There’s a bloody serial killer on the loose in foggy London, and music hall singer, The Songbird of Surrey, fears her best friend has fallen victim to the fiend. When her own fiancé, who she sent out to find her friend, goes missing as well, she seeks the professional help of the EHP Investigation Bureau to solve the mystery.
Intrepid crime fighter Elizabeth Hunter-Payne ventures into the dangerous streets of London’s East End and explores the seamy side of adult entertainment to confront the Collector, the terror of Whitechapel. His elusive puppet master, Vladimir the Mesmerist, is pulling the strings of conspiracy, and threatens the very foundations of the empire.
Elizabeth meets the ultimate automaton, Hercules, but what service can a metal man of cogs and gears perform? Guns, knives, and half-bricks come into play as Elizabeth fights for survival, and her sanity, in another thrilling steampunk adventure.
Author’s Note: Cliffhanger ending. Elizabeth’s story continues in Elizabeth Hunter-Payne Steampunk Adventures 4!
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Mikala Ash
After my adventure on the airship Imperative, I decided to chronicle my now numerous adventures on behalf of her Majesty’s government. Due to the sensitivity of my activities I have instructed my solicitors to withhold them from publication until a century after my death. I suspect it is a form of vanity, an act of self-aggrandisement, another of my personal failings. I do intend to give an honest account, and because memory is at best an untrustworthy source and at worst an outright liar, I take copious notes at every opportunity to ensure my recollections of events are as accurate as possible. This tedious habit became particularly important to me given the strange case on which I was about to embark.
Following the deadly conclusion of the Torbernite Imperative my small household had undergone a substantial upheaval. I’d taken a monstrous risk to my reputation by installing the unmarried Felix Rider in the bedroom next to mine. On the surface my act is clearly one of charity, for Felix is an operative of my investigation bureau, and he had been wounded in the line of duty aboard the airship Imperative. During a life-and-death struggle he sustained a gunshot wound, a concussion, two broken ribs, a twisted knee, as well as cut and swollen knuckles.
It was a risk I was honour bound to take, for he had saved my life.
However there was another co-placating factor at play. In addition to his investigative duties Felix had agreed to be my tutor in matters pertaining to erotic satisfaction, a step I’d taken to reawaken my sensuality following many years of celibacy after the death of my dear husband, Jonathan. Felix was an able and inventive teacher. The palpable risk I took was that my physical attraction to Felix coupled with his proximity, would be my undoing, and that I would do something indiscreet, and be exposed as the laughable wanton widow so popular on the music hall stage. Embarrassed and ashamed, I would inevitably become an outcast of society, a fate, if I am to be honest, that was losing its power over me every day.
I placed him under the round the clock charge of two nurses, a cheerful buxom young blonde named Bramble, and the senior of the two, the authoritative and statuesque Hazleton. They were supervised by my family physician, the reputable Dr. Horace Wamburton.
As I have related elsewhere, Archie, my late husband’s batman, also shared my house. I considered him the son Jonathan and I were destined never to have. I’d unofficially adopted him after he had been seriously wounded in the Crimean battle that had killed Jonathan. Since the Torbernite affair he had been laid up in bed with a serious chill he’d earned while carrying out surveillance work in torrential rain. That left the responsibility of running the EHP Investigation Bureau to me. Every day after breakfast spent with Felix, chatting about anything and everything, and resisting the powerful urge to climb into bed with him, I’d go to the office feeling highly aroused and frustrated.
My body’s propensity to lust, or libido as my old Latin dictionary calls it, had never been higher in my life, and inevitably I succumbed to it. It was the eighth morning after returning from Edinburgh that I went to Felix’s room to wish him a good morning that my resistance fell. I entered as Nurse Bramble, the pretty young blonde was leaving the sick room, and we bumped into each other. As we performed a little dance to get out of each other’s way without disarranging my crinolines too badly I noted her creamy complexion was flushed, and though she wore her habitual smile, she uncharacteristically avoided my gaze.
Nurse Hazleton, the older and more sensible of the two, bade me good morning.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, indicating with my gaze the departing back of Nurse Bramble.
“It’s nothing, Mrs. Hunter-Payne. We nurses have seen it all. We don’t embarrass easy.”
“What do you mean?”
In turn I followed her gaze to Felix’s bed. He was still asleep. His handsome face, despite the bandages that covered the minor cuts on the left side of his head, appeared relaxed and untroubled. Then, with a sharp intake of breath, I noted that lower down the sheet was tented with a morning erection. I couldn’t help but put my hand to my mouth.
About Mikala Ash
Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.