When last we left our heroes, they had a clever plan to sneak back into England, with not one, but two decoys leading the Ministry’s men away from their true intent… but somehow, Mister Coble, the head of the Ministry, caught Lord Marston with the Minotaur… and fired upon them!
Blood sprayed all over Victor Terranove as the bullet from Mister Coble’s gun shattered the skull of the last living Minotaur ever discovered. Lord Marston had dropped to the gangplank, thinking himself the target, so most of the beast’s brains avoided ruining his suit. Terranove was not so lucky, and pulled away as the great beast fell, stumbling and landing in the water betwixt boat and dock.
Mister Coble slowly replaced the strange squarish firearm into a leather holster hanging from his belt. There was a triumphant smirk on his face.
Lord Marston looked up as he felt the thud of the dead creature’s fall reverberate through the gangplank beneath his feet.
“You…” he said, though whether it was surprise or fury that most tempered the word, even he was uncertain.
“Well, now,” Mister Coble said casually, wiping his hands together theatrically, “it seems as though you are no longer transporting illegal fauna into the country.” He turned, then turned back briefly as if to make certain his intent was clear. “It’s late, Lord Marston. Better go home and get some sleep. I guess I’ll have to arrest you some other day.”
From the water, Victor shouted in rage. “You rotter!”
“How… how did you…?” Lord Marston asked, his voice level only through years of practice.
“You’re a clever man, Lord Marston,” Coble said as he turned and walked away, “but I’m a super-genius.” He pronounced the word “soo-pah,” for some reason Lord Marston would never understand.
Two days later, the sun was bright and shone in through the many windows of the sitting room outside the offices of the Ministry of Objective Sciences. In one of the large leather chairs, Kenneth, Lord Marston, sat, sipping a glass of tea. The flavor was unfamiliar but pleasant, something fruity.
Without even noticing the door open, the Ministry’s man Ashbrook was suddenly standing in the office’s doorway.
“Mister Coble will see you now, Lord Marston. Please excuse the wait.”
Kenneth stood and strolled at a casual pace past the officious dogsbody, but he couldn’t let it go without at least one parting shot.
“Any objections I have, Ashbrook, I shall only take up with the person behind them.”
He left the assistant with a confusion over whether he had been threatened or not.
At the end of the hallway lined with glass-windowed doors was the one labeled “Mister S. Coble, Minister of Objective Sciences.” The door was ajar but not open, indicating invitation but not welcome. Lord Marston had not stopped keeping score of their little game. He pushed the door open and strolled into Coble’s office like he was there to review the decor.
“Coble,” he said, looking around disapprovingly.
“Lord Marston,” said the man with the bushy brown sideburns. “A pleasure to see you.” He gestured towards a comfortably-upholstered chair facing the desk but Lord Marston refused to sit, leaning on its wooden back instead with a casuality far less respectful than a government minister would expect. Coble didn’t rise to the bait, though, seemingly unperturbed, so Lord Marston underlined his disdain with a quip.
“And here I could have sworn that just days ago, you were going to shoot me and let me sink to the bottom of the Thames.”
Coble sighed. “You were the one breaking the Crown’s edict against pursuing your… your ‘monster collecting’… in England.
Lord Marston raised one eyebrow in an accusing manner.
“The Crown’s edict, is it? And here I thought it was just yours.”
Coble shrugged in a weirdly jerky way that made him look like a circus clown. “Heeey,” he said, “I just work here.”
Since fastidious folksiness didn’t seem to be bothering Coble, Lord Marston sat down in the seat, crossing his legs and arching his fingertips together in a bridge over which he looked at his nemesis.
“I’ve really just come by as a courtesy, Mister Coble,” the Earl of Marston said by way of introducing his real intent. “I know that for some time we’ve been… well, some sort of bete noire to you… but in truth, you’ve been little more than an annoyance to me.”
Mister Coble rolled his eyes. “I’ve got to get myself a better publicity agent,” he muttered to himself.
Ignoring the unheard aside, Lord Marston leaned forward, his eyes boring into the Minister of Objective Sciences.
“That, Mister Coble, is no longer the case. You’ve gotten my attention now, sir, and you’ll find that you were much happier before you made me your enemy.”
“Ooh,” whistled Mr. Coble, “I’m sooo scared.”
Now it was Coble’s turn to peacock. He got up from his chair and walked around to where Lord Marston sat in a slow circle.
“Lord Marston,” he said, “Let’s get this clear. When it comes to your little hobby, I am the law. If your people step out of line, I’m going to go Jack Bauer on your ass faster than you can drink effete French wines.”
Lord Marston blinked.
“I suspect that would be more of a threat if I had the slightest idea of what you were speaking.”
“I think we understand each other just fine,” Coble said in his flat American tones.
“I suppose we do,” Marston replied.
Neither men blinked.
Not for at least another hour.
Book One of the MYTHSTALKERS Saga
The MYTHSTALKERS return next Monday with Book Two,
LONDON NIGHTS, FAERIE DAYS!
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.