Audrey Rose stirred, and the remaining fight went out of me. Mephistopheles didn’t matter. His attempt to woo her didn’t matter. He was less than nothing when compared to the lengths I’d go to just to see her safe and happy.
“And she hardly requires a knight to save her. She’s more likely to ride in and save you and then smack you for being an idiot,” I said, finally looking up. But the ringmaster had disappeared once again.
Hands of a prisoner
9 JANUARY 1889
“Yes, Dr. Wadsworth?” I didn’t take my attention from Audrey Rose. Her breathing was steadily becoming more even. The last I’d checked her pulse, four thousand, three hundred, and seventy-eight seconds ago, it also showed improvement. She was battling back.
“You’re needed to speak with Andreas,” he said. Before I could argue, he continued, “Liza is waiting outside and will stay with Audrey Rose while we’re gone.”
“I—” I wanted to be the first person she saw when she awoke, but it was a selfish folly. I needed to help question the man responsible for the brutal slayings we’d been investigating. And the near-murder of Wadsworth. I pressed a chaste kiss to her hand then followed the doctor into the corridor. My muscles ached. I realized I hadn’t moved in hours.
We traveled down into the belly of the ship, past the rooms that held the carnival crates, deeper than even the engine room. We passed crew members who were rolling carts of luggage down the corridors from where they’d undoubtedly be sent to hotels and homes of the wealthy.
When we arrived at the brig, I expected it to be a dungeon-like cage of filth. In reality, it was a small, barred cell with a pitcher of water and a glass, a small cot, a bucket for waste, and a decent pillow and blanket. Andreas sprawled on the cot, his carnival mask gone. He propped his blond head up on one pale hand and glanced at us when we entered the room.
“Well?” he asked, sounding bored. Apparently, we weren’t very amusing to a murderer. “What do you want now?”
I crossed my arms to keep from reaching through the bars and strangling him. “Tell me about the body in the crate.”
He shrugged and collapsed back onto the cot. “What about it? Haven’t I told you exactly why I chose those victims? Or were you too busy crying over your dead woman to recall the details?”
I hit the bars, the metal clattering. Dr. Wadsworth touched my arm, but I wrenched away. I took a deep breath, clearing my anger. I’d not let him rattle me. Again. “I recall that you’re a coward. You were a victim of unfortunate circumstances, and instead of taking your grievance up with the courts, you decided to murder and maim innocent women. You didn’t have the courage to fight with the men you held accountable for your fiancée’s death.” I smiled as he slid off the bed, his face reddening to an unhealthy hue and his fists clenching. “I believe that covers most of it. Now, answer my question. The body in the crate was different. Explain how you dispatched that victim.”
He stalked over to the pitcher and poured himself a glass of water, sneering at me the whole while. I smirked back. I wasn’t the one locked in a cage. And he should hope to not have the misfortune of running into me while he wasn’t safely secured behind bars.
“I cut her. Just like the others.”
“And the crate?” I asked, watching him closely. He was lying. Odd for him to conceal the truth when he was so cavalier about sharing it earlier. “Why deposit her body there?”
He stared into his water, not meeting my gaze. Another sign of dishonesty. I’d interrogated plenty of guilty men, and nearly all had difficulty maintaining eye contact. “I was going to—” he rubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t know. I don’t remember doing that, but if there’s a body, I must have.”
“Why did you steal the pieces of fabric from those rooms?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.
His gaze dropped to the left before answering. Another tell. “I didn’t.”
“Lie,” I said, pleased when he scowled at me. “Why take them? Did they hold meaning to you?”
“No,” he said, finally admitting the truth. He sighed. “They meant nothing. I just… took them. I enjoyed the way they looked. I—I wanted to have a suit made from them for the show.”
He launched into a story about petty thievery in Bavaria and how it was a catalyst for joining the Moonlight Carnival. I inspected him for any of his telling habits when he lied. He showed no signs of them. When he was through, I jerked my chin towards Dr. Wadsworth. Unless he had further questions, I was done. Andreas didn’t murder the person found in the crate, which meant we had a larger issue to consider.
We were climbing the stairs to the next level when I finally spoke. “We have a second murderer aboard this ship, Professor. And his killing method is—”
“Don’t.” His tone brooked no further arguing. “I’ve already spoken to the captain, and he refuses to acknowledge the possibility. I mentioned it to the police, and they seemed more amused than wary.”
I inhaled deeply as we reached the next level of the ship and continued down the darkened corridor. I wasn’t surprised—no one wanted to believe another Jack the Ripper was possible. Especially in their city and in the wake of another unspeakable tragedy.