Despite my little fireball for Lady Radcliff’s benefit, magic was not my strong suit. In fact I’d only been studying it seriously for the last two years. Rather, where my true talents lay was in the field of Alchemy, which I’d been studying for over a decade. The oldest of the sciences, the father of all sciences, the true nature of the world revealed and mine to guide and use. Alchemy was more than mixing substances, it was the infusion of person, matter, and spirit.
After Lady Radcliff had left I made my way up to my attic laboratory, where I did most of my alchemic work. If the library downstairs was stocked with books, this place was even more so, with the addition of all manner of scientific equipment, and a wide variety of substances ranging from the purely harmless to the highly deadly.
These were my ingredients, whose degradation, purification, and alteration could heal the sick, make a man stronger than he ever dreamed, and possibly turn lead into gold and grant immortality.
Since the people who were blackmailing Lady Radcliff had to be somewhat skilled at their job, I didn’t want to be unprepared. Fortunately, the last few years of doing jobs like this had taught me the importance of packing a kit to take along with me.
A belt and case of soft black leather hung from a coat tree just inside the door. I buckled it around my waist and made my way into my laboratory. The case itself was divided into small partitions, each perfectly spaced to hold a vial or potion. The lab itself was fairly long room, with an oven at one end and tables lining the two longest walls, the wall opposite the oven was where the door was next to the door was a large cabinet matched by two others on either side of the oven. These three cabinets were where I kept my potions, elixirs, and tinctures. The ones by the oven served as incubators for the potions that were still being formed, while the one by the door held those I’d finished.
I drew an assortment of vials from the cabinet by the door, each filled with different powders or liquids. Carefully, I slipped them into the different partitions in the case and buckled it shut once they were full. Then I grabbed a light blue potion and slipped it into my vest pocket. A week ago, an old friend of mine had moved to London and since she was on the way to Lady Radcliff’s, I figured I’d stop by. The potion would make an excellent gift.
Next I went back to the coat tree and grabbed a long black coat, which I had treated with various potions to increase the strength of the fabric. Between advances in medicine and my own alchemy I didn’t fear getting shot all that much, but it still hurt and this coat was virtually bulletproof. I’d made it after getting shot once, in a place not polite to mention in mixed company, and hadn’t been able to sit for close to two weeks. I’d rather not repeat the experience. Next was a pair of brass goggles, which could protect my eyes, act as magnification lenses, and had a couple of other functions as well. I donned the coat and set the goggles around my neck before heading downstairs.
My housekeeper was standing at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at me. “Master Larson, do you think you’ll be home in time for supper?” she asked. I noticed her hands were clutching the banister. Something upset her, though I didn’t know what.
“I’m not sure, but I shall call should I be too late,” I replied, “I doubt this will take very long.”
She nodded, though she still didn’t look happy. “I have a bad feeling about this one,” she said, “Be careful.”
I smiled as reached the bottom of the stairs and lightly bumped her chin with my finger, making her look up at me. “Don’t worry, I’ll keep my wits about me. Have I ever failed to make it home?” I replied.
Megan gave me a blank stare. “Yes, on several occasions, and I’d rather not have to run round to the hospital again because you were a damned fool.” She said, coolly.
I held a hand to my heart, acting wounded. “My dear lady, I am offended at your lack of faith,” I shot back.
Megan stared up at me for a moment, before looking away and placing her hand over mine. Her small hand felt cool and hot at the same time. “I’d rather offend you than have to look for another tenant, Master Larson. I doubt I could find one as pleasant as you.”
I bowed my head and lightly took her hand in mine. “Then, as your tenant, I shall be sure to return and be fully capable of paying the rent in one piece.” I said. Then with a wink I kissed her hand and walked out the front door.
I was back in within two seconds, cursing the rain that had soaked me.
My landlady laughed as I snatched up an umbrella in a huff and stormed out again, closing the door firmly behind me. Under the protection of the umbrella, I went back around my flat building to the garage and went inside. There was my automobile, a rather new steam-powered contraption made of smooth lines with an artist’s touch. It had been a gift from a client who made them, after I found his daughter in the arms of an Arab who had kidnapped her. The father had been pleased, the girl not so much.
The kidnapper wasn’t around to feel much of anything.
It took a few moments to fire up the boiler, but soon I was driving through the wet London streets in something close to style, though I’ll admit my car was one of the more normal ones on the road, compared to the horse drawn carriages and the heavily modified contraptions some other people drove. It was fashionable, for anyone with enough know how, to modify their automobiles to have pipes and all manner of other decorations just to set it apart from another’s.
The automobile had only been out for about two decades, yet already it was reaching new heights in speed and comfort. I’d heard rumors that some now had climate controls, to keep the interior warm in the cooler months, involving the use of excess steam to heat the compartment. It was something I wanted to look into, when I had the time. But for now, I had a job to do, and a friend to see.