• Published 2nd Jan 2017
  • 1,153 Views, 94 Comments

The Casebook of Currycombs - AugieDog



In a world tucked somewhere between Equestria and Victorian London, the aardhorse detective Currycombs solves crimes with her friend and colleague, the unicorn medical mare Silver Scalpel.

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4 - The Case of the Purloined Pedestal

Author's Note:

When I outlined:

This one, I was planning on submitting it to the Edgar Allan Poe themed NonBinary Review #12. But I've only just finished the story and the deadline was Feb. 1st. Oh, well... :twilightblush:

Mike

Sudden angry voices in the next room drew my attention away from my latest attempt at setting "The Case of the Stolen Tarts" onto paper. It was quite the welcome interruption, to be honest, since the narrative had vexed me for several weeks by that point.

The basic events were so drearily commonplace—young scamps often absconded with trays of tarts—that it was the cast of characters who truly made the tale. Unfortunately, that cast included the Queen, the Princess, and the Prime Minister of our beloved Hevosenvalta, and the solution to the mystery hinged upon a revelation of such world-shattering import, I still shivered every time I allowed my thoughts to turn toward it. All of which meant that any account of the case written with an eye toward publication could discuss neither the equines involved nor the actual solving of the mystery, and this had so far proven to be much too intransigent a problem for my still-nascent talents as an author to resolve.

Happy to turn my mind elsewhere, I rose from my desk overlooking the mid-morning hurly-burly of Bakery Row below, shook my mane into some sort of order, applied my magic to the doorknob, and poked my head into the common area of the apartment Currycombs and I shared.

The door to the hallway stood open, and Currycombs herself was busily lunging about on the carpet between the windows and the sofa, her long-tailed Mulster coat showing that she'd only just come in. "No!" she was exclaiming at the top of her prodigious lungs. "Not even if you fall to your knees and beg me!"

"Confound it, Currycombs!" And even though I was seeing and hearing Inspector Furlong of Shetland Yard, the presence of the off-white unicorn still shocked me enough to make me doubt my senses. My last contact with him, after all, some three months ago had involved him arresting Currycombs and myself in connection with the unfortunate affair of Hope Springs and Ms. Violet Peony. But now he stood in our parlor with his hide growing redder and redder beneath his Mackintosh. "This is larger than just the two of us! Surely you won't allow—"

"I won't allow?" Currycombs spun on the inspector and jabbed a hoof into his chest with such ferocity, I could hear the poor fellow puff out a breath at the impact—for all her small stature, Currycombs was an aardhorse through and through. "I am not at issue here, Inspector! I am but a private citizen trying to make a living by the only means at her disposal: her wits! You are the one doing everything in your power to prevent me!"

"That—!" The inspector clamped his teeth shut over whatever he'd been about to say and took a deep, long breath. "—is not an entirely baseless conclusion," he said in a more regulated tone than he'd heretofore had recourse to. "I am, however, bringing you a case now, a case that, I will state quite frankly, has me and my colleagues baffled."

Currycombs snorted. "Tying an ascot would leave you lot baffled!"

The way Inspector Furlong's face began bunching up caused me to step completely out of my room. "Good morning, Inspector," I said in what I hoped would be a jovial fashion. "What a surprise to see you here."

The inspector snapped his head around, and once again I watched him stopper and smooth himself before answering. "Ah. Yes. Good morning, Dr. Scalpel."

"Scalpel!" Currycombs's expression transformed as well, her smile as glowing as a general's looking out upon a successful battlefield. "You're a mare given to impartiality! Should I treat the inspector here the way he's treated me these past several months and tell him I'm not at all interested in whatever muck he's gotten his hooves mired in? Or should I rather show mercy to the halt and the infirm by allowing him the benefit of my intelligence and wisdom?"

I scarcely had to consider the question. When not working on a problem, I'd soon discovered upon becoming her flat mate, Currycombs descended into a melancholy that had on occasion frightened me with its depth. Add to this the way that, for as long as I'd known her, she'd complained about Furlong blackballing her from cases at Shetland Yard, and to have him here finally asking for her help, I instantly concluded, could only be positive for both her peace of mind and mine.

And yet, the act of him doing exactly what she wanted apparently wasn't enough to satisfy her. Perhaps with a few incentives... I fixed my gaze upon the abashed inspector. "Are you offering to pay Currycombs the same consulting fee you'd pay to any other specialist you called in to examine, say, some medical or magical aspect of the case in question?"

"Well, of course!" Furlong waved a hoof. "Shetland Yard always makes good its debts!"

"And the press?" This, it seemed to me, had been at the base of Currycombs's complaint in the aftermath of the incident I'd called "A Study in Sorrel" in the slightly successful write-up I'd done of the case. After all, the official version downplaying Currycombs's contributions had appeared in the Times with a circulation of millions; my account had been printed in a small journal entitled The Riverside Review and had perhaps been seen by hundreds. "When Currycombs solves whatever matter you've brought to her," I continued sternly, "will she receive proper credit in the accounts Shetland Yard releases to the public?"

Currycombs stood behind him very nearly vibrating, her ears perked and her nostrils flared, her attention riveted so firmly on the inspector that I expected to see him flinch under the pressure of it. His only apparent reaction, however, was a single twitch of his left eyelid, and the silence that fell over us made me fear that this would prove too great a sticking point.

At last, though, with an outpouring of breath and a slumping of shoulders, the inspector said, "Fine. Full credit for success—or failure." His eyes narrowed, and he wheeled to glare at my friend. "That last is a promise, Currycombs! If the police are to be excoriated in the Times for this fiasco, I'll see to it personally that you go down with us!"

The ardent desire in Currycombs's expression had vanished completely by the time Furlong had swung around to face her. "How fortunate, then, that I don't plan to fail." She gave me a nod before turning her attention back to the inspector and gesturing at the sofa. "Perhaps you'd like to have a seat and give me the facts of the case."

"Impossible." Furlong spun again, this time toward the door. "You won't believe me unless I show you, and possibly not even then."

That got a raised eyebrow from Currycombs, and she nodded to me once more. "Shall we, Doctor?"

I grabbed one of my green cavalry blankets as well as my medical panniers with my magic and slung them over my shoulders and back. Following in the inspector's wake, we came out onto the street and started at a brisk pace toward downtown Ehwazton. My curiosity had been piqued by the inspector's rather melodramatic announcement, however, so I called out to him, "Surely, sir, you can give us some clue as to what lies in store for us!"

Furlong didn't answer, but Currycombs, trotting along ahead of me, tossed her head in the direction we were traveling. "Raise your eyes to the skyline, Scalpel, and tell me what you see. Or rather what you don't see."

Blinking, I lifted my gaze to the rooftops above the streets through which we'd begun to canter. The buildings now that we'd left Bakery Row had grown larger and continued to increase in size the closer we came to the city center, but I for my part had no idea what it was Currycombs wanted me to see—or not see, as she'd said.

We'd reached a gallop by then, tearing along behind the inspector, crowds thickening with each block we traveled toward Unity Plaza. Rounding the corner where Dunbarton Way met the much-larger Riverside Boulevard, we nearly collided with a solid wall of equine hindquarters, every tail switching and the air thick with the salty scent of concern. "Make way!" Furlong shouted, scarcely slackening his pace. "Police coming through! Please clear a path!"

Blue-coated pegasi of the Ehwazton constabulary were circling at the other end of the street where Riverside entered Unity Plaza, and the patrolsteeds whooshed toward us to open a way among the unsettled bystanders. "What's happening?" more than one voice called at us, and even more peculiarly, "Where's it gone?"

Having no answer, I merely kept my hooves moving at the pace Furlong and Currycombs were setting. We arrived at the front of the crowd where a cordon of uniformed unicorns met us, half of them facing their fellow citizens and the other half facing the plaza. Several saluted Inspector Furlong and stepped aside, letting us through, and we entered a Unity Plaza entirely bereft of equines, something I'd never seen in all my years living in and about Ehwazton.

To call the experience eerie would be a severe understatement. Unity Plaza, at the heart of the city, served as town square, public forum, and open-air atrium for Hevosenvalta's finest museums, their various marble facades facing the plaza to the north, west, and east with the more palatially grand Parliament building occupying the entire south side. The plaza itself displayed more than a few fine and inspiring monuments to those equines whose good example and good sense had helped unite the three tribes under the banner of Firebird House a thousand years ago, and I took solace in seeing those statues even though the silence of the place set my ears to twitching.

"As you can see," Furlong said, his quiet voice somehow seeming even quieter, swallowed up under the expanse of the blue midmorning sky, "we're keeping everyone out until we can determine what's happened, but I hope you'll agree, Currycombs, that this isn't the usual sort of thing we handle at Shetland Yard."

I was opening my mouth to ask what he was talking about when the sight before me actually registered in my mind and I froze in my hoof prints. How long I'd been seeing it—or as Currycombs had said, not seeing it—I had no idea. But standing there, staring across the empty plaza, I suddenly realized that it was missing more than the crowds. It was missing its centerpiece.

"Epona's Column," I said aloud, my eyes not quite believing that the sixteen-story tall black iron pillar with the statue of Hevosenvalta's first queen rampant atop it was not standing proudly in the midst of its circle of bronze hippogriffs. "Where—? And how—? And—?"

Currycombs had likewise drawn to a halt beside me, but when I glanced over at her, instead of the dawning horror that I knew featured prominently upon my own countenance, her face bore the broad smile and sparkling eyes of a child gazing upon a pile of birthday presents. "Furlong?" Currycombs said, her words quivering with an emotion I wasn't prepared to identify. "For bringing me in on this affair, I hereby retract every negative comment I've ever made about you. Now!" She stomped a hoof, the retort echoing from the museum fronts around us. "Give me what details you can."

Furlong gave her about half a glare, then began walking toward the circle of hippogriffs. "The regular beat patrolsteeds, an aardhorse and a pegasus, came through the plaza just after dawn." He gestured with his snout to the large boulevard across the square beside the art museum, a row of unicorns and a cloud of pegasi keeping the citizens at bay. "They entered at Montlemore there, crossed the center of the square and exited at Riverside. They both say they felt something odd as they passed the column, but they swear on their badges it was there. But when they reached Riverside, the aardhorse, Officer Carob, turned back like he says he always does to get once last glimpse of Queen Epona. And all he saw was this."

We were rapidly approaching the center of the square, the center of Ehwazton, the center of all Hevosenvalta, and I was still blinking, trying to get my mind to process what I was seeing. Six massive hippogriff statues, legendary creatures representing a long-sought and largely fictitious amity between equines and our griffon neighbors, stood or sat in various positions facing outward from where the column had once stretched majestically into the sky. "Impossible," I said, not meaning to speak aloud but unable to remain silent.

"Indeed?" Currycombs rushed ahead, leaping up the stone steps of the circular dais upon which the pedestal had stood for so many centuries, and was now surveying the twelve-foot diameter space marked out by the bronze statues. "How is anything impossible for magic?" She turned a grin back toward Furlong and me. "Perhaps you two unicorns wouldn't mind educating a poor, mundane aardhorse on matters so far beyond her ken?"

I couldn't keep from rising to Currycombs's bait. "You know full well that aardhorses have no lack of magic!" I declared, stomping up to join her. "And if any matters exist that are truly beyond your ken, then I declare myself to be unfamiliar with them!"

Behind me, Furlong snorted, and I glanced back to see him climbing the steps as well. "Well, you wanted a case, Ms. Currycombs. So show me a unicorn capable of teleporting a sixteen-story column of solid cold iron, and I'll declare you the finest detective in Hevosenvalta." He waved a hoof through the emptiness. "'Cause the fact of the matter is—not to be disrespectful, mind you—but the Queen herself with the Princess joining in for good measure couldn't've pulled this off."

Rummaging through the pockets of her Mulster coat, Currycombs brought a front hoof out with one of her magnifying lenses crooked in the pastern. "Tell me," she asked, squatting down close to the ground and examining it through the lens, "which would you consider to be the limiting factor: the amount of material to be moved or the material itself?"

"The amount," I said immediately while Furlong answered just as promptly, "The material."

Currycombs looked back at us with one eyebrow arched, and I turned to glare at Furlong. "Iron and steel are no more difficult to manipulate magically than silver, gold, sulfur, or magnesium, and I'll thank you not to raise the false distinction between 'cold iron' and any other sort of iron." Activating my horn, I pulled a pair of scissors from my pack and snipped them in his direction. "During my days as a cavalry medical mare, I would operate with a variety of steel implements aloft in my magic for hours at a time." A twitch rustled across the scars marring my front legs, and I tucked the scissors away before the shaking that often overtook me when I contemplated my past could begin.

The glare Furlong aimed at me seemed almost as pointed as my own. "I don't doubt your prowess with medical equipment, Doctor, but I believe you'll find that the difference between cold and warm in metallurgy hinges upon the purpose of the item being struck. Cold iron and steel are only used in the manufacture of weapons, y'see, so they've got a bit more obduracy than the sorts of metals used to make scalpels and stethoscopes and the like." He gestured again to the broad blank circle at the center of the monument. "The column was formed entirely of melted-down round shot, cannonballs captured when Queen Epona's forces stormed the griffon capital of Aerie."

It took some effort to keep my ears from folding, but I wasn't looking to get into an argument with the inspector. "That fact notwithstanding," I said, "were we speaking about a like amount of brick or stone or cheesecake, our perpetrator would still have been forced to utilize a vast reservoir of magical power to make it translocate."

"I'll agree there." Furlong shook his head. "And make no mistake, the power expenditure here was massively vast. Whoever did this tore such a hole in the aethersphere, it's still swirling over the entire plaza. Everything's so unsettled, not a single one of my mages has been able to even start getting a spell trace."

I nodded. "Teleportation magic is by its nature quite energy-intensive. Every regiment in Her Majesty's army has unicorns who specialize in it to the exclusion of all other forms of spellcraft." I swallowed as the implications of the thought fully stuck me. "We might be dealing with a cabal of malefactors, judging by the scale of the operation."

"And yet, inspector," Currycombs called from where she was nosing about the far side of the circle, "there's been no ransom demand? No megalomaniacal claim of responsibility? No word at all from the perpetrator or perpetrators?"

Furlong touched his horn. "As soon as anyone hears anything, it's to be sent to me directly."

Currycombs snorted. "Such a dashed nuisance, magic! I don't see how you unicorns can manage anything if it takes such a fearsome amount of folderol to achieve the simplest of effects!"

"Simple?" The inspector stared at her across the flat stone surface. "After everything we've just said, you call this simple?"

"I do," Currycombs said with a toss of her mane. "It's quite elegant, certainly, if my hypothesis is correct. But for all the power evidently expended, the doing of the deed seems to have been simplicity itself."

As I often found when dealing with Currycombs, I had to restrain myself from shouting. "Then you know how the column was taken?"

"Correction." She tucked her magnifying lens away. "I have a hypothesis. But before I can set up a test, I'll need to know how much concentration it would take to set this impossible teleport into motion."

I could only blink at her; it was Furlong who answered, "None at all, really. If the caster had access to the unlimited reserves of magical energy such a spell would require, a mere instant's thought would be sufficient. Teleportation isn't a continuous spell, after all; once the caster triggers it, it sucks its power away and is done."

Nodding, Currycombs rubbed her chin. "And the range of such a spell?" She gestured to the imposing buildings around the edges of the plaza. "Could a unicorn have stood hidden within one of these buildings and cast it? Or would it require the tapping of a hoof or a horn against the item to be whisked away?"

The air almost seemed to be simmering around Furlong's hat. "There's no contact required," he said, his voice rising, "because it can't be done!"

"But if it could be done?" Currycombs asked, tapping one hoof against the marble.

Furlong didn't look capable of answering, so I did. "I've seen teleportation spells fired from a unicorn's horn at a target, but only when short distances are involved. There are formulae for determining how quickly the various classes of magic will dissipate if the caster attempts to use them at range, but—"

"Excellent!" Currycombs sprang to her hooves and trotted across the center of the monument's former spot. "I shall need three things from you, inspector, and then we shall see if we can't locate Epona's Column."

The inspector had gone completely still. "You...you honestly mean that, Currycombs?"

Reaching his side, Currycombs fixed him with as intense a gaze as I'd ever seen from her. "There are certain matters about which I do not jest, sir, and the queens of Firebird House have lately become one of those matters."

The fresh water scent of relief that rolled off the inspector tickled my nose like pollen from a springtime flowerbed. "You shall have whatever aid I can provide," he said, his voice quivering.

"First." Currycombs waved again at the grand structures surrounding us. "I will need your absolute assurance that these buildings have been cleared of all equines including your own patrolsteeds and officers. Can you give me that assurance?"

"I can." The flare of Furlong's horn drew a notebook from the depths of his Mackintosh and began paging through it. "Only the plaza's regular vendor carts were doing business when the column vanished, and we rousted what few staff were at work in the museums when we cleared the area."

Currycombs nodded. "Second, we shall need the most trustworthy unicorn on the Ehwazton police force—other than yourself, of course—to join us here." She tapped the stone, then jabbed that hoof at the middle of his chest. "This must be the one unicorn to whom you would entrust not just your life but the safety of all Hevosenvalta. For I assure you, those are quite possibly the stakes we will be playing for this morning. Can you summon that unicorn here?"

Furlong's eyes went wide, and he gave a single nod. His horn lit up again and a tiny red fireball shot away from its tip toward the Verdugo Boulevard entrance to Unity Plaza. Several heartbeats later, the air to Furlong's right fizzed and burst into a shower of sparks; these cleared quickly to reveal a deep-orange unicorn mare, her short-cut blonde mane graying around the edges. "You rang, guv'nor?" she asked with a grin.

"Stand by, Sergeant Tufts." The inspector turned back to Currycombs. "And third?"

"Third." Swiveling her head and moving in a slow circle, Currycombs surveyed the entire empty square of flagstones around us. "Have your cordons move away from the plaza. We need to expand the exclusion zone and clear the citizenry and the constabulary further up the boulevards into the city at least a block. Can you give that order?"

"Cor," the sergeant more breathed than said. "This all that dangerous, then?"

"It is." Currycombs looked from Tufts to Furlong to me. "If there are any equines other than the four of us within a square quarter mile of this spot, then the perpetrator will have succeeded and we will have failed. Anarchy and injustice will run riotous throughout Hevosenvalta, and we will never again know another moment's peace."

Tufts eyes widened and her ears fell, but Furlong just set his horn to glowing even brighter. "There," he said after a moment of nothing but the morning breeze whispering past us. "Hope you're in no hurry, though. Backing up those crowds won't be easy."

Currycombs poked Furlong a few more times in the chest. "And your patrolsteeds as well. Every aardhorse, pegasus, and unicorn must be away from the area, or—"

"Yes, yes." Furlong scowled down at her. "Anarchy running riotous and all that. Trust me, Currycombs: the entire center of the city will be deserted save for us within a few moments time."

"Good." Currycombs turned back to face the center of the hippogriff circle. "Scalpel, I'll ask you to remain with me here. Furlong, you take a position just beyond the second statue to the right." She gestured to a spot a third of a turn around the circle. "Sergeant Tufts, you're to stand just beyond the second statue to the left, the three of you equidistant from each other. Your attention mustn't waver from the column's former location from so much as an instant. Is that understood?"

I gave a nod, and the sergeant began making her way toward the position Currycombs had assigned her. But Furlong, of course, wrinkled his brow and frowned. "What are you saying? That the column's still here?" He waved at the emptiness. "It's not invisible, or we'd still be able to feel it! And making a massive spire of steel insubstantial would take just as impossibly much power as teleporting it! You can't seriously—!"

"Inspector!" Currycombs stomped a hoof. "When you brought me into this situation, it was my understanding that you wished for my assistance! I've told you what we must do to recover Epona's Column safely and intact! If you choose not to follow my instructions, then I cannot be responsible for the outcome!"

Furlong's scowl deepened, and for a moment, I thought I would need to step in as I'd done earlier in the morning. But the inspector merely snorted, marched to the place Currycombs had given him, and took up a stance glaring at the air where the column had formerly stood.

I took up a similar stance, Currycombs beside me, and all became silence and inactivity for what seemed half an hour.

A small grunt from Currycombs tickled my ears. "So many variables," she murmured, her gaze also locked on our common focal point. "I've not missed even a single indicator, Scalpel; I'm certain of it. This is the only possible solution! It must be!"

The intensity of her hissing whisper almost caused me to glance in her direction. But at that very moment, the air overhead crackled and cracked. Black tears ripped through the blue sky, an invisible curtain shredding away to reveal Epona's Column floating in all its majesty some fifteen feet above its base.

For a fraction of a heartbeat, I could only stare. Then Currycombs's shout slapped me into action. "Levitation! Now! The spell that cloaked it is failing, and—!"

The column began to drop, slowly tipping sideways, and I fired every ounce of my magic at it. At the very same instant, two similarly intense beams enveloped the giant sculpture from my left and right.

"Tufts!" I heard Inspector Furlong shout. "You concentrate on steadying her north-south! I'll hold her east-west, and Doctor, we'll follow your lead guiding her back down!"

I can honestly say that I'd never before sweated so profusely during an operation. The weight of it—not just the physical mass of the statue but the cultural significance of our cargo and the realization that the entirety of Hevosenvalta was at that moment watching what we did—made my vision blur and the scars along my legs tighten almost to the point of bursting.

But Currycombs's calm voice soothed me like cool water on a scorching day: "Excellent, Scalpel, excellent! You're at ten feet now! I could feel the binding spell still active in the stone of the base, so simply lowering it into place again should cause it to reactivate and take its charge like a cradle holds a foal. Five feet! Three feet! One foot! Contact!"

Ancient magic of a sort I'd never before experienced enveloped mine in a welcoming embrace, and drawing what might've been my first breath since the column had reappeared, I relaxed my own magic, took a step back, and nearly collapsed.

Strong legs caught me, a strong back buttressing my side. "Careful, now, Doctor," Currycombs said, amusement now trickling among her words. "There's no use losing yourself after you've saved the patient."

Shuddering, I sucked in what felt like several gallons of air, pushed them all back out, and sucked in another several. By then, my blinking had cleared the spots from my eyes, and the first thing I saw was Furlong and Tufts, their heads craned back and staring upward.

I'm certain I heard my neck creak as I followed their example, but all my ailments puffed away like fog on a summer morning when I saw Queen Epona reared back in all her fiery magnificence high atop the column that now stood exactly where it was supposed to be.

"How?" Furlong said, drawing my attention back down to ground level. His eyes were sliding around in their sockets as if he couldn't decide where he wanted to look: the statue, or Currycombs.

For her part, Currycombs shrugged. "You convinced me that teleportation was an impossibility, so I discarded it from consideration. As Dr. Scalpel so fervently pointed out, we aardhorses are no strangers to magic of a certain sort, and when I could sense only about half the panic I would've felt from the stone here if its accustomed pedestal had simply vanished after so many centuries, I concluded that Epona's Column was still nearby. I just needed to get our spell caster out of range to break whatever magic was occluding it."

"Cor!" Tufts wheeled to stare at the street ends now cleared of watching equines. "Y'mean the blighter was in the crowd the whole time?"

"Possibly," Currycombs answered, and I realized I was still leaning heavily against her; my face heating up, I pushed myself away and back onto my own hooves. "More likely, however," she went on after giving me a nod, "the perpetrator was disguised as a patrolsteed."

"What?" The inspector's gaze fastened solely and completely upon Currycombs.

She shrugged. "My working theory is that this was a test, Inspector. The perpetrator would wish to observe the outcome, so I surmise that he or she donned the blue coat of the Ehwazton constabulary and stood among your other unicorns today. Doing crowd control would give him or her a perfect vantage from which to view the events unfolding."

Furlong's face reddened and tightened. "Tufts!" he shouted. "Did you see anyone unfamiliar along the line at Verdugo Boulevard?"

"No, sir!" she replied.

"Nor did I at Riverside." His horn began charging up. "You take Montlemore Boulevard and I'll take Bristleway!" With a burst of silver light, he vanished, and the sergeant did the same.

I blinked to clear the afterimage from my eyes. "But surely," I said, turning to Currycombs, "if the villain was among the police, he or she would be long gone by now!"

"He, I think," came Currycombs's voice. She was no longer standing beside me, however: the sound had come from around the pillar to my right.

Trotting in that direction, I came to Currycombs standing and staring at the plaque that marked the front of Epona's Column. "I was checking the binding spell when I sensed an anomalous magnetic field." She pointed to the plaque.

I followed her gesture and saw two metal currycombs stuck there in such a way that they held a large red rose in place against the black iron.

"So I was wrong," Currycombs said quietly. "This wasn't a test for the constabulary. It was a test for me."

"But—" was all I managed to say before she'd sprung into action; pulling one of her large, wax paper sacks from an inside pocket of her coat with her teeth, she rose onto her hind legs and chivvied both the combs and the rose into the bag. "Currycombs!" I said then.

"Yes, I know," she said, after tucking the bag away and lowering herself back to all fours. "But I'll find more trace evidence on them than those fools at Shetland Yard. And I rather think this has become just a bit personal at this point, don't you?"

That, I certainly couldn't disagree with. "You'll tell Furlong about them, though?"

"Of course." She started down the steps toward the flagstones of Unity Plaza. "He may have the combs when I'm done with them, but the flower, I think, is unlikely to last more than another day or two. Still, it'll look lovely on the mantelpiece for a while."

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