Markus pushed the switch. A rapped series of clicks echoed from the fireplace, as gears and valves twisted and slapped open. A soft hissing grew louder into a coughing roar before a massive gout of water burst from the fireplace, extinguishing the flames, and plunging the room into darkness.
A loud bang rose above the din, alerting Markus to the man being thrown out of his chair by the surge of water. Now he was dazed on the floor, and after facing the fire for a few moments, quite blind in the dark.
Markus finally opened his eyes. He could just barely see enough to note a dark shape scrabbling on the wet floor. The torrent of water subsided as Markus walked over to the form and kicked it solidly in what looked like its stomach. The man gasped in pain, and fell sideways into the ankle deep water. Markus pressed his foot onto the man’s shoulder, forcing his nose and mouth under surface.
“Now you listen carefully, you loutish brute,” he hissed into the man’s un-submerged ears. “I am going to give you exactly one hour to get the Clockwork Spider from wherever you’ve hid it after you bushwhacked my expedition, and return it to me. If you do, I will give you five hundred pounds, and an antidote for the poison. Then you can explain to Klaus exactly how I deal with toads who mettle in my affairs. Fail me, and I will contact my very close friend, Constable Othmar. He has very good detectives, you know, and that interesting little blade you left in my drinking cabinet cannot be too hard to trace. Give him and his men a few hours, and I promise he will know exactly who you are, and where you live. And he owes me a favor. I promise you, he will turn out the entire Cliffside guard to hunt you and your friends down like rats in a sewer. I hope I made myself clear.”
With that, Markus lifted his foot as the man pushed himself out of the water, gasping frantically. Scrabbling on all fours, he half-crawled half-ran out of the room, his wet clothing flinging water all around him. Markus watched him run and then walked passed Schussel, still breathing heavily on the couch, to the small gas valve on the wall. He twisted it once, bringing the gaslights back on.
“I hope you are not too badly damaged,” he said, reaching for a bottle of brandy off the top shelf and pouring a tall glass. A grunt and shake of the head from Schussel was all he got. Markus smiled blandly, handing the glass to him.
“Not two hours after we got back,” Schussel muttered after he gulped at the brandy. “We hadn’t even finished unloading the ship before they got us.”
“Of course not,” Markus sighed, picking his way through the water to the bell to ring for the butler. “People like that don’t like to waste time or effort when they don’t have to. Much like myself, in fact.”