Sir Byron Carpenter eased his vast bulk into the leather-upholstered armchair and considered the men assembled in his study through heavily-lidded eyes.
They were a disreputable looking group, their patched and threadbare clothing hinting at an existence far removed from the opulence that currently surrounded them. Yet, rather than appearing ill-at-ease, an aura of menace, of barely restrained violence, could be discerned by those sensitive to such things.
However, Sir Byron was unconcerned for his safety amongst this band of ruffians, for though he appeared to be nothing more than a corpulent gentleman of means, this carefully cultivated facade concealed something far more dangerous and deadly than a mere handful of street-hardened bravos.
Normally, he would have assigned a task of this nature to his own people, but these man had something they lacked – local knowledge. Whilst his ‘business enterprises’ had spread like an insidious disease through most of the seedier areas of London, Blackwell had yet to succumb to his raddled touch.
And that was where she had gone to ground.
He ground his teeth and inwardly seethed. After all his careful planning, the pressure applied to those in positions of power, the bribes, the threats and the expense, to have her slip though his fingers and vanish into the night was near intolerable. He would have taken his frustrations out upon the man assigned as her jailor, but whatever power she had used upon him had fractured his mind beyond all repair and no amount of physical punishment could now penetrate the labrythine twists of his insanity.
And just what could HE accomplish with such powers at his command? His breath grew short with excitement, as he imagined the entire city under his control. But why stop with just one city? If the legends were to be believed, and he had no reason to doubt them, once she was bound to him, nothing would be beyond his grasp.
He now had the artefact…he just needed the girl.
“Gentlemen,” he wheezed, addressing his assembled cat’s paws, “I have a commission for you…”