On the other hand, I must admit that I do learn things in these confrontations with Dr. Obolensky.
We gathered Saturday evening at the Port Babbage docks–Captain Undertone, myself, Miss Lekvoda, and a few non-militia people, including Mr. Satu Moreau, whom I’d met a little over a week ago. A certain Sgt. O’Cod was there as well, who gave himself out as a retired reservist. We steamed and sailed across to the observatory–I in Sgt. O’Cod’s vessel. And it was there, really, that I got my first intimation that something was wrong. When he became angry as one of the other boats crossed his bow, there was something familiar in his tone…
And there was the matter of how well he navigated the treacherous waters around the observatory. Not to mention the fact that his accent was all over the map. And then, as he was stashing his too-large gun among the crates of shrimp that had somehow replaced the bullets that were supposed to be brought, I caught a glimpse of his eyes under his too-large helmet. Eyes that were very familiar… But I kept telling myself I must be mistaken.
Lesson #1: Listen to your instincts.
We climbed up again, after Jimmy flew up with his mechanical pack and confirmed that the place was empty, and set to work rendering the lab unworkable. After about 10 minutes of this, though, who should appear but Professor Parx, the wheelchair-bound man who had shot Miss Mactavish at the Ball last October? He immediately started yelling at us for wrecking [i]his[/i] laboratory, and going after [i]his[/i] ruby!
With those words, everything suddenly snapped into place, like a jigsaw puzzle, and I finally saw events clearly. It was [i]Dr. Obolensky [/i]who had sent me that note, to set the militia against Professor Parx, to drive him out the the observatory! The Doctor was also after the ruby for his own nefarious purposes; perhaps he would have tried to steal it from Militia headquarters, but the Professor had beaten him to it. So now, he had joined us here, in the guise of Sgt. O’Cod, to see to it that his plans were successful!
Lesson #2: Stop. Trusting. Anonymous. Letters.
I actually swore when I realized all this. And when I whirled to the machine, I saw him calmly reaching for the ruby inside it. I drew my revolver and ordered him to stop, but he tried to bluff his way through. So I fired a warning shot–one that, I must admit, shaved closer than I’d intended; it grazed his helmet. But that was just as well, for the bullet knocked his helmet back, revealing his familiar visage.
I was furious, absolutely furious, that I’d fallen for his schemes again. And that’s when I made another mistake. All of my attention was bent on him; I paid little attention to anyone else, especially Professor Parx. I remember now that he made some very angry comments directed at me, especially when I mentioned the note, and that I’d been the one to bring it to the Militia.
Lesson #3: When there are two or more villains in a room, do not direct all of your attention to just one.
All I remember is feeling a sudden shock, rather like the one Dr. Obolensky had given me in the same building just a few months ago. The next thing I knew, I was waking up with a splitting headache. The others told me that Professor Parx shot me with some kind of electricity-based gun, and then made his escape. I’d forgotten his wheelchair could fly.
I was badly shaken by what had happened, but at least I was able to discover, on the back of the death ray blueprint I’d taken from the desk, the true owners of the ruby–a museum in Belgium. I informed Captain Undertone about that, and then, with Mr. Moreau’s help, descended from the balcony by the rope. Mr. Mannonen had arrived shortly before I regained consciousness, and kindly ferried myself and Mr. Moreau back to the docks. From there, Mr. Moreau escorted me back to my apartment, and even came in to make some soothing tea for me.
I am feeling better today–physically, at least. Mentally, I’m still castigating myself for everything that I missed, everything that I fell for. But no, it’s not just because Dr. Obolensky made me look bad. Others followed me to the observatory, others who could also have been injured because of my stupidity.
Next time, if there is a next time, I will–I must–do better.