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Adventures in

The Wild, Wild West

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"Sean! Good to see you," said Bill Rogers as he opened the door. "Come in. Happy to be back in Washington?"

"Always good to be back where isn't quite as much dust," he said grinning. While Sean enjoyed the west, he forever harbored an affinity for the cities back east. For one, it afforded him the opportunity to dress like a gentleman, which was clearly seen in the sharply pressed brown suit, cotton shirt, and bowler that he quickly took off upon stepping on the threshold.

"I do like what you've done with the place Bill, it is a far cry from that prospector's shack you had out in the territory, I do hope the professor hasn't been too much of an inconvenience."

"As if I could afford this, I'm just the hired gun here, watching out for the Professor and his staff. The professor will be down in a few moments," said Rogers. "He'll be glad to turn those notes over to the government ..." He was cut off by an explosion from the second floor.

Sean dropped his hat and ran up the stairs taking them two at a time. The billowing smoke caused him to stagger before he could secure the handkerchief from his jacket breast-pocket and continue on stepping over some debris.

The smoke was clearing as he stepped into the sitting room. A young woman staggered into his arms and collapsed, Sean caught and looked over to where a body had fallen behind a desk, only its feet visible.

The Night of the Deadly Dance

Part 1

In the sitting room, Sean was sitting next to the young woman, Mary Wilson, the professor's secretary who was sipping on a restorative brandy. Bill was upstairs examining the sitting room.

"Now, now," Sean said reassuringly gently pushing her back down as she attempted to stand. "There is nothing you can do now, just sit here and rest. What happened up there?"

"It was awful, the professor was by the desk ... then part of the wall exploded and he was ... killed," she sobbed.

"Did you see anything strange before or after the explosion?"

"He was facing the wall and doing something there but I couldn't see what, and then ..."

"Facing the wall? was there a safe there or something else?" Sean asked.

"Was he working on something peculiar?"

"There was a picture."

"Did the professor say anything right before the ex-," Sean paused, "accident? did he seem different in any way today?"

"Well, he was happy to be handing over his process to the government," she said, frowning prettily, "but that's all I noticed."

"An astute woman like yourself is a good student of people and your position here requires a watchful eye. Had anyone contacted the professor lately or perhaps visited him?" he said with a smile.

"His appointment book is in my desk upstairs, I could fetch it," she said.

"That would be most helpful, but we should wait until Bill finishes his investigation," Sean assured her. "Did the professor often work with his more dangerous projects upstairs where you were located? It seems rather careless to expose someone such as yourself to volatile materials."

"His laboratory is next door to the library, and I sometimes helped him in the laboratory as well," she said. "My office is across the hall from the laboratory suite."

"Do you know how the," Sean paused to select the right word, "...this tragedy could have happened? Take me through the day leading up to this."

"A normal day, with a little more excitement than usual since the government appointment was today. The professor went into his lab while I went to my office. Then he called me into the library and I went in. He was doing something with the wall or the picture and then ... it ... it," she turned her head away.

"I know, I know," he comforted her. "Could someone have tampered with the picture, think carefully did you notice anything different about the picture this morning?"

"No, I noticed nothing."

"Is there a cleaning lady who tends to such matters? Perhaps she could have noticed something out of place."

"There's a maid, of course," she said.

"Speaking with her would be beneficial," Sean added.

"I'll send her in," said the girl.

"Thank you."

"Sean, I'm done upstairs," said Bill sticking his head into the room.

Turning to his right Sean glanced up to Bill, "I'm about done down here as well. I'll be right up as soon as I speak to the maid."

Sean had a moment to think, then the housekeeper came in, an older woman with downcast eyes.

Sean stood to greet the maid, "I'll be brief. I know this is a very difficult time. Did you notice anything out of the ordinary today when cleaning the library? Anything unusual about the picture on the wall by the table."

"No, sir, I didn't," said the woman. She looked up, "You must find the villians! He was a great man."

"I can assure you, that is my intent," Sean said soothingly . "If you recall anything that might help us, please let us know. Now if you'll excuse me." Sean nodded and started up the stairs.

"Well, Sean, it's a mess," said Bill. "The professor, as you know, was working on an explosive. It looks like it killed him. The explosive was some kind of impact triggered thing, sort of like nitro-gylcerine I think. He was over here by the painting, then the explosive went off. His bag was on the table, it was open and some flaming debris fell in. His notes were burned up." Bill shook his head, "The Secretary is not going to be happy."

"Any idea why he was over by the painting?" Sean asked, stepping over some charred debris.

"What bothers me is the timing," Sean said turning to face Bill. "Aside from the fact that the professor isn't the type to be prone to accidents, that this should happen today smells to me." Sean walked over and looked into the bag, "mighty suspicious that his notes get burned up too, isn't it? Can we verify that these are indeed his notes?"

"I can't quite prove it Bill, but I think we've a murder and theft of a very important piece of government research."

Sean and the Major were in the Major's office. "Your suspicions look pretty good, Sean," said the Major. "The 'notes' that were burned up don't look too convincing, and the Professor's death was clearly the result of a booby-trap. And the timing is bad, too. There's the embassy ball tomorrow and some delicate trade negotiations, too."

"It definitely seems more than just coincidence. Someone wanted the professor dead and his notes on the explosives in time for the ball and the meeting. Who there could know about the professor's work and would go to these lengths to attain it?"

"Difficult to say," said the Major. "The Professor was well known and other scientists might be able to figure out what he was working on. Add in the possibilities of spies ..." He shook his head. "Work on it when you have time. Tomorrow night, though, I need you at the Spanish Embassy for the ball. We've nearly negotiated a trade agreement with them, which has made a few people a little angry. I'm putting men throughout the party just to be safe."

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said with a smile.

The next morning, bright and early, Sean arrived in the Major's office. After they had been seated and coffee sent for, the Major addressed the issue at hand. "Some of the boys have been burning the midnight oil and they have some information for you.

"It does look like a bottle of alcohol was used to accelerate the fire in the bag."

"The missing whisky," Sean added, "someone wanted it to look like the notes got destroyed. This verifies our suspicion of the fake notes being burned."

"I've also got the report on Miss Wilson. She was with the professor for three years, helped him in the lab and served as general assistant. Lives in the house."

"Might I suggest you keep a watchful eye on her," Sean suggested. "She may know far more than she is letting on. Besides, as the professor's assistant she is the only link we have to that formula. She could be a target herself."

Sean stood, "See what you can find out about her background before joining the professor. The pieces are coming together slowly, but we haven't much time."

"Indeed," said the Major, who would have said more but a knock at the door interrupted him. His secretary came in with the coffee on a tray. She set the tray down and pointed to an envelope resting on the tray, "this came a few moments ago."

"Thank you," said the Major and the secretary nodded and withdrew. The Major indicated that Sean should take a cup, took one himself and examined the envelope. "You might find this interesting, Sean. It's a report from the man I had watching the professor's house. Let's see what he has to say." He slit the envelope and removed two sheets of paper. He scanned them. "Our Miss Wilson left the house early this morning. She went to the offices of, ah interesting, Brechtman & Company."

"How so?" asked Sean leaning forward.

"Brechtman and Company are importers, primarily from Brazil. They are one of the companies under consideration for a large lead contract. The other major player in that contract are some Spanish lead mines owned by the Spanish government."

Sean pondered taking a sip of his coffee. "That certainly pushes the limits of a coincidence. A mining company could certainly put a new explosive to good use." Sean set the cup down and paced a bit, absent-mindedly throwing some punches as if he was still in the ring.

"Miss Wilson could be brokering her own deal with the pilfered formula," a jab. "Taking her into custody could mean losing the professor's work if she has hidden the real notes, " an uppercut. "Whoever she is working with, we cannot afford to lose in our net," a right cross.

Sean straightened his coat and turned to the Major. "Let's keep an eye on her and see if she meets with anyone else. The embassy ball presents more potential suitors."

The Major nodded.

Night of the Deadly Dance, Part 2

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