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A Clockwork Crook

by John H. Dromey

About the Author: John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He enjoys reading—mysteries in particular—and writing in a variety of genres. He’s had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Crimson Streets, Gumshoe Review, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Thriller Magazine, Woman’s World, and elsewhere.


An accomplished vocalist, Florence Carstairs was accustomed to having her voice soar to remarkable heights. Having her body go along was a new experience.

She did not go quietly. The songbird elevated her chin to a haughty altitude. With her head held high, she looked down her nose at the man seated nearby. He was too busy working levers with his hands—and pedals with his feet—to notice her disdainful posture.

Flo leaned forward and said, “Dash my wig! The flapping of those infernal wings is ruining my coiffure.”

The man ignored her.

She put her lips close to his ear and all but screamed, “I’m a renowned chanteuse. I dislike being rotten-appled.”

This time the man flinched. The break in his concentration had untoward consequences.

There was a sudden lurch and Flo momentarily lost her balance. She grabbed a strut to keep from being knocked off her perch.

The man quickly adjusted the controls and equilibrium was restored. He turned his head slightly and raised his voice to make himself heard over the unconventional sounds produced by the uncanny machine enabling their airborne conveyance. “Time waits for no man. Nor for any woman either. Not even for her Majesty the Queen. We’re needed elsewhere post haste, and my steam-powered ornithopter is the swiftest vehicle for getting us across town. I can assure you the hissing is not directed at you personally.”

Flo quit talking and held on for dear life.

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