‘So the vault was never broken into at all?’ said Mr Hain, his brow furrowed in confusion.
‘Correct,’ said Caldwell. ‘But someone did get inside.’ He paused, giving the gathered company a moment to catch up with his dazzling mental acuity. Mr Hain gasped.
‘An inside job?’ he said. ‘At my bank?’ Caldwell turned to him and smiled.
‘You could say that.’ He raised one gloved hand and pointed to the bank manager’s head. ‘Would you please remove your hat?’ Slowly, Mr Hain lifted his black bowler. ‘And would you kindly look inside?’
‘My god,’ gasped Mr Hain, staring in disbelief at the lining of his hat.
‘That, ladies and gentlemen,’ said Caldwell, with a small flourish of his hand, ‘is an occult inscription placed in our good friend Mr Hain’s headwear in order to control his every thought and action.’
‘Placed there?’ said Lady Petunia, her voice trembling. ‘But by whom?’
‘Whom indeed,’ said Caldwell. ‘Someone with considerable knowledge of mysterious black arts. Someone with access to Mr Hain’s hat. Someone able to perform such an act and go completely undetected.’ He paused, listened intently and took one step to his left before swinging his arm wildly in the air.
‘Gaaah!’ yelled a voice, seemingly from nowhere. Caldwell grabbed at thin air and shook his fist. ‘Alright, alright,’ said the voice. ‘You can stop it now.’
With a shimmer of pale light, a figure appeared, Caldwell’s hand gripping its cravat.
‘This,’ said Caldwell, ‘is Mr Laender, a demon of considerable power.’
‘A demon?’ gasped Lady Petunia.
‘Yes, my lady,’ said Caldwell. ‘A demon summoned and solicited by you, a time traveller from the future.’
‘Curse you!’ screamed Lady Petunia, her synthetic face peeling off and revealing the hyper-intelligent lizard beneath. ‘Curse you to the seventeen dimensions of hell!’
For a moment, the assembled company – detective, bank workers, policemen, demon and time-travelling lizard – were silent.
‘Um,’ said Mr Hain, tapping his fingers on the edge of his hat. ‘I mean... Are you absolutely sure it wasn’t just a break-in?’