When last we left our heroes, they had made some kind of deal with the ship captain on their way home to sneak the Minotaur into England… and a sailor attempted to rob Sir Charles but was stopped by a mysterious Asian in monk’s robes!
Four sailors offloaded two crates from a small skiff tied down at the London docks. It was late evening, and dark enough that watching through the telescope wasn’t easy. Still, the two crates were each big enough to hold a person… or a Minotaur.
The sailors heaved the two crates onto a cart that had been waiting there for the past hour.
Following the sailors and their cargo, three familiar figures slunk off the ship. The first, a blonde man in a top hat and suit far too nice for such a ship, held the hand of a woman in a purple dress with long auburn hair, her face hidden under a veil. Lastly followed a bulky older man with a bushy white mustache identifying him despite the pulled-down cap that attempted to obscure his other features.
“And there they are, Mister Seymore,” said the thin Mister Pearlstine from their vantage point across the street. The two men had been waiting, watching the seedy docks for most of the evening. Seymore smiled; the investment of time had paid off.
The man in the top had handed the cart driver several coins and spoke to him in hushed tones that neither Pearlstine nor Seymore could hear. As they palavered, the old hunter with the mustache helped the lady out of the way of a pair of sailors escorting a third, drunk companion, up the docks. It was evident from her reaction that she was not keen on associating with the kind of seaman who made the London docks their home. Mister Seymore gave an amused snort. For all their attempts at disguise, Lord Marston and his coterie were unable to shed their true demeanors.
Seymore continued his triumphant exposition. “I told Mister Ashbrook that they were going to split away from the liner before it arrived in England. That it would be a waste of time to send people to watch the ship they booked passage on arrive. Too easy. Fortunately, Mister Coble thinks highly enough of me to trust me with a few of our people to watch this route. They won’t get away from me this time. This will be a feather in my cap for certain, Mister Pearlstine!”
“If you say so, Mister Seymore,” Pearlstine said, looking a little dubious.
Just then, the cart driver shook the reins of his horses and the wagon slowly accelerated, joining the traffic on the muddy cobblestone street. Simultaneously, the three other figures took up a brisk pace in the opposite direction.
“There! They’re making the break for it! After them! Drive them to Cubitt Town!” Seymore beckoned, and a pair of policemen seated nearby leapt to their feet.
Pearlstine stood in place as he watched Mister Seymore and his agents run off after the three figures. He squinted suspiciously.
“Hm,” was all he said, as he looked down the perpendicular street and saw the cart moving slowly away.
“Fool me once,” he said to himself as he pulled his jacket tight and set out after the cart, “shame on you. Fool me twice…”
Mister Seymore had broken into a run after the three scofflaws, the two constables matching his gait. It was enough to alert the blonde man in the top hat, who, after a brief look over his shoulder, made a break for it.
“Halt in the name of the Queen!” Mister Seymore cried.
“Run for it! Scarper!” responded the Society’s leader. The lady and the tiger hunter both followed as he turned down a narrow alleyway. The lady in the purple dress stumbled, then fell. Her compatriots continued fleeing.
“That’s it!” Seymore yelled. “Flank them!”
At the far end of the alley, two more policemen, placed here for just such a pursuit, stepped out of the shadows, essentially cutting off the escape route of the three fugitives.
Mister Seymore stepped forward and knelt next to the fallen lady, a triumphant smirk on his face.
“Now then, Mrs. Chatterton, you and yours have put up quite the chase…” Seymore pulled the veil off of the woman only to look into the face of a swarthy and bearded sailor with long curly locks of auburn hair.
The driver of the cart continued at a metered pace, and if Mister Pearlstine hadn’t been following him since the suspicious crates had been loaded back at the docks, there was no way he would ever have suspected anything was amiss.
Of course, neither running after the cart with uniformed policemen nor shouting warnings at his prey, Mister Pearlstine had kept himself from drawing any attention himself. He was now walking directly next to the cart and he noticed with little surprise that the crates had several small holes drilled into their lids, likely to give whomever was hiding inside enough air to breathe while they made their escape.
“Ye all right in there?” asked the cart driver over his shoulder, confirming Pearlstine’s theory. That was all Pearlstine needed by way of confirmation, and he took several quick steps in front of the cart.
“You there,” he said, holding out an open hand and pulling aside his jacket enough to show the badge of office on his vest. “Stop that cart in the name of the Queen.”
“Oh, sh–” muttered the driver.
“I demand that you open those crates. I have reason to believe that you are harboring fugitives sought by the Ministry.”
The driver scowled and climbed down from his seat. Pearlstine followed him around to the back as he pulled a metal pry bar out from under the cushioning hay on the floor of the cart. Taking the bar to the first of the crates, he said sadly, “Guess they got us, cap’n.”
“Lord Marston, I presume,” Mister Pearlstine said as the crate opened, revealing a figure inside.
But inside the crate was not Kenneth, Lord Marston, as Pearlstine had supposed. He did not recognize the man inside, but based on his clothing and creased red skin it was likely another sailor from the skiff.
“Both decoys,” he said, and turned to run back to the docks, knowing already it was too late.
“When a double-bluff just isn’t enough,” crowed Lord Marston, continuing to help Victor Terranove drag the Minotaur, sedated and wrapped in blankets up the dock. Expecting the Ministry to be laying in wait, the two had dragged the beast overboard just before approaching the wharf. They’d been dragging it along, disguised as two sailors helping a drunk friend stagger along, all the way back to where the boat was waiting.
“We’ll disembark with the others at the Albion Wharf,” Kenneth continued to Victor as they lugged the half-man, half-bull up the gangplank towards escape. “This should teach those dolts at the Ministry to mess with–”
“Lord Marston!” came a shout from the dock.
Marston turned and there, standing less than ten yards from them, was Mister Coble. In his hand he held a strange firearm aimed at Lord Marston himself.
Lord Marston dived to get out of the line of fire, and as he did so, the blanket covering the bovine head of the mythological beast came free and fell.
There was a loud crack and a flash of yellow light as Mister Coble fired his gun.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.