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Her Majesty’s Eyes and Ears - Page 5: May 2, 2012 - June 10, 2012

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Empty Hand
The Misfortune of the Mislaid Missive
The Frontier Medical Woman
The Disease of Kings
Clockwork Puzzle
Irrefutable Evidence


Empty Hand

Entry for May 2, 2012 Written by David L. Drake

It was well past eleven o’clock when Sparky exited the Chapel Royal through a gauntlet of hardy handshakes and “so pleased to meet you” speeches. She was practically hoarse from using her lowest octave to croak out “just call me C. L.” and “so glad we finally met” and all of the associated social niceties that one exchanges with complete strangers.

Through all of the smiles and nods, her inner voice was reciting, “Why did I follow through with this insane idea? Becoming a knight? In a society that doesn’t permit women or foreigners? And on top of all that, displeasing a monarch that now wants favors?” As she hurriedly walked away to return to her aunt’s home, she thought back over the ritualistic protocols and formalities that she just went through for three hours: the wearing of vestments and accoutrements, the call and answer chanting, and the standing and kneeling. Was this really what she wanted?

The walk back allowed Sparky to introspectively reassess her situation. She experienced the odd feeling of not belonging in any location. Did she really want to be tied to this island and its people? She loved the west coast of America, her birthplace, but she was too worldly now to live there. She wanted to see more of the world, but she was making ties in Great Britain that might make her globe trotting ways more difficult. She welcomed the site of her aunt’s front door as it came into view, and the opportunity to talk this over with a friendly ear.

As Sparky walked up to the house, Auntie Catherine flung the door open and hugged her tight, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Oh, Czarina! You are still in one piece! I was so worried!”

“What happened?”

“Two of Her Majesty’s guards showed up after you left. Hammering on the door as if to knock it down. They scared me so! I let them in, of course. They said that they knew of your ruse and that I shouldn’t breathe a word of it to anyone! What have we done?”

“It’s all right. They just wanted to frighten you into keeping quiet. It’s all been worked out.”

Just inside her door they held each other for a while, until Sparky’s aunt regained her composure. “Perhaps,” Sparky thought, “this isn’t the best time to be discussing my problems.”

Erasmus drummed his fingers as he sat at his table in the Olde Cheshire Cheese. He wasn’t one to like waiting, and he was killing time for both his beer and his dining companion, J. B. Fox. J. B. had asked to meet Erasmus for dinner, and Erasmus was early, but that didn’t make his standing by any better.

A lad in an apron rushed over with a newly drawn beer, plunked it down in front of Erasmus, causing its foamy head to cascade over the sides of the mug. After a quick nod of gratitude and a finger wipe to clear the drinking side of the mug, Erasmus raised the vessel and took a swig of the brew. Ahh, it tasted good. When he returned the mug to the table, J. B. was sitting next to him, as if he had been there all along. Erasmus smiled and started the conversation.

“I see you’ve developed cat feet. Quite stealthy!”

Erasmus extended his hand for shaking, which was met heartily.

“Good to see you again. I got your message that you wanted to talk. What’s on your mind, Erasmus? Oh, mind if I order? I’m famished. What’s good?”

“The mutton and potato dish is superb. They have lighter fare, soups and chicken and the like, but you can’t go wrong with Crocker’s mutton. The reason I wanted to talk was to make sure I handled something correctly. Should we talk upstairs at my flat?”

“No need. We won’t get into anything too sensitive, I believe.”

Erasmus nodded his understanding. “As you know, Dr. McTrowell and I have spent some time together socially. A couple of days ago she showed me a diagram, a graphical representation of relationships, if you will. Because of the names that appeared on it, I asked her to destroy it.”

“This may come as a surprise, but I know of the drawing. You’re right. It shouldn’t be floating about. Did she follow your advice?”

“Her initial reaction was to dislike being ordered about. Particularly since she didn’t know why. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction. I finally convinced her to memorize what she wanted from the diagram and then we disposed of it accordingly together.”

“I take it that this was done after your two-cab race through town?”

“Why, yes. Word does get around, I see.”

“It wasn’t subtle, my good man. But don’t worry about it. Affairs of the heart lead us to do and say strange things.”

“… Of the heart, you say? Oh, pish posh. I won’t quibble with you over such things. You are probably right.”

Through the conversation, dinners were ordered and arrived. Over mouthfuls, the conversation continued about other small matters, until Erasmus could get to his real question. As the flatware was laid to rest on the plates, Erasmus found his opening.

“J. B., Sparky indicated that she saw something interesting while lodging at Dr. Pogue’s. She told me this wild story that she saw you and Dr. Young doing some kind of stylized fighting movements. I wasn’t aware that you two even knew each other.”

J. B. hesitated for a few seconds, which was very uncharacteristic of him. Erasmus perceived that he froze, unaware of how to respond. J. B. narrowed his eyes. “I wasn’t aware that she had seen us.” J. B. took another couple of seconds of thought before continuing. “I have changed my mind; this conversation should be moved upstairs.”

Wordlessly the two men rose, paid for their meals, and proceeded up the side stairs. Erasmus unlocked his door and let in his guest.

“Nice place. It could use some more light and, well, have you thought about a rug?” J. B. showed his uncharacteristic wry smile.

Erasmus played along, “Perhaps that is why Sparky ran out of here. An astounding lack of rug.”

“Actually, it is a very nice practice area. I now see why all dress dummies look fearful when you pass by a ladies frock shop.” Again, the wry smile.

“To the matter at hand, tell me about Yin Young. Oh, where are my manners? Chair?”

“Thank you. May I add, if you ever expect company, especially a particular doctor, I would buy another chair.”

With Erasmus seated on the bed and J. B. in a chair nearby, J. B. started his story.

“Yes, I do know Yin. I have known her for a very long time, actually. It all started back in 1841 when I was performing an auxiliary activity during the China War, where I was investigating a Chinese officer who had fled to one of the Ryukyu Islands in the East China Sea. I was assigned to look for the high-ranking defector on the island the Japanese call Okinawa. I was there for eights months, doing my best to not draw attention to myself. I learned the local language as best I could, and I sought out locals where I could practice my military hand-to-hand training. I was directed to seek out a tall, thin man, who was quite a bit older than me, but tough as nails, to put it nicely. I’ll never forget his name: Matsumura S
ōkon. He taught a number of styles, as he put it in his native tongue, which included fighting with swords and specialized weapons that were variations on farm implements. But his specialty was a weapon-less style he called empty-hand, or ka-ra-te. I will show it to you some time, soon, in fact. Don’t let the name fool you. The style uses practically every surface to both strike and block: hands, elbows, shins, knees, feet, and heels. They train to strike hard and move rapidly.”

J. B. paused for a second, realizing that he needed to get back to the topic at hand.

“I was in my early twenties and quite fit, or so I thought. Matsumura S
ōkon let me train under him, but because of my inabilities, I was only allowed to train with the children under his tutelage. The eight- to ten-year olds. To add to that insult, in the beginning, these children could easily punch and kick me at will. They had learned to jump as high as my chest, and strike at me with their fists or spinning kicks from which I could not parry or retreat. But I swallowed my pride and I learned. One of the most useful lessons he taught was the practice of forms, or as he called them, shapes. In the native language, ka-ta. These were ritualized movements that showed critically important actions and their timings. I was able to memorize these. One of the most promising students was a thirteen-year old named Yin Young. At that age, she was her full height, and incredibly fast. At the end of eight months, I was able to corner the high-ranking renegade officer, and deliver him to my Marine superiors. I then made preparations to leave the island. I was approached by Yin’s family, who had no means to support her, and was being forced to sell her into the labor trades for cash. They begged me to take her with me back to Great Britain and let her teach karate in the West. I relayed her story to my superiors knowing that it would never be approved. In a few days, I received word back that contradicted my expectations: Her Majesty wanted me to escort the child here to London. What I didn’t know was that the only teaching she was permitted was to a small special company of Royal Aerial Marines. I was able to train with her during that time. What we found during that five-year experiment is that the karate fighting style made little sense to the Marines brought up as Marquis of Queensbury pugilists. The order came down to transfer Yin to be an undercover intelligence observer while she also attended engineering school. As you can tell, she has had an offer to work for Dr. Pogue, who is unaware of her assignment under the Royal Aerial Marines. I continue to train with her. In secret, of course. Which is what Dr. McTrowell observed. I hope that clears things up, Erasmus.”

“Yes, it does. But what should I tell Sparky?”

“Tell her … you need a new rug, and that she should help you pick one out. She should then forget what she saw.”

“I doubt that. Oh, and one last question. How did you learn about Sparky’s diagram?”

J. B. wiggled his eyebrows in a “I know something and you don’t” manner. “All in good time, my friend. All in good time.”



The Misfortune of the Mislaid Missive

Entry for May 8, 2012 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“Will you be havin’ another, Tavis?”

“Just keep them coming, Angus. There’s new gettin’ tha sight ou of me head.”

Ferguson’s Public House had been in Angus’ family for seven generations and Angus himself had learned the art of listening at his father’s elbow while perfecting his glass washing skills. Angus could wash, rinse, and dry a pint glass without ever taking his eye off a patron. And he could put three glasses back on the shelf with one hand while tapping a fresh pint with the other. He topped up a fourth pint for his old friend and faithful customer, Tavis Haversham. It wasn’t like Tavis to drink more than two at a go. He was one of those fellows who would make a big show of drinking with his lads on a Friday night, but he paced himself. The only time Angus had seen him drink as many as three was the morning after Mrs. Haversham had given birth to their first healthy child. She’d already miscarried one and the birth had been a long, hard one. Haversham was a solid sort and liked others to think him a proper, stoic Scot, but Angus knew that the only thing Tavis had feared more than the loss of his child was the loss of his beloved Moira. Whatever Haversham had seen at his mother’s cottage had frightened him even more than that.

“It’s a wee tad unclear to me, Tavis, about this dog on fire that you saw.”

“It waren’t no dog, Angus! It waren’t even alive! It ware like a hellhound bitch whelped a steam locomotive! Those three are mad, but that Frenchman is maddest ‘o the lot.” Tavis looked like he was going to cry. He dropped his head into his hands and trembled. Well now Angus had seen and heard it all. As unclear as the situation was, it was clear he would get no more useful information out of his shaken friend tonight. He leaned over and said to his own son, “Neill, run and fetch Mrs. Haversham.”

Tavis made no move to pick his head up from the bar. It seemed the combination of shock and hops was too much for him. None of the other customers were sitting at the bar. Angus reached up under the counter and retrieved a small, nondescript leather pouch. He extracted a single sheet of paper with a few lines of printing while keeping an eye on all of his customers to ensure that none of them saw his actions. He lashed the thong back around the bone button and tucked the folio back into its hidey hole. Pulling the stubby pencil from behind his ear, he scribbled a few words on the form. He folded it in half, in quarters, and finally into eighths. He slipped the folded paper into the pocket of his bar apron and returned the pencil to its perch over his ear. He was nonchalantly swabbing the bar when Neill returned with Moira Haversham in tow. She took one look at her husband, shook her head, and tsk tsked.

“What does he owe you, Angus?”

“No need to give it a care, Moira. He’s had a terrible fright. Do you need a hand?”

“Oh, no thank you, Angus. You’re a good friend. Tavis, darling, let’s get you to bed.”

No sooner had Moira Haversham shouldered her intoxicated husband out the door than Ferguson pulled the paper from his pocket and handed it to his son. “Send this to our friend in London.” Young Neill Ferguson grasped the proffered message tightly in his fist and dashed out the door toward the train station. He so loved these commissions, not least because they came so rarely.

“Mr. Westley, do you have today’s reports?”

“Yes, Colonel Spreckler.”

“Anything worth a look?”

“There is this one, sir. It’s rather odd.”

Spreckler read the scant words hastily written on the report form, and subsequently smudged by the sweat of a small hand and the long ride wedged into an envelope in an overstuffed mailbag. No more than five seconds passed before he harrumphed and tossed it back at the clerk who flapped about a bit to catch it. “Nothing but the ranting of a drunken Scot. But then I’m being redundant.” He laughed at his own, crass joke. Mr. Westley did not laugh with him. Instead he wrote the date and the letters “HMS” on the blank, back side of the page, and filed it in the front of an already overstuffed file drawer. Colonel Howell Michael Spreckler strode to the sideboard, poured himself a generous brandy, and deposited himself in his favorite, red wing chair. He picked up his newspaper and began reading, not giving the missive another thought.

“Well, this is unexpected.”

“What is it, dear Miss Slate?”

“Oh, Charles, I wish you would call me Sarah, even when we’re here working.”

“I would rather call you Mrs. Howgill.” He beamed at his fiancée sitting on the opposite of the partners’ desk he had just had made and delivered to his London mill.

She returned his smile. “That will come soon enough. Miss Pogue is making excellent progress on my gown and the preparations. She is such a salvation. I know I could not have managed all the details without her. As I was saying,” she held up the piece of paper she had been examining that had initiated their exchange. “We have just received an order for ten bolts of our color-changing fabric.”

“One thousand yards? That is unexpected. Who has ordered it?”

“An export company.”

“How very odd.”

“Dr. McTrowell?”

“Yes, Mrs. Bingham?”

“You have a visitor, Chief Inspector Drake. Shall I set up some tea?”

“Yes, please.”

“Chief Inspector, will you join me for something as prosaic as a cup of tea, or should we set the building on fire, then dash about smashing windows and throwing the occupants to safety before the whole structure explodes?”

“Dr. McTrowell, one needn’t be a chief inspector to detect that you are still angry about the incident with the cabs. However, such sarcasm does not become you. It’s a poor use of your wit.”

“Yes, you’re quite right. I’ve had rather a bad turn since I last saw you and it’s left me in a foul humor.”

“Would you care to tell me about it?”

“Thank you, but I’m not quite ready to discuss it.” Mrs. Bingham returned with the tea tray, which she deposited on the table. A quick glance at the pair made her decide to check back later to see if they needed anything else. Now was not the time. “What brings you here today?”

“I have a question for you. Or perhaps it’s more of a request.”

“Yes?”

“Sparky, would you help me purchase a rug?”



The Frontier Medical Woman

Entry for May 14, 2012 Written by David L. Drake

The sitting room at Dr. Pogue’s residence was a comfy setting. The overstuffed chairs and couches made a neat ring around a wooden table. A score of fringed pillows had taken up residence on the sitting surfaces. The embroidered cloth on all of the furniture was of rich colors: burgundies, deep blues and teals, with intricate gold patterns. This splash of impressive decorum was a direct result of Esmeralda’s influence on Edmond’s furnishings.

The wooden table was thick and heavy, and didn’t quite fit the Victorian décor. It had been handed down through the Pogue lineage, and had originally been a worktable in the Scottish Crookston Castle located about five miles southwest of Glasgow. Edmond and Esmeralda had ancestors who had worked in the castle back in the first half of the eighteenth century. The lore surrounding the table was that one of the table legs was damaged in the bombardment of cannonballs from the famous cannon Mons Meg, when it was used to attack the castle in 1489. The table had been left unused in storage for two hundred and fifty years until it was repaired to a working state by Edmond’s great, great, great grandfather. Upon this table he performed many of his smaller workman’s tasks, including machinery repair, leather tooling, and toy construction. The table was passed down to his family upon his death, as one of many tokens of gratitude by the castle’s owner, William Graham, 2nd Duke of Montrose.

The table had been shortened to allow it to be used for drinks and flower vases, but instead Edmond had a dozen or so current scientific periodicals scattered about on it. It held a few copies of the Scientific American newsletter, a periodical that Edmond had been collecting from its inception in 1845. There were also a couple of copies of The Lancet, the weekly medical journal. There was also a dog-eared copy of Flora, which looked heavily thumbed through, despite its being written in the German language.

Yin had chosen the carpet under the table. It was a colorful carved silk depiction of scenes along a twisting Yangtze River. The rug was primarily blue, with bright yellow, red, and cream images of traditional Chinese field and river laborers in iconic poses performing their tasks. Yin had bought the rug locally in the Shadwell district. The irony of how she was brought here by a Royal Aerial Marine that was involved in the China War fought over the Yangtze River was not lost on her. In an odd way, the carpet was a reminder of how she was rescued.

Sparky had been sitting on one of the chairs, and Erasmus had taken a central spot on the couch. Erasmus had just started into his tea, hoping to get an answer to his question regarding getting Sparky’s help in selecting his own rug. His indirect request wasn’t lost on her at all.

She squirmed a tad at the question, and then replied, “I am … not the type of woman to help you select your furnishings. I …”

“I didn’t ask to get your refined sense of decoration. I asked because I want you to be …”

Mrs. Bingham stepped into the room and cleared her throat. “Doctor, you wanted me to let you know when it was quarter past eleven.”

“Oh, thank you! I must be going. Erasmus, can we continue this conversation soon?”

“That would be fine. However, may I ask to where you are going?”

“Certainly. Just last week I received a very welcome request from the British Medical Association asking me to demonstrate my mechanical surgeon’s assistant to an assembly of physicians. I need to be at the Great Exhibition at one o’clock.”

“May I join you?”

Sparky was taken aback by the request. Exhibits of surgical procedure were not normally for the untrained spectator. Erasmus was not one to avoid unpleasantness, but she wasn’t sure this was his cup of tea, as it were.

“Are you sure? It may get …”

“Technical?”

“No, a better word would be ‘grisly,’ although I haven’t thought of surgery in that way for quite a while. Are you still game for tagging along?”

“Yes. We have more to discuss, and I would like to take advantage of our travel time. In addition, I’m fascinated. I’m curious to hear what you will present to your colleagues.”

Sparky excused herself to collect her things for the demonstration, and walked swiftly off toward her temporary bedroom. Erasmus just had time to gather his cape coat, bowler, and cane before Sparky was back. She had on her leather duster and was carrying her Gladstone bag, which looked rather full.

“Let’s go!” she offered with a smile.

A cab was waiting for them. The two hopped in without a single word regarding racing or nearly running over pedestrians. Once the cab was off, Erasmus restarted the conversation.

“ I wanted to ask you to help me investigate something.”

“I don’t understand. Don’t you have all of Scotland Yard to help with that?”

“No, not in the traditional sense. Since we have a few minutes, I’ll explain. Something has been bothering me for the past few weeks. I have been reviewing reported crimes and the associated investigations, and I’ve been getting a nagging feeling that something is … not quite right. And then, I figured it out this morning. It is what I
haven’t seen.” Erasmus stopped to adjust the curl on the left-hand side of his moustache, adding a scrunched up pensive look on his face.

“Go on,” Sparky urged.

“At the end of our date, which was wonderful by the way, we saw Mr. Hedgley and Mr. Martin engaged in some nefarious activity on the main street of Clerkenwell. I didn’t report it since I wasn’t sure what crime was being committed. I assumed that whomever was being robbed, if that was in fact what was happening, would report the malfeasance. But it was never reported. There is no crime to investigate. So I was hoping to get your help in doing some undercover work to figure out what actually happened. Are you up for a bit of role-playing?”

Sparky’s flashed a wry smile, and pronounced, “Well, this sounds more like the man I’ve come to know.”

“I am not trying to get you involved in another grand chase.”

“Oh. I am not fooled. A rose by any other name, to quote one of your countrymen. Of course I’m interested. Let’s try to steer clear of oversized metal insects this time!”

Sparky looked quickly out the window and called to the driver, “This is fine, thank you. We’ll walk from here.”

The two of them hopped out and joined the crowd that was waiting to enter the large glass and metal building that housed the exhibit.

It took another half hour to get inside and find the location of the exhibit. A young man in medical garb approached them once they were inside the building. “Hello! Hello! I’m Dr. Durham. I will assist you in getting ready for your presentation.”

Sparky was happy to see a guide. How nice they provided an assistant. “I’m Dr. McTrowell, and this is Chief Inspector Erasmus Drake of Scotland Yard. He is joining me today to observe. Is there somewhere I can get into my surgical gown?”

“Oh, we have a room waiting. Please follow me, both of you.” Dr. Durham led Sparky and Erasmus to a side door that opened on a hallway hidden from the publicly accessible exhibit rooms. Sparky was shown a room where she could prepare, and Dr. Durham led Erasmus out to join the audience of doctors.

It only took a few minutes for Sparky to get her gown on and make sure that her tools were ready. Gladstone bag in hand, Sparky reemerged from her room. Young Dr. Durham was in the hallway, waiting patiently. “Right this way,” he directed, “the representatives are ready to see you.”

The walk down the hallway was short, but Sparky had enough time to ask, “Was there much interest? I was hoping we would get a least a dozen …”

As Dr. Durham swung open the door, he looked back at the wide-eyed adventuress. “No, we have closer to four-hundred and fifty medical practitioners. Practically all of the association is here …”

Sparky was walking out onto a stage. It was lit by an open skylight that shone sunlight brightly off of her polished mechanical marvel. In front of her was raised auditorium seating, containing row upon row of doctors: some balding and bespectacled, others fresh from medical university with quick eyes and unruly hair. Way up in the back was Erasmus, smiling, proud of Sparky, the center of attention. Others were also along the back row. Reporters from the local newspapers? Perhaps. And article writers for medical journals, most likely.

Dr. Durham stepped to the front of the stage. “Welcome, gentleman of the British Medical Association, to this most amazing demonstration! Here at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, we have a rare sight indeed. The frontier medical woman of the State of California of America, the high-speed racing airship pilot, and inventor of the unexpected, Dr. “Sparky” C. L. McTrowell, will demonstrate her one-of-a-kind ‘mechanical surgeon’s assistant.’ Please give her a warm welcome!”

The applause was warm indeed. It went up like a thunderclap, and lasted long enough for Sparky to enter center stage and nod her appreciation two or three times.

“Thank you! Thank you! Today you will see an apparatus that I both designed and built specifically for aiding a single doctor performing full surgery in the confines of an aloft airship.”

She went on to point out the mechanical uses of the four armatures, the foot pedals, and the hand controls.

“Today, we will demonstrate the removal of the gall bladder from …”

A wheeled stretcher was pushed out on the stage. Under the white sheet that draped over the gurney was the familiar shape of a human body.

“… this forty-five year-old male cadaver.”

The sheet was removed. With the exception of a tidy undergarment, the audience’s eyes fell upon the full pallid body of a medium-build laborer laid placidly on the bed.

Sparky proceeded to strap into her apparatus, as the whine of the mid-sized steam engine in the next room came up to a serviceable speed, feeding the rotating linkage that attached to the back of the mechanical surgeon’s assistant.

Sparky’s first act was to gently lift the entire remains up, and then place it lightly down, exemplifying how controlled strength was possible.

Erasmus looked on with both awe and curiosity. It was fascinating to see Sparky in her element. And then Erasmus looked at the crowd. On the edge of their seats, they were. He only had one thought for that second. He was proud.



The Disease of Kings

Entry for May 21, 2012 Written by Katherine L. Morse

“Ah, good morning, Mrs. Wallace.”

“Good morning, Mr. Littleton.”

“Will Mr. Wallace be arriving shortly?”

“No, his highness will be spending the day in bed.”

“His highness?”

“He fancies that being stricken with ‘the disease of kings’ makes him royalty.” She all but sniffed her disdain at her husband’s vanity.

Rich Man’s Disease
Rich Man’s Disease
[Illustration of “The Gout,” by James Gillray, published May 14, 1799 (Wikipedia link)]

“Um, well there is this one bill of lading.” He held out the sheet of paper tentatively. “It requires Mr. Wallace’s signature, and it has no recipient. This is highly irregular. I was hoping Mr. Wallace would know what to do with it.”

Mrs. Wallace took the bill from Littleton’s hand and scanned it. It was as he said; it required Reginald’s signature and lacked a destination or recipient. The contents were identified as 350 pounds of clockwork gears. Why on earth would her husband be engaged in such commerce? And who could possibly need that much clock hardware?

“Mr. Littleton, where is this crate?”

“No need for you to worry yourself about this, Mrs. Wallace. I’m sure Mr. Wallace will take care of it when he returns.”

“Yes, Mr. Littleton, that is precisely what concerns me. Where is the crate?”

Mr. Wallace might have been the loud, demanding sort, but it was his bride whom Littleton actually feared. “It’s in warehouse 7.”

Keeping a firm grasp on the document, Annabelle Wallace promptly made her way around behind the office building to the row of warehouses in back. The clerk at the desk just inside the door of number 7 did a double take when he saw her. Although he had never been introduced to her, he had seen her a few times from a distance in the company of her husband. He had never expected to see her in the musty environs of his work place. He hopped up from his chair clumsily, setting it to clattering and nearly knocking it over.

“Good morning, ma’am. What can I do for you, ma’am?”

She held out the bill of lading so he could see it, but maintained firm hold on it to make it clear that she had no intention of relinquishing it. “I need to see the contents of this shipment.”

“Yes, ma’am, Mrs. Wallace. Right away, ma’am.” He scrambled back behind his desk and flipped frantically through his ledger looking for the corresponding record. In his nervousness, he passed the correct entry twice before seeing it on the third pass. He grabbed for the pry bar on the shelf behind his desk, knocking it to the floor rather than getting a grip on it. He was sweating and trembling by the time he retrieved it. He took a ragged breath and cleared his throat. “This way, ma’am.”

The clerk had his first piece of luck when they reached the right row and section. The offending crate was on the ground. He wouldn’t have enjoyed the repercussions of making his employer’s wife wait in the dark, dusty depths of the warehouse while he fetched some air stevedores to bring it down from the racks. Through sheer determination, he managed to pry the top loose without embarrassing himself further by dropping the iron bar again. He lifted the lid off to the side so Mrs. Wallace could inspect the shipment.

Despite the dimness of the light filtering through the dirty windows close to the ceiling, Annabelle Wallace could tell immediately that the contents did not consist of clockwork gears, although some might have been used in the construction of some unidentifiable device. It was obviously disassembled and she tried to put the pieces together in her mind, but none of the things she could assemble in her mind from the components she could see made any sense. Seconds stretched into minutes as she stared into the incomprehensible mess of wood shavings and dull, black, metal parts. She needed to have a solid plan before she took her next step. The poor clerk looked as if he would faint from anxiety waiting for her to make up her mind.

She reached into the crate and retrieved a smallish part that appeared the most complex to her. She looked at it from many angles, but additional perspective did nothing to increase clarity. Satisfied that she had done everything she could in this venue, she turned to the clerk. “Reseal the container. Let no one open it or move it. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am!”

Despite her husband’s grumbling, Mrs. Wallace insisted on a light dinner of broth, fish, fruit for dessert, and no wine. He was already in a truly foul mood when she broached the subject of the mysterious shipment. “Reginald, Mr. Littleton brought to my attention a container requiring your signature with no destination on the bill of lading.”

“No doubt some sort of fool clerical error. I’ll see to it when I return to work.”

“I thought it highly irregular, so I went to inspect it myself.”

A sense of foreboding began to infiltrate Mr. Wallace’s physical discomfort. “Humph,” he grunted noncommittally.

“The bill listed the contents as clockwork gears, but it seemed to me that it was some type of machine much larger than a clock.” She pretended to return her attention to her dish of fruit, but she kept a close eye on her husband’s face.

“I hardly think you can claim expertise with all manner of machinery. It was probably parts for a large clock…perhaps for a town square.” Suddenly, the compote in front of him was more appetizing than usual.

She didn’t press him further. She had been married to Reginald Wallace more than long enough to know when he was lying to her. She wouldn’t get any more useful information out of him.

Despite the light dinner, Wallace did not sleep well and was still in no condition to return to work the next day. His wife spent the entire carriage ride to the airship port tapping her foot against the carpetbag secreting the pilfered part and considering how to solve its mystery. She needed someone who could discern its function and whom she could trust to be honest with her.

“Good morning, Mrs. Wallace. Is Mr. Wallace still recovering?”

“Yes, Mr. Littleton.
Do you know how I might get a message to Dr. McTrowell?




Clockwork Puzzle

Entry for June 3, 2012 Written by David L. Drake

The hansom ride from the Great Exhibition back to Dr. Pogue’s residence went by quickly. During the trip, Sparky was excited and quite talkative about the positive reception she received regarding her mechanical surgeon’s assistant.

“Did you see their reaction when I used the outer arms to hold the forceps while making two simultaneous tool changes with the inner arms? I don’t think they were expecting the assistant to give the surgeon that many useful hands. And I think there were five different medical journal reporters there. This may get a great deal of attention in the press.”

Erasmus smiled at her enthusiasm and nodded his agreement. He was new to seeing surgical operations, and so he tried his best to query about the procedure without sounding naive.

“Is there much difference between operating on cadavers rather than living patients?”

“Well, there is the simple matter of worrying less about the outcome. But seriously, the organs of the dead are either desiccated or turgid. The inter-organ tissues are considerably viscous and less elastic. So the entire procedure is more difficult. But the attending doctors understood that, knowing that a living patient would have been easier to work with from the physical part of the process. My early surgical training involved working with the departed, so I’m quite comfortable working with the differences.”

The sign for Shadwell appeared at the bend, and Sparky pursed her lips in the sudden realization that she had allowed the conversation to be all about her and her presentation. She turned it into a grin and took Erasmus’ arm.

“Tell me about our upcoming adventure. Do I need to be in disguise? It’s been fairly warm these summer nights, I hope it’s acceptable to not have to wear a great many layers.”

“A disguise? My first reaction was ‘no,’ but given your medical and piloting avocations, not to mention inventing, I’m wondering if a plain dress is actually a disguise. … I’m sorry, that was ungentlemanly of me. What I was hoping was that we would look like an unintimidating couple. So I guess it’s a bit of a ruse.”

Erasmus tried to read Sparky’s reaction to determine how his quips were being taken, hoping to stay away from being perceived as teasing and instead as being clever. But the look on her face wasn’t giving him a pleasant reassurance. His guess was that she both understood how she was different from others, but was fiercely proud of the fact. Light jabs at that differentiation were not very welcome. A change in tack was in order.

“I have a very general plan. We visit a number of the shops looking like a couple. We may even visit nearby residents if needed, looking to see why two secretive men covertly hauling extremely heavy crates of something in the middle of the night weren’t reported. We find out whatever we can, looking particularly for some indication as to where we might find Mr. Hedgley and Mr. Martin.”

Sparky’s eyes lit up when this more matter-of-fact approach was taken, and Erasmus was pleased with this simple adjustment. Apparently she liked banter, but not at her expense. This was a lesson worth remembering, and he tucked this away in the back of his mind.

Without a look of concern, Sparky asked, “Should we be prepared for attack? Other than my fists, I’m not sure what I’d bring.”

“I don’t think you will need anything. We’re just walking around in Clerkenwell near the ‘restaurant.’ We shouldn’t have any tussles. And I do have my cane if it comes to a minor show of force.”

The hansom drew to a stop in front of Dr. Pogue’s residence; the couple paid their driver, and entered the heavy front door. Mrs. Bingham met them in the hall.

“Dr. McTrowell, a letter arrived for you. It was hand-delivered, rather than by post.”

She presented the letter on a small wooden tray. Sparky thanked Mrs. Bingham and picked it up, examining both sides. The letter was plain enough. It had a written address on the front, but the printed address for the London office of the Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines.

Sparky deftly tapped the contents to one end of the envelope and neatly tore the opposing end off. “This must be my upcoming flight schedule. I was expecting this.” She blew lightly into the torn end, puffing out the paper container, making easy access the missive it contained. She flipped the single piece of paper open.

“Hmm, this is strange. Erasmus, let me read it to you.”

“My Dear Doctor McTrowell,

I have need of your assistance in regarding the contents of a package that we have received. Due to your knowledge of machinery and associated apparatus, I would appreciate your help in this endeavor. Please see me tomorrow morning so I can take the appropriate action.

Regards,

Mrs. Reginald Wallace”

Sparky wrinkled her nose a bit. “This is a very odd request. First off, it came from the missus rather than Reginald. Why would she be that concerned over the contents of a shipping crate? And, I must say, it’s a polite enough letter, but it pretty much demands I go to the airship port tomorrow morning to peer inside a box of what are probably bits of some machine. This is not my idea of a way to start the day. I’m sure there’s quite a bit more to this story. Oh, look at the time! We had better change and get over to Clerkenwell if we want to visit open shops.”

The cab dropped the pair off near the Italian restaurant on Main Street, Clerkenwell. Erasmus had borrowed a lightweight jacket and jaunty bow tie from Dr. Pogue’s closet, softening his appearance. It didn’t fit Erasmus’ shoulders, as he knew it wouldn’t when he picked it out. Sparky wore a simple summer dress with three-quarter sleeves that had a tad of ruffled lace. Her stride didn’t quite match the demure dress, but instead she projected an engaging self-assuredness. It was, no doubt, a result of her successful presentation to the medical community that day.

As they walked, Erasmus looked across the businesses on the side of the street opposite the restaurant. It was a hodge-podge of curios and storefronts. “We did overhear some of Mr. Hedgley’s and Mr. Martin’s conversation, but it has been so long that I don’t recall much of it.”

“Perhaps it is time for you to use your secret powers! Do you have the jelly babies that Dr. Pogue gave you?”

“Them? That was some of the most outlandish balderdash I’ve ever heard. He said that if I eat one of the anise-flavored jelly babies he provided, they will allow me to enter that heightened state again. Something about our olfactory senses causing the best recall. I do, in fact, have a few in my pocket here. I keep them in a waxed paper bag to keep them fresh, but I’m sure that they’ve become a tad chewy. Do you really think I should give this a try?”

“There’s not much drawback, unless the jelly babies have turned.”

Erasmus fished the bag out of his pocket, and unfolding the top, peered inside. There were five gumdrop-shaped treats that were starting to adhere to each other. He reached in and plucked one from the bunch. After replacing the bag back into his pocket, he held the aromatic morsel up to his nose and instinctively closed his eyes. To Erasmus, it was pungent to excess, as if his whole world were immediately focused on this compact gelatinous blob. The image of Yin preparing them and handing the bag to Erasmus while Dr. Pogue explained their use came back to him.

Erasmus popped the jelly baby into his mouth, and he was instantly back on the street on the night of their date. But this time he was watching the scene from the other side of the street, standing next to the cart being loaded. He could see Sparky and himself tucked into the shadows, just their shoes visible in the gaslight.

He turned to the two men, sweaty and tired, and listened to their conversation. The critical parts were that they didn’t want to continue their workings with Mr. P … a French name he couldn’t quite make out, that Mr. Hedgley had an engineering degree, and that the crates contained black market clockwork parts from a gear maker’s warehouse.

Erasmus opened his eyes and blinked a couple of times. “Well, this will be much easier now.” He explained his ‘vision’ to Sparky, and pointed to the clock maker and watch repair sign that hung over the doorway of an unassuming shop just on the other side of an alley.

“Thank you!” she replied.

“For … which part of that?”

“Using your secret powers, of course. Please gain more of them.” She waved her hand in a circular motion as if to indicate that such things were fairly easy to obtain. “They will save us a good deal of time during these adventures!”

They started walking toward the shop, and Erasmus added, “Grand idea. I’ll see what I can do. Any preferences for my next batch? Flying? Heal the sick?”

“I can do those things myself. But if you could create out of thin air a hot cup of chai and a chocolate caramel candy on the side, that would be splendid!”

The two chuckled to themselves as they entered the shop. It was a cramped little space, with a small area to stand and a tight counter over which to do business. A glass display was under the counter that showed some conventional pocket watches and mantle clocks. The first thing that caught Erasmus’ eye was that all of the displayed timepieces showed different times, and weren’t running. The remainder of the shop appeared to be open storage of parts, some in pressboard boxes kept haphazardly on dusty shelves, and elsewhere were just stacks of clock bodies and frames. A couple of gutted grandfather clocks were also near the back, one without even hands on is sun-faded face.

There was the sound of activity behind a row of shelves, packing or searching, it was difficult to tell. Erasmus took the lead.

“Good day.”

The rustling stopped for a few seconds.

“Good day there. Could you give us a minute, please?”

A man with a workman’s apron approached the counter, with a look of “Why are you here?” on his face.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, but it didn’t feel as though he wanted an answer.

“My … fiancée is looking for a new ladies watch. Could we see what you have?”

“So sorry, but we don’t carry new watches. Good day.”

For Erasmus, this was clearly a man who didn’t want his business. Very odd.

Sparky jumped in to see if she was more successful. “Actually, I have a watch, but I’ve had trouble with the setting lever. Could you take a look at it for me?”

The man was clearly hesitant. He paused for a second, not looking away, but rather studying the two visitors to his shop.

“Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of a task at present, and I won’t be able to …”

The door came flying open and a rough looking street urchin came rushing in, pockets bulging. Like a child, he didn’t pay any mind to his surroundings as he blurt out, “Mr. Palmer, look what I’ve got!” He then noticed the pair on interlopers. “Pardon me! I’ll … just … wait over here.” He slunk back into a corner, giving Erasmus the impression that he didn’t feel welcome, nor did he want to retreat back to the street.

Erasmus took the opportunity to speak up. “Well, thank you, sir, for your time.” He put out his arm for Sparky to take, and proceeded out of the door.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Sparky asked, “Was that what I think it is?”

“Yes! How perceptive. Mr. Palmer is taking in stolen watches and clocks, disassembling them, reassembling them, and selling them to others as used timepieces. But he doesn’t sell them directly; he is instead selling them to legitimate stores. A classic black market dealer. The bad news is that he won’t tell us anything about the sale that he made to Mr. Hedgley and Mr. Martin, not without arrest and questioning, which will take a great deal of time.”

“That makes sense. Thank you, jelly babies.”

“Hmm, charming. But here is what we do know. Mr. Hedgley and Mr. Martin hauled enough clockwork parts out of there to fill three heavy creates. Whatever they are constructing is either a single big object or there are a great many of them. That would require a sizeable shop for the creation and the storage of their final product. There are only a few places in London that could secretly house that level of production. On the other hand, they may be working outside of London, which would make finding them all the harder. If they were building something along the lines of the EPACTs, then there should be some sighting of what they are doing. We also have one more fact, the Frenchman, Mr. P.”

“So, what are our next steps?”

“In reverse order: thirdly, set my Scotland Yard dogs on Mr. Palmer. He needs to be caught red-handed. Second, look for recently leased or purchased factories or warehouses where the products being created or stored have not been made public. First, and most important, figure out where we can have dinner together to discuss this clockwork puzzle.”

“Let me add one thing to your list. If these three men came from France to London, they most likely came by water or air. If they gave their real names, we could track them down by the passenger manifests. It would take some looking, but it hasn’t been that long. Since I have access to people at the Western and Transatlantic Airship Lines, I could start there. I plan to be at their offices tomorrow, looking at the contents of a crate. I can get this search started.”

“Excellent! Now to search for food. Are you game for Italian? We could just get the dessert, and see what how the waiter reacts!”



Irrefutable Evidence

Entry for June 10, 2012 Written by Katherine L. Morse

Sparky chuckled. “You’re not always funny, Erasmus, but you are always witty. I rather miss Anu’s cooking and Virat’s chai. Might I persuade you to go for a curry?”

“As you wish, my good doctor.” He touched the brim of his bowler and winked at her.

She regretted her choice slightly when she awoke the next morning with her insides still burning. However, it had been gloriously spicy and flavorful. She would have to ask Mrs. Bingham to provide her with a glass of milk for breakfast. She wasn’t looking forward to her audience with Mrs. Wallace and was tempted to dawdle over breakfast, but she was equally anxious to get a look at the recent passenger manifests. Nothing would do but to get moving.

“Good morning, Littleton.” He didn’t look entirely well and she was about to inquire after his health when she heard a commanding female voice from Wallace’s office.

“Mr. Littleton, has Dr. McTrowell arrived?”

With a more than usually harried look on his face, Littleton nodded toward the half open office door. “She’s been here since 7 o’clock and asking for you every ten minutes since then.”

Sparky popped open her pocket watch. It was 9 o’clock. No wonder Littleton looked so worn. “I’ll go right in. I have a request with which I need your assistance. May I have a look at the passenger manifests from Paris since May 28th?”

“I’ll pull them from the files for you. You’d best get in there.” He nodded toward the door again.

“Good morning, Mrs. Wallace. I confess that your summons intrigues me. How may I be of assistance?”

Annabelle Wallace walked around behind Sparky and closed the office door. “A crate arrived with this bill of lading.” Without further exposition, she handed the slip of paper to McTrowell.

The fact that it listed Carlisle as its point of origin made Sparky a tad anxious. Not being acquainted with the finer points of the shipping business, the signature requirement didn’t pique her interest. But when she read, “Contents: 350 lbs. clockwork gears,” her throat tightened. She did her best to conceal her trepidation from her employer’s wife. “I see. And what is it that concerns you?”

“The irregularities in the bill of lading caught my attention, so I went to the warehouse and had the crate opened. It contains several pieces of machinery whose purpose I could not divine. I thought your mechanical expertise might help me solve this mystery and put my mind at rest.” She opened her carpetbag and proffered the small component she had extracted the day before. Sparky was nearly overcome by a wave of nausea at the sight. It couldn’t be! She turned it over in her hands and examined it from multiple angles. It was a jointed appendage that was indubitably anthropomorphic. No, there was no mistaking the styling and handiwork! She fairly shrieked, “Which warehouse?”

“I beg your pardon, Dr. McTrowell!”

“Which warehouse? Where is the crate?” She waved the offending item at Mrs. Wallace.

“Number 7.”

McTrowell flung open the office door and dashed to Littleton’s desk. It was stacked with ledgers.

“Ah, Dr. McTrowell. I have the passenger manifests you requested.”

“Thank you, Littleton, but no need. I found the piece of information I needed. Send a carter and two air stevedores to warehouse 7 immediately.”

Mrs. Wallace hustled to keep up with McTrowell as she ran down the line of warehouses. She caught up as Sparky was trying to explain to the warehouse clerk what she wanted. “It’s down this way,” she gasped, “if you’ll follow me.” The clerk had the good sense to follow the two women with his trusty iron pry bar. He reopened the crate without being asked.

Sparky rummaged around in the straw packing, extracting the pieces she could reach easily. She examined each carefully and made some cursory attempts to fit them together. Having no success with that approach, she closed her eyes and tried to visualize the pieces floating together. This approach resulted in similarly unsatisfactory results. She put the perplexing puzzle pieces back into the crate including the one with which Mrs. Wallace had started this misadventure. She was still scowling into the crate when their attention was drawn by rattling and coarse voices at the front of the warehouse. She whistled sharply. “We’re back here.”

Two weather-worn air stevedores, each of them twice Sparky’s size, lumbered into the depths of the warehouse to join the party of three encircling the crate. One of them exchanged “don’t I know you glances?” with Sparky, but she was too preoccupied with the mysterious shipment to give it a second thought. “Please load this crate on the cart.”

“Dr. McTrowell, I requested your presence this morning to determine the contents of the crate. This is not license for you to spirit it away. The shipment was intended for my husband and I must insist that it remain here until he returns to disposition it.”

“Mrs. Wallace, I can understand your position under the circumstances. However, I’m quite certain that this is now a matter for Scotland Yard and your husband will have to resolve ownership of this shipment with them. For all our sakes, I hope that his involvement is circumstantial and not intentional.”

The clerk suddenly remembered some urgent paperwork that required his immediate attention at his desk. Annabelle Wallace was uncharacteristically nonplussed. The stevedores, on the other hand, smirked at each other as they loaded the crate onto the waiting cart.

The carter asked, “Where shall I deliver it ma’am.”

“I’ll provide directions as you drive. I have no intention of letting that box out of my sight.”

“As you wish, ma’am.” Except to give directions, they sat in silence all the way to Shadwell. Once they reached Pogue’s residence, Sparky realized that she had failed to plan for getting the extremely cumbersome package inside. She was considering whether to begin unpacking it piece by piece when she spied Yin returning from some morning errand.

“Good morning, Dr. Young. I have a delivery for Dr. Pogue. I’m wondering how to get it down to his laboratory.”

Revealing no indication that such a request was the least bit out of the ordinary, Yin replied, “Drive around to the side of the building. I’ll meet you there.”

Although Sparky was a bit surprised, she knew to take Dr. Young at her word. She got back on the cart and rode around the corner of the building. There they encountered an enormous door with equal width horizontal metal panels filling a space the size of the entire ground floor of a row house. She and the carter waited in continuing silence for a few more minutes before they heard the coughing and sputtering of a steam engine firing up on the other side of the door. The machinations of the engine smoothed out over the course of a few more minutes and were followed by unidentifiable creaking and whining, also inside. One of these noises finally resolved into the groaning of hinges within the door itself. A moment later it shuddered into motion, rolling up into the building. Once it was completely retracted, Yin stepped out from behind the wall. “Please back the cart in.”

Ordinarily that would have sounded like an outrageous request, but the interior space was twice as deep and at least three times as high as the cart. Sparky couldn’t be quite sure about the second measurement because the interior was dark except for the ambient light from outside and a small, utilitarian gaslight on the wall just inside that illuminated some kind of control panel. That must have been where Yin had been standing to operate the door. Sparky had the sense that the building was bigger on the inside than the outside.

When the cart was in the building, but horse still in the alley, Yin held up her hand to signal to the carter that he should halt. She returned the control panel and grasped two levers, one of which she pulled gradually toward herself. Sparky heard the steam engine chug along more arduously out of sight accompanied by more creaking and whining from the dark recesses of the ceiling cavern. Sparky stared up into the gloom. Something pointed and metal began to emerge from the darkness when Yin began smoothly pulling on the second lever with her left hand. The nature of the apparatus revealed itself in the daylight.

It was an enormous claw that Yin was lowering with her right hand and opening with her left hand. She gradually returned the right lever to the neutral position as the crane approached the crate, slowing its descent to a smooth halt. Yin simultaneously reversed the direction of the lever in her left hand, closing the tangs around the body of the container. She notched the lever into one of the many side catches in the lever’s track, locking the claw’s grip into the wood with a slight crunch.

Without removing her right hand, she gave the claw and crate and quick visual inspection before throwing an arced slide on the panel from one end to the other in one smooth gesture. With her attention on the ceiling, Sparky hadn’t noticed that the floor wasn’t the same all the way to the back. As the hidden engine complained even more strenuously, a seam opened in the floor in the back half of the room. Light sprayed up from the room below. Sparky checked her position relative to the opening before peering into the widening gap in the floor. She was looking straight down into Pogue’s lab as if it were the cargo hold of a ship! The cargo doors came to a halt with a thud.

“Dr. McTrowell, please step back.” Sparky had been so engrossed in the operation of the crane that she had forgotten she was interfering with Dr. Young’s work. She moved back toward the horse that the carter was doing an excellent job of keeping calm. Yin pushed the original lever away from her just enough to lift the wooden box off the cart before returning the control to its neutral position and switching hands so her right hand was free. She used her dominant hand to grasp a fourth control on the panel, a lever that appeared to move freely in two dimensions. With minute adjustments in both directions, she maneuvered the crate expertly to center it over the opening in the floor, moving slowing enough to prevent it from swaying.

McTrowell observed the operation with admiration and fascination. Dr. Young had obviously operated this machinery many times to be so expert. At the same time, she was visualizing the gears, pulleys, and belts that must be hidden above them to make the operation feasible. Yin lowered the crate into the opening, backing off the lever until the crate settled onto the floor of the laboratory with a soft thump.

Sparky paid the carter and sent him on his way while Yin retracted the crane into the ceiling and closed the cargo doors. “Dr. Young, I count on your good sense and powers of persuasion to convince Dr. Pogue not to open that crate until I return with Chief Inspector Drake. I don’t wish to sound overly dramatic, but we don’t have enough EPACT parts left to build him a second arm if he should decide to meddle with the contents.”

Yin’s face displayed the first real emotion that Sparky had ever seen on it, and it was true anguish. Sparky was anxious to change the subject. “I’ll return with the Chief Inspector just as soon as possible.” She pointed toward the darkness above them. “This device is a remarkably effective achievement.”

“Thank you.” Sparky made a mental note to herself to engage Dr. Young at a later time about her design for the two-dimensional control. If it were made significantly smaller, it could simplify the mechanical surgical assistant, and make it more compact. It could also allow the surgeon to move patients on and off the surgical table without assistance. She snapped out of her reverie. She needed to find Drake now. She could worry about redesigns later. She nodded to Yin and exited through the side of the building. She heard the metal door rolling back down behind her as she headed for the road to flag down a cab.

She chided herself for her shortsightedness all the way to Whitehall Place. While riding back on the cart wouldn’t have been as comfortable, it would have been a lot faster. It had taken her fifteen minutes to find a cab, as they tended to be rare in Shadwell. She shouldn’t have been so hasty in dismissing the carter. It was nearing the lunch hour by the time she reached Scotland Yard. She hoped Erasmus hadn’t already departed for his noon meal.

“May I help you ma’am?”

“I’m here to see Chief Inspector Drake.”

The sergeant at the desk looked her up and down. “I’ll bet you are,” he thought to himself. That Chief Inspector Drake always got the odd ones. He jerked his head over his left shoulder. “All the way to the back. Name’s on the door.”

“Thank you.” She swept past him, the tails of her leather duster flying behind her as her boot heels clicked on the floor in rapid succession. She could see Erasmus at his desk, the crown of his head barely visible over the top of the morning’s edition of the Times. She opened the door without knocking. In her agitation, she unintentionally slammed the door behind herself, drawing the attention of everyone in the room outside the door. Drake dropped the paper in surprise.

“Sparky, your demonstration yesterday is reported on page two of the Times.” He pointed to a spot in the middle of the page that she couldn’t actually read from the other side of his desk.

“Hm, yes. I need to talk to you.”

Drake could tell there was something on her mind. “Would you like to join me for some lunch?”

“There isn’t time for that.” The two of them were oblivious to the elbowing and postulating transpiring outside his office. In the absence of their dialog, speculation was running rampant about the nature of the obviously tense conversation between the newly minted Chief Inspector and the outrageous American airship pilot with whom he had been keeping company of late. “You need to come to Pogue’s with me.
I have irrefutable evidence that Monsieur P. is in England.”

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