My Lady Quicksilver

Page 13

“Send for my horse to be saddled.”

“Done,” Doyle replied.

“Then I’ll need a pair of lads to escort me—”

“They’ll be waitin’ at the stables.” Doyle restrained himself from giving Lynch a telling look. He knew his job. “A pair of the latest recruits. Still so new they piss their pants at the sound o’ your name.”

“Preferably not in the Council chambers.”

Lynch poured a pitcher of warm water into his shaving bowl and made short work of the task. Doyle wasn’t far wrong. With his bloodshot eyes and the thick, dark stubble along his jaw, he looked rather more like a miscreant than the respectable Guild Master.

Doyle yanked open his closet and fetched the black velvet coat Lynch wore to court and a crisp, white shirt that had been starched to within an inch of its life. “We’d best get you ready then. The gray waistcoat? Or the black checked one?”

“Black.” Lynch dragged the heavy leather carapace of the breastplate off over his head, then shrugged out of his undershirt. He stripped completely and gave himself a brisk wash.

“I want last night’s reports on my desk by the time I return,” he instructed. “And Doctor Gibson’s final autopsy results on Lord Falcone. If you can, have his blood run through the brass spectrometer again. I know his CV count came in normal, but I want to see if it’s changed at all. The craving virus tends to survive in the tissues after death for several days. Let’s see if it’s still within its normal ranges. And send Byrnes to question the Haversham heir again.”

Doyle threw the shirt at him. Lynch toweled himself off, then dressed quickly. The stark white of the shirt was the only sign of color. Doyle tossed him a black silk cravat and Lynch tied it swiftly.

“Oh,” Lynch said, on his way out the door. “Mrs. Marberry is due at nine. Show her to my study and instruct her to begin transcribing my notes into the formal case file.” He paused. “See that somebody sends her some tea or…something.”

He’d realized last evening that he’d barely fed her the previous day.

Doyle nodded. “Will do.”

Lynch opened his mouth. Then shut it again. Doyle was giving him a long-suffering look. The man had been with him for forty years, as evidenced by the gray in his hair. He might be only human, but he knew his job.

“Very well then,” he replied. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”


Lynch entered the atrium of the Ivory Tower, bowing his head to the seated Council members.

Two chairs remained empty. Barrons was most likely still indisposed from Falcone’s attack and the chair of the Duke of Lannister had been shrouded in black since his murder.

The sign of mourning was a mockery. Lynch had proved that the duke had known of the bombing before it occurred and still said nothing. If the duke hadn’t died in the assault, then the prince consort would have had him executed regardless. Even now the Council seat stood empty, the prince consort obliterating the House of Lannister in his rage.

Lynch’s fingers dipped into his pocket, automatically fingering the scrap of leather there. Hers. There’d been three other people in the same room as the duke when he died, and Mercury had been one of them.

Ignoring the man in the center of the brass circle that was cut into the tiles—Sir Richard Maitland, that lickspittle—Lynch strode to his side and turned to face the Council. The enmity between the Nighthawks and the Coldrush Guards had always boiled under the surface and Lynch would have liked nothing better than to drop the Master of the Guards off the top of the tower.

The prince consort’s face was expressionless, the queen’s hand resting on his shoulder as she stood beside him and stared distantly over Lynch’s shoulder. None of the other councilors showed so much as a glimmer of their intentions.

“Sir Jasper, Sir Richard.” It was the young Duke of Malloryn who stepped forward. Despite his youth, Malloryn had been duke for ten years, since the moment he’d reached his majority. The House had been nearly annihilated with his father’s assassination, but Malloryn had hauled it back from obscurity with an almost-aggressive determination. “The Council has decided that this situation with the humanists in the city must be given priority, most particularly the capture of the revolutionary leader, Mercury. Since little headway seems to be made and you don’t have a single humanist in your grasp, we have decided to set the pair of you on the case.”

Lynch’s jaw tightened. That was not precisely true, but they didn’t need to know that. Not yet. Not until he had all the pieces of the puzzle.

Having more men on the street did not guarantee success. Indeed, it only made the task more difficult. No doubt it looked appealing from their precious Ivory Tower, so far removed from the streets Lynch walked.

“Do you have anything to say, Sir Jasper?” The prince consort’s colorless eyes locked on him.

“No, Your Grace.” He gave a curt nod. “Why would I argue with your infinite wisdom?” Make of that what you will.

The prince consort’s eyes narrowed minutely.

“It has also been recommended that we provide some incentive for this capture,” Malloryn continued. “As such, whoever brings us Mercury shall be rewarded most suitably. Your rogue status shall be revoked and you will be granted the privileges of one of the Echelon.”

Sir Richard sucked in a sharp hiss of air beside him. Lynch’s gaze jerked to the dais. He knew who to thank for this piece of news—Barrons’s hand, working behind the scenes.

His mind raced. Enticement indeed. Maitland was almost quivering in anticipation beside him. He’d have every single available man he had on the streets, flooding them with guards. The populace would be in an uproar, men and woman too afraid to venture out.

And Mercury… Lynch stopped breathing. If Maitland got his hands on her, Lynch would kill him. His vision darkened, bleeding into shadows at the thought.

“Don’t think my former command has been rescinded, Lynch,” the prince consort said coldly. “It stands.”

“Of course,” he said, battling to control himself. He knew his eyes had darkened as the hunger sank its claws through him. They’d notice his state—and wonder. “I still have almost two weeks.” His voice sounded as though it came from miles away, a rushing sound filling his ears.

“Is there a time limit I’m not aware of?” Maitland’s voice sounded like an echo as he took a smooth step forward.

A foolish move to present his back to his enemy. Lynch eyed him. It would be ridiculously easy to snap his neck. Not even a blue blood could recover from such an injury.

He was letting the hunger rule his thoughts, his emotions. He ached to rip Sir Richard’s smirking head from his shoulders—to stop him before he ever got a chance to look for Mercury.

Making a supreme effort, Lynch reined in his impulses, forcing his mind to empty of all thought, most particularly the revolutionary he had a score to settle with. Three shallow, controlled breaths and the shadows dropped from his vision, though they lingered at the edges as though he’d not quite banished them. That had never happened before.

Sound snapped back in upon him, the world suddenly gleaming with too much light. The Duke of Bleight watched him closely. He wore barely any fripperies and disdained to powder his hair the way most of the court did. It was white enough as it was and heavy creases lined his predator eyes.

They’d never been allies. When Lynch had pleaded his case before the council forty years ago, Bleight had been the only duke to vote no to his proposal to form the Nighthawks. “Let the rogue die,” he’d said bluntly. “I see no use in him.”

Of course he hadn’t. Lynch had been a threat and Bleight didn’t like to leave an enemy alive, despite the fact he’d been all of fifteen.

“Shall we make it fair?” Bleight intoned with a malicious little smile. No doubt he was hoping Lynch would fail. “Two weeks for both of them?”

“Sporting odds,” the Duke of Goethe replied seriously. He was one of the few dukes that Lynch admired; indeed, they’d once been contemporaries, before the death of his cousin catapulted Goethe to power. Now his close-cropped black beard was salted with silver and his eyes, once as dark as obsidian, had begun to lighten—faint signs of the Fade. Goethe had only ten years or so left in him before the color drained out of him completely.

“Two weeks.” An oily smile spread over Maitland’s face. “I’ll have Mercury in half that time.” He saluted briskly. “By your leave, Your Grace?”

The prince consort nodded and Maitland strode past Lynch, his pale gaze fired with ambition.

“It’s good to see a man so enthusiastic about his task,” the prince consort said.

“He needs the head start. Is that all you wished of me? I have work to do.”

“No doubt,” the prince consort replied. “The Falcone attack?”

The way he said the words, as if testing them, made Lynch alert. The prince consort wasn’t the only one with an interested gleam in his eyes. Each of the Council had stilled, resembling a painting of heightened anticipation.

Or fear.

“I believe both the Falcone and Haversham cases to be connected. I have no information on the agent that drove them into bloodlust, but witness statements and my own conclusions draw a parallel between them.”

“So it’s true?” the flame-haired Duchess of Casavian murmured. “They were both in a state of uncontrollable bloodlust?”

“They acted as if the Fade were upon them,” he replied. “However, both their CV counts came in quite low. I believe something exacerbated the condition.”

“Reports state that your hand killed Falcone,” the prince consort stated. “He was a distant cousin of mine.”

“He’d slaughtered his entire household. I had no choice. If he got loose in the city, we’d be awash in panic-fueled riots this morning.”

The prince consort dropped his gaze. With relations between the Echelon and the working classes as they were, it wouldn’t take much to set off a riot and he knew it.

“I want a report on the case,” the prince consort demanded. “Mercury must be your priority, but I can’t allow this madness to become an epidemic. You don’t think it some disease that afflicts blue bloods, do you?”

“No.” He’d considered that. “The attacks came on too swiftly. By all accounts, Lord Haversham enjoyed a night at the opera with his consort before ripping her to pieces. There were no symptoms of disease, no sign that he was out of sorts. I believe it to be influenced by some sort of toxin or poison, though I have no conclusive evidence.”

“You’ll find it.”

“I will.”

Both men slowly nodded at each other.

“Then you’re dismissed. I want your report by tomorrow morning.”

“As you wish.”


Fire burned in a barrel on the street corner, though not even a single soul gathered around it. Night had fallen and with it the brutal choke of martial law. Metaljackets prowled the city in troops, their iron-booted feet ringing on distant cobbles.

Lynch ignored the biting cold, striding through the night with his cloak swirling around his ankles. Three nights with no sign of Mercury. After the council meeting, he’d increased the flood of Nighthawks he had on the streets to counteract the sea of Coldrush Guards. A part of him was almost thankful that Mercury had gone to ground. He’d rather cut his own throat than see the woman in Maitland’s hands.

Hearing the heavy tread of a metaljacket legion nearby, Lynch cursed under his breath. Grabbing hold of the edge of a drainpipe, he hauled himself up, hand over hand, onto the roof of the nearest house. The vantage gave him a good view of the city and would keep him hidden from most eyes. He didn’t want Maitland breathing down his neck, trying to find out what leads Lynch had on Mercury.

No doubt there’d be one or two Nighthawks who reported back to the Council or even Maitland; that was the way of the world. But if they hoped to find anything in the guild, they’d be sorely mistaken. He kept everything important in his head, where no one could decipher it.

Hurrying across the rooftops, he saw the wall of the enclaves looming ahead. The last time he’d been here, he’d had his whole world shaken by a slip of a woman in a mask. Desire ran its smoky hand through him. How he burned. He wanted her desperately, wanted to get his hands on her and exact his revenge.

Leaping off the roof, he landed lightly in the street and started toward the gatehouse. A heavy-set guard with the sleeves cut off his vest stepped forward, a dark look in his eye. “Here now, you ain’t s’posed to be out at night—”

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.