An excerpt from the book
"You're serious!" Miss Bang’s brow was creased in ire. The hint of fire blazed behind her eyes.
He blinked at her. "Of course, I'm serious. Such a joke would be in very bad taste!"
"I don't believe anyone ever accused my great-grandfather of having good taste," I commented ruefully.
The professor turned to me. "Your great-grandfather was actually quite a thoughtful fellow in his youth. He did throw the most excellent parties. I never did find out what made him such a misanthrope as he got older. I'd often wondered... Wait! Wait, I was going to tell you something. Something I'd just discovered." He looked down at the wing in his hand. "Yes! That was it! You remember the birds, the clockwork birds?"
I nodded. "Yes, Professor. It was just earlier this morning." I wondered if it was still morning.
Professor Crackle nodded vigorously. "Yes, they're a perfect recreation of the living creature. Or at least as best as I can tell, given the damage the sample sustained. If only I could examine an intact specimen."
Miss Bang spoke up. "You're drifting again, Harmonious."
"No, no, no, no! This is important. Did you get a good look at the singers? The male and female leads?"
"At the opera?" I asked. I wasn't quite sure where he was leading.
"Yes! Did you get a good look at them?" He seemed very agitated as he leaned toward me for my answer.
"Well, Professor, I am afraid I wasn't really concentrating on them for most of the performance. And when things livened up at the end, my attention was, well... on other things."
"And you, Titania?" He whirled to face Miss Bang.
"Other than the final song, they seemed quite capable, although somewhat uninspired performers." She paused in thought for a moment, touching one finger to her lips. "I'm not sure how to describe the final performance."
"Drat. I hoped one of you got a better look. Now we shall have to find what is left of them." The professor moved back to his workbench and put down the wing and his loupe.
"You want to go find their bodies, Professor? Isn't that a task better left to the police?" I did not fancy the idea of sifting through the rubble for pieces of the dead performers.
He turned to me. "Their remains, yes. But their bodies, I think not." He lifted the wing again and shook it to illustrate his point. "I think they were clockwork."
"A clockwork man? How is that possible?" I looked to Miss Bang, but she seemed fascinated by the idea.
"But such intricate detail, Harmonious... and such a complex series of actions to perform upon the stage. They were actually singing. It wasn't a phonograph recording. Even with the latest equipment, one can tell the difference. I've never heard of an automaton that could truly sing."
"Yes!" The professor looked like a child who had been promised a new pony. "Exactly! Such perfect duplication of the living form! When I went down on the stage and examined the woman, she looked otherwise normal except for the side of her face. The flesh sagged under a weight. I think a piece detached from the underlying support structure and dragged it out of shape. I believe the same person who made these birds constructed the opera singers as well. But I need more evidence. We need to find what is left of those performers."
"So, we're going back to the opera house?" Miss Bang asked.
"Yes! Well, no! We're already there. I'm sorry about the little detour, my boy, but I'm certain your uncle is going to want to see whatever evidence we can find."
"Surely he will be worried about my disappearance? Perhaps it would be best to just drop me off first and I can explain your theory to Uncle Randolph?" Much as I would like to avoid his wrath, putting off seeing my uncle could only make things worse.
"After losing a major landmark?" Professor Crackle asked. "Don't be ridiculous! He may be worried, but he will have hardly a moment to think on it. No, trust me, even if you went back now you wouldn't be able to get in to see him. But if we can find something to prove it wasn't an accident, we'll be able to get right in to see the duke."
"And the police, Professor?" I asked, wondering what Inspector Janecek would think about the professor's clockwork people theory.
"Yes, we must get there before they do! The last thing we need is for them to tromp all over everything and destroy the evidence we need." He grabbed a pair of goggles off of a bench and strode through the door. "Come along!"
"But, but that's not what I meant!" I sputtered and hurried to catch up to Miss Bang as she swept out of the room in the professor's wake.