The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 9

“Oui!” The fabric covering his horses was sucked back into their backs, and the Frenchman turned a key in a panel near his leg. “Allons-y!”

Jack jumped into the carriage just as it started moving. They tore away from the warehouse as if the hounds of hell were at their heels.

He glanced out the back window. There had to be at least a dozen automatons chasing them, and several humans on velocycles.

“Faster, Philippe!” He shouted just before the first shot rang out.

Apparently they weren’t the only ones who wanted the crate, but their pursuers were willing to kill for it.

Chapter 3

“Philippe!” Jack yelled. Had his friend been shot?

“Oui!” came the reply, followed by a grinding sound that meant he was raising the armored backdrops behind himself and the rear of the carriage that would protect them from further shots.

“What the devil’s in that crate?” Toby asked, loading a strange-looking rifle with even stranger-looking ammunition.

“Not a bloody clue,” Jack replied. “Toby, are those marbles?”

“Specially designed Aetheric spheres.” The rifle snapped shut. “They’ll put a hole in a man and stop anything with an engine dead in its tracks.”

“Good to know. Avoid killing anyone. We’re going to attract enough attention as is.”

“Aye, Jackey-boy.” With that, he pulled down the window, leaned out of the carriage and fired.

Jack took the other side, carefully aiming his Aether pistol at the automaton that looked like a rubbish bin with limbs about to jump onto the back of the carriage. Thankfully his aim was true—it was difficult to maintain a steady hand in a vehicle picking up speed on a rough stretch of dock.

Bloody hell. This was going to cause a bit of a ruckus. So much for discretion.

“Get us out of here, Philippe!” Jack yelled, firing at another rapidly moving piece of metal—this one a strange dog/human hybrid with glowing red eyes. It was the sort of thing nightmares were made of. His first shot sheared off its right front leg at the joint, but it continued to run on three. He fired again, and it fell to the street, sparks flying.

Toby had taken out several, as well. They continued shooting, until all that was left were their human pursuers. They were in a carriage, as well, and quickly gaining on them. One of them hung out the passenger side, a rifle raised to his shoulder.

Jack fired and missed as his carriage hit a rut. The man fired back, the shot imbedding itself in the carriage exterior just above Jack’s head. These bounders were playing a deadly game, shooting to kill. Jack pulled the trigger—his gun failed.

He should have asked for three thousand. If he lived through this, he was going back to Abernathy’s house and stealing the silver again. All of it.

Another shot hit just in front of him, sending splinters flying into his face. He raised his arm to protect his eyes and pounded his pistol on the door frame. Maybe a little violence would induce the bloody thing to work properly.

Over the top of the carriage, he saw the flash of Toby’s rifle—the pellet struck the front of the vehicle behind them and flared. The pursuing carriage sputtered to a stop in the middle of the street. Toby cheered in victory and raised his first two fingers in a rude salute to the swearing men trying to get their vehicle working again.

“I’ve got to ‘ave one of those, mate,” Jack enthused as they both dropped back into their seats. “Good going, Philippe!”

“Très bon, mes frères! Très bon” came the reply on a wave of maniacal laughter.

Jack and Toby chuckled, as well—a release of nervous energy. That had been close. They’d had closer, Jack especially. Once, he’d stared down the barrel of a pistol just inches from his face while trying to pull his trousers on. Luckily for him, the wife of the man holding said pistol chose that moment to throw a pillow at her husband, and Jack took the opportunity to jump out the window. He’d landed in a rosebush, and despite being scratched senseless by the thorns, he’d run to his carriage barefoot, laughing like the idiot he was to have been diddling with a magistrate’s wife in the first place. Obviously the man hadn’t thought his wife’s honor to be worth hunting Jack down, but just to be safe he’d never returned to Exeter.

His smile at the memory faded as the carriage sped on toward St. Pancras and he brushed slivers of wood from the front of his coat. He hadn’t anticipated tonight’s attack, but he’d felt it in the warehouse. He’d known something was wrong and he hadn’t gotten him and his men out of there fast enough to heed the warning bells clanging in his head. That was badly done of him. Philippe and Toby knew there could be consequences to working with him, but if one of them had been killed tonight...

Well, Abernathy would owe him more than money. As it was, the viscount owed him an explanation, or at least an apology.

What the hell was in that crate?

* * *

It wasn’t easy getting the crate into St. Pancras. Fortunately, the train stop wasn’t terribly busy, and Jack and his friends had disguised themselves as laborers to make their activities less interesting to anyone who might see them.

The tricky part was going to be getting the crate to the correct spot, as it required them dropping onto the tracks and down a bit, unless Toby could get them into the maintenance rooms.

As luck would have it, the train pulled out of the station just as they arrived on the platform, so for the time being they had the place all to themselves.

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