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#26: Blood

Somewhere in the dark alleyways of London lay a body.

Obscured by fog, aided by the night, the murderer of said body slipped away, unnoticed by the few late night revellers that dared the yellow miasma that took the city so often.

London. Truly a glorious place to be a criminal! Cesspool of humanity, writhing mass of do-gooders and up-and-comers, all basking in the technological marvel that was the steam age.

Nonchalant, not even bothering with stealth, the murderer found the nearest street lamp and sent his message. Basking in the yellow flicker, the man kept his eye on the flame for a moment more, counting the leaps and bobs of the bright gaseous tongue atop the post.

Message received.

The game was on.

* * *

Vincent Wexley careened around the corner, his mind the only thing faster than his feet at the moment. A building loomed fast in his vision and he skidded to a halt, swearing.

“Damn things don't work one whit.” Muttering under his breath, Wexley pulled his goggles away from his eyes, inspecting the inside and outside for the source of the problem. “Poison in the air. . .” He'd tested the instrument at home in his steam room. Okay, he didn't actually have a steam room . . . at least he hadn't at first.

At any rate, the blasted things had worked before and now they didn't, leaving him blinded by the London fog and alone in a dead-end alley. Placing a shaky hand to the wall, Vincent replaced the goggles over his eyes—at least they kept the fog from pressing into his face so insistently.

He crept forward, anxious over his snail's pace but unwilling to bump into any more walls, sliding one foot in front of the other while pushing buttons and twisting knobs on his eyewear with his free hand. In was in this way that his foot collided with something soft and yielding.

* * *

Chief Ins. Giles Newberry followed Mr. John Smyth down the long echoing hallway of the Yard, struggling to keep up with the man's words as well as his pace.

“I couldn't wait around for you to figure things out on your own, so I did a little digging of my own.” Smyth paused at the stairs, assessing Giles with a quick eye, “Are you armed?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“Good. I've taken the liberty of assembling your team.” Smyth continued down the steps to the MDOPFGIASA offices.

Taken the liberty of . . .? Flustered and annoyed beyond all measure, Newberry fell into step behind the presumptive Mr. Smyth wondering what it all meant. But if Blushton would allow himself to play second fiddle to this mysterious man, then Giles had no choice but to follow along . . . so long as his people stayed safe under Smyth's command.

* * *

So far tonight, one officer of the law had gone down, one bomb been planted, two banks had their cash liberated . . . It was a productive night to say the least. But the best was yet to come.

High above the oppressive London fog, Ott—Learned Teacher to his underlings—waited for his Lieutenant to deliver the latest transmission. From his vantage point on the dome of St. Paul's he trained his eye southwest, just past the leftmost spire of the Cathedral.

“Learned Teacher.”

Ott turned from his vigil to receive the latest gas light transcription. “Are we on?” Eyes intent on the short note, he barely glanced at the messenger.

“Oh, we are on alright.”

Delivered flat and harsh by the dark figure at his side, Learned Teacher Ott barely registered the strange statement before the blow came, knocking him to the rail's edge like a rag doll. Dazed from the sudden attack, Ott did the only thing he could . . . and shimmied himself, legs first, through the bars of the balustrade, dropping out of sight into the waiting fog.

Face half-obscured by dark goggles and a whirling cloak, the speaker ran to the edge of the balcony searching for his quarry.

“Teeeembleeee!” The be-speckled assailant growled to the night sky, eyes trained toward the southwest . . . where on a clear day one might espy the Palace of Westminster. He'd have to hurry.

The MDOPFGIASA crew had found the body of the unfortunate bobby.

“Damn it all, we're too late. They'll have the bomb in place.” Smyth knelt to check for a pulse in the inert form.

“Bomb?” For the first time since their madcap rush from the Yard's hallowed offices, Reginald lost the look of excitement that had wreathed his dopey face. Even his moustaches seemed puzzled at Smyth's words.

“Yes.” Smyth rose and looked upward, eyes focusing thoughtfully on the nearest lamplight. “Ms. Temble. . . you don't suppose you could send a message to these ruffians, could you?”

* * *

Hurried footsteps on the pavement were all the warning that Giles Newberry and his crew had before Mr. Vincent Wexley hurtled into their midst shouting: “I see you got my message, QUIP. Onward ho!”

“The bomb has been disarmed.” Ms. Temble's voice arrested the newcomer from further locomotion. “And yes, Vincent. We got your message.”

Turning, a smile filling the portion of his face not obscured by goggles, Vincent inquired, “And what, pray tell, did you say to them?”

“I told them that I, Temble, had new orders—to stay the bombing of Parliament, that we'd strike another day. In mollycoddle, of course.”

“Of course,” Vincent nodded sagely.

Ms. Temble approached gingerly, the mingling of fear and hope in her eyes prompting Vincent to remove the offensive eyewear so that he could better see her when she then asked, “And where did you leave him? Is my brother alright?”