The tiny cogs whizzed around silently and unnoticed, moving the hands of the wristwatch in to place. It was officially brandy o'clock.
Earl Lazarus C Carrioncrow raised himself from his chair and bellowed "Langstaff? It is time...we must depart!"
With a clatter of silverware, a dishevelled butler appeared at the study door. "The Superior Modulator is primed and ready, sir."
Carrioncrow had been a self professed Gentleman Adventurer for ten years, and was much sought after in the adventuring fraternity. However, he also had a keen detective sense and when not adventuring he was often to be found detecting. He seldom took on random cases, unless he knew a little something of the job, but this was an exceptional case that he simply could not refuse.
Carrioncrow had been contacted by a man named Barnes, and summoned to a public house in the city.
Barnes had written no more, no less. Simply 'Meet me, Barnes' followed by the address. The note had been slipped under the front door of Carrioncrow's dwelling earlier that morning.
With his intrigue piqued, and his detective and adventuring receptors firing on full, Carrioncrow, with his faithful servant Langstaff by his side, set off in the steam driven Superior Modulator, and headed towards London.
As the Superior Modulator touched down in a grimy back street, Langstaff tutted.
"What's up, my man?" said Carrioncrow, stepping from the footplate.
"I best cloak the Modulator, sir. I don't like the look of this area, she'll be stripped and sold for parts before we've rounded the corner," he replied, looking around cautiously.
"Fine, make it so, I will go forth to the corner and assess our current location," replied Carrioncrow, whipping his cape over his shoulder for extra dramatic effect.
With his top hat sitting jauntily on his head, and his waxed moustache coiffured to within an inch of it's lip, he cut quite the dashing figure.
He stepped up to the corner and peered around.
The street was filled with movement and noise. People walked across the road, bellowing various taunts and grunts at one another. Various steam carriages hissed and wheezed up and down the carriageway, weaving between the passing throng.
Across the road, Carrioncrow could see the public house. Swarms of stocky, bearded, tattooed workers stood outside drinking and throwing insults between each other. Every so often a raucous roar of laughter would burst forth, then die down again.
As Carrioncrow surveyed the situation, Langstaff joined him at his side.
With the Superior Modulator fully cloaked, the two men stepped out of the shadows, and set out across the road.
"Where are we to find this Barnes man, sir?" said Langstaff, haughtily.
"In the Wounded Head Public House and Odditorium. In fact, just here," replied Carrioncrow, stepping up to the door of the establishment.
The group of swarthy labourers had stopped goading each other and were instead silently glaring at the two strangers, now standing in their vicinity.
"Gentlemen!" declared Carrioncrow, boldly, "I am seeking refreshment of the most splendid kind, that is to say an elixir of mind comforting ale to warm the soul and dizzy the senses, can you recommend a beverage?"
Silence. Glaring. A lung jangling cough.
"Wot?" grunted the stockiest of the stocky men, firing a globule of phlegm on to the pavement.
"A drink, my man! I want a drink," replied Carrioncrow, in a high pitched whine, the poshness of his voice going in to overdrive.
"Well go order one, your highness," came the sarcastic reply.
The throng fell about, and Carrioncrow, sensing there was no good in continuing the conversation, pushed past and entered the dimly lit public house. Langstaff hurried in behind him.
Once inside the pair surveyed the area. The bar was full to the brim with drunken men and buxom wenches. Beer was spilling from hundreds of tankards, as they clanked together in joyous salutations. A dank blue smoke hung heavy in the air, and the smell of this pit of iniquity was overwhelming.
"Let's make for the bar, sir!" said Langstaff, timidly.
As the two companions set their best feet forward Carrioncrow was stopped dead in his tracks, as a huge, hairy-knuckled hand, fell heavily from behind on to his left shoulder.
Carrioncrow slowly turned.
"Oh my," he whispered, "oh dear, oh dear..."
Find out all this and more in next weeks thrilling, nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat conclusion to 'Earl Lazarus C Carrioncrow And The Case Of The Very Rough Boozer'