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 . .

9Likes
3Comments
2566Views
AA

11. X

X

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

“Just stay here whilst I go and hail down a carriage,” I said, pushing Jefferson down on to a bench as soon as we walked out of the hospital doors following his discharge.

    When we’d left Jefferson’s private room we’d not only found Leo and Lutz stood in the reception, but had also found out that Leo had somehow—miraculously—succeeded in making Lutz agree to his plan. Due to this, Jefferson and I where we were outside in the rain waiting on a carriage to pull up beside the pavement. Lutz had told us we could all ride back in his carriage, but I had declined for the both of us—honestly, all I wanted was some privacy between Jefferson and myself.

    “Don’t be too long,” Jefferson muttered, slouching against the back of the bench and the wall. His eyelids looked heavy, drooping so that his eyes narrowed to green slits, and he yawned both widely and loudly.

    “Are you tired?” I asked on a whisper. He simply nodded and closed his eyes fully, tipping his head back. “Well, as soon as we get in the carriage you can rest. It takes at least ten minutes to reach the docks from here, so you can at least rest your eyes for a short while.”

    “Just ten minutes?”

    I rolled my eyes as I waved my left arm frantically to catch the attention of any passing drivers with currently unoccupied carriages. “What would you like me to do? Ask the driver if he’ll kindly take us on the scenic route, or any route that will get us stuck in mid-evening traffic?” I asked sarcastically, stopping with the mad waving when a red carriage pulled up. “Come on Jefferson,” I said as I opened the door and clambered inside.

    Jefferson joined me within a few seconds, shutting the carriage door behind him before sprawling out across the opposite bench. I turned slightly so that I could slide the window open, telling the driver to head for the “London docklands. And, please, put the fare on my tab” before sliding it back shut and facing Jefferson once more.

    It was dark in the cab interior, with the only light that drifted through being the pooled light of the street lamps through the windows as the carriage pulled away and started to move.

    “I don’t blame you,” I whispered, resisting the urge to lean forward and run my good hand through his hair. “I hope you know that. I don’t blame you for anything.”

    “I know that,” he said with his eyes closed. “Though just because you do not blame me doesn’t blame that I don’t blame myself.”

    “It’s my fault,” I muttered, keeping to staring out of the window.

    “What?!”

    I turned to look at him in the dim light, though the only features I could make out were his eyes. “It is my fault.”

    “How on earth did you come to that thought process?” he asked, voice pitched with sudden anger. “Kate, you are not—”

    “I am,” I said, leaning forward to rest my elbows on my knees. “I could have stopped you. I wasn’t there, I was with Leo . . . and now I cannot stop but think that me leaving you is what caused all of this. If I had not left you . . .”

    “It is not your fault, Katherine. We do not know why I do this; there is no blame against you.”

    Tears stung the backs of my eyes. “I could have stopped you.”

    “Katherine—”

    “You may not think me worthy of blaming, but I think I am. If I had not left you, if I had not consented to leaving with Leonardo, all of this could have been avoided. Yes, perhaps you still would have transgressed into that state, but if I had been there I could have stopped you from doing what you did!”

    “And then perhaps you would have been the one I killed.”

    I shot up straight, staring across the space at him. The light from the street lamps illuminated his face for a second, highlighting the apathetic features of his face. “Jefferson . . .” I whispered, suddenly wanting to reach across the space—the void of blackness, an impassable distance, it seemed now—but resisted against the urge.

    “It’s true though, isn’t it?” he asked, though I guessed it was a rhetorical question from the way that he continued before allowing me to speak. “Why wouldn’t I kill you? If you tried to stop me, you’d currently be the one laying cold and naked on a metal slab in a morgue. And I’d—well, I would willingly put myself in prison, I would willingly allow myself to be placed in an asylum to be tortured for the rest of my life, as recompense for your murder.” He let out a growl before shuffling into the corner of his bench that was as far away from me as he could manage, sitting sideward’s against the carriage wall with his feet now up on the leather bench, his arms wound tightly around his knees. He stared at the space in front of him.

    My stomach was knotted. I had listened patiently to what he had had to say, but now it was my turn. Yes, a sense of fear washed over me—he could kill me so easily, after all—but he wasn’t seeing sense. “Jefferson, did you even listen to yourself?” I asked, contemplating standing up so that I could move to sit beside him, but then realised that that would only cause him to move. Like two king draught pieces that were the last on the board, moving back and forth in a dance until one eventually captured the other.

    “Did you listen to me?” he answered my question with a question of his own, tilting his head to the side ever so slightly to watch me out of the corner of his eye.

    I nodded. “Did you not hear what the doctor said?—he has no idea what these discs things in your head are. For all we know they could be the things that control you. This could, indeed, be no illness, but a state of control—a, somewhat, possession.”

    He stared at me as if I were some sort of bacteria underneath a microscope.

    “Don’t you see, Jefferson?” I continued, shifting in my seat. “What if you are being controlled? I realise that this is one of the farfetched theories I have—honestly, it is the only theory I have, but that’s beside the point. What I’m trying to say is . . . what if someone is controlling you?—then these kills aren’t off your own back, but instead you’re killing people due to being under the influence of someone who has a bloody vendetta.”

    “Who’d have a vendetta against a prostitute and a young man?”

    I shook my head with the knowledge that my argument, though I had believed it at first and wanted Jefferson to believe it also so badly, was rapidly deteriorating thanks to his question. I glanced down at the floor of the carriage. “I don’t know.”

    “Exactly,” he said in a deploring voice. “A kill is a kill; the death of a person is still the death of a person. What reason does someone have to kill a prostitute and a young man?—none that I can think of. Don’t you get it, Katherine? This is mindless killing, it’s not controlled or possessed killing. It’s just me. And I’m a monster.”

    I stared up at him, the light of a passing streetlamp briefly reflecting in his eyes, illuminating the green like the eyes of a cat. And then they darkened with the blackness. “You are not a monster,” I said, for what must have been the fifth time, “you are human.”

    Those two sentences, those eight words, those thirty-eight letters, were becoming a sort of mantra, a chant, for me to constantly murmur to him.

    “There is no one controlling me. It is just me and whatever the hell is wrong with me!” he half-shouted, seemingly ignoring my new catchphrase. “What reason do I have to kill a prostitute? What reason do I have to kill a young man who I probably didn’t even know? None. There is no reason! Can’t you understand? Katherine, this is mindless killing. It’s all me!—it’s all mindless. And because it’s mindless, I do not care who I kill—next time it may well be you!”

    My back slammed against the back of my bench with a start, I had been jolted by both his tone of voice and his words. For the first time in my life I was thankful that these carriages were soundproof, since Heaven knows what the driver would make of Jefferson’s anger and our conversation—well, argument—as a whole.

    Jefferson turned so that his back faced me, curling up against the seat in a way that I knew immediately that he wanted to be left alone.

    This was not how I had wanted all of this to go down. I had not expected, had not wanted, a shouting match or anger on either of our parts. I had wanted to simply talk through this.

    An impasse had been made; I blamed myself and he blamed himself—a compromise had to be created for both our sakes.

    I was about to speak once more, but before I could get a word out of my pursed lips the carriage lurched suddenly to a stop. I was knocked off balance by the impact, and would have fallen either on the floor or atop Jefferson’s sulking visage if I hadn’t feverishly gripped the curtain by my side first. The moment all was still Jefferson jumped to his feet, slammed the door across from him open, and flew out of the carriage into the night, his bottom of his coat floating up as he escaped. If he had been wearing a top hat and perhaps some gloves, I would have been sufficed to say that he reminded me of Jack the Ripper in training.

    Blowing out a sigh, I gathered my skirts when I stood and climbed out of the carriage with the kind help of the driver. I gave him my thanks and hurried through the gates, down the dockland, and up onto the deck of the Carmen. Before I could race around the innards of the ship, however, a hand caught at my and spun me around.

    “The hell?” I asked, not sure whether I should dart out my hand to hit the person or not.

    “Well, it could have been worse, I guess. You could have used profanities.”

    The shadows disappeared from the corners of my eyes as they adjusted to the darkness. First there was the dimmed light of dying candle flames in a brass candelabra. Next came the hand holding the candelabra up, and then eventually Jeremy materialised in front of me. He wore a thick grey blanket over his shoulders, his fair-hair was dishevelled and his eyes were heavy with sleep, (a sure sign that he had just woken up).

    “Jeremy, why are you up?” I asked. “Actually, what were you doing asleep? It’s nigh on nine.”

    He shrugged. “I was tired that’s all.”

    “I haven’t seen you all day. I mean, I’ve been out all day, but I didn’t see you this morning.”

    “I’ve . . .” He ran a hand back through his hair, glancing away for a second before looking back at me. “I’ve been at Isaac’s since last afternoon.”

    My eyes widened a little before I smiled. “Oh. Oh, good. Good.”

    “You’re alright with that?”

    “Yes. Don’t be stupid, Jer. Of course I am.”

    “Oh.” A small smile turned the left corner of his mouth, revealing the deep-set dimple in his left cheek. “Good.”

    I smiled back, but the smile soon faded when I went back to focusing on just who I was after. “Jer, have you seen Jefferson?”

    “Half-automaton man who keeps showing up? The one hanging around with you?

    “Yes. I have followers—well, two, Leo and Jeff.”

    He shook his head incredulously, and then pointed in the direction of the door to my office and the innards of the ship. “He stormed off into your office, budged past me without saying a word or an apology—he almost caused me to drop this candelabra. I came out on deck because I hadn’t seen you yet, but I knew you wouldn’t be far behind.”

    “Oh.”

    Jeremy looked down at me from the half-a-head distance between us. The wind blew strands of hair across his face, and his blue eyes practically blazed in their sockets. “Kate, he had a look of pure thunder on his face.”

    “It’s fine. I’ll deal with it. We just had an argument coming home, that’s all.”

    I turned and started to walk away, but within a second Jeremy had caught hold of my upper arm and spun me back to face him. “Kate, what happened? I only woke up because your office phone kept on ringing, and since you weren’t home I answered it—Leo was on the other side, asking whether or not you had got back yet. He wouldn’t tell me what happened. What happened?”

    For the past two hours I had tried desperately to forget all that I had seen today, I didn’t want to think about it now. “I . . . I don’t want to talk about, Jeremy,” I whispered, cutting the image of that man from the forefront of my mind before the image had time to develop and solidify. That image was already carved onto the surface of my mind, but I would lock it behind as many walls as I could build.

    “Alright,” he said, dropping the subject immediately. Jeremy had never been one to undergo pestering, a fact that I was almost always glad for—though, sometimes I earnestly wished he would pester, since continual pestering almost always ending in one spilling what was wrong with them. For now, however, not pestering was good.

    “Thank you.”

    He smiled again and ran his hand down my arm reassuringly. “I’ll go make you a coffee or something to warm you up; you’re freezing cold.”

    “I am?”

    He nodded. “You’re going to catch a cold if you stay out here any longer. Honestly, Kate, did you forget to wear a coat?”

    I smiled sheepishly. “Yes.”

    Jeremy rolled his eyes. “Go inside to your office. Talk to your Jefferson. I’ll bring you a coffee shortly.”

    “Not you too.”

    He looked at me quizzically. “Pardon?”

    “He’s not my Jefferson.”

    He rolled his eyes again. “Go inside, Willows.”

    “Is that how you speak to your Captain?” I said with a short laugh. “Honestly, Jeremy. Where are your manners?”

    “Go. Inside. Now.”

    I took hold of his free arm and allowed him to escort me to the door of my cabins. Along the walls the sconces were lit lowly, but provided enough light to softly illuminate the area, and contrast pleasantly against the dark oak wainscoting. Jeremy paid his adieu and headed left down the narrow corridor to the rest of the galley, the light of his lamp casting his profile into a silhouette until he turned the corner and disappeared from sight.

    As soon as I reached for the door handle a loud smash, followed by a thud, sounded from the other side. I swung the left door open, not caring that it slammed against the wall . . . just to find Jefferson lying on the area of floor in front of my desk, sprawled out like a starfish.

    “What in the name of clockwork are you doing?” I asked, reaching behind me to gently close the door once I stepped inside the room.

    “Lying on the floor,” he replied without looking up, or hardly giving me recognition in the slightest, he simply stared up at the ceiling—or, more precisely, the singular chandelier hanging from the middle of the ceiling.

    “Obviously,” I said, walking past him to pour myself a tumbler of port. “Why?”

    “I felt like it.”

    I brought the glass to my lips, taking a large sip of the port before lowering the glass and placing it on the edge of my desk. I stared down at him incredulously. “So you’re lying like a bloody starfish on the floor because you felt like it?”

    “That’s what I said, yes.”

    I shook my head before taking a glance at the moulded glass bottles of alcohol, noticing that the whiskey was running considerably low. “Jefferson, have you been drinking my whiskey?”

    “I . . . I may have had one or two glasses. Maybe three. Four at the most . . .”

    “I was not with you for five minutes at the maximum, and you’ve had four glasses of my whiskey? That stuff is imported!”

    “That means it is stolen.”

    “I . . . that is correct.”

    “I knew that it was!”

    “You’re drunk, aren’t you?” I moved to the front of my desk and leant against the edge, darting a leg out slightly to gently play-kick Jefferson on the hip.

    “I am not drunk! I am not a lightweight, Katherine Madeline Willows, and therefore I cannot get drunk on simply four glasses of whiskey!” He stared up at me with emerald green eyes, then gave me a lopsided grin.

    “Whatever. You seem happier,” I said. “Happier than . . . five minutes before, anyway.”

    His smile vanished, turned into a tight frown, and he glanced swiftly away from me. Sadness contorted the handsome features of his face, and he bit his bottom lip. “I—I’m sorry,” he whispered, pushing himself up to sit up, leaning back on his hands. “For earlier. For—for everything.”

    “Jefferson,” I murmured, sitting down on the floor cross-legged, my skirts draped over my legs. “You don’t have to—”

    “No,” he cut me off. “I want to apologise. Properly. I need to apologise.”

    “Jefferson . . .”

    “Katherine, stop. Let me—”

    “No,” I said, leaning forward. “You might want to stop for a second. I’ve just realised you have a shard of glass stuck in your face!”

    “What?”

    I uncrossed my legs and shuffled in front of him, laying a hand on either side of his face. I couldn’t help but notice that his voice hitched and his pupils dilated once more. “Hold still,” I said, “I’m going to pull it out.”

    “What?”

    I took hold of the shard in his right cheek, which an inch at the most away from the bottom of his eye, between my thumb and index finger. “Do you trust me?”

    He nodded ever so slightly. “Of course.”

    “Good,” I said, and swiftly pulled the shard of glass out. It wasn’t at all that long, and therefore hadn’t cut deep; it was a couple of millimetre at the most, really.

    “OW!”

    I smiled and placed the shard on the desktop. “It’s your fault. What did you do, smash a glass?”

    “Yes. Over there.” He pointed to the mantelpiece.

    “If that shard had been an inch higher, you would have blinded yourself in your right eye!” I shrieked, before butting my forehead against his. His breath tickled my skin, and I resisted the urge to throw my arms around him. “Honestly, what am I going to do with you?”

    “I don’t know,” he whispered, closing his eyes. “I don’t why you’re still with me.”

    I shot backwards at those words. “Jefferson, I—we—”

    “I said that wrong!” He shook his head furiously for a moment, before stopping and staring at me. “I meant I don’t know why you put up with me. I’ve only brought you trouble since the day you met me.”

    “I thought you dead for a year, and you used to be so shy when I first knew you.”

    He rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

    I nodded, shifting back to lean against my desk. “Yes, I do.”

    “I’ve changed quite a bit, haven’t I?”

    “If you mean this is the point where I say ‘Sure, in the year that I met you, you were shyly cute, but now you’re plain handsome’—I’m not going to say it.”

    “You just said it,” he pointed out. One corner of his lips twitched upwards.

    I pointed at him and clicked my thumb and middle finger together. “I didn’t mean it.”

    He placed a hand on his chest, just over his heart, with a flourish. The action reminded me of Leonardo at the hospital, and now I was having a bout of déjà vu. “I’m hurt, Katherine!”

    “If I’d meant it, I wouldn’t be able to fit in this room thanks to you and your ego.”

    “I do not have an ego!” he snapped light-heartedly and smiled. “Now you’re making as if I’m Leo.”

    “I am not! You two are completely different!”

    He nodded, though I guessed the gesture was half to himself. “He has probably never killed anyone.”

    “You’re right, he hasn’t,” I said quietly, looking down at the floor. “But I have, and none of them probably deserved it. There’s red in my ledger. My ledger is dripping red, and I am not talking about ink. Just as there is red on my hands. I can’t get rid of it. I can’t go back and change it.” Even though I was a Traveller, that was true—no one was allowed to change the past, for any tip of the scale would change the future. “Just as I cannot change who I am—even if I was to step away as Captain, the instinct would still be there, I’m a Pirate through and through now.

    “But you know what? I don’t sit sulking that I killed someone; I don’t start arguments in carriages and shout. I certainly don’t run off. It does no good to run from problems, you’re meant to face them and then build a bridge and get over them.”

    “What if the bridge falls down whilst you try to cross it, or just before?”

    I sighed; this was going completely off course incredibly quickly. “Then you aren’t very good at engineering and building bridges, are you? You build the bridge again, and if it falls then you build it again, and you carry on building and rebuilding it until it is safe enough to cross.  If it isn’t a safe bridge then you’re going to end up falling in the water underneath, or down the huge drop—depending on what is under the bridge you’ve built for yourself. When the bridge is sturdy, you cross it and you don’t look back, you just walk ahead to the other side, and you’re a better person for it.”

    “I—I don’t think I’m ready to build a bridge just yet.”

    I reached forward to take both of his hands in mine, looking up to steadily hold my gaze to his. “Talking helps. As does having people who understand—I didn’t truly have that, I killed under Captain’s orders; my old Captain was bloodthirsty at best. I haven’t killed anyone since I became Captain of the Carmen. Maybe it’s because of redemption, or maybe it’s because of something else, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because half my crew have never taken a life, and the ones who have are older than me . . . I’ve just realised I’ve gone completely off track.”

    He stared at me thoughtfully, his green-silver eyes watching me. “You’re right,” he said after a few beats of silence. “I just—”

    “Am I interrupting?”

    I looked up with a start to see Jeremy stood in the doorway of my office, a mug of coffee in one hand, a plate of some food in the other, and a blanket draped over the arm of the hand holding the mug. He had discarded of his blanket, and was now stood in just his pyjamas. I hadn’t even heard the door open.

    I shook my head at him before rising to my feet. “No, not at all.” I walked over to him, taking hold of the mug of coffee in both hands. “Is that a plate of sandwiches?”

    He nodded. “I thought I’d prepare you some food. I made enough for the both of you. Oh, and this blanket is for you, at that.”

    “Thank you, honey,” I smiled, taking the blanket and expertly draping it around my shoulders with one hand. I forgot sometimes that Jeremy was four years younger than me, for he usually acted like the older brother when it came to me. I was older but far more reckless than him. “Don’t just stand there like a lemon, sit down on a chair or something.”

    Jeremy nodded and skirted around me, placing the plate of sandwiches on the table in front of the fire that was not yet lit, and took a seat on a chair nearest the left bookshelf. “Do you want me to light a fire?”

    “If you want,” I said.

    Jeremy turned his head to look at me, then swiftly looked over to Jefferson—who was still sat on the floor, but had his knees pulled up and was leaning his head against my desk now. “Hello Jefferson, by the way,” Jeremy said, “you seem . . . calmer than before.”

    Recognition crossed Jefferson’s face, and I could have sworn a slight blush surfaced his cheeks. “Ah, that. Sorry.”

    Jeremy shook his head dismissively. “It’s fine. I’m used to it, Kate barges past me and ignores me quite a lot.”

    Just beforehand I had brought my mug up to my lips, and now his words caused me to choke on my coffee and spit it back into the mug, coughing as I did so. “I—I do not!” I spluttered out.

    Jeremy raised his eyes at me, and a corner of his mouth twitched. “Yes, you do.”

    “I do not ignore you,” I argued as he moved to kneel down in front of the fireplace in order to start a fire.

    “You do,” he called back as he stacked the wood.

    I sighed and walked over to sit down in my chair behind my desk, leaning back and bringing my feet up onto the tabletop. “When was the last time I ignored you?”

    Jeremy had stopped building the fire, and was instead now attempting to light it. “I . . . um . . . fine, maybe you don’t ignore me so to speak—but you do act a little obnoxious sometimes!”

    “I’m obnoxious?”

    “Yes,” replied Jeremy and Jefferson at the same time. “And sometimes a little pushy,” continued Jefferson as he pushed himself up off the floor.

    “And sarcastic,” said Jeremy.

    “Not to mention quick-tempered.”

    “I’d forgotten about that,” murmured Jeremy with a chuckle. He’d got the fire started and was now leaning against the table, helping himself to a sandwich. “But don’t forget chatterbox,” he said as he chewed. Bad mannerisms.

    “I’d say she’s more of a blabber.”

    “Enough!” I screeched before either of them could say anymore. “You two are only pointing out my bad traits. Don’t I have any good traits?”

    They were both stunned silent, and stared at me incredulously.

    “Oh. Thanks you two!”

    Jefferson cleared his throat with a cough. “Um . . . well . . . you’re rather pretty.”

    “It took you some effort to say just that!”

    He simply smiled at me.

    “So, I’m pretty but I don’t have a good personality?”

    “What more do you need in this age?” Jeremy asked.

    I stared at him with my mouth agape for a moment, before I picked up the nearest object on my desk—a notepad—and threw it towards him. It stopped just short of the first chair, but he flinched anyway. “I cannot believe you just said that!”

    “It’s true though, isn’t it?” he asked. “I mean, I don’t know much about that, so I don’t really know. I might just be speaking codswallop.”

    “It’s kind of true,” I said, bringing back down my legs so I could rest my elbow on the tabletop, and then rest my chin on my hands. “Most men want a woman who is a blank canvas, I find. Just as most marry for financial benefit, and not firstly for love.”

    “As long as you are not counting me in that,” Jefferson said, crossing his arms over his chest.

    “Of course not.”

    “Good,” he said. The corners of his mouth twitched upwards, and there was now amusement once more in his eyes. “Do you also discount Jeremy, also?”

    I almost spluttered once more with my drink, and looked fleetingly over at Jeremy, he stared back at me wide-eyed and shook his head by the slight. “Um . . . yes, I suppose so.”

    “You suppose so?”

    I nodded. “That is what I said, yes.”

    Jefferson looked at me funny for a moment before nodding.

    “I thought you were supposed to be tired—you were practically falling asleep in the carriage,” I said, glancing back at Jefferson quizzically.

    “The whiskey woke me back up,” he said simply, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

    “Evidently. Pray tell, why did you smash the glass?”

    “I was wondering what these shards were the remnants of,” Jeremy muttered, holding up a few shards of said glass. “And now I know.”

    “My thoughts were annoying me. I was a little angry,” Jefferson said.

    “What? Do you have a little voice inside your head?” I asked, sitting back up properly, and pushed my chair forward so that my knees were under the desk.

    “I think I’m missing a conscience, actually.”

    I snorted. “You know what I mean.”

    “Yes, and no—I don’t have a little voice inside my head.”

    I nodded. “Then why were you angry? If it was because of all that I said in the carriage, I’m sorry but I’m not apologising—”

    “It wasn’t what you said, but more of what I said. I was also annoyed with myself about the way I ran off like that; it was highly immature of me to do so. I figured you were right as soon as I got here, and I was mad at myself for not listening to you. You’re always right.”

    I snorted once more. “Hardly. I’m usually wrong more than I am right—aren’t I, Jer?”

    “I am not speaking a word to properly answer that, for fear I’ll have something thrown at my head—or at least attempted to—once again.”

    I threw my hands up in the air with such a sudden movement that the blanket fell from my shoulders. “I swear in God’s name that I will not throw something at your head, or let me be smote down.”

    “You’re not religious, Kate, so that swearing does not count in the slightest.”

    “You—you have a good point there. That is fact,” I murmured. “Fine. I swear on my life that I won’t throw anything at your head.”

    “Good. Then I’ll answer—yes, you’re usually wrong.”

    “See?”

    Jefferson let out a small laugh. “I guess I shall just have to take your word for it, won’t I?”

    “Yes. Yes, you will. Just take mine and Jeremy’s word for it, and Bob’s your teapot!”

    He raised his eyebrows at me, and drew his face back into his neck so that he immediately looked as if he had two chins. “‘Bob’s your teapot’? I thought the general consensus of the saying was ‘Bob’s your uncle’? I’ve never heard that other one said before.”

    I heard Jeremy chuckle and looked over at him. He was standing up and dusting off his pyjama bottoms. “Well, I better be going.”

    “Are you sure?” I asked, gathering myself up on to my feet.

    “Quite. I’m tired and I have to be up early tomorrow.”

    “Pray tell?”

    He smiled and shook his head. “Secret.”

    I rolled my eyes before skirting around the desk. “I’ll walk you out,” I said, strutting over to his side. “I’ll be back in a moment,” I called over my shoulder to Jefferson before opening the office doors and ushering Jeremy out into the corridor, closing the doors behind me. “You’re spending the day with Isaac, aren’t you?” I asked, leaning against the wall.

    Jeremy, who had been looking down at floor, glanced straight back up at me and cleared his throat. “Um . . . I mean, uh . . . yes.”

   “Why didn’t you just say so?”

    He nodded towards the door.

    “Oh, Jefferson wouldn’t care.”

    “I’m sure he wouldn’t.”

    I smiled and took a hold of one of his hands. “He wouldn’t. If he did, I’d throw him off of the ship.”

    He smiled with one of corner of his mouth and nodded. “Well . . . I guess I should really be off to bed now.”

    I nodded with a yawn and let go of his hand. “Go on then. Goodnight Jeremy. Give Isaac my love tomorrow.”

    “I will,” he said, and then turned and started to walk away. A few moments later he stopped and came back to me. “I almost forgot. A street urchin ran up on to the boat whilst I was waiting for you, urging me to give you this”—he reached into the breast pocket of his pyjama shirt, pulling out a small, square envelope—“I gave the blighter two shillings and he went on his way. Here.”

    I took the envelope from him, turning it around in my hands. On the front was my name, my full name, written in a fancy script in front of a drawing of filigree. On the back was a dark red seal to hold the envelope together, a seal with a pattern of the letters ‘E’, ‘V’ and ‘L’ entwined together. A sprig of lilac was attached underneath the seal.

    “Did the street urchin say of whom he had taken it from?” I asked, flipping the envelope back over in my hands. The script looked vaguely familiar, but that was all: it wasn’t familiar enough for me to be able to immediately tell who had written it.

    “He mentioned something about Bedlam, but he scurried off with his two shillings before I was able to enquire about a name.”

    Something about Bedlam.

    I glanced up at him in realisation, tucking the envelope into the only pocket that my dress had—well, not a pocket as such, more like down my bodice. “I know exactly who has written to me. Thank you, Jeremy.”

    He nodded. “Goodnight then, Kate,” he said with a small bow and flourish of his hand as he did so—more for show than manners, truly, since on this ship the men didn’t bow and I didn’t curtsey.

    “If we’re starting to go down the bow and curtsey route now,” I murmured, “then I’m surprised you didn’t take my hand and kiss it.”

    He gave me an ‘as if’’ look and laughed. “You’d probably thwack me if I did.”

    “I would,” I said, “at that.”

    Jeremy smiled and rolled his eyes. “Goodnight, Kate.”

    “Sleep well,” I called when he turned and walked back down the corridor. As soon as he was out of sight I opened the doors and walked back into my office.

    Jefferson was sat in my chair, flicking through a book that he was holding on such an awkward angle that I couldn’t see the title. His hair had a tousled look to it, as if he had run his hands through the strands several times.

    “What are you reading?” I inquired, removing the envelope from my the inside of my bodice and moving over to my desk, placing a hand atop the pewter, miniature Knight’s helmet and retrieving the miniature-sword-come-letter-opener that stood beside it on the plaque.

    “I’m not so much as reading as merely flicking through,” he said. “But it’s your, rather dog-eared and battered, copy of Bleak House.”

    “I’ve only read it twice—it’s second-hand, so that’s why it’s battered.”

    “Ah.” He glanced up at me and his eyes widened. “What the hell have you got in your hand?”

    “The envelope or this?” I asked, twirling the miniature-sword-come-letter-opener.

    “The latter.”

    “It’s a letter opener.”

    “Funny looking letter opener.”

    I rolled my eyes. “I didn’t want a mundane letter opener. I wanted one that is basically a tiny sword. I’m guessing you don’t have a tiny sword.”

    “I do actually have a sword. But it’s actual size—quite big.”

    I choked back a laugh.

    “What?”

    “I’m sure you have a big sword.” This would be a whole more amusing conversation if he’d actually understood my euphemism from the start. Pure, innocently minded Jefferson.

    “It’s just a replica. And it’s not that big—it’s not like it’s a long-sword or anything like that, it’s more of a broadsword.”

    “Aha,” I said as I nodded and pushed the letter opener under the top flap to pry the envelope open. After a second the seal broke off its own accord, with the sprig of lilac falling onto the desktop. I read the letter quickly before crinkling it up in my hands. “Well, I’m going to bed now. It seems that I, also, will be getting up and heading out early tomorrow.”

    “Oh?” He raised an eyebrow. “Anywhere of interest?”

    I shook my head. “It is of no concern to you. I have to meet someone.  That is all.”

    “Well—now I’m more intrigued than ever.”

    I shook my hand in the air in a dismissive gesture. “They’re simply an old acquaintance of mine who has gotten back in touch with me. I’m meeting with them tomorrow, and I’ll more than likely be gone by the time you awake,” I said, rubbing my eyes. The day had tired me out. “Which reminds me—is sleeping on either the sofa, or pulling a couple of chairs, adequate enough for your sleeping arrangement? I can always pull in a mattress, or prepare you a room. I feel bad for having you sleep in here.”

    “It’s fine, honestly,” he murmured, running a hand through his hair. “That sofa is surprisingly quite comfortable to sleep on, actually.”

    I nodded and set the letter-opener back down where it belonged. “Well, just tell me if you want to swap to a room, given we don’t know how long you’ll be staying here.”

    “Hopefully not too longer . . . I mean, I don’t want to impose and overstay my welcome.”

    “Nonsense,” I said quickly. “You can stay as long as you have to. Though I do suggest we buy you some new clothes as soon as possible—I don’t know if we’ll be able to sneak into your apartment again, or even if the Police have gotten rid of the tape.”

    “It’s a good thing they haven’t cut my access to my money, then.”

    I smiled lazily, my eyes drooping slightly. I needed to go to bed soon. I needed sleep so that I could forget all that had happened today—the fact that this was all getting more and more stranger, that man, the kiss, and that Jefferson had killed someone. Again.

    “Katherine? Are you feeling well?” he asked all of a sudden, leaning forward to press his hand against my forehead. “You’re not hot. But you do look frightfully pale. Perhaps you should eat some sandwiches before you retire?”

    I shrugged, and he dropped his hand. “I am better off not doing that.”

    “Why not?”

    “I . . .” Well, I might as well tell him. I just had to leave out what happened afterwards, he didn’t need to know about that. “I was sick whilst I was at Leo’s earlier, I was thinking about what happened today and I just had to rush upstairs. That is all. I simply do not wish to upset my stomach.”

    His eyebrows curved upwards in concern. “Oh.”

    I nodded. “I believe that I had experienced a panic attack.”

    “Kate,” he whispered softly. “Are you fine now?”

    “I think so. But I would rather not eat anything, lest I am sick once more—I shouldn’t be, but it’s simply a precaution.”

    He nodded and took a hold of my hand, bending his head in order to chastely kiss my knuckles. “Go get some sleep, you’ll feel better.”

    “I plan on doing just that,” I said, rubbing at my eyes with a yawn. “Goodnight, Jefferson.”

 

 

    Even through two rooms and two sets of doors, I could still hear Jefferson whistling away to himself. I sat on the edge of my bed, in my nightdress; with the letter now flat in my hands. Well, it wasn’t as much a letter as it was a note a good dozen lines long, the paper watermarked with a fleur de lis.

 

Dearest Katherine,

 

    It’s been too long. Five years. Five years and you have yet to visit me. Are you choosing to ignore me, Katherine, or have you simply had no time on your hands? I see you have gotten yourself caught up in the affairs of a man who is not quite human, but instead half metal.

    I have a stem of information that may interest you.

    Come visit me at my room in Bethlem tomorrow, for tea and scones and a talk. Simply go to the reception there, and tell them that I have requested an audience with you. A guard shall then escort you to my room.

    I expect to be in your presence no later than nine tomorrow morning.

 

Kind regards,

Madame Esmeralda.

Join MovellasFind out what all the buzz is about. Join now to start sharing your creativity and passion
Loading ...