Zo Renfield’s Journal -, 13 March 1916 — I looked back as if expecting to see the madness of my grandfather slowly catching up. Only the Madness is far to clever to allow me to see it, distinctly. No, it reveals itself to me by the momentarily look in Lady Penelope’s eyes as she stands there in her neat and polished vestibule all too suddenly aware that there are forty-eight boxes of two dozen roses. Six times eight, six times two, two plus six. Long stemmed for an abundance of thorns. It was of considerable expense—the man at the hothouse uncertain if he had enough at this time of the year until there were more pound notes and he said ah. I felt bad. It was really odd for the delivery man to have stomped into the main house from the servants entrance. Or was he? The delivery man? Had he been waylaid and replaced by the Rose Men. The roses were in a box and so he did not have to touch. No—that way Madness lies. His teeth were bad but not sharpened to bite.
Kiss’ dress is bothersome. It is lovely and would look so on her, but the buttons are all wrong. Thirteen not twelve. Six Times Two. The high crochet lace about the neck I wonder if it is too revealing. I don’t have to ask Mr Mellilow for although he is silent his eyes do happen to wander there – and for his wandering eyes I am still grateful to have him at my side. His bright light blue eyes. When not wandering they idly look out the window. For Rose Men? Flies?
He reached over and grasped my hand – startling me. Then I took note I had been rising and lowering the window. Six times. He released my hand and I smiled at him and his wandering eyes. Around a corner and the apprehension grew as I knew we where drawing neared to the office building wherein my office was possibly filled with the dead and dying. Torn throats and sputtering blood. Everywhere. Or not. “Mr Mellilow?”
I looked at him and he turned from the window.
“Miss?” He replied.
“You will watch out for flies—please.”
He did not smile. He nodded knowingly. Does he understand?
Happy shining Tom Murray steps up as the cab pulls to a halt. Club foot saved him from the war. He opens the door. “Miss Renfield. How are you this morning?”
“I am not at all sure, Tom. How are you?” I told him as I slowly got out of the cab taking his out held hand.
“Having a great day, Miss Renfield.” Happy shining – though he slightly frowns as Mr Mellilow exits and walks around the cab to the footway.
“Do you know this gentleman, Miss Renfield?” Tom Murray asks.
“Oh, yes Tom. He is my Mr Mellilow.” I said as I searched in my purse to pay the driver.
Happy shining. I turn to look to the building and then up to my window. “Everything as usual for Monday, Tom?”
“Oh, yes ma’am." And he leads me to the revolving door where I enter with my Mr Mellilow following in my wake.
The lobby was its usual Monday morning. It always looks all so much like a puzzle: the exposed flights of stairs, the balconies, the wooden columns. The was lobby full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the glass ceiling, the point of which was a hundred feet above The walls were frescoed and terra cotta in mellow tints, to soften without absorbing the light that flooded the interior. Several ladies were crossing from the right connecting corridor. They smile and nod. “Did you see that dress?” “Oh—yes—that crochet lace?” “High neck collar look through of course.” “Whore.” They said to one another. Mr Mortimer, at the front desk, was reading the Times. France’s wounded soldiers need your generous help. Verdun. Tapping my middle finger to my thumb – one, two, three, four, five, six, I crossed the way. There were no flies. Nor a Rose Man with his sharp teeth clinging to the open age of the lift.
“Well, shall we go up.” I said to Mr Mellilow.
The lift operator Mrs Fitzgerald opened the metal gate with a click of metallic gears. They did not echo as they had done the day of our mad dash, then it was Saturday and the lobby echoed more so than it did today. Mrs Fitzgerald ask me if I was having a good day. As I had told Tom, I was not certain. She smiled knowingly.
What did she know?
With a lurch the lift engaged and began the ascent. I clenched my fist to keep from tapping fingers in anticipation of the sudden crash of one of the sharp toothed lawyers against the rising cage of the lift, fingers clamped to the grating lips pulled back snarling. Gnashing of teeth. But ride is uneventful. Hydraulics whining to a halt, metal clanking once again as the gate opens. I stepped out and walked down the narrow corridor. My footsteps echoing, loudly. Mr Mellilow followed discreetly. Was he watching for flies?
Yes, Renfield International Investments, LD the gold lettering upon the opaque glass still intact. I sighed as I wanted to turn the knob six times before opening, but I forced myself to only turn it once. I expected blood and destruction. Mrs Ormond sitting at her chair, head hanging backwards grotesquely as her throat had been savagely ripped open. The dead eyes of Robert accusing me from the floor where he lay in a pool of blood. Flies buzzing everywhere.
The office was busy. As usual.
All my clerks at work.
The ever efficient Mrs Ormond immediately arose from her desk with a bewildered expression, “Miss Renfield, I thought you were unwell today. I had received a call you would not be in the office."
Kiss. I had forgotten. The hothouse man in his serge coat without a collar, scruffy hands dirty, his nails even dirtier wanting to know whose funeral it was to which I was sending all these roses – every bloody rose in London as like. I had been so distracted and then the delivery man at Lady Penelope’s, lacking every bit of decorum, and Robert on his way to my office – not knowing what to expect. I had forgotten.
I smiled. Was I smiling took much? Why was I smiling? Is smiling some involuntarily reflex – reaction. Does one do it in order to relieve someone from thinking they are unhappy, when they are not? Well, I was not happy. I had not slept in my own bed in days. I had sharp toothed lawyers clinging to lifts, gnashing their teeth. I had seem an evil man shot in the head and he did not die. I had the Rose Men’s busy buzzing flies following me, watching, listening. I had Box Brother ruffians interrupting tea. I was in a dress with thirteen buttons. Mrs Ormond smiled back.
Does everyone smile?
Well not Mr Mellilow.
I waved a slightly dismissive hand. "Oh, I am much much better now, much better.” I looked about the office, everyone had stopped to look at me, and when I looked at them, they returned to their work. “Has anyone arrived?” I asked Mrs Ormond?
“I am sorry – you had to appointments, but I cancelled them,” Mrs Ormond replied. “Owing to telegram I had received from a . . . Miss Carstairs?”
“Oh, yes, Kiss.” I nodded, and sighed, “But so, no one has been looking for me – this morning?”
Mrs Ormond cocks her head to one side examining the rough looking Mr Mellilow. “Looking for you?”
“Not this morning – I have been handing all the calls, for you. But nothing unusual.” She informed me, “Is there something the matter Zo?”
I shook my head, “Oh, no, no, no” And as I removed my coat, Mr Mellilow stepped over to take it from me, as well as my hat, which he hung neatly on the coat tree near at hand. “Nothing at all – really, Mrs Ormond?” I said reassuringly. “Was there anything from Geneva in the Post?”
I had expected further information regarding Count de Ville from my source in Prague through his intermediary in Geneva. I had already told Kiss about it.
Mrs Ormond shakes her head, “Not in this morning’s post. Perhaps in the evening delivery?”
’Right." I said as I began removing my gloves.
“Is this a new investor?” Mrs Ormond asks looking at Mr Mellilow with some interest.
I turned suddenly and then saw she was regarding Mr Mellilow, "Oh – no, this is Mr Mellilow. He is—assisting me on – some matters.”
“I see,” Mrs Ormond says, not seeing at all.
Mrs Ormond stepped back around her desk and handed me today’s correspondence she received in the morning post, having opened the letters and attached the envelopes to the documents as she is ever so thought knowing how I like to review the envelopes as well as their contents. “Although there is nothing from Geneva, here is your morning post."
“Oh yes, thank you.” I replied still rather furtively checking for blood on the floor or walls.
There is a light knock at the door, I turned, even as Mr Mellilow seemed posed to move towards me. As the door opened, Mrs Ormond turned to the visitor and began to address him, but I suddenly moved forward: “Robert – so good to see you!” Apparently he had not arrived early but late even as I arrived.
I smiled – again, and again and again. This smiling must have everyone wondering what ever is the matter with me . . . have I always smiled this much? But I was concerned not about Miss Carstairs, but Robert. I had forgotten to check when I had arrived owing to happy shiny Tom stepping up the motor cab and opening the door and taking my hand, distracting me. Was he too in league with them? If so for how long. Watching me arrive everyday. Thank god Mrs Ormond was hired by my father. And so, I was not at all sure if they were watching? If so, then they would have certainly seen Robert’s taxicab pulling up to the kerb before the office building.
“Who is that?” “Looks like a lawyer.” The second one would have said to the first one as they watched Robert as he no doubt checked his pocket watch upon exiting the motor car after paying the driver. To which the red-nosed cabby would have undoubtedly mumbled something like, “Cheers guv’nor.” Then they would have watched as the motor cab drove off. Whereas happy shiny Tom with his big grin and a tip of the cap and a “Right nice morning, isn’t it Sir?“, would have directed him toward the entrance. Where Robert would have approached the revolving door, even as the first one looking at the second one there would have held out his hand and released a fly. While Robert, adjusting the grip on his briefcase and removing his hat as he entered into the revolving door, would have unaware of the buzz in the revolving compartment behind him. What would he have done upon entering into the muted light of the lobby, aided as it was by what sunlight fell not only through the intermittent clouds obscuring the sky but though the high glass ceiling? Would he have known where my office was? No. I do not recall his ever having visited. So to the directory? Not Robert, Robert is too personable, so he would have most certainly approached Mr Mortimer, who looking up from his Times, to adjust his glasses, would have said the same as he ever does, “May I be of service.” And Robert being Robert, ever being the gentleman and all business, would have most certainly announced himself formally as: “I’m Robert Wise, Solicitor with Russell-Cooke. I’d like to make an appointment to meet with Miss Renfield if she is in.” And he would have handed over his card. “Ah, yes.” The Mr Mortimer would have replied adjusting his glasses, “Miss Renfield. To be sure. Yes. She arrived just a few moments ago. If you would take the lift to the third floor, and take then, a left, it is the third door on the right, sir. Renfield International Investments. Mrs Ormond, the office manager, will see to setting you up with an appointment. Miss Renfield, is very particular sir. Very particular. She only allows appointments through Mrs Ormond." And Robert would have smiled— as everyone was smiling today. Would either of them have noticed a buzz or the fly? There would have been the usual protocol of Mrs Fitzgearld’s at the lift. “Floor Sir?" “Third please." “Yes, Sir. Watch you hands please." Clank of the metallic accordion grate. Robert adjusted his grip on the handle of his briefcase as he feels the jerk of the hydraulics and watches the lobby receded. A whine and then another jerk to a halt, the grate noisily opening, “Third floor, Sir.” And Robert would have stepped out. Would he have noticed Mrs Fitzgerald swat at the fly? Or did she? His footsteps echoing as he casually observed each door in passing, 301, the offices along the corridor, 302, till his purposeful stride brought him to the frosted glass and the golden lettering: Renfield International Investments, LD. 303. Whereupon he would have lightly rapped upon the door before turning the knob but once and entering.
Robert stood looking at Mrs Ormond, Mr Mellilow, and myself a bit taken aback. “Ah, Miss Renfield. I was given to understand I needed to make an appointment with Mrs Ormond.”
“Not for you Robert.” I did my very best to maintain my most amiable composure as I turned to smile once again as I enquired of Mrs Ormond, if I had any appointments for the morning.
To which she shook her head. “As I said, I had cancelled them all as I had been informed you would not be in today, as I said. Miss Carstairs.” I could tell from the sound of her voice when she said Miss Carstairs there was some concern—. Was it in regard as to was Miss Carstairs? Or that had she might have told me this already? Which as quite possible – but with my anxiety regarding the prospect of finding the office a dripping bloodbath I may have forgotten at the moment – which I now realize I had.
’Yes, yes, certainly. Kiss.” I turned back to Robert and smiled again – just how many was that? I should be keeping a count. “Well, you see Robert, I am free this morning, and so, please, please, would you join me in my office."
“Ah, yes, certainly.” Robert gives Mrs Ormond a confused and apologetic look, as if to say he is just as confused.
As we began to move toward my office door I am almost certain I heard Mrs Ormond say to herself, in a quite voice, of course: “Kiss?” Even as she put some of the correspondence I had handed back to her back into a folder. She looked somewhat perplexed.
I stepped into my office and placed the morning mail I had kept and hesitated in placing down the correspondence, owing to the disarray of my desk. Even Robert, behind me, noticed various things upon my desk seem to have been pushed about, knocked over – disturbing the entire symmetry of their placement. There was of course the shattered vase upon the floor lying there before the small side table which was situated behind my desk. The chair across from desk was still lying on it’s back, where the sharp toothed lawyer with the gold handled cane had knocked it over in his frenzied leap across the desk. Though Robert had never been in my office there was certainly a look of concern that this was not its usual state of appearance. The look of concern became one of alarm as he took noticed of the bullet hole in my window.
“Is that a bullet hole?" he asked set his coat and briefcase on a chair and walked over to the window.
“Please, I am sorry, if you would, perhaps arrange the chair." I ran my fingers across my forehead uncertain what to reply. What I could say? What I should say? I knew I should tell him the truth as I had no doubt I had put him in their line of sight. The Rose Men with their flies. The Rose Men with their too sharp teeth. But, no, he already thinks me mad. Perhaps I am overly analysing the situation.
“Bullet hole?" I repeated looking over at the window, "Oh my — "
But before I had to explain its presence there was suddenly a loud clap and Mr Mellilow at near the door had clapped his hands.
I jumped as it fairly gave me a start, thinking it a shot from the other side of the window what with us in the midst of discussing bullet holes. I turned to Mr Mellilow who stepped over and disposed of the fly in the waste basket near my desk. The filthy creatures with their little legs rubbing and rubbing together like a pair of hands rubbing together, sinister and villainous hands theatrically rubbing together, plotting, conspiring, watching, waiting. Spies upon the wall. To be a fly upon the wall—living in their blue bottles. The blue-bottle flies. Their nasty messengers flitting black to file their reports.
Robert startled as well all but half jumped as he turned to look now almost as if noticing Mr Mellilow for the first time.
“Mr Mellilow, thank you.” I said to him, “Now we are alone.”
Robert with his briefcase, looked uncertain whether, or where, to put it down. Looking first to me and then to Mr Mellilow, who staked over toward the window. The window with the bullet hole. But at least the room was not dripping with blood. It had not been turned into a Red Room.
“Please have a seat Robert.” I can tell he is wary and has every right to be – being as he is in an office, the door closed, with a mad woman, a certain criminal, and one dead fly. He seems at first rather jumpy, but, bravely he shakes it off and rights the second guest chair, into which he then sits and picks up his briefcase from the first chair beside him.
“I am remiss. This is Mr Mellilow.” I introduced my silent Mr Mellilow, “He is an associate of a private inquiry agent I have on retainer from Hudson & Brand.”
“A—ah—pleasure Mr Mellilow." Ever the gentleman Robert stands again to offer a hand but upon remembrance of it possibly retaining the ooze of what was once a spy—a fly — he thinks the better of it.
Mr Mellilow wipes his hand with an rather dirty handkerchief and then offers it again to which Robert took and shook hesitantly.
“He doesn’t say much.” I explained, feeling the need for some explanation. “But I do feel evermore safer having him about.” And I found myself beginning to align the objects on my desk – some having to be moved more than once, or twice, or thrice to find themselves back to their properly assigned place.
Robert sits back down and opens his briefcase. “If those Box Brothers have done this to your office, I can see why.”
For an moment I pause in the rearrangement – no – not a rearrangement but a proper arrangement back into order from their chaos, “Yes—well, to say the least things have been rather troublesome the last few days. Which is why I have Mr Mellilow.” Who nods and returns to look out the window – to see the first one speaking to the second one – wondering about their fly? Was it on the wall?
“It’s all about those documents Robert." I told him.
“Yes—the documents.” Robert pulls out the aforementioned documents and sitting on the edge of the chair, leaning forward to lay them out upon the desk—almost like laying out the Tarot . . . I once had that done but the woman with too much rouge looked up from the cards and handed me back my money. She refused to tell me what she saw. “They really are rather damning in a way" He told me. I looked at them presented: Justice, Judgement, The Tower? They seemed to have been re-ordered with several more documents added, each marked with his commentary in red ink.
Dipped in blood?
The Wheel of Fortune?
I watched as Robert adjusted his glasses in his solicitor’s anticipation of rendering the legal interpretation of the documents dark portent.
“Then I am correct – Coldfall House Charitable Trust is a fraudulent front for various nefarious businessmen?”
“The evidence collected here would certainly seem to indicate such." Robert replied as his litigious index finger tapped the papers with emphasis.
While I restrained myself from the urge to reach out to straighten the documents, I sat down behind my desk. Odd my ledger within which I had been working , when the man with top hat and gold handled cane leapt over the desk and grasp Kiss, for a kiss with his sharpen fangs, was not on my desk. “I suspected as much, but was not quite sure, what with one thing seeming to lead to another and then yet another tangled thread leading to yet another, lost in a labyrinth of documents and deception. But—they do show Coldfall has in fact been funnelling funds through various amalgamations into the shadowy enterprises of this Count De Ville?”
Robert nodded, but then he raised a finger as if to censor the excitement of my vindication — of what some might have considered an obsession or mad mania, “However."
I did not like the sound of however.
Nor perhaps did Mr Mellilow as he turned upon the word and slowly walked over to the window, where, stern and stoically, he stood to watch the street below.
“However,” I repeated.
Robert took from his briefcase a bound booklet labelled “Larceny Act, 1861” and placed it on the table. He opened it to a section which he had marked with a book mark.
The booklet looked far too ominous.
As if preparing to read a passage before settling into his sermon, he began: “Section 80 of the Larceny act, the section dealing with fraudulently disposing of property by a trustee of a charitable trust, details that:” And cleared his throat and continued to intone, without use of a judicial wig." Whosoever, being a trustee of any property for the use or benefit, either wholly or partially, of some other person, or for any public or charitable purpose, shall, with intent to defraud, convert or appropriate the same or any part thereof to or for his own use or benefit, or the use or benefit of any person other than such person as aforesaid, or for any purpose other than such public or charitable purpose as aforesaid, or otherwise dispose of or destroy such property or any part thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to any of the punishments which the court may award as herein-before last mentioned."
Robert suddenly looked up from the book and across the desk to me, “The snag you see is,” and he began to read again, “Provided that no proceeding or prosecution for any offence included in this section shall be commenced without the sanction of Her Majesty’s Attorney General, or, in case that office be vacant, of Her Majesty’s Solicitor General: etc. etc…"
I looked up from the nasty sounding book and stared at him.
“The problem is twofold." He pauses for a moment. “Well—threefold really”
“You mean to say—“. I suddenly asked, “They can steal the money away, which should properly be going to children, orphans and widows, to the impoverished, the least of these, and in that book it is nothing more than a —a misdemeanour?" My voice rising in vexation.
He nodded, “That is the first problem. And assuming this Count de Ville is as well connected as this evidence suggests,” his hands touching the documents laid out before him, “Even if the crown wins the case, the punishment might not be suitable to the seeming severity of the crime. We would have to build a vast case against him—but, it could be won—and, of course, there is the possibility the scandal of even being brought to court might be enough for the board of trustees to renounce him."
“But Robert—“ I could not fathom the ridiculousness of this book.
Not yet finished with his summation he continued, “The second problem is that we would not only have to convince the court of the merit of our investigation, but also the Attorney General, Sir F. E. Smith."
“This is abhorrent Robert, simply abhorrent. They have taken my grandfather’s money and built this prestigious foundation, which is supposed to be a grand and glorious philanthropic charity, while in fact they are secretly financing the actions of a man with malevolent motivations, who funds anarchists and internationalists, who invests in shipping, in petrol, in chemicals, pharmaceuticals, heavy industrial equipment and even more importantly munitions — a man who is not even British!"
“And by use of a charitable trust he has most advantageously made use of the law.” Robert nodded with some dismay.
I pointed to the documents on my desk, “But once they see where the money is going, how it is being invested, embezzled, stolen!”
He held up a hand as if to calm me, “Sir Fredrick is a reasonable man, but there is a lot on his plate, what with war and all. He may be persuaded to a hearing only after the war owing to our third problem."
And he pulled out a sheet from beneath a few pages from one of the documents lying upon the desk, which appeared to be a list of some of to the industries being invested in. I felt my left hand tensing into a fist as I sighed heavily for already the first two problems seem insurmountable. And he was bringing forth a third?
“Our third problem.” he handed over the page to let me look, “Is that some of the industries being invested in happen to be on our side. As you can see many of them are foreign and yes, some enemy industries, but this French chemical interest, you see there, yes, there, it produces phosgene gas for the French Army." He turned the document for me to see.
“A War profiteer! Robert this is insidious. How is it that they can use this charity with impunity . . . so as to invest in both sides of this horrid killing machine of a war. Robert—this . . . this is evil."
“It is. It is an abomination of justice that must be righted." And now I saw Robert momentarily stir with a righteous fury, only to watch him slowly slump back into his chair. “I have done a bit more digging of my own. And I suspect, but cannot prove — well at this time — that the Denham group may be channelling some of its funds to British government interests as well. More investigation is needed of course before I can get anything as concrete as what you have already brought before me but . . . “ He paused for a moment, and mumbled what I thought was, “. . . two conspiracies in as many days…” before he looked up, “I would have to build one hell of a case — pardon the language —to take down Count de Ville. Assuming he could even be brought to trial.”
“As well as the fact there are even more bizarre oddities to this labyrinth of lies,” I said as I reached over and began to sort through the documents frowning, as my small ledger was not there among them, “Did you bring the ledger as well?"
He looked slightly perplexed, “I brought everything Penelope gave me. Is something missing?"
He reopened his briefcase again in order to check.
“There was a small ledger in the large envelope as well, is it not there?" My fist tighten to grasp my pencil I so badly needed to tap. Had they gotten to his papers? The ledger? Their spies were everywhere! Oh yes. I now strongly suspected a spy in his house. The maid! What was her name? I must remember it. Amelia, yes. I knew from the look of her — those too innocent eyes. No one looked that innocent unless it was a contrivance. I knew she was not to be trusted. And that butler. Where they not together working for Coldfall?
Had not Coldfall provided assistance to those who in service had been displaced by the war and its economic circumstance.
Robert was emptying the other, unrelated papers from his briefcase and had started sifting through them as well. “As a matter of fact I do recall reading it last night. It was rather incriminating. Listing of various outliers. Investments in rather odd enterprises. Gadzooks, if that clerk misplaced it I swear…”
Robert began hurriedly shuffling through the other papers in his briefcase.
“Yes. A list of unusual financial transactions. Oddities. You see I have a contact in Prague.” I told him as I allowed myself to begin to tap my pencil upon the desk, four times, which I hoped appeared as nothing more than a momentary anxiety, even as I caught sight of Mr Mellilow giving me a look as if to discourage the tapping, which I knew I should stop but I had yet to reach six. “Who communicates with me through Geneva. It seems all rather Byzantine to say the least — but, there happens to be a Amsterdam Diamond House which receives monies from an Transvaal Mineral Investment group, which are then re-directed further to London in order to finically off set loses by Ashcroft & Sons Publishing. Ashcroft & Sons, which is a part of old Sir George Ashcroft’s estate, prints among other things the British illustrated monthly magazine The Journal of the Occult, which is a publication authored by an esoteric group known as The Pimander Club.” Robert looked at me with some perplexity as I continued, “Of course this was all just some odd bits of information via a contact my father had in Prague, which I didn’t think all that much about, until I chanced upon an old friend at tea at this very nice tea stop, which has these most marvellous tea cakes, and during the course of my conversation with Florence, Millicent who was there taking tea with Florence, she’s a freelance typist — Millicent not Florence — said what an odd happenstance it was when I mentioned the Journal of the Occult. For it seemed the Reverend Marley with whom she was currently employed, doing typing and filing and research, and all, had written a rather scathing pamphlet concerning not only Coldfall but their secret connections to The Journal of the Occult and The Pimander Club."
Robert only seemed to be half listening to what I was saying as he was preoccupied with searching for the missing ledger. “Pimander club, mhm yes.” He muttered; and then half under his breath, to himself, “. . . did I leave it at my desk…?”
“Now it would seem that this club —according to Millicent, who was privy to all of Reverend Marley’s research — has an very exclusive membership that includes members of the aristocracy, of parliament, of the clergy, as well as high ranking military men, and some ranking officers of Scotland Yard, and the City Police. Plus, members of the Law Society — “ I frowned as he was searching and not at all listening, “Did this clerk you mentioned . . . does he by chance happen do work of them as well?"
I looked over to Mr Mellilow, who stood looking at the perplexed Robert Wise.
“Work for them?” He asked vaguely.
“The Law Society?” Did he need to stop and count to six?
“Well, I mean—I’ve been approved by the Law Society. All solicitors have. And Thompson he was given one if the highest recommendations from the Law Society. Only started working with Russell-Cooke a few months ago, but he keeps misplacing things. They usually turn up again sooner or later though. I sent him to make a photostatic copy of all this." He sweeps his hands over the papers. “He probably just misplaced it. I’ll question him on it when I return.”
Misplaced. Oh yes. Out-of-place. Not in their place. A place for everything and everything in a place. As they do so want to create misdirection. Misbegotten. He only started a few months ago? He said. And so well placed? “Robert, “ I felt the time had come to talk of many things, as the Walrus once had said, “You see, I must admit I have been negligent in telling you the truth about the state of my office, the disruption, the broken vase, the bullet hole, the overturned chair. Saturday last some rather abominable members of the Law Society came to visit — men in top hats and black crow coats and gold handled canes. They — they tried to kill me and Kiss — the private inquiry agent from Hudson & Brand, who I hired. And so, Robert, I must forewarn you — if you are dealing with the Law Society you must be very careful — they want," I motioned with my hand to the documents upon the desk, “All of this.”
Mr Mellilow turns to look again at the bullet hole in the window.
“Good heavens!" Robert exclaimed, “Have you reported this to the police?"
“How can I trust the police? They may very well be a part of this insidious conspiracy." I said wishing I had on one of my dresses rather than this one with its incorrect number of buttons — it was all wrong and in so being I was ever more vulnerable — they would be aware of the flaw and would be certain to make use of it. “Even as there are those who are members of the Law Society! You just said yourself, there are two conspiracies." I tapped the pencil, “Perhaps there is yet another?”
“Well, perhaps,” Robert stopped his search for the missing ledger, “But I don’t believe that any conspiracy, no matter how seemingly insurmountable, could involve every officer of the law and every member of the Law Society. Certain high ranking officials, perhaps, but the entire group? If what you say is true, then I might be risking my career, or even my very life, no my very soul looking into this." Robert is getting animated now, fired up like a reverend at the pulpit. “And yet, I must see justice come to pass. Where evil lurks, it is men of honour and law that must bring it into the light. And just as I feel that conviction, there must be some officer of the law, some lonely investigator among the police who can assist you.”
I took note if the scepticism on Mr Mellilow’s face.
“Here,” and Robert looked and pulled forth a loose piece of paper and wrote something down and thrust it towards me. “Ask for this man at Scotland Yard. I’ve worked with him before on a few cases, and you will not find a copper with a more dogged determination for the truth then he."
On the paper was written the name Edward Stone.
“Tell him I sent you, and that I’m looking into this for you, but that since your life has been threatened, this is now also a matter for the police."
Edward Stone. Stone 5 letters, subtracted from 11 equal Edward Stone, was six, and Edward was six Letters — and I liked the look of the name on the page. There was something strong in it. Yes, i decided i liked this name.
Robert looked winded and somewhat embarrassed by his outburst. He brushed his hair back in place and took a few breaths. “My apologies Miss Renfield. I usually leave the dramatic outbursts for the Barristers. I don’t know what came over me."
“There is strength in his name Robert, I like the name. But Coldfall House is a prestigious name—“
We were suddenly interrupted as the door to my office opened and a woman entered saying, “I do not care if she is in conference or not. I will speak with her,"
She was a presence.
Entering the room she devoured all attention — a woman of authority who was used to subservience. She was dressed in a fashionable black dress with a large hat and great overcoat with a mink collar. “So, you are R.M. granddaughter, the instigator of all this slander and libel. Zo Renfield."
Robert turned around to look at this sudden intruder.
I stood up, well aware it was Lady Aurora Carradine, whose first husband had been bequeathed my grandfather’s estate in order to found Coldfall House, and she had been forced to take principle control of Ashcroft’s business interests as well as the foundation of the charitable trust upon his accidental death.
Ever the gentleman Robert stood upon her entrance as well. Mr Mellilow moved over to stand near me with his right hand resting most conspicuously in his jacket pocket.
Lady Carradine gave Mrs Ormond, who had followed her into the office, a cold dismissive glance, “You may shut the door, madam. I wish to speak confidentiality with Miss Renfield.”
I nodded to Mrs Ormond, who gave me a questioning look but nevertheless closed the door.
Robert’s confident air of only moments ago took on a look now of confusion. Lady Aurora had already began to exert her influence, which among London high society and prominent business circles was considerable. “So, it is as I would have suspected, someone wilful enough to seek to sully the name of Coldfall House would be secluded way in some austere room with a lawyer and a criminal. My what company you keep, Miss Renfield.”
“I know who you are." I told her defiantly.
“Good." She steps forward looking at the office as if it were infectious. “And I know who you are as well, Miss Renfield. And even thought I hate to disparage your grandfather’s name. I must say, you my child are obstinate, misguided, and extremely foolish.”
“I will have you know my grandfather’s name was long ago disparaged — when he was mysteriously committed to an asylum.” I rebutted.
“A destination I fear may soon be on your horizon,” she said with infinite superiority. “But in lieu of that eventually my dear, I have come to today to see if we can put an end to this ill-advised campaign of slander you have seen fit orchestra. You will desist in these outrageous accusations of Coldfall —do you understand."
Lady Aurora’s tone was one which never expected anything but acquiescence to her commands.
“They are not unfounded. Coldfall is a den of confidence and embezzlement. And for that reason it is you, Lady Aurora, who would sully my grandfather’s name were it available to be sullied.” I found renewed courage against those cold penetrating eyes of hers. “Stealing from children. Separating infants from their mother’s.”
“That my dear is an absolutely injudicious fabrication perpetuated by the purveyors of jealous whispers and disingenuous rumours. The lies of worthless gossip mongers. Coldfall has and will ever be a refuge for the those most unfortunate of mother burdened by child out of wedlock — from whatever walk of life. Do you have any idea of how much in expenditures alone we have given to the impoverished children’s fund.”
“Well, actually—“ Robert began shuffling through the documents upon my desk.
“I will give you that once you may have been a great organization, but you have been defiled. You have giving your soul to the devil — to de Ville."
“You have a particular obsession with the gentleman,” Lady Aurora gave me a haughty lift of her brow, " I can assure you Miss Renfield, if you and your salacious minions were to do far more research then listen to and resurrecting old libels, long since proven to have been wholly inaccurate, you would know Count De Ville left England years ago, as did he the Board — but, pray is there more? Or, are these the entire sum of your wildly imprudent and tiresome libels, my dear.”
Robert, who seemed to finally guessed who the imperious woman was suddenly interjected. “Lady Aurora, unless Miss Renfield has had her statements published, there is no case for slander nor libel here. Now I suggest we all calm down and discuss these findings upon some later date, when passions are no longer so enflamed."
Lady Aurora’s brow rose even higher in her haughty indignation as she turned to look at him, “Yes, a solicitors answer, I would expect nothing less. But sir there is in fact a far more injurious slander. When the good people who have for so long supported Coldfall House, hear these salacious rumours and lies, which may in their way have an effect upon the good opinion of the populace, whose continued support we ever seek in order to help us maintain the worthy services we provide. These lies only serve to help disheartened those whose support we need the most. Coldfall Charitable Trust has been an institution in this country for nigh on twenty years and now, because of a young woman who, no doubt bares an unfortunate predisposition for her grandfather’s sad misfortune to madness, decides to bring forth once again old lies and accusations – so long disproven? And so it is my obligation, my duty, to ensure the great name of Coldfall.” With that said she turned to me, “Now what is it precisely that you want, Miss Renfield? Altruism, my dear, only goes so far. I would suggest this little enterprise of yours could use an infusion of what, several influential clients? Would that be enough to have to desist?”
I stood behind my desk uncertain as to whether or not Lady Aurora could leap across it. I was now even more certain she was in league with the sharp-toothed lawyers, the Rose Men. That she was a part of the halo of flies — of which she had told me about.
I held my pencil in my left hand so as not to succumb to the need to tap it, which was growing ever within me each tense second. “Madam, my little enterprise does quite well without the likes of you and your sharp toothed lawyers."
Lady Aurora held her gloves in her right hand and if she were close I felt she would have used them to slap me, “Obstinate, stubborn young woman. You would tarnish the bright and shining legacy of an otherwise disgraceful end to your grandfather’s career?"
“My grandfather never intended for his legacy to be used by charlatans, thieves, corrupt politicians, and least of all mystical occultists. Nor to fund foreign armament dealers.” I said angrily.
“That is an unfounded accusation my dear.” She slapped the gloves in the palm of her left hand. “You will find no such transaction upon the ledgers of the Charitable Trust."
Robert moved to stand between us. “I understand you are upset your ladyship, but please try to understand. There are certain discrepancies that it would be foolish to ignore.” He said even as he turned to address me, “And Miss Renfield, until these discrepancies are fully investigated, perhaps it would be best to remain civil in our discourse?"
Lady Aurora addresses Robert, “Do I take it sir that you represent Miss Renfield?"
At this Robert chanced a look to me as if seeking confirmation.
“Are you certain you understand the danger,” I asked him even as I cast a accusatory look at the arrogant Lady Aurora.
She gave sound to incredulousness: “Danger? Truly your obsession goes far deeper than I suspected.”
“Then, if you would be so kind, Robert." I did not smile, and in retrospect I had not smiled since Lady Aurora entered my office quite unannounced.
Robert nodded, “In this instance I do, yes."
“Then sir, I would suggest you consult with you client. If she does not desist in these unfounded public pronouncements, we will have no recourse but to take action against her, and for the sake of her grandfather’s memory I do so wish things would not come to that." Lady Aurora’s tone taking on a more business like quality as she spoke to Robert.
“And what recourse is that? To send once more your Rose Men? Send more of your flies to spy upon me?” I could no longer contain my contempt for the pompous hypocrisy of Lady Aurora Carradine.
Thereupon she smiled and looked at Robert with a slight cock of her head, "As you can see sir — your client, she may be but one step away from the strait waistcoat her grandfather wore.”
“Perhaps now that you have said your peace, you should make your leave. You have, after all, barged into Miss Renfield’s offices unannounced, uninvited, and it seems obvious, unwanted."
I felt Mr Mellilow take a step closer. His hand nestled into the jacket pocket he was definitely concealing something within.
Lady Aurora’s disdain from the moment she entered into my office never wavered, “I will leave you with this Miss Renfield.” She slowly began to put on her gloves as she looked at me contemptuously, “Whom would you wish to take care of these unfortunates in our society? The Salvation Army? I dare say Mr. Stead to his credit, though misguided as he was in the law, revealed to what disgraceful circumstances young girls can find themselves left to that particular organization. I for one am very proud of the work we have done and continue to do. So In that be well advised, when it comes to the Charitable Trust I am not to be trifled with. Thus, I take my leave, but be assured, you will hear from my solicitors if you do not heed my warning."
And with that she haughty turned to stride toward the door.
Robert stood and watched as she left my office—no doubt far sooner than she may have originally planned, having made her way into my office this morning without an appointment, with what I am certain was her a sure and certain intention of intimidation. What with the sharp-toothed lawyers having failed to bring to heel Kiss and myself, in that we had escaped without harm, Lady Aurora’s arrival was it a new feint in Coldfall’s campaign to attempt to silence me. The threat of legal consequences — as well as to assert action whether or not we had made reports regarding the Rose Men’s assault. Just who had we spoken too? The press, the police, our lawyers? Although I was quite thankful Robert had been there upon her arrival, I can not but help feel that Lady Aurora had left quite content in the fact that, at best, she had nothing more to deal with than a single solicitor. A solicitor of whom I may have placed himself and his family in jeopardy. I looked at the name upon the paper Robert had handed me: Edward Stone. Best be forewarned she had said. Perhaps it would be best for me to speak with this policeman — in order to perhaps stay the hand of her Rose Men and their flies.
Robert breathes an audible sigh of relief when the door finally closes behind her and he slumps down into the opposing chair and sighs, removing his spectacles and rubbing his eyes. “I understand she was being unreasonably antagonistic, but, must you spur her on so Miss Renfield?”
“You do not understand truly what evil they are capable of Robert. It is more than mere financial fraud and thievery. There are horrible things they do under the cover of their philanthropy. Even now I fear what they may have done to the Reverend Marley and poor Millicent Ainsworth — in that they had sought to pull away the mask they wear and reveal them for what they truly are, and now they have disappeared. I know I walk a razor’s edge with madness. But please —understand. In this I am not mad.”