The Coldfall Sanction

Not a Romanian Holiday
Session Six - Part Two

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Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
12 March, Athene Palace, Bucharest. — The unfortunate circumstances of this evenings dinner where belied by the afternoon. After a few moments recollection in this journal (see above), I took a lovely stroll. The Hotel is only a few buildings down from the Royal palace, which I must say is quite bold of the Romanians to place the Royal residence so close to the masses, but of course, when the palace was built over a hundred years ago, it was only the residence of the local Stolnic.

Of course I was not allowed to see the inside of the palace, but just next door is the Kretulescu Church, which I did enter. It is somewhat small, but there are such fabulous byzantine style frescoes that I stood and marvelled for what seemed like hours. The priest came up to me, and we talked at length about the history and architecture behind it.

After much discussion, I continued my walk down Calea Victoriei to the national theatre, and inquired about performances. The theatre is performing Patima roșie, or Red Passion. I understand it is a new tragic-comedy. I am not much of a theatregoer, but if I find myself in want of something to do, I may attend.

I continued down the Calea Victoriei to what I think is the main military headquarters, and turned right onto the Strada Constantin Mille. My map indicated that there was a large park in the middle of the city, and indeed, I soon found myself in the wooded Cismigiu Park. After a pleasant lazy stroll and a short rest on a bench by the lake, I made my way back to the street, and caught a tram into the more business district of the city.

For the sake of brevity, as I have already rambled enough about the city, I shall not detail the shops I found, but merely relay that I found a tailor willing to sell and fit a dinner jacket for tonight, and a used bookstore in which I found two tomes of local history. I also stopped in a Parisian styled cafe and took tea, as I had not eaten since breakfast on the train from Turnu Severin. I took the tram back to the hotel, and spent the rest of the afternoon in my room perusing the books I had purchased until the dinner jacket was brought in.

I donned the suit, and made my way down the main stairs to the lobby, asking the concierge the way to the hotel restaurant. She pointed down the hall and I entered the room, straightening my bow tie.

The hotel dining room was very large. Grand and elegant as it is modelled after the Marie Antoinette Suite of the Ritz in Paris. The tablecloths are of the same fine linen and each table is adorned with it’s own artistically arranged centrepieces. The tall candles on the unoccupied tables are all un-used – it could seem they are removed after a patron departs and the table re-set anew. Although the hotel proper was electrified, the dining room was lit in the soft glow of candlelight from crystal chandler’s and wall sconces. To accent them some electric lighting had been strategically placed about the room to slightly off-set the continual flicker of the tapers flames.

The Maître d’ was a man of middle height, with a well combed moustache, and wearing finely tailored evening wear. He greeted me, “Monsieur, would care to dine?” in French. I had already taken notice upon my entry earlier the hotel’s atmosphere was most decidedly Francophile.

“Yes, thank you, Monsieur.” I replied as well in French, “Also, I am expecting someone to join me soon.”

The Maître d’ nodded with an almost slight bow as he turned to lead me to a table, which was in the centre of the room as there were only a few patrons already seated. I asked if it were possible to have a table off to the side, perhaps near a window. I motioned to a table that seeming promising. I expected my dinner guest would rather have a bit more seclusion then sitting in the centre of the room.

The Maître d’ smiled his most accommodating smile and with a flourish waved his hand, “Certainement.” He took me past several unoccupied tables over to the one I had indicated. “Is this to Monsieur’s liking?”

I indicated that it would be perfect as he pulled back the chair and I sat down. He once again nodded and almost bowed again. He handed me a menu and the gentleman turned and strode way as if he had been given a regimental assignment to return to his duty station. Taking a moment I perused the room more than the menu as I was uncertain what Edmond Richmond looked like – and as the other patrons were all couples – and I being early, had assumed he yet to arrive. For that reason, I had taken the chair which gave me the best advantage to keep watch of the entrance.

A waiter also in evening wear appeared suddenly and asked if I would care for wine.

I informed him I would like a bottle of the house special: White. And as I was so informing him, I noticed a rather tall, rather handsome young man stepping up to the Maître d’ station in order to stand and casually read the room.

Thereupon the waiter rather than hovering about as some do departed soundlessly. I was more than certain that the Maître d’ was asking the gentleman if "Monsieur, would care to dine?” But the man looked in my direction and smiled and said something to the Maître d’ in response and then began to make his way through the maze of tables toward me.

“Lord Cyril?" Asked the handsome young man as he approached wearing what appeared to be the most immaculate evening wear, with highly-polished shoes. I arose as he stood before me, “You must be Mr Richmond. So good to see you. Yes, please, have a seat."

“Thank you Sir.” And Richmond offered his hand before he pulled back his chair. His grip was firm.

The waiter arrived at just that precise moment with the bottle of wine, which he uncorked and allowed me to taste. It was excellent. I nodded and he poured a glass. I stopped him with a “Merci.” He looked to Richmond by way of asking if he wished a glass as well, but he shook his head and instead ordered a brandy and soda.

The waiter placed the bottle of wine upon the table and departed.

“Is it true, I heard you walked all the way from the Ionian Sea to Romania?” Was Richmond’s first question.

“It is in fact true, though some of it I will admit to being carried by a cart or on horseback.” I told him, as he smiled. He had a wide, gregarious smile. And upon seeing it I now understood Ossington’s curious earlier remark regarding the ‘occupational hazard’ of ‘chaps in our line of work’ – assuming, of course, I was in that line of work. For Richmond certainly must present a striking presence among the ladies. I took a sip of my wine and for a moment paused to savour the semi-sweet flavour of the local Tămâioasă Românească.

“Remarkable. Simply remarkable.” Richmond said with some admiration. "I am not at all sure how well I would hold up for such a trek as that. So, Clive Ossington tells me, you have received word from our man in London. " He began directly.

“Not recently. As you can imagine I’ve been out of communication for some time, but I am expecting a reply from him through Ossington.”

“Well, I would expect word rather quickly, now that you have arrived. I know he is rather concerned about the matter.” Richmond replied as the waiter arrived to discreetly place the bandy and soda before him.

“And who wouldn’t?” I asked as I looked up from the menu. “What do you think, is the fish good?”

“Everything here is really quite excellent, particularly if you are interested in the local cuisine. The new chief – the old one was mixed up in some black marketing and so came to a rather disagreeable end, I hear – makes, in my opinion, this the best restaurant in all of Bucharest.” And he lifted the brandy and soda and appeared well satisfied by the enjoyment of his first taste.

I nodded as I removed my reading spectacles, which I put on in order to peer more properly at the menu.

“So,” Putting the glass down and removing a cigarette case from the inner pocket of his black evening jacket, Richmond asked, "I gather you may have some particular thoughts in regards to our missing Montague.”

“Quite so. I think I shall pay Vordenburg a visit.” I replied as I continued to inspect the menu. Deciding on which soup to begin: Ciorbă de perişoare or ciorbă de burtă, “It’s been so long since I last wrote him, and I’m sure we shall have much to discuss.”

“Ah, so you know the Professor?” Richmond asked as he opened his cigarette case, removed one and closing the case began to tap the end of the cigarette slowly against it, "I must say he was rather lucky to have gotten out of Budapest when he did. Just barely one step ahead of the Evidenzbureau, which, although they now have quite the territory to operate within, they are rather keen to keep an ever wary eye on their intellectuals. First to go, you know. The Professor immediately made arrangements and was able to make his way out after Montague when missing. Hired some brigand smuggler to get him across the border. Which is dashed odd really, when you think of it – how the deuced did he know Montague had bunked.”

He lit the cigarette he had been endlessly tapping upon the lid of the cigarette case as I looked up from the menu, “Then you suspect, like the Deputy Consul, he’s run off with the girl?”

“Haven’t quite made up my mind.” Richmond said honestly, “I mean the little I know of Montague, he was certainly attracted to the ladies, but this one?” He took a draw from the cigarette, “As I am sure the DC told you. Ioana Tânase is a prostitute – someone he was attempting to entice into becoming an informer. So, in all honesty I can’t see it. Though people in love – you can never really figure – I mean it’s a bit of madness isn’t it? And there is of course the fact, before he slipped off for Budapest, he did seemed rather dashed concerned for the girl and had me move her to a safe house.”

“And while there she did nothing suspicious?” I asked. “No curious visitors.”

Richmond did not answer hurriedly, he took a moment to think, “Not that I am aware. But I can double check with the man I had assigned security.”

“And the girl? What of her?” I asked.

“She is now also missing – as I said I had her placed in a safe house, while made his furtive away into Hungary to see Professor Vordenburg at the University of Budapest.” Richmond replied, smoking escaping through his lips as he spoke.

“Into the very heart of Hungary? Now how did he manage that?” I inquired.

Richmond returning his cigarette case to the inner pocket of his dinner jacket, began to casually explain: “Montague had been over the border before. Several times in fact. He had build up over time a legend, a Monsignor Jon Manoilescu – a Vatican representative to Hungary based out of Romania – St. Joseph’s Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Bucharest, you see – whose mission was to attempt to further Benedict XV’s war relief efforts in regards to refugees. Of course, he had some considerable help with building it up, collaborated with Sidney Rosenblum, or Reilly as he is more commonly known. Rather the wily devil. You will have to meet him. He is quite the character, I must say. Seems Rosenbum was able to infiltrate the University some time ago. Actually has a lectureship there or something and so he was able to slip Montague in to see Professor Vordenburg.”

I nodded as I took another sip of my wine. What piqued my interest was why Montague went to see Professor Vordenburg – but, having not made up my mind on what to order, I returned my attention to the menu as let Richmond relate events, according to his own form of recital.

He took a long drag off his cigarette and looked about the room for a second before he began: “As you know our man in London, I gather you are aware of – lets say our little circus . . . within the circus so to speak. Thus you are aware of the Transylvanian Personage?”

“In not so many words. Yes I am.” I looked up at him. Just the thought of it gave me a slight shiver.

“Then,” Richmond continued, as he reached into his jacket pocket and removed a piece of paper which had been folded so as to fit neatly, "Part of the old man’s concern—well there are several parts of this whole Montague affair that are of concern – but this really provoked quiet the interest. It seems, Reilly had a way to get a telegram out, which was received and decrypted.” He handed over the document.

I took it from him and adjusting my glasses unfolded the page and move it toward the flickering light of the table’s candle to get a better look.

Document from Montague Dated 11 January, 1916

I could feel Richmond’s eyes upon me as he watched for my reaction to the document.

“This is revolting to read.” I said putting the paper on the table face down and removing my spectacles.

“Just so. But I if what Reilly relates of what Montague had been told, then things are a far side worse than anyone has given any possible consideration. He believed he was on to evidence which would reveal the Transylvanian Personage to have not only financed but secretly orchestrated the Black Hand – and so was instrumental in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.” Richmond said as he squinted against the backward curl of smoke from his cigarette, “That he started this damned war.”

I sighed and shook my head, “This war would have started one way or another eventually. The Balkans are just too unstable. They always have been.” I slowly refolded his document and placing it flat upon the table pushed back across the table to him with two fingers, “However, it is a troubling thought.”

“Quite.” Richmond said and returned the page to the inner pocket of his dinner jacket. “This whole ‘revolution’ and ‘mankind who are chosen’ and the ‘bowing before the strong ones’ — which Montague indicated to Reilly was something called the Pale Agenda — has had London most anxious to hear further from him. Especially after his last transmissions and then his going silent most of February, while he made his expedition to and from Transylvanian.”

“Transylvanian?” I asked with some irritation – as now Richmond’s scatter shot relating of events had become something more than bothersome. “Just a moment,” I held up a hand. “Allow me to get these facts in order. You say Montague went to Budapest to speak with Professor Vordenburg and then he went to Transylvania? “

“Yes.” Richmond replied as he tapped ashes from his cigarette into the ashtray.

“Perhaps if you took a moment and arranged events say in some order.” I sat back. “So, to begin, why did Nigel Montague seek out Professor Vordenburg?”

Richmond stubbed his cigarette out and reached to his jacket and removed an envelope. He passed it over. I looked at him and then took the envelope. Upon opening it I found two communiqués from Montague.

Document from Montague Dated 4 January, 1916

I put my spectacles back on began reading the Most Immediate to the Director dated 4 January. As I did so I could not help muttering aloud the horrid implication of . . . ‘crimson ingestion.’ “And this Ioana—she is the same one whom Montague is suspected of having run away with.” I asked as I continued to read.

“Yes,” Richmond took out his cigarette case, removed and lit up another, “This is a nasty business your lordship.’

“It most certainly is,” I said as I continued to read. Dracula and the Scholomance. I had heard he was an alleged student – if this were true, then he was even more dangerous that being merely one of the un-dead.

“I mean, I am content to deal with the war and even knowing that at times what I have to do brings death to others, “Richmond reflected, “But this whole . . . . I mean . . it is not as if I am not aware – you know. . . but, even so, I just can not fathom that it is even possible – that there are . . . the un-dead. And I am sorry, but that is too polite an euphuism—they are monsters. I mean—you see for yourself, targeted for crimson ingestion. That poor girl – no matter what her occupation. To be thought of as . . . prey? A meal?” He said with some vexation and then looked at the dining table oddly. “To be perfectly honest with you Lord Cyril, I’ve been a member of the group for a little over a year, transferred from Foreign Service – but I have never actually seen . . . ”

I looked up from the page. “The un-dead.”

“Yes, and so I had her moved to a safe house as I said. But now she’s gone.” He said with some concern, “I can not help but wonder, was it Montague? But then again, what if it was not?’"

I watched him take a long drink of his brandy and soda and peered over the rim of my spectacles to briefly survey the room to see if anyone happened to be dining close enough to overhear.

“This Turcanu does he still walk free?" I asked seeking to confirm the memorandum. Richmond was indeed correct this was a nasty business.

He shook his head, “Montague drove a Hawthorne stake through him, and then severed the head. So—he’s one less to worry about.”

“I wish to avoid confusion upon one other matter, Montague’s disappearance. This took place not in Hungary or Transylvania, but here, in Bucharest? He had returned?” I asked to clear up a matter so as not to make any assumption.

Richmond nodded, “He apparently returned early in the morning and went straight to see Ioana Tânase – which is why the Deputy Consul is so certain he and the girl just bunked.”
“I see,” I told him and now turned my attention to the second document. A classified message, designated secret, also to the Director, from Chapel – which I took to be Montague’s code name. (Mem: after the events that were to follow, I have taken all of the documents from Richmond into safe keeping)

Document from Montague Dated 12 January, 1916

He leans forward, “I have to say, your lordship, what I fear the most, is that – is that they got to Montague and now he’s one of them.”

“One can hope not.” I did not like the very look of the words, Pale Agenda. Even more the thought that there may have been a possible second sanctuary for The Count. To say the least, this news was disconcerting. I sighed having read enough, and returned the documents to the envelope and handed them back to Richmond.

“Has no one spoken with Vordenburg about this?” I asked removing my spectacles once more.

Richmond seemed to grown more composed as he took a comforting inhalation from his cigarette, "Well—I have tried. But the man’s been just tight lipped since he arrived from Budapest. I have to say, sir, I have a feeling that’s why London’s asked you to take a bit of holiday here in The City of Joy. I think they feel he may speak more openly with you. As he is not talking – least of all to me. Which I must say I can understand his reticence, don’t you know – having to leave behind his home and position, owing to what ever Montague might have done to drawn the attention of the Evidenzbureau.”

I looked around for a waiter.

When suddenly there was a most familiar voice.

“Lord Cyril. I do so hope you have had a most uneventful day.‘’ I turned and there was Miss Jackson Elias approaching our table as she stepped away from the Maître d’ escorting her to one of the centre tables. It was quite apparent she had spend a portion of her day shopping as she was wearing a most fashionable dress which looked as if it just arrived from Paris. She carried a small purse and a hat with a half-lace veil, which fell most attractively across the left side of her face.

I took notice that young Richmond looked up suddenly and beamed that bright smile.

“Ah, Miss Elias.” I stood to greet her. “I did not expect to see you again so soon. The whole city of Bucharest, and we still manage to meet.”

“It must be fate your lordship.” She said with that wry smile of hers.

“This is Edmond Richmond, he works at the British Embassy. He is a trade liaison.” I said by way of introduction. “Mr Richmond this is Miss Jackson Elias. Miss Elias was my traveling companion from Corfu."

His smile widens, “My—you are the adventuress.”

“Mr Richmond. Please to met you. And yes, Lord Cyril and I had a few hectic days.” She gave him a quick glance and offered a polite smile – but, she was apparently not influenced by his beamish boy smile, as she quickly returned her inquisitive eyes to me. “Now, don’t tell me. You are not staying at the Athene too?”

“I’m afraid I am. I would say it is coincidental, but I suppose we would both want the best accommodation after such trials.” And she laughed, “Having traversed through the Valley of Death, Lord Cyril, it is nothing but the finest sheets and the most comfortable bed imaginable for me.” I observed her quick eyes glancing at the open menu, “Oh, I am sorry, I am interrupting your dinner.”

I shook my head and pulled out a chair for her, “Not at all. Do join us.”

She gave me a warm smile and quickly taking note of the smoking cigarette in Richmond’s hand – seeing as she held one herself as yet unlit, no doubt preparing to do so when seated by the Maître d’ – she reached over and in her brash Jackson style took Richmond’s so as to gain a light, “You are certain, I will not be interrupting anything?”

“Not at all. Please.” And with the joining of Jackson, the secretive part of the meeting came to a close.

She handed Richmond his cigarette back, and holding her own slightly away from her, with a bent-back wrist, she placed her purse on the table and turned to inform the Maître d’ she would be joining old friends for dinner—and would he be a dear and have the waiter bring over a whiskey . . . neat. She then gave me a warm smile as she took a seat in the chair I held for her, and sighed, "Well, after our travails, your lordship—tell me you have spent the whole of the glorious day treating yourself to the sights of Bucharest.”

“Indeed I have.” I replied, “They have a lovely park. I spent a most relaxing time by the lake.”

She took a quick pull from her cigarette, “Oh that sounds wonderful – now for me, it was shopping. And it is quite true the shops are almost like being in Paris. Maybe, last year.”

Miss Jackson turned to give Richmond a quick assessing look and then a most courteous smile asked, “Are there any places of interest we should visit, Mr Richmond?”

Richmond continued to smile at her and was about to reply when suddenly there was the report of a gunshot and the window beside us shattered. Richmond grabbed his chest and fell from his seat to the floor.

Jackson knelt quickly beside him, opening his dinner jacket in order to inspect the wound – which was high in the shoulder – as I quickly hit the floor as well, partly out of shock and partly out of experience from our Serbian trip.

Jackson grabbed a napkin from the table and pressed it against the bleeding wound, even as she was looking around the dining room for assistance.

She spotted the Maître d’ who stood mute with an open mouth.

Quickly composing myself I scuttled over to Richmond.

Jackson glared at the shocked and immobile Maître d’, “Don’t just stand there. Get a doctor!” she ordered.

The man turned to leave as she has instructed.

“And a constable.” She called after the departing figure of the Maître d’. “Don’t move Mr. Richmond.”

Hoping that Jackson, even in this civil setting, would have brought her revolver, I requested of her, “Check the window, I’ve got him.”

I detected in her quizzical look the instinctive curiosity as to why in the splendor of the dining room of the Athene Palace, my guest for dinner had been shot – even as she passed the napkin to me and then reached up and removed her purse from the table and cautiously moved to the mullioned window and the single shattered pane of glass. I was aware that several dinners had scurried away from their tables in shock, moving a good distance from the windows where they watched myself and Jackson at the window. Looking out upon the darken lawn, she told me she saw nothing other than a few comfortable couples strolling along the walkway as there did not seem to be anything at all threatening. “Whomever it was, they have departed.”

I held the napkin tightly to his wound. “Damnations, stay alive will you.”

“Right you are sir.” Richmond replied as he lay regarding Jackson’s ankles before he passed out.

Jackson steps back over and knelt down beside me, “Something told me you were not coming here for holiday.”

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Welcome to Little Paris
Session Six - Part One

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Jackson Elias Journal (continued)
12 March, Athene Palace, Bucharest. — The train pulled into Bucharest’s Central Station at 11:45. A few minutes sly of being an hour late. There had been a delay just west of Slatina. An ox-cart had overturned in a farmer’s apparent attempt to try and cross the tracks without a road or trail – inventing one—which had ended in disaster. The cart’s wheel had loosened and it lay where it had toppled after having rolled away, while a load of cabbages were strewn across the rail bed. Their leafy heads littering a muddy ditch were more than several had rolled down the slight incline. For quite some time nothing was being done as the farmer, in loose white trousers and a dirty shirt and coat to match, stood in a loud and protracted argument with the conductor and an engineer. Once the cart was pushed off the tracks, the train proceeded. The cabbages crushed under the steel wheels.

The Central Station platform was crowded with an eclectic gathering. Passengers awaiting to board, which were mostly men in work clothes awaiting to take the train to Pitesti and the refinery and oil fields there, but there were also peasants, some barefoot, moving along among those adorned in the stylish clothes of the wealthy. The few women I noticed wore large Parisian hats.

I got off the train with Lord Cyril, who held his hand out to help me step off the carriage and on to the platform. “So – you shall be proceeding on to Athene Palace?” he asked.

“Yes.” I adjusted the coat of the gray traveling suit I had purchased in Severin. “And then—a bit of shopping is in order.”

“Quite.” He replied distractedly as he checked his pocket watch and then returned it to his waistcoat. “Well – I will no doubt see you there.” Having crossed near 500 miles of enemy occupied territory together, having dodged Bulgarian and Austrian patrols as well as bullets, and yet, here upon this island of neutrality in midst of a sea of war, we somehow stood more than a bit awkwardly. It was evident Lord Cyril wanted to be off – preoccupied no doubt by whatever had initially drawn him through enemy lines to Bucharest. And then, there were of course Lt Kadijević’s plans to be delivered. Suddenly we were interrupted by a porter, who stepped up smartly, sensing foreign visitors and the opportunity for a considerable tip – “Luggage?’ He asked in French. I turned to look at him. “I can be of assistance, no? The luggage through the station to awaiting cab?”

Lord Cyril gave him a polite shake of the head, “I have just the one valise, thank you.” While I smiled at the porter whose happy expression was replaced by one of severe disappointment as I informed him, “And I have only this.” And I held forth a very small traveling bag, but the man was already looking past us to other opportunities exiting the train carriages behind us.

“Yes, well, I am certain we shall see one another.” I smiled at Lord Cyril, “Perhaps at dinner. But for now – I want to check in and see the city.”

“Certainly – “ He lifted his valise and we walked together along the platform toward the station.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
12 March, Athene Palace, Bucharest. — Our long journey having come to a satisfactory conclusion with our arrival at Bucharest’s Central Station, I prepared to bid Jackson good-bye. We parted outside the train station amid the mid-day rush of pedestrians and the chaotic street traffic. A mix of motor cars swerving about ox-carts carrying product to markets. I watched her depart in a Ford Model T, which seems to be the prevalent make of motor cabs.

I felt assured Miss Elias would now engage in whatever truly motivated her request to join our cross-Balkan journey. I wish her well. However, there were other, greater matters to attend to. I hailed a cab of my own. A small, noisy little motor car whose driver, quickly ascertaining I was British, became quite obsequious. He was a bit taken back that I seemed to have but a single valise.

He looked about for more as he removed his wool cap, “The one? Monsieur?” he asked in a bit of broken English, which had more of a French accent than a Romanian one. He put the valise in the front seat with him.

“Yes, just the one, thank you.” I replied in Romanian. “One should always endeavor to pack lightly.”

“A wise man owing to the times. I do hope your trip was uneventful.” The driver smiled as he quickly slipped into Romanian as he held the rear door open. I climbed in. “Quite uneventful and relaxing. Such beautiful countryside.” I told him as he closed the door.

He asked if I were heading to the hotel or was I perhaps stopping off at the British Embassy. I informed him we would be heading to the Embassy. As we began to make our way along the busy street I asked if the hotel was very far from the Consulate. He said that it was not far at all. I nodded and told him then if that were the case I would walk to the hotel, seeing as how I had only the one valise. I sat back, clasped my hands together in my lap and rested my eyes.

The jaunty car made its way slowly through the suddenly crowded street as various horse-drawn carriages, ox-carts, and motor cars converged upon a narrow intersection. The city was alive in a cacophony of traffic sounds.

The drive in fact was a short one. Less than five minutes even with the congestion of the streets. I asked the driver for the fare as I stepped down to the walk and moved over to the front of the car, whereupon I opened the door to remove my valise. Having received the converted remainder of my wired funds at Turnu Severin into Romanian lei, I handed him two coins .

The driver had stopped just outside the large, cast iron fence which surrounded the rather fashionable building. A brass plaque proclaimed it to be the British Embassy. It felt good to see once again the Union Jack as it fluttered in the cold wind. I turned back to the street to take a another quick survey, for I had yet to completely relax from our furtive travels and sense of an ever present danger. I picked up my valise. There were a few fashionable ladies strolling along the sidewalks. As well as several army officers in their uniforms of pastel shades, with lots of gold lace and tassels on their boots, wearing caps in baby-blue hues. So clean and smart, especially compared to the Serbians still on Corfu.

As I passed through the gates I nodded in return to the British soldiers who stood looking rather bored. It is obvious the embassy’s military contingent was small owing to the war and Romania’s neutrality. Valise in hand I passed a few gentlemen preoccupied with business affairs, who gave me little heed as we passed one another as I entered the embassy. It was good to once again be ignored.

Inside the lobby with its high vaulted ceiling and marble floor, my footsteps echoed loudly in all too the familiar atmosphere of British bureaucracy. I approached the long, mahogany front desk which resided across the marble floor where I took note of two men in amiable conversation behind it.

“Right, and how may I be of service." Asked a tall, fair haired young man.

I reached inside my jacket pocket and removed the battered and well folded paper within its cardboard covering to hand over my passport. “Yes. I am a subject of his majesty bearing important information relating to the war effort. I would like to speak with, if not the Ambassador, than someone who can help me get this information to those that require it.”

Upon a quick perusal of my passport, the fair-haired gentleman sudden straightened noticeably. “Lord Cyril, yes, well, you have been expected.” He said as he returned my passport and moved along the front desk. He made a slight motion with his hand, “If you would, Sir. This way.”

I replaced my passport and picked up my valise in order to follow the lead of the young man as he stepped out from behind the desk to proceed past various, verdant fronds of well attended plants set in golden vases beside the columns, which lead to a public sitting room. The gentleman escorting me stepped over to an elevator. Pulling back the metal grate he motioned for me to enter. I followed his lead. Once inside, he pushed the grate back into place and closed the doors. Pushing down a brass lever the elevator engaged with a slight jolt and we began to slowly ascend to the second floor.

“We had expected you several days ago, sir. But then, as I understand, you took a rather adventurous route. It must have been quite a journey. Mr. Richmond seemed very concerned.“ The gentleman said in way of making conversation as the elevator ascended, “ Of course I know very little about it, second floor business an all, but I was informed you are here to do some research on Wallachian folklore?"

“Indeed.” The hydraulics of the small elevator whined as we slowed even more to halt at the second floor, “It’s all rather specified in the burial practices among the modern Vlachs and how they may relate to the Romano-Dacians,” I told him as a means to avoid the all too sinister true nature of my visit. Not that the modern folk burial practices did not interest me, and if I have time, I hope to investigate the connections further.

The fair-haired gentleman continued to look at me with some interest as he pulled back the door and pushed open the grate. I continued, "Now, of course eastern orthodoxy is the norm here, I well understand. But especially in the hinterlands, old traditions can survive centuries virtually untouched.

“Right you are, Sir. And I know I should be up on all of this.” The young gentleman said not at all certain what I had told him, I am sure. “But, I must say, it’s all a bit of a difficulty just keeping up with what is going on in the city. It is an eclectic coterie to say the least.”

He motioned for me to exit the elevator. Behind me, he closed the grate. Quickly stepping up, he once again took the lead. “Ah, yes, this way, Sir.”

There was the sound of distant typewriters clacking and then the occasional bell, accompanied by the sound of a carriage being slid back. The hallway we traversed was a series of closed doors with opaque glass insets.

The fair-haired gentleman continued his attempt to engage in conversation as we walked down the corridor. “You know, thirty years or so . . . there wasn’t much here but a fairly wretched village. And now? Look at it. It’s become a quite the get rich quick city these days. It’s all in the Oil, Sir."

“Oil you say?” I asked as we approached a door whose opaque glass was embossed Deputy Consul in gold lettering. “Cooking oil?”

He rapped upon the glass with a single knuckle. “Oh, no sir. Petrol. They find it just about everywhere these days. We’ve got the American’s Standard Oil and Royal Dutch each trying to out drill the other, while small Romanian operations seem to just spring up every day.”

A voice from behind the door bid us to enter.

“Well, as long as they’ll sell it to us . . .” I replied.

He smiled as he opened the door, “Well that’s what we are all working toward, Sir.”

It was a large room scented with cigarette smoke. Behind a broad mahogany desk, wearing a light suit with a bow tie and starched wing-tipped collar sat a man of about forty. His desk was impeccably arranged.

“Sir, Lord Cyril to see you." The fair-haired gentleman announced as we entered.

“Lord Cyril—“ The man behind the desk said with a wide smile, “Frightfully good to see you. We have been expecting you for some time now, come in, come in.” He stood up and stepped around the desk.

I stepped forward into the room, while the young man escorting me remained at the door.

“Clive Ossington. Deputy Consul.” He strode over and offered his hand with which he shook mine in a firm grasp. “Welcome to Bucharest.” Then, motioning to a chair before his desk, he offered me a seat. “Wish you had telegraphed ahead, we would have sent around a motor car. Central Station at this time of day can be quite a madhouse.’

“Pleasure to meet you Mr Ossington.” I told him as I took the offered seat.

“Thanks Gordon—that will be all for the moment.” He dismissed the young gentleman who nodded and then left.

“I must apologize if I have kept you waiting.” I told him, “There were some unfortunate detours I encountered along my trip.”

“Quite, quite.” Clive Ossington nodded as he moved over to the edge of his perfectly arranged desk and picked up a cigarette box and offered me one which I declined. He took one out for himself and lit it, "Well, in any event, I must say – I am glad to see you. Can not even imagine what it must have been like,” He continued as he let the smoke of his cigarette come out through his teeth, in a rather crude fashion, as he placed the cigarette box back down upon his desk. “I mean, trekking through Serbia? Must have been like walking through Dante’s inferno, hey?”

“Indeed, but, I would think taking the long way around through the Russian snows might prove just as long, and not provide us with this valuable information.” And upon saying, I opened my valise, which I had set down beside my chair and pulled out the well worn sealed envelope. I handed it over to him over before shutting the bag again.

He cocked an eye and took the envelope

“Courtesy of the chetniks. Those Serbs have the gut for modern war.” I informed him.

Carefully handling the envelope and his cigarette he moved back around his desk and sat back down. He reached over for his letter opener, but paused to realign the cigarette box upon the desk – before then picking up the opener. He slit the envelope cleanly and removed the contents. With a squint against the trail of smoke from the cigarette he quickly glanced at Lt Kadijević and my reports, in English and Serbian respectively. Slowly placing one page behind another, as he examined them, he came to the request for supplies to organize an underground network, and the plans to begin an open revolt sometime next year.

“I am not sure if they should go to Serbian, British, or French high command,” I continued as he examined the documents, “But I’ll leave that for you to sort out.”

“I say, this will certainly start a bonfire, what?” The Consul looked up with a sly grin, “I shall have them placed in the night’s diplomatic pouch. Of course, we’ll send along a flash telegram – encoded and all that sort of bother. Telegraph wires have ears, don’t you know. Never know whose listening. The whole bloody city is filled with spies. I may give them a go with our British military attaché.” He said taking a reflective drag from his cigarette and then suddenly becoming aware of the ash and so he cupped a hand under it and quickly moved toward the strategically placed ashtray. “Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Thomson. Nice chap – bit of a pessimist I am afraid. He’s been here for some time. Our efforts to bring about Rumania into the war. Which I must say is beginning to look rather promising – it might even happen as soon as this fall.”

I nodded, “Oh! Speaking of the war, what is the news from the front. I was last in communication with a newspaper on the 23. Something about a major German offensive at Verdun? Did that come of anything?"

Ossington took another reflective drag off his cigarette, “Frightful business. Simply frightful. German 5th Army attacked you see. Along the right bank of the Meuse as they planned to take the Meuse Heights. Excellent position they say from which to lob all manner of bombardment upon Verdun. And there was nothing there, of course, but the French Second and so they bloody well had the day . . . for I’d say. . . at least the first three, or four days. Gave them bloody hell. Lots of casualties. But then the French jolly well got their back up. And now, I hear they have some 20 divisions. But it’s going too be absolute hell, I’d say. Artillery vs. artillery. Which is why we need to open this damned new front here in Romania.”

“Indeed. So with this information safely in your hands,” I pointed to the envelope. “Let’s hope Lt Kadijević and his chetniks can make an impact if we can get them supplies. So . . . What is next? Anything from London for me to know?"

“Well,” Clive Ossington casually leaned forward to tap ashes from his cigarette into his ashtray already half filled, “There is this Montague business.”

“Certainly.” I said as I crossed my legs and reached into my jacket pocket to pull out my pipe and a small pouch to begin stuffing tobacco into it.

“Our friend in London seems most concerned, having sent several Most Immediates.” Ossington replied as he continued to tap his cigarette against the ashtray.

“And how is the old fellow." I inquired as I continued to fill the bowl of my pipe. Not quite sure how much Ossington truly knew about ‘our friend in London.’

“He’s in a bit of a whirl as I said about this Montague chap of his.” Ossington takes a long inhalation of his cigarette and then reaches out to offer over a box of matches. “Of course, it’s Clandestine Services. And all rather hush hush.”

I took the matches and lit my pipe, taking a deep breath. “Thank you,” I said, waving the match out leaning forward to placing it into the ashtray. “Yes, I had heard that Montague had disappeared. Who was this fellow anyway? What was he getting himself into.”

“Well, his official capacity with the legation was listed as a trade liaison, something to do with Universal Imports & Exports.” He waved the hand holding the cigarette, “But of course that was a bit of a ruse. I mean, he rarely, if ever held a meeting – on trade. And then—he was wont to disappeared for various stretches of time with little or no explanation. Seemed to place cryptic, flash transmissions to Athens, on some sort of schedule, which, I dare say, was more than a bit of a give away, what? We all know what we don’t know in regards to Athens is being a relay hub for communiqués to the FO and Admiralty House.”

I slowly puffed upon my pipe allowing him to continue.

“And so, I know our friend in London is keen to clear this matter up, and to that end is making use of valuable resources such as yourself. But, as I see it, I must say, I fear this is going to end up being nothing more than a rather sordid local matter.”

“How so?” I inquired.

“Well, Montague was a decent enough chap, but, I dare say he was a bit of a womanizer.” Ossington said as he inhaled smoke from his cigarette, “Had a spot of trouble not too long ago in regards to couple of wrens. A double engagement as it were, if you get my meaning.” Smoke escaping from his lips as he continued, “To make a long short of it— there was a rather public row in a cabaret, you see. Lots of pushing and shouting and then the usual accompaniment of tears. I am not saying it’s an occupational hazard with you chaps in that line of work – but, I have seen similar behavior before – but, with Montague, it was a bit habitual. I mean, of late he had gotten fairly involved with a possible informant regarding one of the local black markets. An Ioana Tânase. Rather attractive I hear, but she is a prostitute. I should warn you Lord Cyril, Bucharest does indeed, I am afraid, have per capita an astounding number of those plying that trade. And so, in all likelihood either the chaps off on a lark – I mean he did have more than a few lei at his disposal. And if not – then, he’s possibly run into some misfortune with the criminal element of which this Tânase no doubt associates.” Ossington slowly began to stub out his cigarette, “In any case – I am not sure it should cause as much angst in London as it appears – and that is not making light of the fact something dreadful may have befallen the young fellow.”

I sat for a moment stroking my beard. "Where did you hear this? About his involvement with a possible informant. I would think our man in London would have been aware.”

Ossington cocked an eyebrow, “Yes, well sometimes what happens in Romania stays in Romania. Particularly when it comes to skirts. But in any event, as you are here to have a go at looking into clearing up the matter – young Richmond – Edward Richmond is the just the fellow you need to see.”

“Edmond Richmond?” I asked.

“Yet, another member of Universal Import & Export.” Ossington replied attempting to find a place on his desk for my battered envelope, one which did not appear to disrupt the over symmetry of the items so arranged atop it. “I say Lord Cyril, not to put you on any kind of a deuced spot and all but do you have any idea what our friend is all so anxious about? I mean, I have suggested perhaps we should just allow the local constabulary to look into the matter, but our friend is most adamant they are not to be informed.”

“Yes. I am afraid it all does make a certain amount of sense to me.” I replied as I removed the stem of my pipe from my lips, “Not much I can elaborate upon, I am afraid, all still very hush hush you understand. As for the police, they would bring about a proper investigation but in so doing they would make things a matter of public record. Now, if they open an investigation on their own, we should remain as hands off as possible. Besides, admitting this man went missing would be admitting that we have agents in a neutral country.” And I cocked an eyebrow, “One that we are in the process of convincing to join our side. However, as I came all the way out here. I will see what I can find in regards to our missing young Montague.”

“Quite right, quite right.” Ossington replied, “So, I assume you are staying at the Athene? I will have young Richmond stop by to see you after you have had time to check in and freshen up. Say have him meet you for dinner?”

“Certainly. I shall have to pick his brain about the goings on in the city.”

“A good fellow Richmond. And I am more than certain he’s a bit more in the know on all of this—certainly more so than I. Operational deniably and all – don’t you know.” Ossington said as he leaned back in his chair – relieved that he could hand this over to me I suspect. “By Jove. I must say. It is good to have you here Lord Cyril. I can only imagine the difficulty you had in making your way from Corfu- passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death – hey what?”

“Corfu looks much closer on a map than it feels on the back.” I nodded, “They say that fresh air will do a man good. However, I think I will keep to the city for the time being.”

“It is astonishing, Sir. Just astonishing that you made it.” Ossington said with true admiration.

“I’ve still vigor in me yet, my lad.” I smiled and replaced the stem of my pipe to my lips.

“A word of caution.” He catches himself and smiles, “I mean as much as one can give caution to someone whose been through enemy lines, but do be careful in our beautiful city. There are various criminal alliances – black markets, most of which are territorial. And I dare say you can’t walk a block without having bumped into several intelligencers from any number of countries—we are a hive of espionage here."

“I thank you for the word of warning,” I replied, “Please be sure to pass on the chetnik’s documents.”

“Right you are – next diplomatic pouch.” Ossington said as he took a quick glance at his desk clock, and then arose from his desk, “Now. I am sure you are looking forward to checking in.”

I arose as well.

Ossington stepped around his desk once more and as he did so he took notice of my valise, “Here, allow me to get someone to carry that for you.”

I picked it up, “No need. I have it.”

“As you say. Note you are a pipe smoker—I shall have Richmond bring over a fresh supply of tobacco. Prices are bit steep.” He said as he escorted me toward the office door, “So—I shall have Richmond over say around 6:30.”

“Certainly.” I took the man’s hand in a farewell shake, “And hopefully he will know a good restaurant. I am eager to take in the local cuisine.”

“Excellent,” Ossington opens the door, “Although, the Athene dining room is really quite superb. Oh, by jove, I nearly forgot. Hawkins had asked us to keep an eye on local hotels, and all, and to let you know if anyone of interest had checked it recently. Do you know a Harker? A Jonathan Harker?”

I stopped in the doorway. “The name is familiar, yes. Why, is he here?”

“He checked into the Princiar Hotel, yesterday.” Ossington said as he placed a hand upon my shoulder, “Thought you ought to know.”

“I see. Well thank you Mr Ossington, you are a jolly decent fellow, and I shall return in a few days to alert you of any changes.”

With that, I made my way through the city to the Hotel Athenee. Checking in was a simple matter, and the suite I have taken is well suited to my needs for a protracted stay. I am now writing all of this as it is fresh in my mind. It is good to make a decent journal entry again, now that I have a proper desk and chair to sit in. Tonight I shall meet with this Richmond over dinner, but first I think I shall take in some of the sights and make some minor purchases.

View
Corfu to the Danube: Behind Enemy Lines
Session Five

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Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal
21 February, Ionian Sea. — Our cross-Balkan journey has begun, and I can say I am really feeling the old sense of adventure again. This promises to be no walk in the park, but I plan to not let my apprehensions of the task ahead get in the way of my optimism. We have a 500 mile walk ahead of us through enemy territory, and I do hope to be in Bucharest within a month.

We are en route to Valona (Vlore) in the Italian zone of Albania. In Valona we shall obtain some supplies, clothing, and a wagon. We will travel east, crossing the river Vlosa near Kalivac. There, we plan to hire a guide to take us past the enemy lines.

The Albanians do not like the Serbs. The Serbs have taken every opportunity to conquer the Albanians in the past, and now they have an opportunity to fight back. One can hope that bribery in these times can keep our guide disinterested in the true nationalities of those they are guiding.

The hope is to get through Albania quickly, avoiding the town of Korce and crossing into the Macedonian region by way of boat over Prespa Lake. In Serbia, we should expect more support from the locals.

I suppose I should take this time to make note of our band. Our leader is Lt Peter Kadijevic, a man I have the utmost respect for. He is of humble origin, but from what I can gather a skilled strategist and logistician. He has the concrete plans for after we cross the Lake.

He is an old Chetnik along with Srgt Marko Pasic, his brother-in-law. Marko knows Albanian, as he grew up in the Kosovo region. He will be our main interpreter on this first leg of the journey. He is a jovial fellow with an impeccably waxed mustache, and always has a traditional proverb to lighten the mood.

There are two privates who where chosen to accompany us. One is named Konstantin Zukic. He is constantly sulking, and muttering about all the negative things that could happen to us. He is constantly followed by the other private, young Ivan Cavoski. He assures me that he is 18, though I would wager the boy is no older than 15. I suspect he lied about his age to join, a fact which Peter is not over concerned about. Evidently both are to be considered fine specimens of soldiery, though to my untrained eye they are a rag-tag pair.

Finally there is Jackson Elias, who is, despite her unfortunate first name, an American woman reporter. She is a crack shot with a handgun, and evokes tales of the wild west and Indian-fighting. I am however, taken to understand she comes from New England. She is constantly writing things down, either in her notepad, or on that loud typewriter she has insisted on bringing. She will be writing the exploits of out journey and we shall part ways in Romania.

In fact, the Serbian soldiers shall part ways with us by the Romanian border. They are to stay and organize an uprising, and I do hope they all survive. After this war, I shall track them down, but for now, we approach the dock.
-C

Letter From Elisa Bishop to Rochelle Wade
20 February

My Dearest Rochelle,
I hope by now you have received my latest letter as I am not at all certain of the routing of the uninterrupted flow of the post – owing to the war and my current location. As I said, I have to send via a post boat from Corfu to the Greek mainland—and from there by whatever routes to the States. From your last letter, I am infinitely aware of your worries as I know just how anxious you are as I once sat as you, awaiting the post from Mother and Father, and the guilt for that is very heavy upon me indeed. And, I am more than certain this letter will upset you even more and I have wrestled with its writing – in that should I compose it when I arrive in Bucharest, or write it now, and so I have had to weigh what I am certain you will fear the most, a possible outcome neither of us wants to put pen to paper to see written – and so, I have decided it best to write you now to let you know I will be trekking upon some dangerous ground. I have had the great good fortune to have met here in Corfu Lord Cyril Blathing, the 7th Earl of Gavilshire. Lord Cyril is an renown Orientalist, who has traveled extensively through Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans, a linguist, who has written several books on esoteric folklore – but I suspect his arrival here on Corfu has less of the occult to it than to other capacities and affiliations. Particularly since he arrived amongst the mass exodus I have previously described of the apocalyptic Serbian retreat into the sea, and yet he is immediately aligning with a small squad of Serbs to make his way back through enemy lines into Romania. Which is what I am in a long way round writing to you about – and which you have no doubt guessed as I have hinted of it earlier by the mentioning of Bucharest. Lord Cyril has graciously allowed me to join his adventurous band of brave souls who seem all too eager to once again face adversity. Please, please – please try not to worry. I will write as soon as I arrive in Romania – but Jackson cannot miss this opportunity as it affords passage to where my story leads. Racketeering – smuggling and black markets during war are to be expected – but, if what I was told in Paris is true that someone has turned medical supplies and medicine into a illicit commodity, this is a story Jackson can not resist. The source in Greece seemed far more terrified than I would have expected from mere black marketeers – I do have some experience with informers. She would not confirm or deny anything – although an inadvertent slip leads me to believe that if there is a hub for this indecent trade it may lie in Bucharest. Rochelle – I miss you terribly and I long for nothing more than to have you in my arms – to cover your sweet lips with kisses long and tender and never ending. Know how much I love you – and that you saved a young woman bent on self-destruction. You are the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Through you I learned that love truly does exist. But my dearest you know all too well I am a vagabond and a rogue and Jackson is who I truly am. It pains me to write it but it is true. I love this life as much as I love you. And I will fight the devil himself were he to exist to return to you – but if fate deals me a hand of aces and eights know that my last thought will be of you Before I left for Paris the lawyers have instructions. I have to go, I waited too long to write this as – I love you Rochelle.
All my love,
Elisa

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
23 February, Kalivac. — We are at our last stop before we cross over behind enemy lines. The past couple of days have been fairly quiet, if cold. In Valona we got enough supplies to last us and a horse drawn wagon. Ivan has really taken to the horse, a beautiful piebald. He has named it ‘Lokva’, or puddle, though I would prefer to call him Šarac, the name of the mythic Prince Marko Kraljevic’s steed.

We are now waiting in a Kafana for nightfall. We met with our guide, a local gypsy named Yanko. He was initially reluctant to guide us, but silver goes a long way in these parts. Marko did most of the talking in Albanian. He says that Yanko will guide us up a mountain. On the other side is Austrian controlled territory. It will take a few days to cross, but we should avoid any Austrian patrols.

For now, we wait.
-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary – handwritten
23 February, Kalivac. — We have begun – to wait. We arrived yesterday in Valona one of the oldest cities in Albania. It is a natural harbor, the importance of which was not lost on the Greeks, or the Romans, or the Sicilians, or the Ottomans, or the Venetians – seemingly forever under the rule of someone more powerful than the last – until the National Awakening and independence, which all too quickly unraveled. And then came the war and the Italians – their troops lazily wander about the city. I am told they move much quicker wherever someone blows something up. With luck that won’t be until we depart. We are sitting in a cozy little Kafana, awaiting nightfall. Sergeant Pasic – whom we all call Marko, as no one seems to call anyone by their rank except Lt. Kadijević (to whom this band of battle weary soldiers seem absolutely dedicated, hero worship is not far off the mark) – sits touching the curl of his mustache as he continues to laugh and talk to the gypsy Yanko. I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about – but I am certain Marko is just making sure the gypsy stays bought – as he has more than courteously agreed to guide us up the mountain into territory currently controlled by the Austrians for the silver he has been given. I am just glad it was not thirty pieces of silver – although, there is something in Yanko’s eyes that tells me he would do the same thing as Judas for a lot less. Our supplies are awaiting in the wagon, concealed for silver as well, in a small livery near-by, which Private Ivan Cavoski is guarding. The Private, although very much a member of this squad, who all seem very much devoted to one another, seems more reticent. Quiet. Quickly stepping up to volunteer to watch the wagon while everyone sits jovially in the Kafana – or gives the appearance of being jovial. Lord Cyril is ever wary. I watch his eyes – which under those bushy white brows have the appearance of a hawk. Lt. Kadijević, I think he might have once been jovial – but the war has taken that away. As it appears he and Marko are very close, it looks to me as if he has delegated his good-humor to the Sergeant. Private Konstantin Zukic, seemingly anxious, departed earlier to assure that all was well with Private Cavoksi. He did not seem to have the patience to sit awaiting as the others, but then, I am of the opinion everyone would love to depart and head up the mountain – if only night would hasten.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
25 February, The banks of Lake Ohrid. — It has been quite the eventful couple of days. Yanko did guide us up the mountain pass into enemy territory. The path was so narrow, that our cart was riding on the sides of the pass, a full 4 feet in the air. We had to unhitch Lokva and pull it, or rather the soldiers did. However, our success was short lived, as Yanko brought us right to a trap. Fortunately, it was not Austro-Hungarian soldiers, but Albanian tribesmen.

When they captured us, it took me a lot of convincing to keep the trigger happy Jackson from engaging them, but eventually we handed over our weapons, to await our fate. Marko kept them distracted, and informed us of their plans. Evidently, they planned to turn us over to the Austrians in hopes of obtaining some reward. While Marko kept them occupied, Lt Kadijević was able to free himself and escape. Using only a knife he had hidden in his boot, he was able to quietly dispatch several of the Albanian sentries before the leader noticed what was happening.

Kadijević’s assault was so swift and quiet, that the Albanians began to fear a supernatural attacker, and they fled, leaving behind their equipment and horses, along with all of our goods. We were all very impressed with Kadijević, but he downplayed it, reminiscing about his old Chetnik days. Mounting the enemy’s horses, we were able to make good time, only once spotting enemy troops. These we evaded and tonight we are by the banks of Lake Orhid, passing into Serbian Macedon. Here we will be encountering more numerous Bulgarian enemies, but we will have the support of the population. Although, with the invading army foraging for supplies of their own, it is unclear how much the locals will be able to assist us.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary – handwritten
25 February, Near Lake Ohrid. — The night is cold. The wind off the lake makes it seem even colder. There in the distantance can be heard the howl of a wolf. I am glad for the cloudless night. Owing to the events of the day – and our seemingly miraculous escape from the filthy Albanians who planned to sell us to the Austrians. Or so I was informed by Lord Cyril. I am writing this longhand rather than risk the typewriter. First, I must say, I can only marvel at Lt Kadijević skill with a knife. I would not be sitting here huddled into my greatcoat if not for his bravery. God, how I long to pull these tiresome shoes off and stretch my toes. I am just thankful to have them. Which calls to mind that last day in Corfu and the decision to leave my clothing behind, all of which I gave to Djovana, in exchange for this coat, shoes, and the clothes I have been wearing. I had explained to Djovana after having gain agreement from Lord Cyril to accompany him what I needed was a really durable coat and the next morning there she stood with a bright smile and an olive green greatcoat, which was waist-less and double-breasted with six buttons down each side. The left pocket had been cut through – which Djovana explained had been intentionally slit to accommodate a saber. It was worn and badly frayed about the cuffs. Some how over the night she had washed it – as it was still damp – so that it smelled cleaner than it looked. It would appear that this battered, woolen coat had apparently made it successfully through the hazards of the exodus, but not the encampment upon Corfu. I was never told the circumstances of it’s owner. Along with the coat Djovana also produced a skirt and blouse and a pair of sturdy shoes. Her skill as a seamstress was obvious as she had modified them based upon nothing more than an estimation of my size and figure. I told her she would have had a extraordinary career among the fashionable clothing stores in Manhattan – which I tired to explain, but she only continued to give me a quizzical look in trying to understand ladies who make a living by dressing other ladies in stores. Was this not done by a servant? She had asked. Well, according to some based upon what little wages they made, it must certainly seem like servitude I told her – as she stood very eager for me to try on the clothes she had fashioned. Not at all aware of the irony. She watched as I removed my full, dark skirt and blouse to stand before her in the teal, embroidered silk brassiere and tap panties I had purchased in a small shop in Paris – to which Djovana shook her head. I stripped them off and tossed them upon the bed, to which she quickly looked away, even as I could not help but smile. As always, for me being naked with a lady was quite natural. Whereas for Djovana, even with sisters, the sight of a naked woman brought a bright flush to her cheeks. I stepped over to the dresser drawer and removed a shorter cut panty and slipped them on before stepping into the skirt and pulling it about my waist. Djovana had cut it to a slimmer fit so that it would not flair out and the hem had been brought up. I put on the new blouse with the high-collar. Thus, dressed, I modeled for Djovana, who stepped over and inspected the fit, noting the waist to be less constricting as it was tailored for comfort and not to accent the figure. “Much walking in bad weather.” She said, although, she was clearly aghast that I was even contemplating a trip across the Balkans to Romania. Lord Cyril had indicated that when we reached Valona they had planned to get supplies – but Djovana felt it best I have something before then for she felt those who dealt in such things would find undressing a lady far more to their liking that dressing one. And I was certain when we arrived she had been right. “I make you another.” She smiled. I had no idea where she obtained the material – although I suspected she was taking apart some apparel of her own. I was glad I was leaving all of mine behind for her. And now our supplies are low. I can tell Lord Cyril is concerned – but I find his English reserve ever seems determine toward optimism. Although, when he speaks to Lt Kadijević, I am more than certain he’s far more realistic. I am convinced there is not much a sympathetic villager or farmer – and there are less of them than men it would seem, owing to the war – can afford to spare. The rude huts and ragged villages we pass seem all the same. War weary. Those left to contend with the invading Bulgarians are hollow-cheeked, filthy, and stand in doorways with the haggard look of the starved – these desperate survivors of what must seem like endless war. They have been fighting here in the Balkans before the damn fool even shot Ferdinand. God I already want out of these shoes The muck and the mud.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
26 February, Struga. — Today we are again in a semi-civilized area. The town of Struga, with a population of only about 5000 is the ‘big city’ of this part of Serbia. On the banks of Lake Orhid, it sits between Albania and Makedonia. It is here that we shall assume our identities for the trip across Serbia. Lt Kadijević got in contact with a priest at the Church of St George. The priest, father Nikodemos, was an old ally from the Chetnik past of the officers, and so provided shelter to us in his house.

The priest’s wife, Oana, provided us with a warm meal while Father Nikodemos went to find yet another confederate, Vasil, who specializes in making forgeries. After reminiscing over Rakjia and Pljeskavica, Peter, Marko and Vasil poured over documents to get us passage through the countryside.

To avoid problems with Jackson, She will be playing the part of my granddaughter, dumb of speech to avoid problems with the language. Konstantin and Ivan will be the sons of Lt Peter and Marko will be his brother in law, as it is in reality. The six of us are on the move to donate cabbage to the occupying Bulgarians. Some Bulgar sympathizers exist in this part of the Balkans, and we will be playing the part if any soldiers ask. At least as far as Kosovo. We will have out papers by tomorrow and hope to leave soon after.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
26 February, Struga . — Today I became a proper Lady. At least I think I would be a Lady, since the subterfuge of Lord Cyril is to pass me off as his granddaughter. Of course no one seemed to give his lordship a second glance when he said as much – thinking I guess if a crazy Englishman is out for a ‘constitution’ in war torn Serbia, then he would most likely bring along his granddaughter. And so, as his granddaughter, I would be Lady Jackson – although, more than likely it would have to be Lady Elisa – though I do so hate that name. Lady Louise is more to my liking. Of course, I have to remember I can only smile and nod as not only am I tagging along with my grandfather in the middle of a war, I am dumb as well. It could be worse, I could be deaf, dumb, and blind. I did so want to speak when Father Nikodemos’s wife, Oana, spoke to me. She was so very kind and I understood very little. Before we were to leave she came to see me and placed around my neck what at first appeared to be an antique necklace, but was a small cross. She placed her hand upon it and pressed as if she were laying upon it some blessing. I may need that blessing as we are off to deliver cabbage to Bulgarians. Only the day before they were ready to sell us to the Austrians. How anyone could want to give cabbage to Bulgarian’s is beyond me. But from what I understand there are some who sympathize with this invading Bulgarian army. It is astounding the violence of this land. Once allied in the Balkan League – successfully driving out the Ottomans for the first time in five hundred years. The Bulgarian’s dissatisfied with their spoils of war waited but a month to turn on Serbia. And Serbia – with its ‘where there dwells a Serb there is Serbia’ – seemed to have few allies among her neighbors. And now, here we are feinting the feeding of cabbages to those who had helped bring about the death of a quarter of a million retreating Serbs. Have to put away my pen for here comes grandfather.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
28 February, Kalkandelen. — Our attempts at subterfuge were not well met. We managed to progress at a steady click through the first day, and were just about to set up a camp for the night when we were approached by a Bulgarian Patrol. There were two of them, and neither spoke Serbian or Albanian. While one was scrutinizing our papers, the other made an advance on Jackson. She would not hear of it, and punched, not slapped, but punched the soldier in the face. The would be assailant went to hit Jackson with the butt of his rifle, much to the annoyance of his associate, when two shots rang out. Marko had pulled his automatic and killed the two Bulgarians.

The entire group assembled their weaponry in the event of a response, but after a minute, Kadijević ordered the bodies hidden and the trip resumed. Cavoski suggested that Jackson don men’s clothing and pretend to be a boy, but I wouldn’t have it. It is bad enough that she carries that revolver around, but to have her in trousers…Well I suppose it would keep the lecherous foes in check. While I ignored the suggestion, and neglected to translate it to Jackson, Kadijević seemed to find quiet humor in the whole concept.

The next day we pushed on. We were stopped once again, but our forged papers worked this time. One of the patrol spoke some faulting Serbo-Croatian and asked about their missing fellows. We feigned ignorance and went on our way, though not without them requisitioning our cabbage.

We are now in the town of Kalkandelen. There is an armory and weapons workshop here, and Kadijević has gone to organize saboteurs among the workingmen. Markos and Zukic have gone to meet with some distant relatives of Markos to see about a place to stay for the night, while Cavoski, Jackson and I are waiting in a Kafana. Cavoski seems to be helping Jackson practice her Serbo-Croatian, while Jackson is teaching the lad some English.

The destitute, sick, and cold are everywhere, as are the Bulgarians. I would have thought the civilians would have been spared such cruelty, but it seems the Bulgarians care little for the locals except in how much food and work they can extract. Pillagers all, but such is war. One would hope that mankind can only be but so cruel to each other. But I suppose it pales in comparison to the depravity of some things that lie in the dark.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
28 February, Kalkandelen. — 6:45 p.m. Taking time to write as I have a nice flat surface and a comfortable chair. We are still waiting for Markos to return. Lord Cyril’s occasional glances out the Kafana window reflects his growing apprehension. Markos left in order to obtain shelter for us from his relatives. Or so Lord Cyril had informed me. Distant relatives. But was that in linage or distance? Language. Am I have difficulty with English now? Diner is something to savor after having eaten whatever we can around a campfire. It is called, Tavče gravče (I have to give thanks to Lord Cyril’s pronunciation and spelling). Everyone eagerly dished it out from the big kettle once it was set down. It is made of butter beans, onions, oil, dry red pepper, salt, parsley and a mystery meat. Everyone smiled at the table when I asked. I having to be careful, as I am still playing Lord Cyril’s dumb granddaughter. Although I am certain, the weapon-smith overheard me whisper to Pvt. Cavoski to be certain to obtain the bayonet which had caught my fancy. It became obvious to me earlier, when the leering Bulgarian border patrol soldier had strolled up and decided that rather than inspect my papers he wanted to inspect by breast, I needed something for working in close. Not having a knife, I punched him full in the face – certain I broke his nose – as he let go and stumbled backwards. It was a moment of high tension – his companion lifting his rifle; the solider, whose nose was bleeding to stain the teeth of his no longer leering smile, angrily jerking up his weapon to try and smash me in the face with the rifle butt; my hand reaching back in the greatcoat for the Navy Colt tucked into the waistband of my skirt; Lt. Kadijević, Cavoksi, and Zukic training their weapons on the Bulgarians – all of which, happening simultaneously, seemed to take an eternity. Before the shots rang out. They echoed loudly. A flock of birds took flight. Both Bulgarians when down. Marko had shot them. Everyone stood anxiously looking around – anticipating some sudden retaliation. Only everything grew uncannily quite once more. Lord Cyril was shaking his head as he looked at me, while I stood over the dead Bulgarian with my Colt in hand. Lt. Kadijević strolled over and retrieved our papers from the dead soldier’s hand and then snapped orders to conceal the bodies. They all looked at me – I knew what they were thinking. Better to have a rough hand on my breast than a bullet. I lowered my revolver and glared back – I was not about to explain the last man who had touched my breast. And at the moment I was not at all certain what was being adamantly discussed between Lord Cyril and Pvt. Cavoski, who pointed to me several times. Whatever it was Lt. Kadijević found it rather humorous. Already a swirl with emotions I was more than piqued about whatever they were saying about me – the price for not knowing the damned language. Of course, I knew my reaction had been ill-advised . . . but it was instinctive. And for a dammed good reason. Later, when I was working with Pvt. Cavoski to assist in learning English . . . even as they continued to try and educate me in Serbian – I discovered that in the earlier conversation the Private had been telling Lord Cyril, “I either looked like a boy or acted like a boy, or I should look like a boy.” I gather what was being suggested was that I should dress in an uniform and pass as a man or boy – which apparently Lord Cyril took acceptation to. I smiled and Pvt. Cavoski looked at me oddly. Lord Cyril had little idea that though I was a New England heiress from New York, I was not at all genteel. I had grown up in a California mining town where I as a young girl had worn trousers – and at times looked very much like a boy. Something which I suspect Pvt. Cavoski may very well understand. But that is truly of no one’s concern. Lord Cyril glances once more out the window – trying very hard to appear unconcerned. Another bottle of Rakjia – a fruit brandy that everyone at the Kafana drinks – is called for.

We are in Kalkandelen at the foothills of the Šar Mountain. It is a town apparently well known for its particular craftsmanship in making weapons and for the Colored Mosque. The city is divided by the Pena River, ethnicity, and religion. The Bulgarian’s are Orthodox and the Albanians are Muslim. What brings them together is the fact they have been dominated by others for so long. First the Ottomans. Then the Albanians after the Ottomans were displaced. Then they were taken over by the Serbian’s in order to form “South Serbia,” which did not at all sit well with the Bulgarian’s. In fact the whole of the Macedonian question is what led to the breakup of the Balkan League. And now it has come under Bulgarian control after Bulgaria’s alliance with the Central Powers and it’s invasion of Serbia. Which does not seem to be much of a liberation. For although Macedonia is predominately Bulgarian and Albanian, the Bulgarians have not spared their cruelty. Taking whatever they will from whomever they will – and there is so precious little to give after so many years of war. It can’t all be blamed on the comitadji. Lord Cyril seems relieved as through the window I can see Marko striding along the road. We shall be leaving the Kafana comfort shortly. A some point, I will need to slip away so as to dispose of my Lister towel.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
2 March, Mitrovica. — Three days from Kalkandelen to Mitrovica. I had hoped to make it in two, but as we passed back into Austrian held territory, we necessitated a more circulations route. We had to abandon the wagon in the woods, though we kept Lokva as a means of scouting and carrying our diminishing supplies.

Once in Kosovo, Lt. Kadijević occupied half of one day with a raid on an Austrian outpost. Though I participated, I must say I killed no one, though I did discharge my revolver twice. Jackson went into the fray with perhaps more vigor than becomes a lady. But she gained the respect of the Serbians, and has proven she can take orders despite the language barrier, though that has begun to be broken.

Much of the supplies we captured from the outpost would be cumbersome to transport with us, so much of the food was shared with the locals, earning much praise. We dined in the hilly forest that night, Kadijević and Pasic proclaiming that all present, including myself, had made for excellent chetniks. Jackson took the opportunity to set up her portable typewriter and relay the days events, but our night of revelry was interrupted by Pvt. Zukic, who reported an Austrian search party was approaching. In our haste to escape capture, Jackson’s typewriter was left behind, through Pvt Cavoski managed to grab the papers from it. Jackson was grateful to have at least her partial report, and Kadijević was to not give warning to the enemy of the presence of English speakers in the party.

At length we made it to Mitrovica, were Srgt Pasic’s large extended family lives. He introduced us in the middle of the night to his parents and the host of siblings Pasic’s father is a carpenter, and they put us up in his workshop for the night. Both Kadijević and Pasic asked about one sister in particular, Ivanka, Lt. Kadijević’s wife. They have not heard word from her since the occupation, but presume she is in Žagubica with Kadijević’’s family. That will be our final stop before the Serbians and I part ways, but we have much more of the country to cross.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
2 March, Mitrovica. — Quick entry and then some rest. I had hoped to write more in a dispatch but alas – I nearly lost it all as well as my typewriter when we were forced to make a hasty departure from the camp we had set up for the night as Pvt. Zukic came all at once to give word that an Austrian search party was drawing near. A mad scrambled ensued as everyone began trying to obscure any evidence of our camp – but we were rushed as Pvt. Zubic whispered repeatedly, “Požurite! Požurite! while waving his rifle, which he held every ready to defend our escape. I threw things into my pack, and was helping Cavoski toss dirt on the tiny fire and to scatter twigs about it when I was suddenly grabbed by Marko and pushed along. We hastily moved to the north – when suddenly the horror struck – I had left the Corona. Lord Cyril was more concerned about the sheet of paper I had left in it than of my typewriter. Pvt. Cavoksi without a moments hesitation turned and hurried back. I stood with my Colt in hand – not sure I was even breathing—for fear of a shot echoing in the dark. If anything were to happen to her on account of my leaving the damn typewriter, it would be one more addition to the list of things for which I must carry my burden of guilt. I let loose a long held breath as the Private came running into view – but it was evident my typewriter was not in hand. Cavoksi approached slowly to give me the paper which had been extracted from it. I lifted a brow and nodded thanks – well aware it was no doubt intentionally lost somewhere in the forest. They all viewed its loss with some great relief – for now that we were in a land controlled by one of the greatest military powers on earth it was no longer one more thing to have to carry and one less thing to worry about . . . the clacking of my keys echoing into unwanted ears. I understood even as I was vexed at myself for having left it behind. I had thought earlier, when we had made the raid on the Austrian outpost, I had earned some measure of respect. For I had held my own and kept the raiding party from being flanked as I took down four Austrians attempting to do so. And so, I would have thought by now they would know I wasn’t just some damn fool American woman, who didn’t have the good sense to know when it was safe to use it – but, whether or not I had gained any of their respect – there really is no safe place. The sudden appearance of the Austrian search party made that evident. It is late and like those once forced to travel in order to be recorded for a census, Srgt. Pasic’s family, thought extremely hospitable, had no room . . . and so we are staying in his father’s workshop. He is a carpenter in a land that needs rebuilding – so there will ever be enough work for him when this war ends. I am very concerned for Srgt. Pasic and his family as are they very concerned for his younger sister Ivanka, from whom they have not heard a word since the occupation. They hope she is still in Žagubica. It appears Ivanka is Lt. Kadijević’s wife, and the Pasic family’s worries were evident upon his face. I fear for him – and for her – as none of them has looked into the lurid leer and felt a Bulgarian hand upon their breast.

Dispatch – Jackson Elias – Kane News Syndicate – unfinished.
Trampled Beneath The Hooves of War
As we make our way through Serbia one has the sure and certain feeling that no one can deny that the first four seals have been broken. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” For it would seem The Horsemen have ridden their mounts hard over all over this land. As we pass through the white, red-roofed villages and small irregular towns there are to be found, painted upon the outer wall of a house or upon the fences which stand before them, little white crosses. One, two, three, sometimes more. Each cross represents a case of typhus that inhabited the home. Many of these houses now stand deserted. Their doors ajar. Their windows broken or their shutters left open to provide gapping sanctuaries for the birds. For the First Horseman being Pestilence, this land has seen not only typhus but smallpox, scarlet fever, scarlatina, diphtheria and King Cholera. And then came the Second Horseman – War. And the inevitable invasion by of one of greatest military powers on earth. And with them came the Germans and the Bulgarians and War soon left the dead rotting in the valleys, and in the fields, and in the roadways, and within the villages, and then the mass exodus began. A deadly rout to the Sea. Thousands dying – thousands yet to die. And then the Third seal was broken and the Third Horseman mounted. Everywhere one looks the fields are overgrown with w

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
6 March, Žitkovac. — This trek through the hills and open valleys of central Serbia has proved the most difficult part of our travel yet. Not due to inhospitable terrain or unsympathetic locals, but the openness makes avoiding Austrian patrols increasingly difficult. They are most certainly aware of our presence, and have been combing the area to find us. While the locals are very much willing to help us hide and provide food for us, they fear retribution if it discovered that they aided us.

In Leposavić we met with a Serbian Sublieutenant named Kosta Vojinović. He was wounded and being tended to by an Albanian Kosovar family, but he expressed his wishes to form an underground Chetnik movement in the area. I gave my word that once I reach Rumania, I would contact the Serbian high command with his request for logistical aid.

After leaving Leposavić we continued to move north east through the countryside, mostly at night, although a few snowy days made early morning travel possible. It is a frigid affair trying to move so far at night. We only encountered the enemy once, only this last night.

A patrol spotted us and opened fire before we could react. We managed to dispatch them, but not without casualty. Private Cavoski was hit in the thigh, a grazing shot thank heavens.

However the private needed to have the wound patched.

To make a long and convoluted story short, it turns out that Private Ivan Cavoski, is actually Vera Cavoski. She had enlisted under her brother’s name to try and find a lover gone missing on the front. This came as a surprise to everyone except Lt. Kadijević and Jackson, who had both guessed, but had no proof. How they were able to tell I cannot know, and Miss Jackson only comments that “A woman knows such things.”

This will evidently not change anything, as female soldiers tend to be more common and perhaps more accepted in Serbia than elsewhere. The lieutenant and the sergeant both fought with female chetniks and private Zukic, already quite close with Cavoski, seems to be closer still.

In the meantime, we managed to escape further detection, and are now planning for tomorrow night. Kradijević is planning a bit of sabotage, as we are just outside of the Constantinople railway. We need to cross it and the river Morava to continue eastward anyway, and we may as well delay the Berlin-Baghdad rail connection on the way.

After that, we will make way to Žagubica, Kradijević’s hometown, and from there on the Rumanian frontier.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
6 March, Leposavić. — The country roads are little more than tracks, and yet, like the main roads we can not use them. We are now traveling through the foothills and valleys where we are forced to be ever on guard for Austrian patrols. And even more amazingly – as we had heard a deep, steady hum, which seemed so oddly out of place in the quite countryside, just before Lt. Kadijević had us all suddenly lie down in the tall weeds – an aeroplane, perhaps a thousand feet above, flew over us. From its markings it was a German bi-plane. Lord Cyril informed me that he and Lt. Kadijević are more than certain, from intelligence gathered at the last small village, the Austrians are well aware of our presence. The villagers now all seemed very sympatric but they have failed to provide any provisions as they apparently fear Austrian retribution. Everywhere we pass it seems the fields are overrun by weeds. There are houses left deserted. Doors stand ajar. Windows are broken or provide gapping sanctuaries for birds as their shutters remain open. In one small village we passed through, old men slowly dragged themselves to the door to watch us pass, as the women scurried to safety. I could feel their hard, suspicious eyes. Here in Leposavić we came upon a Serbian Sub-lieutenant by the name of Kosta Vojinović. He had been badly wounded and was being tended to by an Albanian Kosovar family. A old man and his two grown daughters – both of whom had lost their husbands. Lord Cyril and Lt. Kadijević spent lot of time in discussions with him – going over maps and taking notes. There is the lethargic feeling we should be able to spend the night here – but everyone knows that is far too dangerous. What with Austrian patrols upon our heels. I have opened the last pack of cigarettes and have placed a ration in my small cigarette case – these may be the last until we cross the border.

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
7 March, Žitkovac. — From Leposavić we proceeded to the northeast, moving almost exclusively at night – although we took advantage of a couple of snowy days, whose low visibility made early morning travel possible. I am so thankful for my greatcoat – although by now it no longer smells as fresh as the day when Djovana first brought it to me. The blasts of winter air makes moving at night even more arduous. Luckily we only encountered a single Austrian patrol. We were winding down what felt like nothing more than some thin goat track when the clouds moved away from the moon to reveal a left-hand curve. We took it and suddenly came upon them. Six infantrymen on patrol in their greatcoats, feldgrau uniforms and fledkappes. Owing to surprise and the dim moonlight, they open fire even as we scrambled for cover. Marko quickly covering lord Cyril. I pulled my Colt and fired even as I heard a bullet whistle in the air above my right shoulder. My aim was surer and the solider dropped his weapon to stagger forward. I had shot him in the mouth and the exit wound surely went through the back of his skull, but he stood there gasping like some horrid marionette, his mouth working as if he were a ventriloquist’s dummy. It seemed his mouth was trying to form words or to scream, but only blood gushed out. It was a horrid sight – the blood so unusually dark . . . in the light of the moon it looked black. He was so close I could hear is terrible gasping. But, there was no time to react. More bullets were whizzing and the squad was returning fire. I leapt to one side in order to fall upon the ground even as I fired once again and shattered the knee of one of the Austrian’s who tumbled over in agony. The skirmish lasted at best a minute-to-a-minute-in-a-half . . . but as the crack of the guns reports echoed off across the countryside it seem to have taken forever. When it was over I stood trembling slightly. I could still feel the rush of the memory of the bullet as it passed over my shoulder. Steadying my hands, I become aware I was down to the last of the ammunition I had brought for the colt as I reloaded. And then it became all to obvious, we were not with out causality. Private Cavoski had been hit in the thigh. A shot that looked worse than it was. I hurried over to her as Marko was quickly beginning to minister aid. He ripped open the trouser leg – where he stopped and those crowded around to watch in the hopes of a revelation that it was not a fatal wound all stood now strangely silent. Of course, everyone save Lt. Kadijević and myself were shocked to discover that Cavoksi was really Vera Cavoski. It would appear she had enlisted under her brother’s name in the hopes of finding her lover who had been listed as missing, she would later tell the Lieutenant. “You knew?” Lord Cyril asked and I nodded, “A woman knows these kinds of things.” Sadly, I found it bit humorous that Pvt. Zukic came over to comfort her with far more ease . . . now that he was aware that whatever his feelings had been, they were in fact for a woman. I turned to walk over toward the fallen Austrians. The man I had hit in the knee was rolling on his back groaning, holding one hand tightly about the wound as if to try and keep the blood from flowing between his fingers, while with the other he was reaching out for his fallen weapon – luckily lying too far from of his grasp. Lt. Kadijević and I stood looking at him. He both looked around – aware that the echoing reports would have no doubt alerted others. We then looked at each other. I shrugged – “Three?” I asked holding up my fingers. He nodded. I counted it out and upon three we both fired. The idea being neither of us knows who in fact killed him. I scavenged a revolver from one of the men and all the ammunition I could find of the right caliber. For a brief moment I was startled and whirled about, lifting the Austrian’s revolver. Up the grade of the small hill, for a moment, I thought I saw a figure. Dark in the moonlight. But upon a closer look there was nothing there. A trick of the moon? I sighed but still held the revolver ready. It was time to pack up my Colt. With the perimeter set, we waited until Marko was satisfied that his medical attentions to Cavoski would hold. And so, as soon as Cavoksi was able to move, we were on our way.

Lord Cyril Blathing’s Journal (continued)
10 March, Žagubica. — It has taken us far too long, but we are finally in Žagubica. Our attempts at sabotage did not go well. Our improvised explosives failed, and we were spotted by a sentry. We tried to escape, but Private Zukic was not so lucky. Fortunately, he was captured and not shot on the spot, presumably for interrogation. We could not allow him to be tortured into giving away our origin and goals, and Private Cavoski argued vehemently for an immediate rescue.

Using some local connections, we discovered the location of where he was being held, we attacked. The assault was quick and silent, using melee weapons to subdue the guards. I was unable to participate in this action, instead staying hidden in the rendez-vous point, on the Morava with a rowboat. Though we managed to free our captured comrade and escape, the enemy was hot on our trail, and pursued us for the next two days. We had to leave Lokva behind, but we escaped.

One day of night hiking, and we crossed back into Bulgarian held territory. Had we known the exact distribution of territory before planning our trip, we would have most likely stayed in Bulgarian held lands to avoid the added difficulties of bypassing such administrative borders. However, we managed to avoid any other difficulties until we arrived in Žagubica.

Lt Kadijević’s family owned Kafana was being occupied by the Bulgarian officers as an HQ. Kadijević told us to wait while he went in through the back door to find his wife. We waited for a good half hour. I must admit at times I thought he had been captured. But then he opened the back door, raised a lantern, and escorted us in. The officers were sleeping in the inn’s rooms, but there was space in the cellar. We ate and rested while Ivanka told us of her attempt to form a resistance movement in the village.

The Serbians agreed to stay here and help while Jackson and I escaped to Rumania. I also agreed to take some Bulgarian battle plans Ivanka had stolen out and forward them to the British embassy in Bucharest. Tomorrow, Lt Kadijević will escort us to the Danube, and we will make our escape. He will remain. I am very ready to be in neutral Rumania. I think I will take a day’s rest in the finest hotel in Turnu Severin once on the other side of the river. I will wire to London for funds and after a day’s rest, begin my mission in earnest. I just have to make it past the Danube.

-C

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
10 March, Žagubica. — I now know what it is to be a mouse while the cat is asleep, for we are all trying to be as quiet as church mice. Above us, in their comfortable beds, snore the Bulgarian officers who have commandeered Lt. Kadijević’s family’s inn for their headquarters. I am sitting with my back to the wall, legs bent and pulled up with my filthy, muddy skirt wrapped tightly about my legs for warmth, as I brace my journal upon my knees. I have taken up a spot near the lantern. Everyone is exhausted and are lying down, trying to rest even as they are well aware of just who slumbers above us. Makos is checking Vera’s wound. I fear it may be infected. I have not made an entry since the failure at the rail yard. Lt. Kradijević well aware that on our route lay the all too tempting target of the Constantinople Railway, felt that a quick and simple act of sabotage could cripple supply lines. Whereas Lord Cyril saw a far more strategic opportunity – perhaps inflicting ever more considerable delay in the continuation of the Berlin-to-Bagdad Railway and the fulfillment of Germany’s dream of a port on the Persian Gulf. Which, according to Morris Jastrow, if completed would be a 42-centimetre gun leveled upon India. Lord Cyril indicated from his information, the project was somewhere around 300 miles short of completion. And so together they mapped out a plan of assault. It was dusk. Afternoon shadows were lengthening into twilight. Thus, removing my greatcoat, I mounted a bicycle we had commandeered, and with my skirt hiked just so, rode along the road leading past the manned sentry station. As the soldiers turned to watch my leisurely footwork on the petals, Kradijević, Makos, Pasic, and Zukic, with great stealth made their way into the railway yard. With caution and great precision they placed improvised explosives at various strategic locations. In fact, everything went as planned. The sentries stood their ground but took in the luxury of watching my legs, and in particular the flash of my thigh (I had removed my less than white stockings), as even in the cold, snowy weather I intentionally hiked the skirt up even further as I passed. They paid little heed to the mud upon my hem – or perhaps the war had turned it into a fetish. The masterful Chetnick’s placed their charges and retreated as silently as they had entered the rail yard. There was great excitement as we hunkered down, each in our pre-arranged positions, for the grand moment – only the improvised explosives failed. Of all the charges only one went off and it did little more than lift a railroad tie and scatter gravel from the rail bed. Which of course altered the sentries whereupon we each quickly began to made our way toward the rendezvous point – but then, Private Zukic was spotted by a sentry. “Halt!” Came the command the sentries raced to converge upon Pvt. Zukic. Not only did he halt—but his capture halted our retreat across the river. Pvt. Cavoksi was vehement in her argument that he could not be left behind – no one is to be left behind. While, Lord Cyril and Lt. Kradijević’s sentiment was far less altruistic. Zubic knew too much and could not be allowed to talk. So – a new plan had to be hastily developed. Markos slid away from the group and returned with the location wherein they were holding Zukic. The Railroad Station, which had been turned into a military telegraph communication hub and an outpost to monitor the rail. Thus, we moved. Only this assault was to be quick and silent – hand-to-hand. We had to move with great care for now the sentries would be alert. I carried the bayonet Vera Cavoski had gotten for me at Kalkandelen. I longed for some shoes other than these high, Victorian ankle boots as I made my way quietly along some stacked cargo awaiting the next train’s arrival. One by one I could see the others slip from one hiding spot to the next as we moved upon the station house. Markos took out a sentry as he moved along the outer perimeter. Ahead, for me, stood an Austrian trying to light a cigarette by cupping his hand to protect the flame – and as he was concentrating on the flame I slipped up behind him – I was aware he had sensed something, but by then the blade of my knife had slit his throat before he could remove the match from the end of his cigarette. He pitched forward. Blood slowly creating a darkening pool about his head. I glanced to see the assault now on the station. Kradijević, Makos, and Pasic went in suddenly and there was a long silence before they reappeared with Pvt. Zukic. Furtively they made their way across the rail yard. I kept vigil of the narrow road lending to the station. But there was only a starving dog wandering down the street. I turned back to check their progress and for a moment I thought I saw a dark figure standing atop the station. I whirled about pulling my revolver – only there was no one there. Lt. Kradijević observing my reaction stopped to lift his own weapon – but he too saw nothing atop the station. We exchanged a look and I shrugged. It was now a head-long dash for the river and the rendezvous point, where Lord Cyril and Cavoski awaited on the cold waters of the Morava with a rowboat. We make it across the river – having to leave our faithful friend Lokva behind. But there was no time to lament our loss. By now the Austrians were on our heels. For two days it was a constant, sustained flight through snowy terrain. Our luck returned in that the dimly lit mornings brought with them a low visibility of fog and misty flakes of snow. But it made our travel more arduous. We passed back over onto land controlled by the Bulgarians. I must say as much as I had come to loath the Bulgarian’s, I welcomed being out of Austrian occupation. And so, we have made our way to Žagubica.

The plan had been to stay with Lt Kadijević’s family. To rest a day perhaps two before moving on to the border. Only upon arrival, we discovered that the family Kafana had been taken over by Bulgarian officers who had converted the tavern into some makeshift headquarters. I must say I think we were all concerned when he slipped off all his weapons, removed his cap and told us to await him. Owing to his anxiety for his family, and for his wife in particular, this was the first time I saw him as Peter rather than Lt Kadijević. Lord Cyril gave him a nod of encouragement. He smiled and then slipped away into the night to cross the dangerous distance from the edge of the woods to the back of the Kafana. Huddled in the dark, in the cold wind and snow of the woods behind the tavern, we could only hazard what would transpire when he entered the Kafana’s back door. I vehemently hoped he would not only find his wife there but that he would find she had been secure from all harm. Lord Cyril was most anxious as the time passed and he had not returned. I know it seemed like hours while in reality it was only a little over a half-an-hour. And then suddenly, the back door opened and we saw Kadijević as he raised and lowered a lantern. As silently as possible we approached and he escorted us to the cellar. And so, like mice we moved cautiously, whispered, and ate the wonderful food Ivanka brought down to us. From what I gather she had been not only safe but has been attempting to organize some form of resistance. I could see Kadijević’s band of Chetnick’s were all in agreement to assist her for at last they were relieved of their commitment to Lord Cyril, as Lt. Kadijević informed them he would escort us the last remaining distance to the Danube. I saw Ivanka pass Lord Cyril papers, some of which bore official looking stamps the color of bruises. He put them away quickly. Now it is time to get some rest. Tomorrow, Lt Kadijević will escort us to the Danube. Lord Cyril says there is a fine hotel in Turnu Severin. I plan to burn these clothes and soak in a hot bath for as long as I can keep the water warm. And then to stretch out naked upon good sheets.

Jackson Elias’ Diary (continued) – handwritten
12 March, Turnu Severin. — The hotel manager speaks French. Wonderful, wonderful French! I was never so happy to hear the language. And for that I can thank Aunt Ellen who sent me away to California and the mining camp where I learned French and Russian. Although—let’s not get too carried away. As she can be thanked just as well for the memory of Jackson which haunts me still. That will haunt me forever. And no manner of guilty inheritance, Aunt Ellen, will ever take it away or allow me to forgive you. Even now— Why, am I writing this? I have survived the long ordeal from Corfu to Turnu Severin. I have crossed the Danube while being shot at. I have endured Bulgarian brutes and Austrian patrols. Yes, I have to let this go. No more digressions. So—we arrived to enter the hotel lobby looking as if we had crawled up out of some grave. Bone cold, pale, exhausted, filthy of hair and face. Our clothes worn, torn in places, and caked in mud. The hotel manager looked at us aghast. One of the maids – three fingered, right to left – made the sign of the cross as if we had cross the river Styx rather than the Danube. The manager in his dark woolen suit stood behind the desk and lifted his hands to wave the backs of them at us as if he were shooing flies – (“Ne, ne, ovo je najuglednije mesto. Vi srpske izbeglice, morate naći negde drugde nego ovde. Odmah sam rekao.” ? —later added as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand). As tired as I was and with the Hotel lobby looking so wonderful and warm all I could think of was a bath and a bed and so I stepped up to the front desk and resolutely told him in French that I was sorry but I didn’t understand a word he had said but I wanted a room. I pointed to Lord Cyril – We wanted a room. We had come all the way from Corfu and as this was the finest hotel in Turnu Severin, or so we had been informed, and whether or not it was – the finest – we were not about to walk to another. He then tried to explain in French that he and his hotel had a reputation in Severin to uphold and he was sorry – but, he could make no allowances for refugees as there would be no end to the queue lining up outside his door. I slammed my fist upon the front desk: “Non! Non! Tu ne m’écoutes pas.” But it wasn’t until Lord Cyril stepped up and presented his passport and the manager became aware of Lord Cyril’s title that he suddenly became oh so amiable. “Can I wire from here to London for funds?” Lord Cyril asked and the little rotund man with the thick mustache, imperial behind the counter, nodded, “Certainement.” I asked if I could wire to the States — as have to let Rochelle know we have arrived. “Yes.” Everything was now in a haste to comply. His French became English. A room, certainly. A bath? But of course. New clothing? We shall see to them from one of the shops near-by. Tobacco? Oui. Turkish blend? Of course. Cigarettes—oh, mais oui, mademoiselle. Reverting back to French as he handed Lord Cyril a single key – in that he assumed me to be his ‘traveling companion’. I smiled at Lord Cyril’s irritation, but the flush of his cheeks was more from embarrassment at the suggestion. And so, I am sitting in the middle of a lovey bed after an hour’s soak in the tub—wherein two of the hotel maids were requisitioned to lumber up and down the back service stairs (there being some problem with the new sewage system, they said, and so there was no running water) in order to maintain the temperature of the scented bathwater. My room is warm and it feels so good to have nothing against my skin except the clean linens which I languidly stoke my bare legs against. And upon the bed table sits the complimentary bottle of țuică. Beside it rests the small glass from which I have already taken several shots. Beneath my pillow lies my Colt and the Steyr. I have to get ammunition for them. There are so many things I need to do – I must wire New York – Kane News Syndicate to contradict any notion of my demise; my bank to transfer more funds to my Parisian account; my lawyers to review the progress of Whitby-Snow International Explorations & Investments acquisition of Wainwright Munitions—I also wanted to inquire about investments into aeroplanes; I need to replace my typewriter; purchase a new wardrobe. Shoes. Oh, yes shoes. And undergarments. Replace all of my toilet items. I have only a nasty brush. I do so need to make a list. The manager tells me that in Bucharest there are shops which still receive the latest fashions from Paris – for you see mademoiselle, brushing his forefinger upon his mustache, affecting, but failing to appear suave, Bucharest is the “Paris of the Balkans.” I certainly hope so. I have already wired Paris for funds to ensure this accommodation as well as having wired ahead and secured a room at the Athene Palace – which the manager told me was truly grand. It was built to rival the most fashionable of Parisian hotels, the Meurice, the Ritz, or so he informed me. We shall see. I await the arrival of a proprietress of ‘a small but consequential women’s clothier,’ who I am assured will assist me in procuring a simple traveling suit. “Mademoiselle, you can not go wrapped in a sheet only.” I was told when I informed them to burn my old clothes as I stepped out of the bath. The maid being aware of the size of my pack, correctly surmised there were no clothes in it. So she made a list of my sizes. I do wish they would arrive soon – but until then, time for another drink. It does feel so warm as it goes down. And I have been so cold. And tired. But, I have to put this down and so —it was 5:32 A.M when we approached the banks of the Danube.

To be precise – Lord Cyril’s compass and map revealed we were at 44°40’N 22°30’E. After two nights of rough travel from Žagubica we had finally reached the Danube, or so Lt Kadijevic informed us. I expected to suddenly look out upon its dark waters, but the terrain we had been traversing was extremely hilly and steep and so we could not actually see the river. Although in the quiet of the night we could certainly hear it. Lt Kadijevic told us to wait. And he then slipped away into the darkness. There was supposedly a rowboat hidden away somewhere within a crevice, protected by the overhang of the steep cliff, which Ivanka used for smuggling goods from Romania. As she had given him directions, he went to assure it was still there as well as to check for any patrols. There was always the possibility the Bulgarians may have become aware of her Danube excursions. Lord Cyril took a weary seat against a rotted tree stump and placed his automatic on a log near at hand. I took a sit on a small, cold boulder. We were both filthy, mud-caked, and exhausted. Neither of us had bathed in weeks. God I was tired. I removed the small cigarette case from my skirt pocket and opened it to find it contained my last. I would have loved a smoke, but feared the flame of a match. I closed the case and returned it to my pocket. Something to celebrate our arrival in Romania. I took noticed that Lord Cyril was suddenly sitting slightly forward as if he were listening to something rather intently. His hand on his automatic. We both were on edge. Being this close, and yet – still so far away. I think we both were expecting something, anything to happen and so I began to listen too. There was the sound of rushing water not too far distant. But oddly—there were none of the usual sounds. No hooting of owls or the familiar chirp of insects. Having grown so accustomed to them – it was particularly noticeable when they were not there. “It’s too quiet,” I whispered. “It is. There may be an Bulgarian patrol nearby. Stay sharp.” He replied softly. And then suddenly there was a rustling from the rocks above. Lord Cyril gripped the automatic even as I pulled the Austrian Steyr. My ears were now listening where my eyes could not see. Then came the familiar voice, “Sova leti." The agreed upon code word, “The Owl Flies.” Which expected Lord Cyril’s, "Do meseca i nazad”—“To the moon and back” for reply. And then Lt. Kadijevic emerged from the brush and approached us with his rifle slung easily on his shoulder. He walked over to reach down in order to clasp Lord Cyril by the arm so as to help pull him up. In rather faulty English he asked, “You ready?” I grabbed up what little I had left in my pack – having lost so much along the way – a poor Gretel leaving breadcrumbs all the way back to the witch’s house. All I wanted was to see the Danube. And so yes, I was more than ready. Lord Cyril stood now with the Lieutenant’s aid – in truth I had begun to grow concerned about his lordship, owing to the snow flurries and the cold. I knew it was taking a toll upon him, and yet he smiled at Kadijevic: (Yes my friend. Did you see any Bulgarian patrols? Da moj prijatelju. Da li vidite neke Bugarske patrole? —later added as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand ). He nodded and answered him in Serbian. Aware of my concern, Lord Cyril turned to me and translated: “Peter says yes. There are four up on the heights and two down by the tributary. He is not sure why they are there – but, we will have to dispose of the two by the tributary if we want to slip the boat though.” I checked in my pack and removed several extra shells. All I had were these and what was in the Steyer’s 9mm magazine. The Colt was empty long ago. If it came to a fight, my aim would have to be true. As I was checking the magazine, the Lieutenant stepped over to place a hand upon my the wrist. “We take aim – for – the silence.” He said in his broken English, “I and Jacks-son, we will make upon them in the silence.” He said looking back over his shoulder to his lordship as he removed his knife from the sheath on his belt. He held the knife for me to see. “This – Jacks-son.” I nodded as I understood – this was going to be another close assault. He turned to Lord Cyril and gave him instructions. (My friend you stay with the boat. ‘Moje ime je da ostanete sa brodom’ – a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand) To this Lord Cyril frowned and began to protest – from what little I could understand he did not at all like this plan of Lt Kadijevic’s where once again it was I who was to do the killing. But by this time I had retrieved the bayonet I had tucked safety away into my pack. I sighed. It was going to be yet another piece of nasty work – but it had to be done . . . if we were to gain the Danube and then Romania beyond.

Tucking the Steyr in the waistband of my filthy skirt, I then picked up my light pack and stepped over to hand it to Lord Cyril, “If you can, please hold on to it. It has my notebook,. If I don’t make it. Please send to New York. To Kane News Syndicate. With my compliments.” It also contained the long written and much battered letter to Rochelle. He took it and frowned, “Jackson, you say this every time we do something like this." I smiled, “I know – I do it for luck. The time I forget to do it . . . “ and I let the thought trail away. His lordship sighed and strapped on my pack and then taking up his walking stick in one hand and the automatic in the other, he began to follow behind as the Lieutenant led the way. We made our descent as silently as possible down the winding path, which was less a path made for humans then by animals seeking water from the river. I was stuck by the silence – not of our descent toward the small river, but the fact the woods had gone so deathly quiet. In the dim moonlight near some rocks, I spotted the rowboat. We hurried over as every moment on this stretch of the riverbank we were crossing open ground. The boat had been beached and a pair of oars, with oily rags wrapped about them, lay within. The Lieutenant began helping Lord Cyril place things in the boat before giving him a bracing hand to assist him in getting in as well. Aware that Lord Cyril’s feet and legs had begun to grow very painful, we did our best to assure he did not have to get into the water to launch the boat. The lieutenant nodded to me and together we tugged the boat backward and let it slip into the water. My well-worn, high-topped Victorian ankle boots were soon soaked as were the dirty white stockings which reach up above my knees. My great coat trailed in the water as well. It was cold, freezing. I struggled to keep my teeth from chattering as I pulled myself into the boat as best I could with a minimum of splashing. The Lieutenant was last to get aboard, and taking up the oars from Lord Cyril, Kadijevic slowly stroked them in the water as silently as he could. Lord Cryil whispered to explain Kadijevic had told him we would row out into the small river until we approached a bend – then he would aim the boat back toward the shore. There upon Kadijevic and I would get out and sneak up on the sentries. From my position in the bow, silently wringing as best I could the water from my skirt and greatcoat – trying to fight the trembling that was setting in, I kept watch for anyone who might appear on the riverbank to investigate any sounds we may have made in launching the boat. Suddenly the Lieutenant lifted the wrapped oars from the water and allowed the rowboat to drift on the current – for ahead there was the faint sound of human voices. Impossible to make out or even to be understood – they seemed to come from just around the bend ahead in the river. He returned the oars into the water carefully and slowly guided the boat back to shore. I clenched my hands to my chest in order to warm them as the nose of the rowboat slipped up on the pebble strewn bank. Kadijevic and I slipped out of the boat and as silently as we could we pulled it up so that the current would not tug it free. His knife glistening in the moonlight, Lt. Kadijevic glanced at me and lifted his weapon – even as I pulled out my bayonet. He nodded and then crouching down he hastily moved over the open shore to the brush above. I followed his lead – my coat now much heavier for the water it had absorbed.

Earlier, in the boat, I had thought I had detected a few light flakes flitting through the air and now there were more as a light flurry began to fall. In fact as cold as I was, I wished for more in order to lower the visibility on the riverbank as we scrambled up and took shelter in the brush, were we moved cautiously so as to gain an advantage to see around the bend. I found myself holding my breath as Kadijevic pushed back some of the branches of the scruffy brush in order to see two Bulgarian solders in heavy wool coats. They were smoking pipes – although they kept their hands for the most part in their pockets. They stood sideways to us. {"Khei?, chuvash li kakvo se e sluchilo v Davidovats?"(—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand).

With hand signals, which I did understand, Lt. Kadijevic motioned for me to stay where I was while he moved a bit so we would come at them from the left and right.

“Ne? Chukh, che ima srazhenie snoshti.”?"(—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand). One of them said looking out into the dark waters of the river, watching the flakes of snow fall and fade away.

Constantly watching the Lieutenant, I was growing were more anxious, tense, ready to move – but the damned wet coat was weighing me down. I carefully slipped out of it and now felt the full assault of the cold. In the few moments I took my eyes off Kadijevic he seemed to have disappeared – and I apprehensively awaited seeing him once more. It seemed like and eternity, but then . . . there he was – he had moved around some large boulders and a few scrubs growing upon the bend in the river –

“Neshto za zhelanie da provedete tseremoniya za unishtozhavane na vampir.” (—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand) What were these sentries talking about? I am sure it has some import and so, I was doing my best to try and remember it based on what little Bulgarian I had picked up along the way – but one thing is for certain, I do know I heard the word Vampir. Which instinctively caused me to renew by grip upon the hilt of the bayonet.

“Edin vampir? Komandirut gi ostavi li?” (—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand).

Now this sentry seemed to look at his comrade with some shock. He was clearly no more than a boy, probably not much older than Vera Cosvoski. The older one replied: “Ne, stroga politika. Ne mozheshe da gi ostavi.” (—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand).

Across the way I now saw the Lieutenant give the signal as he began to slowly creep forward.

“Po dyavolite, nadyavai? se, che ne e vyarno.”(—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand)

Slowly, stepping as lightly as possible and I was hoping the worn shoe leather, now wet, would not creak. I crept forward on my toes, crouched, the bayonet in hand. I am certain that for a part of that tense approach I did not breath.

I could see the fur of their caps, the curl of smoke rising from their pipes, the scent of them as it was caught upon the wind. And yet, they did not seem to have taken notice of two assassins slowly slipping up behind them. Of course, the river current helped to cover any slight noise me might have made.

The boy spoke to his elder companion. “Vyarvash li vuv vampirite?”(—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand).

I suddenly stopped, frozen in motion as I took a very slow breath – it was so cold I feared a trembling gasp and so willed myself to breath as easily as I could. At that moment I would have loved for the clouds to have moved ever so slightly in order to illuminate the ground before me as I so feared stumbling on something I could not see.

We closed in.

“…mozhe bi?”(—inserted into journal based on the phonetic recollection by Jackson as a marginal notation in Lord Cyril’s hand).

I glanced quickly over to the Lieutenant, who nodded and I gave him a nod back. This was it! The killing moment.

Kadijevic seemed to leap forward and grabbing the younger soldier by the mouth and skillfully slit his throat.

Simultaneously, I moved forward but my heels made some sound on the gravel and the older sentry, with better reflexes turned, and so I thrust the bayonet forward – wanting to halt any sound he might make – as I stabbed him in the throat. I aimed for his Adam’s apple and drove it straight through.

The man’s mouth opened. I saw his eyes filled with pain and fright as he looked at me. His hands gripping my wrist, as if to pull the blade out. I set my teeth and with the palm of my left hand I struck the end of the bayonet’s hilt and drove it in deeper.

Blood gushed out of his mouth and spattered upon my hand. There was a horrid gurgle as he spewed blood down the front of his uniform. It looked oddly black in the moonlight. I could smell it. He struggled and then went limp and I had to let go of the bayonet as he fell back on the shore. I stood gasping as I suddenly remembered to breath.

Lt. Kadijevic wasted no time as he was already dragging the body of the boy into the brush from whence he came. I grabbed the feet of my dead solder and tugged him along the riverbank and over to the scruffy brush. I used my foot to push him further under the branches. I knelt to retrieve my knife and to wipe the blade upon the dead man’s uniform trousers, Lt. Kadijevic hurriedly rushed over to ensure the man was dead – he looked at me and flashed his wide smile, even as he sheathed his knife. Everything was quiet once again – save for the rush of the river. Then, suddenly there was this forlorn howl of a wolf. It startled me. As it did the Lieutenant who looked off in the direction from which the howl came and then motioned for me to hurry back to the boat. “No waste—“ he said in broken English, which I knew to mean not to waste any more time with the dead. No time to scavenge. And so I left the dead man behind and hurried over to retrieve my coat. The wolf howled again. It seemed closer – and a lot more sinister. Which may have only been a reaction from my having thought I had heard the word vampire spoken by the Bulgarian solders.

Back at the boat Lord Cyril was waiting. “Is it clear?” He asked and I nodded as I thrust my bloody hands into the water “Yes.” I told him, but his Lordship looked to the Lieutenant for confirmation.

“Da. Da. Clear, clear. It is clear.” He replied in English and then in Serbian the spoke to Lord Cyril (who later told me, once we were under way, what he had said): “Here is where I must say goodbye to you my friends. I must continue the fight in my homeland. As you must continue it abroad.”

At the time, I knew this was the goodbye speech – and I watched as he stepped up close to me and he grabbed my arm, “Jacks-son, you great Chetnick.” He said in his faltering English and with a warm smile. “You take damned good care of yourself.” I told him and I placed by palms on both of his cheeks and gave him a long kiss goodbye. He stood tense and did not return the kiss. Instead, he stepped back and saluted me. “May we fight again Jacks-son.”

Cyril cleared his throat and spoke again in Serbian. In the thickening snow flurry and dim moonlight they shook hands and then the Lieutenant hurried over to help push the rowboat off the shore. Lord Cyril took his seat forward again. I tossed my coat into the boat and helped the Lieutenant launch the boat again.

We looked to him standing on the shore, his hand on the strap of his rifle, watching as we drifted down the river towards the Danube. Taking the oars, Lord Cyril began to pull the boat into the current. I watched the lonely figure on the shore until he faded away and I sighed, “How long till we are on Romanian soil, you think?”

“Twenty minutes more I’d wager. This is the easy part.” He said, “Crossing the wide open Danube, we’ll have no cover at all except the night. Bless these clouds.” And as he said so the snow started to become heavier, making it a bit harder to see.

Ahead, the tree line opened up, revealing the open Danube. I pulled on my damp coat and shivered watching the snow falling upon the river as well as upon us. Then there was another sudden wolf howl. This one was very close. “Damn wolves.” Lord Cyril said, “Pardon my French.” He then let the oars sit above the water as we glided finally into the Danube.

“Children of the night.” I said replied softly, quoting Bram Stoker. His lordship went back to work upon the oars. I looked back into the low visibility. I huddled and trembled in the cold. The wet stockings felt as if they would freeze. To take my mind off the cold I turned, “Lord Cyril, I could have sworn I heard something odd back there—“ And in my best attempt at Bulgarian, I tried to repeat what I had heard, "Vyarvash li vuv vampirite? What does that mean?

Lord Cyril thinks for a moment, “I don’t know Bulgarian for my sins, but it sounds like asking about vampires? Was this something the sentries were saying?”

“Yes. Twice, I could have sworn they said vampire.” I told him.

“Well, I—” And suddenly there is a shout from behind.

The distant sound of voices carrying over the water in the night, “Khei?! Stoi?!”

“Damned.” I hissed.

We were about a third of the way across the river and I could see now what I believed to be a Bulgarian soldier on the shore with a lantern, and another with a rifle aimed at us. I think there were three – maybe a fourth.

There was the echoing report of a rifle shot.

I pulled out my revolver, but I knew they had the range. I was not sure of the Steyr – but figured it would not reach the shore.

Lord Cyril ducked down into the boat and pulled his automatic out of his coat pocket as well.

There was the crack of another warning shot.

I ducked beside him as the bullet could be heard to whiz above us.

“Vratiti! Sada!” The voices shouted.

“Damn,” I fired a shot but I knew it would not reach. Then suddenly, there was another shout from the shore.

This was not an authoritative demand, but rather a shriek of terror.

I thought at the moment I might have actually hit one of them.

Then there was the sound of more gun shots. But, there was no accompanying sounds of bullets near us, nor any hitting the boat. Apparently they were not shooting at us. Could it be Lt. Kadijevic, I thought?

I rose up to look back at the riverbank through the falling snow. The visibility was low but I could see the lantern just before it seemed to suddenly fall.

It fell to the ground to illuminate the man who had been holding it. I felt the hand of Lord Cyril as he pressed his binoculars up against my arm, which he had retrieved from his pack. “Here.”

I could see the man clearly on the ground. The lantern. His rifle. There was the figure of a man in uniform, a member of the Bulgarian patrol. Then, there was another figure not in uniform – only this figure suddenly seemed obscured, as if in moving quickly he became a blur.

“Maybe it’s Peter saving us. Come!” Cyril rises and grabs the oars once again and begins rowing faster than should have been healthy for a man his age.

I trained the binoculars on the shore but could only see the form of a figure standing in the snow where the men who had been shooting us had stood. They were all lying on the ground – unmoving. I suddenly felt a chill – but not from the cold as the man standing amid the bodies looked at me as if he could see through the lens of the binoculars. There was something in the eyes staring back at me . . . a glint – even at this distance.

I started to hand the binoculars to Lord Cyril but in a blink the figure was just gone. The lantern is extinguished and the falling snow now obscures everything.

I lifted an eyebrow and lowered the binoculars, “Ah, what were you about to say about vampires before the shooting started, Lord Cyril?”

Lord Cyril looks back for a second at the shore and continues to row. “Let’s—let’s focus on getting to Romania first, shall we? Here, take an oar.”

I grabbed it and moved to sit beside him in order to help propel the boat as we crossed the Danube.

There is suddenly a knock at the door. “Come,” I said and the door opened to reveal a short woman with a very stylish hat, who had another young woman accompanying her. The young woman carried several light blue boxes. She looked at me sitting in bed, naked from the waist up, as the sheets pooled about my waist concealed the rest of me. “Mademoiselle, is in need of a suit to travel?” She said in French.

View
Begin the Beginning
Session Four - Part Five

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Most Immediate – For Director’s Desk – D
Operation surveillance – continued
Randall Tanner, Russell Square 11 March 1916

Subject ascends from the London Electric Railroad, Piccadilly Line’s platform of the Russell Square Station. Upon gaining the snowy walk, Subject becomes stationary and appears to be seeking some form of transportation: a motor cab, omnibus, or hansom Being a cold, brisk day with a lower volume of foot traffic being it was a Saturday morning, there were still several groups of nurses and cliques of soldiers, on leave, baring the swagger of a night before as they moving along the walkways. The Subject was in luck in that he need not wait more than two minutes before he spots a motor cab making its way down the street. Hailing the cab, it pulls to the kerb and Subject enters.

Subject is overheard to give instruction: King’s College.

Excerpt from field interview:
Fredrick Morse, 234 Curtain Road, owner motor cab, age 42

A: Well now gov’ner I’m not right certain wot the pinch is for. I mean, if’n it’s about conscription or some such like, I ‘ave me medical certificate in regards to me left foot. Club it is and as such not good for much marching. Why’s I’m a driver of me cab you see. (lifts evidence of his clubbed left foot)
Q: We want to ask you a few questions about the fare just now from Russell Square.
A: You mean the young navy lad I just let out at King’s?
Q: Yes.
A: Seemed a nice enough bloke to me sir. Wots he dun?
Q: Did he speak to you?
A: Well, ‘e, right off said King’s College as where ‘e wanted to go. But, once in me cab ‘e was all quiet like. I did of course talk to ‘im as I do.
A: And of what concern was that, your conversing.
Q: Weather and some such like. As I rec’o’lect. I says it’s a right brisk day, wot? Not sure when this ‘ere snows ever gonna let up. To which, ‘e says ‘e’s not right sure. Though one can ‘ope it’s snowin’ as much on the Jerry’s as it is on us. To which I says, now right you are ‘bout that Captain.
Q: So it was straightaway to Kings’ College. No stops along the way?
A: Right you are, I was making me way along at a good rate of speed even for the snow and ice.
Q: Nothing out of the way when you arrived?
A: I asks if’n ‘e be wantin’ the ‘Ministration Buildin’ at Kings, or were ‘e of a mind for a certain building’. And he says, the ‘Ministrative Buildin’ will be fine. And I says, of course, right you are Captain. And ‘e’s already seen to the meter and so ‘e is ready with the fare. ‘ands me a tuppence he does to which I says, Well then Captain ‘ere you are. ‘ope you’re in time for your class. To which ‘e says, No class on Saturday gov. Ta!" And with a shut of the door and a turn of the ‘eels, ‘e is off into the campus.
Q: And so to your mind there was nothing out of the ordinary?
A: Like as well when I was leavin’ there be this large, black motor car, which pulls sudden like in front of me and makes it’s way toward the ‘ministration buildin’.
Q: Did you by chance observe the make of this large, black motor car? Or the Vehicle registration?
A: ‘umbler I’m sure of it but I didn’t make out no registration.
Q: So, this Humbler just cuts it’s way before you did it?
A: Oh, I gave the driver a look I did but seein’ the two blokes inside, well, the likes of them I wasn’t about to get into any kind of a row.
Q: Big, burly gentleman? Dark suits and hats? One with the face of a pugilist?
A: Like you was there with me gov’ner.
Q: And the Humbler, it proceeded to the Administration Building as well?
A: Right.
Q: Either of the gentlemen disembark from the Humbler?
A: Not that I seen.
Q: And the naval officer?
A: I ‘appen to glance in the mirror and I sees him stop to look back at me ‘ard brake when theys drove in front of me as I says and ‘e sort of stands there to watch the motor car pull up the drive. I’m a thinking ‘e was to go over and give them a bit of my mind as ‘e stands there for a bit lookin’ at it. But ‘e moves on.
Q: Did either of the gentleman get out of the car?
A: No, sir. It just sits a idlin’. And them that be inside just gives the bloke a look back, you know.
Q: And then you drove away?
A: Right, you are.

Diary of Florence Fullerton
11 March – Well I must say it started out to be a most uneventful day. But then that was before the young naval officer arrived and had I known beforehand, I certainly would have worn better than the comfortable grey skirt and plain, long-sleeved, high-collared blouse with serviceable shoes. Ruth and I had been asked by the Dean to complete several reports needed before the coming meeting of the Board and so arising early on my Saturday to see the fresh snow and feel the chill of my rooms, with a cup of tea and buttered toast, I had to admit coming in to work was less a drudgery owing to the comfort and warmth the offices in Administration afforded. We were working, well, more I than Ruth, who was busily doing little to nothing with the admission files, when it became apparent there was someone outside the door of our office. Now, I am more than certain for whomever it must have felt rather ominous, or at least I would have felt so, arriving in the front lobby – on a Saturday and one as snowy as this – wherein it would have been quite deserted. Like a tomb. What with the marble walls echoing every mistaken footstep as one moved about so unaware of their direction if it were upon their first arrival in the grand entrance, quite a bit lost most like, wandering about the labyrinth of corridors. Of course it was no doubt the clatter of my typewriter which had led him to our door. For there came a sharp rap of his knuckles. I looked up to see the dark form beyond the frosted glass, and said in reply for them to come in. For a moment, although very handsome in his woollen great coat and naval uniform, there was a bit of the schoolboy about him as he opened the door a bit and shyly took a half step inside, first looking at me and then taking notice of Ruth as she step into the room through the threshold of the connecting office with a freshly brewed cup of tea.

“You are not the messenger boy.” She quickly pointed out.

“Sorry to disappoint, but no ma’am, I must admit I am not he.” He said with a jaunty smile.

“Have you by any chance run across him out there?” She asked, “The Dean was to send over his revised financials.”

“He might as well as I have been wandering a bit,” he said.

“Well, there’s no need to stand there in the doorway. Come on in. How can we be of assistance,” I asked lifting my hands away from the keys of the Underwood as I gave him my brightest smile.

He returned the smile and I admit I felt a bit of a flush, “I’m sorry to disturb, I can see you are both quite busy. I was wondering if you could help direct me. See, I’m looking for Lord Charles Reed. I understand he consults with the college.”

Ruth looking sever and quite the spinster, as always, in her long, black skirt and white blouse with the pair of glasses dangling as they do from its sliver chain, turned to give me one of her more haughty expressions, “Lord Charles Reed? Hmmm. Florence, I am unaware. Do we in fact have a Lord Reed on faculty?”

“Oh, now that’s Professor Reed, from Oxford.” I replied, “You know, he visits with Professor Chandler."

“Right, right.” Ruth nodded as she stood prim and proper with her perfect posture and the tea cup and saucer just so in her hand, “Is he here? After all it is well past 9 o’clock on a Saturday.”

“Well I know he was yesterday. I spoke with his assistant,” I said, well aware I was unable to take my eyes off of him.

The officer’s eyes brighten up. “Yes?”

“Perhaps you are in luck." And Ruth set down her tea and picked up the receiver of the telephone, “I’ll just ring up Professor Chandler’s office.”

Oh I do so have to admit I must have appeared an invariant flirt as I smiled and gave him various sly side glances as the young officer stood slightly rocking back and forth, heel to toe, with his hands clasped behind his back, watching as Ruth began to make the call.

“I must say you look right nice in your uniform.” I said, even as Ruth spinning the dial cut me a sharp look. “Florence!”

“Oh! Why, well thank you.” He replied clearing his throat.

“Well, he does . . . " I said with a wink. Which received an reproachful look from Ruth as she stood awaiting an answer.

“Yes, this is Ruth Crawford at Administration, is Professor Chandler in . . . he’s not. . . well . . . I see. . . yes, there’s gentleman here, a naval officer, who is looking for Professor Reed . . .

The young man fiddled with the blue poppy upon his lapel while he absently listened to Ruth’s conversation.

“We understood that he was . . . yes . . . he is . . . right . . . right. . . quite. . . So? Shall we send him over. . . .“ She cupped the receiver, “Just a moment—“ She said to him and then “very well,” into the receiver.

And she hung up.

“You are in luck, Professor Reed is over in the Science Building,” Ruth informed him.

“Oh, here, let me show you,” I said and took a piece of paper from beside the Underwood. With an umber pencil I began to sketch out for him a rough map of the campus were he to follow the corridor outside of our offices and exit via the eastern door. “You are here,” I placed an X on the map, “Now you take this corridor down to the end, and you will find the stairs. Go down one flight and exit through the doors. Once outside, oh, say fifteen-or-twenty-feet, you shall take a left through here, and then a little to the right a-ways.” I told him as I looked up into those terrific eyes of his, “You will then see a big brick building."

“A big, brick building?” He repeated my instruction with a dimpled smile.

“Yes. You can’t miss it.” I said as I slyly wrote down upon the map my name and address in the lower corner.

“Thank you ever so.” He said with that swoony, wide tooth smile, upon detecting my addition. “Alright, then—it’s off. And, once again thank you. Sorry to have been a bother.” He said as he took up my hastily drawn map, and gave a slight bow, before he returned to the door.

“No bother at all.” I said

“’You shouldn’t miss it." Ruth informed him as she stood primly picking up her cup of tea. “Now, once you arrive, you shall proceed to the third floor. That’s the Archaeology Department. Professor Chandler’s the chair and he has rooms down at the end of the hall."

“Rooms?” He stopped to ask as he opened the door.

“Oh yes, for all the Egyptian things he accumulates.” I explained – wanting desperately for him to stay.

“Ah—well, right you are. Thanks ever so.” He exclaimed as he quickly exited and closed the door behind him.

“My, he was in a bit of a hurry." Ruth commented

Margaret Trelawny’s Journal
11 March – Evening – Professor Chandler’s residence, Kensington. —From the moment I rang-off with the woman from Administration the ominous sense of foreboding had begun. We had only come up from Frostwickes’ two days before – Professor Chandler quite eager to consult on the antiquities, which had made their way rather surreptitiously from Nineveh via some furtive smuggler’s route out Mesopotamia via the Euphrates, to Cairo, to Alexandria, to Lisbon, and eventually to the King’s College Archaeology Department and the British Museum. Chandler had been gratified to have Lord Charles’ opinion as they examined each piece minutely. And in search of some obscurity that had been called to mind, his lordship had been brooding over a book he could not seem to bring himself to get beyond the first three chapters – while I attempted to translated the too hastily transferred rubbings Reginald Thompson had made owing to the fact he had not the time nor resources to abscond with the whole of the temple door.

As always we had intended, whenever we came to the city, to take up rooms at Albemarle Hotel, but Professor Chandler had insisted we should stay at his residence in Kensington. And so, this morning after we had a light breakfast we had once more ridden over with Professor Chandler to continue the research and appraisal of Thompson’s curious acquisitions.

Of course only members of the staff at Frostwickes’ and those of Professor Chandlers’ should have been aware of our presence in London, let alone at the university, and so the fact someone was at the Administrative Building looking for Lord Charles was to say the least troublesome. And through the frosted glass of Professor Chandler’s office door I could see the dark shape of a figure moving about outside – no doubt putting away some diagram purposefully given to him by one of the women at Administration to provide directions for locating the Science Building.

There came a sudden rap upon the glass.

“Yes.” I replied from my seat behind Professor Chandler’s assistant’s desk – the young man having taken the day, as it was Saturday.

A rather handsome gentleman wearing a long, woollen coat over his naval uniform opened the door and stepped in smartly. He quickly removed his cap, even as his inquisitive eyes surveyed the room. He noted the neatly kept desk with the two straight-back chairs arranged before it; the large, electric lamps sitting upon dark maple side tables to cast their illumination against the greyness of the day; various antiquities and curios meticulously arranged; the bookcases filled with books upon a variety of subjects – all properly alphabetized. He took particular note of the mummified cat on one shelf of the bookcase nearest the door.

And then his eyes fell upon me. I was wearing a dark suit jacket over a simple white dress. I offered as polite a smile as I could given the circumstance, what with my suspicions already acutely aroused, “You must be the sailor Ruth Crawford said she was sending over straightaway. I am Margaret Trelawny, Lord Charles personal assistant. How may I help you?”

“Good morning.” He said quite amiably, “I do hope I’m not intruding, Miss Trelawny.” His discerning eyes having already taken quick inventory of not only the two Egyptian rings upon the fore-and-index finger of my right hand, but the lack of one upon my left as well. “I would like to make an appointment to meet with his lordship at the earliest convenience. Today—if at all possible. You see, a mutual acquaintance of ours, Professor John Milton, he referred me to his lordship."

Milton. John Milton. Lord Charles’ mood had already been grim before arriving and it had not gotten any better for the trip, which I had hastily arranged in the hopes it would somewhat assuage his dreary disposition. If not for the particular exaltation of being once more within the environs of the metropolitan bustle and the exhilaration of partaking the London air, then, at the very least, I had held out certain confidences in the eventual incitement of his lordship’s opinionated arrogance during his consolation with Professor Chandler, in particular regarding Reginald Campbell Thompson’s finds at Nineveh. And I had felt a small sense of accomplishment, owing to their conspiratorial conversation the night before, wherein they had enthusiastically discussed the efforts necessary to secure funds for their own expedition upon the end of the war. Should there ever be such an eventually. And I had been even more heartened to hear Lord Charles’ fervent expostulation: “Thompson is a rank amateur. He has no idea what he may have stumbled upon. This rubbing of the temple door – its rubbish. Absolute rubbish. If one is not going to take the time to do it properly – then why do it at all?” Only now – there was once again Milton at our door. A threat to everything I had so ardently hoped to achieve in getting his lordship through this most distressing of times. I sat back and regarded the young naval officer steadfastly as I contemplated whether or not I should just show him the door. “Milton. Professor John Milton? You say – he sent you?” My voice, which I knew to be considered rather smoky by some, felt more like ash.

“Well, yes. We were discussing Romanian castles, and some ruins of particular note, and Professor Milton suggested I come and discuss it with his lordship.” He said with a warm smile, cap in hand.

“Romanian castles?” I repeated as I arose slowly from the desk and looked at him askance.

When suddenly a look of distress appeared upon his face as he detected what looked to be a cut weeping blood along my wrist. “Oh – you seem to have cut yourself.” He said taking a step forward with some concern.

I lifted my arm and turned my wrist toward him so as to reveal it further, “This? Yes, well, it does so appear.” I said off-handily. “But alas, it is only a birthmark. Now—if you will excuse me, I will see if Lord Charles has a moment – but I would not hold out any high expectations."

I stepped out from behind the desk aware his eyes were upon my hips and the sway of the hem above my fashionable shoes. I moved over to the connecting door and lightly rapped with my knuckle as I opened it, "Lord Charles.” I said upon entering – allowing the door to close behind me.

I found him standing near the centre of the large office with a hand to his forehead as he turned his quizzically gaze upon me, "Margaret, I cannot for the life of me find any damn tobacco in this room. Chandler and his incessant cigarettes.”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I need my pipe." He complained.

“I shall see to it.” I told him. He nodded with a relieved air of acknowledgment as he turned to stride back toward the chair where he had been struggling to read the book lying open, face-down, upon the end table.

“There is a naval officer here to see you." I abruptly informed him.

“A naval officer? What the bloody hell for?” He muttered gruffly.

“He was sent by Milton.” I elaborated.

He stopped short.

His response was silence.

“Should I send him away?” I asked – which is what I should have done the moment he had announced who had sent him.

To which there was more silence.

“Very well.” Relieved, I turned in order to dispense with the young gentleman.

I had reached the door and opened it, when suddenly Lord Charles turned and spoke: “No – No – send him in."

“You are certain?” I asked, looking at him so as to give him a chance to change his mind.

”Yes." He said with a slight nod as he shrugged and shifted his shoulders, as if bracing himself for whatever was to come from this decision. “And my pipe, Margaret. Bring me my damned pipe and some decent tobacco. I can’t find anything but his insufferable cigarettes.”

I stepped back into the outer office, “You are in luck, Lord Charles will see you.” I informed the young naval officer as I lifted a hand to wave him forward, “This way."

“Ah, thank you.” He said with a wide, sociable smile.

I led him into Professor Chandler’s office, in which Lord Charles was currently ensconced – what with Chandler having ventured off upon some breakfast engagement of which he had been rather vague this morning when had had begged off partaking of it with us (yet another attractive student, I strongly suspected). I once again watched those keen eyes of the young man that quickly seemed to be able to take in everything around him at a glance as he looked about the office, which upon first viewing seems far too large for a university professor. He took note of the massive mahogany desk cluttered with books and illustrated magazines and open note-books, as well as being littered with an accumulation of scattered papers, some of which were weighted down with various small curios; the brown chesterfield sofa and its matching chairs; the walls consumed with bookcases which reached to the ceiling and were filled to capacity; the sarcophagus standing tall in the far corner; the odd Egyptian artefacts so strategically set about; the single electric lamp on a table beside one of the Chesterfield chairs, which, with the drapes drawn across the windows, was the only illumination in the dimly lit room. It all must have appeared to the young officer as some sort of cabalistic inner sanctum.

He then applied that keen gaze upon Lord Charles: seeing the broad shoulders, but also the thin hair, which has gone near to white, the high forehead and fine nose, the well-trimmed beard, which still maintained several streaks of darkness.

Lord Charles returned the gaze with some interest, giving him that appraisal I found to be so reminiscent of a doctor diagnosing a patient. I handed Lord Charles his pipe as I moved over to stand beside the end table so as to observe as well.

“You must be Lord Reed. Good morning, Sir. Pleasure to meet you. Cadet Tanner, at your service." The young man introduced himself, stepping forward to hold forth his hand in greeting.

Lord Charles merely looked at the young man’s hand and gave no indication he would shake it. “Margaret informs – you were sent by Milton.” He inquired with that lift of his brow, which appeared as a shrug of disdain. “Is that correct?”

“That is correct, yes.” The cadet, recovering quickly, retreated his hand and slid it into to his inner coat pocket. “Forgive me, but I couldn’t help but hear you are lacking ’bacco.” And he pulled out a thick leather wallet and held it out open to his lordship.

Lord Charles looked at it for a moment, then reached over and took it, “Well then – have a seat.”

He motioned the cadet over to the Chesterfield chair across from the one where he had been seated, and giving me a slight glance, sat back down heavily into his chair. I moved closer in order to stand near at hand. The young man took his seat as Lord Charles reached into the leather wallet and began pinching up tobacco, which he proceeded to fit into the bowl of his pipe. “Turkish Blend?”

The cadet gave him a soft smile. “Yes sir. Hard to get a-hold of these days.”

“I prefer it,” Lord Charles said and having filled the pipe handed the wallet back to the young man, he then reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve a box of matches, striking one to place it above the bowl as he puffed in order to light the tobacco, “How is Milton. I haven’t seen him since . . . well, for some time.”

A whiff of smoke and the scent of pipe tobacco began to circulate in the room.

Taking the wallet back, which the cadet carefully refolded, and then leaning slightly forward, replaced into his pocket. “Doing well it seems. I haven’t seen him much since I was transferred out from under him. Bit of a surprise running into him at breakfast.”

The pipe now lit, Lord Charles whipped the match out and dropped its smoking ember in the ashtray resting on the table beside his tea cup and saucer, "Milton is anything but a surprise. If he showed up – he bloody well had a reason. Like as wise you as well I dare say.”

And I dare say I was anxious as to understand were precisely this interview was headed and was vexed even more that I had no doubt made a mistake in not summarily dismissing this Cadet Tanner.

“So, tell me. Why did he send you to see me, son.”

“Well,” said the young officer as he pulled from an oversized, inside pocket of his overcoat a copy of the damned book—Dracula. My clenched fist trembled as I withheld my anger. I could not believe he could be so insensitive as to have done such a thing . . . and to have done it so casually. This was my mistake. I immediately reached down and took up Lord Charles’ tea cup.

“I believe it had something to do with this and an ancient Levantine kingdom.” The cadet said.

As I strode away from Lord Charles’ chair with the tea cup in hand, I awaited his reaction. He glared at the book and sat a moment in silence as he puffed upon his pipe before he removed it from his lips and pointed at the ‘alleged’ novel with the smoking stem of his pipe, “Lies. Damned lies. And what isn’t a damned lie is merely a half-truth. The goddamned thing is a spider’s web of misdirection and obfuscations and missing threads. All of which was orchestrated, from its very inception, by John Milton . . . the bloody bastard.”

Stepping over to the waste basket, I pitched what remained of the tea from Lord Charles’ cup and then crossed the room toward the massive mahogany desk. Why had I not listened to my intuition?

The young officer shrugged and he replaced the book into the inner pocket of his overcoat, and then pulled out a pre-rolled cigarette and matchbook. “He said you would be able to provide . . . context.” He lighted the cigarette and took a deep inhalation before he flicked out the match.

“He did, did he?’ Lord Charles replied.

“He indicated that you would be able to provide some insight based upon . . . a personal experience.”

I wanted to say something but I refrained. For I knew just how hotly it would come out. Just as I knew, from the moment the cadet had uttered Milton’s name, nothing good was about to transpire. And now this—having brought forth that bloody damned novel! Oh, Milton was cunning, well aware, which was precisely why he had sent this young officer, this Cadet Tanner today. So as to ensure the articulation of matters he knew would already be far too close to Lord Charles’ heart. After all it was only two days past her birthday – which I knew to be the source of the dark and sullen mood that had hung about Lord Charles for the past week.

I was more than vexed. I was furious. I could only guess at the reason behind such insincerity in a man who once called Lord Charles a friend. But then it was Milton. And Milton was forever the strategist – cold and calculating. An equal to what he fought. I opened the bottom drawer of Chandler’s desk and removed the bottle of whiskey.

“Personal experience?” Lord Charles asked rather sharply. “Do you have any idea what you are even talking about young man?”

“To be honest, sir? No. Not a clue.” The cadet answered with some honesty, I suspect. I uncorked the bottle and poured whiskey into the tea cup. The young officer glanced over at the sound of the uncorking. I was not about to offer him a drink as I stared back at him with severe displeasure.

The young officer seemed bewildered by my annoyance.

“So he’s sent you out into the cold?” Lord Charles asked rhetorically as he returned the stem of his pipe to his lips, even as I reinserted the cork and returned the bottle to the bottom drawer.

I had yet to precisely make up my mind as to what I was going to do about the cadet. So far, for all my irritation, I was cognizant he seemed sincere. But being as he was one of Milton’s it could be entirely a ruse.

“He did mention something about an X Club.” The young man added.

Stepping back over to Lord Charles’ side, I placed the tea cup back upon its saucer. “As always thank you.” He said looking up with a warm smile, which disappeared rapidly as he returned his gaze upon the Cadet.

“So—have you read the goddamned thing?" Lord Charles inquired sharply – the Cadet as aware as I he had for the moment dodged the mentioning of the X Club.

The young naval officer frowned at the sudden query. “Unfortunately, I have only just begun. Free time can be a bit of a luxury in my occupation, and Dr Milton impressed the urgency of seeing you.”

And I must admit upon hearing this my growing fury was arising to a tempest. How was this impermissible? How could Milton have sent him to Lord Charles upon this week of all weeks without him having even read the goddamned thing?

Lord Charles lifted a hand to stay my mounting anger. “So, you’re here. Upon Milton’s bidding and you haven’t read it!” Lord Charles replied rather heatedly.

“As I said, I haven’t had the time.”

“Then open it!” Lord Charles suddenly demanded as he leaned forward and pointed with the stem of his smoking pipe, “Open it—open the bloody damned thing.”

Slightly taken aback the young officer now well aware of the temperature of the room removed the book from the inner pocket of his overcoat and did as he was instructed. He opened the novel, just past the dedication to Hommy-Beg, and then gave us a quizzical look.

“Now you just run your finger down along that filthy text,” Lord Charles voice having grown ever more vehement, "And see if you can find my daughter.”

The cadet looked up from a page he had arbitrarily turned to, “Your daughter?”

“Her name is Katherine. Katherine Reed.” Lord Charles said. His voice no longer able to sustain his indignation as it suddenly softened when he said her name aloud. I quickly placed a reassuring hand upon his shoulder to allow him to recover his resentment once again: “Look as long as you want. You will find carriers and solicitors, doctors and drugged-up house maids, newspaper correspondents and girls in big cart-wheel hats. You will find house agents and zoo keepers, undertakers and locksmiths, young law students and bankers, Romania sailors and Russian consules. But—you will not find her. Oh yes, they have seen to that. Not only did they set out her upon that foul creature’s path, like a lamb tethered for big game, but, they did so with no thought whatsoever in supplying her with some measure of support. Rather, they recklessly abandoned her. And then . . . they sent her alone to face whatever unimaginable horrors must have transpired in that abominable house, and then – and then they tried to say she was mad. They had her committed. And then—Milton had her excised. Redacted. Along with Singleton and Aytown, and that goddamned Robert Lewes—de Ville’s men ever one! As if she. . . as if she were one of them!”

The cadet looked at Lord Charles in silence, holding the book open but not turning a page, trying to absorb amid the anger, all of this information, as if he was hearing it for the first time. And in that look I knew the game Milton was playing. This young officer was just another pawn.

“They goddamned ruined her life—they put her in a goddamned asylum. They wrote her off. And then—and then they wrote her out. As if she never existed. I cannot fathom what she must have witnessed that night – what she must have endured – what finally drove her to recklessness and drink and narcotics and ruin.”

I took up the tea cup and handed it to him. “And you bloody well won’t find James Abbott in their either because I—“

“Lord Charles.” I quickly refrained him from any further revelation as I my fingers gripped his shoulder.

The young naval officer closed the book slowly and looked at me and then at Lord Charles, "Well, sir, I wouldn’t know anything about it. And as you say, sir, no amount of studying this book will provide the whole truth. Perhaps it was unwise to come so ill-prepared, but I had hoped that you could fill in such holes. Before I got this fictionalized version ingrained in my head as the official accounting.”

Beneath my grip I could feel Lord Charles’s shoulder slightly relax, “So— You don’t trust them either, do you son?”

The cadet shrugged, “Trust, sir? In all of this, I haven’t found too much of trustworthiness . . .”

Lord Charles contemplated him for a long moment. He then took another brace of the whiskey, before replacing the tea cup back upon its saucer, “I would assume if your Milton’s man, you have clearance for all of this. And—if he has sent you to me—then it is more than an indication we have yet not awaken from our long nightmare.”

The young officer did not reply. He just closed the book and placed it on his lap and took another draw off his cigarette.

I felt once again the sullen mood descend upon Lord Charles as he sat back wearily in Professor Chandler’s well-worn Chesterfield, "It is as much my fault as anyone’s. I perhaps knew more than anyone about the ramifications, and yet . . . “

I wanted to conclude this conversation – I wanted the young cadet gone. I wanted him out of here. And I was about to intervene, but Lord Charles continued, “I failed her in so many ways. I was young and brash. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And when she came—I departed. As did her mother, eventually. Neither of us were much of a parent. I chasing my ambitions about the world, while her mother did so upon the stage. And so Katherine was left alone with my mother and father. Not to say they did not bring up a brilliant, young woman – beautiful, inquisitive, intelligent. All of which of course they used.”

I watched the cadet as he listened to his lordship with some sympathy. It was more than obvious Milton’s intent – for to disclose the diabolical facts, even if believed without the benefit of seeing, would have been a strenuous exercise in cognition, whereas, in having the revelation delivered by Lord Charles, it would make the sheer impossibility of it all seem far more tangiable. It would exposed the threat through the suffering of one man – it would revealed the consequences of the folly of underestimating a myth having been made manifest. The only question for me – as to whether I was going to allow this to go further – was if this was in some way beneficial to the man who had taken me in, protected and sheltered me, after my own father’s foul and disastrous stratagem.

“I signed the goddamned thing. Even with my reservations. But Milton and Saxon and Hooker were all so enthusiastic—what a bloody marvellous scientific opportunity they said.” Lord Charles looked up to me and motioned with his hand, “Margaret, would you be so kind as to bring me my Gladstone.”

“You are certain—“ But before I could complete my sentence he nodded. And so I stepped away and crossed the room back toward the assistant’s anteroom.

“Of course, at the time I had no idea they had planned on using James Abbott to approach her.” Lord Charles continued, “To use that which she wanted most . . . a journalistic career—in order to recruit her. You see, once they find your secret desire – they will find every way possible with which to exploit it. And then.”

They both watched as I returned from the anteroom to place the much travelled Gladstone before him, “When Hawkins saw just what a bloody fool he had been. How it was all going so horribly wrong. He asked to terminate the mission. And Milton, at this point uncertain of whom to trust, looked to her. Sending her, as I said, in all alone—“

gladstone.jpg

He put his pipe in the ashtray and leaned forward to open his travel bag. He rummaged within and withdrew an old, battered envelope. “So—to begin with the beginning.”

“That is what Professor Milton suggested.” The cadet agreed.

“What do you know about the X Club?” Lord Charles asked as he closed the Gladstone and sat back in his chair, the battered envelope in hand.

“I understand it was a social club of nine – as Dr Milton puts it – nine scientists that from time to time were consulted by government officials. Other than that, I know not.” The cadet replied as he reached over to move the ashtray on the end table nearer to hand so he could tap ashes carefully from his cigarette. He also placed the book on the table where it lay heavily between him and Lord Charles.

I watched as the young officer’s eyes were drawn irresistibly to the envelope.

“Actually, it started as a dinner club. But yes, as Milton said, there were nine of us. Nine distinguished scientists all from varied fields. Professor Alexander Saxton and I established it.” Lord Charles replied as he tapped the envelope slightly against the palm of his left hand. “The founding principle of the club was to do our best to reform the Royal Society and to ensure that scientific research was not held back by religious zealots or superstitions. And so there we were. All gathered once a month to discuss and opine and of course, to argue. Really it was quite a tempting assortment of scientific minds and backgrounds. And seeing as how some of us had other affiliations as well, it was not long before we found ourselves being contacted by various intelligence agencies and committees on behalf of Her Majesties government to consult – to analyse, to make recommendations, in regards to – well, shall we say, projects of an interesting nature”

“And Professor Milton?”

“John?” Lord Charles replied, “Oh, he was a member. In fact, it was he who brought the damned proposal to us. You see, Stoker, this Bram Stoker . . . who eventually wrote up the Hawkins’ papers.” He vaguely motioned with the envelope toward the book resting conspicuously on the end table beside the young officer, “He had a brother. George. George Stoker. A medical man— with the Red Crescent. Attached to some intelligence service. He saw time in Constantinople during the Russo-Turkish War. All part of the ‘Great Game’ you see. A bit before your time, I suspect. Turkish overlords were maliciously attacking Bulgarian Christians. Which gave the Tsar the pretext to take up that much worn mantle as the protector of Christianity in the Balkans – as if Christ couldn’t protect his own. If he had a mind to. But, there’s always two sides to that coin. And so, there were rumours of some Christian Bulgarians having gone and massacred a village of Muslims. Which was fortunate for us, in that if evidence could be found to support this allegation, well, then this massacre would be quite beneficial in helping to gain popular sentiment to support a British military intervention. Which of course had very little to do with anybody saving any particular God or Allah worshiping souls, but rather, would be most instrumental in stopping Russia from getting their hands on Constantinople and acquiring what they coveted most, a port on the Mediterranean. And so—some minister, or other, an Osman Hamdi Bay, it was, if memory serves me. Rather low level, of course. But acting upon a request by the Sultan, he organized a group of interested Europeans to form this investigative expedition to gathering evidence to substantiate the alleged atrocities perpetrated by the Christian Bulgarians. Seeing as how such a report issued from the Ottoman government would bear absolutely no weight whatsoever. And like as not, George Stoker was selected – less for being a medical man then the fact he was working for British intelligence. They also added the Orientalist and renowned traveller, Ármin Vámbéry, for his notoriety. Totally unaware he was a spy as well. And so – the short of it being they eventually made their way to the village where the evidence of this massacre had supposedly been secured. In a cave of all places. Dyavolshoto, or the Devil’s Cave. But upon arrival they discovered evidence of something else entirely.”

“Something else?” The cadet asked tapping ash from his cigarette into his ashtray.

“Yes. What Stoker and Vámbéry brought back made the unbelievable and the incomprehensible something more than just a myth or some dark fairy-tale whispered about at night around campfires. He brought back insurmountable evidence that the myth was real. Evidence which was eventually supplied to us, via Milton, in order to analyse a proposal that was as grotesque as it was brilliant. A plan derived from the dark genius of Peter Hawkins’ – who shall we say at the time headed a intelligence service for Her Majesty.” And Lord Charles then handed over the old, battered envelope.

The cadet leaned forward to take it. I noticed his mouth twitched slightly. A tell? I was not certain if it was because he had recognized the name – Peter Hawkins? Or if it was in anticipation of what must lie inside the envelope? Surely by now he had some idea what it must possibly contain. He opened it slowly and removed the well-worn pages.

Document from Lord Charles Reed

“I should have burned it long ago. But—owing to Kate I couldn’t bring myself to do so.” Lord Charles solemnly admitted as he reached over and retrieved the tea cup from the saucer once more and took another drink of his whiskey. “I have kept those pages ever to remind me of how sanctimonious we all were in regards to superstition and how supercilious we were with our pompous beliefs in science – and it was upon that altar I sacrificed my daughter.”

I watched the cadet as he began to carefully examine the documents, his cigarette precariously perched between his lips.

The whole madness therein revealed.

Lord Charles turned to lean upon the arm of his chair, “Straight up son – do you believe in vampires?”

The cadet looked up from the document. If he was taken-a-back or appalled at the revelation those pages contained he did a commendable job of maintaining his composure – or perhaps he was more knowledgeable than he had let on. He absently reached up and removed the cigarette from his lips. For a long moment he sat looking at Lord Charles in silence, then glanced once more at one of the pages of the document, before he replied, “I’ve seen several documents recently which lead me to believe that there is some validity to the claim they exist. To be perfectly honest with you your lordship, I only recently learned what a vampire is, let alone that they may exist. So, either they do exist, or you and an unknown number of other respectable people have been gulled into believing it so.” He shrugged, “But in light of direct proof for myself, for the moment, I will trust in my sources when they say vampires do exist.”

“And were they to exist,” Lord Charles pressed the conjecture, “Would they not be quite the valuable asset to any intelligence organization.”

I could see the cadet thinking this through even as he continued to glance at the document Lord Charles had given him.

“And so, in our collective hubris – as you can see – we agreed with Peter Hawkins. Even I, who had some small knowledge of the phenomena. For as a young man I had done a bit of research in Transylvania. In fact, I wrote a book. Along the Carpathian Horseshoe: Travels in Transylvania. So I had heard the folklore. The superstition. The whispers. I had even begun research on the Getae-Dracian religion concerning the Thracian god Zalmoxis, whom it was believed had been buried in a cave, for three years, before lo and behold he arose from the grave – bearing with him a concept of life after death. Those who worship him say they can never die. They have immortality.” Lord Charles explained.

“Getate-Dracian?” The young officer asked.

“The ancient inhabitants of an area near the Carpathian Mountains.” Lord Charles explained, “Interesting what?” He lifted an eyebrow. “But – back to the beginning. The truth be told most of us assigned to the advisory committee were seduced by the prospect of having such a creature available for study. The plan you see had a certain sinister elegance. But it was all so foul. The operational intent was to find a Subject and entice them to England. Then, having decided upon a suitable volunteer – to have them turned by the Subject so as to be assured of obtaining a vampire who was loyal to Britain.”

“And the Subject?” The cadet asked.

His lordship shrugged, “The plan gave us certain options.”

“I take it then the evidence Stoker’s brother supplied wasn’t – actionable?” The young officer surmised.

“No. It arrived in bottles and jars. Various make-shift containers.” Lord Charles confirmed.

The young officer’s countenance grew rather perplexed.

“Yes?” I inquired of him.

The cadet slowly tapped a finger upon the title of the book, “Just wondering how does one go about— I mean – I suspect one does not just put an advertisement in The Times. So, how did they find him?”

As if this young naval officer had taken up the vestments, Lord Charles seemed to have lessened his reticence and was becoming far too content in having taken up a seat in his confessional. “Yes one more sin for which I am accountable. It was I who supplied the information. I had heard rumours while in Transylvania of a supposed alchemist and statesman. A scholar of the Scholomance. Count Dracula. Or de Ville as he was later to be known once he arrived upon our shores.”

“The Scholomance?” The cadet asked.

“A school of the occult—“ Lord Charles began to explain but I interrupted.

“It is in the book.” I said abruptly. His lordship’s familiarity and growing ease for revelation and disclosure was becoming worrisome. I was uncertain as to just what secrets he meant to keep.

This cadet had arrived with seemingly very little information – and even less scepticism. Even giving him the allowance of professing to possess an open mind. I looked at him and saw he was all charm, and yet, I could sensed beneath it all, he was someone quite capable of cunning deception – all the qualities one would expect of someone working for Milton. The more I watched him the more cautious I became.

It was obvious one must take great care.

He looked at me warily even as I returned the favour.

“So – about this Levantine kingdom . . . “ The cadet suddenly changed the subject, his eyes glancing up at me before returning to Lord Charles. His interest piqued as he rightly surmised I was something more that merely a personal assistant.

“EDOM?” His lordship asked in response. “That was the codename for the 1894 operation."

“But why so?” Queried the cadet, “I mean I’ve done a bit of research and other than another name for Esau, Jacob’s brother, it’s just another Levantine kingdom bordering Israel in and around the 13th century BC.”

“Hawkins. He took it from Isaiah 34:14.” Lord Charles explained, “In particular the passage: 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. In his estimation he found it to be of some prophetic import. The island and the demon and then of course Lilith. Pure cock if you ask me. But then, Hawkins was a bit of an eccentric. He believed in sortes Virgilianae as well. Always referencing the Aeneid for guidance. Too bad Virgil did not give him some prophetic insight into the disaster his EDOM operation was to become. But when it became more than obvious that the Count had an agenda all his own and had broken all contact with his handlers, Hawkins, whether he sought out guidance from scripture or Virgil I do not know, but he requested authorization to terminate the mission. For Milton – this called into question everyone in the field and so he felt compelled to use Kate.”

“Your daughter.” The cadet acknowledged.

“Yes.“ Lord Charles replied and I grasped the back of his chair and closed my eyes for a second. Deeper and deeper he continues to go. Would he but stop. For I well knew that after the cadet was gone all of these memories, all of the hurt and anguish and his guilt would come down hard upon him. As it did later when he drunkenly demolished the dresser in his bedroom at Chandler’s, cutting himself badly. Crying as I bandaged the wound. Muttering her name. Had I never brought him out of Frostwicke’s!

God damn Milton for bringing all of this up. What precisely did he know . . . and what was he fishing for.

But Lord Charles continued: “Milton had James Abbot recruit her early in the game. You see, Milton was hedging his bets. Concerned that Hawkins’ agents might at some point be comprised . . . or not capable of containing the Transylvanian Personage. So at the outset of the operation, he decided on recruiting and placing Katherine in a position at the Westminster Gazette were she would be in a most advantageous position to monitor reporting of incidents, which might link back, arising of course to the nature of the Transylvanian Personage. And Milton always – always plays the game with various cut-outs held off book. His strategic reserve he is wont to say. And so, when it all went to hell, he used her. Someone with no formal tradecraft – only the social gravity of my name. Which is precisely what he needed in order to get her into the furtive clique the Count was creating as Count de Ville.”

A slight frown formed on the cadet’s face, “Transylvania. That is in Austria-Hungary, yes?”

“It is.” Lord Charles confirmed.

“I see. So, if this is true, and his base of operations is in the Austro-Hungarian empire, which is currently at war with England—“ The young officer said as he stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray.

Lord Charles leaned forward, “It does bring into question does it not – who masterminded this war?”

“But—I gather.” And he placed a hand upon the book, “Dracula or de Ville, was destroyed, yes? Or, was that some more artistic licence on the part of Mr Stoker?"

“That’s the ending. If you can believe the after action reports.”

“Which I gather you do not.” The cadet accurately surmised.

“Son, when you have time to read the goddamned thing – what you will find is that rather than a compilation of action reports, which was its intent, it’s rather this massive spider web of a story in which you are left with tantalizing and yet dangling threads. You have to hypothesize and presume, for no one neither wrote down all they knew nor at times knew the significance of that they did know. This ‘Crew of Light.’ It’s all cock. There are no heroes in this. They are all out right lying or obfuscating some sinful secret all their own. Take that woman . . . “ He closes his eyes and sighs, "Wilhelmina Harker – for whom this supposed ‘Crew of Light’ relied – it was she who initially complied the Hawkins papers and she is known to have been comprised. Known to be under his influence – I mean they bloody well saw her lapping up his blood for Christ’s sake. And yet, they take guidance from her? It is from her reports that the Count’s termination is upheld – but, in no way was the recounting of his demise done as proscribed for such a creature. You will see. The deed is done when? At the moment of the setting of the sun – when all his preternatural faculties were restored? Bah – it’s all a pack of lies.”

“Then you believe—“

“That he survived? Yes, and he plots still – he has been ever at war with England.” Lord Charles wearily informed him, “While everyone is misdirected in searching for German spies, his minions are allowed access and agency. You mark my words upon that. And it would appear Milton suspects the same thing. That he has been compromised once again, which is why I suspect you are here.”

I glanced at the antique clock upon the desk. Where was Chandler, he should have returned a half-hour ago.

“If I may – your lordship. Your opinion of Professor Milton is quite obvious. May I ask why? What happened between you?" The cadet inquired.

No—not this avenue, It need not to be traversed.

“For what he did to my Kate.” Lord Charles said as his gruff voice began to break. “Having survived the horrors of that house – as I said, they accused her of being in league with the monster. They forcibly had her committed. It took me a year to discover she was still alive.”

“It is unforgivable. The man was supposed to have been a friend. He had known his lordship since their days at Oxford. He knew Kate as a child and yet he withheld all information concerning her. Even as to whether she was alive or dead – with the implication of the later. It was but by chance Lord Charles discovered she was in Seward’s asylum. It took months for his solicitors to free her.” I suddenly asserted as I took hold of his hand and gripped it reassuringly. We did not need to discuss this any further.

“I can never forgive myself, never.” His lordship’s added. His voice stained to breaking as I felt him renew his grip upon my hand, “I should have been more suspicious – more vigilant. I allowed them to let me think she had died, whereas, they kept her there for a year. For a year! Before I could get her out. And then afterward. Oh, God, she was never herself. She . . . she was most unkind to everyone but particularly to herself as she collapse into alcohol and cocaine and morphine and then – they found her room wrecked.” His hand squeezed tighter, “Blood on the walls. On the floor. Her bed linen. She has been a missing person every since 1895. She remains an Metropolitan Police open file.”

I stood steadfast.

The cadet looked at me with some sympathy. “Perhaps it is best if I come to visit another time. After I have studied a bit deeper into the subject.”

The young officer picked up the book and placed it once more in his pocket coat pocket.

“We are here at King’s College for several weeks, with Professor Chandler.’ His lordship remarked as I held his hand and watched him try to push back the memories – I was not going to allow this cadet to upset him any further. He had obtained what Milton had intended for him to know, so let him ask his questions at Milton’s desk.

“I think it is best we discontinue this.” I told bluntly told the Cadet.

“Yes.” He nodded and looked at the document Lord Charles had given him. “These documents are probably safer in your hands as they have been for this long, though,” He said as he lifted the pages, “But, If I may examine it for a few minutes before I go, I would like to commit some of it to shorthand.”

“Yes—of course. “ Lord Charles accented even as I gave him a most dissenting glance. “Margaret . . . perhaps a drink for the young man.”

I nodded though what I wanted to do was to escort this naval officer to Professor Chandler’s door. He had distressed Lord Charles enough, but, I nodded and then strode over to Professor Chandler’s massive desk and took the bottle of whiskey from the lower drawer and poured a drink and brought it over. I handed it to him rather forcibly.

In the interim Cadet Tanner had pulled out a notebook and pen and was busy transcribing the pages he had laid out upon this lap.

“Thank you,” he said, accepting the drink without looking up. He took a sip, slightly cringing against the whiskey’s bite. He then placed the drink upon the end table as he continued his transcription in some apparent shorthand/cypher of his own devising.

As he did so, Lord Charles sat back with a heavy sigh, staring reflectively upward to the ceiling, “Beware Son.” Lord Charles muttered. He seemed emotionally drained. “Most of what you think you know about Vampires is all disinformation. Watch the shadows as well as your back. You shouldn’t be working on this alone.”

Without looking up the officer replied, “I wasn’t.”

“Good—only be certain it is someone you can trust.” His lordship recommended.

“Unfortunately, he went missing yesterday.” And with a flourish, the cadet snapped his notebook closed and tucked it away. “I shalt take up any more of your time.” And he began to fold the pages of the document so he could slip them once more back into the worn envelope.

As I continued to stand near him, I held out my hand to take it. He gave it to me and gave me a very knowing look.

“Well, Cadet Tanner. I do hope you obtained whatever it was you came for.” I said by way of concluding this intrusive interlude.

The young officer nodded to Lord Charles and then to me, as he rose from the chair and walked to the door, but upon reaching it he paused. "One last thing though.

“Yes," I quickly responded.

“The suggested methods of defence against such a vampire as outlined in these notes and this novel. Are they at least accurate?” He wisely inquired.

“Regarding the sacred symbols, cross and whatnot?” Lord Charles asked as he more lifted his tea cup. “Margaret – if you please.”

I moved to retrieved his cup as the cadet nodded.

“Only if the vampire, when human, believed in them – if not— no. The only sure defence is wild rose wood and their thorns or a Hawthorne stake.” Lord Charles told him, and then added, “Oh, and silver bullets.”

I glance at him on my way back to Professor Chandler’s desk – of whom I was very piqued. I cared not how good a dalliance she must apparently have been. "They must be pure silver. And of course, a true sliver blade, will do when having to work up close.”

The cadet grinned. “Like I can afford silver bullets on my salary. Wild Rose Wood and Hawthorn it is.” His features turning sombre “Thank you very much your lordship. You have been of the utmost help.”

Lord Charles nodded, "Be careful son. As I said, don’t be misled by what you may think you know about them. Take for example, this supposed mad dash against the sun.”

“You will find they can walk about quite well in the light of day.” I added, having removed the whiskey bottle and was uncorking it, “Their photosensitivity only diminishes the rapidity with which they can process nourishment or regulate severe regeneration – then, they do indeed seek a darken niche. It also restricts some of their uncanny abilities – transformation, telepathy, elemental control.”

He gave me a look as he opened the door was finally about to leave, when Lord Charles spoke once more, “ Oh – one last thing.”

“Yes?” Cadet Tanner responded.

“The dead travel fast.” His lordship told him.

View
You Go Your Way, I'll Go Mine
Session Four - Part Four

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Excerpt
Unpublished novel by Carmichael Pemberton
(Author’s notation on handwritten draft indicates a date of 11 March. Critics suggest this indicates the setting of the book was to have corresponded with 11 March 1916, owing to various references in the handwritten text to a lengthy stretch of snowfalls in London)

He thinks it is possible that this is a trap. Someone he knows shows up with information about a subject he had thought he was being rather surreptitious about, which means his cover is certainly blown . . . by and to someone.

His first instinct would be to ignore it or run, but he’s got to save his friend if possible, and if they are holding him as blackmail for his cooperation, there is not much he can do.

After all, did he not receive some indication that his action might “save” his friend. Whom he has not heard from since he ran away from a suspicious cab accident the previous afternoon.

R______ leans up on the wall next to the doorway for a second, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it, carefully shielding the flame of his match against the brisk wind. He looks around in a critical appraisal of all those out and about moving along the street and sidewalks before him on this cold and blustery winter’s day. He tries to determine which of them might possibly be suspects that rather mere innocent passers-by. Of them, which is a furtive figure set upon his trail in order to follow him as he leaves the Aerated Bread Company and its rather impromptu breakfast.

Those walking along Regent Street seem innocent enough bundled as they were against the wind. They seem to not notice him as he stands taking a long drag from his cigarette, apparently in a hurry to get to their destinations and warmth.

There is a News Vendor at the corner of the street. A broad-shouldered gentleman, wearing a long winter coat with a stylish hat oddly stands with the broadsheet unfolded in the wind as he seems to be reading the advertisements of The Times.

R______ thinks for a moment and stands upright. Pulling up his collar against the cold, he begins walking towards the nearest tube entrance. Every so often, he glance at store windows or in parked motor’s mirrors to see if the man with the paper, or anyone for that matter, is following him. But the gentleman of concern, in front of the news vendor, does not seem to have lost his interest in The Times.

A motor car passes. He notices several people hurrying along the sidewalk on the opposite but they appear to pay him no heed. He does see a tall, very attractive blonde woman, across the way who is looking into a shop window.

He is well aware that at just the right angle glass is a mirror.

Most Immediate – For Director’s Desk – D
Surveillance Report , Subject Tanner, Randall
#336375

Subject exits the Aerated Bread Company, Regent Street, 11 March 1916, 8:54 AM.

Upon exiting the ABC, Subject stands outside for a few moments. Subject buttons up coat and removes a pre-rolled cigarette from a small case and struggles with the wind to light it. Subject takes a few moments to observe pedestrians. Estimation: a minute and a half as he stands surveying the street. He takes notice of a gentleman reading The Times before a news vendor. He observes a blond across the street window gazing. Whereupon he seems to shrug as he takes one last draw on his cigarette before throwing it in a bank of snow.

Hands in pockets, notably chilled by the continued briskness of the wind, he proceeds by foot to Piccadilly, and descends into the tube station.

At approximately 9 am, Subject arrives at tube platform. Piccadilly Station is crowded owing to time of day.

Observational notes regarding Piccadilly Station: There would appear to be no one of particular interest. There is a small shoeshine stand. A news vendor. A lady selling flowers. A constable who seems disinterested in all that is going on. Everyone seems to be awaiting the underground carriage to arrive. The centralized clock suspended above the platform indicates the time is 9:01 AM. On the tube station wall next to various wall advertisements there is posted a train schedule, The Subject steps over to consult the arrivals and departures.

Subject approaches the flower vendor. A woman of approximately 29-30 years of age, wearing a long coat over a simple dress. She wears a pair of light cream gloves which does not match the ensemble, and are insubstantial for the current weather. They would be far more appropriate for Spring than Winter. She wears a small hat which was fashionable several seasons ago

Conversation reconstructed as best as could be ascertained is as follows:

Subject: “Morning Ma’am.”
Flower Vendor: ’G’day to ya. Now, aren’t you a ‘andsome one in your uniform. Nows I don’t know, if’n it is aginast regulation, but per’aps a flower for your lapel, sir?"

[Flower vendor smiles and winks at subject]

Subject: “Madam, you have read my mind. What have ya got this morning?”
Flower Vendor: “Well, now Sir. I ‘as this nice blue poppy. Most wears it for the support of the Royal British Legion, ‘hough it ain’t official like.”
Subject: “Very well, I will take one for the lapel.”
Flower Vendor: "I says, sumday they will be picking one to commend them that is a fightin’ but till such time, I does gives a bit of wots I receive for me blue poppies to the orp’ans took care of by The Coldlfall ‘ouse, you know.’

[Thereupon she offers up her basket of blue poppies for him to choose one. He points one out and she and removes it from the basket and leans forward]

Flower Vendor: “It’s al’rite I pins it on ya?”

[Subject smiles at her, presenting his lapel]

[She gives him a wide smile as she reaches up and takes care to pin it , and then steps back to admire her handiwork]

Flower Vendor: “if I says so meself, you are a right ’andsome young lad. I ’opes your girl she likes it.”
Subject: “I am sure she shall. How much?”

[There is a distance rumble of an approaching train.]

Flower Vendor: “A penny sir. And you just needs to go and ask ‘er yur self laddy.”

[Subject smiles and hands over a tuppence.]

Subject: “Till next time.”
Flower Vendor: : ’Ah, t’ank ye kindly Sir."

[She pockets tuppence with a bright smile]

With a doff of his cap, Subject pivots and rushes to the train.

Through the outpouring of people exiting the carriage, the Subject pushes his way against the stream to gain entrance and a seat. The floor of the carriage is damp and dappled with mud and the melt of snowy slush, having fallen from passenger’s feet. The jostle of those trying to exit against those trying to enter seems chaotic and so obscures the Subject for several seconds before it soon subsides.

Although there was a rush to the carriage is not over crowded so everyone has a seat.

The train begins to shiver as it begins to move.

When suddenly one last passengers boards. It is a tall, lovely blond, wearing a small hat with a half veil, who pushes the further door open and takes one of the seats at the far end of the carriage. It is the blond who had previously been admiring a dress through the shop window earlier out side the Aerated Bread Company.

Subject removes a book from his coat pocket. Title appears to be: Dracula. The novel. Subject begins to read. Upon occasion Subject peers up to cut a glance to the aforementioned blond.

[A handwritten notation in margin of official report: Jonathan Harker’s Journal. 3 May. Bistriz. – Left Munich at 8:35 P.M . . . so it begins— ]

The carriage rattles and rumbles and sways as it proceeds from the station and into the tube tunnel.

Subject has two stops before Holborn. At this point Subject could continue on present course or he could get off at Leicester Square. Were Subject to do so, he would have to wait for the train to the Strand, or he could just walk. Either way surveillance would be maintained.

Subject continues to read and furtively look askance to the blond sitting demurely at the far end of the carriage. At this time it would appear Subject’s decision whether to exit at Leicester is predicated upon the actions of the blond. From all appearances, supposition is Subject is awaiting to see if the blond which as attracted of his attention gets off at either stop.

Leicester Station:
Underground arrives on time. Train stops. Passengers disembark while commuters from Leicester Station press to enter. Subject for a moment loses sight of the blonde young woman at far end of train owing to the movement on and off the underground carriage.

As passengers settle into seats, Subject quickly checks to find the young blond remains seated at the end of the carriage. She is reading a book also and although she glances up at the stops to casually look at those entering and exiting the train. She has not looked at the Subject.

The carriage once more shivers and it begins its forward movement. The train proceeds to move from Leicester Station and Leicester Square.

Subject’s decision made: Leicester Square passed.

Up next, Covent Garden.

Covent Garden:
Train arrives on schedule.

The Subject once again watches passengers come and go from the train.

The number of passengers now seems to increase and therefore at this stop passengers have to stand, and secure a grasp of the brass rungs suspended from the carriage ceiling. Subject remains seated with The Novel open. He glances once again as the swaying passengers create a line of sight to the blond. She appears to continue to be engaged in the reading of her book.

Subject closes book and stands to let an elderly man take his spot. Subject makes his way towards the brass rung close to the carriage door. The small electric lights recessed into the tube tunnel walls flash by as the train makes its way through the tunnel’s darkness.

Holborn Station:
Train begins to slow as it approaches Holborn Station. It is surmised Subject with disembark at Holborn. The station platform awaits and the trains comes to a halt. Once again, passengers exiting jostle with those pushing to enter and hurriedly find a seat.

Subject exits the carriage with the departing crowd. Subject proceeds leisurely over to the adjacent car and enters the opposite carriage. Only as the doors begin to close, the Subject hastily disembarks and hurries across the platform in time to make it back on the train for Russell square.

Assigned Intelligencer’s Report:
As strongly suspected the Subject used the connecting station platform as a subterfuge and gave all the appearances of logically changing Underground carriages. The misdirection was subtly done. He quickly boarded the train bound for Russell Square – whereupon, I assumed he would subsequently take a cab further to King’s College. He took a quick survey of those within the carriage, and in particular, looking at the far end of the carriage, where he discovered I was no longer sitting in my seat – but had moved to sit in the spot where he had previously been seated. With a smile he turned and with the assistance of the brass rungs proceeded to make his way toward me. As he approached he artfully slipped the blue poppy he wore smartly upon his lapel so that it would fall to the carriage at my feet. He waited a moment, and then suddenly bent down to retrieve it.

“Excuse me Miss, did you drop this?” he inquired as he lifted the flower up for my inspection.

I stopped reading and closed my copy of the Devil Doctor by Sax Rohmer: "Hmm, I don’t think so.” I replied with a bright smile.

“Ah, what a shame. It matches so well with your eyes." He said with a most rakish glint in his own – I must say he is everything Professor Milton had indicated.

I reopened my book and prepared to begin reading again.

“Say, I’m getting off at this next stop. Russell Square.” He continued, “Would you happen to know any good teashops near by? I could murder for a cuppa."

I looked up over the top of the Devil Doctor, “I do think there is an Aerated Bread Company near by. Do you often stop in—or perhaps you are one of those who still thinks it is only for the ladies?” I replied.

The tube carriage rattles on a section of track and sways slightly.

“Oh, I stop in from time to time.” He griped the ring as he swayed side to side. “Can always find the most interesting people there. Don’t get me wrong, their sandwiches are fantastic. But for a good cuppa tea with the war on, you gotta dig deeper, ya know miss…?”

“Oh, I quite agree. I have met some very interesting people in an ABC. In fact I met one this very morning.” I replied over the rumble of the tube carriage, “Oh, I say, isn’t this your stop ahead?”

“Ay, I’m afraid it is. Sorry to bother you miss.” And with that mischievous grin and a tip of the hat he pivoted and proceeded to the other side of the car to stand once again by the door."

I allowed the tube train to come to a full stop He was in preparation to disembark when I suddenly called out to him: "Oh, excuse me.”

He turned and stood his ground as an eager passenger pushed past him. He looked back at me with some suspicion. I held out my hand.

For a moment he seemed indecisive.

I could not help but to allow the moment to linger for just a moment longer before I said, “I think you dropped this?”

His hand instinctively went to his blue poppy which was still upon his lapel, and he gave me a quizzical look.

I waved my hand, which from where he stood must have appeared to have held nothing.

With a bit of hesitation he moved from the door. He thus stepped against tide of annoyed passengers as he returned to stand before me. He lifted an eyebrow quizzically.

I suddenly allowed the small, white, visiting card, which I had held sufficiently palmed, so as to conceal it in order to tantalize his interest, so that it now appeared as if by the sleight-of-hand of a stage magician. I was aware by the grin he was duly interested.

The smile grew wider as he reached out and took the card. He looked at its embossed lettering.

“Hermione Dove. No 15, Cheyne Walk.” He said reading it aloud.

I gave him my warmest smile.

“Oh thank you! I can be such a butterfingers these days.” He quickly replied as he deftly pocketed it with a wink. I ascertained he was about to invite me to tea or some such, but an elderly lady in some outlandishly large hat suddenly brushed past.

“Yes, I think this is your stop,” I informed him, “Do be careful.”

With a nod he was quickly out of the carriage and making his way toward the stairs.

I was able to see him stop on the first step and turn to look back as the carriage began to pull out of the station.

End of surveillance: Subject Tanner, Randall.
See Follow-up #336376

View
How Much Do You Know?
Session Four - Part Three

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Police Constable Vera Alderton’s Report:
Evidence given in regard to events that transpired early the morning of 11 March 1916

My truncheon at the ready, the light of my torch revealed a man of medium height, dark hair, slightly tousled, wearing a heavy winter overcoat over a very fashionable grey suit. He was sliding the three bolts of the door into place: "I am a bit sorry for the melodrama, PC Alderton, but they did kill Pamela, “he said, his voice was soft and subdued. He then turned to face me, “So—how much do you know?”

It was upon the barring of the door that I quickly ascertained my surroundings. The room was approximately 10 feet by 9. A determination I was forced to make via an observation of the ceiling. For the room proper was so filled with an odd miscellany, and some in cases, even sinister looking, mechanical apparatuses, which had been lain to rest upon battered, wooden tables or placed haphazardly upon the floor by maintenance crews for the London Electric Railroad, Hampstead Line. There were stacked wooden crates, misaligned, and ill positioned barrels. Tools were left in no particular order. Coils of electrical cable snaking about the floor. Various pairs of thick black rubber boots and matching gloves lay on a much used worktable. The whole of it reeked with the scent of oil and fresh paint. Were it to come to a struggle, I was at a sever disadvantage for there would be little room within which to maneuver – and he had quite effectively cut off the avenue to the door.

“About what?” I thereupon replied in response to his question.

“My dear, PC Alderton. Whatever you suspect of my intent, I can assure it is entirely benign.” He responded in a soft measured voice as I stood beneath the swaying light of a single, naked electrical bulb, which hung from the ceiling by a cord whose woven insulation was frayed and seemed thick with a patina of greasy dust. “I am under no illusion that contrary to my instructions, there are no doubt several members of the metropolitan constabulary even now making their way down the tube tunnel. Therefore my dear, as we have very little time, I must ask you again—what do you know?”

I held my ground and my truncheon, “And I must reply, once again, about what? There are many things of which I have an extensive knowledge and there are some I know very little about. What specifically is the subject of your inquiry?

Above, swaying slightly, the single, naked electrical bulb cast a eerie shifting perspective of light. Thus foreshortening and then lengthening the shadows, which put placed me in yet another disadvantage, as I could not accurately discern his expression.

“My dear, I had hoped that our meeting would be far more insightful, rather than just an exercise of a procedural contrivance by merely answering every inquiry with but another question. I am quite aware of the protocol to procrastinate in order to gain time.” His soft voice seemed both tired and annoyed.

“Well, my dear.” Was my response, which in hindsight, I must confess was inflected with perhaps a bit more sarcasm than I had intended, “Given everything that has thus transpired, you may very well, as far as I know, be deciding on whether to kill me here or else taken to a place far more advantageous to your need for butchery.”

“Butchery?” Came his quick reply which seemed taunt with incredulousness “You—think. I . . . No. No. PC Alderton, I can quite assure you I am not the one you seek. I did not kill Miss Dean. In fact, I was attempting to help her.”

“Help her? How so, in assisting her into the butcher paper . . . well—what parts of her that have been recovered.” I thereupon replied even as I renewed my grip upon my truncheon.

The odd sway of the dangling light was becoming most distracting.

“Yes—I tried to warn her, that last day.” I fashioned there was a hint of sadness in his response.

“Did you now? Concerning what?” I inquired seeking further explanation with regards to this alleged warning.

“Her line of inquiry. Although long considered almost sacrosanct . . . and as such was well protected, I warned her it was not wise to proceed upon a course of confrontation regarding our suspicions. I mean, there had always been any number of inconsistencies if viewed with a less revered eye.”

“Sacrosanct? By whom—precisely.” I questioned the gentleman in the overcoat barring the door. At such time I did not know whether his surmise that members of the constabulary were in fact on their way toward this cramped maintenance room was correct, or if Inspector Stone was instead following my instruction to await word from me. I felt assured that within the narrow confines of this room cut into the underground my whistle could not be heard.

I took notice that he had stepped forward and in consequence I took a step further back, aware there were only a few steps remaining to which I could retreat. In the swaying light of the overhanging electrical bulb the gentleman’s countenance took on a Janus like appearance. This of course did little to alleviate my growing concerns.

“You are aware – I hope – Miss Dean was more than merely the head clerk of a battery of filing cabinets at the Naval Department.” He so queried me.

“I’ve surmised as much.” Though no longer raised, I renewed the grip upon my truncheon as I once more surveyed the room in an attempt to establish a more advantageous position in the consequence of a physical altercation.

“The fact of the matter is she was the head clerk for Naval Intelligence.” He so informed. "Perhaps you may find that rather suggestive. Particularly, since I understand, you have spoken with Captain Purdy.”

In such a wise I was given to make a decision. I could therefore advance my own speculative conjecture, or, I could perpetuate the theory thus far officially maintained by the retrospective provided, without supporting evidence, by the aforementioned Captain Purdy. A reporting I strongly suspected to be at best a masquerade of the truth or at its worse a boldface fabrication. The prospect of relating the second I felt to be the best course of action being that the mysterious gentleman would either (A) confirm the official presumption or (B) or he would provide such corrections to the facts as given, wherein they had been improperly applied. Either way it would mean progress.

Thereupon I advanced the theory so far promoted to be the official line of inquiry: “We have every reason to believe that she was an informant in a ring of international conspirators. And that upon the eventually of her death, it was upon the decision of her co-conspirators to thus compromised the evidence, in particular that of the body and of the scene, so as to be so fabricated to give the appearance that Saucy Jack had returned . . . in the hopes of raising the popular panic and thus diverting the investigative attention of the police.”

His response was a bemused smile, "Very good, Vera. In all particulars, you have accurately related the fiction as it has been so authored,” and thereupon he stuffed his hands into the deep pockets of his overcoat. This observed action immediately called to mind the recollection of blood and bits of grey matter which had splattered upon me when Detective Cotford had been shot. “But you see, the fact of the matter is I was her informant. And the conspirators are not foreign but domestic. And as for the contrivance of Miss Dean’s apparent grisly demise . . . it was done in particular to obfuscate the real cause of her death.”

And thus saying he had continued to progress a few steps forward.

“How about you stay there?” I therefore ordered with a halting motion of my hand.

To which he removed his hands from his overcoat pockets to reveal they were empty, “Of course—you are wise to be wary. Things at the moment have reached a tipping point. Those long held in near reverence have proven to be suspect. The consequence of Dean’s death has some very significant people questioning precisely who has or has not been compromised. Which of course, brings me back around to my first question. What do you know, or at least what do you think you know, Vera Alderton?”

“I am beginning to suspect almost next to nothing at this point.” I thus replied with growing an growing uncertainly.

“Perhaps, one question at a time will lead you forward.” He offered.

With my investigation leading into circles and producing ever more questions, I responded rather forcefully, “No—how about you tell me what it is you know.”

To this he replied: “I am afraid that led to poor Pamela’s death. This time around I will be more circumspect. I will guide you. I will tell you if you are on the right path – and when you have stepped off upon the wrong one. But at the moment, I have concerns of mine own as well.

“Whether they will chop you up?” I asked pointedly.

He answered by inquiring as to whether or not if we had an official cause of death to which I responded—death by dismemberment.

“Do you have a pencil?” He so inquired.

“Yes” I informed him as I removed my casebook and pencil from my coat pocket.

’Then write this down . . . exsanguination.”

I proceeded to write correspondingly, “Well, of course, if you cut up. . . “

“The butchery was all done post-mortem.” He hastily interrupted. “Review your evidence, Vera. It will be obvious what is missing. Blood. None on or within the body parts. None on the wrapping paper used to bundle them up. None on the ground. Why? Because she was already bled dry."

I jotted that down his speculation.

Whereupon he seemed to seek to change the subject, “Who is leading the investigation?”

“We are, Scotland Yard.” I replied.

“No, it’s joint jurisdiction.” He thus corrected me, “The City of London Police and the Met. And why is that?”

“The death of Detective Cotford.” I informed him.

“That is the explanation – but the reason is a joint jurisdiction is the surest way to ensure pettiness and insouciance upon a matter you do not want efficiently engaged. As I said, Pamela Dean was a member of Naval Intelligence. And yet, have you seen any member of the NID investigating the case? This is after all a case entangled with espionage – or so they say. And yet, have they interviewed any of the witnesses? Have they asked for the evidence? In a normal case such as this, they would have already not only taken over jurisdiction, but would have collected all the evidence to date and yet, there is only yourself and Inspector Stone on this case."

To which I added, “And the City Police, as you rather correctly pointed out.”

Whereupon he removed a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his pocket, shaking one forward, which he pulled free by way of his lips. He opened a match box, removing a red tip match to strike it and then lift the flame to the end of his cigarette. "Odd don’t you think? The NID having given all this over to civilian constabulary, to the Yard . . . take a moment and think. Why?” Upon saying he exhaled a long plume of smoke and tossed the extinguished match to the floor. A movement I found to be rather hazardous in a confined room with a profusion of chemical scents. “Then think, why are they advancing the Ripper allusions? They do have access to Fleet Street – and you can expect to see more comparisons to dear old Jack.” He looked at the cigarette and then said: "It is as if they are trying to make it all fit the pattern of the Metropolitan Police’s biggest failure. Almost as if they are—setting up someone for failure”

“Given how the jurisdiction keeps falling back into the City’s manor that would be me and Stone.”

“Precisely.” He confirms and flicks ashes to the floor, “They are very good at this. They have been doing it for a very long time.”

Upon this avenue of revelation I rubbed by brow in frustration – I had not concluded we were being set up. “Naval Intelligence? So—you are saying Naval Intelligence murdered one of their own and then . . . chopped her up and tossed her into the river.”

“I am saying they are covering it up.” He replied straightforwardly, “That is the reason for the need of your investigation – to untangle all the misdirection.”

“But why? What’s behind all this fabrication and fantasy?”

“Vera.” Smoke exhaling from his lips as his soft voice explained further: “There is a deeper state secret to protect. It all has to do with those of whom I spoke earlier and the because of how Pamela Dean came to meet her end—“

I thereupon interrupted quickly, “You keep saying that – what does that mean – because of exsanguination?”

“Because of whom they suspect.” He replied, the swaying light casting what I could not dismiss as a sinister light.

“And that would be.”

“I can’t give you that.” His soft voice now hinting of some anxiety, “It would tie directly back to me.”

“You indicate my investigation is of some urgency in uncovering what in all appearances is a conspiracy and yet you withhold pertinent information?’ I retorted with some heat, “For that alone I can bang you up as a material witness.”

“The consequence of which would be not to hear another word from me for I would be released within an hour. And then, never seen again.” He countered in a voice that was now taunt with apprehension.

“It runs this deep?’ I asked in some amazement.

“Fathomless.” He replied.

“Evidence was placed upon the scene. Was that done by Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk? Stone is inclined to believe so. Just what is her role in all of this?” I pointedly inquired.

“You get nothing from me about Robertson-Kirk.” He lifted his cigarette to his lips and said oddly. "I was helping Dean – I am prepared to help you as well. As best I can – but Dean and McFarlane have elevated suspicions to the point I have to take care. You see, I work for them.” He took a long drag from the cigarette, the smoke curling up around the dim electric bulb.

“Define them,” I inquired growing wearisome with his lack of detail.

“Let’s just say that within Naval Intelligence, there is an organization that does not officially exist, and hasn’t existed since a mission in 1894 when everything went horribly wrong."

“Names – places.” I was growing more heated and impatient, “You’ve given me nothing other than what could be taken as the misgiving of some wide-eyed fantasist of conspiracies.”

“This has to be done systematically. One step at a time. You do not understand the threat so posed. I gave Dean too much – and she deviated from the maze. She was to have looked into the activities of a Dr John Seward and the events which transpired at his asylum in 1895. This is still an open case within the Yard. She was to proceed from there, but instead she glimpsed the bigger picture and so went back to the beginning. And I fear that is how she met her unfortunate end.”

There was now a sudden rumble as a tube carriage in the tunnel beyond the metal door drew near. It grew louder.

“The organization is in some disarray as they have lost someone of considerable worth and – they are compartmentalizing all information in that regard." He said over the rumbling which vibrated the room like a quake. Its sudden interruption seemed of some concern. He dropped his cigarette to the floor and crushed it with the toe of his shoe. “You must take care. Dangerous people have grown rash. The shooting of Cotford was a mistake. Don’t be another one.” He then turned and stepped back to the door and began to withdraw the bolts barring the door.. “From my sources, I gathered you have the novel.”

I took a step forward aware he was preparing to depart, “It was stolen from the scene.”

“You can get another copy?" He asked, sliding back the second bolt.

“We have a later version and are exploring another avenue to acquire the right version,” I thus informed him finding myself indecisive as to whether I should cuff him up – remembering his injunction upon the circumstance of that action.

He smiled, “Yes, there is a host of them, each different. It was ingenious using Stoker – to create the most brilliant of disinformation campaigns. There are in fact different versions in Iceland, Romania, Turkey and the United States.”

He slid back the last bolt and placed a hand upon the latch.

“What – what is your name?” I inquired moving ever closer as the underground rail carriage continuing to rumble past filled the room in a din of vibrations.

“Let’s just use the name Vera and I used. The Red Circle. I took it from a Doyle story. Adventure of the Red Circle. It is the story of a young man, who driven by his perceptions of the injustices of life joined a group in the hopes of righting them to only discover the true nature of the group he had became a part of – if seemed apropos.” He answered with a clever smile.

“How—How can I get in touch with you?” I asked well aware he was set to depart.

“When you need to confirm something put a red circle in your window and I will give you instructions on where we can meet.” He replied as he thereupon started to open the door

I stepped under the light now swaying more so from the vibrations of the rail carriage, “You mean the same red circle that probably got Pamela Dean killed? I think not. Milk bottles have red caps. If I want to talk with you, I will put out 2 bottles

“Agreed,” He thus nodded in ascent, “How many do you normally have delivered?"

I shrugged at the question, “Depends on my roommate.”

“Very well, so if I need to speak to you, I will be sure to have three bottles appear to have been delivered.” He opened the door.

“Where do I start in this maze?” I thence stepped hurriedly forward to inquire.

Upon opening the door, he quickly looked out and then stepping further peered to the right and then the left before he turned to glance backward towards at me.

“Rev. Algernon Marley,” he replied as he pulled his coat about him and stepped out and moved off into the darkness.

View
Takes Tea at {unintelligible}
Session Four - Part Two

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Most Immediate – For Director’s Desk – D
Transcription of radiophone surveillance with observational notations:
Randall Tanner, Aerated Bread Company, Regent Street, 11 March 1916

Subject Tanner, Randall. Cadet, current posting, Office 40, Admiralty House. Following usual routine: departure from flat, Brewer Street, 7:15; purchase from news vendor, Shaftsbury Avenue, 7:25; purchase from tobacconist, Piccadilly Circus, 7:35; arrival Aerated Bread Company, Regent Street, 7:45.

Upon arrival subject was seated at experimental radiophone surveillance table.

Transcription:
KIPPER: Will this table serve?
RT: Looks fine. Tea and toast. Thank you.

{Sounds of chair movement, a plate and eating utensils moved about. The rattle of paper as a newspaper broad sheet is placed upon table near center piece in which receiving horn is concealed}

[The paper is the Daily Express. Review of copy based upon KIPPER (agent acting as waiter) indicated subject’s attention was drawn to a column concerning the Thames Murder, Pamela Dean, and the column author’s reference to not only “Saucy Jack” but similar murders labeled by Fleet Street as the Thames Mysteries. Similarities drawn to a series of murders which took place during the period of 1887-1889. Four known incidents in which women were found dismembered. One of which was discovered in the foundation of the construction of Scotland Yard’s current location.]

{Sounds of broadsheet paper being handled. The rattle of china as KIPPER rights tea cup in saucer and pours tea. Sound of the setting of tea pot upon table as well as the plate of toast}

KIPPER: Will there be anything else sir?
RT: Oh, this will do.
KIPPER: The tea is satisfactory?
RT: Quite

{Sound of tea cup being returned to saucer. Broadsheets moving}

PJM: Randall, so good to see you.

[Subject is joined by Professor John Milton, Codename redacted ]

{Sounds of papers rustling. Chair movements – subject arising to greet Professor John Milton}

RT: Ah Professor! It’s good to see you too Sir. [Observer notes subject motions to opposite chair] Please, do sit.
PJM: Well thank you Randall. {Sound of chair movements) It is rather fortunate that we should meet this morning.
RT: "Oh? and why would that be sir? (China rattle as tea cup returned to saucer}.
KIPPER; May I be of service
PJM: Yes. Being as this is Saturday, is Fredrick today’s chief?”
KIPPER: Yes, sir.
PJM: Excellent. I would love eggs and bacon and that exquisite sausage of Fredrick’s. And, please do tell Professor Milton sends his regards.
KIPPER: Certainly, Sir. Will there be anything else?
PJM: A coffee. Au lait. Hot.
KIPPER: Very well, Sir. And for you, Sir. Would you care for something to compliment your toast?
RT: No. No thank you.
PJM: You should really try the eggs. Although it would seem such a simple item to prepare, Fredrick does something truly remarkable with them.
RT: Just tea and toast for me.
PJM: As you wish.

{Background noise and muffled footsteps of the departing KIPPER}

PJM: As I said it is most fortuitous we should meet this morning. I have heard some rather unsettling things. I mean. Dismemberment. Body Parts. Bits of femininity tossed along the Thames. Connections to Dierks & Company. The Nachrichtenabteilung. And Espionage. I must say, it is all really quite disturbing. And so . . . as I am aware you are acquaintances, do tell me Randall, are you in any way involved in this Lieutenant McFarlane affair?
RT: Bradley’s having an affair, Sir? I could have sworn that he and Miss Wells were getting on just fine. I haven’t seem him lately – hear he called in sick.

[Observer indicates no visible reaction as the subject calmly butters his toast as he placidly observes the Professor. Subject takes a bite of toast]

PJM: Yes. Well, I see, you have retained you cautious nature. Precisely why I recommended you for Room 40.

[Observer reports the Subject for a brief moment flashed a toothy grin, before realizing his mouth was still full and so suddenly closed it. At this time, the front door of the Aerated Bread Company opened and HOUND, wearing a black dress with her red hair pulled up beneath a large brimmed hat was prepared to enter but caught the slight motion of the Professors slight hand, whereupon she turned and departed. Observer is uncertain if the Subject took note of the movement of the Professor’s hand, but observed that the Subject did turn and must have caught sight of HOUND’s departure. Before Subject once more returned his gaze upon the Professor. Observer continued to indicated Subject revealed no discernable change in expression. The Professor sitting forward donned a pair of pince nez, and picked up the paper in order to inspect the page to which it had been so folded by the Subject.]

RT: Thank you, Sir.
PJM: I must say, a young man with your background and remarkable aptitudes, I wonder that any number of agencies have not recruited you away.
RT: How could I Sir, after your recommendation? I mean, I feel a bit duty bound to live up to your high estimations. And Room 40 and I are well suited.
PJM: Which is why I feel it is my obligation to speak to you concerning this apparent regard of yours for Lieutenant McFarland and Pamela Dean. Friendship is commendable but in this case it may be misguided. I must caution you to follow in their footsteps would be rather unwise to follow in their footsteps, particularly as to where their path leads.

{Subject’s voice lowers}

RT: And wherefore does this path lead Sir?
PJM: For those lacking access and agency it can be a one-way path to the ruination of reputation and the oblivion of careers.

{Observer reports the Subject begins buttering a fresh piece of toast}

RT: Well, Sir, I’m flattered you still think I have any reputation left to be ruined, and I appreciate you trying to save it. But if you will forgive me: I think poor Pamela’s was far more than an oblivion of her career.

{Professor Milton’s voice lowers}

PJM: Yes. Well. It was tragic. What happened to Miss Dean. Sincerely. But, she and Lieutenant McFarlane stumbled upon something for which certain individuals, shall we say, with agency have become quite concerned. No, it is better to say it clearly, who are have become quite agitated and disconcerted to say the least.

{Sound of KIPPER returning}

[Observer indicates Kipper places the Professor’s plate and a saucer with a cup of coffee before him. Subject watches with interest as he takes a bite of his toast.]

PJM: Ah, and to think the ABC began as a ladies tea room – they make a most marvelous breakfast.

[Observer indicates the Professor takes up his fork and cuts a bit of egg]

PJM: You should really try the eggs. Fredrick is truly and artist in the kitchen.
RT:“I have before; they really are quite delicious. You also should try some of their bread with salt beef, it is a treat Sir.”
PJM: “Sounds marvelous.”

[Observes indicates the Professor takes a bite of bacon, then wipes his fingers upon a white napkin.]

PJM: I have to take you to [unintelligible]. Run by Harold MacMasters. An American. Which we won’t hold against him. He’s from Chicago. He makes a salt beef sandwich which is something to die for.
RT: To die for?
PJM: Yes. Begs the question doesn’t it. Just what is one prepared to die for? Take you for example – is there anything you are truly prepared to die for? Say, this Lieutenant McFarlane or his paramour – what is her name, ah yes, Veronica. Veronica Wells. A lovely girl I hear – although a bit promiscuous – but then, she’s a socialist.
RT: A suffragette
JPM: That as well. Are you prepared to die for either of them?
RT: Sir?

[Observer reports the Professor lifts his cup of coffee and motions toward the Subject]

JPM: Just what are you prepared to die for?

[Observer indicates Subject looks at the Professor as he takes a sip of his coffee and then places the cup in the cradle of the saucer]

RT: There is a war on, Sir.
JPM: Indeed there is.
RT: We die for King and Country, Sir.

{Momentary background sounds as neither speaks. There is the sound of silverware upon china}

JPM: As usual Randall, you have never let me down. Which is why I am recommending you once again.
RT: Sir?

{Professor’s voice low}

JMP: To follow this path without agency is indeed perilous. Perhaps, even with it. But, as you have classified clearance {unintelligible}. I am prepared to give you that agency. Of course, what I am about to say is of a highly sensitive nature."

[Observer indicates Subject’s first visual reaction as he furtively glances about the tea room, at the other patrons, at the staff, before he leans closer.]

RT: This is the recruitment?

{the Subject calmly takes a sip of tea}

PJM: [Observer indicates the Professor slices a piece of sausage and picking it up on the tines of his fork leans slightly forward.] {His voice is lowered, but audible owing to proximity to the table’s center-piece} The Empire has many secrets, some are worse than others. This is one of the worst. It started as an ill-conceived operation— and from there, it all went horribly wrong. And ever since, it has all been an endless contrivance of containment and concealment. Now, at the moment it is both."

{Observer indicates Subject takes another casual sip of his tea as if attempting to conceal from any possible onlookers the nature of their conversation even as the Professor takes the bite of sausage.}

RT: “So – this is the recruitment?
PJM: There are those who have a need of someone with your unique talents. And owing to our long association, I have been asked to speak on their behalf. Suffice it to say, there is an organization outside the normal intelligence apparatus, which, since 1894, has been ever vigilant against a threat foreign and domestic. . . An organization entirely clandestine in nature – owing to the particular character of enemy we face, which is far more reminiscent of an infection than the insidious invasion it is.
RT: I take it we’re not talking about the Central Powers.
PJM: In a way, we may very well be . . . that has yet to be determined.
RT: Sir, I work in Room 40 and you’re being about as highly cryptical as the messages I decode all day. Invasions and infections? Just what are we talking about here, Sir?
PJM: One of our most horrid failures – and one whose consequences could very well spread over centuries.
RT: Surely {unintelligible}.
PJM: Imagine a contagion. A contagion brought to these shores by unwitting men of good intentions. A contagion which left unchecked could bring about the destruction of untold thousands and the world as we know it.
RT Sir! {Subject’s voice lowering significantly} Are you suggesting . . . have the Germans some how weaponized . . . something like the plague?
PJM: Not a disease—per-say. But a contagious corruption which bears all the communicable aspects of a disease, one which is endowed with the intelligence and cunning of a most strategic mind. That of a brilliant and sinister mastermind.
RT: Sounds a bit like that Fu Manchu.
PJM: Yes. A very apt comparison—but alas, the Devil Doctor and his minions of the Yellow Peril are but mere fictions, whereas our threat only appears to be. I suspect by now, you have read some if not all of the Hawkins Papers. Do you have the novel?
RT: Well, I have a novel, not sure if it’s the one you’re describing as I’m not certain if we’re talking about Rohmer or Stoker.
PJM: Our theatrical chronicler.
RT: {Unintelligible} I have, borrowing it {unintelligible}. But I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, although it promises to be an interesting read.
PJM: Read it.

[Observer indicates the Professor lifts another bite of his eggs]

PJM: "Now, it is important to understand—it was never intended to be published. It was to have been a analytic compilation. But then, after it was received and reviewed, in what was considered at moment to be {unintelligible} insight; it was authorized to be published in order to serve as disinformation—should anything unpleasant become disseminated in public. So, in many instances you will find critical things have been redacted. And merely incidental things have been embellished by the Irishman.

[Observer reports Subject displays a toothy grin]

RT: It will be on the test, eh professor?

[Observer indicates that Professor Milton returns the smile as he cuts into his sausage]

PJM: An essay question at the very least.
RT: I must say – this all sounds a bit, well, you know, something rather for a clandestine intelligence operative. Whereas I am but a humble cryptologist.
PJM: Yes—well the truth of the matter Randall is that you have been in contention for admission to this . . . circus . . . ever since you were in receipt of an odd communication sometime back.
RT: Professor Milton, it is my job to receive odd communications and make them less odd. You may have to be more specific.
PJM: To be more precise you received, inadvertently I can assure you, a communication containing a code word that should have had no meaning – one which you most wisely filed away and did not react.

[Observer reports Subject lilts his cup of tea and places it to his lips to speak above it.]

RT: You mean EDOM
PJM: Yes.
RT: Seien Sie aufmerksam für das Britische EDOM-Projekt. {Subject speaks in a workable German} I did look it up. EDOM. It was an ancient Levantine kingdom bordering Israel sometime around the 13th century BC. But I can’t seem to make the connection Sir. Especially if its about what I think we’re referring to here – cryptically speaking.
JPM: I know this sounds all to fantastical. And at the moment if I were to try and lay it all out it would sound even more so – and to that point, as I have always said, it is best to learn through experience, which is why I feel that for you to gather the full import of the threat with which we must contend, you should speak with someone who can provide a more personal accounting. Have you heard of the X Club ?

[Observer indicates Subject finishes the last bite of toast as he shakes his head.]

RT: No sir, can’t say I have.
PJM: The X Club was a prominent dining club consisting of nine influential scientists. We were at times given various governmental proposals to evaluate and give our recommendations upon. There are now only a few of us, sadly to say. Now, one of them you need to see is Lord Charles Standish Reed. He is retired – but I think hearing from him and reading the novel, you will gain a proper perspective as to the threat we face.

[Observer reports the Subject nods ascent, and places a thumb to his lips to lick some apparent butter upon it.]

RT: Very well. And were may I find this Dr Reed?
PJM: Although he is retired from Oxford, he does do some consulting with the archaeology chair at Kings College. I am aware he is doing so this week. Visiting Professor Chandler, head of the Archeology Department.

[Observer indicates Professor Milton places his fork down and picks up his cup of coffee]

PJM: Trust me Randall. I know this seems all vague and rather confusing at the moment but speak with Lord Charles. After which, I would suggest you begin at the beginning.
RT: I see—the beginning. Right. Well, . . . literary analysis with a retired Archeologist sounds like it will be a most enlightening afternoon, sir. I shall definitely see if I can make it out there. There’s just one question that is nagging at me sir."

[Observer reports the Professor pauses to look over the rim of his coffee cup, before taking a long sip, as he looks across the table at the Subject with that is described to be a rather wry smile]

PJ: “Just one?”
RT: “Am I getting extra credit for this sir?”

[Observer reports the Professor sits for a long moment before speaking]

JPM: There is a certain innocence one possess in correlation to what one knows of reality. Not their reality – but one of a much larger truth. I am sorry to say, should you pursue this further . . . you will find your days of innocence will quickly draw to a close. And for that I can only say, in all honesty, I regret my role in that revelation. But alas, setting aside King and country, if your friendship with Lieutenant McFarlane is of worth – or for that matter, his pretty little paramour, then, you may very well yet save them.
RT: “Ah.”

[Observer indicates the Subject picks up a pencil from the table, where speculation maintains it was left by a previous patron, perhaps the errant crossword enthusiast who had earlier been re-directed from special surveillance table. The Subject begins using the pencil upon the newspaper as he sits in apparent silent contemplation.]

{The only sounds are background sounds and that of silverware upon china}

[Observer reports the Professor continues eating his breakfast not interrupting the Subject’s apparent deliberation.]

[ KIPPLER reports that upon the folded newspaper the Subject left behind, the Subject had drawn a ‘doodle’ of an envelope – which he had been shaded to black.]

RT: Well, then. It sounds just fine by me." {Subject exhales a long sigh} “It has been quite the wonderful breakfast, Sir.
PJM: When you have spoken to Lord Charles. We can have a more in depth discussion . . . as then I think you will understand the consequence of our initial failures. But, if at anytime you have a need to see me, go to the Savile Club and ask for Count Szekely and I will get back in touch with you.”
RT: Count Szekely.

[Observer reports that the Professor took up his fork again and then another bite of his breakfast and nodded]

PJM: Really, Randall you should try the eggs they are perfection. And this sausage—
RT: To die for?
PJM: Precisely.

[Observer reports that the subject took up his hat from the table and stood with a smile]

RT: Then I’ll let you finish you eggs so they may rest in peace, Sir.

End of Transcription Report
Classified – For Eyes Only – Director’s Desk

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Underground
Session four - Part One

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Police Constable Vera Alderton’s Report:
Evidence given in regard to events that transpired late the night of 10 March 1916 and early the morning of 11 March 1916

Upon returning to Scotland Yard at approximately 4.45 Inspector Stone and I proceeded to the office of Assistant Commissioner Barrington. We were informed that the AC had left for the day. Inspector Stone pressed as to whether the AC would be returning and was informed smartly that he was in a meeting. When Inspector Stone continued to press for information as to the nature of the meeting he was informed it was an official Metropolitan Police affair. Upon receiving this information I expressed to Inspector Stone the urgency of our reports, owing to the discovery of the self-inflicted demise of City of London Police Constable Andrew Baxter, of 25 Somerset Street. Inspector Stone assented and returned to his desk, while I retreated to mine. Having completed my official report of Constable Baxter, I then began a memorandum of evidentiary supposition in regards to:

1.) Homicide of Pamela Dean, Head Clerk, Admiralty House: Was the butchery of Dean done as part of some ritualistic sexual motivation or was it done to suppress evidence as to the true COD. If suppression of evidence, why then was Constable Baxter given supplemental evidence (Dean’s purse) to be placed upon the scene of the crime so as to hasten identification of the discovered portions of the female anatomy as Pamela Dean. Identification of Pamela Dean is wholly based upon evidence so placed. Speculation: Is the discovered lower portions of the woman’s body really those of Pamela Dean?
2.) Homicide of Detective Lewis Cotford, City Of London Police, Thames Station: Upon his arrival at 85 Blackfriar Road, Detective Cotford greeted Inspector Stone and I upon the door step and was then preparing to proceeded to move through front door into Pamela Dean’s flat, whereupon as he so entered he took notice of the intruder thus discovered there. He was thereupon heard to say: “Hey, you. I know you, we . . “ Or words to that effect. Detective Cotford then received one shot to the head, killing him instantly. Supposition: Why did intruder shoot Detective Cotford, whereas previously he had only threatened Inspector Stone and myself. Why did the intruder not shoot Inpsector Stone or myself? Was the word about to be expressed by Detective Cotford “worked’? Did Detective Cotford know the intruder? Was he thus silenced for that knowledge?
3.) The book purloined by intruder: Speculation: The novel was by Bram Stoker, Dracula. Perhaps used as book cypher?
4.) Detective Cotford’s Casebook, discovered upon body of deceased by Inspector Stone: Of witnesses interviewed, two were of primary significance, Jeremiah Hurley, of 10 Arundel Street and Constable Andrew Baxter, of 25 Somerset Street. Jeremiah Hurley, a broom-man, witnessed the arrival of a large black motor car, tentatively identified as a Lanchester limousine, upon the scene of the discovery of the female pieces of anatomy on or near the Victoria Embankment. Vehicle identification number unknown. Said witness reported seeing a ‘red-headed’ woman of remarkable features hand over a purse to Constable Baxter. Witness then stated he had observed said constable furtively place the purse upon the scene and then proceed to pick it up as evidence found. Witness was forthcoming during interview, even upon the revelation of possible attempted intimidation by a member of the City of London Police. From description given possible identification of said City Police detective as Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer. But then drew reticent and refused all further cooperation upon discovery of the death of Neil Byrne, a veteran of the war turned to drink. Supposition: What connection is there between Hurley and Byrne that said revelation of his death had such an effect? Even more so than intimation by City of London Police?
5.) Captain Alexander Purdy, The Admiralty House: Interview with Captain Purdy was purposeful in the revelation regarding possible espionage and the proposition that Pamela Dean, head clerk, and a Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane had stolen classified information known as the Harker Memorandum. Captain Purdy proceeded to identify Dean and McFarlane as agents of German Intelligence, owing to evidence so far gathered by Naval Intelligence. Evidence in support of allegation was not forthcoming. Supposition: Was Captain Purdy truly forthcoming? What evidence was his supposition drawn? Why was it not revealed? In that regard, why was Scotland Yard privy to such national intelligence information while Naval Intelligence was apparently conducting an on-going investigation?
6.) Detective Inspector James Fitzjames Spenser, former Inspector of Scotland Yard, former private investigative consultant, current City of London Detective Inspector: Detective Inspector Spenser has so far appeared at each crime scene and seems far more intent upon obstructing or hindering investigation, why? Inspector Stone’s recent revelation that Detective Inspector Spencer was a former member of a special division within Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and was dismissed for irregularities and possible judicial misconduct tied to the injudicious misconduct by an Inspector Molly Robertson-Kirk. Inspector Robertson-Kirk, was revealed by Inspector Stone to have been not only Spenser’s commander but is well known for having a distinguishing feature, red-hair. Speculation: Is she the woman in the Lanchester limousine?
7.) Lady of the Mist and Neil Byrne: What significance do they have to the homicide of Pamela Dean – none it would appear, were it not for the reaction of Jeremiah Hurley at the revelation of Byrne’s death.

I then proceeded to review photographs taken of the female remains, a leg (right, severed just above the thigh) and pelvis. I studied various views of the pier and the embankment, as well as the lumber yard and the area below the arches of Waterloo Bridge. Upon this deliberation I grew tired and the hour was late. At approximately 7.45 I left Scotland Yard and proceeded by underground to my rooms. Upon arrival there, having grown weary, I sought a good night’s rest with the intention of reviewing once again, in the morning, my memorandum.

Upon a careful approach of the steps leading to my rooming house, owing to the renewed snowfall which had proceeded to grow heavier since leaving the underground station, I took notice of a small boy. He wore a cap with a brim, olive in hue, a pair of much worn dark trousers and a short, woollen jacket. His boots were one size too large. “You a policeman?" He inquired as he approached. Due to the weariness aforementioned, I sighed and in reply answered, “Yes, yes I am.” To which the boy responded, “He said you were a policeman—but, are ladies policemen?” My suspicion was somewhat aroused upon the utterance of the word “He” and in response I looked about but the street was all but deserted. A few late pedestrians were hurrying to be out of the snow. There was no traffic along the street. “So, are you PC Alderton?” The boys continued as he rubbed the back of his hand across a runny nose.

“I am, yes. Do you need any assistance?” I answered as I shifted subtly into a defensive stance. The boy then replied, “He says, I am to give this to a policeman named PC Alderton." Thereupon the boy removed an envelope from inside his woollen coat, which he then proceeded to hand over to me with the same hand he had only moments before back-handed across his nose. For this reason I took it gingerly and responded with a thank you and offered him a coin, which he accepted with a smile before turning to hurry away into the obscurity of the snowfall.

Upon obtaining the envelope, I took note the only marking it bore was a single circle drawn upon the front in red ink – which I immediately recalled to be very similar to a red circle found earlier at Dean’s flat drawn on a piece of paper. Inspector Stone and I speculated Dean had apparently, for reasons unknown, used an adhesive to apparently attach the drawing to a window pane near her desk.

I thereupon quickly tucked said envelope into my bag and then proceeded to hurry up the steps of my rooming house.

Personal digression for sake of accuracy and later reference:
Owing to the events of the day, I do admit to seeking warmth and a possible bath in order to relax and reflect upon the events of the day, all of which would have to wait until I dealt with my flatmate. Whose “THERE YA ARE HUN!” abrasively greeted me upon unlocking the flat door and stepping inside. “I was about to send the flatfoots to look for you!” She continued. My flatemate is Irene Reedmin, head librarian for Kings’s College library. Upon entering my flat I apologized for the lateness by expressing the fact I had had a very long day. Irene had prepared dinner. To which she replied, “What kept ya, if you mind me asking? or is it top secret police business?” As I was not seeking to further discuss an on going police investigation, I smiled and picked up the plate, which she had prepared for me, in order to retreat into my bedroom: I replied, “A suspect hung himself.” To which, Irene an avowed women’s suffragette explained, “Himself? HUZZAH! another win for womankind!’ This response was of course owing to the accompanying large drink of whiskey she offered in way of a toast. To which I replied, in some exasperation, “Must you spend all your money on whiskey and books.” Irene countered that she spent it as well on cigarettes. She then spoke to my having sent Inspector Stone to Kings College library the previous night, in regards to analysing a listing of books I had made of Pamela Dean’s private collection, “And don’t think I don’t know what you tried the other day, sending that copper to the library.” I was more than aware of what she had misconceived as my intent, “ I assure you that was purely work related Irene.” At this point my weary day consumed me and I told her I was tired and as such was going to retire for the night and get some much needed sleep. Upon entry I placed the plate prepared upon my chair and collapsed upon the bed. There upon Irene began to play upon her gramophone, much too loudly, some new disc records of American Ragtime.
End of Digression

Unable to successfully drowse, I recalled the envelope in my bag. Upon removing it, I proceeded to examine the envelope. It was a standard postal envelope, which could have been obtained at any Postal Office. The only markings upon it was the red circle drawn with a steady hand, using a common red ink which could have been obtained at any stationary. The pen used had a fine point. The circle seemed to be drawn with some precision.

Upon carefully opening the envelope with a slow slice of a letter opener, I thereupon removed one sheet of paper. It had been tri-folded. The letter’s contents had been constructed using letters taken from various newspapers; some words were small taken apparently from news articles, some were letters which had been removed from headlines.

“Upon morning go 2 Waterloo Station. Take train 2 Charing Cross then switch lines 2 Euston Square. Switch 2 Notting Hill Gate. Then switch 2 Liverpool Street Station. Tell no 1. Come alone. Make certain U r not followed. A wait instructions.”

Personal digression for sake of accuracy and later reference:
Upon seeing the message I sighed and uttered, “Of course.” Whereupon I then glanced at my small library of detective and mystery novels, with the momentary thought that it was upon Irene, my flatmate, this was to blame. For all she ever gave me were books and headaches. I called out to her a couple of times before opening the door, or, perhaps it was thrown open by the volume of her "music.” “IRENE, I need you let me use the library’s telephone.” I told her as I stepped from my bedroom. “Just because work never ends for you,” She replied standing with her hand on the syphon as she prepared to add soda to her whiskey; she turned and lifting the keys from the sideboard, tossed them in my direction. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t end for us. I’ll keep the light on for you.”
End Digression

As there was little street traffic and the Kings College campus was but a short three blocks distant, I proceeded on foot through a light snowfall. I did not observe anyone following. And so I arrivied at the library at 9.45. I unlocked an employee entrance, using Irene Reedmin’s keys. Thereupon I placed several calls.

Upon departing the library and locking up I began to ponder the letter and the consequence of it and in so doing decided to walk about rather than return to my flat, owing to the musical annoyance. As I proceeded through the fluctuating flurries of the night’s falling snow, I was ever vigilant for any possible surveillance as the letter had forewarned of the possibility of my being followed. I did not detect any suspicious activity among the few pedestrians hazarding the night and the weather. It was well upon 10.30 when I ascertained my wanderings had taken me upon an approach to the front entrance of Inspector Stone’s residence. I proceeded to write a short note relating events hither to and tore the page from my casebook and, with the original letter, I slid them under his front door.

From thence I hailed a cab and took it to Waterloo Station. I arrived at about 5 minutes past 11. In that the last trains were to make their stops, there were only a few passengers awaiting to board. Upon the departure of the last scheduled train, 10 minutes past midnight, the station was all but deserted save for a pair of broom-men (which in reality were ladies, owing to the war effort). I took a position at a bench which gave me the best view of the station entrance and exit. At about 1.30, alone in the station, I proceeded to lie upon the bench in order to take what little sleep I should chance upon.

It was 10 minutes past 5 when I was awakened by sounds of a dour woman, who I later learned to be Myrtle Finchely, 231 Lambeth Road, who was setting up a flower stand near a news vendor’s, which was opening as well. The woman stepped over to the proprietor of the newsstand while unscrewing the cap of a flask from which she took a drink and offered same to the stout, moustached gentleman who owned the stand, I have since learned he is a Gordon Downes, of 119 Chicksend. I proceeded to take up a position in order to watch the arriving passengers for the early train, running at 5.35.

With a rumble the wooden carriage of the London Electric Railway, Bakerloo Line arrived. No one exited and passengers began to board. I held back and was certain to be one of the last passengers. I took note of another who seemed to wait as well for the others to enter. A tall gentleman in a dark black suit with a corresponding hat pulled low over his forehead so as to obscure his countenance.

The train rattled off and 5.36. The carriage grew dim with the occasional bright flash of light which flickered through windows from lamps outside set along the tube. I carefully ascertained that no one seemed to be of interest, save the gentleman in the black suit, who occasionally glanced in my direction.

The 5.36 from Waterloo to Charing Cross was uneventful. I exited and switch lines to the Central London Railway for arrival at Euston Square. The gentleman in the black suit followed but after purchase of an morning edition from the news vendor, a elderly gentleman who was hawking papers, he left the station at Euston Square as I switched lines to the Metropolitan Railway for the Notting Hill Gate connection.

Upon arrival a Notting Hill Gate Station I took notice of two Metropolitan constables standing near the entrance. The station at this time, 6.15, had a more substantial gathering of awaiting passengers.

In not wanting to attract undo attention from the constables, I perked my collar and likewise proceeded to purchase a morning edition. Upon the received instructions, I awaited the last train, the London Electric Railway, Hampstead Line, to Liverpool Station.

The train ran behind schedule and arrived 5 minutes past its appointed time as it rattled and rumbled into the tube station. There was a push of passengers against those exiting as it began to board. The two constables I had previously regarded were observing those exiting as if seeking someone of particular interest. I was careful to enter amongst the last in order to ascertain whether there was any about who might have been watching me with particular regard. I was aware of a gentleman, about 6 foot in height, wearing a dark suit, corresponding hat, stocky of shoulders, who stood reading The Times. Upon turning the page, he seemed to look in my direction.

The train departed the station. I was aware the first of my wires, which I had rang up the night before from the King’s College library, should be arriving to give explanation to the Desk Sergeant that I would be appearing at the Yard later in the morning. With the carriage rumbling its way to Liverpool Street Station, my final destination, I felt a growing sense of anticipation. With a few minutes remaining before the train was to arrive at the platform I became aware of a man in a grey suit and long heavy overcoat. As he folded his copy of the Daily Express, he glanced at me and smiled. I returned the gesture with a taciturn stare.

We arrived at the station and the passengers began to disembark. As I had some concern about the gentleman in the grey suit, I retained my seat and watched as he exited. As he did not glance in my direction in exiting or upon gaining the platform, I likewise left the carriage. I left the paper I had earlier purchased upon my seat. Passengers were pushing to enter and so it was not until I had cleared the congestion about the carriage door that I marked the presence of Inspector Stone standing at a news vender’s handing over a coin for the purchase of a copy of The Times. This was unexpected as my note, left under his door the night before, had been specific in that he should take no action unless he failed to hear from me by 10 o’clock.

Neither of us gave any indication of the awareness of the other as I was suddenly brought to heel by a young girl, her attire worn and showing signs of impoverishment, as she stepped up to me and inquired, “He says you are a policeman, are you a policeman?"

I looked about to ascertain if there were any surveillance.

“Are you Policeman Vera?” The child asked and grinned, “That is a funny name – Policeman Vera.”

“Yes . . . yes, I am.” I replied softly and knelt before the child.

’This is for you Policeman Vera" There upon she handed me another envelope so marked with a red circle.

Upon me taking the envelope the girl dashed off. I stood and quickly opened the letter, within there was once again a single sheet of paper of ordinary, common stationary stock, tri-folded. The message was composed as before from cuttings taken from various newspapers:

“When no 1 is watching go 2 end of platform. There r service rungs. Please enter into the tube. Take care. There R high electrical connections. Proceed 35 yards. Stop & turn right. There U will find a door recessed in the wall. Enter.”

I returned the page to the envelope and noted the time, 43 minutes past 6. I could find no evidence of the girl. I hazarded a glance to Inspector Stone who had moved so as to stand near some wall advertisements for North British Clincher Rubber Motor Tyres, Brownville Cocoa, Cockle’s Antibilious Pills, Coldfall House Charitable Trust, Junior Army & Navy Stores, and the British Empire Hotel. His interest appeared to be lost an article of The Times.

I proceeded down the station platform. As I reached the end, I then turned suddenly and called out loudly, “Stop! Stop! Stop that man!” The suddenness of my outcry turned the attention of those near the end of the platform in their effort to look for a man to stop, while I quickly sidled my way down the rungs attached to the platform, which allow access to the rails below. I then moved quickly into the darkness of the tube.

At an interval of approximately ten feet, small electric bulbs where recessed into the tube wall to afford some visibility. I took care to maintain a safe distance from the rails, having lit my torch. There appeared to be little in the way of interest along the narrowness afforded between the rail and the tube walk. Earth and gravel. I had proceeded approximately 15 feet into the tube before I turned to look back at the opening to the station platform to ascertain whether or not I was being followed. The tube was deserted.

Having progressed about 30 to 35 feet into the tube tunnel, I came upon a metal door just as the letter had indicated. Having removed my truncheon, I proceeded to use it to knock upon the door. There was no answer.

Upon checking the latch I found it unlocked. Cautiously I opened the door to reveal beyond what appeared to be a railway maintenance room. It was very dimly lit. I entered. Using my torch to examine the area, I turned suddenly upon the slamming of the metal door.

My truncheon at the ready, the light of my torch, revealed a man of medium height, dark hair, slightly tousled, wearing a heavy winter overcoat and a fashionable grey suit. He was sliding the three bolts of the door into place: "I am a bit sorry for the melodrama, PC Alderton, but they did kill Pamela,“ he said in a soft, subdued voice. He turned to face me, “So—how much do you know?”

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Trompe L'oeil
Session Three - Part Six

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Mrs Burrows Diary
10 March – late evening

Lord, but I might have killed him. And he was a handsome one that’s for certain. I was just checking on the front door – what with them going out and saying they would return shortly. I should have thought to lock up behind them, what with it being 9:30. But, leastwise I was entering the foyer and rounding the big, center table when I took notice of the door latch. It was moving. Not consistent – but a bit here and then a bit there, as if someone where trying to see if it were locked. And it gave me a fright— but not so I didn’t have my wits about me and so I quick looked around and all I could lay hands on was one of the silver candlesticks next to the old vase of flowers on the side table. And so I picked it up – my heart throbbing like as to hear it in the back of my ears as I stood there with my candlestick held aloft ready to do as much damage as I could possibly muster. I was just thinking I would try and reach back for the light switch thinking it might go better in the dark when the door pushed open a bit. And there I was tense and ready but – then I thought it might be one of them come back and so I says, “Who’s there!”

And he peered in to see the candlestick at the ready and me a about to give it to him, “Oh—’scuse me, didn’t mean ta startle ya.”

His eyes all a twinkle and voice so filled with charm I knew in a moment it wasn’t no burglar come to call.

“I say you gave me a fright.” Still holding the candlestick a bay.

“Sorry, just wantin’ ta know if ya had some rooms to let.”

Now it was strange to say the least, it being 9:30 and all but as I said his voice was charm itself . . . and he was quite handsome in his naval uniform and as there are those about on leave which arrive when the ships dock.. "Well now, young man, you nearly frightened away ten years from me that I will say.” And I lowered the candlestick, “You’re with the Navy?”

He took his cap right off as he entered the foyer in great politeness, “Yes’m, just got transferred from th’ ‘York’ to some cushy job here. Names Corke, m’m. Midshipman Thomas Corke.”

“Well, don’t just stand there in the cold, Midshipman Corke. Come in. Come on in, and have yourself a glass of brandy to warm yourself. “ I says and stepped back from aside the door and into the foyer. “This beastly winter and snow seems as if it shall never pass.”

“Aye it is. As I was just sayin’ a bit early, the devil certainly is walking out tonight.” He closed the door behind him, having stomped the snow off his boots before he entered.

“Best you come on into the parlour. I have a nice fire in the hearth.” I offered as I returned the candlestick to the side table. I took notice that he aligned it properly with the matching one on the other side of the vase of flowers, as I led the way toward the open double doors. “You will find no more loyal a supporter of our men in uniform than Elsa Burrows."

“Well, thank ya kindly m’m.” He removed his cap.

“I do volunteer work you know. Whatever I can, But every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m to the church rolling bandages.” I informed him as I stepped over to the parlour sideboard and lifted the bottle of brandy, and took up two glasses, “So, Thomas, you were on the York? How long you have before setting back out to sea?”

“Not leave m’m, transfer. But I really can’t talk about it m’m.” His voice drops conspiratorially. “Wot with German spies about an all.” He knowingly taps the side of his nose.

“Oh don’t I know it.” I gave him a knowing wink, “Damn Germans – you can’t be too careful in what you say, and when you say it, as they’re just about everywhere. Immigrated in before the war so as to be all set up in business, sweet shops and bakeries, and such, long before the declaration – is what I says. All a strategy of the Kaiser believe you me.” Says I as I moved over from the sideboard and toward the sofa.“ I said as much to Agnes, just the other night, at the Women’s Bond meeting. And so, right you are Thomas, one can’t be too careful these days, you know. Here.” I says as I poured him a stout brandy and passed it over.

“Well, thank ya m’m,” He said a bit distractedly. I hope it wasn’t the papers what I had left lying about folded to the bad news from the front an all.

“Now as for rooms,” I says sipping my own drink, as I took a seat on the sofa and motioned him over to the high-backed chair. “You just might well be in luck, seeing as how one of my best tenants has taken it in her head to be taking her leave of her rooms tonight,” I says as I took another longer sip and sighed, “The lord knows—I do so hate to see her go.”

“Tonight ya say?” He asked, “Now that would be swell, right innit? ‘course, sorry ta see ya put out of a good tenant, but didn’t ya have time to make peace with her leaving?”

I looked at my drink as I had not had time at all in fact – it coming on all of sudden. “I don’t rightly know what to think. I mean, I was away at my meeting," I refreshed the brandy in my glass and checked to see if Midshipmen Corke need a topper, but he seemed to be rationing it rather well, “The Women’s Bond of Freedom – which was wonderful, absolutely wonderful as we had such a great speaker tonight, Alderman Dunsdale, speaking of homeland duties and all, but then I come home and what do I find? That Veronica, she’s giving notice and is moving out. . . . tonight. Of all things. If you ask me it is all the doings of that friend of her beau’s – he’s one of those Conchies,” I says with a knowing nod, “I mean, a man who refuses to serve, who declares some higher callin’ than the preservation of England and all we hold dear from the huns, but then, he’s a lawyer too boot. I have no way of knowing what happened, but something did. I mean who does such a thing at this hour – and in this weather, unless there is something behind it.”

“Does seem to bear some consideration. She given notice before?” He says.

“No – seemed ever a steadfast tenant,” I says, “Even given her liberties with her rooms, so to speak – you know – with her Lieutenant.” I lifted a knowing brow and saw he took my drift, “But – it’s not as if I were not aware she was more than a bit head strong. A college girl – education and science and that beastly Darwin. But, I don’t hold it against her. She’s truly a lovely soul – a might young . . . and a bit too naïve if you ask my opinion.“ I says with a sigh and another sip of brandy, “Going out late a night and such – like she did last night. She might needs to be a might more careful as to which coterie she attends – like them that are in her assistance.”

“Them her in assistance?”

“A big carrier’s man working for that woman – I think she was Lieutenant Bradley’s landlady. They took out some boxes of Veronica’s a might earlier and I should be expecting them back shortly.” I says, looking back toward the foyer.

The midshipman took on this very serious tone with me, “M’m, I have a very serious question to ask. May I meet this tenant? It’s a queer request I know. But if, as you say, anti-war groups have been reaching out to her, it is my duty as a member of his royal navy to see if she has been, dare I say it, coerced into to any acts for certain foreign agents.”

I know my eyebrow raised mightily upon hearing that – the sheer thought of foreign agents . . . under my roof! And that carrier man looking like a common street thug from Whitechapel.

“While most in these pacifists groups are naïve stooges, there may be some. . . compromised you know, on th’ take, so they say.”

“Lord, I never thought of that. This conchy lawyer: he went up to see her and her Lieutenant, looking all smart, with hat in hand – why, I even took them up some tea – which no one seems to have touched. Why my word – come to think of it, if it isn’t long after that bang she’s off—what ever could it mean? Lord, you don’t think . . . spies?”

“Ya never know, m’m. Ya never know.” He sipped on the brandy thoughtfully. “Less conclusions jumped to, the better. Still, I would like to have a word with the miss. If I have your permission that is.”

I looked at him with growing anxiety, “Well, then, Midshipman Corke, if it is as you say – then perhaps you best have a few words with her. Her name is Veronica, Veronica Wells. And such a sweet girl. I do hope she is alright and hasn’t gotten herself mixed up with these bloody Kaiser pacifists.”

“Shutter at the thought m’m.” He says as he arose from the high-backed chair.

“She has rooms on the second floor, third room on the right.” I rose from the sofa and stepped over to the double doors and pointed upward to the landing above. “Third door on the right.”

Veronica Wells’ Journal
10 March – late night

So tired and yet I want to put this down before attempting to sleep in yet another strange bed. Alas, I awoke in one and now I fall back into another. And I am disquieted, very much so. Not from the hasty departure from Mrs Burrows, which was anxiety itself, or the bullying about by Mrs Willingham and her man, the brutish Mr Crump. But rather what I saw or rather what I thought I saw – but believing it is beyond all reason. For to do so – if it were true – then all I know of science is called into question. Miss Miniver upon a rooftop – and then the climbing down. No—I must put away all fanciful considerations, for it can be nothing less than the formulation of a trompe I’oeil of the snow and light reflection upon a windowpane, suggested by Bradley’s extraordinary revelation to Robert Wise with its undeniable allusions to the novel Dracula. Compounded of course by the tumult of a day begun with a morning head, somewhat alleviated by that marvellous concoction of Miss Miniver – and the small supply of cocaine she had provided – which had long since worn away. And Miss Miniver! Her dark, inquisitive eyes appraising me as I got dressed this morning. Her look how it lingers. It is surely the stuff of which dreams are made of – as well as the beginnings of superstition. My obsessive imagination running headlong against my utter lack of understanding of the Sapphic nature? Yes! Incubuses and succubuses – are they not all derived from sexual repressions and desires and ignorance. Mrs Willingham is correct I must get a grip –

It’s all so vexing. Then as now—and I was vexed! I had dropped the vase, of which I knew not the sentimentality nor expense thereof, owing to it belonging to Mrs Burrows, and it shattered. “Oh, Goddamnit!,” my new found habit of cursing exploding as I stood looking down at the porcelain shards.

And then came yet another damned knock upon the door. I took a deep breath, and held clenched fists to my temples as I proceeded to answer. “Yes!” I knew it was not Mrs Willingham and her lackey returned for she would have merely entered upon her own accord.

“Excuse me miss, but may I have a word.” Came the masculine voice outside the door.

I did not recognized it. Yet another of Lady Helene’s minions seeking their Rapunzel to hide away? I opened the door: “You can bloody well tell Mrs, Willingham I am packing as best I can.”

Rather than a bit of thuggery, I found instead a naval officer standing with cap in hand, “Veronica? I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure, I’m Randall, Bradley’s mate?” He spoke in a soft voice as if seeking not to be overheard.

“Oh, I am sorry. Did you say Randall? Randall Tanner? Bradley has mentioned you.” I said and motioned him into the room and closed the door and suddenly felt overcome, so I abruptly embraced him, “Oh, Randall is it all so absurdly horrid.”

I could feel his reaction – at first momentarily stunned by my unexpected embrace, before he relaxed a bit to hold me comfortingly.

“They say – they say Bradley is a spy. Not only a spy but a murderer.” I told him as I held him tightly, wanting desperately to confess . . . to confess everything – the whole sordid affair with Pym and Beltham and Willingham. Confess that it was me and not Bradley in the company of spies. But—although I told myself it was for his sake – I did not, for I know in truth it was for mine own. “It can not be true. It must not be true.” I looked at him, “It is not true—is it?”

He shook his head, “None of it is true. He has gotten himself up against the wall, and now they are trying to silence him for it. How much has he told you?”

“So very little,” I replied and stepped back. “Here, please, have a seat," I offered the chair at my writing table in which Bradley had earlier sat when he had met with Robert.

But before he would take a seat, he stepped around the shards of the shattered vase and moved over to the window in order to furtively peak out from behind the curtains. I watched him with some curiosity – was he aware? Where they watching? Did he know about the cabal of which I was an involuntary member – and, as I write this I have to inquiry as to just how involuntarily.

“This Willingham?” He asked looking out through the window to the street below, “Who is that?”

“Bradley’s landlady.” I replied, “I knew her – before Bradley and I met.” I explained, “The movement.”

“Ah, suffrage.” He nodded and walked back over to the writing table. “He was to have seen you this morning,” He said as he took a seat placing his cap on the writing table.

“Yes. Yes, he came to see me—it seems we have been missing one another’s communications . . . “ I told him as I knelt to beginning picking up the shards of the vase. “You see, I . . . I had been tending to a sick friend. But, before he could tell me anything of significance, Robert Wise, his barrister appeared.”

As if putting together some puzzle, I carefully arranged the pieces of porcelain so as not to cut myself, “It seems Bradley had rang him up, earlier. Before he arrived. Then once he was here he began to tell him this bizarre story about Exeter and classified documents – and of his trip there, to Exeter, to check upon a solicitor – which, strangely all began to take on this odd similarity to characters from of the Bram Stoker novel. Dracula – have you read it?”

“It is upon my list.” He replied taking notice of it as it still lay upon the bareness of my writing table.

“The more he went on, speaking of a visit to some house agents – which were lifted right out of the novel, Mitchell, Sons & Candy.” I stopped gathering the pieces, and turned to look at him, “Randall, is there. . . . is Bradley . . . I have heard of those who have what they call the shell-shock, but, he has not been in combat – only . . . I fear there is . . is there something wrong with him?"

Randall picked up the novel in question and fiddled through it’s pages. For some reason I had not packed it with my other books, which were even now being transported to whatever new rooms Mrs Willingham had selected for me. “The data is inconclusive at this time, however I have seen everything he has, and it seems to pan out. Veronica, he may be in danger. Where is Bradley now?”

I arose and carried the porcelain shards of the vase to place them on a small end table. “I have no idea.’” I replied, “Robert had talked him into turning himself into Scotland Yard, and they had left to do so, but then, Robert very shortly returned. It seems there had been an accident with their motor cab and Bradley – well, Robert says he told him he had had second thoughts . . . about going to the Yard; and so . . . he ran away. I am desperate to know where he is – if he is safe."

“We’ll find out, now don’t you worry. “ He said reassuringly and stopped his idly turning of the pages in the book, “Now, why is Willingham having you move?" He asked as he looked up from one of the pages – I am certain it was in order to study my expression. For as much as he was Bradley’s friend, and I and hoped by extension mine, there was sly craftiness behind his eyes – much like I had glimpsed at times in Lady Helene’s.

“It was she who came this afternoon to inform us his apprehension was sought by the police. They had come to his lodgings. Whereupon she was told of their belief that it was he who had cut up that girl and tossed her into the river.” Upon which I had a sudden recollection of that night I had spent incarcerated, before my father had arrived with Sir John Paxton – the hardness of the cell, cold and stark, and narrow and so claustrophobic; the clothing thrown at me all course and insufficient; the prying eyes ever looking at me as I was forced to undress, to watch me even at my toilet. Just what horrors would have been inflicted had my father not relented and had mercy upon his prodigal – unaware that as soon as returned home I would thereupon be almost immediately once again seeking ways to take flight from him and his home. The damned fattened calf having died for nothing. All of which had only replaced one jailer with another – Mrs Willingham. For she cared not a rap about Bradley – she had come to

“She fears I should not be left alone—here. As it is an address known to him. For she likewise believes in the police’s accounting – that it is was Bradley who butchered . . . that poor woman.”

“I fear for your safety too.” He admitted. “It was my hope to secret you both away on a train to the country tonight. Only, it looks like Bradley’s done a runner without me. You don’t know where he would have gone? No, I suppose if you did you would have said so. . . .” Randall looks once more at the book before him. “How much do you trust Bradley’s landlord to keep you safe? More than your own? I mean, Mrs Burrows seems as capable as any landlady.”

I was silenced by the contradiction. For I was sorely tempted to say yes—to be on board that train, traveling in some cloistered compartment, shades pulled down, bound for some secret destination, far from London, even further for Moringside Park, someplace where I could begin again, where I was a complete unknown – beyond the reach of father, of Beltham and her nefarious stratums and disreputable associations. But of what consequence if took up his offer? Had she not conveyed the extent of the reach of her enterprise. What would be her retribution? Of what was she capable? While, at the same time I have to admit there was more than a hint of wickedness in me, which I had fully intended to try and explain to Bradley, had we been given the chance, else I would not have been so truly enticed by the improbable opportunities Lady Hélène had articulated, as dubious as they undoubtedly were, nor the allure of mystery and the novelty of intrigue that inhabited Lady Hélène’s world. Truly, I am self-serving – selfish, above all others. Yes, it had come to me this morning in the flat of a pornographer, completely nude, and far too please by the Sapphic appraisal of Miss Miniver – the one person I truly loved was Veronica Wells – and in that revelation, I had to get a hold of that. But, at the moment there had to be some datum of truth in what I offered as way of explanation to Randall. "You see, Mrs Willingham—she is a socialist and as such she has—connections. In particular, organizers for unions— and so, she feels more than certain she has the capability of keeping me safe.”

He gave me a highly perplexed look – in learning of Mrs Willingham’s political affiliations.

“No. Really, I—I think I will be fine with Mrs Willingham – although she is a bit over protective.” I continued, trying to appear steadfast and resolute, hopeful my true regard for her remained concealed. I am becoming far to practiced at deception.

He closed the book with a soft snap and stood up. "Wouldn’t you rather disappear entirely? Not fatally I assure you, but go where no one can find you? Until we can find Bradley and solve this mess? I fear I worry about the police, there is no love lost between the police and the socialists, of that I can assure you. If you are willing to throw your lot in with them and their band, then that is up to you. But, if I may, I would suggest rather an escape to a village in Kent to stay with my family for now.

I moved towards him, “That is so tempting, Randall, truly it is. But—“ There was more than enough for him to worry about – and he needed to be single-minded in his devotion if he were to be a help to Bradley, so, I had to reassure him of my circumstance. “I feel a need to stay close and somewhere that Bradley can find me should he had a need to.” I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “It is a marvellous offer – but, Randall, if I am here in London, than I can be of assistance, when need be as, you go about trying to sort through this terrible misunderstanding out and help him.”

He stood at the writing table and tapped upon the Dracula novel twice as if thinking. “Alright.” He said shortly and pulled out a notepad from his inner coat pocket and flipped it open. Producing a pen he began to write. “Once you get settled into your new place, send me a wire to this address." He tore the page out of his notepad and handed it over. The Address was a flat on Narrow Street, Limehouse.

As I took it, he held it fast for a moment, “This is not my address, but a safe house and intermediary. I visit there once a week. I will keep in touch.”

I smiled at him, “You are every a dear friend Randall. Thank you so much for believing in Bradley – he needs you so. . . now more than ever. And—and I feel so much better knowing that I have this,” I said indicating the note with the address upon it. For if things did go badly, I knew at least someone in London I could turn to for assistance.

“Now, one last thing. . . “ He said, and picked up the novel, “May I borrow this book?”

I frowned, “Dracula? What is it about that novel. Bradley was going on about various characters out of that book earlier. So much so I fear a mania. But yes – certainly, if you think it will of help, by all means take it.”

“Thank you.” He returned his notepad to in his inner coat pocket and slipped the book into some much larger pocket in his heavy wool naval coat.

Worrisome, I rubbed my hands together, "They were to be back soon, they took several things to my new rooms earlier.” Desirous of retaining Randall as my secret confidante, I hoped for him to be able to depart before hey returned, and yet, I could not just come out and announce the need for his hasty departure – it would only arouse more suspicion. And I would have to explain far more than was my intent. And so, I casually moved over to the window as if merely curious as to whether they had yet arrived and pulling back the thin curtain I happen glanced down to the snowy street below, before my eyes wandered upward to look at the front of the house across the way.

“If anyone, especially Ms Burrows were to ask, I am Midshipman Thomas Corke, investigating suspicious activity among conchies.” Where he had previously had been very serious and formal up, he now gave me a toothy grin and a wink.

“Certainly, Thomas." As I held the curtain back, turning to give him a smile before returning my gave once more to a lingering moment to look out the tall window.

And it was in this moment, either my imagination or the play of light against the windowpane gave me a start. For at that precise moment I was certain I saw amidst the falling snow, standing upon the rooftop, next to the huffing chimneystack of the house across the street, a tall, slender woman. Which in the dimness of the overcast moon, I was more than certain I recognized her to be Miss Miniver.

“Someone there?” Randall asked with some concern.

“I-I,” I gripped the curtain – a side-effect of the cocaine? An effect of light and shadow and the reflected glare upon window glass – as suddenly seemed to witness Miss Miniver begin to climb down the side of the building . . . face down, like a lizard.

“What is it?’ Randall asked with some anxiety.

“That is not at all possible—“ I knew I must have appeared quite pale for it was the enactment of a scene from that horrid book of Stoker’s.

And even now as I write of it I am more than aware of the impossibility. A fictional character creeping down a wall in some lizard-like fashion is some creative brilliance upon the imagination of an author, but in reality – how it is possible? Scientifically – how does the flesh of the fingers adhere to the stone. How the tip of the toe encased as it is within some shoe leather? How does a person inverted, counter the laws of gravity in that the long skirt they wear does not tumble down about them, not only concealing them, but impeding such an extraordinary descent. No – in the cold reason of hindsight—it could not have been what at the time I had thought I had seen. It defies all I known logic of science and biology.

As he rushed to my side, he put a hand upon my shoulder. At the touch, I looked up at him in what must have been some wide-eyed glance of astonishment, while with his other hand he held back the curtain even wider so as to peer out into the night.

Together we now saw a tall, slender woman, standing beside the front of the house across the way. She was coatless in the snow, adjusting the hem of her skirt. She looked up to see us looking down upon her.

“Do you know her?”

“It is Miss Miniver.” I replied tersely, “She is an associate of Mrs Willingham.”

No doubt having been sent to surveil – or was it some other reason she found herself outside my window? I found myself longing for another of her miraculous morning head elixirs.

He quickly closed the curtain and moved me away from the window – “What was not possible?”

I recovered hastily, “That they would have sent her ahead of the carrier’s van.” I tried to keep it al so very simple. And yet, I could not help reaching out and touching the contours of the bulk of the book inside his jacket, and laying a hand upon it. “Promise me—you will read this.”

“Of course.” He said and with renewed concern he took my slightly trembling fingers in his hands, “You are certain you will be safe – with them.”

“There is nothing certain in this life,” I said, “Midshipman Corke.”

With his serious conviction returned and aware of the time, he glanced about, “Now, is there a back entrance? Preferable one where Mrs Willingham cannot see my egress?"

But alas, it was too late. For there came now the sound of footsteps on the staircase, accompanied by the voice of Mrs Willingham: “Crump you will take care. You are tracking up Mrs Burrows stairs.”

“It is Mrs Willingham and her man, Mr Crump.” I said hurriedly in a whisper.

“Damnations, not fast enough.” Randall gave me a slight smile, “But fear not. I will manage.”

Thus said he briskly walked to the door and loudly proclaimed, “‘ell, if that’s the way ya feel about it m’m, I’ll bother you no further. Good evn’ to ya.”

And with that he winked and opened the door to the hall.

As I stepped over to the door, I observed Randall exiting to all but collide with Mrs Willingham as she arrived at the top of the landing. She was obviously startled to see a naval officer stepping out of my room – specially one that was not Bradley MacFarlane.

“Oh, my,” She exclaimed as she stepped to one side, “And you are?”

Randall gave her a slight bow and a charming smile. “Ah, you must be Mrs Willin’ham, m’m. Pleased to meet ya, Midshipman Corke. Thomas Corke. Just checking in on the suddenly departing Miss Wells here—and what will soon be me new bunk. Only had a few moments, but all seems ship shape and squared away, so I’ll leave you to it.”

And without giving her much time to react he sidled past her and began to descend the stairs, with a backward wave of his hand.

She stood beside Mr Crump and watched for a long moment his descent with a slight frown . . . and then turned and motioned for the large, burly man to accompany her into my room.

“My dear, who was that?” She asked sternly as she closed the door.

“Apparently a new tenant.” I replied, “He wanted to see the size of the rooms. It would seem Mrs Burrows will not weep at my departure.

Mrs Willingham reached out and touched my arm, “We are the better for it. But –“ she looked back the door, ‘Something has upset you, I can tell. The midshipman?”

I gave her a rather straightforward glare, "I – I just saw Miss Miniver . . . she upon the rooftop of the house across the way – and I . . “

Mrs Willingham gave me a becalmed looked, “And?”
“I could have sworn I saw her climbing down the wall in a most –“

Mrs Willingham, in unpinned her hat and placed it on the writing table, interrupted, “Miss Miniver on the rooftop of a building?” Her voice filled with incredulity.

“I am certain of what I saw?’ I said fixedly.

“Really?’ Mrs Willingham sighed, “I see that your novel has disappeared? Perhaps, the swift hands of the Midshipman?” But rather await an answer she slowly stepped over to the window and pushed aside the curtain, “Come. See for yourself, Veronica. There is nothing here but snow. I don’t know what you saw, or thought you saw, my dear, but Miss Miniver? Climbing down and wall.” She laughed, "Our dear Miss Miniver is far to prim and proper for that to have ever happened. Please – come and see.”

I walked over to the window and looked across at the rooftop, and then down to the street below. There was only the falling snow. “You see—nothing. I suspect it has been a rather long day – starting of course with such a terrible morning head, “ Her hand reaching out to touch a strands of my hair that had fallen across my temple,“ And then, mayhap a too liberal use of Miss Miniver’s recuperative elements compounded or course by the shock of Bradley’s predicament, necessitating our need to move to a more secure location. It has all been a bit much – hasn’t it my dear.”

I looked at her sternly, “I am no long anyone’s dear – especially yours.”

“I do not know what this Corke has said to upset you, or what you discussed regarding the missing novel, but, at the moment you are all heat once again.” Mrs Willingham said and looked back out the window, “It is still some conviction that you saw Miss Miniver climbing down a wall.”

“It – was very much like a scene in the novel.” I replied earnestly.

Mrs Willingham sighed heavily, “Can you hear yourself, Veronica Wells. No—really, can you hear yourself? Like some scene in a novel! My dear girl, you really must get a hold of yourself. You are a scientist. A Darwinist. Soon to be a member of the Chemist Society. And, yet some wide-toothy smiled naval officer, some apparent aficionado of a theatre-manager-hack of a novelist, has you all wide-eyed before the window seeing – lord, I can not even speculate what transpired to so discombobulate your wits.

“’’ell I dunno about science an’ scientists an’ such, but I ‘ave fairly toted enough books to-night for one, I can rightly say.” Mr Crump interjected, his worn hand held in hand.

Mrs Burrows Diary
10 March – late evening – continued

With all the tramping in by that big heeled man of this Mrs Willingham, who followed after like some well-heeled dog, I stepped back out into the foyer just in time to see them clumping their way back up to Veronica’s. And then, I sees Midshipman Corke appear, stepping out of Veronica’s door and making his way past them and was descending the stairs.

“So, Thomas. How did it go?" I asks stepping over to the foot of the stairs, "She okay or did that Conchy lawyer get to her with his damn pacifist ideas?”

He smiled brightly, “No m’m, it twernt the conchies. ‘parently her young gentleman’s gotten himself in a spot of bother, and she’s worried it might be commin’ for her too.” He says, leaning down all confidential, his voice lowered as those atop the landing, just entering into Veronica’s rooms, could not overhear. “Evidently, this Willin’ham’s got connections. An’ she’s apt to use ’em to keep Miss Wells safe.”

“Bradley is some mix up in something?” I says – amazed as he seemed far to straight-laced to get himself into a bother, “What’s the dear boy gone and done?”

Moving away from the stairs, he he glanced back up the stairs to be assured the door to Veronica’s room was closed before he continued in his confidential tone, “I don’t rightly know m’m. Miss Wells was not too keen to talk about it. Now, don’t spread it around, but, between you and me, I think he’s being framed for something. I don’t know what, but its a sad day when a bluecoats done in like that.” And then, he suddenly raised his voice, “Still, I ‘spect she’s in capable hands, and I’ll be moving me kit in first thing tomorrow morning. What rates ya lookin’ at?”

I caught his intention and nodded with a wink, "Well, I was getting three shillings a week from Veronica – but for a lad in uniform, I can make do with two – if that meets with a midshipman’s allotment.” Lifting my voice as well as I says.

“Oh most nicely m’m, thank’n ya kindly.” He replies with a wide smile.

He seemed anxious to make his way to the door and so, I took a step towards it myself, “Well now, will you be moving in on the morrow?”

“Certainly. Gots ta get the final go-a-head from my CO and get my kit moved out of the barracks.” And suddenly he pulled out four shillings from his pocket and handed it over, “Here ya go m’m. Two weeks advance. Can’t say I’ll always be in all nights, but I can at least be honest with my rent.”

I weighted the coins in my hand, “Now be sure to come around early and I’ll have a big breakfast on,” And I gave him a wink, seeing as how I was overjoyed at having a man in uniform under my roof.

“Cor, I’m sure it’ll be amazing. Thank’ee m’m. I’d best be off,” he says buttoning up his coat and grabbing his cap off the chair were he had left it. “First thing tomorrow, I’ll see ya then m’m.”

Although I was about to offer him another drink, I felt he must have some duty call to answer before much longer and so I opened the door for him, revealing that the earlier flurry had turned into quite a heavy snowfall. “My it’s certainly picked up.” I says to him as he stepped out the door and flipped up the collar on his coat.

“You take care now.” I says

“Short jaunt to th’ tube, and I’ll be fit as a fiddle. Ta!” He says and the wind and the snow whipped about him as he made it down to the walkway and started off smartly up the street. I closed the door and once more weighted the money in my hand.

Notes on inside cover of Dracula, by Bram Stoker, handwritten by Randall Tanner.
10 March 1916

A soft woman’s voice. Calls my name. Cover blown? It is a tall, slender woman. Dark hair. Glasses. A librarian? Upon closer look – it is the woman we saw from window. Long black skirt, stiff white blouse, high collar. No hat or gloves. Not dressed for a brisk winter wind. Her soft voice almost a whisper: You best keep watch on Veronica Wells – those about her are not what they seem. You have me – at a disadvantage I said. Who are you? Her reply—I am a warning. Calamitous crashing suddenly somewhere from behind. Turn and then she is gone.

No footsteps in the snow!

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Curiouser and Curiouser
Session Three - Part Five

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Inspector Stone’s Casebook
10 – March

We left Arundel Street and Jeremiah Hurley contemplating his rye. It was a half past three and as I proceeded along Fleet Street, passing the offices of several of the broadsheet harbingers of misfortune and advertisements. I wondered what headlines they were preparing for the evening editions. Alderton sat looking out the passenger window contemplatively. She had been quite since we left Hurley’s lodgings.

The day had been one of many revelations – not all of which seemed resolute. I was the first to break the silence, “There is something of this I can not make right.”

She looked over at me, “Merely a something?”

“This evidence. The purse.” I said and shifted gears as we passed St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“Which we know was placed upon the scene by this Constable Baxter.” Alderton replied thoughtfully.

“Yes. Why?” I was careful over a glaze of ice – taking note of the dampness striking the windscreen as a renewed flurry began.

She looked over at me quizzically, ”Are you are asking me? I think that is a question for Baxter.”

I shook my head, “No, the purse. I can not make the sense of it. Upon one hand it would appear that Robertson-Kirk – who I have no doubts was the woman in the motor car Hurley witnessed upon the embankment – went to some lengths to place this evidence for our eyes. And yet, on the other hand, it would appear Spenser seeks to suppress it.”

“Yet another contrivance?” She asked with a wry smile.

“The woman Dean. Diced up, she would have been hard to identity.” I turned off Cannon Street past the Bank of England on Threadneedle to Bishopsgate. “But for the purse.”

“Someone wanted us to know who she was.” Alderton surmised.

“But to what end?” I inquired, “There is more and more a feeling of being lead and it gives me pause to wonder by whom and for that reasons.”

She stared back out the window, “Perhaps Baxter can be more enlightening.”

We arrived at Somerset Street with it’s three-story façades, most of which had in their front windows neatly placed cards bearing the word: Apartments. An effect no doubt of the economy of war.

I pulled to a halt in front of number 25.

Alderton looked at the building and sighed.

“This City Constable – Baxter. Andrew Baxter.” I said as I turned off the motor, “I reviewed his service record this morning. Nothing of significance in his schooling. Mere odd jobs before signing to become a constable. He as been on the beat for the City a little less than a year.”

“Perhaps to evade conscription?” She suggested.

“My thinking as well.” I nodded, “There were no annotations of irregularities or of malfeasance. He lost a brother recently at the front—in that, and, if he were so concerned with conscription, it seems highly irregular he would become entangled with something like the placing of evidence."

“Lost his brother?” Vera Alderton asked still looking at the front of the building, “Yet another possible political motivation.”

“As I said there is truly no end of complications and contrivances in this investigation.”

“Indeed.” Her expressive eyebrows furrowed with irritation. “And so, at the least, we shall do our duty.”

We exited the motor car and I stepped about the bonnet. I could feel the dampness of the small flakes of snow falling now intermittently upon my cheeks. “He lives in rooms upon the second floor.”

“Rooms?” Alderton asked as she gave me a side glance, “This neighbourhood. One would suspect it would be an expense especially upon a constable’s stipend.”

I looked about, “I suspect even here the economics of the war would have been felt.”

“Or, he finds supplemental income.” She suggested as we approached the three steps leading up to the front door. I lifted the heavy brass knocker and allowed it to strike thrice. I then took a step back in order to cast another brief survey of Somerset Street. It was deserted. I could not help wondering if it was merely the bad weather.

But my thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the door. A tall, thin woman, who looked as if she were better suited to attend a mortuary than a boarding house stood before us, “Yes?”

“Hello, is Mr Baxter in?” PC Alderton asked politely.

“He came in early this morning. I have not heard him leave, so, I would assume he is still in his apartment.” The woman replied in a matter-of-fact voice. "I must say it is inconvenient of him not to have informed me he was expecting visitors, and so, the parlour is not prepared for use. “

She glanced at us as we stood there upon the landing and then looked past to the motor car.

“Ma’am, we’re with the Yard” Alderton informed her as she displayed her identity card.

I displayed mine as well and allowed her to peruse it.

“The Yard? My.” She said dourly, “Well, Constable Baxter – he is with the City Police.”

“Yes, ma’am, we are aware,” Alderton replied, as she removed her gloves. “We have but a few questions for him.”

“Well—then, if this is official police matters then you should come in. Yes, yes, come in.” She said stepped back to allow us entrance and then took a quick look out the door before closing it – no doubt owing to concern of what the neighbours might observe.

“If you will but wait here I will get him."

“Thank you kindly.” Alderton said with a reassuring smile as she looked about the large, dimly lit foyer.

The tall woman, lifting the hem of her dress began to ascend the stairs, "He’s just atop. Has the first rooms.”

I removed my hat and looked about the foyer. It was rather dusty. The carpet threadbare.

The sound of the woman’s footsteps on the stairs were loud as she clumped slowly up them.

I turned to glance into the parlour and noted it seem entirely presentable. I took a step through the double doors and glanced about. A collection of silver framed photographs upon the mantel. A pair of candlesticks with half burned tapers. The furnishings were old and worn. A modest fire in the hearth. It needed a dusting.

I made a motion for Alderton to draw near.

“From the appearance of the foyer and this parlour, I strongly suspect there are no servants retained.” I observed.

She peered in the door and nodded, “Your surmise of the war? It would explain the let as well.”

At the stop of the stairs the woman began to knock upon the first door atop the landing, “Mr Baxter – there are visitors here for you.”

I noticed that Alderton now redirected her attention to the landlady.

There was apparently no reply to her knocking.

The woman knocks again, a bit more insistently, “Mr Baxter. There are two members of Scotland Yard here to see you . . . Mr Baxter.”

“Perhaps he as gone out unbeknownst to her.” Alderton said stepping closer to the staircase.

She knocks again.

“Mr Baxter—” And the landlady tries the door and opens it slightly as she finds it unlocked. "I say, you have—“

I was aware of a growing tension within Alderton as she stood looking upward from the foot of the staircase, before she turned to look at me, “Should one of us assume role of look—“

Suddenly a scream broke the gloom.

Alderton stopped mid-sentence and gripping her skirt, to lift the hem, hurried up the stairs.

I moved from the parlour door towards them.

The scream was now accompanied by another.

Alderton having taken the lead arrived at the top of the landing before me, where she found the tall, gaunt landlady standing with a hand to her mouth as she looked to Alderton and then pointed into the room.

She hurriedly stepped over and placing her hands gently on the woman’s forearms moved her back out of the threshold. She then looked into the room, “Stone, it appears your fears were well grounded.” She said as I reached the landing.

I hurried to the door and found before me the dangling body of Constable Baxter, dressed in his blues, hanging from a lighting fixture from the ceiling. A small white cord about his neck. A small stool lay near on it’s side.

Before entering the room we tried to comfort the horrified lady of the house and moved her further from the door, “It is best to step away.” Alderton suggested.

“Yes, madam, it is best you should retire to the parlour. I see there is a fire and there should be some comfort to be found before the hearth. Do you have sherry?” I asked

She nodded in the affirmative.

“Then, have a glass and await us there.” I tried to be sympatric, “We have a bit of work to do here."

“Is he dead?” She asked through her fist which she held to her mouth.

“The sherry madam.” I replied.

“Ma’am . . . parlour . . . now . . . we’ll be with you shortly.” Alderton told her sternly.

I watched as the woman departed the landing, to descended the stairs, trembling slightly as she held her hands before her waving them in some disbelief.

Behind me, I detected movement as PC Alderton entered Baxter’s rooms.

I stepped over to the threshold to see her inspecting the body.

“Yet another.” She said with a sigh.

I moved slowly into the narrow sitting room of the apartment. There was a small writing table, two chairs, the upholstery of which had once been rather fine but was now worn, the seat of one showing it had been much sat upon. The table beside it, with a small lamp, had a folded broadsheet placed next to a glass. I inspected both – the Times and whiskey. The bottle was not to be found. Beside the much used chair sat a pair of boots. I then stepped over and looked up at the ghastly face of Constable Baxter.

“Do you see any signs of note?” Vera asked as she began to look about the room.

“If there is, it was not placed easy to hand,” I indicated the chair and table with the newspaper and whiskey glass.

“I will check the other room.” She offered and moved through the connecting door to the bedroom.

As I approached the body, I looked at it keenly. He was dressed in his blues, the tunic upper buttons undone, his feet were encased in woolen socks. Not apparently new. I then reached out and grasped the uniform sleeve of the hanging man’s left arm and lifted it slightly.

“Rigor has not taken hold—this is but shortly done." I called out to Alderton.

“Did you hear anything as we entered?” Alderton asked from the bedroom.

“No – the foyer and parlour below consumed my attention.” I explained, “But this self-slaughter, if it be, I hazard took place before our arrival.”

She stepped back into the room with a lifted brow, “If it be? There is reason to suspect it is not?”

I stepped closer to the dangling body and knelt down, “"Have a look."

Alderton moved across the room, even as her eyes were still examining it for evidence.

I motioned to the stool. Righting it, I placed it’s rounded platform under Baxter’s feet. There was a noticeable gap from the bottom of his sock-enclosed feet and the top of the stool.

“Seems another murder then.”

There was suddenly the ominous sound of a struck match—

“Beyond your jurisdiction again I see? How many does that make. If you wish, I can see to having applications sent about.” Inspector James Fitzjames Spenser said casually as he stood in the threshold of the door lighting his cigarette.

“And what brings you here sir?” Alderton asked.

“The dangling Baxter.” He said and whipped the match with a quick snap of wrist to extinguish it – which he let fall to the hardwood floor.

“So among your skills you claim clairvoyance?” Alderton asked with a bit of irritation in her voice.

“One would at first suspect it odd your appearance here, Spenser.” Stone says, “Before the alarm has been given. But then again, upon a second glance, it is not so extraordinary . . . as I suspect you are up to your old methods once more.”

“If one were to have suspicions?” He said slowly entering the room, “They may be fixed upon you, whom I find, on far too occasions, at the discovery of yet another corpse.” He removed the cigarette from his lips and exhaled a long plume of bluish-grey smoke as he stood looking now at the body of Constable Baxter.

“As to your assertion of clairvoyance, PC Alderton. I make no such claim to the supernatural arts.” He cuts a glance over to her, “Although, the magic appears to be the sudden reappearance at Thames Station of Detective Cotford’s casebook—which arrived, oddly enough by courier – from the Yard. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.”

He flicked ashes upon the floor.

Alderton observing his contamination of the scene cleared her throat, “I would ask you to at least stay out of the crime scene.”

He smiled, "Sorry, but are you not a bit off your patch once more? This is a City Police obligation.” Spenser replies, "But one street over, and then it would be yours.”

“The understanding, Inspector Spencer, was that we were to investigate the murder of Pamela Dean, while it was given to you to investigate the death of Detective Cotford. “ She informed him smartly. “And it is to that end, we find ourselves here. For Constable Baxter was material in events of the morning upon the discovery of Miss Dean’s remains.”

He takes a long drag from the cigarette, "And, there is equal indication that Baxter is material in the death of Detective Cotford.”

“Therein we find the dilemma.” I told him.

“The dilemma I see is all yours, Edward.” He said evenly, “For your obligation is the atrocities which befell Pamela Dean. And to apprehend he who is responsible. And yet, even when given evidence by the Admiralty House – of the diced-up spy and her named accomplice – what do I find. You here. Off your jurisdiction, once more. When your suspect has been all but handled to you.

“There are irregularities —” Alderton began,

The cigarette held in his bare fingers, revealed from the cut-away gloves, wreathed his head with smoke as he once more brought it to his lips, “There are?”

“As you well know,” I replied heatedly. “It is the same such reckless indiscretions that were well known amongst yourself and Robertson-Kirk.”

Spenser smiled wryly, "Edward, you never let anything go.”

“Would that one could – but there is a suspicion of her involvement.” I forced upon him the issue.

Inspector Spenser calmly withstood my accusation and slowly exhaled a smoky breath, “I would offer caution Edward –“

“Of the placing of evidence upon the embankment.” I studied him for his reaction and yet he seemed mute upon the point, “For what consequence I don’t know – but her hand is in this.”

“This is something you fancy . . . or something you can prove?” He said evenly.

“Does she have a hand in this?” I demanded pointing to the dangling constable.

“What is it Edward that so disquiets you about her?” Upon this Spenser’s heat had arisen, “One might suspect your obsession borders upon monomania.”

“And you? What is it about her that ever makes you her hound to scratch up the earth so as to conceal her shite.” I asked with stern conviction.

“Stone – Simmer down.” Alderton interjected.

Spenser looked at me hard for long moments, “It is you who dogs a trail. A trail upon a case, which we know from past history, left to the Yard’s own wherewithal, it is fundamentally incapable of solving . . . or of bringing to heel such a madman – even now—when his name is known to you.”

“You would bring Ripper into this contrivance?” I said and took a step forward. “I know from whose lips this springs – for misdirection is ever her name.”

“She is retired, Edward. As I can assure you, you will soon be if you continue this damned course.” Spenser said pointedly as he dropped the cigarette to the floor and crushed it with his toe, “You and your accomplice in curiosity. You travail across the city. Crossing jurisdictions, purloining casebooks from the pockets of detectives as yet not cold, visiting libraries in the dark of night to seek odd books, putting questions to besotted broom-men, and to what end? A young detective is dead. A besotted rummy is murdered before your very eyes. And now a self-slaughtered constable dangles before us. Like an angel of Death, the further you go . . . the more bereavement you bring.”

“STOP YOUR BICKERING,” PC Alderton suddenly interrupted with severe vexation, “CHRIST ON A PONY!”

Spenser looked at Alderton, "And what of you PC Alderton? Have you no ambitions to rise beyond the confines of our basement lair? Are you not the lead upon this investigation, and yet, what evidence do you have in regards to the death of Pamela Dean, other than what has been provided for you by the Admiralty? Upon your own, what do you even know of the fate of Neil Byrne?”

“The largest piece of evidence we have is that in following every lead it bounces us back to the City Police and their recently deceased employees.” She said with stern and earnest conviction, “So, logically, if we could . . . put a lid on the bravado. Else one might ask, Inspector Spenser, what do you know of these cases? As to what is known – these homicides are interconnected and that makes this just as much our crime scene as yours. Now are you going to keep seeing who can piss further, or do you think we can cooperate for the sake of justice?”

To which Spenser replied with a polite smile, "If you would be so good as to have the constable below come up as you leave, it would be of great assistance to the London City Police.”

“I’m not your damn secretary.” She informed him coldly.

In my heat I continued to hold my fist ever clenched. “I give forewarning Spencer. If you and Robertson-Kirk are involved in anyway in this entanglement, I shall see to it justice this time prevails.”

“If it is justice you seek rather than another soliloquy.” Spenser said evenly. “Then the name Bradley McFarland, above the charges of espionage and murder, should be writ upon the warrant you serve. But—as far as I can see, Edward . . . the treasonous Lieutenant is not here. And perhaps—neither should you.”

I turned to PC Alderton, “It is a City Police matter – and as such, we shall leave this dangling policeman,” I then looked at the body of Constable Baxter, “To the investigative abilities of the good Inspector.”

I motioned toward the door and we moved towards it.

“Don’t forget—“ Spenser re-joined as we were preparing to depart Baxter’s rooms, “To send up the constable below.”

Alderton stamped downstairs, stopping a moment to quietly tell the constable at the foot of the stairs that Spencer wanted him to pick up a pastry from a bakery four streets over.

Thereupon we exited into the lightly falling snow and I took a long bracing breath of cold, winter air. My hand still slightly atremble from where I had held it far too long tightly clenched. “There is nothing in this case that does not speak of treachery.”

“Please, for the love of god, tell me you were able to grab something during my tirade.” She said, the steam of her breath curled upon each word.

I put my hat on as I turned and looked back at the building, "In regards to whomever hoisted Baxter? No. There was not enough time.”

“So all our witnesses are either dead or too terrified to speak to us. The City Police is claiming every piece of evidence they can and we’re no closer to finding Dean’s murderer than we started.” She said slowly putting her gloves back on.

I looked at her, “Then you suspect this McFarlane to be some machination as well?”

“Although the evidence comes from the Admiralty – there is much to question. Does it seem logical for a spy on the run to take the time to butcher an accomplice?” She replied with those expressive eyebrows rising. “Were she strangled – there would be more logic to it.”

“That is my estimation as well.” I nodded.

“And, Inspector Spenser seems too well informed of our itinerary,” She added.

“There is more to this case than we have yet glimpsed. It is time we found out from Barrington what he truly knows—and to what height this reaches."

Extemporaneous Memorandum Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice
10 March 1916

The motor cab pulled to a halt. Number 31 Theobald Road. A smile crossed my lips, number 31. I reached over and passed the fare to the driver and stepped out into the street. The only sound in the quiet winter hush was the motor of the cab. It echoed against the drifts. Although the Cleaning Department, along with whatever light of day that had found itself upon the narrow way, had mostly cleared the cobblestones, there was a light flurry starting to kick-up so as to begin a renewed deposit of accumulation.

The wind was damnable cold. I pulled up the collar of my long coat and surveyed the street and all of its the suspicious shadows and little niches. The nearest street light was some distance away – being a blasted nuisance really – if one were going to put up a street lamp it should be closer to the pub and the foot traffic. Or else the pub should have been established closer to the lamp. Either way it did little to illuminate the entrance to the pub, leaving it recessed into shadow. Looking up at the swaying wooden sign, so weather-beaten one had to strain in this light to observe The Turk’s Head – the pub had been nestled here at 31 Theobald Road, for quite some time, mayhap even when James came quite stately long this route.

Adjusting the collar, I concluded there were only two others braving the stout wind and the light snowfall. A woman, who by the roll of her gait was seeking a shilling or two to warm her up, so to speak, and a middle-aged man hobbling along upon a rough looking crutch.

With a grind of gears the motor car lurched on down the road, leaving me to make my way across the street. In the wind the ancient, sign hanging above the pub door squeaked from the need of a bit of oiling. I looked up at it. Once there may have been an actual Turk’s head dangling there back in the good old days, but now it is just a worn picture on a wooden sign.

Why Randall would have chosen this out of the way spot was curious – and so I took one last wary glance back over my shoulder. Snow and shadows. I grasped the iron latch, cold even through my woolen glove, and opened the door, where the escaping warmth was a sudden comfort. There was also rush of various scents: cigarette smoke, pipe tobacco, ale, a fine mixture of spices amid the aroma of a meat stew, and the tang of burning firewood. Hearth and home to some.

Inside, the small pub had yet to attract a large crowd. There was a Crimea veteran sitting at the far end of the bar nursing his drink, talking to a recruit. “Tis all changed kid. No more charge of the light brigade, I can’s promise you that son.” I heard him say. It was an odd mix of the youthful optimism of the one and the grizzled memories of the other. The publican stood close by, listening as he cleaning one of the pint glasses in preparation for the oncoming rush.

He looked up, nodded and smiled non-committedly. As if whether I came in from the weather and had a pint or exited back into the snow was no great concern of his. I gathered he wasn’t the owner.

With a quick glance about the narrow public room, with it’s slap-dash patching of cracks upon the walls, quickly covered in some glossy burgundy enamel, I spotted Randall over in the corner, sitting at a table alone by a roaring fire, writing in his notebook. I took note he was half-way through his pint of Stout. The place was dimly lit as gas was still laid on.

“If you have a mind to stay, close the bloody door.” The publican admonished.

I closed the door behind me as I stood and unbuttoned my coat. From a narrow doorway behind the bar, I took notice of a tall, slender wisp of a girl with dirty blonde hair as she appeared. I moved over and smiled, “Now, I would have made a note to myself to stop here more often . . . if I knew the women were ever so lovely.”

“Does your mother know you are out?” She asked with a mock mean-girl leer.

“What can I say, darling, it was she who kicked me out into the cold, cruel world.”

“Can’t says as I blame her,” she replied.

“A pint of your best.” I said, with a knock of a woolen knuckle upon the bar. “And one for my mate,” I motioned over toward Randall.

“You’re with Randy?” She asked now looking at me with a more amiable expression.

“He will be there all night.” Randall suddenly spoke up as he continued writing. “Just give him the pints Darlene.”

“Right you are.” And she handed over the two pints.

“Start a running account if I may?” I asked.

“Well, seeing as how you know Randy.” She gave me a winsome look. “And we always know where to find him.”

I took the pints and stepped over to Randall’s table. The ease and comfort with which he sat gave the appearance this was the usual spot for him at The Turk’s Head. He put away his pen and produced a rolling paper and looked at the pint I placed beside his half empty one.

“Better luck if you take off you cap, Sub-Lieutenant.” He said as he removed a tin from his pocket, opening it to tap out tobacco onto the paper. He licked the side of it and began rolling it up.

I took off my cap and began pulling off my woolen gloves: “I say, that wind is quite the devil tonight.”

Noting a series of pegs near the hearth, I stepped over, took off my coat, placed my gloves into my hat and hung them all upon the peg.

“Aye, that it is, Sir. The devil certainly is walking out tonight.” Randall flared a match into flame and lit the rolled cigarette, “Did you happen to catch a glimpse of him by any chance?”

I took a seat, “Not to put to fine a point upon it, I am not sure. I thought for a moment, I might have, but then again—I made it the long way around just in case.”

Randall flashes a grin and exhales a long plume of bluish-grey smoke.

“Now look here, old man, do tell—whatever have you gotten yourself into?” I asked.

Randall brought the cigarette back to his lips to take a long drag, the paper growing red with bits of it falling in red embers, “Me? Whatever do you mean?”

“Ah, playing coy.” I took a sip of my pint, “But see here Randall, this won’t do. You can’t come around one moment and ask me to keep an ear to the door regarding your mate MacFarlane and then, when there’s all manner of confidentials and most immediates passing about, you can’t go all indifferent on me.”

Randall took a drag of his cigarette and flicked ashes into the heart of the ashtray, “Steady on there, Sub-Lieutenant. I’m not the one hoisting semaphores – I am only on the receiving end – you’re the one with all flags waving. I’m just a Pelican in the wilderness.”

I sighed, “And I’m the one who has to work for ‘His Purdyship.” A first water prig.”

“Right you are,” Randall looked at me as he pointed the red tip of his cigarette, “And you do too fine a job for him. And you know it—that’s why it’s all ‘Yes Sirs’ and ‘No Sirs’ for the foreseeable future. So – now tell me what’s whipped up this gale.”

“Your Lieutenant MacFarlane.” I informed him straightaway.

“Bradley?” He asked in some astonishment.

I leaned forward to speak in a more muted tone, “I mean dash it all Randall, you no sooner ask me to let you know if anything should shake out concerning McFarlane, and the very next thing I know . . . there’s coppers all about Purdy’s office making inquires.”

“Coppers?” Randall asked rather calmly.

“I do hope you have not gotten yourself tangled up in anything with this Lieutenant – there is some significant heat now upon him." I told him rather adamantly.

“Heat? On Bradley? Bradley’s too proper to get up to no good, you know that.” Randall said still flicking ash from his cigarette as he looked at me far too inquisitively, to believe what he had just said. “Just what are these coppers accusing the man of?”

I reached into the pocket of my uniform jacket and removed a crumpled pack of cigarettes, slowly pulling one free, “Well, there’s City coppers and then . . . there’s the two of them that came from the Yard." I placed the cigarette in my mouth, returned the pack to my pocket and searched for a light. “One of them was a right proper looker I must admit. Can’t say as I have never seen a copper in a skirt before, but, I have to admit it was a bit of an arousal, y’know. ” Randall struck a match against the side of the table and held it out for me. I leaned forward to the flame, “Wouldn’t mind giving her a slap and tickle sometime. But, as regards to your Bradley McFarlane, it was the City copper. . . “ I puffed a bit on the cigarette lighting it, “That would be worrisome to say the least. Just looked up and there he was. All dressed in black, save for a white shirt with a severely starched collar. One could fairly cut oneself with it, I dare say. He looked like a bloody undertaker. I can tell you, the old man seemed to sit up right and proper when he entered.”

Randall pulled a well worn deck of playing cards out of his inside pocket and started to shuffle. “This copper have anything to say – that you’d hear?”

I nodded as I took a drink of my pint and watched the cards being shuffled and passed over for a cut, “Sort of comes with the position you know, at times, Purdy just forgets – I am there. And so, like I take the copper into Purdy’s office and announce him, and he just takes a seat, and I’m heading back out the door when he says, “She is most seriously displeased that things have reached this point.” And Purdy, well taken a back I can tell you, replies, "Well the business with the copper was going too far.” And that’s when the copper took notice of me having not quite closed the door and gave me a look that properly chilled me.

Randall dealt out three cards, “Now that’s queer, innit?” He placed one card face up in the centre of the table and the remainder of the deck beside it. “Wonder who this ‘She’ is. Not referring to this bird copper where they?”

I picked up my cards and looked at my hand and then at the card on the table, and checked my pocket for coins, which for some reason I was short. "I can’t say. I don’t think so, as the old man did not have the same look when she arrived as he did with that city detective mentioned ‘her.’”

Randall waved a hand, “Shall we dispense with putting up the three and just play 31 single-handed, say for a shilling?”

“Let’s make it a pound.” I replied, looking at my cards: a king of hearts, an eight of hearts, and a five of clubs. Holding 18. “I mean, you know what an ass Purdy is and all straight-laced and immaculate – but I can tell you, he was quite shaken and I could see it. Whoever this ‘she’ is—I’m more than certain he is troubled by her. Oh, three-of-a-kind count 30?”

“Of course.” Randall replied with a smile.

I took a card from the deck: 4 of Clubs. 18 in hearts, 9 in clubs. I discarded the 5.

Randall took the 5 and placed down a deuce of diamonds. "So when these other coppers, the ones from the Yard, arrived, what, they had questions about Bradley too? I mean, I’da thought they’d be asking about poor Pamela what she’d done a croaker.”

“Well, that’s just it.” I said placing my cigarette in the ashtray to take a drink of my pint, “The coppers I don’t think were so much asking the questions as Purdy was giving them answers to things they weren’t even inquiring about.”

I drew a card, 3 of spades. 18 in hearts, so I put the 3 of spades on the discard.

“Now,” I reached over and took a drag from my cigarette, “I told you about how the old man’s interoffice is a bit on the flake—I can at times jiggle my end and I can get bits and pieces of what’s being said in his office.”

Randall smiled, “Rice, you scoundrel.”

“So, before I had to leave in order to escort the Metro coppers up from the front desk, I heard the City copper say, “Here, this morning’s edition. It’s all laid out.” And then Purdy saying something about, “Her needing to take care of bad weather or something of the sort.”

Randall did not take the 3 of spades and drew instead – checking his cards. “So—what’s all the heat about concerning Bradley?” He asked and put down a 7 of diamonds.

I studied the play a moment.

“Well—when those from the Yard arrived. I overheard that they had come to the Admiralty in response to Purdy having placed a call requesting them, apparently.” I said contemplating the cards.

“Purdy called the Yard?”

“Right,” I drew a card from the discard pile – 9 of spades. I discarded it. “Seems he called them in to reveal . . . well, he says Dean—right out accuses her of having gone all beastly rogue . . . says she’s gone and stolen some dashed plans about some bloody banking caper in Germany."

Randall checks his cards. Keeping the cigarette in the crook of his fingers, he grabs his pint and takes a swig. “Banking you say?”

“Right, something hinted at in today’s paper.” I took a draw from my cigarette and tapped ashes into the ashtray. "He told them it was all about something codenamed The Harker Memorandum.”

“The Harker Memorandum?” Randall repeated looking down at the discard pile.

I could tell the whole bit of information about the Harker Memorandum had Randall distracted even as he was still looking to make a play.

“Have you heard of it?” I asked him.

Randall frowned and shook his head slowly, “No. Nothing. Mean anything to you?”

“Randall, it is like I said. Purdy . . . well—he’s just such an ass . . . I mean everything he does comes straightway through me; he doesn’t do a lick of the paperwork . . . and so, I can tell you straight on there’s no such thing – this Harker Memorandum. There’s not a hint that it or of anything else for that matter regarding anything he was telling them coppers about what’s supposed to have been purloined by Dean or anyone else for that matter – or, at least, not any information coming through Purdy’s office. If there were, I would have been the one to have been on all the confidentials.”

Randall drew a card and quickly discarded the 9 of clubs.

“Look Randall, I know this Lieutenant McFarlane is a friend of yours. I don’t really know him. But I knew Pamela Dean. She was a good bird—I liked her. I don’t like what they are saying about her – and so . . . I mean, damn it all man as far as Dean’s concerned, no one I know has ever said a disparaging word against her. But, this mate of yours, this McFarlane. Well, I can tell you all the bloody noise he made in that row about those misplaced classified documents. Now, there was a deuced bit of most immediates all over that I can quite assure you."

I drew a card, a 5 of Diamonds. Damn. Still 18 in hearts. And that 5.

“So they think Pamela was what? A spy?”

“That’s the word Purdy used. Spies. Said they had been monitoring communications which tied Dean directly to Dierks & Co, which we have known for sometime to be a cover for the Nachrichtenabteilung. German Naval secret service. Although, he indicated they believed she had been gulled into it by Lieutenant McFarlane. The way Purdy laid it all out is that he was the mastermind behind the whole thing. Stealing this – this memorandum – and that he got Dean to assist him, seeing as how she was the head clerk and all. But, then Purdy surmises that McFarlane gets word that they’ve been discovered . . . and so, being found out, Purdy surmises he sets out to clean up the operation. Randall they are saying McFarlane killed Dean. I mean, Purdy told them to arrest him straightaway. And then the City copper, he says how since some City detective had been murdered, they had been given orders to hand out arms to all those on the case and so, he was giving orders a shoot to kill if need be.”

Randall nearly spits out his drink.

I watched as he anxiously flicked ashes into the ashtray, “That’s when I came straight to you. Randall—you best assure there is some distance between you and this Lieutenant McFarlane. Purdy’s put the hounds upon him.”

“You tellin’ me they’re angling to just off Bradley in the streets? Not even a kangaroo court?”

“There’s a War on Randall – they can do anything.” I looked around and then leaned forward, “Look, I checked into this City copper. He was once with the Yard. Part of some secret division within their special branch or whatnot. From what I could gather, as discretely as I could, he was summarily dismissed. Apparently, there were major irregularities and hints of outright illegalities. This one, this Inspector Spencer—he’s a real bad egg for sure. And what’s more,” and now I whispered, “I think he’s got it over on Purdy and Purdy is doing his bidding.”

I then discarded the 5 and knocked on the table.

Randall adjusted his cards a bit nervously.

“Adrian, Adrian, as you lay it down.” He suddenly says picking up the 5 I had just discarded and then cleanly laying down his three 5’s. "I’m picking it right up, Sir. That’s 30.”

“The deuce you say,” I replied putting down my 18 in hearts.

Randall sat back and finished his stout. “And here’s what I say. We don’t need this kind of corrupt dealings interrupting things. There’s a war to win! Bradley found something, that much is clear. Now Bradley is no simp, but he’s not the best with the surreptitious . . . you know what I mean.”

“It’s bad for him Randall.”

“So, what, your just going to stay away from this one Rice?” Randall asked heatedly. “I’m sure Captain Hall would love to know what’s been going on with his second.”

“He’s all straight as a pin—no doubt about it. But, if they’ve got Purdy on their side and we have got no evidence on ours – then we may well end up in the river like poor Pamela.” I told Randall straightway. “As I know he was a friend to Pamela and to you – that’s why I came straight on to inform you of what hand they are dealing to McFarlane. Whatever he stirred up with them damnable documents, someone is about to try and put him down for it – it’s as sure as the sun’s coming up tomorrow. And as for us . . . Randall, they chopped her up. They put her in a river. And now, they’re setting the hounds on McFarlane. Take this to Hall? You think they would hesitate to do us in? If Purdy is corrupt, then count me in for seeing the old man brought to heel. But we need proof, old man – some real evidence. Have you got any?”

Randal sat for a moment looking at me.

“And I thank you Sir, for all you’ve told me about poor Bradley. Truly I do.” He said as he finished the last draw on his cigarette.

Then he stood.

“I want you to know you can count on me – I’ll keep you informed. Do all I can to keep an eye on Purdy – but without some evidence on our part – I just don’t want them coppers on me like they’re on McFarlane. We have to be clever and be sure we have evidence that we can produce.” I offered.

Randall put on his cap at an jaunty angle and smiled, “And nor should you. At least not without evidence and a case to back it up. Leave it to me Sir, and I’ll see what I can scrounge up." He took his coat off the peg and threw it around him. Picking up his notebook, “Let’s say we forget about the pound on the game. Now, you’ll have to excuse me, Sir, but I promised some other mates of mine a round at the Snipe & Shaft, and I’d hate to disappoint.”

“Be careful Randall.” I said sitting back to watch him move around the table, “At this point it would be wise to trust no one.”

Randall gave me a wide toothy grin. “Who said I ever did?”

He placed payment for his bill and then nodded to me as he walked away and through the narrow pub and out the door into the night and the cold.

I looked at the cards. He had left them. I sighed and stubbed out my cigarette. Rising, I reached over and grabbed my coat, cap and gloves and then stepped over to the bar to pay the lovely Darlene. “When you get old enough to leave your mother come back and see me.” She said with a warm smile.

I gave her a winning smile, “The War is my mother.” And I put on my coat and stepped out of The Turk’s Head and into the cold. Buttoning my coat I was amazed I did not see Randall anywhere along the street. Pulling on my gloves I proceeded toward the streetlamp to hail a passing cab. About twenty feet from pub’s entrance, there was the sudden flare of a match in the darken recess.

Inspector Spencer lit his cigarette, “Will he be heading to McFarlane?”

I shook my head, “No—he’s far too clever for that.”

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