When last we left our heroes, they had captured a live Minotaur and were preparing to transport it back to London… but Mister Coble, despite an attempt on his life, is expecting their return, and will do anything to keep them from bringing it into England!
“So we have a deal, captain?” Kenneth, Lord Marston, said with a sly smile.
The captain of the ship returning them to London was an older man with weathered features and part of one ear missing. He looked down at the pouch of golden coins in his hand and shrugged.
“Certainly, m’lord Marston. Don’t know quite what you’re up to, but for the coin you’ve paid, I know better’n to ask questions.”
“Good man,” Lord Marston said. He turned from the captain and shuffled along the deck of the ship, half dancing. Victor Terranove, observing, shook his head as Lord Marston approached.
“He’s a good egg,” Marston said.
Victor sighed. “You know that they’ll be expecting a trick after what we pulled on the way to Dover.”
Lord Marston rolled his eyes. “Of course they will, Terranove… but all we need is enough time with their attention elsewhere to get the Minotaur to the safety of the club.”
Marston’s confidence was eroding Terranove’s. The grinning leader of the Society leaned in conspiratorially and whispered in Victor’s ear.
“Misdirection, right?” he said. “They’ll never see us coming!”
Below decks, Mrs. Cassandra Chatterton was having similar doubts. As happy as she was to get back to London, Lord Marston’s trust in the captain and his crew discomforted her. Perhaps it was simply being a woman among a crew of men of low breeding, but it seemed that there were always eyes watching her. She knocked quickly on Sir Charles’ door.
The balding scientist opened the door and looked around as covertly as he could, which is to say, hardly covertly at all. As soon as he was sure no one was watching, he stepped out of his cabin and handed a folded cloth bundle to Mrs. Chatterton.
Taking it, Cassandra turned only to find one of the very sailors she had been concerned about watching them, smoking a pipe. She stopped and turned the other way, walking past Sir Charles.
“Lord knows that these sailors seem to do anything to make an extra shilling or two. I hope Lord Marston knows what he’s doing.”
Sir Charles looked at the direction she had come and noticed the sullen crewman with a bit of surprise. He smiled meekly and waved.
“Oh, I can’t imagine they’d do anything untowards,” he said.
“One of these days you ought to take your nose out of your books and actually take a look at the world around you, Sir Charles,” Mrs. Chatterton said with a sigh. She straightened her posture and walked down the hall towards the stairs to the deck.
Watching her go, Sir Charles decided that he might enjoy a little fresh air himself, especially if the company was nice. He followed after Mrs. Chatterton, inhaling deeply as he too tried to walk with such presence.
The sailor watched as the two rich folk wandered off. The captain had been clear that they were to be treated as XXX, which meant that rolling them for whatever coin they were worth was out of bounds. Still, the fat bald one spent so much of his time in his cabin, it occurred to the sailor that there must be something worth nicking in there. Since the lubber had been so kind as to leave his cabin unlocked, it seemed almost a crime not to at least go in and give it a bit of a case.
The door opened easily. Whatever the sailor had expected to find inside, however, it was not the sight that greeted his squinty eyes.
The cabin had been small to begin with; enough room for a hammock and a small chair and table, no more. Now it looked like the stash of a magpie. There was barely room enough to stand, let alone cross to the porthole. The table was covered with vials and instruments the sort an alchemist would use and the chair had been converted into an ad-hoc bookshelf, stacked with thick tomes bound in leather and peppered with bookmarkers of all sizes and materials.
Still, as busy and cluttered as the cabin was, there was one thing and one thing alone that drew the eye irrevocably towards it, and that was the golden amulet resting on a scale in the center of the improvised laboratory table.
The sailor had no idea that the amulet had been taken from the body of a dead Minotaur deep beneath Crete, nor did he note that the weight of it was far less than it ought to be. No, all the sailor thought was how much he could get for such an ornament, and that thought barely had time to finish before it inspired the obvious action.
As the sailor turned to go, however, he found the doorway blocked by a man he had never seen before. A short bald man of Oriental ancestry stood there wearing a dark robe.
“I do not believe that belongs to you,” the man said in perfect English.
The sailor didn’t even see the man’s palm fly towards his face before being knocked unconscious by the single perfectly aimed strike.
The monk knelt down over the senseless body of the avaricious seaman and took the amulet from his hand. Gently he replaced it on the scale, making certain that it finally rested at perfect balance.
He picked up the sailor with one hand and hefted him over his shoulder as he left Sir Charles’ cabin, shutting and locking the door behind him.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.