Loyal fans of Airship Daedalus, here is the second of two parts of a sample chapter from Assassins of the Lost Kingdom by E.J. Blaine, coming in November 2016…
The landscape had been designed with such skill that Jack was surprised when he suddenly came upon the wall at the edge of the estate. The attackers had rolled a large stone against it to help them get back over, and Jack saw one of them atop the wall. He aimed and fired, but the man dropped off the other side of the wall, and Jack’s shot only nicked the mortar where he’d been.
Jack jammed his .45 into his pocket and ran forward. He bounded off the stone and caught the top of the wall, pulling himself up. On the other side, Ponderby’s carefully crafted forest gave way to a narrow roadway and marshy flatland beyond it. Jack levered himself over the wall and dropped down.
As he got to his feet, he heard a car engine roar to life, then tires on gravel. He dashed to the road just in time to see a dark gray Packard fishtail as it wheeled around. He emptied his .45 at it but only managed to punch several bullets into the bodywork as the car sped away.
Jack turned and ran back down the road toward the estate’s main entrance. He remembered a garage set into the perimeter wall near the gate. He just hoped Ponderby had something there that was fast enough to catch a Packard with a head start.
He was breathing hard by the time he reached the garage. He sprinted across the pine needle-strewn ground and threw open a small side door. Inside he stopped, hands on his thighs, recovering his breath, and smiled to himself. A row of cars stretched out before him, each more expensive than the last. But what caught Jack’s eye was the motorcycle right in front of him. It was a brand new Harley Davidson JD, olive drab with a low slung seat, teardrop tank, and the new V-twin engine. It looked fast, and Jack knew it was. Jack had no idea why it was here. He couldn’t imagine Ponderby riding it. But it was exactly what he needed.
Jack slapped a full magazine into his .45, then opened the nearest set of bay doors. He was turning back to the bike when a mechanic ran in from behind the garage. He wore grease stained coveralls and gripped a heavy wrench.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he shouted and advanced toward Jack, brandishing the wrench.
“I… Mr. Ponderby’s…” Jack shrugged. “Ah, gosh, I sure am sorry,” he said. “But I don’t have time to explain.”
Then he laid the man out with a solid right cross. The mechanic collapsed in a heap and the wrench clattered away across the floor. Jack started up the bike and took off.
The Harley’s engine sang as he raced down the narrow road, past stands of pine. He passed a few small houses and a kid on a bicycle who whooped as Jack flew by. He didn’t see the Packard, but he was pretty sure this road ran straight back to the city. That’s where they’d be headed, Jack thought. They probably didn’t think he could follow them. If he was lucky, they might even be driving slowly to avoid attention. They had perhaps a five minute head start on him when he set out. He opened up the throttle to see how much of that lead he could wear away. Several more miles passed, but Jack didn’t see anyone else on the road at all.
Finally he glimpsed the Packard as he shot through a tiny village, past a post office and a handful of small stores. Heads turned as he roared by, but Jack’s focus was on the car ahead. He was closing the gap. Past the village they came into a long, empty stretch of straight road with scrub pine forest on either side. He had them.
Jack drew his pistol and prepared to take them on. He remembered they had at least the Thompson and a shotgun in the car. He’d close fast, then take out a tire or perhaps fire at the driver. This would be tricky.
Then the car did something Jack hadn’t seen before. The driver braked hard and deliberately threw the car into a skid. The back end slid out and the tires screamed as the car whipped around until it stopped dead in the road, facing him. Just as quickly, it accelerated straight toward him. Jack saw the passenger lean out with the Thompson. He opened up and Jack felt a round drill past him, too close. He fired back with his .45 and put a round into the engine compartment and another through the windshield. But he was outgunned, and the Packard was a ton and a half of mass charging straight at him. Suddenly, his plan didn’t seem like such a good one.
Then a shadow overtook him on the pavement. He heard the stutter of Lewis guns and saw the bullets stitch a line down the pavement and rake the Packard. The Packard’s windshield exploded into a storm of shattered glass and the engine gave off thick, black smoke. Jack braked hard and brought the bike to a stop as the Packard veered off the road. It ran into the woods and slammed into a tree with a sickening crunch.
Jack looked up as the Daedalus swept by overhead. Jack had never been so glad to see the airship appear out of nowhere. He got off the bike and ran toward the car. The engine had caught fire and the flames were spreading quickly. The driver slumped unmoving over the steering wheel, a bloody mess. But the passenger staggered out the other side and ran into the woods. Jack followed. He spotted spatters of blood on the grass.
Jack kept his distance and let the man run until he wore himself out. He was limping, and his long black coat dragged on tree branches. He’d lost the tommy gun, but he fired a pistol blindly over his shoulder. Jack saved his bullets. The man wouldn’t get away from him.
Eventually the trees ended in a sharply drawn line, giving way to cleared fields. Perhaps twenty feet past the tree line was a wire fence. The assassin realized he was out of room to run. He whirled and fired at Jack, but his shot went wide. Jack’s two shots didn’t miss. The man stumbled back and collapsed into the fence.
On the other side of the fence, the Daedalus was coming in to land in the empty field. Even before the ship touched down, Deadeye sprang down from the cockpit hatch and sprinted toward Jack with his Winchester carbine ready. But Jack was focused on the body of the assassin. It began to smoke and bubble. There was a horrible chemical smell. Jack backed off and turned away.
“You okay, Jack?” Deadeye shouted. “Doc called and said you were in trouble. Lucky we found you out here!”
“I’m okay,” Jack said quietly. “I owe you one.”
“Another one,” Deadeye replied with a grin. He flipped the safety on his Winchester and let it hang at his side. Then he noticed the body. Nothing was left of the corpse but smoking bones and clothes. The sleeve of the man’s black coat blew in the breeze like some horrible scarecrow. Jack knew they’d find the same thing back at the Packard. Nothing would be left of the driver but this.
Jack and Deadeye traded a dark look. They’d seen this before, and it could mean only one thing. Once more they were up against the Silver Star.