The Wild Adventure of Jasper Renn
- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
She approached the desk and gave her name. An Asian man who was shorter and thinner than her took a punch card from a slot on the wall and asked her to follow him. He led her across the marble-floored foyer with its Grecian statues, automaton shoe-shine station and young girl trying to sell leaflets on things to do while in London. He led her into the lift, closed the iron outer gate and then the inner brass cage. He inserted a punch card in the slot and then dialed the floor number on the wheel beside it. He didn’t speak, which was fine by her.
The lift stopped at the sixth floor. Her escort opened the gates and led her to a door that had the number 606 etched on a shiny brass placard. He opened the door and held it for her. As she crossed the threshold he offered her the punch card. “Your key. May I be of any other service to you, miss?”
“No,” she said. “Thank you very much.” She tipped him a shilling. He didn’t seem insulted, so she relaxed a bit.
He gave her a stiff bow. “Enjoy your stay.” And then he left her alone in the most opulent room she’d ever seen.
A huge bed sat in the middle of the back wall, draped in beautiful gold brocade that matched the drapes. The carpet was a rich cream, plush and soft beneath her feet when she kicked off her boots. All the furniture was oak and polished to a high shine. There was even a tiny water closet that she didn’t have to share with anyone else.
“Sweetness,” she whispered with a grin. She splashed water on her face, repinned her unruly hair, smoothed some of the wrinkles out of her clothes and then stepped back into her boots, put on her hat and slipped her punch card into the satchel she wore across her body.
She’d gotten the address of the house on Hertford Street from a friend of her sister’s, a foolish little thing who didn’t know why Cat was so upset. After all, Sparrow had only run away with the man she loved.
A man who was at least twice the girl’s age, a gambler and a heavy drinker. A man Sparrow hadn’t bothered to introduce to her big sister, which meant the stupid girl knew she shouldn’t run off with him. The girl had more impulsiveness than sense. From what Cat had seen, that was often the case with baby sisters, having been doted upon and spoiled by the rest of the family. There’d be no more of that. Once she found her sister and dragged her home, things were going to change.
She marched straight up the drive of the dauntingly grand mansion, up the steps to the front door, grabbed the pull-cord and gave it a sharp yank. She could hear the bell ring inside the house. A few moments later, the door opened, and a sturdy old man with a bald head and a bushy mustache gave her a narrow look.
“Deliveries and servants use the back entrance.” He shoved the door toward her.
Cat stuck her foot in—ouch!—to prevent him from shutting the heavy slab in her face. He was lucky she didn’t make him eat it. Answerin’ some swell’s door didn’t make him better than her. “I’m not deliverin’ and I’m not a servant. I’m here for Sparrow McGuire.”
The butler froze, what little color he had draining from his face. “I beg your pardon?”
“Sparrow. McGuire. Beautiful girl. Skin like mine. She came here from New York City with Lord Charles Berkley, Viscount Canton—or whatever you call him.”
“My dear girl, I’m afraid you are mistaken. There is no one here named after a bird, and no one here named—”
“Dunich, who was that at the— Oh.” Charles Berkley stopped in the middle of the hall and stared at her. He was tall and lean and handsome, for an Englishman. Unfortunately for him, he wouldn’t be the latter for long.
Cat pushed the old man out of her way. He was sturdy, but she was strong and had rage on her side. She stepped over the threshold with determination, stalking toward the viscount like a lion about to pounce.
“Where is she?” she demanded, taking off her glasses.
To his credit, Berkley didn’t even try to lie to her. He just whirled around and ran.
She often had that effect on people.
Tucking her glasses into her jacket pocket, Cat gave chase. She was a fast runner—even faster when she adjusted herself enough to run on all fours, but this made for a longer chase, which was often very enjoyable to the freak side of her nature.
Cat didn’t know why she was the way she was, though Jasper reckoned she’d “evolved,” like him and his friends. All she knew for certain was that she was different and she liked it, even though wearing dark spectacles all the time was a bit of a nuisance, but her slitted eyes made folks uncomfortable.
Berkley was lean, but he wasn’t terribly fit. Cat caught him at the top of the stairs—actually two from the top, but who was counting? The viscount tripped over his own feet and went sprawling to the dark blue carpet. Cat immediately pounced, positioning herself so that while not on him, she certainly had him caged.
She smelled him, mouth partially open. It was weird, but she could taste certain things on the air, such as fear. It had both smell and taste, and Berkley was definitely afraid, given the sour essence coming off him.
“Don’t hurt me,” he pleaded.
Cat hissed at him. She preferred hissing to growling because it better showcased her fangs. “Where’s my sister? And if you lose control of your bladder I’m going to slice off your eyebrows.” She held up one finger, topped by a wickedly curved claw, just to point a finer point—no pun intended—on the threat.