Age of Bronze

Welcome to London, a city running on automatons and steam. A city where transportation is airships and hot-air balloons and electric horseless carriages. A city stuck in the past, but very much in the future.
The time is now. The year is 1892.
Kate Madeline, the Captain of the Good Ship Carmen and overall Steampunk Pirate, has made her name in this world. Even if they aren't very good names. But she isn't from this world--she is from the 21st Century England. She is a Time Traveller Pirate, able to move through time and, sometimes, space. Her family think's she dead, and have no knowledge of her whereabouts.
But in London, robberies and murders are taking place. These are swiftly followed by man-hunts. The Police has reined Kate into helping.
But when the DNA found on the body of a victim has traces of metal embedded into it and the DNA is that of a Sailor who has been dead for over a year, things aren't adding up the way they should. But this man is far from dead . .

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9. VIII

VIII

 

 

 

“Are you planning on staying in the carriage all night then, Katherine?”

    My head whipped around. Leonardo stood outside of the carriage, one hand out to me and the other holding the door open. It had long since stopped raining, the sun blazing behind the grey sky to lend London a humid atmosphere.

    “Nobody has called me that in a very long time,” I said as I clambered out of the carriage, brushing my dress down once I was stood up straight.

    Leo smiled, crooking his arm as an invitation for me to take it. I did. “It is your name. And Katherine is a beautiful name.”

    “If you now tell me that you are the only one who says it, I will hit you,” I muttered, “for even you choose to call me by my shortened name of Kate.”

    “Touché, mon amie.”

    “Please,” I said, swatting my hand about in a dismissive action.

    “You’re still angry with me, aren’t you?”

    “Angry? Now why would I be angry?” I started to head up the steps to a cream coloured townhouse, until Leonardo caught hold of my wrist. Swirling around, I found him to be shaking his head.

    “Wrong house,” he said flatly and pointed with a gloved finger to a house two doors down, a house with an elegantly carved pediment of swirls and curves above two identical looking pillars, the heavy-looking black door set back from the short flight of steps.

    “The one problem with Stafford Terrace,” I murmured, “all townhouses look completely alike.”

    Leonardo let out a short laugh. “Well, yes. But you, my dear, were starting to ascend the steps to Mister Edward Linely Sambourne.”

    “The cartoonist?”

    “The very one.” Leo was smiling now.

    “How delightful!” I pressed a finger to my lips in a statement of pondering, before clapping my hands together. “Perhaps I should call on him and his family.”

    “You cannot call unannounced.”

    I scowled at him, and then threw my arms up in the air abruptly. “You made me forget that I was still angry at you for a second there. Is that a little trick of yours?” I jabbed his chest with a fingertip. “A whimsical attempt to not feel my anger, perhaps. But alas, it did not work.”

    “Pray tell—why are you angry with me?”

    With a little jump onto the cobble pavement, I headed on my way to the house two doors down. “I’m pretty sure that what you said cut Jefferson like a knife.”

    “Oh, well. Pity the fool.”

    “Leonardo!”

    Taking me courteously by the crook of my elbow, he led me up the steps to the fashionable black front door of his home. Tacked with nails to the centre was ‘14’ in bold brass, and underneath was a huge brass knocker moulded into the shape of female hand, a ring on the wedding finger and fingertips clutched around the knocker.

    “Yes?” he asked as he fumbled in the inside breast pocket of his overcoat for, I assumed, his keys.

    “You should apologise to Jefferson, Leonardo.” When he started to laugh, my mouth set in a grim straight line and my eyes narrowed. “I’m serious Leo.”

    “Oh, I don’t dispute that.” He produced a set of keys from his pocket them, jamming one forcefully into the lock of the door. “But, apologise?—to a man who is more bionic than biologic? Heavens above, no.”

    “Leonardo . . .”

    “I wager that even his eyes are not his own,” he carried on, as if he had not heard the warning in my voice. “The most odd colour, those eyes. Green I can understand—it is perfectly naturally. Yet for there to also be silver in that green, now that is unnatural. It does make one wonder.”

    “Jefferson’s eyes and natural and human and a rather beautiful colour.”

    Leo threw his arms up in exasperation then, before grasping the door handle and pushing the door to his house open ajar. “Enough on the matter of your recent attachment for now, Katherine. Smiles, you’re here to have a meal and meet my family.” His eyes were suddenly cold, his expression stormy. But the moment he threw the door open wide a smile was painted back onto his face. “Clara, love,” he called out into the empty hallway.

    The hallway was narrow and dark, lit only by the gasoliers with their traceries hanging high from the ceiling and the sconces with their low-burning candles. The walls were covered in a dark red floral wallpaper, the carpet a design of squares that led up the mahogany staircase. The only furniture consisted of a dark oak sideboard with a gilt mirror hung over it, a padded bench, and a padded chair. Along the walls hung various oil paintings and framed photos.

    “Very nice,” I amended. “Minimalistic. I gather that it was not you in charge of decorating the family townhouse.”

    It wasn’t Leo that responded to my words, but instead a lilting and unfamiliar voice. “Correct,” the feminine voice said. We looked across the hall in unison to see a woman stood on the landing of the stairs, in front of another dark oak sideboard. She was dressed in a pale blue evening gown, the sleeves pulled back to reveal the Chantilly lace underneath, and her light blonde hair was pulled back from her face, her blue eyes assessing us. “It was I who chose the decor.”

    Naturally, I thought, since you’re a Victorian lady. You’re supposed to mull time picking decorations and making your home homely.

    “Clara,” Leo said, stepping forward towards his wife, “Where is James?”

    His wife sent him a smile. “With his Nanny in his room. I didn’t know whether to bring him down to meet . . . err, Katherine, is it?”

    “Just Kate,” I said. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

    She smiled at me. “The feeling is mutual.”

   Leo, still beside me, clapped his hands together suddenly, startling the both of us women. “Right, I’m going to go fetch James. You two get to know each other.” And then he was off, heading up the stairs. He paused next to his wife to grant her a kiss, and then carried on until he wasn’t insight but could be heard padding his feet on the landing above.

    Silence prevailed, then, as Clara still stood where she was on the stairs. I took to glancing around the hallway with keen interest, assessing the paintings hanging from the walls.

    “I received a call from Leonardo about twenty minutes ago, telling me that you were coming over for supper,” Clara said, breaking the awkward silence, “but he did not stop on the line long enough to let me know why.”

    “It’s better that you don’t know,” I said.

    “Oh, please!” She descended the stairs, the skirts of her dress swirling, before she came to a sudden stop a couple of feet away from me. “I get ever so bored in this house. I mean I go out on house calls, and there are the servants—but one cannot fully speak to them on terms of equality. Please, tell me.”

    Her eyes, so full of pleading, finally broke me down. “Fine,” I murmured, “but I tell you now that you won’t like it.”

    She gestured with her hand for me to carry on what I was saying. Fortunately, before I could carry on with what I was aiming to say, Leonardo showed up on the landing beside Clara, carrying a young boy with fair blonde hair and piercing amber eyes.

    “James, say hello to Katherine,” Leo said, stroking back thin strands of fair hair away from his son’s face so I could see him properly. His son was plenty cute, with his round face that had still had some baby fat. He was holding a square patch of soft-looking blue material tightly in his small left hand—a comfort blanket, no doubt—and when he waved at me he waved with the hand that held the blanket.

    “Hello,” I said, rather awkwardly. I was glad I had missed the Christening, for it would have been awkward. I hadn’t grown up around children; I had been an only child and neither of my parents had had siblings, so I didn’t know how to act around the younger generation. I’d seen shows, of course, where the adults go “goo-goo-gah-gah” and pull funny faces at the child to make them laugh (or, in my case when I had been but a child, cry) but that just looked so very stupid and I wasn’t one to embarrass myself that way.

    From the stairs leading downwards from the far end of the corridor came a young parlour maid shuffling forward in her black dress with white apron. Her blonde hair was curled and tucked under the white cap atop her head, and when she looked up and saw me her brown eyes widened.

    Must be because of the few bruises still left on my face.

    “Laura,” Clara said, catching the attention of the parlour maid. “Do you have a message?”

    “Um, yes,” Laura said, quickly looking away from me to her mistress. “Mrs Flower’s wishes me to tell you that dinner is ready and that is shall be served in a few moments.”

    Leonardo moved James from his arms to his wife. “Very well,” he said and came down the remaining steps. “We shall go through to the dining room now then.”

    Laura curtseyed with a bob of her head and then left.

    “Right this way,” Leo said to me, gesturing to the second door sunk into the right wall. “If you will, Katherine.”

    “I rather think I should now send James back up to his Nanny, now that he has met your friend Kate, Leo darling,” Clara muttered to her husband, glancing up at him with eyes full of enough adoration that I turned my eyes away and pretended I was mystified by a landscape oil painting.

    In the back of my mind I knew that I had once looked at Leonardo with the exact same expression, with young lovers’ happiness and a heart full of love, but time had moved along and I never gave him that expression any longer.

    It pained me greatly, and I would never admit it, but a pang of raw jealously rang through my heart—for, perhaps if things had turned out differently, and I hadn’t turned to the Pirate ways, I would now be the one with a ring on my finger and Leonardo’s son in my arms.

    Leonardo could have been your husband, James could have been your son.

    I pushed the thought away quickly, internally shaking myself for even contemplating the inane idea. Even though I could change the past if I so wished to, what would it accomplish? Even if I still loved Leo, which I didn’t, to change our time-streams would be nothing more than a selfish act for my own benefit and gain.

    The similar look of love that Clara received from her husband confirmed that my thoughts were selfish and should never be acted upon.

    I couldn’t take their happiness away from them, even if a part of me ever did love Leo that way, and not the way that I did love him; like a brother.

    It wouldn’t be right. And I’d hate myself.

    “—think that’s best,” I caught Leo say to his wife before he kissed the crown of her head and watched her disappear up the stairs.

    “You really love her, don’t you?”

    Leo turned to face me, his lips quirking upwards at the corners. “I do.”

    I couldn’t help but smile myself. “I’m happy for you.”

    “Thanks, Katherine.”

    Before I could mentally react I threw my hands up in the air in exasperation. “Stop that! Quit with the Katherine. It’s just Kate!”

    “Whatever you say, Katherine. Whatever you say.”

    Glowering, my eyes narrowed. “I will kill you in your sleep, Leonardo Meriwether.”

    At that, he laughed. “Kill me in my sleep, eh? That’s means you’ll have to raid my house and watch me sleep. Ooh, creepy.”

    “If you’re ever on my ship when it’s in the air, I will accidentally throw you overboard.”

    “I’ll make sure I’m only ever on your ship when it’s in dock, then.”

    “Then I’ll still throw you overboard, just into the Thames.”

    “Oh God,” he said. “Please don’t. There are all sorts in that water.”

    “Then stop talking.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “Have I ever?”

    “No.”

    “Then I won’t start now.”

    I sighed internally, suddenly feeling bone-tired. “Sometimes I wonder why I ever have you as a friend.”

    “If you didn’t then you wouldn’t have any friends.”

    “That is not true!”

    The other eyebrow raised slightly. “And why is that?”

    “Because I have Lutz—”

    “He’s always trying to find a reason to throw you in prison, little Pirate girl.”

    “—and Jeremy—”

    “He’s part of your crew, I don’t think he has a choice.”

    My teeth gritted together. “Jeremy is like the younger brother that I don’t have.”

    “Do you have any other friends?”

    We’d reached the door to the dining room now, and Leo held the door open for me whilst I manoeuvred into the room. Thanks to the dimness of the hallway, the dining room was contrastingly bright and spacious. The room was similar in size with my office, and illuminated by two immense crystal gasoliers. The walls were decorated with a print of red flowers. There was a sideboard adorned with China and vases of fires against one wall, and against the opposite stood a fireplace where a gold-gilt mirror hung over it. A round-edged mahogany table, surrounded by ten sears, and draped with white linen with candelabra’s set down it, stood in the centre of the room on top of a flower-patterned rug, and was set for three people at the top end.

    “I always have Jefferson,” I said as I took a seat to the left of the top chair.

    “He cannot class as your friend when he’s hardly human in the first place. Machines are not our friends.”

    “Leonardo!” I started to argue sharply, but he sat down at the head of the table and held up a hand to silence me. So I took to staring at him with narrowed eyes.

    “What good is a heart if it does not beat—but instead chooses to tick?”

    My brow furrowed together. “I do not understand what you mean.”

    “Don’t be so blind, Katherine,” he said harshly, “I deplore of you pretending to come across as an upstart.”

    “I am not! I simply do not understand what your statement about Jefferson meant.”

    He sighed melodramatically and shrugged. “You really are blind. Either that or you a simply unaware of what happens around you, totally oblivious. Naive. Have you not witnessed the way that your Jefferson looks at you when you’re looking at him, or similarly when he steals a glance when he knows your attention is fixed towards something or someone else?”

    I stared at him blankly. “Pardon?”

    “Really Kate—” he started, but was cut short by the arrival of his wife through the open doorway we had come through a few moments before.

    “What are you two blathering on about?” Clara asked innocently as she took occupancy of the seat opposite me.

    “Work, my darling,” Leo replied quickly, lending his wife a smile.

    “Dear, cease to talk about work at the dining table, please?” Clara said to Leo, before a look of puzzlement crossed the fine features of her face and her gaze fell upon me, her blue eyes alight with question. “What is your line of work, Kate?”

    Leonardo made a gruff sound, as if he had suddenly choked on the air that he was breathing.

    “It’s ironic, really. I guess you could say that I’m working for the Police right now, but I’m the Captain of the Carmen.”

    Clara’s eyes widened. “T-t-the Carmen,” she spluttered. “But that—isn’t that a—”

    “Pirate vessel?” Leonardo suggested. “Yes, it is.”

    Clara was still staring at me, shock slowly masking all other emotion in her face. “You’re a Pirate?”

    “I prefer to think of myself as a plunderer of the high seas and sky, but Pirate works too.”

    “Katherine,” Leo muttered.

    I smiled at him.

    “There’s no call to be sarcastic,” he carried on.

    I was about to apologise to Clara when the parlour maid called Laura and another young woman who was a little doughy strolled into the room, both of them with arms weighed down by silver platters.

    “I’m not overly familiar with the way of serving in your purist Victorian households, but isn’t it usually the footmen and the butler who serve dinner?” I asked. Honestly my reference for this question, despite the show being set in the early 1900s, was Downton Abbey.

    “Well yes, usually,” Leonardo addressed me as Laura and the other women, who by her clothing I presumed to be the cook, went about laying the table with the food; it was a light dinner really, with only a slab of beef, a bowl of potatoes, an assortment of vegetables, and tea rolls lined in a basket. “But this is an impromptu, informal dinner.”

    I nodded, mostly to myself, and turned back to the dinner that was now prepared on the plate. Honestly, I wasn’t the sight bit hungry; instead I was only thirsty—thirsty enough that as soon as I grabbed the wine glass beside me, I had completely downed the wine in five seconds. I didn’t really taste it. “Don’t you have any other alcoholic beverages?—anything stronger? Port? Brandy? Whiskey?”

    Clara’s mouth opened in shock, but it was Leonardo who answered. “Why don’t you just stick to another glass of wine, Kate?”

    “I guess.”

    Leaning back on my chair with my eyes closed, everything suddenly came back to. Everything that had happened today. Images of Jefferson and I laughing about that penny dreadful and joking about him being so handsome that he if he were the Beast and died he wouldn’t turn back. The clockwork automaton that I had previously known as Maisie only a few days beforehand, lain on that slab of table. The drawings that I hadn’t been able to decipher. And the man, that stranger, laying with his chest carved open on that table, his eyes staring up at me and his hand wrapped feverishly around my wrist. The tubes surrounded him like grotesque tentacles, the clockwork heart that was the only component inside his chest. His brown eyes staring up at me. My scream that had filled the silence, now ringing in my ears and choking up my throat, threatening to make itself heard once more.

    Pushing my chair back with a start, my legs staggered my body out of the room and I clambered up the stairs, my fingertips brushing the runner as a climbed towards the first floor. I felt nauseous to my stomach, bile rising precariously in my throat, my pulse hammering away in my neck and chest, my breath coming in short bursts as my chest rose and fell rapidly, little hot stabs like that from a needle left heating in a fire pricked my skin, my hands and body trembling and slick with a onset of sweat.

    Soon enough I found the door to the bathroom, my damp hands groping the doorknob before I was finally able to twist it and nudge the door open with my side, shimmying in before kicking it back closed with my foot and sliding the lock mechanism home.

    Luckily, due to this world being around for many years, the bathroom was still Victorian but of modern plumbing. I couldn’t admire it though, for I fell on my hands and knees in front of the toilet, lifted the seat, and swiftly found myself retching up the nothing that was in my stomach. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, and even then all I had consumed was an egg and a couple of slices of toast, washed down with a small cup of the Lapsang Souchong I regularly brought back with me when my crew and I journeyed to China.

    Now though, I was fetching that beloved tea back up out of my system, as well as remnants of the egg and toast, and yellow-brownish acidic bile that left a rancid taste in my mouth.

    A mixture of sweat and tears ran down the features of my face, the tears stinging the scabbed cut on my face from days before, but the small amount of temporary pain helped to clear my head. Leaning back against the wall, I used one hand to wipe my mouth before standing up to pull down the flush mechanism and run water from the gaudy silver-plated and white taps, splashing the water over my face and down my arms in an attempt of cooling my body.

    “Kate?” A knock on the locked door, a voice that sounded loud with concern over the running water. “Katherine?”

    “Go away,” I muttered, voice cracking.

    “Katherine,” Leo’s voice came again. “Kate, open the door. What’s wrong? Please, Katherine.”

    “I am fine, Leo.”

    Something slumped against the door, most probably Leo’s head. “You ran upstairs in such a hurry and with a start, you are most certainly not fine.”

    I sighed. He was right, of course. “Just—just give a second.” Glancing up at myself in the gold-gilt mirror, I saw that my face was still flushed, but I was now breathing calmly and my pulse was no longer hammering away.

    Leonardo stood on the other side of the door, leant against the rail of the staircase with his arms crossed over his chest, the sleeves of his shirt tucked up to his elbows. There was a look of raw concern on his face. “Katherine, are you feeling well?—you look as frightfully pale as a ghost.”

    “I’m afraid I just had a bout of sickness, that is all,” I said. Pushing myself lethargically off from the doorway, I stumbled a few feet forward before Leonardo dashed from the railing to hold me up in his arms, his warm breath hitting my face with the smell of alcohol.

    “Did you go into shock?” he asked, walking me over to a chair by the landing window with a secure arm around my waist before placing me down on the leather-padded seat.

    I shook my head. “I think—I think I had a small panic attack.” Dark grey clouds had rolled in to cover the city and it had started to rain once more, drops splattering heavily against the window pane with a patter. On the street below a grey carriage pulled my two mechanical horses strolled past, the letter ‘A’ painted in a curling golden script on the doors, the curtains drawn. A politician’s or High Society carriage.  

    Without a word Leonardo disappeared into a room for a moment. When he reappeared he had a knitted blanket in his hands, which he draped delicately over my shoulders despite my whimpered protests. “I’ve never come across someone who has had a panic attack, so I apologise for not knowing what to do,” he said softly, sitting down on the windowsill.

    “I shall be well again soon.”

    “Oh good. Would you like me to get you some water whilst you recover?”

    I shook my head, pulling the blanket securely around my shoulders. “Leo?”

    “Hmm. Yes?”

    “Why do you dislike him so?”

    At that Leonardo whipped his head around so that he could look at me, hair falling into his eyes, whereas a second ago he had been looking out of the window as I had. “Who?”

    “Jefferson of course.”

    He bit his lower lip. I knew that was the sign that he was internally contemplating whether to tell me or not. I knew him far too well. His eyelids half-closed until he was looking at me with narrowed eyes, his long eyelashes grazing the top of his high cheekbones. “My dislike stems from jealously.”

    My eyebrows rose. “Jealousy?”

    What did Jefferson have that would cause Leonardo to be jealous? Jefferson was human and clockwork and metal. Leonardo was only human.

    Earlier when I had brought up Jefferson, Leonardo had said some words that had buried themselves into my mind. I remembered the words once more:

    Have you not witnessed the way that your Jefferson looks at you when you’re looking at him, or similarly when he steals a glance when he knows your attention is fixed towards something or someone else?

    He hadn’t meant what I suddenly thought he had meant, did he?

    Something crossed the features of Leo’s face as I watched him and waited, but it disappeared as soon as it had appeared. “Y-yes. Jealousy.”

    “What can you possibly be jealous of?”

    His eyes flew wide and he stared at me steadily. “Jefferson loves you.”

    Love.

    Jefferson loves you.

    I almost started laughing. I would have if I hadn’t caught hold of the sound in my throat. “Jefferson is not in love with me,” I said as soon as I had my voice under control.

    “You must be the only person who doesn’t see that he is. You can read it on his face as easily as one can read a book.”

    “No. You must be the only person who sees things that don’t exist. Next you’ll be telling me your garden is full of fairies.”

    “I’m serious, Katherine.”

    “Seriously delirious. Have you been drinking?”

    He didn’t answer, but instead moved forward. Before I could react his lips were pushed against mine with bruising force, urging me to comply and yield, to meet his force with my own. Perhaps under different circumstances I would have melted to his kiss, but as it stood I pushed myself up onto my feet and backed up a few steps, leaving him knelt on the floor looking up at me in confusion.

    My lips were swollen, and I could still feel the pressure of the kiss though his lips had left mine. “Leonardo,” I muttered, staring down at him. Anger rose in my blood. How dare he? How dare he try to have his way with me? I had done nothing to encourage that kiss, no flirting or suggestive body language. I wasn’t a tart. “Leonardo, lest you have forgotten you are married!”

    “An arranged marriage, against my will,” he said, gathering himself up onto his feet so that he was the one looking down at me. Leo was at least a head and a half taller than I. “If I had been allowed to have had my way, I would have married you in a heartbeat.”

    I glanced up at him, lips parting in surprise. His eyes were relaxed, his face smooth. “Leonardo,” I murmured. I had to remind myself that what we had once was no more. I didn’t feel that way about him any longer.

    “That is why I envy your Jefferson as much as I do, he can love you freely while I am stuck in a marital noose that I did not want.”

    “Do you . . .?” I started but a lump rose in my throat. Your Jefferson. He wasn’t my Jefferson, he wasn’t anyone’s Jefferson. He can love you freely. Jefferson does not love me. “Do you not love your wife?”

    His eyes widened again, and he groped blindly with his hands until they wrapped around mine in front of me. I tried futilely to jerk out of his touch, but Leo was far stronger than I and so I could not move. Instead I simply stared at him open-mouthed, trying to understand what was happening with him. Our relationship had ended four years ago, surely he did not still feel in his heart that he loved me; he looked at Clara with such raw adoration that he couldn’t love me.

    He sucked in a breath and released a hand to tuck a stray strand of my hair behind my ear. His brow softened and curved downwards, as if he was trying to plead an unspoken communication that I could not understand. When he spoke, his voice was simply a soft, whispery breath. “Not as much as I love you.”

    Now my eyes went wide. “Leo, please. Stop.”

    “Katherine . . .?”

    “You are married and you have a son.” His grip on my hands loosened enough for me to be able to pull away, backing up a few more steps to leave a distance between us. I no longer felt nauseous from the panic attack, now I felt sick from his words. “What do you want from me?”

    “I . . .” he started, but trailed off, bowing his head to fix his gaze upon the floor, acting as if he was suddenly infatuated with the pattern of flowers on the runner we stood on. I suspected he had been drinking, and that my question had now sobered him up. “I don’t know.”

    “You love Clara, do you not?”

    “Of course, but I—”

    I held up a hand to stop him. “Do not say that you love me too,” I said. “Do you love your son?”

    “Yes.”

    “You have a happy life, Leo. What we once had—”

    “What we once had is something I would do anything in order to have back. Was our love not great?”

    I sighed, deciding it was best to tell the truth. “It was.”

    “Were we not happy?”

    “We were.”

    “Then why did it stop?”

    “Because of me. Because of what I did.”

    He glanced back up at me, confusion evident on his face. “Kate?”

    With a gesture of my hand he sat back down on the windowsill, and I moved after him to sit back on the chair once more, my hands entwined on my lap. “If I hadn’t fallen into the life I have now, this Pirate’s life, maybe we would still be together. Maybe we would be married. But it is as it is, and I chose this life.”

    “I know that already. I just don’t understand what it has to do with the ending of our courtship.”

    “It has everything to do with the ending of our courtship,” I said, taking another quick look out of the window. It was still raining. “Due to what I did, what I became, your parents ordered me to stop our courtship—they believed I was no longer any good, that I would entice you into this life of robbery and treachery. I told them I wouldn’t, that I would stop with the Pirate life. But I found myself falling more and more into the ways, and keeping it from you.”

    “Katherine—”

    “No, no, let me speak and allow me to finish,” I muttered, stopping him from talking with a cut of my hand through the air between us. “Do you remember the day that I took you down to Chester Square and told you to wait for me because I had to do something?”

    He nodded.

    “The only reason I told you to wait was because I had an errand to run for my old Captain whilst I was training, and I needed you there as a lookout. He needed something returning to him, I cannot remember what it was exactly that he wanted back, but I do remember that he said it was important to him. Now that I think about it, I think it was a box . . . but that’s beside the point. What I’m trying to say is that I brought you into my new life without you even realising. I’m so sorry for that.

    “But I realised that I was dragging you into something you had no reason to be in, that your parents were right all along. I’m the Pirate, but leading you into my choice of life so easily started to scare me. So I broke off our courtship immediately, never giving you a proper explanation as to why—this was my explanation.”

    “Do you still love me?”

    “No.”

    “No?”

    I sighed. I wasn’t able to meet his eye, so instead took to staring past his shoulder at the wall behind him. “I mean to say that I love you as a brother and nothing more.”

    “Yet I still love you as if no time had passed, that we were the same people we were four years ago.”

    “No, Leo, you don’t.”

    “Yes, Kate, I do.”

    I shook my head and gathered myself back up on to my feet. I was not in the mood to argue with him. His wife was downstairs, oblivious to what was happening between her husband and I. He was deluded, and maybe a tiny part of him did still love me, but he had responsibilities now, and I didn’t love him.

    “Hail or call me a carriage please Leonardo, I wish to go home.”

    “Katherine?”

    I closed my eyes, suddenly feeling a little faint—obviously from the fact I hadn’t eaten since this morning, and the confrontation between the two of us that had just happened; there was a million thoughts rushing through my head. “Please?”

    Eyes still closed, I heard him get up to his feet with a start. Before he could say anything, however, a knock—well, a bang to be more precise—sounded at the front door. My eyes snapped open, and I started down the stairs at the same time that Clara appeared from the dining room. When she looked up and saw me a smile curved the corners of her lips.

    “Glad to see you are well, Kate. I had grown worried when you ran upstairs suddenly. I asked Leonardo what was wrong and if I could be of assistance, but he told me to wait and went after you,” she said, pressing the back of her hand to my forehead. “Are you fully alright? You’re awfully warm. What happened?”

    I silently cursed her innocent worry, but not before I cursed myself for what had happened between Leo and I. Guilt wracked my bones. She wouldn’t look at me with concern if she knew. Anger against Leo ran through my veins once more—how could he betray the love of his wife so easily? I had a mind to tell Clara what happened, just so I could have a response of anger or hurt off of her, but Leonardo descended the stairs before I could do so.

    He looked over at us, but I avoided his gaze, my insides twisting with guilt and despair.

    “I experienced a panic attack, if you must know. I am quite well now.”

    “But you are flushed.”

    That is not from the panic attack, I can assure you.

    “There’s no need to fuss—I am not worth it.”

    “She’s perfectly fine, Clara,” Leo muttered, leaning against the wall. “Let her alone, will you?”

    Clara looked ready to snap back at him, but a wife should never underhand her husband—of course she must have been taught that—and so closed her mouth and backed away a couple of steps, tangling her hands together in front of her.

    “Thank you.”

    The bang came at the front door again, so hard it made the wood vibrate. Whoever it was behind the door was rather impatient, though it properly was just a campaigner or religious movement that was publicising their beliefs.

    “I’m sorry for that,” I whispered to Clara as Leo moved towards the door.

    She shook her head. “Don’t be silly, you have nothing to apologise for.”

    If only you knew.

    A blast of cold air swept through the hallway and the wind swirled our skirts up a little suddenly. Looking over at the open doorway, I saw with a start that Lutz stood on the top step, a scowl on his face. His grey overcoat was damp and black at the shoulders due to the unrelenting rain, the collar upturned against the wind. It seemed it was too windy for the use of an umbrella.

    Lutz didn’t seem to register mine and Clara’s existence; he simply kept his eyes on Leo. His lips moved rapidly, Leo nodding in time with the words that I couldn’t hear properly. I did, however, manage to catch a few words after concentrating hard. I usually had a good sense of hearing, but Lutz was talking so low that I had to strain to hear.

    “Backstreet.” “Fleet Street.” “Attack.” “Male victim.” “Jefferson.”

    Jefferson.

    Panic ran through my veins, turning my blood to ice. I knew I shouldn’t assume, there was probably a Jefferson on the police squad, but I could help but feel the dread that creeped into the recesses of my mind and filled by being with worry. I couldn’t help but allow my mind to wander, fearing that Jefferson was the victim of an attack, that he was the one who could be fatally injured or dead. The prospect of him dead sent a shiver through my body.

    My feet started forward before I had time to even think I was unconsciously thinking about moving. “What is this about Jefferson?” I asked when I came to a stop beside Leonardo. He awarded me half a look and then turned his attention back to Lutz.

    Lutz moved his line of sight slowly towards me, and then he must have seen some expression on my face for he did a double-take. “Kate . . . I had not expected you to be here—I mean, I had forgotten about you going with Leonardo. But no, no it’s good that you’re here.”

    “What is this about Jefferson?” I asked again. Was he hurt? Was my Jefferson hurt?

    He’s not my Jefferson. Stop thinking like that. He’s not, and never will be, yours.

    Lutz seemed hesitant to answer.

    “What has happened? He is my friend, I deserve to know.”

    “I doubt you will think of him as a friend for much longer,” he grumbled, half under his breath.

    Realisation hit like a train that had come off the tracks and was speeding towards me, while I stood there caught in the headlights. Jefferson was injured, he had injured someone else. “What has he done? Who has he hurt?”

    “Hurt is an understatement, my dear.”

    My mouth went dry. “No.”

    “I’m afraid he’s killed a young man.”

    “No.”

    “He’s done it before,” Leonardo said.

    “It isn’t him!”

    Both of them, Leo turning on the heel of his shoe, looked at me with expressions that I read as them thinking I was crazy. “What do you mean ‘it isn’t him’? Of course it is,” Lutz muttered peevishly.

    “I . . . it’s hard to explain,” I said, wishing I’d never said anything in the first place. Taking a deep breath, holding it for a good number of seconds before exhaling, I began again. “Jefferson—Jefferson experiences something of a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, there’s two sides to him. There’s the side that we—I—know, the side that’s kind and sweet and has an air of innocence . . . then there’s the side that you are familiar to, the robbing and the killing side. When the latter side makes an appearance, the benevolent side of him seems to almost go into a state of comatose, and when the malevolent side of him disappears after a while he has no further recollection of what he did until the next . . . attack, shall we call it?”

    They were stunned silent.

    “Where is Jefferson now?”

    “At the station, it took three men to bring him down,” Lutz said. “He refuses to speak; he just sits there staring at the wall opposite him.”

    “Is he in a cell?”

    “No, he’s in one of the interrogation rooms. But, like I said, he will not speak so we cannot move any further with questioning.”

    Oh Jefferson. What have you done?

    “Take me to him.”

    Out of the corner of my eye, for I was staring straight ahead at Lutz with a steady gaze, I saw Leo’s eye widen in their pale sockets. “What? Kate, no.”

    “I can talk to him. I can get him to talk. Trust me.”

    “And how do you plan on getting him to talk when he won’t talk to the police? Pray tell.” Lutz asked quizzically, eyebrows rising.

    “Simply because I’m not the police,” I said squarely, not wasting any time on diverging from the point with long sentences and fancy wordplay. “And because I am his friend.”

    “So you think you know what’s best for him?”

    “I know that I do.” I crossed my arms across my chest in a stubborn fashion. “Now take me to him.”

    “Very well, come this way.”

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