The Dark Discovery of Jack Dandy Page 6

“If I done it, then why am I standin’ ‘ere, jawing with the two of you when I should be trussed up in Newgate, eh? No one saw nuffin’ ’cause were nothing to see.” They wouldn’t believe him, of course. Couldn’t blame them, really. He wouldn’t believe himself either.

The ginger clenched his fists. “You did it, and now you’re going to pay for it.”

Finally! Jack removed his hat and hung it on his walking stick, which he then leaned against the outside wall of his house. Then he removed his coat and draped it over the rickety rail of the back step. He rolled up his sleeves.

The younger men stared at him. This time Jack raised both brows. “I assume payment is to be in blood, yeah?”

Blondie started stripping off his own outerwear. “Indeed, you bastard.”

That word. Jack really, honestly and truly despised that word. He lashed out while the other fellow was still struggling to remove his coat—arms bent behind his back. A solid right to the gut, followed by a knee to the face when he doubled over. Jack entwined his fingers and bought the double fist down on his opponent’s back like a club, and as he fell to the ground, Jack stomped on the outside of his knee. It made an awful sound, and Blondie screamed.

Jack took two steps back and turned to the ginger, whose mouth was agape. It was difficult not to feel a little pride at having caused that expression. The whole altercation had been over in a matter of seconds.

“That wasn’t fair,” the redhead said. “That wasn’t sporting or gentlemanly at all.”

Jack shrugged. “I ain’t any of those fings, mate. Neever is life.” It was with that safe pronouncement that he pounced—right jab, left hook, solid slam to the solar plexus, a kick to the wedding tackle and, finally, a dislocated shoulder.

At his feet, the two moaned in pain, clutching the parts he had damaged the most. They’d recover from the beating, of course, but they’d always have a little reminder of what tangling with Jack Dandy meant.

He crouched over them. “Next time, I won’t be as gentle,” he assured them. “And in the future, when makin’ accusations, you may want to ‘ave some evidence to back ’em up, otherwise someone might take offense.”

He stood and collected his belongings. Then he stepped over the mewling pair. “Oh, and if you’re not off me property in five minutes, I’m going to demonstrate what ‘appens when someone really pisses me off.”

Jack placed his hat on his head as he left the alley and climbed the front steps to his house. He whistled a little tune as he crossed the threshold.

He hadn’t felt this good since he met Finley.

* * *

The two blokes had crawled off hours ago, and since a constable hadn’t come by yet to arrest him, Jack assumed one wouldn’t come calling at all, which was good because he had a delivery to make.

It was well past midnight, but that wasn’t terribly late for these parts—not the disrespectable ones. There was something comforting about night and all its shadows. They closed around him, protecting him, taking him into them and warming him like a soft blanket.

Night was really his preferred time. He knew he looked like a nocturnal creature, and he did nothing to discredit that. He always wore black—sometimes with a splash of color, but not often. His hair was almost black, as were his eyes. His own mother had told him he looked like Lucifer himself—a beautiful angel forever denied the embrace of Heaven.

But Mum had been so drunk she could barely stand when she’d slurred it at him, so he hadn’t given it any more thought than a seven-year-old boy ought. She’d meant it as a compliment; she always called him her angel. Certainly she had never meant to make him feel as though he were damned, or somehow inherently evil.

Though good people weren’t often suspected of murder, were they? Even Finley had asked him if he’d killed August-Raynes, the rat bastard who’d dared lay hands on her. She’d thought maybe she had murdered him herself during one of her “episodes”—as if his Treasure could ever be so cold-blooded. She’d never be able to live with the guilt.

The fate of Felix August-Raynes didn’t make Jack feel anything at all.

He took his walking stick, of course, and slipped on a pair of thick-soled boots and a long black leather coat that flared out around his legs, fitting his upper body like a second skin over the solid black of his shirt and waistcoat. A small pistol with a dull finish so it wouldn’t glint in the light was strapped to his right thigh. The size of the thing was laughable, but he was secure enough in his manhood to carry it. Besides, it shot Aether blasts, not bullets, so size really didn’t matter. He had a dagger sheathed in either boot, and a garrote wire hidden up one sleeve. Oh, and a straight razor in his pocket—and brass knuckle casings sewn into his leather clothes.

It was rare that he had to resort to violence. Normally, he could charm his way out of most situations, but sometimes his talent failed him, or wasn’t enough, and he had to fall back on his fists and feet. He was a good fighter—not as strong as the remarkable Finley or her mate Sam, but he was extremely quick, agile and not afraid to fight dirty.

For tonight’s job, he’d asked Toby and Philippe to come with. He’d known the two of them for years, and though they bickered and tortured one another as only an Englishman and Frenchman could, they were dependable and loyal. He’d trust them in any situation.

Jack paid them both up front—two hundred each for the evening. It was a small fortune in Whitechapel, more than enough to make certain his faith in their loyalty wasn’t mistaken.

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