Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4)(11)

“You’re right. I doubt he used his true name,” I said, leaning on my cane.

“But, at the very least, it could potentially give us an alias that might be his undoing.”

Uncle stared at the room and I wondered what he was actually seeing. After a minute he motioned toward the corpse. “Let’s finish with our inspection. I’ll ask Inspector Byrnes to send someone over and fetch any information they can get from the Etruria passenger manifest.”

With that settled, I faced the body and tried calming the excited thrum of my pulse. I licked my lips, hoping the hunger didn’t show in my face. It was hardly the time to appear flushed and bright-eyed. Though if Thomas could dance around earlier as if we’d been invited to a grand ball, then I ought to be forgiven for this transgression in decorum.

I felt the pressure of Thomas’s look almost as acutely as if he’d reached over and touched me. Uncle might be preoccupied, but Thomas never missed any shift in my mood.

I glanced at him, unashamed. His eyes were dark with worry. He had cause to be afraid; I hardly recognized myself. I shouldn’t delight in such violence, yet there was no denying how extraordinarily alive I felt while studying death.

Perhaps it was the devil in me, begging to be set free. Without further ado, I obliged.





21 JANUARY 1889

Before we left the hotel, Inspector Byrnes promised to call on us with more details of who the victim was, and without permission to perform or observe the postmortem, Thomas, Uncle, and I retired to our home to await the news. After supper, I excused myself to change and noticed an envelope postmarked from London waiting on my vanity.

Curious, I slit it open with a swift flick and read the neat, unfamiliar script.

Word has reached me about your upcoming nuptials. I am en route to New York and shall arrive in two weeks’ time. Do tell Thomas I wish to speak with him before the wedding ceremony.

It’s of the utmost importance. I have something he needs.

Odd. Neither Thomas nor I had spoken to anyone other than Liza and my father about our hope to marry. And my father certainly wouldn’t have told anyone we wished to be engaged without granting Thomas an audience with him first. There were certain customs that needed to be met in the correct sequence.

Once my father agreed, Thomas would need to write to his family. Until all of the necessary paperwork had been drawn up, no one outside of our immediate families would be privy to an engagement. And yet… someone else knew it was possible. In fact, they seemed already convinced a wedding was in our near



I crumpled the letter and fed it through the ornate grate covering the fireplace, watching as its edges shifted from black to orange before fully catching fire. I waited until it had disintegrated to ash before turning away. An uneasiness settled into my stomach, making itself quite cozy. There wasn’t anything menacing about the note, but the lack of signature was troubling.

If it were Thomas’s sister, Daciana, she would’ve surely signed her name, and the note would’ve been as warm and friendly as she was. I imagine she’d send a letter directly to her brother if she had a message specifically for him. It made no sense that she’d write to me instead, asking me to pass her wishes along. If not Daciana or her beloved Ileana, then who would ask to speak with Thomas before our wedding?

Part of me worried it was something devised by the impish ringmaster with whom I’d played a dangerous game of illusion. Would Mephistopheles have spies in New York? I inhaled deeply. There was no way the ringmaster would trouble himself with our lives anymore. He knew my heart belonged only to Thomas. He wasn’t that much of a devil.

A soft knock came at the door, dragging my mind away from its endless circling. My imagination often crafted elaborate tales. This was likely another one of them. “Come in.”

Liza waltzed in with a fragrant cup of tea, then stopped short, crinkling her nose as she waved her free hand about her face. “It smells like burnt parchment in here. You’re not setting our plays on fire, are you?”

I set my cane against the settee and plopped down. I traced the brocade pattern on my aquamarine skirts, hesitating. It all seemed so silly now. “I received a letter.”

Liza crossed the room and handed me the tea. “Yes, I imagine with a possible wedding coming up you’ll receive quite a few of those. Did you burn this particular letter?”

I nodded, taking a quick sip. There was an earthy yet spicy taste to it that wasn’t at all unpleasant. I managed to drink a bit more before answering. “I—It seems I’m the recipient of a possible veiled threat. Though the more I think on it, the more I may be overreacting. Perhaps I’m suffering from jitters before Father gives his blessing. That’s normal, isn’t it?”

At this confession, Liza’s eyes nearly popped from her head. She hurried over and—after setting my tea down—clutched my hands in hers, face alight with

excitement. “A scandal! Intrigue! You do get to have all the fun. Do you believe it’s a scorned lover, seeking revenge?”

“What? Why would you believe that?” I stared into my cousin’s expectant face and finally relented. “Well, to be truthful, Mephistopheles did cross my mind. He enjoys meddling, but we were hardly lovers. And while I might have had a momentary lapse in judgment, there was never any true danger of me falling in love with him.”

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