The Assembler

Chapter 9 - Your Presence is Required

Jean G Hontz

@copyright 2009 all rights reserved

Septimus Marchant was standing on the veranda overlooking the little street when a car pulled to a halt in a gush of steam.

The men getting out were dressed in the height of London fashion. Heavy material, dark colors, starched collars and proper hats. Septimus himself wore light beige linen trousers and a loose white cotton shirt. No fool he. He’d been living in a tropical climate long enough to know that the heat could kill you, or at least rob you of all your energy.

“Gentleman?” Septimus commented, as he sipped his G&T.

The children were safely (or perhaps not) away, so no sense getting flustered about things. The longer he could spin out this interview the better for them.

One man flashed out a warrant card. “The Met, Special Branch,” he said.

Septimus leaned over and peered at the card intently. “I see. What is it I can do for you gentleman? Are you all police men?” he added, considering one particular fellow who looked nothing whatever like a police officer but every bit like a scientist of some sort.

“Dr Marchant, I’m Dr Finigal. This is Chief Inspector Rory and Sergeant Lumm. I’d very much like to chat with you if I might.” The young man held out his hand for Marchant’s.

Marchant took it grasping it quite firmly. “I’ve seen your name on several very intriguing scientific papers, Dr Finigal. Do come in, everyone. We’ll be quite comfortable on the veranda. I’ll make up some drinks for everyone, shall I?”

The lead policeman frowned furiously. “We’re looking for Benedict Black,” he replied. “We’ve come a long way to ... See him.”

“Who?” Septimus asked doing his best to sound innocent.

“Your former student, goes by the name of Ned,” the policeman replied evenly. He sounded determined to keep the interview polite if not quite friendly. Septimus was delighted to keep it so also.

“Ah. Ned. He’s not here, I’m afraid.”

“And where is he then?” the chief inspector asked. His sergeant had already pulled out a notebook and was engaged in taking notes even whilst walking.

Septimus led them through the house and onto the veranda. The house was silent with the young people gone, except for the usual sounds from the harbor and the surrounding trees. As the sun began to set, the birds generally became quite raucous.

“Please do sit. G&T for everyone?” Septimus asked politely. As he mixed he watched this collection of visitors out of the corner of his eye.

“So,” he said as he delivered drinks to each, each one sitting and watching the scenery rather than him. It was, after all, spectacular.

“As exile islands go, not a bad one, don’t you think?” Septimus commented as he took his seat.

That awoke Inspector Rory from his trance. He immediately put on his working face. “Yours or Mr Black’s?”

“Mine, of course,” Septimus replied with a smile. “I got rather tired of fighting the entrenched wisdom of Oxbridge. I’m far happier here.”

“Tell me. Are you reason why Mr Black came to Bermuda?” Rory asked.

He shrugged. “I’ve no idea, really. Ned does not normally share his thoughts on things other than the work.”

“The work,” Rory repeated. “What work, exactly?”

“Oh, this for instance,” Septimus replied, recognizing that sharing this was a risk, a very big risk. But no doubt they’d learn about it anyway. He held out the plans for rebuilding the engines that kept Gibbs Hill Light working automatically.

Rory took the proffered papers. Finigal got up and walked over in order to read over Rory’s shoulder. He looked mildly interested at first. Then, once he’d seen them, he looked positively excited. He grabbed the paper right out of Rory’s hand and walked over toward the veranda railing, never lifting his eyes from the detailed schematic and instructions Ned had left.

“He IS brilliant,” Finigal said finally.

“Yes. Mostly self taught,” Septimus replied.

“But I thought you were his mentor,” Rory commented.

Septimus laughed out loud. “For perhaps a year. After that I had to struggle to keep up with him. Why do you want to see him?”

“He’s.. Wanted.”

“For treason?” Septimus asked.

Rory’s eyebrow rose. “He refused to work with his government when they asked him to. Some people in the government consider it treasonable to just quit a project that was deemed essential to the Empire. But, be that as it may, let’s just say that at the moment his expertise is being requested once again. It comes from the highest levels. I sincerely hope that this time he’ll have sense enough to not refuse the offer.”

“So you’re saying he once again has no choice,” Septimus translated.

“But, but!!” Finigal spoke up, looking up from the notes and diagrams. “He’d be most interested in what we wish to propose to him. I assure you! If this is any indication at all of the way his mind works, he’ll find our offer irresistible!”

“I see. Perhaps the persuasive power of the gentlemen in the black Daimlers will help?”

Rory and his sergeant share a lightning-quick look, before Rory asked, “Gentlemen in Daimlers?”

“Yes. They drove off from here in a great hurry. They were waving weapons around.”

“I see. And just whom were they threatening with weapons?”

“Cyril Hollis-Reynolds and my daughter Margot.”

“You don’t seem all that concerned. Did you call the local constabulary?” Rory asked, shifting in his seat as if he wanted to get out of there now.

“You arrived before I could call on them, Inspector Rory. I’d be most obliged if you’d save the poor men from my daughter. She does have a temper.”

Rory gaped at him, and Finigal twittered.

“Which way did they go?” Rory finally asked.

Septimus waved. “That way. She's driving her yellow roadster. You can’t miss it.”

“I don't suppose Ned Black is with them?”

Septimus frowned. “I’ve no idea. Things were rather rushed and confused to say the least, particularly when the men waved their weapons my way.”

“Yes, most uncomfortable I dare say. We’ll ... Be going now. We will return however,” the chief inspector added.

“No doubt. Do come for dinner. The local cuisine is quite remarkable.”

Septimus watched the car drive off in the general direction the other vehicles had taken. How interesting. Was it true then? Might Ned end up all right out of this? He prayed the boy would talk to him before he disappeared again.

And it appeared the actual proper authorities were unaware of the kidnapping of an Earl’s daughter. It was a relief, actually. Septimus was loyal to his Queen and the Prince Regent. He hoped he wasn't going to have to act in such a way as to compromise that. But for Ned and for his daughter he wouldn't hesitate if he had to.

  

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