A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1) by Ashley Weaver



I struggled, but I knew right away he was much too big for me to fight, so, after a moment of resistance, I stilled. Besides, if Uncle Mick was caught, I wouldn’t leave him, even if I could escape this brute’s clutches somehow.

The man had pulled my hands behind my back, and I felt the cold metal against my wrists as he latched the handcuffs.

“This way,” he said, grasping my arm and roughly pushing me toward the front of the house.

I managed to glance over my shoulder and saw that whoever had come from the other direction had taken Uncle Mick toward the back of the house, away from me.

There were several of them, I realized, now that my eyes had grown accustomed to the darkness. Four or five men in dark clothes. Somehow, they must have been expecting us.

And so we were caught.





CHAPTER TWO


There are a lot of things that go through a girl’s mind when she’s arrested. First there’s the surprise, then fear, then worry, then the tedium of waiting for something—anything—to happen.

I had passed through the first two stages fairly quickly and was on to worry as I rode in the back of the car, its headlights hooded, through the darkened streets.

The city was dark, but, in the moonlight, I could make out landmarks as we went. We crossed the Thames toward Central London, and I saw the spires of the Palace of Westminster and the silhouette of Big Ben, his darkened face quietly but watchfully guarding his domain.

A bit farther and we passed St James’s Park, and I thought, unaccountably, of a happy day I’d spent there in my youth, ambling along the shady paths and feeding dry scraps of bread to the birds at Duck Island. Would I ever have the chance to do such carefree things again?

I lost track after that as we made several turns along smaller, less familiar streets. My best guess was that we were in Belgravia, but I could think of no good reason why we should be.

Uncle Mick would have known where we were headed. I was convinced he held a map of the entire city in his head. Surprisingly, however, they had taken him in a different car—a waste of petrol rations, I would have thought, but who was I to question police methods?

In any case, I had more important things to worry about. How was I going to get out of this mess? That was first and foremost among my worries. We had been caught fair and square, so I doubted there was much I could do to talk my way out of it. There was always a chance, of course. Uncle Mick had a silver tongue, and he’d talked his way out of more than one sticky situation.

Perhaps we could claim it had been some kind of misunderstanding, that we were friends or relations of the owners of the house. But that would only work until they contacted the owners. No, that was no good.

I realized suddenly that I had never given much thought to what would happen if we were arrested. Call it overconfidence, but we had been doing this a long time, and we were very sure of ourselves. Maybe that’s where the trouble lay. A haughty spirit before a fall.

At least it had just been Uncle Mick and me who were caught. I was glad the boys weren’t here. For one thing, I was fairly certain they wouldn’t have come easily, and they might have been hurt in the struggle.

They were tough boys, my cousins, both of them bold and reckless, though they were also kindhearted and terribly clever. Colm was a mechanic for the RAF. He’d always been good with machines, and airplanes were no exception. I was glad he had found a place where he belonged and where his skills could be put to good use. He had been eager to do his bit for the cause, both my cousins had.

I hadn’t wanted to see them go, but Uncle Mick, despite his native Ireland’s neutrality in the war, felt the same way the boys did, that this country could only be defended if our young men were willing to step forward and do their part.

We hadn’t heard from Toby since Dunkirk. He was officially listed as missing, meaning he had likely been captured or killed. Ever since we had heard, we had gone about with the assumption that he was in a German prison somewhere, that sooner or later we would get a letter from him.

Uncle Mick never let on that he was worried. He said that, when the war was over, Toby would be back with his tales of adventure. He never addressed the possibility that Toby might be dead, never seemed even to consider it, and I thought surely he must be right. The four of us had always been so close—thick as thieves, Uncle Mick liked to say with a chuckle; we’d have felt something different if he was gone.

I hoped he was all right, but the truth of it was that I sometimes thought he would be better off dead than in a German prison. He had the McDonnell fighting spirit and a strong will, but I had heard enough horror stories about the Nazis to know that breaking strong wills was one of their specialties.