Waistcoats & Weaponry Page 73

Soap unfolded himself slowly. He was shaken by the fall, bruised and scraped quite a bit.

At her solicitous look, he said, “I think it’s all working, but miss, knowing you sure isn’t kind to a body.” He turned to the open field, clearly thinking about the duke and his gun. “Should we make a run for it?”

“Ah,” said Sophronia, “I believe we have reinforcements.”

So it proved to be, for, as the duke disembarked from his new dirigible, two werewolves came dashing up.

Sophronia stood and, dragging a reluctant Soap behind her, went to join this new gathering.

The werewolves chose to face the flywaymen and the duke, rather than the girl and the sootie. Probably wise.

While Sophronia and Soap walked toward them, the wolves, disregarding all sense of propriety, shifted form right there, in front of the whole dirigible crew in the middle of an open field. They had their backs to Sophronia, but she nevertheless took in the sight with no little embarrassment.

Soap said, “I do believe they think you are a lad.”

“Or this is too important to care about my moral standing.”

The dewan was speaking as they ambled closer.

“… and firing on a train, Your Grace! I mean to say, this can’t be authorized by the queen, I should have known about it. And you know you can’t use cannon fire in a private matter on home soil. What were you thinking? The entire countryside reverberated with the sound. People will think we are at war!”

Duke Golborne said, “My dear dewan, there is no one around to hear. Had I known you were running nearby, I might have employed a quieter projectile. Only creatures with such well-developed hearing as yourselves would know to come investigate. I assure you, I was being quite circumspect.”

He had not, of course, answered the dewan’s accusations.

“What on earth possessed you?” the dewan demanded.

“It was necessary. That train was carrying something valuable of mine. I wished it returned.”

“And may I ask what?”

“You may ask, of course.”

Sophronia and Soap pitched up.

“Good evening, my lords, Your Grace,” said Sophronia.

All eyes turned to her. It was uncomfortable. Sophronia was suited to life as an intelligencer because the one thing she really didn’t like was everyone’s attention on her. That, plus full-frontal werewolf, was challenging even for a girl of her acumen.

Captain Niall, standing a little to one side of the dewan, but equally unclothed, swore softly and said, “Miss Temminnick, what on earth?” He grabbed the top hat from his head and held it to cover his privates, mortified that a student should see him in such a state.

The dewan had no such scruples. Even knowing this odd-looking young lad was a girl did not deter him from his annoyance at the whole situation. He was not a man who tolerated being waylaid on a trip.

He frowned at Sophronia. “You again! We are due up north now, and yet you, young lady, seem bent on interfering with everything. What is it this time?”

Sophronia debated how much information to reveal and to what end. Her primary goal still had to be getting Sidheag home, and then getting herself and her companions safely back to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s and out of Pickleman clutches. Best, she thought, to throw herself on his mercy.

“Oh, my lord,” she said, eyelashes fluttering, “I am so grateful you have come! What would we have done without you? This duke has been so wicked. First he tried to steal this train, so we had to keep it away from him, and then he fired his big gun at us. It was very scary.”

“Oh, yes? And why do you think he wants the train?” The dewan was only partly taken in.

“I believe it has something that belongs to the vampires.”

“Oh ho, does it indeed? You mean besides those gold streamers? And which vampires would that be?”

“Westminster Hive.”

“And you can prove it how?”

Curses, we shouldn’t have pushed Monique overboard. “Oh, well, we accidentally tossed the evidence. But I can assure you it does not belong to this man.” Sophronia gave the dewan her steady gaze of pure honesty.

The duke said, “This is preposterous. You can’t possibly take her word against mine!”

“Can’t I?”

“It hardly matters, the train is gone now,” pointed out Captain Niall.

“True, but we could catch it easily enough,” answered the dewan, speaking of their supernatural speed.

Sophronia brightened. “Oh, could you? Good. Lady Kingair is on board.”

“What!” Neither the dewan nor Captain Niall was pleased to hear that.

Sophronia said, “Why do you think we snuck on in the first place? The train was headed north and she wanted to go home. I know she isn’t furry, my lord, but she considers herself a werewolf. That’s her family you’re going up to reprimand, and she wants to be with them. You can’t blame us for trying to get her there.”

Captain Niall recovered from his embarrassment and actually chuckled at that statement. “I did warn you, sir. They aren’t ordinary girls. Unless you lock Lady Kingair up, she’ll keep trying.”

The dewan looked inquiringly at Sophronia.

Sophronia nodded. “And we’ll keep helping her.”

“Why?” demanded the dewan.

“Because she’s our friend.”

The dewan was frustrated with the whole mess. He looked at Soap. “And what have you to do with any of this?”

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