Rampage at Worlds Fair Kills Twenty, Leaves Fifty Injured
"You see this, Jimmy? Some scientist electrocutes twelve folks in broad daylight and then sets fire to the whole fairgrounds?"
He paused for a minute, inhaling and then exhaling a thick cloud of scented smoke. He watched it fade.
"Imagine that, huh?"
Jimmy, a young assistant, no more than seventeen, meekly nodded and handed the man a cup of coffee. The man nodded approvingly, sipping the coffee then setting it down on his desk.
"I can only imagine what these next weeks will be like. When the bastard comes into the office today, I think it best you duck and run, eh boy?"
Jimmy again nodded and wandered off to make more coffee.
The redhead in the brown, white-pinstriped suit with a matching vest and a yellow tie only his wife could have selected put down the newspaper, his feet up on the desk. He had half a cigar dangling out from his mouth, covering the bottom of the paper in white ash and burn marks. When he laid the paper down, the ash flew into the air and settled on his desk, leaving white smudges all over it, to compliment the countless other smudges from days before. His glass of scotch sat preciously on the ring formed from months of precise cup placement. His brown bowler hat was hung on his chair carelessly, his pistol hanging from his holster, hung on the other side of the chair. As he was about to stand, he noted a man with a carefully groomed mustache storming his way through the entrance of the office, briskly shoving his jacket and hat at the secretary, before pulling out a silver cigarette case from his inner breastpocket and shoving a hand-rolled cigarette into his mouth, angrily lighting it then slamming the lighter down on his own desk.
The redhead stood, now clutching the newspaper.
"Wentz, this is our case, isn't it?"
Guilty as Charged
Wentz stared down at his brown loafers with ill-concealed rage. He had half a mind to turn on his heel and stalk out again, draw his revolver and pump five or six bullets into that stupid bastard with his stupid car. Probably on his way to go ride the giant wheel that dominated Chicago's skyline, and Wentz sincerely hoped the damned thing broke down and dropped the fool fifty stories to the ground. With his luck, he'd be assigned to take a look at it, too, but in that case he would have cheated Lady Fortune and gotten the opportunity to leer down at the broken corpse of a pretentious Virginian with a car that dripped oil. Wentz glanced down at his shoes again, lip curling with disgust, before smoothing his brown pinstriped trousers with his cigarette hand and nearly burning a hole in them.
Composure. Find it.
Wentz swept his hickory hair back with his other hand, catching sight of his own face in the reflection of the window. Am I going grey? Damn.
Where the hell was that kid. "Jimmy!" Wentz hollered down the hall, smoke erupting from his mouth and nose. "Where the hell is my coffee?"
All other priorities seen to, Wentz turned to the final one, his colleague. Fishing a battered, leather-bound notebook from his pocket, Wentz slow-tossed it to the redhead, in exchange for the other man's newspaper, which he snapped open to the centerpiece to glance at the horse-races. "Mornin' Will."
Blue Patch was running rampant across the derby. If money was going on any horses next round, it was going on Blue Patch. Cocking his head towards the notebook, he raised an eyebrow and folded the paper shut. "I was down at the Science exhibit around seven. Still smelled like charcoal."
Cue the morbid chuckle.
Will glanced at the leather book on his desk with an anticipation not unlike one who must begin writing a funeral speech. That book contained every case, ever character and clue, every failure every had, every case gone cold. In that book, at this very minute, was written the newest case with the newest details to be poured over and analyzed. Will dreaded it. He took the book timidly, holding the book as if it were a religious icon, delicately opening it and flipping to the newest page. He skimmed it through zealously. Once he felt he adequately understood the case, the book was closed and placed reverently on the desk. Will threw his hands in his pockets, every so often puffing smoke from the cigar he chomped down on with relish.
"Yea, I've heard the field is scorched to hell."
Will moved to take his second coffee from Jimmy, nodding once more and sipping it.
"Fire and Brimestone, so they say. I hear Mr. Clemens is fine, though."
"Which is quite good. I like his books."
One more sip.
"Blue Patch looks good today, but I'd put down on Momma's Boy, there's a nag with some sand."
And with the final drain, another cup was emptied, placed on the desk, and washed down with scotch.
"So," he began again, beginning to pace around the desk as he was accustomed to doing, "you've already been to the fairgrounds, so I will assume you have suspects, or rather a suspect, as nearly every witness seems to point in the same very distinct direction of one electrical wizard."
A pause in his thought, Will rubbed his clean-shaven face with a slight envy of his partner's mustache.
Will hastily put on his holster, then his hat, making his way towards the door. On his way, Will patted Wentz on the back.
"Onwards, man, haste and all that."
As Will put on his coat, he motioned towards Wentz.
"You're going gray, old man."
Guilty as Charged
He noticed. Not my imagination. I am going grey...
The intimidated secretary still held onto his coat, unsure of whether or not to hang it on the coat-tree or to keep an indefinite grip on it. Wentz was an unpredictable man, not unknown to fly into fits of rage, mustache bristling with anger, if he perceived a slight to be performed against himself or his person. Wentz rescued it from her, flashing the petite blonde a glance of mild approval, before throwing it about his shoulders. Lashing an arm out and ignoring the resulting flinch from Jimmy as he hooked his fingers around the intern's steaming mug, he drank deeply, ignoring the harsh bitterness and the boiling temperature. The lad was young and timid, but he did brew a damn fine cup of coffee. Jimmy, however, did not receive a glance of approval, being of a sex that should not treasure emotions or self-esteem. Hypocritical? Yes. Important truths to learn before beginning a career of murder and mayhem? Most certainly. This is why Wentz did not repent his action as he followed his partner into the early morning sunlight, clamping his own battered brown bowler firmly on top of his head and hoping it would hide the silver streaks in his auburn hair. "Momma's Boy, y'say?" he queried the back of Will's neck as he hastened to match the younger man's pace. "Went in fourth in the third yesterday. Not the sort of odds I'd like to wager my dollar on, if I hope to retire."
It was a bit of a tradition between the two that races came first and cases second. Not because cases were less important, but because of the age-old observation that familiarity breeds contempt.
Like a steam engine, a trail of white smoke followed Wentz's path as he matched his stride with Will's and turned his own attention to the matter at hand. "I poked around the scene a bit. Those bloody firemen always trample everything. Looks a tad suspicious for old Nikolai - if it was an accident he certainly didn't stay around to explain matters any. I've asked the police to bring him in but so far there's been no sign."
Wentz paused a moment, reflectively puffing at his cigarette. "Unfortunately for us, the closest witnesses to the event were incinerated, and all the accounts I've managed to get are inconclusive. I've been trying to formulate a motive but I've come up dry."