About The Diamond Device:
After diamond power promises to replace steam, an unemployed labourer and a thieving noble unite to foil an international plot and avert a war.
Alf Wilson resents the new technology that cost him his factory job, especially as his clockwork leg bars him from army enrolment. He daren’t confess his unemployment to his overbearing mother. Desperate over the rent, he ends up in a detention cell with a hangover.
Impoverished Lord Richard Hayes maintains his expensive parliamentary seat by a mixture of charm and burglary. During a poorly planned break-in, he inadvertently witnesses a kidnapping. To cap it all, the police arrest him for the crime. At least he's using a fake identity. The real criminals make off with not just the professor who discovered diamond power, but her plans for a diamond-fuelled bomb.
When Rich encounters Alf in the neighbouring cell, he sees an opportunity to keep his noble reputation intact. He persuades Alf he's a secret agent who needs an assistant. This chance association will take them to the oddest locations. But law-abiding Alf’s first assignment? Break Rich out of jail.
Rich’s back twinged as he sat on a lumpy armchair, sipping stewed tea and eating burnt, unevenly sliced sponge cake. The Madeleys might have plenty of money, but they didn’t spend it on hospitality. It would be a pleasure to return here tonight.
“As I was saying, Lord Hayes, it’s such a delight to have you visit for afternoon tea at last.” Mrs Madeley leaned across the sofa towards his armchair, wafting the odour of sweat and stale perfume in his direction.
Rich smiled, remembering last year when he’d burgled the other end of the street. “I’m sorry that other commitments have kept me from this pleasure for so long. I’m honoured to be here.”
“Oh! No need to apologise. I’m sure you’re very popular.”
“I’m not sure I’d lay claim to that,” he murmured.
Above the cosy fireplace hung an oil painting in surprisingly good taste. Its understated oak frame stood out among the room’s clashing decorations like a pedigree racehorse in a farmyard.
Finally, something he could talk about with a straight face. “Is that an original Denoir? I particularly like how the sunlight reflects off the airship’s cables.”
“I don’t know.” She pursed her lips. “It was here when we moved in six years ago. My husband insisted we keep it on display, though I’d rather have replaced it with a portrait of our daughter.”
Rich set down his teacup and spread his hands. “Maybe he had a momentary brain fever. I would always defer to the lady’s preference. Was there much else left behind from the previous owners?”
“Plenty of other junk like this, ornaments, trinkets and so on.” She unfolded a silk hand fan, which was even frillier than the antimacassars. “My husband’s often away on business, so it hardly affects him. I finally put my foot down about sending the rest to storage. Currently it’s taking up space in the back room, but it should be gone by next week.”
How promising. Valuables that wouldn’t even be missed. He chuckled. “Better find a use for the free space quickly, or else your husband will fill it up again. How long until his return?”
“Oh, he said at least three weeks in his last telegram.”
“I see. Does he plan to enlist?”
“No. He’s too old. What about you?” Mrs Madeley clasped her hands to her ample chest and took a deep breath. “I’ve no doubt you would look very gallant in uniform. So tall, unlike my husband.”
Rich shrugged modestly. He could hardly help his height: standing out amongst other Lesser Grenians was more of a liability than an advantage, especially as it reminded people of his non-local origins. “Of course I will do my duty to our country, but I can better serve in my role on the Council of Lords.”
Pink-cheeked, she waved the fan in front of her face, narrowly missing the beaded lampshade. “Oh, how silly of me! I hadn’t exactly forgotten, but the Council don’t publicise their work much.”
“Not to worry.”