Georgiana awoke in the rocking cart and immediately began to panic. She was in a box somewhat similar to a coffin in its dimensions. She could not see her fingers in front of her face as she began to claw at the lid above her pale form. It was futile – she was trapped. Georgiana could hear hawkers shouting about their wares and felt the rhythm of the horse-drawn vehicle as it moved from side to side.
She tried to take calming breaths and flex her calves. Her aching muscles were strained and sore. The roof of her mouth was dry and her throat was parched. How long had she been in this box? What day was it? Where was her cousin? Was James dead?
Georgiana heard the words 'Thames' and 'Cheapside' in the hawker's boasts about their wares. At least she knew that they were almost in the heart of London's business district. She still did not feel too relieved. It would worry her brother so much to know that she had been taken to the capital from Derbyshire. All she wanted was for Will and Richard to find her – for them all to have some semblance of normality – even a cup of tea together, anything other than this wretched and uncertain predicament.
Meanwhile, Darcy was standing inside one of Derby's taverns. He had barely slept as his carriage had headed south, but the Bow Street Runner he had privately hired had discovered the body of a 'fop' in an alley there. Darcy had wondered if it would be his eldest cousin's body. Richard stood beside him waiting for the constable to arrive.
The Gardiner's had broken their journey back to London at the same establishment. Darcy felt the reassurance of Elizabeth's presence. She listened to all his fearful accounts with compassion and forbearance. Although he missed Bingley's company, he was relieved to not have to entertain Caroline and the Hurst's – who seemed far too concerned about themselves to want to search for Georgiana or offer support. Bingley had promised to be of assistance as soon as he had taken his sisters back to the capital.
Inspector Baines sat arrived and summoned Darcy and Richard to follow him. Elizabeth waited, her Aunt and Uncle staying by her side, for them to return. It was only a few minutes, but the Colonel's quick shake of his head and the detached look marring Darcy's features.
Despite Elizabeth's attempts to encourage the gentlemen to eat, they merely picked at their food.
Elizabeth reached across the table, her glove resting briefly on Richard Fitzwilliam's hand. "Colonel, please eat. You shall need all your strength to help Georgiana and your brother."
Darcy shifted uncomfortably in his seat as jealousy gripped his chest. Richard sat backwards, his eyes darting to his cousin's tense face. Elizabeth was surprised at the intense look that Darcy gave her. Elizabeth glanced away, her hands returning to her lap. She was not sure how she had displeased him.
Colonel Fitzwilliam broke the awkward silence by introducing the member of the constabulary to Elizabeth and the Gardiner's. "Inspector Baines of the Bow Street Runners, sir, ladies."
"I shall do all I can to reunite your friends with their siblings," he vowed.
Meanwhile, James Fitzwilliam glanced out at the dimly lit street as the clock chimed twelve. Returning from the foggy window, he stroked his young cousin's cheek. Georgiana slowly awoke, blinking in the dim light.
She tried to sit up, but her cousin reassured her that they were safe for now. They had both been drugged and boxed up – brought all the way to London in wooden crates. James was much affronted, but he again promised to keep her safe – saying at least their captors had merely locked them in a large, dirty room – rather than tying them up once more.
Dizzily, Georgiana tried to get to her feet, thinking she could call for help from one of the windows. The windows, however, had all been nailed shut and the public square below them was dark and deserted.
Cousin James reached out and gently pulled her into his arms. She sobbed against his chest – talking of how much she missed Will and Richard. He listened to the flood of tears and then picked her up and carried her back to the bed. He placed her on the old mattress and knelt beside her, holding her hand.
Sleep claimed her at last and he stood up, stretched and then walked over to the heavy door. He tapped three times in quick succession and heard a chair scrape in the echoing corridor. A key turned in the lock and he as soon playing cards and drinking ale with his hired kidnappers.