Excerpt from The Clockwork Wolf

Excerpt from The Clockwork Wolf by Lynn Viehl
published by Pocket Star
to be released February 2014

“Hello, Chief Inspector Doyle.” I didn’t have to fake the smile; I liked Tommy. “What brings the Yard to my door at so late an hour?”

He removed his bowler. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss Kittredge. Might I come in and have a word?”

“I live alone and I don’t keep servants,” I said. “This could irreparably tarnish your reputation on the Hill.”

His mouth twisted. “I’m a policeman, Miss Kittredge. My official duties take precedence over society, among which I am respected nearly as much as the average footman.”

“Butler, I should think.” I opened the door.

Doyle refused my offer of tea and a comfortable seat, instead taking a position by the window I’d just checked. “Good view of the street here,” he mentioned as I sat down. “Still, you should have a slot or a peek hole installed in your entry. You living alone here and all.”

The man noticed everything. He also smelled very nice; a bit like the sea on a clear day. “I will take that under advisement.” I sat down and watched him extract a notebook from his coat pocket. “But you didn’t come here to inspect my vantage points.”

“We received a complaint from a tenant in your office building.” He flipped through some pages. “This morning you were observed carrying a bucket down into the basement level. Is that correct?”

Not the damned bucket. “Yes.”

“For what purpose?”

“I had to dispose of some undrinkable tea.” And now I’d have to get rid of him. “Is that all?”

“No.” He rooted in his pocket for a pencil. “What sort of tea was this, then?”

“I can’t say. It was a gift from a client.” I pretended to think. “I can tell you that it was a very disturbing shade of green.”

“Green tea.”

I nodded. “Is there a law against tea of unusual hues?”

“Not to my knowledge,” he said with a perfectly straight face. “Why didn’t you drink it?”

I smiled. “Would you drink green tea?”

“Not if it smelled like”—he turned to another page and began to read from it—“‘twenty rotting, maggot-infested carcasses,’ according to the complainant’s description.”

“Not twenty, surely.” I yawned. “One, two at the most — and as I said, I did dispose of it.”

“You did not.” Doyle closed and pocketed his notebook. “You left the bucket in the basement.”

“Yes, with instructions for Mr. Docket to dispose of the contents,” I tacked on.

“He did not,” Doyle said. “According to the statement I obtained from Mr. Docket, he forgot about the bucket until he bumped it with his foot, knocked it over, and the contents spilled all over his floor.”

“But his floor has a drain,” I offered. “All basements do.”

“It does,” he agreed. “At the time of the spill, however, it was obstructed by some discarded rags, tools, and other items, so your green tea formed a pool.”

I sighed. “There was hardly enough to make a puddle, Chief Inspector.”

“A pool,” he repeated, “which spread out directly beneath the building’s ventilation system.”

I rested my brow against my hand. “Did Docket shut the vents?”

“I believe he tried,” Doyle said, “before he fainted and had to be carried out.”

“Docket will be fine. He’s practically indestructible.” This day’s disasters were never going to end, it seemed, so I stood up. “Right, then. I’ll pop over now and tidy the spill myself.”

“You cannot,” he said. “The building had to be evacuated and sealed, which it will remain until we can safely determine the exact composition and nature of this tea of yours, and how best to remove it and the stench it is producing.”

I sat back down. “Is it really that bad?”

“I have been on battlefields, Miss Kittredge, littered with hundreds of bodies of the fallen, that by comparison to your bucket of brew smelled like a lawn sprinkled with fresh-cut roses.” He came to stand over me. “Now: who made the tea, and what in God’s name was put in it?”

“There was a parcel I accidentally dropped in the tea,” I said meekly. “It contained an animech rat.”

He blinked. “What?”

“There was also a bomb in the rat, and some sort of glandular flesh, possibly stag, that seemed to be the source of the smell.” I regarded him. “At least, that was Mr. Docket’s theory.”

Doyle turned his back on me and stood like that for a lengthy period of silence. “Why did you immerse a bomb in the tea?”

“I didn’t know it was a bomb at the time,” I pointed out. “I only wanted to be rid of the parcel, and the tea. I put both in the bucket and, well, here we are.”

He faced me. “Why didn’t you report the bomb?”

“I intended to, tomorrow.” I gazed up at him. “I didn’t know any of this building evacuation business had happened, Tommy. I’ve been out of the city since this morning; I’ve only just got back.”

“Are you telling me the truth?” When I nodded, he retrieved my cloak and handed it to me. “Come on.”

I hesitated. “Am I under arrest?”

“No,” he said. “You’re going to show me this rat bomb.”

4 comments:

  1. I'm so looking forward to reading the whole book!

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  2. OK now February seems like forever away ... grr! Its enough of a tease that my curiosity is piqued & will drive me nuts before publication date. I should know better than to read excerpts.

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  3. As usual, hooked and can't wait. And poor Tommy: "Show me this rat bomb." ;D

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  4. I have to wait until February to read the rest? I'm with Fran. My curiosity is piqued, too.

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