The Coldfall Sanction

Calling Cards
Seession Nine - Part Five

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Calling Cards
Notes of Evidence, 12 March 1916 – Police Constable Vera Alderton – The day was overcast – ominous, grey clouds, bearing renewed threats of snow. I had arisen early. Prepared a light breakfast of toast and bacon with tea and gave my attention over to the latest news of the war. Irene had been out when I had arrived home last night and has as yet not returned. Putting aside the Sunday Times, I cleared away the breakfast table and upon it laid out notes and documents in order to ponder them. Taking a few personal calling cards, I made comments upon the back and dropped them as if in annotation as I placed comments upon the paper mosaic I saw there upon the table before me – the central one being the Diced Up Girl. (An annotation I picked up from the table to review as I took note that I have at some point apparently taken up Inspector Stone’s appellation for the victim). I place it back upon the survey map of the Victorian embankment wherein the pieces of the woman had been found. Woman. As the central question still remained in my mind – just who was the Diced Up Girl. Pamela Dean?

Possibly, for the only identification we had to support such a conjecture was a purse – found upon the scene –and which had been confirmed by Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk to have been placed there intentionally to promote just such an identification.

Whatever proper role Lady Molly had held with Scotland Yard, I was of the opinion she maintains some role of authority – and as it was purported to have no longer been with the Yard, I suspect it is in some way a part of the government. Which upon the whole only complicates matters for there is no end to the possibilities . . . and more importantly, to what ends. I stood looking at the police surgeons report, the contents of the purse, my notes upon examination of Dean’s rooms – notes on Lieutenant McFarlane. Upon a quick survey – I found I had nothing on McFarlane’s flat. I thereupon check information supplied by Purdy – I took note he let rooms from a Mrs. Harriot Willingham.

Her house was number 220 Marylebone Road, near Regent’s Park. I had taken the underground and thereupon proceeded to the two-story house. As there was the brisk wind I hugged my coat closely against the brisk wind. Although I had not partaken of any of any alcoholic drinks at the Cavern of the Golden Calf the night before, my head ached as if I had. As I approached the two-story residence I slipped slightly upon a patch of ice and grimaced at the turn of an ankle. Assured I had not sprtained it – I proceeded to residence’s door. I rapped smartly with the British Lion brass door knocker, and glanced at passing pedestrians.

As I stood waiting a sudden wind shipped along the street and bellowed in my coat, which I batted at to kept down – as the door opened. A gray, haired matron, of about five foot 2 or 3 inches, and approximately stood in the doorway. She offered a genial smile, “Yes?”

“Good afternoon Ma’am, I’m PC Alderton with Scotland Yard.” I informed her as I held forth my Identification Card.

The woman peered forward to inspect the card, “Oh, my. Yes." She says, “I must say, I have never seen the likes of so many identification cards.”

To which this piqued my curiosity: “So many?”

She looked up from the ID card, "I suppose this is about that horrid Lieutenant,” she remarked and lifted an eyebrow, turning her attention upon me with a look of which I have seen many times before – a female in uniform. She stepped back, "Oh my yes—there have been constables and detectives from the City Police, and some gentleman from the Navy, and now, Scotland Yard. But—where are my manners, my dear – please, yes, do, please step in out of the cold. You must be positively freezing out there.” And she proceeded to step back from the door’s threshold to allow me entrance, “It is just beastly – that wind today. It makes it so much colder, don’t you think? It nearly took away my new hat.”

“One must never lose a new hat,” I smiled stepping into the warmth of the large foyer. I detected the scent of something rather delicious baking as I removed my slim casebook and umber pencil and with a smile opened it and took note of those investigative agencies which had already called upon 220 Marylebone Road.

Closing the door to block the cold’s entrance, she turned and smiled rather brightly, “Oh, it is a lovely one too, Several large feathers — which of course on a day like today, I should have known better, but,” She gave me a slight nod and a wink “It is Sunday and what is Sunday for but to wear one’s best new hat? It looks ever so wonderful – I do love hats, don’t you?”

I nodded, “Oh most definitely, unfortunately, I don’t get to wear as many as I like.”

“Oh, you poor dear” She took the back of her hand to press at the loosening hairs of the bun at the back of her head, “That sounds simply horrid— to be sure. Of course, it is no doubt some male mandate or other, uniform dress code or what not. SO –“ She clapped her hands together and looked at me inquiringly, “There is still no word on terrible Lt. McFarlane?"

“I can’t speak to an on-going investigation, I am sure you understand . . . “ I informed her, Miss?”

“Mrs. Willingham, Harriot Willingham,” she introduced herself.

“So—Mrs Willingham, you say the City Police as well as the Navy have already been here?

“Oh, my—yes.” She replied with a look of mixed awe and perplexity, “Looking for something,” She leaned to impart rather confidentially, “I would say – there was an Inspector.” And then she offered to take my coat and I removed my gloves as well and placed them in the coat’s pocket as she took them and walked over to a coat closet to hang them up, the heels of her shoes hit heavily upon the hardwood floor, "From the City Police.” She leaned slightly forward again – as if speaking confidentially – although there were only the two of us in the foyer, “Rather unkempt looking young man – scruffy if you know what I mean. In need of a mirror and razor. He wore these gloves,” she held out her hands, wiggling her fingers,

“The gloves had the fingers removed?” I asked.

She blinked in some surprise, “Why –yes. Wool ones with the fingers snipped off to look like some theatrical Bob Cratchit out of a Dickens play, don’t you know. Now, there is a gentleman that could use a dress code."

I held my pencil at the ready, well aware of the name I was about to write, ”Did he give a name, Mrs. Willingham?”

“Yes. Now, let me see. His name was—Specter. No. No, Spence.” She seemed to be thinking rather hard, and her eyes grew bright again, “Yes — I have it now, Spencer. Detective Inspector Spencer and some constables.” She said with some irritation.

“I see . . .”

“Came right in he did. Trooping along – him and his constables. No manners at all. Did not even have the curiosity to stomp off the snow from their boots. Just a flash of an Id card and where’s the rooms, he said. And when I told them it was bang right up the stairs to his flat to smash open the door.” She related the events and sighed.

“Do you know him?” Mrs Willingham inquired.

“We have met,” I said certain I did not disguise my dislike for the man.

“I see,” she said. “And you are with the Yard. Scotland Yard.”

I nodded, “Yes ma’am.”

“Right, well so many comings and goings it is hard to keep it all straight.” Her hand pressing up once again at the loose strands of hair falling free from the bun above the nape of her neck, “I would have never let to him you know, the lieutenant that is, had I known. They say he is involved in, “and she leaned toward me and whispered the word, “Espionage.”

Mrs Willingham seemed anxious as she suddenly said, “A spy!’ Whereupon she then raised both hands heavenward, “The Good Lord – a German!” Thus said her hands shook, “Under my very roof!”

A telephone suddenly rang, to which, owing to my preoccupation with the witness, I was momentarily startled.

To took note that Mrs Willngham did not proceed to answer said phone but rather glanced at the open doors of her sitting room.

“If you need to take that, I can wait,” I directed with a motion of my pencil, should she be of the impression she should not go owing to my presence.

Only Mrs Willingham did not proceed to do so. Rather she stood with me there in the large entrance hall her countenance serene with a most amiable smile.

The telephone then rang twice more, upon which I gave her a rather suggestive look.

“Oh, it is not bother,” she began to explain as to why she had as yet made no indication that she was either prepared to leave me alone in the entrance or that she was in any way concerned about missing the call: “My nephew will get it."

To which I nodded, “Oh, does your nephew live here with you?”

She frowned at the suggestion or of the thought, “Oh, no, he has his own flat, down past Blackfriar’s bridge. He’s here to visit. It’s Sunday.”

“Blackfriar’s Bridge?” I made a notation of the coincidence in that the purported victim, Pamela Dean, had resided at rooms upon number 85 Blackfriar Road.

“And his name would be?”

“Garrick. Garrick Gooch,” she said watching as I wrote, “27 St. George’s Road.”

Thereupon came the sound of the clumping of heavy boots. A large man in a grey suit, which seemed a bit tight about the shoulders – and hung unbuttoned – stepped to the door of the sitting rood, "That was Mr Ferguson. Wants you to call ’em.”

“Hello sir,” I smiled at him.

“Ferguson you say.” She repeated and then looked to me, “Must be about the coal. Changing merchants you see – such a bother. Thank you Garrick.

“Ma’am.” he nods his head to politely.

I made a note of the name and an annotation – possible coal merchant.
’You got any more of them little Victoria Sponge Cakes?" He asked of Mrs Willingham.

She smiled at him, "I expect you will fine one or two left in the kitchen, Garrick.” And then she turned to give me a rather thoughtful look, “I expect you will want to see his room, the Lieutenant’s, I mean. “ Then she shrugged, “Or not. It is an awful mess, I will say.”

“Well, Mrs. Willingham.” I sighed, “If two other groups already searched over the flat, I doubt I’ll find much—but, I’ll still want to give it a once over, but in a couple moments as I have a few questions.

“Certainly. Care for some tea, I just made a fresh kettle." She said as she now motioned toward the open doors of the sitting room.

“Oh, yes. Thank you kindly,” I proceeded to follow her into the sitting room.

The room was rather cluttered. A vast collection of framed pictures crowded to near overflowing along the mantle. Two walls of the room were taken up by tall bookcases equally overflowing. The end tables were also cluttered with magazines and newspapers. There was a round table covered, not with the usual “tapestry” cover, but with a plain green cloth that went passably with the wall-paper. The table space was encumbered by stacks of pamphlets, various tracts, and half read books opened and lying face-down.

A quick glance revealed them to almost entirely political. Most advocated the suffrage movement, others aligned to the Socialist cause.

Mrs Willingham motioned me toward a chair sitting near the grate, behind which a fire was crackling.

I for a moment I sat in the witnesses sitting room and found myself pondering as to why every place I have yet been in regards to this investigation, save of course the subway, would be a place Irene would feel quite at home – particularly as I took notice of the framed poster upon the far wall of the rather infamous tactic enacted by the government to have suffragettes yield in their protests.

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“A political activist?” I inquired as I took a seat

“Oh, yes,” She said and sat down, “The WSPU.”

“WSPU?”

“Emmeline Pankhurt’s Women’s Social and Political Union,” She explained, “Although I must admit, I have not been attending as many meetings as I am accustomed what with this beastly moratorium on – I am still undecided, as to whether I am leaving them again or not.”

“I see,” I nodded, I sat there “Such decisions can be quite weighty.”

“Quite,” He nodded and drew comfortable in he chair, “I have left them once before.’’ And then, she brushed back a loose strand of grey hair, “You see – there was a time, when they started discussing arson as a tactic.”

He stook note of my reaction and nodded, “A bit severe I thought as well, and so, I did leave for a while."

“Officially, I have to say that was a wise decision.” I told her plainly – arson? A political tactic?

“That was when we were full of firebrands and anarchists.” She sighed, “But then came the war and with it with the war, Emmeline called for a moratorium on protests and things have gotten less – shall we say confrontational, I have sat in on a couple of meetings of late. War or no war, we need to vote. Can’t give up the cause you know. “ Then she peered at him askance, “And you should know my dear. Look at you in uniform – but are you treated equally? I dare say not. I am sure you see it everyday. The way they must treat woman.”

I found my self nodded in agreement, “I try my best. About the most anyone can do.”

“Oh my no dear – not the most one can do—“

And from somewhere beyond the sitting room there was the loud sound of clattering pans, which gave evidence of the direction of the kitchen.

“Garrick,” and she rolled her eyes.

“Yes.’ The clattering bringing me back around to the matter at hand, “Now then . . . “ I glanced at my notes of evidence, “Do you remember when the navy and police were here?”

Suddenly her hands came to together, "Oh, the tea,” And she was up from the chair – I notice far faster than when she had sat down in it rather heavily – moving over to a tea service cart, which she pulled up and proceeded to pour a cup and turning, handed it to me. “Sugar? Bit of lemon?”

I smiled, “Thank you.”

“Now—let’s see.” She handed me a cup and saucer, “The ratty policeman, he came, I think the day after they found that poor woman all chopped up and tossed in the river.” She then turned to pour herself a cup, “Yes, it was the next day, I am certain.”

Careful with the tea, I was able to jot down the information.

She walked back to her chair, “Now this Naval officer. Some odd rank or other it was, a Sub-Lieutenant – which is something I for one have never heard of, but he had an ID card. “ She took a sip of tea and smiled brightly, “A rather nice looking young man. Bright smile and all politeness. Looked very fetching in his uniform. Rice. Yes, Rice that was his name. I forget his first name, but the last was most certainly Rice.”

“Yesterday you say?” I made a note of Sub-Lieutenant Rice.

’Yes. It was rather late in the evening. I was just heading out and opening the door, bang, there he was at the door. Have you met the gentleman?” She asked sipping her tea.

“Briefly.” I nodded.

“Well, as I say, rather attractive don’t you know. And with so few men available these days – you could do far worse, my dear.”

“Pardon.” I looked up from by casebook, juggling the cup and saucer.

She touched the back of her bun again, “I must say, I am still a more than a bit shaken . . . to think—I let out a flat to a man who could, " She shuddered, “Chop . . . up . . . a woman. I mean, heavens! Who would do such a beastly thing? How ever would one go about doing . . . it. Did you see, those bits of her?”

“I have.” I admitted with a slight grimace.

She leans forward and waves a hand as if in distress, "Oh you poor child. It must have been just horrid. Simply horrid. They said she was hacked up . . . just pieces . . . wrapped up in brown paper, Kraft paper I would suppose – used by butchers. Oh it is just so ghastly to think of it. I think they said it was a pelvis.” She looked dismayed, “I mean, that certainly isn’t much to make an identification upon.” She took a sip of tea and looked over the cups rim, “How ever did you manage an identification?”

“I’m not at liberty to say Ma’am.” The cup and saucer were becoming bothersome and so I place it on the end table near at hand.

“Oh, of course, certainly and here I am just rattling on,” She smiled, “Must have been a terrible difficult thing to do I would imagine – “

“Pardon?”

“Oh, identifying a body from such a few pieces –“ and she sipped her tea.

“Did they ask you any questions in regards to visitors? Any acquaintances that may have from time to time stopped over to see him.”

“Well as I said, I am in and out so much – my meetings and philanthropic work, you know. “ She held her tea cup steady. “I don’t know if he had – well none that I were to have taken notice. I mean, the woman, the one they say he chopped up – he knew her. A clerk at the Navy as I understand it. A Miss Dean. Worked with him – now of course I never saw her – well, not that I am aware you know. Of course, there was his girl, but I think they had broken if off before all this mess."

“He had a girl?” I asked with some interest. “Steady on?”

“More like time to time – really.” She said hand to the back of her head again, “He worked mostly – kept late hours. The war I imagined – but now, I guess we was meeting with spies – oh, it is all so beasty horrible.”

“Do you remember her name at all?”

“Let me see –“ She said trying to recall, “Vivian or Vanessa. One of those, I think. Victoria—that’s it. But as I said, they had broken things off long before any of – this.”

“How long would that be?”

“Ages.” She sipped at her tea, “Simply ages.”

“They had broken up – ages ago.” I reiterated.

“Oh yes, he was involved with another girl, I think – oh my, perhaps it was even this Dean girl. But then again – maybe it wasn’t at all anything romantic – perhaps she was a spy as well.” She sat her tea down and looked most distressed, “Spies! And German. This Dean girl. The naval officer said something like she was up to her pretty little neck . . . . Oh – my such a horrid thing to say – considering.” She reflected upon the turn of phrase, “Was she a spy as well?”

I side-stepped the inquiry, “Do you have an address for this – Victoria?”

She gave a brief look about the clutter of the sitting room – “Well, possibly, I am not sure. Perhaps I need to look about – shall I sent it to you should I find it?”

“Certainly.” And I handed her my card. “Did you tell the others about her? This Victoria?”

“Well—no, I didn’t.” She looked at my calling card, “I can’t say as I liked the look of that City Inspector and that other, the Naval Officer – as easy as he was on the eyes, there was at times a smirk about him, you know, and well, I just felt that the poor girl had such a horrid time with that deceitful scoundrel, so why bring her into all this – I mean, as I said, it was ages ago . . . . but – well, you my dear, you seem quite sensible and I can’t see the harm in telling you.”

“And I thank you, now as to a description?”

“Oh such a sweet girl. I would say about two and twenty, close to. Rather attractive – or so I thought. But men? Who knows what they look for when they see a woman?” She shook her head sadly. “Of middle height, lovely complexion. Dark brown hair. Was a student – university. Can’t say as I recollect which one – isn’t that horrid – I know it was one of the women’s schools.”

I nodded, making a note to check into this girl of McFarlane’s – ages and ages ago. “Might I ask you to not discuss it with anyone else?”

“Oh, absolutely.” Mrs Willingham nodded as she idly tapped her fingers upon the arm of her chair, "There has not been anything new reported in the papers – have they found . . . well, any more bits of her?”

“All I can say Mrs Willingham is that I can’t comment on an on-going investigation.” I told her, “You have mentioned a few lines of inquiry – that are of interest. But for now they are just that lines of inquiry. I do have to ask—how did you hear about these specific angles of investigation?”

“Oh – well, " She replied, "A bit here and there, from those searching the rooms and such. But mostly what I read in the papers – although there hasn’t been much in print recently – so, I guess they have not found any more of her, or there would be . . . “ she said letting the thought drift off.

“And the others, the inspector from the City Police?” I asked.

“The scruffy one, the one with two James’ in his name – he didn’t say much, just wanted to see the Lieutenant’s flat – and as I said, he and his constables, they fairly well tossed everything about.” She continued to sit serenely sipping her tea, “It was almost as if they were searching for something – I guess papers or what not being as he was a spy— or so the other one said. The one handsome one with the smirk."

I continuing jotting down notes – that would have been Inspector James Fitzjames Spencer.

“Now that one. He, well he asked me all kinds of questions – did I know the Lieutenant’s habits. Did he have visitors at his flat recently. Even asked me If I knew why he had gone to Exeter a few days ago. The day before they found that poor woman.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Well as I said, I’m just his landlady and I have my own comings and goings and so, I can’t say if he had any visitors, when I was not about. And as to Exeter? He certainly didn’t stop off to tell me anything about it. As I said to them, if I had known what he was about I would have done my duty and informed the police – someone, I hope as nice as yourself dear.”

I gave her a smile, “You are quite a sensible person.”

“I must say, it is so gratifying to see they have placed a woman as capable as you on the force. Long over due.”

“Well, thank you kindly” I nodded, “So – this trip to Exeter was of some interest?”

“To the Naval officer yes –“ She replied, “I can’t say as if the Inspector asked.”

I added to my notes, “He did not receive any unusual packages, or have deliveries.”

She sat for a moment reflecting, “Can’t say as I remember, anything unusual. Normal mail and such like. Can’t say but he received maybe one or two telegrams, least that I am aware. But as I said I am in and out.”

“Might I see his flat?”

“Oh, but of course, dear.” And she set aside her tea cup and saucer and rose up slowly from the chair. She stepped over to the large round table adorned with the green cloth and stacks of tracts and pamphlets, and opened a central drawer. She removed a key and motioning to me, she stepped over toward the open double doors of the drawing room. “This way.”

Closing my notebook I hurriedly took a drink of the tea I had set aside and putting the cup back down arose to follow.

Mrs Willingham walked over to the stairs and began to ascend them to the second floor, “Mind you the place is a mess – they told me not to touch a thing until I was given notice that I could.”

She slowly takes the steps one at a time, holding to the railing.

Watching her slow ascent I nodded, “Sadly, that is a part of the process. I promise I’ll try to speed things along to get you that notice. It can be hard for a landlady being unable to collect rent.”

She stopped and looked back at me, “Particularly in these times.” Her hand reached out and patted mind upon the bannister, “And if you could, that would be a blessing my dear, just a blessing.”

We arrived upon the second floor landing, a narrow corridor leading to several closed rooms.”

“Other boarders?” I asked.

“What?” And then she looked about, “Oh, no – not at the moment. Just had the Lieutenant, you see. Now, here we are, “ She finished by advancing to the first door. A turn to the key and she opened the door.

I stepped into the threshold to behold a two room flat which been completely ransacked. Drawers pulled out and emptied. Books scatter on the floor. Cushions removed from chairs. The drapes pulled down. Bed clothes pulled off and tossed on the floor. Papers are scattered everywhere.

I sighed a bit, the odds of finding anything of use here was slim, very slim, but taking a bit of heart with the fact the scene has already been violated – “I hate to be a bother Mrs. Willingham, but do you have a box or crate of any sort perchance?

“A box?” She replied thoughtfully, “Well, let me see.”

And she exited the room, her heavy footsteps continuing down the second floor corridor.

I stood amidst the debris of the two searches. The scattered papers and books along with just about everything Bradley McFarlane owned lying on the floor. I rather absently picked up a wall painting that had been knocked to the floor and left to lie there face down.

It was a depiction of some naval battle. The frame was in good shape but the glass had been shattered and I had to take care not to cut myself, but as I do so, I took notice that slipped into the lower left corner of the picture there was a small business card. As if pressed there so as not to be left lying to get misplaced.

I gently pulled it lose with a handkerchief.

The card read: Mitchell, Sons & Candy. Land Agents. Exeter.

There was at that moment the sound of Mrs Willingham returning, and so I placed the card within my handkerchief and slipped it into my pocket, putting the picture back on the floor, face down, just as she entered the door carrying two large hat boxes. "I say – will this do? Both of these old hats have seen better days, and so, I was preparing to donate them. So, will their boxes do?”

“Yes, those will do.’ I gave her an encouraging smile, “Thank you kindly. I promise to return them once I’ve transported anything I’ve found to the yard.

“You are a dear.” She said placing the hat boxes upon a table upon which lay the scattered debris of Lieutenant McFarlane’s desk drawer. “As I said, I am sorry for the mess.” She looked about and then stepped over to pick up the picture, “Oh look they shattered the glass—” she shakes her head as she hangs it back on the wall, slightly crooked.

“A significant picture?”

“This—oh, no, well I don’t think so. It was the Lieutenant’s.” She replied with her hands resting upon on her hips, "Navy officer.” She sighs looking at the picture, “I guess they all want to sea and if they can’t – well, they have pictures in their rooms. There is another over,” and she points but hesitates as the wall is blank. She steppes over and looks around to find the fallen picture and picking it returns it to the wall.

I continued to mill about the room, looking at items tossed to the floor, the titles of books dropped wherein their titles were visible. “Pardon me, but, if you would please stay by the door, I don’t expect there is much of anything left, but don’t want to damage any evidence that might remain.”

She made an expression as to say of I am so sorry and hurriedly did as I requested.

I made as diligently a search as if I were the first upon the scene, but did so far more neatly, organized, checking from the tops of heavy furniture all the way to the floor. Then I knelt to begin to reach upon the furnishings, before moving on to sort through and examining the papers which had been tossed so haphazardly. As I did so I grew more and more dishearten as it appeared all of the previous searches had gathered anything of significance – other than of course, the apparently overlooked business card I had happened to find stuck in the corner of the picture. Unless of course – it had been placed there intentionally, at some point after the initial searches. It was not as if evidence had not already been placed in his murder hunt. My first thought was of the nephew. He had been alone most of my time in the house and could have easily ascended to the second floor – might even have his own key. But, then that would call into to question Mrs Willingham as well – or, was I letting paranoia guide my thoughts.

I began to tidily place what the scattered papers into one of the hat boxes, thinking I would have to check into Mrs Willingham. And of course the nephew. It would be good to find out more about this Victoria, or Vivian or Vanessa from ages and ages ago. I arose and picked up the second hat box and returned it to Mrs Willingham.

“Oh, you just need the one dear?” She asked.

“As I feared, there isn’t much.” I told her, “And thank you for your time and cheery disposition though out my inquiry, it makes for a nice change.”

She once again gave me her most serene smiles, “Well as I said, it does one good to see a young woman such as yourself finally getting on with a career – and one with Scotland Yard. It makes all of us proud to see a woman in such a position.”

“Now, we just have to keep up the fight for the vote!”

“Resistance my dear.” She said a bit defiantly.

Carefully, carrying the large hat box, following in Mrs Willingham’s careful wake, she lead the way back down the stairs, having locked up McFarlane’s room once more

Within the large entrance hall she placed the unused hat box upon the table, and her heavy heels strode over to the coat closet where she retrieved my coat. As she passed it over to me we exchanged formalities in preparation for my departure – but then she suddenly stopped and held up a hand. She moved over to the table set in the center of the hall and from a drawer she removed an ivory button bearing the words “Votes for Women.” “Every woman has the right.” She said.

I agreed with her and then made to the front door, which she opened for me, encumbered as I was with the large hat box. As she did so, there was a tall, elderly gentleman in a dark suit and top hat standing on the step, his back turned to us.

“Yes?” Mrs Willingham said a bit quizzically.

He turned to smile, “Yes,” he replied as he removed his hat and held it in his hand which also held his gold handled cane. “I am Sir John Paxton of The Law Society.” He held out his card, “I have come to offer my services to most unfortunate Lieutenant McFarlane.”

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Just Another Candidate
Session Nine - Part Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veronica Wells’ Journal
12 March – Late Afternoon – continued

A whirlwind. Nothing less.

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

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

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

For everything has changed amidst the rumble of those railcars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Indeed.” Randall replied.

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

Randall smiled, “She.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded, “Yes.”

“What do they want you to do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Theatrics.” I said. “Like acting.”

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

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

“Yes,

He looked at me oddly.

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

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

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

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

“Pym.” I think I might of hissed.

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

I turned to look at him.

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

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

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

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

“Yes—not withstanding this excursion . . .”

“For which?” He asked.

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

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

“No.”

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

I looked at him – what was he about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God to whom I have not prayed – help me.

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

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Excerpt from the unpublished novel
by Carmichael Pemberton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is Sam Tai Ling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The knocking continues.

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

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

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

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

View
Detective of the Obscure
Session Nine - Part Two

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Zo Renfield (New Notebook)
12 March 1916, London – Sunday Morning I have taken to sitting at the small dresser of one of this gentleman’s guests rooms. Of which he seems to have far too many for a bachelor in my opinion – and it is quiet obvious from the moment I met him as to why he remains one as he appears to me to be too self-sufficient, very intense, and by far much too brusque. I am not at all sure I like his manner – especially in his address to Kiss, which I pointedly conveyed to her last night as she was undressing and slipping into some very gossamer nightgown which Mr Carnacki had provided and that I could not help but ponder as to whom it had been originally intended. So—he may be arrogant and rude but apparently he must fascinate some such ladies as would wear such a garment . . . not to disparage Kiss, who looked quite lovely in it . . . and, who I can not imagine ever wearing anything in which she would not look quite lovely. And I am so thankful, no blessed—but can that truly be? I mean, would God actually bless me? I can not think of a single thing I have done for him, lately, or for that matter, in quite some time, nor precisely how long ago it has been since I graced a pew. Whereas Kiss! How I marvel at how she was able to extricate us from those monstrous lawyers . . . I have always had an aversion to them but little did I know to what depths of evil they truly represent . . . to what extent their jaws do bite. Only—snicker snack—my Kiss held them at back with her bouquet of roses, which she seemed to have magically transformed into some vorpal blade. And what a wondrous weapon their thorns did make. The blood red petals loosened are all but gone now. They lie before me. A spray of broken stems are all that but remains of the prickling of their thorns. I have been contemplating pricking my thumb against one to see what pain they bring as their lovely crimson petals belie the claws that catch, their claws that snatch. And with his silver headed cane he came as to gyre and gimble in the wabe. Oh, yes, we must beware the Jabberwock. His teeth are ever so sharp. They wanted to bite – and I was so terrified but could not would not show it for Kiss who was just as terrified but would not could not show it for me. Run as ever as fast as you can and keep on running she had said. Her courage beyond anything I can ever possibly repay. She was going to sacrifice herself for me. My Kiss. My Alice? Down the elevator and out through the revolving door and quickly into to the street. And yet I have no clear recollection of getting into the motor car. I was just suddenly there in the vehicle beside her, watching and awaiting in fear and loathing for their swarm of flies to come bellowing of the door. An evil swarm gathering. An amassing black cloud of filthy flies. I watch for them even now . . . sitting as I am looking out the window to the grey waters of the Thames and the wheeling gulls seeking to dive for their prey. I know they are coming. The are watching and waiting – the eyes of their flies are seeking us out. And yet, this fabulous finder of ghosts – he did not want to listen to me about the fly, no matter what he thinks of the madness of my grandfather, this is not his madness but my own. And I know the fly was in the room; the fly was upon the wall; watching and listening. They do not understand about the flies, this ghost finder or Kiss . . . they do not understand the flies he is going to bring—but I am well aware. Well not the whole of it as yet for the she has not been so forthcoming. But she has told me to beware of the Lord of the Flies. And not to despair for she is coming . . . coming across the sea . . . in order to shattered his halo of flies. Of course, I don’t think Kiss nor Mr Carnacki understand anything that I say of course I don’t know whether or not I understand anything of what I am saying. Or if I am saying it. I just know the voice in my head tells me so. How I do not know—

Which is why I so dreaded sleep and the dreams that come – but Kiss in the gossamer gown said to come to bed and she pulled the covers up around me and placed a comforting arm about me and we fell together into slumber.

I asked her not to put out the light – and not to open the window.

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

When I awoke, it was not a frabjous day. For I was alone, sitting up in the big bed of the strange man’s house, alone, with no Kiss to comfort me. I quickly slipped out from beneath the bed clothes and moved over to the window, catching sight of myself naked – seemingly Kiss had undressed me during the night, her fingers exquisitely deft as I was unaware of the losing of buttons and stays. I stepped to the cold window, slightly frosted, as I bared myself to the windowpane to look out into the morning – it was yet another a grim, grey day. I spotted a man in a rather heavy overcoat and hat and scarf wrapped about his neck to conceal half of his face from the apparent brisk wind as he strolled along the embankment – the severe waters of the Thames behind him, above a wheeling gulls, one of which suddenly diving into the murk to snatch up its prey. He turned now to look up at me – was he holding a pair of opera glasses? I felt his eyes upon my nudity. And yet I was proud of it.

I took my time to make myself presentable – as best I could so that when they would glance my way they would see me as I wanted them to and not as I am. And so, I went down to breakfast. My fist grasping the empty pendant about my neck, which once held the key to the lockbox of documents, and I could not help but worry about Lady Penelope and Robert and their sweet, sweet little Kathryn.

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

I absolutely have to send word to her straightway – if not I should have Kiss go round to explain and collect the documents I had given her yesterday. But then some horrid selfishness whispered to me and said to send word – to ring her up and ask her to come round here to Cheyne Walk, and to bring back the package I have given her – and to forget everything I may have told her, anything she might have seen – for to send Kiss would mean leaving me here, alone. Which is precisely what they would be loitering about, watching and waiting for the opportunity.

I stepped cautiously to the window and pulled back the drapery, I watched several people braving the brisk wind from the Thames and the embankment. There was a tall, genial man, in a heavy dark overcoat and top hat – was he watching? He stepped along smartly – but was he doing so brilliantly in not at all glancing over to the residence or to myself in the window. For I was certainly visible. I checked to ascertain once more that the window fitted well so that no fly could make its way in through the trim and sill. In the aftermath of the failure to get either myself or Kiss at my office yesterday, would they renew their assault? Or regroup and wait – watch and wait for the opportune moment to reach out with those jaws that bite?

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

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

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

I replaced the lid on the platter of eggs, “What if – what if they were lying in wait for him.” I asked, my back to her, not wanting her to see my concern as I knew well that they have their eyes watching – watching all the time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Havelock?” I asked taking another nibble.

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

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

Most importantly, I wanted to know if she thought me mad – did she hear the voices and in particular, her voice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is all so real and unreal and surreal. And so, I after breakfast I returned to the guest room, where I sit to make as accurate accounting as I can – if only I had my own journal. This paper – it is all wrong. It feels terrible. So—as I had said, earlier, somewhere in this entry, I think, as he had escaped the building, I had watched for the bothersome fly to find it’s way to follow as Kiss took us straightway to this rather grand house on Cheyne Walk. I must discuss his investments – as he is very well situated. And for what he does must have an considerable annual income.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a quick knock upon the door and Kiss hurried into the room as I looked over toward her. She smiled, but it was the professional one, “You have everything you need?” she inquired.

“Yes—although this notebook is horrid – this paper, it is not at all ivory white.” I replied and watched as she moved toward the window and I saw her check the lock, the trim and sill.

“Something wrong?” I arose, holding fast to my pen. “Flies?”

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

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

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

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

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

View
A Morning Dove
Session Nine - Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subjects attention is drawn to the opening of the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That took him aback as he looked at me curiously.

“Are you familiar with the passage?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I would expect you have some questions."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How so?”

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

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

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

“Oh?” He gave a quizzical look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Has it?”

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

“And this is based upon?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And after we find him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw the look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hound?”

“Yes, Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk."

View
Here By Her Invitation
Session Eight - Part Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are here by her invitation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

My expression was ever measured, “Inspector.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.”

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

“Indeed,” PC Alderton said with some irritation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“His decision?”

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

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

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

There are two dance floors and each are active.

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” PC Alderton informed him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ma’am.” Alderton replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alderton pressed the point, “By?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our Jack?” Alderton inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

“The look?” Pc Alderton inquired

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

“Thee is more.” PC Alderton said heatedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of that there has been no confirmation.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A lie you know to be self-evident.”

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

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

“Dracula?” Alderton asked quizzically.

“Read it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Again that damnable novel.”

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

View
Such A Happy Little Girl
Session Eight - Part Six

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Extemporaneous Memorandum Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice
10 March 1916

I parked the Humber in front of number 47 Onslow Square. It was a fine house. Robert Wise had married well as the house was the property of Lady Penelope Wise, nee Blathing, daughter of Lord Cyril Blathing, 7th Earl of Gavilshire. Right. He had everything going for him – save of course the recent Military Service Act. A noose ever tightening about the necks of married men – who at the moment were exempted. But – time will tell. I stepped out into the bright winter’s day. The sun was working it’s way to remove the snowy accumulation of several days but it was still a chill day. I pulled my coat a bit tighter.

I stepped lively up to the front door and let the brass knocker announce me. I took a quick survey of the neighbourhood – quiet. Lady Penelope was away – although she should be back shortly. Normally the family would be found walking Saturdays in Hyde Park and owing to the sun and a possible warming of the day they might be doing so later. Wonder if it will be brought up or a secret kept between them. Husbands and wives are notorious for the secrets they keep.

The door was opened by a medium height gentleman with inexpressive eyes, receding hair at the temples and several pounds of extra weight. I approximate he was in his late fifties. He was dressed in the butler’s service uniform. “Yes?” He said – his voice a bit deeper than I would have expected from his appearance as he lifted a brow at the sight of a naval officer in long coat standing before him. In a house ever scanning the headlines for news of the conscription, the appearance of a military uniform would I hazard be unsettling – even for the servants.

Behind me a motor car rumbled past and I found myself cautiously taking a glance at it, “I would like to speak with Mr Wise.” I replied.

“And may I say whose calling, sir?” He man asked.

I handed over by card, inscribed Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice, The Admiralty, Naval Intelligence.

The butler looked at the card and then at myself, and then stepped back allowing me to enter the entry vestibule.

“Please wait here.” He said and turned to deliver my card.

I stood looking about idly, my hands behind me.

I watched as the butler approached what I figured would be the study door and opened it. No title before Mr Wise’s name receives no knock, I noted.

“Who is it Haines?” I hear the gentleman’s voice.

“A Sub-Lieutenant Adrian Rice to see you sir.” I assumed he passed over the card and Wise examined it.

“Very well, I’ll meet him in the drawing room.” He replied – most fortunate Haines left the door open. Certain that would not happen had he been entering the study with Lady Penelope in the room – ah the peerage.

I watched the man exit the room and close the door behind him as he approached, “Right this way sir."

As I followed Haines I slowly removed my gloves and placed them in my cap, unbuttoning my coat while I took note of the laughter of a child, no doubt Kathryn, from somewhere above on the second floor.

Haines took my cap and coat and placed them on the coat rack in the vestibule. He opened the double doors to the drawing room and allowed me to enter, “Mr Wise will be with you shortly, sir.” And he closed the doors.

I stood looking about the room – nicely furnished. Yes, Robert Wise had married well.

Robert Wise entered the drawing room. “Sub-Lieutenant Rice. Pleasure to meet you.” He approached and held out his hand. He was tall, well over six-feet, thin, hair side parted and combed a bit to conceal the beginnings of recession at the temples. He wore large oval glasses. He looked the solicitor at home on a Saturday.

With one of my best winsome smiles I stepped forward and took his offered hand and grasp it firmly, “So good of you to see me, Sir. I hope I am not interrupting anything.”

“Not at all. Was just catching up on some work.” The solicitor indicated a chair close to the coal fireplace “Please have a seat.”

I stepped over and sat down in the edge of my chair so as not to become comfortable – and to give the impression he should not either. “You have a awfully nice home, Mr Wise. Awfully nice. Is Mrs Wise in? I would hate to be intruding on a Saturday, knowing how little time there is for the little ones.”

Robert himself sits opposed to the officer and crosses his legs. “No, Penelope is out with an acquaintance at the moment. What can I do for you?”

I took note he did not correct me – Lady Penelope.

“Well, Sir, to put it plainly,” I began, “We are aware that Lieutenant McFarlane retained your services. Is that correct?”

His look indicated that he had been anticipating this. “That is correct, though I must ask how it is you know this.”

I smiled, “As you may have noticed, Sir – my card. I am with Naval Intelligence. And at the moment, Lieutenant MacFarlane is not only a suspect in a rather, well gruesome murder, but, suspected in the collaboration with the enemy. A spy, Sir.”

As happenstance would have it just then there came the sound of running feet, a child giggling, as well as the sound of heavier feet running as well; and then, a woman making a shushing sound above as the all echoed into the drawing room by way of the open doors.

“A suspicion that you have proof of I would gather?” Wise countered.

“Yes, well I know we would all much rather not have to think the worse of men during these trying times.” I replied, “But it is particularly during these times when we must be most be most diligent. And so, yes, there is substantial evidence against the unfortunate Lieutenant.”

“Yes, well, sir, one would especially not want to think worse of a British subject. And as far as I am aware, all the captured spies have thus far been foreign nationals. So I suggest, before throwing around accusations against subjects of the King, even with your ‘substantial evidence’ as you say, is something I think one should do with a bit more caution. Now, as to Lieutenant McFarlane, yes, he asked for my help because he feared for his life from some elements of the police, who seem to be acting on mere mob mentality rather than in the pursuit of justice. I advised him that he of course hand himself over to Scotland Yard and that I would help him to clear any slander that has been thus far levelled upon him.”

I remained seated on the edge of his chair so as to convey the urgency of the matter, “As I said, no one, least of all the Naval Department finds this situation anything other than odious in the extreme, Sir. Especially involving a British subject – one is astounding that there is even a possibility that a gentleman would be so inclined . . . but we have to let facts speak for themselves.”

Above there came more giggling and running footsteps retreating back during somewhere upon the second floor.

Robert Wise nodded and sat with his fingertips touching. He was cool. “Please let them. I would love to see the full evidence presented.”

I thus took the opportunity as it presented itself and looked toward the door, "Pardon me, Sir, but that sounds like one happy little girl. May I ask, how old is she?”

At this he reached over to a pipe rack and removed one of several, a rather simple one, and opened the small tobacco jar upon the end table beside him. Slowly and rather meticulously be began to fill the bowl. “She is just turned 3. I do apologize if she is distracting.”

“Oh no sir, not at all. She no distraction. I mean, it is she for whom we are all fighting, starving to preserve our way of life against the Hun and his allies.” Rice said with a rather grim expression, “I mean sir – and not to bring up a subject I am sure weighs heavy upon you – but what with the recent Military Service Act, the thought of a such a happy little girl being in anyway separated from her father, is, well, rather saddening to think of.”

Wise said noting although I noticed a slight tug at his right eyebrow – as I suspected the worry of conscription was nestled there somewhere in the back of his mind. He lit a match and then the pipe, giving it a few puffs before extinguishing the match and dropping it with a lingering curl of smoke into the ashtray on the end table.

“And so, Sir." I continued, “As you said, you would like to see justice done. No more so than we at the Naval Department in regards to the unfortunate matter of Lieutenant McFarlane. And so, to that end, might I ask, do you know where he can be found?”

“I would like to see proper justice done.” He agreed, “As to his whereabouts? I do not know where he is – but, if you could persuade the City Police to put their firearms away and give assurances that his conviction is not a foregone conclusion, then I’m sure it might help convince him to reveal himself from wherever he has sequestered.” He took a thoughtful puff of his pipe, fingers hooked about the stem, “It is my fervent wish to see that Lieutenant McFarlane has a fair hearing, and I cannot do that if he is hiding in fear for his life. I want him found as much as you do Sub-Lieutenant Rice.”

“Excellent, Sir. Most excellent. That is so good to hear.” I said to show we were now in agreement, “You see, Sir, we feel that if he reaches out to anyone it would be you. And so—" I then reached into my jacket and removed the awaiting document.

He looked at it with some curiosity and I slowly unfolded the document and then turned it toward Wise to reveal that it as an official letter of Exemption from Military Conscription, signed by The Admiralty and the War Office. “If he were to do so, Sir." And I the reached into a pocket and removed the card I had previously repaired bearing the prearranged number, "If you ring this number, and we find him, then Sir, this document will be signed and thus becomes official.”

I handed the document over to the solicitor who took the pipe from his mouth and began to scrutinize the wording.

“We all need to do our duty sir.” I continued. “For King and Country and for those we love at home. For you Sir, that little girl. As happy as she is today, she does not need to be concerned that her father is in some trench in France. Among the dead and dying sir. When all her father needs to is but ring this number.”

She slow diligence of the document revealed it was authentic.

He looked up now with some heat as he peered over the top of his spectacles, “And am I to take it, Sir, should the removal of the exemption for married men to the Military Service Act pass the commons, and I do not call this number . . . upon finding Lt McFarlane, and instead guide him into the hands of the Metropolitan Police, I would be the very first man called to go to Flanders?"

“Let us say, Sir. McFarlane already fears the police and perhaps for good cause.” I explained calmly, “He is, Sir, for all of his faults and many accusations still Navy, Sir. And as such, we would like to handle our own. And so, that being said, Sir, you can see how we would much rather handle this matter internally. Having said that, to ease your concerns. I could say your statement is a fair assessment.”

The solicitor glanced once more to the document in hand and then at me.

“Do the right thing man, for your little girl.”

He suddenly stood up and called out for the man servant: “Haines.”

I looked at him and was aware that perhaps I should have been more mendacious in the latter part of my answer – and I should have perhaps better assuage his concerns about McFarlane turning himself into us rather than the Yard.

The aged butler enters from the other side of the door. "Sir?”

“I do believe the sub-lieutenant is leaving. Please fetch his hat and gloves." Wise said sternly.

“Yes, sir.” And Haines departs.

I rise slowly from my chair, careful to remain calm and reassuring, even as I reached out and took the document from his hand. “Sir – I can only ask that you think upon this and reconsider. You yourself have stated the Lieutenant and I believe sir, your own concerns about the police. It would be best advisable, to call the number.”

I rather slowly refolded the exemption and placed it back into my inner jacket pocket.

“The conscious weighs heavy on the mind of a guilty man.” he says as Haines returns with the my coat, cap, and gloves. “I wonder how fares yours? Good day Sub-Lieutenant.”

“Good day to you Mr Wise.” I stepped over and retrieved by coat, slipping it on and then took my cap and gloves from the butler.

As I stepped smartly out of the room into the foyer, I happened to take notice in the slight corner of a mirror the solicitor standing and looking down at the card, which he has just realized he has been crushing in his fist.

The servant Haines held the door open for me and with some measure of disdain closed it behind me. I stood on the small narrow front porch and smiled as I put on my cap and slipped my fingers into the comfort of my gloves – all in all, it had gone better than I had suspected.

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Guns & Wild Roses
Session Eight - Part Five

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Cressida Carstairs Journal
11 March, 1916 – London. — Zo Renfield was in her office finishing up some work that could have waited until Monday and should have been completed Friday, she said. But, she needed the ledgers and the numbers to take her mind off the sound of those boots clomping on the hardwood floor of the tea room, which she complained still reverberated her memory. Dreadful. Simply dreadful. Those horrid men. They had absolutely no sensibility for fashion whatsoever and terrible tailors – one man in a cap of a motor cab driver, which he had so disrespectfully kept on the whole time, she had said. Whether or not Zo Renfield was as crazy as her grandfather, I was not certain. I had of course checked into R.M. Renfield. He had been an eminent barrister, a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple, and a member of the very exclusive club, the Windham, until he started eating flies. According to Zo it had begun as an occasional snatching of a irritating fly, which, rather than disposing of as one would expect, he simply placed it in his mouth. Zo remembers them as great big fat ones with steel and sapphire upon their wings, but she was only four when he died and so I am not at all certain how she could actually remember such a fact. But – his mania for flies began to grow to the point where he actually set out sugar to draw them, so as to be captured for dining upon later. By all accounts he had been rather strait-laced and steadfast until the incidents with the flies – but then, there was ‘the occurrence,’ in which, during a well attended dinner party, he had suddenly grabbed a footman and hoisted him upon the table, whereupon he would have slit the man’s throat had he not been restrained. At that point the son, Zo’s father, had no consequence but to have him admitted to a private asylum – for observation and diagnosis. Only, from all I have been able to ascertain, no diagnosis was ever given. Instead, he was allowed to dine on spiders and flies until he accidently fell from his bed to his death.

“Box Brothers.” I stood at the window looking down at the man in charcoal suit. He stood across the street in the slush of the snow beginning to freeze over as the afternoon shade of the buildings was just giving way to twilight. “Are you sure they said they were from Box Brothers?”

“Compliments of Edward Box.” She replied concentrating on the ledger, “The dreadful man said. Even bought cakes – and they are really quite wonderful cakes. But, how can one take them from someone like Edward Box.” Her pen busy writing in that minute hand of hers. “I am certain they were collectors. Come to collect to be sure. But what? I have no dealings with Box Brothers.”

“Except in my report.” He stood conspicuous in the chill of the winter afternoon as he wore no overcoat or hat. I knew he was aware I was watching him, and yet he did not look up.

“Your report, yes.” Her finger tracing across the page to check a sum. She turned suddenly from the ledger, pen in hand, to look at me, “You will—you will stay with me, will you not . . . Kiss. I know you are a private inquiry agent and all, but, I have heard that in America there are these Pinkertons, who are also inquiry agents . . . but who provide security as well, or so, I have heard . . . I think—yes. Yes, their eyes never sleep. But you of course can sleep. Perhaps – maybe – I don’t know, I don’t sleep very well. And so I am not at all certain if your firm does as well . . . not never sleep, but provide security . . . even so, if not . . . will you stay . . . I am quite willing to pay—any sum to have you watch them watching me.”

I was already watching them watching her, “For a while,” I replied.

The first agent the firm had sent, Thomas Pulverton, Zo had not at all liked the looks of him. His feet here too big she complained and so she had requested another detective and they sent me. It had seemed a rather simple enough assignment. She wanted details in regard to a Count DeVille—a member of the Board of Directors of the Coldfall Charitable Trust. But, the more I delved into the Count the more complex he became. Coldfall reported that he had been on the Board only a short time – some twenty-odd-years ago – before he had left London, late in the year of 1894 – to become quite an elusive continental recluse. I was able to find traces of him in Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Berlin, and Vienna. But, what I could not find was any record of him prior to his becoming a member of a high society and politically connected coterie earlier in 1894. It was as if the Count had suddenly appeared out of some magician’s box – stepping forth from thin air. It was believed that he had come from Eastern Europe – Styria some said, Transylvania others believed, or Moldavia. But then again, I was not uncertain whether or not they were confusing him with a Baron Székely, whose circle of international diplomatic associations intersected with DeVille’s more affluent connections – although, I had begun to suspect Székely was an alias. And with the War some information is not so easily assessable. The Count seemed to have appeared sometime after his purchase of an old estate, Carfax, a rather gloomy twenty-acres of broken stone walls, meandering streams, a small lake, as well as some rather fetid pools, with an old chapel in ruins; and later, various other prominent properties throughout London’s East and West End, including the Musgrave Estate, upon which stood Coldfall House itself. A note I made of particular interest in my report, which I had previously delivered to Zo – in that it was odd the Chartable Trust should take it’s name from one of the properties of a enigmatic Eastern European aristocrat, who had yet to be made a member of the Board of Directors. Some quid pro quo? Well not, according to Sir Giles Crichton, the current Chairman of the Board for the inestimable charity. “There had, you see, been several strategic discussions regarding the foundation and structure of the charitable organization during formal dinners held by the Count at Coldfall House. Sir George, Ashcroft you know, and his wife Lady Aurora, among other certain interested parties had deliberated at some length upon the direction, the vision, and of course the mission of the charity; and so, at the time it seemed only rather apropos to name it the Coldfall House Charitable Trust. And yes, Count de Ville was of course a part of those discussions.” Which certainly did not answer the quid pro quo question – in fact, it only enticed it a bit further. Along with the fact I had uncovered several recent documents which still had DeVille listed as a member of a board he supposed departed rather abruptly in October of 1894. I had also noted the odd coincidence of the Count’s property, the Carfax Estate, having bordered on the land of the asylum in which Zo’s grandfather had been committed and allowed to die, so as to bequeath R. M. Renfiel’s estate, whose codicil instructed the foundation and initial financing of the charitable trust.

Although Hudson & Brand had only been commissioned to provide my dossier on Count De Ville, my curiosity had kept me from completely dropping my inquires and so I had earlier called upon the offices of Hatcher & Son, a small speciality press for pamphlets, leaflets, and other such vanity publications. Zo’s worrisome concern for the Reverend Algernon Marley and his researcher and typist Millicent Ainsworth, whose whereabouts were currently unknown, had piqued my interest and so I had spoken to the managing editor, Mr Wilberforce Pope. He gave me only a vague wave of the hand when I held before him Reverend Marley’s last pamphlet, The Truth about the Coming of the Antichrist’s Empire, as he chewed on his cigar and looked across the desk at me.

“Do not be deceived by their Christian charity for it is the Antichrist’s deception,” I quoted from the pamphlet. “Rather harsh words for a renown charitable organization would you not think?”

“We provide publishing for those who long to see their words in print, Miss Carstairs. I don’t have to necessarily agree with what all those words covey. I am not a newspaper editor.” He told me around the smoking cigar.

“Oh, and it would make a difference? Being a newspaper editor?” I asked with a wry smile.

“Nor am I theologian.” He replied sullenly. “They write the sermons up and if they want I just publish them.”

“Oh, I am sure.” I opened the pamphlet, “This must have aroused some notoriety? Brisk sales?”

“At first – but then . . . “ He shrugged, “Once you’ve read the harangue of one apocalypse—“

“True. But usually they don’t equate Gog or Magog to a charitable trust.” I could hear the rolling intonation of Uncle Edgar, his fingers gripping the pulpit, his knuckles gone white with the passion of his diatribe, as he sought to not only bring down the word of the Lord but to speak in his voice as well. “I am sure they must have communicated their displeasure?”

“No. Leastwise I haven’t heard from them.” He lied – and I suspected he was a very good liar, so the fact it was so easily detectable, assured me they had rather adamantly communicated their displeasure.

“I wonder – if the good Reverend did?” I tapped The Truth about the Coming of the Antichrist’s Empire thoughtfully against my palm, “I understand he has taken a bit of hiatus. No doubt dashing off yet another harangue of the apocalypse?”

“Already dashed it off.” He told me, “We are waiting his approval of the proofs of his latest.”

“Oh? And what might the subject?”

“Same as always. His favourite hobbyhorse. Coldfall.” He frowned, “I have no idea what the origin of this row he has with that particular charity. But he is bloody well fixed upon them. You’ve read his stuff—“ he shifted about in his squeaky, swivel chair in order to opened a lower drawer, whereupon he began to rifle through some files, before pulling out a proof copy of another pamphlet and tossed it upon his desk before me. The Conspiracy of Charity. I picked it up and flipped through it to find it was yet another severe invective against Coldfall House and of Lady Aurora Carradine herself:

“The various Tract Sheets distributed by Coldfall House seem but the realized fantasies of a professional confusionist, a prestidigitator of words, so artfully arranged as to conceal the malignancy that is the essence of the corruption of evil whose fell influence is spread wide and deep across the boroughs of London. Mendacity and murder in the service of the Anti-Christ. Who truly knows the numbers or of their fates, these missing from the slum lands being purchased by the grab and swindle of their disguised land agents and holding companies. Whore of Babylon thy name is Carradine.”

I looked up at Pope who sat puffing on his cigar. “You do not fear legal reprisals?”

“As I said, I but supply paper and ink – it is he who rents the presses.” He continuing puffing – perhaps a bit more anxiously.

“And you do not think it odd he is now among the numbers of the missing?”

He shrugged “Being a firebrand he was sooner than later to bring down a fire upon himself – it is not like I didn’t warn him.”

When I returned to the office I was given the message Zo had rung me up. She wanted to see me. Urgency was indicated. As I arrived at Renfield International I found the large outer office dimly lit, the typewriters silent, phones idly sitting, the rows of desks deserted owing to it being Saturday. But Zo’s office door was open and she sat behind her desk, stacks of ledgers littering it’s surface. She quickly began to explain why she has called and as I dropped my purse atop a journal I felt a pique of vexation – perhaps I should have warned her – but, I would have thought her to be mindful, owing to what she suspected and what she actually knew . . .

“This Lady Penelope?" I asked. “Trustworthy you think?”

“Oh, yes. We have known each other for quite sometime . . . although, we have not seen each other . . . for quite some time, not since father died.” She was back to her ledger. “But she is perhaps the most trustworthy person I know. Well—save of course for you, Kiss.”

I caught the reflection of my smile in the windowpane – Zo Renfield was certainly eccentric. When we had first met and I had handed her my card: Cressida Carstairs, Private Inquiry Agent, Hudson & Brand Private Inquiry Agency, 33 Golden Square; she had glanced at it and for some reason, perhaps in misreading, she called me Kiss, And has every since.

I turned to look her, the office light growing dim with the coming of dusk and the only illumination the small lamp on her desk. “And you gave her everything?”

“Well – nearly everything.” Zo said distractedly.

Below a motor cab pulled up and I watched as a man in a grey pin-stripe suit, overcoat and hat stepped out. He paid the driver and looked up at the building – even as the man in the charcoal suit moved over to converse with him.

“Are you about finished?” I asked her.

The two gentlemen were now crossing the street – they did not look anything at all like the men Zo described who had accosted her earlier in the tea room.

“In a moment or two, yes.” Zo replied as her pen continued scratching the page of the ledger. “I should have finished this – but, I have been so distracted. All this beastly business. Coldfall. The misappropriation of funds. And whatever has happened to the poor Reverend – not that I am religious, by any considerations. And I have not been sleeping well. The dreams. And I worry about Miss Ainsworth. And Florence. Oh, yes, Florence – if anything should happen. It’s all my fault. Asking about Denham. Please—don’t think me mad. I know you do – it can’t be helped. My grandfather. But I assure you I do not have his madness. Although,” “She continued writing, not looking up, “I do have my own—“

“Denham?” I turned to look at her as the men had moved below so they were now out of sight.

Her pen busy – how she would concentrate on the mathematics as amazing, “Yes—I do need to tell you about then. The D. D. Denham Group. . . .’

I stepped over to the coat rack and removed my coat as I was still wearing my soft leather gloves.

Her pen suddenly stopped and she looked up, “Should we leave?”

“Yes.” I told her as I moved over to the desk.

“They are coming?”

I nodded, “Someone is coming.”

“I have seen them in my dreams.” She said. “Oh Kiss – they are coming.”

I looked about and found her coat as well, “This can wait . . . ”

Abruptly there was a loud rapping upon the outer door. Zo looked at me – and I at her. Their arrival seemed rather sudden. I put on my coat and opening my purse removed my Browning, which I slipped it into the pocket as Zo watched with some anxiety. “Stay here.” I told her and stepped through the open door of her office into the larger outer one. I across the dimly lit office and approached the door. Strangely, I took notice of a fly. I waved my hand at it and opening the door I found the man in the grey grey-pin striped suit, overcoat and hat standing there leaning slightly forward upon a gold topped cane, “I wish to have a word with Miss Renfield.” His voice was toffee smooth.

“It is well past business hours.” I told him.

“Yes, I am quite sure it is – but, as it is known, Miss Renfield does not keep regular office hours, and it is rather imperative that I speak with her”

“And who are you to be so imperative?”

“I am the President of the Law Society.” The toffee voice replied.

I smiled “No. Sir Giles Crichton is the President of the Law Society, and you sir are not he.”

He leaned forward on the cane and tilted his head slightly, “You are quite right. I am sorry, I am Sir John Paxton, I am the former President of the Incorporated Law Society. You may phone Sir Giles to confirm, if you wish. In any event, it would be in Miss Renfield’s best interests that we speak.”

“Where is the other gentleman?” I lifted a knowing brow.

“Other gentleman?”

“The younger gentleman who doesn’t mind the cold.”

He tried to smile and it appeared more a grimace – I took notice then that his teeth were unusually white for a man his age. “Ah, Mr Templeton. He is about.”

I felt like Zo: I didn’t like the looks of him nor did I like the sound of his answer. I removed the Browning in order to let him see it, “Just to be aware, this is about as well.”

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“As I said, I merely wish to speak to Miss Renfield.” His eyebrow rising sardonically.

In hindsight I should have followed my instincts and closed the door upon him – but I stepped back and motioned him to enter. “As I said, this is about.” To which he gave the Browning a glance and then stepped into the office. I closed the door. My concern was at the moment was the whereabouts of this Mr Templeton – the man in the charcoal suit who had been watching the building before Paxton had arrived. But at the moment the only exit was through the inner office and Sir John Paxton was between me and Zo and I did not know where or what the Mr Templeton was other than he was about . . .

Sir John stepped across the room and removed his hat as she entered Zo’s office. “Good evening, Miss Renfield. I am Sir John Paxton, the former President of the Incorporated Law Society.” He said by way of introduction as he removed his card and stepping over to Zo’s desk handed it to her.

She took it and glanced at me, seeing I had the Browning in hand. “I see.” She replied.

He looked at one of the chairs before her desk, “May I?”

She nodded and he sat. “You my dear are really quite lovely. I do see a resemblance to your grandfather.”

“You knew him?” She asked.

“Oh yes.” He replied and sat back, his fingers slightly turning the head of the cane. “He was a member of the Law Society as well – a brilliant man.”

“Well, he’s dead.” Zo told him matter-of-factly.

He nodded, “That he is. Truly tragic. As is your father I understand.”

Zo seemed to place the card he had given her very, very carefully upon her desk, “Yes – odd you should wait so long to come to pay your condolences?”

Sir John gave her that grimace of a smile, “I must admit in that regard I have been remiss. And I do so adamantly believe one should maintain cordial relationships with ones old acquaintances and their families as well, don’t you?”

I stepped now to stand at side of Zo’s desk. She sat looking at the man in the chair before her, the ledger still open, pen in hand, “I—I believe . . . I believe in corruption and evil. And that you and Coldfall have perverted everything that my grandfather wished and believed in.”

“And I submit that you have no idea what your grandfather may have believed in,” Sir John told her pointedly, “Wrapped as he was in a great white, strait waistcoat, as well as his madness. Look at yourself. A wealthy, successful business woman sitting in some dimly lit office.” He lifted the cane slightly as if to point out our surroundings, “Consumed with fanciful imaginings furthered by a woman bearing an anarchist’s weapon of choice.”

Zo’s reaction was less to what he said then the fact the fly I had seen earlier flitted across the desk – her eyes narrowed as she looked at the man seated across the desk from her.

“Sadly, I must suggest my dear you are upon the same avenue as your grandfather if you persist.” Sir John continued. ‘This way madness lies –if not worse.”

“That sounds like a threat.” I said sternly.

His head turned slowly to look from Zo to me, “It is sound advice.”

“And what of you Sir?” Zo suddenly asked pointedly, “You who say you were an acquaintance of my grandfather. One who professes to know of his wishes, of his beliefs. How could you? You are a member of the Law Society. A former president of said society. How can you allow, condone, such perversion in the name of benevolence. Oh, I know. . . I know—it can no longer be concealed. How can you Sir? Such corruption of a charitable trust. Stealing from those most in need. Stealing from the impoverished. From women and children. And what of Reverend Marley’s accusations?”

“You take too much credence in that mad man’s ravings” He told her severely, “But what could one expect.”

“Where have all the missing gone from the slum lands that Coldfall controls? To what ends, Sir? To whose agenda do you serve? How can you do the bidding of someone the likes of Count DeVille?” Zo passionately demanded.

“My dear—“ Sir John began, his hand gripping the top of cane, “I beseech you to take pause in you antagonistic position. It won’t do Miss Renfield. For old acquaintance’s sake, far all your grandfather has done, you need to cease and desist these slanderous accusations regarding the Coldfall House Charitable Trust.”

This was becoming far too confrontational – I was momentarily distracted by the fly which suddenly flittered about my face, as I waved it away.

“No – you need . . . “ Zo sat with her elbow upon the desk, pen in hand, which she now pointed at him as she sat jabbing at the air with the nib, “ . . . You need to cease. You need. You need. You need to tell him – I know who sent you. I know who you are. You are – the Lord of the Flies. I can see . . . I see them at night in my dreams. He ate them and I hate them. And you Sir . . .”

“As I said, she knows far too much Sir John.” I turned and there at the window – from seeming thin air stood the man in the charcoal suit – Templeton?

I moved quickly around the desk to place a hand on Zo’s shoulder but she flinched away from my touch, “Stay away from him, Kiss. Can’t you see? What he is? The Halo – he calls to them. He is the Lord of the Files. Grandfather – he ate them. Ate them. I hate them. Hate them. He ate them – and he has come for me. I can see, Sir. You can not hide from me for I can see . . . your halo of flies.”

“Sadly.” Sir John sighed in agreement.

“She crosses the sea . . . she is coming . . . she’s going to smash – smash your halo of flies.” Zo stood up and held her hands up near her ears as if she could hear something – then she smiled very wickedly. “Tell him the end is near — “

“You can tell him yourself,” And he stood up and in one incredibly quick motion, which seemed impossible for a man of his age, and yet he was moving to vault over the desk and I grabbed Zo and pulled her to the side as his feet hit her swivel chair and hurled it rolling backward on its casters to slam against the wall with a bounce. I had just gotten Zo out of the reach of his grasping hand, but his fingers like a vice clamped upon my wrist. He regained his feet and jerked me toward him – and I found I was pulled up close and his eyes were filled with a savage fury – and I lifted a knee upward into his groin but it had no effect and so I quickly collapse back in a limp weight pulling him slightly off balance as he was not expecting the manoeuvre.

At the same time I fired the Browning at the man in the charcoal suit, who had moved from the window to advance upon Zo – far too quickly in the time Sir John had leapt the desk. I hit this Mr Templeton high in the chest and he staggered but did not fall.

Even as Sir John quickly recovered from my maneuverer to attempt to escape from his grasp, much too quickly, for he lifted me up and slammed me up against the wall. The back of my head hitting so hard I saw bright lights flittering before me – and I fired point blank and he stopped and staggered back.

Zo was screaming something about her coming . . .

Templeton was standing as if to shake off the .380 I had put in his chest. Sir John’s hand still held my forearm and he jerked me back against the wall even as he began opening his mouth to reveal long, sharp white canine teeth—while his free hand knocked the Browning from my gasp. I heard it hit the floor. I saw the sharp teeth trying to descend into my throat – and my hand pushed against him to no avail even as my other grabbed desperately for anything, something, to ward him off as they felt the side table beside me and numbly touched upon the vase of wild roses Zo had apparently brought to the office. And I grabbed it and shattered it against the side of Paxton’s head – glass and water raining over us, the wild roses set free to strike at his face and he recoiled from the long stems. The thorns! Their scratches seemed to him inordinately painful.

Nothing made any sense, both men and taken direct .380 rounds and yet had not fallen – only momentarily staggered by them – while thorns seem to have more effect. Free of Sir John Paxton’s grip, for whatever insane sense of it, I knelt to hurriedly grabbed up as many of the loose roses splayed upon the floor as I could, their thorns cutting through the soft leather of my gloves.

When suddenly there another shot and I looked up to see Zo with my gun firing at the man I assumed to be Templeton. Not well aimed it still struck him in the shoulder and slowed him long enough for me to move over to her and whip the long stem roses at his face, the thorns cutting into his cheek – which caused him to lurch backward.

I grabbed at my purse upon her desk, where there was another magazine for the Browning, and grasping Zo’s elbow as I pushed her violently toward the door.

Together we fled.

I still held the wild roses in hand, aware of the bite of the thorns.

Taking the Browning from her, we raced through the outer office and through the front door into the corridor beyond. As dusk was growing heavy, the corridor was darkening. Thankfully Renfield International Investments was not only close to the end of the corridor and the bird cage elevator, but the cage was on our floor, where it had been left by Sir John’s arrival. Zo hit the side of the elevator from the force of my pushing her into it as I pulled the gate closed activated the cage’s descent. The motor engaged with a whine. “Kiss, are you alright?” She asked, her voice but barely controlled panic.

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I nodded as I removed the magazine with the three remaining rounds from the Browning and slipped it into my coat pocket, and quickly removed the full 6-round one from my purse and pushed it into place. I chambered a round, “Are you?”

“You shot him. . . ” She said incredulously.

I nodded looking upward, “And I scratched him” I said holding up the roses. “Which seemed to do the far more damage.”

“How is that possible. . . “

There was no time for an answer as suddenly the whole cage shook for Templeton had leapt down and grasped the side of the bird cage elevator, his fingers slipping through the brass openings to grip the side of the cage. His mouth opened to reveal his sharp teeth as he hissed at us – a hissed like some feral cat. Zo pushed back against her side of the elevator. He tugged at the metal of the grating of the cage as if attempting to pull it free of it’s bolts and moorings. The Browning in hand, instinctively I started to fire once again, but, aware of the roses, the thorns pickling through the soft leather of my gloves – I suddenly took two of them and turning them around so that the stems faced him – I stabbed through the open grates of the elevator cage, stabbing one into each of his eyes.

There was a howling scream that was not human as he fell back away from the cage. Two floors to go. Where was Sir John. I stood ready, gun and roses in hand, looking upward but I did not see him.

“You shot them both.” Zo stood with the fountain pen still in her hand, trembling. “I saw you. To no effect. No effect. " Her hand up near her ear again as if listening to something, “As night descends they grow stronger. You have to use the roses, Kiss. The wild roses.”

God the elevator was an eternity. There was no sign of them – but as the only sound was the motor whine of the elevator, I was well aware we were not alone. They were there, somewhere waiting – What was it about the roses?

“Zo stay behind me,” I said as we descended past the second floor landing and continued downward. I renewed my grip on the Browning . . . we would reach the bottom shortly. “What ever you do stay behind me.”

She nodded and moved to stand close behind him.

I saw the first floor slowly appearing – my eyes intensely surveying the dimness. Across the marble foyer to the front door, I estimated was twenty, twenty-five feet.

The thorns digging into the palm and fingers of my hand tightly gripping the long stems of what remained of the wild roses, the petals having not faired so well, I held the Browning up and ready as watched the elevator slowly coming to a halt upon the lower floor. The motor stopped. It was suddenly all silence.

“Stay behind me,” I whispered to Zo, who moved quickly to do so.

I pulled back the gate of the elevator and stepped forward surveying the darken lobby. Of course the doorman, it being Saturday had by my estimation no doubt left as I arrived seeing as only Zo was still working on a cold, winter Saturday. I had no idea where Sir John had made away to – had he sought the stairs? There had been no sight of him since I leaving him in Zo’s office when we fled. His Mr Templeton had gone silent since I stabbed what I could of the too pliant rose stems into his eyes.

“We shall make for the front door,” I whisper to Zo behind me, “If anything should happen run and keep running – till you come to a constable.”

“I don’t see any flies.” She whispered back.

Well, there was that to be thankful off, I thought. We moved out of the elevator cage, I estimated it was some twenty or more so yards to the revolving from door and so together, we hurried toward it – ever wary. When suddenly, Mr Templeton lurched out of the shadowy darkness, his hands grasping at us – his eyes the worse for the wild rose stems. They were damaged to be sure – dark blood oozing from them but he was searching for us seemingly by sense of sound, though by the way he held his head I was not uncertain by the sense of smell as well.

I side stepped him and pushed Zo ahead toward the door of the lobby – but his hand grasped my coat and pulled hard twisting me around and as I did so I turned and fired taking aim for his forehead; his head snapping back and his fingers loosened their grip, freeing me. “Run!” I directed. Zo was well ahead of me as I looked back to see that Templeton had not fallen – which was bloody impossible. I know I hit him solidly in the forehead. I hurried behind Zo – the report of the Browning still ringing in my ears.

Zo hit the revolving door and was pushing it forward. I was only a several steps away. One more push and she would be out into the cold brisk wind of the street – when abruptly the doors stopped and she lurched forward from her momentum. She twisted around to look at me – her eyes wide and frightened.

Sir John stood with his cane jabbed into the door which was about clear the threshold of its rotation. His eyes were filled with a furious anger; they seemed to almost glint like those of cat in certain light. His lips were pulled back to reveal the white, sharp teeth.

I lashed out suddenly with the wild roses and the long stem’s thorns raked across his face and he cowered backward as if he had been in the face with vitriol. The cane slipped Free and so did Zo, who gained the outside pavement. I hurriedly dashed into the door and pushed with all my might, fearing somehow the monstrous Sir John would once again halt the doors revolution.

“Kiss – what are we to do?” Zo grabbed me as if to help me along. She was doing exceedingly well to control her terror.

By luck, or I would give word to Providence, a motor cab was passing and I stepped out into the icy road to stop it. With a mad lurch I opened the door and hurried Zo and slammed the door. “No 472 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea; and, be quick about it.”

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Conspiracy Theory
Session Eight - Part Four

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Journal of Carmichael Pemberton
11 March 1916 – London. — A beastly morning Absolutely beastly. The price of my head was severe. What I needed, really needed, was a refresh of my third cup of coffee and so my eyes were diverted from The Times to the waiters moving about the dining room in their attentiveness to those who sat with an air of idle abstraction and lack of personal distractions. I had already bothered for a second and third refresh – which had gathered a considerable lift of the brow of a gentleman who, from his bearing had once been in personal service and was now, no doubt owing to the economics of the war – or the possibility of the unfortunate demise of the gentleman to whom he was the gentleman’s gentleman – was now in public service and as such he presumed to ponder how it was possible someone such as I was a member. I gave him nothing with which to relieve his considerations other than my need for coffee, and he exercised his considerable professional ability to be unobservant.

I reached over for another piece of toast and began to butter it as I continued to seek the attention of any of the other overly enthusiastic waiters, hurrying to and fro, just not to or fro from my table, so that my attention was caught betwixted my desire for another cup of coffee, the buttering of my toast, and the nagging article just longing to be read: “ A Question of National Importance, The abuse of Alcoholic Stimulants and Drugs. ”

As I was biting into the toast, a waiter, not the gentleman’s gentleman without a gentleman, but a rather reedy looking man, middle-aged, balding, with his forehead a bit too damp, stopped at my table to take my request for a refresh of coffee – and thankfully, bang he was off.

I now looked down with interest to read:

“No disease is more prevalent than Alcoholism and the Drug Habit, yet none is so seldom recognized. Dr. Normal Kerr in his well-known work on Inebriety says: “Important as is the necessity for an early recognition of this disease is a saddening fact that in very few case indeed has its existence been even suspected before it has acquired so great an intensity as to have lessened in a marked degree the moral control.”

Moral Control? The whole of the world had lost moral control.

“Ah, dear old Pemberton,” came the familiar voice as he approached. Thin, well dressed, new suit, long black overcoat, freshly brushed, his hat set to a rakish angle, as Arthur Sarsfield Ward, or as he was now known, Sax Rohmer, stood beside me and peered down at the broadsheet, which held my interest. “Thinking of taking the Turvey Treatment are you?” He said in some bemusement.

“You’re late.” I replied and took another bite of my buttered toast.

“And you, my friend.” He said as he took off his coat and hat and placed them upon the unused chair at the table. “Are lucky that I am here. A midnight summons?”

I shrugged.

“Rose was to say the least not amused. Ringing up at that beastly hour. She is still rather put out about my late night researches . . .”

“Something is afoot in Limehouse.” I told him.

“Something is always afoot in Limehouse.” He said truculently, “And that is Doyle’s – not mine.”

I leaned forward, “He has Watson – you have Petrie.” I could not resist pointing out.

He sat back, “If you are here to antagonize, Carmichael, I have far better things to amuse my time.”

I leaned forward, “Right, right. Sorry, old man. I have had a rather dreadful night. Have you ever tired talking to Coleman Smith?

He laughed, lifting his hand upward to his forehead mimicking a medium, “I see – yes, it is the Ten of Swords.”

“Well, I feel them all – each and every one.”

He smiled and continued to observe me with that damned far too critical eye of his, “You look it.”

Slowly, he reached into his jacket pocket and extracted his pipe, along with a leather pouch of tobacco, which he opened and placed his fingers within to removed a pinch and settle it carefully into the bowl, “Well, you have my attention Carmichael – so tell me about it.”

I took a brace of the hot coffee, “Yes – well Arthur, no one knows Limehouse like you – not even K Division or any number of files kept upon their micro-reader – owing to all the research you have made of that infernal circus of harsh and unavailing endeavours. “

He had the pipe well lit, “Quite right. I must admit, at first it was a mere assignment, but then I became obsessed with the discovery of the elusive Mr King.

It was story of course Rohmer was ever fond of telling and with each new rendition it grew in embellishments. He had been assigned to write an article about “the Asiatic colony” in Limehouse by the magazines Tit-Bits or Answers – I was never quite sure which and wasn’t sure if by now Rohmer knew which as well, as he had written for them both, but suffice it to say, he was thus assigned, by some magazine editor – and in particular, assigned an article about what was to be an exposé of some purported criminal mastermind thought to control much of the gambling and drug traffic in Limehouse as well as not one . . . but all of the Tongs. Rohmer set out with great enthusiasm to find any witnesses to this mastermind’s activities, only there was none forthcoming. Rohmer said he found they were terrified of the name or claimed they had never heard of a Mr King, and so, no one, absolutely no one would discuss him. It was as if his existence consisted of merely shadows. Eventually he had written a rather basic ‘atmospheric piece,’ but he had been so bedazzled by the implications of such a nefarious character he could not let Mr King depart from his thoughts – or his imagination. And so, one night, having rented rooms in Limehouse, in order to continue his research – which frightened his wife Rose to no end – he had by chance spied ‘a rather tall and dignified Chinese gentleman’ alight from a car before some very mean-looking house. Everyone about him reacted in complete subservience. As he approached the door of the disreputable establishment, people before him quickly moved out of his way – and he stood until someone rushed to open the door. The man had a sinister, feline quality about him, and with the brief glint of light falling upon his face, it gave him in Rohmer’s words ‘the very aspect of Satan’. That was the birth of the Devil Doctor, Fu Manchu.

“But—you never found your Mr King.” I took a last bite of my piece of toast and licked butter from my finger tips, just as the gentleman’s gentleman arrived now with fresh coffee. He upturned a cup and poured one for Rohmer.

“Yes, well as you say, in all my endeavours, all I ever truly found was the model for my Manchu – although, the ethereal Mr King remains indelibly etched in my memory.” He replied as he removed the stem of his pipe from between his teeth and slid his coffee closer to hand as he looked up to the waiter, who stood far too correctly and with an inexpressive face – not as yet accustomed to general public service. He took the order and gave a slight nod of the head.

Taking a sip of his coffee, Rohmer looked across the table at me rather quizzically, “Carmichael – what devil is this all about?”

“What if you Mr King doesn’t exist.” I asked.

“You rang me up and had me come down here – using I would assume my name, as I know you are not a member of the Savile – to tell me that?” He put his cup of coffee down, “Good Lord, Carmichael, if I had a shilling for everyone who has seen fit to inform me of that shocking bit of information – Sax, he’s merely some Limehouse legend, you know, composed of bits and pieces of various would be crime lords, they say. Even Chief Inspector Yeo of K Division has been brought around to this way of thinking.” He snapped his napkin and placed it in his lap and pointed the smoking steam of his pipe at me again, “King or Fu Manchu – Carmichael, there is a sinister force that directs all the horror that is Limehouse – burrowed somewhere down in one of those yellow warrens . . . hidden deep within those bleak and forlorn streets.”

I smiled for I was in luck, he was this morning rather full of Nayland Smith. He must have been writing before coming to the Saville and he wore the character well. I cocked an eyebrow and looked at him, “What if it were a Miss King?”

He returned his pipe to his lips as his eyes narrowing – I wasn’t sure if it was at me or against the smoke.

“Which is why you nor K Division can’t find him.”

He spoke about the stem of the pipe, “So, this is about Lascar Sal again.”

I tapped my forefinger on the white table cloth, “This is about who is behind Lascar Sal.’

He suddenly laughed. “I say, Carmichael. We are quite the pair, what? I with my Mr King and you – you with your Lascar Sal. But, at least old man, my mysterious Mr King, was a subject of K Division intelligence, before he became the stuff of legend; whereas your Sal – she is but Florence McLaren. An unfortunate actress with one good review, who might have done well – for she had some talent upon the boards – had she not fallen from her addition into crime and prostitution. I grant you she is a quite a considerable figure amid those in the inhospitable darkness of Limehouse – but I can assure you her kingdom resides in the gaming house, brothel, and opium den of the Cocoa Rooms.

“Yes, yes,” I said with a bit of annoyance as I took up another piece of toast and began to slather it with butter, “I have actually come round to you way of thinking in that regard – and so, rather than there being some long malignant reach of our Sal – I have come to understand she is rather the lesser of something far grander. She is, as I contend, a part of it. But, there is another power behind her – and not to antagonize – but, say less like your Manchu – with his diabolical machinations and arcane science, but someone far more like Doyle’s Moriarty. A sinister mastermind of a ethereal like organization which keeps to the shadows – seeks anonymity.”

“You know.” He said with some concern, “Doyle and I are writers of fiction. Whereas you old boy are a reporter and I am not at all sure this is quite healthy, this fixation of yours upon McLaren. I know she cut you off from the gaming tables – but that we both know was for your own good.”

I took notice that he had intentionally used her name, McLaren – which she had given up using long ago, when McLaren became Lascar Sal and took up proprietorship of the Cocoa Rooms. And so, as I had anticipated, I quickly took up that line of inquiry, “And so, contradict me if I am wrong, Arthur, but McLaren was, as you so succulently pointed out, an actress. A member of Lindsay Orton’s demimonde, whose most memorable performance was in . . . “ And I paused for a moment rubbing my thumb and forefingers together trying to remember the bloody damned revue.

“Step Lively,” Rohmer smiled slightly as he filled in the gap of my memory, “She had a bit of a weak voice, to some critics tastes, but she was a quite a presence on the stage. You could not take your eyes off of her. A delicate beauty. And quite the winsome figure.”

“With a taste for cocaine.” I added.

“And Morphia.” He removed the pipe to emphasize the addition with its stem. “Her preferred addiction.”

“Right – and even though she was one of the audience’s favourites of his demimonde, Orton tossed her out on her arse when he discovered her desire for the needle.”

Rohmer crossed his legs and sat back, fingers curled about the bowl of his pipe as he placed the stem once more between this teeth, having determined this was going to be one of my more protracted expositions. “Orton had lost Ellen Coover. A truly a remarkable actress, Pemberton. And one for which Orton was considerably infatuated. Overdose of opium – in Limehouse actually. A sordid little den off of Three Colt Street.”

“And so,’ I continued, “Out upon the street she is ceremoniously deposited. Now with most producers being quite aware of Orton’s reasons for having tossed her . . . the fascination for the needle, McLaren quickly found herself unable to get another role upon the legitimate stage and so soon fell into work upon the boards of the more unsavoury of musical halls, where one could support their addiction by way of the back door mattress.” I chomped another bite of toast, “That is until Orton happened to find her whored out and took some Jesus Christ pity upon her and decided to put her back on the stage – of course, not without covering his bet in that regard as his second chance at redemption was nothing more than a fill-in role for his current leading lady, whom he had just lost to some cinema director, or whatnot. Thus Florence gets the close-out week and does quite the bang-up job of it and now Orton’s got reviews and critics clambering for more – and yet, he’s well aware he’s got himself a needle lover.”

“I say, Carmichael, this is all rather a Tit-Bits piece don’t you think,” Rohmer said exhaling smoke and reaching for his cup of coffee. “Are we not a bit far afield? Some ingenious and nefarious Napoleon of crime, and all that, being your original supposition?”

I took another bite of my toast, “Preface old man – preface. Before laying out the premise to be gnawed upon as it were; and so, upon the adulation of audience and critics alike, our Florence departs the theatre to make a night of it. The show is over. Orton fretfully watches from the stage door as Florence departs with her leading man, Richard Fields. And upon the next morn, lo and behold, just as Orton has feared, Florence is no where to be found. Two days later the unfortunate Fields is discovered lying face down amid the void of Plastow Marsh, with its meagre lamps and waist-high mists. A single gunshot to the forehead. Fleet Street rushes extras about the unfortunate Fields. Another Limehouse sojourn done bad. Some column space is given to questions regarding the whereabouts of the winsome Florence, who has gone a-missing. Orton, who no doubt suspects she’s fallen back upon the needle, still files a missing persons report. And yet, we know that Florence fades into the early morning, cob-webbed hued sky of that Causeway, where the Moripha addicted, financially strapped actress, leaves behind the lovely Florence in order to arise anew in the role of our Lascar Sal."

“You’ve got your facts straight,” Rohmer replied, “But where is this all heading?”

“To the single most obvious point.” I replied, " How does our winsome Florence, without financial wherewithal, not only proceed to purchase the Black Lantern, which she turns into the Cocoa Rooms, but is capable of persuading the sour Sway Lim it has become time to turn over the deed of the Black Lantern?"

“Where indeed, Carmichael, where indeed.” Rohmer nodded as he looked at the smoke escaping from the stem of his pipe. “As I said, this is all rather a fair bit of reportage – after all there are only a very few who may have any knowledge about the eventual outcome of the poor missing Florence. You and I. I, of course, owing to my having recognized the fair McLaren from her days treading upon the boards – and you – perhaps to your detriment – because I informed you, being not quite so aware of the obsessive nature of your ever growing interest in the notorious Sal. But I must say Carmichael, your reportage is a bit thin old man. It seems you neglected to mention McLaren was originally installed in her establishment by Sam Tai Ling and the Azure Dragon Tong – who had their own motivations for removing Sway Lim – which is quite the formidable power I would say behind McLaren.

I finished my toast and washed it back with coffee, “Ah, yes – Sam Tai Ling. Which brings me around to the close my preface – and back around to begin at chapter one.”

Rohmer smiled and puffed upon his pipe with renewed interest, “So finally, we arrive by circumnavigation once more to your theory of conspiracy and this enigmatic power that emanates from Limehouse – quite the formidable power if it is lay claims to rival my insidious devil doctor and Doyle’s most ruthless organiser of all that is evil.” I caught him looking askance as his eyes were searching for his late breakfast.

“It all begins with what should have been a rather simple case of murder.” I began, my hands wrapped around the warmth of my cup of coffee. “A fashionable, high society couple come down to Limehouse for a bit of entertainment – a show, some dope, and eventually, a three-some with a young yellow girl."

“Oh, now this is news.” Rohmer replied with interest.

“Something happens and the yellow girl is dead. The wounds are of a savage nature, furious and precise, making a gruesome pin cushion of her chest. Which would be just another common place story to be found betwixt the river and Commercial Road . . . one would think. But – the story is far more interesting – for it is not the girl’s murder that becomes of interest, but rather during K division’s investigation, it comes to light, downstairs there was something being cooked in the kitchen – and the cook – well, he was not a Chinaman, but a chemist, a member of The Chemical Society of London.”

The stiff gentleman’s gentlemen returned with Rohmer’s late breakfast and placed it carefully before him, as Rohmer reached out for the ashtray and tapped out the smouldering tobacco to extinguish his pipe. “Ever the wordsmith Carmichael – you have me well into Chapter One. So, what was it they found cooking?”

“It is all a bit beyond K Division chemists, so they have to send it to the Yard for analysis. At first glance some new narcotic compound is the supposition.” I continued. “But the Yard chemists find it’s something odd even for a Limehouse kitchen – it’s apparently some experimental work in regards to blood chemistry.”

“Blood chemistry you say?” Rohmer taking a bite of his scrambled eggs. “Interesting. Must make a note of that.” He pointed with his fork, “The Slum Tourists? What of them and the dead yellow girl?”

“The gentleman, a member of the peerage it seems came to Mr Brightwater—” I began but Rohmer suddenly interrupted.

“I have heard of this Brightwater.” He began in that insightful, impetuous way of his, “A known booking agent for slum tourists – rather thorough fellow, from all accounts. Sets about the itinerary, even goes so far as to hiring guards to keep an eye on his clients when they seek to stroll about the misty streets to take in the atmosphere – most rooms are well kept, velvet quilts, silk sheeting.”

“The arrangement was such the gentleman was to have a bit of fun with his wife and the young Chinese girl – when something happened. The something is still to be determined – If we are to ever know. The original reporter for the Daily Mail, over a few gins, indicated there was far more to the story than he had been allowed to disclose – as his editor had red lined much of the initial copy." I had once worked for the blighter, and our disagreements over copy had caused me to leave – involuntarily. “And so, I decided to go down to the East India Dock Road and look into particulars myself – but what I found was that the usual gossips for which a shilling will bring about volumes were all very reticent to even speak Brightwater’s name, much less anything to do with the yellow girl, or the slum tourists, and most especially the chemist. The name of whom no one seems to have taken down in evidence. And then – comes news the gentleman, charged with the girls death, was found a suspicious suicide – in a Scotland Yard bang-up. The gentleman’s wife, reportedly still in shock from having awaking in a blood soaked bed beside a twelve-year old yellow girl has suddenly taken leave upon a steamer to Cairo. Brightwater is eventually found floating in bilge water. Throat cut. Then there is a fire. And the shop in question, where Brightwater had his rooms for hire, is no longer in evidence, The chemist – no one can find. The samples of whatever had been cooked up in Bridgewater’s establishment were found to be missing not only at K Division but at the Yard. It was as if the whole of the case was being systematically erased – by a hand that can reach from Limehouse to Mayfair. From K Division to Scotland Yard. Even into The Chemical Society of London – and God only who knows where else.”

Rohmer continued slowly with is breakfast, “And this reporter – the one whose copy had been red lined? What got the red pencil??”

“Ah, now I would truly love to see those lines. Read his notes.” I said reflectively as I took a long sip of coffee, “But alas they are lost forever.”

He gave me a look, “The reporter?”

“Death by rodent bite.” I informed him and watched as he sat back. His brow lifted – for now he was suitably impressed.

“Rodent bite – “

I nodded, “Seems he soaked himself up well with gin and fell among the rubbish in an narrow rookery’s alleyway and in the morning he’s found gnawed upon by rats.”

He shivered yet there was an ironic smile, “Now that – Carmichael borders on Manchu.”

“And so, from the bits and pieces he had gathered from a couple of three sources as he related them to me, when knitted together, begin to take shape in what in his words was an organization, clandestinely in nature that wove the threads of London’s criminal enterprises into a single invisible organization, whose intent was to subvert not only London but the world.”

He looked at me with that very critical eye, “World dominating masterminds are my domain, Carmichael. You are not entertaining the idea of some serious completion, eh?” He took a sip of coffee and waved the cup in my direction, “So, what exactly is the flavour of this conspiracy’s subversion? Something in line with The Manifesto of the Sixteen?

“According to Jukes, Gerald Jukes, the unfortunate reporter . . . he says it’s an amalgamation of criminal networks intent on world corruption – a world given over to decadence and perversion . . . sexuality to nub the senses, narcotics to lessen the will . . . “

Rohmer lifted his napkin to laugh into it, “I say old man, that pretty much is the Devil’s domain—not sure he’s ready for such stiff competition.”

I felt my jaw set – which far too many an editors had seen: “This is no laughing matter.”

“Come Carmichael? Really, decadence and perversion? A truly villous mastermind is far more concerned with domination and the power it brings – whereas your villain is a mastermind of vice, which, I can readily see now why you would long to place this squarely upon the doorstep of Lascar Sal.”

“Right – and the fact Jukes said ‘her’.”

He titled his head slightly, “Her?”

“Jukes came to me you see because he knew of my interest in all things related to Sal. And at the time, I had not made too fine a point to press him, as I had my own theories in regard as to her.” And I held out a hand, "Which I have come to question. Not that she is the mastermind – but that she is, in my opinion, well connected. But Jukes you see, had told me most of what his editor had red lined about this menacing all-encompassing conspiracy, which is international in scope, vast, without boundaries, or borders, extending well beyond Limehouse throughout all of Europe, was because he could not believe it to be entirely orchestrated by her. That his editor while red lining had had scoffed saying: ‘Can you imagine the reaction of fleet street to your supposition that beneath it all is some mysterious woman. A mysterious woman who is not only seemingly everywhere, but her minions as well. With international criminal elements being united by her.’ Sax, can you imagine the sheer audacity of it all. A world ruled by a skirt?”

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Cakes and Charity
Session Eight - Part Three

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Zo Renfield’s Diary
11 March 1916, London: — Is it madness? The curse of my family comes now full circle to me. Is my fate to be restrained in a strait waistcoat, where I shall be endlessly content in humming a little tune all the while well aware an attendant is ever watching me from some secret observatory. Watching and waiting to see if I should need an opiate. Father is gone – who then would put me way for the good of all should I become as morbidly excitable as my grandfather? Whom they allowed to die in some horrid cell, while he was being well attended. I have recently looked up the certificate signed by a Dr. John Seward. There is something I do not like about the flourish of his hand. Death by misadventure? Death from falling a mere three feet from his bed? Father may not have suspected, but I do. I know they murdered him – a madman . . . because, for in truth . . . this way madness lies. But, it is not the same – this madness. My madness. For what I understand of my Grandfather’s state of mind he was fixated upon some idée fixe regarding life and immortality. The eating of it. Where as my idée fixe is they watch and they wait and they know. They know that I know. And what do I know? Not the all of it. Not the why of it. But, but I know of it. And yet, I do not know who is among them? Who is not? Did they not silence the good Reverend Marley? And Millicent Ainsworth? And this morning’s Times – who would see their hand in it but I? A fresh clipping. Another clue for you all – if you had eyes to see. The trail leads but inexorably to them. Coldfall. My grandfather’s curse. My breakfast had gone cold even before I saw it there at the bottom of page 3.

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I should have rang up then and there and cancelled –

It was cold, but the snow has let up and the sun begins to break through the grey clouds. I have completed my mornings work. I stood at the window and watched. My fingers worrisome with the pendant within which resides the key – yes, this is the day the lord as made and I must do the work that is left to me. I took from the safe the lock box and with the key from my pendant opened it and removed the ledger and the papers. I slipped them into an over-sized envelope and put it in my large purse. I stepped out into the brisk wind which pulled at my coat and the pins of my hat. A stern, cold warning from Boreas. “Motor cab, Miss Renfield?” The doorman Murray asked. “Yes, Tom.” Even now I wonder – Murray. A coincidence? Is he among them. I opened the door of the cab and inspected it, looked at the diver, and then climbed in to take a seat. As the driver pulled away I hazard a glanced back at Renfield International Investments to see Tom Murray give a tip of his hat to a gentleman exiting the building. What were they discussing?

I was late. By now Lady Penelope, no doubt warmly and fashionably dressed, would have arrived and upon discovering I was not there would have begun to question the sincerity of my invitation – which certainly would have already piqued her interest as we had not seen or spoken to one another in some time. Not since father’s funeral. And it was our fathers that was the tie that binds – her father has some investments with us still. Can I be forgiven the subterfuge? She would no doubt think the invitation was related to those investments – as the invitation had been for tea without any further information provided. I looked out the window and saw a elderly man, thin and gaunt and dressed in a dark suit and top hat. Did his eyes glance in my direction? I checked the time once more – although the snow fall had tapered off in the early morning hours, the streets were still a hazard and so the diver took care as I hoped Lady Penelope had not given up on me.

I am more than certain I overpaid the driver as I handed what I quickly gathered from my purse and hurried up the steps to the tea room, where upon opening the door I quickly surveyed the room – even before the hostess could step over to ask if she could be of service – and I spotted her. Yes. She had waited. She was at the moment in a discussion with the waitress – perhaps ordering. I did not stop to say a word to the hostess and instead willed myself to walk purposefully – not to hurry. I did not want to attract attention as the tea room was rather crowded and they could easily be in attendance.

As I approached I saw the waitress, having placed a pot of tea in the centre of the table, now turning over a delicate tea cup, which had been sitting upside down in the saucer and smiled, “Your companion will be joining you shortly ma’am?” She asked

“Ah, yes, thank you. I do believe so.” I heard Lady Penelope reply somewhat distractedly as he was removing her gloves.

“Would you like something else, perhaps some sandwiches – a bit of cake?

To which Lady Penelope replied looking up, “Some cake would go lovely I think, yes.”

“Oh, yes. The lovely Victoria Sponge Cakes.” I said as I stepped up to the table. “Could we have some?” And the waitress nodded with a rather professional smile. She turned over a tea cup for me and then gave a slight curtsy. Where upon, I turned my attention suddenly upon Lady Penelope, “Ah, it has been far too long.” I said and lifted out my arms for an embrace, to which Lady Penelope smiled and rose to complete – a bit awkwardly.

“Ah Zo. Indeed it has been. It is good to see you again after all these years.” She said, the half embrace somewhat stilted, and soon ends. Perhaps, owing to the amount of time since we had last seen one another – the embrace was a bit forward.

“Please do, have a seat.” She offered most pleasantly.

“We must see one another far more often." I said as took off my coat and gloves.

“And how has been the morning,” She asked moved her tea cup and saucer closer.

“Amalgamation and Capital.” I responded with my usual flourish of hands, “Amalgamation and Capital, it is the way of the world, is it not. New York, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, and of course, eventually after the war, Berlin – everything will become but an International Amalgamation.” I took up my cup, uncertain if I was not talking a bit hurried and beyond the simple entreaty as to – how has been your morning. “And . . . how have you been.”

She gave a well practiced smile as she prepares her tea. “I have been fairing quite well. Been keeping busy with the Ladies Association’s drive to knit socks for our boys in France. One does ones bit you know.”

‘I am terrible with needle and thread.” I said and poured a cup of tea.

“Baby Kat is growing up quite nicely too. She’ll be three soon.”

“Three? So soon. Oh, my it only seems like yesterday she was born.” I said – had it been that long since I had seen her?

“Quite. She’s quite the explorer that girl. Nurse keeps finding her getting into all sorts of places. I’m sure she’ll settle down before too long.”

I took a sip of tea, "We absolutely, absolutely have to stay more in touch. Yes. And especially with Robert – " And I stopped myself suddenly aware that I had even taken the time to inquiry as to Robert’s circumstance and I placed a palm flat on the table and leaned a little closer, “This terrible Military Service Act – is Robert going to be called. I mean, has he found some way out of this beastly Conscription?”

Penelope fretful look and took a sip of tea and then gave a slight sigh. “As the act stands now, it only applies to unmarried men. However there is talk around the chambers of extending it to married men. If that does pass, Robert has said that he won’t try to appeal.”

“I know you must be terribly anxious.” I said with concern, “Let us hope that some reasonable men come to their senses, a husband . . . with a child? They should be part of our homeland defence and not mucking about in trenches.”

Lady Penelope nodded. “He is willing to do his bit for King and Country you know. He just feels that as it stands he is best serving the king through his profession.”

“Absolutely.” I agreed and the waitress arrived carrying a plate of their most charming little Victoria sponge cakes and placed them on the table. I gave her a quick appreciative glance and kept a wary eye upon her as she slipped away, seeing as we did not need assistance – to be sure she was not trying to overhear our conversation.

A saw now as Lady Penelope beamed with a genuine smile. “He often says to me. ‘Darling, if the army needed men to find faults in the Hun’s testimony, I would volunteer on day one.’”

“Oh that so sounds like Robert.” I could not resist the cakes and so with a mischievous grin I reached out and picked one up rather daintily and turned it so as to lick a bit of cream from the side, "Oh, this is perfect – it is just want a needed after my morning.

“Indeed? It has been a tiresome one I take it?” Lady Penelope asked adjusting her napkin.

With a bit of cream no doubt upon my lips, I was eager to proceed, "Robert is such a dear. In fact, that is why I asked you to tea, in fact. I have something I would like him to look into . . . “ Oh was I rushing head-long into this? I did so need assistance – someone to trust, but to just burst into all at once? No, there should be some tact. “But, what am I thinking? I have not even asked bout your father. How is he? I hear he made it out of Serbia, thanks be to God. But, am I correct to understand he ended up in that horrid place, Corfu? I hear they are dying, there and disease is rampant, what with medicines in short supply.”

Lady Penelope took a cake and a nibble. She sets it on her saucer and washes it down with more tea. The smiles having fallen from her face. “I haven’t heard from father in about 6 months, when he was still in Cetinje. He is not one to write often. I think he sometimes gets too wrapped up in his mind, that sometimes he forgets the simple things. However, I did hear from an old friend of his that he is doing well, and will be leaving Corfu for some other place in the Balkans, though he would not specify. That was about a week and a half ago, so…” And the gave another forlorn sigh. “One mustn’t lose hope.”

I felt now rather badly – she had so much on her. And here I was about to . . . I could not help but glance at the elderly ladies sitting several tables over. One of which wore a rather odious hat. Was she glancing over at us – a sly dart of her eyes. There is absolutely no way of knowing who is – but, Lady Penelope took another sip of her tea and forced another smile.

I put by cake down and placed a palm down on the table, near hers, feeling it imprudent to actually touch her, “If there is anything, anything I can do, please—please do not hesitate to let me know. I do have contacts in the Balkans. Business investments. Particular in petroleum. So if you need me to reach out to anyone, or to do anything, please, please let me know." I felt a sudden tautness in my voice, “Since father died – I do miss him so—having lost mother at such a young age . . . we were so very close, I know what agony you must be going through.”

“Thank you Zo. I appreciate it.” She said with a warm smile.

“So,” I paused – was there really a very good way to segue in to the whole sordid affair. And I am sure the elderly lady is indeed furtively glancing in my direction. Should I even – what with all that was going on in her life . . . and the worries about her father and Robert? "I am sorry to bring this up, really, but the fact of the matter is, I asked you to tea as I wanted to discuss something, with you first, knowing all that is going on with you, in your life, with Kat and Robert – and you father – and I wasn’t even sure of Robert’s current status . . . “

Lady Penelope reached out a hand, “Zo, whatever is the matter, you seem so anxious.”

“Yes? Well, yes, I am in fact? “ I told her, “It is just – well, if it is not a bother, and I would hate to be a bother – would it be alright if I were to ask . . . I would so like to have him look into something for me.”

“Zo – please, tell me about it.” I wanted to sigh heavily but retained my composure, “Well, as you know, grandfather, well, everyone knows, he went a little mad in the courtroom and attacked several people and ended up in that asylum, where . . . he passed away.” I began as I licked cream from my thumb, “All rather strangely—or so father thought. He was forever trying to make some sense of it, you know, misadventure? By falling out of bed? Well, yes, that is beside the point,” I tried not to glance at the elderly woman. “As you also know, when grandfather died, it came as quite a shock to father than he left all of his estate to be set up in a charitable trust. The Coldfall House Charitable Trust."

“Quite.” Lady Penelope said looking now at me with some interest, “And I understand that the will and testament was unfortunately hard to crack.”

I nodded with a heavily sigh, “Father tried. I mean, it was held up in courts for over a year, but, as crazy as grandfather had apparently become, he was still one of London’s leading legal minds and so it was fairly unbreakable.”

She nodded in sympathy.

“And so, father became resigned to it.” I said and looked at the cake on the edge of my saucer, wondering why I had not placed it on one of the small plates, and then took a sip of tea, “He said, well it is only capital and man does not live by capital alone – although I have come to question that.”

I watched as she took another bite out of the cake and touched her napkin perfectly to her lips.

“Now, this was when according to grandfather’s will, he set it up so that Sir George Ashcroft, would head up the Trust – but then, when Ashcroft died, having stumbled down the stairs of his St. James mansion, his wife, Lady Aurora Ashcroft took over all of his business dealings including the Trust. Which I must say drove father to distraction. I mean, she was but 17 at the time” And I sighed, it was so incomprehensible, really, "You see, she married Sir Ashcroft when she was but 13. And so – what would a young girl, with little education and absolutely no business or financial background . . . you can see how this was all so unsettling to my father, rightly concerned as he was about what would happen with grandfather’s estate and the Trust, and so . . . he set up a small charity himself, Home for Asiatic Sailors, with which he rather furtively gained an affiliation with the Coldfall Charity.’

I did not mean to go into such a lengthy preamble as I noticed Lacy Penelope leaned back and had another sip of tea.

“And so, it seemed things were, well, all sound. Aurora set up managers to run all of Ashcroft’s estate and a Board of Directors to oversee the Coldfall House Charitable Trust – and but then she remarried, Sir Charles Carradine. And he took a hand in things. But then he was killed one night outside the Bagatelle Card Club by some brigands who shot him and the driver of his cab."

To this I detected a bit of a frown from her.

“Now, Lady Carradine had both estates and quite a sizeable portfolio – and, still father kept an watchful eye and then when he passed – it became my obligation.”

She reached over and touched my hand, “Zo – Coldfall House is one of the most well respected charitable organizations in the city. It has been what – more than twenty years since your grandfather’s death – there isn’t an obligation. Not any long. Truly”

“Yes, Yes, I know.” I said a bit too hastily. I know and the woman kept cutting those knowing looks. She is with them. I know. “But you see—“

The front door opened and a young, light-haired, woman, very fashionably dressed entered and spoke to the hostess and took a seat by the window.

I could see the woman at the table now leaning forward to speak to the woman near her. She nodded in agreement, and then the woman in the odious hat seemed to turn and look at me, straight at me, and her eyes were so malevolent, and she began to say . . . do you not wonder at the reason for this curse now lain upon you I mean really . . . your father, prowling around among those narrow rookeries and mean shabby laneways – ever looking, you know, for the dripping pinchcocks with whom he lay and the foulness he must have brought home, which no doubt was the cause to hasten your mother’s death. And now you – what of you? What are you seeking in those shadows?

I nearly spilled my tea and looked at Lady Penelope to see if she seen or heard. She made no indication of such. I regained my composure and continued. “I know this is all a bit boring and all but as I said I have investors . . . in out of the way places, and one of them communicated I might want to look into Coldfall a bit more closely."

Lady Penelope put her tea cup down, “Is that so?”

“And so I have.” Are they trying to stop me? As they stopped the Reverend? “And it seems way back during the foundation of the Charitable Trust, just after the tragic death of Sir George Ashcroft – when Lady Aurora was overseeing his business and financial connectors, there seems that a group of investors came aboard the Charity’s Board of Directors, and one of them was a Count de Ville.”

The too cute by far waitress arrived and smiled and looked at me, as if to say – we will get you too Zo Renfield. “Do you ladies need anything?

Lady Penelope smiled, “We are fine, thank you.”

“Now, that in and of itself is not, I guess unusual owing to Ashcroft’s death and he was the named executor, but I did a bit more checking into this Count de Ville. Who is not only very reclusive and a bit mysterious, but I have it on good authority he was at one time a Person of Interest in some activities that took place about 20 or 22 years ago.”

“A person of interest?” She asked. “How so?”

I tried to remain outwardly clam, "Well, it’s all rather a muddle I dare say as a lot of information appears to have gone missing over the years, but, it would appear there was a group of foreign aristocrats, who became investors in several British Industrial concerns and newly formed amalgamations, and so there were these grand fête’s at Carfax Abby, and Muswell House, and of course Coldfall House, and, several young ladies who had attended these galas were later to be found dead under what was officially listed as "mysterious circumstances.”

Her interest was now piqued.

I smiled, “And so, you know me, never one to let anything go,” I idly lifted one of the lovely sponge cakes and held it trying to decided where to bit into it or not. “ I hired private inquiry agents, Hudson & Brand, whom are very highly recommended, but they can’t seem to find any record of this de Ville after 1894, in London, that is. He does appear rather reclusive and has several homes and villas among various European capitals – but, what is concerning is that once you dig into the financial structures of some various affiliated European Charities, it very much appears that this Count has been siphoning funds from the Coldfall Charitable Trust to fund some International Amalgamation known as the D. D. Denham Group."

Lady Penelope set her teacup down in her lap, looking genuinely concerned. “No. Embezzlement from the trust? Surely not.” She looked at me, “What an absolute scoundrel.”

“I am so upset that there is a very real a possibility. Which, after my father’s death comes to me to set things set right – if it is so as the whole of the Charitable Trust you see is the legacy of my grandfather’s estate. As I said, father always suspected the worse of Lady Carradine. She inherited so much so young. But, this Count de Ville . . . “

She her expression was one of growing concern, “Have you alerted the authorities to your findings?”

“I took some of the findings I have done on my own,” I nodded, “Along with the report from Hudson & Brand, to Scotland Yard. I spoke to an inspector there. An Inspector Ffolliott. But to say the least, I don’t think he is well up on this type of crime – which is why I wanted to asked about Robert’s situation. I mean with all that is going on with the possible conscription. Do you think if I laid it all-out, he would be able to present it to someone he might know that has more experience in this type of criminal activity?”

“Oh I am more than certain he would know the best way to go about this. He’s been so on edge as of late, what with the proposed conscription.” She held her teacup in her lap and put a loose fist to her lips, thinking to herself for a moment. “I’m sure he would be more than happy to assist you in building a case. Though, out of curiosity, what is this D. D. Denham Group of which you speak?”

I sighed and took a sip of tea, I felt so much better now – now that someone like Robert – someone so level-headed and through would be looking into the matter – I would of course tell him about the Reverend, “It is an amalgamation of various companies, whose owner is listed as one D. D. Denham. Denham it seems is a rather reclusive millionaire. But the Group itself – it is a tangle of investments.” I leaned forward and said softly, “Some of which I don’t even think really exist. They are diversified. The Group is invested into munitions, heavy industrial equipment, armaments, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.” I explained as I sat back with my tea cup I had almost forgotten I had in hand. “I am aware it owns a gather sizable chemical company, who has ties to a much larger French concern, which has fallen upon some monetary short-falls owing to the war . . . and so they have had to sell a substantial interest into Denham’s group. But, the more troubling aspect is Hudson & Brand reported they could not find several of the companies, in which major holdings are said to be part of their portfolio. In fact, they suspect the main company may trace to Vienna."

She looked worrisome – even as the elderly ladies sitting across the way. Could they have overheard? I know I am speaking very softly — “Vienna? You don’t think this Count is funneling funds from the dear charitable trust to fund the enemy do you?”

I sighed heavily, “I just don’t know—but, I can not help but suspect it is entirely possible. And using my grandfather’s trust, which was set up for taking care of all those sick and homeless children and their families choked as they are in poverty. It is all so vexing.”

“And you say you have proof?” She asked.

“Yes.” I said carefully, “I have been meticulous. And I have some allies – well—yes. In fact I have been able to get various documents from a friend, Florence Fullerton, who works in the administrative department of King’s College, who has a close friend who clerks for Coldfall. And they both have an acquaintance who is employed at the new Denham building on Regent Street.”

I was fearful the waitress would return, “Also, from Prague, I have a contact who was able to get some documents out of Vienna. That of course was a devil of an undertaking."

Lady Penelope nodded, “I can well imagine.” She sat for a moment thoughtfully, then looked over at me, “Well, I will tell Robert about this, and see if he can schedule an appointment with you himself to look over those documents in detail.” She sets the teacup back on the table. “I really must say, I am shocked to hear this. And all, presumably, from under Lady Carradine’s nose.”

“I would most certainly hope so. I mean, I have met her on several occasions – art shows, the theatre, civil functions we both attend as I am still the chairwoman of the Home for Asiatic Sailors. I just cannot imagine she is involved – she does so much to help in Limehouse dispensing medicines, and, of course she took over at such a young age. And so I would suspect it is within the Board of Directors – and even importantly, Hudson & Brand were able to determine that the Box Brother’s Bank is involved as well. And we all know of their reputation.”

“Oh goodness.” Her voice filled with apprehension. “Well, I’m sure the truth will out. Sooner or later.”

“Which is why I hope Robert has time to help me look into this,” I told her – and felt it an obligation to tell her as well, "I think I am being followed as well.

Lady Penelope’s eyes went wide. “Being followed? Was this after you tried to enlist the police?”

“Yes, right after I met with some people who shared my concerns, but yes, after I saw that Inspector Ffolliott I told you about."

As we were speaking the door of the tea shop opened and two tall gentlemen in long black coats entered. One was dressed in a coat two sizes too large with fur trim over his suit. He wore wire-rimmed spectacles and the cap of a motor taxi driver. The other was also wearing a long coat, a dark suit, bow tie and a jaunty hat. They stood in the entrance surveying the room. Various ladies turned to look at them. They looked at the light-haired young woman who had taken the table at the window. I sat back with my hands in my lap – knowing full well they were in fact looking for me. I could hear their shoes clumping loudly upon the hardwood floor, before I looked up to see them striding toward us through the tea shop.

The hostess came up quickly and spoke to the man in the bow tie who handed her several pound notes. She nodded and stepped away.

They then continued to clumped their way toward our table, even as they looked at those seated at tables as they passed.

Lady Penelope turned to look at the two as they make their loud entrance.

As they came to a halt before our table the man in wearing the motor taxi driver’s cap tipped it to both of us, “Ladies. Miss Renfield, do hope you are enjoying your bit of tea.”

“Excuse me sirs, but I am afraid Miss Renfield and I are currently engaged. If you have business to attend with Zo, then surely it can wait.” Lady Penelope said strongly.

“Right, you are ma’am," The taller one wearing the bow tie replied, "And, we don’t mean to upset or cause a row.”

The one in the cab driver cap nodded in agreement, "We just wanted to say to Miss Renfied, here, how’s the tea’s on the compliments of Edward Box.”
The taller then added, “And he would like to say how he looks forward to having a word with Miss Renfield here.”

The other nodding with a wide, rather wicked looking smile, “As no one would want to see dispersions and rumour and innuendo and whatnot bandy about as it were upon the good name such as Coldfall House.”

“Seeing as to all the good works they do for them that are without.” Continued the taller of the two.

“For slander does no one a good turn.” The man in the cab driver cap continued with that wicked smiled, “As one can verify with the good Reverend.”

“Reverend?” Lady Penelope asked.

“Miss Renfield is mindful of him.” The taller one said, “Pamphleteering not for the good of the Lord but in theories and unsubstantiated insinuations.”

“It would being shame to see such improper suggestions befall upon a legacy of your grandfather’s it would, I would think.” And he place a forefinger on his cap and tipped it once more, “And so, as, Mr. Box, he would at your earliest convenience like to meet with you and to clear the matter, to everyone’s benefit, so to speak.”

The taller one tried to smile. “Shall I inform Mr. Box you would be amiable to such a meeting, Miss Renfield.”

I could not contain my anxiety and I am more than certain Lady Penelope could detect the tremor in my hand, "I will agree to no such meeting at the bank, but only with a representative of mine as well and in a public venue.”

The man in the cap’s horrid smile never waivered, “More the merrier I always say. Soon, Miss Renfield. Soon. Mr Box is most anxious.”

They now turned and began to clump their way out of the tea room.

“Good lord, what a pair of oafs.” Lady Penelope said and turned a worrisome glaze upon me, “Are they threatening you?”

The elderly lady in the odious hat glared at me, her prim face gone all harsh. I could tell her, those shadows are alive and they reach out for little whores like you – oh, yes, little whores . . . just like you . . . who loved daddy so – you did want to fuck him didn’t you? Spread those olive thighs for him . . . Please daddy— the whole of the tea room, looking at us – at me. Could they not hear the abhorrent and hateful old woman? Those two waitresses over there whispering together. How many are staring out of idle curiosity – how many with them?

“Zo, you are trembling.” Lady Penelope said taking hold of my hand. “They have been threatening you – before today, haven’t they?”

“I fear so.” I told her, “The one in the cap? I have seen him, when I am lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him as he drives by, or he is parked near my offices.”

“This Reverend?”

“I will tell Robert all about it," I said, “Then it will be all confidential. Oh, please, would you see to it that Robert will met with me? So as ever possible.” I held one hand beneath the table clenched so as to maintain control – not let their eyes deter me. “Do you think he would consent to accompany me to see Edward Box?”

“I’m sure he would, and if he is unable, I’m sure he could recommend another solicitor who can.”

“I just need someone I can trust."

She gave a me look of concern – possibly of my safety? “Do you want him to look at the documents? I could bring them to him if you’d like."

“Yes, yes, that would be perfect.” I leaned over and opened my large purse and removed a large envelope. I slipped it to Lady Penelope under the table, "I brought them with me, just in case. And I feel so relieved to know he has them and can keep them safe should something happen to me.”

Lady Penelope took the envelope and, no doubt owing to a lack of a large purse, she would keep the envelope in her coat once it has been returned from being checked. “Zo – are you safe? Do you have someone? You are not alone – are you?”

“I am fine—you have the documents.” I told her.

“Once this has all been properly sorted, you simply must come out to Gavilshire manor. No – no excuses. It has been too long since. Besides, I feel like I’ve been in this city for too long. A week in the country would do us both wonders, I strongly suspect.”

Yes, yes, if I survive – if I too do no succumb to death my mishap – for I have been sleeping on the floor so there is no bed to fall from. "Oh that sounds absolutely marvelous. “ And as I replied, one of the two gossiping waitresses arrived and placed a small box secured with a bit of string, "Ladies. Here is a box of the Victoria Sponge Cakes, compliments of the two gentlemen. Oh, and they also paid for your tea as well.”

Lady Penelope looked at the box as if it bore some horror within, “Nonsense. I wouldn’t dream of letting them do such a thing. You can tell them to take their money back.”

The waitress blushed, “I am very sorry, but they paid and they have left. I can of course, if you wish, put their funds in our charity box at the front desk.”

“Yes please. Send the bill for the tea and these cakes to 47 Onslow Square. We shan’t let them make sport of us.” And she was ever so forceful

The waitress looked at us oddly and then picked up the box by the string.

“Oh, your charity box, you mentioned?” I asked, “Which charity is that? Is it for the war?”

The woman smiles, “It’s Coldfall House, of course. They do such good works.”

They watch, They wait.

Telegram, Sybil Frost, Bucharest to Lascar Sal, London
Cry Havoc, they have let loose their Hound of War. Confirmation: Beltham has made procurement of girl with necessary requirements. Imperative acquisition of coordinates be verifiable and confirmed. Concerned Beltham’s ensemble may not all sing from the same hymnal. Monitor and intervene, if advisable. Girl is primary – all others expendable.

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