Yesterday the man had been more than forthcoming.
Yesterday Harvey Whitlock had waxed poetic on all of his designs for domination, revolution through robotics, as they’d tramped the sewers in search of his one and only pièce de résistance.
But that was yesterday. Today was another matter.
Drumming his fingers against the edge of the desk, Giles feigned boredom. If Mr. Whitlock here thought the good Inspector had all day, maybe he’d start talking. But dash it all, I haven’t got all day! he frowned, trying to catch some of Harvey’s muttered ramblings.
The Inspector’d asked for a team with the idea in mind that they’d be their own fully-formed Department of the force. He’d imagined a team of twenty. Men skilled in dealing with the technical, the unique, the downright maddening variances in crime that the citizens of this country seemed to produce by the airship-full. But no, he’d been left with a junk-filled basement, an irksome partner, and next to no manpower for things like interrogations, a common task for which Newberry had long known he had no skill.
But it had fallen to him, and here he sat, staring at an obstinate Harvey Whitlock and waiting for a miracle. A miracle that was shortly granted in the form of the doorbell ringing. With a quick look to Col. Spreenkerton who’d stayed behind when Crothall and Perrigordon had finally succumbed to hunger and boredom, Giles excused himself.
The door chime sounded again and Giles quickened his pace across the room, swearing under his breath and throwing wide the door to reveal that same lovely face from the morning. You remember, the one that’d turned him into a stammering fool. The effect was much the same now.
“Why hello,” Giles offered stupidly, “Miss— I’m sorry, I seem to have forgot your name.”
“I hadn’t given it to you,” she retorted, with the same impish smile she’d flashed hours before again lighting up her exquisite features. She beckoned him—nay, she grabbed his arm and bloody well hauled him—out into the lobby. Leaning close, she intoned, “Mr. Whitlock won’t talk, will he?” It was a statement, not a question.
“See here, miss,” Giles defaulted to his proper officer’s training.
“Go back in there, tell him you’ve had some good news, that you’ve caught the little monster, that it’s all a mistake and he’s free to go,” she bowled right over the Inspector’s protestations, leaning close, her breathy voice soft upon his ears and improperly close. “I’ll wait out in your foyer, if you please.”
“Now, I just can’t—” Giles began again.
“Suit yourself. If you want to play the blinking game with him all afternoon, by all means, do what you’ve been doing,” she smiled sweetly, “I was just trying to help save you some time and effort.”
This one’s more maddening than Whitlock! Giles sighed, wondering if everyone on that block was as curious in their manners. Turning on his heel, he left the door open behind him and, not waiting to see if the woman followed him in, strode right into the side office (the Department’s temporary interrogation space), hastily rearranging his face to one of good cheer.
“Well, Mr. Whitlock, you’ve the apologies of Scotland Yard on this one. Just had the news. We’ve caught that funny little critter and so the problem is solved. You’re free to go as, as you’ve said, it ain’t yours,” he stood in the open door way, arm outstretched in what he hoped was in inviting gesture.
Harvey didn’t budge, yesterday’s manic excitement slowly returning to his face, “You have it? How? May I see it?” The man’s hands clenched and unclenched at his sides, as if by reflex.
Hmmmph, Giles noted the gesture and, taken aback by this sudden change, manfully resisted the urge to look to the as-yet-unknown woman seated in the foyer. Taking inspiration from Spreenkerton’s comment from earlier, Newberry ad-libbed, “It wound down. Beat officer found it.” That seemed as likely a thing as any.
“Ah-hah! You lie!” Mr. Whitlock rubbed his hands together gleefully. “My robot doesn’t run down. It goes on and on and on. It’s designed to be unstoppable, you see.”
“How’s that?” Giles frowned, looking puzzled, inwardly crowing with triumph.
“Ah, well,” Harvey sniffed and, sticking his nose haughtily into the air, proceeded to gush forth all manner of details about this, his favorite subject. Ins. Newberry, back in his element not pursuing a hard-lined inquisition, was able to glean all sorts of useful details about Whitlock’s curious wayward toy. He wished he could take notes. And so, hoping that Spreenkerton was paying attention at his post beside the door, Giles drew the mad inventor out as long as he could, that is until the man began to rant, rave, and repeat himself, making claims no man had a right to.
It was just when things started to—if you’ll pardon the expression—wind down when their mysterious female visitor rang at the door once more. Quietly excusing himself once again, Newberry reached the doorway only to observe, “Oh, it’s you.”
Sweeping past him with a wink, the woman launched herself into the room, “Harvey? Harvey, are you in here?”
“Ms. Temble?” the high, thin voice of the so-called inventor sounded from the side office where he’d spent the morning, the exuberant lady following it to its source. It was strangely, the most normal he’d sounded in Giles’ limited experience of him.
Ms. Temble, eh? Wonder what she’s about then . . . Newberry narrowed his eyes, making up his mind to get to the bottom of this once and for all.
“I hope Ms. Whitlock hasn’t been too much a burden,” the woman cooed, reemerging from the room, Harvey Whitlock in tow, “Thank you so much for keeping an eye on him for me this morning. Harvey says his thanks as well.” She looked pointedly but kindly at the man who now stared at the room as if seeing it for the first time.
“Thanks,” the man blinked slowly, looking for all the world as if he’d like to be curious about his surroundings but hadn’t the strength.
Giles had more than enough curiosity for them both, his eyes pleading with Ms. Temble for an explanation. A plea she answered with the minutest shake of her head. Within a trice the odd pair were gone, leaving Newberry to scratch his question-filled head in puzzlement while Col. Spreenkerton stood non-plussed at the door.
“You’re just letting her take him away on us?” he sputtered. “We’ve no idea who she is, what she’s getting up to . . . ”
Giles had forgotten that Howard had been ‘round back when Ms. Temble first crossed MDOPFGIASA’s path. It would seem odd to the poor Colonel—goodness it seemed odd enough to him! And yet, something in him trusted the woman and not just because she’d a pretty face. No, she—
His eyes lit on the umbrella leaning casually against the rack, an ornament most certainly of the female persuasion. A slow smile spread across his face, “Clever woman . . . ”