It was a beautiful Saturday morning with the rising thermometer inviting folks to venture outside in just their shirtsleeves. Through a gap in the Salamander room’s blinds, Harold could see a sparrow on the lichen-draped branch of a nearby tree singing its little heart out in the sunshine – albeit silently, as no sound penetrated the double-glazed window. He was getting a bit fidgety, truth to tell, the magic of PowerPoint having worn off already. Agent Othello’s carefully bulleted list of information was depressingly short: little more than some names and last known locations.
“What other things do we need to consider?” asked Mercury, watching Prada languorously completing another one of her vivid and intricate doodles.
“You might want to think about how whoever is behind this actually locates their targets.” offered Teatime, “Neither demons nor angels stand out in human society unless they choose to.”
“That’s an interesting point.” replied Mercury as Othello tapped it into the computer, “Are they using Spotting or some kind of technology?”
“Spotting?” asked Harold.
“Yes,” explained Mercury, “Some people have the gift of being able to sense your kind – India, for example, has this gift.”
A few things suddenly made sense to Harold.
“So,” he said turning to India, “Back at the railway station, you knew? Fascinating!”
“Yes.” India replied, “You made my teeth itch – still do, as a matter of fact”
“India!” said Prada, looking up from her sketch of a garland of flowers around the words “apple dumplings”. “That’s not very nice!”
India shrugged, “Well, it’s true. That’s how it feels”.
“Could whoever it is – “ Teatime stopped, “Can we please give our mystery opponent some kind of name? I’m fed up of saying “whoever it is” all the time.”
“OK, we’ll call him, her, it or them Enigma,” declared Mercury, “Now, moving on, Mr Teatime has raised a very good point. So far as we know, only Spotters can detect angels or demons. It would be very handy for us if some technological means existed, but it doesn’t. It’s a gift, and a rare one at that.”
“Is it so rare that Enigma couldn’t be employing a Spotter?” ventured Teatime. “Over what range does this gift work?”
“About 20-30 feet at the most” said India.
“All of the disappearances,” said Othello, bringing up a map on his computer, “were within 20 miles of here, but not particularly close together. Unless Enigma has a number of Spotters, it’s hard to see how they could have been so successful in locating their targets.”
At that moment, there was a polite knock on the door and the fresh-faced young agent that Harold had scared earlier poked his head into the room.
“Agent Mercury?” he said, “A report from the Watch Tower has just come in and I think you should see it.”
“Excuse me,” said Mercury, making his way out of the room. “Take five everyone, get a coffee or something.”
Glad of the interruption, the others repaired to the break room.
Someone had brought in a tray of home-made cupcakes and had left them with a hand-written sign indicating that anyone could have one provided that they left a donation in the box provided. The money raised would go to fund research into diseases of the pancreas.
“These look very tempting,” remarked Harold, dropping some money into the box and snagging a cake.
“You’d know all about that,” said Prada lightly, taking a cake for herself.
“I’ll let you into a secret,” said Harold, lowering his voice in a mock-conspiratorial whisper, “I’m not actually very good at it, but please don’t tell the others, I have a reputation to maintain.”
“Your secret is safe with me.”
“Ahem,” interrupted Teatime, “Are you planning to keep that cake all to yourself, old sock? Only, being the brains in this partnership is hungry work, don’t you know?”
“Sorry,” Harold apologised, breaking off a large piece and handing to the little monkey. He bit into his own piece and closed his eyes in pleasure: these were good!
“Can you actually taste things?” asked Prada. “I always thought your kind didn’t need food…”
“We need energy, and food is as good a way to get it as any – and very enjoyable too, I might add. “ explained Harold, “Plus, I can eat anything and not get fat..”
“Now I know you’re evil!” groaned Prada, “I’ve just bought myself another 2 hours in the gym.”
“She’s being awfully friendly with that Fallen,” said India quietly to Othello as she poured coffee for herself. “Someone should have a word.”
“Prada’s an experienced agent,” replied Othello softly, “She knows what she’s about. I reckon she’ll get more information out of that one than the rest of us ever will. ‘Softly, softly catchee monkey’, as they say.” He chuckled a little at his own wit.
“Hmm, she needs to be careful she doesn’t end up like Pandora – opening up a box full of trouble.” Was India’s sour reply.
Agent Mercury entered the room, his face grave.
“People,” he said, “I’ve just received some very shocking news.” He paused to ensure they were all listening. “Agent Emerald has been found murdered.”