandy to see the viscount,” he said.

“I’m sorry, but his lordship is not at home today.”

That was a lie. Jack could hear it plainly in her voice. This was what the rich did when they didn’t want to see someone. “I’m going to see him.”

“Please leave, sir—”

“Listen, woman,” he growled, stepping up to the mirror so she could see his expression. “Let me in, or I’ll go ’round back and start breaking windows til I get to the right one.”

There was a pause. Then the door opened.

Jack brushed past her without a glance and tore through the house toward the room he had been in the day before. If Abernathy wasn’t there he’d rip the house apart until he found him.

But his luck was with him, and the viscount was there. The older man looked up with a start. “Dandy. What the devil are you about, man? Get out or I’ll summon the authorities.”

“What happened to her?” Jack demanded. They both knew Abernathy wasn’t going to call for the coppers.

“Her?” Abernathy was all innocence.

Jack gritted his teeth. “The girl in the crate.”

Apparently, something in Jack’s expression gave the viscount pause. He dropped the pretense. “Mr. Dandy, that wasn’t a girl. That was a complex piece of machinery.”

In his head, Jack knew that—remembered the exposed metal—but in his heart, in his conscience, he remembered that eye staring up at him, so full of fear. Her lips moving and that awful sound she’d made that haunted his dreams. Help me. That’s what he imagined she’d said.

Abernathy took advantage of his silence. “Did you go back to St. Pancras with plans of being a white knight, Dandy?”

Jack’s gaze snapped up. The viscount’s expression was one of mockery, his pale eyes glittering in amusement. He stared into that gaze, his jaw clenching. “Where. Is. She?”

The older man blinked. And swallowed. “Its whereabouts are not your concern. Rest assured it is in good hands. Take your payment like a good boy and go on back to Whitechapel.”

Where you belong. That was what he didn’t say, what he didn’t have to say.

Jack tossed the packet of bills at him. Abernathy tried to catch it, but he was too slow, and it fell to the floor at his feet. “I don’t want it,” Jack snarled.

Disbelief slackened Abernathy’s features. “We had a bargain, Dandy.”

“And I kept it. I delivered your crate.” His shoulders straightened. “But I never said I wouldn’t try to find her again. I never said I wouldn’t steal her again.” He couldn’t just leave her alone out there. He couldn’t just abandon her.

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