Chapter 18 - I Love Puzzles

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2010



Not surprisingly, I did have yet more hours to wait to get to see Geoffrey’s corpse. The coroner, whilst delighted at the opportunity (they really are a strange breed, aren’t they?), had a number of things to ready including collecting folks to assist her in forcing the tomb open.

She and I parted ways the best of friends - amazing how macabre interests bond people together - until our assignation set for late that evening.

I decided to use the time to check on Richard. Jacques decided to head on home for a quick bite and a change of clothes. As Reggie and I made our way toward the Crenshaws’ laboratory, Reggie, with a word of warning, melted away into the gathering darkness. He was, I knew, going to check on his men who’d been stationed around the lab for quite a few hours.

Me, I used the time alone to once again review my plan of action. It sucked, I decided, but then it was all I had. I needed to get Harry back but that depended on Richard and was, at least for the moment, entirely out of my control. I hoped that at the least I’d find that Richard had made considerable headway with unsnarling that particular knot.

My brain was still a bit distracted as I considered the problems ahead of us when I walked into the deserted factory.

I’d figured I was ready for anything but I confess to snorting with some much needed amusement at what I found. Richard hadn't even heard me come in. I could study him unobserved as he worked. He’d stripped down to rolled up shirt sleeves, and the brilliant whiteness of that expensive shirt was here and there probably irreparably ruined. Grease stains, rust stains, and other kinds of ruination were easily noted even in the failing light in the lab.

Richard, oblivious to everything but what was right before his eyes, was sitting cross-legged, bent over what resembled a small section of an immense jigsaw puzzle. It looked as if once put together the bits and bobs would create some sort of arcane contraption whose purpose would still be a mystery to anyone but Richard. He had notes and blueprints scattered around on the floor. Bolts, gears, nuts and screws and bits of copper wire and other metallic sorts of frippery were laid out around him as well. It looked like he was holding court in the center of a complex circular metallic mandala.

I couldn't tell what the heck the thing would look like when it was finally put together, nor even how big it would be. But Richard obviously had a plan. He was sweaty and his face was soot streaked. He did not look tired, although I couldn’t imagine that after so many hours of intense work he wouldn’t be exhausted.

“You need a break, son,” I said.

Richard started, letting me know that he really hadn't been aware I'd come into the lab.

He regarded me for a moment then his eyebrows rose in evidence of amusement at the ‘son’ comment. Then he seemed to notice for the first time how dim the place had become He seemed startled to realize it. “What time is it, Kevyn?”

“Going on eighteen hundred. You began around ten. Time for a break, don't you think?”

Richard rubbed his cheek, spreading yet more grime on himself then nodded. “It seems like I just began. “Perhaps I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to put this together. I’d best not risk it before I get some sleep.”

“I doubt you’d be able finish it before bedtime,” I agreed. “And both of us could use some dinner.”

Richard nodded a bit distractedly, his eyes running over his work, as if he just couldn't leave it even for a moment. He reminded me very much of Ned Black at that moment. He had the same ability - or perhaps I ought say curse - Ned did: a compulsion to concentrate on something to the exclusion of all else.

I realized something then and almost jumped as I did so. I bit my lip as I gave it some thought.

“What?” Richard asked, eyeing me and my reaction to what I’d been thinking.

“It’s... I’ve been trying to put a timeline together to help us sort out exactly when Geoff was murdered. But... Do you think... I know you don't know Harry that well but...”

“But what?” Richard asked, motioning for me to sink down onto the floor beside him. I did so, my legs crossed.

The beastie he was building looked yet more worrying from this angle.

I struggled a moment to put my thoughts to words. “Well, if Harry was as absorbed in her device as you were just now.. could she have gotten the timing all wrong?”

“How so?” he asked.

“Well, if you heard a noise, would you necessarily react to it immediately? Or might you hear it, choose to ignore it for a time whilst doing something requiring a great deal of concentration, and then only really remember it much later, when you were, I don't know, at a stopping point, or perhaps nearly done with what you were doing?”

Richard regarded me thoughtfully. “I’ve been told I can ignore nearly anything when I’m concentrating. And yes, Harry is probably as good at it as I. It’s .. It’s required if you are doing something complex. If you let go of the concept for a moment, it takes ages to get that thought back, to find that pocket of intensity, so you do everything you can not to be distracted at critical moments.”

I nodded. “Yeah. Makes sense. So that throws out our timeline totally I think. Not that it matters that much.”

Richard looked up as Reggie let himself through the door.

“So no visits from anyone? No distractions today?” I asked.

Richard shook his head no. “No, I’ve been left completely alone to work on this. Apparently I have this fellow to thank.”

Reggie grinned and held out his hand. “Reggie Browne. Nice to finally meet you RIchard.”

“Browne,” Richard repeated thoughtfully.

Reggie colored, a flush of red on his cheeks, but said quickly, “Yes, Browne. Of no consequence, Mr Ainsworth.”

“Richard. Do call me Richard.” He was still regarding Reggie and I wondered what he was thinking.

“Let’s all go grab a bite,” I said, interrupting what looked to become an Old School Tie reunion. “I have yet another chore to manage tonight. Richard, you are welcome to come along. If, that is, we can drag you away from your cerebral pursuits, in the name of something far more tangible.”

“Not to mention a lot less pleasant,” Reggie added.

“Oh? What is it?” he asked.

“We’re going to go dig up a body,” I replied happily.


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