Clients like Gwen Hopkins made Tallie nervous. It wasn't Gwen herself, though the way her jaw was set was enough to tell you that the red hair wasn't suggesting anything unreasonable. She would be pretty formidable once she was roused, which Tallie knew was going to happen before long.
"The Air Safety officers investigated but they couldn't come up with any witnesses," Gwen continued. "My Uncle Cornelius is so preoccupied with his work that by now he's probably forgotten that he even owns a rocket; but I hate to see people take advantage of him. It's just too easy. And anyway, who's even heard of a rocket thief in... well, ever? It just doesn't happen."
She frowned. "I've tried about everything, asked about everyone I know: nobody has a clue. So finally I decided..." Gwen looked around. " ...to come down here."
The Clockwork Book turned its pages calmly, found the reference it wanted, and asked, "Your uncle is Cornelius Zappencackler? The inventor and... " It looked down. " ...a faculty advisor at the Retropolis Academy for the Unusually Inventive?"
"That's Uncle Cornelius, all right. His rocket disappeared from its parking space at the Academy labs."
The Book looked up. "As it happens, I have recently acquired the story of how his rocket disappeared. This is a rare stroke of good luck," it added.
Not for everybody, thought Tallie.
The Book patted the open page and said, "All that is required is that you tell me a story in return. Do you have one?"
Gwen laughed. "Oh, do I!" she said. "I think this one will do just fine.