The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 5

One thousand, eh? Desperate indeed. “Two thousand.”

“What?” Abernathy’s face was purple. Was Jack about to witness a human head exploding? “That’s preposterous!”

Jack shrugged. “Find someone else then. I’m sure someone out there would do it for a thousand.”

The older man’s jaw clenched. “You are no gentleman, sir.”

“We already established that, I believe.” Jack crossed his legs and reclaimed the delicious coffee he was not yet ready to abandon. “Now, my lord, do we have a deal?”

Chapter 2

Two thousand pounds to pick up a crate on the docks and transport it to St. Pancras and then walk away. It sounded too good to be true. But it was true, because Jack had the first of the payments inside his coat pocket.

Logic demanded then that the situation was far from anything remotely resembling good. That realization floated around in his head, taking some of the shine off his latest influx of wealth. He was going to make the delivery—he kept his word, no matter what a bastard like Abernathy thought of him. He’d have to be extra cautious, use his best men, but he’d get the job done and be all the richer for it.

As he steered his carriage through the streets meandering toward Whitechapel, Jack wondered if Abernathy would tell his father that they’d met. Most likely not, because his father might ask for details and the viscount wouldn’t want to give himself away. Still, Jack could pretend.

Damnation. He’d thought more of his father today than he had in the past two years. This anger and bitterness were of no benefit other than to keep pushing him. Someday he was going to be one of the richest men in England, and when that happened, he was going to rub his old man’s face in it. He would never be his father’s social equal, but he could better him financially. If he could cripple him in the process that would just be buttercream on the cake.

When he finally reached home, Jack drove the carriage around behind the house, and after pausing at the small podium to use the punch card key, into the small shack there. After disengaging the engine he stepped out, closed the carriage door and inserted a key into the wall next to him. The platform beneath the carriage began to lower, taking the vehicle with it. It would deposit it underground with several other modes of transportation, and then the lift would return, looking like the scuffed floor of an old shack, with no hint of what was beneath. The vehicles would have all been stolen by now if not for this precaution. His reputation was fearsome, but the money from selling just one of his machines would feed a family for a long time, and children were a far greater motivator than fear.

He lowered a panel over the lock in the wall so that it was completely camouflaged and placed the key in its special pocket in the lining of his jacket. Then he left the shack and closed the door and bolted it.

The backyard of his house wasn’t large by any stretch, but there was a little garden and a place to sit and read if he so desired. The alley between his building and the next was just wide enough to drive his carriage through, so when he spotted the two young gents waiting for him in that narrow space he knew there was going to be trouble.

“Good day, lads,” he greeted as he approached. How long had they been watching for his return.

“You think so, Dandy?” the taller of the two demanded. He was a ginger, with a smattering of freckles across his nose and a sneer on his lips. The other was a blond with green eyes and a pretty face. Both of them were shorter than Jack, and heavier. Anger rolled off them in waves, along with a healthy dose of arrogance. They thought they could intimidate him. They thought two against one would work in their favor.

Idiots. “I reckon a day is unable to ‘ave any concept of good or evil, so saying it’s a “good” day is somefin of a fallacy, ain’t it? Suppose I ought to ‘ave said that it is a pleasant day, or a fine day. Does that satisfy your philosophic nature, or shall I expound furver?”

The ginger scowled. “What the hell are you jawing on about? I don’t care if a day can be evil or not.”

Jack shrugged. “Fair ‘nough. What do you care about?”

The blond straightened his shoulders, drawing himself up to his full height and sticking out his chest. A good punch to the solar plexus or throat would take care of him. “A friend of ours was murdered a few months back. Popular theory is that you did it.”

Setting the tip of his walking stick between the brace of his feet, Jack placed both hands on the top, ready to pull the saber free at a second’s notice. “You’re goin’ to ‘ave to be a tad more explicit, mate. I gets blamed for lots of fings.”

The ginger glared. “Felix August-Raynes.”

“August-Raynes?” As though he didn’t remember. “Oh, the bloke who liked to ‘urt girls. I remember ‘im.”

“I would hope you remember the people you kill, you cretin.”

Cretin? If only he had a quid for every time he’d been called that. Oh, right. He did. “Tell me, boys, did you see me murder your friend?”

“No.” The ginger’s petulant tone was beginning to grate. “We would have stopped you.”

Of course they would have. And they would have been big heroes too. “So you didn’t see nuffin’, but you believe I did it, regardless.”

“Everyone knows you did it, Dandy,” the blond retorted.

Jack arched a brow. “Oh? Such as?”

“As if we would give you their names.”

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