Chapter 14 – Mopping Up

The high ceilings were catching the smoke, but the atmosphere was getting worse. Lord Fop covered his mouth with his handkerchief and coughed. "Captain, do you believe you can do something about this?"

Smoker didn't answer because a group of bandits were barreling down the hallway – followed by some men with barn equipment. Being beaten with their own boss's body and a heavy barrage of expensive porcelain had them throwing down their weapons and begging for mercy.

In the Marine handbook, unconsciousness was a type of mercy.

"Private Yand, reporting, sir!" The Marine private who'd driven their coach to the estate brought his pitchfork to his side like a musket and saluted. "The bandits escaping the fire are being routed and reinforcements are on the way as per your message, sir!"

Smoker knew when to substitute a dry tone for a confused one. "Message."

"Yes, sir. I knew something was amiss when you sent that coded message about how you didn't want to go to back to the ship. I immediately sent one of the other coachmen back for reinforcements and prepared the servants for a skirmish. A platoon from the ship should be on its way!"

Smoker realized that's what he would have done, had cigars not been distracting him. "Good initiative, private. Though I don't think they'll have much to do once they'll get there."

"Sir, I heard the screaming and came right – ack!" Tashigi fell out of the curling smoke.

"Where the hell have you been?" Smoker snapped, glad that his underling was here to be yelled at. "And you're not wearing any shoes!"

Tashigi picked herself off the floor. "Sorry, sir. Lost them while fighting bandits, sir. Civilians are exiting the building and I've organized the servants into a bucket chain from the ornamental fishpond out back, sir. The situation is under control."

A bandit tore down the far end of the hall, screaming and on fire. A group of debutantes quickly followed, taking turns beating him about the head and body with assorted fine silver.

"Under control?" Smoker growled.

"I'll get right on it, sir, and what should I do with any prisoners – oh, what's this?" Tashigi's attention was drawn to the sword attached to the hip of Smoker's captive. "Captain Smoker! I do believe it's a –"

"Tashigi! Focus!"

She wrenched her eyes away from the sword. "Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!"

Slowly but surely the civilians were accounted for and ushered away from the burning building and the bandits were rounded up. Those that had fled into the garden maze scrambled their way back out because it, like the mansion, had been set on fire. The bandits swore that arson wasn't part of the plan, but who would believe the bandits anyway, Baron Brightworth rumbled, and so their protests of semi-innocence were ignored.

The East Wing's collapse heralded the platoon's arrival. Smoker had been right; there wasn't much for them to do.

They weren't too disappointed. There were plenty of young women asking them about the best way to hold a sword.