Seventh wasn't too far from the station, so we just walked over to the Danbue Lodge. I kept my eyes down, but Shannon was looking all around, eyes darting everywhere. At a glance she looked rather ditzy, but there was that interested spark in her eye, and observant line to her face that no ditz could ever possess.
Well, one could try... for a decent amount of cash, that is... but not succeed.
"Seventeen..." she muttered to herself, glancing from the corner of a building to the nearest bus stop.
"I hate to intrude, but seventeen what?"
"Pigeons, of course!" Shannon answered with a smile. "It's a habit I have, pigeon counting. I have a running total, you know."
"How do you know you're not counting the same pigeons every day?"
She paused. "I just... know. It's just one of those things, Inspector..."
I didn't believe her for a minute. She was fully aware that I didn't believe her. I knew she could tell the difference between those pigeons, she just didn't want me to know how she knew.
"Well, just make sure none of your pigeon buddies filches my pizza," I muttered jokingly. We continued to Seventh in silence.
"Danbue Lodge, just like he told you, Inspector."
I craned my neck. "Odd looking building for New York, isn't it?"
"There was that whole revival of all-things from Vienna back when... besides, where's the 'odd' qualifying line in New York?"
I shrugged. "Y'gotta point, Ms. Shannon," I replied, buzzing for S. Trouse. We were ushered right up to his apartment.
Shannon's eyes were acting like pinballs again. Absorbant pinballs, to be specific.
"I'm so glad you could come up so quickly Inspector Johnson," the little Trouse began, all a-fluster, as he half-shook my hand and half dragged me into his apartment. I nearly had to pry the poor man off of me.
"Yes. Well. This is my... er, assistant, Ms. Shannon," I introduced hastily, gesturing to Shannon. She waved, taking in seemingly every crack on every inch of the molded crownings. "What seems to be the trouble, Mr. Trouse?"
"Well, you see," he began, his soft-spoken voice tinged with the slightest of German accents, "my watch turned up missing this morning."
I paused. "With all due respect, isn't it a bit overkill to call..."
He shook his head and his hands, shushing me. "Let me explain, Inspector. Firstly, it is among the first Walfmaan Safe watches ever cast. Second, you are no doubt aware that Walfmaan watches contain a small, locked compartment in the back?"
I was not aware of this, but Shannon seemed to know exactly what the little man was talking about, so I nodded.
"It contained very sensitive plans. Scematics, budgets, outlines, time-tables, for this very sensitive, very secret project I have been working on." The poor man nearly collapsed at my feet in tears.
Shannon seemed to take over. Taking Trouse gently by the shoulders, she muttered something comforting in his ear. It sounded to my untrained ears to be in German. Then, aloud, she continued, "Where did you keep the watch when you weren't wearing it, Mr. Trouse?"
"In a case, right over here." A small, rather smudged, glass case sat in the corner of a bookcase. Shannon stood on her tiptoes to look level with the shelf. Or, I thought she was on tip-toe... her feet seemed to flatten out, but her head stayed level...
"What do you have, Inspector?"
I snapped out of my thought-fog. "Eh?"
"Do you have any scanners? Fingerprints, DNA, anything?"
I searched my cavernous pockets. "Doesn't hurt to carry the Print-Checker," I said with a shrug, handing it to her.
It didn't occur to me until much later that I'd never shown her how to use it, yet she guided the tracking beam over the dusty surface deftly.
"Did anybody else know about the watch?" she asked as she worked.
"Only one: my boss."
"About the project: did he seem in favor of it throughout its planning stages?" Trouse nodded. "No signs of jealousy, reservation, loathing?"
"Now Shannon, that seems a bit strong..." I admonished.
"Now that you mention it, he seemed a bit forced in his responses. But why the watch be stolen..."
"May I ask where you work, Mr. Trouse?"
Shannon handed the Checker back to me. Clapping her hands resolutely, she eagerly asked if I had anything further to do.
I was at a loss for words. "I'm... I'm good, Ms. Shannon. Shall we back to the station?"
"I think," I muttered in her ear on our way down to the street, "you have a bit of explaining to do."