The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 10

“Don’t dawdle,” Jack said to Toby as his lanky friend crouched in front of a service door, lock-picking tools in hand.

At one time it had been easy to pick a lock—they were practically all the same, and a master key was as good as gold. Then people starting taking their home security more seriously—a ring of body snatchers who weren’t too picky about whether or not their victims were already dead when they set upon them would do that—and locks became more intricate. Now there were punch cards and clockwork mazes, secret codes and what have you.

Fortunately, the one on this door was a simple clockwork piece. Jack could have picked it himself, but the benefit of being the one running the show meant not getting the knees of your trousers dirty.

There was a noise beside him—a muffled sliding sound. Frowning, Jack turned his head. Had it come from inside the crate? He listened again, but all he heard was the gentle clicks of Toby’s tools, and Philippe singing a French song under his breath.

“We’re in,” Toby crowed as he pushed the door open.

Jack clapped him on the back. “Well done, mate. Let’s go.” He could hear footsteps approaching, some of which did not sound human but more like the clang of metal on stone. Had their pursuers caught up to them?

Philippe pushed the trolley over the threshold with Toby holding the door. Jack followed, catching the door before it closed all the way. Through a slit no wider than his index finger, he watched as two men and an automaton appeared on the platform. He didn’t recognize them, but they certainly looked like men on a mission.

“Where do you think they went?” one asked.

The shorter one glanced toward the track. “Probably caught the train.”

“And leave that remarkable carriage? I wouldn’t.”

“Well, they’re not here. I don’t see them on the track—they wouldn’t have gotten far. They’re limited to the public areas. They must have taken the train.”

Jack stifled a chuckle. These two weren’t dressed well enough to be aristocracy, but they were gently bred all the same. Upper class, perhaps. They were the sort who naturally assumed everyone played by the same set of rules as they.

“Well, they’ll be coming back for that carriage, so I say we watch that. We can always follow them. We have to get that crate. If it falls into the wrong hands...”

The smaller man nodded. “I know, my friend. I know. Come, let’s find a porter or station worker—someone might have seen them.”

He’d heard enough. Jack carefully closed the door and turned to his companions. “Philippe, you have to get up top and move the carriage immediately. Hide it out of the way.” It was what they should have done to begin with, but there was no time for recriminations now. They had wrongly assumed their pursuers were no longer a threat, or if they were, that they wouldn’t think to look behind the station buildings for their vehicle.

“D’accord. When and where shall we meet?”

“Thirty minutes, outside that hotel a few blocks down—the one where you met Mariska.”

At the mention of his fiancée’s name, Philippe smiled dreamily. “She picked my pocket. A good choice. I will meet you there.”

The Frenchman made his escape through another door, one that led into the maintained areas of the station. Jack and Toby followed him in, but when Philippe veered right, his companions kept going straight.

“Who do you reckon those blokes were?” Toby asked as they steered the crate down a corridor just barely wide enough for it.

“No idea. No one I ever wants to meet again, though.”

“Are we delivering this thing into the wrong hands, Jackey-boy?”

“Dunno that eever. Don’t much care at the moment.”

“Aye, understood. Is this the door?”

It was. Marked with just a number, the door was like all the rest, but it opened into a room with another door that led below the tracks, to the catacombs and tunnels below.

Going down stairs with the bloody cart was not easy, but they managed it in a few short minutes. The spot where they were to leave it was just feet away. Toby tipped the trolley when they got there, and Jack eased the crate onto the dirt floor.

There was that noise again—coming from inside the crate.

“Did you hear that?” Toby asked, glancing about.

Jack nodded but didn’t speak. Frowning, he reached out his right hand and rapped his knuckles once against the side of the crate. A second later he could have sworn something in the crate had knocked back.

This time he tapped out a pattern—a rhythm. There was a moment of silence, and then the same pattern was echoed back to him.

“What the devil?” Toby’s eyes were larger than saucers.

“Grab that pry bar, my friend.” It was luck to find one nearby, but that didn’t really surprise him. Good fortune seemed to follow him, and he was going to take full advantage of it while he could.

Toby snatched up the old, rusty bar and handed it to him. Quickly, Jack shoved it under the lip of the crate top and pulled down. There was a tearing—splintering—sound, and then the top of the crate popped open.

Jack looked inside.

Bloody hell.

Chapter 4

Toby looked inside, as well. “Sweet God!” He jumped back, face white with horror.

Jack’s attention drifted back to the contents of the crate.

At first glance it was difficult to tell what it was. Metal covered part of it. It was dirty, and looked as though it had been in this crate for a very long time. That thought disgusted him. It was cruel and barbaric.

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