Friday, May 04, 2012

THE AFFAIR OF THE PORCELAIN DOG Excerpt


THE AFFAIR OF THE PORCELAIN DOG

CHAPTER ONE
Wednesday, July 3, 1889

Wednesday’s letter arrived in the evening post—a brief but pointed
threat scrawled across ordinary white stationery in a startling lavender
ink. But Goddard hadn’t filed this one neatly behind the gilded cigarette
box on the mantel with its predecessors. Instead, he had cast it down
like a gauntlet onto the table between our twin armchairs. Hours later it
remained like an uninvited guest.

“‘I know what you are.’” Goddard picked it up and read aloud.

“‘Soon, the police will know as well. Unless.’”

“Unless what?” I asked.

Not that it mattered. Cain Goddard, a.k.a. the Duke of Dorset
Street, did not negotiate with blackmailers. At that moment, his entire
network of spies, cracksmen, bludgers, urchins and whores was
scouring London in search of the person who dared threaten a criminal
of his stature. When they found him, his skin wouldn’t be worth a
farthing. But what if they didn’t find him? I imagined being led away
in shackles, never again to put my feet up on the mahogany desk before
the window, run my fingers over the leather-bound volumes lining the
walls, or drape myself across the olive-colored velvet divan where
Goddard had taken my hand and asked me to stay. At that time, I swore
I would never return to Whitechapel. But even Whitechapel would be
preferable to prison—and prison it would surely be, should the police
learn the nature of Goddard’s and my domestic arrangement.


The grandfather clock in the vestibule struck eleven. Goddard
fingered his mustache thoughtfully, then shrugged.

“To convict us of criminal sodomy, dear boy,” he said, patting my
cheek on his way to the drink cart, “would require evidence that simply
does not exist. Whisky?”

I nodded.

I relaxed as the liquor burned its way toward my stomach. We’d
been discreet. Only Goddard’s manservant had any inkling I was
anything but a confidential secretary. Though the man had never liked
me, Goddard paid too well for him to go telling tales.

“To convict me, on the other hand,” he continued.

“What?”

How he could laugh when the cold fingers of panic were
reaching for my throat was anyone’s guess. Thus far, no one outside of
Goddard’s tight coterie connected Dr. Cain Goddard, the self-effacing
night lecturer at King’s College, with the hated, feared Duke of Dorset
Street. But once the police had him for buggery, it would all come out.
Even if I did manage to slip away into the night, I’d be back on the
streets—two years older, broke, and far too spoilt to go back to selling
my arse.

“Ah, the mistakes of youth,” Goddard said. “I’d hoped it wouldn’t
come to this, but now that it has, how fortunate I am to have a nimblefingered
young protégé to set things right.”

He glanced at me over the cut crystal glasses.

“You can’t mean me,” I said.

“Come, now. I need you, Ira. Not to warm my bed this time or run
messages on the wrong side of town. I need you to retrieve something
for me, something I’d feared lost, but which has now been found. My
freedom, and, I daresay yours, depends on it. Can I depend on you?”
I looked around our beloved morning room. The armchairs in front
of the fireplace, the rack of expensive, unused rifles over the doorway,
the dearth of gewgaws and knick-knacks with which most people felt
the need to litter their living spaces—after two years ensconced in
this unspeakable luxury, how could I go back to doorways and dosshouses?
“I—I suppose,” I stammered.


“Excellent. My carriage is waiting outside. The driver will take you
to a pawnshop on Dorset Street, where you will find a black porcelain
hound of unusual repugnancy. Bring it back, and our blackmailer won’t
have a wooden leg to stand on.”

“That’s all?”

I laughed. A simple burglary in my home territory. With my talent
for locks, it would be easy. Goddard smiled. It was a rare expression, but
it transformed his purposefully bland face into something beautiful.

“Do this, and you’ll have roast beef and Islay malt for breakfast,
lunch, and dinner for the rest of your days, and all the books of Greek
art your delicate arms can carry.”

The tightening in my chest eased. It’s sad how easily I can be
convinced. But being a mere two years off the streets, the simple
promise of even these small luxuries was enough to fortify me for the
task.

“But who’s sending the letters?” I called as he stepped out into the
vestibule to fetch my coat. “What does he want?”

What he came back with was not my coat, but he draped it around
my shoulders anyway.

“Never mind that, dear boy,” he said, buttoning the ratty tweed
across my chest. “Just get the dog.”

“In this?”

In addition to its shabby condition, the so-called coat was much
too large and stank of another man’s tobacco. Moreover, it was July and
anything heavier than linen was going to be hotter than hell. Goddard
liked to dress me up sometimes, but never in secondhand rubbish ten
years out of fashion.

And never in tweed.

Ignoring me, Goddard tucked his Trinity scarf beneath the collar
and the lavender letter into my trouser pocket with a satisfied nod.

“The pockets are deep and have more give than a whore’s
bedsprings. Besides,” he said with a smirk, “it’ll make you look like
Andrew St. Andrews.”

“St. Andrews!” I sputtered.

That meddling popinjay of a detective had never rolled up his
sleeves to pick a lock, or hiked up his coat-hems to keep from tripping
across a doorstep. Being the third son of an earl, he’d never had the need
to burgle. And if he were to do it for kicks, he’d no doubt commission
a special garment for the adventure.

The question at the front of my mind, though, was why Goddard
would compare me at all to someone he so loathed. The question was
answered by Goddard’s teasing chuckle.

“St. Andrews, indeed,” I grumbled.

Goddard patted my arse, slipping my silver flask into the pocket
of the coat. There was a faint tinkle as the flask hit bottom. He’d even
remembered my picklocks.

“Remember,” he said. “A porcelain dog, half as long as your
forearm, black as sin and twice as ugly. Now go.”

With a sniff, I swept the horrible thing around me. Then, feeling a
bit ashamed—it was an easy job, after all, and most of the time, Goddard
didn’t ask much of me—I pecked him on the cheek. When the carriage
pulled away from the big house on York Street with me inside, Goddard
was still standing in the doorway, running his fingers thoughtfully over
his jaw, a little smile pulling at the edges of his lips.

What self-respecting housebreaker sets off wearing a Trinity scarf,
you might ask? Blame Goddard’s sentimental streak. He had taught at
Cambridge once, and though he refused to talk about the experience
itself or the circumstances of his dismissal, the scarf meant a great deal
to him. You might also wonder what sort of imbecile takes a shiny
private hansom to the building he intends to burgle. A necessity, I’m
afraid, unless he intends to walk. The pawnshop stood nearly five miles
away in Miller’s Court, and no cabbie in his right mind ventured down
that wicked quarter mile after dark. The streets were deserted, and the
weather was clear. Not half an hour later, we had left the red brick
houses and well-tended gardens of York Street behind, and the rubbishstrewn
East End closed around us in a cocoon of filth and desperation.

I instructed the driver to let me out in front of the Blue Coat Boy
pub, two blocks removed from my destination. An excited throng had
gathered around the entrance—another fight, no doubt—and I was able
to pass by unnoticed. Closer to the shop, jolly old Do-As-You-Please
Street, possibly the most lawless quarter mile in London, was quiet.
I strode up to the front door as if I owned the place—the only way
to break into a building in plain sight—slipping my picklocks into
my hand. Seconds later, I nudged the door shut behind me. Silence
descended, and I relaxed, knowing I’d be able to go about my work in
peace.

The word “dollyshop” might conjure images of china-faced pretties
with real hair for a little girl to comb, and blue eyes that open and close.
This shop belonged to a grubby matron who doled out ha’penny loans
against objects that were hardly worth that. Crates of rust-scabbed metal
were stacked as tall as a man along the back wall. The other walls were
lined with ill-fitted shelves, bowing under haphazard loads of mildewencrusted
boots, stiff and stained rags, salt-encrusted horse collars, and
what appeared to be bones. In the center of the room, piles of rubbish
sat where they’d been dropped, layers of dust testifying to how long
they’d been there. An attempt had been made to organize some of it
into bins, but the bins were already overflowing with towers of detritus
threatening to topple at the slightest breath. The dog could have been
anywhere in that mess.




The Affair of the Porcelain Dog

Author: Jess Faraday

Pages: 240
Pub Date: June 2011
ISBN 10: 1-60282-230-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-60282-230-6

Description

London 1889.

For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard's blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone's after it, including Ira's bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.

As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard's present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.

In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog has been short-listed for a Lambda Award in the category of "Gay Mystery."
http://www.lambdaliterary.org/llf-news/24th-annual-lambda-literary-awards/

Women of The Dark Streets


Contains
The Trickster Codex by Jess Faraday

Author: various authors
Edited by Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman
Pages: 336
Pub Date: March 2012
ISBN 13: 9781602826519
Genre: lesbian paranormal anthology

Description

Enter a midnight world of the supernatural—a world of vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, and demons. A seductive world limited only by your imagination, full of dark fantasies, hidden desires, and sexy women who rule the night. Edited by award-winning editors Radclyffe and Stacia Seaman, Women of the Dark Streets presents all new tales of the paranormal from your favorite Bold Strokes authors.




About the Author:


Jess Faraday is the author of one novel, three book translations, a handful of short stories, and numerous nonfiction articles.

She is a graduate of the University of Arizona (B.A.) and UCLA (M.A.). Since then, she has earned her daily bread in a number of questionable ways, including translation, lexicography, copyediting, teaching high school Russian, and hawking shoes to the overprivileged offspring of Los Angeles-area B-listers.

She enjoys martial arts, the outdoors, strong coffee and a robust Pinot Noir.

Website: http://www.jessfaraday.com

BSB Author Page

Twitter:@jessfaraday

Facebook: Jess Faraday

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