"RATS! What do you mean I have rats?" Mr. Ewan Griffin shoved his chair back as he jumped to his feet and bellowed at Cooper, his factotum.
The ever-efficient, spectacled factotum stood in the open doorway to Griffin's palatial office, looking more like a cowering stick insect than his usual confident, unruffled self.
"Here? Inside Blacklegs! Don't be absurd, man."
"I-I-I'm s-sorry to interrupt your card game, gentlemen," Cooper said. "But I thought Mr. Griffin would want to be informed immediately."
"Easy, Ewan." Lord Giles West leaned back in his chair. "Don't kill the messenger."
"Damn it, I finally have a decent hand, too." Clark Harcourt, the third man seated at Ewan's table, tossed his cards down.
"Bah." Ewan jabbed his hand at his office door. "What’s all that racket?"
The factotum grimaced, cleared his throat, and pulled at his neck cloth. "Your patrons departing into the night, sir."
"Christ—escaping, more like." Ewan ran his hands through his hair. "Suppose we should go investigate." He went to his desk, opened a top drawer, and pulled out a pistol. He checked to see that it was primed.
Giles pointed at the gun. "What do you plan to do with that?"
"You don't expect me to go out there unarmed, do you?" Ewan said.
"You'd do better with a broom," Giles said. "Rats are too fast. Waste of good shot."
All three men gawked at Giles West.
"And how the hell would the Earl of Margrave know such a thing?" Ewan asked. "Chase many rats lately, Giles?"
Giles chuckled. "Not me. But I do happen to be acquainted with the best rat-catcher in all London."
"You're bamming us?" Clark said.
Giles stood. "You place the broom like so." He pantomimed holding a broom to the floor. "Then you make a large sweeping arc, driving the broom, and the beast, away from you."
"You're serious." Clark scratched his head. "Egad, Ewan, what’ll your father say?"
Ewan braced his hands on his desk, narrowed his eyes, and leaned forward, giving Clark his death stare. "You plan on acquainting him with these facts, do you?"
"Of course not," Clark said in an offended tone.
"Besides, it's none of his concern. I'm a twenty-eight-year-old man. Not a boy who must run to papa to fix his problems. And this is my business, whether he likes it or not." Ewan knew there was no way to keep this juicy tidbit from reaching his father's ear. He'd just have to batten down the hatches and wait out the angry storm his father was sure to unleash on him over this mess. The son of a peer owning a gaming hell was bad enough, but one infested with rats—well now, that was prime fodder for the scandal rags and the wagging tongues. The only thing his father hated more than having no control of him, was scandal.
"If you'd like, I can write a note summoning Mac here for a consultation."
"A consultation? By all means. I cannot wait to meet the man who dares train an earl to use a broom." Ewan held out his hand, palm up, inviting Giles to sit down at his desk and compose his note.