Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dark World: Aftermath

(The story begins here.)

“My workroom!” Dvorak screamed.

Dr. Fleming opened the door, but it was Darren who pulled it wide—until he too saw the interior and froze.

Metal fragments protruded from the walls and lay on the floor. The mechanical arms showed varying levels of damage, and Darren concluded that they would not be playing the piano anytime soon. A shriek of dismay and rage told him that Dvorak had shaken off his assistant and wheeled himself forward for a look.

Darren ignored the man. “Victor, was there a radio in that thing?”

Dr. Fleming shook his head. “I doubt it. No, it was designed to play a recorded message and self-destruct when someone probed the less innocent parts of the machine. If there had been a radio, the remote killer would have detonated the bomb when we were gathered around Karel this morning: it should have been obvious that he was going to survive, and the blast would’ve eliminated all witnesses.”

“Why didn’t he use a bomb to begin with?” Antonin asked.

“The same reason he used the knife,” Darren said. “Misdirection and intimidation: a phantom German assassin who can enter locked rooms would keep the police occupied for some time. Victor’s right: the bomb meant that the ruse had failed and the killer had to destroy the evidence and an investigator.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Dvorak snapped. “He practically did kill me—though it looks like some of the manipulators can be salvaged. If I can get a proper version of the new machine, I can rebuild it all.”

“Avoid the ornaments this time,” Dr. Fleming said. “I suspect that their real purpose was just to distract you from other oddities in the construction. You should investigate the man who insisted on producing them.”

“A waste of time. If they were innocent pawns, they’ve been killed; if not innocent, they have fled. I know these people.” Turning to Antonin, he added, “I should have known you, too. It is pointless to have an assistant who disagrees with my goals. You are dismissed. I’m sure Victor can find a place for you in his vehicle; I would let him stay—perhaps even Mr. Christopher—but I haven’t the energy or patience for their ‘transforming’ friend. I see now that I am better off alone here with my machines, which at least are rigidly ethical—they are essentially decent.”

“And one day,” Antonin muttered, “you will punch a card incorrectly, and they will kill you for it—without even knowing they have done so. I have a vehicle of my own, sir; I shall not burden Dr. Fleming and his party.”

Lassiter grunted. “At least I’m getting used to wearing out my welcome. May I hitch a ride with you two?”

“Of course,” Dr. Fleming replied, not even looking in Dvorak’s direction. “We aren’t done with you yet. I suppose I shall see what Dr. Newman thinks of you. For now, you can help Darren and me remove our effects to the car.”

Next: On the Road Again

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