Excerpt II from Her Ladyship's Curse by Lynn Viehl
published by Pocket Star
to be released August 2013
After I locked up the office, I took the stairs down to the underground level, better known to me and the other tenants of the Davies Building as The Dungeon.
The sole occupant of the understair had once been a royal machinist, one of the finest who had ever served H.M., or so The Honorable Reginald P. Docket would have everyone believe. We never asked why he had given up his choice position to immigrate; no one left the England for the Provincial Union of Victoriana unless they made a horrible marriage or committed an unpardonable offense against the Crown. Since Docket remained a bachelor, and his constructs sometimes didn’t perform according to spec, I imagined it to be the latter.
“Who’s that?” A sweaty face smeared with grease popped up from behind a cabinet filled with cogs and gears. “Kit? Oh, fabulous. You’re just in time for the latest bash.”
“Am I.” I glanced around me to see if anything appeared ready to clout me, fall on me or explode. Most everything did. “I can come back later, if you like.”
Docket waved a wrench. “Nonsense. This is just the sort of thing you females love.”
I studied the cabinet he’d been fiddling with, which seemed to be sprouting mechanical arms with hooks on the end. “It’s a tenner printing press?”
“No. Take off your jacket and I’ll show you.”
“It’s almost new,” I warned him as I shrugged out of it. “I’m very fond of it.”
“Precisely why you need my HangItAll.” He adjusted one of the dials on the side of the cabinet and stepped away as its internal works began to grind and whistle. “Hold it out. Go on, it won’t bite you.”
With a great many misgivings, I held out my jacket. One of the mechanical arms stretched out, folding over on itself to form an elongated triangle with its hook at the top. It inserted one corner of the triangle into a sleeve as it pulled my jacket out of my hand and then tilted up as it inserted the opposite corner. The arm retracted my jacket into the cabinet, catching a rod inside with the hook and neatly hanging it.
“You see?” Docket beamed. “You’ll never have to wait for a maid to answer your bell again.”
“That’s good, because I don’t have any maids or bells,” I reminded him as I peered into the cabinet. “You’ve got this working off your boiler then?”
“I started out with hydraulics, but the joints leaked oil onto the garms. Bloody mess it was.” He caressed the side of the cabinet with his hand. “What do you think? I’ll wager someday one of these will be in every man’s front hall, and every female’s boudoir.”
“Possibly the wash house.” I reached in and removed my jacket from the interior, which caused him to yelp. Then I held it up so he could see the condensate drip from the sodden hem. “If you change the name to WashItAll.”
“Bloody hell, that wasn’t supposed to happen.” As he watched me wring out the sopping-wet material, he scratched at his chin whiskers. “WashItAll’s not bad. Would it sell, do you think?”