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London, Where It All Began - Page 3: October 11, 2010 - November 8, 2010

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A Tale for Sergeant Parseval
Fade to Black
The Three Dressmaker Dummies
Osiris
Infant of a Nightmare
Maharaja Deva


A Tale for Sergeant Parseval

Entry for October 11, 2010 Written by David L. Drake

“Happy to see you, William. Fortuitous that you were here on Upper Gower Street,” Erasmus stated. “I really didn’t want to walk Professor Farnsworth all the way back down to Whitehall Place and have him in lock-up. All of his flailing around was unseemly. Much better to find out what he’s up to.”

“So what’s the old man’s game? What do you suspect?” the lad asked.

“He’s gotten himself into a bad spot. I’m undecided if he’s doing something illegal or just plain stupid. Or some extraordinary mixture of both. I don’t have time to get into the details. Have the lads follow him until mid-day tomorrow. We’ll rendezvous in the usual manner, around 8 AM Railway Time. You can let me know what he’s done at that point. I need to get back to Scotland Yard.”

William chuckled, and half seriously asked, “Isn’t the Yard going to figure what we’re up to? This springing of ‘criminals’ to see what they are really concocting is working all too well.”

“As long as they remain an unorganized and selfish lot, there’s not much to worry about. No ‘criminal’ has ever complained to the Yard that they got away.” They both gave a short laugh. Erasmus then added in a serious tone, “What you and the lads are doing is of great benefit to the Yard, as you know. When you finish your training, I’ll be mindful of your placement.”

“Much obliged, Sir.”

With tips of their hats, they parted company and the Chief Inspector made good time heading back to 4 Whitehall Place. He strode into the door marked “Scotland Yard,” and proceeded toward his desk, hoping to make himself a few cryptic notes on the day’s proceedings. He was cut off by Sergeant Tate Parseval, who was trying to appear stalwart while begging for information.

“Chief Inspector, how did your exploration proceed? Did the loose end develop into a case?”

“So glad you asked, Tate. Come to my office and I’ll give you the details.” Erasmus truly enjoyed these discussions. However, this was the first time he got to do this in the privacy of his new office.

With door closed, the seated gentlemen leaned slightly towards each other from across the desk, Tate in “full receive” mode. The Chief Inspector kept his voice down, as if to keep secretive what he was about to disclose.

“It all started as I was tracking the whereabouts of an unsavory gent that was a leftover detail from the last case. I thought I might have an easy collar for the day. Nothing could be further from the truth. I finally cornered him at one of the tents near the unfinished Crystal Palace, but why he was there, I have no idea. With the restraints out, I told him to come along nicely, but he pulled a knife, took a slash at me, which I avoided by a mere whisker, then he ducked past my attempt to tackle him, and lead me on a chase all the way over to University College on Gower. Running inside one of the buildings, I followed, but I was waylaid by a gathered crowd of scientists for some symposium of sorts. In a search from room to room to find the villain, I happened upon a crazed scientist that tried to take my life with an electrical discharge contraption. Fear of authority, or some such motive. Having a ‘bird in hand,’ I arrested the deranged maniac.”

“Chief Inspector, that’s incredible! Such a day! So where is the madman now?”

“That is the sad part of my tale. In the street, we were assaulted by a throng of ruffians taking advantage of the fact that I was dealing with a lunatic by myself. I was able to defend myself, but my poor charge was carried off, no doubt to be cleaned of his wallet. There were too many for me to pursue alone, so I return straight away to the Yard to make a plan for tomorrow to address these misdeeds.”

“I say! Sounds like we need another round of arrests like back during the Chartist demonstration in ’48! What is happening in our streets, I ask you?!” Tate followed his exclamation with a bowing and shaking of his head that silently said, “oh, no, not again.”

Erasmus gave a warm, comforting smile, stood up, rounded the table, and patted Tate’s back twice. “We’ll handle this all in the morning, my good man. I’m off to dinner. Tomorrow is another day.”

Grabbing bowler and cane, the Chief Inspector was out the door, headed back out to the street, chuckling to himself, “In three minutes that story will have grown ten times its size and be known by everyone on the floor. I can always count on the Sergeant to do his part.”



Fade to Black

Entry for October 18, 2010 Written by Katherine L. Morse

From another trunk she withdrew a small brass teakettle with its matching alcohol burner, the latter more elaborately scrolled than Dr. McTrowell would have purchased for herself, but it had been a gift from her mother when she first left home, so it was sentimentally dear. Besides, it had proven to be quite durable and reliable; excellent qualities considering all the times it had been abused in the pursuit of adventure and science. While the alcohol burner was quite safe, at least compared to many of the activities McTrowell had previously carried out in this room, it was best to complete the next few steps while she was sure Mrs. McCreary was asleep and wouldn’t interrupt her preparations. She filled the kettle with water from the jug and the alcohol burner from a tightly stoppered vessel from the same trunk. After she lit the burner and set the kettle on to boil, she began rummaging in the trunk for an expendable drinking vessel. Whatever she used for this experiment would probably be have to be destroyed for safety’s sake, so she didn’t want to use anything cherished. She found a small glass beaker with a chip out of the rim. Just the thing. She hadn’t thrown it out when she damaged it, but she would when she was finished with it this time. She turned back to the notes and clippings on the bed. Her eyes fell on the latest clipping.

“Mr. John Redshirt, lately of Sutter’s Mill, passed from this world unexpectedly yesterday along Sansome Street. Witnesses to the unfortunate event reported that Mr. Redshirt had previously had business with Llewellyn’s Assay Office that appears to have been his destination on the day of his demise. Mr. Redshirt is reported to have been staggering and ranting incoherently about the band playing too loudly before he collapsed. Although no witnesses reported smelling alcohol, Mr. Redshirt almost certainly died of drink as is so often the case with individuals of his standing and vocation.”


“Almost certainly died of drink,” indeed! As if her mother would ever have done business with such an individual. Oh well, no sense dwelling on the stupidity of so-called journalists; she had work to do. She peered at the measurements in her notes before turning to extract a small pair of tongs and scales from the still-open chest. She carefully measured quantities of the licorice root and foxglove, and transferred them to the beaker. By then the water in the kettle had come to a boil and she snuffed out the flame. She poured boiling water into the beaker, swirling the beaker to ensure the contents were thoroughly soaked and would steep thoroughly. She placed the beaker on the worn old doily on the bureau and returned her equipment to its designated locations in the trunks, carefully locking the apothecary trunk and returning the key to its chain around her neck. She would need to be rested for the next step. She changed into a simple nightgown. Before finally resting after her very long and too exciting day, she pulled a very small clock from her surgeon’s bag, a gift from Monsieur Antoine Redier. She set the alarm for 5 am. It wouldn’t be as much sleep as she would have liked, but she needed to be awake and working before Mrs. McCreary arose, and absolutely no one beat that woman to the market in the morning to haggle for the cheapest prices on the meanest bits of supposedly edible items.

When the alarm awakened her, she felt as if she’d only just drifted off to sleep. Despite her foggy headedness, she grappled with the clock to silence the alarm before it awoke the landlady as well. Her carefully laid plans would all be wasted if Mrs. McCreary came nosing around now. She hastily dressed, splashed some more water on her face, and firmly affixed her hair out of her way on the back of her head. She picked the beaker up from the bureau and lifted it to her lips. Her hands had been steadier when she had repaired the perforated Hungarian ambassador. And the smell was something she would never forget. If it weren’t for their potentially hallucinogenic effects, the vapors might have been an effective cure for congestion of the head. And the smell did remind her faintly of that time in Crete she sat up all night drinking ouzo with Stavros Theodoropolous, but now she was just stalling. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and swallowed the contents of the beaker in two gulps. Oh horrors, the taste was even worse than the smell! How could one ever disguise it?

She sat down on the bed, opened the notebook from her portfolio, and began writing notes. First she took her pulse: 85, a little high, but not unexpected considering the state of her nerves. She waited. When she felt her heart rate rise, she took her pulse again: 100, the licorice root taking affect. And then she felt strangely calm…and heard faint distant singing. She took her pulse again: 50. She started writing her observations in the notebook when the ink from her pen turned from black to blue. No, the page was blue…and everything she had written before. As everything turned to black she scrawled illegibly in her notebook,
“blue.”



The Three Dressmaker Dummies

Entry for October 25, 2010 Written by David L. Drake

London cooled as the sun disappeared behind city buildings, giving a soft orange glow to the rooftops in the west. The streets were crowded with the working and professional classes bustling off to whatever they did after the completion of their work day. For many, their destination was a simple apartment and a simple supper. Others were off to pubs and eateries, and for those with the means, private clubs. London took on an interesting mood during this transformation. Pedestrians took a bit more haste in their step. The hansom drivers were more insistent when their way was hindered, and urged their horses to move along more smartly than usual when not. Despite the fact that it was dusk, London seemed to wake up a bit at this hour. It was if every Londoner wanted to be someplace other than where they were currently.

Erasmus enjoyed this hour of day, and the additional liveliness that it brought. For him, it was as if the day started anew. He headed east away from Scotland Yard, over to Wine Office Court. Near there was the Olde Cheshire Cheese, located at 145 Fleet Street. It had been rebuilt back in 1666 after London’s Great Fire, and provided a traditional coziness that only a centuries old pub could do. By the time that Erasmus neared the establishment, it was near capacity with patrons enjoying their bitters and bar food.

Erasmus rented the flat directly above the establishment, one which few would want. True, it had easy access to the pub itself, indoor facilities, and sizable rooms, but the din would have driven most inhabitants mad. For Erasmus, this was a benefit. Since he didn’t fall to sleep until late, it gave him phenomenal cover for his evening studies and training.

Once inside the pub, Erasmus worked his way through the crowd to the bar. The proprietor, James Crocker, noted him, gave him a nod, and made his way over to within shouting distance. Pleasantries were not needed, and couldn’t be heard anyway. Erasmus leaned past the edge of the bar and raised his voice. “Mutton stew,” and indicated that it could be delivered to his flat by a minor pointing of his walking stick handle and a quick glance up the stairs. James nodded his acknowledgement and whistled for one of the waiters.

Erasmus made his way over to the stairs, which involved skirting at least three circles of standing customers, all waiting for tables and so engrossed in their discussions that they didn’t notice they were blocking easy passage through the main pub area.

Once upstairs in his flat, Erasmus set aside his bowler onto a small table, leaned his walking stick on the chair nearby, and shed his leather cape coat and jacket, which went onto the coat hooks near the door. He lit the gas lamp over the table. His eyes panned the room quickly to verify that nothing had been disturbed. It was a simple single room, but was quite large. On the far end from the door was a bed and dresser. A small bookshelf was nearby, which was completely full of various bound volumes and notebooks. The remainder of the room was empty save three leather dressmaker dummies in various corners of the room, each of them scarred in a fashion that implied that someone had punished them for simply existing.

A light knock on the door was followed by a lad entering with a small stew-pot that he handled with two dishcloths. “Beg your pardon, sir. Your mutton stew. It’s just off the fire, so be careful of the pot.” The two dishtowels were then used to protect the small table from the stew-pot’s heat.

“I will. Did you happen to know if there is a glass of red wine that would go nicely with that?” The lad smiled and produced a bottle from one deep apron pocket and a red wine glass from the other. “I was expecting your request, sir. Hope this’ll do,” and he placed the two on the table.

Erasmus placed a few coins into the boy’s hand, and bid him a good night as he retreated out of the door. Erasmus gave the bottle label a quick glance and a smile. He tested the stew-pot with a quick touch and verified that it was generously warm. Rather than digging into supper, he instead stripped off his vest and shirt.

Taking his cane, he gave it a knowing push-twist motion with his two hands, and unsheathed the hidden shining blade. With the sword in his left hand and the scabbard in his right, he turned and addressed the nearest dressmaker dummy with a stance that was practiced and intimidating.

If the patrons downstairs knew what to listen for, whey would have heard the rhythmic footwork and sounds of strikes. Instead, they only heard their own conversation and laughter.

Erasmus met with William at 8 AM the next day at the small peninsula in the St. James’s Park lake. It was close enough to Scotland Yard to be convenient, but far enough away and hidden to allow private discussions.

William started the conversation as he approached Erasmus. “A good morning to you, and I hope you had a better night than the lads and me. That professor is a bit of work! If he slept at all, I’ll be amazed. Pacing and ranting, pacing and ranting. We told him to hide with us until daybreak, just like we normally do. We stayed over in one of the grain storage warehouses. Normally fairly quiet. But not with Professor Blaa-blaa-blaa.”

“Did he indicate where he would go today?”

“Oh, yes. I’m
sure we have it memorized, given that he mentioned it so many times. He’s going to the Egyptian Court in the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition. Said he absolutely has to be there at noon. He didn’t mention if he was meeting anyone, but he indicated the timing was critical. We asked him what he was going there for, and he just indicated that it was a very secretive mission. At that point we figured we didn’t need to follow him anymore, since we knew where he was headed. We were very glad to give him his liberty this morning.”

“Good. I have some minor work that I need to do at the Yard this morning, but I’ll plan to be at the Egyptian Court a bit after 11 AM and see if I can figure out what he’s trying to accomplish. I know his students are planning an invention demonstration today at University College, and so Professor Farnsworth’s activity at the Crystal Palace is completely independent of that. This whole thing just doesn’t sit well with me.”

“Best of luck, Chief Inspector. Let me know if you need us again.” Hands were shaken and they parted.

The Crystal Palace and would not be open to the public for a few months. Nonetheless, the Chief Inspector’s credentials got him through the checkpoints without much bother.

The Egyptian Court was opulent. Even without all of the furnishings and statues in place, it took one’s breath away. Much of the impressiveness was the size and quantity of artifacts. Only the best pieces had been brought in to the Great Exhibition. Like many, Chief Inspector Drake had a great interest in ancient Egyptian culture, handiwork, and accomplishments. He had dallied with setting their rulers and gods to memory, and tried his hand at remembering a few sequences of hieroglyphics.

The curator of the Egyptian Court was Mr. Joseph Bonomi. Erasmus knew him well from his intervention with a Egyptian man that claimed rightful ownership of a small gold statue that Mr. Bonomi had on display as one of his museum pieces. It was naught but a misunderstanding, given that the specimen was on loan from an Egyptian museum, but it gave Erasmus a few days of interaction with Mr. Bonomi, and they formed a bit of a passing friendship.

Erasmus walked around the multiple sphinxes and mummies, some of the displays completed, others still needed some finishing touches. All and all, very impressive. Erasmus saw the signs of Mr. Bonomi’s sense of history combined with showmanship. The public will eat this up.

But the Chief Inspector had a mission. If Professor Farnsworth did show up, Erasmus needed to watch him without drawing attention. The best way to do that was to look nonchalant, but be very aware of his surroundings. There were many nooks to conceal his presence, and he took to that task. Erasmus thought to himself, “I’m quite ready for the next piece to this puzzle.”



Osiris

Entry for November 1, 2010 Written by Katherine L. Morse

There was an intolerably foul taste in her mouth. Where had she tasted that before? Oh yes, the tisane she brewed. When was that? She struggled to sit up on the bed. Where was she? When was she? Her eyes fell on her open notebook beside her on the bed. The last thing she had written, if you could call it that and if she could believe she had actually written it, was followed by a large blot of black ink. Wait, why wasn’t it blue? Blue! That’s what she had written that she could barely read. It was starting to come back to her. The sun was high in the sky outside the window. Was it later the same day? Had she lost a day? No, Mrs. McCreary was far too nosy to have let her lie here for more than a day without making an appearance. She stumbled to the bureau, rinsed her face, and brushed her hair back into some semblance of order. A cup of water did nothing to eradicate the taste in her mouth. She would need to venture out to solve that problem. And now that she was certain foxglove had been used to poison her mother’s clients, and nearly as certain that Mr. Abusir was behind it, she would need to venture out to find Mr. Abusir himself.

She had to balance herself more than usual on the banister on the way to the dining room. Mrs. McCreary was already standing in the doorway to the kitchen by the time Sparky make it to the dining room. No surprise there considering the way the stairs creaked. Mrs. McCreary’s fists were firmly embedded in her substantial hips and she was wearing her umbrageous face. No surprise there either.

“Miss Llewellyn, it is very nearly noon. Civilized people are long since out of bed and about honest work. I certainly hope this laying about of yours does not indicate a drinking problem.” No doubt Mrs. McCreary had idiot cousins who wrote “news” for The Californian.

“Certainly not, Mrs. McCreary. I’m feeling somewhat poorly, no doubt as a result of the long train ride and breathing the cigar smoke on the train. I believe a strong cup of tea and a constitutional walk in the fresh air will put me to rights.” As if the air of London would ever be described as fresh or Mrs. McCreary would ever serve a cup of tea anyone would describe as strong. The landlady huffed out of the room, obviously unconvinced, but blessedly, she said nothing more as she delivered a meager cup of weak tea with one, small, very stale biscuit. There was just enough milk in the milk pitcher to make the tea a muddy gray. The “tea” tasted like it had been brewed from bark and Thames water. Bark, ah, wouldn’t a cup of willow bark tea be just the thing right now? She washed down the biscuit with the tea and headed back upstairs.

She fetched the willow bark out of her field kit and brewed herself some tea while she dressed for the day’s explorations. No telling what she would need to do today, so more serviceable clothing was in order. She eschewed the tweed skirt and ankle boots in favor of a more functional pair of knee-high riding boots and a well-worn pair of canvas work pants she tucked into the boots. She would have to sneak out to avoid a row with Mrs. McCreary about her decidedly unladylike attire. She looked out the window just in time to see the landlady cross the back courtyard to the laundry. She gulped down the willow bark tea, grabbed her flight surgeon’s bad and duster, and flew down the stairs and out the front door.

By the time she was safely a couple of blocks away where Mrs. McCreary wouldn’t see her, the willow bark tea had worked miracles on her pounding head so she could think more clearly. More than anything, she needed to divine what was so important to the obviously avaricious Mr. Abusir that he would spend the large sum of money necessary to travel all the way to London in person. What was drawing the Egyptian businessman to London now? Well, if one wanted to know the mind of an Egyptian, perhaps one should ask an Egyptologist. She was only a few blocks from Hyde Park. Perhaps she would be fortunate enough to find Mr. Joseph Bonomi engaged in preparations for the Great Exhibition. Although they had never been introduced, she found the English expected Americans to ignore the conventions of polite society. She formulated a plan for introducing herself and she walked briskly toward the Crystal Palace, ignoring the peculiar looks her attire drew.

The preparatory drawings she had seen in the newspapers did not prepare her for the breathtaking edifice of the Crystal Palace. It was truly an astonishing accomplishment. She was still gaping as she approached the entrance and was almost caught unawares by a burly fellow guarding the entrance.

“Ma’am?” He was a little unclear on her gender. “The Exhibition is not yet open to the public.”

She had to think fast if she were going to get in. “I’m not the public. I’m Dr. McTrowell of Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines. I’m here to supervise the installation of my mechanical surgeon’s assistant in the exhibit of medical apparatus.” She struck what she hoped was an authoritative pose. She was still not quite up to snuff after the morning’s exertions.

“Oh. Very well, ma’am.” And just like that, he let her pass. Never underestimate astonishment as a tactical weapon.

She picked a direction at random and set off smartly, hoping that she appeared to know where she was going. And then she had her second bit of luck in only a few minutes. She spotted a crew of workers hauling an enormous statue of a seated pharaoh. Her eyes tracked the direction they were hauling and she spotted the Egyptian Court. When she entered the Court, there were several workmen industriously preparing for the statue that would arrive shortly.

Ramses II Statues at Egyptian Court


Another matching statue was already in place. None of these men could be Mr. Bonomi as he would undoubtedly be dressed as a gentleman. There was only one gentleman in the Court, and he was decidedly unengaged in the workmen’s activity. He was staring at a gold statue on a pedestal and his posture indicated acute focus. He was wearing a cape coat that was not in itself unusual, but this one was leather. Dr. McTrowell knew from personal experience that one didn’t wear a leather coat as a matter of fashion, but rather as protection from extreme circumstances. To be fair, this particular coat was well cut and flattered the wearer with a short cape that would not interfere with the action of the wearer’s arms. Clearly this man was not the architect and Egyptologist she was seeking. And then there was the brown bowler, a rather fashionable appointment for a man practical enough to wear a leather cape coat. Brown bowler? Hadn’t she seen this unusual headwear somewhere else recently? Well, she needed to find Mr. Bonomi and perhaps the mysterious gentleman could provide a clue.

“I beg your pardon. I’m trying to locate Mr. Joseph Bonomi. Have you perhaps seen him in the vicinity today?”

When he turned to address her, she had the distinct impression that he had known she was there despite the fact that his attention had been fixed on the statue for the entirety of her approach and the noise of the workmen had covered the sound of her boots on the wood floor. “Mr. Bonomi has completed his preparations for the day and has departed. I expect he won’t return until tomorrow.” There was neither surprise nor curiosity in his voice. However, his eyes took in every detail of her appearance and demeanor without betraying his assessment thereof. And what eyes they were! In sharp contrast to the various shades of brown of his entire ensemble, his eyes were a striking blue. She felt slightly unsteady for a moment, no doubt the lingering effects of the foxglove and licorice.

“I see. How unfortunate. Are you perhaps a colleague of his?”

“I have been on occasion.” What a peculiar answer. “Perhaps I might be of assistance.”

“I wished to ask him about a Mr. Abusir.”

“So, naturally, you have come here.” He indicated the gold statue he had been examining as she approached. There was a small placard on the pedestal containing symbols.

Osiris Hieroglyphics


“I’m sorry. I speak several languages passably, but I’m afraid hieroglyphics isn’t one of them. How does this relate to Mr. Abusir?”

“Abusir, the temple of the god of the dead.” And he pointed just below the hieroglyphics on the placard to a word she hadn’t noticed at first,
Osiris.




Infant of a Nightmare

Entry for November 8, 2010 Written by David L. Drake

As it turns out, the gold statue that the Egyptian man had thought he had ownership of was on display at the Egyptian Court. Erasmus walked over and pondered it and its inscription. Despite the clamor of workman moving a statue of Ramses II, Erasmus felt the presence of a woman approaching him from behind.

He shifted his bowler to his left hand, in case he needed to greet her. She greeted him and asked about Mr. Bonomi. He turned to see a most interesting woman. Her hair was golden in color, but pinned back in a way that was not in fashion in London, but rather of the wildernesses of the Americas. And her coat! A full-length leather duster, better suited to rough weather or hard work, although well-maintained. Given her height and dress, she fit the description of the woman that downed the Duke of Milton at University College. She was not one to be taken lightly.

Erasmus actually didn’t know where Mr. Bonomi was, but he wanted to appear knowledgeable, so he gave her his best guess. “Mr. Bonomi has completed his preparations for the day and has departed. I expect he won’t return until tomorrow.” She continued her inquiry, not being one to be willing to wait, and asked Erasmus if he was a colleague of Mr. Bonomi. “I have been on occasion.” It was the only truthful way to put it without revealing his association with Scotland Yard, which might have made her more hesitant to continue their conversation.

She then asked about a Mr. Abusir. Odd, “Abusir” was the name of temple associated with Osiris, the same Egyptian god that the statue represented, and Erasmus pointed that fact out on the placard below the statue.

“Ah, I see,” she paused, “quite clearly for the first time.  I’m Dr. Sparky McTrowell.” Well, with her name revealed, he was more comfortable confessing his profession.

“Chief Inspector Erasmus Drake of Scotland Yard.” Erasmus produced his card and handed it to the lady with the odd nickname. She pondered it just for a split second. In the same action that she pocketed his card into an interior pocket of the leather duster, she produced her own, and proffered it to Erasmus, saying, “I am indebted to you for this very valuable information, sir.  You may inquire after me at the offices of Western & Transatlantic Airship Lines at the airship port if I may ever be of assistance to you.”

The Chief Inspector smiled and reached for the card, just as the corner of his eye caught a figure moving near one of the large archways allowing access to the Egyptian Court. Unexpectedly, it was Professor Farnsworth, and he was quickly backing into the room while peeking around the edge of the archway at something in the next display area. Professor Farnsworth was clearly tickled with glee at what was around that corner. Erasmus stopped and gave this his full attention. He had expected the professor to be meeting someone, not sneaking around.

Professor Farnsworth then turned and rushed along the wall of the Egyptian Court. When he reached one of the sizable crates along the wall, he flung off the top, reached inside and threw a sizable electrical switch. Erasmus had turned to face the clamor, and was only able to take a few steps in the direction of the professor when he heard the now-familiar rapid electrical warming-up sound. Erasmus shouted “Professor, no!” but realized it was too late. An arc of blue-white lightening sprung out of the crate, apparently arcing between two terminals hidden within the wooden box.

The professor glanced back and saw the Chief Inspector, and showed shock at being in the same room with the man that he had escaped just yesterday. But Professor Farnsworth immediately turned back to his task, cackling, not heeding Erasmus’s command to terminate whatever he had initiated.

Erasmus instinctively turned toward Sparky, and put up his arms to allow his leather coat to shield her from whatever is to follow. He shouted, “Brace yourself,” but she was a step ahead of him. Sparky turned her back to the blinding arc and the earsplitting electrical crackle, and momentarily looked back at the workmen. Her quick reflexes got her behind the statue podium in the wink of an eye.

The large electrical discharge instrument unleashed its directed force, arcing through the wall into the adjacent room through the gaping incinerated hole that it had just created. But the arc also ricocheted back toward Farnsworth, who had his hands up defensively to protect himself from the light and heat.  Farnsworth screamed, and then the blue-white arc was gone, finished with its horrible deed.

The aftermath had its own style of cacophony. Shouts and commotion could be heard from the adjacent room. Erasmus blew his ever-present policeman’s whistle twice, loud and long. The contraption in the crate gave a menacing hiss that faded slowly. Farnsworth was on the floor, whimpering over his badly burned hands, but his moans where interspersed with short bursts of ecstatic laughter over his success.

At present, Erasmus was most concerned over the situation in the adjacent room, a chamber that he had not visited, which he now considered a huge oversight on his part. To control the situation, Erasmus has no choice but to scoop the professor up and carry him to the adjacent room to address the damage there while keeping an eye on the person who had caused it.

Erasmus rounded the corner lugging the professor in his arms. He seems lighter than the Chief Inspector expected, but then there’s nothing like an electrical blast canon creating a two-foot diameter hole in a solid wooden wall to get one’s heart pumping, Erasmus thought. A number of scientists were there, many on the ground, downed by the blast, but not visibly injured. The room was being used to assemble sophisticated machinery, and had various constructions of polished brass, glass, and wood.

One of the downed scientists was the immediately recognizable Charles Babbage, and he was outraged. But it was for good reason: the blast was aimed at the current prototype of Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which now had one molten brass side. A decade of work on precision gears and machinery destroyed in less than a second.

Erasmus set the professor down, surveyed the situation, and determined that life and limb of the scientists were intact. That was good, and he figured the rest of this chaos can be sorted out after the professor gets medical attention.

The police whistle had the usual effect, and from multiple directions came three Crystal Palace watchmen, two nearby constables, a
Times reporter that just happened to be in the building, and five gawking onlookers. Erasmus ordered the constables to tend to the blast victims, and to come back to take the professor to the hospital when they were satisfied that the downed men were in acceptable condition.

Erasmus was compelled, and he bent down to Professor Farnsworth and asked the obvious. “Why?” The answer was unexpected.

“He’s building a thinking machine. Don’t you see?! It cannot only do complex manipulation of numbers, it can make decisions! Yes, yes! Decisions! And its big and robust. Imagine large, self-directed machines operating their own conveyances that are impossible to stop or control! Look right there!”, and he gestured with a burnt hand at the sizable contraption, “He’s making the infant of a nightmare!”

Erasmus was shocked. How could a man who previously had such rational thought be changed into this state in such a short period. And such a waste of Mr. Babbage’s years of work. Erasmus broke his usual professionalism, and blurted out, “Professor! That’s your reason?! Are you mad?! You’ve ruined this man’s life’s work!” The
Times reporter, pad in hand, was scribbling furiously.

The constables returned to get Professor Farnsworth medical attention, and Erasmus helped with getting him to his feet. “Make sure you stand guard at the hospital. We’ll want to make sure he’ll answer for this destruction.”

Erasmus suddenly remembered that he had lost track of Dr. McTrowell. Was she gone?  He looked around the Egyptian Court, and she was nowhere to be found. But on the floor at the place of their parting, he found a calling card under a thin layer of dust. He bent over and retrieved it, despite that it was visibly burnt on its right-side corners. He pocketed it carefully.

“An amazing young woman, this Dr. Sparky McTrowell,” he thought. “I hope she doesn’t think this is an every day occurrence for me.”



Maharaja Deva

Entry for November 8, 2010 Written by Katherine L. Morse

McTrowell hauled herself up off the floor.  It seemed that today was going to be as eventful as yesterday, unfortunately.  The recently vanquished headache had returned, accompanied by a sore elbow and hip from where she’d hit the ground during the blast.  There’s only so much from which a leather coat can protect you.  She turned toward the melee into which her would-be protector had charged.  Interesting fellow; where others run away, he rushes in.  Others were now rushing toward the chaos in the next room, everyone except for a single workman who was staring at her.  No, he was staring at the statue of Osiris.  No, he was switching his focus rapidly between her and the statue.  Her stomach felt queasy again.  Licorice and foxglove again … or something else?  The workman realized she was staring as hard at him as he was at her, and the look of vexation on his face turned to something far darker.  She hadn’t yet decided what action to take when the workman turned and headed toward the activity in the next room.  She turned the opposite direction to exit the building.  It seemed she would have need of Lord Ashleigh’s offer of assistance much sooner than she anticipated.
 
There was no point in finding a cab.  Once she reached the edge of the park, it was only a few blocks to his house on Berkeley Square and the walk would allow her a few minutes to formulate a plan.  It was clear that whatever was going to happen was going to happen in conjunction with the Great Exhibition.  She would need a plausible reason for her persistent presence at the Crystal Palace.  Of course!  She had already manufactured just such a reason without even intending to.  And then she found herself at Lord Ashleigh’s residence.
 
She had not yet set her foot down on the bottom stair when the door was opened by Virat.  Attempting to look nonplussed, she climbed the stairs and entered the foyer where she was met by Anu who silently ushered her into the powder room down the hall where she freshened up as she had the day before.  She had a strange feeling of déjà vu as she hung her duster on the hook and turned to wash her face and hands.  The process was proceeding just as it had the day before with Anu leading her to the sitting room, but this time Lord Ashleigh wasn’t sitting calmly in his chair. He was pacing tensely when she entered.  His face was etched with concern when he turned to face her.
 
“Dr. McTrowell, you’re well!”
 
“Um, yes, thank you.”  Curious that he said it as a statement rather than as a question, and an exclamation at that.  “Why wouldn’t I be?”
 
“The blast in the Great Exhibition did quite a bit of damage.”
 
“How do you know about that and how did you know I had been there?”  There was an awkward silence while he obviously contemplated how to answer the question.  He was granted a momentary reprieve by the arrival of Virat with the silver tea service that proved to be stocked once again with chai.  They sat, sipping their tea, while she waited for an answer.  She maintained her “poker face,” practically the only useful thing she had learned from her father in the very little time she had ever spent with him.  Apparently something in Lord Ashleigh’s background also entailed political bluffing because they sat for several minutes with the silence broken only by sipping and the delicate chime of bone china teacups on saucers.
 
“Very well.  I have certain resources at my disposal.”
 
“Resources?”
 
“No doubt you have deduced that I have considerable financial resources.  My father, Maharaja Lakshmipathi Deva, died when I was young.  My older half brother Vijay Deva is the current ruling Maharaja of Talkad.  I have no official power, since my older brother is ruling.  However, I am the first son of my father’s favorite wife, which makes me the heir apparent, until my brother has a son.  As you might imagine, my brother is not happy about this, so he persuaded me, none too subtly, to reside in my mother’s country, England.  Lest you doubt me, please be assured that I am indeed studying law at Oxford.  The circumstances of my mother’s estate, with which I won’t belabor this conversation, lead me to believe that a clear understanding of English law may be of use to me in the future.  My upbringing in my father’s court taught me to be alert for spies and conspirators behind every door and curtain.”
 
“And so you think me to be a spy?  Then why invite me into your home?”
 
“Oh, no, certainly not!  Yesterday’s events led me to conclude that you are at grave risk of being the target of spies.  I have applied some of my resources to ensure that no harm befalls you.”
 
“You and that chief inspector from Scotland Yard both thinking that I’m incapable of taking care of myself!  Somehow without the assistance of either of you I managed to get myself nearly all the way around the world more than once while earning a medical degree and learning to fly an airship.  And lest you didn’t notice, I was nearly blasted to pieces while under the watchful eye of your ‘resources.’”
 
“My dear Dr. McTrowell, I assure you I meant you no offense and I certainly never meant to imply that you’re incapable of caring for yourself.  I am a great admirer of your accomplishments.  I just believe there is more intrigue afoot than you might realize.  Despite my youth, I fancy I know quite a bit more about intrigue than you.  As for my ‘resources,’ some of them are now in search of new employment as the outcome of today’s events at the Crystal Palace was not at all up to my expectations.  You should also know that Chief Inspector Drake is quite a bit more than he seems and is not to be taken lightly.”  He smiled very brightly at this last comment and seemed on the verge of winking.
 
“I’m terribly sorry, Lord Ashleigh.  I’m forgetting my manners.  I’m considerably overtaxed by all the unexpected excitement of the last day.  And after all this, I actually came to beg a very large favor.”
 
“Nothing would please me more than to grant you a favor.”
 
“You are an amazing man, but it really is a very large favor.”
 
“Please, just ask.”
 
“The matter that brought me to London has taken an interesting turn, to say the least.  It seems I’m going to need to establish a presence at the Great Exhibition.  I believe I can convince the Occidental Inventors’ Society to support the entry of my mechanical surgeon’s assistant into the exhibition.  However, it was designed to be driven by an airship’s engine and I can’t very well park an airship in the Great Exhibition.  I will need a rather large, but preferably quiet, steam engine to drive it.”
 
“Oh, this is most excellent!  I am so looking forward to seeing your invention in operation.  I would be only too pleased to acquire a suitable steam engine to drive it.  I will require one stipulation.  Your exhibit will properly require a human assistant whom I will provide.”
 
“Another of your ‘resources?’”
 
“Yes.  After today’s events I am even more concerned about the ‘matter’ that has brought you to London.”
 
“I am forced to admit that you are probably justified in your concern, so I accept your terms.  Thank you again.  I truly hope some day I will be able to repay all the favors you have done for me.”
 
“I hope that we should both live long enough and our friendship should endure so this should come to pass.”
 
“I am very tired and should get back to my lodgings before dark.  I will be at the Crystal Palace on a regular basis beginning day after tomorrow, but I imagine you know how to find me whenever you want.”  This time he did wink when he smiled at her.
 
“Virat will drive you to an inconspicuous location a discreet distance from your lodgings.  I will see you at the Crystal Palace within a few days with the steam engine and accompanying ‘resource.’  Good evening, Dr. McTrowell.”
 
When she entered the foyer to await Virat, Anu materialized with her duster.  She turned to slide her arms into the sleeves when her eyes fell on a thick envelope in a silver tray on the console table.  The address was Lord Ashleigh’s, but the name on it was
Maharaja Deva Raya III.

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