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The Phlogiston Precariousness: Epilogue


Officer Winifred Goodman adjusted his dark blue uniform jacket while standing on the stone porch of Wyndfast. Night had fallen over the city and the last crickets of the year chirped their night song across the lawn. The doors opened to reveal William.

“Good evening Officer Goodman. Is this an official visit?” William asked.

“No, not tonight. I just wanted to have a conversation.”

“I shall fetch Mr. St. Eligius immediately.”

“Actually that won’t be necessary. I’d like to talk with you William.”

“Really?” William said. One eyebrow arched skeptically. “Please do come in. We can talk in the kitchen.”

“Thank you,” said the Policeman.

William led the way through the foyer, dining room and butler’s pantry to the kitchen. Everything gleamed from a fresh scrubbing. William gestured to a chair next to the central table.

“Would you care for something to drink or eat?” inquired William politely.

“Coffee if you have any.”

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” asked William as he set some water on the stove to boil.

“Well in light of the recent investigation Mr. St. Eligius undertook this week I wanted to talk about him. I am concerned with his release that he may fall back onto old habits. Word on the street is that Bey-Feng is rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of getting his hooks back into Mr. St. Eligius.”

“I see. If Mr. Bey-Feng is a problem, why don’t you arrest him?”

“I would if I could. However, there is never any sufficient evidence to hold him, let alone arrest and convict.”

“It seems that a slight alteration of the circumstances might be beneficial.”

“I cannot tamper with evidence that would be wrong. I worry about all the various temptations that will be in Mr. St. Eligius’s way.”

“Then it appears that because of your choice to follow a certain ethical path, a wicked criminal remains at large and allowed free rein to corrupt not just our mutual acquaintance, but the citizens of Harrisburg.”

“The law is the law, it may not be perfect but it certainly is moving in the right direction. Will you help me make sure that Ignatius stays out of trouble?”

“You mean monitor his every move, whim and desire. Preventing him from indulging in old habits and generally keep him out of trouble? No, I will not. You see Mr. Goodman that would be a conflict of interest with my chosen profession of Valet. Mr. St. Eligius does not employ me for nursemaid duties. He does pay for my discretion, efficiency and management skills.”

“It does not matter to me if I am simply managing his household or all of his holdings while he is incarcerated. I do what is most expeditious even though knowing all of my methods may cause you distress. I have no personal stake in my employer. He confides in me the way one might confide in a doctor or lawyer. He sleeps peacefully at night knowing that I will never betray any of his secrets, I sleep contentedly in the large sums of money I am paid.”

“To act in any manner counter to the one already established might jeopardize my future employment here, or elsewhere. If you cannot trust your valet, really then, who can you trust?” asked William.

The kettle started whistling its shrill tune. William moved swiftly to remove it from the flame and poured a measure of hot water into a gravity coffee maker. William watched the water as it moved over the grounds and dripped into a carafe below. Within several minutes, William placed a steaming cup of the dark liquid in front of Winifred.

“Do you take anything in your coffee?” asked William.

“No thank you. I take it that you are declining to help me based on loyalty to Ignatius and how you view that employer/employee relationship.”

“That is correct Officer,” said William.

“Fine. Would you answer a few more questions, unrelated to Mr. St. Eligius,” he amended.

“I shall do my best,” William said.

“Has anyone heard from Miss Selena recently?”

“I beg your pardon? Are you inquiring as to the whereabouts of Mr. St. Eligius’s day maid?”

“I am.”

“All I can tell you is that she is on leave, for an unspecified duration, due to a family situation.”

“I see. The reason I ask is that there was a disturbance up on the Hill the other night. You know, Allison Hill? Someone wound up on the wrong side of a blow to the head. Witnesses described someone close to Miss Selena fleeing from the scene.”

“I cannot say more than Miss Selena left suddenly several nights ago. We have not heard from her since.”

“Do you know where this family situation is taking place?” asked Winifred.

“No. She did not disclose the location to me. Perhaps you should return in the morning and conduct your investigation with Mr. St. Eligius.”

“That isn’t necessary. I just thought I’d ask since I’m here.”

“How very efficient of you.”

“Well, I like to try to do things in a logical, sensible manner. I suppose if there were some kind of distress here at work that caused Miss Selena to leave you wouldn’t tell me because of your ethics.”

“That is correct. Is there anything more I can do for you?”

“I am curious how you came to work for Mr. St. Eligius?” asked Winifred.

“We met a long time ago, in another place. I can only presume he liked my work. At some point after arriving here in Harrisburg, he saw fit to summon me and offer employment. I would have been foolish to refuse the opportunity.”

“Did you meet during the war?”

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Interesting. Well, I won’t take up any more of your time William. I need to get home to the missus anyway. Thanks for the coffee, I’ll show myself out.”

“Do have a pleasant evening Officer Goodman. It is always a joy to assist those in law enforcement.”

“Good night Mr. Ghendurwald,” said Winifred as he left the kitchen and strolled back out of the mansion. Clouds were gathering around Wyndfast according to the word on the street. Winifred hoped that William would want to look out for his employer. It seemed that was not the case. Officer Goodman opened the front door to discover that the night was now chilly and a steady rain fell.

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