Chapter 5

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Evening had arrived as we were finishing up at Aunt Bessie's favorite haberdashery. The lengths of ribbon and lace were pretty to the eye, but I had to admit to myself that I failed to quite appreciate the vast selection. To me, each one was equally attractive, and any one of a dozen would look suitable on the reticule that Aunt Bessie was making. Unfortunately, her waning eyesight meant that not only did she need Aunt Letty's more practiced eyes, but my own for judging the quality of the weave. My own interest in ribbons was slim enough on my own account, but after an hour, the search was becoming rather tedious. I attempted to entertain myself and Aunt Letty by talking of various entertainments that were available this week, but was foiled when Aunt Bessie asked us to be quiet so that she might listen to the sales clerk's ramble about color.

It was with a great deal of relief that Aunt Letty finally took pity on me and sent me out to the street where her maid waited for us, in order to ask her to arrange for a table at the nearest restaurant the Aunts liked to favor. The woman was quick, and I lingered in the cool evening air, not quite ready for a return to judging the merits of various pieces of embroidery.

My back was turned to the street as carriages and cabs bustled passed, and so I didn't take much notice of the dark brown hackney that pulled to a stop almost directly behind me. I noticed an increase in people around me, and not wishing to impede anyone's path, began to step forward towards the shop door. My eyes glanced at the windows, but the interiors were swigged with curtains and their dark green lengths reflected my surroundings instead. I saw myself, a woman of middling features and plump build, surrounded by large, imposing men.

I had an instant of shocked wonder, before hands grasped me and a cloak hood was tossed over my head. I drew in breath to scream, but the folds of the hood were smothered against my face by large hands and I was lifted and whisked backwards, no doubt into the waiting hackney.

The fact of my kidnapping should have hit me then, and I should have begun screaming, but the improbability of it had me gaping in bewilderment. I was breathing to fast, and to my everlasting shame, even mewling a little, like the poor idiot who doesn't know enough to know when to be afraid.

Those heavy, rough hands deposited me on a seat but before I could move I was hemmed in by bodies. No longer held wrapped in the heavy cloak, I thrust my hands free of it, and pushed the hood up and off of my face, gasping for fresh air, even as the seat beneath me began to rock as the horses began to pull us forward and away.

The hackney was unlit, but enough light crept into the mostly shaded windows for me to see my captors. Four men, three of them the rough and bruising characters I had seen reflected in the window of the shop. The fourth, a somewhat dapper fellow, was dressed well enough, but there was something in the cast of his features that led me to think that he was no better than the knaves who had grabbed me right off the street.

The fourth man was seated across from me and two of my captors, and he was clearly the leader. The third ruffian sat next to him and murmured to him, his thick accent lending slowness to his speech. I couldn't fully make out his words, never having had to understand such speech before.

"Right," replied the leader, and his face turned towards me. I could not make out his eyes in the dim lighting, but I knew he was examining me. I had never heard of aging spinsters being kidnapped before, and could not fathom it now. I was nobody, I had no beauty, no rich family, no youth, nothing that would make me seem a likely victim for such an act, and yet here I was. I still could not quite grasp it, that it was true and not some vicious nightmare. "You may call me Colby, or Mr. Colby, if you prefer. It's not my name, of course, but I've always liked the sound of it."

The man flicked his fingers at his sycophant, who obediently lit a taper, no easy thing in a moving carriage. The light made me flinch, but I quickly looked again at this bizarre madman.

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