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Lord Valorous

By:Wendy Vella

Lord Valorous
        Author: Wendy Vella


The Hen and Duck was a small tavern with two mullioned front windows and a large sign with a hen and a duck engaged in what appeared to be some kind of reel. Snow flurried around his ankles as Viscount Hatherton made his way carefully down the icy path to the dark-stained front door.

Come to the Hen and Duck at precisely 8:00 p.m. The matter is of the utmost urgency.

Jacob thought about the words on the note tucked in his breast pocket. It had been delivered three hours earlier, and signed by one Miss P. March. According to the missive, Miss March's former employer was in grave danger, and so it seemed was she.

The matter is indeed dire, good sirs, and I fear for my dear friend's life if something is not done soon.

Jacob and three of his friends were the Lords of Night Street. They were all noblemen who had decided to use the skills they'd learned while fighting for their country to benefit those who had fallen prey to nefarious individuals and foul play. Their endeavors had started when they had rescued Jacob's sister from the clutches of the man intent on marrying her. Jacob shook aside the dark thoughts that night invariably conjured up inside him. Now was not the time to relive them.

Thus far, the Lords of Night Street had saved a kidnapped heir, unearthed blackmailers, and investigated supposed finance consortiums that appeared all that was good, but in fact were not. They had uncovered a Russian criminal ring, and a brothel that was selling women to rich men as slaves to carry out their sexual fantasies. Their cases were varied, and they had succeeded in solving every one.

The letter in his pocket had intrigued Jacob from the first word, because Miss March had demanded the Lords of Night Street come to her aid, not requested it. But Jacob had read something else in those words too. Fear. The desperation had caught his attention. Miss P. March was terrified; he'd bank his fortune on that.

He opened the tavern's front door; the noise was instant and seemed to come from all corners of the small room. Crammed with bodies, all speaking in raised voices, it had low ceilings that did little to dispel the thick smoke filling the room. Making his way to the bar, Jacob ordered a tankard of ale, and then headed to the rear as Miss P. March's note had directed him to do. Once there, he found a bench seat with a division in the middle that stopped him from seeing whoever was seated beside him. Sitting, Jacob sipped his ale and waited.

"Are you one of the Lords of Night Street?"

Turning at the words, he noted a small panel, no bigger than the size of his fist, about eye level in the seat divider. Leaning closer, he said, "Yes, I am."

"Oh, thank you so much for coming."

"My pleasure. I presume you are Miss P. March?" 

"Oh, indeed I am. I suspect you wish to know more now about why I have sought your help?"

He couldn't pick up the accent, but there was something there in the woman's voice. A lilt that made him search his memory.

"If I am to help you, then yes, I believe you must tell me more."

"I do wish you would."

"Would what?"

"Help me."

She sounded desperate, and Jacob fought the urge to stand and look over the divider to see what the woman looked like.

"You see, I have quite run out of options."

"Pardon?" He was struggling to hear her with the noise from the other patrons.

"I fear for my friend. Fear even now I am too late to help her."

He could only hear snatches of her conversation as the four men at the table closest had just launched into a heated argument about someone called Black Bottom Bill. Jacob eyed the large man with his back to him; he had fists the size of ham hocks and there was little doubt he knew how to use them.

"Why do you believe it is too late?"

He heard the sniff, and hoped Miss P. March had a head cold and was not crying. He knew many women who used tears to achieve what words could not.

"Because of that man. He is... is a heinous villain!"

Not tears then, Jacob thought as her furious hissed words reached him.

Looking up as a shout erupted, he saw ham hocks swing across the table with one meaty fist.

"I fear we need to leave, Miss March."

"Leave? Oh no, please, you must help me! I have some m-"

"It is not the money." Jacob got to his feet and walked around the divider. He had a glimpse of a sensible blue bonnet, one long chestnut curl, and a sweet, heart-shaped face. "It's simply that I have no wish to become embroiled in a fight to protect you." He took her arm and pulled her to her feet.