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#18: Awakening, part 2

“Don't touch ANYthing!”

Mr. Vincent Wexley barreled down the stairs leading to the MDOPFGIASA offices, coat flapping behind him and hat long lost to the vagaries of the wind outside Scotland Yard. He only hoped he wasn't too late—though with the decided lack of fire and bloody chaos before him, he was mostly sure he'd arrived in time to stop all-out disaster.

“Don't touch the teapo-!”

“Vincent?” A stunned Giles Newberry turned at the end of the long hall to confirm that, indeed, his hermit of a friend had come out into the world at last. And was shouting something about a teapot. Odd.

Behind Giles, the door to the Department cracked open to reveal two equally nonplussed faces, those of Sir Reginald Crothall and Miss Gertrude Pemsley, the latter looking decidedly pleased to be ensconced beneath the shoulder of Sir Crothall's well-cut jacket.

And between them all lay a nondescript package, delivered but moments before by a plain-clad gentleman who'd gotten away with naught but a rough shoulder jostle from the frantic Mr. Wexley . . . who was still shouting his warning.

“Giles! Not one step further. I beg you,” Vincent slowed to a halt, breathing heavily, though whether it was from heightened emotions or because the man was simply out of shape was anyone's guess.

The awkward pause that followed was broken by a shrill exclamation from Gertude.

“Oh! It's my teapot!” Espying the neat package on the hallway floor, the empty-headed woman forgot the oddity of the breathless Vincent and moved forward to inspect her order.

“Wait, Miss Pemsley,” Giles put out a gently restraining arm, a frown crumpling his face. And so they all waited a moment for the newcomer to catch his breath before the detective finally asked, “What is the meaning of this, Wexley?”

“The teapot. The man. The delivery cart. Ms. Temble. All connected,” Vincent gasped out, eyes wild.

“Now see here!” Reginald Crothall had had about enough. Teapots and crackpots—bah! Even he could tell that Giles, while not moving to restrain the man, was not altogether pleased to see this “Wexley” character.

“No. You see here,” Vincent lurched forward uncertainly, the words rasping out of his throat like they needed to be said, come what may. “It's a trap. A bomb. A trojan horse, if you will.” Gingerly approaching the small package, he looked to Giles, as if seeking approval.

“You're out, Vincent.” Giles blinked in surprise, looking for all the world like a man who'd just woken from a strange dream.

“Yes, I know. But I had to, once I realized what was going on here,” Vincent crouched low to peer at the innocuous package. “You might want to stand back,” he added absently, as he quickly changed positions, lying flat on the floor to peer at the purportedly dangerous box.

“H-how far back?” Gertrude shrank further into Crothall's arm.

“Erm. Good question,” Vincent fished in his jacket pocket for a moment, unearthing a pair of heavily-magnified goggles and a long, thin wire-like tool. Donning one and employing the other, he hummed tunelessly to himself for several long moments concluding, “We probably ought to empty the building. Just to be safe.”

At the words, Giles' eyebrows proved they still had lift left in them, the gentleman adopting a look of pure astonishment. Mouth gaping, he sputtered to find the words to tell Vincent that his request was not only out of line but downright impossible.

Sensing his friend's annoyance, Vincent looked up, face half-concealed by his eyewear but still able to convey how absolutely serious he was in his request: “Until I know that I can disable this thing, everyone in this city block is at risk, Giles. Please. As a friend. Do what I ask.”