“Can I help you?” A young man wearing the brown livery of the professor’s household appeared out of a side door, coming towards them.
“Yes.” Marco said bluntly. “I am Marco Preston and this is Talith Meer. We are here to see Professor Smith.”
The man in front of them paused, rubbing his hands together nervously. “I’m afraid the Professor is…”
“Incapacitated?” Marco asked irritably, annoyed to be stalled again.
“Well…not exactly.” The man hesitated. “I’m afraid he’s dead.”
There was a moment of shocked silence as they let the words sink in. Marco abruptly sat down on a bench and put his head in his hands, feeling incredible frustration mix with anger and sadness. They needed his help and now he wasn’t there…
Talith was asking for details in her calm voice.
“We found him this morning.” The man explained to her. “He died in his sleep. The police have just finished – we suspected foul play at first, because of the death threats, but there’s no sign. The doctor pronounced it as heart failure.”
Talith nodded, thinking. “So what will happen to everything? His projects?”
“His secretary is looking for his will. We think he left it with his solicitor but we haven’t been able to contact them yet. The professor spoke highly of both of you. If you would like to see his secretary, then she will be please to help you…?” The man obviously wanted to get them into someone else’s hands. Talith could hear voices coming down the hallway and guessed that another deputation were arriving.
“Of course.” she agreed.
The professor’s secretary turned out to be a rather intimidating young woman who glanced coolly at them from over her desk. “One moment, if you please.” she said and picked up the phone as it began to ring.
Marco glanced impatiently around the room, half listening to the brief phone call. The secretary placed the phone back down after a curt farewell and looked coldly at them.
“How can I help you?”
“We need information on a project.”
“I’m afraid I merely handled the administration and financial side of things. I have no idea of any of his projects apart from a rough outline. You would do better to ask one of his helpers.”
“We have. They don’t know either.” Marco said bluntly.
“Did he leave any plans or notes?” Talith put in enquiringly.
“Goodness, no.” The secretary looked shocked at the thought. “Everything was in his head for the prototypes, and that was all he made. He sent them to other people to make plans of. He had nothing to do with that.”
Marco and Talith looked at each other. So the prototype was the only one of its kind, and no plans would have been made yet.
“Is there anyone who would know anything about his designs?” Talith tried.
“He had an apprentice, and a daughter. Maybe one of them would be able to help you.” She wanted to get rid of them as well. “These were their last contact addresses.” After handing them a piece of paper, she mentally dismissed them and turned back to her computer. Marco glumly followed Talith from the room, shutting the door behind him with a bang.
“Fat lot of help that’ll be! A daughter would know nothing about her father’s latest projects, and the apprentice might know something…but not everything. It’s a wild goose chase.”
“But it’s the only thing we’ve got.” Talith reminded him calmly.