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#13: The Gravest of Mistakes

“God, this Crothall character sounds like a real prat,” Vincent stretched his arms luxuriously over his head and emitted a jaw-cracking yawn. The familiar gesture put Giles in mind to times past and on this his sixth visit to Wexley place and fifth delivery of filmed recreations of the strange tech in MDOPFGIASA’s office the gentleman involuntarily looked to the empty chair at his side.

Vincent saw the gesture and seemed too to feel more keenly the absence of the third member of their little party. He had the sense to ignore the knowing emptiness, however, and brushed past the moment as he always had. “Come now, you can’t tell me you like these people? Not the way you talk of them,” he pressed.

If Newberry had painted such a bleak and negative impression of his co-workers he had indeed been remiss. The gentleman moved to correct his friend, “They’re not all that bad. Just. . . ragtag. The whole team is happenstance. Goodness, I don’t think any of us much like the other.”

This statement was closer to the truth. Over the past week tempers had flared in all corners of the never-quiet office. It all started when Giles sent Colonel Spreenkerton and Ms. Temble, newly ordained by the Yard authorities, together on a case. Crothall’s resulting sulk would have been bad enough but Newberry’s pairing proved disasterous when Jane took it upon herself to enquire into Howard’s carefully non-disclosed past, specifically attempting to root out his reason for having been decommissioned.

The “bloody harpy” had “tried her head shrinking” business—the Colonel’s words, not Newberry’s—on the unfortunate gentleman. That the ex-military man had evaded careful prodding into his past had not been lost on Giles, the Department’s leader equally irked at having such a mysterious past kept from him. When you put your life in the hands of another, you wanted to first eliminate all potential for mistrust. A hint at a dishonorable discharge from military service, especially for one who’d risen that high in the ranks, was disconcerting to say the least.

But the Yard had deemed Col. Howard Spreenkerton fit for duty and so far be it from him to argue. Much soothing of egos followed the blow up and Crothall got his case.

A case he promptly botched up, not only arresting the wrong man (an investor with high government connections) and allowing the guilty one to escape. (Crothall’s protestation was that it could have happened to anyoner and how was he supposed to know that a submersible ship of that size could be piloted by one man.)

Which left Dr. James Perrigordon the only happy one in their party. Content with his professorly duties of light lecturing to beat officers on the “Scientific Advancements” that MDOPFGIASA was formed to regulate, Giles was increasingly sure they’d lost the man for fieldwork forever. But, as the good doctor seemed equally uninterested in an extensive examination of the mechanized remnants of their ‘Lectric Lizard’s case, Giles had continued his clandestine recording of the evidence for Vincent’s processing. The problem with Perrigordon surfaced once Giles started accumulating reports on what those hulking machines did.

“You bluidy outsourced my expertise!” Sputtering and red-faced, the professor read the offending reports with outrage. “I’m perfectly capable of handling such tasks, Giles,” the good doctor continued, conveniently forgetting the seventeen different occasions over the past three weeks where he’d claimed anything from temporary myopic tendencies, to headache, to simple fatigue. “Sorry, old boy,” he’d say, rubbing his sore shoulder suggestively, the mark from the energy weapon’s blast all but non-existent in spite of his protests.

That James was deeply upset came clear when he ran to Crothall, of all people, for support. At this point, only Reginald’s own errors on the hastily-abandoned submarine case were keeping Sir Crothall’s threats of administrative action at bay.

Giles frowned, Vincent was right—Crothall was a prat. He took a sip of brandy and admitted as much.

“He is, however, my partner at the department and he does have a point,” Giles toyed with the rim of his glass, avoiding Wexley’s eyes, “I’m going to have to come clean about you, you know. James is dying to know who else I’d trust with such a scientific analysis.”

“Drop my name to him, if you must,” Vincent dug his fingers deep into his pockets, “But I won’t go see your little Scotland Yard Kingdom you’ve set up for yourself.” Digging loose one of his cards, the gentleman straightened a bent corner then flicked it across to Giles. “Let P have my credentials to chew on,” he shrugged, “But this is as involved as I get.”

Having nearly caught and pocketed Mr. Wexley’s card, Giles nodded sagely and took another sip of his friend’s most excellent brandy.

“Cane still working aright for you?” Vincent switched topics, voicing this next topic almost grumpily.

“Operating at top form, yes, thank you, Vincent. Though I’ve not had call to put it through its paces,” Giles answered with a small smile, not rushing his answer but not lingering on it either. The two men lapsed into a silence that could barely be considered comfortable. Out of the corner of his eye, Giles watched his host fidget, wriggling in his seat, crossing and uncrossing legs, leaning on one arm, then the other.

Words finally betraying his restlessness as if his actions hadn’t already, Wexley ventured, “So. . . anything else interesting. . . at MDOPF-?”

“No. Well, yes. Well,” Newberry stared into the low-tide of his emptying brandy glass, “Jane thinks she’s got something. . . funny you should ask.”