Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Deleted scene from Lady Wynwood's Spies 2: Berserker

I wrote the following scene when working on Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 2: Berserker. It takes place during chapter 3 when Thorne is searching London for Sep.

I quite liked the scene itself, but I ended up deleting it because the segment where Thorne is searching was already really long. Adding this small segment made the pacing drag a bit too much. So with many tears, I finally cut this part out.

However, I’m now able to post it here on my blog! I hope you enjoy it!


Deleted scene from Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 2: Berserker, chapter 3



They managed to speak to a slovenly-looking woman standing in the doorway of another brothel, as if she were guarding it.

“I can’t say for sure that I saw anything unusual, but if I had someone chasing me, I’d find someplace to go.” She had a habit of running her tongue over the gap where her canine tooth was missing. “I’d go somewhere like St. Orange Orphanage.”

“St. Orange?” Thorne asked.

“The ladies running that place aren’t very nice, but that old pile of stones has a big basement. They use it mostly for storage, but there’s plenty of space and lots of places to hide.”

“If the ladies aren’t very nice, wouldn’t they tell your pursuers that they had seen you?” Thorne asked.

“Naw, the basement has three or four entrances, so they wouldn’t even know you were there.”

Thorne handed her a coin, and her grin flashed her yellowed teeth, minus the missing canine. “Thanks much.”

As they were slinking away, the coachman asked, “It might be a good hiding place for someone trying to escape from a normal person, but these men …”

“From what Mr. Drydale said about Mr. Ackett, I doubt he would want to lead his pursuer to anywhere like that, with children nearby.” But despite his words, he found his steps taking him toward St. Orange Orphanage, in the direction the woman had pointed. “I don’t think he will be there, but we must search regardless.”

The coachman nodded and followed him.

St. Orange Orphanage was a very old building that looked like it had been erected in Norman times. The main building had small windows and was a cramped square, but other wings had been added over the years so that it now sprawled out on either side like tumbled blocks.

The most obvious entrance to the basement was on the right front corner of the main building, where a set of rusted iron railings poked up from above the ground to indicate where the stairs were.

They made their way carefully down the broken stone steps, which sometimes shifted under their weight, until they came to a very old, heavy wooden door set flush against the ancient stone at the base of the building. It smelled like mold and dirt, which overwhelmed the faint scent of garbage that permeated the the street.

There was a heavy iron ring set in the door, but upon looking for the hinges on the door and not finding them, Thorne thought perhaps the door swung inward, and that the ring was a relic from when the hinges had been on the outside.

He pushed tentatively at first, then gave it a harder shove, and the door cracked open with a shudder of wood against stone. Another shove, and they were able to open the door enough to slip inside.

In the light from the open door, he could see a shelf against the wall that held candles. He lit one, and then they shut the door. It closed much more easily than it had opened.

The coachman lit another candle for himself, and they proceeded deeper into the basement. It had a very low ceiling, which made Thorne feel as though there were spiders dropping onto his head.

The candles were inadequate to light the space, but there were a few tiny horizontal slits near the ceiling all along the walls to cast a ghostly gray light over everything inside. There were numerous pillars set at intervals, but they were placed haphazardly throughout the large space, with a column rising unexpectedly whether they walked straight or turned aside.

The space was largely empty, as apparently the orphanage did not have many items it needed to store. Likely, everything that was brought in was used immediately. There were some crates of potatoes, onions, and a small crate with some moldy carrots mixed with even moldier cabbage. Next to that was a rusted iron bedstead frame, uglier and much more ornate than a typical bed frame, and certainly not one that would be used for the orphans.

But as they wove their way deeper into the maze of the basement, Thorne suddenly halted and grabbed the arm of the coachman to make him stop, also. He had heard a faint sound, which echoed against the cold stone, and it had not been the small scuttling sound of an animal or the drip of water.

He closed his eyes for a moment to listen, but snapped them open almost immediately. He had heard that sound again, a soft sliding whisper of a boot sole against stone.

The coachman had heard it also, because his arm stiffened under Thorne’s hand. Thorne released him and set down his candle. The coachman followed suit.

Thorne had a knife in a leather holder strapped to his lower back, but he preferred not to use knives in close, dark spaces like this. But he was also aware that there was too little light to be able to see an attack if it came. His best option would be to pin the attacker to the ground, but what if there was more than one attacker?

He should have thought of the fact that if he had decided to look for Mr. Ackett in a well-known hiding place like the orphanage, other people would also surely check here.

The darkness seemed to enhance Thorne’s senses, because he heard the stranger’s footsteps more clearly now. No, not one stranger, but … two. He did not believe it was three.

The man suddenly appeared out of the darkness from behind a pillar, and the coachman visibly jumped. Thorne had heard him a split second before he appeared, so he was not as surprised, but he made himself react with an exaggerated jolt.

The men had a squat, ugly face, which was very strangely crisscrossed by fine scars. One jagged scar curved across his forehead, over the bridge of his nose, and then to about halfway down his cheek, and looked to have been made in a knife fight. There were other smaller scars on his cheeks, the outside of his left eye, and along his jaw, but many of them were in the shape of Xs of uniform sizes and depth, which made Thorne wonder if perhaps they were self-inflicted. They certainly gave him a meaner, more threatening appearance. The scars contrasted sharply with his hair, which, although short and dirty, gleamed like shining gold even in the dim light from the candles. Angelic hair.

Another man appeared behind him, this one considerably shorter and a little soft and round about his middle. He had a placid face, as if he had just woken up from a nap, but his half lidded eyes locked on Thorne with an intensity that belied his mild-mannered appearance.

It was only a split second impression, but Thorne could feel a strange strength emanating from both men. They carried themselves in a way that normal men did not, with shoulders flung just a little further back, chins raised just a bit higher, faces just a little more arrogant. As if they knew they could take on any attacker, no matter the size, no matter the situation. Thorne had never seen men like this before, not in all his travels across the Peninsula and his few forays into France. This kind of confidence was not simply arrogance, or an overinflated estimate of their fighting abilities, but an inner power that had been tested, over and over.

Thorne had only a second to react, and although the coachman was strong, he did not want to get involved with these two men.

Thorne had not done as much undercover work as Michael, but he had picked up many tricks from his friend. Thorne had a tendency to run off at the mouth when he was nervous, which is why he usually kept his mouth shut in tense situations. It was Michael who pointed out that his babbling was an excellent disguise, to put an opponent at ease, to sell whatever story Thorne was trying to tell.

So Thorne raised hand to over his heart and gripped his clothes, then gave an elaborate sigh and hung his head. “Cor’, you folk scared a hundred years off of my life. What are you doing in a place like this? Ladies’ll not be very happy to see you. They told us no one was down here. Not that they really know anything that happens under the building, they don’t want to know, they don’t want no one to tell them. You’re not stealing onions or anything like that, are you? The cook’s in a good mood today, so she might fix something nice instead of the slop she usually does. Unless she gets into the ale sooner than usual. Then we gets almost nothing for dinner. Lazy whore.”

Thorne glanced at the coachman. The man had frozen in surprise at the appearance of the two men, and his face was still tense, but there was a wildness in his eyes as he looked at Thorne, who seemed to be clearly headed for Bedlam.

But Thorne’s verbal barrage had made the scar-faced man pull his mouth wide in irritation, and the sharpness in the eyes of his partner had receded. “Just looking for someone,” the scarred man said in a gruff voice. “We’re about to leave.”

Thorne had just begun to relax the tight muscles in his shoulders when the laid-back man suddenly asked, “Why are the two of you down here? Not much here that the orphanage would need right now, and you passed the onions by the door.”

Thorne nodded several times. “It’s not like we can get the onions right now, we’d likely haul them out to the kitchen and then if the cook got drunk this afternoon, we’d just have to haul the onions back down here. No, we’re for the bedstead.”

“Bedstead?” The laid-back man peered this way and that through the darkness.

Thorne jerked his head toward the wall on the right. “That ugly monster. One of the ladies’ beds finally gave out, and she wants us to install a new one before her afternoon nap. We were looking for some blankets to use to help us carry it out a little easier.”

This time, the easy-going man seemed to accept Thorne’s answer. When his weight shifted back onto his heels, Thorne knew he had convinced him.

“You two wouldn’t happen to be able to help us, would you? It would make the job much faster.”

“No,” the scar faced man said impatiently. “Come on, Ned.”

Thorne dipped his head and touched the brim of his disreputable hat as the two men passed them, heading toward the same door they had entered.

Thorne shuffled around the basement, listening to the men open the door and leave, then he motioned for the coachman to stay where he was, and he sprinted silently toward the door. It was still open a crack, and he could hear the voices of the two men as they walked up the steps and away from the orphanage.

“I hate going in there,” the scar faced man grumbled. “Why did we have to check there? No idiot in his right mind would hide himself in the orphanage. It’s the first place anyone would look.”

“You know we had to check,” his friend said.

“Whenever Mr. Maxham comes around, it makes more work for us.”

“Shut your mouth. You don’t want him to hear you say that.”

The scar faced man said something in response, but in a low voice, and because they had walked farther away, Thorne couldn’t hear them.

This had turned into a waste of time, but Thorne knew they also had to check the basement, since it was apparent that the two men had probably not checked it very closely. Luckily, the basement was mostly empty, and there truly were very few places for a grown man to hide. The dust had also settled thickly in areas, making it obvious that none but rats had been there lately.

They found another door out of the basement, which looked more well used. The wooden door was rickety, and squeaked, but was not difficult to open. They emerged outside one of the side wings of the orphanage, with a clear path to the back door of what looked like the kitchen, and also a dirt path through weeds to a small side alley alongside the building. They followed that, and emerged along the street that ran behind.

“I thought for sure they would kill us,” the coachman said in a soft voice.

“I promise you that I will do everything in my power to make sure you return home alive,” Thorne said. It was an empty promise, but it made the coachman feel better, and despite the bitter regret that always lingered at the back of his throat, it made Thorne feel a little better to.

“Now we know for certain he hasn’t been captured. They’re still looking for him.”

“Praise God,” the coachman said. It wasn’t an automatic response, or a meaningless phrase for him.

The phrase irritated Thorne, but he had gotten so used to hiding his feelings that it was no difficulty for him to simply nod in response. The God preached in chapel did not exist for him. He had met a different God, out on his missions, and here at home. And he had no need for a God like that.

***


Buy Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer:

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NOTE: Unfortunately, the book will only be in Amazon for now. However, if you buy a copy on Amazon and would like to read it on your non-Kindle reader, forward the receipt of your purchase to me at camys.loft@gmail.com and I’ll have BookFunnel send you an .epub copy of the file so you can side load it onto your ebook reader. (If you have any trouble downloading your copy, please click the help link at the top of the download page. The friendly folks at BookFunnel will help you get your book.) You might also be able to download a DRM-free copy from Amazon through “Your Content and Devices” page on the Amazon website.

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