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Engine of Chaos"Define problem," I said, watching my guest over steepled fingers.
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The man - he had introduced himself as Edward Carter - twisted a machine-pressed felt hat between calloused hands.
"Well, I run a warehouse in the West India docks for a Mister Hibberd," he began, and grimaced, his pale brow furrowing beneath lank, age-bleached hair. "Top gent. But... There's somethin' tha's not right."
Oil-stained fingernails bit into his hat's brim, and he wet his lips.
"The foreman - he's walked out on me. An' I can't get lightermen in for love nor money. It's me engineer..." The felt hat audibly complained at his attentions. "He's gone a bit... I think he's blown a valve - if you'll excuse the expression."
He paused, and glanced anxiously about the room. Though I doubt he found much comfort there; my study was sparsely decorated at best. His eyes paused on my coat stand, before wandering idly over my desk, and finally, relucta