'Inspector Thumb, sir. I think I may have a better way. If we can distract Howmet-keep him occupied in some site where he can't do much harm, we can try and track down this Shelsey Walsh fellow, gradually round up all the suspects and leave him isolated. I've got an undercover man working on the Scratchbuilding section. John P is his cover on this mission. I think he's come up with something that Howmet will find hard to resist. If we wait, I'm fairly sure Howmet will bite.'
'You don't think I can take him, mano a mano? Wintergreen doesn't scare me, Argent. I've put more dangerous men under lock and key before!'
'But sir- don't you realise?- We're playing with fire here. These are real people! Not fictional characters like you and me!
'What are you talking about, Argent?'
'Well, sir. We exist all right, but only in the mind of someone else. The question is, whose?'
'That's just plain daft, man. And whose mind does HE exist in, then? You could just go round and round in circles with that one.'
'What, just like slot cars, sir?'
'Don't be facetious. The point is, I'm real. Well I think I am, therefore...'
'No sir, you're wrong. For instance. What's your first name?'
'I don't have one. Proper detectives don't.'
'No- it's because the writer hasn't thought of one yet! What's your Mum's name?'
'I don't have one.'
'Exactly! And neither have I. But real people have mums!'
'For pete's sake, Argent, what's this got to do with Howmet?'
'Well, he might be the writer. He could give us mums, or he could give us mumps, depending on how he feels. And he's obviously in a disturbed state right now. I wouldn't like to mess with him. Let's keep to a policy of containment. See if we can keep his mind occupied while we get to work.'
'I'll give you another twenty four hours, Argent. After that, I'm going in. Where's Howmet now?'
'He should be in scratchbuilding- any minute now, sir.'