“Arthur Clackprattle!” bellowed Mr Copperwaite. “You’re here for weeks at my expense and when I ask you what you’ve found out, that’s all you can give me?”
“Well, there is a little more” said Sir John, sitting, along with Marie, across from the desk. “I take it you’re not familiar with the gentleman?”
“No!” said Mr Copperwaite. “I am not familiar with the gentleman. I am, however, familiar with your antics. I know, for example, that part of your so called investigations involved a trip to the theater. I know that you, Sir John, treated my beloved daughter as a plaything. And I know that you bought a member of my staff a dinner of lobster and champagne.”
Mr Copperwaite was looking quite as red as that lobster, Marie thought.
“Yes, that was a misunderstanding,” started Sir John.
“I don’t mind what you waste your money on Sir John. That’s your business, even if it does mean my Christmas bonus to the staff will raise eyebrows rather than spirits. No, Sir John, what really bothers me is that a man who’s supposed to be an expert investigator of the occult can’t even see what’s in front of his bloody nose. That must be the oldest trick in the book, and you fell for it. How then, Sir John, am I to judge your performance when I ask what you’ve learned and you give me a name that sounds like it belongs to a bloody clown.”
Mr Copperwaite slumped back. Sir John waited but it seemed the rant was over.
“Well, that name belongs, so I’m told, to a master mesmerist,” said Sir John.
Mr Copperwaite gasped.
“What new nonsense is this? Now I’ve heard it all!” he said, starting up again. “What does this master of mesmerism do? Let me guess, he’s keeping my daughter asleep.”
“That’s what we suspect,” said Sir John.
“And why is he doing this, may I ask?” said Mr Copperwaite.
“We don’t know,” admitted Sir John.
“And where can he be found, so we can ask him?” said Mr Copperwaite.
“We don’t know that, either,” said Sir John.
“And how is he carrying out this marvellous trick?” said Mr Copperwaite.
“Ah, there I do have some information. We believe he is firing electricity at her from his pineal gland,” said Sir John, more confidently.
“He’s doing what!” roared Mr Copperwaite and thumped the desk.
“That’s just a theory at this point,” said Sir John, hoping to placate the man.
“Sir John, let me be clear, when we started I had no faith in you, and I now have less than that. You have three days to tell me something useful and plausible about my daughter’s condition or you’ll be back on that train to London, where you can con the gullible fools who live there as much as you like. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I have some real work to attend to.”
Mr Copperwaite started to rise.
“Mr Copperwaite?” said Marie. “May I ask a question?”
Copperwaite glared down at her. “What?”
“Your daughter runs an institute of some kind, for art, could you tell us what the name is?” asked Marie.
“Was,” said Mr Copperwaite. “That was the first thing I put a stop to, pulled the funding out of it. I can’t remember the name, something like python institute. Forget it, it’s gone. As you will be if I don’t see results. Three days, Sir John, three days.”
With that, Mr Copperwaite left. Sir John let out a breath.
“Well, that could have gone worse,” he said. “Possibly. We have three days, at least.”
“We should investigate the institute,” said Marie. “They are the ones who bought this sphere you mentioned.”
“If it still exists,” said Sir John glumly. “I’ll try to find it tomorrow. But I’ll go alone. If this Clackprattle chap is as dangerous as we think, I don’t want you near him. Will you be alright on your own tomorrow?”
Marie felt a tapping against her shoe. She looked down and saw a small stone.
“I think I can keep myself entertained,” she said.