An Abortive Acquisition

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An excerpt from Shadow Game, by J.G. Arceneaux, still at large

August 14, 1867, Wednesday
Embankment, London

What the devil could I possibly have been thinking, throwing my torch into an unexplored room like that? Idiot! In my defense, I only thought to flummox the adversary I was certain lay beyond the door, knowing that my presence had been completely blown by Beignet a floor above. Not that it mattered one whit, since the room was unoccupied by anything but combustibles. There was no finding Mortimer or Dashwood in the building now. Not when it was going up like tinder.

I filled my lungs and warned Beignet and his party off. Mr. Drake, Miss Fleming, and I had no choice but to find an alternate route out of the building. Which we did in short order, a ladder up to the surface. I had the gun, I went first. The ladder led to a short tunnel going straight up, terminating in a manhole cover. I managed to muscle it aside and cautiously raised my head for a look.

And promptly got clipped by a passing cab wheel. I lost my hairpiece to the conveyance but kept my grip on the ladder. I remained upright and did not fall on my companions below. I simply ducked to avoid further traffic and when the coast was clear, gained the pavement. My companions quickly followed and before I could resume my pursuit of Rembecki, I was detained by my superior’s lackey. I was shown the proper credentials to establish the man’s authority and I had no choice but to get into the cab sent for me.

I lingered only long enough to personally thank Drake and Miss Fleming, and apologize to her butler for my trying behavior, then climbed aboard the cab. To my surprise, all three persons joined me inside. They were to accompany me, it seemed. It mattered little to me at the time, preoccupied as I was in reviewing the events of the evening and fixing them solidly in my mind for my coming debriefing.

God, it was galling to catalogue my abject failure, even in the privacy of my thoughts. The invention shown at the salon was a ruin, its inventor Mortimer kidnapped and his fiancée taken for use as leverage. And by the Russians! God alone knew what the Russians would do to get his innovation out of him and into their hands. And where was I? Wasting precious time riding a damned cab away from Mortimer’s last known position to deliver a report that would already be two-thirds irrelevant to current events.

So I sat and stewed and wished desperately, madly, hopelessly for a cigarette to calm my nerves. There were none to be had. My fingers fidgeted of their own volition as if they held one anyway and I tried not to dwell on the sorry picture I made. Dishevelled, besmirched with dust and grime, clothing torn most horribly from battle and necessity, battered and bruised, and bleeding where the cab wheel had clipped me. No doubt Miss Fleming’s butler, Beignet, was maintaining his grip through sheer force of will. He was rather busy at that moment chiding Miss Fleming’s appearance and deportment and no doubt his indignation and horror was sufficient to keep the little man conscious and upright.

So ran my thoughts when Drake leaned to me and commended me on my actions. I confess it took me by surprise. A frailty of my gender, I suppose, but I won’t deny his approbation was a balm to my wounded pride. I briefly wondered what a man of his obvious station and breeding saw in me that he felt commendable—generally gentleman of his class would have relegated me to circus folk and gypsies and treated me accordingly. Certainly nothing I did that evening would have convinced anyone otherwise. I quietly thanked him and went back to my thoughts on Rembecki and her likely next move. If the Countess took to the water and actually made it past the River Police and the Crown, where would she go? Gravesend? Dover? Portsmouth, perhaps? Or would she go overland and cross to the Continent via points north? God help me, there was no telling.

I must have whispered my thoughts aloud, for Drake quietly remarked on them and we exchanged a few words. I took the opportunity to ask him about his strange episode in the club building and he told me he’d seen a vision. A vision so repulsive and vile that he could scarce describe it. He could only say that it was an evil place and that God had given him the vision.

We all four of us had little time to gather our thoughts and discuss what had happened. Rembecki's bold kidnapping of the inventor had political overtones I did not like and I said as much. Ezekiel added that he'd had a vision of Russia's flag flying over England. As it seemed relevant to the events of the evening I would have inquired further but at that moment, the cab lurched to a stop. We had arrived at Bow Street and there was no more time for talk. With my insides weighted with disappointment and dread, I gathered myself to meet my superior and deliver my report.

You are reading Josephine's journal. Since any campaign is a collaborative effort, Journal and RP entries by our other players can be read here.

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