“You are a member, then,” Charlotte murmured. “Of course.”
“I offered Richard membership in the club—even took him to a meeting or two—but he was uninterested. Shortly after that he moved his family to America.” Mortmain spread his hands wide. “The Pandemonium Club is not for everyone. Traveling widely as I have, I heard stories of similar organizations in many cities, groups of men who know of the Shadow World and wish to share their knowledge and advantages, but one pays the heavy price of secrecy for membership.”
“One pays a heavier price than that.”
“It isn’t an evil organization,” Mortmain said. He sounded almost wounded. “There were many great advancements, many great inventions. I saw a warlock create a silver ring that could transport the wearer to another location whenever he twisted one around his finger. Or a doorway that could bring you anywhere in the world you wanted to go. I’ve seen men brought back from the brink of death—”
“I’m aware of magic and what it can do, Mr. Mortmain.” Charlotte glanced at Henry, who was examining a blueprint for some sort of mechanical gadget, mounted on a wall. “There is one question that concerns me. The warlocks who appear to have kidnapped Mr. Gray are somehow associated with the club. I have always heard it called a club for mundanes. Why would there be Downworlders in it?”
Mortmain’s forehead creased. “Downworlders? You mean the supernatural folk—warlocks and lycanthropes and the like? There are levels and levels of membership, Mrs. Branwell. A mundane such as myself can become a member of the club. But the chairmen—those who run the enterprise—they are Downworlders. Warlocks, lycanthropes, and vampires. The Fair Folk shun us, though. Too many captains of industry—railroads, factories, and the like—for them. They hate such things.” He shook his head. “Lovely creatures, faeries, but I do fear progress will be the death of them.”
Charlotte was uninterested in Mortmain’s thoughts on faeries; her mind was whirling. “Let me guess. You introduced Nathaniel Gray to the club, exactly as you had introduced his father.”
Mortmain, who had seemed to be regaining a bit of his old confidence, wilted again. “Nathaniel had worked in my office in London for only a few days before he confronted me. I gathered he had learned of his father’s experience at the club, and it had given him a fierce desire to know more. I couldn’t refuse. I brought him to a meeting and thought that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.” He shook his head. “Nathaniel took to the club like a duck to water. A few weeks after that first meeting, he was gone from his lodging house. He sent a letter for me, terminating his employment and saying he was going to work for another Pandemonium Club member, someone who apparently was willing to pay him enough to sustain his gambling habits.” He sighed. “Needless to say, he left no forwarding address.”
“And that’s all?” Charlotte’s voice rose in disbelief. “You didn’t try to look for him? Find out where he had gone? Who his new employer was?”
“A man can take employment where he likes,” Mortmain said, blustering. “There was no reason to think—”
“And you haven’t seen him since?”
“No. I told you—”
Charlotte cut him off. “You say he took to the Pandemonium Club like a duck to water, yet you haven’t seen him at a single meeting since he left your employment?”
A look of panic flickered in Mortmain’s eyes. “I … I have not been to a meeting since then myself. Work has kept me extremely busy.”
Charlotte looked hard at Axel Mortmain across his massive desk. She was a good judge of character, she had always thought. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t come across men like Mortmain before. Bluff, genial, confident men, men who believed that their success in business or some other worldly pursuit meant that they would have the same success should they choose to pursue the magical arts. She thought of the barrister again, the walls of his Knightsbridge house painted scarlet with the blood of his family. She thought what his terror might have been like, in those last moments of his life. She could see the beginnings of a similar fear in Axel Mortmain’s eyes.
“Mr. Mortmain,” she said, “I am not a fool. I know there is something you are concealing from me.” She took from her reticule one of the cogs that Will had retrieved from the Dark Sisters’ house, and set it on the desk. “This looks like something your factories might produce.”
With a distracted look Mortmain glanced down at the small piece of metal on his desk. “Yes—yes, that’s one of my cogs. What of it?”
“Two warlocks calling themselves the Dark Sisters—both members of the Pandemonium Club—they’ve been murdering humans. Young girls. Barely more than children. And we found this in the cellar of their home.”
“I’ve nothing to do with any murders!” Mortmain exclaimed. “I never—I thought—” He had begun to sweat.
“What did you think?” Charlotte’s voice was soft.
Mortmain picked up the cog in shaking fingers. “You can’t imagine …” His voice trailed off. “A few months ago one of the club’s board members—a Downworlder, and very old and powerful—came to me and asked me to sell him some mechanical equipment cheaply. Cogs and cams and the like. I didn’t ask what it was for—why would I? There seemed nothing remarkable about the request.”
“By any chance,” Charlotte said, “was this the same man whose employment Nathaniel joined after he left yours?”
Mortmain dropped the cog. As it rolled across the table, he slammed his hand down on top of it, halting its progress. Though he said nothing, Charlotte could tell by the flicker of fear in his eyes that her guess was correct. A tingle of triumph ran through her nerves.
“His name,” she said. “Tell me his name.”
Mortmain was staring at the desk. “It would be worth my life to tell you.”
“What about Nathaniel Gray’s life?” said Charlotte.
Without meeting her eyes Mortmain shook his head. “You’ve no idea how powerful this man is. How dangerous.”
Charlotte straightened up. “Henry,” she said. “Henry, bring me the Summoner.”
Henry turned away from the wall and blinked at her in confusion. “But, darling—”
“Bring me the device!” Charlotte snapped. She loathed snapping at Henry; it was like kicking a puppy. But sometimes it had to be done.