Chapter One (Hellacre)

"Kent! Captain White wants you!"

Inspector Clark Kent of the London Metropolitan Police looked up from his perusal of a report he had just completed and pushed his rounded spectacles up the bridge of his nose. His colleague P.C. Olsen was waggling his thumb in the direction of their superior's office.

Kent said, glancing at the wall clock meaningfully, "I am officially off duty James...."

"He does not care, does he? You'd better go in there before he ruptures his spleen. He's got some fancy looking folk in there with him..."

Kent sighed and stood his six foot three inch frame up. He knew his Captain too well to ignore his bidding. He also knew when "fancy" folk appeared it meant that some influential higher up individual was pulling in a favour for someone. Money and politics always spoke louder than the law and justice. He went to the door of the office and knocked.

A voice bellowed, "Who is that now? Olsen, didn't I ask you to tell Kent to get in here?!"

Kent opened the door to see his silver haired Captain standing near his desk with a male figure at his side. White was in some quiet discussion with the stranger, and he looked over his shoulder to see who had entered.

He said impatiently, "Oh, it is you. Come in and shut that door! It is drafty!"

Kent obeyed and stood silently, waiting to be told why he had been summoned. The stranger with whom White was earnestly conversing stood with his back to Kent. He was tall and broad-shouldered and wore a coat of the finest cut and quality. When the Captain said, "Clark has been with the force for seven years. I trust him....." The stranger turned to regard him briefly. Kent guessed that the man, from his highly polished boots to his finely tied cravat, was one of wealth and consequence.

Captain White confirmed it with the introduction. "Inspector Kent, this is his lordship, Bruce Wayne, Earl of Gotham. My lord, this is Clark of my most experienced officers."

The Earl gave him a cursory glance, his dark blue eyes narrowed; he seemed to judge and dismiss Kent at once. He opened his thin lips and his voice was a rich, bored drawl, "Experienced does not mean capable, Captain."

"Oh, I assure you, sir, Kent has a good record. He played an integral part in solving the Blue Fields murders, you know."

Wayne quirked his brow. "Indeed?"

The whole of England was aware of that case and had followed it in the press for months. The killer had been caught and hanged only a fortnight ago.

The Earl remarked, "The murder of street sellers for cadavers is one thing...the protection of my betrothed is another."

Kent looked at him unimpressed and said ironically, "Perhaps you may be kind enough to explain the difference, sir."

"Riff-raff in the alleyways of east London are bound to end up in a sorry situation...they court disease and death daily...but my fiancée has been living in the safest, most affluent part of the city, with servants and chaperons around her since her arrival to London a month ago. Yet despite all this, she is not safe...someone is after her."

White explained further seeing that his colleague looked no more enlightened, "Lord Wayne's betrothed has had several attempts on her life; the last one being yesterday, when a chaise and four tried to run her over in Bond street."

Lord Wayne gestured to the high backed chair that faced the grate-fire. "Mr Kent, my fiancée, Miss Diana Prince. My dear, do allow the inspector to make your acquaintance."

Kent saw a tall, slender figure rise from the chair and turn to face him. He felt a heat in his cheeks and fidgeted with the collar of his unfashionably cut jacket self-consciously. The face beneath the muslin hat with blue ribbons and white roses regarded him curiously; eyes the colour of cornflowers peered out from under high arched brows and long silken lashes. Like her fiancée she was richly attired; but the olive tone of her skin, the blue-black gloss in her hair, the fullness of her lips, and the musical accent of her voice suggested she was not a native.

"Good day to you, Mr. Kent," she said with self assured but prim expression.

He could only bow stiffly and manage, "Miss Prince."