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Authors: Lynn Viehl

The Clockwork Wolf

BOOK: The Clockwork Wolf
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Praise for
New York Times
bestselling author

LYNN VIEHL

“Original and enjoyable . . . Kit was a great main character—she reminded me a bit of a grown-up Nancy Drew, if Nancy Drew had lived in a supernatural version of America.”

—
All Things Urban Fantasy
on
Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship's Curse

“Delightful . . . Recommended for anyone who liked
The St. Croix Chronicles
by Karina Cooper.”

—
Nocturnal Book Reviews
on
Disenchanted & Co.

“If you liked The Parasol Protectorate . . . you will definitely enjoy this series.”

—
Gizmo's Reviews
on
Disenchanted & Co.

“I really enjoyed the character of Kit, sort of a Raymond Chandler-meets-Sherlock Holmes in a world of magic.”

—
Geek Speak Magazine
on
Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship's Curse

“Viehl is a master at writing the interactions and relationships that develop between an antagonistic heroine and an enigmatic ‘enemy.' ”

—
The Book Adventures
on
Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship's Curse

“Viehl has created a world where steampunk and magic exist side by side and mysteries abound. This story is a wonderful mix of the old and the new. Old, in the sense that there are definite nods given to the Historical Romance genre given the overall tone of the novel. New in that an entirely never before seen world has been created.”

—
WTF Are You Reading?
on
Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship's Curse

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For Darlene Ryan,
with love and gratitude.
Fortitudine vincimus.

C
HAPTER
O
NE

“Morning, miss.” Damp-cheeked and rosy from the steam rising from her cart, my favorite tealass, Sally, handed over a mug of her strongest morning brew. “Sold out me sticky buns early today, sorry. Crumpets are quite nice.”

“Then I'll have two.” I took a grateful sip of my tea and glanced at a gang of brickies patching the west wall of an assayer's building. “Business picking up now that they've carted out the rubble?”

“Oh, yes, miss. Tho' even after our boys sunk all them Talian ships what blasted us, me da wanted me to sell from the bakery, but I told him Rumsen'd be back to rights in no time.” She sniffed. “Batty lot, sailing in at dawn, banners flapping bold as you please. What'd they think we'd do, run off to Settle?”

“Well, they certainly weren't expecting a fight.” Indeed, the Talians had been promised quite the opposite: to find every soul in the city rendered helpless by magic. Fortunately the massive, nightmarish spell that would have enslaved our citizens had never been cast—but if I explained to Sally how I knew those details, she'd think
I
was the loon. “Morning paper out yet?”

“Just dropped off. Oy, Jimmy.” She whistled to catch the attention of the little newsboy working the corner. “Bring us a daily for the missus.”

Jimmy trotted over and offered me a string-tied bundle. “Couple of beaters were 'tacked last night, miss. Savaged, they were, by the beastie chap again—you know, the Wolfman. S'all front page.”

“I imagine it is.” I handed him some coins. “And did they lock up this beastie chap?”

“Couldn't catch him.” He scratched the side of his face, connecting some of his freckles with smudges from his inky fingers. “Thing is, they said they had him last Tuesday, and some say he were even kilt.”

I exchanged an amused look with Sally. “Maybe they caught the wrong beastie.”

“Aye. Or there could be two.” Looking hopeful, he touched the rim of his cap before he scurried back to his patch by the lamppost.

“Beastie men my aunt Frances,” Sally said, shaking her head. “Some drunken brave in a fur, more like.”

I watched an elegant young lady and her mother stroll by with a gleaming brass lamb on a tether. The animech bleated and wagged its tail, although it had been placed on a wheeled cart to prevent it from having to be rewound to walk every block. “Maybe it was a clockwork beast,” I joked.

“I don't think they make them that big yet. Although I did have a gentleman stop yesterday who had a hawk. Covered the mech with real feathers.” She tilted her head to one side. “Miss, you know that grand mage chap all the nobs fancy? The one what can kill with a blink, all legal like?”

“Lord Lucien Dredmore.” I had killed him once, but then had been daft enough to bring him back to life; as a result I couldn't deny the acquaintance. “He can be a
beast, but I doubt he's the Wolfman. All that fur, too vulgar for him.”

“I don't mean the beast, I mean him.” She lifted her chin toward my office building. “He's standing right over there, watching you.”

So much for my pleasant morning. “Best sell me another crumpet then, Sally.”

I took my time finishing my tea before I bid the cartlass good day and crossed the street. While I should have politely acknowledged the dark and brooding presence of Toriana's much-acclaimed and endlessly feted grand master of the dark arts, I didn't care to start my workday by bobbing before Lord Dredmore.

“Morning, Lucien.” I managed a civil nod. “Are you lost, or slumming?”

“I am never the former, and only for you the latter.” He gave my building one of his snide looks before he inspected me. “You've been avoiding me, Charmian.”

Once I had, like the plague, until certain events had been set into motion by a phony curse, a nasty possession, and an invasion of the city. Mayhem and magic had solved most of the lot, but since then things between Lucien Dredmore and me had become rather more than less complicated.

“I've been busy.” Partly true; now to choose the rest of my words with care. “How may I direct you to a better part of town?”

He took hold of my arm. “We should talk in your office.”

I allowed Dredmore to escort me to the fourth floor but stopped him at the hall entry. “Wait here.”

“Why?”

“Not all the crumpets are for you.” I walked down to where an old woman sat huddled on my threshold. The skirts of her shabby gown had been patched so many times they resembled a mad checkerboard, and they were dirtier than usual. From the whistling rattle of her wheezing, I concluded that Gert had dozed off while waiting on me.

I reached down to give her shoulder a pat. “Come on, love. You'll get a neck crick, sleeping like that.”

Two bleary eyes nestled in nests of wrinkled skin fluttered and then peered. “What? Where? Oh.” She scowled. “It's you, demon's harlot. What vile work have you been at? I've been waiting hours, I have.”

“I'm afraid Satan delayed me this morning.” I helped her up and glanced at the glass window that she hadn't yet defaced. “Run out of death curses, or is this your half day?”

“Lost me grease pencil.” She pushed out her lower lip. “Old tosser at the mission likely nicked it. They've all sticky fingers down there.” She fumbled with her reticule before she extracted her wand and gave it a shake. “I cast this spell of doom on you, unwholesome soul, that you be swallowed up”—she trailed off into a damp cough, and had to clear her throat several times before she could continue—“I mean, devoured entirely by the blackest bottomless pit in the Netherside.” She gave my arm a halfhearted swat.

After the few seconds of silence that out of respect I afforded her spells, I handed her the spare crumpet. “Straight from the cart, I promise. Now what are you doing at the mission?”

“Can't get work, and lost me room in the attack.” She
tore open the wrapping and took a big bite. “Wretched Talians turned half the city into scram.”

The damp cough meant she'd probably been sleeping outside, too. I thought for a moment. “Tinker Elias on Kearney Street always needs good rags. He'll want clean, but he pays in coin.”

“Does he now?” Crumbs rained from Gert's chin as she gobbled up the rest of the crumpet. “I'll get to it, then.” She hesitated before she added, “Might not be here tomorrow, but you'll not dodge my wrath forever, mind.”

“Wouldn't dream of it.” I watched her scurry off, feeling satisfied over my good deed until a long shadow crossed my own. “I asked for a minute.”

The black slashes of his eyebrows elevated. “Do you always provide tea to vagrants who wish you ill?”

I gave him my sweetest smile. “You're here, aren't you?”

Once inside the office I opened the shades and checked the tube port. Along with the usual pile of post there were some fly-ads from the neighborhood merchants and a small box wrapped in brown paper. I put the post on my desk with the remaining crumpets, tossed the ads into the rubbish, and set the package in my coal bucket before covering it with the lid.

Dredmore watched from the doorway. “No sender's name on the parcel?”

“On that sort, there never is.” I filled the kettle at the pipe basin.

“Why not open it?”

“I used to. The ones they pack with runes or stones or
spell packets are harmless enough, but occasionally”—I paused as a thump came from inside the bucket—“there's something with teeth.”

Dredmore glanced at the window. “So the local mages still want you out.”

“Aye, and you'd think they'd occasionally try a bribe. Don't bother,” I added as he moved toward it. “I give the live ones to Docket when I go downstairs for coal.”

“What does he do with them?”

“You know, I've never asked. I worry dining might be involved.” I brought the kettle over to my tea stand and set it on the steamdog. “Now why don't you tell me what can't be heard outside my office?”

He joined me. “One of my clients is in need of your services.”


My
services.” I pondered that along with my selection of tea. “Did you eat your breakfast, Dredmore, or drink it from a flask?”

He took the teaheart from me and removed a silver packet from his coat. “Under ordinary circumstances I would attend to it personally.” He thumbed open the infuser and shook in some gray-green leaves. “The lady in question, however, wishes to employ a discreet woman.”

There it was, his real motive. “So you want me because I'm a female.” I watched him place the infuser in my kettle and close the lid. “I can't believe I just said that.”

He loomed a little closer. “Your gender is a significant part of your allure.”

I could feel his body heat now. “Here I thought you fancied me for my mind.” I switched on the BrewsMaid
and moved to my desk, only to be halted by his hand on my wrist. “Please, Lucien. It's far too early in the day for a wrestling bout.”

“Stop struggling.” He touched my hair, from which he extracted a small brown leaf. “Your mop is a veritable magnet for detritus. You should wear a hat when you're out of doors.”

“Ladies wear hats,” I reminded him. “I'm a working gel.”

He smoothed back the tress he'd deleafed before he murmured, “You don't have to be, Charmian.”

If we continued down this conversational avenue I'd likely hit him, so I stepped away. “Moving back to business,” I said briskly, “I have a full schedule today. Who or what does your client wish dispelled?”

“Your spell-breaker powers are not wanted this time.” He walked over to my window and looked down at the street. “The lady recently lost her husband under abrupt and distressing circumstances. While the coroner ruled his death the result of natural causes, the widow believes it was quite the opposite, and wants proof to that effect. Naturally such an investigation must be conducted with the utmost discretion.”

BOOK: The Clockwork Wolf
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