Friday, October 29

Steampunk Writing Competition : Jewelry Heist 2nd

Steampunk Writing Competition : Jewelry Heist
2nd place winner
The Case of the Stolen Rings
E.A. Rouet

They had been waiting for a little more than five hours.

However, the case itself had taken almost a decade.

Abednego Hawkes, private investigator was sitting in the centre of an elaborately furnished personal library. Despite being in the room with nine night vision masked, armored officers- each of them carrying top of the line short-barreled automatic guns he was serene and thoughtful.

He was thinking of the morning’s headlines: another assassination attempt on their queen, the eighth to be precise. He had been pondering for some time now why people thought they could get away with it and he believed finally that he had the answer. Some people didn’t expect to get away with it.

He sighed and looked around the room again. The newspapers had reported that the would be assassin was probably going to be let off for being insane but the line between sanity and insanity seemed to be very thin right about now for him, the officers and Inspector Angela Blevins who was standing nearby smoking with pent up vehemence. After all, sanity did not usually involve waiting for a phantom madman to come crashing in while using the potential victim as bait.

It had all started with a simple theft nine years ago. At first it was presumed to be an inside job. The item in question was a strange ring with a shining opal as its centre. At first its owner, Lord James Ignatius Rodale had thought it had been misplaced. When this was revealed not to be the case he then accused his own servants of theft and when that failed to produce results he reluctantly inquired around to his friends and then, grudgingly, to the police.

Nothing else had been taken that night. Just the ring. And it was never found.

The next year, on the same day at around midnight, another ring was stolen this one made of a dark copper. Count Pendergast had been in his parlor in the same room where he kept the ring and had fallen asleep. When he woke, the ring was gone and his quicker attempt to contact the police led to the discovery that a sedative had been put into the Count’s wine, rendering him unconscious at around the time of the theft.

For the next few years, the strange pattern continued. The same day of the year, always at midnight, always a ring. As the robberies continued, the thefts themselves grew more impressive. Duchess Adelade Marksberry: from her locked jewelry box. Doctor Gilbert Riddington: from a safe. Several other prominent men of society such as Lord Rossin, Sir Heinrich Ulmschneider, and Admiral Cutler – they too had all mysteriously lost rings over the years.

Hawkes had quickly seen the pattern. When discovering that the rings all had a common source he attempted to track down the original maker of the rings but the man had disappeared. As for the robbed victims, they were all incredibly wealthy members of society. More importantly, however, they had all at one time or another donated substantial money to the Lumley Corporation and had received the rings from Spenser Lumley himself.

Spenser Lumley was a shrewd businessman with a glamorous smile that dazzled even as he bullied his family’s company to the top. The corporation was known for wrapping their fingers around the most talented craftsman of the day and using their skills to create the best products. The corporation then took control of the quantity using warehouses and assembly lines to generate mass production at cheap prices and even cheaper labor. Their machine of a commercial empire cracked, groaned and bent under its own weight but never broke down. Preachers frequently would shout about corruption within the corporation from the safety of the pulpit while politicians would deliver furious tirades about how regulations must be changed in the world of business. Reporters ran contradictory statistics alongside the ‘innocent’ statements from the company’s heads. But nothing was ever done to check the corporation’s notorious malfeasance.

And as much as Hawkes privately wished that the force now gathered inside of Spenser Lumley’s apartment complex was there to arrest him for embezzlement or some other financial fraud, their duty was to protect Lumley from theft. The last ring that had been made by the jeweler so long ago was in Lumley’s possession and it was on this night, at midnight, that the last theft would almost certainly occur.

There was a noise at the doorway and the men in the room, including Inspector Blevins and Hawkes himself all diverted their attention to the entrance.

“Come in.” barked Blevins.

The door opened and Spenser Lumley entered, followed by his escorts. Lumley was not allowed to go anywhere this evening unprotected. He was to spend the night in this library guarded by the watchmen while the rest of his building was patrolled by other officers.

Hawkes privately felt it was a waste of manpower, especially for the likes of Lumley who lived in an apartment complex that could easily house several families now cramped in the East End slums of the city.

The young Spenser Lumley was fashionably dressed in a mercury coloured waistcoat and dark navy trousers. His hair was neatly slicked back and he strode forward with a fixed, dazzling white smile.

“Inspector Hawkes! Good to see you again.”

The last time they had seen one another had been a few months ago in a case concerning a minor bank robbery. Hawkes was not impressed with the man before him now any more than he had been then. Reluctantly he shook Lumley’s offered hand and noted his curious glance at their handshake. Hawkes’s mechanical arm still attracted stares even in this day and age.

“Glad you’re here.” said Lumley, hastily pulling away when he saw that Hawkes was watching him. “You and Inspector Blevins. I want the very best protection this city has to offer for its most important citizens.”

“We will try to keep you safe, sir.”

“Try?” Lumley laughed, but he quickly sobered when he saw Hawkes’s expression.

“The ring, where is it?” asked Blevins

Lumley held out a pale, slender hand. On his finger was the elegant ring. Coils made up its delicate sides. Small carefully constructed details could be seen on all sides and around the glittering amber stone that made up the centre piece. It truly was beautiful. A real masterpiece, carefully designed. Hawkes had never seen anything like it.

Blevins appeared dumbfounded. “You’re going to wear it?”

“Raising the stakes.” said Lumley with a fox-like smile. “It’s what I do after all.”

“But you can’t!” she cried furiously. “What if this maniac comes in demanding the ring?”

“What of it?” asked Lumley with a coolly raised eyebrow. “I’m sure we could strike a bargain. Some men do see common sense when presented with money.”

Blevins was all but spluttering with rage. Hawkes stared at Lumley for a moment longer and then slowly nodded.

“We will wait until midnight then, sir.”

Lumley smiled and settled down in a high backed leather chair by the fire.

Blevins all but dragged Hawkes to the corner before hissing, “He’s gambling with a deck of cards that we don’t have!”

“Let him do as he will. We will do our job and he will do what he feels is best.”

Blevins let out an exasperated snort and turned away furiously.

The next hour passed by incredibly slowly. Hawkes would check his old pocket watch from time to time but it seemed as if its hands were stuck. The positioned, masked officers around them continued to wait patiently as they had for hours before. Lumley seemed strangely cheerful, attempting to talk to them all before reading a book. When he grew tired of that he attempted to go over some paperwork and even flirt with Blevins for a half moment before she gave him such a look that he went over to the bookshelf and absentmindedly started to rearrange some books.

Finally- five minutes to midnight.

Hawkes caught Blevins’s expression- she looked just as tense as he felt. What would happen? They supposedly had covered everything. Where would the maniac strike next? And how?

And what was his motive? Throughout the entire case this was one thing Hawkes could not understand. Why steal random rings that Lumley had given to his investors years ago? There were other far more valuable things to steal in some of these houses. Why the ring? Perhaps he was insane? Perhaps the rings served some sort of diabolical purpose?

He almost laughed out loud. A ring? Evil? Hardly likely.

But then why all the effort to steal them?

Three minutes to midnight.

Maybe he wouldn’t show. It seemed unlikely but if the man or woman, (Hawkes was an equal opportunist when it came to crime) saw the amount of forces waiting for him at the house, perhaps some long absent sense would finally prevail and he would stop or even give himself up.

Two minutes to midnight…

No. A man who had spent almost a decade years collecting various rings would not be about to give it all up when his final target had just happened to prepare himself in advance.

A minute to go…no sign of him. No noise in the hallway. Nothing. Lumley was standing by the mantle place looking into the dying fire with slightly weary eyes.

Hawkes looked about the room at all the masked men. There was no chance of a bomb going off, they had already checked the entire premises out earlier. Besides, it wasn’t the thief’s style. He seemed to avoid killing…

…and yet- it all came back to Lumley. And Lumley was wearing the ring. What would the thief do to get the ring?

Seconds from midnight as his eyes passed over the room and its occupants, he realized something that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. He got up slowly from the chair he had been sitting in and made a point of stretching his limbs before walking over to Blevins.

“Inspector,” he said quietly although his heart had started up a furious tattoo in his breast. “Other than us, how many men do we have guarding this room?”

“Nine.” she said with a frown. “Why?”

He looked at the small statue on the table before them with deliberate calm. “Count them.”

Her eyes darted over the room and watching her from the corner of his eye he saw her dark eyes widen and her face grow pale. “Oh my god.” she said in an anguished whisper.

“Don’t panic.”

“There’s ten! Ten of them! How did this happen?” she hissed. “Why didn’t we notice?”

But already his mind was forming a plan. It had happened, that was all that mattered.

“How can we tell who it is? They’re all wearing masks!”

He considered their options. Remove their masks? No. Ah- got it!

“Watchmen!” he called out loudly. “Surrender arms!”

At the sound of the command every trained officer dropped to one knee, their weapons held above their head as they had been trained to do. But as nine men knelt, a dark blur leapt forward and wrapped an arm around Lumley’s neck from behind, pointing his gun to the millionaire’s head.

“Hold your fire!” Blevins shouted as the officers- who had leapt up in confusion and with their weapons pointing uneasily at Lumley who was attempting in vain pull away, making frantic gestures and small choking noises.

“The ring.” The night vision mask made the thief’s voice sound oddly echoed and eerie.

Hawkes could see that there was no chance of shooting the man without hitting Lumley as well, so with trepidation, he stepped forward.

“Sir,” he said calmly. “If you could loosen your grip on Mr. Lumley, perhaps we could talk.”

But the man merely tightened his grip causing Lumley to gag and flail worse than ever.

“He can’t breathe sir.” said Hawkes calmly.

“You say that as if it were unfortunate,” the thief said while taking a step backwards, dragging Lumley with him.

Hawkes took another cautious step. “Let’s not do anything rash. Can’t we talk about this?”

From behind the mask came a hollow laugh. “There is nothing to talk about. Mr. Lumley!” he added sharply. “The ring!”

“It’s… mine!” Lumley spluttered.

Hawkes could not understand why a man like Spenser Lumley who could afford at least five dozen rings like the one he was wearing, would be so stubborn and foolish.

“Wrong.” the thief spat. He adjusted his gun with a terrible click that made the men behind Hawkes raise their own weapons. But the thief didn’t seem to notice or care, taking another step backwards with Lumley still being held hostage.

“Perhaps we could discuss an exchange or even consider a bargain?”

“Bargain!” the man laughed. “We are beyond business transactions! Give me the ring, sir! Now!”

Lumley shook his head and Hawkes watched in mixed amazement and confusion as the thief wrenched Lumley over to a book case and hissed, “Open it! Open it or I’ll send you to Highgate right now!”

Lumley fumbled with a free hand and hit a spot on the bookshelf. It rapidly swung around and Lumley and the thief disappeared from view.

Hawkes swore and raced forward as Blevins and the others came up from behind. Hawkes began patting the shelves frantically. A revolving bookcase. How could they have overlooked it?

Blevins was shouting but Hawkes ignored this because he was no closer to finding the slot that turned the bookcase around. Over Blevins’s loud expletives he could hear a heated conversation on the other side of the shelf.

Before he could offer a suggestion of how to break down the bookshelf he heard an unmistakable gunshot and a scream. He felt his stomach drop and Blevins suddenly pulled him behind a high-backed chair. The other officers had scattered. He saw her throw the explosive at the shelf and then-

BOOM. There was a flash of light and a shower of splintered wood and books. Burning pages floated through the dust and haze and Hawkes coughing heavily made his way through the gaping hole in the wall to find Lumley lying on the floor his hand held against his chest as he screamed, scarlet blood covering the silk waistcoat and quickly flowing onto the floor.

One of the officers bent down immediately and tore off his mask. Hawkes recognized the man and remembered that he had had some previous medical training before joining the force.

The thief was gone. The small room was deserted save for a small door in the corner that exposed a dark shaft.

Blevins swore before shouting instructions- “You four- down this shaft! You three get to the stairs- sound the alert! Find out where this exit leads- and you over there, help Todd here! What happened to him, Lieutenant?”

“It’s his hand, miss.” said Todd, grappling with the bleeding limb as Lumley continued to writhe on the floor, still shrieking in pain. “His finger’s gone. Shot clean off.”

“He shot his finger?”

“Yes. And it seems to be gone sir. The finger and the ring.”

A madman indeed.

Hawkes left Lumley and the remaining officers in the house, going outside to help the others search the perimeters of the building and the nearby streets. Massive confusion ensued. An officer had found a bloody finger by an open gutter. The thief seemed to have vanished. Officers split up in pairs to cover ground and Hawkes, despite the chaos unfolding around him, tried to think of where the thief would run.

And then, all at once, he knew where to go. It was a desperate attempt, but there were few options at this point.

“Tell Blevins to send a squad after me if I’m not back within the next half hour!” he shouted at one of the nearby men.

“Where to sir?”


He ran down a dark side street before flagging down a passing coach. Lumley’s house to the cemetery was not a long drive and it wasn’t long before Hawkes saw the slightly sinister outline of the main entranceway which led to the countless graves beyond.

He left some change for the driver and leapt out of the coach- running up to the gates which had been pried open. He squeezed between them and raced among the mossy, ivy covered stones looking in all directions.

It was towards the end of his desperate, fruitless chase when he stumbled over something in the darkness. In the dim moonlight he could just barely make out an officer’s helmet that had been cast aside. Looking around he could only see elaborate tombs; some of the cemetery’s finest. But from one of them there was a faint flickering glow between a small crack in the doors.

Quietly he moved towards it, just barely noticing the name ‘Dupin’ carved above the entranceway. He cautiously tried one of the doors and found, not entirely surprised, that it was already open.

He peered inside. The room was shaped like a small amphitheatre and was made of white marble. A large sarcophagus lay in the middle of the room surrounded by tall dripping candles and on the lid of the tomb were ten shining rings.

A dark shape was lying at the base of the sarcophagus. The thief’s arms were outstretched and his head was bent over his heaving shoulders. A choked sob echoed around the bare walls.

Hawkes stepped forward and the movement caused the thief’s head to snap up. His gaunt face was wet with tears and his eyes were shining wildly. He looked pale and sickly.

“Who’s there?” he cried.

As Hawkes stepped closer into the light the thief seemed to grow paler still.

“Ah,” he said, in a voice soft as a whisper. “I’ve been caught at last I see.”

“You are under arrest,” said Hawkes firmly. “For the theft of these rings and the attack on Spenser Lumley that took place earlier this evening.”

The man merely wiped his wet face with spiderlike hands and then turned back to the marble sarcophagus muttering under his breath.

Hawkes took another step forward, seeing that the man had no weapon. “Why bring the rings here?”

“For Celestine.”

“For whom?”

The thief let out a shaky breath. “My wife. Celestine.”

Hawkes looked at the sarcophagus again with the various rings lying on the lid and asked, “Why these specific rings? Why these particular ones?”

“I had to get them back. They were the moments. The lost moments.”

It was as he had feared. The man was mad. Yet the shrewd expression on his face suggested that this was not entirely so.

“Why the Lumley corporation, then?”

“Not the corporation. Lumley,” The man hissed. The look of hatred on his face was alarming. “He took them. He took all the moments. I had to get them back. He had offered me money, payment beyond my wildest dreams to make the rings but he took more than my masterworks. He took the memories that could have been.”

Hawkes felt a wave of shock. “You made the rings?”

The man gave a wry smile. “I made them, yes. I’m a jeweler. And I was the best. I made every one of them. Lumley came to my shop wanting the best for his followers. Trinkets. Toys. Gifts for his most devoted crowd. I was honoured. I could have refused of course, but I was proud. I accepted his commissions.”

“And you made the rings that Lumley asked you to.”

“Yes. He would come by my shop with a new request and I would put aside all my other work to put my best efforts into them. I put…I put…Celestine aside. My wife. She would come in, smiling and offer a kiss. I would give her harsh words instead. She would offer a walk outside and I would show her the door. She offered me warmth and I returned her love with coldness.”

His face seemed to crumble and he abruptly clung to the sarcophagus as if it were moving away. “She saw my work in a way that I myself did not see it! She knew it was taking me away from her and the moments we might have had together. She became sick and told me to turn down Lumley’s commissions, but I dismissed her pleas every time.”

“She became sicker and sicker but on the night she died I was working on Lumley’s ring. The final commission. The one he wanted to surpass all others. He wanted the best and I worked all through the night without stopping. Celestine wanted to see me. I told myself she could wait. I had to finish my work. And I did. I finished it in the early hours of dawn and set down my tools. And I went upstairs to find that my beautiful, patient bride was dead. Her skin was already cold.”

His face contorted at the memory and he clutched his hair as if ready to tear it out. “It was my work that killed her! Me and these accursed rings!” he shrieked, “They took the life from her! Took away our happiness! The times I could have been with her- and I- ignorant wretch, chose instead these cold glittering things! I was blinded by them! I used all the money from them to build her this tomb. But it wasn’t enough. I had to get back the lost moments for my bride. I planned all the robberies and I got the rings back, every one of them- each one on the anniversary of her death and my downfall. I saved Lumley for last. And I have them all now.”

The man, exhausted from his rant, hung his head, gasping. Hawkes watched him for a moment before asking one final question. “And was it worth it?”

There was a prolonged silence and then the man fell forward at the tomb’s base with a shuddering cry, weeping heavily. The painful sounds he made were heartrending, as if he were dying of grief. Hawkes hesitated, feeling as though he were intruding upon the man’s sorrow and he drew back to stand by the entrance of the tomb, the echoes of the terrible sobs behind him. With his last glance of the weeping man he caught sight of the rings lying on the surface of the tomb. Perhaps it was merely the flickering candlelight or his imagination, but they did seem to pulse with some strange hidden energy. He stared a moment longer and then shook his head at the thought before finally heading outside.

Poor man. Such a grief-stricken creature would only go through the rest of his life in a senseless daze.

The rest of the officers would be here soon. And when they did arrive, no greedy robber would they find but instead a man who had gone mad trying to restore lost moments, trying to bring warmth and happiness out of cold stone and metal. His mind went back to the man who had only recently failed to assassinate their queen. Was the world full of these men who turned to such drastic actions when their minds could no longer bear their own reality?

As for the rings, perhaps he would privately speak to the Commissioner and they could arrange something. Most of the theft victims were dead now anyway or had forgotten about their lost accessories. Lumley would be harder to persuade but maybe he didn’t need to know…

They could send the rings away to an obscure dealer, pull out some old connections. Overseas perhaps.

He looked around the graveyard, his eyes falling on a marble angel that stood nearby, its raised hand pointing at the sky while a secret smile lingered on its stone face.

Thursday, October 28

Steampunk Writing Competition : Jewelry Heist 1st

Steampunk Writing Competition : Jewelry Heist
1st place winner
The Basilisk Eye
Simone Kendrick

Marie decided not to worry about the unusual aspects of her current assignment, as she always considered worrying a waste of time, but when she found the door to the study unlocked it was very difficult to maintain her nonchalance.

The security of Lord Auldwolder’s manor was laughable and incredibly easy to evade; three auto-matron guards, a handful of dogs, and a fifth-teen foot fence? Did he want his necklace stolen, or was there something she wasn’t aware of? Something Captain Dresker hadn’t told her? An air-pirate, by nature alone, shouldn’t be trusted and she had never made it a practice to do so. He hired her to steal a piece of jewelry from Lord Auldwolder, but he wasn’t paying her enough for unnecessary risks.

Indecision, an unfamiliar state for her, left her sitting crouched in front of the large mahogany doors that led to Auldwolder’s study. Her lock picks hovered uselessly above the key hole as she stared at the lock through her yellow tinted spectacles. Either Auldwolder was a giant fool or he had no reason to fear his servants or anyone else stealing from him. Yet would anyone leave such a powerful necklace so vulnerable?

Granted, not many knew the legend of the Basilisk’s Eye, but one would still expect wariness of opportunistic thieves. The necklace lacked any significant jewels or precious metals, but it had an allure that would draw anyone. That, in fact, was its supposed power. The big green eye set into the brass necklace appeared to beckon its beholder to touch it, whispering temptingly, spouting dark promises. Or so Marie had been told.

She slipped the picks back into their slots on her vest as she paused to consider. Her vest held all the tools of her trade though one wouldn’t know it by first glance. If one of the human servants actually did awaken and find her, they would see a slim form dressed in dark, men’s clothing. The only strange feature of her appearance would be her spectacles and the black balaclava she wore that covered her face and hair. Marie preferred her sex to be ambiguous to any potential witnesses.

“What do you think, mon petit ami?” Marie whispered as she stroked her chin thoughtfully.

A whirl and a click was the response, the sound so soft only she heard it. The source was resting wrapped around her finger. A tiny amber eye glowed briefly in the darkness and another mechanical sound emerged. The ring was a gift from a former patron who had been quite a talented inventor. He had found no use for the tiny machine, but Marie had instantly noted it’s potential with its tiny clamp extremities and glowing eye. Bernard consisted of a single amber eye set in a long, slender brass body with two arms equipped with clamps. He was usually found wrapped around her ring finger. She wasn’t sure if the machine had a personality or soul of it’s own, if that were even possible, but she preferred to think it did and referred to it as such.

“It’s all too easy, no?” She went on, her voice a breath in the shadows. “Why would Dresker pay me for what a common footpad could do?”

A prudent thief would depart immediately and return the fee the air-pirate had given her, but Marie had never heard of a prudent thief and didn’t want to be accused of being unorthodox. And she was curious; a lifelong curse of her’s. The Basilisk Eye was unique and mysterious. She may never get a chance to steal it again.

“Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée,” Marie decided, gripping the handle and pushing the door open.

The study was empty and so silent that the click of the door closing sounded through the room. Marie waited a few moments, crouching in the absolute darkness with her back against the door. She listened for anything that would indicate another person in the room and mentally brought up the floor plan that she had memorized earlier while scouting. A large bookcase was on the East wall and a desk and globe were spaced in the middle of the room. The bookcase was the only area large enough to house a hidden compartment.

Once Marie felt safe, she cautiously made her way past the obstacles to the East wall. The smell of paper and leather reached her, indicating the bookcase was directly in front of her. Only then did she lift her right hand in a fist to eye level.

“Now, Bernard.” She whispered to the ring and the amber glow from the machine’s eye spilled over a faded leather binder. The light was just enough for her to see without drawing unwanted attention.

She scanned the shelves of books quickly, looking for the subtle features of a hidden lever. A particularly faded and worn binder with fraying at the top caught her attention and she gave an experimental pull. A muffled clanking sounded from behind the bookcase and a section of the bookshelf disappeared into the wall. A wooden case rolled out to take its place and a dark iron lock embedded into the wood greeted her. Impressed, she slipped her picks free to start her work. A quarter of an hour passed before she heard the satisfactory click of success.

Again, she brought Bernard out when she pulled the case open. Various items of jewelry lay displayed on black velvet. The Basilisk Eye was in the center surrounded by small brass sculptures of scorpions. They were intriguing with delicate yet dangerous looking tails poised in the air, but Marie was here for the Eye.

She pulled free the handkerchief she brought to cover the necklace but... The rumors did no justice to the power that emanated from the necklace. The eye was a bewitching brilliant green that dulled her senses and drew her desire to touch it. She found herself moving slower than normal as she reached to stroke the pendant. In her peripheral vision she thought she saw movement. Did those scorpions twitch?

A flash of pain on her hand, like a sting from a bee, and she sluggishly pulled away. The scorpions skittered to cover the necklace, their pincers snapping in the air. Dimly, she realized she was falling to the ground, her muscles weakening. The last thing she saw was Bernard unwrapping from her finger and his glowing amber eye blinking rapidly in distress.

She woke to tense voices and the light of gas lamps. She was still in Lord Auldwolder’s study, still lying on the floor, but her hands were bound behind her. Panic boiled in her chest. She’d been caught!

“Is it the practice of Scotland Yard to accuse the victims of crimes, Detective?” The voice was snide and cruel sounding with the lilt of aristocracy. Lord Auldwolder, she presumed.

“No, my lord, but it is our practice to discover the truth.” This voice was younger and subdued.

Craning her neck, she looked around for the men and felt her hair brushing against her cheeks. They removed her balaclava!

“She’s awake!” Auldwolder announced and Marie felt a painful tug on her scalp. Grimacing, she struggled with her bound hands to her knees to prevent her hair being pulled out by the roots.

“Where is my necklace, thief?” a wizened, harsh face filled her vision and Marie wanted to close her eyes from the sight.

“That is enough, Lord Auldwolder. We will handle questioning the suspect.” The second voice from before held more strength this time.

Auldwolder straightened and turned to his left but didn’t release her hair. Marie bit back a groan and followed his gaze to the man that stood there.

The first thing she noticed was that his right arm was larger than his left. His frock coat, vest, and blouse were fitted properly and the garments did make the anomaly less noticeable, but Marie was at direct eye level of his waist and hands. She could see that his right hand was entirely made of brass. The fingers, while larger than normal, were curled in a natural position and rested easily at his side. When they began to fidget she could see tiny gears and mechanisms that allowed the easy movement. It was a stunning piece of technology and a part of her wondered where and how he had acquired it.

“I will have my necklace back, Detective. Regardless that she is a woman she is still a thief.” Auldwolder’s tone made it clear that he held the same distasteful regard for both aspects of her person.

The detective stepped forward and it was then she noticed his right leg was also noticeably larger and heavier than the left. His pant leg was smooth and loose but his right boot shone in the light and she could see her distorted reflection in the surface.

“Obviously she does not have it on her person, my lord. It’s clear that she did not succeed in stealing anything.” The detective pointed out calmly.

They searched her? Looking down she saw that her vest was still on but the pockets were all opened and empty. Bernard? Wiggling her nearly numb fingers allowed her to feel the ring. They hadn’t noticed it.

She felt the hand leave her hair and another grip her upper arm with an insistent but not overpowering pull that allowed her time to get to her feet. Once standing, Marie could see that there were three more men in the room observing silently behind her.

“She had an accomplice, no doubt. They’re probably already back to Dresker with my necklace now.” Auldwolder sneered.

Marie blinked in confusion. He knew of Dresker? And what did he mean the necklace was missing? She didn’t have time to hide it before fainting. She looked toward the bookcase and saw the empty jewelry cabinet. No scorpions were there.

The detective, who had been regarding her silently, followed her gaze. His right hand was firm but steady on her arm and while it didn’t squeeze painfully she knew that she could not break his metal grip.

“We will question her according to protocol prior to searching any man’s ship.” He replied.

He handed her over to one of the other men who led her toward the door. Marie was still too stunned to put up a useless struggle. As she left, she could still hear the angry voice of Auldwolder and the equable replies of the detective.

Marie quickly found herself assisted into the back of a covered prison cart. As soon as they shut the door she began working on escaping.

“Bernard!” She hissed and felt the ring move against her fingers.

Before she had time to do anything else, the cart door opened again and the detective stepped in. When his right foot landed on the wooden floor she could feel the vibrations shiver through the cart. Marie instinctively backed up until she sat on the bench along the wall. The detective took a seat across from her.

They remained silent as the cart started to move. The only light came from the street lamps that filtered through the barred window at the front of the cart, making it impossible to examine the man. She imagined that this would be the “questioning” that would take place and prepared herself for mistreatment.

“Good evening, madame. I’m Detective Wyse.” He began politely. “I am aware that you are known as Marie St. Croix. I am also aware that you were hired by the air-pirate Dresker to steal the Basilisk Eye from Lord Auldwolder. Am I correct in these assumptions?”

Marie stared at him, flabbergasted. She couldn’t think of where to began to respond.

He started, as if something just occurred to him. “Oh, please allow me.” He reached into his coat pocket and retrieved something small. Holding it in the air, he waited a few seconds and then indicated toward his hand. “Your restraints?”

Warily, Marie turned to allow him access to her wrists. She heard clinking and felt the tingling of blood returning to her fingers. Rubbing her hands together to get them limber, she absently murmured her thanks.

“Madame St. Croix, are my assumptions correct? It’s quite urgent that I confirm them as it determines our next immediate actions.” The detective’s voice remained so neutral that she wondered if perhaps more than his arm and leg were mechanical in nature.

“Mademoiselle.” Marie corrected automatically. “Why is there an urgency, monsieur? What makes you believe these things?”

“A series of facts that I have uncovered that I do not have the time nor the inclination to list.” For the first time, she heard emotion in his voice- impatience. “Let me be succinct, mademoiselle. You have one of two options available to you. You can deny these allegations and be taken to prison to await trial, which based on the evidence against you, you will most assuredly remain in prison.”

“And the second?” She queried with an arch of her eyebrow.

“Or you can confirm what I already know and I can offer you an alternative you may find more agreeable.” He finished.

Marie gripped the bench to steady herself as the cart swayed. She had so many questions shouting in her head about this night that she could barely focus. The only thing overwhelming the other voices was a quiet, desperate fear that she absolutely did not want to go to prison.

“You’re correct.” Marie admitted quietly, feeling like she was stepping off a roof top without a safety rope. “But I did not steal the necklace! There were mechanical scorpions protecting it. The venom prevented me from escaping and I had no time to hide the necklace.”

“I suspected as much. Auldwolder said that a servant heard you and knocked you down, but I found that unlikely.” The detective showed no disapproval or shock at her admission, just a factual acceptance.

“Heard me?” Marie repeated indignantly. She was no amateur!

“Obviously a lie, just as you did not have an accomplice who escaped with the necklace.” The detective ignored her professional outrage.

“I work alone.” Marie confirmed after pushing aside her annoyance.

“Auldwolder wants us to believe that Dresker has the necklace and arrest him for thievery.” Wyse appeared to be talking more to himself than to Marie. “We would take Dresker’s necklace and return it to Auldwolder, believing we were returning stolen property.”

“But Dresker doesn’t have the necklace. I didn’t have it to give to him.” Marie insisted.

“I know, but Dresker has the second necklace.”

“A second necklace?” Marie’s eyes widened. “Rien!” The rumors only spoke of one Basilisk Eye. One of the mysteriously powerful necklaces was enough to be dangerous.

At hearing her curse, the detective paused. “Yes. Quite unfortunate. The necklaces are significantly more powerful when they are combined, which is why both men have been after the other’s for awhile now.”

Marie decided that questionably moral men playing with mysteriously powerful objects was never a good combination for a thief such as herself and resolved to extricate herself from the situation as quickly as possible.

“Monsieur, as you are aware, I do not have the necklace. I am of no use to you. Perhaps you could forget my presence here tonight?” Marie offered a charming smile, but remembered it was too dark to see for it to do any good.

“But you are of use to me, mademoiselle.” The detective gave no acknowledgement of her failed attempt to charm him. “You have the skills to acquire both necklaces.”

Marie sighed, feeling her brief hope escape with the breath of air. Getting out of this predicament would not be so easy.

“I can not steal Captain Dresker’s necklace. I wasn’t even aware he had one. Not to mention I can not steal from one of my client’s. It’s bad business.” Marie pointed out with a shrug.

“I doubt he has as much regard for your business relationship as you do, mademoiselle.” The detective replied.

“Marie, please.” She insisted, tired of hearing the pleasantry. When he remained silent and she could practically feel his gentleman honor balk at using the name, she rolled her eyes. “St. Croix then, if you prefer.”

“St. Croix. You may call me Wyse.” He offered after a moment’s hesitation and Marie had to smile at the stuffy Englishman.

“As I was saying, Captain Dresker has no interest in holding up his part of your arrangement.” Wyse continued and began removing his frock coat.

Marie watched him, slightly curious but mostly alarmed. What was the stuffy Englishman doing now?

“How do you know this?” She demanded when he started rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt in a matter of fact manner. For some reason she wasn’t really afraid that he would hurt her, but the expression on his face was deadly serious. It was then she realized that the cart had stopped and light from a street lantern was shinning steadily through the window.

“Do you hear that whistling sound?” He asked her calmly, finishing rolling his sleeves up to his mid arm.

In the dim light she could see that his entire right arm was indeed mechanical, the dull golden glow of what appeared to be brass and other metals in place of lightly tanned skin that covered his other arm. The metal disappeared under his shirt sleeve and she wondered how far the machinery extended. Bolts, gears, tubes, and coils all arranged artfully, perfectly in a display of human anatomy. The creator of such work was truly talented. A detail on his fist caught her thief’s eye. A lion’s head molded into the metal, with a set of emerald eyes. A half-carat each, if she wasn’t mistaken.

Marie was so distracted by looking at the wonder that was his arm, that she didn’t register his question or that she indeed was hearing a shrill whistling sound that grew louder.

Before she could ask about it, Wyse pushed her into the far corner of the cart, his bulky right arm shielding them just as the wall behind him exploded into flames. Marie was too shocked to react, her confusion growing as Wyse calmly regarded the wall of flames that appeared a few feet away from them. Straightening his arm, a small nozzle rose from the surface and when he clenched his fist a stream of liquid shot out, extinguishing the flames within seconds. Darkness waited on the other side of the charred wall.

“We should move.” He told her phlegmatically. At close range she could see that his eyes were a quite human brown but eerily impassive given recent events.

“What is happening? Mon dieu!” Ignoring his example of stoic calm, Marie continued to curse in her native language as Wyse pulled her out of the cart.

Once standing in the street, Marie could see that the horses and the guards were gone. In their place was a crowd of pirates, armed and looking ready for ill-intent. Marie unconsciously stepped closer to the detective, lifting her fists in preparation for the brewing fight.

“Ah, my dear little thief! Do you have my necklace?” A familiar, jovial voice erupted from the crowd and Captain Dresker appeared.

While Auldwolder was chillingly cold, Dresker was frighteningly friendly. One felt he would smile while he skewered you.

“You brought me the Detective as well, I see. Not necessary, my dear.” The pirate’s gaze sharpened and he drew his double barrel pistol.

“Captain Dresker, are you rescuing me?” Marie asked with a quirky, knowing smile.

“Nay, my dear. Pirates don’t care to rescue overly much. We do a fair job at double crossing though.” And with a gesture from their captain, the pirates attacked.

Marie was preoccupied with dispatching the thin, lanky pirate who was attacking her with two knives, but occasionally she caught glimpses of Wyse fighting and was suitably impressed. His right arm was capable of knocking back two men at a time and a kick from his right leg incapacitated the receiver. Despite the added weight of his mechanical limbs, he was able to move rather quickly, which was a necessary trait when Dresker signaled for a large cannon-like contraption to fire at them. The shrill whistling sounded again and a wave of liquid fire rushed toward them.

They were just able to duck and run out of range of the contraption to cover, but before they could catch their breath, the machine sprouted two stilted legs and began to follow them.

“We need to take out their device. It’s too formidable.” Wyse proposed, dodging a bullet from Captain Dresker’s gun.

“Oui, it is quite ugly as well.” Marie agreed. Unlike Bernard or the detective’s limbs, this machinery was rudimentary and crude, lacking any grace or elegance.

“If I distract them, can you climb atop it to dismantle it?” He looked at her, doing a quick assessment.

Marie nodded, swallowing and pushing back her fear. Distantly, she could hear the mad laughter of Dresker over the growing whistling. “I will need something to dismantle it with.”

Looking back at the array of pirates, now significantly fewer, Wyse nodded. “One of those cut-throats is using a railroad wrench. I’ll get it to you.”

“Good luck, St. Croix.” Wyse told her before running out into the middle of the pirates.

Marie blinked, her muscles freezing. She could leave now. Slip into the shadows and leave the detective to his fate. She looked down to her hands, where the redness from the restraints were fading around her wrists and Bernard blinked curiously up at her.

“Ouvert ou fermé, non?” Baring her teeth, she forced her legs to move and ran toward the lumbering metal contraption.

The whistling became unbearably loud as Marie raced toward the barrel of the cannon. She saw Dresker aim for her and varied her speed so the bullet flew past her. Just as the flames began to spew forth she ducked and rolled under the machine between its stilted legs. Once safely behind the cannon, she used muscles from years of scaling buildings to maneuver her way atop the carriage of the machine. The pirate controlling the device tried to push her off and she grappled with him.

“St. Croix!” Wyse yelled from below.

Giving a final push, Marie was able to dislodge the pirate and turned just in time to catch the heavy wrench that sailed toward her. The weight hitting her almost toppled her off the machine. It took both hands and a giant heft to get the wrench up into the air and arcing down to crash into the main controls. Gauges and parts flew from the console as she brought the wrench up and down again. Steam started to escape from the cracks that were blooming in the metal. The whole machine began to tilt and wobble in a comedy of a dance and Marie leapt off after throwing the wrench to the side. Bracing herself for a hard landing, she was surprised to find herself cushioned by the now slightly disheveled detective.

Together they ran past immobilized pirates and out of the range of the frenetic machine. Dresker was not as fortunate and quickly found himself underneath a felled, steaming mass of metal.

Later, after Wyse used his mechanical arm to pull the cooling wreckage away, they retrieved the second Basilisk Eye from around the pirate’s neck. It was just as forbidding as the first, though slightly charred.

“What do you say, St. Croix?” Wyse asked her, smiling for the first time.

“Will you help me obtain the other Eye?”

Marie considered, twirling Bernard around her finger.

“For the safety of England?” Wyse continued, growing serious at her hesitation.

She gave him an amused look.

“And gold?”

Marie gave him a smile and hooked her arm companionably through his.

“Come along, Wyse. We have some scorpions to deal with.”

Read the 2 place winner story here : The Case of the Stolen Rings


Tuesday, October 26

Sunday, October 10

Steampunk Jewelry : Labradorite

Steampunk Jewelry : Labradorite

I recently received some amazing labradorite with nice blue and colorful flash of labradorescence.
I will add more rings with
labradorite in various size in the following weeks .
If you would like one in your size just send me a
convo on ETSY and i can make a custom one for you .

Steampunk Jewelry - Bracelet - Labradorite

Steampunk Jewelry - Ring - Labradorite - SIZE 8.5 ONLY