This story is also available for download from major ebook retailers.
Inspector Wilde was in a fine mood when he arrived at the headquarters of Salmagundi’s Legion of Peace, carrying three paper-wrapped sandwiches and an armload of printed broadsheets. He had a spring in his step and walked in time to one of the latest music hall ditties, which he whistled cheerfully for the benefit of his coworkers. All along the gaslit passage, clerks and secretaries poked their heads out of their rooms and stared, in wonder and admiration at his audacity. Most of them smiled as he passed, and a few of the braver ones tapped their feet along with the tune for a few moments before dashing back to their desks to avoid the ire of their supervisors. Wilde laughed as he passed a room full of secretaries who somehow managed to type in time with the music.
Midway down the hallway was the Chief Inspector’s office, which was fronted by a small antechamber in which her secretary, Marguerite, was busy making sense of several unsightly piles of documents. Her work table was a model of efficiency. Her pens and pencils were all neatly arranged to one side, along with writing paper and a three-section typewriter for preparing documents in triplicate. A rack of empty pneumatic capsules waited nearby to be filled and dispatched.
Marguerite smiled as Wilde approached, delighted by the cheerful whistling. Wilde leaned down, eyebrows arched, and tossed Marguerite the top sandwich in his stack.
“And a girl in uniform’s just the thing for me...” Wilde said playfully, completing the refrain of the tune in Marguerite’s ear.
“Max!” Marguerite exclaimed, her cheeks flushing. She pushed him away and made a show of reorganizing the papers on her desk. “You mustn’t say things like that to me. People will talk.”
“Well, if ‘people’ are going to talk, don’t you think we should give them something to talk about?” Wilde asked, flashing one of his trademark recruitment smiles.
Marguerite was trying to come up with a reply when a third voice interrupted. “Max, get in here!”
Marguerite jumped in shock and pulled a handful of papers between herself and Wilde, as if to deny that they had even been speaking. Wilde was also caught by surprise, but retained his composure. He looked over at the polished voicepipe mounted next to Marguerite’s table just in time to hear the Chief Inspector’s voice again.