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Elliott and Beatrice sat across from each other at the smoking table in his suite. The lamp, ash trays and ornaments were gone and resting between them were three small bombs: one complete and closed — though disarmed, another dismantled and a third in destroyed fragments.
It occurred to him that there was a certain Darwinian quality to it all: The evolution of a bomb’s destruction.
”What do you see?” Beatrice asked.
”Three little maids most definitely not from school.”
She smiled. Elliott had not struck her as the type who actually paraphrased — albeit off-handedly — Gilbert and Sullivan. “Most definitely.” She agreed.
”They look identical. Well… the third one could have looked that way too, possibly.”
She nodded. “My thought, too.”
”But they’re not.”
She nodded, “At all. They’re really quite different.”
He reached forward and touched the complete one so that it tottered slightly. The brass orb couldn’t roll properly on the thick jacquard damask without a solid push.
”It is disarmed?” He asked.
She made a face at him. ” I wouldn’t have brought it back if it wasn’t.”
He poked at the innards of the second orb, its two halves side-by-side like a carefully cut breakfast grapefruit. “Were the insides like this one’s?”
”They came together the same way, with the components fitting into the hairsbreadth grooves, but there was a decided difference in that it lacked an inner vial. No explosives. No — poison? Not even a little something to create a smoke bomb.”
”What about the workings? Coated with anything? Meant to react with anything?”
”How do you mean?” She frowned and studied the bomb anew.
”Did your people test for anything that would create a chemical reaction? Maybe it’s meant to blow up when it comes in contact with something?”
He shrugged. “Water? Salt water?”
”You mean, explode under water?”
”It’s a thought.” He matched her shrug.
”Damned terrifying one,” she muttered. “Do you have a telephone up here?”
He’d been leaning forward and realized that his back was actually hurting from the tenseness of his concentration. He sat up and stretched. “Telephone” he said into the air. “And more fire.”
As the fire in the grate turned up to flood the suite with warmth a section of the mantle above it slid back and an ornate telephone emerged from its hiding place. A swirl of silk as she stood and turned to walk to it.
He paid no attention as she made her call, instead turning his gaze on the destroyed bomb. He and Figbee hadn’t managed to salvage much of it, although he was sure there were more pieces embedded in the side of the Mansion. He would have to look again tomorrow.
The table shivered slightly as Beatrice retook her seat. “They checked for substances and chemicals and everything they could think of. It doesn’t even seem to be some sort of beacon. As a matter of fact, they felt it wasn’t complete.”
He lifted his eyebrows slightly. Incomplete. Very much like what was going on in his life these past few days. So many incomplete questions, answers, happenings, peoples’ excuses, peoples’ stories.
He pointed at the pieces of the destroyed ord. “This one exploded. So we know there was a vial of explosives in it.”
She pointed at the middle one. “And this one had room for a vial, but there wasn’t one in it.”
”And that one appears to be a dud.” He said. They both looked at the bomb stuck in its little jacquard cradle. “What happened to the other one? The one we spilled coffee on, after it zapped Figbee with electricity.”
”Ah,” She smiled. “Tracking ball. You didn’t happen to notice a carriage in the street when you came back from the Danforth’s the other night, did you?”
”Danforth was tracking me?”
”Possibly.” She answered. “Or possibly whomever gave him the thing was using his feelings about you to their advantage.”
It was his turn to frown. “But — who would want to do that?”
”Whomever sees you as a threat.” She began gathering up the bombs, putting each one carefully into a separate box with a latched and lockable lid.
”You have connections to The Countess, Mr. and Mrs. Danforth, Judge McAllister, Mr. Bellows and, because he was at Danforth’s the other night, Mr. Brown and his wife.”
”They left for Germany.” He reminded her.
At that his frown deepened. He stood and brushed past her as he walked to the fireplace where they’d moved the smoking items. He opened an ornate box, pulled out a cigarette and with a long taper lit from the fire he lit the cigarette.
”What else do you think?” He finally turned to her, his face expressionless.
”We… I think it has something to do, not with these little bombs, but with that unusual carriage, and…”
He flicked the unfinished cigarette into the fire, willing her not to say what he didn’t want to hear.
”We think it may have something to do with your parents.”
He sighed and turned his back on her. “Leave.” He said.
With a rustle of silk she did, pausing only slightly at the door before she closed it gently behind her. She was gone. But he still felt her presence.
(c) Sable Jak