The Coldfall Sanction

Breakfast with Câmpineanu
Session Seven - Part Two

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Casebook of Sergeant Savel
13 March, 1916, Résumé of the Case Mountebank Monsignor
Deceased, Nigel Montague, British Citizen. Age 34. Residence 33 Eisabeta Boulevard, second floor apartment, two-rooms and a water closet. Deceased’s Occupation, Diplomat – suspected intelligence agent for British Intelligence services. Commissioner Câmpineanu is uncertain which particular service as he is aware they have various. Cause of death, decapitation. Body was found by Eugen Culcer, occupation, Water-carrier. Discovery made as M. Culcer arrived to prepare for his morning deliveries. Discovery made quayside on the Dâmbovița River at end of Lipscani. Body found to be in a state of what appeared to the Commissioner as having been hastily positioned by what he suspects was a toss from a conveyance. Suspected conveyance: a motor car. Body was dressed in a simple black winter’s coat over purple cassock with bloody clerical collar, Catholic. A Monsignor.

A concerted canvas of area revealed no witnesses. Local river dwellers report having noticed a fog centralized in the immediate vicinity of Lipscani and the quay.

Observations of Commissioner upon contents of deceased’s pockets. One brown leather wallet within which he had two 100 krone banknotes, a single 100 korona banknote, and three 500 lei notes. Several coins: golden K’s and silver lei’s. Several rail tickets: Hungarian, Transylvanian. Personal notes. Calling cards in the name of Monsignor Jon Manoilescu. A calling card in the name of Professor Klaus Johann Vordenburg. A torn rosary sans crucifix (in left pocket of winter coat). A well-worn British travel document issued to Nigel Montague. Diplomatic. A second set of travel documents for a Monsignor Jon Manoilescu, envoy of the Papal Cardinal Secretary of State. (Right inner pocket) Commissioner surmises documents were intentionally left in order to facilitate identification of the body as the deceased’s head was not to be found quayside. Head missing—as yet not acquired. Further examination also found shoes, well worn. Hands bore recent cuts and abrasions, which the Commissioner stated did not appear to have been defensive in nature, rather Commissioner surmises some recent physical activity such as moving or climbing rocks.

Location provided little in way of evidence.

Casebook of Sergeant Savel
13 March, 1916, Athene Hotel – Interview with Lord Cyril Blathing
At 7:30 we proceeded to Athene Palace. Commissioner Câmpineanu was to reconvene his interview with Lord Cyril Blathing, 7th Earl of Gavilshire and noted Orientalist. The Commissioner had previously confided he strongly suspected Lord Cyril has ties to British Intelligence. We arrived at 7:55 and the Commissioner suggested we order breakfast and await Lord Cyril.

As we entered the great dining room, I observed a workman busy repairing mullions and replacing a windowpane of a large window. The table, which I assume to have been previously positioned before the damaged window, having been moved. There were as well two maids, each working with a bucket and scrub brush as they were busily cleaning the floor, while the general manager, Anton Rasty, stood with his hands behind his back supervising the workmen and maids as he oversaw the cleaning and repairs.

Having given our order it was not long before the slightly haughty waiter returned and placed our breakfast before us. As well as cups of Turkish coffee. The workman was finishing his repair of the window – but the cleaning of the floor – which I assumed was blood from the British gentleman, M. Richmond, who had been shot the night before, would take a bit longer. It would have been wiser to have worked upon it while fresh—but then again, as I understood it there had been some agitation in the hotel, owing to some odd experiment performed by some eccentric photographer. Yet another Englishman.

Punctual, Lord Cyril arrived in the dining room entrance at 8:30.

“Ah, Commissioner” he said as he walked over to our table, which was very near the entrance. “Slept well I take it?”

The Commissioner rose and lightly tapped his napkin to his lips, “I am sorry to say, you lordship, I have yet to sleep.” And he waved a hand to one of the unoccupied chairs at our table, “Please, do join us.”

Lord Cyril frowned as he took the proffered seat. “That is a shame. I find that a good night’s rest after a trying day does wonders to clear the mind.”

The waiter arrived to refresh our coffee.

“I would agree, your lordship – but alas, the events of the night are such that there is little rest for those who must seek justice,” The Commissioner sat down as Lord Cyril took his seat and held up a finger in order to prompt the waiter’s attention, “Eggs and Turkish coffee, if you please sir.”

He took notice of the Commissioner’s notebook and pen placed beside his cup of coffee as well as a well-folded copy of România Liberă, which the Commissioner had purchased when we arrived from the vendor just outside the hotel’s revolving door.

The waiter smartly nodded, “Oui Monsieur.”

If he understood Romanian then Lord Cyril would have taken notice of the headline indicating a mysterious death upon the quay.

The Commissioner lifted his cup of coffee and took a careful sip, "Shall we reiterate a few facts Lord Cyril, from our previous interview. M. Montague. I am correct in that you said last night you had never met him?”

Lord Cyril looked at the commissioner and folded his hands across his waistcoat. He looked far more rested than he had last night when I had first seen him at the foot of the lobby stairs as arrived to inform the Commissioner of the discovery of the body of M. Montague at the end of Lipscani Street. "That is correct. I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman.”

“Well,” I replied, slipping a spoon under a hard boiled egg from the platter of eggs and cold meats which the waiter earlier placed before us in the center of the table. I took it from my spoon, happy to feel it’s warmth still as I placed it in the egg cup resting in the middle of my plate, “It would appear you will not be able to do so until the funeral."

“Sergeant Savel.” The Commissioner said placing his coffee cup as always precisely in the center of his saucer, “Please. Some respect if not the dead, then the living.”

I looked at him and nodded. As was our usual custom, I would take the more abrasive attitude. I cracked my egg and began to peel it.

“Then it was indeed Mr. Montague whose body was discovered last night?” Cyril asked with an expression of mixed concern and intrigue.

“Yes. He was found upon one of the quaysides along the Dâmbovița River." The Commissioner nodded.

“At least . . . some of him.” I added not looking up as I began working to removed the shell of my egg.

“Yes, it was a rather grim crime scene, your lordship. You see, the gentelman’s head having been severed.”

“Beheaded?” Cyril’s shock shows through.

“And missing.” Savel added, “Perhaps, the Deputy Consul’s theory may still hold true. It may have run away with the whore.”

The Commissioner gave me a sharp look and the man sat back to his breakfast.

“You are sure it is Nigel Montague?” Lord Cyril asked as he draped his napkin carefully upon his right thigh.

“Yes – the gentleman having been been decapitated has been identified as M. Montague." The Commissioner said and turned his languid gaze upon Lord Cyril, "Which, I may say, does give one pause, seeing as how, as I said last night, a similar death occurred a little over a month ago. A bookseller. "

“Yes.” Lord Cyril nodded, “A M. Turcanu. Imre Turcanu. As I remember.”

“As you remember.” The Commissioner nodded affirmatively.

Lord Cyril seemed now perhaps a bit distracted, “I take it such deaths are not common here in Bucharest?”

“Not too common, no.” The Commissioner said, “Although . . . from time to time.”

Lord Cyril twisted his finger in his beard, in thought.

I glanced over to the British Earl, watching to observe, as I muttered: “The Strigoi.”

The Commissioner looked over to me and then once more to the Englishman, “Of course, I am sure you quite understand, but I must ask Lord Cyril, as you said last night, M. Ossington requested your assistance in regards to the purported disappearance of M. Montague – did M. Ossington say or give in any way some indication that M. Montague was involved in something other than imports & exports. To be precise, did he indicate that M. Montague was, shall we say, an agent of your government?”

I was aware that Lord Cyril had momentarily glanced away from the Commissioner to give me a quizzical look upon my utterance of the word, ‘Strigoi’, and so, he returned now his attention to the Commissioner. “In that one can assume all members of a delegation out of an embassy to be an agent of their government, I think it’s a fair assessment. Especially in such a war as this, I would be surprised if there are any embassy staff in Bucharest who are not, as you say, agents of their respective governments.”

The Commissioner sighs and sits back in his chair. “Yes, Yes, too true. But—there are those who work for one’s government in far more furtive capacities.” He reached in his jacket and removed the very battered and water damaged document we had found upon the corpse. Slowly opening it, he placed it on the table and turned it in order to allow Lord Cyril to inspect the paper contained within the damage cover. It was of course the special travel document which had been issued to a Monsignor Jon Manoilescu – indicating the Monsignor was a Papal representative to Romania and Hungary. “It seems odd that the body we examined last night not only had documents indicating they were issued to M.Montague, but, as well, to a representative of the Holy See. As you see, it is a rather special travel document—for a Monsignor Manoilescu.”

Lord Cyril leaned forward and examined the document more closely.

“We also discovered upon the body a wallet which held not only Romanian lei but krones and koronas, as well as rail tickets for travel which reveals a trip to Buad-Pesh, to Vienna, and to Transylvania.” The Commissioner added, “What do you make of this Lord Cyril?”

Slightly lifting the travel document from the table, “A secret identity to travel into Austria-Hungary? Now that is bold.”

“I would think so, your Lordship. But more importantly, I suspect that the first leg of this trip began in a small bookshop on Gral street.” The Commissioner now revealed is supposition. I watched the Englishman for his reaction. He seemed as most aristocrats rather tolerant but dismissive at the same time – as he also seemed to be looking beyond us for the waiter and more importantly his eggs and coffee.

I pointed my fork at him, “You are a Orientalist or so I have been told. What do you know of the Strigoi?"

Rather than some reaction by the British Lord, I took note of the general manager, Anton Rasty, who having overheard our conversation now crossing himself.

“Strigoi Sergeant?” The English Earl replied as his eyes grew appreciative having caught sight of the waiter, appearing now as if upon cue with the Englishman’s breakfast, which he placed before him with a flourish and poured a cup of coffee.

“Gentilhomme, would you desire anything more?” He asked looking at each of us in turn.

We indicated that everything was splendid and he departed.

“As you were saying, Sergeant Savel,” Lord Cyril began as he looked at his eggs and took up his fork, “The Strigoi.” He began a cut into the eggs. “It is from the Latin ‘Striga’, literally meaning a witch or evil spirit. However, in this context, I believe you are referring to a being related to the Vampir. Now as far as I am aware, the Strigoi mostly feed on children.” He took a bite of the scrambled eggs and chewed. “Have there been a string of child disappearances as well?”

“Not that has been called to our attention.” I replied taking a bite of my egg as well.

“Please, forgive me, Lord Cyril, Sergeant Savel is from Moldavia, where he grew up listening to the old stories told about the hearth late at night. And has listened to witnesses who have whispered suspicions that our decapitated bookseller was one such creature."

Lord Cyril took a sip of his coffee and looked at me with some interest, "I see. It is true that I am a folklorist who collects such stories. And if I may ask sergeant, for my curiosity’s sake, what are these suspicions you have heard whispered? Did he have strange habits? Keep odd hours? What?”

And the British Earl proceeded to remove his own small notepad and pen, and set it down on the table.

The Commissioner lifted his cup of coffee and took a sip.

“Witnesses reported than not only did he keep odd hours, but that he had numerous visitors during them as well. Consistent in their description, they reported that these visitors seemed to arrive rather furtively. Quite eager to seek the shadows of the alleyway and to quick dash from their conveyance into the back entrance, so as not to be seen – or recognized.

Lord Cyril looked up from his note taking, “He did business at all hours?”

“M. Turcanu’s kept rooms above his establishment.” The Commissioner interjected.

“Ah, I see.” Lord Cyril replied and made another note. “And so these odd hours would indicate he is Vampir? Mmm.”

I continued, “There are reports of removal of oblong boxes. And long, oddly wrapped objects consistent with that of a possible concealed body. There have been reports of missing young woman within a radius of the bookshop. And to these, add the fact it was apparently known to a few of his customers, although they were at first reticent to disclose it – but upon hearing how he had been murdered, they revealed he was likewise a member of an cult.”

The Commissioner spoke up, “A religious group.”

I nodded in assent to Commissioner Câmpineanumore’s more favorable description of the group: “Some such – perhaps." I lifted a knowing brow, “Known as the Frăția lui mortii vii. It is said they worship an ancient, pagan Thracian god – Zalmoxis – whom they anticipate shall return once more from the dead.”

I took note of the Englishman’s growing interest as he let his eggs go forgotten and continued to busily compile notes, "Superstitions lie here in Wallachia too, however this is fascinating. I had thought I would have to go out to Moldavia to find such syncretism, but you say there is a group in Bucharest who still worships Zalmoxis? Or is it a more modern reimagining of such worship?’ He said as he wrote, “Are you aware of other members of this group?” And the abruptly looked up from the notebook and then coughed, as if he suddenly he recognized his apparent zeal and so composed himself. “I beg your pardon. I am a folklorist and scholar first. Forgive me.”

Commissioner Câmpineanu, who had as well been making a note, put down his pen. “But of course your lordship.” He reached once more for his coffee cup, “As to possible members of this particular order? We have reached out to the Siguranța, who of course may have more details into its membership.”

I put down my fork and placed my elbows upon the table, pressing my fingertips together in order for my hands to form a steeple above my plate, “What seems most significant is M. Turcanu, the bookseller . . . who had apparently captured the attention of your M. Montague, was found decapitated shortly before M. Montague proceeded to make his rather adventuresome travels – as the tickets in his wallet would indicate. Travels it would appear he made not as Nigel Montague, trade representative of the British Embassy, but as an envoy of the Holy See – a Monsignor Manoilescu. Whom, the Archbishop, freely admits he is completely unaware.”

“Although he did state that with the new construction of the Italian Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, soon to be consecrated, having been funded by the Holy See and the Italian Embassy, he was not aware of all of the personages being transferred to Bucharest.” Commissioner Câmpineanu said by way of elaboration, as he sipped his coffee. “But, in any case, why M. Montague would have documentation for a Papal envoy is most curious in any light.”

“And even more curious than merely coincidental is that when M. Montage, having apparently made his return to Bucharest, of late from Transylvania – where many far older superstitions lie – he is himself found decapitated.”

“As you can surmise, Lord Cyril, Sergeant Savel, is inclined toward a more outré supposition to these crimes. But, as for me, I for one do not believe in these creatures of the night, but—what people will do in the name of religion? It can be just as devilish.” The commissioner replied and patted his lips with his napkin.

“There is of course the witness, Dimitrie Mureșan, a shoemaker, one of the neighboring proprietors.” I said evenly, “Who reports having seen M. Turcanu departing his upper story windows upon many occasions and moving about the rooftops of Gral street.”

The Commissioner looked toward me, and then turned his gaze upon the Englishman. “So, what do you think?” he asked, “Do you think it possible an agent of the British government, far remote from the Carpathian horseshoe of superstitions, should find himself so inclined to believe such fanciful accounts? And if not, I must ask myself, what other possible motivations could there be?”

“This is all fascinating, Commissioner.” Lord Cyril replied and putting down his pen took up his fork and returned to his breakfast once again, “Though I do think we’ve rather strayed from the topic at hand – the one which prompted this morning’s meeting. So. Is there anything else I can do to help you find Mr. Richmond attacker?”

“As M. Richmond is in my opinion far more aware of precisely what activities M. Montague may have been actually been involved – I would ask, Lord Cyril, if you could perhaps speak with him and determine for what reason M. Montague has re-enforced this superstitious subterfuge.” The Commissioner placed his hands flat upon the table, “For you see, I fully believe he is the source from which these rumors spring – the oblong boxes, the fanatical creature of the night, the climbing from windows to range about the rooftops . . . but for what reason . . . as yet I do not know. But I feel they are connected to the deaths of M. Turcanu as well as M. Montague.”

Lord Cyril nodded, “I had planned to visit him after breakfast. I shall do my best, but remember, I only just met him.” He then shovels another mouthful of scrambled eggs into his mouth.

He eats as if a man who had not dined the previous night.

The Commissioner folds up the weathered travel papers of Monsignor Manoilescu. “My concern at the moment, your Lordship, is that there is more a whiff of espionage than the supernatural in all of this. The very grimness of these deaths being merely window dressing for something I suspect to be far more politically sinister than some shadowy rituals performed in the dead of night by foolish men.”

Lord Cyril lifts an eyebrow and then replies. “Possibly. Perhaps they are one and the same.” And then he pauses as he prepares to take a sip of coffee as if he is struck by a sudden thought. “Say, Commissioner Câmpineanu, Sergeant Savel, forgive my curiousness, but, what are your opinions regarding which side Rumania should join in this damnable affair, if at all?” And before we could reply he quickly held up a hand. “And I shan’t hold it against you if you say the Germans.”

I reached over and took another hard-boiled egg from the platter and placed some cold meat on my plate, “In my opinion, we should remain neutral. This damned war is a curse upon us all.”

The Commissioner looks at the remaining contents of his coffee cup and surveys the room for the waiter, “Yes, well. I for one feel if the Entente were to uphold their promises and commitments, if it were to fully support our entry, rather than have us help to relieve the pressures they feel from other fronts, then I say we should join the Entente and in so doing restore all Romanians to Romania.”

Lord Cyril looks to the Commissioner and nods somberly.

Commissioner Câmpineanu drew the attention of the waiter and indicated he was in need more coffee. "Alas, I feel you perhaps know more of the thoughts in England.”

“What would you recommend, Lord Cyril" I asked as I cracked the shell of the new egg in my egg cup.

“Well, I must say I am a bit biased don’t you think? Being a subject of a belligerent nation and all. I don’t think the Entente would have any problem giving Rumania Transylvania, Bukovina, all that and such. I think if any time to join, the time would be now. Or at least when the snow melts. While the Huns are tied up at Verdun. Perhaps if the Russians made a push at the same time, Rumanian cavalry could be watering their horses in Budapest within month.” Cyril cuts into his eggs and spears them on his fork. “Of course, perhaps after two Christmases of the ‘war that would be over by Christmas’, such blind optimism should be tempered.” he then bites into his egg.

I nodded in agreement, “Which is why I say we should remain neutral, how many more Christmas’ shall we see before we see the end to this madness.”

The Englishman shrugged.

’Yes, well, time enough to solve the vagaries of war." The Commissioner nodded as the waiter stepped over to the table and removed the Commissioner’s small coffee cup and replaced it with one freshly filled and steaming. "And so—“ He then glances toward the dinning room entrance, “Will Mademoiselle Bishop be joining us this morning.”

And then there was suddenly a loud clap of hands. I took note that Lord Cyril’s hand, holding his fork, betrayed a slight tremor in reaction to the sound. It was then I fully recalled that the Commissioner had indicated the Englishman and the American woman had made their way for weeks through war torn territories and crossed the Danube to make their way into Romania – which when he told raised my suspicions – but then I am suspicious by nature of Englishmen and American women hazarding Serbia for no other reason than to see the sights of our fair city.

Lord Cyril looked about for the source of the sudden loud distraction.

I glanced over my shoulder to see the general manager applauding the two maids, who had been busily scrubbing away the blood stains from hardwoos floor of the dining room. “Excellent, Excellent. Now, be certain to polish.” Anton Rasty added. to his applause.

Lord Cyril looked back to the Commissioner. “Bishop?”

The Commissioner adjusted the newly placed cup of coffee on its saucer, “Mademoiselle Bishop, or Jackson Elias as she is known,"

I was surprised that Lord Cyril did not seem to recognize Mademoiselle Bishop’s real name.

“Oh Jackson! Yes. No, I don’t believe she will be joining me at least this morning. I’m not sure where her itinerary lies, but we made no joint plans.” He said and lifted his cup of coffee to take a sip.

The General Manager apparently satisfied with his supervision of the workman’s repair of the window and the maid’s cleaning of the floor stopped short as he was passing our table. “Pardon. Did I happen to overhear you asking in regards to the whereabouts of Mademoiselle Elias?”

We all gave Rasty our attention.

“She left earlier this morning.” He said with a frank frown. “She asked for directions to Casa Capsa, where I understood she was planning to have breakfast.” His voice registering a bit of annoyance as the Casa Hotel was a direct competitor to the Athene Palace. And he waved an irritated hand toward the window which had been repaired and the floor that had to be scrubbed, “Which is why I am most impatient. Most impatient. In restoring my hotel once more to perfection.” And then looking at one of the maids, he called out: “Hurry, Hurry. The polish!"

He shook his head in exasperation, before he returned his gaze upon the Commissioner, “Most assuredly my pardon, Commissioner, “ He said and then turned his attention again to the British Earl. “Mishaps you are Lord Cyril, yes?"

“Yes, I am he.”

“Ah, there is a message for you at the desk from Mademoiselle Elias. I shall retrieve it for you?”

“Ah yes please.”

The General Manager bowed slightly and departed.
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“If I may, Lord Cyril. “ Commissioner Câmpineanu asked, “Mademoiselle Bishop, she seems to be a very independent woman. What do you know of her?”

He smiled. “What do I know of her indeed? I know she is from the American region of New England, though she seems to have lived in California for a time. I know she is a journalist that won’t take no for an answer. I know that she won’t hesitate to defend herself if need be. I know that calling her Mademoiselle Bishop repeatedly to her face is a fast way to get on her bad side. I know this, but I suspect you’ve deduced much of this yourself.”

“Yes, I have concluded she is what they say ‘very strong headed’ as are most American’s here in Romania. We have many . . . what with the Standard Oil working so many of our fields. But, I must confess, with so many of these troublesome threads, your lordship, I feel I need to know all I can regarding those involved in these mysterious affairs. And so. To that end, I have wired to our London Embassy and made a request for them to make a radiotelephone connection to New York to ascertain more particulars in her regard, and to relay this information to me. I wish this to be known to you sir, as a courtesy, for I feel there is between you a certain friendship – no doubt from your adventures along the way from Corfu.”

“I quite understand.” Lord Cyril replied as the General Manager returned and handed him a small envelope. “Your Lordship, the message.”

Lord Cyril looks over to M. Rasty. “Ah, thank you.” And he took the envelope.

I watched as the English Earl pulled his glasses from his coat pocket and slipped them on. He calmly opened the message and silently read its contents. He did not betray any emotion in his countenance and only nodded and made a slight grunt as he folded over the paper again and placed it in the envelope and then the message in an inside pocket of his jacket.

Letter from Jackson Elias Dated 13 March, 1916

He picked up his fork and continued with breakfast.

“I would like to ask if there is anything of interest, your Lordship.” The Commissioner asked as he sat back in his chair.

“Hm? Oh! Ah, well she simply wished to let me know that she had some investigating for her newspaper to attend to and she should be back shortly. She seems to want to confide in me later, but I had plans today to meet with an old acquaintance of mine. Well, I say acquaintance, we’ve never met, but had quite the correspondence I should say. Do either of you know a Professor Klaus Vordenburg?”

I gave the commissioner a look.

But the Commissioner was leaning forward and lifting his pen in order to make a note.

As neither of us responded to his question, which I am certain he took note of – he replied as he placed his fork down on his plate and lifted his napkin to his lips, “No? No matter. Anyway, she should be back later if you wish to continue questioning her then.”

By an odd coincidence just as he was making this statement, the house doctor of the hotel, Doctor Poruciuc, entered through a side door of the dining room and stepped over languidly to our table. He cleared his throat by way of interruption.

The Commissioner looked up as well as Lord Cyril.

“I heard you were here Commissioner.” The doctor said by way of explanation for his sudden intrusion, “I want to let you know, M. Richmond is well.”

“Ah, yes, then I would like to have a few words with him, please.” The Commissioner replied.

“Well, he left.”

“Left?”

The English Earl frowned slightly, “Oh dear. I had hoped to check in on him before he did.”

The doctor continued to address the Commissioner, "Yes, left rather hurriedly right after he received a message”

“Another message?” I said unable to conceal the suspicion in my voice.

“This message, from whom? Do you know?” The Commissioner asked.

The doctor shook his head, “No—Commissioner, I do not. Perhaps the bell captain that brought it.”

“Please,” Commissioner Câmpineanu waved a hand, “See if he is about and bring him to me.”

The doctor gave him a very haughty look as if to say, pardon I am a doctor not a messenger. He turned and strolled away in the direction from which he came.

I put down my napkin and arose, “I will see to it, Sir.” I said and hurriedly made my way to the lobby where I found the bell captain and explained that Commissioner Câmpineanu wished a few words with him.

As I was returning with the bell captain I overheard Lord Cyril say, “Well, I can see things are getting exciting again.” He pushed his chair back from the table, “I’d best leave you to your work. I’ll stop by the embassy and see if they know where he went. I really had hoped to speak with him after last night.”

The Commissioner sighed and looked at Lord Cyril, “Yes, that would be most helpful. And so. In regards to you earlier question regarding Professor Vordenburg. Yes. I know where he can be found. He has taken a position at the University of Bucharest—but, of the mornings, I understand he can be found at the Casa Caspa Hotel.”

Oddly where your American friend went this morning I refrained from saying as I introduced the bell captain.

“Monsieur Commissioner, I may be of assistance?”

He turned his attention to the bell captain, “You delivered a message to M. Richmond this morning, yes.”

“Oui, Commissioner."

“This message, do you know from whom it was sent?"

“It arrived sir by postal messenger and I took it to M. Richmond. I can not say if it gave any indication as from whom it had been sent. As I only delivered it — I did not look to see."

“Did M. Richmond say anything when he received it? Was there a reply?”

“No, reply, Sir. He just smiled and said, something – ah, yes, he said to the doctor, I must be leaving now. I have a young lady to thank for her assistance.” He then winked and said something rather odd.

“Odd?” The Commissioner asked.

He said, “And she has the most lovely ankles.”

The Commissioner sighed and waved a hand of dismissal to the bell captain and looked at Lord Cyril.

Lord Cyril looked back, taking off his spectacles and hung them from his outer jacket pocket.

“It would seem our Mademoiselle Bishop, your Jackson, she is very busy this morning your Lordship.”

“So it seems.’ Lord Cyril replied, “Seems she may have, as they say, ‘found a real scoop’.”

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Inima Muntelui
Session Seven - Part one

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Jackson Elias Journal
13 March, 1916, Bucharest — Overnight a winter chill had moved in from Russia. A cold wind which they call the crivetz and is reputed to have ‘biting teeth.’ I am not sure about the teeth but it certainly can bring tears to your eyes. And more than tears, it brought with it the beginnings of a light snow, which whipped up a hoary dust along the Calea Victorie. I was dressed in a long black skirt with a double breasted waistcoat, a grey French blouse, and a petite fashionable black hat, adorned with a small, single black feather. A pair of amazing black pumps (which resembled a pair I most reluctantly had to leave behind on Corfu) as well as sleek, black leather gloves and the long greatcoat of which I am grateful Bobinette had talked me into as my purchases had been far more inclined toward the coming of spring, when I had been shopping yesterday. I was up early. Much too early for having been writing most of the night, but I was too eager to begin the day.

And so out the revolving door I braved the teeth of the wind and its accompanying swirl of snow as I strolled down the Calea Victorie to Casa Capșa on the corner of Edgar Quinet Street. Founded by the Capșa brothers – in particular, Grigore Capșa, who had established the current hotel, restaurant, and coffee house, with financing provided by his older brothers Anton and Vasile – it was legendary for its French-inspired confectionery and cuisine. As it should be seeing as how Grigore’s brothers had packed him off for Paris, where he had spent four long years taking courses under the tutelage of M. Bélissaire Boissier, the most famous Parisian confectioner and chocolatier. An education which culminated in Grigore not only having been chosen by Boissier to assist him at the Paris Exhibition, but in an opportunity to serve Empress Eugenie, the spouse of Napoleon III, some of his own “confiseries,’ which were so well received he had been given an most envious invitation to become a supplier to the French Imperial Court. An invitation which of course he had graciously refused seeing as how he had always planned to return home to help his brothers turn their ‘Two Brothers’ confectionary shop into one of the finest sweetshops in all of Bucharest. And so it was for soon their French-inspired confectionery gained a near continent-wide reputation. And no so very long after, the Capsa enterprise was further expanded to include the Capșa Hotel – although initially it been nothing more than a dream of Grigore’s and little more than a guest house for out of town members of parliament. But, with the acquisition of a French manager – who had formerly managed the Hôtel Café Anglais in Paris – the Capșa Hotel became one of the finest in the world. In fact, before the opening of the Athene Palace, which has since become the premiere hostelry in Bucharest, the Capșa Hotel was considered to be the only suitable choice for rich entrepreneurs and aristocratic families, high ranking politicians and foreign diplomats whenever they came to visit Little Paris. Even now, to come to Bucharest as an artist, as a writer, or a journalist one simply had to visit its famous coffee shop – which was the haunt of Romania’s literary and artistic community. Only, this morning I wanted a quiet breakfast – and the coffee house was already filled with the smoke of cigars and cigarettes and the boisterous arguments about the course of the war and the state of the Balkans Romanian politics – and the rather vociferous disagreements concerning Romania’s possible entry.

I made my way through the lobby, stepping beneath the spectacular chandelier and before the monumental staircase to enter the hotel’s restaurant dining room, which is known as the ‘tomb of the pharaohs’ owing to it’s being adorned in red marble and accented with rich, heavy, red velvet drapes.

The waiter spoke perfect French – which he should as I soon discovered he was not Romanian but from Calais. In fact, nearly all of the staff of the hotel and restaurant he said were either from France or Belgium, a few from Spain and even Germany. “There are only a very few members of staff from Romanian – very few.” I asked how the French and the Germans managed to work together – and he smiled and explained that at first “there had been fierce disputes, even as you hear now in the coffee house, Mademoiselle—but as the war it drags on, the emotions, they have grown as fatigued as Europe has become with the fighting.”

Although there are those who suggest that the Athene Palace has supplanted the Casa Hotel, it is still said, the kitchen it is still the finest in all of Bucharest, the waiter assured me and in fact I was able to get a wonderful British breakfast, of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, and a most excellent cup of coffee, which was served in these rather delicious little red cups (which matched the crimson décor). Being as I was less concerned about safety and the possibility of another gunshot then I was about the chill of sitting next to a window, I had taken a seat in the center of the dining room – for the dining room to me felt was decidedly cold – I could still watch the snow falling as I occasionally glanced up from the broadsheet of the illustrated French language newspaper I spread out before me. The fighting in Verdun I hear it is very bad, the waiter remarked as he refreshed my coffee, and glanced at the article I was reading. I agreed – Verdun had not gone as the Central Powers had first hopes. Having finished with my breakfast and the newspaper and my second cup of the most marvelous coffee, I got to sign the back of one of Casa Hotel’s famous menus. Hand painted, written, and printed, each was known to bear the signature of some of the hotel restaurant’s most illustrious customers – members of royalty, as well as foreign prime ministers, along with local parliamentarians, and famous artists. I asked the waiter if were at all possible if he could find the one signed by John Reed and after a few minutes he returned with it.

As I signed, I took notice of a very striking gentleman sitting in a far corner of the dinning room. His table was situated in a slight niche before a window, where, with the drapes pulled back and the morning light providing a bright background, he seemed to sit in a drifting haze of cigarette smoke – for he lit one cigarette with the remains of another. His table was cluttered with the pushed aside china and silverware of his breakfast and what appeared to be a copy of every morning newspaper in Bucharest. He was dressed in a very fashionable grey suit with a silk, apricot ascot, and he seemed deeply absorbed in his reading. His hand reaching out for his cup of coffee more from recollection than in looking up to find it. He held the newly lit cigarette in a hand elevated slightly so that it’s backward curl of smoke would not drift into his eyes. He had the look and bearing of old world aristocracy. He may have felt my gaze for he looked up for a moment and smiled most charmingly and then returned once more to his newspaper.

Outside the snow had begun to fall in earnest. A frosty sheen was beginning to accumulate. I hailed a motor cab – a Ford of course. They seem now to be everywhere.

I had a name. Imre Turcanu. The only clue given to me by Lord Cyril and vouchsafed by Commissioner Câmpineanu, who had then supplied me with not only the name of the booksellers establishment, Inima Muntelui , but a location. Gral Street.

As I watched the snow slowly covering the streets of Bucharest. I sat back and reflected upon the fact that this early morning investigation was taking time from my initial reason for being in Bucharest, but I was more than certain Lord Cyril had given me the name of M. Turcanu with the expectation that I would make inquires. And although I did not know precisely the reason he had braved the long trip from Corfu to Romania, his meeting with Mr. Richmond last night only reinforced my suspicions he was working in conjunction with either the War Office or British Intelligence or both. And I could not help but smile – for with this cab ride this morning, so was I. Unofficially of course.

As I paid the driver, I surveyed the snow covered street and took notice of the small café across from the narrow storefront of the bookshop. From the facts as related by Commissioner Câmpineanu last night, it must certainly have been the one various witnesses had reported Montague used to observe the bookstore.

I entered to the jangle of the bell above the door. The bookshop was narrow and fairly crammed to overflowing with books in shelves and bookcases, stacked on tables and the floor.

A very tall, a very thin and very pale man in a dark woolen suit, white shirtfront with a wing-tipped collar and a slightly crooked tie, wearing a pair of spectacles, stepped into the main room of the bookstore by way of a small, narrow side door. He said something in Romanian and I bid him good morning in French.

“Ah. Yes, good morning.” He now replied in French. His voice seemed deep and drawn-out. “May I be of some service, Mademoiselle?”

“Yes, I am interest in a rather unique book – is M. Turcanu available?” I asked as I browsed along the titles of various books ranked in a bookcase with glass doors, where I saw a copy of Malleus Maleficarum beside De Daemonialitate et Incubus et Sucubus.

“I am sorry Mademoiselle but M. Turcanu is not available.”

“Oh,” I said, turning my attention away from the bookcase and toward him, “Well then, when will he be, available?”

“M. Turcanu is unfortunately no longer with us.”

“Oh,” I said with a quizzical look, “No longer with you? That seems rather odd. I thought he was the proprietor?”

“Alas he was, but that was . . . some time ago. The shop has since changed ownership.” The man said as he stepped forward and clasped his hands, “I am Viorel Rákóczi, I am the proprietor. Now.”

“I see,” I idly picked up a book and flipped through the pages: it was in Russian, “I had no idea that M. Turcanu was thinking of selling his shop.”

“You were well acquainted with M. Turcanu?” He asked.

I smiled, “He acquired – certain items for me.”

“I was unaware he had dealings with American clients.” M. Rákóczi made his first probe at my subterfuge, “I was of the understanding he dealt exclusively with dealers in America.”

“Yes—well, in America money has a way of obtaining direct access when one needs it.” I explained.

“And so, I can, as I said, provide such access.” He said in his languidly, “When you need it.“

I stopped flipping pages and put the book down and looked at him, “Well, you see the book I am interested in is rather . . . esoteric . . . and as such, I feel I would have far better luck obtaining a copy through him.”

“I am capable of procuring such books. Most capable, of that, I can assure you.” He replied though his manner seemed oddly distracted.

“Perhaps—but, I would really like to discuss the matter with M. Turcanu.” I continued to press for he had as yet, for some reason, and perhaps, entirely owing to the gruesome death here in the bookshop, not divulged the fact M. Turcanu was dead.

“That will be most difficult Mademoiselle – as I said he is no longer with us.”

“But surely you can put me in touch with him.” I inquired.

“He is among the dead.” He finally revealed in a level voice and with a countenance that bore very little expression.

I feinted sudden shock and continued as if I had truly known the unfortunate gentleman. “Dead? That – that is most distressing news. He seemed in perfect health.”

“Yes, well, I don’t expect one anticipates decapitation.” The long fingers of his left hand ran lightly along the cover a book resting atop the stack on the table near at hand. He looked at me to see my reaction.

“Decapitation,” I did my best at appearing shocked at the word, “How ever did that happen?”

“It would be murder. They say. Here. In this very shop.”

I looked about, “Well—that is rather grim.”

“Indeed.” M. Rákóczi replied, “Rather. Now – in regards to the volume for which you would have sought the assistance of M. Turcanu’s? That would be?”

Quite prepared for the question, I had already selected a book I had heard about in connection to some rather grisly murders in New York. "Hali’s Booke of the Wisdom of the Stars.”

A sight smile now appeared on the previously expressionless face, “Ah, Hali’s translation of the Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya.” He said very slowly. “I see. Yes. Truly a rare volume. Indeed.” His eyes gleamed or was it merely the reflection of the light upon the glass of his spectacles. “Most rare. Indeed. As I said. But alas, I have no copy. Truly, there is perhaps none within Bucharest less of all in Romania.”

“I see,” I replied, unaware I had unknowingly chosen such a rarity. I frowned, “Alas – I fear it will be some time before I shall find someone with M. Turcanu’s associations.”

He continued to clasp his hands, “I am such an association. We shared an common affiliation. If you would but leave your card I shall endeavor to inquire upon your behalf.”

“I am staying at the Athene. I can be contacted through it’s concierge.” I said by way of discretion.

“Ah,” He unclasped his hands and let the right one make a slight motion, “Mademoiselle Doulenques.”

“Yes. You know her?”

“We are acquainted.” He nodded.

“Good, then we can communicate through her.” I nodded – confirming the worst I had feared regarding the lovely Bobinette.

“You are aware such a volume will have . . . a most substantial value. Is there any preclusions as to cost?”

I gave him a smile, “If you find a copy please forward the purposed remuneration to Mademoiselle Doulenques.”

“I see.” His voice lowered considerably. “To be sure.”

There was something about M. Rákóczi, his tone and formal reticence, which told me there would be little information forthcoming. Whether he saw through my subterfuge I was not at all sure, but I was more than certain he was very suspicious of me. I glanced once more about the cluttered bookshop. “So, M. Turcanu was murdered you say.”

“I did say.’ He nodded.

“Right here.”

“In the workshop.” He replied.

“Robbery I suspect.” I tried to sound off-handed, “He did keep far too many valuable books about.”

“He did.” M. Rákóczi agreed and there was that glint in his eye or upon his glasses.

“It does seem odd.” I said.

“And that would be?”

“Oh, I was such thinking. It seems a bit odd, I would have thought his property and financials would have been entangled in the courts far longer.”

“M. Turcanu had arrangements.” He said as way of short explanation.

“Oh, I see, you inherited.” I conjectured expecting at some point to see either a growing fatigue with the conversation or some irritation – but there was only the cold passive, professional countenance of the bookseller. “Are you some relation then to M. Turcanu?”

“No relation.” He replied, “No. No relation. As I said, M. Turcanu had . . . arrangements. And we shared common affiliations. He and I were members of a fraternal organization with connections to one much similar in London. As an affiliation, they had interests. Here. They provided financing.”

“I see – some Hermetic order?”

“Some such.” He said, then began to cut the conversation short: “Word to you shall be given as you wish through Mademoiselle Doulenques. I must be forthcoming, in regards to the availability of a copy the Kitab Al-Hikmah Al-Najmiyya, it will be most difficult. There are but few existing copies. Those who are in possession of such a copy will be most reluctant to relinquish their volume.”

I smiled and nodded, “Yes – well, everything has a price, doesn’t it?”

He remained standing in his aloof manner, “To be sure.”

I turned to make my way to the door. As I was about to the reach for the latch he said: “Would the Mademoiselle have any interest in a copy of Sous le Monde.”

I turned, “You have one available?” I asked having no idea what Sous le Monde was other than in French it’s title meant Under the World.

“I am aware that such a copy can be obtained. First edition. Most rare. Through intermediaries – of course.”

I feinted thinking of the possibility for a moment – if I were to give the impression I was not at all interested, then a possible avenue of inquiry would be no doubt be closed, as I felt I was already far too suspect in his eyes, having asked for a volume which was apparently very obscure and rare to come by, and I should have known that – but, were he to actually find either of the volumes and they had any true value, I could just as readily recoup anything I had to spend to obtain one, “Yes. Yes—contact through our mutual acquaintance.”

He nodded, “To be sure.”

I turned once more to leave the bookshop and he said as I opened the door, “Go and leave something of the peace you bring.”

I exited the bookshop and felt a shiver – and not from the wintery wind and snow. I glanced back at the bookshop window, and the clutter of books but there was no sight of M. Rákóczi . With a flutter of eyelashes against the wet flakes of snow, I crossed the street and entered the café, where I took a seat at the window. Perhaps the very seat M. Montague had taken. I ordered a cup of tea and contemplated a pastry but instead sat contemplating the bookshop. A similar fraternal organization, he had said. Freemasonry or something other? I suspected something other. Particularly as they had gone to some lengths to assure the occult bookshop remained open – which meant not only financing but some considerable influence, no doubt political, to keep it from being ensnared within the legal system. Something even Commissioner Câmpineanu had alluded to as of interest . . .

Suddenly, the chair across the table from me was pulled back and a tall, strikingly attractive, slender, dark-haired woman in an expensive and very fashionable grey dress, with exquisite lace cuffs and a small hat, with a fall of smoky tulle across her forehead, sat down, “You have an interest in esoterica.”

I sat my tea cup down in the saucer, “Perhaps.”

She glanced through the window to the bookshop across the street, “ Inima Muntelui. The Heart of the Mountain. Do you know where it derives its name?” Her voice was sultry and she spoke with a most decidely refined British accent.

“No.” I said, feeling as if I were now imitating M. Rákóczi’s reticence.

She turned back to look at me, her green eyes were simply beautiful, “There is the belief in a school of sorcery. The Scholomance. “ A slight wry smile at the corner of her lips.

“A school of sorcery?” I asked

“Black magic.” Her green eyes were quite mischievous. “Ten scholars enter and nine return. They say the head master is the Devil himself and he takes the tenth scholar as his own.”

I smiled back at her, “I don’t believe in the Devil. Men do evil very well on their own – they certainly don’t need any assistance from him.”

Her eyes glinted with some bemusement, “Then what do you believe in?’

“In regards to religion?” My interest in her was growing as I was most unquestionably attracted to not only those mesmerizing eyes, but in watching her lips as she spoke, “Well—I don’t believe in God either.”

The wry smile at the corner of her mouth grew, “Ah, a revolutionary?”

“A journalist.” I informed her, my fingers idly playing with the tea cup sitting in the center of the saucer.

“Believe in only what your eyes can see and your ears can hear.” Her own eyes growing playful, the smile on her lips revealing white, even, dainty teeth—save for a certain sharpness of her incisors

To which my lips created their own wry smile, “I have read the Bible.”

“There are some things far older than the Bible.” She said, the mischief still in her eyes.

“Such as?” I asked captivated not only by her eyes but her voice – which had a sultry quality that was captivating.

“Bribery.” She said with a slight lift of her brow.

“Bribery?” I repeated, owing to it bit being such an abrupt changing in topic.

She leaned slightly forward, with a quick conspiratorial glance, “How else would a property of some value be transferred without proper legal procedure and adjudication?”

“From what I understand there was some British affiliation.” I said aware of M. Rákóczi ’s recent but reticent explanation. “They in some way intervened.”

“Indeed.” Her green eyes becoming less amused and far more quizzical.

I lifted my tea cup, “M. Rákóczi is far too evasive. Which isn’t really all that unusual for an occultist. I mean, what with their secret societies and mysterious rituals. Hermetic Orders. Spiritual Alliances. Handshakes and pledges—

She placed her forearm on the table and leant forward, “But as a journalist surely you must find it suspicious that The Pimander Club has interests in some obscure bookshop in Bucharest. After all there are any number of furtive bookhounds sniffing about London eager to deal in the esoteric eccentricities. And the Club’s library is already considered to be quite respectable. After all they publish the Journal for the Occult.”

“The Pimander Club?” I looked intrigued over the rim of my tea cup into those marvelous eyes, within which you could find your way very, very easily lost.

“Yes. A rather an exclusive West End establishment. Established in 1887 as a response to the Golden Dawn.” She explained, “It would seem certain members of English high society, those with rather outré interests in Hermetic Lore, are rather unwilling to associate with the pretentious parvenus. Whereas, of course, communing with the dead – not so much. But – what of you?” She raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

I place my tea cup down, “Me?’

“How do you feel about communing with the dead?” She asked with the return of her wry smile.

I am more than certain I was unable to conceal the sarcastic glint in my eyes, “Well—there is life and then there is death. And the dead—they are dead, of that, I can assure you.”

Her bemused eyes suddenly turned sardonic, “You don’t believe in the poet?”

I gave her yet another quizzical look.

“As the poem says the dead travel fast.”

“I sorry,” My own wry smile reappearing now to match hers, “You don’t look like someone who would believe in such superstition.”

“And you do not look like one who should be forewarned to do so,” She replied now in sudden seriousness, “Perhaps, Elisa Louise Bishop, you should not be in Bucharest.”

Although she had sat down at my table and knew about the bookstore and my interests in its regard, I was suddenly surprised she in fact knew my name: “Pardon – have we been introduced?”

She arose from her seat. “No we have not.” She answered, her sultry voice now gone all cold.

And then she turned to leave.

“Excuse me – I did not get your name.”

As she walked away toward the door of the café she said over her shoulder, “Yes. I know.”

And I arose from my seat but as the café was long and narrow and I had sat at the front window in order to watch the bookshop, she was already stepping out of the café and into the falling snow. I watched through the window as motor cab pull to a halt – almost as if it had been waiting for her to step out of the café. I must admit – as captivated as I had been by her, the last few moments of our conversation had suddenly seemed sinister.

I was further astonished to take note of Mr. Richmond arriving just as the raven-haired beauty entered the cab. He glanced at her and then opened the door of the café. I watched as the motor cab pulled off into the wet flakes falling gather upon Gral Street.

“Ah, Miss Elias,” Mr. Richmond, dressed in a dark suit, a stylish hat, and a heavy overcoat, with his arm suspended in a sling, smiled brightly as he stepped over to my table.

“That woman – do you know who she is?” I asked hurriedly.

“The one getting into the cab?” He asked, his smile immediately disappearing as he took note of the tone of my voice. “No. No I don’t – why?”

I sat down slowly, “It was all rather odd, she sat down at my table, discussed the bookshop,” I motioned with my hand to the shop front window across the street, “And she knew my name.”

“Well as long as she’s not the devil – then you should be fine.” He said with a grin as he took off his hat and placed it in his lap. “Thanks ever so for trying to take care of me last night.” He continued as he lifted his wounded arm slightly, “But Dr. P says I shall mend well. So, what is it you wished to see me about?”

I looked at him, “I’m sorry, what do you mean?”

“You sent me a message requesting I met you here.” He replied.

“By here you mean Gral Street?”

He looked a bit confused, “No, it said to meet you here at this café.”

I was now truly perplexed as I knew I had not sent the message and whomever had – how were they aware that I would stop at the café across from bookshop?

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Troublesome Threads
Session Six - Part Four

HL_athenepalace01.jpeg

A typewritten appendix to earlier notation by Jackson Elias
12 March, 1916, Bucharest, Athene Palace – The Commissioner from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Avram Câmpineanu is a young man, in his early thirties. He speaks French nearly flawlessly. He wears a well tailor suit. His dark greatcoat lies draped over the back of a nearby chair from a dining table, which he has pulled up close for just such a purpose. There is something very keen about his eyes. He does not smile.

I found him in the dinning room sitting at our table. He was in the seat Lord Cyril had previously occupied – before the shot and all of the ensuing commotion. He had a small notebook before him in which he was making notes. As he looked up to see me approaching he put down his pen.

He politely arose to stand as I strolled through the maze of tables. Lord Cyril turned as well to watch my approach. I was concerned that his lordship was not only weary – but I am certain he had not eaten.

“Ah, we are now all together. Lord Cyril Blathing and Mademoiselle Elias Jackson,” The Commissioner said, “I understand French is the common language amongst us, yes?”

“Yes.” I replied, “But is it Jackson Elias.” I smiled graciously.

“Pardon.” He looked most apologetic as he placed a hand to his breast, “Of course, Mademoiselle Jackson Elias, forgive me. I am Commissioner Avram Câmpineanu of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office.”

“Commissioner,” I nodded in recognition of his authority – to which he seemed to pay little heed as he picked up his notebook and pen.

He stepped away from the chair in which he had been sitting and then with a slight flourish of his hand, he waved at the dinning table “If you would, please, resume the seat in which you were sitting before the unfortunate shooting of M. Richmond.”

Lord Cyril nodded and stepped over to the chair from which the Commissioner had arisen and sat once more in his original seat.

I placed my purse back on the table just as I had previously and was preparing to sit as the young Commissioner pulled back my chair for me. “Thank you.” I said to him as I sat down.

“But of course.” He replied.

Lord Cyril crossed his legs and began to stroke his beard as he watched the young man step over and take the seat which had previously been occupied by Mr. Richmond. He carefully placed his notebook down upon the table and placed his pen beside it.

Commissioner Câmpineanu looked askance at the bloody napkins resting upon the table, “And so, these are the seats where you were sitting?”

I nodded, “Yes.”

“Yes monsieur.” Lord Cyril answered.

“Just making sure.” He nods, as he picked up his pen and turned over the page of his notebook, where I saw he had made a diagram not only of our table but of the dining room and all of the tables thus arranged. He had placed a x upon tables wherein a hotel guest had been sitting. On the drawing he had made of our table he had made a notation to indicate where each of us were sitting, “Now if you please, could I have your travel papers?”

Lord Cyril reaches into his inner jacket pocket and produces the well worn and folded document he had carried in his pocket all the way from Corfu. Before that presumably, since his flight from Cetinje.

I opened my purse and being careful to keep the sight of my Styer as concealed as possible I removed the well folded document Kane had used his Washington connections to get for me, a special passport owing to the fact I was not only acting for the New York Inquirer as war correspondent but being as I was woman as well. I passed it over to the Commissioner, who took both Lord Cyril’s and mine and placed them one atop the other before he sat them both down upon the table before him.

Discreetly a waiter stepped through the service entrance and quietly approached our table. He placed a small white cup and saucer down before Commissioner Câmpineanu. Steam arose from the black coffee. “Merci.” He said without looking up as he continued to study the diagram of the dining room.

Lord Cyril folded his hands in his lap and waited patiently.

The Commissioner picked up Lord Cyril’s travel document and opened the British passport, which consisted of a single page, folded into eight and held together with a cardboard cover, as he unfolded the well worn page and began to examine it, "We are honored, Lord Cyril, to have such a renown Orientalist such as yourself here in Bucharest. I take it there is much in our culture and history that is of interest.”

“Yes.” His lordship replied.

“It appears you entered Romania at Turnu Severin, is this correct?"

Clearing his throat, Cyril answers. “That is correct, yes.”

Commissioner Câmpineanu nodded and reached over and lifting the small, white cup took a sip of his coffee, “I see. And prior to this—Corfu.” He looks up, “Quite a journey, I would think your lordship.”

He turns to his notebook and flips black a page to cover the diagram as he began to make a note.

“Yes, yes. One for the memoirs, I assure you.”

“I would certainly assume so.” Câmpineanu said slowly, “Now, as I understand it M. Richmond, he is with the British Consul, this is correct?”

“That is correct.”

“A trade liaison, as I hear.” He lifts the coffee cup again and prepared to take a sip but then stopped.

“Yes, that is what I understand,” Lord Cyril agreed.

“Had you met M. Richmond prior to this evening?” He took the sip of coffee.

“No.”

Câmpineanu held the cup in his hand, “You must pardon me your lordship, for saying, but, somehow, I do not suspect that you are at all concerned with the intricacies of trade. The ledger sheets. Bills of lading.” He lifted the coffee cup up and down slightly, “The balance. The imbalance of imports and exports.”

“Yes, well trade is very important Monsieur.”

“But of course – to men like M. Richmond. But to you? I think not so much.” He places the small white coffee cup precisely in the center of his saucer. “So, I must ask, Lord Cyril, why did you dine tonight with M. Richmond rather than with M. Ossington, the British Deputy Consul?”

“I was in fact dining with M. Richmond on the behest of M. Ossington.” Lord Cyril said straightforwardly. “He wished my opinion regarding some internal Embassy concerns.”

“Oh—yes.” Commissioner Câmpineanu replied, "There are in fact two trade liaisons with the British Litigation is that not correct? M. Richmond, who lies now in the examination room of Dr. Poruciuc, and a M. Montague, whose location is currently unknown. Missing. Presumed to have, what is it you British say, having done a bunk? With a local prostitute.” Here he stopped for a moment and turned a few pages of his notebook apparently for reference – but, I rather suspected it was for theatrics, “Ah, yes, Ioana Tânase.”

But Lord Cyril sat in his perfect British reserve awaiting a question.

“Do you know the missing M. Montague, Lord Cyril?” Commissioner Câmpineanu asked looking up from his notebook.

“No. I never met the gentleman.”

“But, the matter of internal concerns, it was in regards to M. Montague, yes?”

Lord Cyril nodded, “Indeed, Richmond was telling me about the poor fellow. Seems to have run off with that girl, the one you mentioned – or so they say."

“Yes that is the rumor." Câmpineanu nodded. ’That is the rumor.”

The Commissioner then picked up my own well-worn travel document and placed Lord Cyril’s back down upon the dinning room table. He opened it and slowly scanned the page, with it’s various markings, handwritten notations and purple stamping, which seemed to have bruised the paper. “Mademoiselle Elias. Jackson Elias?” He said as he now turned his attentions upon me. “As I understand from the manager, you signed the register as such.”

“Yes,” I replied with a slight smile anticipating his next question.

“Such an unusual name for so charming a lady." He replied and looked up from the page he was reading, "Especially one whose name is Elisa Louise Bishop—no?

Right on cue, “You can call me Jackson.”

He sits back and lifts the cup of coffee as if undecided to take a sip or not, “And this Jackson—why are you so called?”

“I am a reporter for Kane News Syndicate. It is my by-line.” I told him.

“Ah—the what the English call the nom de plume.” He nodded and then took the sip of coffee. “And of what do you report, Mademoiselle Bishop?“

“Crime actually,” I replied, “In New York. For the New York Inquirer. “

“Ah, so you have an interest in the criminal world?"

“As do you."

He looked over at me for a moment and then took another sip of his coffee. “And there is such a shortage of crime in the great city of New York that you find it necessary to make such a perilous journey here to Bucharest?

“I was a crime reporter.” I said evenly, “But – as you can see, it is a special passport owing to my being a war correspondent.”

“Mais Oui, as it so says here.”’ He said looking once more at the document. “And I see you arrived in Romania as did Lord Cyril at Turnu Severin?’

“Yes.”

He motioned with my travel papers to the both of us, “Then I assume the two of you made the arduous journey from Corfu together?”

“Yes,” I replied as Lord Cyril remained sitting silently, watching the Commissioner with some interest.

“For Lord Cyril – as I have said, it must have been quite the journey – but for a lady, such as yourself, it must have been exceedingly so.”

“Yes.”

“And yet, is it not odd for a war correspondent to travel to Bucharest? I mean, Romania is not at war.”

“Where better to write – you don’t get shot at.” And suddenly I paused aware of what I had just said.

“But, Mademoiselle Bishop that is precisely why we are here.” He replied as he folded up my passport and placed it down atop Lord Cyril’s. “You were shot at – or, so, it appears was the unfortunate M. Richmond.“

“Yes.” I agreed

“As I understand it, the shot came just as you were being seated? Is this correct?”

“Very soon after – yes.”

“What time was that?”

“It must have been close to 7 o’clock as I came down to dinner at 6:45”

“Where you had a dinner engagement with Lord Cyril and M. Richmond? He asked.

“No—I was planning to dine alone. But I stepped over to say good evening to his lordship.” I explained.

“And it was I who invited her to join Mr. Richmond and myself.” Lord Cyril now spoke up.

Commissioner Câmpineanu picked up his pen and made a notation in his notebook.

“Had you met M. Richmond before this evening Mademoiselle Bishop?”

“No.”

“M. Montague?’

“No.”

“See here, Commissioner, Miss Elias is an American and as such she has nothing whatsoever to do with the matters concerning the British Consulate.” Lord Cyril informed him. “She was my guest for dinner.”

There was a studied quietness about Commissioner Câmpineanu. For a long moment he was silent as he took a moment to sip at his coffee and consult his notes. He turned a page and then looked up, “Now, I have a question which troubles me. You see I have a missing member of the British Consul and now a second member of the litigation shot – here," He waves an expansive hand, ’In the grand dinning room of the Athene Palace in front of many witnesses.” He lifted his hands and with pointing forefingers brought them together, “Are these two things connected." he then pulled the fingers apart and waved them at us, “or not? What do you think?”

Lord Cyril shrugged. “I don’t know. It is too coincidental to rule it out, but ultimately, you would know far better than I.”

Suddenly from the corridor outside the side entrance to the dining room could be heard the voice of M. Molnár. "What—that is impossible! All of the fourth floor?”

The uniformed bell captain informed him that it was not impossible – but it was entirely possible because that was the current situation upon the fourth floor.

“Every room you say? Come we shall see.” And the two of them strode away.

“Then you are unaware of any possible connection, your lordship?” Commissioner Câmpineanu asked completely ignoring the distraction of the hotel staff as he picked up his pen to make a note in his notebook.

For his part, his lordship’s attention was briefly diverted by the commotion outside, but he looked back at the Commissioner. His eyes looked as worn and tired as I had seen them many a night in Serbia. “Other than them both being members of the British Consul? I can only speculate.”

“If there were one, I would think you would already know, Commissioner.” I said, being as I was not averse to attempting to interview him as well.

“Interesting,” He said, his pen posed to write but now held suspended as he said slowly, “And why would you think so Mademoiselle?”

“If you were looking into this missing trade representative, this Mr. Montague, then as a fellow liaison with the embassy, you would have already spoken to Mr. Richmond—and so, if I may ask Commissioner, what do you think? Do you think there is some connection?”

He looked at me with some interest as he made a notation in his notebook, “You are correct Mademoiselle Bishop. I have spoken with M. Richmond. At the behest of M. Ossington, who reported M. Montague as missing – although he suspects he has, as he says, ‘done a bunk’ with the girl.”

“And what do you think?”

“Ah, Mademoiselle Bishop, you are now the reporter, yes?"

“I am the reporter all the time.” I told him with a smile.

“I see—and crime is what you report. Normally, when you are not crossing through enemy lines to write of the non-existent war in Bucharest.” He said, “And so, what do you think?”

I laughed, "You are quite the evasive one, Commissioner, I will give you that. Alright, let’s play. So, yes. I think you suspect they are connected—you are not sure how – or why. Not yet. And, you believe Mr. Montague and this girl . . . “

“Ioana Tânase.” He informed me as he crossed his legs and turned toward me in his chair.

I opened my purse, “Ioana Tânase.” I repeated the name as I took out my cigarette case and removed one and snapped the case closed, “You don’t believe they have run off together. In fact, you suspect something else entirely.”

Lord Cyril sat back. He calmly crossed his legs and stroked his beard, as he silently watched our back and forth unfold.

The Commissioner removed a lighter from his jacket pocket and lit my cigarette as I leaned into the flame. “And what do I suspect?” He asked intrigued.

I took a thoughtful inhalation of smoke, and then slowly exhaled, “You think one or the other or both are dead.”

But before he could reply there was a sudden distraction from the side door of the dining room as the disheveled photographer, who had previously interrupted Fräulein ten Brinken with his dropped lens, now entered. He was carrying a small camera – a different one entirely from the one he one had earlier in the hotel corridor. This one seemed to be of some odd derivation of the Brownie.

He stepped forward into the dining room and began taking pictures.

Commissioner Câmpineanu turned slowly in his chair to look at the man, “Monsieur? Who are you and who has given you permission to take photographs?”

His lordship looked now curiously at the photographer. I could tell he was growing ever wearisome of this whole interlude with the Commissioner and now here was this strange man clicking away with his camera.

“Ah . . um . . . me?’ The photographer nervously replied.

“Yes, Monsieur. “ The Commissioner said, “You are the one with the camera, are you not?”

“Ah. . . mmm. Right. Well—yes, my name. I am Dorian Calder.” He said and took a picture of us sitting at the table, “I’m a photographer for His Majesty’s Service”

Commissioner Câmpineanu turned momentarily to give Lord Cyril a quizzical look, "His Majesty’s Service? How so?” But as Lord Cyril merely returned the look quite impassively, the Commissioner returned his attention once more to the anxious photographer.

“It’s new . . . umm—historical? Yes, a historical project that has been commissioned.”

“What is this project and who has commissioned it?”

“Yes, well . . ahh . . . umm . . “ And the photographer reached into his jacket and removed a piece of paper and began to read aloud, “Due to increasing political tensions and the ongoing conflicts of war, we wish to preserve a photographic record of the world as it now is. Yes,” He looked up from the page, “As it now is. And—it is signed you see by Mr. Asquith And so . . umm . . . as you can see . . .I . . . I’m doing just that.”

“If you please, I would ask you to have a seat, and we shall discuss this project in greater length in a moment. But” And he snapped his fingers, “I wish to see that,” he indicated the paper the photographer had just read.

But rather than hand it over, Mr. Calder abruptly checked his watch, “I would very much like to do so sir but . . . ah . . . “

Commissioner Câmpineanu snapped his fingers once more and held out his hand.

With another glance at his pocket watch, much like the harried rabbit in Alice, he remarked sullenly, “I—really . . . need, you see . . . I shall be late . . . and, I need . . . I need to return to ah my . . . to my room—very soon . . . you see, there is the experiment. . .” His voice trailing off as he hands over the paper and then sat down at a one of the dinning tables, where he restlessly picked up a fork and began tapping the tines upon the tablecloth.

The Commissioner took the much folded piece of paper and unfolding it begin to examine the document, which seemed to bear a multitude of handwritten notes upon the back as well as various, oddly discolored stains. His expression remained impassive as he folded it back neatly and the placed it on the table beside our travel documents.

“Oh – I. . . I’m going to need that . . .pa-paper . . . it is . . . part of my. . . my travel arrangements y’know."

I had taken notice that Lord Cyril’s eyes had been slightly drooping during the whole of the distraction created by the anxious photographer, who put the fork down and once more looked at his watch fretfully.

Commissioner Câmpineanu turned back once more in his chair to return his attention upon me, “And so, now, in regards to your conjecture, Mademoiselle—“

“Jackson.” I said my elbow propped against the hand of my crossed arm as I held the cigarette to my lips.

“Mademoiselle Bishop.” He continued, “I will admit there are certain troublesome threads,” he lifted his hands and wiggled his fingers slightly, “They are loose at the moment, but, if I can but tighten them, perhaps, I will catch something in their Cat’s Cradle. It is true, as you surmise, I find this belief of M. Ossington in that M. Montage has run away with this girl – this new paramour as he calls her – very odd. For she is a known prostitute. And the British, for all their reserve, are known for their vices – but, not for running away with them.” He looked at Lord Cyril, who though he had been fighting fatigue earlier looked at him with some renewed interest.

“In fact, it appears to me she is perhaps far less the paramour, as has been suspected, than someone for whom M. Montague was attempting to either conceal or to provide some protection.” Commissioner Câmpineanu picked up his cup of coffee and prepared to take a sip, “For I have found he furtively relocated her into a new apartment, the address of which even M. Richmond says he was unaware, as well as M. Ossington and those with whom she associated on the boulevard – but, at her old lodgings, all of her possessions, few as they may be, were still there. Within her new address – nothing has been removed. And so, if she were to have as they say made the ‘bunk’ with him, then she did so in only what she stood up in.” He then took a sip from his cup. “Would you have so bunked, Mademoiselle? Leaving all of your possessions in at least two locations?”

I smiled, “I can assure you Commissioner, I would never ‘bunk.’ But, perhaps, if as you say, he had relocated her for protection – then perhaps they had to leave in some haste.” I replied as I took another inhalation of smoke from my cigarette.

“Perhaps.” He said evenly, “Now, as to M. Montague – his lodging tells a quite different story. For though it too has many of his possessions seemingly awaiting his return, there is also the lack of his toilet and several suggestive items. And, from his neighbors I have ascertained he has not, as I have been lead to believe, just suddenly gone missing, as reported by M Ossington, but that he has been away from his rooms for quite some time.” He looked across the table at Lord Cyril, who remained passively watching the Commissioner.

At the table where he had taken a seat, Mr. Calder continued to fidget with his camera and nervously rocked his right foot up and down. He was apparently most impatient to be up and gone. But why was he even down here, in the hotel corridor, in the dining room, owing to whatever he felt was of such importance he had to continually check his pocket watch as if in some anticipation. Lord – I suddenly thought . . . a bomb? Just who was this Mr. Calder?

“Also, as you may have ascertained I have, as you suggested Mademoiselle Bishop, interviewed M. Richmond.” He put the cup down in the center of the saucer, “As they both worked together at the Consulate. But, of course he was quite reticent in revealing anything of significance regarding M. Montague and was of the opinion that M. Ossington was premature in contacting local authorities. All of which seems to suggest to me that perhaps M. Montague is less concerned with the accounting ledgers and the balance of trade.” And he looked unostentatiously at me “And, there is of course the incident at the bookshop.”

Lord Cyril now looked at the commissioner with some interest. “A bookshop?”

“There is a small bookshop on Gral Street which deals in rare and esoteric books, Inima Muntelui, which was owned by Imre Turcanu. In my investigation, I by chance was given the description of a person, whom according to various witnesses seemed to have been acting in a manner which many considered to be somewhat suspicious. This person apparently had not only been observed watching the bookshop, nearly the whole of day, from a small café not too far distant, but was seen as well, later that night, observing it from the shadows of Gral Street. The description matches that of M. Montague.”

“And this is a thread of some significance?” I asked.

“It is a thread which leads to the body of Imre Turcanu.” Commissioner Câmpineanu said calmly. “Who had been found decapitated, and whose head still as yet to be recovered.”

“Decapitated?” I inquired of the Commissioner – careful to look at him rather than to Lord Cyril, owing to the fact this Imre Turcanu had been the name his lordship had given me as a hint earlier tonight in the lounge concerning whatever it was he was dealing with – which meant there was some definite connection.

And it was just as well that I was also distracted as I reached forward to tap ashes from my cigarette into the crystal ashtray on the table, by a movement in my peripheral vision. I glanced over to see Mr. Calder adjusting his loose bow tie – in response to the suggestion M. Turcanu had been beheaded, which only added to my curiosity regarding the Commissioner. Was it his intent to allow Mr. Calder to overhear all of this?

“How grotesque.” Lord Cyril muttered.

“And as I now construct the timeline of events – M. Montague, he makes his long disappearance from Bucharest the very next day.” The Commissioner continued, “And the paramour? Ioana Tânase? She is once more seen sashaying along the boulevard. A week later, Inima Muntelui, which oddly was not a part of the courts as it should have been, owing to M. Turcanu dying intestate, is instead rather mysteriously sold to a English investment group. “

Lord Cyril seemed very interested in these facts and yet he said nothing.

Commissioner Câmpineanu gave me an inquiring look, “These are very strange threads indeed are they not, Mademoiselle.”

“Yes –“ I said bringing my cigarette up to my lips, “But where do you think they connect?”

“Where indeed?” He nodded, “But what is even more perplexing is this concern for M. Montague and his disappearance. For it was not aroused among his colleagues until February, while I have discovered that he had been away for nearly all of the month of January, and even then, there is a wait until now before M. Ossington sees fit to report his anxiety regarding the purported ‘bunk’ to local authorities. Whereas, M. Richmond, he is of the opinion that M. Ossington has acted prematurely? You see, now these threads they seem to become even more entangled. Where is M. Montague? How long has he truly been missing? And more importantly, who is he really? A representative of trade? I think not. And now, M. Richmond—yet another representative of imports and exports – he lies bleeding on the dining room floor of the Athene Hotel.”

As if to punctuate the Commissioner’s remark, the night manager, István Molnár suddenly came thundering into the room: “M. Calder, M. Calder, what have you done? The whole of the fourth floor is in darkness! I hear it is something of your doing! Explain yourself!" He planted himself resolutely before the photographer, his hands upon his hips in righteous indignation.

Mr. Calder sat taking several deep breaths as his left hand rose to rub at his forehead, “Too soon – “

“What?” M. Molnár cocked his head, “What is too soon?”

“I . . .I needed to-total darkness for my ex-experiment.” Calder said looking once more at his watch.

“Experiment!” The night manger’s voice rising, “In the Athene? No, No, No. No, this is not possible. This will not do.”

“You see . . . it is . . . a . . . a new way to develop fil-film.”

“Film? What is this your are saying? No—I do not care. Up now. Up, up I say. You must come—” He commanded waving his fingers before Mr. Calder, “—with me and we must get all of this corrected. This very instant.” And he suddenly pivoted to address the Commissioner, trying to appear less harried. “Pardon – but there is an emergency.”

Commissioner Câmpineanu turned in his chair as did I to look at them. My gaze was directed upon the photographer as he arose from his seat, “Why are you so concerned with the time?” I asked.

But before he could answer a faint whistling from somewhere within the hotel could be heard. And at the sound Mr. Calder seemed even more agitated. “Oh no—oh my . . . Lord.”

To which his lordship sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

Preoccupied with his pocket watch, Mr. Calder nervously repeated, “No no no no no,” before he abruptly pushed past M. Molnár and ran out of the dinning room.

The night manger turned and quickly followed. Lord Cyril and I looked at one another, then turned to watch perplexed as the two men rushed from the room.

I was about to ask the Commissioner if he was not going to address whatever the odd photographer was involved in, but before we could speak there was a muffled boom which echoed down through the hotel.

Lord Cyril was startled at the sound and grasped onto the arms of his chair. As he had said earlier, it was very much like being in Serbia again.

“What the hell was that?” I inquired of the Commissioner as I stubbed out my cigarette in the ashtray and stood up.

“Oh, good heavens! Are they shelling us?" His lordship asked standing as well.

We were answered by a long wailing, “Nooooo” that could be heard ascending the side stairs, which seemingly announced now the sudden wafting scent of some odd chemical odor drifting down into the hotel.

Lord Cyril pushed back his chair and moved quickly through the maze of tables toward the entrance to the lobby.

Commissioner Câmpineanu quickly picked up his notebook and pen, along with the document he had taken from Mr. Calder, as well as our travel documents, and placed them within various pockets of his jacket. Then, together we followed in his lordship’s wake as we too hurried into the hotel lobby where we watched as the beleaguered night manger hurried down the stairs and waved a hand to one of the bellmen at the front desk, “Get the fire brigade, quickly.” He said in a voice loud enough to be heard but not to be carried by the acoustics of the vast lobby.

“What’s this? A fire you say!?” Lord Cyril asked with some concern.

Whereas I felt I had to ask the obvious question, “What was that explosion?"

But M. Molnár in his preoccupation paid us little heed. He strode pass us and only stopped as he caught sight of the Commissioner. “The guest M. Calder – he has taken it upon himself to see fit to perform some – experiment . . . as he says . . . . it has gone badly.” He explained to the him.

“Are there casualties?” He asked.

M. Molnár shook his head, “The explosion was contained to his room . . . but I fear its consequences will spread all too quickly.” He said with some agitation and sincere concern. “If you would but pardon – I need to get staff to quick assist in moving guests from harms way.”

But even as he was explaining to the Commissioner, I looked up now to see the strange photographer as he came hobbling down the main stairs. He appeared to have been splashed by various chemicals whose odors clung too him. “No. No. There is no . . . need. . . for alarm.” He coughed, his voice dry and rasping. “The explosion . . . . it extinguished . . . the flames.”

Molnár turned to look at the man, “There is no fire?”

“N-no!” Mr. Calder confirmed. “No fire . . . I assure you.”

I could see the sudden change of expression on M. Molnár’s face from relief to consternation as he quickly raced after the bellman – his concern now being for the hotel’s reputation as he needed to stop the bellman from alerting the fire brigade. A shooting in the dining room was more than enough – certainly – he did not need there to be a report of a fire as well. “Ion – stop!” he called out.

“It is not – my fault. The experiment. (cough) I told . . . . that man.” Mr. Calder continued in his rasping voice as he pointed to the Commissioner, “a-about it . . . (cough). . . but he . . . he in-insisted I stay.”

Lord Cyril standing at the foot of the stairs now turned, “M. Câmpineanu, perhaps it would be best if we were to continue this when things are a bit calmer. A man has been shot in front of me, and now the building explodes. I must say, my nerves are shot. I think I shall retire for the evening.”

“Very well, Lord Cyril.” He accented, “But, you must excuse the inconvenience as I will retain your and Mademoiselle Bishop’s travel documents. Let us meeting in the morning — shall we say 8:30?"

Lord Cyril nodded and began to slowly ascend the stairs.

I watched M. Molnár as he grabbed the bellman before he could exit through the revolving door, which deposited at the same time a gentleman in a black suit and hat and unbuttoned greatcoat. He looked at the night manager and bellman for a moment, and then turned his attention to the main concourse of the lobby and nodded as he saw the Commissioner.

They quickly conferred and then the newly arrived gentleman turned to make his way hurriedly into the dining room – where I suspected he had been sent to get the Commissioner’s coat – even as the Commissioner turned toward us, “I will say good evening. I must now take my leave. Something of significance in regard to this case has occurred.”

“What is it?” His lordship asked as he stopped on the stair and turned back to look at him.

“It seems your missing M. Montague has been found.” He replied evenly.

“And the girl?” I asked

He turned to me, “Just M. Montague. His body was found near the river. It seems he has been decapitated.”

I turned to look at Lord Cyril. I had come to Bucharest to investigate black market criminality, but now it appears I am involved in two investigations.

View
White Napkins and Blood
Session Six - Part Three

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Jackson Elias Extemporaneous Memorandum – typewritten
13 March, Athene Palace, Bucharest, 2 AM — My first night in Bucharest and more then likely there shall come upon my chamber door the not so gently rapping of the night manger as I am certain M. Molnár, who has not had a night quite like this in some time, will have received yet another late night complaint about the clacking of my keys – but I want to record the events of tonight as quickly as possible, being as there are so many curious circumstances – and like Alice I as yet do not have any clear understanding as to their meaning. For weeks we had slipped through enemy lines – and now, here we are supposedly within the safety afforded by Romanian neutrality in a Palace of luxury, and yet, tonight there was a shot from the dark. But who fired the gun? And the question remains more importantly just who was the intended target? In that it first appeared be to Edmond Richmond. A trade representative with the British Consulate (which sounds to me more like the British Secret Service). Then the assailant could have been like the German at the White Venice Hotel on Corfu, a possible spy for the Central Powers. But if that were so then it is quite possible Lord Cyril could have been the intended target. But then again, in Paris, before making my way to Corfu, I had been working on a story about the Sacred Union and the fact those listed upon the Carnet B had not been soundly rounded up as was intended upon the mobilization. In my research regarding the all too apparent acceptance of the Sacred Union by these once fanatical individuals and organizations I had interviewed several witnesses to the Bonnot Gang’s trial; read copies of L’Anarchie as well as Le Matin’s published accounts of the ‘bandits tragiques’; examined old circulars explaining in detail how to make bombs, how to destroy rail and telegraph lines, viaducts, and even how to sabotage an aeroplane; and had even clandestinely attended several causeries, which were rarely crowded as the shock of the Marne and the threat of German forces and massive losses, had sent many a French anarchist to join their fellow workers in the march to the long goodnight of war. Although, there were still a few disillusioned illegalists, who held out hope in the strength of anarchism in Spain and Russian – and who spoke all too admiringly of furtive criminal undergrounds and mysterious black marketeers across war-torn Europe as if it were some new breed of Illegalism. And so, – could the bullet which struck Mr. Richmond have been fired from a Browning inside a passing Delaunay-Belleville, as it sped along the Calea Victoriei? A shot in the dark taken by some Romanian anarchist? After all the war itself had been sparked by the Black Hand‘s assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo? And here, in Romania there had been a peasant revolt not that long ago – and so, as even as I was surveying the lawn before the hotel and the street beyond, I have to admit I half expected to see an anarchist assassin in a grey greatcoat and woolen cap dashing away into the shadows or being sped away in dark motor car. Wouldn’t antimilitarism have already begun to rear it’s ugly head upon whispers of Romania possibly entering the war? And so upon further reflection there is yet another target of acquisition to be considered. Myself. For in revealing the source of my investigation to Lord Cyril, it brought home to me that fact that I am investigating those for whom human life is but a commodity. Could those ‘disillusioned’ in Paris, using what telegraph wires were still intact, have contacted those in Bucharest. And if so then tonight’s shot through window of the grand dining room of the Athene Palace could have just as easily been directed toward me. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. There are so many possibilities. Where do I begin? Dinner?

Well there wasn’t a formal one – although Mademoiselle Doulenques brought up something from the kitchen. Earlier she not only provided me guidance to some of the city’s more fashionable shops, but in the afternoon, she had taken time from her duties at the Athene in order to see how the acquisitions to my wardrobe were progressing and to offer any assistance necessary with my stays – which, when I informed her I had never had any difficulty with my stays as I have never made use of them, she rather inquisitively stepped into my dressing room, where she demurely smiled as she gazed in admiration upon my lithe figure, which I admit I did not try to conceal. Afterwards, having efficiently seen to ushering all my purchases from each of the women’s clothiers back to the Athene, we finished the afternoon at a small café with tea and light sandwiches. Whereupon afterwards returning to my room, I discovered she had also procured for me a new typewriter (amazingly, a Blickensderfer Model 7 – with a simple wooden carrying case, an extra typewheel, a dozen ink rolls and a tool kit. But I must admit I miss my old Corona).

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And so—as the hotel had finally quieted, she had appeared at my door. Cold meats, cheese, and fruits upon a platter in one hand and a bottle of champagne in the other. Hipshot in the corridor just outside my door, she explained she had been uncertain as to whether or not I had eaten and besides she wanted to see if the new typewriter was adequate to my needs (but her eyes, upon my light, linen gown, whose sheerness was transparent enough to allow her to view what captivated her most, said her interest was otherwise).

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I stepped back and allowed her to enter as I told her the typewriter was wonderful – and the food looked delicious – but, not nearly as much as the bottle of champagne. We sat and ate and drank and laughed about M. Molnár’s frantic attempts at relocating guests – none of whom were making life pleasant for the night manager – even while he was trying to get maintenance men to come to the Palace late in the night to repair whatever damage the strange photographer had made of the fourth floor. I asked her about the fourth floor – as to precisely what had happened. But she held up her hands and explained she did not even want to think about it until morning. And so we sat upon my bed and sipped champagne and she filled me in on bits of gossip about the staff – while she was ever so careful to never reveal anything about herself (other than the fact she was not Romanian but French – which of course was rather obvious). She is lovely and she is decidedly inclined. But, I must be wary of this charming Mademoiselle – owing to some furtive bits of conversation between her and one of the women’s clothiers earlier this afternoon, I had already had my suspicions that the concierge of the Palace was well acquainted with some of Bucharest’s black markets (of which, I need to ascertain whether one of them is the object of my investigation) . . . but . . . then to add to my apprehension, there had been the most mysterious exchange between her and the beautiful Alraune ten Brinken, the young German heiress, in what appeared to be an rather intriguing disagreement. But—either it is too late or I am feeling the effects of the champagne – as I am digressing horribly . . . and not at all attempting to begin at the beginning. And so – to begin . . . again. Yes, dinner.

I had gone down at 6:45 to the grand dining room, which first of all is amazing. It is as if the dinning room of the Ritz in Paris had somehow been extracted from the Parisian hotel, shipped around Gibraltar, and then perfectly inserted into the Athene Palace. The Maître d’, Ferka Goral (whom Bobinette informs me is Roma), was escorting me to a table when I spotted Lord Cyril. He was dining with a gentleman whose bearing as well as being immaculately dressed in black tie for dinner gave one the most distinct impression he could only be British. I excused myself and stepped over to say good evening – and could immediately tell from the expressions on their faces I had interrupted something of importance. But Lord Cyril was very gracious and asked me to join him and Mr. Richmond – Edmond Richmond, a trade liaison to the Consulate (or so they said). I had just taken my seat at their table when suddenly the window beside the table shattered.

It was a gun shot and the bullet came through the dinning room window. It struck Mr. Richmond, who fell from his chair to the dining room floor. I quickly reacted and grabbing my napkin, slipped from my chair to kneel beside him in order to apply pressure to the wound, which was high in the right shoulder.

I looked up to see a pane of the window shattered and the thin white gossamer drapery moving slightly in the night air as it was given entry through the jagged pieces of glass. Behind me the other hotel guests were quickly scurrying away from their tables indecisive as to whether to rush from the room or to find some safe avenue away from the window, so as to observe the man lying on the floor. In looking about for some assistance, I spotted Ferka Goral, the great mustached maître d’, standing mutely several tables away with a menu in hand. “Don’t just stand there.” I ordered, “Get a doctor.”

And as he turned to do as I had asked, I called after him to get a constable as well.

Mr. Richmond was attempting to get up and I pushed him back as I informed him he had been shot and not to move, even as Lord Cyril slipped over beside me and putting his hand upon the napkin, in order to maintain the steady pressure upon the wound, told me: “Quick. Check the window. I have him.”

I grabbed my purse, which held the Steyr (it having made a better fit within the small purse than my Colt). I cautiously made my way over to the window, pushed aside the flair of a sudden billow of the gossamer curtain but I could see nothing other than a few comfortable couples strolling along the walkway just beyond the edge of the hotel lawn. I searched the shadows – but there was no one in hiding with a gun. Of course, my immediate suspicion had been the shot had come from some passing motor car. I turned to inform his lordship that whomever had taken the shot—they had since departed.

He sighed.

In returning his lordship and the wounded Mr. Richmond, I saw Mr. Richmond say something to his lordship but before Lord Cyril could reply, Richmond slipped away into unconsciousness.

I knelt once more to give assistance and gave his lordship a wry look as I could not resist the obvious: “Something told me you were not coming here for holiday.”

“Yes—well, this was not upon my agenda for the evening.” He informed me.

In a brave attempt at stoicism, István Molnár, the Athene Palace’s night manager entered through the main dinning room door. Dressed in a single breasted grey suit, a stiff fronted white shirt with detachable wing collar, and obvious shirt studs, his well combed mustache and bald pate gave him a far more Prussian air that he no doubt meant to strike. He held out his hands and intoned: “Please, Please. Everyone remain calm.”

As he continued to stride closer, he looked down to see the blood from Mr. Richmond upon his hardwood floor and there was a unmistakable look of utter alarm – there was someone bleeding on his dining room floor.

I grabbed another napkin from the table and handed it to Lord Cyril, who continued to try and staunch the bleeding. “We need a doctor! Is there a doctor in the hotel!?” His lordship asked as he looked over to the diners who had chosen to gather near the side entrance to the dining room.

M. Molnár approaching to hover above Lord Cyril asked in a low voice, so as not to upset the guests any more than the gunshot had already: “Is he?”

But before either of us could answer, Mademoiselle Doulenques hurried into the dining room, entering now from the service entrance, “Mas Oui, I have sent for Dr. Poruciuc.”

M. Molnár gave a slight grunt of approval.

Meanwhile, Lord Cyril began begun loosening Mr. Richmond’s bow tie in order to help his breathing as I quickly arose and looked over at Bobinette, “Has he far to travel, this doctor?”

She shook her head, "No. He is the hotel physician.”

No sooner had she replied, stepping through the door behind her, a bearded gentleman of middle height and age, carrying a black medical bag entered.

“This is Dr Poruciuc,” Bobinette said by way of introduction as the man strode past her and slowly approached us.

“Very well. Now. If everyone will step back.” His voice was a deep baritone – more befitting a military man that a doctor.

He then knelt down beside his lordship and reached out for the bloody napkins, “Pardon—if you please. Allow me.” And he took the napkins away.

M. Molnár stiffly, as if standing guard, adjusted his glasses as he looked down upon us, “Doctor—can we not . . . move . . . the gentleman out of the dinning door.”

Lord Cyril relieved of his attempts to administer aid to the wounded Mr. Richmond arose and taking yet another napkin from the table dipped it into his glass of water and began to clean the blood from his hands.

In response to M. Molnár, the doctor gave the night manager a stern look, "Not until I have determined the seriousness of the injury. Now, please . . . everyone back.”

And so I arose as well and as I did so his lordship handed me the wet, bloody napkin, which he had dipped once again into another glass of water and motioned at my own hands. I began to wipe the blood from my fingers, "I gather Mr. Richmond is more than just a trade representative.” I said in a low voice.

Lord Cyril merely cleared his throat.

M. Molnár stepped away from us and held out his hands once more to the group gathered about the far wall of the dining room as they stood watching the doctor, “Ladies and gentlemen, pardon. I wish to assure you that the management of the Athene Palace most sincerely apologizes for this inconvenience. Please, if everyone would move to the hotel salon—you will find refreshments, all of which, are with the compliments of the Palace.”

“I just want you to know, your lordship, after everything we have been through – you know you can certainly count on me for any assistance you may need.” I told him as I finished wiping the blood from my fingers – especially about the cuticle of my right forefinger.

“Perhaps we should speak later of such things.” Lord Cyril whispered as he returned his attention once more to the wounded Mr. Richmond. “Dr Poruciuc, I was dining with this man, I feel somewhat responsible. Is there any way I can help?”

“It is but a shoulder wound.” Dr. Poruciuc replied, having used a small scalpel to cut thought the material of Richmond’s well tailored jacket and shirt front to reveal the wound, "He is lucky, as from all appearances, the bullet did not strike anything vital.”

“Oh that is most excellent news," The night manager said as he turned to look down at the doctor and clasped his hands together. "Now, can we have the gentleman moved. Shall we say . . . removed from the dining room and transported to your medical examination room? There you will have the upmost privacy. And, we would certainly hate to have its facilities sitting idle in just such an emergency as this, no?”

“Your floor will be fine, M. Molnár,” The doctor said gruffly. “A little scrubbing, a bit of polish—and no one will be the wiser, hey.” He then pulled an envelope and a folded piece of paper from the inner pocket of Mr. Richmond’s dinner jacket and handed them up to Lord Cyril – thus staining them with blood from his fingertips as he did so, “Perhaps you should hold these for the gentleman.” He then handed over a cigarette case and wallet as well.

“Of course,” Lord Cyril took the proffered items and placed them in his own jacket.

“But of course, doctor. I am merely thinking of the gentleman’s comfort.” M. Molnár replied now beginning to slowly rub his hands together.

The doctor looked at him and sighed heavily, “As I have said, I am not as yet concluded with my preliminary examination. Mademoiselle Doulenques,” he then suddenly called to Bobinette with a forceful wave of his hand.

Her eyes gave me a quick furtive glance as she hurried over, “Oui, doctor?”

Dr. Poruciuc pointed a bloody hand toward M. Molnár, "This is the very thing of which I was most precise in making certain in our agreement, as to whether or not I would take the position of house physician. As I said then, I do not need second opinions – and much less the harried concerns in regards to the woodwork.”

“But of course, Doctor.” Bobinette replied and turned toward the night manager, “Monsieur Molnár – if you would attend the guests. I shall take charge here.”

The manger scowled and muttered irritably, “The blood. This blood—it must be removed.”

She nodded and glanced again at me with a warm smile, to which I gave her an encouraging smile in return.

“And quickly,” M. Molnár added.

Taking advantage of the hotel staff’s dispute, Lord Cyril took a step back and whispered: “Meet me in the lobby in 10 minutes.”

I smiled and nodded.

He then turned and rather unobtrusively made his way among the maze of white clothed dining tables toward the main entrance to the grand dining room. I too was about to slip away, in order to follow in his wake – and had only taken a few steps, when I suddenly took notice of a strikingly beautiful young woman. She was tall and slender, a Nordic blonde, who, rather than having abandoned her table as had all the other diner guests, in their haste to secure some safe distance from the window, she had instead remained calmly seated. She and her dinner companion. A handsome gentlemen in a well tailored evening jacket who, from his posture, appeared to have had some recent military service. What had halted my departure and drawn my attention to her was the obvious pique in which she had just now arisen. With a half-filled wine glass precariously held in her hand, she sauntered over to harried M. Molnár.

“And I had been led to believe by all accounts this was considered to be the finest hotel in all of Bucharest.” She spoke French as we all had, but with a slight German inflection, which was filled with obvious disdain.

“Fräulein ten Bricken.” The hotel manager beamed in a warm smile, his heels almost clicking. “I can most assuredly inform you that this does not happen at the Athene Palace."

“Well, Monsieur Molnár, as I can see,” She replied motioning with her wine glass to Edmond Richmond lying upon the floor, “It most assuredly does. Is that not a gentleman I see lying upon your dining room floor? And was it not a bullet which shattered that window?”

“Well, yes, Fräulein.” M. Molnár, quickly capitulated. “In that you are correct—“ He adjusted his glasses, “But as I said, this does not happen at the Athene Palace . . . this.” He waved a hand at Richmond, “This is but an anomaly.”

“An anomaly that lies bleeding upon your floor.” She replied as she over stepped past the night manager to move closer so as to get a better view of Mr. Richmond and the doctor administering to him. Curious, I lingered for a moment within the maze of tables and watched as she seemed to stare now with particular interest at the blood. “Yes—yes, Monsieur, I am quite correct that is most certainly blood.”

The tall, handsome gentleman who had been dining with her, having arisen from his seat as she left the table, now dropped his napkin and purposefully stepped around the dining table as he strode over toward her. I was certain now in observing him as he moved over toward the alluring blonde that there had most certainly been some military service in his background. And it was even more obvious he was there for Fräulein ten Bricken’s protection as I caught a sudden glimpse of the very distinctive golden luger he carried conceal beneath his dinner jacket.

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“Fräulein ten Bricken. We should allow the doctor to –“

“No.” She said far too calmly.

“Alraune—“ he began to protest.

“No—no Max . I wish to see.” And the slender blonde moved ever closer to the wounded man.

As if growing uneasy about the woman’s quite noticeable transfixion upon the blood on the floor as well as from the man’s wound, Dr. Poruciuc looked up to Bobinette, who was standing at his side: “Yes – well, I think the gentleman is rather stable now. And so. We can move him. Mademoiselle Doulenques can we have some of the waiters help relocate him to my examination room?”

“Certainement.” And Bobinette stepped away from the doctor and moved past several lingering guests who stood about the side door to the dining room. I glanced toward the entrance to see Lord Cyril as he was just exiting the dining room, and then turned back to watch Fräulein ten Bricken. There was something slightly ominous in the way she continued to approach the prone Mr. Richmond.

Then, as if she were aware of my gaze upon her, the Fräulein abruptly turned her ardent eyes upon me, “Is this – your lover?” She inquired rather intrusively.

I looked at her, “No – not quite.”

“You are American, yes?” She inquired, turning now to stand with her wine glass dangling perilously from the loose grip of her fingers.

“Yes.” I replied, looking into the most marvelous green eyes I think I have ever seen.

“I ask because a lovely American such as yourself, on holiday, she should have such a lover as he, no?”

I smiled, “No—not such as he.”

“Oh—“ The blonde said with a slightly wicked smile and quite suggestive eyes. “But, of course.”

“I am sorry, I have to meet someone." I told her.

The blonde continued her roguish smile, "I am sure.”

And as I moved toward the dining room entrance, I could feel those green eyes watching my departure. “Max, I grow tired of this tedious drama.” I heard her say as I took a quick glance back to see the tall man reach out to removed the wine glass from her hand. I am not certain what was so upsetting about the woman, her smile, the mesmeric gaze of her eyes, the haunting quality of her voice, or the way she so carelessly handled the glass as if she were about to suddenly let go of it at any moment – to let it slip from her fingers to shatter upon the floor for no other reason than as a mischievous whim.

But I had more pressing matters of concern and so I strolled past the maître d’ station and stepped back out to the corridor leading into the darken expanse of the main lobby – only Lord Cyril was not there. I felt the reassurance of the weight of the Steyr in my purse as I began to look for him, and then decided to proceeded toward the mirrored, green salon with its low sofas and tables. There most of the dining room patrons where availing themselves of the complimentary drinks M. Molnár had made available. But his lordship was nowhere to be seen.

And so I casually strolled back into the main lobby with its rows of yellow marble pillars and the cathedral like niches. I took a moment to open my purse and removed a cigarette. Having spent weeks ever on alert, I took my time closing the case and lighting the cigarette in order to inspect the lobby and a small sitting room off-set in one of the niches to my left. It seemed unusually deserted – but then would not most of the hotel’s guests have been drawn to the commotion toward the dining room and the accompanying complimentary refreshments in the salon? And yet, I felt myself becoming more concerned. Where was his lordship? The assailant who had shot Richmond could have been anyone – and they could have most certainly entered the hotel. The gunshot itself could have been nothing more than a bit of subterfuge, a misdirection for an anarchist bomb or another attempted assassination. I was looking back at the modernistic front desk, where the attendant glanced up at me – as if anticipating my need of some assistance – when, the revolving door of the hotel discharged a tall, gentleman in a dark suit and black greatcoat. Instinctively, as my purse was still open, I was ready to pull the Steyr. But the man‘s demeanor and his resolute expression, as well as his observant glance, which took in the whole of the lobby, including me, as he strode by on his way toward the dining room, gave me the distinct impression he was a member of the constabulary.

It was at this moment Lord Cyril appeared at the top of the main stairway and slowly began his descent. He was now wearing the suit he had worn when I had left him at the Central Station this morning – apparently he had gone to his room to change. I had not thought of it, but I checked and there were indeed blood stains at the hem of my dress as well as upon my cuff and sleeve.

“I must say, I was becoming a bit worried, your lordship.” I told him as I snapped my purse shut.

“My apologies.” He said as he stepped from the staircase to the marble floor.

“Do you—“ I as about to ask but he held up a hand.

“Let us find a bit of privacy, Miss Elias.” He suggested.

Lord Cyril indicated a lounge room in one of the many niches adjacent to the lobby, even as I was motioning over to the low sofa and chairs set off in a comfortable foyer. We stood for a moment as we looked at each other, and then I nodded and followed his lead as he stepped into the small lounge. It was furnished in imitation Louis XV and colored in red and gold and white in the manner of the Second Empire. With a quick glance to confirm we were for the moment the only one’s in the lounge, his lordship strode over to an isolated and darken corner were two curved-topped sofas met. He took a weary seat.

“Everything alright, your lordship?” I asked as I sat down and watched as he took his pipe out of his jacket pocket.

“A man was shot right in front of us.” He said, removing the small tobacco pouch. “You know quite well everything is not alright.” And he began to pinch the tobacco out of the pouch and place it carefully in the bowl of his pipe. Although he was concentrating on the pipe, his eyes seemed to be focused as if he contemplating something far distant. “I half thought for a moment we were back in Serbia.”

“Yes, well it is all very disconcerting to say the least,” I replied and took a reassuring inhalation of smoke from my cigarette, “I mean on the very day you arrive. It is some coincidence, I would say.”

He removed a box of matches and gave me a look, “Meaning?”

“That shot was directed at a table where you were sitting.” I explained.

The match burst into flame as he struck it and placed it over the bowl of his pipe as he began his attempt to light it, “And you as well. “ He said around the stem.

“Yes, well. I must admit Lord Cyril – I am doing my best not to try and pry. But—as you know, for me that only lasts so long . . . and so . . . you will have to excuse me . . . but, does this have anything to do with why you are here?”

He sat silently puffing to get the pipe well lit, before whipping the match flame out and placing it in an ashtray on the end table near to hand.

“Off the record, of course.” I quickly reassured him.

His lordship sat for a moment as a wreath of smoke rose ponderously above him. He took the smoking stem of his pipe from his lips and said, “In all honesty, I do not know. Though one thing bothers me.” His eyes on the door to the lounge.

“Yes?” I turned to look at him quizzically.

“Is Richmond’s survival a matter of shoddy marksmanship, or intent?”

I held my cigarette back-handed and away to keep the smoke from drifting between us, “The bullet was high in the shoulder. And from where he was sitting – you would have thought they had a very clean shot. I would have certainly killed him if I had taken it.”

“Of that I am more than certain,” He said replacing the pipe between his teeth.

“Do you think it was more a warning to you?" I asked.

Cyril took another thoughtful draw off the pipe. “Perhaps.”

He set his pipe down in his lap for a moment and turned to look at me for the first time since we had sat down. “I want to tell you what is going on Jackson, but I can not. And I know telling you to forget about it would be meaningless. All I can say is if you are intent on getting close to this, be careful. The things I’m dealing with are more dangerous than any Bulgarian or Austrian soldier by far.”

“Things?” I asked.

“If you want to help, I will give you only one hint.” He said rather softly.

I sat silent and looked at him with considerable interest – for I have found at times silence extracts more information than any amount of questioning.

He closed his eyes wearily and leaned his head back against the wall: “Imre Turcanu.”

I held the cigarette carefully now so as to keep the ash from falling as I did not want to move toward the ashtray and break this moment – for I felt there was so much more to be said in regards to that name.

“Please forgive me.” He said, his eyes still closed, as he seemed abstracted.

“For what?” I inquired with a slight cock of my head – but he said nothing as he folded his hands in his lap, his pipe on the verge now of extinguishing – his head leaning rather wearily against the wall.

I was briefly started by the sound of a voice at the lounge door, which, when I quickly glanced over to see, was only the maître d’ engaged in some disagreement with the night manager.

As his lordship had given me a name, which I am certain he was well aware would lead me to eventually uncover that which he was perhaps obligated to keep silent, I felt I should reciprocate. “I think I should let you know sir, I did not come here merely to report on the possibility of Romania entering the war, of which as I said I had heard rumors in Paris – but, for another reason as well.” I told him as I reached over and took the ashtray from the table and held it in my hand in order to tap the ashes from my cigarette before they could fall.

Lord Cyril opened one eye to glance at me.

“You see, in Paris, I also heard rumors concerning a vast and mysterious criminal network which runs through much of Europe, before, and now, even with the war. From all accounts it would seem that this network has of late created a new black market out of the need for medicine and medical supplies.”

“In war everything becomes a commodity.” His lordship, his eyes once more closed, said sadly.

“True enough, but I find it unconscionable that someone has put such a price on human life. From what I understand, medical supplies bring a huge profit. In fact, I was told that shipments from the Entente had been misdirected. Stolen. And so, as this war rages on, everyone from the Central Powers to the Entente, and even now the neutral nations, are all having to deal with this illicit black market – which has implications far beyond the battlefields. Lord Cyril – just think of Serbia. Its epidemic of typhus, the outbreak of scarlet fever and scarlatina, diphtheria and cholera. The thousands of innocent people forced to face the horror of disease. The death of children.”

“And you learned this from whom?’ He asked, his head still leaning back against the wall.

“A disillusioned anarchist.” I told him as I took a measured inhalation from my cigarette.

To which his eyes suddenly opened:, “A disillusioned anarchist? Jackson – whom have you been involved with in Paris.”

“A Russian émigré.” I quickly explained, “He had once been an Illegalist, but, with the coming of the war . . . the deaths in the Marne – you see, I was originally working on a story about the Sacred Union And so I was doing research. Lord Cyril, I am a journalist and as such I gather information from sources wherever I may find them.”

He looked at me for a along moment, as if deciding whether to continue. “Radical anarchists are everywhere, Jackson. Who’s to say what ominous forces may be behind them? This war gives them freedom to act – but, to what purposes? From what unholy alliances do they usher forth? What secret agenda has gulled them with malicious Machiavellian machinations? That directs them toward what nefarious ends?”

“Precisely – and as an investigative journalist, I feel it is my responsibility to not only expose their well concealed conspiracies but to provide substantial evidence of their criminality.” I tapped the ashes from my cigarette into the ashtray. “You see, I have been witness to crime – real and reprehensible crime – your lordship. The gangs of New York. I have seen the evil that men can do. For that reason, with me it is more than just a story or a by-line. I feel some obligation to ensure there is justice.”

“Then mores the worry for you then you are rightly a target, Jackson.” He sighed heavily.

I took a long and reflective inhalation from my cigarette – for the question I had asked earlier, whether he thought the shooting had in anyway been directed toward him, owing to whatever it was that had brought him here to Bucharest – I now had to ask of myself. The shot from the dark had taken place just as I was sitting down. Could it have been more than mere shoddy marksmanship that Mr. Richmond had taken the bullet. Had the shot been in fact been a miss entirely, owing perhaps, as I kept coming to the same conclusion, the imprecision of having been fired from a moving motor car? Such methods had certainly been used in Paris? Those I had spoken to – those I had taken to be members of the disillusioned . . . had I been he one easily gulled? Had they in fact related my interest in the black market to their contacts here in Bucharest? Had I been as Lord Cyril suggested – the target? “So you think this may be connected to—“

“Everything may be connected, and nothing may be connected.” he closes his eyes once again and leans his head back against the wall. "It is too early to tell. But, if I were you, I would be very wary. Curiosity it is said kills the cat. And you don’t have nine lives, Jackson.”

Suddenly M. Molnár stepped into the lounge and cleared his throat, "Pardon, Lord Cyril. Mademoiselle Elias. The Commissioner of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, he wishes to see you.” And he unclasped his hands in order to make a motion by way of giving us direction, “In the dinning room, if you please.”

Lord Cyril sighed and opened his weary eyes. He leaned forward and emptied his pipe into the ashtray I was holding and then pushed himself up hands on knees. “Yes, thank you.”

I stubbed out my cigarette and placed the ashtray back on the end table and rose to follow Lord Cyril. We passed a couple who were looking for someplace to dim and quiet as they entered into the small lounge. The night manager giving the lady a lifted eyebrow, even as she gave him an acknowledging smile.

Back long the subdued lighting of the lobby concourse we were about to turn off into the corridor leading to the dining room, I when I was aware of voices and recognized one of them to be Fräulein ten Bricken. Ahead, past the marble columns, was able to see the slender blonde stepping out from the side entrance to the dinning room. She was followed by her protector, Max – as well as Mademoiselle Doulenques.

“Oh, please go ahead Lord Cyril, I shall be right there.” I begged off for a moment. He gave me a slightly quizzical look and continued on toward the dining room.

In the time since registering at the front desk of the Palace, my wanderings about the hotel had made me well aware there were various locations long the vast lobby, corridors, and darken niches, in which, if one were silent, a conversation, even softly spoken, could be overheard – some oddity of acoustics. And so, I slipped along behind the yellow columns, along the far wall, lined with sideboards and gold framed mirrors , to take up a position behind one of the large pillars. Fräulein ten Bricken had already piqued my interest, but now, as I observed her departure from the dining room, I watched as Bobinette stepped up from behind and suddenly reached out to grasp the young blonde’s upper arm so as to pull her aside.

The gentleman – Max – with the concealed Lugar, was quick to try and intercede . . . but the beautiful blonde gave him a quick glance which brought him to a halt.

“You will remain on your best behavior," Bobinette told her in a low, conspiratorial voice. “Do you understand? If you wish to obtain that which you desire.”

“That which I desire?” The fräulein replied looking at Bobinette – and there was something now a bit sinister in those deep green eyes, “Have you ever been an insolate joke my dear?”

“What?” Bobinette asked with some uncertainty as to the woman’s meaning.

“No? Well then—allow me to inform you, Mademoiselle Doulenques. Not only have I been an insolate joke; I am an insolate joke.” Alraune ten Brinken then laughed, but it seemed entirely without mirth, “But, once it was revealed to me – the joke. Of what I am. No one . . . laughs anymore.”

“Alraune.” Bobinette’s voice entirely unsympathetic, “You need this as much as she.”

“And, she would know nothing of it were it not—“ Alraune ten Brinken began, but, it was now Bobinette who cut her short.

“Know this,” And Bobinette held up her right fist so the thumb as pointed directly at the alluring young woman, as she used it to emphasize each word as she spoke softly – slowly. “If any thing should jeopardize her plans, there will be consequences."

Although the smile Fräulein ten Brinken gave Bobinette was quite cruel, her voice was surprisingly unemotional, “As well mademoiselle. It would be wise to not attempt to tell me what I should, or should not do, for to do so, it too can have it’s consequences.”

Bobinette in her turn gave the blonde a most arctic stare, one I would have never suspected could have come from such a charming face “Consequences? Fräulein, I fear you are decidedly most unaware of the frightful wraith . . . "

But then she was suddenly cut short by the loud noise of something falling heavily to the floor.

A disheveled gentleman in a dark woolen suit, a white shirt badly in need of a good pressing with a loosely tied bow-tie, who was carrying some odd looking camera, glanced up awkwardly as he scurried forward in an attempt to retrieve a lens, which had apparently slipped from his fingers, and was rolling about the floor like some escaping mouse.” Oh . . . excuse me. The bloody thing is always falling apart.” He said in way of explanation.

Fräulein ten Briken turned rather abruptly to glare at him, "You are the silly man with the cameras. Up and down in the elevator all of the afternoon. Muttering and muttering.”

“Oh, well – so yes. That was me. Up and down. So. So, so . . . .” The man captured the wayward lens and stood examining it and his camera.

“Forever speaking some nonsense,” She continued.

“Ahh—but – it is not quite nonsense you see – if you were to have a moment . . . “

“I have no time for you.” She said pulling away from Bobinette, “Now, if you would but move out of my way – you silly, silly man. Mademoiselle Doulenques is preparing to have a most wonderful bottle of complimentary champagne delivered to my room, is that not correct, mademoiselle?"

“Umm ma’am. . . “

Bobinette politely replied, “But, of course.”

“Yes. Well. Sorry to be a bother . . . but . . . umm, could I ask. Just what floor are you on?” The disheveled photographer continued.

“The fourth sir, but, I am occupied tonight.” She held up a dismissive hand, “But perhaps, you and you little camera, you may come to me tomorrow night. I may allow you to take some very entertaining photographs. But for now, you should see to the pattern of the blood upon on the floor in the dining room. Come Max." And she strides away.

Carefully, I stepped back and away from the pillar – not wanting to reveal to the German heiress my interest, as well as not wanting to allow Bobinette to know I had overheard the conversation. And she would have been so lovely with her hair down – I tired not to sigh. Inadvertently the photographer gave cover to my retreat as he continued to try and dissuade Fräulein ten Brinken from returning to her room.

“Fourth floor—oh my. Yes. . . ummm . . well as for that you see. It needs to be dark up there. Really dark . . . and so . . . I . . . If I may, I would suggest you shouldn’t go up there . . . really.” His voice trailing away from her as she and her protector moved away and the photographer, shrugged and began to move toward the side door of the dining room. “Blood you say?”

I stepped through the main dining room entrance and sauntered past the maître d’ station as I observed Lord Cyril standing at our table, where the bloody napkins had been left lying upon the white table cloth. He was conversing with the gentleman I had earlier seen entering through the hotel’s revolving door. I had been correct – he was a policeman.

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Not a Romanian Holiday
Session Six - Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And the girl? What of her?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Document from Montague Dated 11 January, 1916

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Document from Montague Dated 4 January, 1916

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Document from Montague Dated 12 January, 1916

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

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

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

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

I looked around for a waiter.

When suddenly there was a most familiar voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quickly composing myself I scuttled over to Richmond.

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

The man turned to leave as she has instructed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Welcome to Little Paris
Session Six - Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A voice from behind the door bid us to enter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He cocked an eye and took the envelope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I slowly puffed upon my pipe allowing him to continue.

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

“How so?” I inquired.

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

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

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

“Edmond Richmond?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I arose as well.

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

I picked it up, “No need. I have it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Corfu to the Danube: Behind Enemy Lines
Session Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter From Elisa Bishop to Rochelle Wade
20 February

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

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

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

For now, we wait.
-C

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

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

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

However the private needed to have the wound patched.

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We closed in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Damned.” I hissed.

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

There was the echoing report of a rifle shot.

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

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

There was the crack of another warning shot.

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

“Vratiti! Sada!” The voices shouted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View
Begin the Beginning
Session Four - Part Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she hung up.

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

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

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

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

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

“No bother at all.” I said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There came a sudden rap upon the glass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I need my pipe." He complained.

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

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

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

“He was sent by Milton.” I elaborated.

He stopped short.

His response was silence.

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

To which there was more silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young officer seemed bewildered by my annoyance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As I said, I haven’t had the time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gladstone.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And Professor Milton?”

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

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

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

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

Document from Lord Charles Reed

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

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

The whole madness therein revealed.

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

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

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

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

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

“Getate-Dracian?” The young officer asked.

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

“And the Subject?” The cadet asked.

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

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

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

The young officer’s countenance grew rather perplexed.

“Yes?” I inquired of him.

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

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

“The Scholomance?” The cadet asked.

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

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

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

It was obvious one must take great care.

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

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

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

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

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

“Your daughter.” The cadet acknowledged.

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

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

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

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

“It is.” Lord Charles confirmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Then you believe—“

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stood steadfast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes," I quickly responded.

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

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

I moved to retrieved his cup as the cadet nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes?” Cadet Tanner responded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Flower vendor smiles and winks at subject]

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

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

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

[Subject smiles at her, presenting his lapel]

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

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

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

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

[Subject smiles and hands over a tuppence.]

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

[She pockets tuppence with a bright smile]

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

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

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

The train begins to shiver as it begins to move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subject’s decision made: Leicester Square passed.

Up next, Covent Garden.

Covent Garden:
Train arrives on schedule.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I reopened my book and prepared to begin reading again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a moment he seemed indecisive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gave him my warmest smile.

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

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

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

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

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

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How Much Do You Know?
Session Four - Part Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’Then write this down . . . exsanguination.”

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

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

I jotted that down his speculation.

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

“We are, Scotland Yard.” I replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And that would be.”

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

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

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

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

“Fathomless.” He replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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