A gunshot exploded into the quiet night. Strathairn dropped into a crouch as another ball whistled overhead, followed by a thud as lead bit into the wall above him, showering him with fragments. A bead of sweat trickled into his brow. Hell’s teeth – not the first time he had been shot at, but he’d expected this to be a fool’s errand. The moon sailed free of the clouds. It cast the new dock in silver light, revealing it empty. Where was Nesbit?
Breath held against the stench of low tide, he listened. Nothing but the surge of waves and the creak of ships moored out in the middle of London Pool waiting to unload their wares. The faint voices of the sailors aboard carried over the water.
At the slap of running feet echoing into the distance, Strathairn gripped his pistol. Keeping low, he rushed forward and leapt a pile of crates to flatten himself against a wall. He edged around the corner, his pulse a drumbeat in his ears. Nesbit lay spread-eagled on his back. Strathairn fell to his knees and groaned. A pool of blood seeped from his partner’s head gleaming black in the dim light. Nesbit’s eyes, a lively brown only moments before, looked blank and wide open in surprise. A prickle of foreboding climbed his spine. Had Nesbet been as surprised as he by this attack, or had he recognized his killer?
Knowing it to be futile, he felt Nesbit’s throat for a pulse cursing effusively under his breath when he found none. He had witnessed the death of too many good men. Determined not to let emotions weaken him now, he focused his mind on the business at hand, and moved stealthily through the shadows.
Apart from the scamper of rats, the rest to the dock stood empty. Whoever had shot at them had gone. The moonlight picked out something shiny on the ground. Strathairn stooped to pick it up; a finely wrought gold cravat-pin in the shape of an eagle. A familiar restless energy and heightened alertness caused blood to pump through his veins. Just like the one Count Forney favored. He was believed to be dead. But was he? A calling card? A flowery scent lingered in the air. Strathairn held the pin to his nose. Parisian, and a lady’s, if he was any judge.