The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 7

Philippe was the driver. He had a sleek carriage that he’d augmented himself with various gadgets and weapons. Instead of having a steam engine, it was driven by two mechanical horses. They were real beauties—engraved and sculpted. They looked as if they belonged in a museum or at the front of a king’s vehicle.

“Little flashy, ain’t it, monsieur?” Jack asked. He trusted them, but not enough to drop the accent. “I were thinkin’ maybe we’d be less conspicuous in somefing a little less identifiable.”

“Mon frère Jacques,” the Frenchman began, as though Jack had just told him a joke. “Do you take me for a fool?” He pulled a lever up by his seat outside the carriage. The backs of both horses opened and darkness billowed out. It took Jack a moment to realize it was fabric—fabric that, in the dark, made the horses look real.

“Fancy dress for metal ‘orses.” He shook his head with a chuckle. “I oughtn’t ‘ave questioned you, mate.”

“Yes, but you are excused this time.” Philippe’s jovial gaze slid past Jack, and his dark mustache twitched. “Poisson! Are you coming, or are you going to flop about all night like you on a hook, eh?”

Toby glared at him. The lanky Northerner did look somewhat fishlike as he performed what he called his “exercises.” To their effectiveness, Jack couldn’t attest, but Toby had never been caught, so if he wanted to stretch and do a little dance before heading out, Jack wasn’t going to question it.

“Your mum want you home before you turn into a pumpkin, princess? That what’s got your knickers in a twist?”

Philippe swore in French, but there was no real offense to it. This was just something the two of them did.

“Right,” Jack began. “In you get, mate. I’ve an appointment with Philippe’s mum later and she ‘ates it when I keeps her waitin’.”

Both blokes laughed. Jack allowed himself a grin as he gestured for Toby to jump in before him, then he climbed into the carriage and Philippe’s mechanical horses jerked into motion.

Toby wasn’t a real talkative fellow, for which Jack was glad. They made the journey to the docks in relative silence. It gave him time to just enjoy the darkness, being hidden in the shadows.

There was no such thing as “quiet” on the docks. It was a city unto itself, bustling and pulsing with life and drama. There were several large seafaring vessels in port, and their crews were either hard at work or hard at play.

“Got enough ladies here to have a tea party,” Toby remarked as they drove by one raucous bunch.

“Those ain’t ladies,” Jack told him with a smile. “Those be prostitutes—they eat ladies for breakfast.” His mum had been one of them—after his father had gotten through with her. Society wasn’t too kind to “ruined” girls.

Jack’s jaw clenched. He wasn’t going to think of Mum or that bastard again today. Enough was enough.

“I can think of worse ways to go out,” his companion allowed. “So what’s the plan, Jackey-boy?” Only Toby was permitted to call him that.

“Get in, get the crate, deliver it and get paid.” Jack grinned in the dimness. “That’s what it’ll be if Fortune smiles on us.”

“And if not?”

His smile faded. “I don’t want no blood shed if we can ‘elp it——ours or anyone else’s.”

“Got it.” What was left unsaid, however, was that if it came down to Toby’s life or someone else’s, Toby was to be completely selfish, because Jack intended to do the same.

The carriage rolled to a gentle stop—at least Philippe’s unnatural beasts had that to recommend them. Jack waited a moment to be sure they had indeed arrived at their location before opening the door and jumping out.

It was considerably darker along this stretch of dock—considerably quiet, as well.

A breeze ruffled Jack’s hair, brushing the back of his neck. Every instinct he had—and he trusted each and every one implicitly—insisted that he get back in the carriage and drive away, but he had one thousand pounds that said that wasn’t an option.

“Let’s get this done and get the ‘ell out of ‘ere,” he said, shutting the carriage door.

“Is that where we are supposed to go?” Philippe’s tone was perplexed as he pointed ahead. “It is nothing but a pile of rubble.”

Jack turned his head. The Frenchman was right. It was just a pile at rubble. At one time it had been a considerable warehouse, but now it didn’t look as if it could withstand a good sneeze.

“This is it,” he confirmed. The place matched Abernathy’s description perfectly. “The crate is in the cellar. Let’s go. I don’t want to be ’ere any longer than we ‘ave to be.”

Toby grabbed his carpetbag of tools just in case they were necessary and came to stand beside Jack. “Lead on.”

“Stay here,” Jack told the Frenchman

Philippe looked insulted. “You think I run off and leave Jacques and le Poisson?” He spat on the ground. “I would die first.”

Jack made a face. “Don’t be so dramatic. Come on, Toby.”

Abernathy had given Jack a sketch of the layout, so he knew to duck beneath the collapsed timber on the far right side. Toby held a gas torch in his hand so they could see.

“What happened here?”

“Something bad,” Jack replied, eyeing the destruction. What could make a building like this collapse into itself as if it had been squeezed by a giant hand? “Something powerful.”

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