Congratulations, YOU HAVE FOUND A HIDDEN FILE. Go ahead and read if you like, but please keep in mind that I have hidden these for a reason. These are bad or controversial works that I am more ashamed of than my other work ... or in the words of Shakespeare
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.

Disclaimer 1: Most of this is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.


Disclaimer: Not mine, I just like to play with them for a little while.

Notes: The thing is, I couldn't get Lord Darracott's shock at the idea of his grandson and heir having been transported out of my mind and thus was born a plot hedgehog to get one of his grandsons transported for real ... not Hugo, though, and not the recently saved Richmond either. At first glance it seemed easy enough to have Vincent transported for debt, but wait, if nobody else Hugo surely would lend him the money before it came to that. Thus, well, it all became Prinny's fault.


Chapter 1: Vincent the Secret Agent?

Desartes was ... well, on second thought he wasn't actually the very last person Vincent Darracott would have expected to find waiting for him in his shabby little sitting room in his shabby little London flat when he got home. It was possible that he was the last person he'd ever wanted to see just how shabby the place was, though.

Desartes wasn't a complete stranger, though Vincent would have hesitated just what to call him, if somebody had asked him. Casual acquaintance perhaps, or maybe a bit more than casual, but Desartes didn't care to be seen with any of Vincent's friends and Desartes' friends ... well, Vincent didn't move in those exalted circles and that was exactly what the problem was with finding the Marquis Desartes in his flat.

Desartes was used to much more expensive surroundings. The only son and heir to a Duke he'd been raised in affluence and judging by the way he spent his money, he had a much bigger allowance than Vincent - or perhaps he'd already come into a fortune by the death of some maternal relative or godfather as Vincent's brother Claude had, though at a much larger scale. Vincent knew that he owned a large town house and had no need to bother with flats at all.

Still, he seemed to have made himself comfortable enough and it wouldn't do to show insecurity or embarrassment.

"Well, this is rather a surprise," Vincent declared in a slight drawl. "I didn't realise you knew where I live."

"I have a mission," Desartes announced throwing his arm over the back of the couch he was reclining on, but made no move to get up. "And it wasn't hard to find out."

"A mission?" Vincent repeated wondering where this was supposed to lead. "So you run errands now?"

Who could command a man like Desartes? His father probably, but did he even know Vincent existed? It didn't seem likely. Maybe some Lady he was courting?

"His Royal Highness the Prince Regent requires a little favour," Desartes drawled. "And I suppose we both ought to feel honoured, but ..." and suddenly he got up in a fluid motion after all. "It is not an honourable mission and in all honesty I don't like it above half. Nor do I like dragging you into it, but our exalted sovereign commands and it appears he really has gotten himself into some pickle. I fear I am in no position to tell him to go hang."

"Hardly." And Vincent could even less.

Nor was he quite sure he wanted to, except that he was once again deeper in debt than he'd thought he might get and had been planning on another extended visit to his grandfather in the country. If the Prince Regent's request held him in town for more than a few days things might get ... embarrassing.

"So what exactly does his Highness want with as insignificant a person as me?"

"You are familiar with St. Clair?" Desartes demanded.

"Familiar? Hardly. I know who he is. I have exchanged polite nonsense with him as you do, but ... heck, I'm a lot more familiar with you and, as we established earlier, I am most surprised that you know where I live."

"Too familiar for your own good as it turns out, though I had no intention to get you into trouble, I assure you. I am possibly even more surprised than you are that Prinny is that aware of my movements. He isn't the most observant of men and it isn't as if I've been hanging all over you."

As a prince you didn't have to be observant, of course. Others had to observe you. Still, to be noticed by the future king didn't seem that terrible. What was Desartes apologising for?

"St. Clair?" Vincent prompted.

"You have been in his house, I believe?" Desartes asked. "And know the layout?"

"Of the parts that were in use at his ball, yes. I certainly didn't venture any further."

"You know where his study is and could find it again? Possibly in the dark?"

"I suppose." But what did that have to do with the Prince Regent?

"In that study there is a desk and in one of the drawers of that desk, Prinny being as I already said not the most observant of men does not remember which one or even on which side, you will find a bundle of papers bearing the royal seal."

"I will find? In St. Clair's desk? That strikes me as rather unlikely," Vincent joked.

"It certainly will be most inappropriate, but try to explain that to His Royal Highness. Now, I do not know what is in those papers and I advise you not to pry either. You are merely to find and destroy them, reading them will only delay you and increase the risk of being caught."

"Merely? What does 'Prinny' take me for? A second story man?"

"A man that nobody will connect with his exalted person, if you do get caught. Prinny must not be implicated in this matter in any way or people will start asking uncomfortable questions."

"Oh, and what reasons should I give if I am apprehended? I'm a starving street urchin looking for a piece of bread that won't be missed? Debts drove me to burglary?"

"There are those who would believe it," Desartes pointed out. "But no. If you are caught, we made a drunken bet that you couldn't sneak into St. Clair's study and back out again unobserved. A silly prank."

"That I'd hang for," Vincent stated dryly.

"Oh no, never that. Remember that it is in Prinny's hand to pardon the condemned. He won't let you be hung. The worst you have to fear is the scandal and if you succeed ... well, he is a fickle bastard, but his gratitude should prove helpful as long as you don't rely on it lasting."

"So there isn't any substantial reward in it either?"

"None but his undying gratitude, which has proven quite mortal more than once before," Desartes declared striking a dramatic pose.

"You are not exactly doing your best to sell your mission," Vincent remarked.

"I told you I don't like it, didn't I? I hate dragging you into this, but ... he is our king in everything but name."

"And desires me to break the King's law anyway. Too charming. Does he realise that even if I have no title I am still not at a level with the man who drives his coach?"

"I assure you Sir John Lade is not a second storey man either," Desartes said a hint of warning creeping into his voice all of a sudden. "And you'd better not go about implying anything of the kind." A pause. "He just might take it into his head that it'd be a great lark and start a new fashion. He certainly wouldn't be in any danger, but somebody would hang for it eventually."

"Not that coachman. The official one." Despite his ill repute Lade was still a touch above Vincent after all.

"Now I don't think I've ever met him, but I dare say he wouldn't be best pleased with the comparison either. Royal servants do tend to take rather some pride in their good names, you know."

"Why thank you, that makes the job so very much more appealing. Couldn't Prinny of all people afford a professional, though?"

"He won't trust one not to read the documents and continue where St. Clair would be forced to leave off."

"Don't tell me you're incapable of finding one illiterate thief in the whole of London!"

"I have never tried, but this is Prinny we are talking of. He appears to be convinced that all thieves are literate. I suppose they must have attended Harrow ..."

"Don't. My cousin's a Harrow man."

"Since when now?"

"Since I have a new one," Vincent ground out between clenched teeth.

"Ah, that one. I must say I'm rather curious to see him. When will he finally make his appearance in town?"

"Not until after he's married, I believe, and he means to see the renovation of the dower hose completed first. The place was quite unfit to live in last I saw it. ... It has been standing empty for years and I believe the last inhabitant didn't care to be disturbed by such minor things as necessary repairs either. After her death there was only one servant left to take care of the house and the last thing he wanted was to have anyone about."

Desartes tilted his head slightly and regarded him with his odd mismatched eyes that had earned him the nickname goblin prince behind his back.

"Hiding smuggled goods ... or so our Ajax suspects anyway. I can't say he's wrong. It is smugglers' territory down there."

"How tragic for the smugglers. Turned out of their storehouse just because of one sunk ship that wasn't even theirs."

What? Oh right, if Granville and Oliver hadn't drowned, Hugo would never have come to Darracott place, wouldn't be marrying Anthea and most certainly not move into the dower house.

"Oh, they'll find another easily enough. They probably had several to start with and that one certainly isn't ideal. Too far from the coast. If you want to pity someone, pity me."

"Oh, I do, believe me," Desartes said with a bow. "But what's a man to do? I'll see you in the Daffy Club if you succeed. If not, ... well, wherever fate decrees."

The Daffy Club now? Perhaps, Vincent thought, he'd just find out Desartes' exact address and find out what his sitting room looked like.

"Oh, and Darracott?"

Vincent raised his eyes at the visitor that was already at the door.

"Be careful." And he was gone.

Housebreaking then? It certainly wasn't the way Vincent had imagined he'd catch the Prince Regent's attention. Not in a single one of the rather unrealistic daydreams he'd occasionally indulged in in his younger years.

The scandal, the shame he'd bring to all his family if he was caught would be no less than what they'd only just averted when Richmond had been shot while smuggling brandy. Except that the people back in Sussex would still have laughed at the escapade and admired their young Master Richmond for it. Smuggling was normal to them, was turning your nose up at the excise men, was cool.

Housebreaking on the other hand. No he wouldn't be able to show his face in Sussex any more than in London, if he was caught. But where else could he go? The continent?

His funds were quite insufficient for that, though perhaps Hugo would be willing to fund him if the alternative was to suffer the embarrassment of having a criminal cousin hanging around his house. It would be worth a try, but better yet would be not to get caught in the first place.

The task wasn't that hard. At least the study was on the ground floor. All he'd have to do was climb over a wall and through a window and then hurry into the study, tear open the drawers, throw the papers into the fireplace and run. And even if he was seen, what could they report to the runners but that there'd been a man running away? They'd have to get quite close to recognise his face, especially if he blackened it as Richmond had when smuggling.

Experimentally he took some ash out of the fireplace and smeared it into his face - and of course as luck would have it Crimplesham chose that very moment to enter the room. The valet froze in the door with his mouth hanging open.

Just wonderful. He had to look shocking. Well nothing for it but to make a joke of it.

"Well Crimplesham, do I make a convincing chimney-sweep?"

"Sir!" Crimplesham gasped. "Sir, if you intend to attend a masquerade, I beg you to buy a paper mask. It will look much less disreputable and ... why, Sir, it's a hanging offence!"

"Why Crimplesham," Vincent drawled amused despite the gravity of the situation. "I had no idea that you cared. Truly though, what does it look like?"

"Like they’ll come and drag you off to Newgate any moment, Sir! Please, I beg you. Wash it off!"

"Nonsense. They cannot arrest me for blacking my face in my very own rooms, Crimplesham, nor I dare say for doing it at a private indoor masquerade." Let the excuse stand. It was a good one. "The risk will be in getting there, for that is indeed illegal, but I will take the coach and the groom to drive me so I will not be on the street for long."

Where to let the groom drop him off and what to tell him, though ... oh well, it would be dark. He could choose a house, get off in front of it and send the groom back home before slipping off into the night. Some address around the corner of St Clair's house should do nicely.

"But I shall need the clothes for it as well. See what you can find in pure black, Crimplesham!"

The valet clearly disliked that order and made several more protests in favour of buying a mask.

"Though, if you don't mind ruining a silk stocking ..."

Vincent couldn't suppress a peal of laughter at the memories that conjured of Claude's performance to save Richmond and Crimplesham looked at him as if he thought he was quite insane.

"No, Crimplesham, I insist on blacking my face. I quite relish the thought of the risk it entails," Vincent assured him. "A silk stocking over my head will never do."

Crimplesham, who well knew that it was no use once his Master had got an idea into his head sighed and complied.

"You will have to put up with a white shirt, though," he remarked weakly. "You do not own a black one."

That was a setback he should have expected, but white stood out too much in the dark.

"Well, then we will have to blacken that with ash as well," he decided after a moment. "That will make it more realistic."

Crimplesham shook his head sadly probably contemplating the likely reaction of the washerwoman when he handed the stained shirt over to her, but complied.

The groom was much less trouble than the valet had been. He had long since come to the conclusion that the aristocracy and gentry were altogether insane and their foibles were not to be comprehended by reasonable people who did sensible work for a living. He merely enjoyed the sight of the usually so splendid Master Vincent Darracott covered in soot like a chimney-sweep in silence and pretended that it was nothing out of the ordinary.

When Vincent dismissed him for the night the moment they'd arrived he didn’t bother to wonder why or how his Master intended to get home, but merely blessed his luck that might still allow him to return in time for his usual tryst with the kitchen maid from next doors.

Vincent watched the coach disappear around the corner, then turned up his collar and hastily stepped into the shadow of the nearest wall. He had to cross a street to get to St. Clair's house, but there was nobody there to see him. He dashed across at a sprint and since he was already running made use of the momentum to jump up, grab the top of the garden wall and pull himself up.

What did you know! This almost was real second story work or at least wall climbing and he'd mastered it right away! Nothing to it!

Sitting on top of the wall was probably the most dangerous place to be caught in, so he hastily swung his legs down on the other side and let himself drop into the garden.

'Crunch!' Right onto a pebble strewn garden path!

Vincent backed into the wall, heart beating wildly, but all lay still and silent around him. He had not been heard.

After a while he took heart and slipped over to the house to search for an entrance. This side lay entirely dark and silent. Could it be that everybody inside was already fast asleep? No, it was much more likely that St. Clair had gone out to some amusement and that meant that his valet would be awake waiting for his return. He'd be upstairs where the bedrooms ought to be, though and Vincent had no business up there. Now if he could just find an open window ...

There wasn't one, but when he reached the terrace he remembered the folding doors that led onto it. Those hadn't looked all that sturdy and indeed they wobbled pathetically when he pulled on them.

He pushed, pulled and pried at them for a while and they bent and groaned, but didn't break until he rammed his shoulder against the weakest part forcefully. And then they splintered so loudly that Vincent fled back into the garden to hide behind the nearest bush while he awaited the reaction from inside with baited breath and beating heart.

There wasn't one. Could it be that the noise had seemed that much louder to his ears than to the people upstairs and in the servants' rooms? Where were the servants' rooms? He didn't know. They certainly hadn't been shown to the guests at the one ball he'd attended here. Not next to the terrace Vincent concluded and once again stole up to the house.

He half expected someone to jump out at him as he slipped through the broken door, but there was no reaction. It was very dark inside, but Vincent remembered the room well. They had danced here. Of course the furniture would have been moved for that so it was hard to tell where any obstacles might be placed, but he knew the location of the door and felt his way towards it.

The only thing he encountered on the way was a chair and he rounded that without a noisy collision. Then he ran into a wall. He'd lost his direction in the dark! Where was he?

Wait, no! Feeling the wall to both sides of him he encountered a door-jamb on the right. He had merely miscalculated slightly.

The door creaked as he opened it sending a jolt of fear through him, but once again nothing happened and he was out in the hall now following the wall. There was a corner here, then right into a corridor, the door to the billiards room ... open.

He had to step into nothing once more losing the guiding wall he'd been running his hands along, but ... yes, there it was again. The next door now!

That one was closed but didn't creak. There only was a slight snap as he opened and bump as he pulled it closed again behind him.

Made it!

He needed light to look for the papers of course, but had come prepared with a candle and matches for that. In his nervousness he broke three matches as he fumbled with shaking fingers, but managed to light the candle with the fourth.

Now he could see the desk and drawers. He drew the first one open, found no papers and hastily closed it again to try the second. Another failure.

It was the fifth that he finally found them in, a bigger bundle than he had expected. Rather than light the whole at once and risk that some of them remained at least partially legible he undid the ribbon that held them together, touched each sheet to the candle individually and threw it into the fireplace.

A pity he couldn't light a proper fire and stay to enjoy it.

With a happy feeling of accomplishment and having mastered great dangers he stepped out of the study and ... The sound of a door opening, voices and lights moving out in the hall.

St. Clair had chosen that very moment to come home and the door of the ballroom was in full sight from where he most likely stood.

Vincent backed deeper into the dark corridor. He'd have to wait in the dark until St. Clair had gone upstairs and the light had disappeared. It was probably just the night candles of the man and servants in the hall. They'd wish their master a good night and ...

A door opened somewhere behind him and more light fell into the corridor. Vincent jumped out of its range trying to get back to the study door, but it was too late.

"Thief!" the shout rang out and running steps rushed towards him.

He realised that the study would be a trap with no escape now and dashed past it. Whoever the man behind him was might be easier to evade than the group rushing at him from the direction of the door, but fleeing in that direction would take him into unknown parts of the house. The only sure way out was the one he'd come in on. He needed to get back into the street.

So he rushed towards the onrushing inhabitants. If he could just make it into the ballroom before them his way to the broken door would be free. And then he'd be in the walled garden. They might not follow him over the wall, but if anyone guessed his route they might cut him off by way of the front door.

The front door would be an even directer route to safety and they probably wouldn't expect him to rush right at them. He dove through between a man in a nightshirt and a footman, stepped around the butler, floored the valet with a right hook, was grabbed by St. Clair himself, but managed to tear free and leaped at the door.


And now what appeared to be the cook was on top of him. He couldn't strike a woman!

But he had to ... too late. Now they were piling up from all sides bringing him down, pining him to the floor rendering him helpless, unable to move.

He looked up as the struggle stilled, straight into the light of St. Clair's candle.

"Darracott," St. Clair said and Vincent knew that all was lost. There'd be no avoiding a scandal now, no matter what the Prince Regent did to save him. "Tie him up!"

And then St. Clair disappeared while a maid went to fetch ropes to tie Vincent with. He didn't struggle as they pulled his hands back and tied the rope around his wrists. Perhaps if the knot was loose and they relaxed their guard he could break away suddenly when they took him outside, rush to his flat, throw whatever he could grab into the coach and make a dash into the country.

Would they send the runners after him all the way to Darracott Place?

Grandfather would be in a fine mood when he learned of this of course, but he'd hardly surrender Vincent to be tried like a common criminal.

For the moment they tied him to a chair, though and then St. Clair reappeared, furious, but controlled.

"Very well, you managed to rob me of my ... little tool, but I will have my revenge," he announced. "I'll see you hang for this, Darracott."

Vincent stared back at him coldly, unafraid The Prince Regent wouldn't let him hang. All St. Clair could give him would be some discomfort, shame and dishonour.

Would it be bad enough that he'd have to leave the country? If so, perhaps he could do a Grand Tour. He didn't have the funds for such an undertaking, but under the circumstances he expected Grandfather or Ajax would be happy enough to provide them to free themselves of the black sheep.

Claude would gloat of course ... or would he? After all he'd done to protect the family name when it had been Richmond who'd threatened to shame it ... Damn it! He didn't care what Claude thought of him! He hated Claude!

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