In a time of rapid technological change which challenges the roots of the empire, Elizabeth witnesses the impossible. The arrival of her late husband’s doppelganger takes Elizabeth Hunter-Payne to the brink of insanity.
Captain Nathanial Royston, late of the disgraced East India Company, claims he is innocent of the murder on the Great Northern Express.
With the coolly professional Miss Clayton at her side, our feisty heroine investigates three nasty suspects to get to the bottom of the mystery. While doing so, Elizabeth is faced with a cruel reality and comes to a decision that threatens her future happiness.
Another thrilling steampunk adventure with steam trains, miniature automatons, as well as guns, knives, and a handy half-brick in the reticule.
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The Inconstant Doppleganger (Elizabeth Hunter-Payne Steampunk Adventures 4)
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Mikala Ash
What should one do when confronted by a ghost?
Deny its existence? Scoff at one’s own senses? Doubt one’s sanity? Or should one investigate, interrogate, and hopefully understand? Or as a last resort, threaten stupidly to shoot it dead?
A ghost stood in my library. Not just any ghost. But the ghost of my beloved Jonathan. I could not deny its existence. My senses told me the impossible with undeniable certitude, and I could not discount what I saw. It could not be -- yet there he stood. Investigating the phenomenon hopefully leading to an understanding would seem the tried and true method. There, unfortunately, I was at a worrisome disadvantage.
A scant few moments before, I had been in the drawing room confiding my fears for my very sanity to my good friend the general after concluding, for the time being at least, the conspiracy of fear had been perpetrated by a Russian mesmerist known only as Vladimir. My exposure to the fiend had me questioning everything I thought, felt, and experienced. I feared being confined in Bedlam, the destiny of hapless wretches like myself, who believed their ability to tell reality from fantasy had been compromised. Was this ghost the proof that Vladimir had indeed sent me mad?
Before she fainted away, my trusted servant, Marianne, had interrupted us in a state of distress saying there was a visitor in the library. To affect her stolid character in such a fashion the visitor must have been most singular. I sensed then that something evil had invaded my home. I had rushed to my late husband’s library, and what I saw as I entered that formerly safe and comfortable room stopped me in my tracks. The sight unhinged me, stole the breath from my lungs, and chilled the blood in my heart so quickly that it seemed time itself had stopped.
A ghost. How else to explain what I saw? The alternative was to accept that I was indeed mad.
Unfortunately the cold fear had not frozen the multitude of panicked, confused thoughts which, like a crazed mob, ran free through the streets and alleyways of my mind, breaking and looting everything that was once solid and dependable. An image came to me… the creeping terror invading my mind was like the first winter ice on a country pond, which spread inexorably over my body and threatened to engulf my very soul. I knew with dread certainty that if the brittle ice cracked, I would slip into the murky depths of insanity.
There, illuminated by the firelight, I recognised in his impossible countenance all the familiar features: his strong well-defined jaw, his generous lips, the piercing gaze, and the close-cut hair. The room revolved around me. My head swam, the floor tilted beneath my feet. In my shock I had staggered backward against the doorjamb.
The impossible man spoke. “Elizabeth?”
I heard myself mutter a single word. My first step onto that ice-covered pond. “Jonathan?”
Was I to crash through that thinly spread ice and drown in a madness of my own making? One last rebellious kernel of logical thought remained at the centre of my brain. It boiled and bubbled in a frantic struggle to fight the impossible and keep me sane. That hot thought spilled over and inflamed every cell it touched until, like a volcano, it exploded. I became incandescent with rage and jumped back from the edge of that insane pond, determined the ice would not claim me.
In the moment before the impossible man said another word I pulled out my Adams revolver, and pointed it at his heart. “You may have Jonathan’s face,” I challenged, “But you are not he! Identify yourself, sir, or God help me, I will shoot you dead!”