When last we left our heroes, they were beginning their portage of the sole surviving Minotaur back to London… but Mrs. Cassandra Chatterton hasn’t forgotten the mystery of the three dead ones… and she informed Colonel Durant that she’s going to get to the bottom of it, with or without his help!
Two weeks later, Mister Coble stood outside the servant’s entrance to the Ministry of Objective Sciences and lit a cigarette off a silver lighter with his initials embossed upon it. He was running low on menthols and he was damned if he was going to smoke the crap they manufactured nowadays, so he savored each cigarette break as if it were his last.
He was still waiting for the Society for Cryptozoological Research to return to London. Despite being from the future, neither his grasp of Victorian history nor the archived Wikipedia pages in his iPad were specific enough to pinpoint Lord Marston and his confederates’ activities. So Mister Coble waited.
A homeless guy in a tattered coat strolled down the cobblestone lane in Coble’s direction. The man was obviously drunk as he fumbled in his pocket with one hand, trying to keep balance with the other. Coble still couldn’t believe social problems like this were the same no matter how advanced society got. Still, he mused, it was better than the alternative. He shuddered remembering how bad things still might get.
The amusing drunk was approaching Coble now, a bent cigarette hemorrhaging tobacco in between two fingers of his left hand.
“‘Scuse me, sir?” the scouse asked as he stumbled closer.
“Hm?” Coble asked, fingers tightening on his expensive silver lighter.
“Regards from Mister Fitzhugh an’ the Consortium!” the man shouted as his gait switched from loping to lunging. A knife in his right hand glittered in the gaslight as it arced towards Coble’s face. Only years of tai chi aerobics saved Mister Coble, who pulled back just enough to avoid the point of the knife entering his face.
Coble’s cigarette fell to the ground into a puddle. His attacker would pay for that, he swore. Assuming he didn’t succeed.
Coble took a step back and fumbled in his jacket pocket with one hand. Unfortunately, his attacker was faster and bigger and in a moment he grabbed Mr. Coble by his shirt and slammed him over the low metal fence surrounding the ministry’s flower beds. Coble lost his footing and fell into the garden, his knees hooked on the fence. Leaping over to kneel over Coble’s prone torso, the assailant put his knife right up under Mr. Coble’s neck.
The one fortunate happenstance was that in all of the jostling, Coble’s fingers had closed around the cylinder in his pocket that he had been reaching for. Before his attacker could cut Coble a Columbian necktie, the minister had positioned the metal cylindar in front of the man’s face and pressed the pump trigger.
A fine spray shot out, covering the thug’s face.
The scream of the man as the oleoresin capsicum entered his eyes was one part shock to about seven thousand parts fire. Coble had made sure to find the pepper spray with the highest CRC when he had packed for London. The look on the thug’s face as he screamed “oh dear mother of God it burns dear Lord it burns!” made the effort worthwhile.
While his attacker crumpled to the ground in front of him clawing at his tearing eyes, Coble dropped his cigarette next to him and ground it out with the toe of his boot.
“Now what the heck was that all about?” he mused as he pulled his iPhone from his inside jacket pocket. Tapping the glass, he pulled up his to do list.
“F… I… T… Z…” he muttered as he poked at the e-keyboard. The door behind him opened and Ashbrook stepped out, cavalry sabre in his hand.
“I heard screaming, sir,” Ashbrook inquired. Seeing the blinded man on the ground, Coble’s assistant lowered his sword and nodded to the minister. “I see everything is under control.”
“Is ‘Fitzhugh’ spelled ‘T-Z-H-U’ or ‘T-Z-U’?” Coble asked.
“I believe with the H, sir,” Ashbrook said.
The goon, blinking through his teary eyes, stumbled to his feet, and with an angry scream, lunged once more towards Mister Coble. Holding up one hand to forestall Ashbrook from acting, Coble sidestepped the blind attack and stretched out his long, lanky leg, tripping the thug, who fell face first against the brick wall of the Ministry building.
“Gotcha,” Coble said, entering the last letters of the attacker’s boss into his phone. He replaced the phone in his jacket and took out another cigarette.
“I keep telling you, sir, that you do not need to step outside the building just to smoke.”
“Old habit,” Coble said. “So, what’s up?”
“We finally have word,” Ashbrook said. “The liner Lord Marston had booked passage on arrives in London tonight. Shall I round up the constables?”
“Yeah,” Coble said. “And get one for this poor jerk while you’re at it?”
“Very good, sir,” Ashbrook nodded and returned to the inside of the Ministry building.
Coble got through half his menthol cigarette before stamping it out impatiently and following Ashbrook inside. The waiting was over.
To be continued…
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.