The Case of the Gold Thief--Prologue
Somewhere in the downtown district of Redington, Number Nine sat in his makeshift office and studied the file displayed on his desk computer. "Hmmmmmmm..." he thought out loud as he focused mainly on the accompanying picture, which was of a young girl with dark brown hair. "She doesn't look like much of a threat, does she, Mojo?" he said, his voice having a trace of an accent.
Near his computer, a small robot with a round body peeked its head at the screen now and then. It resembled a simplified monkey, complete with long arms and a tail. Its eyes flashing, the robot beeped and whistled in response to Number Nine's question. "True, but look at her eyes," Number Nine said, closely examining the girl's blue eyes. "You can see the curiosity in them, Mojo."
Mojo beeped and whistled while Number Nine stroked his dark upturned mustache, which was located underneath a pointed, elongated nose. "Mr. E perceives this girl as a threat to ENIGMA's existence." He adjusted the monocle over his left eye and looked over the data on the subject. "Considering all that she's done, including what's she's started and recently thwarting Number Eight's assignment in this area, it's a sound hypothesis."
Number Nine heard the door open behind him. Mojo turned around and watched as an ENIGMA agent in full uniform entered the room. "Sir, I have..." The agent froze, realizing that Number Nine was not wearing his mask.
Number Nine kept facing the computer and took out a rod-like object as he spoke. "Agent, haven't you heard of knocking?" he asked.
The agent spun around quickly. "Your forgiveness, sir! I...I...in my rush to deliver my news, I forgot about knocking," he said, keeping his eye on the door.
*Hmph. Probably a new agent,* Number Nine thought. He extended the rod in his hand, a telescoping pointer, to its full length. "You do know the penalty for seeing the face of Mr. E or another member of High Command without authorization, don't you, agent?"
"Y-y-yes, sir," the agent replied.
"Then what is it?" Number Nine asked, still keeping his face to the computer.
"Death, sir," the agent answered nervously.
"Exactly," Number Nine said as he pointed the pointer behind him.
The agent heard noises coming from something large covered by a white tarp on his left. The object moved, and the tarp fell off, revealing a robot that resembled a bear. Its hands had long, razor-sharp claws and its face held a not-so-friendly grin. The agent gulped as the bear robot advanced slowly on him, its claws outstretched towards him and a emitting a computerized growl. The sight of its glowing yellow eyes added to the agent's terror.
Mojo seemed to be laughing as he watched the towering bear robot march on the agent. "Please, sir! It won't happen again! I swear it!" the agent begged as he backed away from the robot, his eyes wide-open behind his dark goggles. He dropped a computer printout that was meant for his superior.
Number Nine silently watched the computer screen as the agent found himself backed up against the wall with no place to go. The bear robot had him cornered. "Mercy, sir! Mercy!" he pleaded as the bear robot got closer, snarling and ready to strike. He shielded his face with his arms and waited to die.
Number Nine smiled coldly, then addressed the bear robot. "Teddy, cease and desist!"
To the relief of the agent, the bear robot stopped in its tracks. "Teddy, back to your corner and stay there," Number Nine ordered further.
Wiping the sweat on his forehead through his mask, the agent let out a large sigh as Teddy marched back to his corner and resumed standing still. "Thank you, sir. Oh, thank you..."
Number Nine help up his hand to silence the agent. "Do this again and I'll allow Teddy to rip you to shreds, understand?"
The agent nodded quickly. "I understand, sir," he said.
Number Nine pointed the pointer to his right and pressed the button again. A four-wheeled robot with a covered serving tray moved towards his desk. "Keep your eye on the door if you value your life," he warned the agent harshly as he reached for the cloth covering the tray.
"Yes, sir!" the agent exclaimed, turning around to face the door as Number Nine donned what was on the tray.
"You may turn around now," Number Nine said, getting up from his seat and sending the serving robot away.
The agent turned around and faced the now-masked Number Nine. The master agent was dressed entirely in metallic gray with a necktie that had a gear drawn on it. His hands were covered by gray gloves. His mask matched with his suit. Its eyes were yellow, with the right eye being rectangular and the left resembling a large gunsight with a black gear around it. The mask's mouth was a yellow rectangular grin, and its nose was long and pointed to accommodate its wearer's large nose. On top of his head, he wore a white powdered wig with curled sides and a hat that resembled a mortarboard. The agent stared at this unusual apparition, but he knew better than to laugh. That was punishable by death as well, if the offended superior felt like it.
Managing to get almost everything together and picking up the printout, the agent recalled protocol when facing a superior. He quickly saluted Number Nine by pounding his right fist against his heart and outstretching it in the air. "ENIGMA forever!" he declared.
"Well, what is your news?" Number Nine asked as soon as the agent was done, his voice modified by his mask to sound more mechanical. He brought his pointer down into his other hand. Mojo leaped onto his chair and shrieked at the agent.
The agent gathered whatever nerves he had left and addressed his superior. "We've managed to hit the designated target a few minutes ago."
"Excellent," Number Nine said, satisfied. "Damage to the target?"
"According to Number Nine-Nine, there was extensive damage due to the crash," the agent answered, handing his superior the printout he had dropped.
"Did it accomplish its task?" Number Nine asked while looking over the printout to get the specifics of the night's events.
"It did, sir," the agent said, understanding what Number Nine meant.
"Good. Ah, what precision and accuracy. Typical of all my toys. Any damages to it?"
"No, sir. It came back here with no damage." The agent recalled something quickly. "It left too quickly for anyone to follow it, so this location is still secret. That's what Number Nine-Nine reported."
"Good," Number Nine said, nodding. "Were there any witnesses?"
"Yes, sir. I believe the police are on their way to the site."
"Very good." Number Nine folded his arms behind his back. "All goes according to plan, then."
"Sir, permission to speak freely," the agent asked nervously, eyeing the now-immobile Teddy.
"Speak, then," Number Nine said.
The agent gulped and kept a close watch on Teddy. "If you don't mind me asking, but why is a member of the Elite Eight in charge of such a standard operation in a city that holds no significant importance?"
Number Nine chuckled. "Agent, you are aware of the Red Zone Directive that has been passed by ENIGMA High Command, are you not?"
"The Red Zone Directive?" the agent asked, puzzled.
"Tsk, tsk, as the original supervisor of this operation, you really should keep up with decisions made by High Command," Number Nine said, shaking his pointer finger.
"I'm sorry, sir, but this is my first time I've been in such a high position for an assignment," the agent admitted with hesitation.
"I understand. I'll enlighten you, then." Number Nine stepped closer to the agent so that he could stare into his eyes, making his subordinate feel uneasy. A little closer, and the sharp nose would have stabbed the poor underling. "You see, agent, Mr. E and High Command recently decreed that any mission in the vicinity of the city of Redington, code-named the Red Zone, is to be under the command of a member of the Elite Eight no matter how small it is."
"Why, sir?" the agent dared to ask. His curiosity was getting the better of him, another mistake that could also be punished by immediate execution.
"Because of this," Number Nine answered, aiming his pointer at the back wall. A projection screen came down, and with another button push, the screen showed what was on Number Nine's computer. "Do you recognize this girl, agent?"
After searching his memory quickly, the agent answered Number Nine. "Yes, sir. That is Shirley Holmes, the daughter of one of the British diplomats stationed here."
"She is considered a great threat to our organization," Number Nine stated. "Mr. E has ordered her execution to be carried out as discreetly as possible."
The agent studied the picture of Shirley Holmes closely. "Sir, she's just a regular teen-age girl."
"Napoleon Bonaparte was known for his short height and was not considered by some as a man destined for greater things, but as emperor of France, he nearly conquered all of Europe," Number Nine noted. "This girl is carrying out the legacy of her great-granduncle Sherlock and has been linked to Inspector Christopher Hewitt, who is being seen as an expert on ENIGMA. Mr. E wants her dead and has authorized the Elite Eight to use any means to accomplish this goal. Naturally, we must also make sure that we're not connected to her death."
"I see, sir," the agent said, nodding.
"So, has your curiosity been satisfied?" Number Nine inquired as he aimed the pointer at the projection screen and made it roll up.
"Yes, sir," the agent answered immediately.
A beeping came from the computer. Mojo started jumping up and down in the chair, making electronic noises with great excitement. Number Nine looked at the computer screen. "Ah, Mr. E wishes to speak to me." He turned to the agent. "Leave me and begin preparations for tomorrow," he ordered. "Make sure Number Nine-Nine is ready for his part."
"Yes, sir!" the agent said, knowing better than to stretch his luck. Eyeing Teddy, he exited the room as quickly as he could.
Number Nine shooed Mojo out of his chair and sat down. The robot monkey jumped onto his shoulder. The ENIGMA master agent moved his mouse to a flashing light in the corner of the screen and clicked on it. The file of Shirley Holmes was replaced by the sinister figure of Mr. E, the supreme leader of ENIGMA. Wearing his usual dark glasses, uniform, and cape, he sat in a large chair. On his lap lied Chimera, a black cat with piercing yellow eyes, whom he stroked regularly with his gloved hand.
"ENIGMA forever!" Number Nine said, standing up and saluting his leader.
"Report," Mr. E said as Number Nine sat down again. Chimera purred as her master petted her.
"I'm happy to report that I have initiated my plan," Number Nine said. "I've just been informed that part one has been completed. My little toy did its designated function, so it's ready for the little job it's been assigned to."
"Good. Are you positive that Holmes will notice?" Mr. E asked.
"According to my calculations, there's a good chance she will, sir," Number Nine answered. "If that fails to pique her curiosity, what I have planned for tomorrow will."
"Good, Number Nine. Very good," Mr. E complemented. "Have you taken in account those special variables?"
"I have," Number Nine answered. "I guarantee that my toys will deal with them."
"For your sake, you had better be right, Number Nine," Mr. E said. Chimera meowed loudly at Number Nine. "My Elite Eight has already lost once thanks to Holmes, in addition to the other two defeats she's handed us directly plus the trouble she's caused us indirectly thanks to Interpol. Our clientele are not pleased with these recent failures, and quite frankly, I'm getting tired of arranging accidents to silence the complainers."
"I understand, sir," Number Nine said. "I assure you that my plan will work and not only will our client be satisfied, but the Holmes girl will be eliminated as well."
"I certainly hope so, Number Nine, or I'll be displeased. Very displeased," the ENIGMA leader said, while Chimera let out a loud meow that sounded almost like a roar.
"Yes, sir," Number Nine said, bowing his head solemnly. Mojo bowed and chattered something in its electronic sound language.
"Proceed with your plan, Number Nine. I wish to hear of our client's satisfaction and of Holmes' demise in the next few days."
"As you command, sir. The Elite Eight won't fail you again," Number Nine assured his leader.
"Let's hope not, Number Nine." Looking thoughtful, Mr. E stroked Chimera's back, eliciting a purr from the black cat. "Riddle me this. What's the only good detective?"
"A dead one, sir," Number Nine answered.
"Make sure that happens." With that, Mr. E ended the transmission, and Number Nine was left staring at the file on Shirley Holmes.
Number Nine clicked the "print" option. The printer hummed to life and produced a copy of the file page he was viewing. He took the printout and stared at the picture of the girl whom Mr. E saw as a threat to ENIGMA. The master agent knew his leader's other reason for authorizing the execution of the girl, and he could not blame him. The name "Sherlock Holmes" was despised widely by the criminal element, and a descendant of the famed detective who was carrying out his legacy became a potential threat to all criminals. Number One and the Elite Eight, the people who made up the High Command of ENIGMA along with Mr. E, had become alarmed when the ENIGMA leader informed them the Mona Lisa fiasco was caused by a teen-age girl. When it was learned that the girl was a descendant of Sherlock Holmes, the matter became more serious, for the other members of the Elite Eight knew of the Holmes legacy. They also knew the reason why Mr. E hated the girl named Shirley Holmes so intensely, and they did not blame him, either. Besides, disagreeing with Mr. E was bad for one's health--dangerously bad.
"Mojo, the usual," Number Nine told the robot monkey, waving his hand in front of the screen. The computer shut down automatically.
Mojo leapt down from Number Nine's shoulder and went for the bottom drawer of the desk. It pulled out the drawer and took out a piece of white cardboard that matched the size of the printout and a jar of rubber cement. Mojo closed the drawer and laid the items on the floor. Number Nine handed it the printout, and the robot monkey laid it next to the cardboard. Opening the jar of rubber cement, Mojo used the brush attached to the lid to spread the sticky substance all over the cardboard. After examining its work, Mojo pasted the printout, with its blank side down, onto the cardboard. It handed the paper to Number Nine after a minute of drying.
Number Nine looked at the printout. He studied the picture of the girl to whom his leader had issued a order of execution. The killing of children was not new to him; besides designing the various weapons and devices ENIGMA used in its crimes and overseeing their development, he was also an expert assassin, and his targets ranged from the very young to the very old. He knew all people had to die; he just made death come to them sooner. As he looked at Shirley's picture, he examined the eyes he noticed curiosity in. Her file said that she was naturally inquisitive and was attracted to mysteries; she would not stop until she had solved one. Mr. E and the rest of High Command knew that she considered ENIGMA another mystery to solve, but they were determined to make sure she failed in her mission to find out more about it. Number Nine clearly saw determination in the girl's eyes as well.
"Why couldn't she just stick to normal girl things, like makeup and shopping?" Number Nine asked, addressing his synthetic simian, who responded with more of its electronic sounds. "Ah, but that wouldn't fit the profile of a budding detective, much less one who is carrying out the legacy of the greatest detective of all time." Mojo beeped its agreement while jumping up and down.
"Well, we can't have her running around contributing to ENIGMA's problems, now, can we, Mojo?" Number Nine asked, looking at the picture. The robot monkey chattered its agreement again. He stood up and walked to the center of the room. With one last glance at the printout, he tossed it in the air. Mojo watched as its master and creator looked up and a laser beam fired from his left eye. The printout was cut in half and its pieces fell to the floor.
As Mojo danced around doing its electronic chatter, Number Nine stared at the halves of the printout. "And now, ma jeune detective, it's time for me to join the game," he said, smiling evilly behind his mask.
END OF PROLOGUE