Buttoning his white cotton shirt quickly, Thorias reached for his waist coat and slipped it on, giving Tonks a concerned glance. In response, the pilot stepped out into the hallway a moment, returning with a stern look.
“Hallway’s empty”, the pilot replied. “Some argument downstairs, though.”
Watching the two men, Angela fidgeted with the hem of her dress nervously, eyes wide in alarm. At her feet, the monkey shifted its weight restlessly, it’s amber glowing eyes darting one way then the other. “That’s them!” She said quickly, “I know it. They’re coming up here next!”
“Angela, deep breaths,” the doctor told her calmly, “now, by ‘everything’ do you mean these men have this building surrounded?”
The young werewolf took a deep breath, letting it out as slowly as her anxiety would allow. “Yes, Sirrah. Miss Rosalita heard an argument and rushed to the top of the stairs, telling me to stay near your door. That was when I paid attention to the voices. It’s one of the men from the close!” Rapidly, her anxiety took hold, as her words tumbled out like a waterfall, “It’s those men who shot you! He’s wanting you and Sirrah Wilkerson immediately! They’re wanting to take me away, I just know it!”
Ian patted the upset girl on the shoulder reassuringly, “hush now. It won’t happen.” The pilot looked over at the doctor. “On our way in, I saw two back doors – one at the back of the main room proper, and one in the kitchen. Here on the second floor, I saw through one window that we’re close to the next roof. It might be a way out of this mess. Just need to check if anyone’s payin’ attention out there or not. I’ll go see.”
“Good thinking,” Thorias replied. Tonks snatched up his coat and rushed out the door. Abruptly a woman’s scream below was punctuated by the hollow ring of metal.
“Doña Alvares?” the doctor asked.
Ian nodded seriously, “Aye. Sounds like she belted someone, likely with a cast iron pot.”
“Wonderful,” the doctor replied while the pilot vanished into the hallway, letting the door close behind him.
Grimacing as his side throbbed, the doctor slowly knelt until he could speak to Angela eye to eye. “My dear, it seems much of this involves your clockwork burden there,” the doctor said gesturing to the clockwork monkey. “Quickly, as we’ve probably little time, what can you tell me about it. Leave nothing out. We need to discern just what that servitor has that is so important.”
Angela stammered, her eyes darting around nervously, “I … I don’t know very much. Mother handed it to me aboard the boat,” immediately she winced at the word. Frustrated, she balled her hands into fists, then snarled, “ship! Aboard the ship! She gave it to me and said to keep it very safe.” A strong blush crept into the girl’s cheeks, “and … not to follow her under any circumstances.” Suddenly, the girl’s eyes turned hard and determined. “I’m not goin’ to leave her like that! I won’t! I’ll get her back!”
A small, warm smile crept across the doctor’s face. “And indeed, we will rescue her. Now, what else did you mother say about it? Has it done anything unusual?”
“No. Mother didn’t have time to explain very much, since the pirates were already aboard. She had time to hide me, then grab a pistol.” The girl shrugged, glancing at the servitor, which paused in its pantomime of the girl to look up at her, “it screeches a lot, sometimes says ‘mustard’, other times ‘sealed aquilla’.”
Suddenly a shout, muffled by the closed door abruptly interrupted their conversation. This time it was a man’s cry of pain, followed by a hollow, metallic sound that quickly silenced the cry. Thorias winced sympathetically.
The doctor nodded, “yes, I think I remember you saying that when you and Sirrah Wilkerson were talking about it in the warehouse. Granted, I was not fully awake yet, but still. So, it belonged to the ship?”
“Originally, yes,” Angela explained rapidly. “Father bought it off the captain of the Fair Winds on our trip to the dig site.”
“A Roman archeological site?” Thorias offered, eyeing the servitor carefully. The monkey stared at him innocently. The doctor scooped up the clockwork automaton, turning it one way then the other, searching it. All the while, the monkey squirmed.
Outside the room, a pair of doors abruptly slammed shut, followed by the sounds of running in the hallway.
“What are you doing?” Angela asked with a small note of alarm.
“Looking for anything your father might have left that would help us,” the doctor replied quickly. “So, it was a town like before?”
“No,” Angela shook her head, fighting back her nerves while her eyes stayed focused on her memories. “A battleground, I think, with lots of people buried nearby. The person Father was most interested in was a Roman soldier … only he wasn’t really a solider. Father said he was a doctor of some kind. He mixed herbs and treated the others.”
“An apothecary?” Thorias offered. “Very interesting, that explains ‘sealed aquilla’. An ‘aquilla’ was the symbol of the Roman Legions. Calling it ‘sealed’ might mean a document tube of some importance. Go on, was there any more?” Finding nothing unusual with the servitor, the doctor set it back on the floor with a frown.
Instantly the servitor hurried over to Angela. There, it hid partially behind the girl, and stared at Dr. Llwellyn with wide glowing amber eyes.
“The pirates were desperate for what we were bringing back,” Angela explained. “That and they were in a hurry to take everyone to Inverness. Especially this one German pirate.”
“Inverness?” The doctor asked curiously, “Not Port Signal? Are you certain?”
“Oh yes,” the girl nodded, “I heard them say so. They called this place a ‘stopover’.”
Thorias frowned, “that puts a new wrinkle on things.” He said with a dark undertone.
Ian suddenly opened the door, “They’ve got one lad watching the roof. Two on the street below in the back, as best that I could see. However, here’s the odd thing: They look like they’ve been through the ringer already. Pretty bandaged and bruised.”
“Indeed? Interesting. They were fine, last we saw them,” the doctor said thoughtfully. “Unless they’ve already visited downstairs that is. In any case, is there an escape route over the rooftops?”
“Once I make one for ya,” Ian replied.
“Aren’t you a bit bruised for leaping across rooftops?” Thorias asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I’ve not been shot, just cuffed around. I was beat more when I fought John Sullivan in the ring.” Tonks explained with a smirk. “It’s just a young lad out there, still wet behind his ears. One knock on the head and he’ll be sleeping for the next few minutes.”
“If he doesn’t shoot you,” the doctor commented.
“Then I won’t let him,” the pilot replied. “There’s more, though. That shopkeeper? Fitzcarin? He’s downstairs. He’s one of them that’s arguin’ with Rosa. He’s the one wanting to speak to the both of us. Supposedly, it’s about Angela.”
Thorias sighed, rubbed his eyes then raised an eyebrow at the pilot. “Fine then, how much time do you need?”
“Five or ten minutes. No more,” Ian replied firmly.
“Have at, then. Just don’t get shot,” Thorias replied. “I’ll see about Sirrah Fitzcarin.”
“Right,” the pilot replied, heading out of the room.
“What about me?” Angela asked nervously.
“Best you stay in the room with the door locked,” the doctor replied, reaching for his coat.
Tonks, stopped in the middle of the doorway. “Belay that! Are ya daft?”
Dr. Llwellyn scowled, “what exactly would you have me do, then? Trot her out in front of Fitzcarin like a prize stalking horse? Or trundle her into a room and lock the door where there is a modest amount of protection?”
“Have ya taken leave of yer senses? Or have ya forgotten what happened in Edinburgh, even with a constable right outside the door, and the Cap’n down the hall! That went smashingly, didn’t it?” The pilot growled.
“It’s not safe,” the doctor snapped. “She needs to be kept someplace secure.”
“Watched by whom?” Tonks demanded. “The monkey?”
Angela pushed in between the two men, riveting each with a determined gaze and clenched fists, “Begging both your pardons, but I want to go with the doctor! Don’t put me in some room alone!”
“Now, Angela,” Dr. Llwellyn began, but the girl immediately interrupted.
“I was the one who helped rescue my brother from the Sirrah RiBeld’s ship. I … I was the one who pulled the Captain from the avalanche!” She looked first at the doctor, then at the pilot, “And … and … you both are hurt. Really badly, even if neither one wants to admit it to the other!” She leveled her frustrated glance at the two men, who listened in amazed silence. At her feet, the clockwork monkey gazed sternly at both men, mimicking Angela’s motions.
The young girl took a deep breath, as if summoning her last reserve of courage to the fore. “My mother trusted me to see this through… I have to do this! I’m not a piece of baggage to just be slung around!”
Neither man spoke for a moment, but exchanged a glance. Thorias looked ruffled. Tonks, on the other hand, smirked, raising an eyebrow. As if to say silently, ‘she has a point.’
“Besides, no one would expect me to be a werewolf or any trouble. They’ll just think I’m a proper little girl,” Angela added in a hesitant, nervous tone.
Mouth set in a thin line, Thorias sighed, “fine and done, then.
The pilot grinned, giving the young girl a wink, “don’t either of ya get caught. I’ll be back as soon as I’m able.” Ducking out the door, the pilot rushed off down the hallway, letting the door shut behind him, once again closing off the sounds of argument from downstairs.
“Brilliant!” Angela said with a huge grin, then scooped up the monkey at her feet. “Where do we start?”
The doctor shoved an arm into his coat, remembering too late to be careful of the wound in his side. He winced, then finished putting his coat on. “I’ll forgo my usual propensity towards a reminder of what is proper, seeing as you’re taking lessons from Moira,” Thorias replied with a rough chuckle. “This will require some subtlety, not violence … hopefully.”
“So, what will we do?” The girl asked with a shrug. Next to her the monkey shrugged as well, which earned it a swat on the top of the head from Angela.
“First, a deep breath to calm our nerves – mostly mine,” the doctor said, guiding the young girl and her clockwork servitor out of the room. “We’ll get nothing done if we don’t keep a clear head and a sharp eye about us.” He shut the door behind them, locking it out off habit. He paused outside their door.
“What is it?” Angela asked, looking up at the doctor.
“Listen,” he replied.
“I don’t hear anything,” the girl said. Abruptly, her eyes widened with realization. “Oh,” she said in a small voice. “The arguments have stopped.”
While they walked down the hall, Thorias continued “Precisely, I suspect an ambush. I want to stop at the top of the stairs, just to see how many are down there waiting on us. If, for any reason, something goes sour, you run back upstairs and head for Sirrah Wilkerson, understand?”
Angela hesitated a moment, biting her lip. “But that’ll leave you alone with them. You’ll need help.”
The doctor patted her on the shoulder, reassuringly. “Which is why I want you to run to Tonks. If the worst happens, I trust you and Sirrah Wilkerson to find a way to liberate me. I applaud your bravery for someone so young, but don’t argue with me, young miss.”
“Yes, doctor,” she finally replied after a short, thoughtful pause.
“Excellent,” the doctor replied with a nod. “Let’s go meet our company, shall we?”
At the top of the stairs, the pair stopped. Below, the common room was unnaturally quiet, even for the early afternoon. Snow drifted in small flurries past the window, accumulating slowly on the sill. Chairs stood next to tables, as if the occupants had just been sitting there only a moment before. The doctor craned his neck. Unfortunately he could only see a portion of the room that comprised the front door and windows. The other half of the common room was obscured from his sight by the solid walls of the stairwell.
“This was a nearly full room when we arrived,” Thorias whispered.
Angela nodded nervously, “they took them off … I suppose.”
“Or ran them off,” the doctor suggested.
Stepping forward, Thorias placed one hand on his revolver and carefully guided Angela behind him. Slowly, he descended the stairs.
“Good ta see ya again, Sirrah. You too, young miss,” Peter Fitzcarin’s rough voice greeted them as they reached the bottom stair. Fitzcarin sat forward in his chair, indicating the seats opposite the table from him. “I hoped ya might come down and join me. Seems we’ve something to chat about.”
The doctor’s hand tensed when the shopkeeper spoke, then partially relaxed. He glanced around slowly. The common room, which had been almost full of mid-afternoon patrons before, was now nearly empty.
Tables were not overturned, but at least two chairs had been. Most everything looked as if the occupants, who had been in the middle of their early afternoon activities, had dropped everything to leave immediately – or had been encouraged to leave.
Outside, through the large front windows, the doctor saw two men standing watch there. They kept their backs to the boarding house, having their attention turned outward. The doctor could not decide if they were there to keep anyone from leaving, or coming in.
Inside, another man, looking rather disgruntled with fresh bruises on his head and cheeks, stood at the end of a counter. He was dressed similarly to the men outside, in a woolen long coat, trousers and boots. Only he also held a frying pan. Behind the counter, not far away was Rosalita, who gave the man dark, cursed looks while she slowly cleaned the counter of broken dishes.
Thorias met Fitzcarin’s gaze, and with a short deep breath, he smiled pleasantly. “Yes, Sirrah, it seems we might.”