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#15: It All Comes Down To A Cup Of Tea

“’S a bluidy disaster,” Col. Spreenkerton growled his assessment of the morning news as he stomped into MDOPFGIASA’s office, slamming down his firearm and satchel in emphasis. “I’m a marksman with no blasted mark!”

“Yes, and I’m an Englishman with no tea,” Giles frowned into the murky depths of his teacup, only ignoring the Colonel’s angry display with intense effort, “A disaster indeed.”

From his vantage point across the room, Crothall watched the scene with interest, not daring interfere for neither were necessarily on good terms with him this week.

Spreenkerton sputtered his indigestion, “Your superior will hear of it, Newberry. I won’t stand for it. Just like Jane-” He ducked as a teacup rocketed past his ear, shattering on the wall behind him.

“Shut it. Shut. It.” Giles’ eyes blazed as, rising to his feet, he berated the man, “We are not the only arm of justice in this town, not the only force of law and order. If you can call James back from his “special project,” so be it. If you can spirit Jane in from parts unknown, fine. But until we’ve our own house in order—here—you’ve no right to complain about what isn’t getting done around here. I’d suggest you feed your sense of justice through employ at another department, Colonel, but . . . oh, yes, they won’t have you either, if I recall. Why’s that again?”

Spreenkerton’s mouth opened and then closed. Closing his face to the insult that hung in the air, he tossed down the morning paper, pointing out the offending deadline with fingers that admirably refused to shake.

“Another robbery?” Reginald had crept forward curious. “Same culprits?”

“They don’t know,” Col. Spreenkerton addressed them both, though Giles continued to ignore him.

“Did they drill, tunnel, or bash?” Giles spoke at last, voice quiet and therefore dangerous.

“None of it, inspector.”

“They dropped in. Just like the last six,” Crothall’s eyes scanned the page. “Which, of course, means-”

“Airship.” Giles rose and paced the room.

“They still won’t let us-?”

“No. Dammit.” Giles rounded on Reginald’s ineffective query. “Not until we find Ms. Temble are we allowed off the bench.”

“But then why is Perrigordon allowed to continue his work?” Crothall challenged. Newberry lowered his voice, “Because his work is government sanctioned. From the top. And even I am not privy as to the scope of his project. Pray you never have that level of clearance.”

“Oh.” Reginald’s answer was simple, as it well ought to be from one whose ambitions were geared more towards public recognition. Prof. Perrigordon could keep his secrets as far as he was concerned.

“Now if we could just get a man on the scene while there’s still a chance that-” Giles looked around wildly, hand clutching as if seeking his long-lost cup of tea, a question on his face. Remembrance dawned and he sheepishly avoided eye contact with Speenkerton, bellowing, “Gertrude?”

“Yessir?” Pert face peeking through the open doorway, Miss Gertrude Pemsley answered the rude summoning with alacrity.

“I need a cup of tea. An acceptable one this time, my dear. The last five were sub-par,” Giles explained gruffly, realizing he sounded a bear and not entirely caring.

“Yessir,” the petite face flushed white then red then disappeared entirely as the young woman rushed to fulfil Inspector Newberry’s rather exacting wishes.

Gertrude Pemsley. Petite, polite, artless, cheerful . . . and with the brains of a sparrow. She’s started work in the Yard the week before Jane Temble’s mysterious disappearance. A poor copyist and even worse maker-of-Earl-Grey, she consistently failed at the two duties she was hired to perform. Unless, of course, you counted the third (and unofficial) purpose for her presence within MDOPFGIASA: Gertrude was very very pretty.

“Cup of tea. A cup of tea,” she whistled the phrase through gently parted lips, the words emerging breathy and distant, as if in doing so, she might, for once, improve upon her terribly shallow memory. One could generally expect a teacup without a spoon, or worse, a shocking lack of saucer, when Gertrude was at the helm.

Sensitive to the male rustlings in the next room over, Ms. Pemsley struggled to hurry things along, gasping in pained surprise when she scalded herself on the escaping steam from the pot. The pot that she promptly dropped upon the floor, the impact shattering the delicate and much abused instrument.

“Oh. Blast,” tearfully regarding the shattered crockery, Gertrude froze in place as her disaster prompted a subtle shift in the energy from the hushed counsel happening on the other side of the wall.

“Everything alright?” Giles’ face softened considerably as, peeking around the corner, the gentleman espied the shattered teapot and Ms. Pemsley’s crocodile tears. “Now, now,” he gingerly stepped into MDOPFGIASA’s small kitchen, “It’ll be alright. Never much liked that ol’ pot anyway. You’re not hurt are you?”

Gertrude sniffled a “no” and forced a weak but dazzling smile.

“Good. Good.” Giles seemed distracted by the chaos at his feet, his eyes more focused on that disaster than the one next to him, namely his fetching office assistant. “Just have to go out and get a new pot, yes? Perferably one that makes tea all by itself, eh?”

Gertrude giggled at the weak joke, gratefully accepting Giles’ arm as she none-too-gracefully stepped out of the small kitchen, nearly upsetting both herself and her rescuer in the process. Hastily making good her escape before she made an even bigger fool of herself, Gertrude hurried down the sidewalk, her new mission a breathy song on her lips: “A pot that makes its own tea. A pot that makes its own tea. . .”

It would be Gertrude’s locating and purchasing such a modern marvel of a teapot that would later prove their undoing.