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Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual
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Ben was lingering at the Registry door when Violet came pounding up the steps. “Hey, Violet. Thought I’d wait for you.”

He seemed a little subdued, in the circumstances. They opened up the doors and started down the hall.

“Is everything okay?” she asked. “Did the Zoning Department show up?”

“Oh, yeah. They cordoned off the lab and took Dr. Moore away. Which, you know, it not being her fault, it seemed a little unfair.”

There was only so much unfairness that Violet could address in a day. She told him that Dr. Moore would have a chance to defend herself. “But you seem…”

“Yeah, that. It was kind of…. When the ASAA was so hot to keep me down there, bailing out the inertrium. Turns out there was some guy down in the square underneath us. We… we might have missed him, if I’d stayed on the job.”

“Oh, that’s…. Are you all right?”

“Yeah, it was just sort of a mess. I mean, a whole building. There was only – ”

“No, I can’t find it either!” said Officer Fearn. She was at the center of a knot of investigators and officers outside the Registrar’s office. “I know I didn’t win, but… Violet! Where were you?”

Everybody turned and glared at Violet and Ben.

Violet peered through the door. The Registrar’s inner door was ajar. There wasn’t any sign of him inside.

“Where’s the Registrar?”

Officer Fearn and her friends wouldn’t be distracted. “Where’s the pool?”

“It’s on my desk, under the Wilcox preliminaries. Hasn’t anybody seen Registrar Sandrov?”

“He went out,” said Officer Rocklynne. “Said he had to find Investigator Bowman. Found your assignment list with everybody’s location.”

“My assignment list?” Violet went over to her desk and found the first page of the betting pool on top of the Wilcox files. “I don’t have an assignment list. But here’s….”

She stood there, perfectly motionless, for a moment. Ben came over and looked at the pool. Then he pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket.

“That guy under the laboratory, he was… there was his hand, actually. Not much more. He was holding this.”

Ben laid the second sheet of the betting pool on top of the first one. The second sheet was torn and smeared with red.

At the bottom of the page Violet saw her quick notation of Ben’s bet. Bowman, Perisquare, NW corner.

“Hey!” cried Officer Fearn. “Ben won!”

Officer Rocklynne frowned. “I don’t know, with him being on board the thing – is that fair? Couldn’t he have –”

Enlarge: Violet and Ben absorb the day's events

The officers and investigators argued about whether Ben’s bet had been valid while Ben and Violet stared at the bloodstained sheet.

Very faintly Violet asked, “Registrar Sandrov said he’d found a list of everybody’s location?”

Rocklynne broke away from the argument to explain. “Said he was going to talk to Investigator Bowman.”

Violet and Ben sank into Violet’s chairs. Five minutes later, with the argument over the pool still going, an intern looked in. “Investigator Bowman! There you are. It’s five o’clock. Have you filed the complaint report on those preliminary applications from Dr. Moore and Professor Wilcox?”

Ben’s face turned toward him, but his eyes didn’t focus. “What?”

“Only, it’s just you can’t take those vacation days next week unless you resolve the complaint. Sorry. You’ve still got an hour.”

Ben shook his head. “Okay.”

The intern waited for a moment, but that was all he was going to get. He left.

“So,” Ben said to Violet. “It looks like I killed the Registrar.”

She nodded. There wasn’t much more to say.


She nodded again. “I know.”

The knot of officers and investigators had come to an agreement. “Okay,” Rocklynne said. “So Bowman wins. I still think it’s kind of questionable.”

Violet quietly collected the bets and pushed them, in a ragged pile, toward Ben’s side of her desk. He looked down at his winnings.

“Why don’t you just keep that, Violet?”

“It doesn’t matter, Ben. You take it.”

The others seemed confused that there wasn’t more of a celebration. One by one, though, they dispersed to finish their tasks for the day. That left Ben and Violet, with the pile of money between them, in front of the open door of the Registrar’s office.

They stayed there for a long time.

The Files of the Retropolis Registry of Patents continue with Ben Bowman in the Vault of Terror.

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