The room was darkened from black drapes on the windows and there were a number of laboratory tables covered in mechanical objects and notes in spidery writing. On one was a cup of cold coffee swimming in a small sea of black liquid next to a pile of equally cold, slightly burnt, toast. Occasionally there was a whirr or a tick, like a broken clock. But there were no sounds of living beings.
From outside the door there came a knocking.
“Mr Bosch?” said Sir John through the door. “Phlebotomous? Are you alright?”
More knocking followed, then an exclamation and the sound of a ringing bell. As the bell rang a sign lit up in the room saying VISITORS! The ringing and sign lighting continued for a little longer. Then Sir John spoke again.
“I don’t think he’s here, Detective Symonds,” he said.
“It’s good you called me,” said the Detective. “I’ll need to force an entry.”
“Oh will I get to see one of those skeleton keys?” said Sir John, sounding enthusiastic. There was then a loud thump in the door and it swung open. Detective John Symonds and Sir John Jennings walked into Phlebotomus’ house.
“Ah,” said Sir John. “Not a key.”
“Not as such,” said Detective Symonds, rubbing his shoulder. “My god, this place is in chaos, it must have been ransacked.”
“Actually,” said Sir John, “I’ve been here before, this is fairly normal.”
“Let me check the bedroom in case he’s…” said Detective Symonds heading off.
“Actually, he’s already dead,” said Sir John. He saw the lake of coffee and mountain of toast.
“Hmm,” he said. “What’s this?”
“He’s not here,” said Detective Symonds returning. “But there is an unusual perfume in the bedroom.”
“I think that’s normal too,” said Sir John. “Mr Bosch is fastidious about personal hygiene, but has no sense of what scents match well. It’s not unusual for him to smell like the perfume floor at Harrods. But look, there’s some breakfast machine here that’s been running for days. It suggests that he hasn’t been here for a while.”
Detective Symonds inspected the coffee and pile of toast. He stuck his finger in the coffee cup and licked it quizzically then spat rapidly.
“Poison!” said Sir John.
“No, sugar,” said the Detective. “I suspect three of four spoons of it.”
“Ah, yes,” said Sir John. “He has a sweet tooth.”
“Let’s look for a clue as to where he went,” said Detective Symonds “Does he have an active social life?”
Sir John snorted.
“Not as such… oh, what’s this,” he held up a flyer for a theatrical performance. Detective Symonds came over.
“The Clockwork Conjuror presents his latest show of technological wonders and robotic marvels,” the detective read. “All are invited to this spectacle at the London Palladium on October 18th.”
“Three days ago,” said Sir John. “That’s exactly the sort of thing Phlebotomous would be excited about.”
“Then we need to speak to this Clockwork Conjuror,” said Detective Symonds.