Since it has been a while, I would encourage you to take a look back at the previous entries in the series. Might I suggest using the Directory of Stories and Poems in order to refresh your memory. That said, I hope you enjoy!
Prescott sat at his writing desk and neatly stacked a pile of paper near his inkwell. Dipping his nib into the indigo liquid, he began to write copious notes on Mr. Glass. He glanced them over and put them aside. Glass was a fine suspect, but Mr. Pembroke was even more ideal.
Elias Pembroke was a shrewd business man, considered by most to be shady. Those that were in the know knew that he was shadier than a night with a new moon. He ran a machine shop in Corbell street where he and his apprentices repaired all manner of devices. When Prescott visited, he knew he wasn’t welcome.
“What d’you want, copper?” asked Elias, chewing on the nub of a burning cigar. Pembroke was a vulture of a man with a low-hanging wattle and beady eyes. His clothes were soiled with grease and much, and he gave off a vinegary stink.
“Answers. Word has it you did some work for The Drill Killer back fifteen, maybe twenty years ago. Is it true?” asked Prescott, glaring down at Pembroke.
“So what? That was a life ago, boyo. I’ square with Johnny Law, every man from the docks to Queensborough knows it. I keep a clean shop, you hear?” Pembroke’s demeanor was sharp and unpleasant, and Prescott wasn’t enjoying it.
“I’ll take that as a yes then,” said Prescott. “Do you still have the schematics for his device? Tinkerers usually like to keep schematics of their projects around.”
“Who are you calling a Tinkerer? I’m a machinist, bonded and licensed. If you weren’t law, I’d have you out.”
“Do you have the schematics or no?”
“If I do?”
“I’ll ask to see them. If you don’t I’ll see this place pulled to bits until I find something. If you cooperate, I’ll just be on my way.”
“Lucky enough, I do like to keep bits and bobs around.” said Pembroke, changing his tone and pulling a ring of keys out of his pants pocket. He led Prescott past heaps of brass and copper parts. Big machines wheezed, whined, and screeched as workers beveled edges and sliced metal.
“I keep all my favourites in this cabinet,” announced Pembroke, pointing at a painted metal hutch with locked drawers. He opened one drawer and then another, and yet another. He began to rip open drawers and slam them shut; he was starting to look panicked.
“Something wrong?” asked Prescott.
“They’re gone. The schematics are missing!”
“Sure enough they are. Any idea who might have taken them? Should I send an officer to collect Father Christmas?”
“It should be here, but they aren’t. God’s honest.”
“Any idea who could have taken them?” asked Prescott. He was still suspicious of Pembroke, but he wanted to see where else the encounter would lead. Another name might not be a bad thing.
“His name’s Harper. He called himself a collector. Said he specialized in one-of-a-kind machines. When he got a peek at the Drill Killer’s drill, he got excited. I thought he was going to start jumping up and down, that’s how giddy he was. He offered me a Guinea, then two. That tipped me off that it might be worth something. I told him no and he raved like a baby. He skulked around now and again, but I never thought he’d thieve it.”
“Any clue as to where this Harper is?” asked Prescott, interested.
“He takes lunch at Donnie’s down the way. You won’t miss him on a Tuesday.”
“I will need to pay a visit then,” said Prescott. “and don’t think I’m done with you. Keep in the city. If I get word you decided to visit your grandmother in the country, I’ll drag you back personally.”
“Yessir” said Pembroke with a scowl. Prescott took a walk down the winding avenue until he found Donnie’s. It was a low building with stone walls and an oak door. Golden pies sat in the window, and they were enough to entice him to follow the lead on Harper.
The place was small and warm; four tables furnished the dining area, and five stools stood at the counter. Prescott sat on one and looked for the waitress.
She was a smallish girl with a swan neck and a large, egg-shaped head set with two great, big green eyes. A tangle of curled red hair sat on her head and spilled down to her shoulders. She gave Prescott a gap-toothed smile.
“Hi hi hi there officer. It is quite nice to find a man of the law in these parts. It gives a woman a sense of security knowing that you and yours are on the streets.” said the waitress. If she didn’t sound so dim, Prescott would have thought she were patronizing him.
“Constance Eloise Powers.” she said with a curtsey. Prescott noted the pinkness of her cheeks as she continued smiling flirtatiously.
“Miss Powers, I would like a beef pie, soda and ginger, and a cherry pie for the sweet, please. I’d also like to know something when you have half-a-chance.”
“Of course, officer.” she said, toddling off to collect Prescott’s lunch. She came back swiftly and set the food and drink in front of Prescott.
“What do you need to know?” she asked, twirling her hair around her finger.
“Do you know a man called Harper? He has a scar on his forehead.” said Prescott. The girl took a step back and glanced around before leaning in close to Prescott.
“That’d be Tommy Harper. He hasn’t been around like he usually is.” whispered Constance.
“He’s a bad egg. When he was a child, he was kidnapped. That’s how he got the scar.” she explained.
“A shame. Do you know where he resides?”
“That’ll cost you,” said Constance with a wink.
“What?!” exclaimed Prescott, nearly springing from his seat.
“Nevermind,” she said sweetly, “just a joke. He lives in Corvell Street. He rooms in Mrs. Browne’s boarding house. He talks about her cooking all the time. Says it’s a sin against humanity that such an ugly lady would also be such a terrible cook.”
“I stayed there when I was first in the city. She makes oatmeal that paves your insides. No where near as good as this pie looks.” said Prescott. He took a whiff of the pie and smelled the rich, beefy aroma that had hints of wine, pepper, and cloves.
“Just the smell sends me reeling,” said Prescott. Constance smiled and nodded her head meekly. Prescott started eating, savoring the delicious pie. However, he notived that Constance was still looking at him.
“Miss?” asked Prescott. Constance seemed to snap out of a trance when she heard Prescott’s voice. She giggled slightly and then confessed.
“Well, you seem like a good man, and Mother always said they were in short supply. If it would be okay, if it is not too inappropriate, I’d like to find out if you really are as nice as I think you are.” Prescott was so shocked that he nearly choked on a slice of beef.
“I’m sorry Miss, but I hardly know you.” said Prescott.
“How do you expect to know someone if you don’t spend time with them. I’m not asking for the moon. Just a chance to see you again.”
“Perhaps I could accompany you to a play? Whitmoore’s A Farthing Too Few has had good reviews, so I’ve heard. It isn’t very high class, but it beats the Jack and Alice show.”
“That sounds divine, officer?”
“Um, Inspector. Inspector Turner Prescott of The Queensborough Yard.”
“Monday night then?” offered Constance.
“Yes,” agreed Prescott.