Every week or so before release day, I’ll be posting a tantalizing tidbit from my upcoming novel, The Left Hand of Justice (March 2013). Comment on the excerpts, and one lucky winner will be chosen at random to receive an autographed paperback copy!
Sophie regarded her for a moment then slipped her arm free. She cleared her throat. “This is the third incident in this area in a week.” She flourished a pencil and a small notebook. “Has the great Elise Corbeau any theories?”
“None that I’m ready to share with the press.”
“How about with an old friend?”
Corbeau let her gaze travel over the other woman’s neat features, her perfectly arranged hair and spotless clothing. She could have gone home with her right then–back to Rue St. Dominique, to Persian carpets, Turkish sweets and heady perfumes. Some pampering and a long nap would do her good about then. She just had to say the word–it was written all over Sophie’s face.
But they’d been playing that game for years. If it hadn’t stuck by now, it wasn’t going to. It wasn’t fair to either of them to keep their connection limping along like this. And, all things considered, Corbeau really could do without the reminder of her past.
“I know better.” Corbeau turned on her heel and began to walk again. Sophie fell into step with her–no easy feat, considering how much longer Corbeau’s legs were, and how much more adequate to the task was her footwear. “Whatever I say to you will end up in whatever rag you sell it to, and Vautrin will have my head. He’d have had it a long time ago if the prefect’s office hadn’t stopped him.”
“Why does the prefect’s office care about you?”
Sophie stumbled on a loose cobblestone. Corbeau grasped her elbow before she tumbled into the muck. Sophie took the opportunity to insinuate herself beneath Corbeau’s arm, pencil and paper at the ready.
“Don’t know,” Corbeau said. Sophie’s small, tightly corseted waist felt right beneath her hand. “But I don’t trust it. Javert is a man of the cloth, and His Majesty’s appointee. Once I’ve done the favor he’s bound to ask of me, I’m sure I’ll be out on my ear.”
“I heard he’s trying to rebuild the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations. Care to comment?”
“If he is, it’d be news to me.”
Sophie opened her mouth to speak, but before she could say a word, a freshly painted fiacre pulled to a stop in front of them, spattering their skirts with a rancid stew of sewage and rainwater. The door opened and Sophie flinched back with a little shriek.
“Inspector Corbeau,” a man said from the darkness of the carriage, “Thought I’d find you here.”
“Speak of the devil,” Corbeau muttered.
Claude Javert, the Prefect of Police, leaned forward into the doorway. He was a sharp-featured man in his fifties with precisely trimmed salt-and-pepper hair and a thin moustache. He perched on the edge of his seat, long limbs folded like an excitable insect. His smile and the lively intelligence in his eyes made him seem benign, but it was deceptive. Javert’s ability to verbally eviscerate his enemies was matched only by his enjoyment of doing so.
Corbeau saw him register the newsmonger, and her arm still around her waist. But he didn’t comment.
“We haven’t much time, Inspector. Get in.”
Corbeau stood before the open door of the fiacre, blinking in the bright light of the carriage lamps, while Sophie melted back into the shadows. High-level functionaries of the King were no friends of the left. Best for everyone if she slipped away before the prefect could put a name to her face.
How had he known Corbeau was there? What did he want?
It didn’t matter. She had no choice now but to go with him.
Steeling herself, she stepped onto the carriage’s metal footstep and slid onto the smooth leather bench. The door of the fiacre clicked shut beside her. A clap of thunder shook through the wood, and rain suddenly rushed down onto the street below. Prefect Javert rapped the carriage roof with the handle of his umbrella. Above them, the driver whistled and slapped the reins across the horse’s back, and the carriage began to roll.