Authors: Mike Cervantes
Tags: #Steampunk, #hero, #superhero, #Detective, #london, #nineteenth century, #Victorian, #derby, #jay, #villains
Victorian London’s Most Courageous
Meet Thaddeus Hedwater and his wife Mary Jane, two newlyweds who share an incredible secret: when night falls on the streets of London, they scour the streets of crime as the city’s most stalwart crime-fighting duo, The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay.
Join them, in this series of five exciting adventures, as they foil the sinister plots of some of their greatest foes: the fiendish Three-Headed Mob, the sinister Maestro Bellaco, the diabolical Tin Tuna, and the abominable Silas Monstrosity. It’s sure to be a non-stop, action packed saga filled with deadly twists and turns, and mind-bending shocks and scandals, as The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay throw themselves from one dire circumstance to another, all in the name of justice.
Contains five short stories by series creator Mike Cervantes:
— The original “The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay” short story previously published in
— Three fully re-edited definitive editions of stories originally published on thescarletderby.com.
— One book-exclusive story, “The Tin Tuna.”
THE SCARLET DERBY & MIDNIGHT JAY
Copyright © 2015 Mike Cervantes
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Cover art by Jorge Santiago Jr.
Book Design by RuneWright, LLC
First of all, I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad, who have always been supportive of anything I’ve ever wanted to do. If there ever was a reward for being infinitely appreciative of the talents of your children, it would look an awful lot like this book.
Jorge Santiago Jr., who I’ve known since my very first semester at the University of Texas at El Paso, deserves many thanks. Not only did he create the cover on the first print of this novel. He’s also been a role model in my pursuit of a creative career. He’s always been extremely complimentary of my writing and he’s always had faith that I would put out something great someday. I like to think I’ve done it with this release.
I’d like to thank fellow author J.A. Campbell. One of the conversations we had on Facebook about the need for more valiant characters in modern fiction was one of my earliest inspirations for the creation of The Scarlet Derby and Midnight Jay. She, along with David B. Riley happily accepted and published the first story I’d written about the duo in the first issue of
Steampunk Trails Magazine
, despite the fact I’d turned in a draft containing a real muddle of confused names and typos. Sorry guys.
I dedicate this book to Kronda Seibert, the founder of Colorado’s very own AnomalyCon annual steampunk convention. I came to Denver feeling a little lost and a little in the dark about how to proceed as a writer and an artist. After only one week after moving here, I attended AnomalyCon in 2013, and found a whole new well of creative inspiration to draw from. Kronda has also been an enormously positive influence on me in my personal life. She believes that anyone with the right amount of inspiration can put out something of this magnitude, and this book is living proof that such a thing can happen.
Finally, I’d like to thank fellow author Quincy J. Allen, for assisting me with the final few steps of bringing this book out to the publishing market. Quincy is one of Denver’s most respected and influential self-published authors, an individual dedicated to writing as a career who I’ve met many other authors through. Yet, he’s always been very complimentary of my work, and has always appreciated my writing style, to the extent he’d even taken the lone submission I’d made to his anthology series
Penny Dread Tales,
and classified it as one of the “best of” in a compilation of stories available from his small press venture, RuneWright LLC.
The Scarlet Derby
and Midnight Jay
One evening, in the glamorous mansion of wealthy heiress Mary Jane Hedwater, there came a knock on the front door. Mary Jane, ever the prim type, straightened her caramel brown hair, straightened her plum-colored gown, and made a quick glance of her makeup before moving to answer the door. She knew her husband was down in his basement workshop, tinkering with something, and that the guest was his, but it was her job to bring the guest into the house and converse with him until her husband was ready to come up from the workshop.
That was always her job when it came to guests.
Ever the prepared one, she had already set up a delicate silver tea set. All that was left for her to do was answer the door. Standing in the entrance was a close, personal, friend of her husband’s, Chief Constable Howard O’Gratin. He was dressed quite impeccably as well, his custom fitted light brown dress suit was almost enough to offset his wide belly, and his quite nearly bald head. What he lacked in hair, however, he made up by growing wide muttonchops and a long white moustache which curled neatly at either end.
“Oh there you are, Constable, please, do come in.” Mary Jane said curtly, taking the brown cap that was already in his hands and hanging it on a nearby rack. As they sat and drank tea, the subject of her husband came up. This distressed Mary Jane ever so slightly, as he’d not yet come from the workshop.
“Yes, I’m afraid he’s down there still. I can’t fathom what he may be doing.” She said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
“Well, actually, I came here to talk to you about him.” The Constable replied.
“To me? About him? Why, whatever for, Constable?” Mary Jane leaned to her friend’s side and whispered. “This isn’t about the fact that he’s
, is it?
The Constable leaned back and sputtered. “No-no-no-no, I’m over that by now. Still, you know that the whole city just…runs wild with rumors of your sudden engagement.”
Mary Jane looked away, pretending to shyly shield her face from The Constable’s interrogation. “Is it a crime for a girl run away with the man of her dreams?”
“You’re not just ‘a girl,’ Mrs. Hedwater, you’re heiress to the third largest fortune in all of London, and he’s not just any man, he’s an, well he’s….He’s so…”
“Eccentric?” Mary Jane offered.
“Yes, that’s the word.” He affirmed with a nod of his head.
“Constable, all men of genius are eccentric, that is part of what makes them so brilliant, and we both know that Thaddeus is an ingenious chemist, perhaps he’ll win a Nobel Prize.”
Suddenly, the whole house was rocked by loud popping noise which almost rocked Mary Jane and The Constable out of their chairs. From the door leading to the basement, a feeble voice bellowed. “Uh, Mary Jane…I think I may need some help down here.”
“Should I bring the fire extinguisher, dear?” Mary Jane called in the direction of the doorway.
“Uhm no…The explosion was entirely chemical…I am going to need you to open the sewer drain for me. I…am not entirely sure I can move my legs.”
Mary Jane heaved a sigh and turned to the Constable. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to take this up some other time.
“Quite understandable,” The Constable sat up from his chair and took his cap. He stopped and turned to face Mary Jane “But please, do let me know if his ‘genius’ ever does become a burden. I just would hate to see you get hurt.” With that, he left through the front door.
The smile that Mary Jane reserved for polite company twisted into a bewildered smirk as she twisted around and began to descend the basement stares. There she found Thaddeus Hedwater, soaked from head to toe in the purplish-blue…whatever it was that also covered the floor. He stood and attempted to wring the top of his wild amber hair clean as though it was made of sponge. She gave him a thin-lipped smile and jested “So…These must be your broken legs.”
“I may have overreacted.” He shrugged, and un-tucked his sopping wet shirt from his brown trousers.
“You always overreact dear, as do your experiments.” She bent to dip a finger in the mixture and lightly smelled her fingertips. “I’m going to guess you mixed an acid with a base.”
“…I-it slipped.” He removed a black boot and poured the contents onto the floor.
“I’m certain it did, dear.” Mary Jane stooped to pull the lever, draining the liquid from the workshop into the sewer. “You don’t think this little accident did any harm to-”
“The Crime Alert Monitor?” Thaddeus shook his head. “Nevertheless, I should give it a ch-”
BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP! BRWEEP!
The sound was so loud it echoed off the walls, shaking the two off their feet almost as soundly as the explosion. “I suppose that answers you question, dear.”
“I SAID I SUPPOSE THAT-never mind…” Thaddeus moved to the alarm and pulled a knife switch on the wall that brought an end to the siren. He then moved to a ticker tape in the center of the room which began to spit out a thin scrap of paper. “Zounds!” He spoke aloud as he read.
“Zounds, dear?” Mary Jane replied.
“Zounds, I say! I may additionally say Gadzooks! Someone has broken into the city armory and stolen a large supply of pure glycerol and nitrous extract! Do you know what that means?”
“That someone intends to mix an enormous nitroglycerin bomb and hold Big Ben for ransom in exchange for the crown jewels?” Mary Jane responded flatly, crossing her arms.
“Piffle,” Thaddeus scoffed “Who on earth would be so cliché? What’s more imminent, though, is the fact that nitroglycerin is very unstable, and even the slightest mishandling could cause the entire payload to explode and destroy a large portion of the city!”
“That does sound rather dire. Do you have any idea who may be behind it?” Mary Jane asked idly.
“There is only one man in all of London conniving enough to attempt such a crime: that dastardly fiend Silas Monstrosity.” Thaddeus began to wring his hands as he spoke. “He’s a contemptible villain, yet in many ways he is also my intellectual equal.”
“Indeed, the two of you are quite adept at creating enormous explosions...”
“Never mind dear,” Mary Jane pushed her husband by the shoulder a few steps until he stood behind a folding screen. “We should quickly change into our costume if we hope to find this criminal in time.” Mary Jane stepped behind another dressing screen, and the two took to changing.
Thaddeus’ outfit continued to be, in Mary Jane’s opinion, the strangest thing she’d ever seen. It began with a bright red derby worn atop a matching bandana which went over his eyes and had two round holes cut from the fabric so he could see. The opera cape and suit he wore with it appeared to be as red, but was a composed of a variety of different shades of red that complimented the suit where it admittedly should. Stranger, though was the fact that his underclothes were also a shade of contrasting red. His undershirt was salmon pink, as were his gloves, and his socks were as scarlet as his hat.
Mary Jane’s own outfit seemed far more sensible: It was not unlike many of her other gowns: full and flowery, with only small amounts of flair at the sleeves, and a neck line that went just far enough down to be…interesting. Mainly, it was colored blue, deep and rich like she saw on the jays when she first visited New York, and first met Thaddeus.
Where there should have been accents, however, the fabric was completely black, as were her stockings, gloves, and petticoats. With a combination like that, she knew she’d be able to hide in the darkness of alleyways, while she was sure her husband would stick out like a salmon-colored sore thumb. She completed her disguise by wearing a masquerade mask: blue with black, feathery plumes trimmed neatly over the brim.