The Coldfall Sanction

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 s 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. He his hair was short; cut low so as to help disguise the fact he was balding. His eyes were an odd shade of blue, ever light blue. The burliness was on the border of gruff – he had the look of the street about him. He wore his woollen gloves at the table. He did 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 Inspector Spenser had tossed Lieutenant McFarlane’s flat, but that the Navy had finally begun some form of investigation of in that Sub-Lieutenant Rice had been to the rooms as well. On his own? For Captain Purdy? Or for others – some official Naval inquiry? Some special intelligence division? And though they had all tossed the rooms in their usual tornadic style – they had all over looked the card slipped into the corner of the frame of 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 Land Agents in Exeter. What significance were they.

I wanted to put the card away for safe keeping with the rest of my hat-boxed evidence and so took the motor cab back to the Yard. It was well past dusk – the street lamps now lighting the street. As I exited the cab, jugging the hat box, in order to reached back in 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 from the Yard. Some dignitary? Lady Molly Robinson-Kirk – perhaps. I was still uncertain of just what her role was – or if her dismissal from the Yard had been 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 certain it would be she.

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

As I quickly turned to make my way 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 observed 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 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, “As he was down about your office the other day and now, today, I see him heading down once again, to, I can only assume your desk –“ Which had a bit of a nasty insinuation upon the word desk, “I mean, one can only seeking out just so many old case files, what?”

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

“Just that if you and Inspector Stone are bringing in Ffolliott on the case – I am quite aware if it is because of your malicious and unwarranted dislike for me. But – you well know – I am by far the better investigator.” He says with some irritation. “And I have kept an ever vigilant eye upon him and I am more than certain he has, shall we say cut corners to assuage political interests 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 one very little. Now, if you will excuse me – I have work to do.” And I proceeded toward the door leading to the stairs and my very politically astute desk in the basement.

“I should be on this case rather than he." He called out after me.

I shook my head – if there was ever a case one did not what to be assigned to, this was certain the one – for the more Stone and I investigated the more probable it became that no one what this one solved. I was heading to my desk, adjusting Mrs Willingham’s hot box so that I was holding my truncheon under it, making sure it looked like 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 she approached the door leading to the storage room used for the overflow of filing cabinets, within which my desk had been situated, I took notice 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 malevolent irritation.

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

“Where is he?” The voice now suddenly less melodic and far more threatening.

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

“Connections – who are these connections?”

“It was all a bit of luck I found him – but, I did and I arrested the bastard,” Ffolliott explained, “And like I said, I had him in lock up, where I suspected some toff of a barrister would soon be arriving, but instead – there were several gentlemen and all sorts of identification cards being passed about and then – bang he was given up. And they took him away.”

“Who took him away?”

“I never knew for certain Some government agency – he was questioned. Apparently he had information that was good enough to wash away the blood of two young dollymops.” I made a mental note – was this the case Ffolliott had tried to speak to Stone and me about earlier? “As 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 – who took him away. What was their name?” The seriously vexed woman asked.

“That was like twenty years ago – I had just started on the Met. You have to understand it was a long time ago.”

“What I understand is your ineffectualness.” And then there was suddenly the loud sound as if one of the wooden file cabinets had been recklessly overturned.

Inspector Ffolliott’s voice was now very anxious, “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 the Ffolliott cried out.

I put the hat box down silently in order to grasp the glass doorknob and with my hand even as I renewed my grip upon my truncheon. I 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, drawers having slid open to discharge all their contents in a scattering rain of documents and folders. Against another tall wooden cabinet, a tall ash blonde woman in a very expensive dress had Inspector Ffolliott lifted slightly up from the floor and pressed against it.

She turned quickly upon my entrance.

Her mouth was open. Her lips pulled back to reveal long and very sharp canine teeth. Her blue eyes were cold and filled with a wrathful fury, which was seemed less human and more animalistic.

As she glared at me and I heard a sort of low a 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 more threatening. Stepping back, she rather effortlessly tossed Flolliott away as if he were but mere rag doll.

I kept my eyes on the woman – for she was, I felt at the moment extremely dangerous.

“You best stay back," She raised a hand.

“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 find him. Do you understand?”

And then in what seemingly impossibly quick, she moved over to him and picked him up, one handed, and slammed him back up against the wall, “For you shall find, there is no where to rest in which I shall not find you.”

Thus said, she turned once more to look at me even as she once again dropped Ffolliott to the floor.

In a very purposeful stride she moved now toward me, 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 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 seemingly glide 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 malevolence.

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

Where upon she stopped and turned to look back at Inspector Ffolliott and the to me as she said with that haunting voice of hers, “Time is not on your side. In fact it is running out. Now find me the Silver Knife.”

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

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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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Just Another Candidate
Session Nine - Part Four

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Veronica Wells’ Journal
12 March. Morning — Upon my arrest and short incarceration as a participant in the suffragette protest which had, I later discovered, been strategically allowed to become, disorganized, discordant, and violently disruptive, there are memories which will remain with me always. That abhorrent bed, which was beyond anything I had ever experienced. The bedclothes, all coarse and yellowed and baring horrid stains from which I was certain I never wanted to know the origins of. The threadbare dress, if it were accurate to call such a garment a dress, which was entirely insufficient, especially for the chill of the cell, which they had rather scornfully tossed at me, and then stood intemperately with their rather vile intentions of assuring I was to be given no recourse to modestly in removing my clothing in order to put on their well-worn garment. The overwhelming mental and physical fatigue from which I could find no solace as neither my body or my mind could find rest, what with the suspicious noises and the loud voices with their accompaniment of low moans and pitiful groans, which were indistinct but troublesome nevertheless. And the light – the light which was flashed upon my face at irregular intervals, in which seemingly bodiless eyes peered in upon me from the small opening of the grate in the door, which was slid rather silently, upon opening, but slammed shut with much vigour in order to assure me I was ever under a constant state of observation – inspection.

In retrospect, as I think upon it, rather than my father’s surprisingly unexpected intervention and influence, which he brought to bare upon my case so as to gain my release within the brevity of two days, perhaps I should have been held in that cold and miserable cell for a month, as all the others so incarcerated had been. There I would have been forced to sit upon that most uncomfortable of stools – one which was entirely too short-legged for me – and contemplate the consequences of my actions. Perhaps even sprinkled, or worse immersed, in some baptism within the turbid bath water, already used by another as the insolent Veronica was resurrected anew. Over the beastly days and weeks within Holloway I might have listened to the chaplain whose countenance, upon entering my cell, was on his part a grand effort of composure, in that his wizen features were severely compressed in a great frown of displeasure and unrestrained distaste – in that he was once again forced to enter yet another Jezebel’s chamber, within which he had to take great care in what he came into contact, owing to hygiene and other such contagions one may find oneself susceptible to from the filth of the dirty strumpets for which it was his solemn duty to administer his Christian piety. Yes, thereupon with nothing to do but shiver in the damp chillness and mediate upon all that I had done with my life up to that moment, as I would have had hours to sit uncomfortably that dress, which had been manifestly unwashed from it’s former wearer, as well as under-linen just as equally unclean, I might have come to recognize my selfish imperfections, my impertinence and impatience. I may have even listened, without my smug self-assurance and pride, to the chaplain entering my cell to hold forth with one hand the holy scripture, and in the other, a pipe he had drawn from the pocket of his jacket to point out with some emphasis just how sadden he was to have to minister once again to yet another fallen woman . . . yet another wanton child of Eve – who, like the first garden harlot, thought she knew far better than her Maker about her place in this world. Which I must confess, being not at all religious – even though I had been brought up for a while by my mother in the Church of England – this was the first I had ever heard that Eve’s supposed rebellion with the fruit equated to some harlotry. But that was once again my two day insolence – whereas, over time I may have come to some introspection with regard to his wheedling admonition for me to “to see the consequences of a wanton free will.”

Rather than having been provoked by the chaplain’s haughty self-righteousness and my father’s severe and hurtful appraisal of me – which, I do so want to be certain to get this down as brutally accurately as possible:

“Vee you are as naïve and head-strong as you are ungracious. All that I have done for you – provided for you and I am to be recompensed by your coming out . . . upon . . . upon only God knows upon what means. Indebtedness, I am sure. How you have become so wrong-headed? In all matters of consequence, political, religious, and moral. Filled with far too many fanciful and extravagant ideas. Which I feel, with full conviction, are inspired not only by academia – one of the worst capitulations I have ever made – but all of these damned novels with all their modern notions and sham ideas, which you are determined to not only read but to emulate. Their nonsense dangerous in the extreme. It is just smut, damned smut – promiscuous smut of the mind and nothing less. I stand and look at you and I can see all their abhorrent corruption. I am thankful unto God in all his wisdom in granting that your mother, your grandmother, did not have to live to see this reprehensible behaviour – worse . . . worse even than the disgraceful elopement of your sister. And I never felt there could be anything as distasteful and dishonourable as that beastly affair. Yes, by God scoff. Scoff all you want, but you mark my words, Veronica, and you mark them well. You are ticketed upon an express train bound for hell. My God, Vee, your reputation! Do you even have one?”

I think I can fairly well answer that now – no.

I am as filthy and unchaste as that woman the wizened chaplain had entered the cold and gloomy cell expecting to find. For I have given way to their blackmail. Not so much in regards to the photographic photographs taken of me and the salacious fabrications sexual and political attached in addendum and any subsequent consequences they may have to my reputation, what little of it remains, or in retrospection, consideration of Bradley, ruefully, or the law, but that I will be damned to be shamefully proven to have fulfilled all my father’s expectations.

And so I have exchanged one incarceration for another – one in which I am complicit.

125 Long Lane, Southwark London. That is my new address wherein once again I awaken in a strange bed. Albeit not as hard and uncomfortable as the one in my previous cell. And with a new ensemble which is far more expensive and fashionable than the much worn, threadbare dress thrown at me. Although there was no grate upon the door of my bedroom, nor an incessant flash of light to awaken me, there is still the same such state of observation – two gentlemen, who from all appearances are in the employ of Mrs Willingham; a Mr Crump, a brutish, unkempt man, who apparently has no given name, but does have a most hearty appetite for sweets, in particular, dainty Victoria Sponge Cakes; and a new fellow, who from all appearances could have been the scornful chaplain’s brother – a Mr Ferguson – save for his gaze, which being far less filled with indignation and a righteous supercilious piety, was more aligned with the chaplain’s odd condemnation of Eve – he having far more wanton appetites to be sure. His gaze worrisome in that it belied a desire for a far more intimate inspection. I could not help but wonder if he had gained access to the salacious artistry of Francis Aytown? Miss Miniver, upon the occasion of one of her less frequent visits, catching the insincerity of his ingratiating smile and detecting its obvious intent, had spoken to him in some hushed tones, to which his thin, whisker-stubbed face grew remarkably ashen.

As I have indicated, Miss Miniver had become a far more infrequent visitor since the night in which I had been relocated from my rooms at Mrs Burrows to this new residence and I had, as preposterous as it seemed, once I had written it down, believed I had seen her climbing down the wall of the house across the way in a manner much too reminiscent of that revelatory account of the sinister descent of that Count in Stoker’s fanciful Gothic. To which she gave a wry smile when I mentioned it to her – “Yes well, my dear, the little packet I mixed for you was to off-set your morning head – not to give you visions on a snowy night. A mere trick of the light.”

Well, I intend my own trick once more with a window – hopefully it will be as successful and I shall be able to meet Cadet Tanner – whom I hope has received my note and will be at his rooms in Limehouse.

Veronica Wells’ Journal
12 March – Late Afternoon – continued

A whirlwind. Nothing less.

I knew I had fallen amidst a gathering of evil, but as she held me, her hand clasping my throat, pressed up against the platform wall of the dimly-lit corner of the railway station, while the underground carriage cars rumbled past, I did not know to just what extent. Not until she told me.

And now I am even more troubled about the fact there has been no word of Bradley. Not even to Randall. Of course, I am more than certain were he to attempt some form of correspondence it would be intercepted by Miss Willingham’s minions. Or those of Lady Hélène or the abhorrent Mr Pym – who it seems is playing quite a dangerous game. Earlier it had all been an abstraction, a mere calculation, sitting on the edge of my bed fluctuating upon whether or not it was at all advisable to even attempt to try clandestinely to engage them one against the other, but now it was no longer merely a question as to whether I should dare to play. I was already a pawn – and they are alas far too easily sacrificed. If I am going to survive, I am going to need all of Randall’s Confidence. And it can no longer be the shorter, but must need be the longer. For everything is far more sinister and treacherous than I ever had imagined.

If in their grand scheme I am to become a spy then I need to be far more resolute in becoming one – to my own advantage. Earlier, I had felt so confident in the execution of the simplest of plans, of what I considered to be my sly subterfuge – but now, I am having to fight against a ever growing and frightening obsession of thought in imagining something horrible awaiting for me just around the corner should I make a miscalculation. But – if I am further along in their planning there must be some security in my general welfare. Mr Pleydell-Smith is now a far less odious thought . . .

For everything has changed amidst the rumble of those railcars.

Having arisen and dressed and made a light breakfast, I had casually announced to Mr Crump that I intended to visit the university lab – where, as I had informed them earlier, I was involved in a research project, which, if I did not make my contributions, suspicions and questions may well arise, and perhaps of even more importance, I was more than certain should Mr Pleydell-Smith be so inclined he would, based upon what little I could remember of our introductory conversation, inquire of the lab instructor in my regards, to which Lady Hélène had acquiesced with a smile. “He was so inclined and done so already.”

She had looked at me confidently as she calmly explained I was not a captive but a significant member of a conspiracy – one in which a sufficient amount of evidence had been produced to assure that not only my father, but the entirety of the Law Society, could not possibly win for me an acquittal. I was in it now – and so, I had best realize the severity of the consequences of betrayal – “besides, those for whose interests we were representing have a rather unique relationship with death.”

That and the remembrance of Madam Eskimoff’s breath upon my cheek as she whispered her cryptic warning had given me pause.

Though not a captive, I was under observation – which Mrs Willingham had of course made to sound as if it were for my own security rather than theirs as Mr Crump or Mr Ferguson were ever vigilant to accompany me in my comings and goings. Besides they were self-assured as far as they knew I had no one with which to confide in London of any import as I had left all my friends behind in Morningside Park. So, as I had planed, I made certain to muddle about the lab until Mr Ferguson found himself becoming less attracted to my hips and entirely bored with the academic setting and began to wander off. Then – having previously used a low window off the east corridor from the laboratory to make this self same excursion – I hurriedly made my way to the underground.

Taking the Central London Railway at Chancery Lane to the Metropolitan Railway to Limehouse Station, I was more than certain I had left Mr Ferguson well within the maze of King’s College.

I hurriedly made my way from the station to the narrow street most appropriately designated Narrow Street. Ahead I saw the door of the ramshackle building – one which I found to be quite surprising for Cadet Tanner to be associated. As I proceeded in my preoccupation and arrived at the door to rap my gloved knuckles against the weathered door, I was suddenly startled by a voice that was quite near, so near in fact it came with a drifting breeze carrying the heady odour of gin.

“My what a jazz of a girl? I bet’s you’re as lithe as any yellow girl swaying them fine white hips—“ I continuing knocking – had the Cadet not received my note?

I glanced to see he was dark – a Hindoo I suspected – his white teeth grinning lustfully, “Just a quick knock.” He continued even as I continuing knocking upon the door.

When suddenly I was startled and stepped back as a large black man with Oriental features moved with almost feline swiftness to shove the Hindoo up against the wall of the building, the glint of a knife, one with a very, very long blade placed quite dangerously against the flesh of the man’s throat.

Just at that moment the door opened and there stood Randall Tanner and I found myself rushing through the threshold of the door and giving him a thankful “Randall! I am so glad to see you!”

He gave me a reassuring smile as he looked quizzically at the black man with the blade at the man’s throat. “Come on in.” He said, “ I’m sure this fine gentleman was just leaving.”

He gave a short nod to the large black man as he closed and locked the door.

“Did you not receive my letter?” I asked, my attention drawn to a rough looking man lying at the foot of the narrow stairs, which lead to the second floor landing where I knew Randall Tanner had his rooms. The man was wearing worn trousers, a much stained shirt and a thin threadbare coat – all of which was entirely inadequate for the wintery weather.

“Oh that’s just Gary, don’t mind him.” He said as he stepped over the man and then held out a hand to assist me in stepping over ‘Gary’ as well. “Only just got here, haven’t had time to read it. Ran into an old friend.”

“I had a class at the University today, and so, I slipped away at lunch.” I told him as we ascended the stairs, “Tell me, have you heard from Bradley?”

He pushed open the door to his flat, “Nothing yet, but I’m following many leads.”

“Ah, the enchanting Miss Wells, it is so good to see you again.” I looked to see the charismatic Oriental gentleman, who had been so helpful when I had slipped away yesterday to leave the message for Randall, as I entered the meagre room.

I smiled, "Oh, Mr Ling. It is so good to see you as well. Thanks ever so for your assistance.” I am so terribly wicked – Mr Ling – I must admit there is something about him, the tone of his voice, the languid ease of his every movement, the mischievous glint in his eye, the warmth of his smile.

Randall closed the door and set his cap on the stove.

Mr Ling bowed slightly. His eyes ever on me, “It is but my humble honour to help the friend of my friend. And so, as I see you have much to discuss—I shall be away." And he stepped away from the window, the smoke of his cigarette curling in his wake within the light of the window from which he had been standing, no doubt looking down at me at the front door. I had a sudden thought – in someway, the large black man’s intervention with the horrid Hindoo, was somehow engineered by Mr Ling.

He stepped past me on his way to the door, and then suddenly stopped, “"Oh, Randall. I have a message for you. Lascar Sal wishes to see you before you depart Limehouse. She has something for you that may be of interest."

“Indeed.” Randall replied.

I watched as Mr Ling closed the door behind him, “Lascar Sal, he sounds dangerous,” I said as I unpinned my hat and placed it on the table.

Randall smiled, “She.”

“Oh,” I pulled at my gloves removing them. This world was so unlike the one in which I used to live, and as I placed by gloves beside my hat, I had a feeling that although this Lascar was a woman, she was in fact dangerous.

Randall pulled back one of the dusty chairs. “Do have a seat.”

I sat sighed and down wearily. “Oh, Randall, it is so good to see you.”

“Certainly,” He sat down in the chair opposite. “It is good to see you are well after such treatment on the street. How have you’re new lodgings been?”

I sat with one palm upon the other as I placed my hands on the table, "As well as can be expected—“ As I had that first moment we had met in my room at Mrs Burrow’s, I so wanted to tell him everything – about Pym, and Beltham, and the truth about Mrs Willingham, the photographs, all of it, but, how much should I get him further involved? Bradley was accused of being a spy. I was a spy. And Randall was a Cadet in the Navy – how could I jeopardize his career as well? No, finding Bradley was of upmost importance at the moment—what with the entirety of London’s constabulary seeking him . . . “I do miss Mrs Burrows. But, Bradley – have you heard anything about him? Mrs Willingham says the police searched his rooms.”

Randall’s face took on an air of seriousness, “I’ve been making connections with people that can help me find him, but so far there’s been no word. I won’t lie. I don’t think he’s hiding deliberately. No offense to your Bradley, but I don’t think he’s this good at staying hidden.”

I placed my elbow upon the table in resignation as I pressed my forehead against my first and slid it along to rub at my temple, “Oh, Randall, I am . . . so frightened.”
Randall glanced out the window at the street below. “I am still confident that he is still alive though. He got himself caught up in some pretty nasty business, and fear is all too real an emotion when dealing with this.” He looks back at Veronica. “But instead of letting fear be our guide, we have to use it. Divert it into equal parts resolve and caution.”

I glanced up with my eyes to look at him and noticed he had paused, “What?”

“That woman.” He said arising from the table – I got up to follow him—

It was Miss Miniver. How? I had not seen her. She was not in the underground carriage. But there she was standing in the shadow of the building.

“Miss Miniver.” I said softly more to myself.

“She is the woman from outside of Mrs Burrow’s boarding house.” He replied.

“Yes . . .” I said as he looked at him expectantly.

“You said she worked for Mrs Willingham.” He continued.

I nodded, “For or with, I am not at all sure.” How much of a lie can I continue . . . how much of the truth can I tell.

“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what is going on with this Mrs Willingham,” He pressed, looking down at Miss Miniver, “With this Miss Miniver.”

“I am a fool, a complete and utter fool.” I felt the heated vexation rise in my voice, even as I felt the tear drop from the corner of my left eye. I turned from the window and returned to the table and sat down heavily.

“Veronica . . . " Randall pulled out a cotton handkerchief and handed it over to me.

“I am in trouble, Randall.” I took the handkerchief from him and dabbed at her eyes, “Bradley’s gone and I have no one else to turn to.”

He sat down and leaned forward, his elbow rested on the table. “More trouble than Bradley’s being missing?”

I tried to smile, “Oh, no – that is far worse.” I dabbed at my eye – and as I sit here writing crying, crying like a Goddamned silly schoolgirl, knowing what I know now, there can be no more crying. There is no one to blame for my circumstance other than myself – and tears are in no way going to help me extricate myself from this horror. I looked across the table at him, “Miss Willingham says that a City of London Police Inspector has been through his apartment. Some Lieutenant, I think, Rice was is name, he too ransacked it. They think him a murder and a spy – and so, no . . . no my troubles cannot be at all compare to his.” I gave him a wry smile I am certain, “My troubles—they – they are of my own making.”

“I meant more as in additional troubles.” He said, “What? What has happened?”

“I—I was so impatient to be free of the conventions of my father, to moved away from Morningside Park, to live in London, to have a life.” I began – he had to know some part of it, “I—I made a most unforgivable mistake . . . "

“You got yourself into debt that you can’t repay?” he surmised.

I laughed, he is so very prescient. “Precisely,” I nodded, "And the payment has come due. You see, I took money from a gentlemen who I thought of as a friend, one I met everyday on the train commuting to University – he is a broker and financer – he offered to help me – “ I made some silly motion with the handkerchief, “ He gave me money – an investment he said.

“I see” Randall leans back again in his chair, half leaning against the wall.

“And now – the payment, it is due – and so, " I sighed heavily and sat back, “You are aware of course, I am sure, that I am a suffragette. That a while back I was actually arrested and incarcerated for a protest that went badly – well, actually it was planned to go badly, I was unaware – seemingly I am unaware of a lot of things – strategy and tactics and all that and my father, he is a solicitor, and Sir John Paxton, a friend of his got me out of lock up and expunged my record. I should have learned, shouldn’t I Randall – from that? Well – my father thinks so, but, I was still politically active, that is how I met Mrs Willingham. I knew her before I knew Bradley, actually, that’s how we met, she being his landlady. She’s a radical, a socialist.” I looked at him earnestly, “I am one as well.”

“They’re an intriguing lot. I can say if politics were my domain, ol’ Henderson would get my support.”

“I know that is not good for Bradley – and – and he doesn’t know.” I sighed, "It wasn’t good then and it’s even worse now . . . what with what they are accusing him of – which of course they are readily pointing out. You see,” and another silly wave of the handkerchief, “The gentleman, “ I laughed, “Gentleman? The man, I borrowed the money from he is involved with Miss Willingham.” And it felt good telling him – even this little bit of the truth, “He is a Russian.”

He nodded, “And so, this Russian, you borrowed money from. Got it in writing does he?"

I shook my head, “No, nothing was ever written down. But they say I owe them and they want my help and if I don’t do so – they will,” I frowned for a moment as I paused, “They will reveal my being a socialist – and they have fabricated documents to make it look as if the money was payment from a foreign government . . . and they say it will only make things worse for Bradley as he is already suspected of espionage. And it is not like they want me to say commit some horrible crime or anything. And so — I am sorry, Randall, I had to speak to someone – I mean, I have no one at the moment I can trust.”

I am not certain I shall ever truly trust anyone again.

“No no, it’s fine.” Randall said stroking his clean-shaven chin. “So you say they have manufactured evidence? You’ve seen it?”

I nodded, “Yes.”

“What do they want you to do?”

“They want me to assist them in obtaining some kind of information from a chemist. A Mr Winston Pleydell-Smith – he is on the board of The Chemical Society. He is also among the head chemists working for May & Baker, one of the more influential chemical companies in Britain. But, I gather it has to do with some previous work he did. It all has something to do with Petroleum. With my education and background in science, chemistry – that is why they selected me I gather.

“And how much of your debt is that worth?” He asked still leaning back in his chair.

“If I find what they are looking for then they will give me all the stuff they fabricated and I am debt free . . . they say.”

He sat forward he legs of his chair settling to the floor, “The origin of this debt was never in writing, I suggest you should get the terms of your . . . indenture, for lack of a better word, in writing if you can. If they will lie to your face about an agreement to pay back a perceived debt, then what is to say they won’t move the goalposts as far as it will take them."

I leaned forward and pulled at the edges of the handkerchief, "As I said, I am a fool. An absolute fool. But, you see, I am hoping that in assisting them, I can find some evidence of my own, something with which I can procure some leverage.”

“You’re only a fool if you do not learn from these past mistakes and adapt to them.” He told me with a reassuring smile, “Don’t keep admonishing yourself over it. The past is set, but the future is up in the air. Getting some dirt on them to counter blackmail is a good plan, but you have to be careful. To stop a con artist, you have to think like a con artist.” He half chuckled to himself. “I should know a thing or two about that.”

I smiled and handed him his handkerchief back, "Well, I have always been a rather quick study, double honours. I know that is school, but this is a different kind of schooling for it looks as if I am in for a definite learning experience from all this. I felt so foolish and I still do, but, I know I have to gather some pluck and stick this out. One think I know, they understand blackmail – if I can pull it off. If not, then perhaps I can use what ever they want for leverage should I find it.”

“There’s the radical spirit of the socialist.” He said, “Let the exploiters know on whose backs their fortunes are made.”

“If they think I am good enough to have been selected for this conspiracy, then I just have to use whatever they saw in me against them.” I said now with some conviction.

Randall put a comforting hand on my shoulder. “I will be happy to teach you what I can, and I do enjoy a good revenge counter-con. But I do want to make the offer one last time to flee. I don’t often speak of my past, but when I was a boy, my parents were dare I say it, con artists. They would set up a scam pretending to be some disgraced aristocrat with a sob story about needing to sell the family jewels, all paste of course. And then when they are found out, did we stick around to get caught? No, we were off to Liverpool with dad a poor miner and a broken leg, or Dover with Mum in need of a quick loan for a dowry to her betrothed’s brute of a father, played by a friend of course. The key to all this, is to be able to cut town and start a new life elsewhere. And I can help you with that, now or later.” I reached up and placed my hand upon his – for I could tell this was heart-felt. “But if you are insistent on staying and taking them down a peg, well then I’m here to help you to the end.”

“Thank you.” I patted his hand even as he gave my shoulder a reassuring squeeze, “But I feel I need to stay here in London, for now, until there is some word about Bradley. I feel – I just can’t help it, that he will reach out to me and I want to be there if he should.”

“Alright.” Randall suddenly took a few paces towards the far wall and turned smartly, hands behind his back as if addressing a classroom. "The first lesson is a simple one. The fine art of confidence is devising a creditable role and being able to adhere to it no matter the circumstance.”

“Theatrics.” I said. “Like acting.”

“Precisely.” And then he quickly summarized methodologies of the confidence trick, the grifter’s sleight-of-hand: he explained, in general, the need of the foundation work; the necessary approach; the opportunity of the build-up; the need for a convincer; the excitement of that crucial moment known as the Hurrah. He laid out the nuances of the short and the long con – the advantages and disadvantages to each.

“But the most important trick of all, is learning how to become invisible. How to disappear.” He told me once more looking down to the street, below, “Like your Miss Miniver – she is absolutely uncanny in that ability.”

“Yes,

He looked at me oddly.

“It is late, I must returned to the university,” I told him and gathered up my hat and gloves, and took my coat from the back of the chair.

He gave he a hug and the reassurance of that bright smile of his and he then watched as I stepped out and made my way back down Narrow Street for Limehouse Station. I was well aware as I being followed by the same large black man who had intervened with the drunken Hindoo – I felt the protection of Mr Ling the whole of the quick return to Limehouse Station. Timing of course being everything – in that I had been assured to allow myself only a brief time with Randall. The train soon arrived and I pushed in with the others boarding.

I sat ruminating over my conversation with Randall, in particular his instruction on Confidence – in that the most important thing was determining a role and playing it well. And so to that end – I resolved to become less timorous and become more a ‘member of the conspiracy.’ To give all appearance of acquiescence to my plight – perhaps even so far as to ask more of Lady Hélène’s operations on the continent and of her implied invitation to become some element of by giving the impression that I too wished as she said to extend my reach.

“There are so many treacheries in Limehouse my dear,” said Mr Pym as his voice broke my preoccupation and I looked up startled to see him standing there before me, as always well dressed, his hand leisurely riding in his trouser pocket, “As well as secrets.”

“Pym.” I think I might of hissed.

His smile grew and he sat down beside me in the rumble and rattle of the train. “Have you a secret, Vee? That is the appellation you father uses, is it not.”

I turned to look at him.

“A man of very strict habits.” He replied as he removed a silver cigarette case and opened it to remove one before offering then up to me. I shook my head.

“In certain circles it is consider dangerous to have strict habits – even more so should they be known.”

“You have me Mr Pym, I quite assure you. You can leave my father out of this.” I replied – this was bad, exceedingly bad. Miniver! How had I failed in not detecting her – and now she has brought Pym.

“Do I, Vee?” He lit the cigarette. “Do I really?”

“Yes—not withstanding this excursion . . .”

“For which?” He asked.

My hurriedly muddle through various ideas and then seized upon one, “I-I am to say the least undone Mr Pym. There are certain remedies for anxiousness –“

He laughed, “Miniver can provide all of that you could ever possible desire – she has done so already. No – there is a confident I would surmise, but, that is not why I am here. In fact this little outing of yours is really quite opportune. It gives us a moment to converse as we used to.” He brought the cigarette to this lips, “I do so miss our early morning conversations on the train from Morningside Park to London – don’t you?”

“No.”

“Ah, petulance does not become you Vee.” He replied and brushed away a bit of lint that had drawn his attention upon his trouser leg. “I understand Pleydell-Smith has inquired of you at the university – that lithe little body of yours having of course turned his head. He does so like them young. I suspect a visit to King’s College will shortly ensue.”

I looked at him – what was he about?

“See here Vee, I am well aware that even as we rumble long there are meetings transpiring between London and Paris in regards to the future of petroleum after the war. Carving up the Ottoman’s – so to speak. Spoils of War.” He exhaled a long plume of blue-sliver smoke into the railcar. “And so, I don’t know what it is that Beltham wants you to use that exquisite little . . . “ He sighed before using the vulgarity – he does so have such a wicked mouth, “To seduce from Pleydell-Smith, but once you have – and you have purloined it, I want you to bring it to me.”

What new madness was this – it was beyond comprehension. I looked at him, “Are you mad? You are suggesting betraying Lady Hélène your employer?”

“I am self-employed my dear.” He gave me a most mischievous look.

“I am not – I am indentured.” I told him.

“Yes – mores the pity. But as I said, strict habits are a liability some men cannot afford.”

“You would have her kill me?” I retorted.

His lips curled wryly, “Bring it to me. I want only to know what it is and to make a copy. And everyone is content, yes.”

I sat silently contemplating this new circumstance – I had looked into Lady Hélène’s eyes and well as Miss Miniver’s both were equally capable of murder. Mine.

The train rattled on for long moments. Mr Pym dropped his cigarette upon the floor of the carriage and stood. He smiled down at me, “You should take care in returning to the laboratory.”

As if well timed we pulled into the station and he turned and strolled leisurely out of the carriage. I sat looking at him stunned at the implications of his threat and the consequences of betraying Lady Hélène. He had just told me he would murder my father. And to do has he asked – they would murder me . . . should I be found out. A whirlwind of perplexity engulfed me.

But the train was not about to wait for me to gather my wits. I looked up to see those entering the carriage and I quickly gathered myself and stepped onto the platform. Amid a host of passengers now boarding the train, pushing past me I was preoccupied and beyond a doubt must have looked as dazed as I was confused. I felt myself proceeding toward the exit – making my way but barely cognizant of those I passed, retreating so as to move long the wall to get away from them. . . when suddenly I was grabbed and whirled into the dimness of a ill lit corner.

Miss Miniver stood with the exceeding strength of her hand grasping my throat as she pressed me up against the platform wall. “You best be forewarned.” She said, her voice having assumed a tone I had never heard from her lips as her lower jaw pressed forward in an slight under bite as her cuspids appeared now long and sharp; her head oddly moving as if she were an animal detecting a captivating scent, “There are two incomprehensible forces at work. Each at cross purposes. Forces of reckoning you do not desire to see the wraith of – Pym is a fool and it is best you realize,” her voice almost a hiss, “Who has your best interests. “

The grip on my throat was incredibly strong as I was held there – aware that those passing by seemed not to take notice. The rail car was beginning to move as she seemed to be resisting some inner turmoil. “Have you not been told you were selected from among candidates? You my dear were not the first.” The rattle and rumble of the train began to grow louder now as she pronounced her revelation: “You are their second best choice – their first was not as appealing to Pleydell-Smith as you. She lies diced up upon the embankment. Have a care Veronica – you do not follow her to the Thames.”

God to whom I have not prayed – help me.

View
There is Freedom Within . . .
Session Nine - Part Three

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Excerpt from the unpublished novel
by Carmichael Pemberton

When there are slack hours and one has become tired or jaded of the usual frivolities of the same old theatres, of the same old nightspots and revues, of the usual haunts and pubs and low-lit beer-cellars, of listening to the dreary bands playing the same old tunes, of the same weary, lily white ladies plying their fares upon the street or the playhouse lobby or the hotel bar, then one should look to the East. From the embankment along the Thames to the bilge-water and cobweb sky of Limehouse it is but an eastbound omnibus or a rattling carriage ride of the underground to the Limehouse Station. It is but a few miles traversed but in those few miles one has truly taken a journey from West to East and in so doing one has left behind the same old songs and food and dances and life itself. For in the East life here is full and large. Life here is raw and stripped of it’s fancy wrappings. Here Life collides with a different culture and different amusements and different vices. And here too Life can be repellent, for there are houses one may pass that seem to murmur of dreadful things. Windows from which there peer frightful eyes. For having left the West behind, one becomes aware that there is something here along those narrow, throttled byways which seems to be crawling insidiously as if to infect the blood. Excitement, filth, love, entertainment, and death. For as you enter the harsh circus of the forlorn, of the casual labourers, the outcasts and petty thieves, the whores and the seemingly ineffectual shopkeepers. There is a shadow that looms large. Here there lies the pleasures of the pipe, of young yellow girls, of cards, and dice, and dominos, of large stakes but they are watched and owned by the infamous Tongs – and of a far more sinister nocturnal power whose name perhaps Is known but remains fearsome to even whisper.

Thus in Limehouse one can find anonymity or one can quickly disappear to furtive underhand designs of those whose deeds are done in twilight because they are of evil intent.

And so our jaunty cadet, having stepped out of the surprising finery of a smut purveyor’s residence, put his cap on and pulled the collar of his coat up against the brisk winter’s wind as it tears apart the frosty plume of his breath. Hands in his coat pockets he proceeds to promenade down the Chelsea embankment until he arrives at the Westminster underground station. It’s quite the trek, but he takes his time, for he is seemingly deep in thought, staring out at the ships in the Thames.

In the distance the sound of Big Ben, echoing through the city, is a sudden reminder of the vastness of London – and the many places in which not only Bradley McFarlane may have found refuge, were he not a captive, but the darken recesses in which these nocturnal creatures of the fantastical may while away the hours of the day. He instinctively shudders – the unreality of it all is near incomprehension.

He takes the District Rail underground as far as Mark Lane, before getting off and stopping off for a bite at a small cafe near the Tower of London. As it is Sunday, the usual work a week crowd is off celebrating the God of All – and then, when the sanctuary doors swing wide, it is homeward bound for a grand Sunday meal. For the Cadet it is a light meal and a cup of tea with the proprietor, who in the slack time engages in a bit a playful banter and a long over do catching up as to the Cadet’s escapades. One of which the large moustached owner of the gas lit café suspects he is even now a part of, for the Cadet rising from his seat, settles his account and indicates he shall return but momentarily to continue their discussion of the ash blonde clerk and a bottle of pinched champagne as soon as he returns from the WC.

Only the moment turned into minutes, ten to be precise, and the affable proprietor collected the Cadet’s accounting and put it way in the till, his eyes narrowing as he surveyed the café, wondering from whom the jaunty Cadet was evading? For he was more than certain he would find his cap stored behind the upper tank of the toilet, and the dirty window left ajar.

Although the pavement is slick with ice and snow, there is ever the parade in Limehouse. The Cadet, newly deposited from the underground arises from Limehouse Station and walks measuredly, his head down and hands in his pockets. He turns off Poplar where there are yellow girls that live on the raw edges, and begins to make his way along Narrow Street. His new civilian cap he wears pulled low so that his eyes are all but concealed and yet he can furtively observe his surroundings. He suddenly steps aside a big black man with Oriental features whose slow tread is unswerving. In so doing he nearly collides with a creeping yellow man – who says something under his breath in either Chinese, Japanese, or Philippinese. He takes notice of a huge Hindoo who is walking rather slyly up close to the shop fronts. The Cadet maintains his pace, neither slowing or quickening with any obstacle. For in Limehouse it is best to become one with the shops and the public-houses, the fried-fish shops that punctuate every corner, the forlorn tenements. He had to become accustomed once more the perfume of the street – a scent of last week.

He walks up to a building that by all rights should have been condemned years ago and would have been in any other borough of the great city. Somewhere along Narrow Street a gramophone’s needle has been placed upon a melancholy groove which escapes from an open window. The Cadet’s attention caught on the plaintive tones looks to see if he can detect the window – and why it would be open on such a cold and mournful looking day. But it is Limehouse – and does there have to be a reason?

He produces a pair of keys from his pocket and as he does so he instinctively casts a wary eye for he is well aware the authorities here are but a perfunctory occurrence – usually when some slum tourist’s quest for entertainment comes to a bad end. He stops for a moment, palming his keys as he looks askance at some toff rounding the corner. He is dressed in evening wear, which appears quite unkempt. The Cadet stands for a moment, the music of the gramophone echoing in the winter air as the gent passes by, awkwardly, all but slipping to fall on a patch of nearly invisible ice. There is the lingering scent of opium about him. It quickly dissipates in the odour now of the river, from which comes the gull’s cry.

The gent cautiously continuing on his way down Narrow Street, the Cadet stands before the door and takes one of the palmed keys and unlocks his mail slot. There are two letters. One from an acquaintance he has intentionally kept some distance from and the other an old acquaintance of his mother’s. He smiles and stuffs the letters into his coat pocket and unlocks the door quickly pushing it open to step inside, well aware the odours the river and fried fish will only be slightly abated once indoors.

He closes the door behind him and stands for a moment, as he lets his eyes adjust to the musty hall in front of him. The interior is dimly lit – the light of day filtering through a small, high, filthy window. He replaced his keys into his pocket and walking over to the stairs, along the near wall, carefully stepped over the man snoring mightily, having passed out before he made it to his room and bed.

“Afternoon Gary.” The Cadet rather jaunty remarks, with only a mumble for a response.

On the second floor he walks along the rough planks of the hall to the third door, and there he unlocks the door to his rather furtive Limehouse residence – one he keeps in case his old life comes hurrying up out of the shadows to haunt him. As he entered the room he is startled to find a slight Oriental of mixed heritage standing at the window – his back to the Cadet. Smoke from a cigarette arising in the grey light of day falling through the dirty windowpane, “Welcome home. It good to see you old friend."

It is Sam Tai Ling.

In all of Limehouse, if there was one with whom the Cadet, should he find himself with his back against a wall, would be inclined to trust to have standing alongside him, it would be Sam Tai Ling of the Blue Lantern. A well-kept place, where one would find an international menu of surprisingly well prepared dishes, or, if an appetizing meal wasn’t one’s desired evening fare, then there could be found in one or two of the back rooms a game of fan-tan, or a shot whiskey or gin and a nice rice wine, if not a pellet for one’s pipe, or, the purchase of other varieties of Oriental delight – an if one were not so Celestially inclined, there was of course the pleasure one or two very young white girls could bring. The Blue Lantern was as well known as was Sam Tai Ling, who, upon first appearance, seemed to be one of the most genial souls one should ever happen to meet in this carnival of cynicism and menace. A loveable character radiating a charismatic gleam in his eye and a wide, pleasant smile – for among those whom he first meets he appears not at all to be among the immoral denizens one is well warned of upon entering Limehouse. But for one to be moral one must first subscribe to some morality. And Tai Ling does not. For as he says: ‘You cannot do right until you have first done wrong.” But then as the Cadet well knows, wrong and right are not particularly words Sam Tai Ling truly understands. For the Cadet, who has walked these harsh streets and frequented the dim-lit bars, knew the Sam Ti Ling behind the genial mask. A very dangerous man who had once been a member of the infamous Chinese brotherhood, the Azure Dragon Tong. Which incredible he belong no longer. A story the Cadet longed to hear but one which Sam Ti Ling nor the Azure Dragon ever spoke.

Of course there was a woman involved as there almost always is in a story as clouded as Sam Tai Ling’s – or at least in the little that the Cadet knew. A white woman, an actress by the name of Florence McLaren. But that is name long lost in the mists and fog of Limehouse – as it is only found on a missing person’s case in a cold case file in Scotland Yard – for no one ever truly missed Florence McLaren other than perhaps Mr Morphine. And today – on one, other than Sam Tai Ling, is ever allowed to call Lascar Sal, who owned the Cocoa Room, Florence. She is a woman with a most mysterious past. A woman, who is another very dangerous resident of Limehouse.

“Ah dear Sam.” The Cadet replied as he removed his cap and closed the door of this meagrely furnished two-room apartment, which had long since seen its better days.

There was a table, a couple of chairs, a wardrobe and dresser, a small narrow bed, with a beaded curtain separating the main room from the small narrow kitchen. It was not quite wretched, for there were far lousier rooms to be had, but for the Cadet this had never intended to serve as a residence. It was a well concealed hide-away should the need arise. “It is good to see you as well. You seem in better health then when I last saw you."

Dressed in a black oriental jacket and slacks, the slender Oriental wore as well a black cap. He turned to offer a wide smile at the Cadet “Ah, fortune does seem to smile upon me. As well as you.” He lifted the cigarette to his lips, “Please excuse my intrusion – but, that uniform, in Limehouse is ever like the receipt of an urgent telegram telling me my old friend is arriving.”

The Cadet offered a smile as he placed his cap down and walks over to the coal brining stove and pulls an oil lamp off the shelf, setting it on the small stable near the window. “It’s the stripe on the pants isn’t it. The cap is civilian, the coat is generic, but the damned stripe gives it all away.” He took out a match and snapping a flare of a flame as he lifted the glass and lit the wick of the oil lamp, off putting some of the gloom. He then pulled out the two dusty hardwood framed and wicker seated chairs and sits in one of them, motioning for Sam to do the same.

Sam nods and returns the smile: “It is but the little things in life, my friend.” He took a seat with the smoke of his cigarette seemingly creating a halo about him. He rather languidly motioned to an envelope lying on the table between them. “It would be wise, my friend, to so inform such a lovely young lady that it is not wise to be on Narrow Street alone.”

The Cadet notices the envelope for the first time. And picks it up, examining it. He gives Sam a quizzical look, who in return looks at him quite passively, as he exhales a curling plume of cigarette smoke. “I listen and I hear from one of my ears that there is quite a lovely lady – young and white and lost I presume – but no, I hear again, and it seems she seeks out the humble rooms of who, but my friend – who stays away for far too long. I think, I know he is not here, for if he were to be, it would a Sunday – and alas – it is not a Sunday. And so, I step out from the Blue Lantern to find her here, outside your door, most anxious, for she is uncertain of the slot – she thinks: will he get the letter?” He explains all so casually, "I step up and offer to allow her to leave it here for you? Now, am I not a good friend?’

The Cadet smiles, “Sure thing Sam, but you are also a good friend to everyone, when first they meet you.” He checks to see if the envelope has been tampered with before putting it in his coat pocket with the other two letters, pulling out a pre rolled cigarette in it’s place. “So how long have you been waiting? Not long I hope?”

“Only a short time. As I said, word comes to me that my friend is seen leaving Limehouse Station. And I say, ah, it must now be Sunday. For as I said, it is only upon a Sunday he comes around to see his old friends. And alas, here you are.” He flicks ashes upon the dusty floor boards. “And as you see, I have made sure your letter from so sweet a young lady is safe and awaits to find itself in your hand.” He smiles, "Perhaps you should read it. She was most anxious and in the greatest of hurries. But alas, I think it was more than merely from Limehouse she wishes to be departed.”

“Perhaps.” he picks up the oil lamp to light his cigarette. “I figure most would. Would you like to take your Blue Lantern out of Limehouse? Say, set up shop in say, Whitechapel, or even Lambeth?” he breaths in the smoke, setting the lamp down before exhaling a long plume out of the corner of his mouth.

“Limehouse without the Blue Lantern?” Sam Tai Ling remarked, “It would hardly be the same. And I? I would not be the same, for Limehouse and I have been for long time one among the other. But what of you? How fares my friend? Times are good?"

The Cadet sighed and leaned back in his chair. “To be fully honest my old friend, no. My buddy at the Admiralty has gone missing. Worse yet, the peelers are after him. That bird, assuming it’s who I think it is, is his sweetheart.”

Sam frowns slightly as he brings the cigarette to his lips, “Ah, so the most lovely one regretfully does not seek to spend time with my friend. This is a great sorrow. As to this friend of yours – has he gone missing in his own regards? Or have others seen to it that he has been misplaced?”

The Cadet leaned his chair back against the wall a bit. “I’m inclined to figure the latter. I don’t peg him as the most surreptitious of folk, but I have been wrong before, as you well know.”

Sam Tai Ling now breaks into a wide smile. “Ah, yes. Sing-a-song Joe and the poor Flash Florrie. I told you long time, Sing-a-song Joe was the one to watch as his half-wittedness had far more of the wit about him, seeing as how the Salvation Army would not enlist him, the Asylum would not have him, and the Coppers seemed far too bored of him; whereas Flash Florrie, she was but bedevilled by far too much a reputation – none of it good. Only I knew, Flash Florrie, long time and she had had her man Greaser Flanagan done in by the Roseleaf Boys – and if she were to have been a nark it would have been then she would have taken up the traffic with the coppers.”

The Cadet frowned as it was one of the very few times he had been so gulled. Sing-a-song Joe with is penny-whistle and half tied shoes. He had been well and truly gulled and that was a fact. “Yeah well we both were well fooled by Gracie Goodnight.”

Sam laughed, “Gracie Goodnight. The loveliest hair that ever was seen east of Aldgate Pump. Melodious as an autumn sunset
. Oh, now that girl knew a thing or three.” His cigarette lingering about the curled lips of a smile of some fond reflection, “We have seen one too many kiss-me girls, you and I.”

Tilted back in his chair the Cadet nodded, “That we have, Sam—that we have.”

“This lovely, the sweet of heart to your friend,” Sam replied, tapping ashes to the floor from his cigarette, as he cut his eyes toward the Cadet, “There is something of her that tell me she knows one too many tricks and her sleeve holds others. Beware, my friend. But, for you – I shall see what my many eyes may see and hear what my countless ears may hear of this missing friend of yours. I would be correct in surmising that he of whom you speak, this the Lieutenant, he is the one being sought for the most unfortunate death of the woman whose bits and pieces were found cast upon the Embankment?" And he drops the stub of his cigarette to the floor and crushes it with the toe of his shoe.

“The very same. I do appreciate it Sam. I know we go way back, but still, I owe you one. If you could put an eye or two on the bird too. I just want to make sure she’s safe. As you say, it is not wise for a young lady to be on Narrow Street alone.”

Sam nods, "This I have done, for I made certain she was safely escorted back to Limehouse Station. And should she return, my eyes will see.” He leans back in his chair, "This lovely bird who flies to you, she is sweetness to this Lieutenant for whom the peelers seek? Then many eyes may be upon her. His in longing to find an opportune time to meet, and those who seek him – knowing he may long for her lips. For they are indeed lips that should be kissed.”

“You are right, she is a lovely bird.” The Cadet nodded, but their conversation was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a distant knocking. Knocking insistent upon the front door of the shabby building.

Sam Tai Ling looks to the Cadet and then rises to step over to the dirty window which looked out upon Narrow Street below, while the Cadet tipped his chair forward and stood up,. Grabbing his cap from the stovetop, he goes over to slightly open the door of the room in order to listen as he hears the knocking and the snoring of the vagabond Gary still lying at the foot of the stairs.

The knocking continues.

Sam turns from the window, "Ah, my friend, it is the lovely bird – come to your nest. Best you answer your door.”

The Cadet closes the door and steps quickly over to the window, where Sam Tai Ling make room to allow him to risk a glance out to see. There below, he sees all too familiar loveliness of Veronica Wells who stands nervously before the front door. She knocks again and tires the latch – but it is locked.

“I suppose she wised up to leaving her message with a complete stranger.” The Cadet remarked as he hurried to the door of his room, “I’ll be back.”

San Tai Ling stood, hands clasped casually behind his back, at the filthy window and looked down to Narrow Street. He took notice of a man fumbling and shouldering his way along the street, growing ever near the lovely chestnut hair beauty standing at the Cadet’s door. Sam’s left hand rose to signal through the dirt of the windowpane.

View
Detective of the Obscure
Session Nine - Part Two

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Zo Renfield (New Notebook)
12 March 1916, London – Sunday Morning For lack of a writing desk, which is quite distracting, I have taken to sitting at the small dressing table of one of this gentleman’s guest rooms. Of which he seems to have far too many for a bachelor in my opinion – and it is quiet obvious from the moment I met him as to why he remains one as he appears to me to be too self-sufficient, very intense, and by far much too brusque. I am not at all sure I like his manner – especially in his address to Kiss, which I began to pointedly conveyed to her last night as she began undressing to slipping into some very gossamer nightgown which Mr Carnacki had provided and that I could not help but ponder as for whom it had been originally intended. So—he may be arrogant and rude but apparently he must in some way fascinate such ladies as would wear such a garment . . . which is in no way to disparage Kiss, who looked quite lovely in it . . . and who I cannot fathom every wearing anything in which she would not look quite lovely . . . and more so than merely just lovely last night in the thin, frailness of that gown’s gossamer lace. Can I be I am so truly blessed? No—that is not at all possible. I mean – why would God actually bless me? Particularly owing not only to the fact I cannot think of a single thing I could put in my ledger which I have done for him lately, or, for that matter in quite some time, nor precisely when I lasted graced a pew, but, for the perverse longing I felt when, as accustomed as I am to wearing nothing to bed, I felt Kiss in the sheerness of the her gown pressing up against me as she pulled the bedclothes up around us to place a comforting arm about me. For there was a sudden gush of the heart and a profound breathlessness I have never felt before and did my best not to dream so as to fall together onto slumber. And so, if there were any blessings to be dispensed, then they surely must have been for Kiss as she was miraculously able to extricate us from those monstrous lawyers . . . whom I have always had an aversion but little did I know to what depths of evil they truly represent . . . to what extent their jaws long to bite. Providence surely shown down upon her war of roses as her bouquet was magically transformed into a vorpal blade. And what a wondrous weapon she made of their thorns. Their blood red petals loosened are all but gone now. They lie here before me. A spray of broken stems. I have contemplated the pricking of their thorns, tempted to prick my thumb against one to see what pain they bring. What pain their crimson petals belie. As sharp and painful as his teeth? He wanted to bite. Bite her lovely throat. I was so terrified but could not would not show it for Kiss who was just as terrified but would not could not show it for me. Run as ever as fast as you can and keep on running she had said. Her courage beyond anything I can ever possibly repay. She was going to sacrifice herself for me. My Christ using her crown of thorns to beat back the Devil. Down the elevator and out through the revolving door and into the street. And yet, I do not have clear a recollection of getting into the motor car. I was just suddenly there in the vehicle beside her, watching and waiting in trepidation of the inevitable swarm of flies to come bellowing out from the swinging door. An evil swarm amassing: a black cloud of filthy flies. I watch for them even now . . . sitting as I am looking out the window to the grey waters of the Thames and the wheeling gulls seeking to dive for their prey. I know they are coming. I know they are watching – waiting – sending out the eyes of their flies. And yet, this so called fabulous finder of ghost did not want to listen to me about the flies. No matter what he thinks of the madness of my grandfather passed to the granddaughter – my madness is manifest in a myriad of ways. They do not understand the flies he is going to bring—but I am well aware. Well not of the whole of it as yet for she has not been so forthcoming. But she has told me to beware of the Lord of the Flies. And not to despair – for she is coming, coming across the sea . . . in order to shatter his haloes of flies. Of course, I don’t think Kiss nor Mr Carnacki understand anything that I say of course I don’t know whether or not I understand anything of what I am saying either. Or if I am saying it. I just know the voice in my head tells me so. How? I do not know—

Which is why I so dreaded sleep and the dreams that come – and I took Kiss hand and I asked her not to put out the light.

I think I cried out once but Kiss held me tight.

When I awoke, it was not a frabjous day. For I was alone, sitting up in the big bed of the this strange man’s house, alone, with no Kiss to comfort me. And I felt the urge once more for my rituals. I slipped out from beneath the bedclothes to sit on the edge of the bed and touch the floor with my toes. Six times before rising. I cautious moved to the window, which was slightly frosted, as I checked to ascertain the window fitted well so that no fly could make its way in through the trim and sill. I peered out between the curtain to find another grim, grey day. Below I spotted a man in a rather heavy overcoat and top hat and scarf wrapped about his neck to half conceal his face from the brisk wind as he strolled along the embankment – the severe waters of the Thames behind him. Did he turn to look up at me? Was he holding a pair of opera glasses? I stepped back suddenly.

It took some time to make myself presentable – fighting as best I could against the urge of sixes. And so, I went down to breakfast. My fist grasping the empty pendant about my neck, which once held the key to the lockbox of documents, and I could not help but worry about Lady Penelope and Robert and their sweet, sweet little Kathryn.

What have I done? With the coming of morning, I feel the full import of the consequence of my actions. I fear for them. The flies are out and about. Will they come now knock, knocking, knocking upon their door – where of course some unsuspecting servant, no doubt a young house maid, or worse, oh yes, the nurse, what is her name, I can not remember, I know I have met her, with perhaps Kathryn dashing around and about her hem and ankles, so eager to play, as she strides toward the door, a smile upon her face. The knock, knock, knocking of the knocker continuing to knock upon their door. Would they wait to be allowed in – or, will they rush in upon them with opening of the door, with their open mouths exposing their sharp teeth. Like gulls diving into the Thames. Going for their throats?

I absolutely have to send word to her straightway – if not I should have Kiss go round to explain and collect the documents I had given her yesterday. But then some horrid selfishness whispered to me not to let Kiss depart from me – to ring Lady Penelope up instead and ask her to come round here to Cheyne Walk, and to bring back the package I have given her – and to forget everything I may have told her, anything she might have seen. Which is precisely what they would be loitering about, watching and waiting. Waiting for the opportunity – to see whom I may have given the documents to if they were not aware I had given the information away.

Quietly I descended the highly polished stairs to the entry hall, my all too observant eyes glancing at the empty drawing room which was far too masculine. There was little in the way of a woman’s touch about it. I turned to make my way toward the cozy dining room where I found Kiss. She was eating a slice of buttered toast upon which she was just adding a bit of marmalade, even as she was reading something of interest from the Sunday Times. The toast and marmalade looked so very appealing. And the scent of the bacon even more so. She looked up from the Times broadsheet, which she had laid out upon the table, to give me a most reassuring smile as she motioned toward the large sideboard upon which were arranged dishes and cups and flatware as well as various silver serving dishes.

“Is it a good morning?” I asked stepping over and lifting the lid of one of the silver platters to find the delicious scented strips of entangled bacon. I used a fork to place several pieces upon a plate and then found the scrambled eggs.

“It is still a bit early.” Kiss replied lifting her cup of coffee, “I had hoped to have heard something from Carnacki – but, then again, he does have his methods.”

I replaced the lid on the platter of eggs, “What if – what if they were lying in wait for him.” I asked, my back to her, not wanting her to see my hand tremble.

She gave me that wry smile of hers, as I hesitated and turned to walk over to the cozy dining table, “I can assure you Zo, he has been in quite a few uncanny situations. In fact, I received a telegram this morning. He has been to your office. He is still investigating – should he need our assistance he will get word to me.”

As I was looking about—having taken my seat, Kiss as ever anticipated my needs as she poured me a cup of tea from the service upon the table near at hand and passed the cup and saucer. I could tell what Kiss really longed to be doing this morning, other than breakfasting here with me and glancing at the Times was to be out and about investigating upon her own. I feared if she were free of Cheyne Walk upon straight order she would have immediately called upon the Law Society to inquire upon Sir John Paxton and his terrible confederate, Mr Carlyle Templeton.

I sat and slowly buttered my toasted, “I know you want to leave me.” I looked across the table at her, at the exquisite green cat’s eyes. “And really, it is quite understandable. I mean – look at what . . . what I have gotten you into . . . Kiss, the danger I have brought upon you,” I took a small nibble. “Even as I have put Lady Penelope and her whole family –

“Yes, well, I thought you would be concerned about that so I rang up straightway this morning.” She told me, “I am having an inquiry agent from the office keep an eye upon them.”

I took a sip of tea – fresh and hot – and nodded, totaling the cost of my mistakes. For I had been far too indiscreet, too public, even as I was well aware they were watching – ever watching – but, I had been unaware that there was something . . . a bit more recherché than mere criminals and embezzlers involved.

She smiled, “Havelock owes me a favour or two.”

“Havelock?” I asked taking another nibble.

Her smile grew a bit more professional, “Just a name.”

Which I gathered was my cue to not ask any more questions than necessary – although, as I sipped my tea there were an ever growing multitude of inquires I so longed to ask of her as I was ever so fascinated . . . I longed to know more about her, to know her as a child, to know her likes and dislikes, the books she had read, the music she listened to, whether she went to the theatre, whether she liked opera. I longed to learn all about her background, the things she had done – the things that had been done to her to make her so dangerous as she was when the time came – for I saw her with the automatic, the ease with which she pulled the trigger, and the dangerous edge of cruelty about the eyes when she thought she had placed a well aimed shot in the forehead of the man who had accompanied Sir John Paxton.

Most importantly, I wanted to know what she thought of me. If she thought me mad. I wanted to ask her if she heard the voices speaking about me. In particular, I wanted to know if she heard her voice?

I took a another bite of my toast, careful to not allow the crumbs to fall upon the white table cloth that appeared far too immaculate, which was a wonder – and the marmalade was delicious. As was the bit of supper we had the night before . . . some Moroccan dish obviously prepared for a dinner party Mr Carnacki had, with some reticence, rang up to postponed giving his regrets to someone by the name of Dodgson.

I must admit, this Mr Carnacki has rather a lovely house and he seems oddly financially secure for a man of his occupation – a ghost finder, or a detective of the obscure, as Kiss had tried to explained upon our arrival. He seems a bit eccentric to me. There is a strange room full of books with interconnecting stars inlaid upon the floor. Something decidedly uncommon and no doubt occult to be sure. There are as well various odd curios and objet d’arts sitting all about the house – even in the guest room where Kiss and I spent the night. Although I am most thankful for his hospitality and the nights sanctuary, there is something I do not like about this house. I found everything to be far too overly masculine, which was much to be expected (which of course only adds to the mystery of the gossamer nightgown he had given to Kiss). There are ash trays set about everywhere and the room smells of tobacco: pipe and cigarettes and cigars. There are books and papers and survey maps and copies of old newspapers scattered about the parlour, as well as stacked in obscure out of the way niches so as not to clutter the room entirely. He has several servants. First off, there is the butler, Enfield, whom I do not care for at all – he is much too tall, his eyes are too narrow, and his teeth are to large, his chin is more than a trifle haughty and there is something much too supercilious in his tone for a servant. The footman is too young and the cook? I have yet to see or hear the cook. Perhaps, she is but a ghost he had found and coaxed into preparing his meals.

Kiss folded up the Times and set it aside and rose to step over to look out the window. She is restless . . . I did not say anything, only wondered if the man in the top hat was still perambulating about the embankment – like one of those foul, gulls wheeling above the waters of the Thames awaiting to strike. “There is no reason for concern, Zo, as I am not going to leave you alone – not until Carnacki returns.” She said as she continued to look out the window. “For the moment this will be my centre of operations.”

I sighed with relief. I wanted to thank her – but I felt I had already become tedious in having done so far too many times already. And I was certain it was unnecessary – for she knew how unsettled I was – how very anxious. Everything I own is out there beyond the walls of Mr Carnacki’s residence, all alone and left unprotected – I can only imagine to what state I will find my house, my possessions, my ledgers, my journals, my diaries. My servants. And most of all my poor innocent clerks. What if I am not there tomorrow? They will arrive to do a day’s business. Will these monstrous lawyers come for them?

Kiss tells me she also rang up Mrs Ormond and made some contrivance to the fact that I was ill and would not be in tomorrow – possibly even the day following. Lord they may think I am finally being fitted for a straight waistcoat – “Following her grandfather on into commitment, I would hazard,” they may say with a sad shake of the head. ‘What of us Mrs Ormond? Shall we all be dismissed – it is not as like they will allow her access to her cheque book, I would imagine – and it is not at all easy I would think trying to write strapped up in one of them lunacy waistcoats they make’em wear.” Will they know . . . to evacuate should they see the flies flittering about as they come to gather. Filthy and perched, waiting, those nasty legs rubbing together as they assemble slowly. First one, then another, soon, by twos and threes. Kiss said Mrs Ormond said for me to take care and not to worry – not to worry? She would handle everything. Handle everything? What will my investors say – what will they think – they will see, know, what madness lies behind my façade.

Only – Kiss can testify to the reality of my unreality.

It is all so real and unreal and surreal. And so, I after breakfast I returned to the guest room, where I sit to make as accurate accounting as I can – if only I had my own journal. This paper – it is all wrong. It is not the right colour Ivory. It feels terrible. So—as I had said, earlier, somewhere in this entry, I think, as he had escaped the building, I had watched for the bothersome fly to find it’s way to follow as Kiss took us straightway to this rather grand house on Cheyne Walk. I must discuss his investments – as he is very well situated for what he does for an occupation. He must have a considerable annual income from another source.

Kiss hurried up the whitewashed stone steps, past the wrought iron fence and gate that contained the slight strip of a lawn – my eyes looking for and finding several rose bushes struggling to thrive in the snow, while Kiss was keen to survey all within her view as we awaited the opening of the door. It was that Enfield. Kiss introduced herself and stated with some emphasis that we had to see Mr Carnacki. The butler seeing the gun in her hand lifted his brows in some dismay and indicated that was not at all possible. Kiss pushed past him calling out for Carnacki. The prim gentleman opened a side door, “What is this?” He checked a pocket watch. “I have guests arriving for dinner. This interruption can not be tolerated. Enfield,” he looked at the butler and waved a formal dismissive hand toward us. “Out they go.”

“Thomas.” Kiss boldly stepped forward past the well starched servant and further into the confines of the lavish foyer with its expensive Persian rugs, “It is Cressida Carstairs. Little Stopping. The Lascivious Communion?”

“The Lascivious Communion.” He said with a brusque yet mellow voice. “Ah, yes. Miss Carstairs. Miss Carstairs and her Browning. I can think of only a few inquires that were as abominable as was that horrid affair revealed itself to be. What with that wicked Vicar and his licentious sister. Yes – quite a night it was in that unholy church. As I remember, you were an inquiry agent for Brand.” He snapped the pocket watch closed. “So, Cressida Carstairs. What brings you to my door at this most inopportune hour?”

“I just shot two men, one square in the chest, the other in the forehead.” Kiss told him evenly – her voice so amazing – not a trace of emotion, “To no ill effect – other than staggering them a mite. Whereas these, “ she held up what remained of the roses, “Had an almost vitriolic effect.”

He stepped from the threshold further into the foyer and looked at the battered bouquet of wild roses. “Roses you say.” He looked at Kiss and then at myself, “I can see, generally, you are in an most anxious state. Surely, something precious unholy as just transpired.” To this he made another wave of his hand to the butler resending his initial command.

“Enfield – we shall have tea.” He turned and then stopped, “It can not be helped. You will have to inform tonight’s dinner guests we shall have to postpone. Something extraordinary, I conjecture, is about to come to my way – and I am more than certain it will require my all attention.”

Thus we entered into his large sitting room where he had a fire going well behind the grate. He motioned us to chairs and then took up one in which he had apparently been occupying previous to our sudden intrusion into his home. “Two shots you say, One to each?” He asked lifting the glass of brandy he had sitting beside him, “With little or no effect. And knowing you – they were well placed indeed I dare say.”

“I dare say.” Kiss replied as she stepped over to the side table and lifted a crystal decanter to pour herself a rather stout bandy. Meanwhile, I stood looking about the room, the tall, handsome bookcases, the heavy framed portraits on the wall, the well kept house plants, the thick draperies, the small curios and artefacts – and, as I have already mentioned, I think – yes, earlier, the room was very masculine.

“You know my methods, Cressida – so, please, do articulate further.”

Kiss then began a lengthy recitation of her initial employment as an inquiry agent for me – and in so doing she in turn introduced Thomas Carnacki, whom she called an Consulting Occultist, to me and I to him. I immediately took note of the look in his eyes – a recollection of the name? Did he know of my grandfather’s mania? Certainly he had read of Stoker’s accounting, disguised as fiction. Father should have sued the man – and I certainly would. . . . had he not succumbed to a number of strokes – or so they said, whereas I had certainly heard far more scandalous rumours as to his demise. But far be it to me to speak ill of the dead, for I am sure there will be far more rumours concerning my own, as they incessantly whisper about me while yet among the living. And so I am digressing . . . Kiss then proceeded to explain her discoveries and her report regarding ColdFall House and the mysterious member of the Board of Directors, Count De Ville.

“I am familiar with the name,” He said evenly, “He is one of several financial backers of the Journal of the Occult.”

Cressida took a long sip of her brandy and then related to him how I had rung up Hudson & Brand this afternoon and asked for her to stop by, she explained in detail my concerns and how I wished to hire her, less as inquiry agent now, but for personal security, which she revealed to him she felt I was very much in need for she had immediately spotted those who had been sent to observe Renfield International Investments, and watched as they approached the building and then gave him all the particulars in regards to their sudden assault.

“Yes, well, I do have an opinion as to the circumstances of these remarkable events, as you have presented them to me, but, as you know my methods, I would much rather complete a most careful examination of Miss Renfield’s office, before I feel comfortable in telling it all out straight.” He informed her.

Kiss indicated that she would accompany him – which distressed me to no end – but thankfully Mr Carnacki shook his head emphatically, “No—you are to stay here with Miss Renfield. If things are as I suspect, then the night is the most dangerous of times for her and I advise you stay ever near her.” He arose and stepped over to a well polished secretary and opened it to reveal several small drawers, from which he with withdrew two crucifixes and some other silvery objects. He then opened another drawer and took out a revolver. “Here. I am not at all sure of these.” He said handing Kiss the crucifixes – “but these, should have far more stopping power.” He handed her a fist full of silver bullets and the revolver.

“Silver is not the best material for a bullet, Thomas,” Kiss said as she weighed them in her palm.

“Oh, I quite agree. But you see, these are regular cartridges which have been plated with pure silver.”

“Then you suspect?” Kiss did not further specify what she felt he or she suspected – thought I was more than certain what with their sharp teeth and jaws that bite. They were something far more inclined to Eastern Europe than fashionable London streets – or so one would have thought before having read that horrid book of lies.

“As I say, always expect the obvious and prepare for the impossible.” He gave her a smile which seem oddly insincere, “Now – I am off.”

He thus retired to another room leaving us alone. We were there for about twenty minutes when the butler arrived to tell us that dinner would be served in the dinning room. It was the delicious Moroccan dish – a recipe I have to obtain, should I find the cook.

For a while after we had tried to make ourselves comfortable in his drawing room – and no doubt Kiss was far more successful, but, as I have said – I did not at all like the ‘feel’ of this house – even as it has become a sanctuary. Kiss tried to ease my anxiety as we played Pinochle – until the hour grew late.

Enfield arrived to tell us the bed in our guestrooms and been turned down and Mr Carnacki had provided suitable sleeping attire. I asked if there were a notebook available – one that has not been used.

“I shall seek one for you Miss.” He motioned for us to follow him.

“A new one – it must be a new one,” I said, “Preferably from a French Stationer. With Ivory paper.”

He gave me that haughty look and indicated he would see what was ‘available’ and continued our escort up the stairs to the guest rooms – but, as the butler motioned to Kiss to indicate her room – and added: “And, Miss Renfield shall be most comfortable, across the hall.” Kiss told him it would be best if I stayed with her – and we retried to the bedroom he had indicated for Kiss.

Once I closed the door, I watched as she moved toward the window and I saw her check the lock, the trim and sill.

“Something wrong?” I asked.

“No—“ She replied, “Nothing, most likely.”

Still I stepped over to the window and looked down to see a man walking along the embankment. He wore a naval cap and overcoat with the collar pulled up warmly against the wind blowing in from the Thames. He seemed a casual enough young gentleman.

“He has passed by twice.” Kiss said as she watched him.

“Law Society, Box Bothers, or others?” I asked her.

“I am not sure,” she replied, “But, he is a professional.”

View
A Morning Dove
Session Nine - Part One

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Surveillance report, EYES ONLY OHOLIBAMAH
Randall Tanner, 4 D’Arblay St, Soho, 12 March 1916

Subject has been at residence since arrival from Kings’s College, where subject met Lord Charles Standish. Surveillance was standard, two watching premises front and back, while subject observed by third from corresponding rooftop using telescopic equipment. Subject spent most of the evening reading while occasionally consulting some notation, or making his own notes. A short time was taken in the preparation of and the partaking of dinner. Subject did not leave the premises nor did he receive any visitors. At 1:00 am, subject left his flat and descended the stairs and opened the front door of the premises to let a tomcat, domestic, grey and with white stripling, enter said domicile. As subject was at door speaking to said feline, subject gave a quick survey of the small lawn and roadway, and the appeared to flick a small piece of paper on to the street next to the building’s entrance. Subject then closed the door, once more ascended the stairs to his flat and retired to bed.

A member of the surveillance team, concealed in an a narrow alleyway, having tossed aside his cigarette, was furtive in his careful retrieval of discarded paper. Cautiously returning across icy streets, paper was passed up and reviewed. It contained the following 12 45 22 22 15 42 34 21 21.

Passed said note to awaiting cab in order to route said paper to PEACE.

Memorandum: PEACE to OHOLIBAMAH
2:00 AM, 12 March – to be attached to full report

You are correct, Cadet Tanner is certainly the stuff. A bit of a lark and mischief right off: 12 45 22 22 15 42 34 21 21.

Surveillance report, EYES ONLY PEACE
Randall Tanner, 4 D’Arblay St, Soho, 12 March 1916

Subject arises 9 AM. Pops downstairs quickly to let the cat back out. Subject takes note of a broom man working to clear away accumulation night’s flurry of snow. Broom man, a bit shabby, wearing a coat two-sizes too large, appears to be disinterested in subject. Subject waves to the broom man: Mornin’ to ya gov’ Watch the tom mind ya.” The broom man looks up to glance at the cat which is cautiously moving in the snow looking as if it does not want to put a paw down. Whereupon subject enters residence, retreating from the cold. Follow up: Broom Man; ascertain if any messages affixed to feline.

Half-an-hour later subject reemerges in uniform and peacoat, proceeds down the street and enters a small bakery, not an Aerated Bread Company. He orders a scone and picks up the morning paper and sits down to breakfast.

Several customers enter into the bakery. Some take their scone and tea or coffee and have a seat, while others step back out into the brisk morning air. No apparent contact with subject.

Subject leaves bakery and heads to the Oxford Circus underground station. Straightforward, no subterfuge or attempts to circumvent any possible surveillance. Subject destination: Chelsea.

Subject takes the Bakerloo line to Charing Cross, then the District railway to Slone Square Station. Proceeds to 15 Cheyne Walk – stops and looks at PEACE’s residence, then proceeds to walk around the block once before stopping once more in front of the building.

Subject opens the gate and goes inward. stopping just before the door.

A couple: the male approximately five-feet-seven, well dressed, brown hair, small moustache; the female, approximately five-feet-two, a dark walking dress, small hat, black hair. They proceed leisurely down the opposite side of the street. Couple previously seen at bakery, where subject took breakfast.

The couple continued down the sidewalk, the lady’s hand holding the gentleman’s elbow as they seem to converse. Subject appears to recognize them as well. Follow Up: Ascertain identity of couple.

Subject turns one last time to take a long uninterrupted view of the river. He then turns back and knocks upon the door.

A motor cab pulls up and stops before No. 15 Cheyne Walk.

Subjects attention is drawn to the opening of the door.

Report PEACE: EYES ONLY OHOLIBAMAH
12 March 1916 - The morning had tried to escape from me as it usually does. It had begun at 2 a.m. with the arrival of the cryptic riposte from Tanner and at then at Six came the telegram from Exeter. And things had not gotten any better. I had dashed off two replies, and sent word to Milton. And so, while awaiting further word of my roguish Cadet, I was having to balance two unevenly weighted matters. The first being Evelyn Mayhew, a seamstress from a poor millinery shop who had become a theatre-woman in the hopes of saving enough to make her passage through William Action’s transitory state with enough to return to respectability. To that end she had decided to add smut to her repertoire. Only, she could not find her way to being punctual, even if it were to be to her own funeral oratory. The second matter being my father, who at the most inopportune time saw fit to ring me up. He wanted to be reassured that I was to visit my mother today, being as it was Sunday, and I had not visited her Sunday last – or in thinking upon it, the Sunday prior as well. His unhappiness with my failure was, of course, off-set by his great good pleasure in that my brother was apparently taking on a new dealership. He wanted to know if things were going well with my charitable works. Whenever he brought it up, I was uncertain as to whether he did in order to try and ascertain the veracity of my supposed social occupation. He asked about something in the Balkans, in Romania he thought, The Society for The Favour of War Orphans or some such, and if I had a moment to look into it, as he was of a mind to dash off a check. While simultaneously I had Venetia refreshing Evelyn’s cup of coffee and to be sure the head-strong young woman would have to wait until I placated my father.

And so, I having just rang off and was preparing to turn to Evelyn – who gave me a sardonic smile, having overheard most of my call – there came the sound of the door knocker – as the parlour room doors were open.

I was in need of a cup of coffee myself as I watched Evelyn take a sip, “Now, Evelyn, if you wish for me to continue to provide appointments for photographic sessions –“ I began even as I could hear Venetia making her way across the foyer to the front door, whereupon opening it she inquired: “Yes, Sir, and what may I do for you?"

I immediately recognized the voice of my impish Cadet (who no doubt was doffing his cap and giving her that far too charming smile, which I knew Venetia would not return), “Good morning miss. The name’s Cadet Tanner, I’m here to see Miss Dove. She dropped something of hers you see, and I’m here to return it.”

“Did she now?” She replied, “Well, then, you must come inside, if you please.”

I found myself once again divided between Evelyn and Cadet Tanner. I was more than certain after he stomped the snow off his boots and entered, he would be intrigued by his inspection of the foyer, and so begin to make various inferences. I explained to Evelyn that our discussion was going to have to be discontinued until we had more time as we walked over toward the open double doors of the parlour. “I can not but stress upon the importance of punctuality, for I can not continue to be of service to you, if we can not rectify this situation. My clients expect a certain respect for time – you must remember in this regard you are a model now.”

I stepped out to see the Cadet looking up at the crystal chandelier, the polished floors, the rich furnishings, the Persian rug, and the large curved staircase that led up to the second floor landing. It was not the house one would expect of a agent arranging the bookings of models for purveyors of smut. I took note of his eyes as they fell upon my figure within my midnight blue dress, with it’s white lace collar and long cuffs – as well as the petite brunette in a dark skirt, French blouse and waistcoat, wearing a jaunty hat who followed me out of the parlour. “Right—but how’s it my fault if the cab is late—and in this weather.”

Randall lifted a brow as he stepped to the side, saying nothing as Venetia took his cap and scarf and proceeded to place them within the coat closet.

I sighed, “There is a cab awaiting for you now. Mr Frosbisher is expecting you in half an hour. Now—you are fine posing with another woman?”

Evelyn nodded, “Quite right – in fact I likes it better, that way.”

“Good. Please now no side attractions. He will be awaiting at his Strand studio.”

“Right Miss Dove.” She was much too agreeable, but then she was busy surveying Randall Tanner with her quick and ready eye.

“Cadet Tanner.” I said turning my attention to him.

“Miss Dove, it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance again.” He was all charm as he gave a slight bow.

I smiled and lifted a hand to motion him toward the room from which Evelyn and I just stepped out . His smile was wide and pleasing as he strode over toward me.

Evelyn continued her alluring smile as she walked past him on her way to the door, where Venetia opened it for her. Venetia, who have been on the game since she was 12, working along side her mother upon the pave, gave Evelyn a scornful look – which Evelyn either did not notice or chose to ignore. For Evelyn’s trade in vice had been a conscious decision, whereas for Venetia it had been a way of life. I am no W. T. Stead and I did not willfully purchase Venetia – but I had secured her passage of transition from Stead’s wages of sin to my wages as a personal assistant. For at 16, no one knew the game better than she.

Randall followed my gesture as he strode across the foyer toward the open double doors.

With Evelyn now departed Venetia sauntered into the room and began to clear away the cup and saucer Evelyn had used, putting them away in the serving cart as she produced a fresh pair and there upon began to pour a cup of tea for the Cadet, which he picked up as he stood relaxed and observant. "You know she is destined to a fuckery, Miss Dove.” It was said matter-of-factly; as if discussing a challenge of stock at the exchange.

I nodded in agreement, “Yes—“ Amazed once more by Venetia’s uncanny ability to read a person’s wants and desires, as she had selected tea from the service rather than the pot of coffee – and he gave no indication he would have rather have had the coffee . . . which I so desperately needed.

“She’s too impatient. Smut is too boring for her.” She said pouring a cup of coffee and adding her perfect mix of cream and sugar before stepping over to hand it to me.

She then quietly departed, closing the doors behind her leaving me alone with the inquisitive Cadet.

I took a sip of coffee and looked at him with a wry smile. “Bugger off?”

He shrugged with a smirk of his own. “What can I say, I don’t like people watching me sleep.”

“Really? I will make a note of it – for future reference.”

He was looking around the room, the lavish furnishings, all rosewood and mahogany. The Persian rugs on the floor. The three walls consumed with bookcase that reached from floor to ceiling. He took a studious step over the bookcase and took note of one or two titles. I was aware of his calculation – the three-story residence on Cheyne Walk, the furnishings, the rich draperies, the antiques, the small, exquisite nude figurines. Either I was quite successful as a smut merchant – or there was some considerable wealth behind me. “So,” he blows on the tea for a moment, “to what pleasure do I owe the eyes and ears of Miss Hermione Dove at one o’clock in the morning?” He gently sips the tea.

“As it was night, I felt it wise to keep an watchful eye upon you – while you slept. Unaware you had such an aversion to that." I stepped forward and motioned to two large, comfortable chairs.

“I would think most people have an aversion to being observed without their consent.” He replied as he sat down and placed the cup of tea and its saucer upon the small table set beside the chair, careful to move the copy last week’s copy of The People. “Honestly, next time have your eyes meet me at the Turk’s Head. I’ll buy ’em a round to keep the chill off."

“They were there less to keep eyes upon you then to assure your night’s rest.” I explained as I sat down. I have to admit there was the persistent nag hanging somewhere just at the back of my mind upon awaiting some response to my telegrams sent in regards to the earlier communiqués that had arrived from Exeter. And, there was still no word from Milton. I was more than certain he had not been aware of her trip to Amsterdam – in having visited with the old man shortly before he died. It was certainly news to me – and I had long suspected her, even as Milton and the Director were ever in her court.

I took a sip of coffee and turned my attention to the Cadet, “So – as it is Sunday – today’s sermon is from Isaiah 34:14."

That took him aback as he looked at me curiously.

“Are you familiar with the passage?”

There was that mischievous smile: “Do enlighten us vicar.”

“Ah, yes.” I looked at him in all seriousness, “Well—it is written, The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the demon shall cry to his fellow; Lilith also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.”

There was the audible ticking of the floor clock. He sat looking at me in some expectation.

To which I suddenly broke into laugher: “I must say, I have absolutely no idea why they chose that passage – I mean for what they thought they were alluding too it is admittedly fairly poor."

“A puzzler for sure.” He agreed, “To my mind it was at best an Ancient Levantine kingdom bordering Israel in the 13th century BC. Or, just another name for Esau – Jacob’s brother – but, then Sir Charles said this Peter Hawkins used Virgil as some kind of divination as well.”

“Sortes Vergilianae.” I nodded, “Divination by bibliomancy.” And took another sip of my coffee as I watched the cadet’s expression – having been sent to Lord Charles, I gathered he was far more interested in putting this all into come meaningful context, which I could certainly understand – as at first, it was all just too fantastical. Well, at lest it had been for me.

I spoke slight above the rim of my coffee, “So, you have spoken to Lord Charles."

“I did, though I must say I worry for the old man. His age and grief seem to have left him in a terrible state.”

“Yes, the loss of his daughter has affected him greatly.”

“It would seem.” He nodded and picked up his cup of tea.

“I think he lives with a lot of guilt,” I said, “I fear he blames himself. He did signed off on the whole thing as part of the X-Club.” But I wasn’t telling him anything that he had not already gleamed from his conversation with Lord Charles. “So,” I said with some seriousness,, “I rather imagine you are wondering just what you are doing here on a Sunday morning having tea with a smut merchant, listening to scripture.”

“No, I am wondering what I am doing here on a Sunday morning having tea and listening to scripture with an entrepreneurial businesswoman.” He replied wryly.

I put down my saucer and cup of coffee on the table beside me, "The fact of the matter is you would not be here except for Professor Milton, ” I explained, "You see, a purveyor of ladies for pornographic enterprises or an entrepreneurial businesswoman, both are merely disguise for the fact I work for the Professor. And so, having seen Sir Charles and,” I gave him an inquiring look, “You have read the novel?”

“Indeed, it is quite the page turner I must say.”

“I would expect you have some questions."

“Oh most certainly.” He nodded and then asked pointedly, “How do you figure into all this?”

“As you can readily surmise, I work for Professor Milton. By now you are aware of the operation in 1894 – the one which seems to have left it’s long shadow across the years.” I began.

“Unless there was another failed operation in 1894 than the one I just read about, then yes.”

“Quite – as part of the Foreign Intelligence Committee Hawkins’ set up an operation, codenamed EDOM, which was derived from that bit of scripture. And then, after the fiasco it became, a secret section was set up and christened with the operational codename. And we have been cleaning up the mess this whole god forsaken thing has generated every since.”

“To that—“ He started to say something but then seemed to think better of it.

“Yes?” I wanted to understand if there were any doubts or hesitations on his part – because there is nothing for it but that it all sounds far too fanciful, far too utterly preposterous in this day at age of telephones, and motorcars, and aeroplanes. That is until one confronts their first adversary.

“Surely, is not discovery fraught with all manner of perils? I can think of quite a few. But the foremost for those ‘Powers That Be’ would be to end, disgraced, locked in the study with a Webley in hand and the possibility of a collapse of government. They brought this ‘god forsaken thing’ to England’s shores after all. And so there they are, ready at hand with blackmail for anyone so inclined.” He replied, measuredly. “Would not a far more strategic approach be a slow release of information. Ignorance is these creature’s best weapon. People once believed that the earth was the centre of the universe until they were shown it is not. People once believed in vampires, they could be convinced to do so again.”

“All good points.” I nodded. It is the first reaction – why have you not warned people, why are you letting them be but helpless victims – it even echoed my immediate sentiments not so long ago. “But history has shown whenever there has been the slightest suspicion of the undead there has been panic and hysteria. Desecration of graves. The staking of bodies – living and dead. Attacks against those who appear thin or pale; the murder of those merely ill with consumption. And the whole mythology as everyone has been informed by the Stoker disinformation is they are but ‘Children of the Night,’ whereas they quite readily walk as well by day. And his romantic inclination in describing the brides is far more accurate then the foul breathed Count he caricatured. They could be anybody. So to warn them as you say is to tell them these truths. And so there would be mass hysteria – think in a city of this size – people beheading people upon the wildest of speculation. Worse than the French Revolution. Blood in the streets. Murder wholesale – and not by vampires – who are far too cunning. They would no doubt even lead the masses against the innocent. Incite the riots and stir the emotions of the mobs."

“And what of them? Would they not seek some strategic advantage, say a sudden influx of the turned. Perhaps even the creation of a army – all but indestructible. Creating more of their kind from the dead and dying in an escalating war. For even now, as the nations have played their Great Game leading to a world at war, think of one in which the armies of opposition are masses of the undead. A vampire apocalypse – the sheer exponential numbers of how quickly they could decimated a populace, a city, a nation, a continent. For it would not be just London, not just England – but the whole of the globe – from every headline proclaimed, ‘yes vampires are real and they are here among you’ – they could be your neighbour. Your daughter. Your son. And what of the current war, these armies of mass destruction, what would they do – continue fighting in the trench or turn upon the populace in some small French village? Some Greek island? Acting upon the whisper of a rumour of a suspected leech. Or, would they seek a vampire and have their own army transformed. As Milton says, ‘If this genie ever escapes the bottle it could bring about a man made apocalypse. For I have seen the nature of human and inhuman and at it’s basest element there is not a half-pennies difference.’”

He sat for a moment in some contemplation, “So what’s to keep them from doing so?”

“That’s what EDOM is for. Over the years, since we have known the certainly of their existence, we have fought a far less heated war. Clandestine to be sure. Furtive and in the shadows. We seek them out and reduce their numbers. Conduct research to understand them – discover how to contain them. And the opposition has maintained it’s own bit of subterfuge in order to keep their existence seemingly nothing more than a myth.”

He was quick, “That would indicate some form of organization – in and of itself.”

“There is some hierarchy, to be sure.“ I nodded in ascent. “But it is nothing like bloodlines hinted at by Stoker. It’s more survival of the fittest. If one were to use some analogy it’s a bit more like the Camorra, what with their underworld networks and subterranean conspiracies. Our Count – coming from a feudal aristocracy, seems to desire a broad international reach. Whence his intentions when arriving in England. And of late, we have become more aware of another organizing principle, someone, who has been systematically infiltrating and amalgamating true criminal enterprises across the continent. Which, if true, has Milton ever more worried about this tenuous state of affairs.”

“How so?”

“Of late there has been ever increasing evidence that the adversary as insinuated themselves far more insidiously that suspected. Into government, in business, finance, even into religion, all the spokes of the wheel that keeps civilization turning right round.” I told him. “And a very real possibly—EDOM itself.” I reached over to the table beside me and removed a folded document which I had earlier placed within the leaves of a book I had been trying to distract myself with. I handed it over to Cadet Tanner. “This is how the structure of EDOM was drafted long ago.”

He took the document, and unfolded it to stare at it uncomprehendingly. “What, as some kind of occultist demon worship?”

I smiled wryly, “As I said, the whole bloody thing was Hawkins’ conception. Owing to what we are dealing with, I can only assume he felt the need to try and seek some divine intervention – although, I can tell you, these things are not demons or suicides, or the biblically damned.”

“Oh?” He gave a quizzical look.

“They are a species unto themselves.” I told him and leaned slightly forward and pointed to the document, “On that, you will see the third Duke. He is code name Oholibamah – that is Milton." Although I fully suspect he is more.

Randall scanned it and then rather calmly set the document on the table next to his untouched tea. “Good to know that ’ol Milton can turn invisible,” he said with a smirk.

I liked this Cadet – intelligent, quick witted, and very self-controlled.

“But that still doesn’t answer my question.” He continued, “How do you figure into all this? You weren’t summoned up from the depths of hell to spy on poor innocent cadets in the middle of the night. Were you?’ He lifted a brow, “How did you get trapped up in all this?”

I sighed, it seemed a lifetime ago, the afternoon I meet Professor Milton in the office of Hawkins & Cornelius. A dreary, grey, rainy, mournful looking kind of a day. I came seeking litigation and instead received an invitation. “Drearcliff School for Girls.”

He half broke into a laugh, “Pardon? A school for girls?”

“I had intended to be a head school mistress.” I told him primly.

“Oh, now – you shall be pulling a fast one. That’s far too much in the line of a French postcard. A self-titled smut madam as head school mistress at a school for girls.” He said barely able to conceal the wide charming smile – which I have to admit was intriguing.

“Yes – well, you see I had applied for a position at the school and had been rejected out right. I later found out it was not owing to any lack of my professional abilities, or experience, but rather, because of my appearance.”

“Cheeks not pinched, eyes not small enough?” He inquired sardonically.

“Oh worse – bright blue eyes and a figure.”

“Just what one would want in a head school mistress.” His smile now widening.

“Of course I registered a protest with the school administration – whose response forthwith was an invitation to speak with the school’s solicitor, a Mr Thackery J. Cornelius. To whom I was quite prepared, for if I have learned anything from my father, when there is an set back or an obstacle – litigate. Only when I arrived of course in all my indignation, I found I was not to meet not only with Mr Thackery J. Cornelius, but awaiting for me was Professor Milton as well. And as one who has known Milton, you are aware of how persuasive he can be.” I sat back for a moment in the remembrance. Of course, I did not mention my father, the Baron of Motorcar Dealerships, as The Times had once christened him – for though he bought this house in Chelsea, I had been able to keep my clandestine identity as secret as the vampiric secret society which we knew existed – and had cost me a monumental price already in trying to infiltrate. “How Milton ever came to know of me – or to even suggest I should become . . .”

“And so you became?” He asked with a glance to the document.

I shook my head, “Oh, no. I’m not a Duke.” Not something one would long to be at the moment as Milton suspected so many of them. “In fact I am not even EDOM, officially. I am one of Milton’s people – a cut-out network run solely by him.” I gave him a lifted brow, “Thus, his invisibility. He has his own network, you see. Carefully cultivated. I’ve been with him a little over a year now – that’s how long he has suspected EDOM of having been compromised.”

“Has it?”

I nodded and reached over for my cup of coffee before it cooled any further, “He believes it has been badly compromised.”

“And this is based upon?

I took a sip of my coffee, “Intelligence from one of his sources. From the continent I believe. You know the Professor he can be most taciturn when he wishes. He is supposed to be the third ranking Duke, working for the Director, who is rather cryptically know only as “D” – but I secretly suspect Milton is really he. Seeing as how he has set-up a network within, suspecting there would become a time when he may be unsure whom within the EDOM organization to trust.”

“Must be nice knowing that there are at least some people you can trust, and some you know you can’t.” And I noticed his casual glance toward the door, observing the floor near the gap between the floor and the door, trying to see if the light reflecting from the hall was blocked by a shadow. If we were being listened to.

I took another sip of the coffee which could be warmer – I had let it sit too long, “He trusts you – he always has. One of the reasons he has kept a eye on your career. Plus, he thinks very highly of your—shall we say elusive skills. Plus, we are down a member. You see, Pamela Dean worked for Milton and they diced her up. And as you know Milton, he is going to make some pay for that –“

His eyes, there was a certain seriousness to them now, “Well, they diced someone up. A leg, a purse, does not Pamela Dean make. Now, give me a half hour and I could get you both,” and he thought for a moment. “Maybe not the purse, but still.”

“Yes – to be sure, we are not at all certain if it was Dean, at the moment. Of course Milton is acting under the assumption that it is. She had contacted an informant who had been feeding her information – information Milton believes would have led to evidence revealing the depth of EDOM’s penetration by The Count. Whereas, I am not so sure they diced up dean or some other poor unfortunate girl, what with identification being made upon the proximity of a purse. If they have her then God only knows what they are doing to her.”

“Or Bradley, “ The cadet said with some concern for his friend, the unfortunate Bradley McFarland

“Yes, well, your Lieutenant McFarlane—he’s a bit of a wild card in this game. He set many things into motion – for good or for ill. His trip to Exeter. In fact, we understand he contacted her and they met the night he returned, Waterloo Station, and, if she ended up in the Thames or upon the embankment, then it very possibly could have been owing to something he gave or told her. Of course, we don’t know precisely as Lieutenant McFarland seems to have gone to ground with most of London’s constabulary upon his heel. “

“You seem quite informed.” He pointedly observed, “So, just what has happened to him?”

“We don’t know,” I said and took another sip of coffee, “At first we thought he would reach back out to you – but, it appears not.”

“I know Bradley. “ His concern was quite evident. “He couldn’t vanish on his own if he was dunked in a vat of invisible ink.”

“Well, should you decide to work with us,” I said putting away the coffee which was irritatingly lukewarm, “Lieutenant Bradley would be our priority assignment for you. Milton wants to talk to him. So the question is Randall. Will you work with me?”

He looks her up and down. “If I say no . . . what then?”

“Then? Then the door is open – and you leave with what information you have.” I told him, “But, if you stay, I will tell you the truth about what is not in the novel and I will assist you in anyway so as to help you find your friend.”

“And after we find him?”

“Milton of course has some questions and then we shall try and stop whatever horror The Count is preparing for England.”

Randall paused for a moment. He stood suddenly and reached out his hand toward me with that too charming smile of his. “Well Miss Dove, I think I can agree to such terms”

I smiled and stood to stake his hand, "Wonderful. And I have to say, you are really quite talented, trying to keep up with you, when you don’t want us to – is fairly close to Milton’s purported invisibility.”

His smile went from charm to a rather sly grin, “Just don’t get insulted if I shake your eyes and ears from time to time. Tell them to consider it a game.”

And as we shook I felt something being palmed into my hand. As I sat back down back down I carefully checked to see he had given me his slightly crushed blue poppy. “Oh, I am going to enjoy working with you” I said with a fulsome smile, “But in the future you don’t need to bring me flowers. Not unless you wish too.”

He sat back down. Picked up this tea, which had cooled, and took a sip. “So—what am I missing from the novel?”

The corner of my smile pulled slightly as I began, "First and foremost, they did not terminate the Count. Which I am sure is not all that shocking. You see it was all sleight-of-hand illusion embellished as disinformation. His termination by the hands of Jonathan Harker and Quincy Morris does not even follow proscribed methodology given by Stoker throughout the novel – for Morris stabs him with a knife and Harker is said to slit his throat, changed in the narration to cutting off his head with a knife, which is a bit of a task to do in with one fell stroke mind you . . . and this all occurs at the setting of the sun. Thus, Dracula was able to shift into Stoker’s ‘elemental dust on moonlit rays’ and cast the illusion that he had faded away into dust. The members of the ‘crew of light’ returning to London informed EDOM of their suspected failure to terminate the target. If you follow closely Stoker’s narration of their after action reports you will detect a moment in which Quincey Morris slips way into the night and much later there is a gun shot through the window of Seward’s study. This is when The Count compromised Morris. Who henceforth is Dracula’s man within the group. He is reported to have died heroically in the novel – whereas in reality, he was turned and remains somewhere in the murk of the Balkans an agent of The Count.“

I began as I truly longed for a cup of fresh, hot coffee. “Arthur Holmwood. Lord Godalming. Now there was a piece of work. He was to be the operational head of the reception to be assigned to the venture once The Count came over in the Demeter and he so was there at Whitby to take care of the formal briefing, handle logistics, and to get a general feel for whether this ‘Transylvania Personage’ was on the up-and-up about an agreement to assist British Intelligence. Only, as we later came to understand, Holmwood was our break in operational integrity – seems he was a gamester and was well into debt. Debt that could have consequences if not quickly squared and so upon his first meeting with the Count he broached the subject of having the Count make a call upon his fiancée. Lucy.

“Lucy Westenra. I feel for her and her mother. They were the innocents in all this hellishly, wicked bargaining with a monster. Of course the Count’s intentions were always all his own – but they did serve Holmwood’s desires. The murder of his fiancée, the heiress of the Westenra fortune, after he had already gulled the mother into bequeathing the entirely of the estate to him instead of to her daughter.”

Randall pulled out his notebook and began jotting down notes in some cryptic shorthand apparently of his own devising.

“We were never really sure how much they communicated after the initial meeting in Whitby. Holmwood filed a few reports – but it was soon evident the Count had gone rogue and Holmwood had no idea what the ‘Transylvania Personage’ was truly involved with.
Although, there may have been some communication between them, for we strongly suspect it was Holmwood who arranged for the maids to have been drugged the night Lucy and her mother were murdered. I have always felt Van Helsing surmised Holmwood’s intentions. But then, he is not the hero he is purported to be. In fact he was working for a foreign government who had become aware, through intercepts of various messages from London to Transylvania, of Operation EDOM’s objectives. And so you see why he was so quick to drop everything to help his good friend John, when he communicated with him regarding a patient demonstrating Lucy Westenra s symptoms, as well as the need for all those oddly inconvenient trips he took back to Amsterdam. Of course he was not as valiant as Stoker makes him out to be either – the butchery of the brides? All an illusion – as they had quite mesmerized him. When the castle was later searched it was apparent they had escaped along with the Count. And all those blood those transfusions? They were part of some preliminary work for later research he planned to conduct on poor Lucy once she succumbed.”

I sighed and contemplated ringing for Venetia and the coffee I so desired, “Cruel. I know. What was it Doyle said, ‘when a doctor does go wrong, he is the first of criminals.’ He had already made plans for transporting her to Amsterdam and from there on to Berlin, as we discovered later, except John Seward talked him out of it. Lucy you see, well, you read they destroyed her in her tomb, but that was a lie. The fact of the matter is once you stake them, if not using ash or hawthorn, and we as yet do not know why the necessity of those two woods, they are merely pinned – as was Lucy. And so, Van Helsing had arranged for Lucy’s body to be replaced by another which had been beheaded and would be staked, in order have Lucy removed from the crypt and transported to the docks and from there via ship, but apparently he either clued Seward in on his little charade or Seward discovered it himself or had contemplated a similar subterfuge – but Seward, who we later found to have been a bit mad himself and still in love with the undead Miss Westenra, convinced Van Helsing into abandoning his plan, and instead agreeing to assist him in having her moved to his asylum where he had a special room devised. There the two of them experimented upon her for months after their return from Transylvania. We know this because Jonathan Harker happened upon Dr Hennessy, a surgeon and assistant administrator at Seward’s asylum. Seems the good doctor was arrested for some rather nasty bit of work, the sexual assault and mutilation murders of two young women. He made a deal with Harker and told him about Seward. Edom sanctioned an extraction, Operation Uz, but Seward got away. And so did Lucy.

“We have no idea where she is—escaped somewhere to the continent, we suspect, after she ran a fair bit of havoc here. We are certain she caused Holmwood’s death which appeared as a motorcar accident. As well as the deaths of the maids who, though drugged, had fallen asleep the night her mother died and she was fatally attacked; and her mother’s solicitor who had drawn up the suspicious will. We also suspect she murdered Katherine Reed, Lord Charles’ daughter. Her flat was discovered in an rather extreme state of disarray and much splattered with blood. She of course was cut from the novel for Lord Charles’ sake but she had reportedly been the victim of some horror that took place at an alleged dinner party held at a mansion, which was either Muswell Mansion or Coldfall House, but the owners deny there was any such party held on the date she had given, and there is no record of such a party to be found. Katherine was for a time committed to St Ignatius, Seward’s asylum, but her father, as you mostly likely are aware, had her released. She became a drug addict, morphia, as well as a heavy user of cocaine. She has been listed as a missing person for going on close to twenty-one years now. And as for Dr Seward there is more than an air of mystery about him. Seems he and Holmwood and Morris were members of a exclusive gentleman’s club, the Korea Club, where in as part of acceptance for membership you have to have shed blood on three continent’s. Seems a bit not only daring but rather a large consumption of time for a physician, don’t you think? We know Seward obtained his general education at Stonyhurst in Edinburgh and was admitted to the medical school of the University of Edinburgh. He was a student of Van Helsing’s in Amsterdam. And in 1888 he spent some time at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. Odd that. Whitechapel. And that Dr Hennessey would refer to him repeatedly as Mad Jack. And he must have been – mad for Miss Westenra. He experiments on her for quite some time, rather fiendishly as Hennessey described it, but all it in the desperate search for a cure. He did propose to Miss Westenra. You understand? But she turned him down for Holmwood. But, it seems our Mad jack was in love, and love makes men mad, doesn’t it?”

I smiled and could no longer resist. I lifted a small bell and rang for Venetia.

Randall looked up from his notes with a frown, paying no heed to my bell. “For the sake of clarity, could you describe the physical appearance of both Seward and Lucy?”

They always fall for Lucy. “Yes. Lucy Westenra was just twenty, tall, slender, fair of hair and complexion, with what I hear was striking good looks and figure. Bright blue eyes, which even before her transformation into the undead, were said to be quite mesmerizing.”

“I see.” He said, sounding somewhat disappointed “Not known to have dark hair and wear glasses?” He added. “Rather librarian-esque?”

I thoughtfully shook my head, “No, why?”

The door opened to the parlour and Venetia stepped in, “Yes?”

“Coffee, Vinetia. A fresh, hot, cup of coffee.” I gave her a smile as I read from her expression there had not been any further word from Exeter.

“Yes.” She replied and then closed the door. I turned back to Randall. From the description of his previous question – there was yet one more thing to do this morning.

I decided to continue, “As for Dr John Seward he was at the time of the events, twenty-nine, about five foot ten, average build, was said to have intense eyes, dark hair, clean shaven. Intelligent, clear-headed. Bit of an intellectual snob. Had an extreme loyalty to Professor Van Helsing. Two gentleman I would not want calling on me if I were ill.”

“So, long short of it, just what gives Professor Milton cause to suspect EDOM has been compromised?"

“Some of those that work for EDOM are not here in London, you see, we have agents spread about, especially in the Balkans, well, we did have, until the beastly war and so, we’ve lost some intelligence capability there. But, we still have some brave souls in the field. And so, from Milton’s sources, he’s gotten hints, bits of gossip, and unsubstantiated rumour of the Count’s involvement with various anarchist and radical groups, while at the same time he is quite influential with the members of the governments of the Central Powers as Count De Ville. This mind you all coming from the continent, from agents put in place by Hawkins and then Milton. Yet, those running officially running various operations in these same locales have yet to make any such reports. Suspicious by nature, this aroused extra suspicion in Milton. For you see, he has believed for some time that while in here London Dracula had been working insidiously at building a clandestine network to be left behind. As he has said on more than several occasions, ‘ The Count was far busier than just going to the zoo to pet the wolves and flit about the night visiting a couple of young women .’ Milton believes it involves various occult and spiritualist groups, as well as some members of the peerage, of the social elite, of high financial institutions, major businessmen and industrialists, and of course, members of various governmental agencies. One of which he has long believed to be EDOM itself. Jonathan Harker agrees with him there. And so, in order to confirm or deny his concern, Milton purposefully funneled information to Dean and set her about asking questions.”

I saw the look.

“Yes, Dean was working for Milton. He wanted to discover whether there were those who would fail to report her activities – and there were. He then found that Dean was being watched by EDOM agents – who had not been officially assigned to do so. And then suddenly, Dean was contacted by a purported informant – who began to give her information not only highly classified, but that hinted there were those within EDOM, highly placed and revered who had long been under The Count’s influence. Dean was to have met with this informant who told her he was prepared to give her something big – something beyond anyone’s comprehension. Then your Lieutenant McFarlane telegraphed her to meet him at Waterloo Station – they spoke. But then Dean disappeared – or she’s the diced up girl. Since then there has been a coordinated effort to implicate Pamela Dean and Bradley McFarlane as operatives of the Germans. Milton is certain this effort is being orchestrated out of EDOM – but as of yet, he has not been able to run the source of this operation to ground.”

“I see.” He said, he had stopped taking notes, “So, does Herbert Asquith know about EDOM? Does the First Lord of the Admiralty? Does the King?”

“The First Lord knows, I know that for certain. EDOM comes out of Naval Intelligence. As for the King? I think they keep EDOM and all things that go bump in the night as clandestine as they can. The Prime Minister? I don’t know. I just know that as long as I have worked for Milton – he has access to God if it needs be. That’s why, as I said, I still think he is secretly the Director. That is just me. I have no real proof. He says he reports to the Director.” I sighed and leaned slightly forward and ran a slow hand down along the side of my calf. “So Randall that is the whole sordid mess. And on top of all that we have a world at war.”

Randall sat for a moment taking it all in before he replied, “Well Miss Dove, if he was the director, surely he would have a better means to disrupt any subversions than by way of a closed off side group. But if he suspected the director himself of being compromised, or at the very least unpersuaded by his pleas, then his actions make more sense."

I continued to lazily run my hand up and down upon my calf “I have to admit, what you say makes sense, and I have to say I have never seen him this worried Randall.”

He held up a finger, marking an invisible point in the air. “And with this war on, a war on a scale never before seen, more and more people may be convinced that ends justify the means, leading to more and more people to go along with schemes and proposals that would make them aghast to consider in peacetime. What happened to Miss Dean for example.”

I sat back in my chair, lord I need coffee. But Milton was certain wise in selecting Cadet Tanner, "Precisely. The Count, or his minions, do not need to sway all of EDOM’s rank and file, merely the upper echelons, because for the lower ranks, fighting what we do, they might see such acts as brutal, but necessary. And the way EDOM is set up, those in the lower ranks, have no way of knowing if what they are being told from above is officially sanctioned. EDOM is far too secretive when unto itself.”

“Which makes Milton’s position all the more tenuous. If we consider this problem from the enemy perspective, the biggest thorn in their side would be Milton, a leader figure not only not on their side, but wise to their schemes. Which makes one of their goals ridiculously clear. Either eliminate Milton, or subvert him to their side.”

I know my eyes narrowed in a bit of anxiety for this was my very worry, “Yes, as a matter of fact I agree with you. I have told Milton he has to be ever wary as he has to be the one they seek, more so than any of the others – his suspicions have been long held and are now coming to be true. Only, he tells me not to worry. He still has one Duke he is absolutely certain of. And so apparently, there is some protection for him, as he still believes in Hound.”

“Hound?”

“Yes, Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk."

View
Here By Her Invitation
Session Eight - Part Seven

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Casebook of Inspector Stone
11 March 1916 – Heddon Street. — It is a cul-de-sac off of Regent Street first make infamous by Frida Strindberg, divorcee of the Swedish playwright, August Strindberg and a devotee of the avant-garde. Or at least the artists thereof—for it is said the initial reasoning for the insolvency of the Cave of the Golden Calf owned less to a lack of a brisk, nightly clientele than of her financial devotion to any number of struggling artists, who may have laid claim, either with some accuracy or with sly dubiousness, to an inclination toward the experimental arts. Of course, a prediction toward handsomeness and vigour may have as well turned the eye. In either case, her haunt for the wealthy, the aristocratic, and the bohemian opened in 1912 had closed in 1914. And now it was reopened as the Cavern of the Golden Calf, by a Swiss, an Anton Baader, of whom little is known, other than he has been the financial backer of various decadent entrainments and cabarets in Zurich – and an American. A woman. Christabel Winthrop. A musical hall entertainer and proprietor of such establishments – in New York – before she left for London under some suspicion in the circumstances of a death of a young bank auditor. Embezzlement being lain upon the name of the dead with possible murder and thief upon the door of the enigmatic Miss Winthrop. Once these shores had sent our criminals to the Americans and now it would seem they find their way back.

For a time I sat huddled in my coat for the night was considerably cold as I watched the headlamps of the motor cars and taxis make their way upon the snowy simmer of Regent Street, or the curve of the cul-de-sac as rather fashionable ladies and gentlemen had their make their way into the night spot. As yet, I had not seen the arrival of Robertson-Kirk.

I checked my pocket watch once more: 7:30. I had been sitting thus, watching and awaiting, since 7:00. I was eager to be sure. Would she be late? Fail to make her appearance? As I closed my watch the seemingly loud click audible in the automobile’s cold interior, I suspected the emanate arrival of Police Constable Alderton – who is nothing if not punctual.

A motor cab made it’s way up the narrow turn, its headlamps awash upon the darken warehouses which housed the cul-de-sac. It stopped I watched as PC Alderton opened the cab door and stepped out. I supressed a smile as I observed her momentary attempt at the concealment of a slight embarrassment as she was dressed in a rather becoming evening gown. I could not help pondering whether it was hers, kept away in secret, in a closet for such an occasion, or, if she had to borrow it from her roommate.

The brisk wind without the motor car was far greater than the chill within as I pulled by coat about me and moved around the bonnet in order cross the street and make my way with care along the slippery purchase of the cul-de-sac. PC Alderton, in the chill as just turning about from her survey of the entrance to see my arrival. I did not smile as I observed her uneasiness with the risqué modern cut of her gown, as she blushed acutely, trying to find the least angle of exposure to face me.

“I see you have dressed for the occasion." I told her as I approached – not to further her chagrin, but by way of compliment , “You look most fetching.”

“I . . . I . . . “ Her response was one which indicated to me that the dress was indeed from the closet of her roommate, and, her further discomfiture led me to surmise she might upon the whole be wishing that wishing the cobbles beneath her feet would open to swallow her whole, “Thank you. . . I think.”

“Whereas you,” She lifted a brow as well as that slight lift of her chin to which I had become accustomed to discerning indicating annoyance, ‘Seemed not to have changed at all.”

I offered a vague smile, “I rarely seek an evening out.”

“Really?” She asked with an expression of some surprise.

I took notice that a couple exiting a motor cab seemed to have taken an interest in our conspicuous conversation in the winter’s air, I offered my arm to Alderton, “Shall we, enter. I am sure it is far more comfortable than here in the chill of the night.”

She very gently rested her gloved hand atop my wrist, nodding, aware of the couple in passing, “Yes – let us finally see this most infamous Robertson-Kirk.”

“I am not at all sure as to how much you are aware of Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk.” I offered as he entered the den of iniquity, which immediately proclaimed by the artifice of a bas-relief of a most impressively endowed declaration to a call to pagan worship: A golden calf. ‘I would suggest a certain wariness.”

PC Alderton ever vigilant strode beside me as she looked about the backdrop of modernist art, and most impressively glanced at the ponderous reproduction of the Bull’s virility, as she swallowed and steeled her eyes for what may yet to be revealed. “Understood.”

I allowed the press of the couple, who had entered as we, to move with their impatience around us before I spoke discreetly: "As official records go, Scotland Yard did not have a female among the ranks until of late.”

As her eyes moved beyond the Golden Calf and she tightened her grip upon her purse, the weight of which I surmised held within a revolver. “And yet, as you say, there was one in a Special Intelligence Division within Special Branch.”

I nodded as we pasted some restored chiaroscuro paintings which I am sure were well regarded but only suggested to me some vague sense of evil. The whole of the upper entrance was given way to an decadent atmosphere of sensuality, sexuality and unrestrained perverseness. “Which should give one pause to speculate as to why this would be so – “ I looked at some painting in sickly perfervid colours which seemed to have escaped from the brush of an lunatic. “Why, such a liberalist policy, would be so well concealed. For if one were of a mind to search, one would find no official record of her status within the Metropolitan Police. A meticulous purge. Every mention expunged.”

She nodded as she moved along the narrow corridor to the landing leading to a wide spiral of steps leading to the loud, smoky club below – where the sound of American Jazz music grew louder.

“She and Inspector Spencer,” I said continued in a confidential tone, “Are more than fortunate they were not brought to the Old Bailey. And so – we must take into consideration anything she may impart this night will no doubt have strong motivations – of which, will be known only to her.”

“Most definitely,” PC Alderton said as she began to descend the stairs past the seductively carved pillars of immodestly draped women. “She is expecting us?” She asked over her shoulder.

“We are here by her invitation.”

We descended the stairs into a din of music. An American negro band was playing and couples were lively upon the dance floor. A maze of tables were set out before us, and the establishment was engaged in a lucrative business. It was a Saturday night. Amid the haze of tobacco smoke was the mix of a cacophony of conversations – each trying to be heard over the laughter and the music of the band.

“I don’t know what Irene sees or hears in this place.” PC Alderton, beside me said having to raise her voice to be heard.

“It is most popular I hear among the social elite. Owing to the original owner having lost considerable financial investments, the club has been closed for a while. It is only recently that it has received the wherewithal to having it’s doors reopened.” I explained taking note of a table near at hand engaged in animated conversation, hands gesticulating, cigarettes in hand or within holders being waved about with emphasis, and much laugher. “Under new management. A Swiss and an American.”

PC Alderton surveying the extravagance of the club’s opulent interior amidst the visible display of the wealthy and the privileged come for the thrill of their corruption and shook her head, “I would hazard a night’s entertainment would be the whole of a week’s salary. What with this War’s economy, one would wonder, how long until these present owners find themselves just as easily bankrupt.”

I turned at the pop of a Campaign cock, “One would think it should not be long."

“My you certainly don’t have a very optimistic view of our future.” Came a female voice from behind us and we turned to see a strikingly attractive, blonde woman in an well-fitted black evening gown, holding a black cigarette holder. Her smiled bespoke a easy languor. Her eyes told a told a different story altogether. They were spirited, keenly perceptive, quick to judgement and unwaveringly set in determination once it was made. “If I am not mistaken, your are Scotland Yard. CID I would think. Chief Inspector.”

My expression was ever measured, “Inspector.”

“Ah,” She took an inhalation from the black lacquered holder, “One case away – I would hazard.”

The easy familiarity was an all too tempting ruse. I knew well her history and the New York Police’s suspicions. She was dangerous. “I am Inspector Stone and this Police Constable Alderton.”

She looked at Vera and the risqué cut of her gown, “Police Constable.” She nodded in acknowledgement, “ I am Christabel Winthrop. Anton and I are the said unfortunate new owners destined it seems for insolvency.”

PC Alderton gave her condescending smiled, “A pleasure.”

She now gave me an expression of mock distress, "Of course, if it isn’t the economy to do us in. I sincerely hope there is nothing criminal going on.”

“That would depend on one’s taste in music . . . “ PC Alderton told her.

She laughed, “You are not a Jazz aficionado.”

“No.”

“Give it time my dear. . . give it time. It is a required taste." She said and held her cigarette holder with some elegance. “Although, some say it’s more like an infection.”

“Indeed,” PC Alderton said with some irritation.

The whole of her conversation with PC Alderton, Miss Winthrop kept a wary eye upon me. “Although it is a busy night, I am more than certain I can find you a very nice table, Inspector. Would you care for something a little closer to the dance floor? It would allow the lovely Police Constable an opportunity to better appreciate the music.”

“We are not here, Miss Winthrop for amusement, “ I explained, “We are to meet someone. Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk." I said, glancing about the tables.

She steps forward, "Lady Molly? Well, if she is here tonight, she would be at her usual table.” She paused, as did the music, and I could hear the rustle of her evening gown, “I can escort you, if you like.”

I found myself jutting my jaw slightly, what I have been told appears truculent, whether it is meant so or not, and I cut a thoughtful glance to Alderton. Here in this den of iniquity, guided by a woman, whom I have no little doubt to be guilty of a miscellany of crimes, to a woman, I knew to be even far more guilty of crimes to which I could only but imagine – all which had been absolved by those who supposedly saw a greater good. Crimes not only forgiven of the past – but those of the present as well. And for a long moment I stood in some indecision. To proceed further – to continue with what I felt with in my very soul to be a sham. Or, to say a good goddamned to them all – and do my duty no matter where it may lead – or whatever the consequences.

I looked at PC Alderton, who returned quizzically returned my gaze. “Inspector?”

Christabel Winthrop brought the cigarette holder to her lips – she looked at me for a moment and then lifted a brow as if she were aware of the import of the moment, “Inspector,” her professional smile having disappeared, “I once knew a policeman in New York. He had that same look in his eyes. The look of having not yet made a decision. You see – there was a tenement, a three-floor-walk-up, within which, a young woman’s life would be snuffed out as easily as one would blow upon the flame of a candle . . . for no other reason than she happened to be working at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The band ended it’s song and began another – I looked at her as she stood there in the maze of tables, smoke escaping in wisps from her lips as she spoke, “A whore. Fourteen and a whore since she was twelve. He knew she would never be fifteen – because it was better for all concerned.”

“His decision?”

She smiled, and turned, “I’ll escort you to Lady Molly.”

We followed her now as she lead us further back into the Cavern past fashionable ladies and gentlemen sipping their cocktails and smoking Turkish cigarettes. I took notice of tables set nearer the dance floor for the uniformed soldiers on leave. As we skirted through the passage between the tables of the evening’s revellers a few glanced up as we approached as if taking a moment to see if we were anyone of they knew, or were of some importance. The ladies were for the most part fabulously beautiful, thin, white-faced and kohl-eyed – Beardsley illustrations taken as their model. Some of the men wore tight suits and had their nails varnished – sitting oddly close to those near the dance floor with French mud beneath theirs and the hint of death about them.

The basement club, beneath a cloth merchant’s warehouse, was large – smoky, feverish, frenetic. The strident music jerking and loud- this Jazz seemed to speak of speed.

There are two dance floors and each are active.

PC Alderton was ever vigilantly, her observant eye studying the crowd – I caught her frown at observing a young woman at a table turning over a tarot card.

As he were proceeding through the crowded venue, a short man in expensive evening wear approached us as he removed a cigarette from his lips “Good evening. I do, so hope you are enjoying the entertainment.” But before either of us could remark, his attention turned to Christabel Winthrop, “Christabel, I am so sorry to impose, but when you have a moment, Mr Pleydell-Smith would care to have a word with you.”

“’Yes, of course Anton." She smiled and took an inhalation from her cigarette holder. “This is Inspector Stone and Police Constable Alderton.” She introduced us.

His smile grew expansive and he offered a hand, which I took. His grip was surprisingly strong, “It is a pleasure to meet you Inspector.” He then took the fingers of PC Alderton’s hand and lightly kissed them, “As well as the lovely Police Constable. Is this your first time into the Cavern?”

“Yes.” PC Alderton informed him.

“Oh, “ The expansive smile returning, “Please, I do hope it will not be your last.”

From her look it was obvious she was not sure if that was an invitation or a threat. Anton Badder, whom this must surely be, returned his gaze to Miss Winthrop. “Mr Pleydell-Smith.”

“Yes, Anton.” She told him and the turned and strolled away. We moved further into the club, past one of three bars, before we turned to the right toward a far wall. There a table sat in recessed in a niche, and I saw the familiar tall, red-haired woman sipping a drink.

As had I suspected from the beginning as to who held his leash, beside her sat Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer.

Pausing before the table, her weight shifting to her left hip, Christabel Winthrop waved a hand toward the table, “As I said, if she were here—she would be at her usual table.”

“Edward, it is so lovely that you could join us.” Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk said, her voice soft and melodic. The glass in her hand she seemed to hold rather precariously. I narrowed my eyes as I stood before her – and she looked over to PC Alderton. "And this – this must be Police Constable Vera Alderton.”

“I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage.” PC Alderton replied evenly.

“I am the infamous Robertson-Kirk.” She smiled sardonically, “Which, some, like Edward here, who refer to me as. There are some who call me Lady Molly – but that number has dwindled significantly of late. For the most part, I am simply called, the bitch.”

“Ma’am.” Alderton replied.

Robertson-Kirk seemed absently to weigh the glass in her hand as she looked at Vera Alderton. “For the most part – do you find they call you Alderton. PC Alderton. Vera – or do they in most cases try not to call upon you at all?”

“PC Alderton – for the most part.” She said gaining some understanding why most had a distinctive regard for her – they either inclined toward her or they detest her – for there would be no in-between.

“Do, have a seat. The club does become get rather jovial about this time of the evening and so, standing there, you will be quite jostled."

Inspector Spenser leaned forward to tap ashes from his cigarette into the ashtray before him, “Edward.”
Although my attention remained on Robertson-Kirk, I acknowledged him, “James,” as I took off my hat and pulled back a chair for PC Alderton. She thanked me and took a seat, her observant gaze ever fixated upon the red-haired woman before her.

“Is this your first time in the Cavern?" She asked of Alderton with a her smile now all apparent politeness.

“Not quite,” Alderton replied, which I found interesting, “Yours?

“I find I come far more often than a should, actually.” She replied as I sat down beside Alderton.

Robertson-Kirk lifted a bottle of Champaign from the iced bucket where it was being chilled and poured the effervescence into two glasses she had waiting. “Please, Edward, do dispense with the usual excuse of being on duty.”

PC Alderton’s expression was one of complete passivity, a perfect mask of disinterest that she seems to have honed well.

“Edward is always on duty.” Inspector Spenser remarks as he pulled the ashtray closer to him as he sat back in his chair and marvelled at Alderton’s rather risqué attire.

“I would express my gratitude, Lady Molly for the invitation. I dare say I would have foregone this establishment altogether.” I told her and ignored the Champaign she put before me.

“And yet here you are.” She said as she sipped her Champaign, “All of two minutes, and yet you have not even begun.”

“You are I am certain aware of the recent findings on the Victorian Embankment – a diced up corpse." I replied, now having begun.

“I assume you are referring to a Pamela Dean?” She responded

Beside me PC Alderton instinctively removed a small notebook from her clutch as she sat back to allow me to take the lead, owing no doubt to my familiarity with Robertson-Kirk, who casually glanced at the notebook and the umber pencil.

“You would presume correctly madam." I continued, “And so, you had some awareness of this diced up girl’s identity?”

She smiled as she continued to let her drink in the frail crystal flue dangling from her fingers – as if she were contemplating letting it slip and fall. “Awareness? Come now Edward – I do have the Times delivered every morning.”

“But perhaps, on some mornings, in your haste, you find upon occasion to stop and seek out a copy. Did you do so upon the morning of your visit to the Embankment?” I asked evenly, watching as Spenser stubbed out his cigarette into the ashtray. “Where you were to take a moment in your rather busy schedule to drop off a purse.”

She looked at me with those cat green eyes, which now revealed s sharpness, “A purse.”

“Please, Lady Molly, do me the honour in not indulging in any of your contrivances so as to circumvent answering a straightforward question.” I said trying to maintain an even tempered questioning, while refraining from allowing the irritation if felt to enter into my voice.

“No I did not stop and procure the Times,” She replied, “As I said, it is delivered.”

“The morning of your visit to the embankment,” I pressed, “We are well aware of your presence and the why of it. For surely you are well aware we know of your contact there with Constable Baxter.”

Her eyes glanced at the Champagne in her glass, “Most unfortunate, Baxter." And then she looked up suddenly from the glass, "Yes, Edward, I did by chance stop at the embankment on the morning in question.” She put her glass down, “Had you not the purse—what identification would you have made.”

“Be that as it may, how did you come by the purse?” PC Alderton asked.

She turned her cool gaze upon Alderton, “I am sure Edward by now has given you all the particulars of my past, especially in regards to my dismissal from the Special Branch. But, I do still have contacts established with certain citizenry who work and live amid the cramped alleyways and darken rookeries of the city. It was given to me.”

Alderton pressed the point, “By?”

“A gentleman of whom I think you have made acquaintance. Neil Byrne.” She replied as she lifted a knowing brow as well as her glass to once again hold it precariously by the merest of grips upon the rim, “Of course, it is all rather unfortunate in that he was murdered before you were able to intervene as I understand it.”

PC Alderton sat silently looking at Robertson-Kirk. This was in my estimation a calculation upon Robertson-Kirk’s part – to determine PC Alderton’s reserve.

“He was quite the aficionado,” Inspector Spencer interjected, “Even in his inebriated state he well thought he was giving evidence in regards to the return of our Saucy Jack.”

“Is he also the one who as well told you were the body would wash up that morning?” Alderton inquired rather pointedly of him, “Or was that just a coincidence?”

Spenser sat forward, “He came to me with a fanciful tale of Jack being back. Spoke of him having been down to the river, baptizing now in blood and not water. Going on about the resurrection and the life and some such nonsense. He then passed along the purse to prove his point. I took it Lady Molly and the rest . . .” He allowed this thought to trail off with a wave of his hand.

PC Alderton stopped writing and arched a brow—“Passed it along?”

“He was long an informant of mine, a bit rum soaked, but useful at times.” Inspector Spenser continued and poured himself another glass of Champaign and weighed the bottle to observe it was near empty.

Alderton looked at him with a piqued interest, “So Miss Kirk says he brought it to her, but you claim it was brought to you first. Is that correct?”

Robertson-Kirk turned her gaze back upon PC Alderton, "It is of prime importance to remember Mr Howard Vincent’s Police Code. In particular, Rule 18. ‘It must finally be remembered, in dealing with cases of murder, that any oversight, however trivial, any communication of information, any precipitancy, or any irregularity . . . ‘ And so, Police Constable Alderton, as your notes should there so indicate, what I said, was it was given to me, by Mr Byrne. I did not say by way of Inspector Spencer.”

“And Inspector Spenser of the City of London Police, finds it necessary to take such evidence and seek out a civilian and hand it over?” Alderton said with some indignation, “Yes – by all means let us consult Vincent’s Police Code. ‘In cases of murder, everything must be done with the utmost celerity, every channel pursued . . . to the exclusion of any individual theory, although every possible step must be taken to bring the murderer to justice, and to prevent his destroying the evidence.’ And so, to this end, the preserving of evidence, it appears the victim’s purse is thus lifted from the scene of the crime by a rum soaked vagabond and when given to an Inspector of the City Police, said Inspector, he does not think to mark it evidence – nor, see to it that it is placed into the custody of those officers in command of the scene, or, to take it to the Thames Station house – but rather, he seeks out . . . you.”

“It was of some concern that Mr Byrne’s idée fixe would only add complexity to the matter, bringing to light his madness – which, we saw, immediately in the broadsheets from Fleet Street – regarding our Jack,’ Inspector Spenser replied. “And so, I thought it best the purse should be returned to where Byrne had first procured it – to be found by those constables assigned to pick and clear the lumber yard and embankment for evidence.”

“Our Jack?” Alderton inquired.

Inspector Spenser nodded "Our Jack. To the populace of this city, it is ever to our uniforms they will defer the blame. For we did not catch him . . . and for that . . . he is forever ours.”

“Ahh yes,” Alderton glanced at them coyly, “The one that got away. That is certainly a theory. Although, I would have to say . . . to make him the first assumption, would of course be a very convenient façade for someone, especially, if they were . . . shall we say running something a bit off the books as they may which to put it – easy to lay off the blame for any crime to hand so to speak.”

“Precisely.” Robertson-Kirk replied and looked at Spencer, “You are correct she is perceptive.”

“Perhaps this might be the apposite moment, Lady Molly, to explain how it is you who no longer bare the trappings or duties associated with the Yard are yet in league with an Inspector of dubious methods, which are, to say the least, but a slander to Mr Vincent’s work. And reinstatement to investigative work for the City Police can be nothing more than some patched-up affair, orchestrate by none other than yourself.” I put it to her straightforwardly – expecting at best an artful machination away from the truth and at her worst a straight up lie.

“That is it?” She said swaying the glass in her hand. “Really?’ She leaned slightly forward, “I think not. For you both have the look.”

“The look?” Pc Alderton inquired

“Let us not be distracted by the carnival, Police Constable Alderton.” Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk soft, melodic voice had now taken on a edge and her green eyes had gone quite cold, "Is there some collaboration still between myself and Inspector Spencer? What nature does it take? This is the sum total of your inquiry? This is the mystery which is the sole cause of the entreaties for tonight’s interview? If this is so, then I am truly saddened. A diced up girl. A gin soaked informant whose neck is snapped by nothing more than mist and snow. A City Police Constable whose death by self-infliction is a sham. A fabrication and a mockery. And yet, the sum total of your investigation finds itself perplexed upon the dilemma as to whatever state of association there is between Inspector Spencer and myself?”

“Thee is more.” PC Alderton said heatedly.

“Then – Vera. You have a mind. Speak it. Say what it is you long to say. What is it you wish to accuse me of? I can quite assure you, there is already a long list, so, what would you care to add?"

“It is much too early to make accusations,” Alderton pointedly informed her, “I am merely collecting evidence . . . and so, at best, at this pint, I could only make assumptions.”

Then suddenly, she turned those cat green eyes upon me, “And what of you Edward? You have never been shy when it comes to your animosity in my regard. I am well aware of what low opinion you hold of me. So, if you can’t drink up man, then speak up. What is it? Do you suspect me of having diced up a woman and placed her scattered remains along river bank?”

“The thought has cross the mind.” I admitted.

Her eyes grew hard, "How you disappoint, Edward. By now, I would have thought you would have been much further along. And yet, you sniff along the trail they wish to follow.”

“You have some insight—then, pray madam, by all means share this low opinion of our investigative skills.”

A wry smile curled those winsome lips, “But then Edward – there would be the question of my collaboration with the Yard, whereupon there would surely arise questions anew with regard to my association with you – and then, alas, yet a new dilemma will have arisen, where upon the whole of the investigation would grind to a halt upon the disposition of just whose leash does Robertson-Kirk hold.”

“And here you sit and mock in your niche, in this den of iniquity,” I told her with some growing vexation, “A spider with her well kept secrets trapped like flies within her web.”

“And yet, you sit down beside me.” She smiled suddenly.

“Madam, I would sit beside the devil to get to the truth.” I told her.

“Whose truth, Edward?” She asked, the glass of Champagne still dangling like some perverse mimicry of justice’s scales. “You are so like a schoolboy who allows others to dictate his lessons. Truth comes from refusing to accepting someone else’s truth. For example, a simple diced up woman tossed into the Thames and upon the Embankment – is that all you can see? Who is she? Really? Pamela Dean – is but one truth.

“Of that there has been no confirmation.”

She glanced at Alderton with a smile, “So, you have spoken with Dr Wrayburn.”

“The truth of whether or not she is Dean is your truth. For you left the purse to so identify her as such.” I told her.

“Yes. But, what if she were not, then who is she? And if it is Dean, then who is Dean?”

“As you say—there are various truths. One would have it that she is but a clerk for the Navy.” Alderton said as she once again began taking notes. “Another she is that she is a spy to have infiltrated The Admiralty.”

“Yes. And where is the Navy?” Robertson-Kirk asked, tilting her glass to the left, then the right with each question, “Where are The Admiralty’s inquiry agents? The head clerk of Navy Intelligence is found diced up and tossed about the city and the investigation is left to you? There is evidence alluding to treason – treason during a time of War, and yet, the investigation is left to you? There is a missing Lieutenant, a Bradley McFarlane – said to be a spy of some considerable tradecraft as well as an alleged butcher, and yet, the investigation is left to you? Murder and butchery and espionage and treason and yet, where are the hounds of the intelligence community? Why are they being kept well sedated in their kennels?"

Inspector Spenser, sitting silent as she spoke, now removed a crumbled pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket and shook one forward, which he pulled free by placing it between his lips. He placed the pack on the table and removed a match from a match box with which to light it, it’s flame flaring before his face as he inhaled the smoke – before he whipped the flame out with a flick of his wrist. His dark eyes continued to survey the boisterous club behind us. The analogue of a hound was quite apt I now felt for he seemed to sit as her watch dog.

There was the slight trace of a smile, “Foresight – being aware of your opponents move and anticipating it so as to counter it before it is made. To drop her purse on the diced up girl, upends everyone’s plans. And that is when mistakes are made. Dean missing is but another tale of a skirt having gone a bunk with some young man, and no one is the wiser. But, if she becomes the diced up girl on the river, then she is something else again.

“One would suspect Edward, you were never intended to solve anything.” And this was a truth for which I did not need her suggestion for I had long suspected – and my suspicions had become such that I had begun to question the integrity of the Yard. And of AC Barrington – someone for whom I have had quite some considerable respect for. This spider come to sit down beside me – was it her intent to plant these seeds of doubt – or was she in fact releasing captive truth.

“Which is why they placed me in change of the murder investigation to begin with” Alderton said softly as she looked up from her notebook. A long held suspicion of Alderton’s top which she had now given voice – an articulation of which I was most concerned—for whatever her motivations, should she be in fact be a revelation – I did not trust Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk.

Distrust had nothing whatsoever to with Spenser for in truth I intensely detested the man and I flushed with some heat as I took notice that he was preparing to applauded PC Alderton’s voiced doubts of her self-worth – but a quick look from Robertson-Kirk cut him short, “Yours is a lack of conviction. You stood on a bridge with eyes that do not see. Tell me. Neil Byrne? He snapped his own neck upon his own accord? Suicide, is that the supposition?’

“A lie you know to be self-evident.”

“I—I am still vexed by the circumstances of that night – the trick of the light, the winter’s elements . . . the fact—“

“By now you have the book, do you not?” And Robertson-Kirk set her glass down upon the table.

“Dracula?” Alderton asked quizzically.

“Read it.”

I frowned, “Yet more misdirection? What does such a fantastical novel have to—“

“Hamlet. Act 1, Scene 5.” She cut those green eyes, “There are more things in heaven and earth . . . Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Alderton put down her pencil, “For all your infamy, madam you are no mere patron of night spots, nor are you a but some member of the Metropolitan Police – discharged in disgrace.”

“Injudicious conduct, unbecoming. But, as PC Alderton does suggest, my suspicions are such Lady Molly, as to there being no sniffing about this inquiry from kennelled agents of The Admiralty, or for the War Department, or the Home Secretary, or lastly of Captain Purdy’s Naval Department, it is that their inquiry agents are even now at play in the field. Some, I suspect, are close to hand.”

“Careful Edward. For I can assure you this is a parade to which you do not long for a ticket.”

“In that regard, madam – it is a bit too late for I have already had such punched.”

Those green cat’s eyes now filled with resolute conviction, “You have but seen the advertisements placed upon the hoardings for such a parade. But the procession – you best take care if you decide to join Edward – for in this I am in all earnestness. For all the bluster you may hear – none wish you a speedy resolution to his crime.”

“You know me well, Lady Molly. Those who may have made such decisions have done so with foolhardy intent. I will find this murderer of the diced up girl – and all such crimes borne from her bitter fruit.”

“Oh indeed it is a taste of biter waters and none of the sweet.” And for a moment there was a kindled reflection in her eyes and voice.

“Of this Shakespeare, I am unaware, but—” I began to only be cut short.

“Stoker.” She replied and lifted once again that glass.

“Again that damnable novel.”

She gave me a long look, “Yes—indeed.”

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