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The Coldfall Sanction

Of What I Know
Session Fourteen, Part Nine

14 March 1916 – from the Diary of Thomas Smith – Later

And then they are gone. To their fencing. The clacking of swords is what it is. With tips on the blade so as to not draw blood, I guess. What’s it all about I don’t rightly know. And what has it to do with a fence. I mean some are spiked. And them that are of iron are more like a spear I would say that a sword. And what’s a lady needing to do with a sword? Ready to do her part? It shames me. As I am but to stand duty at the sideboard, rather than with my fellows in arms, being as I am a footman. This morning. As every morning being as we are lacking several in staff what with John and Simon gone and having signed up. In France. Or so Simon says in the letter he wrote back to Mrs Clarke, who be his cousin. So, there we are alone looking to one another. Me and Mr Haines. Hearing them clacking at the swords. He all calm and standing with that patience of his. As there’s not a soul in the dining room. Them that remain having not come down. Well that daft Miss Renfield, she had come down, but had gone away. With her Ladyship. Gone to watch the clacking. Assured they had gone through, Mr Haines he gave me the nod as he stepped away to take leave of me at my post.

I must say it grows on me. To have to stand here beside the burners. Standing duty over the sideboard while there is fighting to be done. I know I should put aside the livery and put on the uniform but there is the wages. And Beatrice has now only to do the one shift at the presses at the laundry. Her not being as lucky as I. And so there is the worry who would help should I take up the colours. But soon it may be a decision I don’t make as the Conscription they say is soon to take effect. I know it to be more certain as Marge says Miss Cooper heard Mr Haines and her Ladyship discussing what to do when it comes round to me. Mr Haines, I hear from Mrs Barnes more likely wont be in the call as she says he had some bad wound in his time with Lord Cyril in some place called Moldova.

Mr Haines upon his return had that most vexed look of his. “It would seem Mr Mellilow finds it more comfortable to dine in the servants hall.” He says.

“What – he is to eat with us?” I asks.

“As it would seem.”

“Mrs Clarke says he’s a rogue who knows his way well about the felon’s dock.”

“It would be wise, Thomas, to keep the opinions of others to oneself.” He says

And having checked the burners he was putting back the lid of the back bacon when that Miss Carstairs arrives. And what a fine sight she is to see. Those delicate wrists. The curve of her knuckles. The long fingers. Her walk. So unlike all the ladies that come here to call. Vigorous. As is her figure. Slender. But not such that it isn’t pleasing to the eye. The thought fills me with all kinds of wonderings, owing to what Marge had told Mrs Cooper. What she had seen through the crack of the door. When she had gone up. Miss Carstairs there in Miss Renfield’s bed. What with the sheet down and about so as to show the nakedness as Marge says she were. A crack from which I would have liked a peek. A sight I would much have liked to see. A thought of it comes to me as she enters. But then there is what Marge said — which just don’t seem right.

“Don’t be getting any fancy man ideas, Thomas.” Mrs Clarke says having seen me there at the side door overhearing, having come to be certain of them that would be at breakfast as the ladies I knew to not be wed — and them talking about what Marge had said she had seen.

And I not leastwise saying anything though there might have been some look. In some ways to say I have already taken a fancy to which they turn looking one to other and give themselves a smile.

“Fancy Man?” Mrs Cooper gives that laugh of hers that’s not so much a laugh. “If one were to get that bed a-singing you can rest assured it will be in a harmony of flats.” She says.

Them being all smiles when Mrs Barnes pushed through with that frown of hers when she is of a mind to have catched us at a dally. “Why not go out and get him one of them picture cards.” She says. “Fillin his head with such filth. Ain’t enough we got to open the doors to it.”

“It’s unnatural is what it is.” Mrs Clarke says, “Foreign. Comes from some isle. In Greece.”

“What?” I asks.

“Never you mind Thomas.” Mrs Barnes says, “What your mind don’t know you cant imagine.”

Best not tell that I can’t help of what I imagine. Thinking now of what it must have been like having seen through that crack. Miss Carstairs in her all together. The curve and weight of them exposed with the sheet down low. Perhaps a bit smaller I think than that hint of what I had peek of once of Beatrice when I entered a mite too hasty. Forgettin to knock. That quick look of hers to say it be of no mind. The forgetting. In that I couldn’t. Not then. And not now. Well, not the seeing, leastwise, but the thought now of them. Of imagining those of Miss Carstairs of which I would have much like to have a far longer peek than the hasty one of Beatrice. As I think upon it, her entering as she does with that walk, of what Miss Cooper and Mrs Clarke were of mind to, and it just don’t seem right. To look at her. What they lay some suggestion to. Which is what I think being what John once said of the girl to whom he had taken a fancy. But she had fast told him off. I asked Simon what it was he had meant. In that I couldn’t make sense of it. Not that she was from Amsterdam — least ways that I knew of. Not to worry, Simon he says. It was just a bit of anger, he says. But I asks any ways to make some point of it — what John had said. He took a moment and says that there are such that aren’t taken to fancy men but rather to fancy one another. Like sisters I says. To which he gave that smile of his. No. Not like sisters, he says. Thomas there are girls that like to go together to do things like husbands and wives he says. You mean – I was about to ask getting a sudden mind to it. But before I could get it out, he patted me shoulder. There are more things in the world Thomas than what God intended, he says tossing out his fag end. But never you worry about it. There’s ever a bright girl out there awaiting for a lad like you.

I hope she looks like Miss Carstairs.

Her hair pulled back in a bun. Her blouse collar high and stiff winged. The red broach at that hollow of her throat.

“Gentleman.” She says.

“Miss Carstairs.” Mr Haines says.

“A telegram.” He removed it with that flair I so long to have. “It just arrived for you.” He handed it over. She nodded and strode over to stand before the windows. So as to open and read. Holding it in her fingers. Long and slender. The curve of her knuckles. As she stands in the sunlight I cannot help thinking of it. Harmony of flats. However do they do it? With those long slender fingers? I can imagine. But what does flat mean?

“Miss Renfield? She asks looking up from the telegram.

“Miss Renfield is in the main parlour with her Ladyship. Attending her Ladyship’s fencing exercise.” Mr Haines says.

“Mr Mellilow?” She asks as she folded the telegram up.

“Mr Mellilow finds comfort dining in the servants hall.” He says.

There is still the clacking of them swords but must stop – not at all sure when he may return.

14 March 1916 – from the Diary of Thomas Smith – Later

The excitement of it all I have to put it down. I want to write it as it is still fresh of mind. I know Mr Haines gives me his disproving look when he catches me at my note book and pencil. But he knows as well I do so want to keep up with my education and writing as I have said. Which he says he does not want me not to continue. Just to not be seen doing so by her Ladyship.

What now I put down is of much importance. I would say if he sees me at it. So as to help me in my memory of it. For the police and such like —

I had been standing duty to the sideboard. In that I had slipped my note book away from earlier having taken a look to see just what the time it was. Knowing it to be sure as to be soon to be expecting them. What when the clacking of them swords should come to their end. Especial that Miss Renfield who had put off breakfast to accompany her Ladyship to the fencing. I checked to be at attention – that the bit of flour on me cuff could not be seen. Being as I had been left alone to attend the burners. Mr Haines having taken Miss Carstairs down to see to Mr Mellilow. And then to escort her to the front door to see her out. I heard him return along the main hall and seen him go past the doors. The thought of Miss Carstairs in that bed of Miss Renfield was still of mind. Being not as Beatrice and Emily did at the orphanage. No. Not sister like. Not like Beatrice would do for Emily. What with Emily ever being of the restless nerves from something in her life before she arrived. And Beatrice sure to comfort her. When the lights went out. And Emily’s tears came.

And so, I could hear them at the swords. Still at it.

What I know – of beyond my duty at the sideboard – I heard from Marge as she told it.

In the main parlour her Ladyship and Mrs Cooper were in at the fencing. Miss Renfield was sitting so she says watching with much interest. I know not where everyone else in the house was as I have not had time to ask about. But Marge having seen Miss Carstairs go down from the guest room and being told she was going out had gotten linens from the linen pantry and was about to make her way up to make the bed of Miss Carstairs and Miss Renfield. It being close on to 10.

Marge says she was upon the first floor landing when she seen Miss Kathryn. She was carrying her best doll she says. Had a look about her, she says. Odd like. Like she was a bit puzzled, so Marge says. She looked at her, Kathryn to Marge, and asks where is her mum. Downstairs in the main parlour, she says. And Miss Kathryn says nothing. She just does down the stairs. Marge she says she felt something wasn’t right. Miss Kathryn does not carry her best doll about like that. Close held to herself, Marge says.

And so she comes down behind her.

Miss Kathryn she goes to the parlour where they are at that fencing. Marge says she stood there at the doors watching for a long moment. That Miss Renfield she sees her and asks, how are you this lovely morning Kathryn. Isn’t mummy extraordinary, Margery says she asks. Miss Kathryn she says oh yes my mummy is most extraordinary. Then she asks. You sent all the flowers? Miss Renfield says yes. Miss Kathryn then she asks, so you did get the flowers from Madagascar as well? Miss Renfield she asks, from Madagascar? No, but I have telegraphed to Amsterdam for white roses, Marge says she says. Won’t they be so lovely? Miss Kathryn says oh yes they would be. But she says she thinks Miriam must have gotten one of those flowers from Madagascar. To which Marge says, her Ladyship, having seen Kathryn, had stopped the fencing and was coming over to ask why ever would she think so. Oh, because Miriam is lying on the floor and she’s dreadfully dead mummy.

Everyone looks to one another Marge says of them that were in the room. Her ladyship having swept up Kathryn to carry her, they all rushed upwards to her rooms.. Marge says she put aside the sheets and rushed after. Thinking now she should have called out for Mr Haines but didn’t. What with her Ladyship running up the stairs as she was and that Miss Renfield was fast to her heels. As if the two were racing, Marge says.

I heard the silence of the swords and prepared for service. Only there was the sound of running feet. Loud voices. All of which was out of place in the house. And so feeling something wasn’t right, I left my post to see what was what and seen them all in a hurry. Rushing up the stairs. Straightway I followed. As quickly as I could to catch up and as I was about to call up to ask what was the matter. He came out of nowhere. Pushing me aside. Mr Mellilow charging past. Taking steps two and three at a time. Her Ladyship ahead of us all. Even carrying Miss Kathryn. With Miss Renfield ever but a step behind. There’s nothing but the sound of running feet on them stairs.

Fast as ever past the first floor, we clamoured to the second. And it is a mad dash down the corridor to Miss Schiff’s room.

See mummy the thorns pricked her throat, Marge says Miss Kathryn says as they rushed into the room – the door being open as she recalls.

Marge says when they rushed in they had seen the bed. Where she had been. Covers and linen pulled half off. They saw roses scattered about the floor. And then going in further they saw her. Miss Schiff lying on the floor at her window. It being open and the cold bellowing in at the curtains. I came in behind as they rushed to her. Mr Mellilow already at the side of Miss Renfield reaching out for to take ahold. He pushed her back — but she wouldn’t go.

I watched as Mr Mellilow made for the window. He leaned to peer out. Like and how he expected there to be anyone as that side of the house be straight up and nothing near. No tree or such. I seen them gather about her lying on the floor in her nightdress. Not sure if I should enter further, but did. And she was pale. Much too pale. God awful pale. She looked dead.

Her Ladyship handed Kathryn over to Mrs Cooper quick like to bent closer to kneel to look to Miss Schiff. She clasped her and then looked up to us and says she’s alive and she’s up and rushing past me to dash out the door. I hear her running when her Ladyship never runs. And then in the most urgent I have ever heard her voice. Loud. “Haines! Dr Hanwell! Quickly!”

I stepped in closer to see. She looked like she was sleeping in that her eyes were not open. But pale. Lord was she pale. I could see then there were these two marks at her throat. Red and raw with blood there against the much too pale skin.

Miss Renfield she looked from Miss Schiff to Mr Meillow. He looked back. There was something in the look — to that I could swear. Have not talked to Marge about it. Miss Renfield she moved to step over to her Ladyship as she returned. It was the most fretful I have ever seen her. As I was close by I heard Miss Renfield say whisperlike. What is it? Then I took notice. Her Ladyship had a folded piece of paper in her hand from which she must have taken from Miss Schiff’s. Her Ladyship handed it to Miss Renfield and I heard it as she read in a voice still whispelike. Give me what I want.

The Palk Report
Session Fourteen, Part Eight


Excerpt of The Varkony/Dolingen Report, commissioned pursuant to an order of the Governance Sub-Committee of the Executive Board of Coldfall House Charitable Trust, lead council Leonard Palk, Ashwith, Palk & Pearson, issued to Chairman of the Board, Coldfall House Charitable Trust, Sir Giles Crichton :

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IV. When Aaronson and Abbott met, they principally discussed Aaronson’s previous proposal of re-establishing relationships ‘by a tentative first step’ in an initial joint venture between CHCT and the newly formed The Society for The Favour of War Orphans. Aaronson stated he understood Abbott’s reluctance to move forward owing to ‘the acrimonious past’ between Countess Varkony and Coldfall House, but that he wished to assure him that he had ‘authorization to speak from Vienna.’ He stated that this authorization was based upon ‘addressing concerns, in establishing a first step toward rapprochement,’ and that if Abbott considered himself ‘at too high a level for such a discussion regarding a tentative first step’ then he was interested in determining who would be ‘the right level’ to be supportive of his goal. Abbott replied that he would try and find out if there were interests in the proposal, and who within the administration of CHCT would be the most ‘productive in furthering that end,’ but stated that confidentiality of the severest kind would be required because of the ‘sensitivity’ of holding such meetings between the old Varkony/Dolingen conspiracy and Coldfall. Abbott stated at the meeting that ‘there were those who remained highly suspicious of Countess Varkony,’ in that she had refused to maintain direct/substantial contact after the assimilation of the original conspiracy into Coldfall. Some would find any attempt at reconciliation, after so many years, to be ‘some mesmeric sleight-of-hand,’ he told Aaronson. Aaronson sought to reassure Abbott, stating that there was, ‘owing to the prolonged conflict between nations’ far more to be gained in reconciliation than’ harbouring old animosities,’ and reiterated, that as stated at the time, there had not been, ‘counter to all suspicions,’ a conspiracy with Dolingen. He maintained that rather than being a part of the original conspiracy, Countess Dolingen’s expressed purposes had been ‘for revenge,’ and to further that end she had ‘purposefully perpetuated a false alliance.’ Abbott stated that ‘in any event, if such a proposal was to go forward’ there would have to be ‘some way of showing good faith.’ Aaronson suggested it might be better to attempt some lower-level contact in order ‘to establish good intent.’ Aaronson proposed Abbott should contact, Evelyn Hathaway to see if The Pimander Club would be interested in establishing such contact.

Abbott was sceptical:

Considerable time and effort had been made by Varkony to infiltrate the household; establish a relationship; provide some rather outlandish, and I daresay dodgy, theatrics, amidst some subtle substitutions in a cemetery. All rather haphazardly cobbled together, of course, upon the arrival of Baron Vordenburg. In order to continue her grand attempt to gain access and agency over the young girl. A conspiracy that at the outset was deviously clever. But having to adapt to circumstances. Checked but not dissuaded, she eventually was successful in re-establishing connections. And was once again positioned so as to accompany the niece to England, upon the all too convenient death, ruled, of course, accidental, of the father in Italy. As intended, you see. All in an endeavour to get to the uncle. Where, once in London, Varkony’s initial seed grew ever more insidious over the years—only to have it all circumvented not only by the Wallachian, but clandestine services of the British Government as well.


Although he states in general, he had ‘come away’ from his meeting with Aaronson with ‘the feeling that the overture was genuine,’ as personal solicitor to Lady Aurora Carradine, Abbott had historical, rather than first-hand anecdotal information, in regards to not only the events that occurred prior-to-and-during the eventual founding of Coldfall House, but as well as to the ‘special nature hitherto’, and so had a ‘neutral perspective’ into the acrimonious dissolution of the ‘initial conspiracy.’

Cotemporaneous to those events, Abbott over the years had been privy to Lady Carradine’s recollections, frustrations, and critiques. He states upon the conclusion of his meeting with Aaronson, he was well aware of Lady Carradine’s thoughts as to the ‘Hungarian Whore,’ and ‘that Hillingham Slut;’ but as adverse as she was in regards ‘to those two,’ he knew her to be ever more inimical to any mention of the Countess Dolingen: “She was made feral and mad as a weapon, and is ever but a hair trigger away from a crimson disaster.” And so, as Aaronson had given him assurances that ‘Dolingen was not at all affiliated with Vienna,’ Abbot felt a reproachment with Varkony ‘was something to be explored.’

Abbott relates that he felt some apprehension in moving the proposal forward, but that if old ‘animosities’ could be set aside, it could be advantageous to ‘further direct contacts in Vienna’ as no one ‘could tell precisely as to what the end of this war would bring.’ He decided to move forward.

He states that at the time of these tentative meetings with Aaronson, in regards to members of Coldfall House Executive, he was in communication solely with Lady Aurora Carradine, Sir John Paxton, Carlyle Templeton, Sir Giles Crichton, Lady Adelaide Stuart, and, The Hon. Gerald Stickell.

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V. Two days later, 31 January 1916, Abbott met with Lady Aurora Carradine and Lady Adeline Stuart

i. Abbot’s meeting with Lady Aurora Carradine

Abbott had sent a correspondence and held at least one telephone call with H. Hamilton Hathaway prior to this meeting. He states that he was well aware there were already concerns within The Pimander Club of renewed ‘factional frictions’. In particular, the suspicion of ‘possible [factional] involvement, or provision of services, acting as an intermediary,’ in a ‘recent incident in Bucharest,’ of which the club had only days before received an encrypted communique, from the Brotherhood of the Undead, regarding the dispatch of one of their members by British clandestine services. Although as Abbott understood, The Pimander Club’s suspicions were in regard to the ‘evolving Hillingham coterie,’ rather than ‘the Varkony fraction,’ and so, upon further reflection, he concurred with Aaronson and felt it best to present Aaronson’s proposal by way of H. Hamilton Hathaway, founder of Hathaway & Co. Fine Books, and Evelyn Hathaway’s father.

On 30 January Abbott met H. Hamilton Hathaway for breakfast at the Berkeley Hotel. Abbott states that ‘H’ had been adamant in that he would not broach such a subject with his son, nor anyone else in The Pimander Club, without expressed approval of either Lady Aurora or a member of CHCT Governance Executive Sub-Committee. He wanted it ‘in writing’. Abbott stated he was uncertain if he could get such a documentary confirmation. H. Hamilton Hathaway then recommended Sir John Paxton, as Sir John had been personally involved with the dissolution of contacts between Countess Varkony’s coterie and Count De Ville’s (Baron Székely, Count Dracula) establishing London network. Abbott felt far more comfortable discussing the matter with Lady Carradine; and so, they met at Lady Carradine’s Melbury Road townhouse.

Abbott recalls that Lady Aurora was distracted. She was preoccupied with a ‘considerable concern’ in regards to Prague. Principle to this ‘concern’ was a stated ‘annoyance’ in that CHCT’s ‘Primary’’ within British clandestine services had failed to reply to several enquiries in regard to Prague. An annoyance which Abbot felt ‘out of place’ in that Lady Aurora was ‘well aware at the time, her son had been, at first, reported missing, and then confirmed among the dead, as part of the Kut siege after the failure of the Battle of Hanna’. Abbott learned as well of the amplification of Lady Aurora’s growing apprehensions, owing to ‘an earlier meeting’ between Lady Aurora and Carlyle Templeton, who had returned the day before from Madrid. As Abbott understood it, ‘there had been confirmations’ of reports of ‘irregularities in securities distributions routed via usual channels’ (Box Brothers Bank) to Madrid, as well as to various Near Eastern investments (see section 4.b.i, infra .) Abbott recalls they discussed as well her concerns about Pimander’s (The Primander Club) disturbing news regarding ‘Seward’s little trollop,’ who had, in her ’severe estimation,’ been allowed, ‘for far too long, to expand that tawdry little network of criminality of hers,’ and who was known to have had ‘some significant interests in Bucharest.’

Abbott remembers specifically Lady Aurora vexedly asking: “What the hell is all this interest now in Bucharest?”

The late January discussion, as Abbott recalls, being mostly dominated by the animated discussion regarding the ‘negligence’ in ‘the continued allowance of that most ill-advised sea-side dalliance;’ and, as Abbott states, Lady Aurora’s vociferous opinion, of the consequences of the ‘injudicious’ (at the time) negligence’ of ‘loosening his Hillingham inconvenience.’ And of the subsequent advancement of her ‘too ambitious-by-half interests on the continent.’ He recalls Lady Aurora asking: “Whose hand is in this Madrid business? Directing whatever happened in Prague?”

This was neither the first nor the last time that Abbott had listened to Lady Aurora’s ire in regards to the growing criminal enterprise of ‘that little slut.’ To what he states Lady Aurora ‘consistently referred to as: “What was a coterie, having become a network, is now an all too troublesome enterprise.’ Whereas others of the CHCT Governance Executive Sub-Committee were ‘wont to shy away from the internecine discordance among the sanguinerians,’ Lady Aurora assiduous collection of information, anecdotal or factual, as well as any ‘gossip and innuendo.’ according to Abbott, ‘at times bordered on the obsession of a Fleet Street publisher.’ And of late, Abbott was aware of her ‘ever more’ substantial interest in regards to rumours arising about ‘De Ville’s Hillingham hamartia. “That which you don’t pay attention to is the beginning of a disaster," she advised, according to contemporaneous notes taken by Abbott. Owing to these growing concerns, Abbott reported he felt it unwise to introduce the subject of Aaronson’s proposal.

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Rather Abbott contemplated taking ‘Aaronson’s overture’ to Sir Giles Crichton, in view of his hesitancy to speak to Sir John Paxton: “I don’t like being in all that close proximity, whatever their reassurances.” But in his attempt at scheduling a meeting, he was rebuffed by Sir Giles Crichton’s personal assistant, Leland Thrope, who informed him that Sir Giles’s ‘time and calendar’ were ‘at the moment consumed by the Prague matter.’ Abbott states that he felt Thorpe’s tone held the presupposition that he knew what that entailed, whereas Abbott reiterates that ‘at this time he was unaware of the significance of Prague.’

Upon further reflection, Abbott felt his initial inclination to have H. Hamilton Hathaway serve as intermediary to the Pimander Club was still the best course of action, and in that H. Hamilton Hathaway had indicated he would only move forward on the request to serve as intermediary to The Pimander Club upon application from Lady Aurora or a member of the Executive Governing Sub-Committee, on 6 February 1916, he visited Lady Adelaide Stuart.

ii. Abbott meets with Lady Adelaide Stuart.

Lady Adelaide Stuart, a contemporary of Lady Aurora Carradine, Sir John Paxton, and H. Hampton Hathaway, and a member of the board since the death of her husband, Sir Hampton Stuart, was not only conversant with events leading to the foundation of CHCT, but had been an acquaintance of R. M. Renfield, upon whose bequeathment Coldfall had been founded. (At this time Abbott states he is uncertain as to whether he was aware of the confirmation of Isolde Renfield’s monetary contributions to Rev. Algernon Marley ( see Section 3.a.ii, infra )), Abbott recalled that Lady Aurora had once ‘stated or indicated’ that Lady Adelaide had known Countess Varkony and had been a guest often to Count De Ville’s Carfax estate (which, at the time, she knew him as Baron Székely).

Upon this recollection, on his way to Lady Adelaide’s Mayfair estate, Abbott stated he felt ‘far more assured’ in his decision ‘in that [Lady Adelaide] more than likely had a far more objective perspective about the acrimonious dissolution of the relationship between them (Countess Varkony and Baron Székely (Count de Ville, Count Dracula))’ and thus could ‘make a more informed judgement’ regarding Aaronson’s proposal. And in the intervening days since his meeting with Aaronson and having received the ‘unexpected proposal,’ he had begun to ‘warm to it,’ particularly in light of Lady Aurora’s ‘obsession with fractional machinations’ (of which, at the time, he felt to be unfounded). ‘Everyone was living in the past,’ his notes indicate.

It does not appear that Lady Adelaide was at this time aware of The Pimander Club’s mounting concerns in regards to the dispatch of Imre Turcanu in Bucharest, nor of the significance of the enquiry by Simeon Haydock, of Haydock, Sprout & Wetherby, three weeks prior, of Hathaway & Co. Fine Books, in regards to the acquisition of The List of Nicolas Flamel (see Section 2.A.I, infra). According to Lady Adelaide:

I did not learn of Haydock’s subterfuge until sometime later. Much later. I am not at all certain of the date. It was a tea, with Hamilton, who as I recall, merely made some passing reference to it. Something odd, he had heard, from his son, Evelyn. An enquiry by an intermediary. Not about a book but a document. Something Evelyn had expended some considerable investment in discovering the location of, as I recall him saying. As it seemingly had been lost to history. Only to have the enquiring agent, upon receipt of the knowledge of Evelyn having located it, that it was no longer of interest to his client. Which of course proved to be a scandalous falsehood, as Hamilton said Evelyn later learned of the death of the owner. And the theft of the thing in Morocco.


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Abbott states that most of the discussion of their meeting revolved around Derby, Asquith, and the Military Act and of Lady Adelaide’s concern for her nephew Lowen Thompson, who was at the time a junior solicitor of Wholeman, Sons, Marquand & Lidderdale. Abbott recalls they discussed various means of securing ‘some position of safety for Lowen,’ owing to the recent passage of the Military Act, in that she was certain “he will be called up, you know; and we must do everything we can now to safeguard against it.” Various options were discussed. Although ‘bribery was certainly a consideration’ he recalls he ‘strenuously’ suggested ‘they should rather speak with Gerald Stickell, before advancing along that route,’ as Stickell had connections with the War Office (see section 7.A.i, infra .). Abbott is adamant that he ‘did not suggest bribery,’ that he ‘strenuously sought to dissuade the suggestion,’ and ‘had no knowledge of any such transactions.’ Although he concedes he is uncertain as to how Lady Adelaide ‘may have interpreted the resolution’ of their discussion. His ‘primary focus’ being, as he recalls, the ‘furtherance of Aaronson’s initiative’ and in obtaining ‘her Ladyship’s assistance’ in facilitating a meeting with Aaronson and the Pimander Club.

When the topic arose, Lady Adelaide expressed what Abbott recalls as a ‘sigh of irony,’ accompanied by ‘a haughty’ remark: “Oh, now that is rich. The Clairvoyante – seeks an audience does she (Abbott recalls she stated rather than asked). I would have thought the great prognosticatress would have divined that answer.” Abbott was unaware of this ability and inquired further. He states that Lady Adelaide grew wistful: “You would have marvelled at the demonstrations she and Baron Székely, or rather the Marquis de Caraman-Rubiano – as he was then known, by those, of course, less well informed – which they performed at Carfax and Coldfall. Even Eusapia Palladino would have applauded.” Abbott states he was struck by the warm regard in her voice as she mentioned the name of which he had heretofore not been aware: Marquis de Caraman-Rubiano.

“The Baron went by many names,” she informed him in response to his enquiry regarding the ‘Marquis,’ “in those heady days.” When she enquired further into precisely what was ‘the nature of her [Countess Varkony] intentions,’ Abbott stated he was uncertain, only that ‘[Countess Varkony]’s ‘representative’ had indicated ‘a desire to re-establish long lost connections’ with a ‘tentative first step’ by way of ‘our charitable organizations.’ Lady Adelaide enquired into the ‘precise nature’ of the Society for The Favour of War Orphans. Abbott explained that his preliminary ‘due diligence’ into the charitable organization revealed that it had been established to further ‘support and to provide safe harbour for those children tragically made orphan by the wanton and needless tragedy of civilian casualties, which have fallen victim to the machinations of war.’ He further explained that it was ‘based in Bucharest,’ and had ‘originating funding’ from two American philanthropic foundations: ‘one being newly formed by a multinational investment, Great Western American Holdings, and the other being an ‘old New England monied’ principle, The Whitby-Snow Foundation.

Abbot then went into details regarding his efforts heretofore to advance Aaronson’s proposal and the subsequent need by H. Hamilton Hathaway to received ‘formal authorization’ to communicate ‘the initiative’ to his son. Lady Adelaide at first was reluctant to put anything ‘formally’ in writing; whereupon, Abbot suggested, ‘perhaps a personal note’ saying something to the effect, ‘having been informed of your needs, I hereby attest that Arthur Abbott has been given, by me, authority to authorize you to take such actions, as he requests, in this matter.’ Lady Adelaide prompted Abbott to ‘write something down’ and she signed

I Don’t Play Dice.
Session Fourteen, Part Seven


Leland Thorpe, Contemporaneous Notation (subsequently marked Confidential: Legal Workproduct). Impromptu meetingIncorporated Law SocietyOffice of Sir Giles Crichton

14 March 1916, 10.30 am.

To say I had not attempted to stop the entry of the woman would be a severe misrepresentation of the fact, in that I did arise, and in objecting most strenuously that she did not have an appointment, neither officially – as entered in the calendar – or unofficially – as set by verbal inclusion, by Sir Giles – I of course refrained from placing my hands, or by way of use of my body, to touch or interfere with her progress toward, and in the opening of, Sir Giles’s office door. Or in that I had any foreknowledge of her or of the nature of the meeting that was to transpire, and any suggestion or statement that I did is a falsehood and without merit. In having been allowed by Sir Giles to remain in his office once the intrusion had been made, I am witness to the following events, and so do make this contemporaneous account to record and preserve an actuate accounting of the meeting.

As I have stated previously, the woman – for at the time of her unsolicited entrance into my ante-room, she was unknown to me – strode with a seeming ease of familiarly, as if she both knew the environs and was familiar with them, as she purposefully entered into my ante-room. There was in her bearing evidence of sophistication and the obvious grace and poise of the aristocracy, as she progressed straight-way, in an oddly leisurely, but purposeful stride, and unbidden opened the door to Sir Giles’s office.

“I must say, Charity, is rather profitable.” She said (I capitalize charity, for as she said it so seemed) with but a slight glance about Sir Giles private office. “I have heard the living need it more than the dead.”

“Yes. Quite.” Sir Giles said as he arose from his desk, his eyes glancing askance to myself, as if to ascertain who and for what purpose she had entered his office.

“Sorry, sir. She just marched in.” I offered in reply.

“I know it is a very busy morning, I myself had to deal with an estate agent.” She proceeded towards Sir Giles desk, “Unexpectedly. Trifling little details — especially as I had thought them to have been settled; but alas, miscommunication, or so they said. In any event, it is now with my solicitors.”

It was an amazing performance I must say, from the moment she arrived, captivating not only the eye, expensively dressed, in the latest fashion, a dress of lustrous teal silk, throat free, beneath the open cerulean blue coat; its long sweeping hem an inch above the heel of the slipper (rather than a boot for the morning), with its beaded button across the vamp. She dominated the eye and the introduction. The two of us stood watching her in the slightest of pauses, as she came to stand before Sir Giles desk, beginning to ever so slowly remove a glove: – “I find the law fascinating. The arcana of the phrasing, the subtle nuance, every word in precision, with its distinct meaning, ever so arranged, or in some instances, improvidently, placed within a paragraph. A single and or a or, or a comma, not to mention the semi-colon, having such significance. Meaning – interpterion. Which of course, you are very much aware, being a high priest of the legal congregation – the Law Society.”

“May I be of service,” Sir Giles was capable of interjecting.

She smiled, pulling free the opposite glove to reveal her long, slender fingers, “I have come to be of service to you, Sir Giles.”

“I see.” His interest piqued.

“Remarkable as it is, from its conception, Coldfall House Charitable Trust as had the most astounding good fortune to have increased its accounts, portfolios, as well as its reputation, year after year.” Her accent was of the Transvaal, but there were as well some odd infections of the Parisienne.

“It has so been blessed.”

“Until — this year.” She graced the chair before his desk.

Sir Giles nodded, “Donations – as the war as progressed – from anyone’s imaginings of that fateful day in August – are now widely solicited by an array of institutions and charitable organization. And in a time of severe constrictions upon capital.” He resumed his seat behind the desk, “Everywhere one looks. It has dealt a blow. The conflict. Not only to industrials and factories, but to workshops that once made everything from walking sticks, to fancy stationery, fine furniture, and lovely hats and fashionable dresses. The trade in sugar and other commodities have been nationalized: their profits capped. Businessmen’s hands tied with regulation. Capital that once flowed easily through Europe, now reduced to but merely a trickle – and of that, most international transactions are no longer through Lombard Street but have been moved now to New York. And yet, our need, here at Coldfall Charitable has not reduced – but only multiplied. Charwomen who once scrubbed the whole host of London offices, for the mere pittance they once received, now find their services are reduced or are no longer required. Their family incomes diminished or entirely removed. Their children left to fend for themselves or go hungry. Nonessential war time factories closed, their machines gone silent, casting hundreds of workers free upon the mercy of the streets – which are merciless. What work there is – owing to the tide of emergency, is horrid. Harsh working conditions. Low rates of pay, and long hours. And those that have work, particularly in the East End, in those garment workshops and clothing factories now in need of needlework to meet the seemingly never-ending need for khaki, are over worked and sweated. And so, the need for donations has ever increased – and those from who we can seek funds find themselves with many avenues to address.”

“Yes – the world is full of hardship and misery.” She sat poised before him, “But, charity is not at all the business of Coldfall House, Sir Giles. It never was. Its business is the making of profits. True in the first months of the war, there came the blow to London’s economy; but Coldfall, ever at its business, had had the foresight to find gold in the trading of those commodities that would suddenly become precious in the industry of war. Nitrate of soda, tallow, copra, palm oil and byrites. As well as the astute purchases of closed factories, workshops, that would need to be converted to munitions, needlework, the manufacturing of military products, in a far more protracted war. Far more protracted, than anyone had quite imagined upon its declaration. The manufacturing of bandoliers, jackets, belts, haversacks, horse rugs, mess-tin covers, needle-cases, ration bags, sleeping bags, uniforms, shaving brushes, gloves, kit bags, hairbrushes, leather goods, bulk timber for bridgework, and even as I am told, mahogany sheeting for aeroplanes. What a treasure trove. And what such good fortune. It would seem almost as if amongst those employed within Coldfall House, there were those somewhere assiduously hidden away, at work with spirit boards and tarot cards – divining the need in buying up cheap property, to make quick conversion to provide tempering for the rising tide of the industry of war.”

There was but a brief moment of silence; they looked at one another.

Before she continued, “And what good fortune for you Sir Giles, in having the foresight to have purchased Pope, Hatcher & Sons, a rather small, nearly obscure, publishing house, specializing in religious, spiritualist, and some rather astoundingly apocalyptic pamphlets – which has so recently found a growing fortune in War journalism. War periodicals. Magazines. Novels. I even hear, you are investing in the film industry of Wardour Street. What with the growing civic need for war escapism.”

Sir Giles sat in contemplation. They both now sitting in silence.

“And yourself?” he asked after a long moment, “A headline? Precisely, which broadsheet do you represent?”

“I, myself, I am rather demure, when it comes to the finding of my name in some column inch.” She replied.

“And that would be?”


“Lady Hélène Beltham?’ Sir Giles seemed to recognize the name.

“I must say, I was contemplating establishing an association with Coldfall House — but then, starting seven weeks ago, all of its good fortune seemed to be running rather thin.” She sighed, “M. LeBloc, a rather odious man, to say the least, but he was exceeding blessed with a sizeable fortune. His father – on the other hand was quite charming. Had a passion for long-legged, myopic young girls. Gregarious – I remember one night after the opera— suffice it to say, his son did not inherit the father’s personality. Only his money. Which he increased at the gaming tables. Seeming blessed by God. Dice, roulette, baccarat, you choose the game. He could not lose. Until – God stopped smiling. M. LeBloc’s younger brother inherited what was left of the estate. Not much at all. After his brother had stepped away from a bad night at the tables and placed a Browning to his temple. Sadly, to say. It would seem, God’s become rather tight lipped as well when it comes to Coldfall House these last several months.”

There was a pause of silence between them.

“Oh—by all appearances it would seem, rather myopically, that all the industries of the engine built for profiteering on the war are firing—” She then continued. “But oddly, it seems, revenues have not only begun to fall short in certain accounts, but are unseemly fast dwindling in various offshore clandestine ones as well.”

“If that were true – you would seem to be particularly well informed.” Sir Giles replied calmly.

“That’s the key to my success.” She told him, “To be well informed – as I don’t play dice. Well, on occasion. Which is why I am here.”

“Yes, why are you here?”

“I recently had the occasion to be involved in a minor transaction involving a member of a small branch of Société Générale. A minor matter of embezzlement. In hindsight, I must admit, the whole of it was far less than the effort expended – as things became rather troublesome towards the conclusion. Or so I had thought until just recently.”

Though she so captivated one’s attention – for the obvious reasons of her fine features (of which I could not fine one in need of critical critique); her figure (well appreciated I am sure by Sir Giles, as well as myself, even somewhat obscured by her long coat); the obvious bearing of her class, and the harmony of her voice (with its fascinating mix of accents) – she expressed that feminine tendency for conversational digression. There were of course points and some vague, but troubling, hints which held, I am sure, Sir Giles curiosity as he sat serenely listening, and slightly bemused, but as to the point of her interruption, it seemed obscure.

“I came into procession of a rather cryptic journal of the unfortunate young bank official, which at the time seemed but some modification to shorthand – “

Upon this I took notice that Sir Giles seemed to sit slightly forward.

“Stenography. Brachygraphy. Tachygraphy. I must admit, it all looks Greek or Chinese to me. But it was less short writing than cryptography, as I have been told – ” She smiled, and in that moment I was more than aware her eyes were keenly observant of Sir Giles reaction. “Amazing. Those lines. The odd symbols. So much like hieroglyphics. You know, the earliest form of cryptography is Egyptian hieroglyphs. Mesopotamian clay tablets. I understand, Hebrew scholars used a simple monoalphabetic substitution cipher.” Her look was suddenly without emotion, “Someone is clandestinely divesting Coldfall – drip by drip, its bleeding . . .

“Pounds, francs, lire, marks, securities . . . all being directed out of Coldfall accounts into various faux investment holdings, which are thus being diverted into some rather obscure financial institutions — and then, seemingly —just fading away. But you know that Sir Giles.”

There was yet another moment of silence between them.

“Why else have you been surreptitiously moving funds. Making investments. Chemin de Fer Impérial Ottoman de Bagdad. The Russo-Asiatic Bank. The Chinese Eastern Railway.” She stated rather than enquired.

“I am quite aware of you reputation Lady Hélène —”

“A Russian bank?” She said with sudden amusement, “I for one hearty believe Russia to be highly unstable.”

“What do you want?”

“As I said, I am here to be of service.”


“There are worlds within worlds, Sir Giles. There is the geopolitical world of governments, whose concerns are economics and geography. There is the world of the rich elites, who fund, and to their whims, direct those governments and their laws. There is the world of the bourgeoisie, who are plicated with their faux status so afforded by the rich elites, and given the illusion of power so speciously bestowed upon them by their governments. And there is the dark subterranean world of organized criminal syndicates, who do not care about politics or geography, or the whims nor directions given by elites, or their laws of social order, imposed to placated the selfish interests of the monomaniac bourgeoisie.”

It was all related so casually.

“I have but recently aligned with a vast organization whose reach is ever extending.”

We both listened as she revealed: —

“There are secret powers at work. Clandestine conspiracies.” Her expression having lost all leisure. “And as such, I am here as a representative. I am corruption without borders.”

“I am equally well aware of the Italian bravata.”

Her smile did not return. “There are far older conspiracies, Sir Giles, as you well know.”

“Quite interesting, Lady Hélène, but I don’t see what any of this has to do —”

“I will be quite blunt. It would appear as if a sanction has been levelled upon Coldfall House. It is being dismantled; we suspect from the very forces that created it. You are the old guard being pushed aside for the new. And as such, you have an opportunity.”

Sir Giles sat; his eyes narrowed in contemplating her.

“As I said, I have recently become affiliated with, shall we say, a competing fraction. What I am offering is the future, Sir Giles. A new world order is being waged. Whether in this war or in another. The time is coming for you to make a decision — and whether you make it not, choses a side.”

“This factionalism, as you say, if it were true, has already found its opposition to be formidable.” Sir Giles replied calmy.

“Varkony and Dolingen?”

Their names hung in the air of a brief silence on both sides of the desk.

Before rather matter-of-factly she replied:

“They have already decided.”

It is be stated at this moment, Sir Giles looked to me, lifted a hand, and I left them in conference.

I Accept the Terms
Session Fourteen, Part Six

Veronica Well’s Journal, 14 Match 1916 – Continued

Although a painful glare, such that I had to hold a hand to shield my eyes, the winter light through the tall windows was warming, standing before them to look out to the pavement and the street beyond. I had felt chill all morning. Tired. At times listless. My sleep having been fitful. Disturbed by unsettling dreams. I worry perhaps I have become accustomed to Miss Minver’s morning elixir. And then, there was the fright of the motor. I am not prone to fainting – but there have been times I thought I was upon the precipice. As I stood, holding back the drape, to watch those passing by in their coats and hats, silk and cloth, veiled and ribboned, I wondered what each was about. Their thoughts. Filled with work and errands, haste to an appointment; calling to mind some trivial task they may have forgotten in their rush; a correspondence that needs writing; the reverberation of an echo of some argument at the breakfast table, words too hastily said, or not said; concern for a son, or father, husband, or brother, in the trenches, upon the waves, anxious, ever imagining the ringing of the doorbell, the delivery of the telegram – the war, the horrible haunt of the war, the seeds of it – their fretful worry of a lack of funds, in having fallen behind to indifferent creditors; their lingering remembrance of the touch of someone’s lips, in saying good-bye, or the excited anticipation of the touch of them upon arrival — life. The simple pleasure of an ordinary life. How easily I could call out, open the door and hurry away from it all. Join them. I have the key. And yet — I stand in the warmth of the day mindful of the decision of my dark ambition. I want to say: self-preservation. But that would be deluding myself. The temptation of Christ was upon a mountaintop, whereas mine was at a dining table with fine china, flatware, and the thinnest of crystal. And I did not want to say — get behind me.

Hair pinned up, proper behind the window-glass: what do they see, when upon occasion, one of them glances towards me?

I could not even see my reflection there, hidden, in the glare of the sun upon the panes — I am an Icarus bedazzled –


We had finished our breakfast in a seemingly unguarded casualness, for the situation, in that she well knew Pym had threatened, rather than propositioned, me to betray her; and had really no evidence to the contrary that I wasn’t in league with him – whereas in fact, all supporting evidence to the contrary sustained the likelihood that I was – being as I was, obviously, susceptible to intimidation — her own threats having persuaded me to acquiesce to her extortion, to having taken her Chemist to bed. But she had said looking at me was as if looking at herself — had ever been, since our oddly leisurely stroll amongst the lively crowd in the Golden Calf — and so, as we sat in that long moment of decision, my look, in return to hers, was such as to assure her that wherever, and to whomever Pym held his loyalties – which I firmly believed to be to no one but himself – I knew of the two of them, who held the most power. And power is what it was – sitting there with her. I have been in the company of those who welded it versus those who believe it to be theirs, owing of course to father’s connections, and so at breakfast with her, I was ever more aware of hers. Even as I was becoming aware of my admiration – my envy – my jealousness – of it. To have forged a feminine criminal network in a world of men. The accomplishment of it. The sheer weight of it — What unimaginable things she must have had to endure. What things she must be capable of – and I? What she had said of me – harsh and hard and horrid in the extreme, but what of it was not true? Vain, arrogant, egoistical, self-absorbed – how had she said it: wantonly selfish. Yes. I am a Narcissus with a looking glass rather than a pool. Self-importance – without giving a rap to self-sacrifice — it was true. All too true. Canongate proved that — for had I not adjusted to the acquiescence of the comfort of a untrampled life. Lowered my flag to father’s conquest. The conditions of his benevolence. A chameleon clinging to the wall of his house. His possessions. His wealth. What a fraud I am. A socialist? A suffragette? Until it had all become far too inconvenient. It is so obvious what I have become. A traditor to my own desires. For Freedom. To do—and be what I want. And that is the transgression of it – at the core of it. I – I – I. What I want. What I desire. How like Elizabeth Bennett, I could not have been more wretchedly blind! Whereas vanity had been her folly, mine is self-deception. I am not good. There is no virtue in me. I am vain and selfish and self- absorbed. Lady Hélène – she says she sees herself in me – and now, she offers the avenue to my emancipation — not to the river but to take a seat at her table. An apprentice to my Moriarty? Even now I am unsure, as horrid as I am, am I a criminal? At heart, I am beyond vexed – and in thought, yes, once passionately, violently so — against the ‘strictures’ of society, the inequality of womankind. I have listened to violent rhetoric and contemplated anarchist pamphlets of the extremist kind. Rallied to the cause in remembrance of Black Friday and Emily Davidson, who gave her all; I have been arrested — prematurely before we were capable of what we intended — having thought myself stalwart in my convictions. My convictions? It is horrid to see it written in my own hand. My convictions— my capitulation. Too remorsefully discomforted in inhabiting a cell. There’s the truth of it. Remorse of my discomfort. Not the remorse of deed, or of the actions I had taken, or their consequences. Or of those who had been vilely and violently detained as I — forcefully thrust into a foul and filthy van. Shackled and rocked about to the police station. The only consequences of concern the ramifications to me. The indignity of being dragged, and touched, and felt. Leered at, insulted. Feminine cattle hustled before snide stock herders. Laughed at, sermonized. Rudely brought before an arraigning magistrate, who spoke of the bible, quoting Paul about wimmins hair, and going on and on about whenever did wimmin come to think to know more than their Maker about Christian wimmin’s place in the home. Where unable to be bound over for one surety of fifty pounds—I was shuffled and shoved from the dock into an yet another awaiting, windowless van and driven to Canongate. Incarcerated. Forced to strip and reprehensibly washed — by some vulgar prisoner so privileged to do so. To slosh me with cold filthy water from a leaking bucket. Forced to dress in some dirty garment of horrid serge that smelt of she who had but previously worn it, along with her under-linen – insufficient and stained. Shiveringly, shoved along constricted corridors to be thrust into some communal cell – there to wait until they found the narrow, dank, dim, claustrophobic one for me. Left, with the startling clank of the steel door, amongst harden women with hungry eyes and bad complexations hinting of the horrors of skin disease – slouching, ill-tempered, harden wimmins, who gave not a tinker’s cuss as to their Maker’s place for them. Nor mine amongst them. Their intense observation, judgemental and predatory. Even as I gaze upon myself now—

In truth, dear Gwen, in true reflection – the sudden loss of my convictions to my self-absorption, had little at all to do with father’s proselyting, the rightness of his attitudes, or the strictures and conventions of our place in society — but of the freedom from the cold hours of prison — and the rather abominable imaginings of those forms of life I had seen with the microscope which were surely alive and in full contact with me in the unwashed under-linen I had disgustingly removed and tossed into the darkness of a corner (which of course – did not go unnoticed by the wardress, who, upon the morning, snatched them up and tossed over to me, with a harden slap across the face, and I told to wear them). In Canongate I was cast into the comeuppance of the discovery of my want for the very comforts of our social class, I had so intellectually argued against – even now I recall the fierceness of my sudden snap at Cora, huddled as we were that night before our arraignment, to stop, stop right now; I don’t care three damns about whose to take care of Little Nat. As I come back to it now — It is as stark as my seeming lack of reflection lost to the painful glare of the sun. I am not good. Not one whit.

Of course, in hindsight, I could say what choice was there laid before me – but I am more than well aware that in looking back upon breakfast of my growing admiration of her – of having wanted to have been her, to have had her imperial magnetism, with its subtle hint of dangerousness, her resoluteness, in those dark moments of Canongate.

Looking back upon these first few pages — when I had first begun this accounting. Undone. Foolish. Reckless. I am appalled at the horror of my contradictions. Prior to I had thought myself still a radical, an anarchist – but that night looking upon those horrid photographs, why was I so undone — and I have to come to the hard truth of it – it seeing what I had written, just how far I had freely submerged myself down into the fathoms of Father’s Sea of Propriety. It all seems as if my anger was less in the deception, by my apparent naïve, but in some odd regards to shame and the threat against my reputation, my good name —my good name — what good name – I had come out of the tomb of Canongate for Christ’s sake. What with the apparent goodness of my name having been salvaged, resurrected, with the rolling away of the stone by father. His connections – his corruptions. A reputation held together merely by secrecy. For my promiscuousness — it was of course very well known — to me – to you certainly, Gwen. How many times had you said I was ever wilfully skating upon the edges of risky ice? But upon having seen those photographs, no matter how fraudulently manufactured, it was laid bare even as I was splayed naked. Confronted by my sin – by my Milverton – my secret promiscuity and the tatters of reputation in their hand; their smiling faces and hearts of marble – I was overcome by the sordidness of what you might think seeing me thus laid bare – and of what Bradley would think of me – yet another capitulation. I am horrid. My freedom taken by Canongate, appropriated in the prison of father’s reprieve: I was to give it away to Bradley?

Oh, my hypocrisy! For I see it all written out in my own hand. For I had become that hysterical woman we are all purported to be – just as Lady Hélène had so succinctly stated – I had indeed been shackled, once again to father’s patriarchal morality, by mother’s holy strictures and societal mores. In my capitulation to father for his having brought me out of Canongate – no more nonsense, Veronica; you are now twenty-two and your future is stark, stark indeed, if you do not come to your senses; this absurdity must end; you must unfeignedly come to some acceptance of the tempering of a well-established marriage – however reluctantly – if you are to have a future, you must come to realize the fortunes of a respectable, restrained life, else, my dear, you have seen the horrors to which your path lies; the prodigal’s father only killed one calf, Veronica: I shall not risk bringing you out of the pit of Canongate a second time.

Having been driven to the river – is this the world I want to die in?

Occurring only months before that fateful 5th of August upon which everything in the world changed seemingly as much as I. Just how much of it owes to the suspension? Has it become too easy to forget those who felt no surrender, those who had sacrificed far more than me in my time of incarceration? Those who had been belittled. Mocked. Scorned. Have we so easily forgotten throwing ginger beer? Black Friday? Emily? In some forsaken patriotic expedience have we not forgotten those who, worse than I, had been left in freezing wet clothes, dragged along the streets, the gaol floors, force fed, shackled, pinched and twisted, grabbed by that which a man wants. For it is and will, even were we to get vote, a man’s world – beyond political and economic, father’s cultural strictures. Society’s. Are we ever to be but the inferior of humanity— Weak. Simple-minded. Emotional. Hysterical – I cannot express what I feel in having seen what I have written. How I have allowed myself to have lost all my passions – I had them once. Anarchist! How can I have allowed myself to have become but a paler shade of myself, corrupted with the contagion of father’s pernicious thoughts, shackled to his economic allowance. The mesmerism of our upper-middle class comforts – a Lydia Languish! Only with Pym’s inducement had I truly seen a glimmer of my former shelf only to run headlong into Bradley’s arms condescendingly to father’s echoing forbearance or my own lustful nature? Or yet another attempt at horrid escape – oh, to think of it, to write of it – a plotting to proposal and an acceptance of my Maker’s place. Acceptance. Dominance – submission.

To have real power – to be as Lady Hélène – beyond good and evil, one must wield power as a man does. Pankhurst was right to use force. Darwin’s theory of survival. A will to power. In having been so terrorized in a car – I now realize how I have allowed myself to become precisely what they think of us all — and somehow this morning, I have been awakened. Oh, how this had all begun as an accounting but has now become a confession. Gwen, when and under what circumstance this may find you, I cannot guess – perhaps, as I write, I hope it will be upon my death. For I don’t know what the future holds for me – even as I am filled with harsh imaginings and anxious anticipations of what I am willing do. Or, want to do — as I said, I want. I desire. And to desire one needs power. It is a hard truth.

And so, I have chosen perdition.

I am now accounted among the damned of Lady Hélène’s dissenting congregation.

The thin-lipped corner of her mouth — did I not detect the slightest hint of a smile – in happy affection for the successful acquisition of new recruit — or in the pride of yet another conquest. So assured, she had revealed what she had been commissioned to discover from The Chemist, the location of a meteorite which had fallen eons ago — or so, she had been informed. It bore she said what was known to the alchemists as Red Mercury – hitherto a fanciful fiction. Although apparently, some geologist working for an American petroleum company had made extensive surveys in Hungary and Romania, and unknowingly noted the location of this purported aerolite, unaware of what he had stumbled upon – or so it was rumoured.

“And it is now in the possession of the Chemist?”

“It is believed.”

“But you are not certain?”

“I act upon information provided. Those that commissioned me having done the research.” She sat all but regally; there being at times, wherein the aristocracy could not help but be revealed – and I find myself, even now, in some slight ways, mimicking her. “As I said, he is an Alchemist as well.”

“Then he knows of the location?”

“That is uncertain – if so, he had not acted upon it – although, with the war . . .” She allowed a slight wave of her hand, “Until recently. An old acquaintance. Julian Pettigrew — a geologist and a rather dubious speculator in petroleum — with, to say the least, bothersome ties to the British Government. I strongly suspect an intelligencer— He reached out to him, in regards to Red Mercury.”

“Petroleum — from what you had said, I had thought Winston, and all of this, was in some way involved with petrol, but he says he is in cosmetics.”

“Branching out from heroin, as I understand.”

“Heroin—” Not at all shocked as I had suspected something suchlike. The fine linen, rich furniture, the luxurious house – certainly financed by something other than soil and chemistry.

“Yes – amazing quality. He has an odd aesthetic; his product comes in small bottles much like Bayer’s once did. I find it rather appealing, actually. An artist in what is a rather vulgar business. As it is becoming.”

“So—then, he is aware – of Red Mercury and this meteorite?”

“As I said that is uncertain – the communication from Pettigrew was intercepted.” She gracefully lifted her tea, “The war. So many tangled lines of communication. What with all the clandestine intrigue and complicated alliances, and the ever-evolving conspiracy of the Near East – made worse of course by this interminable conflict. Everyone stealing secrets from everyone else – which is why the need for subterfuge, and you my dear. I have interests that overlap with your Winston.”


“At the moment no. But one must not preclude a possible avenue of future ventures. What with the Hauge Convention? And the War — and more importantly: its aftermath. I foresee an ever-growing demand.” She took a sip, “So you see, mutual acquaintances can sometimes be a bit complicated.”

“No honour among rogues?” I asked.

“You will find in my world there are very few rules and absolutely no laws of consequence. You do what you have to at the moment –

Yes — you have to do what you have to do. Coercion I am now inclined to believe is but an excuse to do what you want, but are only too ashamed or afraid to do so.

(A different colour of ink)

Having sought a cup of tea from Lampton, I try once gain to steel my hand – for a moment I had felt faint, the tour, the unpacking. For the whole of the day I have felt all too listless. At times even breathless. On the verge of collapse. As I had felt in the back of that bloody horrid motor – as I was nearly upon having arisen from the desk – to ring for him. Growing all too quickly light-headed, and for some long moments it seemed as if I had lost all breath to some strong exertion. I had had to grip the edge of the desk. A weakness I cannot let them see. I steeled myself and proceeded to ring for him to request the tea. Moving back about the desk — I am reinforced now, as he brought it, as well some wonderful biscuits, observing, as he said, despite my best effort, he felt I needed a bit of strength, as I appeared pale.

Though I am of an absolute certainty someone has been reading my accounting – my journaled confessions – in that having purposefully placed upon a certain page something so as to allow me to know whether some other than I have opened it – turned its pages. I feel it to have been you Mrs Willingham — still I wish to put it down as I remember —

Regally arising from our finished breakfast, leisurely, Lady Hélène began her tour. Ascending so as to work our way down. The townhouse has four floors: the basement, for servants, ground, first, second, third. One floor more than father’s house which we thought grand. There is rather large ballroom and a mezzanine. A coach house — with stables. Converted so as to house the motor as well. From the furnishings, expensive and well matched, colour and texture; the gilt moulding; the rich carpets, thick and carefully placed; the subjects of the oils and watercolours hung throughout admirably discerned, such that everything gave all the appearance of a single-minded devotion and taste, and of having been left heartfelt by whomever had been forced to let go of the townhouse to save their country estate.

“Death Taxes – what an ingenious method to raise funds.” Lady Hélène had commented as stood in the last of the first-floor rooms, having made our leisurely way throughout the house, “And a sword ever hanging over one’s head, in some instances double sided, now, as to the war and succession.” She was delicately inspecting the hand-painted rosework of a vase in the last bedroom receiving our inspection, “Something that legal mind of your father’s must have found his way through the labyrinth of, in that your brother – should his most convenient post give way to a call to the trenches – not be the one in line to inherit.”

I gave her a look — as she alluded not only to that horrid prospect and outcome, but of the possibility of Andrew being moved to the front; and slyly as well, a hint regarding his current situation as an aide to some officer in the administration of the Islington Internment Camp — I had thought only I, having inadvertently overheard father on the telephone, knew he had in some way arranged for Andrew’s posting — a favour called in, some relationship at the club, or as I suspect money. Just as he had done when he had intervened after my arraignment and incarceration – having been well aware I did not have sufficient funds for surety, bound over, assured the bleakness of my situation, knowing the horrid treatment I had and would endure, awaiting to finally appear in all of his haughty imperious disapproval – but with my freedom in hand, as well as its record to be expunged—if, and only if, I agreed to his terms. Her seeds of insinuation now sown to bloom to a thought to come to mind – was there genetically in us something disposed to conspiracy and corruption? Father as a high member of the Bar Council, whose duty it was to take in hand breaches of a barrister’s professional etiquette, while all the while secretly bribing, suborning, extorting favours – perhaps even judgements? See Veronica — not said, but so implied — your world and mine are not that far apart —

Ever more importantly Gwen, is there any evidence of it to be found—

“Not too labyrinthian, I would think. Being not so much for your sister, what with her ill-advised and unblessed marriage,” Her fingers ever so carefully holding the vase, “And you? Yet another new codicil? I would imagine. After that brief incarceration – a known shrieking sister? An avowed anarchist? I would expect neither of you should be seeing much in way of such an unfortunate distribution. And there is of course the prospect of the property—” The forefinger of her left hand ever so lightly running along the surface of the vase, as if she were contemplating a braille from the hand-painted roses, “Coverture – will see it in some way – should that most regrettable prospect arise – to your eldest sister, where it will of course find its way into her husband’s pocket.” It was all so ever cleverly and off-handily said. Alluding to the fact that we would even in death be recipient still of his extreme ire – and that, whatever eventually, of his three daughters, he would assure that the inheritance would ever fall, as we know, to his favourite — Lydia. Even as she once again demonstrated just how much she knew of my life – although, I detected something in her voice — some such familial similarity in own?

“I would expect.”

“Oh, but then – you are your father’s property.” She put the vase back down carefully. “Ever handed back from jailer to father, to husband — or son – but ever some man’s property.” She looked not at me, but admiringly of the furnishings of the bedroom. “Too bad the Pankhursts have yet to secure the vote – although,” and she turned, standing now at the door, to look at me, “That wouldn’t give you but — what? A ballot?”

“Yes – from which to make those changes –”

She smiled, disingenuously, “Of course.” And she strode out into the corridor.

“I myself have an estate, in York.” She continued as we moved along once more, “Can’t own it – they say.”

We strode along slowly, our feet a silence upon the heavy, sand hued, within which the carmine and purple design, of the carpet of the corridor, was inlaid; she in her silk dress, I in my white laced muslin —

“A distant cousin, third-removed – and for whom the solicitors had to scurry the registries to find – in his late-fifties, bad back and eye sight, from some drudgery of a public clerk’s office, will soon reside there.” She continued, “With so much violence in the world — anything can happen. The current Beltham, a Lieutenant Colonel, on leave no less – such a tragic mishap. On his way to Paris and two weeks home. Never got the chance to see my estate that one last time.”

“His family?”

She gave me a look, “In the process of eviction.”

As we moved along, I could not help but feel a pang of horror at the statement: a mother’s world thrown into chaos, the loss of a beloved husband, her children looking to her expectantly, they now thrown out of their home – their estate. And then the thought soon came to me – my sentimental imaginings replaced – of tenant farms, rolling landscapes and hedges, servants, footmen in livery, milord and milady – but which of them were true — and did it matter? Could I have done such a thing – more than the eviction, what she had implied?

To drink from the cup she offers —

“You may choose from anyone of the bedrooms, save the master, which is mine.” She said as we leisurely strolled along the first-floor corridor, our lengthy tour completed, “Until such time as I relinquish to you the keys.”

“When I retrieve what you want?”

“What we have been commissioned to retrieve, my dear.” Our stroll ever so tranquil for the subject, “Ever keep that in mind. It is not mine, or Neville’s – or yours.”

“So — you are but some criminal staffing agency?”

“Rarely do I take such commissions.” A gracious smile, “Anonymity. My dear. Anonymity. That is how I have cultivated my career. There is so little intrusion when no one knows you exist. Bankers, politicians, wealthy industrialists, criminals, spies. I have a rather dedicated menagerie. At the moment, rather constrained, I will admit — owing to this interminable conflict. Mostly in Paris. Bordeaux. Marseille. Morocco. But, as hampering as this war has been, it has as well its opportunities. For investment. Expansion. Amsterdam. Brussels. Copenhagen.”

“London.” I added.

“Alas, there are – shall we say – grander cliques of criminality, some of which are ruthless in their competition.” We approached the end of the corridor, “But there are some far more future minded, who are seeking alignments. Or realignments as the case may be. And this, my dear, is a most opportune moment for the both of us.”

And we had come to the end of the corridor, opening upon the gallery that led off to the mezzanine, and we stepped over to the balustrade to look down upon the entry hall. “But, yes. London. A strategic beachhead, as it were – if we are successful.”

“But I thought –” Feeling a bit breathless from our excursion of the house, “Mrs Willingham. Pym. The Misters.”

“The Misters?’ She gave me a momentary look of perplexity, “Ah — Mr Crump and Mr Ferguson. They are Mrs Willingham’s.”

In that I had willingly assented to becoming a part of her ‘menagerie,’ I felt I should no longer be kept at arm’s length — it was time for her to explain my circumstances. For either I was still but a suborned captive or now an entrusted participant. For all the confidence she had expressed earlier at breakfast, and then amidst our tour, I was still uncertain, least of all, of my standing with her, but as well among the others. Where precisely, within their hierarchy, would I, did I, fall: —

“And Mrs Willingham — ” I began even as I felt once more the edge of light-headedness. From the height? The recollection of my dream of falling? “Her socialism — being but a façade – it is quite obvious she directs some nefarious criminal enterprise.”

“Not all criminality is associated within a larger organization.” She said looking up from the hall below, “For all the Illiegalists propaganda, to the contrary, Robin Hood is but a fiction. Stealing from the rich? (There was a wry smile) I for one have never stolen from the rich and given to the poor – and neither has anyone else. More or less – a good intention. Here and there, of course. There was Marcel’s family—but that’s a different story, altogether.” And for a moment there was the sudden look of a fond memory, “There are small entrepreneurs. Privateers. Mrs Willingham — she is an expeditionary force, if you will. The Mister’s are hers.”

“But your interests are aligned?”

“For the time being. In this matter — we have an accord. If we (a cut of her eyes to indicate the two of us) are successful there are assurances of a most beneficial alliance within which I will be given far more access in London. And she sees this as beneficial opportunity to both our interests.”

“And you?”

“I am disinclined to her stock and trade. Prostitution and pornography. She is someone from whom I usually avail the services of — when the need arises.”

“Such as myself.”

Her whole posture and countenance now relaxed, easy; her eyes having grown far more amiable as she said now the most unorthodox of things, “Such as yourself. In that, she’s an associate of Neville’s.”

“Neville—” His name being ever a slur I cannot conceal, “What of him?

“A necessary evil—” Said as an explanation not in any way as an apology – I feel she has never apologized to anyone for anything. “He has a seemingly inexhaustible trove of connections. As I said, there are far more formidable enterprises, criminal and governmental; although, you will find the demarcation a bit murky.”

“The Okhrana?”

She smiled, “Ah, the Secret Prikaz.” Surprisingly amused. “The Secret Chancellery. The Secret Expedition. The operative word being secret. You would surmise. The Foreign Agentura actively coordinates with Special Branch. Whereas the Sekretnyi Sotrudniki?” And she gave the slightest wave of a hand. “Rather than secrecy, it is deception. Masters of the game. The False Pose. Shadows moving among the margins of society. Provocateurs. Doubling one against the other. Oddly enough — many of them were revolutionaries themselves.” Her voice, ever soft, her tone as casual as if we were but merely gossiping, “Now, rather than Bakunin and Kropotkin, it is power they seek. Creating false conspiracies, fostering true ones, assassinating superiors, killing friends and lovers. In Paris, at times, it is difficult in determining who among the Illegalists are working for the revolution or in fact fostering it for the Tsarists. Or themselves. Why not turn treason into profit. I have found at the end of the day, there is only one thing I can reasonably rely upon and that is greed and avarice. And so—there is a need for a Neville.”

Somewhere there was a sound. A door.

“A liaison to navigate the rather convoluted channels and canals of byzantine alliances and labyrinthian deceptions of national, governmental, as well as political interests. Many of which are but aspects of a far more ancient and fragmented conspiracy.” She paused slightly. “There are, my dear, far more clandestine brotherhoods operating in the shadowy nooks and obscure crannies of government intelligencers — the fretsaw-pieced edges of criminal enterprises. One of which is at the very roots of this conflict. The bogeyman under the bed we are told does not exist. Once disjointed, driven by personal appetites and lusts, having become ever aware of the advances in industry, invention, communication, and transport, awakening to the possibilities of the potential for a global cabal.” There was the slightest leftward tilt of her head as if to ascertain the effect upon me – but no more than if she were suggesting some veracity to the rumours around the next girl about to be put forward in the season. “Imagine the map of the continent and upon it two great Frederick Rose octopuses stretching out their tenacles, making use of this war in extending their grasp. And as they do, those within a once formidable but highly fractional conspiracy, as treacherous as it is shadowy, are being made to take sides.”

Conspiracy – some actor behind the scenes, a puppet master of national, international, marionettes? It sounds at first all too fanciful – and yet, as I listened to her it recalled to mind similar discussions by Mr Stickell – whom perhaps you have not met, who father and Aunt Agatha, after he had retrieved me from Canongate, invited to dinner several times, with of course the hopeful expectancy of an acceptance of a proposal. Nearly forty, short, and with fleshy lips and a thin moustache, which only made them ever more distracting when he spoke – buttering his bread, having cut it cut with some curious precision, discussing particulars of continental politics with father at the dining table, of suspicions and ceaseless speculation upon Germany’s, rather than Austro-Hungarian, motivations of the war — as I recall, some Serbian in Sarajevo? A single gun firing the shots that had brought death to the Archduke and poor Duchess Sophie; shots having already been fired upon them; and then, incomprehensibly, to follow back along the same rout – rest assured Lloyd, there was a guiding hand in that

I looked at her for a moment, quizzically: – “Neville?”

“No, my dear, you and I.”

There aloft in the gallery, the whole of the grand house once more seemingly hushed, I suddenly felt the tingling sensation of the rising hair of the implications of what she had said, she and I – me – amidst a conspiracy that had – that had started a war? A protracted conflict beyond anyone’s imaging when such declarations had been made: — “So — what you are saying is that those who have commissioned you – and me –” Indignation tinging my voice – “Are behind the war?” – less than my incredulity of it.

She gave me a look, “Heavens. Turning France into uniforms and rubble; muck and blood; and shallow graves? That is malevolence beyond even my comprehension. Peace and prosperity for all is really best for business – or so I thought. Profiteers have shown otherwise. Even now, in anticipation of the windfall from border realignments, the give and take of an armistice – peace and politics. Reparations,” she said with a smile, “Oh my, reparations – a licence to steal on such a grand scale.”

And those hazel eyes narrowed slightly, as if seeing some trace of weakness in my resolve: – “Sentimentality is for family. Well, in some instances, not even for them. You claim the mantle of anarchist. Which I admit, for some – is but a fashionable parlour room expostulation on the socialist struggle against elites. To secure a better opportunity for the working poor amidst the on-going futurist revolution of invention – and the capitalistic consequences on social structures and the outdated mores of a class evolved civilization.” From wherever she was quoting, I have no idea. “Erstwhile enthusiasts working up the Higher Thought. The world as it ought to be. A coming New Age. Lions and lambs lying before a manger. Whereas for others — it is sheer contemptuousness and disdain for the current order. A near religious fervour for individualism. Anarchy. A belief in no authority other than the rule of I. The need to sculpt oneself as the revolution being and begins within. The Renovation. The New Salvation.” All said with such ironic mockery. “But to whichever you subscribe – collectivism, individualism, syndicalism, socialism — to place the need of the one, of I, above that of all, only comes about in my experience by the imposition of the will – which in conflict inevitably leads to violence. Bombs and Browning’s. You’ve read L’Anatchie in Mrs Willingham’s parlour. Mother Earth. Emma Goldman. You, yourself, subscribed to the Propaganda of the Deed.”

In the pursuit of the ideal — the will always suffices the means, I recalled having fervently said before we had agreed upon the Deed put forth by Laticia – of which we had failed, and for which father had retrieved me —

How does she know so much—

Willingham — my evil grandmother.

“Destruction as a creative passion.” She continued, “And yet — criminality is the ultimate I. And you gasp at what I am willing to do. You either have the will of your convictions – freedom from all to do whatever you wilt – or you have no true desire for freedom at all. From the moment I saw the look in my mother’s eyes, when she killed my father and then her lover to place the blame – so as to be free of them both – I knew what freedom meant. The freedom you desire. The very freedom, my dear, you want so badly you can taste it. It’s not an apple I am offering – but an opportunity.” And there it was – a clue, perhaps, to the temper of her emotions—the avenue to her criminality. How old had she been to witness such an event? How like her mother? Whereas ours prim and ever pious. The thought of her with a lover, much less father, unfathomable – much less ever the word, than the thought of sex, something only if at all said before her lady’s maid, mine own having been dismissed for reading novels— whom father blames for everything. Whereas for Lady Hélène, I knew from her baring, her walk, sex was a weapon – and standing there with her, the two of us in such close confidence, recalling the look I had given Winston, the whispered yes; it was now, for me as well –

“As for the true nature of the orchestration of the interminable conflict—” and she paused for a moment, her eyes narrowing, just the slightest, as if for the merest fraction of a second making some significant determination, “— as I said — there two struggling octopuses grasping across the continent. One which long planted the seeds and nurtured the war. While the other, the one with whom we are aligned – you and I – is preparing to take advantage of the world as it will become in the aftermath and demobilisation of this war. And with it, an opportunity to establish some enfranchisement within England. And I am ever the opportunist.”

Suddenly it came to me. The estate. The evictions. “You want to come home.”

“I am coming home.” And there was a sudden wistfulness in her voice, losing now the seemingly casual nonchalance, the occasionally irony, she had used for the entirely of our tour and most of our discussion, “To reclaim my mother’s estate.”

A distant cousin, third-removed – in his late-fifties – will soon reside there. Those self-same solicitors, who had had to scurry the registries, were no doubt even now meticulously establishing ways to assure her possession and ownership, no matter what the previous patrilineal entanglements, when the distant cousin found his way to mishap —

And what of her family? Having given but the vaguest of hints. The homicides investigated? A scandal in London or Paris — the Transvaal? There was the odd mix of her accent. Forced to flee from dogged detectives, inquisitive journalists, headlines and gazetteer’s columns? A young girl and her fugitive mother. Avoiding apprehension. Her mother abandoned by family? An implacable father? A pious mother? A powerless sister? A querulous one? A haughty Aunt? Is there some similarity she sees in us?

As we stood there before the balustrades, their white contrasting against the dark wood of the railing, the open expanse of the height of the entry hall stretching out before us, she speaking now so casually, with such familiarity, for a moment it seemed so similar to when we would have our talks — before I lost you so to father’s will for vengeance. Antonymy, she had said – solitary at her pinnacle? Did she feel it as well? Our tour, our moments here, revealing for a brief moment the tragedy of a childhood witness to her mother’s double homicide; a glimpse of her desire to return to a home she may have never lived in – separated by mishap and murder.

Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Having moved along the galley and descended the stairs to the entry hall — having given her assurances that though yes, I must admit to some reticence – in that, as she had said, my earlier predisposition had been such as to have been susceptible to the ardour for passionate, extreme action – but that the circumstances of my incarceration had so tempered my enthusiasm – in that I had no desire whatsoever to return to the confines, to the odious, oppressive stench, the austere bleakness, the microscopic filth, of a cell – such that I, in promissory to my father, had become ashamedly obsequious to his desires for self-rehabilitation; having over time truly abandoned much of my convictions — she silently listening to what had begun at the top of the stair as some explanation, but so like my journal, had become a confession – that merely to satisfy an intellectual longing to remain on the periphery, seemingly but a by-stander longing to participate, finding only courage for hollow discourses with Mrs Willingham – reflecting, at the time, what I felt to be nothing less than the passivity promoted by the WPSU, or so I thought, but really, having become more like some heliotropic flower – closed in the darkness of my capitulation to my father and aunt’s demands, and my own concession to comfort – and that – and it pains me even now to say it, I had given way to some wrong-headedness of Lord Morley, such that I had acquiesced to the accommodation of the complete self-abandonment of my former self in the acceptance of a wrappered life – abandoning all hope of imaginings that mocked the social order, regardless of the haunted whisperings of them – but, rather than succumbing to the disingenuous refuge of tea and strawberries and cream – having awakening in Winston’s bed, I had arisen to find myself, again – like that heliotropic flower in response to rays of the sun – opening to the resurrection of whom I had once been – vain and arrogant, egoistical, and so wantonly self-absorbed; and so, she needn’t take me to the river – and that – with a smile which must have seemed most wicked – I boldly offered my terms: – “Whereas I am told there are many mansions awaiting in heaven, the keys to this one are quite sufficient; with as well, a seat near to hand at your future London table.”

And as we alighted from the last stair, she responded with a called to Lampton, who – where he had been apparently awaiting – stepped forth from a shadowy niche.

“Pressing business, Lampton. I shall be out for the reminder of the day.”

And with a nod he turned and stepped away.

“Your things should arrive shortly.” She turned to me.

“Miss Miniver —” I enquired, “I have grown accustomed to her every morning, but she seems oddly missing.”

“Miss Miinver? Our Naughty Librarian.” She said with some faux chagrin, while her eyes seemed to reflect upon a memory perhaps of having seen those photographs — the curiosity of which makes me so long as well to see. “I am sure she is but distracted in some other lovely bedroom.”

“She is —” We had not discussed her among the hierarchy. “With Mrs Willingham – or Neville?”

She gave me that winsome smile that ever said nothing about what she was thinking, “Miss Miniver is an associate of an associate of Neville’s – but I wouldn’t say she is with him. At the moment, she has agreed to terms with Mrs Willingham.”

From the entry vestibule, Lampton returned with coat, hat, and purse in hand.

“A watchful eye. A helping hand.” She continued,

“Alaine is bringing the motor around.” Lampton informed.

She strode over to him: –

“See to it that Veronica has whatever she needs,” as he helped her into the coat, “As we discussed.”

“Yes, mi‘lady.” He carefully saw to the shoulders.

“I am uncertain as to whether d’Avary will arrive this afternoon or evening.” She informed him as she moved over to a large, gold-gilt framed mirror and adjusted her hat to pin. “Nevertheless, I do expect workmen to arrive shortly.” She turned to give him a look to which he nodded.

She reached out for her purse, opening it for a moment. “As I said, Lampton runs the house.” And suddenly she turned to me and tossed a set of keys, “I accept the terms.”

Though surprisingly distracted in catching them, I noted she gave Lampton another look, to which he nodded, “As you wish.”

Purposeful to the day, she strolled away into the vestibule of the entry, her fixed footsteps upon the dark wooden floor ever lightly echoing — before the sound of the opening and closing of the front door, leaving Lampton and I to look at one another.

“Have you been with her long?” I enquired.

“We may speak of many things, Miss Wells, but her Ladyship is not one of them,” As if at a lectern, before a slight lift of a brow, “As you will not be discussed amongst any who may so enquire of you.”

I gave him a look and took his meaning, even as I felt the weight of the keys in the closure of my hand.

I asked if the front bedroom of the third floor was acceptable to which he nodded, replying that any bedroom other than ‘her Ladyship’s’ was available. He took notice, and I stopped idly fretting with the larger of the keys. “We have four on staff. Mrs Hadfield is housekeeper. Mrs Tremaine is cook. Lane the footman. Alaine chauffeur.” Then, after a pause: – “Mademoiselle Minou, her ladyship’s maid, will arrive shorty.”

“Are they all —”

“They all aware, ma’am.”

Which by his look was that they all knew the nature of Lady Hélène’s affairs. “If I were to walk out the front door?”

“Madam is aware of her Ladyship’s affairs.” He said evenly, his look saying: she has accepted your terms, you best abide by them—

I gave a slight smile, clasped my fingers about the keys, and he asked if there was anything I needed. I indicated I was fine, and as he turned, I called out to him. He stopped.

“Mr Crump and Ferguson—” I wanted to see what authority I had, “When they arrive see to it, they use the back door.”

He nodded, “Certainly.”

“And that they are given rooms with the least comfort.”

“As you wish.” His look one of approval.

I ascended to once more take my leisure in looking through the rooms. Although some pieces of furniture, and I am certain other items of sentimental attachment, had been removed, for the most part the previous owners had fairly well abandoned it, and I wondered to whom it had been sold, as Lady Hélène had merely let it. How much pain must have been felt by those taking their last walk through it as I was taking my first solitary stroll. Mine – I could not help but smile as I moved through. It was mine – I felt the reassurance of the weight of the key in hand. Even as thoughts appeared as to how to explain it. What would I say to you Gwen when you arrived – for I have already selected the bedroom for you to stay when you come for your first visit – thinking how best to be assured you see nothing of what must in the future transpire here — As I strolled from room to room, I was filled with such a complexity of emotions – that I would be mistress here, that whatever I said Lampton would see to making it so – recalling his look of approval of my disposition of the Misters – even father, if I were to invite him, would be but a guest, and when his imperiousness arose, I could lift her small bell upon the table and as Lampton would arrive – My father is just leaving. Yes, madam. As well as what am I to say to Winston? How to explain my having come to be not in Long Street, but here – perhaps in some way Lady Hélène way be connected with father? Asked to intercede, to restrain, to check the rash behaviour of an incalcitrant daughter? Yes – how he will love the conspiracy of it, which we shall discuss in the dim light of an obscure little restaurant –

For reasons I am now totally unsure of I set about opening the window to examine whether there was some possible access to be gained from the rooftop, rather than from the attic, to which such access is to be gained, when my attention was called away. There was a lot of banging and thumping echoing from the corridor beyond my open door. My curiosity pulled me down to the servant’s stairs, where below the Misters were struggling with my trunk and belongings. I moved quickly upon tip-toe, to cautiously peer down the narrow interior stair well — watching them hoisting it up as Lampton oversaw their efforts – and with a smile of satisfaction listened to their outcries of a rapped knuckle or elbow; their vexed vulgarities; and with quite some considerable delight at being called a bitch. If I had thought Lampton would not defend me I was very much surprised to hear him admonish Mister Crump in that he was not to use such familiarity in regard to Miss Wells. All this for fucking a chemist? Perhaps I should fuck a few more.

As they grew closer to the landing, I hurriedly slipped into another bedroom. I must admit I waited for them to leave before I made my way to the bedroom, began to unpack, and in finding my journal, decided I needed to record all that had transpired this morning. I sought the sanctuary of the library – which I had overheard her to say she wishes to turn into a lady’s drawing room, as I sit at the desk and look about at the sheer masculinity of it, I find I would much rather she leave it as it is — there is something about sitting here, at the desk – the feel of it.

Writing, I suddenly heard her familiar voice:

“So, she has seduced you.”

I looked up to see Miss Miniver. She was dressed in a trim, well-tailored verdant day dress; her hat removed, but a few strands of hair amiss from its unpinning. She stood primly upon the threshold of the Library.

“In that you said you would do your best to keep me alive,” I looked at her with annoyance, “And then you were nowhere to be found this morning — as the Misters took me on a smug drive to show just how easily they could do it. Kill me. Dice me up. Toss me in the river – and you could do nothing to avert their pleasure—”

She strolled in with that gait so reminiscent of Mrs Cranworthy, “You seem to be alive.”

“No thanks to you.”

And yet today, there was something different – in the way I saw her, the way she moved, lithe, her step ever so soft, to be almost undetectable; predatory, so much like the approach of a lioness at the zoo.

“Until she gets what she wants, Vee, you can be assured you are secure from Lady Hélène.”

“Unlike Hester Rawley — ”

She stopped before the desk; her right hand effortlessly holding her left; her eyes behind those wire-thin rims looking at me intently, “You are not Hester Rawley.”

I put down my pen and closed the journal – “You said she was tossed in pieces into the Thames for insufficiency – you neglected to tell me, she was killed by Winston’s Molly McIntire, owing to her alliance with Neville.”

“There are a lot of things I haven’t told you.”

We looked at one another.

“That you are with his smeariness – Pym!” Do not fall back into vain self-indulgence. He performs a service. Until he does not. The thought came suddenly to mind.

“You apparently have no recollection of Francis.”

“Aytown? You work for the smut dealer?” I sat back, “But I thought you merely – posed.”

“Mrs Willingham signs my uncrossed cheque.”

“Uncrossed cheque – how much am I worth.”

“Fifty pounds.”

“To do what? Certainly not to keep me alive.”

She strolled around the desk, “You were considered by some impertinent, impetuous, and far too imprudent.”

“And your estimation?” She drew close and I could hear the rustle of the silk of her day dress.

“Immoral.” She said and I felt her fingers, reaching out, touch the lace of my collar and seemingly adjusting it, “But lacking conviction.”

And suddenly I felt oddly anxious and perplexed at the approach of her fingertips to the high laced collar of my dress, to the possible exposure of my throat, for it felt strangely of a slight summer’s breeze upon one’s flesh, that thrill of the wisp of a wind one wants to lean into – and I moved away from her touch, “Of my immorality?”


I looked at her —

“She has seduced you.”

“She has offered me this house. A place in her organization here in London”

There was the briefest of a quick smile at the corners of her mouth, “I was unaware Hélène had an organization in London.”

He’s Not For You
Session Fourteen, Part Five


14 March, 1916. London. – Bradley McFarlane’s Memorandum – Continued:

Handed over to gravity. The gravity of events. Those that lead to the consequences of last night, seemed at first to be so slight. Breakfast again. Coffee, eggs, bacon, undercooked sausage, toast, butter, no marmalade, but then again there are the shortages; and yet, the breakfast has been upon the whole ample, if not amiably prepared. I skimmed the Times. Of all he news of the war, and yet what struck was: How To Cripple Krupp. Some inane idea. A Professor, Sir J. J. Thomson, speaking at the Royal institution, had taken time to make mention of some proposal, which had only recently been submitted for review by an inventor to the board of war inventions. It seems, in having observed birds pecking at mortar, this inventor had fashioned and submitted the idea that chosen cormorants – so chosen apparently for their great appetites – should be captured – as to how it did not say – and then subsequently these flocks should be trained to feed in such a way as to have their food laid out, howsoever, vertically and horizontally aligned, against or upon a wall. So that to the flocks these lines would be soon associated with feeding. And having thus been trained, they should be then smuggled into Essen and thereupon surreptitiously liberated so as to launch an attack against the great chimneys of Krupp’s Works. Pecking and pecking and pecking to bring them down. Upon the end of Sir J. J. Thomson’s exposition – the article indicated there was silence. Followed by great laughter. Cormorants – too bad it was not wild ravens, as I had taken noticed that one seems to sidle about the ledge of the window of my reading room, and could have taken up crumbs and crusts from my plate and formed lines with them upon the window sill although, in remembrance, odd in that wild raven at my window, as wild ravens were said to be ever so rare in now in London — save perhaps the Tower. At least the inanity was on the same page as with a column bearing striking tributes, selected from various journals, and slyly appearing as news, in regards to a fabulous remedy for the loss of colour and lustre of a lady’s hair by the use of ‘Facktative’. Soon to be found on ever elegant Toilet Table, so the column said, being as if would appear London had declared it to be the veritable talisman of Feminine beauty. Over eggs and bacon and undercooked sausage, alone, the house seemingly all to myself, I found myself pondering how the modern world was soon to succumb to Boudoir Books, and hair colouring, and other cosmetics, as yet to be contrived. Which brought a memory of that morning watching Veronica applying a darken line to her eyes. With a sigh, I put away breakfast — or else I’d be adding to the greying by own hair by way of wicked invectives from Mrs Godsalmightly.

Straightway I ascended the stairs once more to my reading-room. I wanted to get into the flies. With thoughts of cormorants and cosmetics, of ‘Facktative’ and fallen reverends, I sought to lose myself along the trail of Dean’s passage through the files, fingers along the documents. What I truly wanted was something to take away the recurring memory of the Reverend’s eyes – of that moment he looked at me well aware there was nothing behind him but air. Alas, be careful for what you ask for. I had opened a red-ribboned financial portfolio and inside, there was a black ribbon dossier. Seeing the black ribbon, I paused, for a moment, before opening it. Outside the window, upon the sill, there was the sound of the stirring of the raven having returned. An omen? I opened the file to find it was a compilation taken from taken from files. All were Eyes Only. Bruised with official stamps. Some bearing severe legal warnings. And I am suddenly lost down a rabbit hole Dean has dug and I am entangled within a series of memorandums, keyed to dispatches from Bucharest – all of this is not on the apparent trail I thought she had blaze, but a side one she had but taken the day of her – disappearance. It all seems to have originated from a dispatch from Bucharest. The head of Bucharest Station, workname Pale, having gone missing. It seems there had been previous communications to Peter Hawkins, from Pale before the reported disappearance. But there was bifurcation in that she had discovered there was a 3rd Hawkins. For Hawkins, he initiator of the ‘original sin,’ Operation Edom, with his successor, being the 2nd, having retired, the workname was supposed to have been as well. Only, as Dean had now discovered, six months ago it had suddenly reappeared – and from all indication it was not the Hawkins to whom the Bucharest communications had been addressed – and thus a source of the confusion. Someone had seen to make use of it unaware anyone would be seeking to re-establish old ties. And so, there was a throughput suspension, and Pale’s communications, in regards to his passage beyond enemy lines to Buda-Pesh, did not get delivered until far too late. It would seem a fastidious router had side basketed to review, in cross-referencing registry to find Hawkins retired. It wasn’t until sometime later a filing clerk, taking some notice of sub-heading, OS, found the discrepancy — and eventually they get delivered (Did they get sent to the 3rd Hawkins as well?). But by then Pale was missing. And there was an explosion of memorandums. Hawkins, the 2nd, from retirement, or the 1st, from the grave, sends a directive to Oholibamah. Oholibamah signals someone: Caleb. They activate something — but it is redacted. Only it looks like Dean had tried to work some chemical magic on the redaction. The only time she has on anything I have seen. Or maybe not Dean. Red Circle? Who else’s hands have been in the files? It looks like — ‘d Cord.’ (And on this there is written, in Dean’s distinctive hand: Does this tie to Winepress? Which I have seen before, twice, comments indicating something called Winepress, but as yet there’s nothing in the filing thicket regarding it) Then, she’s attached a document, from yet another source, which shows Oholibamah stepping down from London Station; it and United Kingdom Operations is handed over to Kenaz, of Eastern European Operations. Kenaz now has all of Eastern Europe and the Kingdom. Hawkins, I have no idea the designation, has sent someone to Bucharest. Unnamed. Not an Edom asset. Edom is compartmentalizing. Oholibamah sends a cryptic message to Iram: PEACE throughout the land. Armageddon. Repeat Armageddon. —

Armageddon. Winepress. d Cord. Only before I get much further, there came a knock upon the jab of the door. I put aside the black ribbon. Lank of hair Strangways stands, I am needed downstairs. I give him a frown, but he gives me a look as if to say, the reverend was yesterday’s news; apply the Fracktative and cover up the greying hair of it, and come down straightway like a good chap. There Mina is at the window, looking out, her back to me, same as when I first arrived. Ramage is at the globe, spinning it as if looking for someplace to be. There also stands a slender woman, in dress for service as a nurse; and a Postman. Either speaks as everyone in the room is attentive to her back.

Armageddon you damned right.

“Lieutenant, I am sorry to interrupt the reading once again, but it seems I have need of your driving skills once more.” She turned, “Unfortunately, as I have come to understand, enthusiasm does not always bring about expected results,” and she glanced at Ramage, whose fingers stopped the Atlantic from passing. “And so, it does appear, something I had thought to have obtained, to do so, now apparently commands my presence.” And she strode toward me, “It seems we have an invitation to an elevenses — although to whom we go to meet, I would suspect it more of a brunch.”

As she reached the door of the library-parlour, she turned to those in her wake, “When I receive the location, this will be taken care of, do I make myself clear.” I gave them a look, and for a moment it seemed as if she were the schoolmistress. Lank of hair Strangways merely stood watching as she took her hat and coat from the hall closet, handing me mine. The day was brightening, the sun breaking from cover of the clouds to shine spectacularly upon the gleaming glisten of the snow. As we approached the car, I glanced down the street. I was a fugitive – the reason for No. 201. The shadow site. And yet, I had been out far too much – having actually pushed the bounds myself, taking that quite risky pass before Mrs Burrow’s boarding house, before having come to my senses and not stopped to bound up the stairs to Veronica. Veronica— Whatever my indiscretions, Mina knew better. Each time I ventured out was yet one more opportunity to be recognized, spotted by some inquisitive constable. She had Ramage and Strangways, and to add to her collection, the nurse and postman. No first names. No names at all. Having not been introduced.

As I have said, the events at first seemed so slight. I asked her was this not a risk and she gave me that smile of hers and said what was not a risk.

There were now two motorcars – Strangways’s Renault and a Woolsey Satellite, which no doubt belonged to the newest members of her menagerie. Before I could open the door for her, being the chauffeur, she seemed to want me to be, she quickly opened it herself, with a frown and a squint at the glistening glare of the sun. I kept my head down and brim at an angle as well. It was a working-class neighbourhood. The men off to work, so those out walking along the slush of the thawing snow and the icy crust of what remained in the shadows, were the wives, or the widows, of the fallen. The crunch of their passing, perhaps off to some pawn shop, was interspersed with the soft crush of worn soles upon the melt.

We were headed to Soho. She had someone to meet. She told me. And then she fell into a silence as she seemed to watch nothing in particular passing by, lost perhaps in thought. While I continued to scan for wary constables. “How goes the progress, Lieutenant?” She asked finally, sitting beside me in the chill of Woolsey.

“Rather one step forward and two to the side.” I told her, though the top was up, the motor car was frightfully cold, I felt shivers once or twice, but Mina held up tolerably well, in her great overcoat and woollen scarf, “It seems Pamela was at first making progress through various routes all leading, of course, into and out of your ‘original sin,’ but then, hello, she seems to have taken suddenly two steps to the side. And three forwards or one back. But to be truthful, I am rather deuced to say, I don’t see finding her through this thicket of paper. There are scribbled notes here and there – but I am sure you have been through all those before I.’

“Yes, well, Lieutenant, your task may well be coming to an end.”

I gave her a look.

“The need for this morning ‘s excursion — to discover her location.”

Our location just down from Soho Square. Kettner’s. I had only ever been there once, no twice, with a group of friends before the war – its risqué reputation having proceeded it. What with the indelicate whispers about Edward VII meeting Lille Langtry there when she performed at the Palace Theatre. Wining and dining her before retiring to one of the smaller upper rooms. The same rooms Wilde was rumoured to have made use of. And many others. It was a rather nondescript, terraced building on the corner of Greek and Church Streets. But being early morning the evening sordidness and its growing lack of sobriety, even with the restrictions, had not fully begun its parade as the streets were interspaced with busy girl-clerks and receptionists, from near-by businesses, out and about in the warming sun, seeking a bit of lunch in the coffee-bars and smaller restaurants.

I had intended to remain within the Woolsey, but Mina regarded that as folly, as if not being out and about was not folly enough, in that sitting in the motor-car could bring of itself attention. And so, I accompanied her into the marvel of Kettner’s: mahogany floors and furnishings, thick carpets, damask textiles for wall coverings, brass fixtures, multiple electric lamps off-set with candles, rich white linen draping the tables. I could only wonder of the dim private, rooms above – where dining was but secondary to whispered illicit assignations. Mixed amidst the gentlemen now buttering their bread and their businesses, financiers sharing a hot du jour rumour with an investor, solicitors whispering over their cups with a suspicious client, there were close conversing couples, which by the hour, I was not at all certain the ladies to whom they were so arduously conversing were in fact their wives. Expectantly awaiting perhaps some secret sign from a passing waiter or glance from the matire ‘d, in response to their earlier sleight-of-hand passing of a folded bank note, as to the availability of an awaiting room upstairs? Ah, yes, it will be but a moment, sir; we need to clear away the departing party.

As we proceeded further into the dimness of the electric lamps, candles, and the glow of the morning sun through the windows, I felt uncomfortable out of uniform. In Mina’s dark suit, overcoat, and hat, I felt too many inquisitive eyes upon me. As I was once again assailed by the fact this was far too much of a hazard, not only out and about on the street behind the wheel, but now, walking into a busy restaurant.

As we approached the maître ‘d, I felt a moment of indecision as to whether to remove my hat, but not wanting to look like some East Ender either come to collect or pass along some envelope of blackmail, I removed it and stood slightly to Mina’s side. But as the maître ‘d turned in greeting, she, having apparently made sight of whomever it was we had come to see, “Yes, the unaccompanied young lady, there, furthest back; to the left.”

We made our way to the table where a pretty young woman, perhaps twenty-four, no more than twenty-six, in a russet jacket and skirt, linen white blouse with a high bloom of a collar, and soft black hair and brows, was just lifting a bite of her scrambled eggs. Her hair pinned back had a few loose strands undone, which fell to the tip of the collar, as she sat quite at her leisure, seemingly oblivious to being an unaccompanied woman dining alone in a restaurant. Seeing her, Veronica all too suddenly came to mind, as this woman had the same air of nonchalance in flouting convention – the unapologetic air of a suffragette.

“Jenny.” Mina said as she stood at the table, and I quickly gathered she was waiting for me to pull back her chair. “What an unexpected pleasure. Brunch?”

“The night got on and morning comes a bit too early,” the young woman replied, her fork posed, in there being something rather theatrical about her as she watched as Mina took a seat. And I sat as well. She merely glanced at me, her eyes on Mina. “And as I ‘ave quite the fulsome day, I ‘ave succumbed to the temptation of the eggs and bacon and a bite of a good sausage,” She took the bite from her fork and sat silently for a moment eating before she leaned forward slightly, “The breakfast ‘ere is really quite wonderful, especially, if you get the lashings of onions.” The tines of her fork pointing them out.

“What other temptations have we succumbed to, Jenny?” Asked in a surprising neutral voice, owing to the fact I was well aware of her vexation, “My understanding is you have the information I have requested, which you were supposed to pass on – but rather than doing so, I am informed you need to see me. I can only surmise that you really don’t have what I need.”

The young woman put down her fork, “Now, there you would be wrong. I ‘ave what you want.”

“I see. So, what is it you want?” Mina asked with a lift of her brow.

“Him.” The voice was an odd mix: a creamy richness with a low hint of huskiness. Behind us stood a striking brunette wearing a small unadorned hat, a long winter’s coat, with gold and crimson stitching’s of embroidery about the cuffs and lapels that bespoke of the orient, which did its best to conceal the fine lustrous Prussian blue silk of her slim dress. Her fingers all bore rings, small and large. In the grim greys of war and winter and Solo, she was a colourful contrast that drew the eye, ours and others seating about. I wanted to rise, to say something, but as she was already drawing the attention of others seated about us, I retained my seat and tried to advert my face so as not to be recognized – my hand wanting to put on my hat.

“Ah—so, I see. And I thought you were a professional, Jenny.” Mina stated flatly, having not turned at all, her attention upon the young woman before her. “I have never really been certain – do you prefer Florence? Or Sal?”

“Florence is dead.” The amazing voice replied as she moved over and with a flourish took a seat beside the young woman named Jenny. “As you well know.”

“I am unaware I have any business with you, Sal,” Mina perceptibly moved her gaze from the young woman to her. “As I said, I had believed Miss Jackson to be a professional.”

“And she is.”

Jenny, having taken a sip of her coffee, placed the cup in its saucer, “I’m a business woman and as such, as I ‘ave said, I ‘ave quite the fulsome day. And so, I ‘ave ‘ere brought here together but two of my best — seeing as how each ‘as desires, of which, now being so gathered, we can bring about the fulfilment of my consignments.”

“I suspected as much when you requested I bring the house guest.” Mina looked now at the young woman once more.

“The acquisition of which, Sal contracted the location for,” Jenny, her fingers slightly turning the cup upon its saucer, “Whereas, for you Mrs ‘arker, it be the location of ‘er whom you seek.” And her other hand she now held up a small folded piece of paper.

Mina’s attention was now drawn to the paper.

“As you can see, Mrs ‘arker, there comes at times, not all that often, I admit, where contracts to which I may have taken, in doin’ somewise, unforeseen, they become entangled, one betwixt another, so to speak; which at the time in me statin’ me price, and takin’ it up, I cannot foresee — the coming of the betwixting — no more than the Second Comin’ of him said to return . . . and the entwinin’ thereof: and yet, betwixt them they becomes, and so — what can I do but to honour each to their own.

“And so, to you — she whose location you seek.” She lifted the piece of paper slightly, “And to Sal, where ‘im beside you can be acquired, and to whom a request needs be made, if a request is of a need to be placed in a place not so private, tranquil like, so as to be obtain. . It is in my line of business to be most certain of that which I am asked. And Ketter’s of a morning is quite tranquil — not to mention their lovely lashings of onions.”

“Of what interest is he?” Mina redirected her gaze to the woman beside Jenny, who I was to discover, being the notorious Lascar Sal. A name I had heard spoken of in regards to nefarious criminal activities in Limehouse.

“Of what interest is he to you?” She rejoined – it was at that moment, in the look they exchanged, that I felt rather than being seated at Kettner’s, I was instead at table with emissaries of the Entente and the Central Powers — one wrong word and there would begin artillery shelling.

I took as subtle a glance as I could to find eyes were still upon us, even as I took notice of gentleman having entered Kettner’s, to stand, hands free at their sides, not awaiting to be seated. Though all were dressed in dark sack suits — they were oriental.

There was along moment of silence. In having made a decision, Mina’s nimble fingers worked at the buttons of her dress, allowing her fingers to reach within, to a pocket close to her flesh, from which she removed a sizable fold of folded pound notes. Closing the buttons once more, she placed the notes on the table and left her long fingers atop them, even as Jenny placed the fold of paper down. Together they pushed them to one another.

Mina took the note, opened it. Hazarding a less than sly glance, I saw it bore an address: 49 Fashion Street, Spitalfields. The clatter of those seated at their tables, their conversations a rising as a chorus, we sat in contemplative silence. Jenny took another a bite of her eggs, having slipped the notes into a black velvet reticule, and placed it beside her. Once more the two powers, seated in a diagonal across of one another, had eyes only for each other – unless Mina had resources somewhere beyond myself, and being unarmed, we were decidedly at the disadvantage – unless she calculated the presence of the Limehouse hardmen Lascar Sal had brought to Kettner’s, obviously not to dine, was more a show of intimidation, rather than for the actually of pulling revolvers in a busy Soho restaurant. Only the look Sal gave indicated she sat with resolve.

“Lieutenant.” Mina’s voice was calm, devoid of any hint of emotion, “Be assured, we will see one another again.” And she arose.

My inclination was to arise with her. To give the ladies across the table a smile and a nod, and perhaps, with a bit theatrically, put on my hat, while placing one hand to indicate a revolver I did not have; and then stride along beside Mina as we made our way out of the restaurant. After all – we were British Intelligence. But even as the contemplation arose within me that amazingly rich voice said, “That is not the play, Lieutenant. Trust me.”

I looked at Lascar Sal, who sat seemingly serene amidst the tenseness of the situation – being well aware of what little I knew of her, whispers, a name said at times to be involved in gambling, girls, opium dens, and heroin; I knew it to be a name that even the Tongs in Limehouse, when uttered, gave a wide berth.

Mina pulling her coat about her, turned and marched toward the front of the restaurant – I could not help but feel an ever-growing anxiety, sitting there watching her – I was wanted by police, Metropolitan and City, the Admiralty, and God only knows who else, and now, I was seated at a table with one of the most notorious personages of Limehouse. And if I were not recognized, it was certain she was, as I saw eyes continuing to glance at our table. Lascar Sal in Soho. Something untoward was most certainly going on in Kettner’s – no doubt someone was even then hastening a warning outside along the pavements. Where there were toughs standing sentry. A show of force. Something was about to happen. I did not like my back being to the room, as I adjusted my chair slightly, careful not to give a mistaken indication of getting up – for which ever muscle in my body longed.

Mina approaching the front door, stopped and stood looking at a surly Limehouse gunsel, who for a moment stood looking at her before he suddenly opened the door. And she departed.

I turned now to the two women across from me.

“What do you want from me?” I asked of Sal.

She smiled for the first time, and it was a dazzling smile, “From you Lieutenant? Nothing. You are a gift.”

“A gift?”

“Yes. For a mutual friend. Randall Tanner.”


Jenny – who I discovered to be Jenny Jackson, not a street, but rather a professional nark, who I was to discover moved seemingly about through all the nefarious forces in London, being she was a source of information for everyone – including the police, it would seem – in that she was known for her discretion, being more than well aware of what and what not to divulge one to the other – sat contentedly continuing her breakfast. While Lascar Sal – a commanding presence, who seemed to radiate a need for wariness even as her ever movement was full of a leisurely grace – explained that she was a friend of Randall’s. I knew of his family’s past, and of his possible instinctive larcenous inclinations, but I was to say the very least shocked that he could call amongst his friends: Lascar Sal. She then told me when last they had spoken, he had indicated his concern – in regards to me. And so, she had commissioned Jenny to provide the location as to where I could be acquired.

“You have quite the hounds upon your trail, Lieutenant.”

“But I have done nothing.” I said leaning forward towards her, “I did not kill Pamela Dean.”

“I know. Mina is going to do that.” She replied.


“She’s on her way now —”

I cut a quick look to Jenny Jackson, at the movement of bringing her napkin to her lips, then back to Lascar Sal: “Pamela—Pamela is alive?”

“At the moment.”

I glanced back toward the front of the restaurant; the door Mina had exited, “That was the address. Where Pamela is – hiding. Hiding . . . from Mina?”

“I do hope you had breakfast. We don’t have the luxury of time.” Lascar Sal arose and I could not help but watch her every move, as there seemed to be more of the stage about her than the Limehouse docks, “Jenny?”

The young woman looked up at her, and for all her self-confidence earlier, there was more than a just hint of unease in her eyes: – “We’re even up?”

“Without the bees to pollinate there would be no flowers.” Sal turned to look back at her, “And you are quite a busy bee. Are you not? In the future, it would best to be wise in knowing upon which flower you should and should not alight. I am more than certain I know who commissioned you; and so, they will be amenable – in that their contract it is now terminated. It is terminated, yes?”


“I am glad. It would sadden so many to lose our busy bee.”

“So — I am still performing?”

“Flash a bit more flesh tonight.” Sal told her and began to walk away from the table, “Lieutenant, you are with me.”

You are with me. I am more than certain official reports will have me as an associate of Lascar Sal, notwithstanding the evening to come, as far too many observed as I made my way back through the tables, their conversations trailing off into silences or whispers, as we passed. Even as I was more than certain she had very little concern in regards to any official reports — or she would not have entered Kettner’s with such a show of force.

A motor cab pulled up as we stepped out the front door and into the bustle of the street. A slender oriental, sitting next to the driver, quickly descended into the street, and moving around the motor car opened the door for us to enter. I took note that the eyes of the man holding the door, as Sal entered the awaiting cab, were ever keenly surveying the street and pavement — and all those moving upon them, his hand within his coat, looking as if he were but some oriental Napoleon. I got in behind Sal. The door closed. Another motor car pulled up behind us and the Limehouse thugs quickly entered. Our Napoleon, hand ever within his coat, closed the door and moved swiftly to re-enter the motor cab and we were off.

I sat on the edge of the seat in complete uncertainly, was it true she knew Randall? “How do you know Randall?”

“From a lifetime before he entered the colours,” she said as she settled back into the depth of the seat, adjusting her coat to become more comfortable, it becoming all too apparent, as the coat opened, and I for a moment adverted my eyes, that the cling of the fine blue silk revealed she wore nothing beneath the dress. “But not so much since he cloisters himself away now in the Admiralty. A pity. There are few as loyal as he — if you are lucky enough to be considered a friend.”

My mind was a confusion of questions, “How—”

“He has become involved in matters of considerable consequence.” The tone of her voice no more than if she were but merely commenting on the weather, as she looked out her window. “For the most part, owing to his concern for you and Miss Wells.”

“Veronica?” I was ever more bewildered. How was it at all possible Lascar Sal even knew her name. Randall? Why? What had happened since I last saw her?

“It is well to be advised, Lieutenant, in the crucible, some are hardened and some are consumed, and some are transformed.” She turned her gaze from the window and the passing shop-fronts and pedestrians beyond. “She will not return as who you think she was, but as who she has always been.”


There was a silence – as I found with Sal, a ready occurrence – as we drove a bit, before suddenly she spoke: “One of the severe symptoms of that headiness of emotions – infatuation combined with lust – sometimes called love – is the imaginative delusion one builds of the object of that — all engrossing vehemence. An ever-growing fascination. A concentration of attention, which evolves into a seemingly inexhaustible patience and fuels alas, a hundred stratagems, designed for our pursuit.” I took notice of her eyes now, they seemed to express the exhilaration of some remembrance, whereas she had seemed ever quite emotionless. Her voice now having taken on that quality of an actress just stepping forth in soliloquy. “As that object of our passion and desires eludes us in the chase, all else, the world and all within it, retreats, to become but this one fix point of our obsession. Until they are obtained. And only then does the world come rushing back; and reality is returned, and what we now possess, we can all too clearly see – and it is not at all what we expected.”

From the edge of my seat, I slipped back into the rattle of the motor. Using you I’d say. Comes to women, you need to be thinking with the head under your cap. I remembered yet another conversation in a rattling motor car. Strangways’s forewarning. And here was another. Veronica. My thoughts regarding her had already been undergoing a severe re-evaluation and now — if I were being warned by someone the likes of Lascar Sal? What did they know? What did I know? What did I not know? My whole world in the last several days having undergone such a remarked revolution – evolution. Darwin’s new theory of mankind. Mankind? Outside the window, in passing, watching the renewed bustle of the city, owing to the gravity of recent events, I had all but forgotten the fact that the world I now moved head long into was not at all the world I had thought I had known. But was indeed one of the pursued. Chased. Hunted. One in which beyond my window, moving about the streets of London, existed a predator race – one in which we were all being hunted. For blood. I could not help but hear the echoing reminder of the manic litany of the reverend. Blood. The blood in the red room. A blasphemy. They come. Yes. Hunted not for love or lust – but to be fed upon by forces, the like of which only God may well know. And I now hunted as well by Police. Naval. British Intelligence. And Vampires. Vampires? It’s even more incredulous seeing it in writing. Vampires. And their Night’s Black Agents, as it was reference in memoranda. Who could I trust? Randall. He is the only one I trust – the one I long to see.

And as I sat in the back of a jousting, rattling motor with the dark beauty known and whispered to be the Queen of Limehouse ruthlessness, the thought did occur to snatch upon the latch and leap out of the vehicle at the next approaching turn – but she had said I was a gift. A gift for Randall. And if he did indeed know her – if they were indeed acquaintances – then in my desperation, perhaps the Queen of Limehouse was my safest route.

We soon arrived at the back entrance to the Coca Rooms. A known nightspot in Limehouse. I had heard of it – been in it once, no, twice – and oddly in recollection not with Randall. An expansive public room, musical hall, gaming den, with upper rooms, much like Kettner’s – only these rooms were less rumoured than well-known as those of a brothel – and far dimmer lower rooms. Rooms filled with opium smoke. It was said if one sat at just the right spot one could absorb an arising narcotic mist. We entered what was the stage door as Sal led the way amongst several shirt-sleeved men, and a milling of women in various states of undress, moving listlessly about the well-worn claret carpet lining the several passageways. Mirrors, some hung, some free-standing, tilted to throw off their odd reflections. Wooden chairs and stools and tables shoved back out of way, covered in neglected bottles and glasses, draped with carelessly tossed costumery. I was conflicted with the sight and the thought I needed to advert my eyes, even as I failed to look away at the jounce of exposed breasts. Sal’s amazing voice rather calming as she pointed out various areas, people, as if a guide giving but a leisurely tour. Everyone nodding in dereference to her – and me. A rather stout Chinaman, save for the jacket, already oddly in evening wear for the time of day, with slick-backed hair, and a smouldering cigarette between his lips, strode towards us: —

“Sal. Someone here to see you. Sam told her you was out – but she just took a seat.”

We continued our march along the closeness of the what was the backstage, and down a slight ramp and through a threshold, into the scent of stale tobacco, ale, alcohol, and Vim of the vast dimness of the musical hall and its maze of empty tables. In that the Coca Rooms’s public room as apparently closed – though I assumed there were entrances as well to those other areas of the establishment – the house lighting was subdued, half-lit. Seated at the front of the stage, a strikingly attractive woman, raven haired, in a most expensive jacket and skirt, a creamy silken blouse, and a strand of pearls about her throat, tapped ashes away from her cigarette as we approached. I saw immediately the furrow of her brow as she knew who I was. “I came to explain Jenny.”

“You didn’t trust her to stay away.” Sal said as she came to stand before the table and removed her great coat, to expose the silken cling of the dress to her figure.

I stood silent, perhaps they had forgotten me –

“With good reason. She’s here.” The woman took a slow pull from her cigarette, “I was more than certain at some point she could not resist, and would succumb to temptation, and when she did, I knew it would be you she would come to.”

“You have been unable to find word of Seward.” Sal gracefully allowed her coat to drape over the back of a chair. “And Hennessey has surfaced.”

Seward. I knew the name. Seward – the mad doctor in the novel. Jack Seward – according to the documents, memoranda, from and in regards to the second Edom fiasco, Operation Daughter of Uz, was a member of the ‘Crew of Light,’ and had long fallen in with Van Helsing, who had, unbeknownst until then, been an agent of ‘N’ — the German naval intelligence section, Nachrichtenabteilung — with some shadowy connections to the Vatican. Sometimes known as Max Windshoeffel. Who had, in the time of the ‘Orginal Sin,’ come to take the lead of the “Crew” from Amsterdam. Yet another penetration agent. He had apparently been in Munich, advising on something known as Projekt Mandragora, when Jonathan Harker, Mina’s husband, had discovered the truth of what was happening in Room 42 at Seward’s asylum. Who he and Van Helsing had hidden away – experimented on. Charlotte Lucinda Westenra. Lucy. Who had escaped. To the continent. And I longed now to see once more all those files Mina had brought to my reading room.

The raven-haired woman, whose complexion and features gave a subtle hint to some exotic Near Eastern blood, held her cigarette aside in order to keep from her eyes the curl of its smoke, as she looked to me: – “So, Lieutenant, just how much has the schoolmistress revealed to you?”

I looked at her.

“She’s British Intelligence.” Sal calmly revealed as she pulled back a chair and took a seat across from her.

I looked at them both. British Intelligence? Lascar Sal?

The woman tapped ashes into the small crystal ashtray, “X-Club. Edom – the Chalice – however it has been revealed. Original Sin.” She gave me a quizzical look, “Magdiel. Kings’ College Collective. Stop me when anything ring’s a cord?”

“D Cord.” I mutter in some confused recollection.

“What?” The woman’s attention grew intent.

“D Cord. It was redacted but Pamela had in some way tried to remove the blackening from the document.” I held my hat in hand, certain that whatever it was — this woman knew.
Behind us there was some loud clatter somewhere beyond to disturb the quiet, as I now took notice the whole of the public room and musical hall was empty, save us. Sal was truly queen here. But was she as well in the employee of the crown?

“I said from the start,” The woman, studying her fingers as she slowly crushed the dying embers of her unfinished cigarette into the ashtray, began before she looked up steadily to Sal. “This would have consequences. Whether successful or not.”

“We all know what it means to lose.”

“And him?” The him being me.

“We may need assistance. I don’t trust the Russian.”

Russian? I was confused. I was beyond bewildered. And anxious. How was it possible this woman was a part of – a part of the most audacious secret the government had ever held. Truly it was an original sin.


“Or something like it.”

“What is Peace?” I suddenly asked taking a step forward, owing to the fact they seemed all too well versed in what I had but recently read in Mina Harker’s reading room. “Peace throughout the land.”

“Peace throughout the land. You have seen this?” The raven-haired woman, eyes now narrowed, asked.

“It was in a directive from Oholibamah to Iram. Peace throughout the land.”

“It’s Armageddon.” She said.

“Yes – it said that. Armageddon. Twice. Repeat, Armageddon.”

“Mina Harker has that?”

“Yes. There are boxes of files in the reading room at 201.” I put my hat on their table, “What is it?”

“The destruction of Edom.” The woman said, “To bring it all down. To rebuild from the ashes. It means, the last redoubt has fallen. That he is in Edom. The schoolmistress has seen this?”

“I would assume – it’s in a black ribbon file Dean hid away.”

She looked to Sal, “I need that file.”

“Sam.” Sal said almost too quietly. And from the dimness of the musical hall, I now took notice of a slender oriental, who had been so still, so silent, it was as if he were a part of the shadows – I had heard there were those so skilled. As he drew near, the raven-haired woman looked over to him as well. Sal merely lifted her head and made a slight movement. He gave her a nod of understanding and quickly departed.

“I have to go.” The woman arose. “The girl – and what she is to get is paramount.” She slipped into her coat, and turned to look at Sal. “Do you understand. From this point, everything — everything is expendable.”

As she moved from the table, I called out to her, “Mina Harker? I don’t understand—"

She did not look back as she strode away, “Not to be trusted.”

I watched as she strode purposefully away and then turned my quizzical gaze now full upon Sal. Who and what are you about was readily discernible —

To which she gave me that seemingly ever emotionless look, “You have read Doyle?”

“Conan Doyle? Sherlock Holmes?”

“His consulting detective.”


“Then, let’s just say, I am a consulting criminal.”

And I was given a room, another upper room. Not in the flash house itself, but in a corridor off from it, but one from which I could hear the foot traffic. If one left the door open – and even with it closed, there was a muffled chorus of pleasure, dim, indistinct, but infinitely recognizable, coming through the far wall. The room itself had a surprisingly comfortable bed, a table, chairs, a scarred and battered wardrobe, electric wall lamps – a radiator. Near the window – with a view, over some roof tops and bellowing smoke pipes, of the Thames. Kang Foo Ah, manager of just about everything, as I came to understand, brought me a stack of broadsheet dailies, a ham pie, and a pint. “Anything you want. Cigarettes, whiskey, cocaine. A girl. Not half-price. On the house. You friend of Randall.”

“You know Randall?” I asked stepping away from the window.

He gave me a wry smile. “You stay here – plain-clothes are always in the house when doors open.” He then pointed towards me, “You have the face they easily remember.”

The ham pie was excellent, as was the pint. And the lavishly packaged cigarettes. From Cairo. I had moved the table, so that I could look out the window as I finished the pint, read through the papers, went through several cigarettes, and wondered who Sam was. As frightfully nimble of foot as he appeared, I felt more than certain I would never see Pamela’s file again — Mina most certainly having everything cleared away – what with having had to give up her possession of me. And at that thought I sighed. Having given up possession. First her and now Sal. Possessed by women. Everyone so far this day, of consequence, had been a woman. Mrs Godalmighty, Mina, the young woman – the nark – Jenny, Lascar Sal. The raven-haired woman. Most importantly. The mysterious woman they had alluded to. It was all so incredulous – Veronica, suffragettes decrying their lack of involvement in government, the strictures of a patriarchal society – and yet, in these clandestine shadows they seemed to have been impowered. Even in Stoker’s novel, its Mina Harker, ‘the schoolmistress,’ as he depicted her, seemed not only to be the driving force that dove the men on, but the administrative force that kept them ever on task. Since Dean had pulled the veil back on ‘Original Sin’ and its consequences, it had been women who had seemed to have the gravitational pull upon the events of the last few days. The only ‘_he_’ to whom they seemed to have any concern – was a shadowy pronoun. The Transylvanian Personage. Dracula. And he was in Edom. Beyond the last redoubt, the woman had said – and from her expression – I felt Armageddon was now beyond some mere biblical prophecy. It was tangible and somewhere beyond the gloom of the Thames. Four horsemen were riding. Bringing fire and brimstone. And gunshots.

The day became twilight, and I lay down and dozed; and then, beyond my window, it was night as the sounds of the musical hall arose; I checked by watch. 7:30. I sat up. On the side of the bed, I lit a cigarette and tried to restrain my curiosity as there was the familiar sounds through the wall. And then there was a knock on the door, and Lascar Sal entered – she wore a tight, teal, silken gown of oriental design, the cling of which made me all too conscious of my eyes and I forced myself to look incredulously at the black ribboned file, which she handed me. “Time for some night air.” And she turned and motioned for me to follow. Outside the door, stood a tall, slender, oddly handsome oriental, dressed in a slim dark suit and a white collared shirt, which was well pressed and buttoned up. As I drew closer, I recognized him. It was Sam – who had returned. Sam who had miraculously, in my estimation, retrieved the file. Out of the recessed dimness and shadows now. Upon a closer look of him, it was readily apparent he was of mixed heritage. I gave him a smiling recognition of his prowess. He said nothing as he let me pass; and then, as Sal led the way, he followed.

We moved through the corridor, where, at the intersection of another hallway, I could see several ladies, mostly unclothed, moving about guiding smiling gentlemen. We proceeded down a flight of very narrow backstairs, to the rear of the back stage, where at the door, a red-head in a gossamer dressing gown, held up Sal’s long black coat with edges of teal embroidery. She slipped it on, and hatless, she stepped into the night. A motor cab awaited. Sam took the wheel – and alarming to me, there was only Sal and myself in the back. I glanced anxiously about to see if there was yet another motor following with her entourage of thuggery. There was only our motor cab. The dim headlamps glistened off the patches of crust and slush lying ahead as Sam drove through the icy alleyway and into the busy street.

Limehouse was alive. Light and sounds, and moving crowds, all in flaunt of the restrictions. The Coca Room, was situated off the Limekiln Docks, on Three Colt Street, which we traversed briefly, until at the first intersection, Sam turned into the narrowness of Narrow Street. Our motor cab now a hazard. “However were you able to recover that file — ” I asked, anxiously watching through the windscreen as Sam navigated along the crowded way, “I would have thought rather straightway, she would have had everything removed.”

“She was rather distracted by events at the Victoria Embankment.” She replied, the motor car having slowed as a group of Tommies, on leave, made way their boisterous way across the slippery street before the glare of our head beams; and then, in their wake, came even more of Limehouse’s bold progeny as they spilled before us. “It would seem your Miss Dean was twice lucky today. She was just leaving as they arrived at the Spitalfields flat to which she had taken refuge. And so, they followed her to the Embankment — where things did not go well for them. It seems she took down instead their Postman and the Nurse.”

I remembered them both in Mina’s parlour; Ramage spinning the globe.

“Sam, we are in no hurry.” She said through the slide glass opening of the motor, which was left open for him to hear — being as she apparently ever used a disguised cab. “We want little attention. They have plain-clothes everywhere about. Looking for our Lieutenant.” She gave me a look and a disarming smile, “We shall get to that in a bit. But, suffice it to say, we used the time to gain access. We have all the boxes from your reading room.”

“All of them?” I was amazed. “She will know —”

“Yes—she will. But as she should not have had them there to begin with; she now has her own concerns.” The most amazing thing about her was the fact she seemed ever so calm and serene, for a woman who was purported to have a steel fist in a velvet glove.

We made slow progress up the crowded narrow confines before we came to a halt. Sam stepped out and opened the door for her. Various passers-by shuffle danced on the pavement to step clear, some turning their heads in recognizing her. She alighted from the cab, her black coat and embroidery sweeping from the seat. I took hat in hand and moved to slid across the seat to follow her – to be arrested in the doorway by a look from Sam. Only she placed a hand on his forearm and he allowed me to exit.

Before us stood a terraced shop, whose window was filled with an array of merchandise, such that one could see very little within. Sam opened the door and Sal entered into the scent of the orient. The place was cluttered. Narrow aisled – as was everything apparently on Narrow Street. Three Chinese youths turned and upon seeing her, scurried out the door. A large, muscular seaman, darkened by a South Seas sun, handed a very attractive young girl, no more than fifteen, coins for the cigarettes. He turned to give us an enquiring look. “Gina,” Sal said to the girl, who smiled and nodded to her, even as her eyes watched her customers departing. She asked how was madam doing, and how could she be of service; to which Sal informed her she wanted to speak with Chang Yu. Gina gave a quick, nervous smile and moved along the counter and motioned for Sal to follow. The dim establishment’s walls were adorned with Chinese prints and was lit by gaslight and an array of red lanterns. They gave the place a surreal atmosphere. The counter we moved along was cluttered with glass displays in which one had to point to what one wanted from their veritable trove of miscellanea. There was an aged cash register, into which the girl put the sailor’s coins. On the aisle nearest, there was an odd array of dried sharks’ fins, pickled eggs, lychee fruits, dried chrysanthemum buds. Gina motioned for Sal to move around the slight space leading behind the counter and to a curtained threshold. It was an even tighter space and I was not sure whether to follow. Sam have me a motion of his hand and I did so.

It was the entrance to an even more cluttered room, which seemed to serve as an office as well as a private room, for there was a desk, covered in an avalanche of documents and broadsheets; a glass-doored bookcase used for ledgers; a table with a plate and the remains of some earlier half- eaten fried meal, several glasses and a wine bottle; two chairs, and a small crumpled bed. In a swivel chair at the desk there sat an old Chinaman, in dark trousers and a silk jacket and enough rings adoring his hands to have been a Hatten Garden jeweller. “Lascar Sal. How of service can we be to you, this evening?”

“Word has come to me that there are enquires being made. Rohmer.”

“Ah, the Devil Doctor author.” The old man smiled widely, “Yes. Yes, he comes. Many times. He seeks cigarettes and betel nuts. And colour, he says.”

I felt awkward, in that the room was small, and there was within it, Gina, Old Chang Yu, and Sal, whom I stood in the threshold behind, holding the curtain back. Sam stood with his back to us, his keen eyes ever watching the shop, and more importantly the entrance.

“Cigarettes and betel nuts. And chrysanthemum tea, I would suppose.” Sal’s tranquil voice, “Inspiration perhaps. And colour. And maybe, a little tittle-tattle?” And suddenly serene as she appeared, she abruptly turned and there in her hand was a small keen blade, and with her forearm she violently pressed Gina up against a wooden cupboard — lifting her so that she was upon the tips of her toes. The point of the knife to the girl’s throat: –

“What did he want?”

“Asking questions about whispers and rumours.” The old man, started to rise, thought better of it and sat, his voice cracked with concern seeing the knife at the girl’s throat,” I tell him this is Limehouse; it is filled with whispers and rumours.”

“Cigarettes and betel nuts. Whispers and rumours. And colour.” She said not looking at the girl, but the old man.

“Brightwater. He ask about Brightwater. “

The point of the blade pressing at the throat of the frightened girl, whose eyes pleaded with the old man, as I saw the draw of blood.

“I tell him I know nothing of Brightwater. No one knows of Brightwater. Kitchen was to have been heroin. Balderston’s. Word said. But it was something else. They burn it down.” The old man looked at the girl, a helplessness in his eyes. I was uncertain what to do – the poor girl was crying and trying not to, she knew it only added to the tension, but she couldn’t help herself. “He asks, I tell, others asking too. Private enquiry agent.”

“What private enquiry agent?”

“Hudson & Brand. He gave a name. I don’t know. I don’t remember.” He kept his eyes on the girl; her toes barely touching the floor.

“So, nothing more than cigarettes and betel nuts. Brightwater. And colour.” The blade point having pierced the flesh ever so slightly – and in doing so, there was ever the hazard that should the girl slip, should Sal’s many ringed hand miscalculate —

“He say Cleopatra of Crime.”

“Those words. Cleopatra of Crime?”

“Ask of whispers. About her. Whose shadow is it?”

“And you said?”

“I say whispers and rumours of rumours. It is Limehouse. Only name I know, Lascar Sal.”

Silence. The girl’s stifled cries. The creak of the swivel chair.

“My mother worked the boards of musical halls.” Sal looking now at the old man, “Several. Moving about one to the other. Nothing grand, mind you. Until, they all seemed to blur. One into another. And then — she was gone.” The blade of the knife still pressed to the trembling girl’s throat, the tips of the toes seeking purchase of the dirty floor. “Until even now, I cannot remember the name of anyone of them.” I was frozen now not only by the tenseness within the cramped room but the seeming utter unpredictably of what Sal would do, “From now on, its cigarettes and betel nuts. Chrysanthemum tea. No more names. No more whispers. No more rumours. No more colour.” The blade ever at the girl’s throat, ringed fingers holding it, Sal’s eyes now drawn to the point, the draw of blood, “No more tittle-tattle. Do you understand?”

“No more.”

Her forearm released the girl. The blade point pulled away. And Sal stood for a moment, looking at the old man in the swivel chair, before she turned and gave me a glance. What chilled me was the fact there was not a trace of the previous malevolence in her countenance, which was calm, tranquil, seemingly devoid of any emotion.

Once more out into the night’s wintery air and the jostle of passers-by, in the soft glow of the shop window’s illumination, as the street lighting was restricted, she softly spoke a moment to Sam as I entered the motor cab. Through the hazard of the crowded throughfare we made our way once more. Unable to shake the feeling – out there something was coming. I recalled the insanity of the reverend’s litany of madness. The look in his eyes. Before he toppled. Given to gravity and suddenly knowing it. I felt it myself having fallen – into the hush of the world of secret services, into the darken streets of Sal’s underworld. The sudden unpredictable violence of a knife to a young girl’s throat. Awaiting Armageddon. Unable to shake the fact that everything I had seen in Edom seemed overly biblical. Perhaps in some way seeking God’s protection – or forgiveness. But knowing the price of ‘ Original Sin .’ I must say, I had not at all been that religious. My father being a Presbyterian, of Calvin, had been a hammer for the Lord and the Law, and now here I sat in the back seat of a motor cab with a woman of infamous repute — a woman who had held the point of a knife to the throat of young girl – who as capable of who knew what – and as I looked out the window, I felt once more the ominous sense of something out there moving through the night, the streets of London. Ever since reading it, Repeat: Armageddon The thought ever drifting in and out of my thoughts. For all the sordidness of Limehouse, the violence I had just witnessed, sitting there beside the Cleopatra of Crime, I could not help but think far worse existed, for out there was an even more sinister force. Crime and violence being but an everyday occurrence – whereas, there was a far more horrific threat lurking in the shadows. Something ominous, something which had caused an alliance apparently with someone like Sal. What was once the stuff of superstition, dreams and myth, was now a verifiable truth. What had Mina said? What if you knew? What if you knew Vampires were real? What would you do? And that was now my reality. Even as the point of a blade to a fifteen-year-old girl’s throat. I should be heading to Fleet Street. I had the black ribbon file. The boxes of evidence. But – in looking out at the streets of London, at the shops, the terraced buildings, houses and flats, aware within everyone was but going about their lives, in the bliss of having no knowledge. What if they knew? Hawkers crying out on street corners. Bold headlines and column upon columns of inches. It would be bedlam. In that once you knew — how would you know –in that everything you think you know is but disinformation. They walk about in daylight. In daylight. And what about mirrors? Didn’t Stoker invent that? It could be any one. A glance to Sam behind the wheel. Sal beside me, lost in thoughts of her own. Everyone would be looking at everyone askance. Neighbour against neighbour. Wondering? Wooden stakes in hand? Panic. Everyone with a point to a fifteen-year-old girl’s chest. The very reason authority had kept the knowledge contained. Hysteria. A revolution. Some would have welcomed the it.

We made our way to the West End. Haddon Street. Traffic grew as we approached. The Cavern of the Golden Calf. Sam once more as chauffeur opening the door for her. As I got out and buttoned my coat, I had a thought to run. I knew the area. But I was brought up short by Sam holding out an automatic. I looked at it. “I assume you are familiar with firearms?” She said as the wind swilled about the cul-de-sac and across the way, a laughing couple made their way to the entrance. I took the Browning. She gave me a quick smile and turned her attention to the entrance of the night spot. “Sam?”

He shifted his shoulders. “Everything is in order.”

The place was a riot. Whatever the restrictions. Someone was certainly passing notes and not cheques to some hands in high places. And some of those most likely were even sitting at the tables sipping champagne and laughing about it. I was told by Sam to leave the hat on. We both walked beside her and I suddenly remembered Randall – outside Dean’s flat – and Wilhelm Voight and the 4000 marks. It was all confidence — and so, I must say, with each step, looking at the tables of those glancing up at us as we passed, I felt myself taking on the role of one of Sal’s hardman. And there were looks, seeing the Asiatic fashion of her dress, the embroidery of her coat – of quick recognition.

“Good evening, Sal. It is a pleasure to see you once more.” The man was elegantly dressed, evening wear from Saville. He was not tall, but he had a presence, and a slyness in his eyes.


“Before we proceed, I must have some assurances. There are various revellers here tonight, on both sides, who have not come for the merrymaking. Per our agreement, tonight, the Cavern is as my homeland. Yes.”

“Armed neutrality.”

“Precisely.” He smiled warmly, “This way please.”

Through the crowd we made our way towards the rear bar, our guide, ever nodding pleasantly to those in passing before we veered off, moving to a side door. On our way I took notice of several gentleman with glasses set before them, but with eyes only for Sal. Even as I oddly watched various well-dressed woman doing the same. As we passed through the threshold, I felt Sam’s tension rise as we followed in the wake of Sal and the elegant Anton.

The room was an office but appeared more as a parlour. Wallpapering, electric lamps, end tables, chairs, a sofa, a large dark mahogany desk. And a group of women. Two standing, one seated at a large round topped table. Behind the desk sat a stylish blonde, wearing an expensive gown and holding a small black cigarette holder, the smoke of which curled about the shade of the desk lamp. “Ah, if only the men of this world could come together, sit down, and settle their differences,” The woman behind the desk said as she removed the last of her cigarette from the black lacquered holder and stubbed it out.

“T’is ain’t parliament an we ain’t men, so we don’t need’naw speeches.” The large shouldered, young woman seated at the small round table, dressed in posh finery, which was seemingly off-put by the large, gaudy rings that adorned every finger – much like Sal, only hers were large, tawdry, looking more like elaborate knuckledusters – and, as I looked at her, she appeared far younger than I had at first thought, perhaps twenty, certainly no older, and would have been, the tallest in the room had she arose. She kept her eyes ever upon Sal. The eyes of the other women, both of whom were young as well, barely out of their teens, were on Sam and I. The one closest to the seated girl being well-dressed and looking as she had but left a Mayfair dining room, in order to just make the meeting; while the other stood behind her wearing a man’s well-tailored suit.

“Christabel.” Sal said acknowledging the woman behind the desk, “The hospitality is most appreciated. This should not take up too much of your time.”

“No time at all.” She smiled, sitting back and taking up a small glass of whiskey.

Sal stepped over to the table and took a seat. “Alice.”

“We could ‘ave done t’is at Elep’ant and Circle,” Alice said, “Wit goodwill and ‘ospitality. A show of faith — all around. We, toget’er. Wat? Being as tat’s wat we’re agreein’ to, innit?”

The room was quiet.

I grew tense as I took notice that the lovely blonde behind the desk had sat slightly forward. Sam beside me, eyes keenly upon the young women either side of the girl at the table, in particular, the young woman in the tailored suit, who seemed as relaxed as he. Then again, his every move seemed at ease.

“But, t’is ‘ere isn’t just about us, is it? It’s for your ot’er audience. Got yer eyes lookin’ on New York. Wich don’t pay me no ever mind. One way or ta’uther. So, there’s gin to drink. West End, Forty Elep’ants. East, you an’yours. Agreed.


“Yes. Yes, she says.” The young woman said with a tossing wave of her bejewelled fingers, “You ‘ear,” And she cocked her head ever so slightly, “So, w’at’s t’is on Long Street, eh? Lambeth. Southwark is Forty Elep’ants. ‘as ever ben. An’so, is not in’ta discussin’.”

Having tried to be a Voigt, I had stood beside Sam, giving them all as much an eye as I figured a hardman would, well aware of the Browning in my waistband pressing against the small of my back – even as the mention of Southwark immediately caught my attention. I could not help but remember my conversation with Strangways on our way to the reverend’s house: She’s moved. Living with some socialists. Southwark. Never you no mind . And I tried to push Veronica out of it, even as I looked at the fashionable girl, whose eye caught mine —

“It’s not East End. It’s not West End. It’s wrapping something up. It’s Parisian.”

“Parisian? ‘aute Couture, is it?” Alice smiled rather wickedly.

“As I said it is wrapping something up. By the end of the week.”

“Anarchists and socialists is w’at it is, and t’ey bring Special Branch.” She said, “Rappin’ up, is it? By th’end-ofta week. Not a mint’it aft’er. Agreed?”


They stood and I was surprised at how tall Alice was. They stepped forward and gave each other a bit of an embrace.

“For w’at it’s worth – best take care ‘ith New York. Don’t be trustin no wops.” Alice cast a look at Christabel, “We’re all juss pussies under’a skirt to’em – less yre t’eir mum.”

As they moved now to leave, the girl in the tailored suit stopped in passing to look at Sam. She smiled and they left. “Won’t be anyone taking the throne from her any time soon.” Christabel said as placed the fresh cigarette she had been holding in her holder.

“Alice? She’ll be in lock up inside a month.” Sal said. “You spoke to your contacts in New York?”

“Baltimore and Chicago.” Obviously American — she nodded as she lit the cigarette. “San Francisco as a well. How much do have coming in?”

“More than enough.” Sal said as she stepped leisurely to the desk. “Carmichael Pemberton. Has he been in tonight?”

Christabel took up the small glass of whiskey, as she arose from the desk, “Unless he’s out there gladhanding, I haven’t seen him. But I’ve been otherwise engaged.”

“Can I use your telephone.” Sal asked, reaching for it. The attractive American sauntered round the desk and approached, “And who are you?”

“He’s not for you.” Sal said, and then turned her attention to the call, even as Christabel, curling her glass back towards her chest, introduced herself as Christabel Winthrop, from New York, co-owner of the newly renovated club, and whenever I grew tired of the Coca Room’s entertainments to come back to the Cavern, and she would see to it that I was properly entertained. When asked, I relied once more upon Randall: Bradley Loam, I told her.

There are worlds within worlds. As we made our way back out into the club, the lively music, the dancing, the laughing, the din of loud conversations, waiter’s moving although the labyrinth of tables, the haze of cigarette smoke, lifted high-ball and champagne glass, it was all a relaxed good time; while at home, for some of those seated, there was the wife and children, the same for the waiter’s toiling at their livelihood; beyond across the channel, there were the Tommies in their trenches, in the muck and death; at the War Ministry, the Admiralty there were those meeting, strategizing, planning those deaths; and out in the shadows of the street there was ever an underworld of criminals, and I was now moving amongst them. They too were meeting strategizing, planning, and plotting. Even while, as the boxes in Mina’s shadow house had shown, there were as well, a hidden species doing the same. Even as was the shadowy Edom. Fractions seeking power – plotting. And the woman in the low backed gown, bearing her tonic and gin, who all but stumbled into us saw none of it. Barely saw me as I strode along beside Sam, with Sal as our Moses, leading our exodus out of Arron’s Idolatry. For as my Calvinist father would have it – I was now of the chosen. The elect. For the veil was being rent, and I tonight I was being given the revelation of the secret world — and those in the shadow of the preterition.

Out of the Cavern and into the motor car, we were once more moving even as the horsemen were riding.

At some point I could not stop myself: —

“Southwark —” I started to say.

“Peace through the land. Isn’t that so aspirational. The lion lying down with the lamb. Two sides coming together at a table and settling disparate differences. Swords into ploughshares. Relationships based on trust. Whereas in truth, we barely know those to whom we think of fondly. Who do we know, truly? Do you even know who you are?” She replied, her gaze not upon me but through the window to the night beyond. “Sometimes we think we know, who we are — until events transpire which reveals to us, precisely who we truly are. So, the question should be,” her gaze turning to me, “To ask yourself, Lieutenant, do you truly know her?”

“How do you know her?” I enquired in return.

“What are friends for?” She asked with that impassive steadiness, “Randall. Did you not seek him out? Did he not find his way into these unfortunate events that you find yourself within? Which he now finds himself within? Because of friendship. His to you.” We sat for a moment in the cold rattle of the motor cab.

“You have stepped through a threshold into my world. And here, you find I am definitive. I hurt people. I bring violence. And on occasion, I bring death. To become what I am, I have let go of humanity. And yet, the one thing I find I still whole dear, is the concept of friendship. Randall is my friend. He has expressed to me his desire to help you, and Miss Wells. Her I am not so sure – but you? You are here with me.”

I looked at her.

“And so, you see – Randall – ever a friend. Miss Wells? A friend or a lover? And a lover— what is that?” The emotion in her voice not in her eyes,? “Sharing linen? That is not love. Let me assure you. Lovers come and go like the changing of those linens. Whereas Friendship? Allegiance. Loyalty. That bond of true friendship? Lieutenant. I can truly count that on one hand with fingers to spare. We know what Randall is trying to do? But — what will she do for you? That Lieutenant is what you should be asking. When temptation comes; when seated at the table and given a clear understanding of who she is and what she wants. Truly, what she wants. Will that be you?”

And she sat in silence looking at me – and I? I did not have an answer. I had already begun re-evaluate my relationship with Veronica. Had already begun to question what I knew about her. Even as I asked that about myself. Having lived in the shade of my father, I had played at being a bright young man about town, frivolously finding my way into and out of troubles – until I found my way into the Admiralty. The world at war. But even there, I had been but the bright young lad with a smoke and a grin and a laugh, a day’s work and a hand of cards – until getting my teeth into those damnable misplaced documents. I had found myself quite enjoying the curiosity and mystery of it all – the conspiring whispers with Pamela over a spot of tea. The adventure of Exeter – playing the sleuth – I had found exhilarating. As I must admit to even now – as a fugitive, as an accomplice to two women I have absolutely no idea as to which is the more ruthless – or even what they are truly about — on the scale of justice, who is to the good.

The dimness of the headlamps shone on the wooden piling and barriers, some of which were still dappled with snow, along the riverside as the motor car pulled to halt. There was the stonework and from it a low pier in the Limehouse Basin. From what I could see, it looked as if it had been left to neglect, as newer piers and wharfs had been built up along the whole of the East London riverside district. Motor running, Sam got out of the cab and opened the door for her to step out into the night. I found myself following. We were standing on some lonely, and I felt, godforsaken patch of land between the mud banks and docks, where the forlorn pier, with the stone steps leading down, had once permitted the loading of cargo onto small ships. And now, perhaps used more for illicit purposes. The day’s sun had been at work, but had left a scatter of snowy drifts and freezing slush. Our shoes crushed into the crust and the cold found its way through my soles. For a moment, Sal stood silent looking out into the darkness before she moved forward; descending the icy steps leading down to the landing, where alone, with the wind shifting and swirling, catching as it bellowed about her unbuttoned longcoat, her unpinned hair, she strode slowly out along the wooden planks into the rising mist.

I was uncertain – as to where we were. Or why? I stood impatiently watching as she leisurely strolled out into the gloomy darkness, out to the end, further into the rising fog, all but fading from sight, as she stood to look into the night and the water. I pulled my coat about me; it was cold and damp. Sam stood silent beside me. There was the sudden flash and flare of a match as he lit a cigarette. The pungent scent of sulphur riding now over the bilge and fetid odours of the river. He tossed the match before him and exhaled a long plume of smoke which I smelt more than I saw. “Three years ago, there was a murder.” He said.

“Not that murder here, at this place, isn’t an uncommon occurrence. But three years ago, you see, there was a very handsome, leading man. The dashing Freddie Fields. Having had his last good night on the boards, he decided to take his leading lady out, and about, in order to celebrate their closing of the show. To much applause. And standing ovations.” He took another draw of the cigarette, as he kept his eyes on Sal. “There was tragedy in the air that night. His leading lady, she had had a most distressing history. Youth and frivolity. And an unfortunate introduction to Mr Morphine and his Sister Cocaine. They had become a fast threesome. To them she had long lost the stage. The applause. The acclaim. Until quite by chance, she happened upon a second opportunity.” Out on the wooden planks, a darken figure revealed only by the light of the moon, by the dim glow of the lanterns of the Limehouse Basin, we watched as Sal seemed to turn to face the shivering wind. “Rare that. Don’t you think, Lieutenant? Second opportunities. For you see the show’s original leading lady had abruptly decided to depart the show for grander endeavours. The Kinescope.” He took another long pull of the cigarette. “And so, to what few are given, Freddie’s new leading lady, was given a second chance. But alas, it was short lived as the show had only several weeks left to close. All bets being hedged of course. By the Producer. And so, she returned. To accolades and reviews. A grand closing night. Thrill and excitement in the air. The bows are taken. The curtain falls. And the dashing and handsome Freddie Fields, ever beguiling, tenders an invitation to celebration. A tour of the nightlife. The City. At some point in the festivities, there is of course the lure of Limehouse. East India Docks. Pennyfields. Narrow Street. Only Freddie is unaware of his leading lady’s propensity for too much. And so, into places they should not have gone, handsome Freddie having imbibed over much in a club of low repute says something foolish. Disrespectful. It is but an Oriental after all. A Chinaman. Only it is a Chinaman of the Azure Dragon Tong.” I looked at Sal in the mists. “And so, dashing, handsome Freddie and his lovely leading lady, they find themselves here. In the wind. In the cold. In the dark.” He paused for a moment, and exhaled another draught of the thin rolled cigarette, “Here, where foolish Freddie is allowed to watch as they slide a long blade into his shivering lady. To watch her fall on the wooden planks. Blood dripping between them into the water. That is before they put a bullet into dashing Freddie’s handsome face. They left her there for dead. Left her there alone to pull herself along those planks by her bloody hands. Until salvation came. That was three years ago. Tonight.”

She strolled slowly back along the wooden planks as Sam tossed the comet of his cigarette into the night. I felt the sudden rush of a cold night wind. And in a shiver remembered oddly that the house of Hades is a cold dark labyrinth. Not Hell’s hot. And as she drew closer, she seemed a Persephone emerging now from the mists. Hades’s prisoner released. The four horsemen riding.

In the night everything is louder and so I heard the crunch of tyres on the ice and crust before turning to see the dim headlamps of a motor car cutting through the night. Buffed by the wind, I pulled at my lapels to huddle into the warmth of my overcoat, as Sal was ascending the six or seven stone steps. There was the lapping sound of the river. Sounds from beyond the river. A train from the distant railway-line. A dog barking. Then then another. The motor cab drew closer and soon we were illuminated by its head beams. Sam strode forward towards it. I stood watching as he opened the door and motioned to whomever was within. A man got out. He put on his bowler hat and with Sam at his side, he began walking over towards us, a cane in hand.

Footsteps crushing in the snow.

“Ah, Sal, so, what, this the site of your new establishment?” The gentleman said, his steps now, in approaching, growing slower than before, as he made his way toward us; his eyes now taking in the location, perhaps recognizing where he was — and he sighed, “It’s the thirteenth. Florence, I’m—”

“The Moring Post. No, The Daily News. The Telegraph. The Pall Mall Gazette. The Star.” She said, the cold wind stirring her hair. “The Evening Standard. The Evening News. The Times. No, you never worked the Times, did you?”

“You have kept up with my career.”

“Have you ever felt a blade against a rib?” Her voice soft almost a whisper in the shivery wind, as she took a step closer to him. “It is said, you have one less than I.”


“Is dead.” Her shoe crunching in the crust of snow. She stood now very close to the man and leaned forward ever so slightly; her voice almost a feather in the wind, “You’ve been in Limehouse. Whispering. Haven’t you, Carmichael.”

He didn’t answer. Only the dog in the distance barking.

“Not only you. But friends of yours. For the clacking of your keys. Sent devil may care into the wickedness.”

She stood for a moment looking at him.

“The Lieutenant here, can tell what becomes of friends – whose friends lead them astray.”

“Lieutenant?” His eyes glanced towards me.

“Sam.” Sal said, taking a step back.

I still had the Browning. Had they forgotten having handed it to me there in the cul-de-sac outside the entrance to the Cavern. The thought itself was beyond incredulous. No – neither Sam – and certainly not Sal – would have done so. Was letting me retain it a test? To see if I would pull it and try to escape? But where to – although Lascar Sal’s was a port of nefarious criminality, it was still a safe harbour. Perhaps for myself – but not for others. That young girl and now this gentleman. A test. Could I just stand by — I felt the press of the Browning against the small of my back—

The sound of Sam’s footsteps in the darksome vestiges of snow seemed loud as he stepped over to the car and opened the door.

“Brightwater.” Sal said as she turned and motioned towards it. “I want you to tell me everything you know. Everything you think you know.”

A fresh gust of wind from the river brought with it shivers and a revival of a scented miasma of mud and bilge and the pungent stench of the effluence from the Thames. I watched as the man, cane in hand, seeming holding it warily, not needing it apparently owing to some handicap, but rather as an affectation, stepped over and but for a moment hesitated before he climbed into the back of the cab, followed by Sal. Sam closed the door on their confession box.

I fought the shiver of the wind and I searched up a cigarette and a light. Tossing the match away, relieved of the scent of the river by the cloud of sulphur and Turkish tobacco., I watched them in the motor, conversing. The man with the cane, who I have since discovered to be Carmichael Pemberton, a reporter, late of the Evening News, appeared to be doing the lion’s share of talking. I glanced back at the other motor car, idling, its head beams still cutting through the shifting mists. The silhouettes of the two men in overcoats, their hands at their sides, at the ready. And then to Sam, who stood several feet from the door of the cab as sentry. And, as before, I carefully surveyed the situation with thoughts of slipping away. But the head beams illuminating us, made my movements to the two men quite obvious. And were I to take a few casual steps to move out of the light, to move into the gloom of the darkness and mist, I was uncertain just what lay beyond. Should I make a break, how far would it be to any concealment? And the terrain? Mud to hamper my movement, to suck upon my shoes. Ice to slip upon. I sighed a long plume from my cigarette. And as before, I once again found myself asking, why? Why was I contemplating bolting? For whatever I had observed, been made privy to this evening, no threat had been made towards me. In fact, there was in some way an almost tacit implication I was being assimilated into her entourage. Why?

Eventually, the door of the motor opened. They exited as the man put on his hat and with a nod to Sam, began making his way from the cab, moving slowly towards me even as he made his way back to the car that had delivered him. “Don’t do anything reckless, old man.” He said with a smile, and then motioned to my cigarette, “Got a light?”

I handed it over and stopping in his advance, using my matches, he withdrew one from the box, its sparking flame flaring suddenly, he lit the cigarette he had removed from his case – having removed and put it away cautiously – as he glanced over to see Sal speaking to Sam, who, in reply to something, was consulting his pocket watch. “Though life is short and uncertain, all things considered, I have a feeling that as long as you are in her possession, yours is rather more assured. In any event stay close to Sam. If anyone has a clue as to what is whirling about in that lovely, unpredictable head, it is he.” He handed the box of matches back, “Funny, you don’t look like a spy.” I merely looked at him, as he smiled, “I must say, I am quite looking forward to sitting down and hearing all about it.” He gave me a rather rakish look and then with a heft of his cane, strolled on toward the awaiting car: —

“Right gentlemen – seeing as I have a car awaiting, can I give you boys a lift?” I heard his deep, gravelly voice enquire as he stepped closer toward the silhouettes.

“Lieutenant.” I turned to see Sal, at the open door of the cab, looking at me. I tossed the cigarette into the night and entered the awaiting motor. And we were off and away from the river, once more into the darken streets, moving through the night.

“You told him who I was?” My anxiety sounding far too much like irritation, I reflected, even as I had given it voice.

“No,” She settled her coat about her, “Carmichael’s difficulty is he has far too much impetuousness for his talent. And he is considerably talented.”

“Once he is away from you – what assurance is there he will not go straightway to Scotland Yard.”

“You are the assurance,” She gave me a look as if it the answer to my question was quite perfectly obvious, “He would much rather speak to you directly than through any impediments and official interpretations of what might be permissible.”

“I — I want to see Randall.” I told her,

“There will come a time, Lieutenant,” she replied, “At the moment, I have something I want to show you.”

We were moving through a maze of side streets, some still snow-covered owing to the lack of sun from the shade of the narrowness of the lanes; to soon make our way past sawmills, lead-works, dry docks, ship-repair-yards, factories and workshops, until once more we were among cheap lodging-houses and brothels, dark public-houses, pawn-shops and sordid dance-halls, as we eventually moved into Stepney. From whence I had begun the day. We took an alley, then pulled to a halt. Sam performing as ever his role as chauffeur, quickly out of the cab, opening the door, for her – and I followed.

It was dark and cold and I took notice of the scurry of rats, moving away from her, as she leisurely walked along the icy alleyway. Sam, once more her Napoleon, hand on his gun, stepping ahead and pulling open a door. We entered a dank tenement. There was the sound of coughing, a baby crying, some couple arguing, the man fuckin’ this and fuckin’ that, as we made our way down a corridor to the stairs, and ascended two flights up. Sam opened a door – it was a horrid flat. Small, miserable, and too well lived in. Nothing having ever been tidied away. There was a half-eaten meal left on a table. No one turned on the gaslight, or lit the tallow on the table. Door closed; we were in what light was afforded by the windows looking out upon the street.

Jamaica Street. Upon a closer look, I could see the front entrance of No 201. Mina’s shadow site. There was Strangways’s Wolsey. I looked at her.

“Time?” She asked Sam, who had removed his pocket watch once more.

“Should be a few minutes – but of course whenever have they been on time.”

“Punctuality is Mina’s hallmark.” And as she said it, I heard the sound of a motor car and behind it a large police van. “The curtain rises.” Sal’s voice a feather beside me. The car and van pulled to a halt in front of No. 201. I felt her hand restrain me as I leaned forward to the window glass, attempting to peer down, having recognized the man who stepping from motor car, almost before it had stopped, seemed to be giving directions and hand signals to the mobilizing force. It was the City Detective-Inspector Randall and I had met in Pamela’s flat.

“You are a gift. A gift which keeps on giving, Lieutenant.” Sal said softly. “Wilhelmina’s stratagem was always to retire Dean. And to that end, that is why she ever had you on her string.”

I could only give her a quizzical look.

“The German spy. You were to have engineered the assassination.”

Suddenly there was a gunshot: ——

And then a fusillade of gunfire from the building. Answering fire. Yells and cries of men scurrying away from the building. Scrambling men seeking cover behind the vehicles in the street. Police firing up at the upper windows where automatic pistols replied.

An Armageddon of gunfire.

“Word was already on the pavements. Given to City Police as to the neighbourhood wherein Bradley McFarlane had taken refuge. Plain-clothes men out and about. Seeking word of the exact location, but never quite finding it. While a telephone was but awaiting the call.”

Shouts of men as they fell back to better positions across the street. An occasional gun firing before being answered by another loud fusillade.

“All according to plan. Although Dean survived – the attempt was made. Guns fired at Victoria Embankment. Mina’s assassins dead. The postman. A lovely nurse. Pity — I had used her myself on occasion. Rather efficient, actually. Sometimes it’s just bad timing. But, all in all the plan still holds. The daring work of that mastermind and spy – Bradley McFarlane.”

I stood back from the window, looking down. I could see the City Detective-Inspector, moving along the pavement, giving out directions, as if oblivious to the fire from the upper room of No 201. Oblivious – or well aware they were intended to miss.

“And yet, there is a complication to her plan. The loss of documents. Documents she should never have had. Ever playing two ends against themselves. Using you as assassin, while at the same time using you to look into whatever Dean may possibly have discovered. Since she had no plans to speak to Dean. No time. And so, she has had to improvise – devising some way in which the documents were seemingly obtained by you. Once that had been accomplished; the stage is set. Word will be given to Jenny and she will make the call.”

The horsemen riding. I had felt it coming all evening.

“The police will arrive. There is a terrible exchange. In so doing, a fire will be set – and lo and behold, a dastardly German spy and horrific vivisectionist, will not only escape – but it will be discovered that a valuable cache of documents, taken by the traitorous Dean, and now in the hands of the infamous German spy, will all be lucky destroyed in the ensuing confrontation. Mina at her best is efficient, and ever tidy – even when events spiral out of control. And once more Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane will be available, a fugitive. So, you see — you are the gift that just keeps on giving.”

I looked at her – “But, she has to know who now has them. Who told you about them; and so, she will be coming for them. And me."

“Yes. Well – I would guess that makes me your new best friend.”

She Has Much To Lose
Session Fourteen, Part Four


14 March, 1916 – from the Diary of Thomas Smith – AM

The morning was brisk. Winds making it colder. Hoping it would be better. Least the snows have stopped. Paper this morning brings reports of the Price of Verdun as they say. The huns shelling Reims with deluge of shells it says. Makin no progress rather than to add to the causality lists. And here I be ironing the paper for him that sits at his desk lawyerin for them that profit and he could be doing his bit as leastwise as should I. I am of a mind to put aside the pay and take up the colours. What with things here that are going on what with them that her ladyship has brought in to the house. But leastwise it may be in Gods’ hands now as the conscription will be making the decision that I should be making – soon. Mrs Clarke in the servant’s hall this morning being in her usual form —

“I for one can’t say I am shocked. It’s in the blood. That’s for certain. And it’s not at all her fault. Her father was unwise to say the least. You can have your way all you want – but you don’t bring them home.”

“What’s that now Mrs Clarke?” I placed the tray with Mr Robert’s breakfast dishes and cutlery.

“Talkin about that lunatic and her companion.” Marge says as she looks out the back window to the gardens hidden still with snow.

“You mean Miss Carstairs.” I asks.

“You keep your eyes to yourself, Thomas.” Mrs Clarke says as she lit up her cigarette.

“But she’s a right looker, Mrs Clarke, I must say.”

“You mind yourself young Thomas. I hear it said she’s a detective.”

“A copper?” Marge asks turning around sudden like.

“One of them private enquiry ones.” Mrs Clarke says.

“Like that Sherlock Holmes.” Marge asks stepping over to the conversation.

“Don’t be daft – he’s a fiction in a book.” I says with a smile.

“You have time for reading. We’ve got breakfast for three more than usual and what them hens eggs going to jump up into the water to boil on their own?” Mrs Barnes snaps as she comes from the pantry.

“We’re not reading – we’re just talkin about that lunatics lady.” Marge says.

‘Ain’t enough I got three more to prepared for and with little word to get ready for them. Pantry’s low enough as it tis. And now I hears there’s to be an inspection of the kitchen.” She says with that same as usual upward toss of her hand in quite some vexation.

“Inspection of the kitchen.” Mrs Clarke says looking very concerned – as if the kitchen is hers and not Mrs Barnes.

“That Miss Renfield has some fascination with it, I hear. And so, her ladyship says she wants her to see the kitchen and to meet with me. I have no idea what that is all about. Swapping recipes and like? I don’t likely imagine. As if she’s ever been to a stove, I don’t think. Colin, he says she’s some high and mighty investment something or other. Owns her own company. So, I am sure she has her own cook and no doubt a true scullery maid, if not two.”

“Guests are of the house. They don’t need guided tours through the kitchen. What’s next, wanting to see our rooms and inspect the wardrobes?” Mrs Clarke says in a puff of smoke.

“She ain’t right, that Miss Renfield. She talks to herself. I hear her. And she taps things.” Marge says.

“Taps things” I asks.

“She starts talking and suddenly it’s like she forgets where she is or what’s she sayin and you can’t rightly follow what’s going to come out next. One things not leading to another, you know. She ain’t right. She shouldn’t be here – not with the little one.” Margery says.

“I am unaware that the guests to this house must first receive approval of staff.” Mr Haines suddenly says as he enters and gives that glare. “Mr Robert has departed and her ladyship, and guests, will be coming down shortly to breakfast. And as I can see the sideboard is bare, I assume there is something incorrect with my eyes — else it should not be.”

“Her ladyship going about them swords again, before or after?” Mrs Barnes asks.

“Milady will be exercising. Fencing is the correct word.” Mr Haines confirms. “As yet, I am unaware of the milady’s sequence of events, as they are to happen, this morning; but, whatever they may be, as there are guests in the house, there will be a sideboard for breakfast available to accompanied whatever their whim.”

And so, everyone gets back to their duties – save Mrs Clarke who sits to finish her smoke. And as Mrs Barnes and Marge finish up the breakfast and place the serving dishes out and cover them, I take them up to the dining room and set the sideboard. Mr Haines is about to see who is up and about and coming down. When he returns he does up his inquisitive inspection of the sideboard and nods approval, “Look lively, Thomas. We are a small staff, but we represent the dignity of her Ladyship’s house. And we ever want to be certain we present it in its best light.” He says.

“Right you are, Mr Haines." I says.

He frowns and motions to the cuff of my jacket. There is something, a smudge of flour or something, from the kitchen. I hurriedly wipe at it.

As her ladyship enters. It seems they are to be about it again before breakfast. That dancing they do with swords that Mr Haines calls fencing in that we had to move the furniture about last night for this morning, and here she comes dressed for it in them thick white coat things she wears with hearts on them.

“Good morning Haines, Smith. All was well last night, I take it?” Her ladyship says brightly as she ever does.

“Yes, milady although . . . " Mr Haines says in that way he says when he has more to say.

“Yes, Haines?” Her ladyship stops her quick inspection of the breakfast upon the sideboard.

“Well, milady, I am certain there was a very good reason for it, but, Miss Carstairs, at about half-past-ten last night, slipped out of the house. And returned quite some time later. To put it mildly, milady, where was something, well, a bit furtive about her movements. As I observed. And I thought you would like to be made aware; in that I well know you are quite concerned about the safety of Miss Renfield.” He says in that manner of his when he is talking to her ladyship, about things they discuss when Mr Robert is not about. For although it tis Mr Robert who puts on his trousers in this house, it is to her ladyship that Mr Haines ever attends.

“I see.” Her ladyship says and it is of concern I could see. “Well, I suppose there’s naught for it but to ask her. Perhaps some errand that Zo asked of her. I must say I am woefully uninformed in the ways of enquiry agents.”

“Quite. I felt I should let you know.” He says.

“Thank you, Haines.” And ever as it is betwixt them, she nods.

And then there is the sound of her, the lunatic.

14 March 1916 – Morning, early – Excerpt from Zo Renfield’s Journal

Come to bed, is she coming to bed, will she come to bed, was she ever coming to bed. I had lain down wanting her to lie down beside me and my thoughts were of her so that I could only think of her lying close, so close, beside me, and yet, not to have her, whom I so wanted to lay me down beside me, but she was reading, and reading and reading and reading. And I could hear the pages turning. She was in the dressing room, in the chair by the lamp, beside the window, where she could glance out to see the street below — watching for him, as I had seen him but she had not. The Mortuary Man. The book was Penelope’s father’s, who is not at all happy that I am here, in her house, lying in her bed, not her bed, but her bed, as he knows what I thoughts I have as I lay me down not to pray but to think of her, lying there beside me, if only she would put the book down and come to bed and lay down beside me to take the thoughts of her lying beside me away, and so I lay, staring at the ceiling – which thankfully does not have the crack that haunted me at the Ghost Finder’s house; and the bed linen is luxurious, so smooth, so wonderfully pressed, feeling like the caress of heaven as I lay against them, ever marvelling as I do at the cool sensation of the linen against my flesh, thinking oh how delightful it was to be out of that horrid dress—until thankfully, at some point sleep did come to lay me down to sleep. I do not even know when she came to bed, but she did, and I awoke to lay there on my side looking at her. I do so love to watch Kiss sleep. But morning has come and lovely Penelope will be awake so that I can spend the day with her. Robert – they will to see to one another, before he leaves and so, I take my time and dress, and stare out the window, looking for him. But I don’t see him. He was there last night. Near the streetlamp. At the edge of the light. I can only hope the floral sentries of the Rose Fortress have given him pause to ponder.

14 March 1916 – Continued – Excerpt from Zo Renfield’s Journal

Can I admit yes — but only to my journal, if I cannot to anyone else, that I did move about the morning undressed, not in missing Eloise, who attends me each morning, and is ever so likely even now to be fretfully worried — for how long has been since I had seen her last — but rather, I did so, longingly, in the hopes that perhaps she might come to check on me after he has left for Russell-Cooke and his desk and his first engagements of the day. Only it was Kiss awakening who lie there watching me and she gave me that smile and told me she would be returning today with items from my wardrobe. “Are you not going down?” she inquired, languorously lounging within the tousled linen. “I thought you wished to watch Lady Penelope’s morning exercise.” And I turned around in discomposure with the suddenly awareness of the hour as once more silly Zo, silly, silly Zo— how have I tarried. How have I gotten so lost up my thoughts, that I had forgotten. How is it at all possible? Hurriedly, I began to move about to eagerly gather up the dress I am so tired of living in, exiled as I am to it – until Kiss does once again restore me to my fashion. And there came a knock upon our door — and we both turned to look at one another and hurriedly I crossed the room to the door, for it was the lady’s maid, who having knocked, was opening it, but I caught the door and held it before she could enter and she could see I was undressed and quickly she enquired if I had need of her, and I told her, baring the shield of the door before me, I would be quite aright as I was late, very, very late, and would be down shortly; and as I closed the door, Kiss only smiled and shook her head. “Careful, Zo. She has too much to lose.”

We did not need to discuss what she had to lose. Of that I am well aware. I am an accountant. I can add. Subtract. Divide. The Profit and loss. What precisely would it profit me – to bring loss to her? And yet, as I hurriedly dressed, I could sum the total of the years that had passed us by with little investment, not that I would not have put my all upon her – but they have stretched, the years, since I was in black and veiled, at my father’s death, his funeral, when last she touched my shoulder, put her arms around me; the grey, windswept day, with rain tap-tap-tapping upon the taunt skin of my umbrella; her leaning so close to comfort me — I could inhale the scent of her hair — I have held that embrace forever, thinking it the last — but now, I am once again within her reach.

“Wot she doin’, gettin’ ready for some grand entrance?” Her stern cook, looking up from the rattle of her pots, to the lady’s maid’s entrance.

“Prancing about in her altogether. With that other one lounging about in her bed.”

“Wot? Like schoolgirls?”

The look would say it all — aghast the pot would clatter.

Must be careful. She has much to lose. And I left Kiss looking so lovely sitting as she was, propped against the head of the bed, taunting me with the linen down, in our bed, in Penelope’s house, with Penelope’s father’s book in hand. Verdant cloth with shivery silver lettering along its spine. And out the door and down the hall I raced down the stairs. My feet one, two. Three, four. As I peered to see no one in the receiving hall. Five six. All was quiet. No clash of swords.

I slowed to make my way to the foot of the steps. When suddenly everything, the hall, the stair, the whole of the house, suddenly hush. Not a sound. Everything still. It was all a silent expectantly. Of what? I glanced about for the flit of a fly. The buzz at my ear. I could hear the rustle of my dress. It seemed the house had gone hush. The whole of the world. I stood on the stair, one foot yet not touching the step, listening diligently to the sound of silence — and as I moved forward, I soon heard voices from the dining-parlour, and so, the hush fades away and I made my quick footed way down the stair, to then just as quickly along the hall to slow, and regain some composure, just before stepping in to see her there with that Haines and the footman.

She was wearing once more the protective fencing blouse to protect, except for its distinctive red heart, worn visible on her chest, to give me such a sigh: — "I so meant to be on time, which has gotten away, and I so wanted to see you exercise.”

“Ah, good morning Zo!’ Her smile made all my thoughts go away, “You’re in luck, I’ve not yet begun.”

I brightened, which isn’t that I glowed, I don’t think, but it felt that way – seeing her heart, hearing her words, “I am so glad.” I took notice of Haines standing resolute as he watched us, thinking whatever he was thinking, as I wasn’t even thinking of what he might be thinking, as I was thinking of only of her heart, as I stood looking at her heart, there for me. “I must say, you look absolutely so resolute, in that blouse. I so love to see your heart on display."

And I felt badly for having said aloud what I was thinking, not even sure when I said it, if I had said it aloud, but I had, as she flushed a lovely colour before Haines and that young man, the footman, with flour on his cuff, as she swished however so slightly the épée’s. That was what it sounded like a swish of air, like a breath of a hot desire: — “A fencer should always advertise her heart, to show all she is unafraid, lest it be pieced . . . at least — that’s what Frau Schmidt said."

Frau Schmidt. Oh, yes, Frau Schmidt. But the flush and colour is quickly gone as she is forever Penelope, and ever so quick to regain her composure, as she has always been so good to do, and of which I wish I was ever so much better, but I am only Zo, a madman’s granddaughter, who can barely keep the words in my head, let alone in my mouth, and she smiled, which one should never do in front of Frau Schmidt, a woman who never smiled unless she jabbed the point, into some heart, and Penelope leisurely gestured toward the entry of the dining-parlour in the direction of the hall beyond. “Shall we?”

Yes, we shall. In that so I wanted to be away from their looks, Haines and that boy marked with flour. And especially that severe disapproval from her father’s portrait. Hard upon me with the knowledge of what was in my head. “Please, by all means, lead the way. I will go with you anywhere.”

At the threshold, as she reached the entry, she turned, “Oh Haines. After breakfast, would you kindly assemble the staff? Miss Renfield indicated she wished to acquaint herself with everyone’s faces.”

I gave him my warmest smile, ’"Please, do not forget the cook.”

And I to be sure, I am uncertain whether I asked or not if I had told her about the Ghost Finder’s cook: — “Absolutely mysterious is all that I can say.” I have some recollection, “They were never to be found. The many times I sought them —” Which might not have been then, but earlier? “And how, I can only ask, is that possible? Being as the meals were ever prepared. As if she were a ghost. Perhaps that is where he found her. Being he is after all a Ghost Finder. Though I think he should spend more time looking for a better cook."

And whether I did then or earlier, she gave me a smile and as we once more prepared to depart, I gave a backward glance to Haines, to his imperialship, to inform him: _“Oh, yes, Mr Haines, I nearly forgot. Kiss is running a bit late. She will be down shortly.”

“Yes, ma’am” He nodded not at all subserviently.

“So did Miss Carstairs make use of the adjoining servant room?" She asked me as we entered the main hall.

“Yes.” And together now we strode along the hallway, as if we were once more back at Rosemount, and having just left the great dining hall and that odious Madam Lescouvé – as we laughed and whispered, delightfully, with her leading me wherever she will with her words, the tone, the cadence of her voice. Not as silver and shiny as those that come to me along HER lines of the earth. But both are mesmerizing. “I was so exhausted, when we went up last night – not having had a peaceful night, having I not told you, in that bed of the Ghost Finder’s house – there was this frightful crack, which was an absolute Tenniel’s Cheshire Cat of a grin, looking down, at me; it was at least two, two-an-a-half, maybe three inches, of which, looking at it, you could only think, is there plastering falling, which is truly horrible to think, lying there, trying to sleep and feeling bits of plaster descending upon you, those little tiny flakes, like what are those insects, midges or mites, I can’t stand those, always just fliting away from her hand as you try to swat at them; it was just above the bed, so laying there you could not help but have your attention drawn to it and the light – what there was of it – coming through the windows, even when the drapes where pulled, as they did not meet, not having not been properly hung, and the light — it just seemed to ever find its way to illuminate it, that grin, so as to haunt one all night, thinking of it, and the possibility of it being a crack in the world, you know, where prying fingers could pull it open, and so, I could not wait to get out of that horrid dress, and into bed – and oh, and it was wonderous. Penelope, the sheets. They were so perfectly pressed. They felt exquisitely delightful, I just snugged into them, and as Kiss wanted to read. That book of your father’s. And so, she took it to sitting by the lamp near the window and read – far too late I suspect.” And I found myself not continuing to add that she had in fact come to bed later to sleep with me, rather than sleeping in the servant’s room — nor that I had slipped into the room, the servant’s room while Kiss was still a-slumber, and lay upon the pulled down bed, and wallowed around so as to give the appearance that Kiss had slept there – rather than with me, as I did not want those who would make up the bed talking as I am sure they will, now that the intrusive maid had knocked, but then opened the door, and so they are even now talking above the rattle of kettle and pans about the lunatic and her lover – not that she is my lover – though I cannot say it does not cross my mind, were that to become the case, as I lay watching her sleep, but only because Penelope is taken, as the heart on her blouse though displayed to me is given to Robert — I am all too well aware. And how long before she is aware – what with the indiscretion of the maids. Careful Zo. “Oh—I have not had time this morning to check, do you think the roses have retained their freshness?”

“I’d say they seem still fairly fresh.” Penelope said as we approached the double doors of the drawing room and there she was, that Amanda, no, Amelia, Amelia or Amanda . . . either, whatever — Cooper, yes, she is a certainly a Cooper, a cask of secrets, and she appeared from her niche, from her concealment, with her eyes and hears, as if but dutifully waiting, somewhere just out of sight to glide forward and open the doors to reveal that the furniture, the heavy sofa and tables and chairs had all been moved — no doubt the night before. Haines and that young footman, their sleeves rolled up, to clear the centre of the room – even the rich carpet had been carefully rolled and carried away. And there revealed for our entrance, looking for all the world as some sinister dressmaker’s form, stood a converted man-sized target. It too bore a heart – for whom? As Cooper entered behind us, and closed the doors, and began to take off her cap and apron and was taking up a thick padded protective blouse as well: —

“Do you fence as well — Miss Cooper?” When you are not snooping. I enquired, as I looked about for a chair from which I could most advantageously observe the dance of the swords.

“I have been assisting milady in her practicing since being assigned as her lady’s maid, ma’am. Though I would hardly call myself a fencer though.” She replied donning the thick white blouse which did nothing for her form while Penelope now proceeded to begin a series of very athletic stretches. And for a moment I paused, for there on Cooper’s blouse — her heart too was revealed. In taking up an epée as well, she stood slightly hip-shot while casting a wary glance towards me: “Yes, well, my dear, you should have stayed upstairs, undressed as you like, so as to let that companion of yours — with her too cool blue eyes — watch you prance about. Whereas I, you see, being ever at hand, I, of course, get to see her undressed, every day – and night. That’s why we share our hearts —” her cruel look said.

“I’m not much of a fencing instructor, but Cooper has certainly picked up a few things in assisting me.”

Cooper nods to say would I not like to know the few other things she assists in.

“I must say, I love to watch the back and forth,” I tap my toe, one, two. “The clash of the blades,” three, four, “But I fear, I would never have the courage to take up a blade myself.” Five, six. I would not have minded a cup of coffee — which I should have gotten, and Edison would have known to bring. “I would think, Kiss would be one to take it up, fencing, I mean, having seen her skill with roses.”

Penelope began now a series of rather dramatic thrusts at the four quadrants, targets of the manly dummy, while that Cooper finished up with the buttons of her blouse.

“How do you mean Zo?”

“The way she parries and thrusts with a white one,” And I took sudden note of Cooper looking at me, just as I had turned to move toward the chair to observe, and I abruptly became aware of what it was I was rattling on about, “Oh, a dream — I was but thinking of a dream. I had. These horrid men, as you know them all to be, leaping over my desk, with gaping mouths and slithering tongues, and snapping teeth, and valiant Kiss having to defend us with nothing but a rose. Silly, yes. You know how dreams are — but I am interrupting.”

Did Copper seemed to give Penelope a knowing glance? Gaping mouths and slithering tongues. Her smile much too wry.

She certainly needs a slap.

Penelope, stopped her thrusts and turned to look at me with some deep interest. “What an odd dream.” And for a moment she fell into some considered concentration, “Odd is that I had a dream last night, as well. Something about father and some beastly dog-faced men. Rather, odd night for dreams." and she then shrugged and went back to practicing her stances. This time focusing on the four primary defences.

Coffee. I longed so for a cup. If Haines were Edison, he would have brought it by now: — “You are concerned about him?”

“I suppose I am,” not breaking her concentration. “But he hasn’t been the most involved since mother’s passing.” As I sit, I who know her, casting a glance over to that Cooper, and I do, there is in her voice a slight sadness more than a hint of some vexation. “Even when we lived in Ragusa, he would take long trips off for days at a time. Research for those books that Miss Carstairs was reading.”

From my advantage, I sat as always, as we had been instructed by Madam Gillet, straight backed, head held high, chin just so, with but a fleeting glance to that Cooper. “These times are ever so worrisome. The news of the war every day. And he is now so far away. Try as you might, I know it must be a troublesome weight. Thoughts even in sleep flying towards him. Someone told me there were these lines — well, something like lines, like the telegraph, where some, those who can feel them, these lines, they can communicate long distances to others who can feel them as well, ley lines, I think she said, and perhaps you and he are communicating by them, by way of your dreams?”

She glances over towards me after a quick thrust. “I can’t say I’ve heard of that. Sounds rather fantastical don’t you think?” Back, and then another thrust lower, “But perhaps I should keep more of an open mind. Who knows what to expect from a world being constantly rediscovered?” From some defensive stance now into a lunge as she stabs into the target, before returning once more to her original position, “Have you experienced such a communication?”

“Of course, she has, she’s a lunatic, just like her grandfather,” Cooper longs to say.

“Well, I had a dream, a daydream, actually, only just yesterday, before you called, in fact — simply amazing —” And oddly for a moment once again everything went silent. And still. And for a moment I was more than disconcerted. For Penelope was not moving. That Cooper too, as if they were frozen. Everything once more gone to the sound of silence. Was I in a dream? Was this a dream? The ley lines? Toe tap. One, two. Swords. Three. Hearts on display but none beating. Four, five. Roses in the vase by the window. Six. And it is gone and the world Is made right. “It was if it seemed more real than a dream; but yes, I do, I do think someone was trying to communicate with me, or so it felt.” Have a care Zo Renfield. “As they explained these lines. I mean we didn’t have telegraph years and years and years ago. So — who knows?” I so would love a cup of coffee. Where was that Haines? Never under foot when you want them? So, unlike my Edison, well aware of what you need before I need it, “But then, again, to be circumspect, it could have been merely myself, trying to reconcile so many troublesome things going on — owing to all that bother with Coldfall.”

And that troublesome Cooper, she flourishes two face masks of mesh taken from a side cabinet and places one on top of her head, “Milady," she primly offers the other mask. Whereupon my Penelope straightens up and accepts the mask, placing it upon her own head. “I do so hope that soon this whole affair will not plague your mind, both awake and asleep.”

Mesh mask upon her head, if worn backward would make her the Janus I am sure she is, Cooper proceeds to step over and give the target dummy a hug and lifting moves it out of the way; and takes up a stance opposite to Penelope.

The clash of swords, the waltz of violence is to begin.

Isolde Renfield. Chin up. What is that left shoulder doing? Does it not communicate with the right? Why is it higher?

“If I can but sleep yet another night as well as I did last night, I truly feel I should well be recovered. Dearest Penelope, thank you ever so for allowing me to sleep in your bed.”

What did I say?

“Yes, well . . . you’re . . . er, quite welcome Zo. You are always welcome in my bed.”

What did she say?

Halfway through the saying of it her face begins to shade a deepening red before she seemingly slammed the mask of mesh down to conceal it and offers up a salute to me. To which if it were truly a match, I would have already affixed my colours about her arm. The palest blue ribbon upon my champion – as I did one at Rosemount.

Cooper but barely containing a sigh. Careful Zo. Jealousy as you imagine. Suspicion as does she, as she so calmly slips down her own Janus mask and assumes the ready stance.

Eyes Wide Shut
Session Fourteen, Part Three


14 March, 1916. London. – Bradley McFarlane’s Memorandum

I Bradley McFarland, being not of sound body, though the wound is but a severe graze along the seventh rib, and of uncertain mind, in that I now question what I have been told, do hereby put down, in order to document and attest, that though I was involved in a confrontation with members of the City and Metropolitan Police, I did so without malice-of-forethought, and for King and Country. I have refrained, owing to that which I have been sifting, as well as assistance I have given against the threat within, in order to maintain some semblance of operational integrity, which from what I have seen throughout what I have been researching has been sorely lacking, but now, I feel I must take up my pen to lay down the facts – although I have been told being factual does not in of itself mean being truthful, but these are my facts and my truth. So that whatever may come, my father shall in the least be assured of the rightness of my course of actions.

I shall begin with that which transpired but an hour from my hasty departure of my friend and solicitor, Robert Wise, who I hereby attest is unaware of any of the events I am about to relate, and can only give witness to certain events leading up to our sudden separation. The shock of the motor cab mishap jolted me into recognition that even in the custody of the Metropolitan Police, unforeseen occurrences can appear within an instant. Events subsequent even more so. And so, I took leave of Robert with the intent of seeking further aid and assistance of the only person that at that moment I felt assured to trust – but even as I huddled in my coat and sought to furtively make my way towards the Turk’s Head, I turned a corner, and out of the shadows and into the gloom the streetlamp I was stopped short by the appearance of Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice.

In a brief exchange he made to say that he was well aware that I was not, as broadsheets and others so declared, a murderer or a foreign spy, and that if I wished to retain my freedom so as to prove my innocence, I need to accompany him. I explained that if this were so, he had but to speak up and inform not only our Naval superiors, but the police as well. To which he stated, though he could not, on a street corner, fully explain, but that I should be aware that certain naval superiors were as equally well aware of my innocence, and had sent him directly to ‘bring me aboard.’ Though suspicious and filled with severe misgivings, I accented to accompany him, only after he gave me assurances that he was working with the direct knowledge of Captain Alexander Purdy.

Within moments, having apparently been at the ready, a motor car pulled up beside us and came to a halt. In opening the door Rice said, “Welcome to Edom.”

And herein what I now relate is in violation of the Official Secrets Act.

10 March, we arrived just as dusk was falling to No. 201 Jamaica Street in Stepney. The house was by appearance a part of a block tenement of two-storeys. Rice had a key. The house though furnished was dark and silent. It appeared to be unoccupied. He took me straightway to a dark, dimly lit library-sitting-room parlour, where at the window, looking out to the descending darkness of the growing dusk, she stood. She was a tall silhouette, slight, with a narrow waist and her hair done up primly. She stood very straight, precise. Striking one upon first impression of appearing before a stern school-mistress. Her first words were: “Are you a spy?”

An accusation to which I most vehemently denied.

“They say you are a spy.” She said, still not having turned to look at me.

“Right, and they can say a lot of things when they are uttering lies. Of that I can assure you.”

“They said I was a spy once.” She turned rather leisurely to look at me. Rice stepped over and turned on a lamp. We were in a rather spare study. A desk, two chairs before it, glass-doored bookcases, a large framed map of London on the wall to the left, a globe of the world tilted at an angle in its stand not far from the desk and lamp. “And I was. A double-agent. Working for one by day and another by night. It haunts me, and them, still. So, I do know how it feels to be looked upon as such.” She stepped forward from the window, her left hand casually holding the fingers of her right, “Of you, it is being said you are a spy, Lieutenant. An agent of the Kaiser.”

“As I said, it’s all a damnable lie.”

“And worse – they say you dice up women.” Her look steady on as she moved further away from the window.

“I did not kill Pamela.”

“Of course, not—” She said as she came to a halt to stand quite calmly, serene, as if but meeting me at a social, “You’re no murderer Lieutenant. You are a contingency. You have been well set-up.”

“By whom?”

“Pamela Dean, of course.”

I looked at her then glanced to Rice who stood silent and still at the side of the desk where he had moments before turned on the light.

“Pamela?” I enquired.

‘Who else? Who else knew what you were about? Knew where you had been? Knew you would be at Waterloo Station? Knew why you would be there? Who wanted you stopped?”

“Wanted me stop?” Upon this information I admit I was more than confused. I was aware that Pamela had indicated my continued research into the mysterious Hawkins, quite an obvious codename, having been reused at least three times, of which I am aware, as well as the odd disbursements, the money used to purchase property for legal offices in Exeter, property in London, to set up an inheritance, and the stray hints and vague references to that clandestine operation which had apparently gone badly in 1893-4, was of growing disconcertment to some in the department, to say the least – but, even in her warning tone, she had not said to stop. In fact, I was more than certain she wished me to go to Exeter.

“Yes. But you can be assured, Lieutenant, you are not the only one whom she has deceived.”

“And who are you?”

“I am Wilhelmina Harker.”

I could not contain the slight whisper, “Mina.”

She smiled: — “Yes.”

Rice, who the whole of the time had said not a word, spoke up, “I do have a game of 31 to attend.”

She gave him a glance to, “Do whatever you can to dissuade him. He is clever — by tricks and stratagems he has lived his whole life, and has grown up amidst a family of liars. He will be wary. Play to his sense of self-preservation. I would much rather not have to resort to mayhem.”

31. A family of liars. I could not but immediately think of Randall. Michael and Andrew. The canary Humbler. What had I — and here I pause as I cannot say, inadvertently, as I knew full well the possible, no, that is once again obfuscating, I knew the consequences, of our entering the house, of lying to the constables, to that City Detective-Inspector – which would later come to haunt me – but I did not say anything in that I did not want to entangle him further. Especially in that mayhem being a word that had quickly drawn my attention.

Rice gave her an acknowledging nod and departed, leaving us alone. Releasing her fingers, she motioned her hand for me to sit in one of the chairs in front of the desk. I did so, and awkward with my cap, I placed it on the desk I had expected her to sit behind, but instead she took the opposite chair before the desk to sit beside me. Ever composed and measured she looked at me for a long moment, before she began by saying she was certain by now that I was aware of some rather confidential facts in regards to certain events that had transpired, and of the fictional account of those events, and of herself. Of what she called, ‘our original sin.’ To which I told her I knew something of it and had only of late looked into ‘the novel,’ which my girl owned and rather enjoyed. She smiled, and in saying Veronica’s name, allowed me to know she knew far more about me. There was something in her manner that in all of the confusion of the last several days seemed rather reassuring – a port arrived at after having navigated the sea of a storm – and as I said, there is something of the school-mistress about her, and so I confirmed that I was aware of some facts – all of which seemed far too fanciful upon the face of them.

“As remarkable as it may be, it is a melodrama.” I had said, “A jolly gothic romance. Preposterous, if not outright ludicrous don’t you think – beastly, what with a superstitious East European Penny Dreadful of a villain lurking about in the shadows, ripping bodices—” and in so saying, I stopped, suddenly well aware of the section I had read while I had skimmed through the pages – the bit in the bedroom of an asylum, quite memorable for the nightdress and the bloody lips of the woman lapping at the villain’s bleeding bosom, like some kitten lapping at its saucer of milk – in that the lapping tongue and lips of the woman were those of the woman seated across from me – or so it was purported to have been.

“Vampires? You are not a believer?” She said, seemingly my allusion to the novel’s vivid narrative not at all having dismayed her in the least.

“Well, Varney and Dracula — and cylinders from Mars — are all exciting melodrama—but this is the 2oth Century. Electricity, motor cars, phonographs, aeroplanes, wireless — "

“But what if there were? And what if you knew? What if you knew that vampires are not a myth? That they are a reality. That there is another species – not human — out there in the dark. Lurking in the shadows for centuries. A species that preys on humans. That kills not for sport or pleasure – but for subsistence. Predators that own the night. Seemingly amazing. Their abilities – astounding speed. To see in the dark. To hear a leaf stirring on a breeze. To see in the darkness with perfect clarity. To be able to track you if they are of a desire — by nothing more than merely your scent. To be all but immortal. To heal from the most devastating of injuries. To have once been human, and so now, uniquely to have such insight into their prey. To understand how to manipulate. To mesmerize. To cloud one’s mind. To seduce. Alluring. Not dragging their shrouds behind them. Not stinking of the charnel house. Their flesh not rotting, exposing the bone. But looking as I – or anyone you might happen to sit beside. Until they go for your throat. You would have to wipe them out – wouldn’t you.”

In the silence of the dim room, I could only look at her.

“Or do you attempt the insane? Do you seek to find some to align against their own kind – against your common enemies, if you have them? The truth of the matter is we did a bit of both you see.” And she then began an explanation of the folly of the original operation. Operation Edom, authorized by high levels of British Intelligence and some odd research group, she called the X-Club, on information, as well of evidence, supporting the conclusion of the existence of vampires – derived from some obscure mission undertaken by British Intelligence during the Russo-Turkey War. She spoke of some Turkish bureaucrat, Osman Hamdi Bey, and the Ottoman need for British support against some mobilizing Russian forces in Romanian, support which was not forth coming owing to some purported Turkish atrocities against some Bulgarian insurrectionists. She spoke of Vámbéry, Burnaby, and Forbes. Of another Stoker. George, the brother. A doctor, a member of the Stafford House Commission. A surgeon with the Red Crescent. I sat trying to grasp it all, and however the deuce it was to wound its way back-round to Vampires and Stoker, Bram, the author, and her, her in her nightdress – and here I have to admit, my mind did wander – even what with my concern regarding Veronica – as she sat there beside me, in the dimly lit room, and I thought what a wonder she must have been, would be to behold, in a nightdress, even for her age, which she did not at all look, in the remembrance of the pornography of that scene – which just happened to be the passages to which I had first opened Veronica’s novel – of the nightdress incident some twenty-years past, and she looking not a day over thirty. A point that registered as counter to the novel being factual. But then is factual and true the same? I’m not certain anymore. She spoke of some expedition to some obscure village in Bulgaria, wherein the group encountered the ‘Undead.’ Or Un-dead, as it appears in the documents and memoranda. There George Stoker had examined the remains, performed an autopsy upon one of the dispatched un-dead which had attacked the expedition; its head having been removed, heart carved out. He sent back samples of tissue, of blood, the head, heart. Vámbéry having set about recording the myths of the village — which were now being verified by the vampiric corpse. The X-Club examining it all. The seed of the poison tree from which they all ate of hubris, she said. Not of Good and Evil. Our original sin as Hawkins – the 1st – conceived the folly – not to merely research these creatures, determining the truth from the lie, the fact from the fictions, in that as she said, not all fictions are fiction, and not all facts the truth — not to eradicate them as one would suppose, but towards the concept of recruiting one.

Dracula, I said.

“Yes. Dracula. We brought him here. To England. To London. Or so we thought. He is ever at war, ever strategizing. Hawkins – I never knew how he came to know of him – sent him a letter, an invitation — the sheer hubris, through diligent investigation and scientific inquiry we have learned of your nature and preternatural gifts, he wrote; we wish to bargain with you; we have need of your strength and courage in our conflicts with the Ottoman Empire – you have no love for the Turks. He agrees. We agree to his demands — to procure a house to his specifications, provide funds for its purchase, provide passage, to set arrival upon the day of his choosing, in London. Of course, it was all his own doing. For contrary to arrangements, he procured a ship of his own. Arrived in Whitby – and struck a deal with his handler, Arthur Holmwood. Holmwood owed vast gaming debts—” She fell silent for a moment and sat in some reflection. “Suffice it to say, he came on his own agenda. Unbeknownst, although now availed of the evidence, it should have been suspected, we should have known, there was already here, in London, a recently establish coterie of the Un-dead. Seeking to unite, to spread their influence within the civilized, the modern world. And it was this that had drawn his needle to London. The idea of establishing an aristocracy, a vampiric aristocracy — a master race to rule the unruly chattel. He sought to take control of the coterie. There was disagreement among them. A Countess Varkony, who had a taste for young woman, had lucked upon one, in Styria, Laura by name, whose father was the youngest son of an Earl I believe; he had been in the Austrian service, and retired upon a pension and a patrimony, having married well. Varkony’s plan to use the girl having at first seemingly gone awry, she travelled to Italy and pulled a Wickham, in that she so designed to recommend herself to the girl’s father’s affections. When he fell ill to a wasting disease, who else but she should company the bereaved girl to her family in England. And brought with her the corruption of the contagion.”

To be sure, as she related it, it seemed as if she were in fact the school-mistress and I at lesson beside her, as she explained the origins of the infection – her terms, contagion, infection, infestation – as she informed me of the discovery of the cause of vampirism – not supernatural, or by damnation of God, but by way of some extremophile bacterium or a Beijerinck contagium vivum fluidum. Science. Unlocking the key to an unfathomable mystery — for as ghosts and their kind had ever been shown to be but fantasy, for the belief in vampires, there was ever documented evidence, tribunals, commissions, local magistrates, the church, seemingly to give support, evidence, to their possible existence and hence why the belief was never the same as mere spirits floating about in the aether. Their existence owed to an contagion, one which brought on, in those infected, just at the moment of their death when life wanes, is all but dissipated, a process of transformation, physically, genetically, the beginnings of a horrid metamorphosis, from an immature form, a human, into a new advanced form, a vampire — similar to that of an insect or amphibian. Thus they arose from the chrysalis of the grave.

Suffice it to say this was all but prelude. She was Mina Harker, nee Murray, who had been attacked by Dracula, had been a member of the so designated ‘Crew of Light,’ who upon recognizing the folly of their actions was given leave to terminate Dracula. It was she who had lost her dear friend Charlotte. She who had been assaulted. Forced to taste his blood. It was she who had been the catalyst that had driven the ‘Crew of Light’ to overcome all obstacles on their arduous mission. To save her. To save England. The world. To terminate Dracula. Dashing across a continent, they had chased him to the Carpathians – they had in a daring attack against armed gypsies overtaken his rumbling wagon in the midst of a snowfall growing ever more intense. As the novel would have it, they had plunged a knife into his heart – and he had turned to dust. The truth – some of them had awakened in a small inn in Bistritz and no one knew how they had gotten there, nor what had truly happened as they converged upon his wagon.

Returning to London, there were meetings and more meetings. Questions with little answers. No one knew what had happened to the Count. Only that they were missing Quincy Morris. Later they came to understand he was working for the Americans. Their Secret Service. Hence his death in the novel. This was the beginning of Edom. An organization deep within British Intelligence, secreted, hushed beyond hush-hush. The remit – stop them. Dismantle the vampiric conspiracy having been left behind in London. Find them where they infest. And if one could, recruit one. A love of Edom, as yet unrequited. Which brought her to me and me to No. 201 Jamacia Street. A shadow site.

Owing to the War, Edom, having become more a caretaker, perhaps a victim of its own success, had been quietly buried in its secret burrow, neglected, as there was now a more insidious villain, the Kaiser, and so it soon found its full-time staff dwindled to but a handful of experienced agents in London, and various stations across the globe. A few analysts – which she headed a collective of – as they had seen their funding diminish, it becoming harder and harder to justify allocating resources and monies, while men died in the trenches. And as serenely as has she had been relating her history, she suddenly grew very quiet and still, and looked off for a moment, as she said, ‘men died in the trenches’. It being obvious she had lost someone.

“That’s enough of history – there will be time enough for that – which brings us to here and now. So — to understand the hierarchal structure of Edom, it is a dukedom – not of peerage, but based on the Biblical Edom dukedom. Hawkins was taken to biblical terminology; he said we could use all the divine providence the Lord could spare. As such, I am a Duke. Magdiel. I head Intelligence Analysis. I have a collective of researchers and analysts. One of them several weeks ago wrote an analytical report that to say the least has all but brought about a revolution. It has splintered Edom. Generated suspicion amongst all the Dukedoms. For she surmised there is and has been for some time a penetration agent within. The analyst was Pamela Dean. She worked for my King’s College Collective. Cutting me out she went directly to another Duke. Oholibamah. They in turn made her operational. They gave her access to records. To the archives held by the Undertakers – of the ‘Vault’ wherein Edom’s most egregious secrets are buried — to the most restricted, sensitive of information. Which was her design. To burrow within.”

As she related it, Dean was working for the penetration agent, known as The Red Circle. Owing to a lifetime of having to prove herself from suspicion, owing to the assault upon her by Dracula, never mind she had been raped and blooded and was instrumental in tracking him to that rumbling wagon, Oholibamah, had taken matters into his own hands. Had put Dean precisely where she wanted to be. And only by happenstance had I stumbled upon her, she said – had found the misfiled documents. Hearing of it, she said she had begun to backtrack. Had the director of the Collective peer review Dean’s findings. Had figured out Dean’s true intent. And so, aware Mina was coming for her, Dean had sought to throw suspicion – to me. All the evidence of my complicity – being a spy for Germany – was planted.

“The Diced-Up girl?”

“It is not Pamela Dean.”

“Then that’s all for it then. I am jolly well cleared.”



“We still need to find Pamela, and more immediately Red Circle. You? You are a fugitive now – and so, questionable in so many eyes. It gives you the ability to go where others cannot – but more importantly, you know Dean. You worked with her. You know her methods. You will find records, documents, receipts, letters, books, periodicals, any and everything we have been able to compile, gathered from Dean’s office, her maisonette. Search through it, track her, find her. Find Pamela Dean.”

And so, that is how I found myself in No. 201.

The house itself was very comfortable, although spare. Apparently having been a bachelor’s residence I quickly surmised, by the furnishings; the flat wallpapering; the paintings of dogs in the glow of autumn fields, standing sentry to that which they had hunted. After a light supper, prepared and served by Mrs Godsamighty — a rather stern faced, woman, perhaps fifty, with the most languorous voice, somewhere between fatigue and boredom, I had ever heard, and to whom I gave a look, upon her so introducing herself, Godsamighty: — “It’s a good enough name as you will be needing. Dishes in the kitchen when you’re done. I put a breakfast out at 9:00, (And with that she gave a knowing look to the other two gentleman in the house, one sturdy, the other lanky, who looked more like carriers — when not out coshing some gent in a back alleyway – than intelligencers, as she turned and strode away. Ramage and Strangways. No first names. No one had a first name. Their conversation was brisk. Introductions. Have the run of the house. Don’t be leavin’ without Miss Mina’s knowin’ cause comin’ back you might not be as happy as when you first arrived — if, that is, a copper don’t lay hands upon you first). Afterwards, I made my way up the stairs, where atop the landing, first-floor, with two rather low-sill windows overlooking Jamaica, from which sounds of the street and passing lorries and motor-cars drifted, a reading room had been set up. There were boxes of files, boxes set upon boxes – filled with intake records, logs, document requests, permission slips, receipts, vouchers, requests for clearance, denials, a hierarchy of who had access to what and to whom they could dispense, along with records, and records, London Station’s, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Bucharest, Oslo, Amsterdam, Odessa, everywhere on the continent. Some Stations of but only one or two staff. There were those as well, still, clandestine, from Munich, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Prague. Log records, initials on lower corners, showing Dean’s hands had touched them all – at one time or another. In one, the box sitting atop the desk, when I opened it — there it lay. Yellow cloth with crimson title: Dracula. I took a seat and began – to trace backwards and forward through all of it. But to do so, I needed best to start with Mina’s original sin. I sighed and opened it:

With his left hand he held both Mrs Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of the neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast which was shown by his torn-open dress. The attitude of the two had a terrible resemblance to a child forcing a kitten’s nose into a saucer of milk to compel it to drink. As we burst into the room, the Count turned his face, and the hellish look that I had heard described seemed to leap into it. His eyes flamed red with devilish passion; the great nostrils of the white aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the edge; and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood-dripping mouth, champed together like those of a wild beast. With a wrench, which threw his victim back upon the bed as though hurled from a height.

How was it that upon only a second time it would open to such? Only in this copy there were notes, annotations. The word nightdress having been circled and a line drawn to a note in the margin: _Factual: the nightdress was bloody but was lying on the floor. Draw your own conclusions _ .

11 March: The next morning, up from coffee and breakfast, I returned to the reading room and my task. I found myself drawn from the files, from tracing Pamela’s journey through them, by way of logs, registers, and distribution lists, back to the novel. And had come to the end – where Mina was a mother? So, it said. Quincey. Named for Quincey Morris. As well as stating that Lord Godalming and Seward were married. From the files I knew Arthur Holmwood, Lord Godalming had indeed been married, Elizabeth, now his widow, as he had died in a fatal accident – much of what was redacted and hinted to be part of another operation I had yet to untie the black ribbon of, Daughter of Uz. But Seward? Married? He was a fugitive. Mad experiments in his asylum – the next item for me to look into being this Uz operation. It was late afternoon and I had decided to pop down to put a kettle on for tea, certain Mrs Godsallmighty was not on the premises – when I heard the key in the door. I turned just as I was about to enter the threshold of the corridor to the kitchen, from the dining-parlour, to see Mina Harker returned, wearing an attractive dress with lace collar and cuffs, and a long, deep blue overcoat and sprite hat. She held forward in her gloved hands a wrapped bundle – opening it I found clothing for a disguise as a cab driver. “I have a need of you Bradley. There is something perhaps more valuable than Pamela’s whereabouts at the moment – a ledger. I had thought I would have been able to procure it, but it seems my intermediary has not been able to have it secured within a deposit box, from which it could easily be purloined. And so, I have made other arrangements – and owing to Ramage and Strangways being unavailable at the moment, I have a need of you – i we may need readily available transportation. You can drive a motor car?

I gave her a look – “This a pick-up and delivery?”

“If it comes to that.”

“Who – may I ask.”

“I gather you read more than a few passages last night? Renfield. The granddaughter.” She said and watched for my reaction.

Renfield had been in the novel a madman longing to devour life. He seemed a fascinating character, but, in reading, I had not ever suspected him of having a life, or family outside of his characterization of an utter madman, seeming in my opinion to have recognized and taunted the madness in Doctor Seward. “The fly man? He has a granddaughter?”

“She is as he, mad. In her own way. Be wary of anything she says. But she does have in her possession a ledger – and it is very important that we recover it.”

And so, it was simple. If these creatures were in fact in London, if this Countess Varkony and Dracula had come to London, the centre of the most powerful nation upon the earth, of modern civilization, of mankind, to establish some aristocratic hierarchy — some return to some vampiric feudal state — then Edom, The Crew of Light, London, England, all of the world, had been lucky. For they could have created a legion. For they were no longer merely in but some small village or hamlet in the Carpathian Mountains, no mere schloss in Styria, or upon some Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Balkan country estate – they were in London. A beating heart from which their infection, within a city of millions, could have, once set loose, spread, to spawned hundreds, thousands. In ships across the globe. There was nothing for it: I rode with her to a small warehouse, wherein a motor cab awaited.

Having changed so as become the driver of the motor cab, I was certain to tuck my cap, so as to set the bill at an angle, which could obscure a part of my face, as driving, I remembered the tale of Wilhelm Voigt, and the instruction – Now boys remember the gaff . To become what you say are. I drove along trying remembering all the drivers whose cabs I had sat within. Soon I reached the destination. And as she had indicated, when I arrived, at the front of the Hall of the Law Society, in Chancery Lane, a tall, gentleman, looking as if he had but stepped out of the House of Lords, in a fine bespoke Seville Row suit, long overcoat, top hat, and gold knobbed cane, stepped away from the group of men with whom he had been conversing, and made his leisurely way over to my awaiting cab. “Watchman, what of the night?” He asked through my open window. “The morning cometh?” I replied in recognition. “And also the night.” He finished and opened the door and got in, “You have the address?” I told him I did and we were off for Renfield International Investments. The gentleman, having removed his top hat, sat back and watched as we made our unhurried way – being as I did not want to become involved yet again in any motor car accidents. Did not want to draw the attention of any passing constable. There was little conversation, he asked about Strangways and I informed him he was detained and that Mina had commandeered me, to which he nodded, “Lovely Mina, ever she has much to do before we rest.” When we arrived, being as it was a Saturday, there was not a doorman on duty. The gentleman sat for a moment, before he took up his hat and said, “If all goes well, this should be a rather simple matter. But, if Isolde, is anything like her grandfather, it may not. Take the car about and pull to a halt, some ways as we came, from the entrance, and be prepared to come forward. I do not see a doorman but that does not mean some other might decide to become an inconvenience. Be prepared.” He stepped out, but rather than head straightway to the revolving door of the entrance, he crossed the street to speak with another gentleman in a charcoal suit. The conversed as they crossed back over in front of the cab and made their way to the entrance.

I took the cab around so as to re-enter the icy street I had but come down, and pulled to idle several doors before Renfield International. I warily looked about. Being cold and icy and a Saturday, it was a good day for this to go wrong, if it were to go wrong, for there were far less pedestrians braving the wind and the weather. Alone, I had a moment to ponder the ledger. Of more importance than Pamela? This ledger. Whatever could it be? To be of such importance — when suddenly, ahead through the windscreen I saw, stumbling from the revolving door of Renfield International, two young women. A very attractive chestnut-haired woman was pushing another young woman before her – I gripped the wheel., even as out of nowhere, another motor cab passed me. I engaged the cab. The chestnut-haired woman was turning back to the door – she was brandishing a pistol. As I was moving now, having fallen behind the cab ahead, I took notice that the pistol looked like a Browning automatic. And she fired. Fired at the revolving door! And, the other woman nearly ran into the front of the cab head of me. The woman with the pistol raced over and grabbed the latch of the door and snapped it open, the pistol covering the door – it was more than obvious this woman was a professional — and she all but shoved the young woman, who had caused the cab to stop, inside the awaiting motor car, as she ran to her. The cab pulled away. I slid to halt as Sir John Paxton came out of the revolving door and hurried to the cab, holding what looked like a ledger. He grabbed the door even as I was rolling away.

“Well, I say, looks as if things did not go well.”

“She had private security.’ He said having tossed off his top hat. “Keep them in sight.” He was opening the ledger and turning pages.

I took a hard turn and the tyres slid on the ice as I kept the cab in sight. I have seen BAH printed but have never heard it, well not as it came from the back of the cab as Sir John tossed the ledger vehemently aside.

“It is not what we came for.”

“Isolde Renfield.” He sat back for a moment, “Like her grandfather. That man. Brilliant, but he drove me to distraction. Her monomania, in regards to CHCT, absolutely knows no bounds. In her madness – I fell for the oldest of barrister’s tricks. I allowed her to bait me into the wrong argument.”

He peered ahead, “Where are they heading.”

I told him I wasn’t sure, and I wasn’t. Apparently, Isolde Renfield’s private security agent was having the driver take a Dickins of a circumlocutious route. And I had a devilish several turns but kept them ever in sight, even as I felt I had to maintain some distance, being as there were streets to which they turned with very little traffic, taken for that reason I surmised, less in making way to their destination, then to look back and see who may be following. We were making toward Mayfair, which suddenly I had to veer from colliding with a huddled couple all bundled into their coat and woollen scarfs, as hurrying across the street one of them losing their footing on the ice even as my tyres lost purchase, sliding, as one of them fell before me. I sat watching not only the lady help her gentleman to his feet, who looked at her and then to me, as he irritably pulled free of her helping hand, already feeling quite emasculated by his lack of coordination, to which I didn’t give a care, being as of concern in the seeing the motor cab ahead turn the corner and went out of sight. I hurried to catch up, but then found myself cut off by an omnibus.

I left Paxton at some club, the Primander, and returned to the warehouse. Upon my return to No. 201, to say the least, Mina Harker was not please. I found her standing before the hearth looking into the fire, as if seeking to divine events from the flickering flames. “We failed, Lieutenant?” She said, without looking aware from the healthy blaze.

I explained the circumstances as I knew them, that the ledger Sir Paxton had removed, with some difficulty, was not the one in question, and we had attempted to follow her, but she and her cab were successful in eluding us. She said nothing and so I ascended to my reading room. There I continued to shift through the contents of the boxes, putting everything to order, at first by subject and then to date. It grew late and well aware of Mrs Godsamighty’s pugnacious rules of dining, I went down. There was no Ramage or Strangways, only myself.

As I was preparing to head back to the dining-parlour, there was a rap of the door. In that it appeared I was alone in the house, I took an advantageous position to peer to see if I could determine whether it may be the police come to call, to find two rather nefarious men at the door. Though they were not the type for which one would readily open the door, they seemed quite apropos for No. 201.

Entertaining only a single name — they gave none. They said only, Miss Mina would be expecting them. And so, long overcoats left on, as well as hats, they made their way to the siting parlour, to tend to the fire, and make themselves at leisure. Feet on furniture. Cigarettes lit with matches tossed to the hearth. They were an unlikely pair. One tall, in a fine suit with well knotted bow-tie, shined shoes, and bowler hat, the other bespectacled, wearing what appeared to be perhaps a train engineer’s hat, his suit a size to large, the overcoat even more so. As I was uncertain whether to leave them unattended, I took up a chair – even as the well-dressed one, apparently having been in the parlour before, opened a cabinet and removed a decanter of whiskey, and poured all of us a dink.

He stated rather than enquired I was new as he handed me a glass. I nodded and explained I was there to do some research. I enquired if they worked for her as well. They looked at one another and said they were in private employ. I tried to gain some more information about Mina Harker, as to whether this house was hers; they laughed; did she have more than one such house in London; are you a house agent; where did she reside; who knows. “You interested in keeping her warm, are you,” the man in the engineer’s hat remarked as he pulled a chair closer and hefted his feet back up to better place them upon it; “Fair warning, Mr Research, wouldn’t do for a man to think too much about what’s up that petticoat.” I searched out a book and set to reading, as the ‘engineer’ lit a cigarette and sat about watching the embers slowly consume it, while the other stood watch at the window. It seemed an hour but was only twenty-minutes when she arrived.

“Mr. Marryat. Mr Plunkett.” Her eyes taking in the crossed feet of the man in the engineer’s hat upon the seat of the chair nearby “As my day has been one of disappointments, it would be best I don’t receive yet another.”

We all were startled by the voice as we had not heard her come in

“Miss Mina. We are sent by Mr Box who wishes to express his sincerest apologies.” Either Marryat or Plunkette, as I never knew which, said as he quickly removed his bowler hat, “But, in that it is right to say we all knew aforehand that Zo Renfield was not a-right of mind, it is not at all to be unexpected there being some difficulties, in getting her to deposit the item in question, and being as there were restrictions, set by you, and rightly so, as she has some visibility, some options were on our part, at the time, available; but, to make amends, Mr Box sent us straightway in that we have information for you. We know where she is.”

She said nothing.

“She’s gone to that Ghost Finder’s house.”

“Carnacki?” There was but the slightest hint of a smile and I heard for the first time her laugh, more in her throat, which though bemused, seem to be laced with – wickedness? “Thomas Carnack.”

“She’s got herself a private enquiry agent. Carstairs. From Hudson & Brand.”

“Cressida Carstairs?” She said entering the room and approaching the warmth of the hearth. “She used to be one of Cumming’s until she pulled an unsanctioned trigger.” And she stopped to look at the legs of the man whose feet were resting the chair and so barring the avenue she had purposely taken to the fire, as she looked at him; and he quickly dropped them away. “Rather formidable.”


12 March: Formidable Indeed. The task set before me. It did not help to run off the rails. And yet — The Aaronson Commission. For the most part it is redacted. From references and allusions, it seemed to have been an official investigation and compilation of the facts of the initial operation – something other than Stoker’s novel. Factual versus fiction. And so, I spent the better part of the morning going through files, unlacing red and blue and pink ribboned files, seeking something more than the two documents in which name of the commission, Aaronson, had not been obliterated. Attempting to piece together what could be gleaned of it by whatever references, scraps and excerpts there were in the documents. I had intended, having exhausted the night unboxing and organizing the files, the memorandums, the letters, supplements, logs, the mass of documents, into some order by subject, by location, by date so as to begin tracing back, Pamela’s journey through them, using the distribution logs and registers. In the archives, fighting two wars. One against the Central Powers. The other against the Night’s Black Agents, the Un-dead, Vampires, leeches, as the documents said. Although there was a third. Traitors. To their kind. Human agents aligned to the impossible. Pamala? The Red Circle? I still could not believe it of her. I had worked with her. Closely. And never suspected. A Wilhelm Voigt. What had so piqued my interest from her to Aaronson? Late in the morning, misfiled, within a white ribbon, financial disbursements folder, there was a memo — “have we not put too much stock in the conclusions of the Aaronson Commission and its ten bloody volumes, excluding the index and confidential annexe, in light of what we discovered in the asylum? The whole bloody obfuscation and treachery uncovered by Daughter of Uz leads me to only one question: What else have we not seen glaring right before us with our eyes wide shut.” It was from Iram to Oholibamah. The Dukedom – if only there were a chart to identify them all. What was of interest was that the passage was circled in red ink. The Red Circle? A clue — to Dean? Or From Dean? Misfiled? That was how I had gotten into all of this from the beginning. I noticed at the bottom of the page, not in ink but a light leaded pencil, the notation. Vol. II. The V of Vol. I knew to be Pamela. I sat for a moment – and felt that strange sensation of the prickle of my skin and hair. Rather than clues to her – were they clues to me? This document misfiled, within financial documents – which were where those had lain that had led me here. To No. 201. In hindsight, what else might I have missed, as had this Aaronson. Eyes wide shut.

Factual versus the truth. I Had felt the need for a cup of coffee and descending downstairs I found Mina had returned. Which begs the question, Edom — does it have an actual physical location? An actually address? Or is it somehow spread throughout amongst various organizations? She was sitting in the front parlour with a young woman.

“Heligoland Trading. There will be tomorrow a request for transactions, Miss Luscome. Now it is very important. Do use discretion, but what I want to know is precisely how she reacts, and to whom she may —” She stopped as I stopped to look in upon them. “Ah, I see you have begun early this morning.”

“Yes.’” And as she and Miss Luscome sat now in silence, looking at me, I ventured: — “If I may make a request.

She smiled, “Coffee, perhaps. Afterwards?”

A cue the conversation was not for me. As I was making my way back from the kitchen, fresh coffee in hand, I was met by Mina Harker, as she approached the threshold of the dinning-parlour, her attention upon the sheets of paper she held in hand, “You were saying.” Not looking up from the documents.

“Ah, yes, well, I have been, so to say, as if one of those well-trained hounds,” I motioned to the painting on the wall in the hallway behind her, “Bounding upon the scent this morning of the quite elusive Aaronson Commission. Ten volumes I gather, not counting the index and a confidential annexe.”

“Dean had some interest?”

“Yes. There is a curious notation, you see. And wherever our dear Pamela was curious – there go I.””

“Yes.” She stood for a moment as if she had not truly heard a word I said – only to reply: “All ten volumes?”

“One never knows what one may flush out.”

“Curious notation you say?”


And she looked up from whatever she had been reading,

And in stepping forward she made way for the nonchalance of the lank of Strangways to enter, “Sorry to intrude upon the hunt, Bradley, but something has come up. It appears I have need of some discretion, as well as an unfamiliar face.” And she then explained that there was a valuable resource, who had information, but had been missing for a time and now found. But they were in a state of severe distress, and that Mr Ramage and Mr Strangways, perhaps were not the best use of resources at the moment, and she needed me to accompany them.

“Distressed?” enquired.

“They were witness to events – events which have left them unsound to say the least.”

And so, I was off again, from my desk and No. 201 Jamaica Street, a hound set loose to the old hunting grounds of Highgate. The day was cold, the wind brisk, and flakes of a flurry of snow fell gracefully. As we stepped out, Strangways, all tall, gaunt, lanky, with a perpetual air of ease about him, as distinguished as the lank of hair left to fall across his forehead from the cloth peaked cap he forever wears, casually tossed aside the little remains of his cigarette, as with an air of smoke and frost, he said, “Have you been to see you girl?” There was less a question about it — as if he knew I had driven by Mrs Burrows boarding house, yesterday, on my return of the motor car to the warehouse. And perhaps, not aware I had fought the temptation, as I slowed before it, to stop and knock on the door and race up to her flat. But there was a constable visible and so I continued by and instead posted a letter. “Were you thinking of it — she’s moved.”

“Moved? Where?” I asked getting into the motor car.

“Southwark. Living’ with some socialists. That landlady of yours took her under wing.”

I sat for a moment perplexed as we started off. “Where in Southwark?”

“Never you no mind. More’s the trouble to you than she’s worth, is how I see it.” He advised, “Best you know now gov’nor, just how it lies — being an anarchist, she’s shewed her true colours, taking to her heels a-soonest the coppers ripped your place. Using you I’d say — being as she’s long been amongst that nest of socialists of Willingham’s. Be a feather in her hat getting herself a naval officer is what I’d say. Comes to women, you need to be thinking with the head under your cap. You not know you were living above them?”

“I knew she was liberal of mind and a suffragette.” They say the whole of your life passes before you just before death, but in that instant, in the cold of the rattling motor car, the whole of my relationship with Veronica tumbled rapidly through my mind. I knew she had been arrested for some suffragette nonsense, yelling and clawing at the air at poor overworked constables – but I had thought that incident had been sufficient to bring clarity to the error of such senselessness. But what is factual and what is true? Suffragette? Or an anarchist socialist? Or both. Or worse? For I was now well aware there is the world has I have been too complacent to believe and there is another filled with conspiracy and lies – and secrets hiding in plain sight. A world to which I had been blind, seeing my own with eyes wide shut. Was I a feather in her ‘hat’? As we rattled along the snow covered, icy streets, I fell into a silence, looking at my cold refection in the window glass. Was I that naïve? I know Randall thinks I have been far too sheltered from the world as it is, vs what I imagine, or thought, owing to my upper middle-class upbringing – owing to father wanting us all to aspire to upper-classness. Did you not know? I was well aware I was not the first —and yet, I had I not seriously thought through the ramifications of her being a Free Lover. My reflection looked at me. Marriage? My reply. I had not even contemplated such a thing — caught up in the heady hedonism of it all. The cold light of day, the cold glare of the reflection, as if to say: never you no mind? Yes. I have been of no mind. Caught up in the headiness of her, the allure of her, sex with her – but not the truth of her – which best I now know, gov’nor, which is in fact what I well knew, which was did not ever seen Veronica as a devoted wife, as a devoted mother. What would father say?

Highgate. Southward Lane. When we arrived Ramage was waiting within. He stood at the foot of the stairs, as if standing sentry. “He’s locked himself away in the lavatory.”

“Lavatory?” I asked, ‘Is he ill? Who is he?”

“A Reverend Marley. A hammer of a pamphleteer.” Ramage said all but wearily. “God, the devil, the anti-Christ – he’s seen them all. And somethings you should not see. He got a good look.” The Coldfall House Charitable Trust hosts these philanthropic parties, he said, to get the posh to loosen their grip on donations, and on occasion, they host these rather ‘special’ parties, with a lift of the brow, as he added they were not for the faint of heart. The Reverend had received an invitation to one such fête, the night before last – as Mina had wanted him to see and to report what he saw, but what he had seen was – well, God told Lot not to look, didn’t he. He lit a cigarette and glanced up the stairs.

They wanted me to talk him out of the lavatory.

With a heavy sigh, with each new day, it seemed God was ever telling me now to look. I took off my overcoat and draped it on the handrail of the stairs, hooked my hat on the newel, and made my way up. Ramage had given me directions, as well as an offer of a cigarette, which I wanted but felt it was better to not be distracted. “Do not make mention of Miss Mina, he is not aware of her — or where he got the invitation.” One more secret. I proceeded to the closed door of the lavatory and I knocked on the door, and slowly turned the knob, but it was locked: — “Reverend – are you well? Do you need assistance? I am a naval officer.”

“The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb. It shall be shed for you. The blood. The blood. The blood of the lamb. The blood of the lamb. It is the life. The Blood. The blood shall be shed. For you. For me. It is the life. The blood. The blood of the lamb. It shall be shed. It is the life. The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb. Shed for you. Shed for me. She shed her blood for me. The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb” I shall never forget his reply – the first words I was to hear from the other side of that door, they will haunt me forever – the sound of them, the anguish in them.

“Yes, yes, Well, yes. Reverend, as I said, I am a naval officer. I am here to help.”

“She is the lamb. On the altar. Lain the wood. Abraham. The lamb. She is the lamb. The altar. Lain down on the altar. The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb. God stayed his hand. Oh, yes Lord, stay their hand. On the altar. Lord God almighty. Pass this cup. Pass this cup. Please, pass this cup. I am in the amour of God. I am in the full amour of God and she lies naked before them. Please I call upon your name. Pass the cup. The blood of the lamb. Please give me this cup. Why?” The voice now close to the door, I felt he was there, right up against it. “Why did he not give me the cup?”

“I am not sure why?” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I needed him to talk to me. “Why do you think?”

“I am weak in the lord. I have been found wanting, I have been found wanting. I am weak. I am weak. But he is strong. Put on the amour of God. Put it on. Yes. Least you be found wanting. I am weak. I called upon his name. But I am weak. The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb. It shall be shed for you. I know who they are. I know what they are. They know who I am. I call. I call. Oh Lord. I call. The blood of the lamb. The blood of the Lamb. The blood in the red room. A blasphemy. They come. The procession. The censer. The scent of perdition. The staff. The stomp of the staff. The blood.”

“Are you alone Reverend? Is there someone with you?”

“Shed for me. She shed for me. Pass the cup oh lord. I call upon your name. I am the vessel. Not her. No not her. Not her. Oh God the blood. The room the colour of blood. The colour of life. Blood is the life. Life is the colour of blood. Blood is the life. The chanting in the red room. The red room. I know what they do. I know what they do in the red room. I have seen. I have seen the valley of the shadow and it is not death. I know what they do. In the red room. Silence. The stomp of the staff is silence. The staff. Not the staff of the Lord. Not Moses staff. But the magicians. Pharaoh’s magicians. Don’t you see.”

I remembered the story, “They turned to serpents but Moses’ staff ate the serpents.” I am sure that was right. “Yes, Reverenced be strong in the lord.”

“The red room. It is the shadow of the valley. But it is not of death. The scent of perdition. It is blood. Blood is the life. And blood is the room; the room is the colour of life. Deliver me from Evil. Evil. The face of Evil? I have seen the face of evil. She smiles as she lifts the dagger.”

“Who lifts the dagger?”

“The blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb, the blood of the lamb. Shed for me. You must not eat. You must never eat. Never. Of every creature. He who eats of the blood is cut off. Only the blood of the lamb is shed for you. For me. She shed her blood. She shed it for me. I cry out, oh Lord. I called upon your name. I wear the armour of God. Pass me the cup. Pass me the cup. Oh, lord why? Why did he not give the cup to me?”

“I am not at all certain Reverend, but, if you were to open the door.”

“Why does she lie there. Why does she not move? Does she not see? “

“I don’t know? What is there to see?”

“She lifts the dagger. She lies there. Why does she lie there? Does she not see? Does she not feel the blasphemy of their foul aspergillum. It should not be by blood but by water. You know, it should not be blood but by water.”

“Yes, born of water.”

“Why does she not see?’

“I don’t know Reverend; I am only just now beginning to see myself. Maybe, we, together – if you were to open the door. Maybe we could reason this out, together.”

“Together we put on the armour of God?”

“Together, you and I, we, together, we put it on. If you but only open the door as we can.”

The was a moment of silence. I felt I should say something, offer some further reassurance, but I feared not knowing what to say. Then I heard the latch turn.

The door opened and the gentleman revealed was dishevelled, his evening clothes in disarray, collar undone, tie missing, shirt untucked, the bibbed front spattered and stained, his dark suit marked, left sleeve rent. His hair wildly uncombed. Face gaunt, eyes hollowed as if he had not slept. His right hand trembled. His eyes seemed to be looking everywhere and staying nowhere long. I have heard of men from the trenches, from days of artillery barrages, suffering from Myers’s shell-shock. From neurasthenia. Whatever had this man seen?

What had Mina wanted him to see?

Slowly, I motioned for him to come to me, “Right you are. That’s good Reverend, everything is going to be just fine. Stay calm.”

Tentatively he took a step forward, “The blood of the lamb. She shed it for me.”

“Lovely, sir. Now, we oughtn’t worry. Now should we. There we are. Nice and safe. Just the jolly two of us. That’s it — right you are. Come along. Right along. You’re doing nicely.” He stepped from the lavatory and I sighed as I gave him a supporting hand. I closed the door behind him, carefully. Slowly, coaxingly, I guided him towards the landing, wanting to get assistance from Ramage and Strangways. Just a few steps more, and the lighting was growing ever brighter in the darken corridor as we reached the landing.

“There we go. No hurry. We are all nice and safe. Perhaps a spot of tea? Yes. That’s just the thing. A spot of tea.” I peered down to see Strangways and Ramage, looking up to us. “I say, be a good man and put the kettle on.” I called down to Strangeways.

And suddenly – the Reverend grasped at me, his eyes wild with passion, aware now it was not just the two of us, having seen the men below, as his hands went straight for my throat. “Vengeance is mine. Her blood shed for me.” He roared. The hands of a madman; his thumbs pressing to crush my larynx. One has to be confronted by the mad, to feel their hands, their thumbs upon your throat to understand just how tremendous is their strength. I tried to grasp his hands, to pull them off, we struggled, I lifted my arm, and struck the side of his head with my forearm, one twice, as things began to roar in my ears and a light-headedness assailed and I felt faint, before I got my elbow up under his chin, lifted up, pushed even as I was fighting against not only him but the lightness of head, and he took a step back, and then, I thrust my forearm and elbow hard striking him in the throat and he stumbled back. I saw the recognition in his eyes even as I became aware that the force of my blow had thrown him off balance as his heel was stepping off the landing and there was nothing behind save the open stair. I tried to grab for him – he looked at me. But he was falling. I could only watch as he landed horribly upside down, and them tumbled to the foot of the stairs. I stood looking down at him. He did not move.

Strangways took a few steps toward him, “Shite.”

I raced dangerously down the stair, even as Ramage had bent down to him. But from the stare of his eyes, I knew he was dead. “Right.” Ramage said rising up. Strangways was already to the window. I could only stare at the lifeless Reverend at my feet. “Best you leave by way of the back,” Strangways said.

I felt the slap of a hand upon my chest, “He’s gone to the Lord to make his report, Lieutenant, best we make ours.” Ramage said, and he grasped my arm and pulled me along. Looking backwards, I saw from the vantage of my diminishing angle, the lank of Strangways hunch slightly, in an overcoat and hat, he had taken from the receiving hall closet, to make himself seem shorter, and he swiftly exited to commandeer the motor car. Ramage moved me through the house, out the back pantry door, and into a small garden. We slipped over a wall, made our way two streets, before Strangways pulled along beside to collect us.

“What – what happened to him?” I said, regaining my composure.

“As I said, he’s reporting to God, and we have to report to her who sent us and she ain’t going to be none too happy about it.”

“All that meticulous planning and three men cannot get a man out of a lavatory?” For a brief moment, as Ramage had explained, in a rather diverting narrative of events from receipt of information of a street nark, who had seen the man, and followed, paying 5 quid for the information, his surreptitious arrival, his discovery of Reverend Marley, at home, in a state quite unsound, his locking himself up, having to contact her, awaiting our arrival, my efforts to get him out of the lavatory, and the sudden wildness of the man lost to madness, leading to his fatal tumble down the stairs, Mina’s reserve, the sereneness of her voice, gave hint to heat and steel. Having made her summation, she merely turned and walked away.

Strangways looked at Ramage, “Somewhere there’s a puppy I would not want to be.”

I could not help but sit the remainder of the night, unable to find the attention to devote to the documents about the reading room desk, as I could not keep put away the remembrance of Reverend’s expression, his eyes looking into mine, the moment we both, in crystal clarity, were made aware of the fact he was handed over to gravity.

Any Evidence of Fear
Session Fourteen, Part Two








A house in Stepney, to which the suspected murderer of the tentatively identified ‘Diced-Up Girl’, Pamela Dean, as well as that of a City Police Detective-inspector, had been traced, and was surrounded late last night by detachments of City and Metropolitan Police. The fugitive in the ‘Diced-Up Girl’ murder investigation, identified as Lieutenant Bradley McFarlane, as well as three unidentified accomplices, were fully armed and well supplied with ammunition. From their barricaded advantage shots were exchanged in a melee of gunfire for nearly two hours until the building was eventually sieged.

At a late hour in the evening a number of City detectives and police attempted to arrest the desperate fugitive and his accomplices in a tenement building in the Ritch-mansions of Stepney. The ground floor of the building was quickly cleared of innocents, but the four desperate men, McFarlane and three unidentified accomplices, initiated and continued to offer armed resistance. They severely wounded a City Police sergeant in the first fusillade and continued to hold at bay all who approached their quarters by firing with automatic pistoles from the ground floor and two windows that overlooked Jamaica-street.

So desperate and prolonged was their resistance that the initial police force had to be augmented by detachments from nearby Metropolitan Police. From 11 in the evening until nearly 1 in the morning desultory firing was taking place against the windows of the house within which the fugitive and his desperadoes were sheltered. Upon the initial arrival of the police at the door of No. 201, Jamaica-street, the first response was pistol fire which became brisk and heavy. Thus the initial attack failed to dislodge them. By 12 o’clock a representative of the Home Secretary and many officials of the City Police and Scotland Yard were at the scene to observe the unfolding of this extraordinary encounter. The likes of which one official was said to remark ‘resembled the Siege of Sidney Street’ against the Houndsditch Assassins, and to which he heartly hoped would not so escalate, in his remembrance of those events, which was added to, by close proximity, as Jamaica-street was but so situated that Sidney Street was only several streets nearby. It was to this concern arriving officials reminded those in charge of cordoning off the tenement, there would be no suggestion of the possibility of a repetition of the circumstances which led to that most violent resolution.

Reports are uniform concerning the fray. It would seem upon the appearance of a contingent of City Police lead by Detective-inspector James Fitzjames Spenser, two men rushed immediately to the window above and discharged automatic pistols into the street. As to the identify of those producing the initial fire, it was unknown, as all that was visible to those below being but arms in shirt-sleeves and hands holding automatic pistols. Observers were of the belief the weapons were of a type used by anarchists, and so were identified as being Browning automatics. Fire then began from the ground floor as well in direction of the front door. This fusillade from two directions rather paralysed the early movement of the police, who were forced to retire from the tenement entrance. In the retreat, Sergeant Terry of the City Police was heard to cry, “I am done!” and his companions found he was shot through the chest. At the same moment Constable Brayton complained of deafness, and it was found that a bullet had pierced the rim of his hard felt hat. In that the fugitive and this accomplices within the tenement had a taste of blood they continued fire upon anything they saw moving in the street. An innocent drayman, putting in his horses in a nearby yard, narrowly escaped a bullet, and the wounded police-sergeant could only be conveyed to safety by the brave physical heft and passing of him to safety by fellow officers.


From the noise and the general presence of armed men it would appear to have been fierce street fighting such as one would have suspected in the streets of Odessa. Although there was at once a curious contradiction however to this allusion. For every window in the vicinity, and many in the actual area of the conflict, were filled with female onlookers. For the most part they were young girls and women with children. None showed any evidence of fear over their curiosity though they were in imminent danger of being hit by a chance ricochet. As many of the armed police employed about the tenement fired at varied angles, so that bullets ricocheted in a most erratic manner. To the onlookers—who showed no fear or comprehension—they were ever a constant danger. In fact some innocent people were struck. Two men in the crowd were slightly wounded, and this writer himself was quite close to Detective-inspector Lindley of the City Police, when a ricochet bullet pierced his coat and found its way to be lodged in his pocket. Mercifully it did not strike home. But one shuddered when one thought what might happen if in despair the fugitive and his accomplices were to attempt to “run the gauntlet” into the street. The indiscriminate firing that would have ensued would have had such disastrous effect upon all these “fearless” spectators drawn to the barricaded conflict.

It will be convenient here to state the position within which the armed fugitive and his accomplishes were well placed. The first floor of No. 201, Ritch’s-buildings, consisted of three-rooms. The front room, which over liked Jamaica-street was about 18ft. square and had two fairly large windows. At the back of the room in the right-hand corner (presuming a person were looking out into the street) is the door opening onto the stair that goes up to the top storey and to the passage. Behind the front room is a smaller room, with a small window looking out on the back garden.


At half-past 12 it was observed that a small fire had been likewise set in the back of the premises. This drew attention and gave alarm as smoke was seen to be issuing from the windows of the lavatory situated midway between the first and second floors, and speculation was rife as to its origin and probable cause. The smoke did not appreciably increase in volume, although a streak of flame shot its tongue through the window. The Fire Brigade was summoned, but attempts to combat the blaze, as it was so situated, was met with a heavy fusillade from those barricaded within. During the ensuing street fusillade, two persons are said to have been wounded by ricochet bullets, and several among the large crowd of gathered sightseers narrowly escaped severe injury.

In the event of the fire, it as soon decided by consolation with the representative of the Home Secretary and City Police, who owing to have been given charge of the arrest upon request, in that one of their own had been murdered by the fugitive, so represented by Detective-inspector Spencer, it was decided the impasse could not be sustained. It was suggested metal shields should be improvised from whatever could be laid to hand, and a concentrated charge be made upon the building. In that the “plain-clothes men” in the immediate vicinity of this writer were simply thirsting to volunteer to rush the house, there was no shortage of able men to do so.


As the set fire proved to be gaining a hold upon the inside of the house, and it being obvious the Fire Brigade would not be immediately able to be called into play to put an end to the growing extraordinary situation, there was a considered consultation and a decision made to raid the premises as the fire blazed. In a thunder of revolvers and automatic pistols, Detective-inspector James Fitzjames Spencer, of the City Police, led a contingent of police, using makeshift shields of whatever could be found, in a rush against the tenement. With heavy supporting fire they were able to enter the burning ground floor. Upon the assault of the building, the fugitive and his desperate accomplices, were forced to vacate their barricade and in so doing chose to make good a daring escape by way of yet another tremendous fusillade within the building. In doing so they wounded a Detective-sergeant and his forces, having been so placed to secure the rear of the building. The rear of the premises being obscured from view except from the back windows of one of the few houses on Exmouth-street, in what was considered a rat’s warren of an egress. Amid the thunderous fusillade, smoke, and a distraction by the heavy scurryment of rodents in the darkness, the fugitive and his vicious confederates made good their escape into the night.



Ever since the discovery of the shocking parts of a female torso upon the banks of the Thames, and the subsequent assassination of a City Police Detective-inspector, the combined attention of the City and Metropolitan Police has been concentrated on a Naval Lieutenant, Bradley McFarlane, and upon a district, largely inhabited by aliens. And in particular an area lying between Mile-end-road on the one side and Commercial-road East on the other. From the first of their attention, detectives have scouted the idea that the suspect would seek to leave the country. The police being closely in touch with criminal elements in the alien quarters of the distract, felt they had been successful in obtaining the co-operation of these elements in barring that avenue of escape. Thus, leaving the only course available to the suspect, to ‘lay-low,’ so as to hide within the distract, upon discovery this avenue of egress as having been so closely monitored. It was upon information supplied by police informant, a well trusted ‘nark’, that such confirmation was given that the fugitive had been so seen to have taken up apparent residence within the district by way of observation of his making use of a motor car within. City Police set about to discover the locality at which this may be taking place. Thus, officers disguised as shoeblacks, as pedlars, and as street hawkers, taking up positions had been observing the streets of the district for several days beginning from early morning until late at night.

It was not until late last evening that the police obtained tangible evidence that the suspect was hiding in the neighbourhood of Jamaica-street among the block of tenements known as Ritch-mansions, which leads itself to isolation. It is a budling of modern construction, residing on Jamaica Street. The building in which the fugitive had taken up concealment was a building of modern construction. In fact, it bares the date 1898 on the foundation-stone. Ritch-mansions, consists of eight tenement dwellings, each divided off by fire-proof walls, and has a shop at each end. Each of the houses has three stories, with windows in each facing the street. The back of the block of tenements is separated by small yards and a continuous wall from the mass of buildings. The building in which the fugitive had taken up concealment was located on the south end. A secret watch was kept from an empty apartment opposite the suspected premises and from some manufacturing premises commanding a view of the Ritch’s-buildings. The information became so definite much later in the night, and fearing an escape, special orders were issued to raid the premises.

Those orders were very secretly conveyed to the body of City police and detectives which had previously been told to stand ready. The arrangements for the raid were in the hands of Detective-inspector James Fizjames Spencer, of the City Police, who had taken the lead in the murder hunt owing to the death of City Police Detective-inspector Charles Cotford. It was decided that the block of tenements should be surrounded, and that every possible point of egress should be stopped. These orders were not put into operation until 11 o’clock p.m. The fray that soon ensued began upon Detective-inspector Spenser’s knock upon the door of No. 201.

With regards to the failed aftermath of the raid it was discovered in the first-floor flat from which heavy fired was sustained from its windows, that the desperadoes and their fugitive leader had been well armed. A Mauser and Browning pistol and a quantity of bullets were found to have been left behind. A box of other discoveries which was also removed. Including a very macabre item, as was reported to this writer, confidentially by one who had been in the flat and had seen some of the contents of box in question. A copy of the gothic novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula.

In the Strands of Her Evil Web
Session Fourteen, Part One


Veronica Well’s Journal, 14 Match 1916 -
Don’t let me go. Don’t let me go, I screamed as I hung suspended above the street. It seemed five floors down to the cobbles below. My feet seeking anything for purchase. My free hand flaying at the air. It was night. The only light, the moon, it seemed huge, much too large, shimmering through the racing clouds as it illuminated the rooftops. The chimney pots bellowing harsh smoke. I was wearing only a frail white nightdress. I looked up in terror. Don’t let go. Don’t let go. I pleaded as she looked down at me – holding me suspended by the wrist. Her fair hair lifted by the wind, fanning about her lovely face. She was beautiful save for her eyes. Pale sapphires. Having become adamantine. Not the voluptuous wickedness that had been watching me as I slept. As I felt the bed linen sliding down from me; her slender fingers ever so slowly pulling upon them. I could move but I didn’t want to. I wanted her to remove the linen. I wanted her to sit beside me, to draw closer. I wanted her to loosen my nightdress. And yet, I felt frightened as she did so, as I looked into her long seductive gaze. I felt the thrilling sensation of my hair being brushed back even as I felt an ever-growing trepidation. Lying so languid in anticipation, I felt her moving closer and closer, leaning over me, her exquisite lips parting. The sensation of her breath upon the sensitive flesh of my throat. The lips sweetly pressing upon the pulse driven my all too excited heart. Flights of angels I don’t think brought me to the rooftop. How or why? I was only there. Dangling. She held me by one hand. The wind in our hair. Bellowing the hem of my nightdress. Don’t let go. I am more than certain that Dr Freud could explain what it all meant, but I rather suspect it was inspired by that lurid cover illustration of ‘Sunday’s’ Illustrated Police News – which I had taken notice of lying upon ‘Sunday’s’ table, upon our furtive entrance to the private club in Fitzrovia – of the lovely somnambulist ingénue, barefoot, her gossamer gown suggestively clinging to her figure so as to depict the night wind of the rooftops as she was about to step off the edge. But rather than walking I was dangling in my sleep.

I am plagued now by visions and dreams. And why not? Am I not held against my will – ever watched by Mr Ferguson and the odious Mr Crump? Though I try to take my mind way from 126 Long Lane to lose myself in reading – I but make it through but several paragraphs to find myself asking, what is it I have just read? I see the words, but they have lost all meaning; and so I have to go back, and read again. Over and over again. Which only adds to my frustrations. My anxieties. My vexation of the situation. Of the circumstances of my own making. Of my ever-growing complicity. If not for Miss Miniver’s marvellous concoction — she had mixed up another glass upon my return from my willing seduction and Pleydell-Smith’s bed, whereupon I put myself away in my bedroom with a book and my conscience. I am resigned to what I have done – lain with him as they desired. And in that I have done so, not out of concern for my well-being – well aware that by their hand the young woman before me found herself butchered – but for my dear sisters. I am now so assuredly ashamed of my self-absorption and spiteful monomania in regards to my selfish desires in having so neglected them, and my brother. Here I sit a Rapunzel locked away in my tower with my sins and regrets. My restless sleep. My nightmares. And I feel so tired today. Struggle against a great lassitude. It is as if I cannot shake the weariness of sleep. I arose in a chill and peered out the window. The morning sun shining upon the remnants of the days’ worth of snow, the barren limbs of the trees standing so stark and forlorn. A stray dark bird hopping upon the glistening crest to suddenly take flight as if it felt my eyes upon it. Everything had a cold clarity to it. I peered downward, but being upon the first floor, the perspective was not of the great height from which I had dangled in my dream. Though I failed to pull back the thin drape too far, as the gleam of the sun upon the crest of the snow was rather painful. I allowed the frail drape to fall and dressed to fret about the bedroom. It was the first day I had awaken without Miss Miniver to play as lady’s maid.

She had left the evening before. When I had gone down to dinner – Mrs Willingham host to Mr Crump, Mr Ferguson and myself – she was not there. No one replied to my enquiry about her. Whatever self-assurance and bit of bravado I had felt earlier from my successful seduction of ‘my assignment’ was quickly shaken by their silent disregard. As if I were now too sullied for their course and hypocritical sensibilities. Or their disdain being perhaps more a reflection of their thought that though I easily enough succumbed, as I entered with my usual grace to take my place at the table, is was too high and mighty to admit I was in fact now in the ‘game.’ Whatever the cause, tension had taken up the fifth chair.

It was an incredulous meal, what with the Misters, sitting at table. Mr Crump slurping his soup and Mr Ferguson, eyes downcast into the columns of the paper before him, taking slow sips from his dripping spoon. I asked once again of Miss Miniver

“As always with Miss Miniver, she is about — whatever Miss Miniver is about.” Mrs Willingham said quite abstractedly, sitting imperiously at the head of the table so much like my father lost in The Call rather than the Times.

“She is not under your direction?” I enquired.

“Miss Miniver?” She mocked in some incredulousness. “I dare say anyone has that woman under direction.”

“She’s Neville Pym’s?” Mr Ferguson not looking up from this reading.

I recalled her assault upon the underground platform, having only been accosted by Pym moments before in the rumbling carriage; and the two of them seeing to my invitation to the Golden Calf —

“Neville Pym’s,” Careful, to seem merely curious — seeking further information, “I thought she was that pornographer’s — Aytown’s.”

“Oh, not in that way,” Mrs Willingham said distracted, “Not Miss Miniver.”

“Naughty Librarian —" Mr Crump said all too knowingly, glancing across the table to Mr Ferguson, who at that looked up for a moment as they exchanged a look. And with a base smirk, Mr Crump continued: – “Unlike you, she’s no use of a cock.”

“She’s by way of Neville — who’s had such dealings with her.” Mr Ferguson offered in that measured, detected voice of his, “The camera, you see. Among other things”

She’s with Pym. And he’s with the Russians — only in the underground carriage he admits he has no allegiance to any apparently but to himself. Wishes me to reveal whatever it is Lady Helene wants me to obtain from Winston – the Chemist. And so, yes, it does make some sense to me, she being his confederate – how else would he expect me to misdirect, surreptitiously, whatever it is I am – I am in Winston’s bed to find.

Veronica Well’s Journal, 14 Match 1916 – later

I had arisen and dressed, uncertain of the day’s proceedings as Miss Miniver, of whom I have grown to expect to daily divulge the itinerary, had yet to arrive.

Two young women appearing at breakfast, led by a new gentleman – using the term quite loosely, though he was well-dressed – by the name of Teddy. A tall, young man, with lots of chestnut hair and a schoolboy’s smile, whom the colours should have been coveted. Each of the young women appeared more as typists in an insurer’s office than to their chosen profession – which became immediately known by their conversation with Mrs Willingham, their divergent Marxist Madam. Some Australian lads not yet shipped off to France had refused to settle accounts based upon their knowledge of some arrangement with someone, who oversaw, as I deduced – being as he had no name, only the Supply Officer – the logistics of getting stolen medical supplies into black market transport. With a stern resolution apparently forthcoming, owing to the look in Miss Willingham’s eyes as she rather slowly placed her napkin upon the table and arose – departing with the two women, and ‘Teddy,’ for whom her response was to be solely restricted. As I was continuing to prepare my plate from the breakfast-sideboard, Mr Crump, his presence announced by the stepping upon a creaking floorboard, entered the door leading from the kitchen into the dining-parlour, to rather gruffly inform me there weren’t no time for breakfast — “Gather up your hat and coat. We’re going out.”

There was something very ominous about the tone of his voice, the look in his eye, his stance, hip-shot with some cocky self-assurance, that gave an involuntary rise of anxiety and my apprehension as I did well to keep my hand holding the plate from trembling, “Out? Where—” My foreboding was ever growing. There had been no Miss Miniver. Mrs Willingham had left the room. I had not felt well to begin with — and now I felt faint owing to a whirl of doubts and thoughts and suspicions. Had I not done as I was instructed. Had I not proven to be sufficient to have lain in his bed? Although — he had not called. Yesterday evening or night. In that there had been no following-up — no card, no letter, no flowers — was this wherein, I too had proven myself to have been insufficient? I turned at the sound at the opposite door to see Mr Ferguson entering the dining-parlour, my hat and coat in hand. Whereas Mr Crump was all seemingly sinister eagerness, Mr Ferguson’s face was devoid of all emotion. She had said I was no mere trifle, but I felt a need for her support. “Where—where is Miss Miniver?”

“Just the three of us.”

“Well, I’m having breakfast.” I tried to make my voice stronger than I felt.

“No need.”

No need? Before I could put forth a further protest, Mr Ferguson stepped forward and offered my hat and coat. With Mrs Willingham closeted behind closed doors, with the two women and ‘Teddy,’ I was hurriedly ushered from the dining-parlour; down the creaky narrow corridor; though the transom lit entrance hall; out of the house, and with almost a stumble, into the awaiting Lanchester. The morning looked to be a bright one. The glare of the sun breaking from the cover of clouds painful as I sat back, one hand shielding my eyes. Given a moment to enquire, I asked once again as to where we were headed — but neither of the Misters would reply. Why did I feel so dreadfully weak?

And then we were off – where to, I had no idea. From sideboard to Lanchester it had all been a whirl of bewilderment. Beside me, adjusting the skirt of his coat, Mr Crump retrieved his pocket watch, clicked it open, checked the time, and smartly snapped it shut, to return it to its tight waistcoat pocket’s nest. I looked to him and enquired once more, as we turned upon Borough High Street, where were we going. His reply was to remove his hand from his overcoat pocket to display, for a brief moment, the threat of a closed, ivory handled straight-razor: —

“There will be no theatrics.”

My mounting apprehension turned to sudden fear – the abruptness of it all, the hurried way in which they had escorted me out of the house, the sinister tone of Mr Crump accompanied by the menace of the razor. I was assailed once more by a light-headedness as I tried to make sense of it all. What had happened? What turn of events? Where was Miss Miniver? My attention now run wild with an oppressive confusion of thoughts. There are things far worse than death. She had said, but now, it would appear death was a very real possibility. She would do everything in her power – she had assured me – and yet – she was nowhere to be found this morning. I looked beyond the window, the early morning pedestrians, labours set out on a task or looking to be to work, as they hurried on their way – to strike upon the window, to wave, to call out, would no doubt have only gotten me a curious but idle glance. In a limousine, this early in the morning, they would have thought it nothing more than some wayward daughter being retrieved and taken back to her father – I will tell you now Veronica, there is within you some abominable desire for destruction, of which, I cannot fathom the depths of, nor, from whence it arises; this insufferable suffragette hysteria of yours . . . riotous pushing and shoving in the streets . . . prison; prison mind you — my daughter hell bound for prison; you mark my words, if you do not curb this appetite for ruin, you will soon discover yourself lost beyond all measure, beyond all conventional society, respectability, and who will have you then — no one; I have to say it, truly, I do, I fear there but awaits for you a fate which should deservedly be reserved for nothing less than some common trollop, or far worse, that of a criminal — for the good of the family, Veronica, for the good of all, for the love of God, perhaps more importantly, for yourself, turn from this course – which his lawyers and a well written cheque sought to silence the scandal and to preserve what’s left of my reputation.

Within the rattle of the motor, its thin tyres crushing though ruts upon the icy roadway, jostling on the button-tufted back seat of the limousine, the echo of my father’s prediction, like a gypsy curse upon me; I pulled the lapels of my coat about me and huddled into my woollen scarf. There was a soreness at my throat. A weakness. An accompanying shortness of breath. Why did I feel so listless? I knew for certain in a struggle, I would not fair at all against them.

As we made our way down Borough Road toward St. George’s Circus, my eyes looked to the shops and businesses going by, sought the adverted faces of those walking along the narrow pavement. Something had happened. Decidedly. I tried to recollect some sense of it. This morning – having awoken from my restless dreadful dreams, weak, and feeling rather ill – I had been to be sure late in coming down. But there had been no Miss Miniver to awaken me. To administer her morning concoction. In her odd way to reassure me. To have so earlier despised her, I now admit I was so desirous of her attentions, and now – infinitely suspicious of their absence. Had there been a meeting held downstairs? A decision made? When I arrived to breakfast, Mrs Willingham having so quickly abandoned me. Those two women – the Australian soldiers – the whole of it seemed upon reflection all too contrived. In order to leave me to the hands of the Misters?

Out the window, there were now more people moving along the pavements of the narrow road as we moved past works and factories. We were heading into Lambeth. Another lamb to slaughter? The traffic grew thicker with workers, cyclists, a few lorries. Rattling trams. Bundled in coats and wraps, their hats held by hand and pin against the wind. Those walking the pavement or stepping to the cobbles only cast an occasional glance to the oddity of a limousine moving through their borough. Some member of the peerage? Or yet another of those too new to wealth, longing to be posh, upon making another profit from the sacrifice of those in the trenches. As ostentatious as it would appear, making our way through the labyrinth of Lambeth, using the Lanchester was so well-designed, in that moving among those in this borough, there would be little care as to what happened to anyone within as we passed. To be looked upon with scorn. To be ignored. My eyes looked upon the door latch. I could open it and hurl myself to the icy slush of the cobbles. A couple of those passing-by stopping to look. The car coming to a halt. The Misters alighting from the Lanchester, brandishing their revolvers. Gunshots—

There was now the scent of the river. The circle of gulls. And suddenly I was filled once more with the thoughts of that poor Diced-Up Girl. Had she taken just such a journey? Had they come for her — gather your hat and coat. Just the three of us. Having been insufficient. But I was sufficient. I had seduced him. I wanted to cry out – I fucked him!

Mr Ferguson sitting stiff-backed and sullen at the wheel; Mr Crump solemn at my side. I had had little regard for either man and I had made it quite evident; and Mr Crump’s left eye, though less pronounced as it had been, still showed evidence of its blackening – which I well suspected owed to my previous bit of subterfuge in escaping them to see Randall Tanner in Limehouse. And now they were smug in the assurance of my comeuppance – certain be sure to inflect as much pain as possible – oh, God, if you are up there – I felt a sudden swell of tears and a catch of my breath – they might not even kill me before they began to cut me up.

How had things changed so drastically – and why? I felt once again as if I could not breathe, the confines of the limousine, the narrowing roads of Lambeth as we made our way ever closer toward the bridge – but in doing so it only made it ever so obvious their intent, in that it long since been closed to motorcars. I glanced once more to the door latch. I await a moment for the Lanchester to slow —

Approaching the bridge, I could see the streetlamps, the icy glint of the steep incline, the few pedestrians hazarding now its slickness to cross. It has long since been closed but to foot traffic – there will come a moment . . . when suddenly, tugged by the momentum, we turned left to travel along the river. The Lancaster not at all slowing as it hurled its menace along the roadway. The noxious smells of the neighbourhood finding their way into the carriage, those of the river mixed with the industry along the banks. The Pottery. Lack’s Dock. The looming gin distillery. The large vinegar factory.

I glanced out the window – where – when – wherever it is to be – an abandoned factory, some warehouse, a shed on the dock – wherever, wherein, they intended to do it – the limousine to take a sudden turn. Pulling into some dank seclusion. Mr Crump reaching to grab me, pulling me out, thrashing, screaming – the grim sky, the cry of gulls above looking down to watch our struggle; the snap of the razor opening – the glint of steel, the sharp slice across my throat – feeling of my life’s blood gushing out. Or rather, to be drug forth, manhandled, struggling, unable to break free, forced through a dark threshold and tossed into the filth of a foul-smelling hovel, whereupon, lifted up and thrown down, upon some much stained table – where they gutted fish as well as women – having been stripped and struggling against fetid hemp bindings; a butcher’s cleaver in hand, Mr Crump, “I’m goin’ to quite enjoy meself.” I felt once again the dizzying heights of my dream – precariously dangling. Don’t let go! Don’t let go! What had I done? What had brought me to this point? Where were they taking me?

I asked again. My anxiety and alarm growing as no one spoke. Mr Ferguson beyond the glass at the wheel. Mr Crump, his lips set in a grim determination. The car hurling along the road of the embankment. If this was it – if this was their intent – then I would take it into my own hands, I would pull the latch – I would end it in a twisted heap rather than allow them do what they will.

I could see the distant hint of the Vauxhall Bridge. The motorcar relentlessly hurling along the embankment road. Suddenly once more I felt lightheaded. Almost faint. Why was I so weak? Something they had given me. Surely. When? In my sleep? To make it easier. For them. Oh, God –please. Please! The bridge now growing closer. The gulls. The river. When? Where? My eyes seeking the repellent, foetid shed, slick and stinking of the river. Thoughts of their hands upon me. I could not hold back tears. I wanted so to say good-bye to Gwen. Seized with relentless remorse—why had I not written her a letter. Why had I not written to explain how much she meant to me – instead of this endless accounting in this horrid journal, when I should have tried to explain how much I love you, how horribly wretched I am for having never told you so. Not defending you more against father. I could barely see the Vauxhall Bridge through the tears. Gwen – oh dearest Gwen all I have done — I have done now to keep you safe. The river now growing ever so close.

Forgive me.

And quickly I sat forward and grasped the latch – but it did not work!

I pulled at it franticly — again and again.


I heard the light chuckle from Mr Crump.


I felt a quickening rush as we grew nearer and ever nearer the Vauxhall Bridge. The rumble of the train now somewhere near heading to Vauxhall Station. Where? I looked out the back window. Tried to see through the windshield. Somewhere, any moment — the quick turn. To some hidden industrial dock. No doubt just beyond the Gas Works. There they could toss whatever was left of me into the river. Oh, God. My fist to the window.

Please – God let them kill me first.

And then, abruptly we turned right at the bridge and we were on it — passing over the river. I closed my eyes and felt the tears, as I sat back and knew now it to be true — that I have no conviction, that I am a hypocrite, for when faced with the imminent certainty of death, I had cried to God, I had prayed, whether I not I believed.

God or Ra, or whomever — thank you.

My hand trembled. I felt ill. They had taken me down to the river but they were not going to put me in it. We crossed over. Barges and smaller vessels leisurely proceeding as they left their grey, cold wakes in the water. Still, where were we going?

I cast a look to Crump, but his glance was void of expression.

“Bastard.” I was trembling but within the fear it now gave way to anger.

“What’s that? You thinking we were going to put you in the river?”

“It is what you ¬wanted me to think it.” If ever I hated anyone –

“Just so we have it clear. I don’t like you. I don’t like you one bit. And if it comes to it, and I’m told to take you to the river, I can tell you, I will, and I will quite enjoy — doing it.”

The it not having any further need of explanation, nor that in his grim, stubble cheeked expression, the sinister glint in his eye, there was any question as to who had cut up that poor girl – the only mystery remaining being what he may have done to her before having done so.

What a pit of vipers I had truly fallen into. My hands were trembling still as we moved now along Grosvenor, south of Pimlico, I looked to the river’s cold water, where fathoms below, he said he would delight in sending me – weighted down, hair streaming like the tresses of a mermaid – naked, pale. Eyes, dead and staring. That is if I were intact. Which I would not be, in Mr Crump would be certain in taking his greatest pleasure in seeing to my slow dismemberment.

To whatever they were about – wherever we had left the Long Lane for – they had seized upon it as an opportunity to abuse me – not physically, in that bruises would have to be explained, though Mr Crump most certainly must feel a bruise or two was no doubt just compensation for the one he wore – but rather, they had purposefully set out to scare me, to terrorize me, to let me know they were but a word away from turning this their mean trick into a reality. Miss Miniver had said I was no delicate trifle – but this morning, weak and pale, still trembling from my imaginings of this impromptu journey, I had proven myself to be just such. And I vowed I would never be again. I cast a furtive glance to Mr Crump – if one were to survive a pit of vipers then one needed to sprout some fangs – white, sharp, elongated incisors, lips pulled back . . . looking down upon me, dangling, holding me suspended by my wrist, my dream once more haunting me – and abhorrently I so envisioned how should I but slyly purloin that ivory handled razor, I would so silent slip it open, my thumb touching its steel, cold and sharp, as I crept stealthily, with all the instinct of a preying cat, one careful step after another, silently, lithe and slow, just behind unsuspecting Crump, where I could reach out, and around, and quickly pull the straight edge of the razor across his throat – the great rush of blood flowing out – the heady scent of it . . . assailed . . . and for a moment I was overcome by the horror of the thought that I could do so . . . and feel nothing – nothing more than it being but just compensation – for that feeling of helplessness as the limousine hurled along toward a demise beyond imagining; for that tone in his voice as he informed me he would take great pleasure in inflicting whatever horrors that were within his providence; for rather than having filled me with ever more fearful submission, they had awakened a determination, born of anger at myself for having become so overcome by my dreadful imaginings — for having become, rather than as Miss Minver had said I was not, some delicate trifle. For it was more than obvious to me now, in that my circumstance was not about to miraculously change — it was I who needed to do so.

And as I write this I am still stuck by the memory of the imagining of Crump’s blood gushing from the wound of this throat – the exciting sight of it, the heady scent of it. How do I know the scent of blood?

Yes, well, past the Royal Hospital, before Burton’s Court, a turn at Flood Street, we proceeded. I knew Chelsea to be bohemian, an artist’s quarter – Wilde had lived here – closer to the river, Cheyne Walk, among artists, painters, poets, and radicals. Anarchists — philosophical and otherwise. We travelled along an avenue of large terraced townhouses. Whatever were we doing here, I could only wonder as Mr Ferguson pulled to a halt in front of one. “You can cease your wondering.” Mr Crump said, as he opened the door and stepped out into a wind, which quickly caught in the skirt of his overcoat, pulled at his hat. The motorcar still running, Mr Ferguson, seemingly well disinterested, sat unmoving at the wheel.

I looked at Crump, standing in the wind, as he gave a rise of his shoulder and a bit of sideward motion to his head, hands deep into his overcoat pockets, towards the red-bricked terraced townhouse before us. “Come along with you. Time enough for trembling later.” As I slid across the seat to do so, he offered no supporting hand, but rather stood impatiently looking at the front of the terraced townhouse. I sat at the edge of the seat, and glared at him. He stood his ground and gave me a hard look in return. Whatever awaited – would wait, he would either gave me a hand in assistance getting out of the motor car, or he would drag me out. A brisk gust of wind came down the avenue and perhaps aware we may very well be standing before the gaze of whomever awaited within, he took a hand from his pocket – the one in which he had concealed the razor – and succumbed to offering me a helping hand out of the limousine.

I squinted against the gleam of sunlight off the crest of the snow which still blanketed the pavement and lie atop the wrought-iron of the street fence ornamenting the pavement and walk. My gaze wandered over the red-brick face of the terraced townhouse, before taking a more than casual observation of the neighbourhood. A few idle pedestrians out seeking the returning sun in a leisurely walk. Others with a more hurried step – servants on a task. And a fair-haired woman in a long black coat. A hat with a black lace veil. As if in morning mourning. She stood at the corner as if having just taken notice of our arrival. Mr Crump, having stepped over and pushed open the iron gate of the street fence, said with some irritation, “Don’t just be standin’ there.” I gave him a quick look and in turning back, the woman was no longer there. Odd. There had been something all too familiar about her.

We proceeded through the gate along the swept walk to the front steps as I looked up beyond the terrace of the first of least four floors. My dream. The height from which I dangled? A premonition? The steps too had all been swept clear of the cling of ice and the dusting of snow. Mr Crump walked up but rather than knocking just opened the door. As there was no one to greet us, having walked into the spacious entry hall, one hand reaching to grasp the crown, Mr Crump, removed his hat and continued to lead the way. The floor, a dark polished hardwood, ever a task to maintain, announced our footsteps; the entry hall was large — the size of many a receiving hall I had been in — but the receiving hall we passed into was grand. A huge chandelier hung over the central expanse, above a gleaming polished mahogany table – which occupied as well the centre of a lighter hued hardwood floor – whereupon its claw feet rested upon a very expensive gold-and-crimson carpet. A curled staircase, its handrails dark mahogany, supported by its cast iron balusters, led up to the entrance of the first-floor landing. Behind us there was an open door letting on to a library, and before us, and to the right, the ajar door of a good-sized waiting room. Across the expanse of the receiving hall was the opening entry to a large dining room. From what I could see, the rooms were lofty, spacious, and the furnishings were to say the least not at all what one might expect, ostentatious – or of just mere splendour for splendour’s sake – but rather they all seem to reflected a real taste of elegance.

As I stood, removing my gloves, having just unbuttoned my coat, a side door opened and from it there emerged Lady Hélène — closely followed a rather stout gentleman in a grey suit, waistcoat, with a visible gold watch chain, who asked, in a decidedly deferential tone, whether or not he could proceed. “In lieu of the addendum of our notations, I think we can say yes,” She replied and glancing across the central table, gave me a look of recognition.

“They have all been made, milady.” The gentleman, securing a small black portfolio rather carefully under his arm, said as he closed the door behind them, “There’s of course the change of wallpaper in the fourth bedroom, second floor; the telephone installation in the kitchen; renovation of the front parlour, from gentleman’s library, to lady’s morning room; the replacement of the drapes in the master bedroom and dressing room —”

“And the blemish on the mantel,” she added as she continued to look at me now beyond mere recognition with some considerable interest, “Veronica, you are looking a bit pale.”

“Oh, yes – I have noted that as well.” the gentleman confirmed, trailing her as he gave me a quizzical glance.

Lady Hélène came to a sudden halt at his continued interruption and turned to him, “Excellent. See that M. d’Avary reviews the documents. And if all is satisfactory, I shall finalize them.”

“Today, Milady?” He rather anxiously enquired, while doing his best to maintain his obsequious courtesy, “Seeing as how . . . there are some — and totally understandable, owing to misadventure of the documents — staff already on premises.”

“M. d’Avary.” She repeated ever so dismissively, as she gave him a wave of her hand and turned to once more to move toward us, “Mr Crump, there should be coffee in the kitchen.” She informed him, and was done with him, as well; her concern was now more with me as her hand reached out to brush back a few stray strands of hair about my temple, “Veronica, you are not ill?”

“No. I just did not sleep well.” I replied.

As Mr Crump, hat in hand, began to make his way toward the opening to the dining room, Lady Hélène stopped him up short — “Tell Lampton I will be taking breakfast,” and then, casting a inquisitive glance to me, asked whether I desired coffee. I explained I had not yet had breakfast. The more than slight look of incredulity to this information gave way quickly to vexation, as she told Crump to inform ‘Lampton’ I would be joining her for breakfast, even as she took note of the stout gentleman, who, having opened his small black portfolio, there upon the mahogany centre table, was now making some notations with his fountain pen. “As I said, all particulars are to be given to M. d’Avary – I will finalize them later – this has taken far too much of the morning as it is. And as you are heading out, Mr Ballard — please take Veronica’s coat and hat and place them in the hall closet, when you retrieve your own.”

He closed up his pen and portfolio with the slightest of frowns, which quickly became a fawning smile, and he moved about the table towards me to watch as I removed the pin from my hat, and then my coat, which he took and gave me a smile of all his smarmy politeness.

“As you can see, things are amiss this morning. I had thought the house to have been let yesterday, and staff to move in,” her displeasure sharply conveyed in her voice, “But I arrive from my hotel to find it to have been locked up last night — when they arrived.”

“I am so very sorry—what with the war and all, there is, as you see, such a shortage these days of qualified clerks — not of course to give any impression that those, to whom we employee lack in any professional capacity, but, in certain circumstances, rare though they are, there are upon occasion – as uncommon an occurrence as it is within such a wealth of transactions, which pass through their hands, but certainly, an understandable reason, not an excuse – for a documentary misadventure, in such instances, wherein a signature is, as inadvertent as the case may be, overlooked, ” The gentleman offered to me as if I were someone of importance, “But now, we will shall see to things expeditiously, milady.” A quick glance to Lady Hélène, “To be assured.”

When first I met her that horrid evening, in which I found myself trapped in the centre of the web of the conspiracy spun by Mrs Willingham and that odious Neville Pym, I was uncertain whether or not Lady Hélène was but merely some faux title bestowed upon her in some criminal grandiosity – in that I was vaguely aware among their associations they gave one another odd appellations either by way of some affection or in disparagement – but now, seeing her in this grand townhouse, in the rich silk mulberry dress, the all too dismissive look, it was readily apparent that she was indeed born of the aristocracy. For in reply to Mr Ballard, she said nothing, but the posture and long look conveyed volumes, as he gave her a rather quick insecure nod and then made a hasty footed exit with his portfolio in one hand and my coat and hat in another. It was as well readily apparent that the Misters had received word to gather me up, as I had been so directed in gathering my hat and coat, and to deliver me here, to her – upon which they had so delightfully designed their malicious subterfuge.

As we proceeded into the dining room, two men, apparently the butler and a footman, by their appearance, arrived. The butler to stand at attention at the sideboard, whereupon the footman transferred from his tray a silver bowl of black pudding, to accompany the eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, croissants and toast there already arrayed. Criminals for servants? Or servants who were criminals? Infiltrating to steal. To gather information, to secure intelligence for future blackmail – to be sold to a higher bidder, for some nefarious business leverage – or revenge. “What do you think of it?” Lady Hélène asked, as she strode leisurely beside me, while we made our way alongside the dining table, “I just let it.”

“Rather grand.” I fell into step with her.

“Ten bedrooms, three bath rooms, four reception rooms. A tearoom. Ball room. There is even a billiards room. A steal to be truthful – what they are asking. Family being in distress. Seems the long-supposed heir fell victim to one of Lettow-Vorbeck’s East African guns.” All said as casually as if but discussing the trifling acquisition of an evening dress.

“You say you were staying in a hotel – where is your home?” How oddly easy I found myself, walking with her – to fall into a rather effortless conversation – and recalled feeling similarly when we had done so that night in the Cavern of the Golden Calf.

“Most of my interests are on the continent, but Paris is my home. I have two, actually. An apartment in the nineteenth arrondissement. And a maison in le 16e. But it seems more and more I am being drawn back to England.”

“You are English?” I asked, as she spoke with an accent.

“My mother.”

“Coffee madam?” The taller of the two men, whom I took to be Lampton, the butler – who though middle-aged still seemed to have lost none of his hair — although it had succumbed to strands of grey — and there were about his eyes, and in the corner of his smile, something, which gave vague testimony to him being not the dour, Mr Cranston, of our household, or like any other butler in any other household, for that matter, to which I was familiar, as he concealed a rather sly disdain directed in my direction, which he did well to try and mask, as he enquired upon our approached of the sideboard. I nodded as I watched Lady Hélène take up her plate and began to select from serving dishes.

“And so, nowhere in England to call home?” I enquired, well aware the footman was now far beyond but a casual observation of my figure.

“There is a family estate, near York, but – I am not at all welcome.” She selected from the bacon, “As yet.”

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

She did not reply as she stepped over to take her place at the end of the table and Lampton expertly put in place, a fine crystal glass of water, as well as an elegant china cup and saucer, into which he poured coffee. I was amazed at how quickly and with a true servers finesse they moved, as the other, set glass and coffee down, as I had began, but had not yet had a chance, to sit.

“Thank you, Lampton.” To which he nodded, understanding it was his cue to depart, but before he did so, he placed a small silver bell on the table near to her hand.

The food looked wonderful as I took up my napkin and felt a great sigh of relief, finding surprising comfort in having sat – I was apparently weaker than I had thought.

Lady Hélène, preparing a bite, gave me yet another look of concern, “I understand, your assignation with the Chemist was successful. It went well?”


“Nothing untoward I assume – rather straightforward.” She delicately lifted the tines of her fork with their host of egg.

I gave a look. Reminded once more I was not a guest. “I did as you asked – I fucked him.”

“Oh my—” She sat suddenly back with mock chagrin, “Vulgarity as emphasis.” She sat looking at me, “Or vehemence. Designed to shock. To forthrightly shame me with the perversity of the depths of the degradation to which I have so horribly subjected you to.” And then she sat forward once more, her fork held almost as if an elegant instrument, “Since Eve was handed over to Adam, to do so — we have been fucking, my dear. It is our lot. In this man’s world, for those of us who understand, it is the only true power that that same God gave us when he so handed us over. That is why we must force them into a civilized world. So that for those men who want it – they cannot just take it, without some extreme consequences, and in so doing – it is ours – to bestow or to deny. Ours to weaponize.”

“Or to exploit,’ I replied, “There were two young women this morning —”

“A commodity, my dear,” and she placed her fork down to take up her cup. “One that I do not valuate – but they.”

“You are cruel.”

“And you are naïve. In that there is within you the very same cruelty.” She said, rather than taking the sip, but putting the cup precisely down in its saucer. “You just do not want to admit it. While I —” and she gave me a long look, “I saw it that night in the Cavern. And I do so recognize it. There within you. Ever lurking — just beneath the surface. Amid the confusion of mixed ideas and desires — the seeking and striving. The craving for something seeming ever just beyond your grasp. The freedom to be. To be yourself. Fuelled by the red-hot emotions of spite and resentment. Father, family, society, religion — all united to hold you back. Condemning you for your impertinence to rebel. Your seemingly unreasonable actions. Unreasonable to them because you and I know from which depths they truly spring. Absolute selfishness. Not the idleness of a spoiled dilettante. But pure wanton self-absorption. The blunt point of it — when the door is closed and you are alone to look into the mirror, your world is wholly reflected there — for you care not a whit about anyone but yourself. You want — what you want. You know it as well as I. Your Lieutenant, McFarlane, and any and all that came before him, are but mere vehicles to be cast aside upon the avenue of their own disappointed hopes, upon your reaching whatever destination you have charted. You see — I know you better than yourself. For when I look at you, I am but looking in a mirror. That is why you and I — we together — could do great things — if and when you decide to put aside the holy strictures of some rather antiquated societal mores, that shackle of your patriarchal morality, having, no doubt, been well prevailed upon you by your father.”

“Work together? You and I?” I decided to no longer sit back — although, her words had hit hard at the very centre of my being, of that I could not deny. “Whomever I choose to work with — I would as well choose to be candid . . . which you have not. Intimidation, coercion, extortion, blackmail, they are your ideas of establishing an association. From the first moment we met, you have done nothing but threaten me into subservience. Turned me into a— ” I started to say whore, but I was a whore — or I could not have so easily fallen into bed with Winston. “Prostituted me. For what? A whim? To prove that you could? I still have absolutely no idea. What it is you want. Why I am so deign to being in the Chemist’s bed. What does he have of such consequence? You didn’t even tell me the truth behind why you needed me – your second-best choice—that you had killed the first. For being merely—”

“Hester Rowley,” she revealed the name with such little emotion. “Second-best. That does stick — does it not? The distaste in the mouth of being merely second-best?” She lifted a bite of egg, almost as if she were about to offer it to me, “As I recall, you were told that of all the candidates from which to choose, you by far had all my qualifications – save one. Impatience. It is your singular fault. Imperious impatience. And I well know the consequence of my own impatience — and so I did not have time for yours. The mistake I made was in having weighed it against his proclivities, and so, I chose her. She was younger. But as to her death. That came not by my hand.”

“But I was told . . . “

“That she was insufficient. That she had failed to entice? That was the assumption of others. Whereas, I know otherwise.”

I put down my own fork, as did she – almost as if done in some fencing movement. “If you and I are to do ‘great things’ together – then you will leave me in the dark no longer. That is the price I place upon it – I am not a common whore.”

“I never said you were common.” She smiled rather whimsically, “Or a whore —for that matter.”

I sat back, “Who killed her. Who diced her up?”

“Oh, I had her diced up.” The bit of bemusement suddenly gone, as her eyes went cold in but a blink, “Molly McIntire killed her.”

Why this should astonish me I don’t know, but it did, as I sat for a long moment, just looking at her. Molly McIntire. I instantly recalled her opening the door of Winston’s elegant bath; her catching me arising, as I was from the awkward stoop of having retrieved my Elarco tin, just as she was entering; her eyes upon me cold, ammonite – appraising my nudity – and most assuredly judgemental. Breasts too small. Hips too narrow. So very little to confide beneath my stays. This is what he takes to bed? But—judge, jury and executioner? Insufficient — found lacking — would she have returned, a long isosceles-bladed knife held behind her, suggesting one of Winston’s powders, I find the blue one quite luxuriant, as she approaches, an amiable but alluring smile, perhaps suggestively, as if to indicate to make room for her, when suddenly, the blade would come out, and down, striking, over and over again – the white luxury of the tile bespattered crimson. I had known her immediately to be possessive, even jealous. You may have the leisure, but I run the house . There had been a cruelness just there at the corners of her delicate mouth. I knew her then to be dangerous.

“Winston’s housekeeper?”

“My, Winston — you are quite the treasure,” Her look appreciative rather than derisive. “Lovely Molly, yes. Of course, by then, she was well aware of Hester’s subterfuge – in finding her way into Winston’s bed. Having received information that she was far more than merely just one more of his schoolgirl dalliances, but rather, a calculating opportunist. Sweetly seductive. Alluring. A little whisper here. A little blackmail there. And my, how the girl advances. Information of course, I had supplied.” How so calmly she spoke of the murder of a girl – of having her dismembered.

“Then you had her—”

“I think it was Jesus. Yes — I am sure, it was the Christ — who said it best: no man can serve two masters. And as God is jealous, so am I. She conspired with Neville.”


“He has offered you the same I am told.” As if but asking the weather.

I looked at her, remembering him in the underground, the carriage rattling along: bring it to me first , emphatically, not a suggestion but a command. And then, of Miss Miniver shockingly hurling me up against the wall of the underground platform. Where was she? Where had she been all morning? This is why I am here? Why the Misters had been so self-assured, in taunting, terrorizing, me. A little whisper here. A little whisper there. And Miss Miniver having whispered in her ear — told her of Pym’s advances? Who was this woman?

How had she come to sit thus? In this grand house she had just let. My Moriarty — her influence exerted not only here in London, but in Paris, and who knew how many other capitals throughout the continent. A woman — from whom even the malevolent Misters took subservient direction — who provided the strategies, combined and commanded, the resources of Mrs Willingham – a callous calculating manipulator of women, with ties to prostitution, pornography and narcotics – and Neville Pym – a devious and deceptive spy for the Russians, who was apparently not adverse to selling out governments to his own self-interests – as well as who knew what else. Had they not earlier spoken fleetingly of black-market transactions in medical supplies – of a Supply Officer, which surely must indicate possible reaches even into the military. How many strands of her evil web were woven by her criminal machinations? From the moment I had first met her – she had struck me, of them all, as the one to truly fear.

“The question is Veronica, have you realized which of us has your best interest?”

“Neither of you are my master..”

“The master of your fate? The captain of your soul? Shall we stand in the middle of No Man’s Land and tell that to the boys in the muck?” She sat back, with but a languid sigh, “Whether or not you wish to hear it, there are but ever a few masters. That is the way of the world and has ever been. To be a master — one must do whatever it takes. Realizing the consequence and yet making the choice. Be that for you — in choosing either myself or Pym.”

“The consequence of one of those being diced up?”

“I do not have the luxury of time. You are well infiltrated. You are what he desires. I need only to know to whom you give your allegiance — and I then, if necessary, I shall make the proper contingencies.”

“Either way you plan to plan to kill me?” I retorted, as I was already damned. Pym’s subterfuge. Miss Miniver’s betrayal.

“I planned to give you this house.”

I was stopped cold, “What?”

“If you want to be a master, you first must be an apprentice.”

“This house?” I could not disguise my incredulity, nor my wandering eye to the grand dining room.

“And everything in it.”

There was a long silence. I had been but one turn away from a filthy shed filled with the stench of gutted fish and the river; and now — I sat looking into those inquisitive hazel eyes. Was this some clever manipulation?

“What are you saying?”

“I need someone to replace Mrs Willingham — when you get me what I want.”

We sat looking at one another. Had she at one moment in her life, perhaps even as I, over a breakfast with whomever had been the spark that had ignited her career, been asked to make such a decision? To step away from everything she had been instructed, as regards to morality, adherence to, as she called the holy strictures, of some rather antiquated societal mores. Astonishment. Repulsion. Apprehension. Gratification. Shock. Awe. Fear. What a tumult of emotions assailed me. How could I even contemplate what she was suggesting? What she was offering – while at the same time I must confess — what a temptation. Replacement for Mrs Willingham – whom I suspected had far greater power and authority than what my mere circumstance had but given me a glimpse. This house? This house! And everything within it — no doubt, financial freedom – freedom from dependence. To take a seat at her table, within her hierarchy – but at what cost? To be, as I had viewed Mrs Willingham, a manipulator of women. To coerce — to extort; to blackmail. To be able to send them to the river? Cold and callous? She had said looking at me was looking into a mirror – was I, somewhere deep within, that heartless? That malicious? That cold? Could I kill? Crump in a heartbeat – and that thought was – and is in writing it – an astonishing admission. For this morning, death had been very real and eminent – and when I had asked Miniver if they had intentions of killing me – whenever this was over – she had not at all denied their intention. She had only given me some false assurances she would in some way intervene – but where was she this morning? If they had been given the word – they would have done so. But in admitting I could delight in the killing of Crump – in looking at the starkness of it, the ink upon the paper – I am well aware that it is not at all written merely in self-defence. And I am horrified to have written it – for it is true – there is within me — yes, a wicked and wanton selfishness. A cruelty. Had I not imagined the excitement of slitting his throat? Of the delight in the heady scent of his blood? Awakening now, freed from the shackle of my father’s morality? This darkness within me – of which I had been unaware, and yet as if gazing in a mirror, she has seen it – or I am most assured, contrary to whatever she may have said about luxurious time, I would not have been sitting at her table. And that was — was solely – why she had kept me from the fathoms of the Thames. As I knew in that moment it was she who had given me a glimpse of a future – one in which I was taken to the river. And now, I was being given another. And as I looked at her, I understood the Misters had not concocted the ride. She had. And as she returned the look, she knew that I knew. And rather than as the Lanchester had been hurling along the embankment river road – this was it! The decision point. Perhaps one Hester had come to as well. There were before me two futures. Where she to be believed. One was uncertain whereas the other, with but one misstep, not even mine, but by Pym, to sow distrust, would surely send me to the river. Refusal – distrust. Acceptance – this house. And everything within it. Everything I had ever dreamed, and with her as mentor. Temptress. My Moriarty. As we looked at one another, I well knew what acceptance was. To acquiesce to my wicked selfishness in all its consequences. There would be no turning back. And in that moment, I knew as well, that yesterday, in the luxurious waters of Winton’s blue powders, I had already come half way — and now, having awaken from my disturbing dreams of a precarious descent, of having been so seduced to the fall, I must confess I had begun this journal, this accounting in order to document my grievous circumstance – and now, as I look at it, I discover it is the unfolding of my transformation. Socialist, Suffragette, Anarchist — Criminal. Miss Miniver had said there were things worse than death. And I yet, I was well aware I had – as those anabaptists – already baptised myself in Winston’s elegant tub. To rise up, anew. Yes. To be sufficient. Sufficient unto the day — is the evil thereof.

And there came a voice from my precarious dream as I dangled: — We, together. I will not let go .

“So – what it is you want?” I gave her my answer as I pressed the tines of my fork into the bite of egg.

“A location.”

“A location, for what?”

“Red mercury”

My fork stopped as I lifted it and I looked at her incredulously, “It does not exist. It’s an alchemical substance – a myth. Like the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“Which is what they are looking for.”

“The Philosopher’s Stone?”

“A stone – well, a meteorite, actually.”



Telegram, Winter-Suffield, Inverleith, to Carstairs, London
“14 March.—Excellent source. Will arrive today.”

Telegram, Winter-Suffield, Inverleith, to Vanderpool, Amsterdam
“14 March.—Come at once. Berkeley Hotel. London.”