Teaser = An advertisement that offers something free in order to arouse customers’ interest
Comments on this work are welcome.
The Daemon Boat
(The Education of a Steampunk Spy)
The Porter knocked at the first class cabin door. The porter waited, standing stiffly staring at the door. The seconds dragged by. The Porter strained not to glance down the narrow hallway. It was late in the evening but being seen would complicate the mission. Glancing about and acting nervous would seal the memory of an unfamiliar porter in the memory of anyone coming down the hallway. The Porter felt the change in the floors vibrations caused by the airship’s engines straining to make some minor adjustment in course. The Porter knocked again then started to reach under the uniform shirt for the lock picks.
“Who is it?” called a muffled voice from the room.
The Porter gaped open mouth at the sound of the Courier’s voice. There had been enough drug in his drink to knock out three men. The heavily salted caviar that he had been enticed into eating would drive anyone to drink whatever was sat in front of them. The room’s occupant had drunk plenty of the drug laced wine.
The Porter called out, but not too loudly, “Porter, the tea you requested.”
The Porter could hear the sounds of the Courier shuffling to the door. The door latch clicked when the Courier released the lock.
The Courier slumped heavily onto the only chair in the tiny room as the Porter entered. The Porter noted that the bed coverings were disturbed from being laid on. The Courier’s evening clothes were rumpled and the shirt collar was open.
Quickly, the Porter poured tea into the cup on the tray. With stiff mechanical motions of a professional the Porter brought the tray up to the man sitting on the chair. The Courier snatched the cup from the tray and downed the tea. The Porter quickly poured more tea into the cup.
Was this man made of iron, thought the Porter?
The Courier inhaled more than drank half of the second cup of tea when his hands went limp. The cup fell from his fingers. The cup made a quiet bounce on the thin cotton covering of the floor. Slowly, the Courier slid off the chair and onto the floor.
Some tea had splashed on the porter’s trouser. Quickly, with a serving towel,the Porter dabbed the tea off the blue trouser leg near the white stripe. The Porter stood quietly, watching the Courier laying on the floor for two long minutes. The Porter pulled off a glove, reached down, and lifted the Courier’s hand. There was no pulse at the man’s wrist.
The Porter re-donned the glove, picked up the serving tray, and left the room quietly closing but not locking the door. The Porter marched steadily, not wanting to draw attention if seen. A dozen steps down the hallway from the Courier’s room the Porter turned abruptly and entered the cabin two door’s down from the Courier’s room.
The Spymaster sprang to his feet as the Porter entered the room. “Well,” he said.
“He’s dead,” said the Porter.
“Did you have to?”
“He was conscious, he opened the door, he saw me… I had too,” said the Porter.
The Porter pulled off her cap and ran her hand over her slicked down, short, boy-cut hair. “I didn’t touch anything as you ordered,” she said.
The Spymaster slipped out the room as the Porter rapidly pulled off the boy-styled porter uniform. She donned the wig and began layering on her dress that was laid out on the bed.
The Spymaster walked quickly and confidently down the hallway. At the courier’s room he grabbed the door handle, opened the door, then entered the room. He checked the dead man’s wrist. The hand was already cold. He frowned at how this death would complicate the mission and how ruthlessly efficient his agent was.
There were not many places to hide the plain looking leather briefcase the Courier always kept at his side. The Spymaster pulled the case out of the bedding.
Had the man been a good courier he would have stayed in the cabin with the door locked. But this courier had a weakness for a good smoke and a good drink. Smoking was only allowed on the smoking deck, a tiny open platform at the back of the command gondola. It was barely big enough for three men to stand while smoking. It was not easy to smoke standing on a platform ten thousand feet above the ground. It was made worse by the large fan blowing on you to prevent the fire suppression system from going off.
It was the Courier’s habit of having a drink after his one smoke for the day that was his downfall.
The Spymaster mused that his agent’s easy charm and wit had caused even him to relax his defenses. The Courier hadn’t stood a chance. He frowned, he was going to have to watch his agent closely, she was too good.
The Spymaster sat the briefcase on the miniscule table next to the chair the Courier had sat on. The Spymaster pulled open a set of midnight black lock picks. Even though the lock on the briefcase was excellence quality the Spymaster worked it open in under a minute with practiced motions.
The Spymaster frowned at the open case. The compartment built inside the bottom of the case was a different matter. The case, including the locks on the inside and outside of the case, were infused with triggers. Triggers that would destroy the papers in the compartment if any of them were tripped. Some of those papers were for a device code named crossbow, papers he had been ordered to obtain at all costs.
Working lock picks deep inside the dark cramped case would be asking to set off the booby trap. He had paid a Rouge Courier a fortune for a set of keys to the inside compartment lock. More important, he purchased the sequence of key rotations to open the inside lock. The timing of the purchased of the keys had jeopardize the mission. The keys and the sequence had to be current. The sequence of key rotations changed each month. The meeting with the Rouge Courier minutes before the airship lifted off had gone wrong. The Rouge Courier thought he was so clever demanding more money at the last minute. The Rouge Courier would have died then and there, but that would have alerted the other couriers and the Americans. Killing the Rouge Courier was a desperately needed piece of unfinished business he would have to take care of immediately after the mission. He must eliminate any and all witnesses, including anyone with information about this mission.
From an inside pocket of his jacket the Spymaster took out the key ring he purchased form the Rouge Courier. The ring held seven keys. It took several tries with different keys until one turned the lock buried inside the case.
The spymaster turned the key once to the left then to the right twice, then left. There was a loud snap. The spymaster yanked his hand out of the case but not fast enough. Flames shot out of the case. Pain engulfed the Spymaster’s hand as burning papers spewed out of the case.
In the blink of an eye the room was flooded with fire suppressant foam.
The Spymaster raced back to his room two doors down. He leaned against the inside of the door panting and clutching his hand in pain. His agent looked at him blank faced with one spooled heeled shoe dangling from her hand.
Stay strong, write on. Professor Hyram Voltage