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The Curious Conversation

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Inspector Gage waved the jar away, bringing his teacup to his lips. "No."

From across the table, Percy Tribb gave him an unnerving smile and reached for the milk. "Black. How very masculine of you."

The Inspector made a face like he had just been invited to one of the Cheswicks' infamous swinger parties. "Mr. Tribb," he began calmly, leaning forward with his hands clasped in front of him. "Please state your purpose in asking me to meet you here. This is our third cup of tea and, bizarrely, the twelfth time you've asked me if I'd like honey, and I'm beginning to wonder if your only goal isn't simply to waste my holiday."

"Are you really on holiday?" Percy asked with characteristically overblown surprise. "Oh, but of course. I should have guessed. You're not wearing that delightful pink and purple tie of yours. It makes such a statement, tucked away beneath that Yard-issue trench coat."

Inspector Gage glanced down at his tie-less shirt with vague concern.

"What does a man such as yourself do on holiday?" Percy continued, licking the residue from his spoon.

"I fish."

"Fish, did you say?"

"Yes, I fish."

"Good gracious. I never had you pegged for the fishing type. I thought rugby, perhaps. Have you ever—"

"Mr. Tribb," Inspector Gage interrupted, reaching purposefully for his wallet. "If you have nothing relevant to say to me, then I'll be on my way."

Percy smiled grimly. "Oh all right, Inspector. Goodness, don't they teach you boys patience over at Scotland Yard? I hear that kind of thing can come in handy." He pulled out a thin manila envelope from somewhere beneath the table and laid it carefully next to the tea service.

"What is this regarding?" Inspector Gage asked, wondering what an office drone from the British Museum could possibly have stumbled upon.

Percy added more water to his teacup, daintily nudging the envelope forward with his index finger. "I think you'll find its contents relevant to your interests."

Inspector Gage regarded him with suspicion, wishing he had indeed worn his pink and purple crime-solving tie today. Taking the envelope from the table, he turned it over and gave the tab a quick flick.

Percy chuckled at his face. It reminded him of the time Mr. Frescura had been rightfully accused of clogging up the office toilet. "Mrs. Eagle is surprisingly flexible, isn't she?"

"Who—Where did you get these?" Inspector Gage hissed, shuffling through the stack of photos with growing horror.

Percy tittered with amusement. "Does that really matter? I must say, Inspector, you photograph beautifully from behind."

Inspector Gage dropped the stack face-down on the table and narrowed his eyes. Much like the way Mr. Frescura had done when Percy presented him with the invoice from the plumber. "What is it you want, Tribb?"

"Please," Percy insisted, rubbing up against him under the table with one sock-clad foot. "Call me Percy."

Inspector Gage glanced down at the foot in his lap, wondering when exactly Percy had taken the time to remove his shoes. After a long moment he cleared his throat. "Finish your tea, Tribb. And I better not see any bloody photographers, because it'll mean a lot of paperwork for me tomorrow when they find your bloated carcass floating along the Thames."