“And this time he will not get away!” concluded a red faced Clackprattle, banging the table.
“Very moving,” said Bisset, who had remained impassive throughout the diatribe, apart from little glances towards Pook.
Pook unfixed both his gaze and smile and turned to Clackprattle.
“Indeed Master, a most eloquent exposition of the injustices and deprivations you have suffered at the hands of Sir John Jennings,” he said.
“If it is not too impertinent a question, my I ask why you seek the weapon,” said Bisset.
Clackprattle looked astonished.
“Have I not just explained the very circumstances!” he said.
“Indeed, and at some length,” said Bisset. “But you have about your person a most formidable means of attack. Surely that would suffice?”
“The Master feels, and I concur, that a less direct approach may be more appropriate here,” said Pook. “Indeed, given our previous misfortune the opportunity to carry out some action from a distance seems most prudent. For it seems Sir John has more than his fair share of luck. He seems to lead a… charmed life.”
Bisset raised one eyebrow and tilted his head a few degrees.
“I am sure you are correct,” said Bisset. “The next question is how we should proceed.”
“I believe, sir, that the next question is ours to ask,” said Pook.
“Just so,” said Bisset.
“What is it that might be found at the locations indicated by the map?” asked Pook.
“I will ask the questions!” barked Clackprattle. The other two men looked at him with mild surprise which melted into pleasant smiles as they awaited the next utterance.
“As he said,” said Clackprattle, waving a hand in the general direction of Pook.
“At the four locations indicated on the map are four “beings”. They each… represent one of the four classical elements. Each possesses a part of the key which they will surrender to one who can pass a test that is set,” said Bisset.
“A test presumably commensurate with the element is question?” said Pook. “A physical test for earth, for example?”
“Indeed Mr Pook,” said Bisset. “And I believe I have at least two questions now.”
Clackprattle scowled at Pook who nodded lightly.
“It would seem so,” Pook said.
“My first question is will you allow me to invite you to stay with us here? I believe you have been staying somewhere quite inappropriate to persons of your stature.”
“You mean Paris?” he said.
Bisset smiled again.
“Perhaps you may feel warmer to my city if you were to stay somewhere more… consistent with your standing in society,” he said, gesturing lightly around the large room.
“We acquiesce,” said Clackprattle, looking bored.
“My second question is would you permit me the opportunity to study the map in order to find the location of the first part of the key?” said Bisset.
Clackprattle shrugged but Pook leaned forward and put a hand on the map.
“I feel that, whilst that may seem a most effective course of action, it would not perhaps be the most desirous,” he said.
“Do you think?” said Bisset, a small frown forming on his face.
“I would very much like to remain in constant contact with the map,” said Pook, “in the interests of mutual transparency.”
“Well, perhaps we may travail in such a way that you accompany me, Mr Pook, whilst your Master enjoys the comforts we can provide.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Clackprattle, clearly bored.
“And I have some information that may make you very keen to proceed at a prompt pace,” said Bisset.
“What might that be?” said Pook.
Bisset looked absently away from the table.
“Only that Sir John Jennings and his wife happen to be in Paris at the moment,” he said.