#1 stand-alone story
The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler
An Illustrated journal of amusement, adventure and instruction
Vive la France!
It began at a card game held in the house of Lady Celia Fox, a youthful widow whose financial acumen was known to be sharper than a Turks dagger. Markham Manor in Lancaster was positioned in parkland, a Palladian style mansion, the wings elevated almost to the same height as the central temple. She had inherited from her father, not her husband. A double staircase led up the front of the building, overlooking a seriously, well-kempt garden of traditional English style, the façade of the building had around forty windows including the three circular ones at the top of the central temple, each one shone with the new light of Tesla Incandescent Lamps. Beyond the severe gardens and lawns, an eclectic mix of parked vehicles including air balloons, dirigibles and horseless carriages.The crowd was a mixed bunch, well heeled, the middling and ladies who may or may not be Flowers of the Night. Lady Celia was holding forth in the withdrawing room;
“…and I obtained the emerald through applying my knowledge of history and law gentlemen.” A small flutter of applause and “ahs”. She caught my eye, rising from her fans.“Ah, Ms Lockhart” emphasis on the Ms acknowledging the generally unknown condition of my marital status. “I would like to introduce you to someone who shares your – interests. Monsieur Rene de Cavellier”. I turned to smile into the face of a finely attired gent. He inclined his head and took my hand, kissing it whilst keeping his eyes on mine, insolent bounder! I attempted to stem the blush somewhere around my knees, but it travelled inexorably to my forehead, a hint of a smile crossed his lips, his eyes twinkled, I forcibly retrieved my hand. I glanced nervously in the direction of Theodora, but she was busy trying to convert a small group of ladies to the Blue Stockings cause, or explaining Tesla, and I didn’t want her to witness my feebleness. Monsieur de Cavellier had a swarthy handsomeness, fashionably dishevelled hair, precise moustaches and an aroma of sandalwood and saddle soap. He was tall with an almost offensively athletic build, and to my shame – I simpered! I never simper, but his foreign charm had me wrong footed.
“He explores.” I heard Lady Celia speak, “Well, inasmuch as you explore my dear.” She faced the Frenchman,“Ms Lockhart acquired the jade monkey for me Monsieur, a thrilling expedition, I’m sure she shall tell you sometime. Rene obtained for me the Sapphire of Jaipur” this last to me. Lady Celia linked both our arms and propelling us from the room announced her intentions;
“My dears, I feel the urge to add to my, ah, modest collection. I have news of a tomb in South America, at The Sacred Valley, Peru I am informed, which holds a delicious ruby set in the chest of a beast, a lion or some such. I propose a little bet. Obviously a Lady like myself has only reports of what your adventures are like, I’m not saying there is no danger, but, I thought to add a certain, shall we say frisson, to the proceedings. I challenge you Lucy Lockhart, Monsieur Rene de Cavellier, to obtain this item. The first to return it to my town house in Paris will be handsomely rewarded.” The Frenchman and I exchanged looks, I intended to take up the challenge and raised my chin in acceptance, Frenchie raised an eyebrow, tipped his crooked smile and said;
“Madam, how about it? Frisson is always good for the circulation, I find.”
We both shook Lady Cs hand and she drifted back to her other guests.
“Well Ms Lockhart, may I call you Lucy?”
“You may not.”
“Miss Lucy” the cad. “I feel we shall have interesting times ahead. How shall you journey to the Americas, would you like assistance with the transport?” How arrogant, how self-assured, how fetching, oh stop it! Did he think I was some little Parisian school-girl, I’m a woman in my prime! And he obviously did not know about Professor Selwyn (And, as it turns out, I didn’t know about ‘Le Grande Passion’.)We paced the room side by side, drifting through the card tables, dancers and clusters of gossips. I watched him; as he talked his eyes, when not engaging with mine, scoured the assembly, alert as if tracking, though his general demeanour and gestures were easy and relaxed, his gaze was not.
“Have you ever visited France Mademoiselle?”
“Only as a child sir, and once briefly since then.”
“Ah, la joie de l'enfance. Parlez vous Francais?”
“I beg your pardon?” I replied swiftly (I did speak French, fluently as it happens, but: Rule Number 3: Never reveal your hand!)
I thought he glanced quickly, suspiciously, but the look was so fleeting I may have imagined it.
“I have a beautiful villa just outside Lille, Mademoiselle, you must visit sometime; we have excellent wines, fishing, riding, my stables can offer you a suitable stallion.” I pinked.
“Do you hunt monsieur?”
“I do.” His chest swelled.
I nearly coughed wine onto a passing automated flunky, Monsieur de Cavellier proffered a crisp linen kerchief, as the suited mechanoid gently took my glass and placed a fresh one in my hand. I dabbed pathetically at my décolletage. I glanced about looking for a distraction.
“Do you play?” I asked, indicating to a card table. Brag, Speculation and Strip-Jack-Naked were probably his thing I thought to myself, as long as he doesn’t suggest All Fours.We joined a pair of foppish gents with matching purple wigs in a game of Hearts, or Dirty Lady depending on your social group, these two were of the second ilk.
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, de Cavellier behaved himself, mostly, and around one o’clock in the morning I collected Doppler, who was snoozing in the dust cocooned library and headed to our rooms.
Doppler had done some research, not only about where we were heading, but about The Frenchman; Monsieur was apparently the rather wealthy owner of a dirigible airship, a seven manned ship including de Cavellier. Not huge, but it would travel faster than The Professor, our balloon and sphere. The Professor Selwyn was currently residing within the grounds of Markham Manor, I did not know the whereabouts of Monsieur’s Grande Passion. Doppler also discovered his daily weakness for the English breakfast served at a small café in the town close by. I designed that I would be sitting in this exact establishment the following morning. Am I ashamed of what I did that day? Not really, it was a bet you see, a game after all, and no-one had laid out the rules. Doppler had provided me with a concoction, harmless enough (I think) and so attired in my best duck egg blue spring walking dress, straw hat adorned with feathers, and drawstring purse, I sat sipping lemon tea in the window seat. At 9 of the clock precisely, Monsieur arrived.
“Ah, Miss Lucy, quelle surprise, a pleasure” he exclaimed, “May I?” indicating the seat opposite.
It was, in all honesty, easy to smile at his wit, admire his dash, and listen to that accent. I had paid the young waitress a decent sum to add Doppler’s concoction to his tea and preserves before reaching the table, my heart quite fluttered as I watched his lips sip from the cup, he broke pieces of bread to dip into the preserve between talking of this expedition or that adventure; the slightly raised colour on his cheeks revealed that he felt more than delight in polite friendship (or was that the drug? One never can tell) as much as I did. We briefly discussed the challenge from Lady Celia. I almost forgot Doppler’s potion, I almost accepted his offer of a stroll in St James’, I almost fell into his dreamy eyes, when his dreamy eyes fixed on mine. His face stiffened,
“Oh. Mon cher Lucy.” And fell face first into the remainder of Mrs Deakins’ Fine Preserve.
Immediately upon The Frenchman’s collapse, I had raced back to the Manor and gathered supplies we would need for the journey to Peru. Lady Celia’s Butler was ever so helpful and keen for us to get one up on the Frenchman,
“Ms Lockhart” said Meadows in his lovely flat Lancashire vowels; “Forgive the impudence, but during my previous life, before entering the services of the good Lady Celia, I dealt with a fair bit of shall we say, disputes, and I have to say there is nothing like a good bit of British steel in one’s hand,”
I was quite taken aback, I had thought of Meadows, when I did ever think of him, as a rather gentle, mature uncle type. Meadows was quiet, thorough, efficient, he would appear in a doorway or at your elbow ready before you even thought what your request might be, he seemed innocuous, he was, well he was just Meadows, greying hair, vigilant of eye, soft of foot …and now I began to see where these traits might come in useful other than for being a Butler in a grand house in the English countryside…
”If you’ll excuse me ma’am, I have taken the liberty of assembling a small, erm, package for you,”
He revealed from behind his back what appeared to be a waxed canvas roll. He placed it reverently on the polished walnut of the hall table and unfolded it. Inside, glinting like metal teeth were two rows of twelve short throwing knives, attached to removable bandoliers; despite being but the length of my palm, they looked deadly, beautifully crafted with an unusual curve shape, I glanced up at Meadows,
“They don’t look very British.” He pinked
“Well miss, sometimes you have to use what’s in the vicinity”
I didn’t ask. Between the two rows of blades lay a Tesla Gun, I’d heard of these but never managed to get my hands on one, it was the size of a small handgun, fitted with a Tesla coil, some called it the Lightning Gun as when fired it sent out a spike of electricity, it could knock a person unconscious, but not kill, it might kill a dog sized animal that’s about all. And finally a pistol flamethrower, with three spare cartridges, space in the roll for seven more. I was agog. Meadows carefully began rolling up the cloth with its lethal contents, tied the bindings and presented the whole to me with a deferential incline of his head,
“You show Frenchie what British women are made of miss.”
I didn’t know what to say, I felt honoured I think, that this man would offer these ‘tools’ for my use.
“I know what you do miss, I’ve read the papers, those toffs in the Royal Academy need taking down a peg or two and Mr De Chevalier is one of them…no, I want you to ‘ave them, a gift, from an old soldier.” I thanked Meadows profusely, damn it, I hugged the man, propriety be damned, he was dumbfounded and left to carry on his duties.
When The Professor was about ready, I looked around for Doppler, she had disappeared about an hour ago, she returned at a trot, panting, slightly breathless and very keen to be underway. Our capsule had been a collaborative design effort; myself and a couple of gents named Wells and Cavor (you may have come across them at some point!) united our expertise and created the Sphere; mahogany, white ash and brass united in a glorious orb, suspended beneath a red and white striped gas balloon. It had six fins on the external struts that could be adjusted for directional purposes and two rocket- fuel powered jets on the underside for thrust; one needs thrust when heading West as the prevailing winds usually only allow for West to East travel, the jets and fins allowed for more guidance. Doppler hurried me on and soon we were heading off into the firmament.
We had journeyed to Vera Cruz a few years earlier, but this was the opposite coast, I hoped we would find someone willing amongst the locals to guide us to the site. I won’t bore you with the details of the journey, needless to say, after three weeks confined, Doppler and I were glad to get more than three feet apart.
We landed in Cusco and paid a group of villagers there to ensure the safety of our vessel –I didn’t want anyone tampering the way Doppler had apparently tampered with Le Grande Passion – Monsieur de Cavellier would have more than a physical headache when he awoke. It seems our rival had been spotted further North the previous day, in all likelihood he would be near or at the site, the only issue; where exactly where we looking. Some time spent talking(I speak fluent Spanish), buying goods, sipping coffee and being generally pleasant led us to a group of elderly women, sat about the market in straw hats and black skirts with vivid trim, who told of one of their men folk racing from the hills near a sacred site, creating a racket about a hole that had opened up in the hillside, they believed the Old Gods were displeased, no he wouldn’t take us maybe one of the younger men who held less to superstitions and magic.
A guide was acquired in the shape of Miguel Angel, a short, pretty youth who looked to be about fourteen years, his mother told us he was seventeen and knew the route, the site and feared nothing, just what we wanted (I hoped we didn’t damage him along the way!) Miguel Angel was extremely affable, he chatted like a starling all the way – it would take us approximately two hours on foot. We could have found the place if someone pointed, it was clearly traversed. There were abandoned stone houses balanced on the side of the mountain above the green terraces, pressed close together as if fearing they may fall if they stood alone. It took us an hour to climb, the heat made our clothes stick, loose hair plastered to our necks and forehead. I was glad of the khaki pants and my new leather boots, specially made for me, soft calf length tan, laced at the front, buckled at the side with sturdy sole, and a toe exterior of polished brass. I also thanked the efforts of Miss Fanny Adams at the Mary Wollstonecraft School for Young Ladies, she extoled the virtues of long walks, cold showers, violent sports and just “getting on with it gels”. We stopped regularly to sip water, I pulled out my spyglass and scrutinized the Sacred Valley below and the height above for signs of others; there, about half a mile away coming from the opposite direction, I espied a small team of about four individuals, the second figure vaguely familiar. They would make it to the peak before us I supposed, but they were moving at an unusually slow rate –altitude sickness; the figure at the rear seemed to be suffering the worse – excellent, it would take them quite some time to recover.
I wanted Miguel to return home, but he would have none of it, in a mix of Spanish and broken English he exclaimed, “Adventure Miss Lucy, you have no idea how boring it is in mi pueblo, every day it’s llamas; llama cheese, llama wool, llama meat, feed the llamas, milk the llamas, I need to have one adventure, por favor, let me stay.” He was plucky, I give him that, I told him of our competitors, and he didn’t care.
As we crunched our way up the final stretch of scrub, loose stones and occasional ancient masonry, I indicated that we should proceed with caution; the three of us crouched as bit by bit sections of the temple complex came into view. This site was not even half the size of Machu Picchu, a pyramid at the northern aspect, with a temple facing it at the opposite end of a stretch of grassy expanse, Miguel carefully indicated where the Sun Temple was, a cemetery and the Sacred Rock, this last being near the opening apparently discovered by the old shepherd. We didn’t need to ascend to the complex itself as the opening was on the eastern face of the mountain. Hauling our packs back on, we skirted around doing that one leg short, one leg long gait, occasionally using our left hand against the incline, Doppler and myself moved deliberately, cautiously as Miguel Angel trotted along like one of his smelly llamas. Eventually we came upon an area of freshly revealed soil, tumbled stones and the fissure that so alarmed the old boy. It was about six foot top to bottom, three or four at its widest, a dark cleft with a mixture of sand coloured stones, dirt and small rocks spilling from its root. I pulled on my night goggles that I had ‘borrowed’ from Professor Nitro (I would return them, one day, honest!) and peered inside. All that could be perceived was the fault continuing on indefinitely. Now, I’m no coward, I have hunted, in my younger days, wild boar in Bavaria, Snark in Southend on Sea, and Gnolls in Norfolk. I have fought villains, rogues, and beat a bare knuckle fighter named Molly Mendoza in Manchester – I am accomplished in the art of Bartitsu and the martial arts of fencing and archery – however – confined spaces are my one weakness and I was not ecstatic about our imminent ingress.
Doppler readied a small Tesla lamp, this could be hooded to conceal the light if need be, pulled a bandolier of a dozen or so phials over her shoulder, checked her flintlock. I had my bullwhip, Meadows’ roll of munitions, various sizes of empty sacks and containers and a dagger with a very narrow fuller into which I usually drizzled an amount of poison. I took a steadying breath and took the lead. Doppler came next followed by the enthusiastic Miguel Angel. I moved right side foremost, stepping with care over the still loose ground, descending down an irregular incline. After sometime, I could walk normally, the crack opened into what appeared to be some small chamber at the very rear of an underground structure. Puzzled, I queried Miguel Angel. There was no structure above ground at this point, so where were we? Had we taken an unnoticed turn? Evidently, the underground was more complex than the external. This chamber was barely big enough to contain us three. Dirt covered the floor from the tremor that had opened the crevice. There were small niches made into the walls that contained dried plants by the looks, offerings? To our right a narrow, man-made passage, rough dressed stone, reaching to a point about eight foot above our heads, ahead was a T junction, this passage was broader, taller and the stone finer. Looking left and right we could see the passageway vanishing off into the darkness at the perimeter of our light source, but could also discern lancet shaped shadows along the walls. I looked at Doppler and Miguel Angel, the latter shrugged, the former selected a phial from her bandolier, she attached the head of a horse syringe and squeezed a vertical line on the wall directly opposite where we had come out onto this passage. In the light, I could see it glow faintly, eerily blue green.
“Bioluminescent marker” she explained.
“Remember when you sent me to stay with Mrs Shelley last summer, to “broaden my education” as you put it?” I nodded, “I met this guy waiting on at Franks’ Restaurant, he was obsessed with cleaning, he wiped down all the tables after people had finished, honestly, you should have seen him, I think he had something wrong to be honest, quite obsessive. Anyway, Mrs S introduced me to him, James, John, no, Joseph Lister, that’s it! He collects snails and sea creatures and their excreta. I visited him in his lodgings above the restaurant and he had all these things in tanks and jars, the room was spotless, smelt weird too, like antiseptic and mint leaves. Anyway, he let me participate in some experiments and we made this stuff, Lister wanted to call it ‘Bio-Listerine’, no-one was interested and couldn’t see a use for it, so, I helped myself to the stuff and found it’s great for marking a trail, like a snail trail with lights! See?”did indeed see and so would others,
“But they won’t know what made it, will they?” Doppler replied “And, I could make sigils if you like, creep them out a bit.”
She smiled sweetly. Miguel Angel was impressed, as he went to stick his finger in the sticky stuff, Doppler slapped the back of his hand,“I don’t know what it does to human skin, yet” She warned.
As it didn’t make any difference, we didn’t know where we were or where we were going, I headed right on a whim. The first opening was another minor chamber, with alcoves filled with what appeared to be dried up flowers, the second was the same and so on down the passage for six rooms until we came to the end and turned left. This passage was wider still, we could have walked three abreast, we didn’t; I took the lead with Doppler and Miguel Angel following closely side by side. At each turn Doppler applied a small marker of her glowing snail trail. Using my compass I determined that we had taken a number of turnings that seemed deliberately intended to confound any not familiar with the route, a veritable labyrinth. And we were also slowly descending. I was grateful for Doppler’s weird waiter friend and his obsessions, as we had come across a couple of the marks and she applied secondary indicators to turn around.
I heard a sound, indistinct, it was impossible to tell what distance the noise was. I put my finger to my lips, we all listened intently. I snapped my fingers once, the snap reverberated off the walls for some moments, trailing into the distance. Another sound, possibly a voice a long way off. We proceeded as silently as possible. Up to this point the walls had been simple dressed stone, no decoration adorned it, but now we entered through a grand ornate opening a large chamber with steps around the four sides leading to stone carved pedestal’s, each had a knife on top, they looked to be ceremonial as the blades were short and circular. Beautifully made, the pommel ending in a gold figure with hooped ear-rings and fanned headdress, it was in the process of pulling its own knife from a scabbard. Besides each pedestal, was a large flat rectangle, flush with the wall around, made of a dark polished wood and embellished with a mask of the same face as on the knives. Also made of gold, but overlaid with a geometric pattern of red paint, the ear-rings green with gold circles dangling about. What I had thought to be a downturned mouth on the little figure on the knife, revealed itself to be fangs on this scale of head. But the outstanding feature of the whole room was in the centre. A figure, about twelve feet in height, bearing the same head that we saw portrayed around the chamber on knives and walls, frozen in the act of drawing a knife, he was sat cross legged on a low seat with high back and sides, on his head was what looked like a downturned crescent moon, he had on his back the most gloriously intricate, finely wrought wings, the whole thing was solid gold. About his neck, someone long, long ago had hung various necklaces of beads, woven colours and feathers, around the base were vessels of various sizes, some pottery with a black lacquered finish, others were gold, all had the most terrifyingly exquisite embellishments, there must have been over one hundred of these offerings. We stared in awe, I don’t think I had seen so much gold in one place, Doppler was running a finger around the edge of one of the wooden rectangles, Miguel Angel stood with his mouth agog, he was quivering like a Chihuahua,
“Oh mi dios, oh mi dios” he kept repeating,
“What is it Miguel?”
“Manco Supei, he was the God of magic and the underworld.” I soothed Miguel Angel; it was only a statue, it couldn’t do anything, there were no more Inca peoples, if he felt so concerned we could place something before it. To be honest, I was a little surprised that this supposedly modern Peruvian youth, who had scorned the Old Beliefs, and proclaimed to want an adventure was behaving in this manner. I gave him a handful of coins (I couldn’t contest to the amount of gold in them) and Miguel removed his one gold coloured ear-ring, he placed these items warily before the God figure.
Doppler appeared at my side,
“Listen” she said in hushed tones, “I know we don’t believe in all this stuff, but, well, he does and this is an odd chamber.”
“In what way?”
“See those black surfaces with the masks? Notice anything?” I didn’t.
“The masks are just that, they aren’t attached to the surface, they can be worn…and, I think that the wooden surfaces are…coffin lids…” She paused, for effect, unnecessarily I thought. I gazed around, there were twelve pedestals, twelve ‘coffins’, “And…” she continued
“Oh what now!” I hissed.
She led me over to one of the pedestals, I didn’t see what she wanted me to see, she took me to the next one, pointed, then the next and the next. All twelve pedestals were the same, the gentle layer of dust had been disturbed around each knife, five smudges, as if… I stared, adrenaline beginning to surge through my innards; No! I mouthed. I looked sharply at Miguel Angel, he seemed to be in prayer, for God’s sakes – oops! Despite the call of the gold, the jars, the masks, the knives, I felt no inclination to lift a single item from this room, we tiptoed up the steps to a huge gold plated set of doors, Doppler tugging Miguel Angel behind. I gave the doors a complete appraisal, hinges, handles, fittings, floor. It looked as if the doors opened inwards, I oiled all moving parts, there was no lock, why should there be? I cautiously rotated the two handles, something snicked. I glanced nervously over my shoulder. Miguel Angel had his eyes squeezed tight, his lips moving in silent prayer, Doppler bore an expression of intense focus, hand on the hilt of her exotic Indian dagger. As the doors smoothly opened I could see the hall beyond was as wide as this chamber, shadowy arched entranceways at regular intervals and multi-layered recesses between each.A ceremonial lobby or antechamber to the room with the twelve foot deity. It was decorated with intricate, abstract patterns of brown-red, green, blue and gold at the base of the walls and near the top, on either side of each opening into further passages, were painted two figures posed side on with their hands positioned so they were ‘holding’ the real torch sconces there. The smaller recesses had zigzag borders around, each recess, we discovered held a stiff, sandy coloured figure, seated with knees pulled up to its chest and hands over heads, or faces. Mummified ancients, taut, rigid, silent. There must have been hundreds of them. I reached out and touched one, it was like bark or rawhide. She, for I think that’s what this individual was judging by hair style and jewellery and clothing, smelled faintly musty like old books and dried leather. Miguel Angel crossed himself repeatedly, Doppler held her light close to the female and used a fine metal implement to lift tiny sections of hair, cloth and dry skin.
“You know Lockhart” she whispered,
“Some people would pay a fortune for powdered mummy” She cocked a questioning eyebrow, Miguel Angel’s eyes enlarged.
“On this occasion, I think not my dear.”
We explored a number of the side passages, some led all the way back to the passages close to where we entered, surely a deliberate act to trap, or at least slow down the uninvited guest, such as tomb robbers. In one such passage we saw that one of the mummies had fallen from its alcove onto the floor, the tumble had loosed the limbs. But on closer inspection we discovered it was not a mummy, it was not 500 years old, probably more like 320 to 340 years. I knew this from the stockings, slashed pantaloons, feathered helmet and once highly polished steel breastplate. Lying alongside him a hefty, useless harquebus.
“Well, his powder’s still dry” I offered.
We didn’t have to go far before the light revealed another fallen Conquistador, and another. We followed the wandering trail of the fallen to a grotesque vision of metal clad bodies, heaped against a dead end, trapped. What had they been fleeing? How had they died? Doppler and I inspected the dried corpses and found most had had their throats cut; cleanly, efficiently, mercilessly. A few looked to have been clubbed to death with their own weaponry.
“Here’s an odd detail” I said,
I gestured. Scattered about were various sizes of purses, pouches, soft leather drawstrings and larger, sturdier bags. They appeared to have been ripped from the belts of the dead, torn apart and emptied.
“So, the gold robbers were robbed.”
The Spanish greed for gold in the fifteen hundreds was well known, my Uncle, Richard Colt, Antiquarian, archaeologist, traveller, FRS, FSAL had brought me up with stories of molten gold being poured down the throats of avaricious Spaniards by the Inca, those whom they hadn’t slaughtered. It left a lasting impression on my five year old mind.
I removed Meadows’ Tesla Gun from the roll and tucked it into the left hand pocket of my duster coat, the pistol flame thrower went into my right hand pocket and the two strips of throwing steel pulled out and slung over either shoulder. So, I mused, someone or something in here doesn’t want items removing. We’ll just have to see about that! We retraced our steps to the massive ceremonial way and advanced. Despite the length of time spent down here, I estimated that we had not travelled a huge distance due to the continuous changes in direction and retracing of steps, the compass showed we were now heading on an easterly bearing, by my calculation, we were on course for the Sun Temple. The corridor ended in a pair of huge gilt doors set in-between two broad sets of stairs, heading up to a gallery, from here we could easily make out human voices. I indicated for Doppler and Miguel Angel to wait here while I did a reconnaissance upstairs. The pale stone exhibited amazing stone mason skills, not a sign of hewing, smooth almost polished. I slid like a shadow up to the gallery, crouching behind support pillars and stone balustrading, the chamber beyond was lit, huge and occupied.
There were four rows of enormous pillars, carved into the semblance of stylised coca plants, I could make out a large, stepped dais in the centre, upon this an opulent gold sarcophagus. A man in khakis was running his hands greedily over the burnished surface, stopping every now and then to peer at something embedded, jewels I suspected. Another chap, local, the guide, had a large pack on his back, a rifle in his hands, butt end on the floor and gripping it in evident fear, he stood just at the top of the stepped area that led down to the central pillared space. He did not look happy, even from this distance. I could hear another figure moving about in the farther shadows, but could not see. The area of the floor surrounding the dais was occupied by offerings for the afterlife made of gold, ranging from around twelve inches to three foot in height. I got down on all fours and began to crawl around the gallery, which continued around all four walls of the shadow strewn place, my duster, open at the back, dragged like a pair of broken wings in the light covering of dust, I must have been leaving an odd trail behind me. I peeked through the balustrading every few yards to see the walls of each side adorned with more of the smooth wooden surfaces we had found in the previous room, now I caught a glimpse of the third man, using a metal bar to try to lever a ‘lid’ away from the wall. He was excitedly chatting away to his companions, I detected he was a London chap;
“Blimey! If that lots anyfink to go by, imagine what’s behind ‘ere.”
The sarcophagus chappy replied,
“We need to consider weight Kaplan, remember, we’re here for a particular item and de Cavellier doesn’t want the vessel overloaded.” Kaplan turned to sneer at the gent with the educated accent, the buttons on his red waistcoat catching the torchlight,
“You mind yours Hulme, an’ I’ll get mine mate.”
Just as I was wondering where the Monsieur was, I felt a firm tapping on my rump. Peering over my shoulder, Monsieur de Cavellier was lowering his polished boot. He cocked his infuriating smile, he had a weapon pointed at me! The blackguard. He jerked it twice to indicate I should stand,
“Where are your comrades Madam?” he enquired,
I glanced down at the now still figures below who were looking upwards, readying weapons, apart from the guide who had backed against a wall hugging the rifle to him. Standing erect, I took a calm breath, turned to face him and replied;
“Companions? I’m here alone Monsieur.”
He chuckled, “I seriously doubt it, you and that juvenile are never far from each other I think,” raising his voice, “Come out mademoiselle! I know you are here somewhere.” (Very commanding!), silence. I smiled at him, raised my eyebrows and he raised his gun!
“I will shoot this one if you do not…”
“This one? This one?!” I practically squeaked “How dare y...”
“Madam!” He almost shouted “You sabotaged my vessel, you doped my food, am I to trust you and your little shadow, I think not! Now, tell her, and whomever else you have dragged along, to step into view.”I didn’t need to. My little ‘shadow’ as he called Doppler, had under cover of the shouting managed to get herself behind him, I saw her rise from the ground and press her weapon to his back, and he stiffened. I removed my old Kentucky pistol from my belt, took his weapon and copied his previous motion, to move down into the huge chamber. De Cavellier, hands raised, did as indicated. There was a sound of hammers being pulled back on guns. I had my iron trained on De Cavellier, Doppler had changed hers to point at the one called Kaplan, but Miguel Angel had no weapon and they had three trained on us. My only advantage was having close contact with de Cavellier (I could smell his cologne, the Sandalwood, fresh perspiration, leather…) I saw now that Kaplan had removed the black, polished wooden lid, it lay tumbled on the floor, revealing an upright figure in semi rotted drapery and head dress. Kaplan had his back to it, pointing a rifle in my direction.
“So Miss Lucy” said de Cavellier, “What is to be done now? It seems we have more weapons than you, but I should not wish to use them, I wouldn’t want to ruin our friendship.” He smiled down at me.
“What do you suggest?”
“That we pool our resources, search the chamber and share the profits. No?”
Their guide had lowered his rifle, he had probably never held a gun before and seemed quite fearful of this torch lit, gold laden, shadowy interior. My eyes flickered swiftly between Doppler, Miguel Angel and our rivals. Doppler had noticed, I wasn’t sure about Miguel Angel and de Cavalier’s men had no idea of the movement from another quarter.
“I agree Monsieur de Cavellier” said I lowering my gun and handing his back.
All guns slowly sank now. I moved away from him, trailing my gloved hand over the smooth surface of a column, my right hand slowly reaching for the clip of my bullwhip, “I think we could make an excellent team…” I was watching the thing in the wall coffin behind Kaplan. Its mouth had fallen open, dry fingers once flat against withered thighs, now twitched spasmodically, “…we would have to agree on the share for our companions…” I crossed towards the sarcophagus, making out that I was looking at the horde, I had the clip undone, my gloved fingers around the handle, I moved sedately across the room to reduce my distance, “…and maybe…when this is…all…over…you…and…I…could…” I cracked the whip! Kaplan, for one instant fearing I was attacking him, raised his weapon and fired, the shot went wild, automatic response caused everyone else to duck. A fine spray of powdered bone dusted Kaplan’s head and shoulders, making him look like he needed a proprietary shampoo. I dashed the last yard or two before he could take aim and barged him aside, from the reaching grasp of the freed shrivelled corpse. We fell, me on top.
“Gerrof! Ye murdering doxy!”
I scrambled upright. Doppler, de Cavellier, Hulme and their guide were pointing weapons randomly around the room as wood splintered and spumed away from the walls. Trembling, faded skeletal forms began to totter and teeter from their wall embedded caskets. In a moment of panic, four weapons went off simultaneously in different directions, I hit the deck again(Rule No 2: Don’t lose your head) finding myself next to Miguel Angel curled into a tight foetal ball, arms covering his head amongst a tumble of golden icons, vases, statuettes and miscellaneous offerings for the afterlife. I peered over the top of a rather fine figure of a man with what appeared to be half a sun atop his head; the jade of his earrings looked particularly appealing, de Cavellier was standing almost in the middle of the chamber, amidst the offerings next to the massive sarcophagus, a French service revolver in each hand taking well aimed pot shots at the advancing clerical cadavers (I took a moment to admire his virile physique…).
Doppler was retreating to the centre of the room also, firing her flintlock intermittently at the unceasing advance of the dead. Apart from holes and spurts of bone, the bullets were having little effect. I could hear Miguel Angel praying. The other guide was cowering in the far corner, rifle abandoned on the floor, as a whitened figure loomed over him, reaching with its dry hands for his face, Kaplan surged at the ancient with rifle swinging, the man had the right idea, these things weren’t going down with a few holes in them, they needed subduing. He battered at the things back forcefully, its feathery head adornment falling to the floor, I heard a number of snaps and pops as desiccated joints gave way, I pulled my hands from my left and right pockets holding the Tesla gun and Lightning gun in each. I fired at a creature descending unexpectedly fast on Doppler, it spasmed, I fired a second time, and it stopped, seemed to retract in on itself a little, like a slug in salt, and toppled over, still. I aimed with the other gun at one farther away, a narrow, vicious flame spat out, the figure caught, but continued on its merry way – towards Doppler!
The pistol flame-thrower was returned to my right pocket. A quick glance showed Hulme holding his own against two of the nightmares, he had acquired a rod or ceremonial spear from the debris of fallen figures and was using it to beat, stab and fend them off. I couldn’t count in the midst of action but quickly estimated ten to twelve figures attacking our parties. An unexpected and unexpectedly heavy weight fell on my shoulder, I spun around and stared into the gaunt, eyeless face of an Inca priest, his hand weighed like it shouldn’t considering he had shrivelled in size, was about three hundred years dead and now I was this close I could see he was not completely void of eyes, two things like large raisins rattled about in the leathery, ligament interior of his sockets. I grabbed the skeletal form by the throat and shook until it rattled from its grinning jaw to its tiny metatarsals. Shouts and grunts and exclamations came from all around, I was desperate to see what was happening to Doppler, the priest began trying to insert its fingers in my eyes; I released my hold and pulled down my goggles, peeling the things fingers from my face – Snap! Crack! Pop! I pressed the muzzle of the Tesla gun against its stomach and fired. A blue white crackle jagged up between us and it sailed backwards into a pillar, dashed to dust against a giant, stone, coca plant.
I spun about to see Doppler using the butt of her flintlock in one hand, clubbing at the face of an attacker, her Indian dagger in her other hand hacking at the twiggy hand wrapped around her throat, I rushed at the pair and delivered a kick to its midsection. It almost collapsed in half, it buckled and folded gently, I delivered a second boot to its descending head. Doppler stamped on it to finish it off. Around us men, dead and living were having at each other, Miguel Angel though was half buried in gold, hoping to remain hidden. De Cavellier and Hulme were back to back, encircled by six clawing, silently screeching stiffs, not so stiffs should I say, Hulme still had his golden spear, but had an inflamed gouge in his right cheek, the shoulder of his shirt flapping loose and blood soaked. I noticed Kaplan backed into a corner, three figures upon him, he had lost his weapon and was frantically punching and batting at the dead onslaught, their guide was rolling around on the ground with one, a horrible wailing coming from him, I went to assist the guide – after all, Kaplan had called me a doxy!
Eventually there was stillness and a chorus of heavy panting. Hands on knees, catching my breath I saw the body of Kaplan, gashed and scored all over, his red waistcoat almost shredded. Hulme could barely stand, he’d lost a lot of blood. Doppler sat, back against a pillar, sweat matting spirals of hair to her cheeks, her skirt hitched up revealing calf length, black leather boots – most unladylike, but given our recent predicament, forgivable. She had scratches across her neck, her bolero was ripped in a number of places, and one sleeve hung flapping at the shoulder. I searched about for my pith which had been knocked off in the fray. I couldn’t detect any serious injuries on myself and looking over at de Cavellier, he too seemed relatively unscathed; his hair flopped into his eyes in a rakish manner, he glistened with sweat, smeared with dust and a rent in his shirt front revealed his tanned chest glowing in the torch lights. I dragged my eyes away and pulled bandages from my pack, I knew Doppler had some salves and ointments she had prepared herself for a variety of skin injuries; burns, bites, stings, grazes and cuts. I swept the hair from her face and gave her a canteen of water to sip whilst I administered to her. De Cavellier was applying a field dressing to Hulme’s shoulder.
“Paulo” he called to his guide, “Paulo, are you injured?”
Paulo was glassy eyed, Fear and Horror had visited him, raided his pantry, peed in his parent’s bed and gone, leaving debris in their wake. We did what we could for him, watered, cleaned and bandaged. Doppler removed a phial from her bandolier, proffering it to de Cavellier,
“Just a small amount, it’ll sooth his nerves.”
He didn’t even ask what it was, just trickled it into the vacant man’s mouth. As we all watched, we could almost see the tension pass from his torso, his hands unclenched slightly. I sat cross legged on the ground amidst powdered, shattered corpse, scattered golden urns and other paraphernalia. De Cavellier sat only a foot away.“You have something on your face Miss Lucy.”
I raised my hand to wipe, he gestured the other side, no higher up, lower, then leant over and wiped something from my forehead and around my eye. I looked away to Doppler, she had her lips pressed tight together, suppressing a smile.
“Well, that was, exhilarating wasn’t it?”
I looked at the man and realised that he actually meant it, he had actually enjoyed that horrendous episode. I turned to look him fully square on,
“Are you out of your mind monsieur? A man is dead, Kaplan is dead; Hulme is falling apart and as for your guide”
I nodded towards Paulo who was standing still where we had left him, close to a pillar near the end I had entered
“I don’t even know where he is.”
“Apologies” he offered with an incline of his glossy head,
“I have, how shall I say, a high tolerance for the shocking, I have always been drawn to intense, even fear-inducing thrills, even as a child I sought out new sensations and novel experiences. When I was twelve years old in Lille, I stole a neighbour’s stallion, this horse was evil incarnate, black as Satan’s soul, huge, but I wanted to ride it. The owner had tried in vain to tame it. There really was no thought behind my actions, I was a child, what can I say. I took that beast, no saddle, and rode it round their paddock, through a hedge and across the country. It was like riding the wind.”
“So you tamed it?” I asked astonished
“Not at all madam. Eventually I was thrown and found unconscious miles from home. I had a broken arm and collar bone, multiple bruises including a hoof print on my back. My parents were furious, naturally. Then when I was fifteen, I had an experience that would change my life. I was taken monster hunting with a party of ten persons; one of the party happened to be the daughter of Vicomte Bernard de Romanet. A lovely dove of some eighteen years, her skin was pale as the moon, her eyes dark as coal, she showed me…”
“Thank you Monsieur de Cavellier!”
my voice was a little too loud, too shrill. I didn’t think it was the kind of thing young Theodora Doppler should be hearing about, I caught her eye, she stuck out her tongue.
“Oh, mademoiselle,” he faced Doppler,
“I apologise if I have offended you, I sometimes forget my manners. Miss Lucy, why would you bring such a young person with you on such a mission?”
“Never mind that” I said “What to do now?”
We exchanged information on what we already knew of the place, he and his party had entered from the opposite end, but it had taken some time as there was collapsed masonry part way along, they had had to dig their way through the midsection. Which explained why we had arrived here just after them and covering a longer distance. De Cavellier believed that the way out would be where we entered (I neglected to tell him of Doppler’s ‘snail’ markings). They had only given this room a perfunctory search before I had arrived. Standing and brushing ourselves down, we began exploring the contents of the room. Hulme had the idea that the sarcophagus would hold the item, if it were that valuable. I wasn’t sure, we didn’t actually know the value of this lion with the jewel in its chest, or, even how big it was. We all began, apart from Paulo who was still in a state of shock and fixed to the spot, to wedge various implements of leverage under the lip of the great casket. The surface flickered and seemed to move in the sputtering torch light, shadows crossed the cold likeness of the face of the man inside. Five of us heaved and grunted and gasped as inch by gilded inch the lid scraped sideways until finally tipping to the floor with an enormously thunderous clang. I held my breath as the reverberations travelled through the pillars, battered from wall to wall into the gallery and away. Hulme began eagerly hacking at the wooden casket inside. Doppler peered over the edge, occasionally picking up bits of debris and pocketing it, de Cavellier was thoughtfully curling his moustaches as he watched the man work. Miguel Angel had slumped to the floor again and had sat on one of the steps of the dais, peering fearfully around into the gloomy corners, up at the murky ceiling and around at the scattered offerings to this long dead Sapa Inca. I watched them all.
Hulme excitedly rummaged amongst the contents, the man was no respecter of the dead, he simply pulled out handfuls of torn leather, woven grasses; he tore a necklace from the withered neck, held it up for perusal and pocketed it, de Cavellier picked out a small vase from the surrounding dais, turning it with care, appreciation evident on his face. He removed a jeweller’s loupe from his front trouser pocket, he seemed to be intently studying markings or tiny embedded stones. Miguel Angel gave a small gasp,“Oh! El león.” He whispered.
De Cavellier, Doppler and myself all moved to look where he pointed. At the foot end of the golden casket was the figure of a lion with a dark jewel embedded in its chest. It appeared to be part of the whole, flush with the casket surface, like a statue that fitted a shaped niche perfectly. It had not been easy to see because of its placement and the fact there had been burnished figures of birds, bird-men, jaguar headed men and various vessels about it. We all bent lower to inspect, I reached out, touched the beast and ran my hand over its form. It seemed attached. De Cavellier took his turn, gently caressing its curling mane. The creature was only about six inches high, but the stone embedded in it was about two of those inches in diameter. In this odd illumination it was difficult to tell what sort of stone it was, though I thought I perceived green or blue. Hulme now joined us, having realised he was alone in his rummaging. He let out a low whistle.
“What a beauty, be worth a mint that monsieur, her Ladyship will be pleased.”
“Excuse me” I responded “I think you will find, it was my party who discovered it.”
“Oh yes? And who’s your witness, eh?”
“We agreed to join forces, did we not?”
“To find it madam, not to claim the reward.”
Whilst Hulme and I disputed rightful claim, de Cavellier was attempting to pull the lion out of its niche with his fingers, to no avail. Doppler, with her slimmer fingers attempted tthe same,
“I can feel where it’s attached at the back” She pressed her face against the sarcophagus, trying to see what she was feeling.
“I can’t tell if it’s attached by some fastening or is welded in place” She removed her gloves, the better to feel behind the lion. We were all crowded in close.
“Do you mind. Give me some elbow room for God’s sake!”
Doppler’s voice had a cold edge to it, to the astonishment of Hulme and de Cavellier. She concentrated, fingers curled round the top and side of the lion, head turned to the side as if listening. When Hulme, of a sudden, moved in her way and thrust the end of a short ceremonial spear in the narrow space surrounding the lion. He heaved his weight onto the opposite end and, thunk. The lion popped out onto the ground. Doppler made a grab for it, Hulme wrenched it from her, de Cavellier held out his hand and I mine. In the momentary silence there was a distant, deep reverberation as of many doors closing in the depths of Deaths domain…
We were a frozen tableau, six figures poised in the eerie silence after the sonorous boom. Hulme moved first, collecting artefacts from around the base of the sarcophagus and arranging them in the back pack that Paulo wore, statuettes of jackal headed deities, beaten gold body ornaments and a drinking vessel, Paulo didn’t move. I noted where Hulme stored the lion with the jewel in its chest, the prize, the point of my journey here. De Cavellier began assessing items and putting them into a smaller pack he had been carrying. I gathered Doppler and Miguel Angel to me,
“You understand what that sound was?”
They both nodded, Miguel Angel’s terror writ clear.
“We have one aim, get the lion and get out, if you must take anything, make it light, make it small – go.”
Miguel Angel was disinclined to take anything, whilst Doppler carefully sorted through coffin contents, collecting bits of bone, linen, finger nail, hair, pottery shards and other scraps of the dead, no doubt to be used for some alchemical experiment, but also Doppler knew as well as I that there were some people who would pay a good amount for parts of the departed. I checked I had my weapons reloaded, I flipped open a small coffer and dug my hand into the mass of shining, slithering gold coins. I put as many of them as would fit into my leather satchel without weighing me down.
And now I could hear it, the expected unified sound of twelve pairs of grass shod feet, susurrating towards us. I pulled out my Tesla gun and grabbed the short spear that Hulme had dropped earlier, Doppler was drawing on Miguel Angels back with her bioluminescent gel, mine too, a torch sputtered out, the shadows expanded from the corners. We could all hear it now, we were all on alert, and de Cavellier glanced at me enquiringly,
“Oh you’re going to love this Cavellier.” I declared
A tiny shift in the air quality, an odour of the grave, but not of dust as this King was, this was something fresher, sweeter, vile. We had spread ourselves across the room; the enormous gold engraved doors beneath the stairs burst apart and the dead soldiers advanced, three abreast, golden daggers from the plinths in their hands, inexorable. They all wore the masks that we had seen displayed on the exterior of the coffin lids, they only covered the upper parts of their faces and the mouths beneath had, what could only be called, a hunger to them. As the first three made room behind for the next, the second turned left, the third turned right, so that they were forming a line, but they did not cease as they turned, but continued towards us. The centre soldier, without pause midstep, raised his arm and sliced through Paulo’s throat. The guide hadn’t made a sound, I watched the arc of scarlet as the poor man slumped first to his knees, then fell like a toppled stone, hard on his face, I winced (only slightly!)
The spell was broken, de Cavellier dashed at the nearest adversary swinging a gold axe in each hand, I fired at the nearest with the Tesla then threw two of Meadows’ steel knives at the next.
“Move!” I shouted at Doppler,
she grabbed Miguel Angel, pulled him to the edge of the chamber, and threw a viscous liquid at an approaching dead man. She reached for a torch off the wall and lobbed it. The figure went up like the Winter Palace of Saint Petersburg, and unlike the previous dusty dead we had annihilated, this one shrieked, it howled in rage rather than pain, attempting to extinguish itself, Doppler dodged it dragging Miguel Angel in her wake.I sent a second shot from the Tesla into the same figure and shot a second into the face of one suddenly upon me. It swung the short, sharp blade missing my throat by a fraction, I staggered backwards, tripped on a figurine and fell hard onto the dais. It advanced with speed leaning in to take a second slash at me, as it leaned in I quickly lifted the ceremonial spear and let it spear itself, the weight pushed me back, I turned my head as it struck and felt the searing pain across my left cheek, I slid against the sarcophagus and shook the spear loose, stabbed again at the fallen creature then ground the heel of my boot into its face.
Another torch died. The ceiling shadows crept closer. Doppler was hiding behind a column, she was close to the doors now, and Miguel Angel had his hands clutched in prayer against his lips huddled next to her. Hulme was stoutly battling two of the creatures with a pistol and an axe, I noticed the gun shots affected them, unlike the shambling priests from earlier, de Cavellier was swinging his axes most expertly, a mad gleam in his eye,
“Vive la France!”
he shouted and dropped to one knee as a blade sailed close by, and removed the lower portion of one of his attacker’s legs. It tumbled sideways, he leapt upon it and buried the hatchet in its unmasked face. Then I noticed, with horror the reason for the ‘dead’ soldier’s apparent lack of dust. Two of them had the body of Paulo lifted upright between them and were chewing at his exposed flesh, his limbs dangled in a macabre kind of dance, twitching and shuddering as bits were yanked off. Revolted and enraged, I marched forwards, pulling my pistol from my belt and pressed it precisely to the back of a gold masked head pulled the trigger and blew its head off. Bone, flesh and metal exploded around me as part of Paulo’s head went with it, I immediately raised the Tesla and shot the second one in the mask, it jiggled like a frog corpse when electricity is passed through it. I pulled again, it fell.
I made a cursory check about me, then knelt down besides the pitiful, part consumed body of Paulo; I reached out my hand, trembling slightly, and, opened his backpack and removed the golden lion.
I roared at Doppler and Miguel Angel. She tugged at him, he followed meekly. They scuttled to the relative cover of the next pillar, pressing close to the cold stone. Doppler fumbled amongst her bandolier phials and passed a few to Miguel Angel. As I attempted to follow a shout rang out;
“Cavellier, she has the lion! Stop her!”
Hulme had dispatched two or three creatures and began heading in my direction, he swung an axe at one as it approached, carelessly; he was intent on the prize, de Cavellier leapt onto the creature as it made another attack on Hulme; burying a dagger in the top of its head up to the hilt, as it fell he rolled adroitly and sprang to his feet. I rushed into an oncoming soldier, shoving it hard; I was not stopping for a fight, I needed to move.Doppler, Miguel Angel and I reached the doors simultaneously, they both threw a handful of tiny phials that shattered and blew up on impact, we raced through into the wide ceremonial corridor, footsteps close behind.
“Monsieur! The other treasure!”
Hulme’s voice diminished as we increased the distance between him and us. But, de Cavellier was on our heels and Hulme would soon follow. Ahead, the doors to the chamber with the twelve foot statue lay open, inviting, we skidded into the room, Miguel Angel collapsed to his knees where he had before, Doppler and I began pushing the doors shut, when a short knife bounced off the gilt, we both ducked, and again as another clattered close by, we rallied and almost had the doors closed when a shoulder wedged itself in the gap, a booted leg shoved through, de Cavellier grunted, we pushed, now Hulme had arrived and lent his weight to a massive shove. Doppler and I fell back, stumbling into Miguel Angel, I dragged him upright by his collar,
“Hand it over Madam.”
De Cavellier said, holding out his hand. I laughed,
“No way Cavellier, little Miguel here, our Angel, discovered it, it’s ours, finders custodies.”
Hulme went to snatch my bag from my shoulder, I stepped sideways and hit him in the face with my hand; he stopped, completely taken aback and furious,
“How dare you!” he roared, “You’re nothing but a common Ladybird! A wench! You madam need putting in your place!”
“Oh really? And you’re the man to do it I suppose?” I mocked.
“No Miss Lucy, I am.”
Rene de Cavellier had raised a pearl handled pistol and had it aimed at Miguel Angels head. He was never going to miss, never.
“Now” Cavellier purred, “By my reckoning ladies, you have no shot left in your guns, you cannot use your flamethrower at close quarters as we have seen the effects, and I am sure you would not want to mar the beautiful skin of your, assistant here”, he looked towards Doppler. I automatically took a step towards her, to shield her should it become necessary.
“Miss Lucy, I am quite prepared to shoot your little llama here if you don’t hand over the prize – and you know I would.”
He would. I opened my tatty, leather satchel and pulled out the little lion, as I held it towards de Cavellier, we all heard the approach of the four remaining soldiers, whose chamber we were in now; Hulme grabbed the lion from between us and raced for the next set of doors, we all followed post haste. Ahead was gloom and Hulme ran into the first wall full on, he bounced back off the wall collapsing, gasping on his back, like a turtle, he rocked on his pack, I raced up and rolled him over planting my boot on his backside, I slashed his pack open and retrieved the lion. Doppler and Miguel Angel had continued. Cavellier passed me like a whippet, snatching the prize from me en route, I gave chase.We could hear the furious exclamations of Hulme as he brought up the rear, then confusion as Cavellier and he lost their bearings. Doppler’s bioluminescent markers were still there, fainter, but legible, however, they did not tell us where Cavellier and Hulme were. I was not leaving without the lion. At a familiar junction near our exit, we left Miguel Angel, told him to go to the opening and find his way home, or wait if he wanted. After ten minutes of continuous chasing, retracing and listening out for the Frenchman and his companion calling to each other, Doppler and I discovered them at a T junction of a five foot wide passage. Hulme had his half wrecked pack clutched under his right arm, a long knife in hand and one tucked into his belt, de Cavellier had the lion in his left hand, pistol in his right, directing it each way he turned.
“Quick, they are coming!”
I hissed as we pretended to be running from the remaining creatures; after all, they were around here somewhere, I raised my brow at Doppler, as we made to run alongside the men, she jabbed a syringe into the back of Hulme’s neck, yelping and staggering he grabbed at himself. De Cavellier, turned to enquire, I kicked him smartly in the trinkets, caught the dropped lion and kept running as he doubled over onto the floor. Doppler gathered her skirts and leapt him like an athlete, following hot on my heels,
“See you in Paris Monsieur!”
Needless to say, Miguel Angel returned home, safe and sound, well sound of body at least, I can’t vouch for his sanity. We paid him off and did indeed make it to Lady Celia’s crib in Paris with the lion and won the bet, Hurrah! As for de Cavellier and Hulme; they made it too, but empty handed, apart from the few items Hulme saved. Did Hulme forgive me, never! Did Cavellier? I never knew.
We were rewarded handsomely for winning the game, plus I had a fortune in Inca coins, I may release them slowly into the collectors’ world, or give some to the Royal Society, I haven’t decided yet. Doppler sold mummy parts through some dubious connections she had made recently. And began experimenting with creating some new concoctions.
I received a parcel in the post this morning, from Monsieur Rene de Cavellier; a pair of French style slippers, of finest kid, very delicate.
The moral of the story, gentlemen, is NEVER underestimate a woman, or the value of a pair of well made, stout leather boots!