Outside police headquarters, Captain Hunter raced down the steps two at a time to the dark sidewalk, damp from the newly risen evening fog. Rushing to the curb, he waved to a nearby coachman. The driver snapped the reins, and the horse trotted forward pulling its brougham carriage.
The driver tilted his cap back, leaning over the side just enough to look down at Hunter, “Ye seem in a bit of a rush. Where to?”
“Monkhouse Woolen Mill, do you know of it?” Anthony asked quickly.
The driver nodded, “Och, sure. Been there a time or two. It’s over on the North side, past the Queen Street Gardens.”
Hunter glanced at the two-seater carriage, then back at the main doors to the police building as Detective Oren MacTaggart rushed outside. Just behind the detective, a brass and leather servitor, shaped like a small cat-sized dragon bearing the stencil of the Edinburgh Police on its chest, soared from the doorway with a leather message cylinder strapped tight to its hind leg.
While the servitor soared up, shooting out into the night like an arrow, Dr. Thorias Llwellyn appeared in the door a half-step later.
“Go! We’ll meet you there!” The doctor called out.
“The servitor will be catchin’ Constable Martin well before we do. We’ll meet him outside the mill.” Oren said, climbing into the cab.
Hunter climbed in next to the detective, shut the door and leaned out the window. “Driver! Monkhouse Woolen Mill, be quick about it! Lives are at stake!”
The driver blinked in surprise, “never been told it were life or death before.” Sitting up straight, he squared his shoulders and pulled his cap down square on his head.
“Right then! Hold tight to ye breeches!” The driver called back as he snapped the reigns hard. The horse yelled, then bolted forward in a mad dash. The sound of hoof beats echoed rapidly off the cobblestones along the damp, dark roads, largely devoid of people.
With a rattle of hooves, the carriage raced through isolated streets thick with fog and lit at regular intervals by the feeble glow of gaslamps along the sidewalk. Captain Hunter and Detective MacTaggart clutched at the side of the cab while the vehicle bounced and jostled them over the rough cobblestone road. The two men rode in silence, each concerned with their own thoughts.
Hunter watched the darkened buildings go by. Among his worries for William, his mind chewed on the problem at hand. The factory was large, no question as to that. They would have little cover from the front gate to the factory itself. He remembered that area being wide open and exposed. There was no way to hide their approach, that he knew of. Hopefully there would be enough shadows between the gate and the mill itself that it would not matter.
Inside the factory, they would have to move quickly. Liam at least would know the factory much better than they did. Having such an intimate knowledge of the area would mean the very moment he could get away, he would. Most likely to stab in the back anyone unfortunate enough to stand in his way. It was all supposition, but it was the best Hunter could go on at the moment.
A bone-jarring ten minutes later, just one block down from the Monkhouse Woolen Mill, the driver pulled up on the reins. Sweating, the horse tossed his head, finally easing the carriage to a stop behind another brougham. On the sidewalk, Constable Martin waited with a younger constable and the coachman for the carriage.
Detective Martin threw open the door and jumped out. “Constable, ye got my note then?”
The constable dug a folded paper out of his coat pocket for emphasis, “Ah did. That servitor stopped us just before we started down there.”
Hunter climbed out as well, and hurried over to the constables. He shook hands with both Martin and his younger counterpart. The captain hesitated a moment, “Wait, you were from the White Hart, yes? Guarding Miss Olivander’s door?”
The young man blushed slightly, but stiffened his back. “Constable Seth Anderson, Captain. Just wishin’ for a bit of payback.”
Hunter gave the young man a warm smile. “Good lad, you’ll get your chance.”
Constable Anderson replied with a curt, professional nod, then looked around at the three men with him. “If Ah might be askin’, how do we go in?”
Detective MacTaggart pointed at the factory that loomed in the darkness down the road. “We’ve little time to be standin’ around. Once at the factory, we’ll do this by the book. We split into pairs to be able to cover both sides of the building. Constable Martin, you and Anderson be makin’ yer way around the front. The captain and Ah will be going around the back where the wagons are loaded. We’ll catch the lot between us like a vice. Remember to watch yourselves. We’ve killers here capable of anythin’.”
The four men raced though the darkness toward the factory. Ahead the gate stood like a set of iron teeth fifteen feet tall and easily ten feet wide. Bracing that was a set of old brick columns topped by a brick archway sporting the white lettered sign to the woolen mill.
Anthony expected the gate to be locked, shut tight to keep out the overly curious. Carefully, he eased forward until he could see the large padlock. He smiled. While the padlock rested in place on the gate, it had not been latched. It seems, he thought, someone plans to leave quickly.
He was about to motion to the others, but Constable Anderson spoke first. “A light!” He whispered excitedly to the others. “There, for a moment on the first floor before it winked out. We can just catch them there.”
The detective smirked, pushing his glasses up from the end of his nose. “Well then, we’ve caught the beast in her lair,” he whispered back.
MacTaggart glanced at the other three men. “Quick and quiet now. They still have three people at their mercy, and the last thing we’re wantin’ is to give them a chance to cause them harm. We still split into two groups. If we all run to the same place, once they see us, they’re likely to run. In a place that big, we might lose one or two running out the side we’re not on, if we’re not careful about it.”
Hunter reached up and gingerly swung the padlock wide, lifting it away from the gate. Setting it aside, he pushed very carefully, and the gate swung open just enough to allow a single person through at a time.
The captain stepped inside and darted out of sight into the deep shadows draped along the right side of the main cobblestone path. Detective MacTaggart went next, followed by Constable Martin, then Seth Anderson.
Quickly, the men paired up as planned. The two constables vanished around the front of the woolen mill while Hunter and MacTaggart moved around to the back, following the weather-worn cobblestone driveway.
Hunter reached the factory first. He ducked down, pressing his back to the outside wall. Detective MacTaggart joined him a moment later. The captain motioned to the window four feet to their left, then gestured to his own eyes. Detective MacTaggart nodded.
Anthony crept silently through the clumps of tall, damp grass growing along the base of the building. He kept low to the ground, so as to not be seen. Upon reaching the base of the window, he knelt down in the soft dirt, then eased up to look over the sill.
Through the dirt-smudged window pane, he made out three figures. One was dressed in a modest, well-to-do gown. He recognized her as Anita Monkhouse, dressed much in the same manner as she had been in the White Hart Tavern. Her mannerisms were likewise the same: haughty and self-important.
Second of the three was another woman, that much he could tell from her figure, but she was just too far away to make out clearly across the shadowy, cavernous warehouse that encompassed the entire back half of the woolen mill.
The last was the large hulking monstrosity of a CASS, lumbering among several dark shapes which he assumed were boxes. Hunter rubbed his eyes with a sigh.
“I’d forgotten Monkhouse had those monstrous things,” he muttered grimly.
“What is it?” MacTaggart hissed.
The captain looked over at the detective. “Luck’s with us. They’ve not left. I see two women, one is Mrs. Monkhouse. The other I cannot make out from here. I also see a CASS moving about. I would suspect that Liam is driving.”
MacTaggart frowned with concern. Hunter nodded in sympathy as if he read the detective’s mind. “Indeed. That CASS will be quite the problem.”
The detective sighed. “We confront the ladies first, and apprehend them quickly. Then we be dealin’ with the man and his machine. Let’s get at it.”
Easing along the wall once more, the men reached the corner of the building quickly. Beyond lay the wide open loading area, where two horse-drawn wagons stood, one partially loaded with what looked to be crates of broken machine parts. Captain Hunter exchanged a glance with the detective before both men left the safety of cover for wide open and exposed turnabout where the driveway ended at the loading dock.
When the two men walked into view, Mrs. Monkhouse had just placed a box of parts into the wagon. Next to her sat another stack of boxes packed similarly with small, thin herringbone gears. She saw the pair immediately, the very moment they appeared around the corner of the building.
“Liam!” She called out, but the man did not hear her right away over the noise of the CASS.
Liam Farrell, sitting inside the giant skeletal frame of the CASS, had lifted Lydia Olivander up and over a wagon. The young woman dangled limply in the machine’s metal claws like a doll, but her chest rose and fell peacefully as if she was in a deep sleep.
What took Hunter by surprise was the third person, the unknown woman from before, who was walking towards a wooden cart and carrying a dark brown medical bag. Not dressed in her usual manner, this time she wore a modest blue dress with a brown leather apron.
It was Mary, the barmaid from the White Hart Tavern.
On the cart lay William Falke and Sarah Givens. Ugly black bruises peppered with blood decorated William’s normally thin face as if he had been beaten repeatedly with a mallot. Mrs. Givens looked marginally better, with only a modest bruise on one cheekbone and another over her left eye. To Hunter’s relief, he believed they were still alive.
The moment Detective MacTaggart and Captain Hunter stepped into view, Anita picked up a large gear and hurled it at the back of the CASS.
“Liam!” She shouted in a panic, then glanced over at Detective MacTaggart and Captain Hunter. Captain Hunter gave her a faint smirk as if to say, ‘no hurry, we will wait’.