London, England, July 4th, 1841
As the sun crested the horizon beyond the Park Village row-homes of Albany Street, a turtle dove flew overhead. Shadows from the surrounding magnolia trees dappled the ivory exterior of the building in a dazzling display. From my hiding spot behind the hedgerow, I took a moment to soak in the lovely view, then another to enjoy the horrified, high-pitched scream that rent the cool morning air.
The sound warmed me right down to the cockles of my heart as I closed the now empty rat-trap with a satisfied snap. I was like the fucking Marines, right? Getting more done before 7:00 a.m. than most people do all day. Oo-rah!
There was already some activity on the street so I stowed the trap in a large basket I’d brought along with me. Despite the pleasant temperature, I pulled the coarse brown cape tighter around my shoulders, covering my telltale mass of black hair with its hood. Stripping off my leather gloves, I took a furtive glance around. All clear.
I shambled along the stucco building until its end then shifted onto the street. Buoyed by yet another successful mission, I magnanimously awarded a merit point to Ms. Blakeslee for her newfound bravery. Beyond that one initial scream, there had been no ruckus or fanfare this time. Apparently the little chit had learned that dealing privately with whatever came her way was preferable to running down the street in her unmentionables like a lunatic. Even with that, in my mind, the score was thirteen to one, with me in the lead. Not bad for a few weeks’ work.
I covered a good distance, skirting the perimeter of Regent’s Park, until the narrow cobbled streets gave way to wider avenues lined with rows of shops. Shielded by a large pickle barrel, I shucked my cloak, stuffing it into the basket along with my trap. The air grew warmer by the minute, and it was a relief to be free of the scratchy garment. Giving my hair a fluff, I stepped onto the now bustling city street, melding into the crowd.
As I began my long walk home, the initial euphoria at a job well-done seemed to lessen with every step. Sooner or later, Dev would catch me sneaking in or out and ask me directly what I was up to. The thought of answering filled me with dread. He was going to be all, “You’re better than that, love.”
And I’d be all, “No, you’re better than that. I’m exactly equivalent to that.”
Then we’d argue, and he’d make me feel guilty. I didn’t want to feel guilty. I wanted to feel righteous. Besides, no matter what he said, it wouldn’t stop me. There was a job that needed doing and I was going to do it until it felt done.
So far, it had been easy to avoid the question. He’d mentioned my apparent fatigue recently but never asked the cause. We were busy enough that our daily lives could be pretty exhausting at times, so it hadn’t been all that odd. Lucky for me, he’d been obsessed with his latest invention over the past month. He’d been waking up at around four o’clock each morning and going straight to the workshop so my early starts hadn’t even registered with him. Bacon and I typically wouldn’t even see him until midday, when we headed over to Gilly’s House. I was on borrowed time, though. Word was getting around and soon enough, word would get to Devlin, if it hadn’t already.