Throughout the city, three opposing rumors had spread like wildfire. The first was that the government had orchestrated the apparent attack to scare the protesters into submission. The second rumor claimed that the Trade Union Congress which called for the strikes and protests was responsible in order to intimidate the government with chaos. The third was that either one of them were behind it so as to create the appearance that their opposition was responsible for such a heinous act.
Arriving at No.2 Chesterfield Street, Huxley had apprised Inspector Hugo of his conversations with Max Stein and Captain Ames, and the two were developing their own theories as to who was behind the whole thing.
“Why not Mr. Stein?” asked the inspector as they entered Huxley’s home. “They’re his vaults.”
“That would be professional suicide,” Huxley answered.
“Unless he was being paid.”
“If such a thing were true,” said Huxley, “he wouldn’t have been employed by Parliament. No politician would put the wealth of their government at such risk, and no criminal-for-hire would destroy the gold he’s to be paid with.”
Engle showed them to the study, informing them that the blueprints were yet to arrive, though a representative was expected to deliver them at any moment.
“Then that only leaves the Trade Union Congress,” said Inspector Hugo. “They don’t have that kind of money. Of course, if they recovered the gold, they could afford it.”
“The trouble with this theory is the question of why,” said Huxley. “Why would Mr. Stein be accomplice to such a heist? For unguaranteed money? Unlikely. To prevent lower wages for coal miners and union workers? He’s a member of the London elite. No, I find it difficult to entertain this theory without identifying a clear and reasonable motive.”
“Master Huxley,” Engle said at the door. “The representative from Sceptre is here.”
“Show him in.”
A few seconds later, a gray mouse in a modest green dress entered, several rolls of blueprints and papers under her arms.
“Good afternoon. I’m Matilda Larkin, Mr. Stein’s secretary. I apologize for the delay.”
“Not at all,” Huxley smiled. “Please, let’s take a look at what you’ve got there.”
After a brief introduction, the three of them quickly began unrolling the blueprints, positioning them around the office, and moving back and forth from one to the next.
“You understand all this, Ms. Larkin?” Inspector Hugo asked in surprise.
“Yes,” she nodded. “I’ve picked up on a few things after six years.”
“Would you be able to explain the construct of the vault, based on what we’re looking at?”
“On the surface, this is like any other standard vault, only with a few exceptions,” said Ms. Larkin. “A thick steel door, entrenched walls, tripled partitions. One of the ways this is different is that the walls are interlocking panels of reinforced steel making them both durable and easier to move.”
“How deep of an entrenchment do these walls have?” Huxley asked. “Is there an outline of the foundation somewhere?”
“Here,” she answered, selecting another page. “it extends beyond the walls, runs six feet down.”
“Is there any empty space within it?”
“Like a cellar? No. The vault could too easily collapse in on itself.”
“Just a question,” said Inspector Hugo. “Why are the walls made of panels? Seems like that might make them weaker.”
“On the contrary. There are not one but three partitions of interlocking panels which alternate. It’s incredibly strong. They must be moved with a crane but, once in place, are airtight.”
“The crane is also necessary to lift the door, correct?”
“Only when the steel security barrier has fallen.”
“You’re speaking of the glass interval,” said Huxley.
“Perhaps Captain Ames broke the glass when he was trying to open the vault door last night,” said the inspector.
“The captain clearly stated that the fumes overwhelmed him before he could turn the wheel.” Huxley reminded them.
“Well, if the captain didn’t break the glass when everyone was inside, then who did?” Inspector Hugo asked.
After a momentary silence, Huxley began flipping through the blueprints. “Is there a diagram of the doors and their timing mechanisms?”
“Yes, I believe so.” Ms. Larkin began searching.
“What are you thinking?” asked the inspector.
“Well,” said Huxley, “if Captain Ames didn’t break the glass, and no one broke the glass at the other locations, that leaves only one possibility.”
“What is that?”
“The use of a timer,” he answered, holding up the diagram Ms. Larkin handed him. “The lock on the vault at Finsbury Square was set to allow the door to be opened after waiting twenty-two seconds, at which point, the security mechanism is disarmed. Until the twenty-two seconds are up, this hammer here remains cocked in position to shatter the glass if the wheel is turned. Correct me if I’m wrong, Ms. Larkin, but the timer resets after each use, and after being locked again, the whole mechanism remains disarmed until the next time the door is unlocked.”
“Is it possible that this mechanism could have been engineered in reverse, arming the mechanism after locking the door as opposed to disarming it?” The two of them looked at Ms. Larkin.
“It wouldn’t take too much of an error to make it that way,” she shrugged. “It’s certainly possible on one, but I don’t see how it could have been overlooked on four of these vaults. That would be incredibly unlikely.”
“Too unlikely perhaps,” said Huxley, taking a seat. He stared off in thought. “What is the longest these timers can be set for?”
“What are you thinking, Mr. Huxley?” asked Inspector Hugo. “
“The other three vaults were gassed precisely at 12:15 this afternoon. The time at Finsbury Square was approximately 1:30 this morning.”
“That’s nearly eleven hours and would have been exactly eleven if the transport wasn’t late as Captain Ames said.”
“You suspect the timers were set to eleven hours?” asked Inspector Hugo.
“No, Inspector. If those mechanisms were indeed engineered in reverse, I’m sure of it. Understanding this diagram could be crucial evidence of that. The only question is, how do you make sure they all go off simultaneously?”
“The final gold transports all occurred at the same time this morning…” The inspector shook his head. “Mr. Huxley, if you’re correct, then that leaves only one possibility.”
“Yes. There is a traitor among us.”
Copyright © 2019 by Stephen Daniel Ruiz