“Oh, Ah think ye are quite done!” Anita Monkhouse sneered, raising the pistol.
“I’ve heard more’n I want out of you!” William Falke shouted, lunging at Mrs. Monkhouse from behind.
The young man, badly battered and sporting a bruised death mask of a face, grabbed the pistol and shoved it skyward despite the burning agony that screamed in his joints. The pistol jumped in her hand as she reflexively pulled the trigger. The bullet flying wide and high.
At the same moment, Hunter ducked to the right, instinctively trying to dodge aside. Realizing that he had not been shot, he looked over to see William wrest the pocket pistol from Mrs. Monkhouse, while Constable Anderson twisted the woman’s arm behind her.
“Anita Monkhouse!” The young constable said with a hard voice, “ye be under arrest!”
Slowly, Hunter stood up, straightened his coat, and gave William a smile. “Thank you Will, I owe you for that. Good to have you among the living.”
William pulled open the pocket pistol and dumped the last few bullets into a hand. “Glad to be among ’em, Cap’n,” he grinned, which was a rather unsettling sight given the bruises on his face. “And yer welcome, though I know you’d do the same for me anytime. So, Cap’n, where do we stand here?”
“Mrs. Monkhouse is detained here with us,” Hunter replied thoughtfully.
“Grubby pig of man!” Anita yelled at Captain Hunter.
“Quiet down, you,” growled Constable Anderson.
“Which means we will be privileged to her sparkling conversation,” Hunter said, adding to his thought. “Liam is likely dead, but Dr. Hereford … we’re lacking her whereabouts.” Hunter said, looking around.
Nearby, Mrs. Givens sat on a crate. She was groggy but apparently whole. Rubbing her eyes, she looked up and on seeing William immediately forgot about her own ailments as a motherly fervor took hold.
“Oh, ye poor lad. Half the life looks beaten out of ye. Did that wee hussy do that to ye? Get over here and sit down, luvie, let Auntie Sarah take a look,” Mrs. Givens said, quickly standing up to grab William’s arm. She pulled the young man over and sat him on the very crate she had occupied a moment ago.
“No, I’m fine, really,” William protested to no avail.
Hunter smirked at William, who sighed heavily, surrendering to the attention.
“You will not be rid of me that easily Captain Hunter!” Shrieked Mrs. Monkhouse, interrupting the captain’s thoughts.
“What then? Pistols at twenty paces?” Hunter said with a dark look. “Lovely way to invite a man for a social engagement. What would your husband say? Worse yet, the social papers?”
“Social?” She screamed. “Oh, Ah’d invite you to tea, you braggart, only after I’d given it plenty of rat poison!”
Constable Anderson, keeping a firm grip, tugged the irate woman, forcing her to sit down. “Prison’s the only place ye’ll be havin’ tea, if Ah’d hazard a guess,” the constable said.
Hunter circumnavigated the crates, ignoring the cascade of aches and pains that nagged him, heading out of the factory’s wide open doors towards where the wagons and Detective MacTaggart sat. The moment he set foot on the turnabout of the driveway, he heard several footsteps running toward them from the main gate.
Along the cobblestone road between the gate and the factory, Thorias Llwellyn and Moira Wycliffe were in the lead of a small group. Behind them raced Rodney Barnes with four more constables. Anthony smiled with a sense of triumph.
“Thorias! We’ve injured! Gunshot wounds!” The captain called out. “One by the wagon, another inside! The rest of you, look for a young woman named Mary Hereford! She’s the one behind it. You’ll know her as the barmaid from the White Hart Tavern!”
“Right!” Dr. Llwellyn yelled back, quickening his pace towards the wounded Detective MacTaggart. Meanwhile Moira reached behind and grabbed a constable by the front of his coat, jerking him along with her.
“C’mon, we gotta a witch ta catch!” She said with a grin, racing off to be the first on the hunt for Dr. Hereford. The other three constables likewise spread out to search around the other sides of the factory.
Rodney slowed down to take in the view of the loading dock and the wide doorway in the back of the factory. He looked around in astonishment at the mangled weaving looms, twisted and broken as if by a giant child. His eyes came to rest on Captain Hunter and the bloody cuts showing through his coat, along his face and across the back of his right hand.
“Captain, you’re injured!” He said in shock, “You need a doctor!”
Awash with the excitement of the moment, Hunter barked out a laugh, “Yes, I am. But I assure you, I’ve suffered worse. At least this time, I’ve not been shot! See to Mrs. Givens, would you? She’s been so busy with William, I’m afraid she’s forgotten about herself. I’ll locate where Constable Martin fell.”
“Yes, Captain,” Rodney said with a nod, hurrying over to the older woman.
Captain Hunter carefully walked into the warehouse near the stairs to the second floor, wary of Dr. Hereford in case she returned with her hatchet. He cast about, searching for the fallen man, finally making his way to the foot of the stairs where he had seen Constable Martin fall.
He found the man nestled back among the crates, an ugly gash along his arm and a bullet hole in his side. Hunter knelt and checked the wound. Fortunately the bullet had passed clear through the skin, but likely not through anything vital. The cut on his arm was ugly, but not very deep. From the shape of the wound, the captain assumed it was from Mary’s hatchet, though the blow had been blunted by the thick wool of his constable’s coat.
“Can you walk?” The captain asked.
The constable nodded weakly. “Och, that Ah can. Just won’t feel good about it.”
Hunter laughed as he carefully helped the man to his feet. “After struggling with a raving harpy? I would be surprised if you said otherwise.”
No sooner had the captain helped the constable walk a few steps, a figure lunged out the darkness! Dr. Mary Hereford, eyes ablaze, lashed out with her hatchet. The constable raised his arm to absorb the blow as he had before, but it never fell.
With a wild war whoop, Moira Wycliffe, from a flat run, vaulted off of a crate and threw herself against Dr. Hereford. The doctor’s hatchet flew out of her hand, stabbing the side of a wooden crate nearby, while Moira and Mary Hereford crashed into one of the factory looms.
“Evil witch!” Moira snarled. The blacksmith’s first punch hammered her right fist against the doctor’s mouth, splitting her lip and showering her with blood. Moira’s second rammed into Mary’s stomach, taking away the woman’s breath. A third crashed into the point of Dr. Hereford’s jaw, half-spinning the woman around from the force of the blow. Dazed, battered, Dr. Hereford sunk to the ground gasping, sobbing wordlessly.
“Yer never going to be doing this to anyone, ever again!” Moira shouted at the young woman, her fists shaking with rage. “Monster!” The blacksmith spat. Moira took a deep breath and reined in her anger. She glanced over at Hunter and Constable Martin.
Hunter smiled, “We’ll be fine now, Moira.”
Moira nodded in relief as two constables, on hearing the shouting and commotion, had come running around the side of the factory.
On their arrival, one of the constables took a firm hold of Dr. Hereford’s arm. “We be havin’ this now. Come along, Miss.”
Hunter and Constable Martin turned away, leaving the constables to their work, and slowly made their way back to the others.
“Quite the crew ye got, Captain,” Constable Martin said between waves of pain.
Hunter half-shrugged, both to adjust the constable’s weight as he leaned against him as much as a means of expression. “They are a bit protective from time to time.”
By the time the two men emerged from deep inside the warehouse, Thorias had already carefully moved Detective MacTaggart away from the wagons and had bandaged his wound with scraps of a shirt. Another length of cloth served as an arm sling. The doctor himself was at the wagon, wiping his hands on his waistcoat before examining Lydia’s wounds.
Despite being white as a sheet, the detective looked tired, but alive. The bullet had struck him high in the right arm. Given the way MacTaggart held it, the captain suspected the arm was broken. He was about to ask after MacTaggart’s health, though from the man’s pale complexion, the captain could guess the answer. Instead, Hunter knocked some bent steel fittings with a free hand from a crate for Constable Martin to sit on.
“Rodney, I’ll need your assistance,” Dr. Llwellyn said, looking over, his face suddenly pale and haunted.
“Certainly,” Rodney replied. He walked over, then turned pale. “My word … “
Hunter joined Rodney and Thorias. “What is it?” Any further words caught in Anthony’s throat.
There on the wagon, Lydia Olivander lay silent, sleeping as if heavily drugged. Her dress was dirty and torn, though her features were mostly unmarred, save for her side and arm. When she had fallen into the wagon, a broken pipe had cut through her arm right to the bone. Several of the gears had cut her dress and her side into a bloody mess.
The cut in her arm had sliced deep. However instead of bone, Hunter saw the glint of metal and wires, and heard the all too familiar click of small gears. He instinctively looked at his clockwork hand.
Thorias had just removed the older, soiled bandage Lydia claimed had been over a cut she had received at the factory. However, what it covered was not a cut at all, but a neatly measured patch of skin sewn shut in the shape of a square.
“Her arm, is that what I think it is?” The captain asked in amazed horror.
The doctor nodded grimly, ripping away part of his shirt to make a fresh bandage. “It is. I don’t know how far the modifications go, but I’ve already found faint scarring along her entire arm, and one along the top of her shoulder that may run to her chest.”
Thorias wrapped the cloth around the open wound and exposed gears on the woman’s arm. “Given this, I doubt the incisions were from anything being removed.” He gave Hunter a dark look, “I suspect they are from things being replaced. Frankly, I’m stunned she’s alive.”
Tying off the bandage, Dr. Llwellyn tore another bit of his shirt to pat away the blood on her side in order to see how deep the cuts were. “I’ll need someplace clean to work, a hospital or other laboratory.”
He glanced over at Rodney, “I’ll also need your help, lad. I’ve every indication Lydia Olivander may no longer be entirely flesh and bone. She may be something completely new.”
“Certainly, doctor, but … I’m not skilled in medicine,” Rodney stammered.
“Rodney, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic,” Thorias said sternly, “There will be parts here – and I would never have imagined I’d say this – that I’ve never seen before in a body. With Providence as my witness, I’ve no intention of losing a fight against Death over this young lady’s life, understood?”
Rodney nodded, face pale, but determined.
Thorias patted the young man on the shoulder. “Good man. Now let’s get to work.”