The Coldfall Sanction

A Negligent Gift
Session Eleven – Part Three

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Bobinette Doulenques’ Diary
13 Mars, 1916 – Bucharest, Athene Palace (written in French) –

AM 7:00: Arose early. The room is cold and outside the window is the fierce breath of the wind. Huff and puff and howl to blow the house down? It rattles the windowpanes. I adjusted the heat. How brazen I am to pull back the gossamer curtain to expose by nudity to the winter’s day. Snow falling to swirl into drifts. Much to do. There is still the lingering consequences of M. Calder’s misguided experiments of the photography, and so, before breakfast there are instructions with the carpenters and painters. The wallpaper to be completely replaced is one which needs ordering from Paris. A delay to which M. Rasty is most severely displeased. Ah, well. I must gather maps for him – another last minute commitment conveyed by him last night he has made to a guest. Replace unsuitable coat for Mme. de Vibray. Check with secretary for M. Hugh Ferren as to replenishment of stationary. He writes and he writes. Far too much correspondence for a commercial traveler. An Antique dealer. Need to look in on Fräulein ten Bricken. Must assure she understands importance of discretion although I fear it is a word she pays little heed. She frightens me – odd to write that for whom I am working for. Must find a moment to slip away to visit Vasile’s shop to see what word may have arrived upon a wing. Wish to see Mademoiselle Elias.

AM 9:30: Snowfall progressing such that I anticipate most guests will remain within the Athene. So much so am concerned whether I shall be able to slip away to Vasile’s. I am most concerned Fräulein ten Bricken and her traveling companion Herr Fechtner have departed before we could converse. I checked with Goral and they had not breakfasted. No one seems aware of their departure. So it would appear they left very early. As had Mademoiselle Elias, who had also not breakfasted in the main dining room.

AM 11:30 Monsieur Rasty held impromptu staff meeting. Concerns regarding staff awareness of guests in significant violation of Athene policy. In particular, maids who were well aware of strange apparatuses in M Calder’s room. To see is too report—he demands. The whole of the incident upon the forth floor could have been prevented. Maps to Rasty afterwards. Received and delivered gloves to Madam Leonides from Helene Ipsilanti’s exclusive shop. Spoke to Afina, whom I had seen slipping out of M Calder’s room—she had found various notebooks and diagrams all of which seemed to be concerned with photography. She tried to say she had only gotten 200 Francs from Madam de Metz, but upon further severe inquiry she revealed the true amount, considerably increasing my proceeds from the matter. Informed Rasty I had to take shoes to be repair—finally able to slip away to retrieve messages.

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PM 12:45 Upon my return I was informed that Nicolai Doicesco was seeking me. Not stopping to remove my hat and gloves and my overcoat still tightly buttoned with its high collar pulled up, I made my way through the foyer, waving off Fanica at the front desk, who attempted to attract my attention. I was uncertain whether it was a delivery of Lady Katherine’s, who I knew was suddenly relocating from the Princiar. I made my way through the kitchen to the hotel delivery doors where I found the tall, dark-haired Nicolai, wearing a heavy coat and soft cap. He was finishing a warming sip from his flask. “Mademoiselle Doulenques.” He nodded, the stub of his cigar much too close to his thick mustache smoldering in the corner of his mouth. “We have a shipment for a Dr. Niemen. Now, in regards to M Rasta’s earlier directive, should these crates,” he pointed to two medium-sized wooden shipping crates, “Be brought up to the doctor’s rooms or should they be stored away?” Dr. Niemen was part of Fräulein ten Bricken’s entourage. I looked at them. They bore markings of having been shipped via France, Italy and Greece. I looked at them and sighed. I was becoming more imperative that I have a conversation with Lady Katherine – especially in that I had a message recently arrived by Vasile’s pigeons – regarding Fräulein ten Bricken. “Oui—do be careful in taking them up that M Rasty does not detect them.”

PM 2:00 Finally having finished the many requests of the guests, who, owing to the winter weather, had made their decision to remain with the comfort of the Athene, I was finally able to gain time to myself. I desired to see Mademoiselle Jackson, but she has apparently returned to the hotel in some haste seeking Lord Cyril. I stopped by her rooms but there was no answer. Alas, I must not allow myself to become too fascinated with her for is it not by my intemperate impetuousness I found myself beholden to Lady Hélène Beltham and thus so suspected of the death of François Nanteuil. It was in assurances of the concealment of my indiscretions in lieu of repayment by way of the use of my guile and well practiced manipulative inclinations that I had lured the unsuspecting M Nanteuil into her web of treachery. To entice him to his most unfortunate death. It was of course her well placed connections which were called upon to eliminate me as a suspect – and drew me ever further into her stratagems of criminality. I am more than certain it was she who saw to it I lost my position and gained the one here at the Athene so as to now be associated with Lady Katherine. For as notorious as I knew Lady Beltham to be, Lady Katherine was far more mysterious – and sinister — for I had come to understand in their hierarchy Lady Beltham was less an accomplice than a foot solider in Lady Katherine’s nefarious organization. It was upon her direction I was to ensure Fräulein ten Bricken’s arrangements and assure she restrained “her penchant for mischievousness,” which I suspect the newly arrived crates for Dr. Nieman was a part. Upon their appearance I was far more relieved than I had been in regards to Lady Katherine’s relocation – I would let her deal with fair Alraune . . . only before her arrival, I decided to venture up to the odd Dr. Nieman’s rooms to be certain of Nicolai’s delivery of the crates. Upon my knock it was the voice of Max Fechtner, Alruane’s shadow, who inquired who was there. Announcing myself, he quickly opened the door and bid me enter hurriedly. Within I discovered what mischief my few hours of inattention had wrought. Upon the bed there lay a young woman – by way of dress I knew her not to be of the profession and of good standing. She was ghastly pale. So much so I feared her to be dead as I hurried over to confirm she was yet alive. The sleeve of her right arm was rolled up and some horrid needle like device was inserted so that a tube running up to an evil looking mechanism revealed the flow of crimson filling a bottle. They were stealing her blood! I whirled upon Alruane. “What are you doing?”

There was a look of such devilment in her eyes, “I am doing what I need in order to survive until your mistress relieves me of this necessity.”

“Necessity?”

“A negligent gift of my dear departed father,” her voice laced in a haughty sarcasm as she eyed the blood in the bottle. There was another, filled, sitting on the bedside table. She then looked at me, “What?’ Her wicked eyebrow rising, “Are you so naïve as to not even understand for whom you serve.”

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A Dead Religion
Session Eleven - Part Two

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Lord Cyril’s Journal
13 March, 1916 Bucharest – Continued – Upon my return from the Romanian Academy Library, I was informed that Miss Elias had enquired of my whereabouts, and so, I went to her suite but found she was not there. I await her even now. In the interim I want to quickly make an entry concerning my visit to the library.

Upon Clive Ossington’s departure I had a number of things I wished to do, but was unsure just where to start. First of all, I wanted to meet back up with young Richmond and continue his conversation from last night, but then, Richmond had been called away. A message from Jackson. And as to that I was not only curious but more than a bit anxious to learn whatever the resourceful and inquisitive Miss Elias may have discovered of the esoteric bookshop. Especially in that she had sent a message to Richmond and not to me. For effectively, I had sent her off to investigate something for which she might not be prepared — knowing what I now know. And then there was the remembrance as well that Ossington had made particular reference to Jonathan Harker being at the Princiar Hotel — although, at the time I was unsure precisely why he mentioned it or of what significance a former member If the ‘Crew if Light’ might portend. Other than perhaps to question why he was in Bucharest. On business? Some sojourn of reminiscence? Whatever Harker’s reason—I strongly suspected it was something for which Ossington was apparently unaware, which no doubt was his motivation for pointing out his presence to me. Frăția lui mortii vii. The Brotherhood of the Living Dead. Imre Turcanu. and his bookshop, Inima Muntelui. Perhaps the ‘Crew if Light’ not been decommissioned as reported? Certainly my encounter at the library only seemed to add ever more significance to the presence of Jonathan Harker.

As well as the fact I needed to meet with Commissioner Câmpineanu in order to inform him I would be becoming more involved in the whole of the Montague affair.

And so, after a light lunch, rather than waiting around, I felt I should be productive and as several individuals had made various references to an ancient religious sect, which seemed to be active even now and in some way connected to the dead bookshop proprietor, and perhaps the unfortunate Montague I decided upon a quick visit to the National Library to do buttress my knowledge of Zalmoxis and his worship.

Bundled up in my great woollen coat, hat, and scarf I was preparing to step out of the comfort of the hotel into the fierce winter weather. A light snow was beginning to grow heavier. Before me was the motor cab the hotel’s doorman had procured at my request. His gloved hand reached out and took mine as he adroitly warned, “Monsieur, watch your step it is very slippery,”

Thankful for his support, the front steps of the hotel were beginning to ice over. I detected the shovel he used to fight back against the elements propped against the wall. As I took his hand, I thanked him and he helped be descend to the waiting cab as I placed myself between him and my asking stick.

Suddenly I heard a voice from behind: “Monsieur. Monsieur. Lord Cyril,"

It was the Hotel Manger M. Rasty. I turned to see him huddled and shivering against the brisk wind as he hurriedly stepped out and came down to me.

“You maps, Monsieur. Thousands of pardons for being delayed in getting them to you.” He said as he held out a the large envelope that bore the emblem of the Hotel Athene

I thanked him as I took the packet and opening my coat slipped it into the large side pocket within my overcoat. Looking at them both I nodded, ”Now, I shall be off to the National Library. Would you please inform Miss Elias when she returns that I am there, and that I shall return by 4?"

They both nodded and I felt for M Raspy, who was shivering mightily, his hand wrapped about his chest to provide warmth and some protection against the cruel wind. “Should be a bit late, task her to await my return.”

They nodded and with a quick I continued to the waiting taxicab.

Although motor cabs are not heated — the doorman was foresighted enough to have gotten a coach, so that at least all of the occupants are all within the compartment of the vehicle. It would have been a miserable drive if it were not so, what with the wind and snowfall.

The driver was a stunt gentleman who smelled of tobacco and alcohol He asked me for the destination before I had even gotten within the confines of the vehicle. "The Academy Library please,” I informed him as to too a seat and shut the door.

With a grunt the driver shifts the motor car into gear and the thin tyres spin a bit before gathering traction and he pulls away from the hotel and down Calea Victoriei. There are a few brave pedestrians hurrying across the road but there were several Fords slowly proceeding along the snow cover street amid a mix of wagons pulled by either horse or ox.

The driver in far more of a hurry than myself blared his horn at the them. The cold peasants glared at us in passing.

I grasped the handle of the door for support. “There is no rush.” I informed him.

The driver said oui and continued to drive a bit too fast for the weather as he takes a hard wide right turn upon our passing The Army House and then took another sliding turn on to Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu.

I took the time to removed the packet of maps from my coat pocket and began to look through them. I opened one and began to examine it rather than watch the passing buildings and the falling snow in the wildness of the driver’s navigation. I was thankful that at least he was not attempting to engage me in any idle conversation as he drove — in fact all he had said, other than some muttered Romanian curses at the slow moving wagons of motor cars, was oui when I had given him our destination.

I found examination of the map a bit difficult as I was tossed about as the driver weaved past the sane traffic. But from what I had been able to ascertain the trip should be a short one. In fact I could see the University ahead through the windscreen. As he pasted I saw construction on the east and west wings – it appeared the west wing was in a more advance stage. I began to fold up the map and slip it back into the large envelope and returned it to my coat pocket as we approached Ion Ghica Street.

Another turn, another grasp of the door handle, and we were speeding down Ion Ghica. I braced myself as the driver swerved suddenly over to the kerb and came to a halt before the Academy Library and it’s large front doors.

Almost in some fluid motion, as he pulled the motor car over and stopped, the driver the n turned and leaned back to hold out his hand. He said nothing. He only wiggled his fingers.

Paying the man, he gave me a smile and closed his fist about the lei.

As I stepped out of the cab I was immediately assaulted once more by the cold wind which whips along the street which makes the soft snow sting as it falls against my cheeks. I pulled my coat tightly about myself and with my walking stick carefully advanced toward the large front doors of the library.

Although in a hurry to enter in the hope of finding some warmth to return feeling once more to my toes, I hesitated briefly in order to stomped the loose, wet snow from my boots. Once inside I found the vast open lobby conductive of the sound of my footsteps as they echoed loudly. I thought perhaps a bit too loudly for a library—but no one seemed to be concern as there were very few literary patrons present in the lobby at the moment. A few young men walking along speaking together in low whispers.

I proceeded further, unbuttoning my great coat and removing my hat as I stepped Beyond several tall, marble columns whereupon a spotted the main desk. Careful that my walking stick did not clatter to join in with he echo of my footsteps I approached the desk.

And stout, florid-face, elderly woman wearing a very conservative dress of an unbecoming oatmeal hue was busy sorting books atop the desk. She momentarily paused in her sorting and looked up to ask in Romanian if she could be of service.

I gave her an amiable smile and nodded asking in Romanian where one could find the History and Cultural Anthropology Section, in particular that relating to the ancient Dacians and their religion.

She slid the stack of books aside and opening a drawer built into the long front counter pulled forth a document, which was a mimeographed layout of the library and she pushed it towards me, suddenly turning it as it drew near to me so as to make certain it was positioned for correctly for me to see. This was all seemingly done by route as she spoke not a word during this presentation of the diagram of the library layout. She took a pencil from where it had been strategically shoved into her hair so as to ride behind her ear and circled an area which is on the second floor. As she circled the page she said: “Wallachian and Romanian History, and Cultural Anthropology. Second floor.” And she made a motion with her hand toward the right and the central stairway.

I pulled out my spectacles and inspected the document. The florid-faced woman lifted the stack of books and heavily dropped them upon a cart, distracting me as I stood examining the library floor plan. I gave her a smile and she lifted an eyebrow as if in annoyance.

I picked up the layout and bid her thanks as I turned to make way toward the large central staircase to which she had directed. But as I was stepping away, I heard her low voice mutter in “Odd to me why so many Englishmen are interested in that dead religion.” I stopped and turned around, apologizing once again for intruding upon her manhandling of the books, wished to ask if there had been others of recent interest in the Dacian Religion?

“There was first that young Englishman who wanted to know if this were a place where he could find out more about Zalmoxis.” She said moving another stack of books before her to be sorted, “Then later, there was other Englishman—he comes to ask about books on old Dacian religions. He no mentions Zalmoxis. And now—you Monsieur, with your Cultural Anthropology and History. With no mention of religion, but all the same, you are here to know more of dead religions. Whereas all religions should be dead.”

I nodded, “I gather you are a Socialist?”

With a nod of her head she directed my attention to a political flyer for the Romanian Social Democratic Party amid several others hung from the community board behind the counter—apparently Rakovsoy was to speak against Romanian entry into the war.

“I see.” I replied doing my best to suppress a frown, Rakovsoy was a Trotskyite. “These other Englishmen, they didn’t happen to be interested in any single book in particular, were they?"

“I can not say." She said continuing to sort the books before her, “They get the same Library diagram and I circle the same for them as well, and they go and they look. They bring nothing to me. Research? Perhaps? Who knows? It is a dead religion! Thankfully, there are not so many these days who come to seek out more old pagan religions. Save for the English.”

“So it would seem. Was there a time when there was a great interest? I can’t imagine that it’s ever been in the vogue for anyone other than us stuffy academics, yes?"

The sorted books, stacked, now smacked upon the wooden cart. She turned and looked at me: “Ancient religions and forgotten gods. It is all Christianity now is it not? There is only Jesus. And does he stop the war? No. Does he care for the plight of the worker? No! The peasant who must hurry to get his cart and ox out of way of the blaring horn of some Oil Man’s Ford. No! Give to Cesar — yes! He says! Obey the church and Boyar! They say! Religion! Bah. All the political and economic phenomena of the bourgeois are but only its consequence.”

“Yes, I see.” I said, “Well—thank you.” And I took the mimeographed diagram and began to make my way once again toward the central stairs.

“As for academics —“ She called out to me, “It is they who should enlighten the proletariat rather than write stuffy thesis to but gain recognition among other academics for things long dead and should be left long dead.”

With diagram in hand I made my way to the central stairs. A young man in some haste while trying to put away books in his leather satchel made his way down the stairs past me. I attempted to nod in acknowledgement of our passing, but civility was not in his inclination.

I made my way up slowly but steadily. The upper floor of the library was a large area with various tables and chairs placed for use by those visiting the library. There were a couple of young men working diligently on transcribing whatever they were reading in the open thick, old books before them into their small notebooks. The room seemed dimly lit as the few high electric lights dangling from the ceiling was the source of most of the light as the winter day had devoured most of the sunlight which would have naturally fallen though the tall windows.

I removed my coat and gloves and placing them with my hat and scarf, I claimed a chair at an rather isolated table. I took my diagram and turned to survey the second floor.

History and Cultural Anthropology seemed to be a very small section, off in a tight niche, with only two face-to-face bookcases set off in a small niche, near the back stairs.

I inspected the titles upon the exposed spines, finding any book even remotely relevant, and picking them off the shelf. I was forced to make heavy use of my cane to support myself in bending over to get one off the bottom shelf. With my collection of old volumes I was preparing to return the table I had claimed when a voice in Romanian spoke up behind me, “Supreme God of the Getae or Dacians. Zalmoxis. You have an interest?"

Turning I saw a tall, slender, slightly eccentrically dressed man standing in the door of the back stairs, positioned at the end of the row of books. He held slightly aloft, and further out past the door, a cigarette as he exhaled smoke back into the stairwell.

“Perhaps. Although one mustn’t ignore the others just because Herodotus makes a fuss about him." I replied resting my selected volumes on edge of the shelf closest too me. “I take it you have done some studying on this subject as well?"

The man smiled and brought the cigarette to his lips, “Oh, yes. Some study, indeed. I am Professor Dimitrie Andreesco.” He holds the cigarette inside the open door and reaches out a hand to me.

Very slight, with a large moustache and small wire framed glasses he looked every bit the academic.

“I teach ancient Romanian history at the University, Professor Andreesco continued by way of introduction.

“Ah, Professor Andreseesco." I accepted his hand, the grip was surprisingly firm. “What a pleasure to meet you. I was told you are the person to talk to about this. I was planning on making a call on you perhaps later today." I smiled playfully “Is it a habit of yours to lounge about this section waiting for poor Englishmen to discuss Dacian Mythology with, or is our meeting total coincidence?”

“Neither I am afraid. It is merely convenience you see, the University library is, I must admit, sadly insufficient when it comes to certain ancient texts. And as I am amidst some research, I find myself drawn to this dim, narrow niche.” He brought the cigarette to his lips, careful of the great moustache, “Which is in someway apropos, in that I am currently working on the recurrent theme of ‘the underground’ in religion. And you?”

“Forgive me, I am Lord Cyril of Gavilshire." I quickly introduced myself.

“Ah, Lord Cyril, a pleasure to meet you, one folklorist to another." He said and tossed the cigarette into the stairwell and closed the door. “I enjoyed your book on the folklore of the British Isles Black Dog. But I must admit I find it of interest—“. He said eyeing the titles of the books I had selected, “Whatever brings you to an interest in Zalmoxis? I mean, there is so little recorded evidence other than, of course, his being given mention by Herodotus in his Histories. Sadly even scholars are unsure of his name, Zalmoxis, Salmoxis, or even Gebeleizis, and even Herodotus himself stated he was unsure if he was a man or a name which the Getae gave a god.”

“Or a sly ex-slave from Samos,” I added as the Professor dropped the remains of his cigarette upon the stairwell landing and crushed the dying embers with the toe of his shoe and closed the stairwell door. And thus I gathered up the books I had precariously been balancing on the edge of the shelve and proceeded to move back over to the table upon which I had left my coat and hat, indicating a chair for the professor who followed. “It is precisely this lack of evidence that brings me to this line of research. While searching the likes of Herodotus and Lactantius might be done for ages with no more truth gained now than later, I feel strongly that as some aspects of the ancient pagan cults of the Goths and the Celts have coloured our modern Christian faith, so to might the ancient Zalmoxis cult have coloured some of the more remote in this country as well.” I placed my books down upon the table, “As for how recently, that would be hard to say. But as our world gets smaller and more youth move from the country to the cities or the oil fields as I take it, the old hidden traditions fade from memory. I feel it would be most important to note down such, if any, such syncretism before it fades altogether."

“It was Orosius who said ‘those who are today the Goths were formerly the Getae’.” The Professor added as he followed me to my table, “But, alas, Lord Cyril, as I hear, there are those who have less forgotten than have sought out these hidden traditions or beliefs, so as to once again establish some modern veneration of Zalmoxis. For they seek as it is recorded in the Charmides’ a dialogue written some years after Herodotus, wherein Socrates speaks of having meet a physician of the Thracian King Zalmoxis, who among the kings other physicians, was reputed to be able to confer immortality. Which in this modern incarnation is but a subversion of the concept of who and what Zalmoxis may have been — a forerunner in the belief of immortality and the resurrection of the soul. Which I fear this has been entangled with the more sinister and infamous Romanian myth of the Stregoi.”

“Is that so?" I said with some interest.

“The Frăția lui mortii vii. The Brotherhood of the Living Dead. A dark modern reflection of the more fearful aspects of Strigoi – the restless dead who wish to abstract the life-force of the living. This, I must say in no offense, but I think came about full circle from the English – with your author Stoker and his fanciful book. It was most popular in Hungary you know."

“Ah, that Irishman has done plenty to colour public perception in my country, I did not realise it had reached here too. I can collect tale after tale from many a Dalmatian village grandmother about any manner of corpse rising from the grave, but if it’s not Dracula, they don’t want to hear about it back in England."

The Professor removes a cigarette case, retrieves one and then remembers he is in the library and puts it back, closing the case, “Yes, the two legends have become entwined, in my opinion. I mean here in Romania, they know little of the truth of Zalmoxis. What was he truly? A man? a God? A sorcerer? A charlatan? Who knows?”

To Be Continued . . . .

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Our Man in Bucharest
Session Eleven - Part One

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Lord Cyril’s Journal
13 March, Athene Palace, Bucharest, 1916 – Noon — Before going down to see whether I wanted to luncheon at the hotel or step out into the foul winter wind once more for some of the local cuisine, I needed to take a moment to write a letter to Penelope. I have been terribly remiss and when I awoke this morning she was heavy upon my mind. And so, letter written, I decided as well to make a quick journal entry—but, before I had time to put pen to paper, there came a light knock upon my door. Not timid—but rather respectful. As the knock continued I sighed and put my pen down and rose to answer the door.

Whereas I expected M. Rasty, whom I had asked to procure a few maps of the city, upon opening the door to my suite I was a bit surprised to find my visitor was the Deputy Consul, Clive Ossington. Dressed in an expensive and well pressed dark blue suit, he stood with hat in hand. “Lord Cyril, terribly sorry to bother. I tried ringing you up, but there was no answer. And rather than sitting about, I thought on the off chance, since I was out I would stop by and see if you happened to be in. And as luck had it the front desk said you had only recently returned. Do hope this is not a bad imposition.” He explained his presence at the door

“No, no not at all, I have only just returned from a consultation with an old acquaintance. Is there something the matter?" I inquired as I stepped aside in order to allow Clive Ossington to enter.

The Deputy Consul entered and unobtrusively quickly took in the rooms, the standard suite, he had seen more than once. Nothing seemed to attract his eye, although there was something a bit anxious in the way he quickly removed his overcoat and gloves, which he absently pushed into a pocket of the dark wool coat.

“And how may I be if service?” I asked, as I took his coat and stepped over to the coat closet near the door.

“Well you see, Commissioner Câmpineanu stopped by this morning to inform me Nigel Montague has been discovered — minus his head.” He said, his left hand patting a pocket, which I took as a search for matches. “Beastly. Simply beastly.”

“Oh yes,” I nodded, “Most distressing news indeed." And I motioned him over to a pair of cushioned chairs by the window. “Commissioner Câmpineanu interviewed me this morning. He seems to think the attempt on Richmond last night is somehow related to Montague’s long disappearance and subsequent murder." And I eased myself into one of the chairs.

“Right," Ossington nodded as he sat comfortably in the chair opposite and removed a gold cigarette case from an inner pocket of his suit jacket, "Don’t mind do you? Filthy habit and all—I know but by Jove, I don’t think now is the time to try and give them up.” He selected one and offered the case to me, “Care for one? Egyptian you know.”

“Be my guest." I said indicating the ashtray siting on the nearby desk and refusing one for myself.

Ossington arose and strode over to the desk to retrieve the ashtray even as he put the cigarette between his lips. Upon his return to his seat, the left hand discovered the matches, which he had previously been searching for and removed the box from his trouser pocket to quickly snap one to life, lighting the cigarette. As the ceremony of the cigarette was coming to a conclusion, he whipped the flame out and dropped the spent match in the ashtray: “I must say, I feel dreadful. Simply dreadful, I mean, I accused the man of having gone and done a bunk and someone — or some ones — well jolly well cut his head off. And for all reports thus given, they say it has yet to be found. These bloody blighters have no sense of civilized decorum. Is that what you have heard as well?"

I leisurely folded my hands in my lap and crosses my legs. “Yes. It seems even with his head missing, they are fairly well convinced it is him. Terrible business. By way of perspective, there haven’t been other diplomats recently murdered that you are aware, have there? Either ours or say from some other nations missions?”

“No, not at all.” He exhaled a plume of smoke which curled in the sunlight falling through the window. “I mean, what with the beastly war, to be sure, there is ever the fair bit of espionage about. But I must say for the most part Bucharest has been oddly quite. Perhaps too quite. There is of course the usual violence among the locals, tavern and cabaret fisticuffs and an occasional knife fight over some bit of fluff. There were a couple of young tarts fished up out of the river a while back. Throat’s cut. But, among the diplomatic missions, there’s only been the occasional choice word or so at some function or other, but nothing at all like this ghastly carnival show.”

“From what I gather Montague and Richmond fairly well ran their own, shall we say trade missions?”

“Quite right,” Ossington nodded, holding the cigarette between his fingers as if uncertain whether he wanted to bring it to his lips, “Although housed within the consulate, they work for an outfit known as Universal Imports and Exports.” He leaned forward, “A bit of British Intelligence – I have always suspected. The chaps, Montague and Richmond — in and out. No regular hours. Always slipping something into the diplomatic pouch for Athens. Oh, I say, Richmond was shot only last night." he suddenly looked up, "Do you think it at all related. The two incidents I mean.”

I was contemplating the thought myself as I stroked my beard, “I don’t rightly know. It is entirely possible — but there is quite the difference between shooting at someone through a window in plain view of a room full of people, and capturing someone, cutting their head off, and disposing of their body along some darken quayside. One of which quite definitely sends more of a message than the other.”

“A message to whom?” He asked forthrightly sitting forward to lean on the arm of his chair, “The consulate or to our friend back in London? As I said, I am more than certain there is very little trade involved with in anything Montague and Richmond do and what they do I suspect is far more in the line of clandestine services. But by Jove that is the difficulty you see. Your —er—colleague’s in London, all their need of secrecy only leaves us in the diplomatic services in a bit if a lurch when confronted with circumstances such as these. When a bloody agent of theirs gets his head removed, well, the locals look to us for answers and, well, in most cases we have precious few. Thus the reason for my call this morning.”

I looked at him a bit perplexed, “Oh?”

“Right, beheaded trade representatives found along the quayside is not, to say the least, our usual cup of tea,” The Deputy Consul said softly, “And as such, I am not at all sure there is anyone on staff qualified to, shall we say, communicate properly with the local constabulary, or, to if necessary to make any discreet enquiries into, well perhaps any sordid circumstances that may arise. And so,” He took a long drag from his cigarette before continuing, “Owing to the fact our friend in London asked you to make some discreet enquires in regards to this Montague matter to begin with, what I would like to ask of you is if you would be ever so good as to take this on — being, as it were, our man at Bucharest Station. I do think I have the terminology correctly.”

I looked at him in silence —

“I mean this Commissioner Câmpineanu is a wonderful chap and all, and no doubt good at his job, but somehow I feel there may be—well shall we say, certain aspects of this affair which we may quite possibly need someone to look out for our interests, as it were . . . if you know what I mean.”

Had Hall suspected any of this when he had requested my assistance? I gathered from his communication he was concerned owing to a lack of information – or what he had received from Montague. From what little I already knew it was all quite tantalizing. And if Ossington was really in the dark as he maintained, from what I knew there were no doubt several significant aspects of whatever Montague may have happened to stumbled upon, which would need further enquiry. But was I that enquiry agent?

As I sat at the window of the small sitting room of the hotel suite, looking out over the snow covered Calea Victoriei below, I watched as sudden gusts of wind whipped up hoary swirls to dance along the avenue. I am not certain if I frowned – as my thoughts when to Miss Elias. “I do gather your meaning and I am quite willing to lend assistance . . . as much as I can, but, to be sure Mr Ossington, I am no detective. And not being one, I certainly don’t want to get underfoot of the local police in their own enquires. So, what would you have me do precisely?"

“Right, right," Ossington replied and sat pondering his cigarette, "Nor am I asking you to run about in a deerstalker cap and a pipe and all that—but, what I do need is to have someone act as say a liaison with the Commissioner investigating Montague’s murder. Someone who is rather knowledgeable so as to have some understanding as to where precisely certain enquires may eventually lead, in order to give us some perspective in regards to say where there may possibly be things . . . which may have to be, shall we say, tidied up, so to speak, before the Commissioner by chance stumbles into any sensitive areas.” He rather casually tapped Egyptian ashes into the ashtray, “You see the devil of it is, I haven’t a clue as to what those chaps were really up to. Montague, you see, was the senior man. Richmond was his second. Oh, he’s a right good chap and all, plays a damn good hand of Bridge, but, I just don’t think young Richmond has what I would call the scope of vision to understand where we may not want prying eyes to pry.” He then watched the swirl of smoke arise from the end of his cigarette, as if it were more a prop than anything else. “What I would like — is to set things up with the Commissioner so that you would act as liaison for the Consulate. Have him give you his reports — that kind of thing.” He cut his eyes from the red embers if his cigarette to look at me.

“I see.” I replied rather circumspectly as I took a moment to consider the request, “Well it can’t hurt to be more informed, and if the commissioner should discover something — I think we would all be rather curious to know.”

Even with the intrigue of what Ossington may or may not know, I admit I could not help my idle observation through the window of those strolling along the Calea Victoriei. I was still looking for any sign of the return of Miss Elias. “Though, I would like to continue my conversation with Mr Richmond first. He seems to be quite the plucky young man. Not a whole day goes by after getting shot and he’s already gallivanting off."

“Splendid fellow. Richmond.“ He nodded, “You see what I had in mind was to have young Richmond work as your leg man, so to speak. As I said, he is a rather bright chap and will do us all proud. But he may need a bit of direction, you see. Now of course, I have to send a flash message off to London and all – but seeing as how our friend Hall —oh blast— I mean Hawkins — wanted you to have a look into this damnable disappearance of our rather rash Montague — not to speak Ill of the departed, poor fellow — but I am more than certain the reply shall be in the affirmative.”

He paused once again to inspect the embers of his cigarette, "Also, I do think someone needs to look into this young woman of Montague’s. This, what is her name—Tânase. Yes, Ioana Tânase.” He looked from the embers to me, “Now, as I understand it, Montague was to have put her in a safe house but apparently she must have gotten a lark and up and decided to pull a disappearance as well. Can’t say I wouldn’t have suspected something of the sort seeing as how she’s a freelance prostitute.” He tapped ashes into the ashtray with a bit of irritation, “A bit of a bloody nuisance, what? This Tânase — leading us all in a bit of a misdirection slipping off like that into the night. Dash well creating all manner of compilations and speculations, don’t you know — giving it all the appearance as if they had gone and taken a bunk. These chaps in the clandestine services, they think it is just hush-hush over drinks and a lot of womanizing, don’t you know.”

To all of this I must admit I was I was still more than preoccupied with the hoary Calea Victoriei below—for not only was I well aware that Miss Elias had sent a message earlier to Richmond, but, it was extremely likely she was out investigating on her own. And I was more than curious as to what she may have found. And more especially, why had she reached out to young Richmond. I was more than culpable if she had stumbled upon something untoward for I had been the one to give her the name of the bookshop proprietor, the one who had been beheaded, knowing full well she would take up the clue. And so, I found myself having to force myself to pay attention to Ossington. “Yes. Yes. Certainly we should ascertain just how the girl is involved in all this. What’s her play?”

“Just as I suspected, we two think very much alike.” Ossington said as he brought his cigarette back to his lips, “My question is just where the deuces is she? Quite the wily little devil. Richmond has been seeking high and low, and in her line of profession, that is no small undertaking. But to no avail, which is why we thought she was with Montague. Do hope she doesn’t end up quayside as well.” He sighed, “Wonder just what does she know? I mean, just where does she fit into all this — this is certainly not up to our usual standards. A member of the litigation publicly involved with a known prostitute.” He tapped ashes into the heavy ashtray before they could tumble upon his suit, “I am quite certain London will have questions. London always has questions and I for one do not have a lot of answers. Which brings me around this morning, Lord Cyril. Sorry, not quite the Romanian holiday you may have expected — but whatever oversight on this beastly Montague business you can provide would be ever so helpful.”

Well," I said, looking back to the beleaguered bureaucrat. “I have been known to track down obscure bits of folklore and arcane esoterica in my day. But as I said, I am no Sherlock Holmes. I can’t promise anything other than I’ll try.

I gathered that for the most part Ossington had initially considered the whole of the Monatague matter no more than some personnel problem — a young man gone off on a lark, having done a bunk with some of Bucharest’s local talent. But now, with the discovery of his body at quayside, not only were the circumstances of his death, but the events in his life, which may or may not have have been precursor to his violent demise, would certainly take on new significance—and I was more than certain for Ossington the worry was the very real prospect of there being an accusation of negligence on someone’s part. And for that reason Ossington wanted to make certain that any old rivalries or unresolved animosities did not creep into the report to London. For him—I was a clean broom.

“Splendid,” he said well satisfied he had successfully handed over the entirety of whatever this Montague muck may well come to. “I do so regret the imposition but at present I fear, as I said, I just don’t have anyone in staff whom I believe to have the wisdom and foresight to handle the matter with judicious discretion. We jolly well don’t need anything flaring up into some kind of a ridiculous bonfire of a scandal.”

And should it do . . . so he did not want to be shingled, it was all rather obvious. I rose from my chair. “Yes, Yes, discretion in all things. And a necessity for The War. Now, do you think I could bother you for something?"

“I would think it no bother at all, Lord Cyril." He said warily as he stubbed out his cigarette.

I picked up the letter to Penelope I had just completed moments before his arrival. “I must admit I have been a bit of a negligent father, and owing to that same necessity for discretion, I have been regretfully out of touch with my own kin. Do you think you could get this letter to my daughter safely? I’m sure she’s making a good face of it, but Penelope can worry so. I just want her to know I am still alive and well." I explained as I returned from the desk carrying the sealed letter, which I held out to Ossington.

“Certainly, certainly, I shall place it in the Diplomatic Attaché to Athens myself." Ossington said and took the letter, "Quite understand. I have a son. Somewhere in France. Of course, it takes far too long to get anything to or from him—know the anxiety of being so far distant. Of course for him there is ever the worry of The War.”

I gave him a sympathetic look having my own concerns should Robert be called up and put my hands into the pockets of my smoking jacket. “So, is there anything else I can be of service Mr Ossington?”

“Well – I was just wondering.” Ossignton having obtained the primary objective of his visit appeared to have yet another.

I stood looking down quizzically at the Deputy Consul, “Wondering?”

He thoughtfully removed yet another cigarette from his case and lit it, “As I am sure you are quite aware of our efforts in trying to encourage the Romanian’s to enter The War on the side of the Entente.” The smoke of his cigarette escaping his lips as he closed his cigarette case. “On several fronts actually — including Queen Maria. A cousin to his majesty and all. But, owing to damned Romanian fractional politics and all, it’s been a devil of a sell, when it should be ever so straightforward. I mean, there is no secret that Romania still harbours quite a bit of animosity towards Austria-Hungary over their support of Bulgaria in the Balkan Wars. I say, it is all so internecine and entangled with bloody Balkan politics and old animosities. Although, Colonel Thompson and Sir Samuel Hoare, feel the time is close to hand. The point of fact is we need Romania to declare . . . in short order, particularly with the current situation in Verdun. But, the deuce of it all is that the key to that decision lies enmeshed in Romanian aspersions for Transylvania and Bukovina.”

I stepped back to my writing desk and picked up my pipe and tobacco pouch and began to slowly fill it. “I am not sure I follow.”

Ossington tapped ashes in the ashtray thoughtfully, “When Commissioner Câmpineanu came around to give official notice regarding the grim discovery of Montague this morning, he asked several rather bothersome questions. It would appear Montague may have been putting himself off as some Monsignor Jon Manoilescu. A Vatican representative to Romania and Hungary. Seems young Montague was using this identity to cross borders, and for some reason it seems he may have recently travelled to Transylvania.”

I stuck a match and began attempting to lit my pipe, “Transylvania?” I lifted an brow, “I see. Well — I’m . . . well, truthfully I am not sure in that regard. At least as far as his most recent adventures. It does seem he has on occasion slipped behind enemy lines. He’s gone as far as Vienna, where he sought the help of Professor Vordenburg before he made good his escape, but as regards this trip to Transylvania?” I finally got my pipe going. I puffed a few times to allow the conversation to come to a natural pause — I felt at the moment rather circumspect as to my earlier conversation with Professor Vordenburg. I was not sure of how much I should divulge to Ossington as I had yet to fully analyse all that the Professor had related to me.

“Precisely. As you see, I am not at all sure what he was up to. Which, if you could find out from Commissioner Câmpineanu would be just smashing – as I said, all this entanglement with Transylvania. Whatever he was jolly well up to, it best not muck up our discussions on joining the alliance.” Ossington said and pull forth a packet watch which he checked, “Dash, I say, I am terribly sorry, but I have a meeting with the Ambassador — had intended to invite you out to luncheon.” He stood up stubbing most of his cigarette into the ashtray, “Next time, Lord Cyril? I promise I shall take you to a great little restaurant — excellent local cuisine. And a great wine cellar.”

I stepped over and retrieved his hat and coat. His mentioning of lunch revived my earlier intention to check the hotel restaurant — as well as with M Rasty regarding the maps he was to have procured for me.

“I must say, I do feel a bit relieved to have a man of your experience here Lord Cyril, at this trying time.” Ossington said as he was stepping out of the door into the hotel corridor.

I nodded: “Let Sir George know he can be rest assured we will get to the bottom of this Montague affair. He must have enough on his agenda. We don’t need him worrying about this as well." I informed him as I removed the stem of my pipe from my lips.

The last he said as he moved along from the door before I closed it was a sobering warning: “Do take care, Lord Cyril. Although they call it Little Pairs, it is still Bucharest. Someone murdered poor Montague. So, please, do keep your head."

View
Unannounced and Uninvited
Session Ten - Part Three

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Zo Renfield’s Journal -, 13 March 1916 — I looked back as if expecting to see the madness of my grandfather slowly catching up. Only the Madness is far to clever to allow me to see it, distinctly. No, it reveals itself to me by the momentarily look in Lady Penelope’s eyes as she stands there in her neat and polished vestibule all too suddenly aware that there are forty-eight boxes of two dozen roses. Six times eight, six times two, two plus six. Long stemmed for an abundance of thorns. It was of considerable expense—the man at the hothouse uncertain if he had enough at this time of the year until there were more pound notes and he said ah. I felt bad. It was really odd for the delivery man to have stomped into the main house from the servants entrance. Or was he? The delivery man? Had he been waylaid and replaced by the Rose Men. The roses were in a box and so he did not have to touch. No—that way Madness lies. His teeth were bad but not sharpened to bite.

Kiss’ dress is bothersome. It is lovely and would look so on her, but the buttons are all wrong. Thirteen not twelve. Six Times Two. The high crochet lace about the neck I wonder if it is too revealing. I don’t have to ask Mr Mellilow for although he is silent his eyes do happen to wander there – and for his wandering eyes I am still grateful to have him at my side. His bright light blue eyes. When not wandering they idly look out the window. For Rose Men? Flies?

He reached over and grasped my hand – startling me. Then I took note I had been rising and lowering the window. Six times. He released my hand and I smiled at him and his wandering eyes. Around a corner and the apprehension grew as I knew we where drawing neared to the office building wherein my office was possibly filled with the dead and dying. Torn throats and sputtering blood. Everywhere. Or not. “Mr Mellilow?”

I looked at him and he turned from the window.

“Miss?” He replied.

“You will watch out for flies—please.”

He did not smile. He nodded knowingly. Does he understand?

Happy shining Tom Murray steps up as the cab pulls to a halt. Club foot saved him from the war. He opens the door. “Miss Renfield. How are you this morning?”

“I am not at all sure, Tom. How are you?” I told him as I slowly got out of the cab taking his out held hand.

“Having a great day, Miss Renfield.” Happy shining – though he slightly frowns as Mr Mellilow exits and walks around the cab to the footway.

“Do you know this gentleman, Miss Renfield?” Tom Murray asks.

“Oh, yes Tom. He is my Mr Mellilow.” I said as I searched in my purse to pay the driver.

Happy shining. I turn to look to the building and then up to my window. “Everything as usual for Monday, Tom?”

“Oh, yes ma’am." And he leads me to the revolving door where I enter with my Mr Mellilow following in my wake.

The lobby was its usual Monday morning. It always looks all so much like a puzzle: the exposed flights of stairs, the balconies, the wooden columns. The was lobby full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the glass ceiling, the point of which was a hundred feet above The walls were frescoed and terra cotta in mellow tints, to soften without absorbing the light that flooded the interior. Several ladies were crossing from the right connecting corridor. They smile and nod. “Did you see that dress?” “Oh—yes—that crochet lace?” “High neck collar look through of course.” “Whore.” They said to one another. Mr Mortimer, at the front desk, was reading the Times. France’s wounded soldiers need your generous help. Verdun. Tapping my middle finger to my thumb – one, two, three, four, five, six, I crossed the way. There were no flies. Nor a Rose Man with his sharp teeth clinging to the open age of the lift.

“Well, shall we go up.” I said to Mr Mellilow.

The lift operator Mrs Fitzgerald opened the metal gate with a click of metallic gears. They did not echo as they had done the day of our mad dash, then it was Saturday and the lobby echoed more so than it did today. Mrs Fitzgerald ask me if I was having a good day. As I had told Tom, I was not certain. She smiled knowingly.

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What did she know?

With a lurch the lift engaged and began the ascent. I clenched my fist to keep from tapping fingers in anticipation of the sudden crash of one of the sharp toothed lawyers against the rising cage of the lift, fingers clamped to the grating lips pulled back snarling. Gnashing of teeth. But ride is uneventful. Hydraulics whining to a halt, metal clanking once again as the gate opens. I stepped out and walked down the narrow corridor. My footsteps echoing, loudly. Mr Mellilow followed discreetly. Was he watching for flies?

Yes, Renfield International Investments, LD the gold lettering upon the opaque glass still intact. I sighed as I wanted to turn the knob six times before opening, but I forced myself to only turn it once. I expected blood and destruction. Mrs Ormond sitting at her chair, head hanging backwards grotesquely as her throat had been savagely ripped open. The dead eyes of Robert accusing me from the floor where he lay in a pool of blood. Flies buzzing everywhere.

I entered.

The office was busy. As usual.

All my clerks at work.

The ever efficient Mrs Ormond immediately arose from her desk with a bewildered expression, “Miss Renfield, I thought you were unwell today. I had received a call you would not be in the office."

Kiss. I had forgotten. The hothouse man in his serge coat without a collar, scruffy hands dirty, his nails even dirtier wanting to know whose funeral it was to which I was sending all these roses – every bloody rose in London as like. I had been so distracted and then the delivery man at Lady Penelope’s, lacking every bit of decorum, and Robert on his way to my office – not knowing what to expect. I had forgotten.

I smiled. Was I smiling took much? Why was I smiling? Is smiling some involuntarily reflex – reaction. Does one do it in order to relieve someone from thinking they are unhappy, when they are not? Well, I was not happy. I had not slept in my own bed in days. I had sharp toothed lawyers clinging to lifts, gnashing their teeth. I had seem an evil man shot in the head and he did not die. I had the Rose Men’s busy buzzing flies following me, watching, listening. I had Box Brother ruffians interrupting tea. I was in a dress with thirteen buttons. Mrs Ormond smiled back.

Does everyone smile?

Well not Mr Mellilow.

I waved a slightly dismissive hand. "Oh, I am much much better now, much better.” I looked about the office, everyone had stopped to look at me, and when I looked at them, they returned to their work. “Has anyone arrived?” I asked Mrs Ormond?

“I am sorry – you had to appointments, but I cancelled them,” Mrs Ormond replied. “Owing to telegram I had received from a . . . Miss Carstairs?”

“Oh, yes, Kiss.” I nodded, and sighed, “But so, no one has been looking for me – this morning?”

Mrs Ormond cocks her head to one side examining the rough looking Mr Mellilow. “Looking for you?”

“Not this morning – I have been handing all the calls, for you. But nothing unusual.” She informed me, “Is there something the matter Zo?”

I shook my head, “Oh, no, no, no” And as I removed my coat, Mr Mellilow stepped over to take it from me, as well as my hat, which he hung neatly on the coat tree near at hand. “Nothing at all – really, Mrs Ormond?” I said reassuringly. “Was there anything from Geneva in the Post?”

I had expected further information regarding Count de Ville from my source in Prague through his intermediary in Geneva. I had already told Kiss about it.

Mrs Ormond shakes her head, “Not in this morning’s post. Perhaps in the evening delivery?”

’Right." I said as I began removing my gloves.

“Is this a new investor?” Mrs Ormond asks looking at Mr Mellilow with some interest.

I turned suddenly and then saw she was regarding Mr Mellilow, "Oh – no, this is Mr Mellilow. He is—assisting me on – some matters.”

“I see,” Mrs Ormond says, not seeing at all.

Mrs Ormond stepped back around her desk and handed me today’s correspondence she received in the morning post, having opened the letters and attached the envelopes to the documents as she is ever so thought knowing how I like to review the envelopes as well as their contents. “Although there is nothing from Geneva, here is your morning post."

“Oh yes, thank you.” I replied still rather furtively checking for blood on the floor or walls.

There is a light knock at the door, I turned, even as Mr Mellilow seemed posed to move towards me. As the door opened, Mrs Ormond turned to the visitor and began to address him, but I suddenly moved forward: “Robert – so good to see you!” Apparently he had not arrived early but late even as I arrived.

I smiled – again, and again and again. This smiling must have everyone wondering what ever is the matter with me . . . have I always smiled this much? But I was concerned not about Miss Carstairs, but Robert. I had forgotten to check when I had arrived owing to happy shiny Tom stepping up the motor cab and opening the door and taking my hand, distracting me. Was he too in league with them? If so for how long. Watching me arrive everyday. Thank god Mrs Ormond was hired by my father. And so, I was not at all sure if they were watching? If so, then they would have certainly seen Robert’s taxicab pulling up to the kerb before the office building.
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“Who is that?” “Looks like a lawyer.” The second one would have said to the first one as they watched Robert as he no doubt checked his pocket watch upon exiting the motor car after paying the driver. To which the red-nosed cabby would have undoubtedly mumbled something like, “Cheers guv’nor.” Then they would have watched as the motor cab drove off. Whereas happy shiny Tom with his big grin and a tip of the cap and a “Right nice morning, isn’t it Sir?“, would have directed him toward the entrance. Where Robert would have approached the revolving door, even as the first one looking at the second one there would have held out his hand and released a fly. While Robert, adjusting the grip on his briefcase and removing his hat as he entered into the revolving door, would have unaware of the buzz in the revolving compartment behind him. What would he have done upon entering into the muted light of the lobby, aided as it was by what sunlight fell not only through the intermittent clouds obscuring the sky but though the high glass ceiling? Would he have known where my office was? No. I do not recall his ever having visited. So to the directory? Not Robert, Robert is too personable, so he would have most certainly approached Mr Mortimer, who looking up from his Times, to adjust his glasses, would have said the same as he ever does, “May I be of service.” And Robert being Robert, ever being the gentleman and all business, would have most certainly announced himself formally as: “I’m Robert Wise, Solicitor with Russell-Cooke. I’d like to make an appointment to meet with Miss Renfield if she is in.” And he would have handed over his card. “Ah, yes.” The Mr Mortimer would have replied adjusting his glasses, “Miss Renfield. To be sure. Yes. She arrived just a few moments ago. If you would take the lift to the third floor, and take then, a left, it is the third door on the right, sir. Renfield International Investments. Mrs Ormond, the office manager, will see to setting you up with an appointment. Miss Renfield, is very particular sir. Very particular. She only allows appointments through Mrs Ormond." And Robert would have smiled— as everyone was smiling today. Would either of them have noticed a buzz or the fly? There would have been the usual protocol of Mrs Fitzgearld’s at the lift. “Floor Sir?" “Third please." “Yes, Sir. Watch you hands please." Clank of the metallic accordion grate. Robert adjusted his grip on the handle of his briefcase as he feels the jerk of the hydraulics and watches the lobby receded. A whine and then another jerk to a halt, the grate noisily opening, “Third floor, Sir.” And Robert would have stepped out. Would he have noticed Mrs Fitzgerald swat at the fly? Or did she? His footsteps echoing as he casually observed each door in passing, 301, the offices along the corridor, 302, till his purposeful stride brought him to the frosted glass and the golden lettering: Renfield International Investments, LD. 303. Whereupon he would have lightly rapped upon the door before turning the knob but once and entering.

Robert stood looking at Mrs Ormond, Mr Mellilow, and myself a bit taken aback. “Ah, Miss Renfield. I was given to understand I needed to make an appointment with Mrs Ormond.”

“Not for you Robert.” I did my very best to maintain my most amiable composure as I turned to smile once again as I enquired of Mrs Ormond, if I had any appointments for the morning.

To which she shook her head. “As I said, I had cancelled them all as I had been informed you would not be in today, as I said. Miss Carstairs.” I could tell from the sound of her voice when she said Miss Carstairs there was some concern—. Was it in regard as to was Miss Carstairs? Or that had she might have told me this already? Which as quite possible – but with my anxiety regarding the prospect of finding the office a dripping bloodbath I may have forgotten at the moment – which I now realize I had.

’Yes, yes, certainly. Kiss.” I turned back to Robert and smiled again – just how many was that? I should be keeping a count. “Well, you see Robert, I am free this morning, and so, please, please, would you join me in my office."

“Ah, yes, certainly.” Robert gives Mrs Ormond a confused and apologetic look, as if to say he is just as confused.

As we began to move toward my office door I am almost certain I heard Mrs Ormond say to herself, in a quite voice, of course: “Kiss?” Even as she put some of the correspondence I had handed back to her back into a folder. She looked somewhat perplexed.

I stepped into my office and placed the morning mail I had kept and hesitated in placing down the correspondence, owing to the disarray of my desk. Even Robert, behind me, noticed various things upon my desk seem to have been pushed about, knocked over – disturbing the entire symmetry of their placement. There was of course the shattered vase upon the floor lying there before the small side table which was situated behind my desk. The chair across from desk was still lying on it’s back, where the sharp toothed lawyer with the gold handled cane had knocked it over in his frenzied leap across the desk. Though Robert had never been in my office there was certainly a look of concern that this was not its usual state of appearance. The look of concern became one of alarm as he took noticed of the bullet hole in my window.

“Is that a bullet hole?" he asked set his coat and briefcase on a chair and walked over to the window.

“Please, I am sorry, if you would, perhaps arrange the chair." I ran my fingers across my forehead uncertain what to reply. What I could say? What I should say? I knew I should tell him the truth as I had no doubt I had put him in their line of sight. The Rose Men with their flies. The Rose Men with their too sharp teeth. But, no, he already thinks me mad. Perhaps I am overly analysing the situation.

“Bullet hole?" I repeated looking over at the window, "Oh my — "

But before I had to explain its presence there was suddenly a loud clap and Mr Mellilow at near the door had clapped his hands.

I jumped as it fairly gave me a start, thinking it a shot from the other side of the window what with us in the midst of discussing bullet holes. I turned to Mr Mellilow who stepped over and disposed of the fly in the waste basket near my desk. The filthy creatures with their little legs rubbing and rubbing together like a pair of hands rubbing together, sinister and villainous hands theatrically rubbing together, plotting, conspiring, watching, waiting. Spies upon the wall. To be a fly upon the wall—living in their blue bottles. The blue-bottle flies. Their nasty messengers flitting black to file their reports.

Robert startled as well all but half jumped as he turned to look now almost as if noticing Mr Mellilow for the first time.

“Mr Mellilow, thank you.” I said to him, “Now we are alone.”

Robert with his briefcase, looked uncertain whether, or where, to put it down. Looking first to me and then to Mr Mellilow, who staked over toward the window. The window with the bullet hole. But at least the room was not dripping with blood. It had not been turned into a Red Room.

“Please have a seat Robert.” I can tell he is wary and has every right to be – being as he is in an office, the door closed, with a mad woman, a certain criminal, and one dead fly. He seems at first rather jumpy, but, bravely he shakes it off and rights the second guest chair, into which he then sits and picks up his briefcase from the first chair beside him.

“I am remiss. This is Mr Mellilow.” I introduced my silent Mr Mellilow, “He is an associate of a private inquiry agent I have on retainer from Hudson & Brand.”

“A—ah—pleasure Mr Mellilow." Ever the gentleman Robert stands again to offer a hand but upon remembrance of it possibly retaining the ooze of what was once a spy—a fly — he thinks the better of it.

Mr Mellilow wipes his hand with an rather dirty handkerchief and then offers it again to which Robert took and shook hesitantly.

“He doesn’t say much.” I explained, feeling the need for some explanation. “But I do feel evermore safer having him about.” And I found myself beginning to align the objects on my desk – some having to be moved more than once, or twice, or thrice to find themselves back to their properly assigned place.

Robert sits back down and opens his briefcase. “If those Box Brothers have done this to your office, I can see why.”

For an moment I pause in the rearrangement – no – not a rearrangement but a proper arrangement back into order from their chaos, “Yes—well, to say the least things have been rather troublesome the last few days. Which is why I have Mr Mellilow.” Who nods and returns to look out the window – to see the first one speaking to the second one – wondering about their fly? Was it on the wall?

“It’s all about those documents Robert." I told him.

“Yes—the documents.” Robert pulls out the aforementioned documents and sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning forward to lay them out upon the desk—almost like laying out the Tarot . . . I once had that done but the woman with too much rouge looked up from the cards and handed me back my money. She refused to tell me what she saw. “They really are rather damning in a way" He told me. I looked at them presented: Justice, Judgement, The Tower? They seemed to have been re-ordered with several more documents added, each marked with his commentary in red ink.

Dipped in blood?

The Wheel of Fortune?

I watched as Robert adjusted his glasses in his solicitor’s anticipation of rendering the legal interpretation of the documents dark portent.

“Then I am correct – Coldfall House Charitable Trust is a fraudulent front for various nefarious businessmen?”

“The evidence collected here would certainly seem to indicate such." Robert replied as his litigious index finger tapped the papers with emphasis.

While I restrained myself from the urge to reach out to straighten the documents, I sat down behind my desk. Odd my ledger within which I had been working , when the man with top hat and gold handled cane leapt over the desk and grasp Kiss, for a kiss with his sharpen fangs, was not on my desk. “I suspected as much, but was not quite sure, what with one thing seeming to lead to another and then yet another tangled thread leading to yet another, lost in a labyrinth of documents and deception. But—they do show Coldfall has in fact been funnelling funds through various amalgamations into the shadowy enterprises of this Count De Ville?”

Robert nodded, but then he raised a finger as if to censor the excitement of my vindication — of what some might have considered an obsession or mad mania, “However."

I did not like the sound of however.

Nor perhaps did Mr Mellilow as he turned upon the word and slowly walked over to the window, where, stern and stoically, he stood to watch the street below.

“However,” I repeated.

Robert took from his briefcase a bound booklet labelled “Larceny Act, 1861” and placed it on the table. He opened it to a section which he had marked with a book mark.

The booklet looked far too ominous.

As if preparing to read a passage before settling into his sermon, he began: “Section 80 of the Larceny act, the section dealing with fraudulently disposing of property by a trustee of a charitable trust, details that:” And cleared his throat and continued to intone, without use of a judicial wig." Whosoever, being a trustee of any property for the use or benefit, either wholly or partially, of some other person, or for any public or charitable purpose, shall, with intent to defraud, convert or appropriate the same or any part thereof to or for his own use or benefit, or the use or benefit of any person other than such person as aforesaid, or for any purpose other than such public or charitable purpose as aforesaid, or otherwise dispose of or destroy such property or any part thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to any of the punishments which the court may award as herein-before last mentioned."

Robert suddenly looked up from the book and across the desk to me, “The snag you see is,” and he began to read again, “Provided that no proceeding or prosecution for any offence included in this section shall be commenced without the sanction of Her Majesty’s Attorney General, or, in case that office be vacant, of Her Majesty’s Solicitor General: etc. etc…"

I looked up from the nasty sounding book and stared at him.

“The problem is twofold." He pauses for a moment. “Well—threefold really”

“You mean to say—“. I suddenly asked, “They can steal the money away, which should properly be going to children, orphans and widows, to the impoverished, the least of these, and in that book it is nothing more than a —a misdemeanour?" My voice rising in vexation.

He nodded, “That is the first problem. And assuming this Count de Ville is as well connected as this evidence suggests,” his hands touching the documents laid out before him, “Even if the crown wins the case, the punishment might not be suitable to the seeming severity of the crime. We would have to build a vast case against him—but, it could be won—and, of course, there is the possibility the scandal of even being brought to court might be enough for the board of trustees to renounce him."

“But Robert—“ I could not fathom the ridiculousness of this book.

Not yet finished with his summation he continued, “The second problem is that we would not only have to convince the court of the merit of our investigation, but also the Attorney General, Sir F. E. Smith."

“This is abhorrent Robert, simply abhorrent. They have taken my grandfather’s money and built this prestigious foundation, which is supposed to be a grand and glorious philanthropic charity, while in fact they are secretly financing the actions of a man with malevolent motivations, who funds anarchists and internationalists, who invests in shipping, in petrol, in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, heavy industrial equipment and even more importantly munitions — a man who is not even British!"

“And by use of a charitable trust he has most advantageously made use of the law.” Robert nodded with some dismay.

I pointed to the documents on my desk, “But once they see where the money is going, how it is being invested, embezzled, stolen!”

He held up a hand as if to calm me, “Sir Fredrick is a reasonable man, but there is a lot on his plate, what with war and all. He may be persuaded to a hearing only after the war owing to our third problem."

And he pulled out a sheet from beneath a few pages from one of the documents lying upon the desk, which appeared to be a list of some of to the industries being invested in. I felt my left hand tensing into a fist as I sighed heavily for already the first two problems seem insurmountable. And he was bringing forth a third?

“Our third problem.” he handed over the page to let me look, “Is that some of the industries being invested in happen to be on our side. As you can see many of them are foreign and yes, some enemy industries, but this French chemical interest, you see there, yes, there, it produces phosgene gas for the French Army." He turned the document for me to see.

“A War profiteer! Robert this is insidious. How is it that they can use this charity with impunity . . . so as to invest in both sides of this horrid killing machine of a war. Robert—this . . . this is evil."

“It is. It is an abomination of justice that must be righted." And now I saw Robert momentarily stir with a righteous fury, only to watch him slowly slump back into his chair. “I have done a bit more digging of my own. And I suspect, but cannot prove — well at this time — that the Denham group may be channelling some of its funds to British government interests as well. More investigation is needed of course before I can get anything as concrete as what you have already brought before me but . . . “ He paused for a moment, and mumbled what I thought was, “. . . two conspiracies in as many days…” before he looked up, “I would have to build one hell of a case — pardon the language —to take down Count de Ville. Assuming he could even be brought to trial.”

“As well as the fact there are even more bizarre oddities to this labyrinth of lies,” I said as I reached over and began to sort through the documents frowning, as my small ledger was not there among them, “Did you bring the ledger as well?"

He looked slightly perplexed, “I brought everything Penelope gave me. Is something missing?"

He reopened his briefcase again in order to check.

“There was a small ledger in the large envelope as well, is it not there?" My fist tighten to grasp my pencil I so badly needed to tap. Had they gotten to his papers? The ledger? Their spies were everywhere! Oh yes. I now strongly suspected a spy in his house. The maid! What was her name? I must remember it. Amelia, yes. I knew from the look of her — those too innocent eyes. No one looked that innocent unless it was a contrivance. I knew she was not to be trusted. And that butler. Where they not together working for Coldfall?

Had not Coldfall provided assistance to those who in service had been displaced by the war and its economic circumstance.

Robert was emptying the other, unrelated papers from his briefcase and had started sifting through them as well. “As a matter of fact I do recall reading it last night. It was rather incriminating. Listing of various outliers. Investments in rather odd enterprises. Gadzooks, if that clerk misplaced it I swear…”

Robert began hurriedly shuffling through the other papers in his briefcase.

“Yes. A list of unusual financial transactions. Oddities. You see I have a contact in Prague.” I told him as I allowed myself to begin to tap my pencil upon the desk, four times, which I hoped appeared as nothing more than a momentary anxiety, even as I caught sight of Mr Mellilow giving me a look as if to discourage the tapping, which I knew I should stop but I had yet to reach six. “Who communicates with me through Geneva. It seems all rather Byzantine to say the least — but, there happens to be a Amsterdam Diamond House which receives monies from an Transvaal Mineral Investment group, which are then re-directed further to London in order to finically off set loses by Ashcroft & Sons Publishing. Ashcroft & Sons, which is a part of old Sir George Ashcroft’s estate, prints among other things the British illustrated monthly magazine The Journal of the Occult, which is a publication authored by an esoteric group known as The Pimander Club.” Robert looked at me with some perplexity as I continued, “Of course this was all just some odd bits of information via a contact my father had in Prague, which I didn’t think all that much about, until I chanced upon an old friend at tea at this very nice tea stop, which has these most marvellous tea cakes, and during the course of my conversation with Florence, Millicent who was there taking tea with Florence, she’s a freelance typist — Millicent not Florence — said what an odd happenstance it was when I mentioned the Journal of the Occult. For it seemed the Reverend Marley with whom she was currently employed, doing typing and filing and research, and all, had written a rather scathing pamphlet concerning not only Coldfall but their secret connections to The Journal of the Occult and The Pimander Club."

Robert only seemed to be half listening to what I was saying as he was preoccupied with searching for the missing ledger. “Pimander club, mhm yes.” He muttered; and then half under his breath, to himself, “. . . did I leave it at my desk…?”

“Now it would seem that this club —according to Millicent, who was privy to all of Reverend Marley’s research — has an very exclusive membership that includes members of the aristocracy, of parliament, of the clergy, as well as high ranking military men, and some ranking officers of Scotland Yard, and the City Police. Plus, members of the Law Society — “ I frowned as he was searching and not at all listening, “Did this clerk you mentioned . . . does he by chance happen do work of them as well?"

I looked over to Mr Mellilow, who stood looking at the perplexed Robert Wise.

“Work for them?” He asked vaguely.

“The Law Society?” Did he need to stop and count to six?

“Well, I mean—I’ve been approved by the Law Society. All solicitors have. And Thompson he was given one if the highest recommendations from the Law Society. Only started working with Russell-Cooke a few months ago, but he keeps misplacing things. They usually turn up again sooner or later though. I sent him to make a photostatic copy of all this." He sweeps his hands over the papers. “He probably just misplaced it. I’ll question him on it when I return.”

Misplaced. Oh yes. Out-of-place. Not in their place. A place for everything and everything in a place. As they do so want to create misdirection. Misbegotten. He only started a few months ago? He said. And so well placed? “Robert, “ I felt the time had come to talk of many things, as the Walrus once had said, “You see, I must admit I have been negligent in telling you the truth about the state of my office, the disruption, the broken vase, the bullet hole, the overturned chair. Saturday last some rather abominable members of the Law Society came to visit — men in top hats and black crow coats and gold handled canes. They — they tried to kill me and Kiss — the private inquiry agent from Hudson & Brand, who I hired. And so, Robert, I must forewarn you — if you are dealing with the Law Society you must be very careful — they want," I motioned with my hand to the documents upon the desk, “All of this.”

Mr Mellilow turns to look again at the bullet hole in the window.

“Good heavens!" Robert exclaimed, “Have you reported this to the police?"

“How can I trust the police? They may very well be a part of this insidious conspiracy." I said wishing I had on one of my dresses rather than this one with its incorrect number of buttons — it was all wrong and in so being I was ever more vulnerable — they would be aware of the flaw and would be certain to make use of it. “Even as there are those who are members of the Law Society! You just said yourself, there are two conspiracies." I tapped the pencil, “Perhaps there is yet another?”

“Well, perhaps,” Robert stopped his search for the missing ledger, “But I don’t believe that any conspiracy, no matter how seemingly insurmountable, could involve every officer of the law and every member of the Law Society. Certain high ranking officials, perhaps, but the entire group? If what you say is true, then I might be risking my career, or even my very life, no my very soul looking into this." Robert is getting animated now, fired up like a reverend at the pulpit. “And yet, I must see justice come to pass. Where evil lurks, it is men of honour and law that must bring it into the light. And just as I feel that conviction, there must be some officer of the law, some lonely investigator among the police who can assist you.”

I took note if the scepticism on Mr Mellilow’s face.

“Here,” and Robert looked and pulled forth a loose piece of paper and wrote something down and thrust it towards me. “Ask for this man at Scotland Yard. I’ve worked with him before on a few cases, and you will not find a copper with a more dogged determination for the truth then he."

On the paper was written the name Edward Stone.

“Tell him I sent you, and that I’m looking into this for you, but that since your life has been threatened, this is now also a matter for the police."

Edward Stone. Stone 5 letters, subtracted from 11 equal Edward Stone, was six, and Edward was six Letters — and I liked the look of the name on the page. There was something strong in it. Yes, i decided i liked this name.

Robert looked winded and somewhat embarrassed by his outburst. He brushed his hair back in place and took a few breaths. “My apologies Miss Renfield. I usually leave the dramatic outbursts for the Barristers. I don’t know what came over me."

“There is strength in his name Robert, I like the name. But Coldfall House is a prestigious name—“

We were suddenly interrupted as the door to my office opened and a woman entered saying, “I do not care if she is in conference or not. I will speak with her,"

She was a presence.

Entering the room she devoured all attention — a woman of authority who was used to subservience. She was dressed in a fashionable black dress with a large hat and great overcoat with a mink collar. “So, you are R.M. granddaughter, the instigator of all this slander and libel. Zo Renfield."

Robert turned around to look at this sudden intruder.

I stood up, well aware it was Lady Aurora Carradine, whose first husband had been bequeathed my grandfather’s estate in order to found Coldfall House, and she had been forced to take principle control of Ashcroft’s business interests as well as the foundation of the charitable trust upon his accidental death.

Ever the gentleman Robert stood upon her entrance as well. Mr Mellilow moved over to stand near me with his right hand resting most conspicuously in his jacket pocket.

Lady Carradine gave Mrs Ormond, who had followed her into the office, a cold dismissive glance, “You may shut the door, madam. I wish to speak confidentiality with Miss Renfield.”

I nodded to Mrs Ormond, who gave me a questioning look but nevertheless closed the door.

Robert’s confident air of only moments ago took on a look now of confusion. Lady Aurora had already began to exert her influence, which among London high society and prominent business circles was considerable. “So, it is as I would have suspected, someone wilful enough to seek to sully the name of Coldfall House would be secluded way in some austere room with a lawyer and a criminal. My what company you keep, Miss Renfield.”

“I know who you are." I told her defiantly.

“Good." She steps forward looking at the office as if it were infectious. “And I know who you are as well, Miss Renfield. And even thought I hate to disparage your grandfather’s name. I must say, you my child are obstinate, misguided, and extremely foolish.”

“I will have you know my grandfather’s name was long ago disparaged — when he was mysteriously committed to an asylum.” I rebutted.

“A destination I fear may soon be on your horizon,” she said with infinite superiority. “But in lieu of that eventually my dear, I have come to today to see if we can put an end to this ill-advised campaign of slander you have seen fit orchestra. You will desist in these outrageous accusations of Coldfall —do you understand."

Lady Aurora’s tone was one which never expected anything but acquiescence to her commands.

“They are not unfounded. Coldfall is a den of confidence and embezzlement. And for that reason it is you, Lady Aurora, who would sully my grandfather’s name were it available to be sullied.” I found renewed courage against those cold penetrating eyes of hers. “Stealing from children. Separating infants from their mother’s.”

“That my dear is an absolutely injudicious fabrication perpetuated by the purveyors of jealous whispers and disingenuous rumours. The lies of worthless gossip mongers. Coldfall has and will ever be a refuge for the those most unfortunate of mother burdened by child out of wedlock — from whatever walk of life. Do you have any idea of how much in expenditures alone we have given to the impoverished children’s fund.”

“Well, actually—“ Robert began shuffling through the documents upon my desk.

“I will give you that once you may have been a great organization, but you have been defiled. You have giving your soul to the devil — to de Ville."

“You have a particular obsession with the gentleman,” Lady Aurora gave me a haughty lift of her brow, " I can assure you Miss Renfield, if you and your salacious minions were to do far more research then listen to and resurrecting old libels, long since proven to have been wholly inaccurate, you would know Count De Ville left England years ago, as did he the Board — but, pray is there more? Or, are these the entire sum of your wildly imprudent and tiresome libels, my dear.”

Robert, who seemed to finally guessed who the imperious woman was suddenly interjected. “Lady Aurora, unless Miss Renfield has had her statements published, there is no case for slander nor libel here. Now I suggest we all calm down and discuss these findings upon some later date, when passions are no longer so enflamed."

Lady Aurora’s brow rose even higher in her haughty indignation as she turned to look at him, “Yes, a solicitors answer, I would expect nothing less. But sir there is in fact a far more injurious slander. When the good people who have for so long supported Coldfall House, hear these salacious rumours and lies, which may in their way have an effect upon the good opinion of the populace, whose continued support we ever seek in order to help us maintain the worthy services we provide. These lies only serve to help disheartened those whose support we need the most. Coldfall Charitable Trust has been an institution in this country for nigh on twenty years and now, because of a young woman who, no doubt bares an unfortunate predisposition for her grandfather’s sad misfortune to madness, decides to bring forth once again old lies and accusations – so long disproven? And so it is my obligation, my duty, to ensure the great name of Coldfall.” With that said she turned to me, “Now what is it precisely that you want, Miss Renfield? Altruism, my dear, only goes so far. I would suggest this little enterprise of yours could use an infusion of what, several influential clients? Would that be enough to have to desist?”

I stood behind my desk uncertain as to whether or not Lady Aurora could leap across it. I was now even more certain she was in league with the sharp-toothed lawyers, the Rose Men. That she was a part of the halo of flies — of which she had told me about.

I held my pencil in my left hand so as not to succumb to the need to tap it, which was growing ever within me each tense second. “Madam, my little enterprise does quite well without the likes of you and your sharp toothed lawyers."

Lady Aurora held her gloves in her right hand and if she were close I felt she would have used them to slap me, “Obstinate, stubborn young woman. You would tarnish the bright and shining legacy of an otherwise disgraceful end to your grandfather’s career?"

“My grandfather never intended for his legacy to be used by charlatans, thieves, corrupt politicians, and least of all mystical occultists. Nor to fund foreign armament dealers.” I said angrily.

“That is an unfounded accusation my dear.” She slapped the gloves in the palm of her left hand. “You will find no such transaction upon the ledgers of the Charitable Trust."

Robert moved to stand between us. “I understand you are upset your ladyship, but please try to understand. There are certain discrepancies that it would be foolish to ignore.” He said even as he turned to address me, “And Miss Renfield, until these discrepancies are fully investigated, perhaps it would be best to remain civil in our discourse?"

Lady Aurora addresses Robert, “Do I take it sir that you represent Miss Renfield?"

At this Robert chanced a look to me as if seeking confirmation.

“Are you certain you understand the danger,” I asked him even as I cast a accusatory look at the arrogant Lady Aurora.

She gave sound to incredulousness: “Danger? Truly your obsession goes far deeper than I suspected.”

“Then, if you would be so kind, Robert." I did not smile, and in retrospect I had not smiled since Lady Aurora entered my office quite unannounced.

Robert nodded, “In this instance I do, yes."

“Then sir, I would suggest you consult with you client. If she does not desist in these unfounded public pronouncements, we will have no recourse but to take action against her, and for the sake of her grandfather’s memory I do so wish things would not come to that." Lady Aurora’s tone taking on a more business like quality as she spoke to Robert.

“And what recourse is that? To send once more your Rose Men? Send more of your flies to spy upon me?” I could no longer contain my contempt for the pompous hypocrisy of Lady Aurora Carradine.

Thereupon she smiled and looked at Robert with a slight cock of her head, "As you can see sir — your client, she may be but one step away from the strait waistcoat her grandfather wore.”

“Perhaps now that you have said your peace, you should make your leave. You have, after all, barged into Miss Renfield’s offices unannounced, uninvited, and it seems obvious, unwanted."

I felt Mr Mellilow take a step closer. His hand nestled into the jacket pocket he was definitely concealing something within.

Lady Aurora’s disdain from the moment she entered into my office never wavered, “I will leave you with this Miss Renfield.” She slowly began to put on her gloves as she looked at me contemptuously, “Whom would you wish to take care of these unfortunates in our society? The Salvation Army? I dare say Mr. Stead to his credit, though misguided as he was in the law, revealed to what disgraceful circumstances young girls can find themselves left to that particular organization. I for one am very proud of the work we have done and continue to do. So In that be well advised, when it comes to the Charitable Trust I am not to be trifled with. Thus, I take my leave, but be assured, you will hear from my solicitors if you do not heed my warning."

And with that she haughty turned to stride toward the door.

Robert stood and watched as she left my office—no doubt far sooner than she may have originally planned, having made her way into my office this morning without an appointment, with what I am certain was her a sure and certain intention of intimidation. What with the sharp-toothed lawyers having failed to bring to heel Kiss and myself, in that we had escaped without harm, Lady Aurora’s arrival was it a new feint in Coldfall’s campaign to attempt to silence me. The threat of legal consequences — as well as to assert action whether or not we had made reports regarding the Rose Men’s assault. Just who had we spoken too? The press, the police, our lawyers? Although I was quite thankful Robert had been there upon her arrival, I can not but help feel that Lady Aurora had left quite content in the fact that, at best, she had nothing more to deal with than a single solicitor. A solicitor of whom I may have placed himself and his family in jeopardy. I looked at the name upon the paper Robert had handed me: Edward Stone. Best be forewarned she had said. Perhaps it would be best for me to speak with this policeman — in order to perhaps stay the hand of her Rose Men and their flies.

Robert breathes an audible sigh of relief when the door finally closes behind her and he slumps down into the opposing chair and sighs, removing his spectacles and rubbing his eyes. “I understand she was being unreasonably antagonistic, but, must you spur her on so Miss Renfield?”

“You do not understand truly what evil they are capable of Robert. It is more than mere financial fraud and thievery. There are horrible things they do under the cover of their philanthropy. Even now I fear what they may have done to the Reverend Marley and poor Millicent Ainsworth — in that they had sought to pull away the mask they wear and reveal them for what they truly are, and now they have disappeared. I know I walk a razor’s edge with madness. But please —understand. In this I am not mad.”

View
The Congregation at Archbishop’s Park
Session Ten – Part Two

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Extemporaneous evidence taken, 12 March, 1916, Basement Archive, Scotland Yard, of Inspector Cuthbert Ffolliott:

Q: Who is she?
A: I don’t know.
Q: You don’t know? You were in the basement archives with her and you don’t know who she is?
A: I have never seen her before tonight.
Q: Do you go to the basement routinely with strange women?
A: Of course not.
Q: But you were there with her tonight?
A: Yes
Q: And how precisely did that come about?
A: She came in—well, I say that but actually I did not see her enter, it was more she appeared at my desk and said she wanted to report a crime.
Q: A crime? Did she elaborate?
A: I asked her to be more specific and she said it was a hypothetical crime—
Q: A hypothetical crime?
A: Yes. Only it was an in fact an actual crime. One of which I was well aware, being as it was one of my old arrests. In fact—it was the one we discussed at your desk, the one in connection to that doctor, Seward, who you reported was mentioned by your informant. His being the cold case.
Q: Who’s being a cold case?
A: Seward’s
Q: Right – Please Inspector, try to be a bit more precise.
A: The case she referred to as being a hypothetical – but, as I said, in fact the crime she referred to was the brutal double homicide of two young seductresses— Rather horrid that room. I have flashes of it still. I was not yet on the force, but that room – it was as horrible as anything done by Saucy Jack.
Q: And you were the arresting constable?
A: It was one of my first upon having put on my blues. I was out walking my beat when the manager of the Halcyon Hotel fluttered into me, his hands all a waggling, his face pale. Gone all white. A mask of fright – on a man who worked nightly in the premises where all manner of depravity was on the evening’s fare.
Q: And?
A: He said it had been reported there had been some screams that even through the double carpeting of the rooms chilled the blood. I proceed to follow him up to the second floor, room 23 – and upon opening the door—I found him there. Calm. Like a surgeon about his work. The blade in hand. Blood everywhere.
Q: This was? The date—
A: 7th July, 1895.
Q: They were as you described them sexual in nature. Mutilation murders?
A: Right. This doctor. Dr Hennessy, Patrick Hennessy, as I said, an administrator at an asylum. St Ignatius, which was owned by the other doctor, Dr Seward, the one your informant spoke to you about—who eventually was written up himself for medical malfeasance, false imprisonment, torture, and murder. But, Hennessy—he was a real piece of work. As I said, he rather calmly and systematically butchered himself up two little street tarts. They at one time claimed that Our Jack was a womb collector. Well—this Hennessy was. And so. So, as I said, in she comes tonight, but rather than sitting down to tell me about some hypothetical crime as she had rather oddly said at the beginning, she began discussing this old mayhem, in which she knew far too much. About the specifics I mean. She knew the names of the poor dollymops, Lizzie Bailey and Moy Toon. Their ages. The hotel in Clerkenwell. She even knew he used a postmortem knife, which was never made public.
Q: And so—what you are saying is this woman, whom you say you have never seemed before, arrived tonight, seeking you out, in order to do what? Reminiscence about horribly gortesque crime perpetrated al little more then twenty yeara ago?
A: It was what she said—but that wasn’t what she wanted. What she wanted was Silver Knife — which is the nickname given to Hennessey, by the scribblers.
Q: But—correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t you just say the actual murder weapon was never made public.
A: Well, The Illustrated Police News, it may have alluded to a scalpel—but as the surgeon identified it, the tool rightly used in his grim, surgical butchery was in fact a postmortem knife. Which was kept out of the press.
Q: But, if memory services rightly, you complained earlier that this Dr Hennessy was released by, if I have this correctly, government men in expensive suits, as you described them, men who arrived in the middle of the night? So how did it get into The Illustrated Police News?
A: Right—well, the fact is he was held for a day or two, before he got word out through his solicitor that he had something to offer— but, owing to the grisliness of what he had done to those girls in room 23 of that filthy Clerkenwell hotel . . . well, it was just the kind of copy IPN loves to make a front page splash.
Q: Just the kind of story that a young constable newly in his blues would like to have his name associated with?
A: Why are you asking all this? Like I told her, this all happened over twenty years ago — and, when I tried to tell you about it the day before yesterday, it was all Miss High and Haughty in her dismissal.
Q: Because Inspector, it would appear that whatever transpired twenty or so years ago, those events have some significance to this woman, who just happened to find herself wandering about the Yard. Rather purposefully it seems in seeking you out, the arresting officer, as she wanted to know more about a case you say she already knew far too much about already. Whereas, rather oddly there are points of which you beg to offer a slight uncertainty of recollections—which is I would say in the very least perplexing, for when pressed, you suddenly appear to be a fount of facts and remembrances. Odd, is it not?
A: You are not listening to me. She didn’t want to know about the case. She already knew about the case. What she wanted, as I have told you, if you were listening, was where she could find Silver Knife—I mean Hennessy.
Q: Information you say you do not have?
A: Right. Like I said before—I have no idea where he is. I have told you this already—and so, perhaps, you will get this down correctly this time. Some toffs arrived in the middle of the night with various sets of ID’s and they proceeded to have him brought out of lock-up and sequestered him for questioning. His solicitor it seems had wet their appetites for whatever the main course he was prepared to serve. For the bloody butcher knew something they were all rather heated to know, and they gave him whatever he wanted for whatever he had—and what he wanted was for his cell door to swing wide— to which they obliged . . . on a double homicide. Once released, they drove him away.
Q: And you say you have no idea where?
A: I was but a constable then. Who was going to tell me anything?
Q: And you had no curiosity?
A: Curiosity does not move one through the ranks.
Q: I might suggest giving an ash blonde access to case files is not a way to further ones career either.
A: If you were a real constable and not but a pretty petticoat, you would have taken sufficient notice of the knife she was wielding? She threatened to cut my bloody throat. And so, I had little choice in the matter.
Q: You sure it was not a scalpel?
A: It was a postmortem knife. To be precise. Exactly like the one Hennessy used.
Q: Which is all rather elaborate don’t you think? Researching all the particulars on a twenty-year-old case? Procuring a postmortem knife—as was used in the double homicide. Does it not seem, Inspector, as if she went to a lot of trouble to bring home to you what she knew?
A: Of course—
Q: I mean, if she knew as much as you say—then, if it is as you say—why then does she come here to threaten you? Since she should know you don’t have the information she seeks. The whereabouts of this Dr Hennessy. And yet, she does come here. To see you. Which would, viewed from a different perspective, cast some suspicion on the veracity of your claim to be ignorant of certain aspects of this case.
A: Jesus on a pony! Alderton what are you implying? That I am in someway a part of that Grand Guignol that took place in a Clerkenwell?
Q: No—not in the murders. But certainly perhaps in the concealment of their perpetrator. I submit she came here because whomever whisked away your homicidal doctor, she fairly well knows you are privy to that information. And if not—then, she strongly suspects you have contacts such as to uncover his location.
A: And I submit to you, PC Alderton, you are wilfully overlooking the far more significant aspect of tonight’s events with this obsession upon whatever may or may not have happened in the past. As you asked at the outset, the pertinent question is who is she? This mysterious woman— whom, it seems, no one can recall having seen enter the building or approach my desk, even as there were two Inspectors sitting just across the way. Who was — at best deranged or worse, something far more dangerous and uncanny— As one minute they seemed perfectly calm and serene and the next violently enraged, nearly manically so. You saw what she did with that file cabinet, tossing it as if it were next to nothing. Lifted me from the very floor with but a single hand. You did not look into her eyes, Alderton. I did. Where they were once all so captivating, almost mesmerizing, they suddenly became feral like some animal preparing to pounce. Jesus wept! Do not let whatever you may think of me cloud your perceptions. You heard that inhuman hiss as if she were — God only knows. You saw her mouth drawn back. Those sharp teeth. Fangs—like out of something from Stoker.
Q: You honestly want me to write this down?
A: I want you to do your job constable. I want you to not only find out who she was, but what she is.
Q: And what precisely does that mean?
A: There’s more going on within this parade than merely some diced up girl cast upon the Thames. And you very well know it –
Q: And you? You know far more than you are telling – Stoker? Jonathan Harker? Seward?
A: Perhaps you are more than a pretty petticoat—

And with that bit of the most wilful impertinence, Inspector Ffolliot arose from the chair beside my desk and departed.

Vera Alderton’s Diary
13 March, Morning – Morning arrived and I had gotten but a pittance of sleep. I struggled to awaken, slowly and slightly bewildered in that I could not remember having dozed off—surprisingly I found I was still dressed. Either I had been exhausted or Irene had been out all night as her customary entrance to our flat was always accompanied by enough noise to have aroused me from my slumbers. My bed was littered with various notes; my open casebook; the scraps of papers and miscellanea which I had tossed into Mrs Willingham’s hat box; several files I had gotten from Inspector Ffolliott; a copy of the police surgeon ‘s report on Pamela Dean and Neil Byrne. As I slid my legs over the edge of the bed several pages spilled upon the floor, tumbling down upon the copy of Stoker’s Dracula, which had apparently fallen from my sleeping hand.

“I want you to not only find out who she was, but what she is,” I recalled the words of the odious Ffollitt. “Something out of Stoker—“

I pushed the spilling wave of my hair back from my face as I forced myself up from the bed to greet the new day. I reached over and picked up the typewritten notes I had made extemporaneously after having questioned the Inspector, who for all his bravado had been badly shaken by the mysterious woman. The Diced Up Girl and the Mysterious Woman— Lord. What was this some Wilkie Collins novel? No—it was one by Bram Stoker. And I picked up the book which had fallen from my hand—

. . . as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips and on the red tongue as it lapped the white sharp teeth_. Lower and lower went her head as the lips went below the range of my mouth and chin and seemed to fasten on my throat. Then she paused, and I could hear the churning sound of her tongue as it licked her teeth and lips, and I could feel the hot breath on my neck. Then the skin of my throat began to tingle as one’s flesh does when the hand that is to tickle it approaches nearer, nearer.’

The passage I found myself reading as I picked up Stoker’s open gothic seemed prescient of my remembrance of the ash blonde woman from the night before, where among the wooden file cabinets of the archive, turning suddenly to observe my entrance, her mouth indeed was open, lips pulled back to expose sharp canine teeth. Canine – like a dog’s to tear into and rip a soft throat apart.

A vampire?

I snapped the book closed to try and snap myself back to reality – but it was there still. Inspector Ffolliot had fairly wanted me to draw that conclusion. But by what reasoning? He had only the day before interjected himself into the conversation—after having no doubt stood just outside the door of the basement archive. Eavesdropping? But why? I could understand Inspector Gudgett. He believed himself to be a far superior investigator and so jealousy and ambition for advancement motived his occasional interests – but Ffolliot? Prior to my meeting with the surreptitious informant in the underground, he had not displayed any remarkable attentiveness to the case other than mere the idle curiosity attached to any investigation gaining headlines in even the more respectable broadsheets. Or, so I had suspected.

His earlier visit had been to step forward at the opportune moment – in order to relate to Inspector Stone and myself information about a sexual predator and homicidal madman – who oddly was a physician at an asylum. And asylum run by yet another mad doctor whose name Ffolliot was all too eager to share. Hennessey and Seward. Yes, that gentleman knew far more than he was willing to admit during my questioning – for I had detected in his eyes the slightest trace of fear as he abruptly arose from the chair beside my desk and departed my basement office.

I checked and it looks as if there were to be snow today, it would be internment. There was breaks in the grey clouds through which the sun shone through. It is time to clean up and change my dress. I want to see Stone.

Casebook of PC Alderton
Evidence of Archbishop’s Park, 13 March – Morning

I upon departing 2 Macklin Street the flathouse at which I reside at 8.30 the morning of 13 March, 1916. I intended to take the 4 minute walk to Covent Garden Tube Station as usual to Westminster. But as I was anxious to discuss events of last evening with Inspector Stone and the day was cold and the wind brisk, I decided upon instead taking a motor cab. Traffic for a Monday was unusually light and uneventful as we proceeded to Scotland Yard. I arrived at approximate at 8:45. Upon entering, I engaged in usual pleasantries as I entered and proceeded to the Inspector’s floor, the third. Upon arriving I took notice that many of the inspectors seemed to have gathered together in small congregations of discussion. Inspector Stone was not among them nor was he at his desk. I thereupon took notice as well that Inspector Ffolliot was not at his desk nor amidst any of the congregations, which one would have expected to attend.

From one of the congregations, one hosted by Inspector Gudgett, I observed the Inspector seemingly make his excuses to break away from the discussion and he thus made his way toward me. My first reaction was to turn and leave – but the Inspector hailed me, and thus I paused as he approached. I asked the Inspector as he drew near if he had seen Inspector Stone this morning?

Inspector Gudgett, putting a cigarette to his lips and striking a match, gave me what I would consider a look of bemused bewilderment: “Odd—I did not expect to see you here.”

He lit his cigarette.

“It is Monday is it not, Inspector?” I replied stating the obvious.

Inspector Gudgett, whipped out the flame of his match and idly dropped it into one of the ashtrays upon the nearest desk to hand, Detective Inspector Sherrington’s to be precise: “I figured you would be at Archbishop’s Park, like all the others.”

“All the others?” I inquired, looking about the room to see the numerous Inspectors who apparently were not at Archbishop’s Park.

“Those of consequence to the Diced Up Girl.” He said and exhaled a plume of smoke, respectfully to the side and not in my direction.

“Why? What has happened?”

In response, the Inspector seemed to take his time, perhaps relishing the fact he seemed to know something about the case that apparently I did not: "Well, that was a short-lived honeymoon to say the least.”

“Upon some other day I do so promise to return to allow myself to be dazzled by the brilliance of your sarcasm, but, I chose not to make that time today,” and therewith I turned on my heel with a sigh and I am sure a visible roll of the eye as I began to proceed to the duty desk in order to determine what had transpired at Archbishop’s Park – to draw Inspector Stone’s attention.
“It seems, PC Alderton—they have found a bit more of your Diced Up Girl," Inspector Gudgett informed me as I had taken several steps away from him.

I turned to look at him in a state of reserve although piqued. “When was this?”

“Oh, about, ten minutes ago,” He said, snapping open his pocket watch to check the time. “Pity you much have just missed them.”

I returned this information with a smile and a thank you for his kind assistance.

I then proceeded to secure a motor car and left Scotland Yard at 9:17. I traveled down Parliament Street to Abingdon Street, and then to Lambeth Bridge, which cross the Thames, bringing me to Lamberth Palace Road. To the left was St Thomas Hospital and on the right, Archbishops Park.

Upon my arrival I took immediate notice of several motor cars, which had pulled off the road to park as the roadway was narrow. There were various constables walking about. I exited the car and began to make my way towards to parked motor cars and the constables when one of them held up a hand to impede my progress. “Sorry Miss, but I am afraid I will have to ask to you avoid the park this morning.” He informed me.

I produced by identification and informed him I too was a police officer. He took the identification and examined it for a few moments before returning it to me and motioning me to proceed.

Upon this entrance to the park there was a footpath, which I followed, even as I surveyed the grounds before me in an attempt to ascertain precisely where the crime scene was located, as the stretch of Archbishop’s Park before me seemed deserted. The grounds still bore a hoary sheen from the remainder of the various depths of snow and in the shady areas there appeared to be harden ice, which had as yet to dissipate with the radiance of the sun, owing to a general lack in the last several days on an increase in the temperature.

To be sure, there was a brisk wind, which I braced against even as I hurried along the path. I was about to step off at a winding curve, to the east, when another constable called out. He stepped forth from some landscaping shrubbery,

“Watch your step there—“ He instructed with some urgency. I immediately halted upon the footpath. “You should be walking about Miss as the park for the moment is closed upon official Police matters.”

Although in uniform, I produced for a second time by identification, which the constable examined at some length before handing it back. “Ex’cuse me Miss.”

“As you warned me about my step, I do not see anything untoward here.” I said upon taking back my identification card, with some irritation. “Is this a part of the crime scene.”

“Likely is the whole park being the scene, owing to the Inspectors about.” He said, and motioned ahead to the left, further East, as I had been heading, “That way.”

“Right.” I nodded and once again looked to where my foot would have stepped off the path, “As I enquired – to what should I take care in my step?”

The constable No. 237 shrugged, “Don’t right know, Miss. The Inspector he says for us to be looking over the grounds for anything suspicious—as to what that is—I don’t rightly know."

“Which Inspector?” I asked.

“The big one. With the bowler hat.” He replied.

“Ah, Inspector Stone.” I nodded, “Can you inform me as to what’s happened? And what’s been found?

No. 237 L seemed hesitant to remain with me and not to be searching for whatever it was he was unsure as to what it was he was looking for, "Not rightly sure, they are being a bit closed mouth about it. We arrived and were sent looking for lord knows what. But there is several Inspectors up near the quad and the benches there. I hear the Police Surgeon just arrived.”

“Is Stone there?” I enquired, “The tall one with the bowler?”

“Aye, as I said, he’s the one sent us out here sniffing around like hounds," Said another constable, No. 201 L, arriving from behind us.

“Thank you.” I then took my leave, stepping off the footpath where I had previous been admonished and proceeded to stride with a quicken pace toward the quad. The wind was gusting and cold.

As I arrived upon the scene I took note there were several constable standing about the perimeter as if set there to ward off possible by-standers seeking a closer look. I duly noted at the scene Inspector Stone, Assistant Commissioner Barrington, Inspector Ffolliott, Detective Inspector Sherrington. Knelling before a park bench is observed Dr Wrayburn.

I would approximate that I was about twenty-feet away from congregation when suddenly there was the sound of a match striking and the hiss of a flame coming to life. In reaction I suddenly whirled about.

“Ah, so I am not the last to arrive,” commented City Police Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer with a rather laconic smile as he cupped one hand, enclosed in woolen gloves, the fingers of which had been cut away, in order to shelter the match’s flame, which he held to the stub of a small cigar.

“Inspector.” I said mere in the acknowledgement of his presence.

He stepped over close to smile, “Big break in the case I hear.” The smoke of his cigar wafting away upon the wind.

“Maybe.” I replied not at all being privy to the circumstances.

“Shall we,” He proceed to motion with his hand for me to go before him as he puffed upon his cigar. I once again moved toward the gather at the bench, glancing back to take note of the tails of Inspector Spencer’s long black overcoat bellowing in the sudden chill wind. It gave some thought to the flutter of raven wings.

I was reticent in proceeding toward the official gathering about the park bench, as I was cognizant that it would give the appearance we had arrived together.

The voice was AC Barrington’s and it was filled with some vexation. “Are you bloody sure Wrayburn?”

I proceed to step toward Inspector Stone, so as to depart from Detective Inspector Spencer and as I drew close I cleared my throat so as to give Inspector Stone some indication of my presence.

Inspector Stone turned to me and spoke in a low voice: “PC Alderton – I tired to ring you up. Your flatmate, Irene, I think, informed me you had already left.”

“I do apologize,” I said slightly inclining my head politely towards him, “There was an incident last night that took me some time to resolve.”

“Incident?” He asks, his attention seemingly fixated upon the knelling Police Surgeon Wrayburn at the bench.

“Involving Ffolliott and a mysterious vanishing woman, and the destruction of my office,” I murmured in a voice for only Inspector Stone to hear.

At which time my attention was once again drawn to Detective Inspector Spencer. I chanced to detect Inspector Ffolliott who gave him a meaningful look as he passed. Detective Inspector Spencer on his part remained purposeful, with hands behind his back, as he slowly wandered from the congregation at the bench, the smoke from his cigar drifting in the wind.

Thereupon Inspector Stone quickly turned his attention to me, "Ffolliott you say? A vanishing woman? And the destruction of you office? These are weighty incidents indeed.”

I nodded in assent, “Yes. I’ll discuss it further when there are fewer free ears.”

“Damnit Wrayburn—it is not like all of Christendom is awaiting word of what is to be found behind the rolled back stone. An opinion would suffice and I would hope it to be forth coming before nightfall.” AC Barrington said with some heat as he stepped closer to the doctor.

“What’s turned up? I heard something about more parts of our diced girl?” I enquired as I tried to get a more advantageous view of the bench as it was blocked by the massive black coat of AC Barrington and the figure of the kneeling doctor Wrayburn.

“It is consistent with the other parts found, yes.” Came the reply of Dr Wrayburn, “Parts of what, as they have come to call, the Diced-Up Girl."

I then gave a glance to Stone, “Who discovered it?’

“A temperance missioner, making his way through the park this morning.” Inspector Stone thus informed me, “Wrayburn is even now examining it.”

“What part?”

“It is the head.” He said grimly.

I am more than certain owing to the visible plume of steam from my breath, my heavy sigh was observed, “Well that may prove useful—“ Thus I stood, holding my coat further closed with my fist as the wind battered the park in gusts. I was at the moment certain this evidence should provide us, finally, an accurate identification as to whom in reality the unfortunate woman truly was, other than being referred to as far too simply the Diced-Up Girl. I to was becoming impatient with the police surgeon. I longed to know was it Pamela Dean?

I then proceeded to step closer to Inspector Stone and thus whispered to him, “Were there any message, notes? Indications of a random redheaded women planting evidence?” This I said with an eye on Detective Inspector Spenser who having stepped around the bench approached it from behind.

“I have constables searching about the park for any such.” He nodded.

Upon hearing this I proceeded to move closer to AC Barrington so as to get a better view of the bench as Detective Inspector Spencer had already broached protocol and taken up a position behind the bench.

“Detective Inspector are you not a bit off your patch this morning?” AC Barrington snapped gruffly.

“It is still a joint investigation, Barrington.” He replied removing his cigar to flick away ashes into the wind.

“It is almost as if poor Inspector Cotford was murdered in the line of duty to make it so.” AC Barrington said in a voice that all but made an accusation. “Damned if I am to become a snowman. Dr Wraybrun – should I send out a constable to retrieve you a spirit board?”

To which Dr Wrayburn replied calmly, “To know more, I should have to examine it at the laboratory.”

“Odd is it not, he has arrived and the finding of the unfortunate woman’s head was but twenty minutes ago.” Inspector Stone commented in upon Detective Inspector Spencer’s appearance.

“The question of course is he here for the City Police or for Robertson-Kirk?” I said now getting a glimpse of the ghastly remains of the severed head which had been left sitting on the park bench. “And even more importantly, who invited Ffolliott to this parade?”

Inspector Stone glared at the Inspector, who looked either a bit nervous or far too cold. "Having had some incident with a vanishing woman of which I long to hear.”

At this time I observed Detective Inspector Spenser as he reached into his unbuttoned black woolen coat—unbuttoned in the chill of the morning—and removed something from within his inner coat pocket, “Perhaps this may be of some service.” He then proceeded to hand over what appeared to be a brass photographic frame to the Dr. Wrayburn,

Upon seeing this I almost said far too loudly, “Well—that’s convenient.” But I was later to learn from Inspector Stone I had merely muttered it to myself.

I observed that Dr Wrayburn took the photographic frame – a small brass one that might be found upon any mantelpiece. Dr Wrayburn examined the contents within the frame and then proceeded to look up at Detective Inspector Spencer, who took returned the stub of the cigar to his mouth.

“What do we have here?” AC Barrington enquired and proceeded to snatch the frame from the police surgeon’s hand, as he momentarily inspected it. Thereupon he sighed most heavily and handed back the frame to Dr Wrayburn, “Well, what need of a spirit board when we have Detective Inspector Spencer.” He then returned his ire upon the police surgeon. “Well, man – what do you say?”

“Well, as I said, I would still like to make a more comprehensive examination—but, this does seem to answer at least one of our lingering questions.” Dr Wrayburn informed as he held forth the photograph Detective Inspector Spencer had given over to him for examination.

“Damnation!” Came the proclamation of the Assistant Commissioner as he shoved his hands deeper in the pockets of his great coat.

Inspector Stone quickly proceeded to step over to stand beside AC Barrington.

He pointed to the photographic frame, “And where pray did this come from, Spenser?” Inspector Stone not trying at all to conceal is own ire.

“The Home Office,” Detective Inspector Spenser replied evenly.

At this time, while thee was discussion amongst Inspector Stone, Detective Inspector Spenser and Assistant Commissioner Barrington I proceeded to step closer to the park bench whereupon I observed the pale, ghastly sight of a woman’s head. A young woman. It appeared even for the condition of the head the woman was younger than Pamela Dean. My quick observation was that the cut, the severing cut, had been clean, done what I would determine to have been a single strong stroke of a sturdy blade. The head sat on the bench face forward. The chestnut hair tangled and matted.

“So, who the bloody hell is she, “ AC Barrington enquired gruffly turning to look at Inspector Stone. “As is it quite obvious this not Pamela Dean. Just who the bloody hell is this Diced-Up Girl?”

View
Day of Zo & Roses
Session Ten, Part One

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Zo Renfield’s Notebook

13 March, Cheyne Walk, London – I have decided to keep a record. There is no record of my grandfather’s death. Well, not one with is truthful. Factual. There is a death certificate – which I believe to be a fabrication. I have been unable to gather any information other that than sheet of paper with it’s wicked signature. Dr. John Seward. So, using this horrid notebook that Mr Carnacki’s butler, the odious Enfield had given me (the paper of which I can not stand the touch of, course and cheap, and is some disconcerting shade that somehow just borders but is not quite ivory) I have decided to keep a record – which is more than my journal entries which are or seem to me to be random thoughts which fire through my imagination as well as my cognitive abilities – and so I will try to temper my fancy and keep it as factual as I can as a record of my death. Although, there is only my estranged sister who might even care enough to want to understand events which may be leading to my death. I mean there are the Rose Men and their intelligencers – their minions among the flies – and what I suspect them to be – which needs more research on my part fo confirm else it would be written here as more evidence of my madness. Which though I know I am mad, I have begun to feel, I am perhaps like my grandfather more damned. And so – to begin again. I awoke alone in the bed which is not my bed in the bedroom that is not my bedroom – which is Mr Carnacki’s bedroom, not that it is his bedroom, but one of many in his house on Cheyne Walk – in fact is not even called a bedroom, but rather a guest room. Kiss had already arisen, earlier, as my hand placed on the side of the bed where she had lain was cold. For myself, rather than arising as I should, I found myself staring up at the crack in the ceiling. Was it there yesterday? I don’t think so. If so, how did I miss it? It was not a large crack in the plaster, but it was certainly distracting. And it was the first thing I saw. A tiny rent in the white plain of the ceiling. Not a ravine, for it was not that deep, or a crevice, and so rent is more accurate, although I think of a rent as more a tear in fabric. A tear in the ceiling perhaps? It pulled one’s attention away from the lovely cornices and covings that made up this bedroom which as I said was a guest room. And how hospital is it to have a tear in the ceiling above a guests head. I estimate the crack was no larger than an inch, slightly larger, maybe. I will have to get a ruler later and find a way to reach the ceiling in order to measure it, if I am to stay here and sleep another night – for in the darkness, although I know it is there, I can’t see it, but when I awake it will be there to distract me again. As it had this morning. For having awoken I had lain there in bed staring at it for 33 minutes and should have gotten up then, but as I was uncertain not only of its length but what had created it, for earlier the ceiling had been unblemished. I am certain of that – or I would have noticed yesterday when I awoke. And so, whether there or not, earlier, I had lain there this morning pondering not only the crack but what could have caused the crack itself – and then, there was the suspicion something might be on the other side of the crack trying to make its way into the guest room – and so, I continued to lay there for 34 minutes, which of course, by then made everything all wrong because I should have gotten up at 33 minutes instead of 34 because 3+3=6. And it is 13 March, 1916. 1+9=10, 1+6=7, 17+3rd month, March, is 20. 4×5=20. 5-4=1. 20+1= 21. 2+1=3. 3+3 = 6. And Six is my operative number. But by laying there thinking about what was on the other side of the crack – unable to put aside the overwhelming thought that a fly would slowly push a filthy leg through and begin to crawl out from the crack – I had lain in this strange gentleman’s bed contemplating the crack for 34 minutes. And so with an anxious glance at the clock, which had revealed that I had lain there past 33 minutes, I knew I had to get up quickly because if I did not begin to start setting things aright the day would be all wrong. I so need my ledger. Quickly I sat up and slid my bare legs out from beneath the bedclothes for if I were to delay by seconds it would be 35 minutes. And so I anxiously stood up – not even thinking: what if someone were to knock and rather then wait for me to bid them entrance, they just decided, it was their room and not mine, so upon their own inclination opened the door and entered to find me perversely standing there naked, because I cannot abide to sleep in a gown, which twists and tangles and constricts and feels in the middle of the night like some straight waistcoat an asylum attendant would force you to wear. My grandfather had died in a straight waistcoat. Something Kiss was entirely comfortable with when I explained it to her when we slept together – an arrangement upon which I should not but can not help but dwell. Also—besides the overwhelming feeling of confinement – I do so love the feel of fresh and perfectly ironed linen against my bare flesh – for Mildred always sees to a change of bedclothes and that the bed is made every day with freshly washed and most importantly well ironed linens. Which grows ever more worrisome for I am not certain of the routine of this house – for I had to ask Enfield, whom it is obvious I think I am coming to more and more dislike with each passing hour, to have the linen changed and his look was one of haughty appeasement for a lunatic. And the young girl, Olivia, no, Lavinia, yes, the maid, did so – but they were not fresh nor nearly so well ironed, when I had asked her to iron the wrinkled linens when she brought them up to make the change of the bed. Who does not iron their linen? Whatever the consequence – it will become ever more impossible to sleep here if they do not have staff to be able to adequately make up the bed. I am not at all sure how many servants Mr Carnacki employs – I have only seen Enfield and Lavinia the maid, and I know there is a cook. Well I have seen and tasted the culinary evidence of the cook but I have not actually seen the cook. Whereas I have Mildred and Jessie, who comes in twice a week, and Mrs Phillips the housekeeper, and Evelyn my cook who is quite often seen.

Upon arising from bed my first thought of the day, as it has become of late, was to check the window, which I stepped over to and stood to one side and parted the thin drapery in order to survey the street below. The day was not as grey as it had been. The sun was filtering through fleeing clouds. There was still the lingering snow. Mostly on the sidewalks and in patches still upon the road. Early morning pedestrians were beginning the new week. Which I should be doing – I should already be in my office behind my desk, writing in my ledger. Kiss had sent a contrivance to Mrs Ormond indicating I was unwell and would not be arriving today – but for how long are we to remain here and not be allowed to return to my office? I can not hid away forever – for they will find me. And so, I stood there watching the procession of pedestrians along the walk but I did not see any of the Rose Men in their black suits and no one with a top hat and a golden handled cane. I let the curtain slip back into place and stepped over the dressing table and studied the mirror – nothing had changed over the night. I should admit here, for the record, I am in a mirror vain, for I do like to look at myself – especially unclothed.

I also have to admit, for the record, my old rituals are well advanced upon their renewal. I picked up the brush and ran the palm of my hand over the bristles, six times, before I began to brush my hair – six strokes to the left, six to the right – and then, six to straighten the tangles below. I put the brush down and adjusted it so that it aligned with everything on the dressing table. It took me a few moments to get the symmetry correct, for the brush seemed to mock me and would fail to properly lay aligned with the small oriental box for the safe keeping of hair pins. Which I felt compelled to open and close, six times to assure everything was in order. I then knocked my knuckle on the dresser six light raps before I turned to the chair where I saw a dress had been lain out –

This was the first indication of the consequence of having lain in bed looking at the crack for 34 minutes instead of 33 – for as I turned to look at the dress lain out upon the well upholstered chair I did not recognize it. Was this my dress? It certainly did not look like my dress. The buttons were all wrong and the material as well. I picked it up and counted there were thirteen buttons, not twelve. I counted them six times. Thirteen each time. It was not my dress. I opened the wardrobe and found my dress – it was in need of an airing out, a good pressing, and the hem was soiled from the dampness of snow and sludge. And like the ceiling, I found there was a small tear. Had it been there all this time? How long had I worn it? Several days even before my meeting with her at the tea shop, and yes, certainty I could not arrive today to see her wearing it again

There was a brief knock upon the door and then Kiss’s voice, “It’s Cressida.” I told her to enter and she came in with a warm smile seeing me holding my dress.

“I went out and took the liberty of getting you a new one – as I more than assume you will be wanting to see Lady Penelope.” She told me – not telling me that my dress was no longer suitable for visiting someone like Lady Penelope.

I nodded, “Yes – “ My sentence incomplete as I was uncertain what I was about to say next, putting my dress back into the wardrobe, hiding it away, before turning to look into those lovely green eyes of hers whereupon I found the words. “I can not remain here Kiss.” Although I did not want it to sound as desperate as I felt, “I have a life no mater how filled with madness and familiarity. And I need my familiarity. This place – it is all wrong – nothing is in place. Or it is in the wrong place. There is a crack in the ceiling.” I pointed out.

“Yes. I know and I am trying to get you safely home.” Kiss said as she walked over to me and I loved the sound of the material of her dress rustling as each step drew her closer and closer.

“But is that possible? Can I ever go home? They have their agents the files and the rats even now searching, if they are not already aware I am here in this house. Waiting to dispense their judgement. For as Prometheus stole their fire I have their secrets.”

“They are not gods,” She told me as she withdrew from a pocket somewhere in her dress a revolver. “Here, take this.”

I looked at the weapon in her hand – it looked like the one she carried, “No—I can’t leave you without a defence other than roses.”

She smiled that smile that rushes my heart, “This is for you, I have my own. I also have someone I want to accompany you as well – I know there are things you want to do, need to do today. And I have some more research of my own to do. Plus, I want to meet with Carnacki.”

“You have heard from him”

“Yes—I have arranged to meet him.” She said and put the revolver in my hand and then closed hers around mine, “There are silver bullet’s already loaded. You can shoot?”

I nodded in that I had used a pistol before.

“Good, then aim for the forehead.” She told me in all seriousness. “Now hurry and get dressed and come down to breakfast and I will introduce you to Mr Mellilow.

And I did. The dress she had selected other than the troublesome thirteen buttons fit perfectly – and I found she had also gotten me a pair of long white stockings, which pulled way up high upon the thigh to keep me warm as she knew I felt chill most of the time – and though the snow had subsided the sun fighting the clouds was not expected the warm the day. So I headed down to the dining room where I found Kiss was standing at the tall window holding a tea cup and saucer, as she had her back to me, studying I gathered the environs beyond the house. At the dining table there sat a rather burly looking gentleman with a cup of coffee – no saucer. He was dressed in a suit that was the worst for wear, the coat cuffs slightly frayed at the edges. Two buttons missing leaving only one so the symmetry of three was disrupted. His hair was short; cut low so as to help disguise the fact he was balding. His eyes were an odd shade of blue, bright light blue. The burliness was on the border of being gruff – he had the look of the street about him. He wore his woollen gloves at the table. He did not wear a tie or collar of any sort, but rather a scarf about his throat. He looked up from The Times.

“Zo, this is Milton Millilow.” Kiss said turning from the window to give me a reassuring smile.” He will accompany you today.”

“Miss.” He replied – which was to be the only thing he was to say to me during the remainder of the day. Not that this was the only time he spoke, but upon what would have been the other four occasions had I not asked a question in order to make it five so as to have him say it six times that day, all he said was: “Miss.”

There was no mistake he was a criminal. I knew that straightaway. But apparently owing to our circumstances, it would appear Kiss only trusted my safety into the hands of a criminal. I gave him a nod – and though there was an unmistakable air of intimidation about him – but oddly I fund it was comforting.

After a quick breakfast I said good-bye to Kiss. I worried for her – although I had Mr Millilow at my side, Kiss I was more than certain was going alone, well, accompanied by her Browning but I had seen how ineffective that had been in my office.

Outside I found a cab a-waiting. We made only one stop along the way and Mr Mellilow, at my side, gave the proprietor cause to watch him warily for Mr Mellilow does seem rather imposing in his long worn coat, scuffed boots, and of course those intense and far too light blue, eyes.

Once more back in our motor cab, I gave the driver the address: 47 Onslow Square. I sat back and watched the city pass and it was not long before we pulled to halt. I got out and Mr Mellilow stepped out from the other side of the cab and walked around it to step up on the sidewalk. He handed me the long box and then pulled his great coat about himself against the cold, as he stood beside the cab and gave me a nod.

I walked quickly up to the front door and lifted the brass knocker to let it rap – and I knew as I did, six times was far too many, but I could not help myself. I stood before the door feeling very awkward. I glanced back at the cab and Mr Mellilow. If not for him standing there, had I paid the driver to wait – I strongly suspected he would have driven off as soon as I entered Lady Penelope’s home.

She shifts the weight of the long box against her arm as she lifts the door knocker and lets it fall, once, twice, thrice. I felt so awkward standing there with the long box – but more so in what I was going to ask – for the documents and ledger I had given her only a day before. Lady Penelope was going to think me mad — but, then, I am, aren’t I. And as sweet as she is to try and avoid the obvious, Lady Penelope knew.

I adjusted the dress once more. Turned and looked back at the stout Mr Millilow standing beside the motor cab. He kept a hand in a jacket pocket – was he carrying a revolver as well. Of course he must – he was a criminal – that was as I said more than obvious. Just look at him standing there on the sidewalk . . .

The door suddenly opened to reveal the tall, slender, and most overwhelmingly supercilious of butlers. His disdain of me was obvious. ‘The Mad Woman.’ I looked at him aware that I knew his name only I immediately found I could not call it to mind – although, I recalled the name of Mr Aaron Horton, a former school teacher I had once had, in league with the Devil I had imagined – not Lady Penelope’s butler, well maybe he might, but the former school teacher, whom the Butler reminded me of – mathematics, yes, he taught mathematics as I remember—had a foul disposition and secret lecherous eye.

“Yes, Good Morning, I am Zo Renfield, I wish to speak with Lady Penelope.” I told him, even though I was well aware he knew who I was for behind that impassive countenance of his he was considerably dismayed to find me at the door. I was well aware of the lift of his brow in a barely concealed annoyance. “Haines.” His name suddenly came to mind.

Haines held the lift of that haughty brow and looked at me intensely, which did nothing to dispel my anxiety – and for a brief moment I longed to have Mr Millilow there beside me in order to see who in this obvious display of disdain would win a competition of harsh looks.

“Of course Miss Renfield.” He replied and stepped aside, no longer barring the threshold of the door to allow me entrance into the vestibule.

I stepped rather quickly, so as to not only step slightly away from him but to find comfort within the warmth of the house, “Thank you,” I said while doing a bit of a juggle with my purse and the long box I was holding – in order to open my purse and remove my card, which I should have thought to do before knocking on the front door.

“Seems a nice morning," I said, handing the ivory card over to him. “It has been a nice morning — hasn’t it?”

He raises that eyebrow once more in response to my attempt to engage in conversation even as he closes the door, ever watchful of Mr Millliow standing impassively beside the motor cab, which remained waiting at the curb.

The Wise’s home as always seems a model of perfect. Everything is in place, symmetrical. The hardwood floors, the stairs, bannisters, all gleamingly polished, Even in the umbrella stand, the umbrellas all seem to be evenly arranged – as if the space between has been ruled off and double checked. Most importantly, I am certain I have not seen any flies.

“Please wait here.” He pronounced as he glanced at my card and turned smartly to stride towards the parlour, where from somewhere, almost magically, he produced a small silver tray upon which he placed my calling card and then very gently knocked upon the door.

I as able to hear the faint voice of Lady Penelope, “Yes Haines?" she inquired, even before he opened the door and entered – careful to close the door behind him, so as to leave me alone in the lonely vestibule. Where I am sure when he passed over by calling card he told her: “It is Miss Renfield, Lady Penelope. She is looking a bit, if I may say so, a bit too hastily put together. No doubt the madness is upon her.”

“Hasty put together?” I image Lady Penelope, siting quite regally in a chair by the window where she’s been idly turning the pages of a fashion magazine. “How so?”

“Her dress, madam. It seems – incorrect. The buttons. There are thirteen of them and not twelve. Her hat but barely held by it’s pin; and she is carrying some rather oblong box. No telling what it contains – shall I have the nanny assure the safety of Miss Katherine?”

I have placed the box on the round table that occupies the centre of the vestibule, which rested in perfect alignment with the edges of a most expensive Persian rug. I slowly began to remove my gloves as I continued to survey of the room when suddenly the butler opened the door, giving me a start, as he returned. I quickly slipped my gloves into my coat pocket.

His demeanour seemed somewhat amiable now. “My apologies for the wait Miss Renfield.” He held out a hand. “Your coat?”

I removed it and handed it over to him as he stood waiting to allow me to unpin my hat, which I gave to him as well. I felt his eyes immediately upon the dress: “The buttons are not right, I know." I could not refrain from telling him.

He raised a quizzical brow at the comment, but being of course the perfect servant said nothing. Rather he stepped over to the coat closet and hung up my coat and hat. And then, taking a few steps toward the door from which he had exited only moments before, he motioned for me to advance, “Right this way, Miss Renfield.”

I picked up the oblong box from the centre table and moved as directed toward the open door of the parlour, whereupon he announced me: “Miss Zo Renfield.”

Across the lovely room Lady Penelope rose from the settee, putting aside the Vogue magazine she had been reading. “Thank you Haines."

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The butler gave a curt bow.

With her sweet, amiable smile Lady Penelope spoke in that soft, soothing voice, of hers, “Good morning Zo. This is quite the pleasant surprise."

Whereupon I was well aware I moved much too quickly across the room in approaching her, even as I tired to will myself to take a breath, to allow the comfort of her voice to ease my anxiety, “Oh yes, it is a good morning isn’t it. I mean, it has been. Hasn’t it? Been a good morning? And last night? Was it a good night as well?"

“Oh yes quite." She motions to a chair. "Haines. Some tea I think would be in order.”

“Yes my ladyship.” Haines gave another curt bow and did one of those starched-shirted about faces before he departed the room, closing the door behind him.

The room is tidy. The only thing out of place is a book set upon the side table. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, The Secret Garden

I felt uncomfortable and awkward in the dress – not only for the incorrect number of buttons, but the style was far too fashionable. Kiss would look lovely whereas I am unaccustomed to trying to show off my figure. Lady Penelope, being kind, complimented me on the dress. I smile and hand her the oblong box, “For you, a little something."

“Oh my. Thank you my dear, this is indeed quite a surprise.” And she waited for me to sit in the chair she had motioned toward before returning to her seat on the settee, where she began to gently open the box. Removing he oblong lid, she found within two dozen long stem wild roses wrapped with thin paper.

I can not help trying to determine if she is aware of the significance of the roses – what protection their thorns bring. As I could sense Lady Penelope seemed to be somewhat taken aback upon the sight of the crimson petals. “Goodness this is a surprise. Thank you.” She said in a voice well measured as she carefully looked over the flowers and set them down in their box upon the table. “This will go lovely by the windowsill I think.”

There was a light rap at the door and then a maid entered the room with a tea trolley, which she rolled over toward us and began to pour tea from what appeared to be quite an expensive tea service.

“Oh, yes, they would.” I turned to look at the window. “But do be careful of the thorns.” I warned as I tried now to sit with my most amiable smile – glancing up to the maid, who poured one cup of tea and looked up: to meet my gaze: “You think that will protect them?” I did my best to conceal the shock of those words – uncertain as I was to whether she had even said them.

“It brightens up the room don’t you think.” I asked, “What with the cold and the snow. The Roses."

“Amelia, once you’re done, please get these a vase and set them up by the windowsill.” Lady Penelope pleasantly instructed.

“Yes Ma’am.” The maid replied and handed her cup of tea.

“Yes—I think they will look excellent in the windowsill.”

The maid having poured another cup of tea placed it on a saucer and handed it to me as I carefully took it from her hand even as her face suddenly grew malicious: “In their sleep – they will come and rip out their throats. The little girl first.”

I almost dropped the cup of tea – “Careful Amelia,” Lady Penelope said, and she looked at me with some concern. “Is there something the matter Zo?”

Something the matter? Rose Men and Flies – and their sharp teeth that bite. Of course there is something the matter – is it not obvious? Why do you think I brought you the roses? I am quite mad you see. I wanted to say. "It is just I wanted to stop by and apologise for yesterday. I-I quite imposed upon you in asking you to have Robert look all that miscellanea of documents and the ledger – which was not even properly indexed. It is all so disorganized – I can’t even believe I gave it to you in such a state –“

“Apologize?” Nonsense. He seemed quite keen to take an interest in it. He’s been under rather a lot of stress as of late, and this is just the sort of thing to take his mind off things. Did he already stop by?”

“Stop by?” I asked feeling for a moment as if the tea cup was about to slide off the saucer and tumble from my hand to fall, shattering into porcelain shards upon the floor, the dark liquid of the tea splashing at my feet. Did he already stop by? Where? My home or my office? Either way they would be waiting for him. Being Monday morning it was no doubt to my office. Where they would have clung to the sides of the lift as he ascends, their hands grasping at him, pulling him up against the open cage, teeth gnashing –

Innocently she takes a sip before replying. “Oh yes, he told me he was going to stop by your offices this morning and have a word with you about it. Went over those files all last night, didn’t come to bed until late.”

Amelia having poured the tea gave a curtsy and left the room, leaving the tea trolley behind.

“My office, you say." I sat looking at my cup of tea as if it has just suddenly materialized and then back at Lady Penelope. "But, I am not there this morning – I am . . . detained today.” I began to slightly turn the cup on the saucer, six slight rotations. “I have some research that must be — how long ago has it been since . . . he left, if I may ask?”

“At the usual hour. He left for his office at eight, he didn’t say when precisely he would make a call upon you. Only that it would be this morning." Lady Penelope looks now at me with some concern — well, more concern than she had expressed thus far for my appearance, the near mishap with my cup, the two dozen roses. “My dear, are you quite alright?"

Oh this is not at all good — if they know, and they have to know, what he has. What I foolishly have given. “Zo, what is it?”

“It is . . . Incomplete.” Which I am certain was not a lie for all the information so far contained in the dossier I had given him, I am certain there is more, so much more — having not even gathered all there is on the estate, the mansion itself, Coldfall House — the private dinner parties, the infamous fetes, concern as I was on the charitable trust. Which is entirely my fault. Being of course remiss and all together too eager. I should have been more through, but you know me, what am I if not too impetuous —and so, really In all hindsight, since we spoke I feel I shouldn’t have bothered Robert with all those documents and the ledger, not in the state they are in and so, I came by to ask if I can have them back?”

Lady Penelope looked at me ever growing uncertainty, “Well, no, I’m afraid he took it all with him. Said he wanted to get copies made. His law firm recently acquired a new device for making copies you see, and he wanted to make sure that he would have extras filed with the firm so he could return the rest if you wanted them. Which, I guess you do . . . ."

“Oh well, oh well, oh well. I guess then I will just have to see — whatever Robert may wish to speak to me about. I am so sorry for all the trouble.” I put down my untasted tea cup on the table beside me. And waved a dismissive hand to try and make light of all I had made initially a confusion, “I don’t know what I was thinking really, I mean you have so much on your mind and I read today they are calling up some more married men, or at least that is what they say in the Times, and I know you have so much to worry about. And, I should have known — better. Really. And so, you see, I was just rather fretful about how deficient it all was and so did not want Robert to concern himself with all of my nonsense not at a time like this. He needs to spend more time with Katherine. How is she? She is alright. I mean everyone had a really good night, you said.”

Oh yes Little Katherine is upstairs with the nurse right now. She didn’t mention any trouble sleeping, and she is wont to tell me about her dreams at breakfast time.” She takes a dainty sip of her tea.

I wondered what her dreams might possibly have been – what she told her mother this morning. Truth or lies, or does a little girl her age know the difference.

“Why do you ask?” She placed the cup perfectly upon the saucer. So well practiced. I have never been able to do so with such perfection.

“I’m sorry.” I could not stop the words from coming out of my mouth – I have longed so to apologize. To tell her how truly sorry I am for having placed her and her family in harms way – within sight of the Rose Men and their Flies. But, I am afraid of her reaction if I were to tell her – tell her of the lethal lawyers and their horrid sharp teeth. I am well aware I am but one mistake away from occupying a room where the attendants don’t care if you fall to your death from the short distance of your bed to the floor.

“For what?” She asked in some growing puzzlement, “Zo, what is it? I feel as if there is something troubling you – I can assure you, Robert is very interested in the documents you allowed him to review. If it’s trouble in that regard – and in particular those horrid ruffians at the tea shop – whom I spoke to Robert about – he can certainly assist you there in making sure they cease and desist . . .”

“I never meant –“ I began almost with out thinking, well, with out thinking, actually, “If anything were to happen to you – because of me and those documents.”

She gave me a reassuring smile, “Really, I appreciate the concern, but you really mustn’t worry. I mean – if you are concerned that they would be so bold as to threaten us . . . “ And she suddenly stopped for a moment, some sudden thought intruding upon her sentence, but, the shadow of whatever it was passed quickly. “But, this is something Robert and you should discuss when he comes to your office.”

The door to the parlour opened and the maid, Amelia, returned with a vase filled with water.

“My office, yes.” And for a moment I have this horrifying image of my outer office, all the desks in a row, papers terribly scattered, telephones over turned, and the floor and walls and the desktops splattered with blood. There is blood everywhere. Dripping on the walls. The bodies of all my clerks lying horribly mutilated. Mrs Ormond sitting at her desk with her throat savagely ripped open. A river of crimson running across the floor from Robert, who is lying there on the floor before her desk – bloody, his face all ripped and torn. “Have I not told you to take care?” I hear her soft voice, the one in my dreams, and turn to see her standing there –

“Yes, I will go to see him there." I said putting my cup of tea on the table near to hand and I leaned forward, “You will take care. You will be ever as watchful as they are.”

And I rose from my chair before she could contemplate what I may have said and I was not at all certain of her maid. There is a look in her eyes. Secrets. “And, so, I will not disturb your morning further. I will go and see Robert."

The maid was gingerly placing the roses into the vase – as I as furtively as I could watched to see how she would react to the thorns, which she seems able to avoid.

Lady Penelope rose as well. “My dear friend Zo. I have every confidence that I shall be safe and secure, but I thank you for your concern. Now – you take care of yourself also.”

I smiled and nodded.

“And remember, once this blasted snow is gone, we’ll get away to the country for a spell.” She offered and it was so inviting – to be away from them.

“Oh that sounds wonderful – simply wonderful. To be away from the city. The noise. From all those horrid men and their flies.”

Her smile faded slightly, “Flies?”

I suddenly felt a pang of guilt in that I may have possibly brought her lovely household to the attention of the Rose Men; but — only in madness could I speak of men with sharp fangs whom bullets would not stop yet upon whom rose thorns could inflict such cruel damage. I knew the longer I stayed the sooner I would lose control of my ability to hold back the words. “Yes, well I should go. I meant to see Robert and he is on his way to see me — and, I am not there.” I told her as I begun to move toward the door, “I am here.”

But suddenly Lady Penelope rang a bell.

I stopped. What? For a long moment I paused, before the butler opened the parlour door. "Your Ladyship?”

“Perhaps I can come back later and we can finish our tea.” I turned once more to the door, “And some of those lovely cakes.”

“Of course." Lady Penelope smiled. “Haines, Miss Renfield will need her coat.”

“Of course, your ladyship.” he said, “Begging my ladyship’s pardon. There is a sight issue.” And he glance askance at me.

“Issue?” Lady Penelope asked quizzically.

“There is a delivery man, you see.” The Butler replied as I stepped out of the parlour door into the vestibule.

“A delivery man?” Her puzzlement growing.

“Yes. Most insistent.” He explained as they followed me out of the parlour. “He arrived at the tradesman’s entrance with a delivery from Miss Renfield to which he is most insistent you should sign, your ladyship.”

Aware of the coat closet I stepped over and retrieved my coat and hat at the consternation of Haines, who hurried over in order to help me with my coat.

“Zo, you needn’t . . .” Lady Penelope began.

But having my coat on I began slipping on her gloves. “Oh, no bother, just something to brighten the day. What with all this gloomy snowy winter.”

There was the sound of the clump of heavy boots making their way up the connecting corridor.

“This will not do sir.” Haines said in an righteousness indignation, “It will not do at all. One does not clump about the house. One awaits where one has been directed.” He told the large burly man who appeared from the corridor in muddy boots and a long, much worn and oddly stained overcoat. He still wore his soft wool cap and carried two oblong white boxes

“Will or won’t do—I need the lady of the house’s signature.” He said gruffly as I pinned my hat into place.

“Zo?” Lady Penelope said seeing the two similar oblong boxes. “Really my dear you should not have gone to all this trouble.”

I smiled and stepped over to the door, wiggling my fingers into my gloves before opening the front door, “Yes — well, just trying to assure there is no trouble, no trouble at all.”

The butler cast the most disapproving and annoyed look to both the poor delivery man and myself as co-conspirators to his distress. Whereas, Lady Penelope stood at the entrance to the parlour looking rather confused.

“If you’d be so kind,” the man said handing the boxes to the butler and then handing Lady Penelope a delivery slip along with a small stub of a pencil, “Just sign here”

She did so rather bewildered.

“Right, and now, where would you want the rest of them?”

“The rest of them?” Haines inquired.

“Right, I got forty-eight more of these,” he pointed to the boxes Haines held.

I waved a hand in farewell, “Yes, a dozen on every windowsill." I wanted to tell the delivery man he needed to watch out for the maid — for I knew she had secrets. But instead I exited the front door and hurried down to Mr Mellilow and our awaiting motor cab.

View
A Hypothetical Crime
Session Nine, Part Eight

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Casebook of Inspector Cuthbert Ffolliott
12 March, 1916 – Scotland Yard – I can not give specific words to it but I had a clear impression that I had seen this type of work before. Butchery. The two young girls, each determined to be as of yet the age of consent, Lizzie Bailey, half-caste, Irish father, Chinese mother, suspected of being the eldest, 13 , whereas, the yellow girl, Moy Toon, was thought to be between 11 and 12. The Butchery was very in some way reminiscent – cruel and precise.

I start where I left off, my pen arising from the paper at the sound of the voice – for I must record these events has they have transpired, as accurately as possible, for I fear by some uncanny method they may soon escape me . . .

“I would like to report a crime.” The voice. It was soft, light with an odd harmonic quality, which immediately drew your attention from whatever you were preoccupied with before you heard it as I looked up from my notes to see the tall, lovely blonde woman standing before my desk. I must admit I was a bit startled as I had not heard her arrival – or any footfalls upon the hardwood floors at all, being as this was Sunday night and I was working late on the case I had the misfortune to catch –

“A crime?” I asked. She was as I said lovely – no, more than lovely, exquisite is the word that is far more precise in describing her appearance as I took note of her face; there was no paint or rouge, and yet she was far more beautiful than women who were masters of the art of cosmetic deception. She was tall. She wore an expensive, black Parisian dress, with high lace collar with matching lace upon the cuffs of her sleeves. Her hair was a shimmering ash blonde.

“Yes.” She replied, and I must admit I was captivated by those pale lips.

I sat back and with a lift of my brow I gave her my full attention, “And what specific crime would that be, Miss –“

She did not give her name, but rather leisurely strode around my desk and took a graceful seat in the chair beside it – and for a long moment as she moved, it seemed there was no one about. Everything had become silent. “Let us say, a hypothetical crime.”

I dropped my pen upon my casebook – “A hypothetical crime?”

“Yes, let us say there was a gentleman,” She began. And I was by now well mesmerized by that soft whisper of a voice as I sat listening to her, my attention drawn to those pale lips, which were fascinating to watch as they articulated her hypothetical crime, “Who had, shall we say, certain proclivities. Proclivities for which one needs to seek out rather suitable ‘Molly and Dollys’ with a fair amount of discretion. To which, in certain streets of the East End he was sure to be more than quite successful, as are all enterprising gentleman, when in search of such services, he procured two young girls – Lizzie Bailey and Moy Toon, who by the standards of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which as yet not having been passed and would not be for another two months hence, would have not been of the age of consent, but, seeing as his search was conducted under the existing Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, were entirely legal. No matter how morally repugnant.

I gave her a puzzled frowned, “If this is some suffragette –“ I began to interrupt but she continued.

“Eleven and thirteen they were. And so, having thus procured their services, he proceeded to take them to a rather shabby Clerkenwell iestablishment, where one could obtain a rather unkempt lodging to let not by the day or by the week, but, by the hour.” Her soft, melodic voice spoke evenly – without what I would have suspected as the merest hint of some such suffragette vehemence or emotional moral outrage. “Whereupon, once he had them within the filthy, narrow confines of the room, he rather quickly – being as he was by now quite well adept – secured for shall we say his examination. Which was when he withdrew his silver blade.”

This was suddenly far too coincidental – for I had only moments before been reflecting up this very case, one in which I had only recently discussed with Inspector Stone and Constable Alderton in regards to the Diced Up Girll.

“A sharp little blade – for which you gave him the appellation, ‘The Sliver Knife,’ which you must admit was highly incorrect as it was not a knife per say.”

“A scapel.” I found myself admitting.

She lifted an eyebrow, “Yes. A postmortem blade to be sure.”

“How—“

And it was then that she revealed the glint of a very sharp blade, very much similar, “Such as this. Although alas it is not silver, but steel.”

My eyes were quickly diverted from her lips to look at the glint of the blade. I suddenly surveyed the room as there were two other Inspectors across the room busily working at their desks – and strangely it seemed as if they were somehow oblvious of this beautiful but decidedly homicidal blonde who had sat beside me. “Yes. I know.” She said, “The question which comes to mind is can you move quickly enough. Can you cry out to them – before I have time to slash the razor’s edge of this sharpen steel across your jugular.” She said evenly, “To assist you in making that determination, let me assure you I am quick – very, very quick. And I do not think you have any idea just how quickly one quick little knick of a Jugular can exsanguinate a man.”

I sat perfectly still – not wanting to incite her any further – although, I must say she was uncannily calm sitting there with a postmortem blade exposed, threatening as she was an Inspector of Scotland Yard, in the very yard itself, in the presence of others. “What do you want?”

“Silver Knife.”

“Well – Miss. I am afraid I can not be of much help.” I told her – watching her with the greatest of care. For she was correct, I was ever measuring the sharp edge of that blade and distance to my throat, as well as to her attention for the slightest of distractions – only it was solely directed upon me.

“You were the constable able who arrested him.”

I nodded, “Right – but, you see he did not last long in bang-up.”

“That is all history.” She said, “At the moment, I have but one concern, the here and now, so where is he?”

I looked at her in earnest, “As I said, i can assure you—“

“Not withstanding your assurances, I wish to see the files.” She told me.

“I—“

She arose holding the blade exposed in her hand, “Shall we, Inspector.”

I slowly rose from my swivel chair, calculating if I could place it between us in time, even as my eyes cut across the room to the the other Inspectors, who still seemed to be oblivious to the fact this beautiful blonde was in our house – walking around with such a sharp little blade, prepared to cut my throat. “The file on him is in the cold cases – down in the basement.”

“Then by all means let us proceed to the basement.” Her voice still a soft, measured, unemotional near whisper. From my desk, we slowly made our way toward the stairs, which led down into the basement, where I hoped Constable Alderton may very well be at her desk.

Casebook of Constable Alderton
12 March, 1916 – Scotland Yard – I am not at all sure what my visit with Mrs Willingham, profited, other than to know that not only had Inspector Spenser tossed Lieutenant McFarlane’s flat, but that the Navy had finally begun some form of investigation of its own in that Sub-Lieutenant Rice had been to the rooms as well. On his own? Or for Captain Purdy? Or perhaps others – some official Naval inquiry? Some special intelligence division? And though they had all tossed the rooms in their usual tornadic style – they had it seemed all over looked the business card, which had been slipped into the corner between the frame and the picture of a naval battle.

Mitchell, Sons & Candy. Land Agents. Exeter.

Perhaps the picture itself was some clue – but then again, perhaps I am grasping. And what of these Land Agents in Exeter. Just what significance were they in this confluence of mystery and homicide.
I wanted to put the card away for safe keeping along with the rest of my hat-boxed evidence, for further examination, and so, I took the motor cab back to the Yard. It was well past dusk – the street lamps were now just beginning to illuminate the deepening darknesses. As I exited the cab, awkwardly jugging the hat box, in order to reached back through the window of the cab in order to pay the driver, I by chance happened to take notice of a large, black Lanchester Limousine, which was conspicuously idling just down the street not far from the entrance to the Yard. Some dignitary? Lady Molly Robinson-Kirk – perhaps? I was still uncertain of precisely just what her role was in all of this – or, if her dismissal from the Yard had been but a clever bit of subterfuge. But if anyone would be riding about in such an ostentatious manner for some meeting within the Yard – I felt more than certain it just might be she.

I gathered the throat of my coat to ward off the brisk, cold wind and quickly entered the dimly lit side entrance and proceeded to make my way toward Inspector Stone’s desk. I hoped by chance he too might be working upon the case as well – but I immediately took note his desk was unattended.

And so as I quickly turned to make my way instead down to my own office, I nearly collided with Inspector Gudget, who was just suddenly there: “Hello Inspector”

“PC Alderton, working late I see,” he stated in observing the obvious as he momentarily held out his hands in order to assure our bodies did not come into contact; and then, he adjusted his glasses, “Still no leads?”

“Not quite,” I replied, trying to maintain control of the hat box. “Nothing firm. But not entirely directionless.”

“Yes – well.” He brought the half burnt cigarette to this lips, “I am quite sure it is only a matter of time before yet another bit of the Diced Up Girl shall make her appearance. They always do.”

“Yes – we can only hope?” I agreed.

“it is a bit odd.” He continued.

I gave him a rather perplexing smile, “Odd? How so?”

“Inspector Ffolliott – I was unaware he was assisting on the case?”

I have him a rather stern look, “As was I.”

“As I said, odd.” He exhaled a plume of cigarette smoke askance rather than directly between us, “I mean, he was down about your office just the other day—and now, today, I see him heading down once again, to, I can only assume your desk –“ the tone of which had a nasty bit of insinuation attached upon the word desk, “I mean, in the case of Inspector Ffolliott, there can only be a few cases to which he must descend to the file archives.”

Aware of his sly insinuation, I stood hip shot, “Is there a problem . . . sir"? I could not help matching his rather vexatious tone.

“It is just that if you and Inspector Stone are bringing in Ffolliott on the case – I can only assume it is because of your rather malicious and unwarranted dislike for me.” He brought the half burnt cigarette to his lips, the glowing embers close to the flesh of his fingers, “For as we all well know – I am by far the better investigator.” He continued his complaint with some irritation. “If you have made such a decision, I would like to suggest you reconsider, for I have kept an ever vigilant eye upon Ffolliott and I am more than certain he has, shall we say, cut corners in order to assuage political interests, which he is won’t to put above the law.”

“If you have such suspicions I would take them up with AC Barrington rather than with me – for as we are very well aware, Inspector Gudget, in matters of political assuagement, I can assure you I gain very little. Now, if you will excuse me – I have work to do.” And so I proceeded toward the door leading to the stairs and my very politically insufficient desk in the basement.

“I should be on this case rather than he." He called out after me. “It is but a matter to time before you too come to that conclusion.”

I shook my head – if there was ever a case one did not what to be assigned to, this was most certainly the one – for the more Stone and I investigated the more probable it became that no one really wanted this murder solved. Not the Yard. And seemingly not the Navy. Who knew of the War Office, did it get that far? I was heading to my desk, adjusting Mrs Willingham’s hat box in order to hold my truncheon underneath it, attempting to give the appearance that it was there purely for support. I had no idea what Inspector Ffolliott may or may not be doing about my desk – but this case had made me overly cautious.

As i approached the door leading to the basement room which not only housed my office but contained the overflow of old cases in the archival filing cabinets, I took notice that the lights were on and I could hear voices. A man and a woman’s. I stopped short of the door and listened.

“This is the sum of the evidence complied by the great Scotland Yard?” The sarcasm of the woman’s voice was unmistakeable as was the hint of a malevolent irritation.

“I have told you – we did not have him in bang-up for very long.” I recognized Inspector Ffolliott voice – not as arrogant as usual. Now it was far more strained.

“Where is he?” The voice suddenly less melodic and far more menacing

“I told you – I do not know – he made a deal . . . he had connections.” The tension was taunt in the Inspector’s voice.

“Connections – just who are these connections?”

“Like I said, I had him in lock up, where I suspected some toff of a barrister would soon be arriving, and one did—some young dandy, all smirk and a cock sureness, and then—bang, there were several gentlemen in the night will all sorts of identification cards being passed about, and shortly, they sprung the cell door and took him away.

“Who took him away?”

“I never knew for certain.” Ffolliott’s voice now now extremely anxious, “Some government agency – apparently he had information that was good enough to wash away the blood of two young dollymops.” I made a mental note – so this was the case Ffolliott had tried to speak to Stone and me about earlier. “They questioned him for a bit, and then like I said, they straightway took him away. Gave him protection as I hear. They may well have changed his name. He may not even be Dr. Patrick Hennessey any more.”

I took note of that name.

“This person who questioned him. What was their name?” The woman demanded.

“That was some twenty years ago – I had just started duty as a constable. You have to understand, it was a long time ago.”

“Twenty years—“. She said as if it were but a hour, “Let me tell you what I understand. The case of a century and you, a little ineffectual copper with no imagination, no curiosity, and soon, if you do not tell me where he is, no future.”

And then there was suddenly the loud sound as if one of the wooden file cabinets had been recklessly overturned.

Inspector Ffolliott’s voice then grew extremely fearful, “Harker. I think – yes, Jonathan Harker.”

In response to this I heard what sounded like the very loud hiss of an animal – perhaps some predatory cat and then Ffolliott cried out.

I put the hat box down silently in order to grasp the glass doorknob even as I renewed my grip upon my truncheon. I suddenly opened the door and burst into the room.

I immediately saw that one of the large wooden file cabinets had been apparently lifted and tossed into the centre of the floor near my desk, the drawers all having slid open to discharge all their contents in a splay of documents and open folders. Against the far wall, a woman, tall with ash blonde hair, wearing a very expensive dress, had Inspector Ffolliott lifted slightly up from the floor and pressed back.

She turned quickly with a grace and agility that seemed quite remarkable for a woman of what appeared to be decidedly high rank and social class. She would have been beautiful save for the fact her mouth was open with the lips pulled back, this exposing long and very sharp canine teeth. Her blue eyes were cold and filled with a wrathful fury, which seemed less human and far more animalistic.

As she glared at me, I heard a sort of low irritated growl. She held in one hand what looked like a very sharp scalpel. The metal glinted. But armed as she was – it was her sharpen teeth that seem the far more threatening.

Lowering the Inspector, she rather effortlessly tossed Flolliott away—as if he were but a mere rag doll — and turned her attention to me.

I kept my eyes ever wary on the woman – for, although I had faced an armed assailant only a few days ago, with her sharp little lancet and seeming even more threatening those sharp exposed elongated cuspids, she seemed at the moment far more dangerous.

“I give you fair warning. It is best you stay back," She raised a hand and pointed at me.

“And you best stop trying to destroy my office” I retorted – holding my truncheon aloft, “Now – I am giving you one chance to come quietly.”

To which she totally ignored me as she once again turned her attention to the fallen Inspector lying on the hardwood floor, "You.” And her voice was filled with some amazingly mesmeric quality that just froze you to hear it, "You will be best advised to find him. Do you understand?”

And then in what seemed and almost impossibly quick movement, she was beside him and effortlessly picked him up, by gripping the front of his shirt, and slammed him up against the wall once more, “For you shall find, there is no place in which I shall not find you.”

“Let him go!” I took several steps forward, truncheon in hand.

She turned once more to look at me even as she, in an almost sarcastic movement, loosened her grip to let Ffolliott collapse upon the floor.

With a purposeful stride she moved now toward me with fangs and scalpel – I was not sure which to defend against as I blocked the door. And then as she drew close, I swung with all my might my truncheon – aiming square for her ribs. Only the woman’s free hand, in what was almost a blur, moved to grab the truncheon and with a deft twist all to easily removed it from my hand.

She tossed it back into the room away from her.

I stood my ground and balled up my fists, raising them defensively. “You madam are under arrest.” I told her, “Now, you will stand and desist this resistance.”

Yet the blonde continued to languidly stride toward me and the door.

I threw a punch only the woman’s hand just as quickly caught my fist and held it tightly, painfully, in her hand – which felt as if it were a vise. “It would be wise of you to step back." She told me – her eyes filled with a wild barely controlled malevolence.

The woman then pushed me aside and continued to make her leisurely way toward the open basement door.

Upon the threshold she stopped and turned to look back at Inspector Ffolliott and then to me, “Time is not on your side. In fact, it is running out. You do not wish to see my wrath for then even the shadows will blanch and wilt before my coming. And so, I strongly suggest you find me Patrick Hennessy.”

And – then she was gone. I hurried to the door – but there was nothing in the corridor save for Mrs Wilingham’s hat box of evidence.

View
The Letters
Session Nine, Part Seven

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Letter from Florence McLaren to Katharine Reed, Athene Hotel, Bucharest
[The following letter, written in invisible ink, sent to Bucharest via intricate Carrier Pigeon Route]

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12 March, 1916

Katherine,

I daresay your telegram indicated concerns but in that you did not tell me she would be arriving from Zurich gives me pause, not so much in your neglect to inform me as such, but in that she should not be here. Not in London. And especially not now – for as we suspected from the outset your actions would eventually arouse his attentions. That eventually is now upon us. For his minions, ever cautious and well concealed, are about – as are agents of Milton, which smacks not only of EDOM’s concerns about renewed activity upon our part as well as his, but that as Milton has been authorized to activate his little stung together network, there are as well concerns in regards to EDOM’s own veracity. My source indicates there are considerable apprehensions about possible infiltration – which we know to be well founded. For this reason they have not only unleashed Hound but have given Milton licence. And so, as I said, she should not be here.

I am not idle, Katherine. I have long been your instrument in London – and in that time I have never let you, nor her, down. In regard to your current designs have I not kept you apprised of the situation with Beltham – whom if you will remember, I strongly advised against employing (even as I understood your concerns of any possible compromise concerning London operations) which I believe you now concur, owing to the instruction of your latest telegram. I can assure you it was upon my direct intervention, the correct acquisition of a suitable candidate, for whom our chemist will be far more inclined – she having already having seduced a professor at her university with much the same proclivities – was made. My agent informs me thought headstrong this candidate is not only capable – but may be an organizational asset upon the conclusion of your grand scheme. That is of course should we all survive. A possibility of eminent concern with her being here. For as you well know, being in London can only resurface long suppressed desires for unresolved retributions.

You and I both know her impatience. There was always the risk of it from the very inception of our bold gambit, but you gave assurances you could keep her pacified until we had achieved the objective – knowing full well she would dwell only on the necessity in the end game of finding the Mad Doctor, which if she should, before either you or I, then this will have been all for nought – for we know her inclination. And we will have shown our hand to HIM. And he will in turn direct his full attentions upon us and I am not at all certain we can withstand the onslaught.

I have been diligently searching for Hennessey – but you well know the lengths to which they have gone to secure him. I thought I was close to hand in obtaining information from within the ranks of EDOM – but now, after our conversation it is apparent her impatience grows and she has gone seeking a possible alternative source.

Turncoats and informants are far too fragile. They die so quickly. It is highly possible he may not still be alive. But, even should she find Hennessey—if Van Helsing could not tell you, when you saw him in Amsterdam just before his light faded, I suspect this murderous doctor does not know where or how to find Seward either. Seward for all these years has done well to remain hidden from her as well as EDOM.

I implore you – get her out of London.

Florence

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Letter from Florence McLaren to Margaret Trelawny, 315 Knightsbridge, Kensington

Margaret,

Thank you for your correspondence in regards to the Naval Cadet. Randall Tanner. Who as it happens is known to me and has on occasion been most helpful. He and Sam are old friends. And so, I asked Sam to invite him up to see me in order to ascertain not only just how much Milton has related to him, but how firmly Milton holds him in his sphere of influence – as well as to determine how much he knew. As I am sure you have already determined he is as resourceful and clever as he is shrewd – and what he now knows is quite considerable. But I am getting into the second act before the first.

When he arrived, more anxious then he was willing to admit, perhaps even to himself, Sam escorted him up to my office where he immediately upon making his entrance became all amiable charm: “Ah, Miss Lascar Sal. It is a pleasure as always.” He said walking in with his cap under one arm, while holding out the other hand to take mine. As I was standing behind my desk I languidly lifted my hand and allowed him to take it in order to bestow a kiss. His breath was warm as he graced the top of my hand with the lightest brush of his lips. Then with a most theatrical flourish, which I had seen many times before, he returned his hand to his side, “You are looking marvellous as ever Lascar."
“And you are as charming as ever Randall,” I replied, curling my lips back with that ingénue smile I had perfected in ‘Step Lively.’ I picked up the small black, ornate lacquered cigarette case. “It is so very rare I have the pleasure of your presence –“ and I opened the case to offer him a cigarette, “Duty calls I assume. The Navy. The war.”

He gave me a rather sly smile, taking one of the cigarettes, and pulled out a battered matchbook from his coat pocket. “That I can still take time off like this is a small miracle. I could be on some vessel patrolling the dark North Sea. I’d have to come up with quite the whopper to explain why I stole a dingy to sail over to the ol’ Cocoa Room for a visit.”

I maintained the smile which has long served to cover a multitude of my sins – as well as desires . . . since feeling his breath upon the flesh of my hand, "I can remember there were times when Randall Tanner came often to The Cocoa Rooms.” I slowly took my seat, with fingers interlocked and forearms resting upon my desk. “I remember how we worked together we three, you, Sam and I to save young Poppy Lee from those dreadful Scandinavian-Cantonese Johansen Brothers. Hang, I as I remember tossed you out of one of the girls third floor windows.” I glanced up to Sam, leaning against the wall near the door, with a lazy cigarette pursed in his lips, “And Sam, he finds himself hurled down the stairs. Those were our good days.

“Tell that to my leg, that fall was no joke.” He replied as he sat down in one of the chairs across from my desk and lights the cigarette, as usual, striking it with the nail of his thumb to flare its flame. He test blew the tip of the cigarette and whipped the match flame out and dropped the spent match into the ashtray at the edge of my desk. “Still, we got her back in the end. Say – how is Poppy? Her mother holding up alright?”

“Poppy is fine. She found herself a young man. He fancies himself a pugilist – but without a little help, he would lose far more than he wins. Odd, he has some resemblance to you, as I come to think of it. Poppy did have eyes for you Randall.” I sat back in my chair and reached up to slowly sweep back the veil of my hair which had fallen across my face – yet another long practiced theatrical move from days gone by. “And Sam looks in on her mother from time to time. A few pounds to ease her old age. You see Randall, old friends here in Limehouse remain old friends—“ And then I cut him a look, “Well that is until they prove themselves to no longer be an friend.”

I watched as he lazily brought his cigarette to his lips.

“Are we friends Randall?” I continued, shifting emotions as my eyes grew stern and knowing.

And Randall, well aware of the intent of my question as well as the sudden significance of my gaze does not even blink – rather he sits calmly with that disarming grin of his. “Of course! Old friends, new friends, it’s good to have many.” And then he then leaned forward and tapped ashes from the cigarette into the ashtray, his a shrewdness in his eyes to belie the smile, “But there’s usually only a few you can rely on. And you’re one of the most reliable people I know.”

I continued my gaze, “Which makes it all the more distressing.” I told him as he sat back – and I have to admit at that moment I did so covet having him once more working for me, my left hand to Sam’s right. “My old friend he has forgotten his most reliable of acquaintances.”

“Oh so—“ He inquired cautiously, and I knew then the depth of knowledge he had been given as the wariness was there in the back of his eyes.

I leaded back in my comfortable, high-backed chair, draping an arm languorously over the arm with I wave the hand of my other, “Your friend, this Lieutenant who has gone missing—you are concerned, you seek his whereabouts, ad yet, you do not even think to come to me." The hand I had waved so offhandedly I now brought back as if pained to my heart, “I hurts me so to think of it.”

“Ah, well that would have been awfully rude of me, after so long to simply appear out of the blue asking for help.” He replied now with an air of mock surprise. “What kind of friend do you take me for, the kind who would only show up to ask a favour? The very idea.”

A slow, careful smile crossed my lips, I glanced up at Sam, “You see Sam, I knew our old friend had not forgotten us. It is but a simple matter of respect, which I must say, I find most refreshing, particularly these days. Someone who understand the meaning of the word respect.” And I then looked back at Randall rather endearingly, “But my dear Randall, you should know of all people it is in respect to seeking my help – for you and Sam and I we are old friends.” I cut him one of my most intimate of looks, “One of only a few who know my name. And so – one friend to another, I wish to offer you all my humble assistance with your quest to find the poor unfortunate Lieutenant McFarlane.”

“Sal—“ He began – and I knew he resisted the urge to call me Florence.

My hair fell once again to veil he left side of my face as I leaned forward, “Now, Randall, you were always so very astute – whom would you say would most like to find your missing Lieutenant, other than yourself and this young woman, Veronica?”

He showed no reaction at all at the mentioning of her name – being he was well aware that whatever Sam knew I would know.

“Whom would most like to find him?” He replied as he drew a smoky breath on the cigarette and then exhaled a long curling plume in a sigh as he leaned back in his chair and allowed himself a moment to relax – to let down his guard – looking off as into some distance, his voice dropping as he spoke in a slight, weary mumble as he unleashed a stream of his consciousness. “Whom indeed? The city police are looking for him; and the Admiralty, they say that he’s a spy for the Jerry’s –a proper falsehood that. But if they wanted, the Navy could have taken full control over the search, and yet they haven’t. It’s possible that having Bradley as a scapegoat that is never caught could fit into some government power play. And as you say, Veronica would like to find him, perhaps the most, but, she has some other preoccupation which is diverting her attention. Who would most like to find Bradley? Hmm . . . “ Then he looked up into my hazel eyes and his focus returned, “And then – there is Me. I’d most like to find him.” he smiled.

If I had but a handful of men such as he I thought, for as I said, I do so covet Randall Tanner – have done so for as long as I have known him, but alas he is too much a free spirit – one, if one were so blessed, that only by providence does one often meet such a man as he. "Your Admiralty, your Navy – do you not think if they wanted your Lieutenant so badly, he would still be free? Even among the teeming throngs of London , the rookeries, the darken narrow streets, the back alleys –they would not have found him if they were in fact looking for him?” I brushed back the fall of my hair, as I now looked at him all too knowingly. “Perhaps . . . they have him already?”

There was an impertinent knock upon the door. I looked over to Sam who opened it. Kang Foo Ah stepped in with downcast eyes, “Pardon most inopportune interruption, but felt you should know. Pemberton and Rohmer were here for only a brief time.”

“Sax Rohmer?” I asked.

Kang nodded, “They left in much hurry to follow her.”

She should not be in London – I have told Katherine as much.

“You are certain?”

He nodded, “Most certain. Take cab to follow.”

There is nothing for it, he had to have seen the wrathful fury in my eyes as I resisted the urge to be gone – to find her. And then, no more deference in some rooftop harangue – Get out of London. “Pemberton.” I did well not to hiss his name, “If not for K Division and the suspicions it would arise, he would have already in deep fathoms lie searching the Thames for diced up girls. Sam.” I quickly looked up and gave him a rather hurried wave, "Go.”

“The reporter?” Randall asked tapping ashes in the ashtray as he leaned forward.

“A troublesome reporter.” I nodded, then leaned my head forward so as to let my cascading fair hide my irritation and vexation, and as I gained control of those emotions and what their appearance on my countenance may reveal. I sat back and sweep my hair back once more from my face, "Some men seek all their lives for things they never find; while others, seek to lose their lives upon finding things they should have never sought. Pemberton is just such a man. But at the moment, it is wiser to let him ramble about . . . “

This news was perplexing – for I had know when she arrived the complexities she brought with her. Pemberton was one thing – but Rohmer?

“Shall we not play the roles Randall,” I suddenly said to bring the curtain down. "Your Lieutenant is not missing— and they are not seeking him – for he has already been found.”

He scratched the back of his head. "I had considered the possibility. The question that needs proof is who are ‘they’?

Now was the time to find out if he was still a free will or had he succumbed to Milton’s indoctrination, “A rather clandestine intelligence division within Naval Intelligence. As I understand, their classification is classified. For reasons of their own, they believe their ranks have been infiltrated and they are of the belief your young Lieutenant knows about the breech. If he is not a part of it.”

“And how might you know about this? Have you been infiltrating their ranks Lascar?” he says with a smirk.

I gave him a wicked smile. "Randall—it is just you a me.”

He gave me his most knowing look and leaned forward to tap ashes into the ashtray.

“You are among a very select few, very few, I might add, who are well aware I am part of a vast criminal enterprise that reaches throughout the continent, as well now into Cairo and Alexandria and Japan. This organization – Milton’s organization – at the moment, we do not have conflicting interests. They are far more interested in someone who is playing a far more dangerous game—a political game of which this war is but a part.”

“They know of you?” he asked as he slowly crushed the cigarette out in ashtray upon my desk.

“They know of the systematic amalgamation of criminal networks.” I told him, “I do not think they are aware of who the principle force is behind it. As for me? I am not certain – possibly. Things are beginning to become undone.”

He said back with a sigh, "I see. So this Navy group has kidnapped Bradley and made him a scapegoat. A public arrest would only make public what he knows about them. So the question remains, is he even still alive? Whose to say he won’t be found chopped up in the Themes tomorrow?” He then shook his head, Randal was ever a quick study, “No, they can’t do that. They’re blaming him for that. That would make the mystery deeper. They need to tie it in a nice bow and present it to the press. Gunned down resisting arrest by the police would work. They would probably just need some time to set up the scenario to make it look real to the Met and the press. That is, unless they have some other need for him . . .”

He looked up at me suddenly, “Sorry, I’m rambling again.”

“You have always been far more intelligent than your circumstances have allowed you an opportunity to use that intelligence.” I told him, “Alas, I do not know precisely why they have him – only that they do. I don’t know whom, precisely, I only know their codename.”

“Their Codename?”

“Yes.” I informed him, “Hound. Now, I am certain you are well aware, but in having told you this, but you must be very careful now in whom you trust, for as I said they suspect well suspect they have been infiltrated. And the truth is – they have been, and for quite some time."

“I suppose one must wonder how much of ‘them’ are still acting with their original intent and how much of ‘them’ are now subverted, and which group is this ‘hound’ part of?”

“Precisely.” And I brushed back the sweep of my hair – that involuntarily reaction, which the Times critic in his review of ‘Step Lively’ had bestowed upon me as my signature move, one of course which haunts me even now – as I decided to proceeded further. And yes, I am well aware Katherine would not approve, but, if I were to enlist him, then it I knew it would come down to matter of trust – his in me. For there was much of his father in him. “It has become even worrisome for us. You see, Randall, there are two rather vast and furtive organizations that work in the shadows – the one of which I am a part, and an another, one far more powerful and ancient. For some time now we have co-existed, but, we are soon about to come to cross purposes. And so, having assisted you with your missing young Lieutenant, it is now time that I have to ask for a quid pro quo.”

“Oh?” He said with that sly smile at the corner of his mouth, “And how could I, a simple cadet, possibly assist the incomparable Lascar Sal, with her criminal empire and more fingers in others pies than Little Jack Horner?”

I laughed and sat back languorous once more in my chair, "It is really quite simple. There is a young woman for whom our organization has a significant interest. And even as Milton’s organization suspects it may be compromised, we suspect the same may have occurred to ours – and so, for that reason, there may come a time when we may need to make an extraction. And if and when that time comes, I want your assistance. I am not asking for anything which I feel you would be uncomfortable with – for you see, you have a vested interest Randall, for the young woman of who I speak, she visited with you today. Her name is Veronica Wells.

To this revelation he could not contain his surprise even as he quickly regained his composure, "So—Veronica is more involved in this than I thought . . . " He took another drag on his cigarette, thoughtfully, before exhaling the smoke out of the corner of his mouth slowly. “Who and what are you needing to extract her from, and how is she an interest of your organization?”

“Miss Wells is part of very intricate plan, Randall.” I told him, for as I said, I know him all too well – and if I am to recruit him, he must know as much of the truth as I feel I can reveal. "Before the war there was once a world unlike the one in which we live today, and unlike the one we will live in afterwards. In that world, the world powers played with their alliances and politics and subterfuge in what they called their Great Game – totally unaware, there were other players, far more dangerous players, at the table who had come uninvited. Powers of darkness which sought to destabilized grand governments so that from the shadows they could eventually bring about dominance and submission. An ancient force of will, from a time far more barbaric than our own, from a time of seemingly endless wars and bloodshed, and who longs to bring about an even more vainglorious conquest of the Western world. Which of course is at cross purposes to yet another player, who seeks a quiet manipulation and slow seduction of global financial institutions and the influence of cultural revolutions – who also resides in the shadows. The shadowy world of black markets and the consolidation of international criminal networks. For you see Randall, all the saints are sinners – and if one can provide and satisfy the worlds lusts and desires they too can dominate a sinful world. Now, these two grand conspiracies have co-existed for years – the first being far more powerful that the second – but a time is shortly coming wherein that dynamic must change. For a frightful agenda poses a threat not only to the world but to the very nature of the second. And so, as I said, your Veronica is at the very centre point of a very dangerous and audacious plan to change this imbalance of power.”

“Does this have to do with the . . .” He waved his right hand vaguely, the cigarette between his fingers leaving smoky traces in the air, “ . . . dangerous woman that was seeing you just before I arrived?"

I used a slow hand to sweep back the falling curtain of my hair, which although as I said considered to be but a dramatic signature move, supposedly to theatrically signified my purposeful intent – this time it was not a conscious dramatic gesture, but rather quite involuntary (or the movement has thus become one) as I took a moment to pondering an opening gambit and whether or not to proceed. For if I were wrong and he was in fact far more firmly fixed within Milton’s firmament, then I was risking not only an old acquaintance, but there would be nothing for it but to assure dear Randall’s demise. "To ask that question—you must be prepared for the consequences of the answer.” As before, involuntarily, I could not help the rise within nor the glint which appeared I am sure in my eyes – it took all my consider concentration. "Are you prepared to be dealt into the game?”

There was a pause as he brought the cigarette to his lips. It is times such as these I am thankful I was born an actress as I maintained an impassive face even as the urgency of his answer tightened my lips – and not for a cigarette. But then I am sure you are well aware of the need for control – when the need arises. “I for one believe it is one to your liking –“ I told him, “But it is very high stakes. “

He leaned forward in his chair with a glint of his own. “In games such as these, I would think the Stakes are a must.”

I looked at him anew. Into his eyes. He knew. Milton had apparently played out most of his hand in order to enlist him – which as we suspected reveals their disarray in that they have given Milton such licence – but how much of that hand had he revealed? "I take it then you know the name of the game. Shall I deal?”

“I am only playing one hand, Sal. For my friend and for Veronica.” He told me, his eyes steady as he looked into mine.

And then I knew he was still my old Randall. For as always, he wasn’t playing for anyone but himself. “Then – yes. She is one of the two most dangerous women in the world. Or was until tonight – for we are now aware of a third.”

He frowned, “Who shall we call this third?"

“Someone long suspected, but, until now, appeared to be no more then but a part of their clandestine agency.” I cocked my head slightly as I inquired as to how much had they told him regarding certain events that took place twenty or so years ago.”

Randall glanced over his shoulder to see if Sam had returned, before looking back at me with a sigh, "Far more than I should.”

“The have tried their best to maintain they are fiction.” I leaned forward, “But I would advise you to learn more. For those events are ever evolving – and you my friend are soon enough to be caught up in them as Miss Wells already is – and if the forces of those aligned against us suspect what she is about – then I quite assure you the third will not hesitate to strike.”

“So what is she about Lascar?” He reaches back and scratches the back of his head. “First and second and third? And what makes Bradley’s Veronica so valuable to this dangerous third? Or to you for that matter?”

“She has been chosen to find something for my mistress,” I explained, “Something to correct the current imbalance of power.”

“To equalize them?” Randall inquired suspiciously, “To maintain a status quo. Not to overtake them eh?”

With a wry smile I confessed that the status quo is the preferred outcome, but Margaret you are well aware of my council in this regard, and, I hazard you know far more of Katherine’s intent. This is too grand a stratagem for second best. And so with a languid wave of my hand I told him the truth as to my feelings in the matter, “I for one would much prefer the second to over come the first. When the time comes,” and I pointed a dramatic finger at him, "And, mark my words Randall, the time will come – for it is best for all concerned, for mankind itself that she overcomes him who came first. Rest assured Randall the takes in his game are very high indeed.

He paused elbows on his knees, hands a steeple on his lips – it was a long moment as he looked into my resolute eyes. This was the moment of decision. He sighed, “I am more than willing to help you extract Veronica out of this game – but I want your word Sal – your word – that I will not be extracting her from a nest of vipers just to fall into a hole of angry badgers.” He turned the steeple of his fingers from his lips to me, “I want her to cash out. Breaking even. Safe and clear. Free. I don’t want her, or Bradley for that matter, to be saddled with a debt that keeps them in this game after their rescue. They get to cash out if they wish – a luxury I cannot allow for myself.”

I leaned slightly forward into the light, allowing my voice to change as I shifted my shoulder slightly and the smile purposefully vanished from my lips, “There can be no mistake. If she does not succeed friend Randall, if she is found out, or the stratagem discovered – they will strike . . . strike with a vengeance . . . and the ramifications for all are quite severe as they are well along in their Pale Agenda – but, if your Veronica succeeds – I can assure you she will cash out far richer than when she was dealt into this game. Now what I need are assurances from you, when the time comes can I rely upon you to assist me in extracting her from her nest of vipers?’

He leaned back in his chair nodding his head,” I do just have one more question though. Just who is your Mistress?"

And as you well know the sad necessity of having had to deal with your Malcolm, I will have to deal with my Randall, should he betray my confidences – and you can assure Katherine of such, as I am sure you will, when I inform you so I told him, “Lucy Westenra.”

You may also inform her I feel far more confident in being able to protect her asset – and to extricate Miss Wells from the devious menagerie among which she has been embedded. I am much relieved by your news our chemist Pleydell-Smith has made discreet inquires of the university regarding our Veronica.

Florence

View
A Mysterious Lady
Session Nine - Part Six

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12 March, 1916 – Journal of Pemberton Carmichael – A momentarily silence had fallen between us as the motor cab made its way along the narrow street. Rohmer was peering out the window, intently, absorbing the atmosphere as we passed the storefronts and street vendors, the mix of plain and then more elaborate signs in an almost incomprehensible profusion of English, Hindustani, Japanese, Chinese and Malay. From the West End to the South Seas, those afoot were of various nationalities. To what purpose? Some, innocent enough, whereas others, were no doubt far less so. It was Limehouse. Here Rohmer’s Devil Doctor moved insidiously in the shadows and my mystery woman hid in the night.

I had been quite surprised when Rohmer had searched me out for I had had the distinct impression from our earlier conversation he had dismissed it as so much wild speculation and imaginative conjecture – especially when I had revealed to him I had begun a novel. As yet untitled, I explained – most of the characters vague representations of those I knew in Limehouse – which I felt Rohmer may have been vexed to hear, seeing as how Limehouse was his . . . the domain from which his sinister doctor arose. But he seemed genuinely enthusiastic and requested a read of the manuscript when I had it in some form I felt presentable.

“Care to accompany me to The Cocoa Rooms.” His voice gave me pause. I looked up to find him there with his hat at it’s usual rakish angle. He had found me at one of my usual haunts. I swallowed back the peg of brandy and I quickly paid up for the drink and grabbed my cane.

Outside the pub he had a motor cab waiting. Once inside he gave directions to the drive, Limehouse, and then settled back into the darken interior of the cab, “They have found your chemist.” He informed me as the motor cab made its way through the slush of snow.

“My chemist?”

Rohmer turned to me, “Jeremy Twitchell. A rather brilliant fellow actually. Graduate of Oxford. Member of the Chemical Society. Was a head chemist with one of the major London firms – until he suddenly resigned. There was talk of his having gone into government service – but none of my sources can determine precisely where. As for K Division: Inspector Clifford’s witness relates that he was enticed into the shadowland of Limehouse purely for financial considerations. Now runs an apothecary, Twitchell Pharmaceutical Emporium. Or ran, as he’s gone a runner as well.”

The cab took a sharp turn on a narrow road.

“What the devil were they cooking up – my information had it that it certainly was not narcotics, but rather some something to do with blood chemistry.”

“All a bit queer it seems, but yes, some type of Blood analysis – or so the chemists for the Yard believe Odd to say the least for Limehouse don’t you think – and, you were correct in that whatever was taking place in that back kitchen, someone has been rather efficiently working to remove all evidence leading to that rat-burrow of a laboratory and whatever was uncovered there – as it has gone missing.”

“Missing?” I asked, “From Scotland Yard.”

He nodded and fell silent as we drove steadily toward Limehouse.

The Cocoa Rooms had once been a establishment known as The Black Lantern, a tavern built along the lapping waters of the Thames. Florence McLaren had acquired the building adjacent and renovated the tavern into a three-story house of entertainments. Within her doors one would find a music hall, a public house, various gaming rooms, darken recesses for smoking opium, and a brothel. As we arrived threaded our way through the traffic of the narrow street, Rohmer sat forward and told the driver to stop.

“What is it?” I asked, looking at the motor cars and taxis before the Cocoa Room receiving or depositing customers – and then I saw it, a sleek black Lanchester Limousine apparently having just pulled up in front of The Cocoa Rooms. From our vantage point we could see a tall, slender woman, in a black dress with intricate lace about the collar and cuffs. She wore no coat in the brisk chill of the late winter afternoon. Her hair, ash blonde and slightly unkempt, seemed only briefly stirred by the wind coming in from the Thames.

In far too much fiction, I had read the word ‘stunning’ but there was no other word to be used for the vision she presented in exiting the limousine.

“’It is all too reminiscent.” Rohmer said in a voice that to me sounded much like his character, Neyland-Smith.

I nodded as we sat as if transfixed.

“It is like the night I saw the Chinaman exiting the car which was the inspiration for Manchu.”

A vignette I was much familiar with – as he elaborated upon it each time he spoke of it.

I watched her approaching the entrance to The Cocoa Rooms. Her step was a slow, languid, purposeful one. For she did not step-aside or make room for others—they did so for her.

“Do you know her?” I asked of Rohmer who shook his head.

“No—but there is something absolutely mesmerizing about her. It is quite like – the night I saw him. There is something sinister about her – can you not sense it?” But before I could hazard a response Rohmer had quickly commanded the diver to pull the motor car over to the side of the narrow, congested road. It halted just ahead of the limousine, whereupon Rohmer quickly got out and slowly walked along the street to look at the car – there was a driver within, who sat with the motor running, “It is not a for a bit of entertainment she has arrived.” He told me as I hurried after having paid the driver. We moved through the growing crowd as cabs were arriving – dusk and the nightly clientele were beginning to arrive from Kennington and Mayfair.

I glanced over at an elderly Chinaman sitting on a wooden crate not far from the entrance to the Cocoa Rooms. Smoking a thin long pipe he did little to disguise his interest in us. “I say,” I ventured, “The lady who arrived,” and I motioned to the black Lanchester—

“Do you happen to know who she is?” Rohmer quickly interjected.

Only the Chinaman looked at us as if either he was deaf or there something more than tobacco in the pipe.

“Let us hurry Carmichael,” he said as we quickly made our way toward the entrance.

As Rohmer was swinging wide the door of The Cocoa Rooms, I by chance happened to glanced to my left and saw a rather jaunty young man in a worn cap and a non-descript woollen coat, whom the previously mute Chinaman, sitting upon the weathered crate serenely smoking his pipe in the winter’s chill, having igronred use now looked up at the young man approaching, “Randall Tanner.” He said. I am not sure whether is was the fact the stoic old man took notice of him or that the young man was attempting some disguise, as I spotted the stripe of his naval trouser, which piqued my interest.

“Afternoon Lao. Chilly weather we’ve bene ’avin, eh?” The young man replied with a tip of his hat. I

The old man peered up as the brisk breeze curls the smoke back into his face, "Too chill for a man of my years. Been a while since we last seen you at the Cocoa Rooms.”

The young man gave him an apologetic smile. “Ah, well It’s been a bit busy over at the Admiralty as of late. Bit of a tiff down in France these days. But, I understand I’ve been requested and so,” he holds his arms out to his sides, “here I am.”

The old man narrows his eyes and points at him with the smoking stem of his pipe: “She’s awaiting – best not keep her. It has a good day. For in most things she seems pleased. Now, on with you before that pleasure fades.”

The young man gave a mock salute and turned to enter – just as Rohmer stepped impatiently back out of the Cocoa Room’s entrance, “Carmichael – are you coming?”

I looked at him and nodded.as we quickly entered into the entrance lobby of The Cocoa Room from which we heard not the ordinarily anticipated Oriental music one might expect, but some American Jazz influenced composition, which was rather bawdy in nature. Into smoky atmosphere, one was quickly assailed with the scent of several varieties of smoke, cigarette, pipe, and the hint of opium. The main room was a combination musical hall and pubic room and for the early hour, dusk having just arrived, the tables and bar were already packed. The Cocoa Room’s reputation reach far beyond the four streets of Limehouse into London proper. Occupying most of the room by far was the large elliptical stage of worn hardwood, supported by an odd combination of iron and brass piping and thick metallic braces reaching upward and inset into the open air ceiling. Salvage from derelict shipping it was said. Round electric floor lamps illuminated the stage upon which a very young girl, who appeared, and knowing Lascar Sal was, just barely over the age of consent. She was performing some seductive dance in a scanty sailor’s suit – which held the attention of most of those sitting about the stage at the small tables draped in cloths of green and burgundy. The audience was a strange mixture of London high-society sitting at a table near sailors from a collection of races and nationalities, who in turn sat beside our men in khaki home on leave.

Rohmer grabbed my arm and pulled me aside, moving quickly between the closely set tables over to an open one, which afforded a view, via an advantage across the stage, to the staircase which led up to a second floor landing – and a single door. The private office of Lascar Sal. He said nothing, for there was nothing to say, as we watched the captivating blonde woman ascend the stairs. And I say ascend because for all appearances her step seemed more as if she were in fact gliding up them.

Even as sat captivated by the languid stride of this mysterious ash blonde, I found myself momentarily distracted. I took happened to take notice of the young naval officer as he entered the main room. What caught my attention was the fact he was apparently well known by members of the Cocoa Room staff as he was instantly recognized. Kang Foo Ah, the stage manager and makeshift maître’d, seemed to immediately recognize him as he stepped over toward him and I just able to overhear— above the musical performance upon the stage a bit of their conversation:

“It is most enjoyable to see you again, Mr Tanner.” Kang Foo Ah told him, “I am glad to see you well – they have not put you out to sea as yet I see.”

The young officer grinned, “It’s good to see you too Kang. They seem to keep finding things for me to do on dry land. And you’ve been keeping the place running smoothly I see. No drop in customers since the war broke out?”

Kang Foo graced a most amiable smile, until it wasn’t, gave him the amiable one: “Life goes on as does death, and so, for those who still find the pleasures of the living, there is always the Cocco Room. She is expecting you,” he said with a languid motion of his hand toward the back of the main floor of the large public house toward the staircase the woman was ascending.

At the top of the landing, stepping out of the shadows, I saw the figure of someone moving forward to greet the woman.

“Sam Tai Ling,” Rohmer whispered. I nodded for we both well knew Sam Tai Ling – a man well versed in many of the more questionable enterprises that took place in Limehouse. A man who bore the distinction of having once been a member of the Azure Dragon Tong – the distinction being in the fact that the only way one was able to sever an association once made with a tong was via death – whereas, Sam Tai Ling’s departure was reputed to have been upon the request of Florence McLaren, Lascar Sal.

The crowd’s enjoyment of the music and of the young girl performing lewdly filled the hall with their revelry as I watched the pair at the head of the stairs. Sam Tai Ling spoke to the woman briefly and then turned to escort her toward the door at the end of the small, narrow landing. The office of Lascar Sal.

“I would so love to be a fly upon that wall,” I said as an Oriental waiter in blue slop-shop suit stepped over and asked for our order.

Rohmer hurriedly ordered a whiskey-and-soda and I ordered gin.

“Tell me more about Jukes and this amalgamation of criminal networks,” Rohmer said as he took his cigarette case from his jacket pocket, opened it, and removed one. I began anew explaining how Jukes had more than merely collaborated my suspicions, ones which had previously been held by K Division, as well as Rohmer, that there was some sinister intelligence behind nearly all of the nefarious acts that took place in the infamous four street area of Limehouse – the same sinister force which Rohmer had previous investigated for naught as Mr King. As he had done I had looked into not only the petty crimes, which happened everyday within Limehouse, but to those of known organizations such as the Tongs, and a pattern had begun to appear. There was some deference, be it territorial or a healthy respect, perhaps even fear, of someone or some criminal network within Limehouse, Lascar Sal – or so I had first thought, but then, Jukes latest paramour had stopped by to give me a packet of notes she had found. It seems Jukes had gone a few steps further and found sources to collaborate his theories of something far more insidious – an ever growing organization, which had systematically taken vast control over the various criminal organisations within London. Jukes notes likened it to a giant web woven by a some malevolent spider. A spider spinning a web far grander than anything either of us had imagined. He apparently met with some Russian émigré, an anarchist, from Paris, who had informed him that the tangled treads of this web led far beyond Limehouse and London. They could be traced to an insurance fraud in Paris, to diamonds out of Johannesburg having gone missing upon arrival in Brussels, of a rare gem stolen in Amsterdam, a murder for hire syndicate in Berlin, art thefts in Vienna, the smuggling of Genevese munitions, a seemingly priceless book purloined in Prague, oil and land frauds in Bucharest, and god only knew what in Constantinople. A web built by a Black Widow, the Russian had so called the spider. Which is how Jukes had begun to look not for a man operating this nefarious global enterprise but a woman

“Lascar Sal.” Rohmer replied, “So you have said, but Carmichael stick a pin in a map and there you will find a crime – or some criminal enterprise – but what the deuces evidence do you have? Other than Jukes’ mysterious Russian, who may well belief in destructive pétroleuses?”

“There was a document laying out a complex maze of financial and corporate connections.” I told him. “All of which at some time or other have been suspected of possible criminal associations – unproven of course: The Lively Investment Group, Frost International Imports & Exports, Français Chimique et Métallurgique SA, Kröller-Holst AG, some pharmaceutical concern in Munich, a munitions exporter in Genève, all woven within a maze of accounts in several Swiss banks, which Jukes was able to trace back to a C. W. Westerman International Exploration, LD, whose principle financial holdings are through the infamous Box Brothers Bank. He had also uncovered a source that could connect this Westerman International with some villainous black-market dealings in medicines and medical supplies in the Balkans, which was somehow associated with The Society for The Favour of War Orphans, headquartered in Bucharest.”

“And all this connects back to Sal?” He sat smoking as he kept an eye on the close door of Florence McLaren’s office.

I arched an eyebrow and rested my palms upon my walking stick, “Perhaps not all—but Lively Investments is McLaren, you see – a rather sly reference to the play upon which she received her greatest acclaim, ‘Step Lively.’ I have this from a reliable source.”

“Other than Jukes?” He replied as the waiter returned with our drinks.

“Thomas Pulverton.” I informed him, “An inquiry agent from Hudson & Brand.”

The door at the end of the second landing, opened and we watched Sam Tai Ling, exit and make his way down the stairs to the main floor of the music hall. I noticed now the young naval officer as he moved through the maze of table to rendezvous with Sam Tai Ling at the foot of the stairs

Rohmer sat smoking his cigarette reflectively. His cold glare not on the nubile young girl dancing on the stage but rather beyond to the second floor landing and the closed door. “I know of the man. “ His voice did not register either reliability or trust.

“I have had some dealings with him before.” I agreed, “It seems he was recently removed from an private inquiry by the client.”

“Surprising,” The tone of sarcasm was unmarketable.

I continued, “Some eccentric young woman, who owns an investment firm – and was apparently quite interested in a Charitable Trust. An idée fixe was how Pulverton termed it. Something or other to do with her belief in financial malfeasance, a possible fraud, I gathered – but Pulverton, aware of Jukes’ inquiries, had access to a compilation made by the inquiry agent, who had replaced him on the assignment, of various investors in London with interests still in Vienna—“

“To which he saw fit to sell to Jukes’” Rohmer accurately surmised.

“Quite,” I had to admit what little I knew about the inquiry was far too fragmentary. It had many gaps. The woman – whose grandfather had been committed to an asylum – was, as Pulverton suggested, quite possibly mad herself. Nevertheless, she had hired Hudson & Brand – and they had taken the case, and their latest operative, the whom the mad young woman had found far more amiable was quite the opposite of Pulverton. Bright, efficient, and more importantly, trustworthy – as I had found on more than one occasion.

“I see – and this woman . . . this eccentric . . . ” But our conversation was cut short as the door of the office opened and the beautiful ash blonde woman exited.

Rohmer sipped his drink, “Rather a quick conversation, what?”

I sat as before nearly mesmerized by the woman as she stepped past Sam Tai Ling and slowly began a languid descent of the stairs. She held her head aloft, surveying the room – as she descended she dripped of aristocracy and of some rather uncanny superiority, as if she were above all the classes and nationalities before her. And, for a brief moment as I could have sworn our eyes met – I felt perhaps of mankind itself.

Rohmer tossed back his drink and quickly tossed payment for our drinks on the table, “Quick Carmichael?”

I look at him, “What?”

“I strongly suspect, old man, that she whom you seek is exiting The Cocoa Rooms even as we speak,” I could not help the feeling once again he was slipping into his own creation, that a of Neyland Smith. “Until tonight, Carmichael I must admit I had given your theory little credence – but having seen this magnificent creature – I strongly suspect if there is a spider in the centre of this conspiratorial web of yours – she is certainly it. Now, up – time for gin later."

As the young girls bawdy performance came to a end there was a sudden burst of applause and some of the audience arose to their feet. We moved amongst them toward the front entrance.

By the time we exited The Cocoa Rooms, the Lanchester Limousine, which had been awaiting outside was beginning to pull into the narrow street. Rohmer moved purposefully forward and hailed a motor cab. Once inside he directed the driver to keep the Limousine in sight.

“Who do you think she is?” I asked Rohmer as he sat leaning forward in order to peer though the windscreen.

“I don’t know – but she is deuced uncanny, don’t you think.” He handed over a folded note to the driver indicating another should he not lose sight of the Limousine.

Once again a long silence enveloped the interior of our cab as we made our way long the street lamp lit streets of London, always traveling a discreet distance from the Lanchester before us. My own thoughts a tumult – were we in fact in pursuit of that which I had sought – Jukes’s Black Window spider? The villainous mastermind of a vast shadowy amalgamation of criminals long hidden in plan sight, or some high toff’s daughter at play in the fields of wicked?

We were cornering now on Albemarle Street and there stood the Albemarle Hotel. Largely patronized by royalty, diplomats, and nobility, it seem the perfect residence, for rogues, such as Wilde where know to dine there as well. The ash blonde exited the limousine and glided her way through the entrance.

“What now?” I inquired of Rohmer, who sat on the edge of his seat watched with some anticipation.

“By my estimation she seems alone, save for the driver.” He replied, “I see no evidence of watch dogs set about.”

I leaned forward upon my cane, “Perhaps she is the listless young wife of some old Baron. Married too young, and seeking solace from the pipe or syringe.”

He gave me a severe look, “The devil? It is your theory Carmichael – so stand now up to it.”

Rohmer had directed the driver to pulled the motor cab discreetly away from the Hotel entrance and the light of the nearest streetlamp – and as he had unbraided me for casting doubts upon my own conjectures I opened the cab door. The brisk cold wind braced me as I pulled my coat tightly and made my way across the street to the Hotel entrance. I nodded amiably to the doorman and with discretion born of my journalistic career inquired of the ash blonde.

Only the folded note revealed she was not staying at the Hotel – in fact she had proceeded toward the Hotel bar. I hazarded a rather clandestine venture down the thick carpeted corridor and peering in through the open door I found the mysterious woman in a discussion with a rather tall, svelte, brunette, rather fashionably dressed.

The brunette cast a look in my direction and so I quickly moved back long the Hotel lobby. The doorman was unaware of the woman as well – she having arrived only a few moments before.

I stepped back out into the cold and hurried to the awaiting cab and Rohmer.

“A rendezvous.” I informed him as I took a seat.

“A brief meeting with Sal, and now –“ And he paused with a cold glare out the window. For the mysterious ash blonde was returning to the limousine. “Something is a foot Carmichael. I dare say she is either dispatching orders to her footmen, or, she is receiving intelligence from her agents in the field – but for what?”

The Lanchester pulled away and Rohmer instructed our driver to maintain our surveillance of it – at a even more discreet distance.

“You do have your revolver?” he whispered so that the driver would not hear.

I nodded, feeling the security of the Browning in my hip pocket.

The limousine made it’s way along the streets of London as dusk grew deeper into night and we soon found ourselves passing long St. James to Pall Mall – and soon it was evident we were headed to Whitehall.

We both looked at each other as the limousine came to a halt just down from the red brick building of Scotland Yard. There we saw the ash blonde exit the Lanchester once again to step into the chill cold night without hat or coat.

“What the deuce?” I said in response to this unexpected event.

Rohmer continued to peer through the windscreen watching her, “Fascinating.”

She stepped along beneath a streetlamp and them a few steps – and I leaned forward suddenly, even as I felt Rohmer beside me go tense – for the lady seemed to have disappeared. There she was moving in that leisurely stride beneath the light of the streetlamp, she took a step or two beyond it’s illumination and – was gone.

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Calling Cards
Seession Nine - Part Five

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Calling Cards
Notes of Evidence, 12 March 1916 – Police Constable Vera Alderton – The day was overcast – ominous, grey clouds, bearing renewed threats of snow. I had arisen early. Prepared a light breakfast of toast and bacon with tea and gave my attention over to the latest news of the war. Irene had been out when I had arrived home last night and has as yet not returned. Putting aside the Sunday Times, I cleared away the breakfast table and upon it laid out notes and documents in order to ponder them. Taking a few personal calling cards, I made comments upon the back and dropped them as if in annotation as I placed comments upon the paper mosaic I saw there upon the table before me – the central one being the Diced Up Girl. (An annotation I picked up from the table to review as I took note that I have at some point apparently taken up Inspector Stone’s appellation for the victim). I place it back upon the survey map of the Victorian embankment wherein the pieces of the woman had been found. Woman. As the central question still remained in my mind – just who was the Diced Up Girl. Pamela Dean?

Possibly, for the only identification we had to support such a conjecture was a purse – found upon the scene –and which had been confirmed by Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk to have been placed there intentionally to promote just such an identification.

Whatever proper role Lady Molly had held with Scotland Yard, I was of the opinion she maintains some role of authority – and as it was purported to have no longer been with the Yard, I suspect it is in some way a part of the government. Which upon the whole only complicates matters for there is no end to the possibilities . . . and more importantly, to what ends. I stood looking at the police surgeons report, the contents of the purse, my notes upon examination of Dean’s rooms – notes on Lieutenant McFarlane. Upon a quick survey – I found I had nothing on McFarlane’s flat. I thereupon check information supplied by Purdy – I took note he let rooms from a Mrs. Harriot Willingham.

Her house was number 220 Marylebone Road, near Regent’s Park. I had taken the underground and thereupon proceeded to the two-story house. As there was the brisk wind I hugged my coat closely against the brisk wind. Although I had not partaken of any of any alcoholic drinks at the Cavern of the Golden Calf the night before, my head ached as if I had. As I approached the two-story residence I slipped slightly upon a patch of ice and grimaced at the turn of an ankle. Assured I had not sprtained it – I proceeded to residence’s door. I rapped smartly with the British Lion brass door knocker, and glanced at passing pedestrians.

As I stood waiting a sudden wind shipped along the street and bellowed in my coat, which I batted at to kept down – as the door opened. A gray, haired matron, of about five foot 2 or 3 inches, and approximately stood in the doorway. She offered a genial smile, “Yes?”

“Good afternoon Ma’am, I’m PC Alderton with Scotland Yard.” I informed her as I held forth my Identification Card.

The woman peered forward to inspect the card, “Oh, my. Yes." She says, “I must say, I have never seen the likes of so many identification cards.”

To which this piqued my curiosity: “So many?”

She looked up from the ID card, "I suppose this is about that horrid Lieutenant,” she remarked and lifted an eyebrow, turning her attention upon me with a look of which I have seen many times before – a female in uniform. She stepped back, "Oh my yes—there have been constables and detectives from the City Police, and some gentleman from the Navy, and now, Scotland Yard. But—where are my manners, my dear – please, yes, do, please step in out of the cold. You must be positively freezing out there.” And she proceeded to step back from the door’s threshold to allow me entrance, “It is just beastly – that wind today. It makes it so much colder, don’t you think? It nearly took away my new hat.”

“One must never lose a new hat,” I smiled stepping into the warmth of the large foyer. I detected the scent of something rather delicious baking as I removed my slim casebook and umber pencil and with a smile opened it and took note of those investigative agencies which had already called upon 220 Marylebone Road.

Closing the door to block the cold’s entrance, she turned and smiled rather brightly, “Oh, it is a lovely one too, Several large feathers — which of course on a day like today, I should have known better, but,” She gave me a slight nod and a wink “It is Sunday and what is Sunday for but to wear one’s best new hat? It looks ever so wonderful – I do love hats, don’t you?”

I nodded, “Oh most definitely, unfortunately, I don’t get to wear as many as I like.”

“Oh, you poor dear” She took the back of her hand to press at the loosening hairs of the bun at the back of her head, “That sounds simply horrid— to be sure. Of course, it is no doubt some male mandate or other, uniform dress code or what not. SO –“ She clapped her hands together and looked at me inquiringly, “There is still no word on terrible Lt. McFarlane?"

“I can’t speak to an on-going investigation, I am sure you understand . . . “ I informed her, Miss?”

“Mrs. Willingham, Harriot Willingham,” she introduced herself.

“So—Mrs Willingham, you say the City Police as well as the Navy have already been here?

“Oh, my—yes.” She replied with a look of mixed awe and perplexity, “Looking for something,” She leaned to impart rather confidentially, “I would say – there was an Inspector.” And then she offered to take my coat and I removed my gloves as well and placed them in the coat’s pocket as she took them and walked over to a coat closet to hang them up, the heels of her shoes hit heavily upon the hardwood floor, "From the City Police.” She leaned slightly forward again – as if speaking confidentially – although there were only the two of us in the foyer, “Rather unkempt looking young man – scruffy if you know what I mean. In need of a mirror and razor. He wore these gloves,” she held out her hands, wiggling her fingers,

“The gloves had the fingers removed?” I asked.

She blinked in some surprise, “Why –yes. Wool ones with the fingers snipped off to look like some theatrical Bob Cratchit out of a Dickens play, don’t you know. Now, there is a gentleman that could use a dress code."

I held my pencil at the ready, well aware of the name I was about to write, ”Did he give a name, Mrs. Willingham?”

“Yes. Now, let me see. His name was—Specter. No. No, Spence.” She seemed to be thinking rather hard, and her eyes grew bright again, “Yes — I have it now, Spencer. Detective Inspector Spencer and some constables.” She said with some irritation.

“I see . . .”

“Came right in he did. Trooping along – him and his constables. No manners at all. Did not even have the curiosity to stomp off the snow from their boots. Just a flash of an Id card and where’s the rooms, he said. And when I told them it was bang right up the stairs to his flat to smash open the door.” She related the events and sighed.

“Do you know him?” Mrs Willingham inquired.

“We have met,” I said certain I did not disguise my dislike for the man.

“I see,” she said. “And you are with the Yard. Scotland Yard.”

I nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

“Right, well so many comings and goings it is hard to keep it all straight.” Her hand pressing up once again at the loose strands of hair falling free from the bun above the nape of her neck, “I would have never let to him you know, the lieutenant that is, had I known. They say he is involved in, “and she leaned toward me and whispered the word, “Espionage.”

Mrs Willingham seemed anxious as she suddenly said, “A spy!’ Whereupon she then raised both hands heavenward, “The Good Lord – a German!” Thus said her hands shook, “Under my very roof!”

A telephone suddenly rang, to which, owing to my preoccupation with the witness, I was momentarily startled.

To took note that Mrs Willngham did not proceed to answer said phone but rather glanced at the open doors of her sitting room.

“If you need to take that, I can wait,” I directed with a motion of my pencil, should she be of the impression she should not go owing to my presence.

Only Mrs Willingham did not proceed to do so. Rather she stood with me there in the large entrance hall her countenance serene with a most amiable smile.

The telephone then rang twice more, upon which I gave her a rather suggestive look.

“Oh, it is not bother,” she began to explain as to why she had as yet made no indication that she was either prepared to leave me alone in the entrance or that she was in any way concerned about missing the call: “My nephew will get it."

To which I nodded, “Oh, does your nephew live here with you?”

She frowned at the suggestion or of the thought, “Oh, no, he has his own flat, down past Blackfriar’s bridge. He’s here to visit. It’s Sunday.”

“Blackfriar’s Bridge?” I made a notation of the coincidence in that the purported victim, Pamela Dean, had resided at rooms upon number 85 Blackfriar Road.

“And his name would be?”

“Garrick. Garrick Gooch,” she said watching as I wrote, “27 St. George’s Road.”

Thereupon came the sound of the clumping of heavy boots. A large man in a grey suit, which seemed a bit tight about the shoulders – and hung unbuttoned – stepped to the door of the sitting rood, "That was Mr Ferguson. Wants you to call ’em.”

“Hello sir,” I smiled at him.

“Ferguson you say.” She repeated and then looked to me, “Must be about the coal. Changing merchants you see – such a bother. Thank you Garrick.

“Ma’am.” he nods his head to politely.

I made a note of the name and an annotation – possible coal merchant.
’You got any more of them little Victoria Sponge Cakes?" He asked of Mrs Willingham.

She smiled at him, "I expect you will fine one or two left in the kitchen, Garrick.” And then she turned to give me a rather thoughtful look, “I expect you will want to see his room, the Lieutenant’s, I mean. “ Then she shrugged, “Or not. It is an awful mess, I will say.”

“Well, Mrs. Willingham.” I sighed, “If two other groups already searched over the flat, I doubt I’ll find much—but, I’ll still want to give it a once over, but in a couple moments as I have a few questions.

“Certainly. Care for some tea, I just made a fresh kettle." She said as she now motioned toward the open doors of the sitting room.

“Oh, yes. Thank you kindly,” I proceeded to follow her into the sitting room.

The room was rather cluttered. A vast collection of framed pictures crowded to near overflowing along the mantle. Two walls of the room were taken up by tall bookcases equally overflowing. The end tables were also cluttered with magazines and newspapers. There was a round table covered, not with the usual “tapestry” cover, but with a plain green cloth that went passably with the wall-paper. The table space was encumbered by stacks of pamphlets, various tracts, and half read books opened and lying face-down.

A quick glance revealed them to almost entirely political. Most advocated the suffrage movement, others aligned to the Socialist cause.

Mrs Willingham motioned me toward a chair sitting near the grate, behind which a fire was crackling.

I for a moment I sat in the witnesses sitting room and found myself pondering as to why every place I have yet been in regards to this investigation, save of course the subway, would be a place Irene would feel quite at home – particularly as I took notice of the framed poster upon the far wall of the rather infamous tactic enacted by the government to have suffragettes yield in their protests.

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“A political activist?” I inquired as I took a seat

“Oh, yes,” She said and sat down, “The WSPU.”

“WSPU?”

“Emmeline Pankhurt’s Women’s Social and Political Union,” She explained, “Although I must admit, I have not been attending as many meetings as I am accustomed what with this beastly moratorium on – I am still undecided, as to whether I am leaving them again or not.”

“I see,” I nodded, I sat there “Such decisions can be quite weighty.”

“Quite,” He nodded and drew comfortable in he chair, “I have left them once before.’’ And then, she brushed back a loose strand of grey hair, “You see – there was a time, when they started discussing arson as a tactic.”

He stook note of my reaction and nodded, “A bit severe I thought as well, and so, I did leave for a while."

“Officially, I have to say that was a wise decision.” I told her plainly – arson? A political tactic?

“That was when we were full of firebrands and anarchists.” She sighed, “But then came the war and with it with the war, Emmeline called for a moratorium on protests and things have gotten less – shall we say confrontational, I have sat in on a couple of meetings of late. War or no war, we need to vote. Can’t give up the cause you know. “ Then she peered at him askance, “And you should know my dear. Look at you in uniform – but are you treated equally? I dare say not. I am sure you see it everyday. The way they must treat woman.”

I found my self nodded in agreement, “I try my best. About the most anyone can do.”

“Oh my no dear – not the most one can do—“

And from somewhere beyond the sitting room there was the loud sound of clattering pans, which gave evidence of the direction of the kitchen.

“Garrick,” and she rolled her eyes.

“Yes.’ The clattering bringing me back around to the matter at hand, “Now then . . . “ I glanced at my notes of evidence, “Do you remember when the navy and police were here?”

Suddenly her hands came to together, "Oh, the tea,” And she was up from the chair – I notice far faster than when she had sat down in it rather heavily – moving over to a tea service cart, which she pulled up and proceeded to pour a cup and turning, handed it to me. “Sugar? Bit of lemon?”

I smiled, “Thank you.”

“Now—let’s see.” She handed me a cup and saucer, “The ratty policeman, he came, I think the day after they found that poor woman all chopped up and tossed in the river.” She then turned to pour herself a cup, “Yes, it was the next day, I am certain.”

Careful with the tea, I was able to jot down the information.

She walked back to her chair, “Now this Naval officer. Some odd rank or other it was, a Sub-Lieutenant – which is something I for one have never heard of, but he had an ID card. “ She took a sip of tea and smiled brightly, “A rather nice looking young man. Bright smile and all politeness. Looked very fetching in his uniform. Rice. Yes, Rice that was his name. I forget his first name, but the last was most certainly Rice.”

“Yesterday you say?” I made a note of Sub-Lieutenant Rice.

’Yes. It was rather late in the evening. I was just heading out and opening the door, bang, there he was at the door. Have you met the gentleman?” She asked sipping her tea.

“Briefly.” I nodded.

“Well, as I say, rather attractive don’t you know. And with so few men available these days – you could do far worse, my dear.”

“Pardon.” I looked up from by casebook, juggling the cup and saucer.

She touched the back of her bun again, “I must say, I am still a more than a bit shaken . . . to think—I let out a flat to a man who could, " She shuddered, “Chop . . . up . . . a woman. I mean, heavens! Who would do such a beastly thing? How ever would one go about doing . . . it. Did you see, those bits of her?”

“I have.” I admitted with a slight grimace.

She leans forward and waves a hand as if in distress, "Oh you poor child. It must have been just horrid. Simply horrid. They said she was hacked up . . . just pieces . . . wrapped up in brown paper, Kraft paper I would suppose – used by butchers. Oh it is just so ghastly to think of it. I think they said it was a pelvis.” She looked dismayed, “I mean, that certainly isn’t much to make an identification upon.” She took a sip of tea and looked over the cups rim, “How ever did you manage an identification?”

“I’m not at liberty to say Ma’am.” The cup and saucer were becoming bothersome and so I place it on the end table near at hand.

“Oh, of course, certainly and here I am just rattling on,” She smiled, “Must have been a terrible difficult thing to do I would imagine – “

“Pardon?”

“Oh, identifying a body from such a few pieces –“ and she sipped her tea.

“Did they ask you any questions in regards to visitors? Any acquaintances that may have from time to time stopped over to see him.”

“Well as I said, I am in and out so much – my meetings and philanthropic work, you know. “ She held her tea cup steady. “I don’t know if he had – well none that I were to have taken notice. I mean, the woman, the one they say he chopped up – he knew her. A clerk at the Navy as I understand it. A Miss Dean. Worked with him – now of course I never saw her – well, not that I am aware you know. Of course, there was his girl, but I think they had broken if off before all this mess."

“He had a girl?” I asked with some interest. “Steady on?”

“More like time to time – really.” She said hand to the back of her head again, “He worked mostly – kept late hours. The war I imagined – but now, I guess we was meeting with spies – oh, it is all so beasty horrible.”

“Do you remember her name at all?”

“Let me see –“ She said trying to recall, “Vivian or Vanessa. One of those, I think. Victoria—that’s it. But as I said, they had broken things off long before any of – this.”

“How long would that be?”

“Ages.” She sipped at her tea, “Simply ages.”

“They had broken up – ages ago.” I reiterated.

“Oh yes, he was involved with another girl, I think – oh my, perhaps it was even this Dean girl. But then again – maybe it wasn’t at all anything romantic – perhaps she was a spy as well.” She sat her tea down and looked most distressed, “Spies! And German. This Dean girl. The naval officer said something like she was up to her pretty little neck . . . . Oh – my such a horrid thing to say – considering.” She reflected upon the turn of phrase, “Was she a spy as well?”

I side-stepped the inquiry, “Do you have an address for this – Victoria?”

She gave a brief look about the clutter of the sitting room – “Well, possibly, I am not sure. Perhaps I need to look about – shall I sent it to you should I find it?”

“Certainly.” And I handed her my card. “Did you tell the others about her? This Victoria?”

“Well—no, I didn’t.” She looked at my calling card, “I can’t say as I liked the look of that City Inspector and that other, the Naval Officer – as easy as he was on the eyes, there was at times a smirk about him, you know, and well, I just felt that the poor girl had such a horrid time with that deceitful scoundrel, so why bring her into all this – I mean, as I said, it was ages ago . . . . but – well, you my dear, you seem quite sensible and I can’t see the harm in telling you.”

“And I thank you, now as to a description?”

“Oh such a sweet girl. I would say about two and twenty, close to. Rather attractive – or so I thought. But men? Who knows what they look for when they see a woman?” She shook her head sadly. “Of middle height, lovely complexion. Dark brown hair. Was a student – university. Can’t say as I recollect which one – isn’t that horrid – I know it was one of the women’s schools.”

I nodded, making a note to check into this girl of McFarlane’s – ages and ages ago. “Might I ask you to not discuss it with anyone else?”

“Oh, absolutely.” Mrs Willingham nodded as she idly tapped her fingers upon the arm of her chair, "There has not been anything new reported in the papers – have they found . . . well, any more bits of her?”

“All I can say Mrs Willingham is that I can’t comment on an on-going investigation.” I told her, “You have mentioned a few lines of inquiry – that are of interest. But for now they are just that lines of inquiry. I do have to ask—how did you hear about these specific angles of investigation?”

“Oh – well, " She replied, "A bit here and there, from those searching the rooms and such. But mostly what I read in the papers – although there hasn’t been much in print recently – so, I guess they have not found any more of her, or there would be . . . “ she said letting the thought drift off.

“And the others, the inspector from the City Police?” I asked.

“The scruffy one, the one with two James’ in his name – he didn’t say much, just wanted to see the Lieutenant’s flat – and as I said, he and his constables, they fairly well tossed everything about.” She continued to sit serenely sipping her tea, “It was almost as if they were searching for something – I guess papers or what not being as he was a spy— or so the other one said. The one handsome one with the smirk."

I continuing jotting down notes – that would have been Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer.

“Now that one. He, well he asked me all kinds of questions – did I know the Lieutenant’s habits. Did he have visitors at his flat recently. Even asked me If I knew why he had gone to Exeter a few days ago. The day before they found that poor woman.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Well as I said, I’m just his landlady and I have my own comings and goings and so, I can’t say if he had any visitors, when I was not about. And as to Exeter? He certainly didn’t stop off to tell me anything about it. As I said to them, if I had known what he was about I would have done my duty and informed the police – someone, I hope as nice as yourself dear.”

I gave her a smile, “You are quite a sensible person.”

“I must say, it is so gratifying to see they have placed a woman as capable as you on the force. Long over due.”

“Well, thank you kindly” I nodded, “So – this trip to Exeter was of some interest?”

“To the Naval officer yes –“ She replied, “I can’t say as if the Inspector asked.”

I added to my notes, “He did not receive any unusual packages, or have deliveries.”

She sat for a moment reflecting, “Can’t say as I remember, anything unusual. Normal mail and such like. Can’t say but he received maybe one or two telegrams, least that I am aware. But as I said I am in and out.”

“Might I see his flat?”

“Oh, but of course, dear.” And she set aside her tea cup and saucer and rose up slowly from the chair. She stepped over to the large round table adorned with the green cloth and stacks of tracts and pamphlets, and opened a central drawer. She removed a key and motioning to me, she stepped over toward the open double doors of the drawing room. “This way.”

Closing my notebook I hurriedly took a drink of the tea I had set aside and putting the cup back down arose to follow.

Mrs Willingham walked over to the stairs and began to ascend them to the second floor, “Mind you the place is a mess – they told me not to touch a thing until I was given notice that I could.”

She slowly takes the steps one at a time, holding to the railing.

Watching her slow ascent I nodded, “Sadly, that is a part of the process. I promise I’ll try to speed things along to get you that notice. It can be hard for a landlady being unable to collect rent.”

She stopped and looked back at me, “Particularly in these times.” Her hand reached out and patted mind upon the bannister, “And if you could, that would be a blessing my dear, just a blessing.”

We arrived upon the second floor landing, a narrow corridor leading to several closed rooms.”

“Other boarders?” I asked.

“What?” And then she looked about, “Oh, no – not at the moment. Just had the Lieutenant, you see. Now, here we are, “ She finished by advancing to the first door. A turn to the key and she opened the door.

I stepped into the threshold to behold a two room flat which been completely ransacked. Drawers pulled out and emptied. Books scatter on the floor. Cushions removed from chairs. The drapes pulled down. Bed clothes pulled off and tossed on the floor. Papers are scattered everywhere.

I sighed a bit, the odds of finding anything of use here was slim, very slim, but taking a bit of heart with the fact the scene has already been violated – “I hate to be a bother Mrs. Willingham, but do you have a box or crate of any sort perchance?

“A box?” She replied thoughtfully, “Well, let me see.”

And she exited the room, her heavy footsteps continuing down the second floor corridor.

I stood amidst the debris of the two searches. The scattered papers and books along with just about everything Bradley McFarlane owned lying on the floor. I rather absently picked up a wall painting that had been knocked to the floor and left to lie there face down.

It was a depiction of some naval battle. The frame was in good shape but the glass had been shattered and I had to take care not to cut myself, but as I do so, I took notice that slipped into the lower left corner of the picture there was a small business card. As if pressed there so as not to be left lying to get misplaced.

I gently pulled it lose with a handkerchief.

The card read: Mitchell, Sons & Candy. Land Agents. Exeter.

There was at that moment the sound of Mrs Willingham returning, and so I placed the card within my handkerchief and slipped it into my pocket, putting the picture back on the floor, face down, just as she entered the door carrying two large hat boxes. "I say – will this do? Both of these old hats have seen better days, and so, I was preparing to donate them. So, will their boxes do?”

“Yes, those will do.’ I gave her an encouraging smile, “Thank you kindly. I promise to return them once I’ve transported anything I’ve found to the yard.

“You are a dear.” She said placing the hat boxes upon a table upon which lay the scattered debris of Lieutenant McFarlane’s desk drawer. “As I said, I am sorry for the mess.” She looked about and then stepped over to pick up the picture, “Oh look they shattered the glass—” she shakes her head as she hangs it back on the wall, slightly crooked.

“A significant picture?”

“This—oh, no, well I don’t think so. It was the Lieutenant’s.” She replied with her hands resting upon on her hips, "Navy officer.” She sighs looking at the picture, “I guess they all want to sea and if they can’t – well, they have pictures in their rooms. There is another over,” and she points but hesitates as the wall is blank. She steppes over and looks around to find the fallen picture and picking it returns it to the wall.

I continued to mill about the room, looking at items tossed to the floor, the titles of books dropped wherein their titles were visible. “Pardon me, but, if you would please stay by the door, I don’t expect there is much of anything left, but don’t want to damage any evidence that might remain.”

She made an expression as to say of I am so sorry and hurriedly did as I requested.

I made as diligently a search as if I were the first upon the scene, but did so far more neatly, organized, checking from the tops of heavy furniture all the way to the floor. Then I knelt to begin to reach upon the furnishings, before moving on to sort through and examining the papers which had been tossed so haphazardly. As I did so I grew more and more dishearten as it appeared all of the previous searches had gathered anything of significance – other than of course, the apparently overlooked business card I had happened to find stuck in the corner of the picture. Unless of course – it had been placed there intentionally, at some point after the initial searches. It was not as if evidence had not already been placed in his murder hunt. My first thought was of the nephew. He had been alone most of my time in the house and could have easily ascended to the second floor – might even have his own key. But, then that would call into to question Mrs Willingham as well – or, was I letting paranoia guide my thoughts.

I began to tidily place what the scattered papers into one of the hat boxes, thinking I would have to check into Mrs Willingham. And of course the nephew. It would be good to find out more about this Victoria, or Vivian or Vanessa from ages and ages ago. I arose and picked up the second hat box and returned it to Mrs Willingham.

“Oh, you just need the one dear?” She asked.

“As I feared, there isn’t much.” I told her, “And thank you for your time and cheery disposition though out my inquiry, it makes for a nice change.”

She once again gave me her most serene smiles, “Well as I said, it does one good to see a young woman such as yourself finally getting on with a career – and one with Scotland Yard. It makes all of us proud to see a woman in such a position.”

“Now, we just have to keep up the fight for the vote!”

“Resistance my dear.” She said a bit defiantly.

Carefully, carrying the large hat box, following in Mrs Willingham’s careful wake, she lead the way back down the stairs, having locked up McFarlane’s room once more

Within the large entrance hall she placed the unused hat box upon the table, and her heavy heels strode over to the coat closet where she retrieved my coat. As she passed it over to me we exchanged formalities in preparation for my departure – but then she suddenly stopped and held up a hand. She moved over to the table set in the center of the hall and from a drawer she removed an ivory button bearing the words “Votes for Women.” “Every woman has the right.” She said.

I agreed with her and then made to the front door, which she opened for me, encumbered as I was with the large hat box. As she did so, there was a tall, elderly gentleman in a dark suit and top hat standing on the step, his back turned to us.

“Yes?” Mrs Willingham said a bit quizzically.

He turned to smile, “Yes,” he replied as he removed his hat and held it in his hand which also held his gold handled cane. “I am Sir John Paxton of The Law Society.” He held out his card, “I have come to offer my services to most unfortunate Lieutenant McFarlane.”

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