Most Immediate – For Director’s Desk – D
Operation surveillance – continued
Randall Tanner, Russell Square 11 March 1916
Subject ascends from the London Electric Railroad, Piccadilly Line’s platform of the Russell Square Station. Upon gaining the snowy walk, Subject becomes stationary and appears to be seeking some form of transportation: a motor cab, omnibus, or hansom Being a cold, brisk day with a lower volume of foot traffic being it was a Saturday morning, there were still several groups of nurses and cliques of soldiers, on leave, baring the swagger of a night before as they moving along the walkways. The Subject was in luck in that he need not wait more than two minutes before he spots a motor cab making its way down the street. Hailing the cab, it pulls to the kerb and Subject enters.
Subject is overheard to give instruction: King’s College.
Excerpt from field interview:
Fredrick Morse, 234 Curtain Road, owner motor cab, age 42
A: Well now gov’ner I’m not right certain wot the pinch is for. I mean, if’n it’s about conscription or some such like, I ‘ave me medical certificate in regards to me left foot. Club it is and as such not good for much marching. Why’s I’m a driver of me cab you see. (lifts evidence of his clubbed left foot)
Q: We want to ask you a few questions about the fare just now from Russell Square.
A: You mean the young navy lad I just let out at King’s?
A: Seemed a nice enough bloke to me sir. Wots he dun?
Q: Did he speak to you?
A: Well, ‘e, right off said King’s College as where ‘e wanted to go. But, once in me cab ‘e was all quiet like. I did of course talk to ‘im as I do.
A: And of what concern was that, your conversing.
Q: Weather and some such like. As I rec’o’lect. I says it’s a right brisk day, wot? Not sure when this ‘ere snows ever gonna let up. To which, ‘e says ‘e’s not right sure. Though one can ‘ope it’s snowin’ as much on the Jerry’s as it is on us. To which I says, now right you are ‘bout that Captain.
Q: So it was straightaway to Kings’ College. No stops along the way?
A: Right you are, I was making me way along at a good rate of speed even for the snow and ice.
Q: Nothing out of the way when you arrived?
A: I asks if’n ‘e be wantin’ the ‘Ministration Buildin’ at Kings, or were ‘e of a mind for a certain building’. And he says, the ‘Ministrative Buildin’ will be fine. And I says, of course, right you are Captain. And ‘e’s already seen to the meter and so ‘e is ready with the fare. ‘ands me a tuppence he does to which I says, Well then Captain ‘ere you are. ‘ope you’re in time for your class. To which ‘e says, No class on Saturday gov. Ta!" And with a shut of the door and a turn of the ‘eels, ‘e is off into the campus.
Q: And so to your mind there was nothing out of the ordinary?
A: Like as well when I was leavin’ there be this large, black motor car, which pulls sudden like in front of me and makes it’s way toward the ‘ministration buildin’.
Q: Did you by chance observe the make of this large, black motor car? Or the Vehicle registration?
A: ‘umbler I’m sure of it but I didn’t make out no registration.
Q: So, this Humbler just cuts it’s way before you did it?
A: Oh, I gave the driver a look I did but seein’ the two blokes inside, well, the likes of them I wasn’t about to get into any kind of a row.
Q: Big, burly gentleman? Dark suits and hats? One with the face of a pugilist?
A: Like you was there with me gov’ner.
Q: And the Humbler, it proceeded to the Administration Building as well?
Q: Either of the gentlemen disembark from the Humbler?
A: Not that I seen.
Q: And the naval officer?
A: I ‘appen to glance in the mirror and I sees him stop to look back at me ‘ard brake when theys drove in front of me as I says and ‘e sort of stands there to watch the motor car pull up the drive. I’m a thinking ‘e was to go over and give them a bit of my mind as ‘e stands there for a bit lookin’ at it. But ‘e moves on.
Q: Did either of the gentleman get out of the car?
A: No, sir. It just sits a idlin’. And them that be inside just gives the bloke a look back, you know.
Q: And then you drove away?
A: Right, you are.
Diary of Florence Fullerton
11 March – Well I must say it started out to be a most uneventful day. But then that was before the young naval officer arrived and had I known beforehand, I certainly would have worn better than the comfortable grey skirt and plain, long-sleeved, high-collared blouse with serviceable shoes. Ruth and I had been asked by the Dean to complete several reports needed before the coming meeting of the Board and so arising early on my Saturday to see the fresh snow and feel the chill of my rooms, with a cup of tea and buttered toast, I had to admit coming in to work was less a drudgery owing to the comfort and warmth the offices in Administration afforded. We were working, well, more I than Ruth, who was busily doing little to nothing with the admission files, when it became apparent there was someone outside the door of our office. Now, I am more than certain for whomever it must have felt rather ominous, or at least I would have felt so, arriving in the front lobby – on a Saturday and one as snowy as this – wherein it would have been quite deserted. Like a tomb. What with the marble walls echoing every mistaken footstep as one moved about so unaware of their direction if it were upon their first arrival in the grand entrance, quite a bit lost most like, wandering about the labyrinth of corridors. Of course it was no doubt the clatter of my typewriter which had led him to our door. For there came a sharp rap of his knuckles. I looked up to see the dark form beyond the frosted glass, and said in reply for them to come in. For a moment, although very handsome in his woollen great coat and naval uniform, there was a bit of the schoolboy about him as he opened the door a bit and shyly took a half step inside, first looking at me and then taking notice of Ruth as she step into the room through the threshold of the connecting office with a freshly brewed cup of tea.
“You are not the messenger boy.” She quickly pointed out.
“Sorry to disappoint, but no ma’am, I must admit I am not he.” He said with a jaunty smile.
“Have you by any chance run across him out there?” She asked, “The Dean was to send over his revised financials.”
“He might as well as I have been wandering a bit,” he said.
“Well, there’s no need to stand there in the doorway. Come on in. How can we be of assistance,” I asked lifting my hands away from the keys of the Underwood as I gave him my brightest smile.
He returned the smile and I admit I felt a bit of a flush, “I’m sorry to disturb, I can see you are both quite busy. I was wondering if you could help direct me. See, I’m looking for Lord Charles Reed. I understand he consults with the college.”
Ruth looking sever and quite the spinster, as always, in her long, black skirt and white blouse with the pair of glasses dangling as they do from its sliver chain, turned to give me one of her more haughty expressions, “Lord Charles Reed? Hmmm. Florence, I am unaware. Do we in fact have a Lord Reed on faculty?”
“Oh, now that’s Professor Reed, from Oxford.” I replied, “You know, he visits with Professor Chandler."
“Right, right.” Ruth nodded as she stood prim and proper with her perfect posture and the tea cup and saucer just so in her hand, “Is he here? After all it is well past 9 o’clock on a Saturday.”
“Well I know he was yesterday. I spoke with his assistant,” I said, well aware I was unable to take my eyes off of him.
The officer’s eyes brighten up. “Yes?”
“Perhaps you are in luck." And Ruth set down her tea and picked up the receiver of the telephone, “I’ll just ring up Professor Chandler’s office.”
Oh I do so have to admit I must have appeared an invariant flirt as I smiled and gave him various sly side glances as the young officer stood slightly rocking back and forth, heel to toe, with his hands clasped behind his back, watching as Ruth began to make the call.
“I must say you look right nice in your uniform.” I said, even as Ruth spinning the dial cut me a sharp look. “Florence!”
“Oh! Why, well thank you.” He replied clearing his throat.
“Well, he does . . . " I said with a wink. Which received an reproachful look from Ruth as she stood awaiting an answer.
“Yes, this is Ruth Crawford at Administration, is Professor Chandler in . . . he’s not. . . well . . . I see. . . yes, there’s gentleman here, a naval officer, who is looking for Professor Reed . . .
The young man fiddled with the blue poppy upon his lapel while he absently listened to Ruth’s conversation.
“We understood that he was . . . yes . . . he is . . . right . . . right. . . quite. . . So? Shall we send him over. . . .“ She cupped the receiver, “Just a moment—“ She said to him and then “very well,” into the receiver.
And she hung up.
“You are in luck, Professor Reed is over in the Science Building,” Ruth informed him.
“Oh, here, let me show you,” I said and took a piece of paper from beside the Underwood. With an umber pencil I began to sketch out for him a rough map of the campus were he to follow the corridor outside of our offices and exit via the eastern door. “You are here,” I placed an X on the map, “Now you take this corridor down to the end, and you will find the stairs. Go down one flight and exit through the doors. Once outside, oh, say fifteen-or-twenty-feet, you shall take a left through here, and then a little to the right a-ways.” I told him as I looked up into those terrific eyes of his, “You will then see a big brick building."
“A big, brick building?” He repeated my instruction with a dimpled smile.
“Yes. You can’t miss it.” I said as I slyly wrote down upon the map my name and address in the lower corner.
“Thank you ever so.” He said with that swoony, wide tooth smile, upon detecting my addition. “Alright, then—it’s off. And, once again thank you. Sorry to have been a bother.” He said as he took up my hastily drawn map, and gave a slight bow, before he returned to the door.
“No bother at all.” I said
“’You shouldn’t miss it." Ruth informed him as she stood primly picking up her cup of tea. “Now, once you arrive, you shall proceed to the third floor. That’s the Archaeology Department. Professor Chandler’s the chair and he has rooms down at the end of the hall."
“Rooms?” He stopped to ask as he opened the door.
“Oh yes, for all the Egyptian things he accumulates.” I explained – wanting desperately for him to stay.
“Ah—well, right you are. Thanks ever so.” He exclaimed as he quickly exited and closed the door behind him.
“My, he was in a bit of a hurry." Ruth commented
Margaret Trelawny’s Journal
11 March – Evening – Professor Chandler’s residence, Kensington. —From the moment I rang-off with the woman from Administration the ominous sense of foreboding had begun. We had only come up from Frostwickes’ two days before – Professor Chandler quite eager to consult on the antiquities, which had made their way rather surreptitiously from Nineveh via some furtive smuggler’s route out Mesopotamia via the Euphrates, to Cairo, to Alexandria, to Lisbon, and eventually to the King’s College Archaeology Department and the British Museum. Chandler had been gratified to have Lord Charles’ opinion as they examined each piece minutely. And in search of some obscurity that had been called to mind, his lordship had been brooding over a book he could not seem to bring himself to get beyond the first three chapters – while I attempted to translated the too hastily transferred rubbings Reginald Thompson had made owing to the fact he had not the time nor resources to abscond with the whole of the temple door.
As always we had intended, whenever we came to the city, to take up rooms at Albemarle Hotel, but Professor Chandler had insisted we should stay at his residence in Kensington. And so, this morning after we had a light breakfast we had once more ridden over with Professor Chandler to continue the research and appraisal of Thompson’s curious acquisitions.
Of course only members of the staff at Frostwickes’ and those of Professor Chandlers’ should have been aware of our presence in London, let alone at the university, and so the fact someone was at the Administrative Building looking for Lord Charles was to say the least troublesome. And through the frosted glass of Professor Chandler’s office door I could see the dark shape of a figure moving about outside – no doubt putting away some diagram purposefully given to him by one of the women at Administration to provide directions for locating the Science Building.
There came a sudden rap upon the glass.
“Yes.” I replied from my seat behind Professor Chandler’s assistant’s desk – the young man having taken the day, as it was Saturday.
A rather handsome gentleman wearing a long, woollen coat over his naval uniform opened the door and stepped in smartly. He quickly removed his cap, even as his inquisitive eyes surveyed the room. He noted the neatly kept desk with the two straight-back chairs arranged before it; the large, electric lamps sitting upon dark maple side tables to cast their illumination against the greyness of the day; various antiquities and curios meticulously arranged; the bookcases filled with books upon a variety of subjects – all properly alphabetized. He took particular note of the mummified cat on one shelf of the bookcase nearest the door.
And then his eyes fell upon me. I was wearing a dark suit jacket over a simple white dress. I offered as polite a smile as I could given the circumstance, what with my suspicions already acutely aroused, “You must be the sailor Ruth Crawford said she was sending over straightaway. I am Margaret Trelawny, Lord Charles personal assistant. How may I help you?”
“Good morning.” He said quite amiably, “I do hope I’m not intruding, Miss Trelawny.” His discerning eyes having already taken quick inventory of not only the two Egyptian rings upon the fore-and-index finger of my right hand, but the lack of one upon my left as well. “I would like to make an appointment to meet with his lordship at the earliest convenience. Today—if at all possible. You see, a mutual acquaintance of ours, Professor John Milton, he referred me to his lordship."
Milton. John Milton. Lord Charles’ mood had already been grim before arriving and it had not gotten any better for the trip, which I had hastily arranged in the hopes it would somewhat assuage his dreary disposition. If not for the particular exaltation of being once more within the environs of the metropolitan bustle and the exhilaration of partaking the London air, then, at the very least, I had held out certain confidences in the eventual incitement of his lordship’s opinionated arrogance during his consolation with Professor Chandler, in particular regarding Reginald Campbell Thompson’s finds at Nineveh. And I had felt a small sense of accomplishment, owing to their conspiratorial conversation the night before, wherein they had enthusiastically discussed the efforts necessary to secure funds for their own expedition upon the end of the war. Should there ever be such an eventually. And I had been even more heartened to hear Lord Charles’ fervent expostulation: “Thompson is a rank amateur. He has no idea what he may have stumbled upon. This rubbing of the temple door – its rubbish. Absolute rubbish. If one is not going to take the time to do it properly – then why do it at all?” Only now – there was once again Milton at our door. A threat to everything I had so ardently hoped to achieve in getting his lordship through this most distressing of times. I sat back and regarded the young naval officer steadfastly as I contemplated whether or not I should just show him the door. “Milton. Professor John Milton? You say – he sent you?” My voice, which I knew to be considered rather smoky by some, felt more like ash.
“Well, yes. We were discussing Romanian castles, and some ruins of particular note, and Professor Milton suggested I come and discuss it with his lordship.” He said with a warm smile, cap in hand.
“Romanian castles?” I repeated as I arose slowly from the desk and looked at him askance.
When suddenly a look of distress appeared upon his face as he detected what looked to be a cut weeping blood along my wrist. “Oh – you seem to have cut yourself.” He said taking a step forward with some concern.
I lifted my arm and turned my wrist toward him so as to reveal it further, “This? Yes, well, it does so appear.” I said off-handily. “But alas, it is only a birthmark. Now—if you will excuse me, I will see if Lord Charles has a moment – but I would not hold out any high expectations."
I stepped out from behind the desk aware his eyes were upon my hips and the sway of the hem above my fashionable shoes. I moved over to the connecting door and lightly rapped with my knuckle as I opened it, "Lord Charles.” I said upon entering – allowing the door to close behind me.
I found him standing near the centre of the large office with a hand to his forehead as he turned his quizzically gaze upon me, "Margaret, I cannot for the life of me find any damn tobacco in this room. Chandler and his incessant cigarettes.”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“I need my pipe." He complained.
“I shall see to it.” I told him. He nodded with a relieved air of acknowledgment as he turned to stride back toward the chair where he had been struggling to read the book lying open, face-down, upon the end table.
“There is a naval officer here to see you." I abruptly informed him.
“A naval officer? What the bloody hell for?” He muttered gruffly.
“He was sent by Milton.” I elaborated.
He stopped short.
His response was silence.
“Should I send him away?” I asked – which is what I should have done the moment he had announced who had sent him.
To which there was more silence.
“Very well.” Relieved, I turned in order to dispense with the young gentleman.
I had reached the door and opened it, when suddenly Lord Charles turned and spoke: “No – No – send him in."
“You are certain?” I asked, looking at him so as to give him a chance to change his mind.
”Yes." He said with a slight nod as he shrugged and shifted his shoulders, as if bracing himself for whatever was to come from this decision. “And my pipe, Margaret. Bring me my damned pipe and some decent tobacco. I can’t find anything but his insufferable cigarettes.”
I stepped back into the outer office, “You are in luck, Lord Charles will see you.” I informed the young naval officer as I lifted a hand to wave him forward, “This way."
“Ah, thank you.” He said with a wide, sociable smile.
I led him into Professor Chandler’s office, in which Lord Charles was currently ensconced – what with Chandler having ventured off upon some breakfast engagement of which he had been rather vague this morning when had had begged off partaking of it with us (yet another attractive student, I strongly suspected). I once again watched those keen eyes of the young man that quickly seemed to be able to take in everything around him at a glance as he looked about the office, which upon first viewing seems far too large for a university professor. He took note of the massive mahogany desk cluttered with books and illustrated magazines and open note-books, as well as being littered with an accumulation of scattered papers, some of which were weighted down with various small curios; the brown chesterfield sofa and its matching chairs; the walls consumed with bookcases which reached to the ceiling and were filled to capacity; the sarcophagus standing tall in the far corner; the odd Egyptian artefacts so strategically set about; the single electric lamp on a table beside one of the Chesterfield chairs, which, with the drapes drawn across the windows, was the only illumination in the dimly lit room. It all must have appeared to the young officer as some sort of cabalistic inner sanctum.
He then applied that keen gaze upon Lord Charles: seeing the broad shoulders, but also the thin hair, which has gone near to white, the high forehead and fine nose, the well-trimmed beard, which still maintained several streaks of darkness.
Lord Charles returned the gaze with some interest, giving him that appraisal I found to be so reminiscent of a doctor diagnosing a patient. I handed Lord Charles his pipe as I moved over to stand beside the end table so as to observe as well.
“You must be Lord Reed. Good morning, Sir. Pleasure to meet you. Cadet Tanner, at your service." The young man introduced himself, stepping forward to hold forth his hand in greeting.
Lord Charles merely looked at the young man’s hand and gave no indication he would shake it. “Margaret informs – you were sent by Milton.” He inquired with that lift of his brow, which appeared as a shrug of disdain. “Is that correct?”
“That is correct, yes.” The cadet, recovering quickly, retreated his hand and slid it into to his inner coat pocket. “Forgive me, but I couldn’t help but hear you are lacking ’bacco.” And he pulled out a thick leather wallet and held it out open to his lordship.
Lord Charles looked at it for a moment, then reached over and took it, “Well then – have a seat.”
He motioned the cadet over to the Chesterfield chair across from the one where he had been seated, and giving me a slight glance, sat back down heavily into his chair. I moved closer in order to stand near at hand. The young man took his seat as Lord Charles reached into the leather wallet and began pinching up tobacco, which he proceeded to fit into the bowl of his pipe. “Turkish Blend?”
The cadet gave him a soft smile. “Yes sir. Hard to get a-hold of these days.”
“I prefer it,” Lord Charles said and having filled the pipe handed the wallet back to the young man, he then reached into his jacket pocket to retrieve a box of matches, striking one to place it above the bowl as he puffed in order to light the tobacco, “How is Milton. I haven’t seen him since . . . well, for some time.”
A whiff of smoke and the scent of pipe tobacco began to circulate in the room.
Taking the wallet back, which the cadet carefully refolded, and then leaning slightly forward, replaced into his pocket. “Doing well it seems. I haven’t seen him much since I was transferred out from under him. Bit of a surprise running into him at breakfast.”
The pipe now lit, Lord Charles whipped the match out and dropped its smoking ember in the ashtray resting on the table beside his tea cup and saucer, "Milton is anything but a surprise. If he showed up – he bloody well had a reason. Like as wise you as well I dare say.”
And I dare say I was anxious as to understand were precisely this interview was headed and was vexed even more that I had no doubt made a mistake in not summarily dismissing this Cadet Tanner.
“So, tell me. Why did he send you to see me, son.”
“Well,” said the young officer as he pulled from an oversized, inside pocket of his overcoat a copy of the damned book—Dracula. My clenched fist trembled as I withheld my anger. I could not believe he could be so insensitive as to have done such a thing . . . and to have done it so casually. This was my mistake. I immediately reached down and took up Lord Charles’ tea cup.
“I believe it had something to do with this and an ancient Levantine kingdom.” The cadet said.
As I strode away from Lord Charles’ chair with the tea cup in hand, I awaited his reaction. He glared at the book and sat a moment in silence as he puffed upon his pipe before he removed it from his lips and pointed at the ‘alleged’ novel with the smoking stem of his pipe, “Lies. Damned lies. And what isn’t a damned lie is merely a half-truth. The goddamned thing is a spider’s web of misdirection and obfuscations and missing threads. All of which was orchestrated, from its very inception, by John Milton . . . the bloody bastard.”
Stepping over to the waste basket, I pitched what remained of the tea from Lord Charles’ cup and then crossed the room toward the massive mahogany desk. Why had I not listened to my intuition?
The young officer shrugged and he replaced the book into the inner pocket of his overcoat, and then pulled out a pre-rolled cigarette and matchbook. “He said you would be able to provide . . . context.” He lighted the cigarette and took a deep inhalation before he flicked out the match.
“He did, did he?’ Lord Charles replied.
“He indicated that you would be able to provide some insight based upon . . . a personal experience.”
I wanted to say something but I refrained. For I knew just how hotly it would come out. Just as I knew, from the moment the cadet had uttered Milton’s name, nothing good was about to transpire. And now this—having brought forth that bloody damned novel! Oh, Milton was cunning, well aware, which was precisely why he had sent this young officer, this Cadet Tanner today. So as to ensure the articulation of matters he knew would already be far too close to Lord Charles’ heart. After all it was only two days past her birthday – which I knew to be the source of the dark and sullen mood that had hung about Lord Charles for the past week.
I was more than vexed. I was furious. I could only guess at the reason behind such insincerity in a man who once called Lord Charles a friend. But then it was Milton. And Milton was forever the strategist – cold and calculating. An equal to what he fought. I opened the bottom drawer of Chandler’s desk and removed the bottle of whiskey.
“Personal experience?” Lord Charles asked rather sharply. “Do you have any idea what you are even talking about young man?”
“To be honest, sir? No. Not a clue.” The cadet answered with some honesty, I suspect. I uncorked the bottle and poured whiskey into the tea cup. The young officer glanced over at the sound of the uncorking. I was not about to offer him a drink as I stared back at him with severe displeasure.
The young officer seemed bewildered by my annoyance.
“So he’s sent you out into the cold?” Lord Charles asked rhetorically as he returned the stem of his pipe to his lips, even as I reinserted the cork and returned the bottle to the bottom drawer.
I had yet to precisely make up my mind as to what I was going to do about the cadet. So far, for all my irritation, I was cognizant he seemed sincere. But being as he was one of Milton’s it could be entirely a ruse.
“He did mention something about an X Club.” The young man added.
Stepping back over to Lord Charles’ side, I placed the tea cup back upon its saucer. “As always thank you.” He said looking up with a warm smile, which disappeared rapidly as he returned his gaze upon the Cadet.
“So—have you read the goddamned thing?" Lord Charles inquired sharply – the Cadet as aware as I he had for the moment dodged the mentioning of the X Club.
The young naval officer frowned at the sudden query. “Unfortunately, I have only just begun. Free time can be a bit of a luxury in my occupation, and Dr Milton impressed the urgency of seeing you.”
And I must admit upon hearing this my growing fury was arising to a tempest. How was this impermissible? How could Milton have sent him to Lord Charles upon this week of all weeks without him having even read the goddamned thing?
Lord Charles lifted a hand to stay my mounting anger. “So, you’re here. Upon Milton’s bidding and you haven’t read it!” Lord Charles replied rather heatedly.
“As I said, I haven’t had the time.”
“Then open it!” Lord Charles suddenly demanded as he leaned forward and pointed with the stem of his smoking pipe, “Open it—open the bloody damned thing.”
Slightly taken aback the young officer now well aware of the temperature of the room removed the book from the inner pocket of his overcoat and did as he was instructed. He opened the novel, just past the dedication to Hommy-Beg, and then gave us a quizzical look.
“Now you just run your finger down along that filthy text,” Lord Charles voice having grown ever more vehement, "And see if you can find my daughter.”
The cadet looked up from a page he had arbitrarily turned to, “Your daughter?”
“Her name is Katherine. Katherine Reed.” Lord Charles said. His voice no longer able to sustain his indignation as it suddenly softened when he said her name aloud. I quickly placed a reassuring hand upon his shoulder to allow him to recover his resentment once again: “Look as long as you want. You will find carriers and solicitors, doctors and drugged-up house maids, newspaper correspondents and girls in big cart-wheel hats. You will find house agents and zoo keepers, undertakers and locksmiths, young law students and bankers, Romania sailors and Russian consules. But—you will not find her. Oh yes, they have seen to that. Not only did they set out her upon that foul creature’s path, like a lamb tethered for big game, but, they did so with no thought whatsoever in supplying her with some measure of support. Rather, they recklessly abandoned her. And then . . . they sent her alone to face whatever unimaginable horrors must have transpired in that abominable house, and then – and then they tried to say she was mad. They had her committed. And then—Milton had her excised. Redacted. Along with Singleton and Aytown, and that goddamned Robert Lewes—de Ville’s men ever one! As if she. . . as if she were one of them!”
The cadet looked at Lord Charles in silence, holding the book open but not turning a page, trying to absorb amid the anger, all of this information, as if he was hearing it for the first time. And in that look I knew the game Milton was playing. This young officer was just another pawn.
“They goddamned ruined her life—they put her in a goddamned asylum. They wrote her off. And then—and then they wrote her out. As if she never existed. I cannot fathom what she must have witnessed that night – what she must have endured – what finally drove her to recklessness and drink and narcotics and ruin.”
I took up the tea cup and handed it to him. “And you bloody well won’t find James Abbott in their either because I—“
“Lord Charles.” I quickly refrained him from any further revelation as I my fingers gripped his shoulder.
The young naval officer closed the book slowly and looked at me and then at Lord Charles, "Well, sir, I wouldn’t know anything about it. And as you say, sir, no amount of studying this book will provide the whole truth. Perhaps it was unwise to come so ill-prepared, but I had hoped that you could fill in such holes. Before I got this fictionalized version ingrained in my head as the official accounting.”
Beneath my grip I could feel Lord Charles’s shoulder slightly relax, “So— You don’t trust them either, do you son?”
The cadet shrugged, “Trust, sir? In all of this, I haven’t found too much of trustworthiness . . .”
Lord Charles contemplated him for a long moment. He then took another brace of the whiskey, before replacing the tea cup back upon its saucer, “I would assume if your Milton’s man, you have clearance for all of this. And—if he has sent you to me—then it is more than an indication we have yet not awaken from our long nightmare.”
The young officer did not reply. He just closed the book and placed it on his lap and took another draw off his cigarette.
I felt once again the sullen mood descend upon Lord Charles as he sat back wearily in Professor Chandler’s well-worn Chesterfield, "It is as much my fault as anyone’s. I perhaps knew more than anyone about the ramifications, and yet . . . “
I wanted to conclude this conversation – I wanted the young cadet gone. I wanted him out of here. And I was about to intervene, but Lord Charles continued, “I failed her in so many ways. I was young and brash. I wasn’t ready to be a father. And when she came—I departed. As did her mother, eventually. Neither of us were much of a parent. I chasing my ambitions about the world, while her mother did so upon the stage. And so Katherine was left alone with my mother and father. Not to say they did not bring up a brilliant, young woman – beautiful, inquisitive, intelligent. All of which of course they used.”
I watched the cadet as he listened to his lordship with some sympathy. It was more than obvious Milton’s intent – for to disclose the diabolical facts, even if believed without the benefit of seeing, would have been a strenuous exercise in cognition, whereas, in having the revelation delivered by Lord Charles, it would make the sheer impossibility of it all seem far more tangiable. It would exposed the threat through the suffering of one man – it would revealed the consequences of the folly of underestimating a myth having been made manifest. The only question for me – as to whether I was going to allow this to go further – was if this was in some way beneficial to the man who had taken me in, protected and sheltered me, after my own father’s foul and disastrous stratagem.
“I signed the goddamned thing. Even with my reservations. But Milton and Saxon and Hooker were all so enthusiastic—what a bloody marvellous scientific opportunity they said.” Lord Charles looked up to me and motioned with his hand, “Margaret, would you be so kind as to bring me my Gladstone.”
“You are certain—“ But before I could complete my sentence he nodded. And so I stepped away and crossed the room back toward the assistant’s anteroom.
“Of course, at the time I had no idea they had planned on using James Abbott to approach her.” Lord Charles continued, “To use that which she wanted most . . . a journalistic career—in order to recruit her. You see, once they find your secret desire – they will find every way possible with which to exploit it. And then.”
They both watched as I returned from the anteroom to place the much travelled Gladstone before him, “When Hawkins saw just what a bloody fool he had been. How it was all going so horribly wrong. He asked to terminate the mission. And Milton, at this point uncertain of whom to trust, looked to her. Sending her, as I said, in all alone—“
He put his pipe in the ashtray and leaned forward to open his travel bag. He rummaged within and withdrew an old, battered envelope. “So—to begin with the beginning.”
“That is what Professor Milton suggested.” The cadet agreed.
“What do you know about the X Club?” Lord Charles asked as he closed the Gladstone and sat back in his chair, the battered envelope in hand.
“I understand it was a social club of nine – as Dr Milton puts it – nine scientists that from time to time were consulted by government officials. Other than that, I know not.” The cadet replied as he reached over to move the ashtray on the end table nearer to hand so he could tap ashes carefully from his cigarette. He also placed the book on the table where it lay heavily between him and Lord Charles.
I watched as the young officer’s eyes were drawn irresistibly to the envelope.
“Actually, it started as a dinner club. But yes, as Milton said, there were nine of us. Nine distinguished scientists all from varied fields. Professor Alexander Saxton and I established it.” Lord Charles replied as he tapped the envelope slightly against the palm of his left hand. “The founding principle of the club was to do our best to reform the Royal Society and to ensure that scientific research was not held back by religious zealots or superstitions. And so there we were. All gathered once a month to discuss and opine and of course, to argue. Really it was quite a tempting assortment of scientific minds and backgrounds. And seeing as how some of us had other affiliations as well, it was not long before we found ourselves being contacted by various intelligence agencies and committees on behalf of Her Majesties government to consult – to analyse, to make recommendations, in regards to – well, shall we say, projects of an interesting nature”
“And Professor Milton?”
“John?” Lord Charles replied, “Oh, he was a member. In fact, it was he who brought the damned proposal to us. You see, Stoker, this Bram Stoker . . . who eventually wrote up the Hawkins’ papers.” He vaguely motioned with the envelope toward the book resting conspicuously on the end table beside the young officer, “He had a brother. George. George Stoker. A medical man— with the Red Crescent. Attached to some intelligence service. He saw time in Constantinople during the Russo-Turkish War. All part of the ‘Great Game’ you see. A bit before your time, I suspect. Turkish overlords were maliciously attacking Bulgarian Christians. Which gave the Tsar the pretext to take up that much worn mantle as the protector of Christianity in the Balkans – as if Christ couldn’t protect his own. If he had a mind to. But, there’s always two sides to that coin. And so, there were rumours of some Christian Bulgarians having gone and massacred a village of Muslims. Which was fortunate for us, in that if evidence could be found to support this allegation, well, then this massacre would be quite beneficial in helping to gain popular sentiment to support a British military intervention. Which of course had very little to do with anybody saving any particular God or Allah worshiping souls, but rather, would be most instrumental in stopping Russia from getting their hands on Constantinople and acquiring what they coveted most, a port on the Mediterranean. And so—some minister, or other, an Osman Hamdi Bay, it was, if memory serves me. Rather low level, of course. But acting upon a request by the Sultan, he organized a group of interested Europeans to form this investigative expedition to gathering evidence to substantiate the alleged atrocities perpetrated by the Christian Bulgarians. Seeing as how such a report issued from the Ottoman government would bear absolutely no weight whatsoever. And like as not, George Stoker was selected – less for being a medical man then the fact he was working for British intelligence. They also added the Orientalist and renowned traveller, Ármin Vámbéry, for his notoriety. Totally unaware he was a spy as well. And so – the short of it being they eventually made their way to the village where the evidence of this massacre had supposedly been secured. In a cave of all places. Dyavolshoto, or the Devil’s Cave. But upon arrival they discovered evidence of something else entirely.”
“Something else?” The cadet asked tapping ash from his cigarette into his ashtray.
“Yes. What Stoker and Vámbéry brought back made the unbelievable and the incomprehensible something more than just a myth or some dark fairy-tale whispered about at night around campfires. He brought back insurmountable evidence that the myth was real. Evidence which was eventually supplied to us, via Milton, in order to analyse a proposal that was as grotesque as it was brilliant. A plan derived from the dark genius of Peter Hawkins’ – who shall we say at the time headed a intelligence service for Her Majesty.” And Lord Charles then handed over the old, battered envelope.
The cadet leaned forward to take it. I noticed his mouth twitched slightly. A tell? I was not certain if it was because he had recognized the name – Peter Hawkins? Or if it was in anticipation of what must lie inside the envelope? Surely by now he had some idea what it must possibly contain. He opened it slowly and removed the well-worn pages.
Document from Lord Charles Reed
“I should have burned it long ago. But—owing to Kate I couldn’t bring myself to do so.” Lord Charles solemnly admitted as he reached over and retrieved the tea cup from the saucer once more and took another drink of his whiskey. “I have kept those pages ever to remind me of how sanctimonious we all were in regards to superstition and how supercilious we were with our pompous beliefs in science – and it was upon that altar I sacrificed my daughter.”
I watched the cadet as he began to carefully examine the documents, his cigarette precariously perched between his lips.
The whole madness therein revealed.
Lord Charles turned to lean upon the arm of his chair, “Straight up son – do you believe in vampires?”
The cadet looked up from the document. If he was taken-a-back or appalled at the revelation those pages contained he did a commendable job of maintaining his composure – or perhaps he was more knowledgeable than he had let on. He absently reached up and removed the cigarette from his lips. For a long moment he sat looking at Lord Charles in silence, then glanced once more at one of the pages of the document, before he replied, “I’ve seen several documents recently which lead me to believe that there is some validity to the claim they exist. To be perfectly honest with you your lordship, I only recently learned what a vampire is, let alone that they may exist. So, either they do exist, or you and an unknown number of other respectable people have been gulled into believing it so.” He shrugged, “But in light of direct proof for myself, for the moment, I will trust in my sources when they say vampires do exist.”
“And were they to exist,” Lord Charles pressed the conjecture, “Would they not be quite the valuable asset to any intelligence organization.”
I could see the cadet thinking this through even as he continued to glance at the document Lord Charles had given him.
“And so, in our collective hubris – as you can see – we agreed with Peter Hawkins. Even I, who had some small knowledge of the phenomena. For as a young man I had done a bit of research in Transylvania. In fact, I wrote a book. Along the Carpathian Horseshoe: Travels in Transylvania. So I had heard the folklore. The superstition. The whispers. I had even begun research on the Getae-Dracian religion concerning the Thracian god Zalmoxis, whom it was believed had been buried in a cave, for three years, before lo and behold he arose from the grave – bearing with him a concept of life after death. Those who worship him say they can never die. They have immortality.” Lord Charles explained.
“Getate-Dracian?” The young officer asked.
“The ancient inhabitants of an area near the Carpathian Mountains.” Lord Charles explained, “Interesting what?” He lifted an eyebrow. “But – back to the beginning. The truth be told most of us assigned to the advisory committee were seduced by the prospect of having such a creature available for study. The plan you see had a certain sinister elegance. But it was all so foul. The operational intent was to find a Subject and entice them to England. Then, having decided upon a suitable volunteer – to have them turned by the Subject so as to be assured of obtaining a vampire who was loyal to Britain.”
“And the Subject?” The cadet asked.
His lordship shrugged, “The plan gave us certain options.”
“I take it then the evidence Stoker’s brother supplied wasn’t – actionable?” The young officer surmised.
“No. It arrived in bottles and jars. Various make-shift containers.” Lord Charles confirmed.
The young officer’s countenance grew rather perplexed.
“Yes?” I inquired of him.
The cadet slowly tapped a finger upon the title of the book, “Just wondering how does one go about— I mean – I suspect one does not just put an advertisement in The Times. So, how did they find him?”
As if this young naval officer had taken up the vestments, Lord Charles seemed to have lessened his reticence and was becoming far too content in having taken up a seat in his confessional. “Yes one more sin for which I am accountable. It was I who supplied the information. I had heard rumours while in Transylvania of a supposed alchemist and statesman. A scholar of the Scholomance. Count Dracula. Or de Ville as he was later to be known once he arrived upon our shores.”
“The Scholomance?” The cadet asked.
“A school of the occult—“ Lord Charles began to explain but I interrupted.
“It is in the book.” I said abruptly. His lordship’s familiarity and growing ease for revelation and disclosure was becoming worrisome. I was uncertain as to just what secrets he meant to keep.
This cadet had arrived with seemingly very little information – and even less scepticism. Even giving him the allowance of professing to possess an open mind. I looked at him and saw he was all charm, and yet, I could sensed beneath it all, he was someone quite capable of cunning deception – all the qualities one would expect of someone working for Milton. The more I watched him the more cautious I became.
It was obvious one must take great care.
He looked at me warily even as I returned the favour.
“So – about this Levantine kingdom . . . “ The cadet suddenly changed the subject, his eyes glancing up at me before returning to Lord Charles. His interest piqued as he rightly surmised I was something more that merely a personal assistant.
“EDOM?” His lordship asked in response. “That was the codename for the 1894 operation."
“But why so?” Queried the cadet, “I mean I’ve done a bit of research and other than another name for Esau, Jacob’s brother, it’s just another Levantine kingdom bordering Israel in and around the 13th century BC.”
“Hawkins. He took it from Isaiah 34:14.” Lord Charles explained, “In particular the passage: the wild beasts of the island and the demon shall cry to his fellow; Lilith also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. In his estimation he found it to be of some prophetic import. The island and the demon and then of course Lilith. Pure cock if you ask me. But then, Hawkins was a bit of an eccentric. He believed in sortes Virgilianae as well. Always referencing the Aeneid for guidance. Too bad Virgil did not give him some prophetic insight into the disaster his EDOM operation was to become. But when it became more than obvious that the Count had an agenda all his own and had broken all contact with his handlers, Hawkins, whether he sought out guidance from scripture or Virgil I do not know, but he requested authorization to terminate the mission. For Milton – this called into question everyone in the field and so he felt compelled to use Kate.”
“Your daughter.” The cadet acknowledged.
“Yes.“ Lord Charles replied and I grasped the back of his chair and closed my eyes for a second. Deeper and deeper he continues to go. Would he but stop. For I well knew that after the cadet was gone all of these memories, all of the hurt and anguish and his guilt would come down hard upon him. As it did later when he drunkenly demolished the dresser in his bedroom at Chandler’s, cutting himself badly. Crying as I bandaged the wound. Muttering her name. Had I never brought him out of Frostwicke’s!
God damn Milton for bringing all of this up. What precisely did he know . . . and what was he fishing for.
But Lord Charles continued: “Milton had James Abbot recruit her early in the game. You see, Milton was hedging his bets. Concerned that Hawkins’ agents might at some point be comprised . . . or not capable of containing the Transylvanian Personage. So at the outset of the operation, he decided on recruiting and placing Katherine in a position at the Westminster Gazette were she would be in a most advantageous position to monitor reporting of incidents, which might link back, arising of course to the nature of the Transylvanian Personage. And Milton always – always plays the game with various cut-outs held off book. His strategic reserve he is wont to say. And so, when it all went to hell, he used her. Someone with no formal tradecraft – only the social gravity of my name. Which is precisely what he needed in order to get her into the furtive clique the Count was creating as Count de Ville.”
A slight frown formed on the cadet’s face, “Transylvania. That is in Austria-Hungary, yes?”
“It is.” Lord Charles confirmed.
“I see. So, if this is true, and his base of operations is in the Austro-Hungarian empire, which is currently at war with England—“ The young officer said as he stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray.
Lord Charles leaned forward, “It does bring into question does it not – who masterminded this war?”
“But—I gather.” And he placed a hand upon the book, “Dracula or de Ville, was destroyed, yes? Or, was that some more artistic licence on the part of Mr Stoker?"
“That’s the ending. If you can believe the after action reports.”
“Which I gather you do not.” The cadet accurately surmised.
“Son, when you have time to read the goddamned thing – what you will find is that rather than a compilation of action reports, which was its intent, it’s rather this massive spider web of a story in which you are left with tantalizing and yet dangling threads. You have to hypothesize and presume, for no one neither wrote down all they knew nor at times knew the significance of that they did know. This ‘Crew of Light.’ It’s all cock. There are no heroes in this. They are all out right lying or obfuscating some sinful secret all their own. Take that woman . . . “ He closes his eyes and sighs, "Wilhelmina Harker – for whom this supposed ‘Crew of Light’ relied – it was she who initially complied the Hawkins papers and she is known to have been comprised. Known to be under his influence – I mean they bloody well saw her lapping up his blood for Christ’s sake. And yet, they take guidance from her? It is from her reports that the Count’s termination is upheld – but, in no way was the recounting of his demise done as proscribed for such a creature. You will see. The deed is done when? At the moment of the setting of the sun – when all his preternatural faculties were restored? Bah – it’s all a pack of lies.”
“Then you believe—“
“That he survived? Yes, and he plots still – he has been ever at war with England.” Lord Charles wearily informed him, “While everyone is misdirected in searching for German spies, his minions are allowed access and agency. You mark my words upon that. And it would appear Milton suspects the same thing. That he has been compromised once again, which is why I suspect you are here.”
I glanced at the antique clock upon the desk. Where was Chandler, he should have returned a half-hour ago.
“If I may – your lordship. Your opinion of Professor Milton is quite obvious. May I ask why? What happened between you?" The cadet inquired.
No—not this avenue, It need not to be traversed.
“For what he did to my Kate.” Lord Charles said as his gruff voice began to break. “Having survived the horrors of that house – as I said, they accused her of being in league with the monster. They forcibly had her committed. It took me a year to discover she was still alive.”
“It is unforgivable. The man was supposed to have been a friend. He had known his lordship since their days at Oxford. He knew Kate as a child and yet he withheld all information concerning her. Even as to whether she was alive or dead – with the implication of the later. It was but by chance Lord Charles discovered she was in Seward’s asylum. It took months for his solicitors to free her.” I suddenly asserted as I took hold of his hand and gripped it reassuringly. We did not need to discuss this any further.
“I can never forgive myself, never.” His lordship’s added. His voice stained to breaking as I felt him renew his grip upon my hand, “I should have been more suspicious – more vigilant. I allowed them to let me think she had died, whereas, they kept her there for a year. For a year! Before I could get her out. And then afterward. Oh, God, she was never herself. She . . . she was most unkind to everyone but particularly to herself as she collapse into alcohol and cocaine and morphine and then – they found her room wrecked.” His hand squeezed tighter, “Blood on the walls. On the floor. Her bed linen. She has been a missing person every since 1895. She remains an Metropolitan Police open file.”
I stood steadfast.
The cadet looked at me with some sympathy. “Perhaps it is best if I come to visit another time. After I have studied a bit deeper into the subject.”
The young officer picked up the book and placed it once more in his pocket coat pocket.
“We are here at King’s College for several weeks, with Professor Chandler.’ His lordship remarked as I held his hand and watched him try to push back the memories – I was not going to allow this cadet to upset him any further. He had obtained what Milton had intended for him to know, so let him ask his questions at Milton’s desk.
“I think it is best we discontinue this.” I told bluntly told the Cadet.
“Yes.” He nodded and looked at the document Lord Charles had given him. “These documents are probably safer in your hands as they have been for this long, though,” He said as he lifted the pages, “But, If I may examine it for a few minutes before I go, I would like to commit some of it to shorthand.”
“Yes—of course. “ Lord Charles accented even as I gave him a most dissenting glance. “Margaret . . . perhaps a drink for the young man.”
I nodded though what I wanted to do was to escort this naval officer to Professor Chandler’s door. He had distressed Lord Charles enough, but, I nodded and then strode over to Professor Chandler’s massive desk and took the bottle of whiskey from the lower drawer and poured a drink and brought it over. I handed it to him rather forcibly.
In the interim Cadet Tanner had pulled out a notebook and pen and was busy transcribing the pages he had laid out upon this lap.
“Thank you,” he said, accepting the drink without looking up. He took a sip, slightly cringing against the whiskey’s bite. He then placed the drink upon the end table as he continued his transcription in some apparent shorthand/cypher of his own devising.
As he did so, Lord Charles sat back with a heavy sigh, staring reflectively upward to the ceiling, “Beware Son.” Lord Charles muttered. He seemed emotionally drained. “Most of what you think you know about Vampires is all disinformation. Watch the shadows as well as your back. You shouldn’t be working on this alone.”
Without looking up the officer replied, “I wasn’t.”
“Good—only be certain it is someone you can trust.” His lordship recommended.
“Unfortunately, he went missing yesterday.” And with a flourish, the cadet snapped his notebook closed and tucked it away. “I shalt take up any more of your time.” And he began to fold the pages of the document so he could slip them once more back into the worn envelope.
As I continued to stand near him, I held out my hand to take it. He gave it to me and gave me a very knowing look.
“Well, Cadet Tanner. I do hope you obtained whatever it was you came for.” I said by way of concluding this intrusive interlude.
The young officer nodded to Lord Charles and then to me, as he rose from the chair and walked to the door, but upon reaching it he paused. "One last thing though.
“Yes," I quickly responded.
“The suggested methods of defence against such a vampire as outlined in these notes and this novel. Are they at least accurate?” He wisely inquired.
“Regarding the sacred symbols, cross and whatnot?” Lord Charles asked as he more lifted his tea cup. “Margaret – if you please.”
I moved to retrieved his cup as the cadet nodded.
“Only if the vampire, when human, believed in them – if not— no. The only sure defence is wild rose wood and their thorns or a Hawthorne stake.” Lord Charles told him, and then added, “Oh, and silver bullets.”
I glance at him on my way back to Professor Chandler’s desk – of whom I was very piqued. I cared not how good a dalliance she must apparently have been. "They must be pure silver. And of course, a true sliver blade, will do when having to work up close.”
The cadet grinned. “Like I can afford silver bullets on my salary. Wild Rose Wood and Hawthorn it is.” His features turning sombre “Thank you very much your lordship. You have been of the utmost help.”
Lord Charles nodded, "Be careful son. As I said, don’t be misled by what you may think you know about them. Take for example, this supposed mad dash against the sun.”
“You will find they can walk about quite well in the light of day.” I added, having removed the whiskey bottle and was uncorking it, “Their photosensitivity only diminishes the rapidity with which they can process nourishment or regulate severe regeneration – then, they do indeed seek a darken niche. It also restricts some of their uncanny abilities – transformation, telepathy, elemental control.”
He gave me a look as he opened the door was finally about to leave, when Lord Charles spoke once more, “ Oh – one last thing.”
“Yes?” Cadet Tanner responded.
“The dead travel fast.” His lordship told him.