Last week’s sample section of Questionable Minds gave the beginning of the novel. It’s the one I opted to use for the blog tour. The second section is from the middle of the book: Jack the Ripper has Sir Simon’s daughter Ann hostage and has offered to trade her for either Dr. Jekyll or Edward Hyde. Simon’s convinced he can use Jekyll lure Jack into a trap; Jekyll declines, so Simon drags him to Simon’s home by force.
I think the scene is effective though for obvious reasons I don’t think it’s as shocking for us as for Simon because we know about the true relationship of Jekyll and Hyde already. Excerpt comes after Samantha Collins’ cover.“Dr. Jekyll’s eyes fluttered open, then snapped wide. He scrambled up from the sitting room divan, eyes fixed on Simon, barring the path to the door. Simon forced himself to meet Jekyll’s eyes. “I’m sorry it’s come to this, doctor. But I must insist you join me for dinner.”
“You cannot begin to comprehend what you ask.”
“It’s only ninety minutes to wait—and every precaution has been taken.” Simon slid his life-preserver into his hand as Jekyll took a step towards him. “You won’t grass me again, doctor. I’m sorry, but my daughter’s life—”
“I don’t give a damn about your daughter.”
“Do you want to spend the rest of your life hunted by Jack the Ripper? Hyde was willing to chance my plan; are you less brave than he?”
“How dare you?” Jekyll’s fists clenched. “Hyde, courageous? You mistake the savagery of an ignoble brute for bravery!”
“Be that as it may—”
“Or is that why you stick up for him?” Jekyll’s eyes narrowed. “Because you envy that savagery?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t waste your time lying, Taggart, there’s not a man alive doesn’t wish to be Hyde in the back of his mind.” Jekyll hunched over, watching Simon like—he couldn’t say what. “Free of responsibility, acknowledging no law, no restriction, no duty.”
“What the devil are you talking about? Control yourself, Jekyll.”
“Control, ha!” Jekyll threw back his head and laughed. “Self-control is nothing but a measure of how greatly we fear our own desires. Look at me, always so pious around my little gaggle of whores—”
“Never admitting how much I wanted to squeeze those jiggling titties, feel their skilled, eager hands on my—”
“Good god man, I know you’re afraid—” Simon grabbed Jekyll by the shoulders and shook him hard “—but spouting balderdash won’t—”
Simon didn’t even see the blow that smashed into his jaw and sent him sprawling. He started to regain his feet, only to witness a sight that froze him on his knees. Jekyll’s delicately boned face was swelling into heavy, bestial features; his eyes seemed to sink back into his head. Hair and eyes darkening, skin coarsening, body shrinking even as Jekyll’s muscles grew hard and corded under his clothes.
It—isn’t—possible! A mesmeric illusion, or— Even as he thought the words, Simon knew them for a lie.
“Hello, Taggart.” Hyde bowed mockingly from within Jekyll’s coat. “I’d say it’s a pleasure to see you—but under the circumstances, I’d be lying, wouldn’t I?” Simon could only watch, mute and amazed, as Hyde rolled up the jacket sleeves. “Damn him. I bought a whole new wardrobe, and he disposed of it, so convinced he was he’d seen the last of me.
“Well, aren’t you going to club me unconscious? Or try? To save your poor, poor daughter?”
“You’re a murderer, a rapist, a blackmailer.” Simon backed away, out of Hyde’s reach. “Whatever Jack has in mind, it’s only what you deserve.”
“This may surprise you, but I don’t find that much of an argument.” Calmly, Hyde began on his trouser legs. “I bear you no ill-will for the effort, mark you—I’d do the same in your place—but I place too high price on my own skin to cooperate.”
“Ann is only a child. A girl.”
“That matters not a whit to me.” His eyes met Simon’s, and the shock, the impossibility of what had just happened, hit Simon once again. “Utterson and Poole looked much the same when they learned the truth—now, if you’ll excuse me—”
“I don’t think so.” Simon slid his gun into his hand. ‘”You won’t get very far if I put a couple of bullets into you.”
“And if I scream aloud to Jack that it’s a trap?”
“You’d have to be conscious for that. You won’t be.”
“I’m not easy prey, Taggart.” Hyde’s expression managed to be savage and calculating at the same time. “If we struggle and you kill me, Bolt will gut Miss Taggart like a trout.”
“Why? What does Jack want with you?” Wait. The Greek god at the opera. “He wants your power. The secret that lets you change your face.” Then Simon shook his head. “Bolt leaves his victims mindless; how did you survive?” And if the change is physical, why did I see Bolt’s true face at the Dovecote?
Hyde shrugged. “I’m not as other mentalists, Taggart, surely you can see that. Why not put down the gun, and we can discuss it like rational men.”
“Where my own self-interest is involved, completely.” Simon didn’t move. “It would be to our mutual advantage.”
“I disagree. But talk if you wish.”
“As you will. Tell me, did you happen to catch that dreadful play about me last year? Where ‘Mr. Hode’ turns into a sniveling coward once ‘Dr. Stevenson’ finally draws a gun and stands up to him?
Hyde moved so swiftly Simon didn’t realize he’d thrown a vase until it knocked his gun hand wide. Before he could recover, Hyde was there, fingers closing crushingly on both Simon’s wrists, shaking gun and life-preserver free. Simon hit the floor with Hyde on top of him. Hairy, powerful fingers wrapped around Simon’s throat. “I don’t think it was true to life, Taggart—do you?”