Will Hastings had been surprised, but he was nothing if not a man of social grace and solid good manners. “Right this way, Mayor, gentlemen,” he said, as if Mayor Carrolton had not behaved in any shocking fashion whatsoever. Escorting the men to the lounge, he gestured to the ample comfortable seating available in the form of upholstered chairs, sofas, and footstools. “If you’ll be so kind as to wait right here, I’ll announce you to Mr. Hedley.”
“I will go with you,” John said. “They can wait here for our return,” he added, gesturing to the policemen, whose tall hats, still perched upon their heads, were out of place in the elegant room.
“Please, Mayor Carrolton, I assure you that it is not necessary to accompany me,” WIll said smoothly.
“I’ll say what’s necessary and what’s not,” John replied brusquely. “Unless, of course, you’d like to be arrested also? As an accomplice to a criminal?”
“Right this way,” Will said, and as he did, he gestured with one hand, holding the other behind his back. There, the unseen hand tugged on the bell for the servants. Inaudible in the lounge, it would be readily heard in the well-staffed kitchen.
Leading the mayor on a dizzying route through Thousand Candles, Will delayed as long as he dared. He took advantage of his age and appearance to walk as slowly as possible, and John, having no idea where they were going, had no choice but to follow. They passed by the office where Will’s wife sat sorting letters, and she looked up as he went. Turning his face to the right, facing away from Mayor Carrolton on his left, Will locked eyes with his wife, worry evident on his face as he nodded somberly to her. Sizing up the situation, that is, a stranger accompanied where he should not be going, Mrs. Hastings waited until the two had passed, and then dashed out of her office to fetch help as quickly as she could.
Will arrived at the door to Albert’s study and knocked firmly. “Enter,” Albert called with a distracted air.
“Sir, Mayor John Carrolton, who has—” Will began.
“I’m here to arrest you, Albert,” John cut in. “If you won’t come willingly, there are four policemen in your lounge waiting to persuade you otherwise.”
“I see,” Albert said calmly, removing his reading spectacles and folding his hands on his desk. “And what, may I inquire, am I to be charged with?”
“Disturbing the peace and posing a grave threat to the safety of this capital and its citizens,” John announced.
“What threat is that? I have not so much as left my own home in quite some time,” Albert said.
“Don’t play coy with me, Mr. Hedley; you well know that it is this very place that houses a threat to all our citizens, and I will have it overturned brick by brick until we’ve discovered every last one of those contemptible creatures and exposed your plans to control and harm our citizenry with them!”
“It will take more than just you to tear down this house,” Michael said as he entered the room.
“In fact,” Christopher added, coming in straight after him, “you might as well bring an army. You’ll need it.”
“Then perhaps I just will!” John snapped, turning to them. “And I’ll be there to hear you both beg for mercy as you’re hauled away for the criminals that you are.”
“Enough,” Albert said in a voice that commanded the room. “Brenton, Drury, stand down. I am going with Mayor Carrolton.”
“But sir,” Christopher began.
“No, Christopher,” Albert said, “I’ll brook no argument.” Albert stood. “Shall we?” he said to John.
Michael and Christopher stood aside and John backed out of the room. It was Albert who led them back to the front of the mansion. When they entered the lounge, the four policemen were uneasily surrounded by over half of SPOT’s staff, including members of Special Services and Support. Eudora, Gideon, Mary, Charles, Brian, Gigi, Richard, Douglas, Gertie, Doctor Hardale, Mrs. Hastings, and many more crowded into what no longer looked like an ample lounge.
John addressed the policemen. “Do your duty, men. Arrest him.” As they rose to do so, Mary shoved her way towards her brother, and the rest of the room crowded in.
“No, no,” Albert said, gesturing with his hands that they should all calm down, “I’m going with him. Calm yourselves.”
Mary made her way to his side, a ray gun of her own devising at hand, which she leveled at John’s eye. “You’re not taking my brother anywhere,” she said firmly.
John froze, as did the policemen, unsure of what to do in the face of such a weapon.
“Mary,” Albert said quietly. “It’s alright. I’ll be alright.” He put a firm hand on her outstretched arm and pressed ever-so-slightly. “I’m going with him, and I’ll be alright.”
With a deflated sigh, she allowed Albert to lower her arm. He stepped in and hugged her. “It’ll be alright, Mary,” he said.
“I love you,” she said, a tremble of worry in her voice.
“Enough of this,” John said, his courage puffing up again in the absence of the strange weapon. “This isn’t a farewell party, it’s an arrest. Let’s get on with it.”
Albert extended a hand to Michael, and when Michael took it, pulled him in and patted him on the back. “I’m ready,” Albert said. “Let us depart. Will, if you’d be so kind as to fetch my jacket.”
“Here, sir,” Will said, taking it from its hook and pressing into the room enough to assist his master in dressing.
“I’ll see you all very soon,” Albert said to the room. He walked out, followed by the four policemen. John was just about to follow them when he looked directly at Eudora.
“You!” he said in astonishment. “What are you doing here?”
Gideon, standing beside Eudora, jumped.
“I beg your pardon?” Eudora said sharply. “Have we met?” She said “met” as if it were a slime-coated insult.
John blinked and shook his head. “No. No, we have not.” He turned and went hurriedly out of the room, following the policemen and their untroubled prisoner. The room was silent until Will shut the door behind them, and suddenly, everyone began talking at once.
Michael put an arm around Christopher’s shoulders. “With me,” he said, and they left the lounge to stand in the foyer.
“What do we do now?” Christopher asked.
“He told me,” Michael said. “When he took my arm, he said “Contact Clark”.