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#8: Clear and Immediate Danger

“A-ha! A-ha, a-ha, a-ha, I have it!” For the first time since Sir Reginald Crothall knocked on the door of the Majesterial Department of Protection for Gentlemen Inventors and Scientific Advancement two weeks prior, Inspector Giles Newberry was well and truly happy. Waving a sheet of Yard stationary, he did a little jig of triumph and further addressed the team, “As you well know, most of the items found in the warehouse that the autobots attacked were untraceable—so common as to be useless in the narrowing of potential suspects.” He paused for effect, four interested pairs of eyes on him, “But, patience and diligence have paid off.” And no small bit of luck, he added silently as he slapped the sheet of paper down onto the nearest desk for all to inspect.

“Goodness, you went through all the possible combinations?” Crothall emitted a low whistle, though one couldn’t tell from the look on his face whether he admired the effort or was glad to have been well and truly distanced from it.

“To say I myself did it would be to lay claim to efforts not entirely my own,” Giles dissembled, “But the final conclusion, the good old-fashioned police work, yes, this portion was worked out by yours truly.”

“But there are five organizations here,” Crothall protested, eyes on the list, “We aren’t actually going to hit all five are we?”

Colonel Spreenkerton glanced at the list, sniffed and shrugged, “Why not?”

Glaring at both Crothall and Spreenkerton, Perrigordon rolled his eyes, “I believe we’re being called upon to do a bit of triage. Of five fully criminal organizations, which is more likely to have a hand in the sort of foul practices we’ve been given to investigate.”

For all their inability to shake the tenacious Ms. Temble from their company, the gentlemen looked to the lady of the group who sat uncharacteristically silent as she gazed at the list. Beautiful forehead puckered into a frown of concentration, Jane’s eyes darted up and down the page, “I appreciate your good work, Inspector, but I must confess I only see a list of potential culprits and no indication as to their whereabouts.”

“Yes, well, the cab that stole away our Mr. Whitlock proved useless—nobody on scene caught its number, if indeed it had one. And in a city this size, the Yard is always getting reports of odd happenings, most seemingly benign enough that they go unchecked while the force concentrate their efforts on the clear and immediate dangers to the public.” Giles’ tone was apologetic but uncompromising. His break with the regular Force to form MDOPFGIASA was symptomatic of his feelings for the Yard’s ability to maintain law and order—their main efforts being reactive rather than proactive—and it rankled him that his own newly minted department was now operating in much the same way.

“Well, have we a list of these reported incidents? Investigated or otherwise?” James piped in, earning a grateful look from Jane and a panicked look from Reginald who might—horror of horrors—have to do real work for once!

“I suppose I could have those combinations checked but—”

Giles was interrupted by both the scientist and psychoanalyst heartily endorsing that they do the work themselves. Right then and there, in fact. Bustling over to the little stove that’d been thoughtfully retained during the great-junk-purge upon the Department’s official moving-in, Jane hurried to make a large pot of tea. Col. Spreenkerton abandoned his position of solidarity with Crothall by assembling chairs about the desk around which they’d been hovering, Doctor P immediately and heavily settling into one with a sigh of contentment. Newberry dashed off to request the proper records from the offices upstairs. Leaving Crothall to ruefully slink into one of the newly gathered chairs and pointedly inspect his fingernails.

* * *

Moments later, upstairs in the hall, Inspector Giles Newberry was nearly upset—bundle of papers and all—by the forceful opening of a door into his hurried path.

Ponderous and larger than life, Superior Danny Blushton followed in the door’s disruptive trajectory, squawking in surprise at the near collision, “Good lord, man, where’s the fire?”

“Ah, hello, sir,” Giles arced his head around the obscuring pile of papers cradled precariously in his arms, “Would love to stay and chat and all but-” He lifted the files an inch in illustration.

“Quite right, quite right,” Blushton moved aside, “You go catch your robots, Newberry, but I will be needing a report soon—got to justify your actions in giving you a Department of your own, you know. I hear you’ve brought on all sorts of, ahem, random individuals . . . ”

“Experts,” Giles hastily corrected.

Blushton harrumphed and bent to examine a piece of lint that’d clung to his vast waistband, “Experts in what?” He looked up to find he was addressing an empty hallway, Giles having made his escape down the stairs.

* * *

“So what exactly do you hope to get out of this?” Reginald frowningly shuffled through the stack of papers that lay before him on the table.

“We’re profiling,” Jane’s words were explanatory, her tone adding an element of don’t-ask-any-more-dumb-questions.

Silence reigned for a few more moments before Crothall again spoke up, “Can’t we just free one of those little brain monsters again and trail it?”

His suggestion was met with stony silence. Sure they could try it, but already they’d lost one of the little ‘bots through a similar attempt and Jane had put her foot down at the idea of endangering more. Dr. P, too, was against such an idea, having sworn up and down that he was by no means willing and able to try rounding up the little buggers again. Once was more than enough.

“But, honestly, this is dull stuff!” Crothall threw his papers down and addressed the group at large. “’S a waste of time. We should be out there catching these criminals, not in here—”

“—Trying to figure out how to catch these criminals?” Giles smoothly cut in, his eyebrows arching eloquently from behind his own bit of research. Neat and tidy, his own stack of materials were arranged in a series of piles, incidents and crises sorted into a systematic picture of what he believed the criminal elements were up to.

“I’ll complain, I will. ‘Tis torture. ‘Tis unfair!” Crothall fidgited and muttered, leaning over to glance at Ms. Temble’s work, the lady having received the more random and seemingly unconnected incidents to sort through. So far the woman had discovered half-a-dozen potential patterns only to dismiss them upon further discussion, argument, and general despondency. Truly difficult psychoanalysis, the work had repeatedly drawn Crothall’s attention from his own dull work, though whether it was the task or the lady that acted as a magnet for the gentleman’s eyes was a tossup (Sir Crothall’s own section of material being more blatant, simple, and likely unconnected to the mastermind’s behind the autotrons, the team having an unspoken agreement to not trust the gentleman with anything of real substance.)

“You say we’re looking for a pattern of criminal activity?” Col. Spreenkerton’s voice cut through the shuffling of paper and Reginald’s muted ramblings.

“Found something?” Giles’ eyes shot up, the sharp and sudden incline of his head nearly dislodging the wire-rim glasses perched on the tip of his nose.

“That’s just it . . .” Howard turned round in his chair to frown at the large map pinned to the table behind him. “Ms. Temble here has been finding predictable patterns of criminal activity—repeated efforts, similarities in venue, time, crime. You’ve been working to attach them to the various baddies we’re tracking . . . but, if you look at a map—there are some areas that are simply too clean—too free of the undesirable elements indicative of criminal activity . . .”

“Maybe they’re just nice areas?” Crothall ventured.

Col. Spreenkerton shook his head, “No, these are smack dab in some of the worst areas of town. We’re talking small pockets so squeaky clean my own grandmother could walk through at midnight and not be afeared.”

“So, someone’s scrubbing records upstairs, we’ve very picky criminals who just don’t hit certain areas of town, or someone’s doing something even below the Yard’s radar and deterring the other criminal elements from setting up shop . . . Well, we never did accuse the Yard of being proactive,” Jane sighed, comparing her notes with Spreenkerton’s hastily laid array of desk supplies that indicated crime-free pockets on the map. She ignored Newberry’s irritated glance, “Professor, what say you to—” she indicated “—here? and here?”

“If I were to set up shop for the purposes of creating creatures the likes of what we’ve currently got concealed in the other room . . .” Doctor Perrigordon frowned and blinked, tapping his teeth thoughtfully. “Oh, this place’d be capital!”

Giles stood and peered at the map, “Go upstairs and request a team, Reggie.”

Solemnly, Crothall obeyed, the tense spring to his step betraying his excitement.