Fidelia used this spare moment to tidy up her appearance–pat down the wild mane of her hair, brush off the bit of dust from her skirt. That was sufficient enough to deem her presentable to the Detective, she supposed. She rocked back and forth on her heels and waited for Himself to appear.
The door opened, revealing Augie once again. Fidelia straightened as if to show she had remained perfectly well-behaved in his absence. “Do come in, Miss Fidelia. Mister Nathaniel is preoccupied at present but shall grant you audience in the great chamber.”
This was the first Fidelia has ever stepped foot in the club. “Office girls” such as she were not permitted entry. Only those who held the distinction of Detective could gain access. Therefore, this was a rare opportunity that both excited and worried her.
Every concern she held disappeared at the sight that greeted her. She knew not where to rest her eyes–the intricate patterns on the wall, the ornamented furniture, or the antique displays?–for every design and decor beckoned her gaze. It was quite the contrast from its rather nondescript exterior.
But nothing she’d seen thus far inspired more awe than the grand hallway. Hanging from the walls were the painted portraits of all the great Detectives of history. Fidelia recognized nearly every one: Sir Theophilus Edmund Penhale, who single-handedly dismantled a notorious crime organization in a matter of days; Mamsyr, whose picture was but a vague silhouette for their identity was a complete mystery; Cleophane Higgenbottom, Miss Higgenbottom’s great-aunt and the most decorated Detective of her time.
One day, Fidelia swore, she will have her own framed portrait added to this impressive lineup.
Augie reached the entrance of the great chamber and invited her to enter first. The room was equally as magnificent as the rest of the club. Displayed right in the center of the room was an impressive reconstruction of a city skyline made entirely out of matches. At the last second, she noticed Himself leaning comfortably against an ornate desk.
“Mister Nathaniel, I’ve brought Miss Fidelia here per your request,” Augie announced. Then, with a deep bow, he left the room.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Fidelia curtsied.
Mister Nathaniel was the club’s most popular Detective. Quite the bumbling buffoon in public, he seemed to solve cases more out of pure luck than genuine skill. But his record thus far was unmatched and, clumsy though he may be, he always got the job done.
“I come with a letter from the Agency,” she continued, handing the sealed envelope over to the Detective. He wasted no time in slicing it open with a thin silver blade he procured from atop the desk. He made agreeable hums and harumphing noises as he scanned its contents.
“Sounds like quite the spot of trouble we’ve found ourselves in,” Nathaniel observed. “Terrible! Most distressing! However will we get out of this?”
And then, from somewhere within the matchstick construction, a soft voice spoke, “You have such a flare for the dramatic, Paddy.”
Nathaniel–Paddy?–grinned as if pleased with himself. “I try, young sir. I find it good practice for when the media gather to report on our endeavors.”
Whistling a jaunty tune, Paddy pushed himself off the desk and approached the source of the voice. He held out the letter, and a small hand appeared from the center of the miniature city to grab it.
Then the small hand turned into an arm and then a body until finally a young child materialized out of the tiny wooden construction.
In a dramatic booming voice, Paddy said, “Introducing the real Nathaniel Erasmus Baldrick Bracegirdle, Detective at Very Large.”
Fidelia gaped at this small, gangly-limbed boy. Was this really the genius who captured the Star Jewel Bandit and solved the Serial Ghost Murders at House Marfleet? He was but a mere bubtion!
“He’s not very large, is he?” she remarked.
“Physical attributes contribute little to the workings of the mind,” he responded patiently. “But I propose we focus on the pressing matter at hand. I have read what is written on this letter, and Paddy’s initial reaction may not be too far off the mark.
“There is an awful plot brewing in our city, and I fear only the three of us in this room will be able to stop it. What say you, Miss Fidelia? Will you help save this city?”