Surrender to the Devil(Scoundrels of St. James,Book 3)(70) by Lorraine Heath
Dodger flashed a grin. “Not bad. We’ll make you one of Feagan’s lads yet.”
“No, thank you. This is a one-night performance.” He shifted his gaze to Swindler. “By the by, Frannie is convinced that Sykes murdered Nancy. She’d given Frannie his son to take care of.”
“The hell you say.”
“We were keeping him at my residence, but the boy ran off. His name is Peter; he calls himself Jimmy, though God knows why. When this is over, you should try to find him. It’ll mean everything to her.”
“Find him yourself.”
“I don’t plan to see her again when we’re done here.”
Swindler grabbed Sterling’s borrowed jacket and hauled him back away from the others. He lowered his face until it was inches from Sterling’s. “She loves you.”
“Yes, well, that’s her misfortune. As I recall you told her that I wouldn’t marry her and you were up for the honor. So take good care of her and do all in your power to see that she’s happy.” He shouldered his way past Swindler, taking juvenile satisfaction in almost knocking him to the ground. He strode out of the alley before any of the others could react.
He’d just given his most difficult performance of the night, pretending that Frannie meant nothing to him. The remainder should go fairly easily.
Frannie’s head was pounding, the light hurt her eyes. She recognized the canopy. She was in Sterling’s bed. Why did she ache so badly?
“She’s awake,” she heard a soft voice say; then Catherine was leaning over her. “Hello, how are you feeling?”
“Like an eggshell that’s been cracked.”
“Do you remember anything?” Bill asked as he brought a lamp nearer and looked into her eyes. She tried to turn away but he brought her gaze back to his by clamping her chin. “Hold still and answer me.”
“Oh, uh.” She tried to think. “We were looking for…Jimmy…Peter.”
“So the last thing you remember is being at the orphanage?”
“No, we were here.”
“Don’t you know where we are?”
He grinned. “I do, but you took a blow to the head and I want to make certain that you know where you are.”
“Sterling’s. Where is he?”
Bill cleared his throat and set the lamp on the table. “You’ve been asleep for almost twenty-four hours. I’d like for you to try to eat some warm broth. Catherine, will you see to that?”
“Yes, of course.” She headed out of the room.
Frannie felt a sense of rising panic. “Where’s Sterling?”
Bill sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you remember what happened?”
She sat up so fast and gripped Bill’s hand that her head almost split in two. “Is he dead? Oh, my God, no. No!”
“No, no, he’s all right.” He squeezed her hand and set some pillows behind her and eased her back. “He’s fine. You were attacked. Do you remember that?”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Do you remember Sykes?”
“Of course. Who could ever forget that monster?”
“He wants you dead, Frannie.”
“He killed Nancy.” She suddenly remembered that fact with startling clarity.
“I don’t know about that. I only know he has it in for you. So the others are trying to lure him out.”
“The others?” She squeezed her eyes tightly, trying to think of their names. How could she not remember their names? “Luke, Jack, Jim.” Nodding, she opened her eyes. Yes, the three of them. She remembered thinking that Luke wasn’t part of them anymore, but she’d been wrong. He still was, when one of them was in trouble.
She looked at Bill, who was unusually quiet. She’d seen him examine others. He always asked lots of questions. “So where is Sterling?”
“With the others.”
This was making no sense. “And where are the others?”
“As I told you: trying to find Sykes.”
“Out on the street? In the rookeries?”
“No.” She tried to get out of bed and he held her back.
“Careful, Frannie, careful, girl. You’re going to hurt yourself.”
“He’s not one of us. He’s never—”
“Which is why he’s the perfect mark. Sykes won’t know him.”
She pounded her fist into his shoulder. He got off the bed and took a step back. “I see you’re feeling somewhat better.”
“What are they planning, exactly?”
She listened in horror as he explained things. Sterling wasn’t like them. At the last moment, he’d hesitate…and then he’d be killed.
Sterling sat in the darkened corner looking out. At least it was unlikely that anyone would come from the side without him seeing them. They might start there, but eventually, to take a seat, they’d have to come into his line of sight.
Of course it was crowded. The shiny bar that spanned the width of the place looked new. He sipped slowly on his ale so he wouldn’t stand out, but he knew it was imperative that he keep his wits about him. He carried a pistol in his jacket pocket. It occurred to him that if Sykes was the first to show, Sterling could simply take it out and shoot the fellow. If it weren’t so crowded in here, that’s exactly what he’d do, but as it was, he couldn’t put innocents at risk—although in this tawdry place, he doubted there were that many innocents.
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