The Coldfall Sanction

Here By Her Invitation
Session Eight - Part Seven


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.”


“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.”

Such A Happy Little Girl
Session Eight - Part Six


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.

Guns & Wild Roses
Session Eight - Part Five


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 Empiree 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.”


“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.


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.”

Conspiracy Theory
Session Eight - Part Four


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 – as 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 out the eye of any one 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 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, who 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 bemused.

“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 upon which to waste 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 – each and every one.”

He smiled and continued to observe me with that damned 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 and any number of files kept upon micro-reader – owing to all the research you have made in that infernal circus of harsh and unavailing endeavours. “

He had the pipe well lit, “Quite right. 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 was 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, the article was to be about a 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 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, “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 for our meeting 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 – 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 the inhospitable darkness of Limehouse – but I can assure you her kingdom resides in the gaming house, brothel, and opium den of 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 the long malignant reach of Sal – I have come to understand that she is rather the lesser of something yet far grander. She is, 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 – and 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 a 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 an 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, truly a remarkable actress, of whom he was considerably infatuated, to opium – in Limehouse actually, a den off of Three Colt Street.”

“And so,’ I continued, “Out upon the street she is ceremoniously deposited – with most producers being aware of Orton having had tossed her owing to the needle, McLaren quickly found herself unable to get another role upon the legitimate stage and so fell into work among 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, “Meaning our winsome Florence was without financial wherewithal – so to speak. Till 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 but a fill-in role for his current leading lady, whom he had just lost to some cinema director, or whatnot, who had effusively declared to all he had found his next big star. Wherein, Florence, for the close-out week, does a bang-up job of it and 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 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. Just another sad victim of a Limehouse night. Fleet Street rushes extras about the unfortunate Fields. 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, which slinks its way from West India Dock Road to the dark wastes of Pennyfields. Where the Moripha addicted, financially strapped actress, has left the lovely Florence behind in order to arise anew as our Lascar Sal. And yet, where, one might ask, if one were so bold as to make a most obvious point, does the poor Florence have the wherewithal to not only proceed to purchase the Black Lantern, but to persuade the sour Sway Lim he needs turn over the deed so that the Black Lantern can become the Cocoa Rooms?”

“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 few who may have any knowledge about the eventual outcome of the 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, not quite aware of your ever growing interest in the notorious Sal. But I must say Carmichael, your reportage is a bit thin. It sees you neglected to mention McLaren was originally installed in her establishment by Sam Tai Ling and Azure Dragon Tong – 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 the enigmatic power that emanates from Limehouse so as to lay claim to rival my insidious devil doctor and Boyle’s 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. 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 there comes to light what is being cooked in the kitchen – and the cook – well, he is 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. What was it they found cooking?”

“It is 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 suspicion.” I continued. “But the Yard chemists find it’s something odd for a Limehouse kitchen – it’s 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 well kept, velvet quilts, silk sheeting.”

“The arrangement was such the gentleman was to have a bit of fun with his wife and a young 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 more to the story than he had been allowed to disclose – as the editor had red lined much of his 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 a shilling will bring about were all very reticent to speak of Brightwater, the yellow girl, the slum tourists, and most especially of 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, still in shock from awaking in a blood soaked bed, has suddenly taken leave upon a steamer to Cairo. Brightwater is found floating in bilge water. Throat cut. Then there is a fire. And the shop in question is longer in evidence, either. 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 and 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 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, the scraps begin to take shape in what in his words was an organization, which clandestinely 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, the unfortunate reporter, Gerald Jukes, 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 Devil’s domain—not sure he’s ready for some such stiff competition.”

I felt my jaw set in that manner of truculence when laughed at – which many an editor 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 that it brings – where as this is a . . . mastermind of vice, which I can readily see why you would long to place this upon the doorstep of Lascar Sal.”

“Right – and the fact Jukes said ‘her’.”

He titled his head slightly, “Her?”

“I should have pressed the point at the time – but as you say, I was consumed with thwarting Sal – when he said, you see Carmichael no one believes because this menacing and all-encompassing conspiracy international in scope, without bounds, extending from Limehouse throughout Europe is entirely orchestrated by her.” I informed him, knowing how ludicrous it all sounded – owing of course to our male prejudiced. “Beneath it all, not only is this woman seemingly everywhere, but her minions as well. International criminal elements are being united. Can you imagine the sheer audacity of it all. The scope. A world ruled by a skirt?”

Cakes and Charity
Session Eight - Part Three


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.


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 Margaret Trelawny, 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.

Session Eight - Part Two


Police Constable Vera Alderton’s Casebook – continued
11 March – Morning; — We left my desk at 10:45 and proceeded down the basement corridor toward the office of Dr Wynn Wrayburn, Police Surgeon for the Central District. I had attempted to interview Dr Wryaburn upon the 10th but his schedule, testimony to be given in two Coroner inquests and a post-mortem to be conducted in the afternoon. As the Surgeon for the Central Division, a death room had been set aside for Dr Wrayburn – which greatly facilitated access to forensic Medico-Legal analysis. I was accompanied by Inspector Stone.

We approached the door and finding it open, stepped in to find a long narrow room with an examination table and various glass fronted cabinets. Dr Wrayburn upon our arrival was preoccupied with an on-going conversation on the telephone. He was a rather large, broad shoulder man, well dressed, with a most distinctive moustache – of which he must be proud, for his forefinger at times moved upward to brush it.

He sat across the room at a very a roll topped desk, which appeared to be well kept: neat and organized. A quick survey of the room gave every indication that he was alone and as such our conversation would be confidential.

“Yes, yes, yes, I understand what you are saying, but you are quite wrong. The deceased was dead three hours before the wife called the constable – it is really quite obvious.” Dr Wrayburn could be overheard to speak on the phone as he waved a hand for us to enter further into the office but to wait a moment.

Extemporaneous notation of phone conversation – Dr Wrayburn’s responses only:
A: “No. That is not correct at all. There is not enough arsenic in flypaper to kill most flies let alone a man of 17 stone.”
A: “I don’t care what you found, flypaper soaked in a bowl of water is not at all enough to have killed him – perhaps made him a bit ill, I would think. But, if that is your conjecture, you are quite wrong, sir.”
A: “When I examined the body and he had enough arsenic in him to kill four men — and you jolly well don’t get that from a flypaper.”
A: "Right – well , go right ahead. I will be perfectly fine as a witness for the defence.”

He rang off with a drop of the receiver, “Damn insufferable buffoon.” Upon this exclamation at Inspector Stone and myself, as I stood with arms crossed, patiently awaiting for an opportunity to interview him, he looked over at us: "Right, and so what can I do for you, Inspector Stone . . . and, I am sorry, don’t think we have met, and you are?’

This of course was truly unbelievable as it had been I who had made the request for the interview, “Police Constable Vera Alderton, Sir.”

“Alderton? Alderton?” He opened up a journal and began to scanned through it, “Ah, yes. Alderton. Please to meet you. Dr. Wrayburn, Dr. Wynne Wrayburn. How can I be of service.”

“We were hoping you had completed the examination of Pamela Dean.” I said disguising my irritation as best I could.

“Dean. Pamela Jane.” He reached up and curled the end of his large moustache and got up from his swivel chair and stepped over to a wooden file cabinet. “Not much of her as I remember.”

I lifted a brow watching him, “Unfortunately so.”

He thereupon opened the drawer and looked through the files and took one out, "Here we are – just to fresh my memory. Right. March 9th. Two specimens found about the Victoria Embankment and the Thames. Left leg, severed below the thigh. Lower, torso, pelvis.”

“Correct.” I agreed.

He gave he a look as if to say of course it was correct.

He then proceeded back to his desk, reading the report as he did so, “Pelvis, female. Severed just above the hips – hip bones intact. Severed above thigh on right leg, remains of thigh on left.”

I nodded as the information concurred with the crime scene report.

“Right forearm found, alley in Regent Street, March 10th, early morning." He concluded and then looked up, “Nothing of late has been discovered of the unfortunate Miss Dean.” He then close the file and placed it neatly atop his desk, “Fairly straightforward. The murderer in my opinion was one of unusual strength in that the dissection, the cutting of the body, was clean – not such sawing of the flesh. I would think a hatchet or axe or some such was welded with and a rather stout arm.”

Shifting my weight to my right hip, arms still crossed, I gave him a look as a sudden idea sprang to mind. “I have a couple questions.”

“Right.” He said with some boredom as he sat back and put his thumbs into the pocket’s of his waistcoat.

“Have we independently verified it was Pamela Dean who was murdered?’ I put the question, “For example, finger marking comparisons or similar?”

“No.” He shook his head, “No independent identification. I’ve requested fingerprints from the Navy, but as yet they have not seen to be forth coming. And so, the identification is a bit, I would have to say, chancy, you see. The constables identified a purse upon at the scene. Purse, dead body, usual conclusions. I of course, am called upon to give medical evidence, all of which is my report. Thus, from general measurements, determination of age, etc, I can ascertain that all the discovered parts or remains were from the same body.”

“Well . . . that is a relief . . . even if a morbid one.” I said aloud.

Dr Wayburn lifted his brow and rubbed a forefinger long the line of his moustache, “With some certainly, not you know 100% accuracy of course."

I thus jotted down a note that the identification had not been conclusively verified.

“And so . . “ I continued, “What would you say the cause of death was?”

He smiled very haughtily, “Someone bloody well cut her up.”

I shifted my weight again and gave him a look of which conveyed my lack of finding any humor in his remark.

“No – joking.” He said, looking now to Inspector Stone, who had been standing mutely the whole of the interview. “Sorry bit of humour.” He added, not receiving any support from the Inspector, “I can’t say what killed her actually. Not enough of the body to make that determination. I have been awaiting more of her to arrive – hopefully some major portion that will give some conclusive evidence as to cause of death.”

“Right. I was reviewing some notes about the discovery of the body and took note of the distinct lack of blood.” I told him.

“Ah – so you noted that as well.” He replied.

“As you said, we can’t be certain until we find . . . more of her, but would you say the exsanguination was pre or post mortem?”

He cleared his throat and ran a finger long his moustache, "Yes, well, there were two significant findings.” he held up one finger of his left hand and he pressed upon it with one finger of his right. “One, there was no blood in the body when it was cut up.” A second finger arose, and was pressed upon with the finger of the right, “Two, Miss Dean had had sexual intercourse approximately four hours before death.”

I am not certain if my brow furrowed with a frown, “Consensual or?”

“I found no vaginal tearing and so I would say consensual.” He replied.

I proceeded to make a note of it – uncertain of it’s baring upon the case.

“As to your suggestion of exsanguination – I would concur. You see there was absolutely no blood in any of the limbs – and even if they were butchered, you would find some trace within the remains – but none was found here. Odd – quite odd.” He said upon reflection. “As odd as the fact no one has yet to claim the body. What remains of her—remains here at the morgue. I could hazard a guess . . . . they may be waiting until we find all of her, perhaps.”

“So you’re saying it was more thorough than what even a slaughter house or butcher could accomplish?” I pressed the question further.

“I am not at all familiar with the slaughterhouse.” He said, “But . . . as I said, even if you sever a arm or leg and jolly well tossed it about, blood leaks out, but as there is no heart pumping it, some would remain within the limb, or portion of the body. These remains were – well, atypically blood dry.”

I cut a glance to Stone who gave me a rather impassive expression.

“I would put the dismemberment about two hours before I was called to examine the parts of her they had found at the Embankment or fished out of the river. Now, the pelvis, in the river that could possibly account for the lack of blood traces, but not in the leg and arm.”

I gave him a quizzical look, “Was there anything else unusual about the body?”

He reopened the file and scanned through it, “No, not anything with the parts so far discovered. As I said, I look forward to examining more of her.”

“Well Dr. Wrayburn – I thank you for your time.” I said and closed my notebook,
I will speak with the navy and see if we can expedite those finger marks.”

“Quite alright, glad to be of assistance.’ He said and gave me a wink, “Good catch there Alderton that bit about exsanguination. Not many would have taken notice. I bet you wouldn’t think a piece of soaked flypaper could kill a man, hey.”

“Not unless the flypaper had been tampered with first,” I told him with a smile.

He arose from his seat and proceed over to his wooden fling cabinet and returned dean’s folder in among the rows of the dead.

Telegram, Sybil Frost, Bucharest to Margaret Trelawny, London
Protect Lord Charles. Prejudice may be warranted.

Cold Case
Session Eight - Part One


Inspector Stone’s Notebook
11 March – Morning : — As the circumstances were such that PC Alderton’s message, so delivered the previous night, had indicated I was to remain in position should necessity arise. Of some such I was unaware – as she disembarked from the underground carriage and with a slight indication of recognition she proceeded to slip off the platform and make her way into the tunnel. I dare say it was with some significant restraint I did not follow – but, I took heed of her desires and allowed her to go into the darkness. By my pocket watch’s reckoning she was gone twenty-minutes and then reappeared. Up from the rails she scrambled with her hemline covered in dust but no more than a mere smudge upon her cheek. In hand she held her notebook and a umber pencil with which she makes near constant notation.

I folded the morning edition I had been pursuing and stepped over to her, “PC Alderton. This excursion into the underground. Does it enlighten us upon the murder of Dean?”

“It does,” she said with some anxiety as she looked up from the notebook, her pencil still posed above the page. She seemed momentarily preoccupied with surveying those gather upon the platform, awaiting the next train. “Let us discuss this at the Yard.” She said and looked at me, “You arrived by motor or train?”

“By motor.” I explained as we walked now toward the exit.

She nodded and continued her annotation.

It was evident that something of significance had transpired within the underground tunnel – but I honoured her need for reflection.

On our journey back to the Yard, she sat looking out the passenger window of the motor car as if upon deep reflection. I must say my curiosity was much aroused, but I felt it better to allow her solitude with her thoughts as she ponder whatever she had discovered.

It was a brief ride and once more we were within the warm confines of Scotland Yard.

We separated, she to her basement desk and for myself to my own. I wished to see if there were any messages communicated from the Admiralty – for I suspected at some point the Navy would indeed send inquiry agents of their own . . . but there were none. If one were to set out to intentionally arouse my suspicion, they had in short order done so. A case of this significance – aside the brutality of the dismemberment of Pamela Dean – but one such as identified of having national consequences. Nothing short of treason – and there had yet to be made the appearance of any agents of The Admiralty, the War Office, or the Home Secretary. It all bespoke of fanciful fabrication – but upon whose part? I could not fathom the reasoning. For a moment of contemplation I stood and looked down at the broadsheet of the Evening News of the 9th. Who was Pamela Dean – and what had she stumbled upon.

There was no hearing the man’s approach – I sensed his primness and without looking up from the column I was re-reading said, “Inspector Gudgett, my day but a continuation of a week that has in no short order brought about a condition of vexation, I have little patience at the moment for the self-imposed propriety of etiquette. If you have something to relate to me, then say it.”

He stepped up to stand beside the desk as he adjusted his small spectacles, “Yes, well, as I am aware, Inspector, of the seemingly byzantine nature of this case, I only wished to offer an observation – for whatever worth to you it may invest. Do you not find it odd, owing not only to the notoriety thus received by Fleet Street, but to the significance of the tangential entities which are well attached – this case was not given to you, or I – or even Ffolliott.”

I looked at him rather sharply, “Is this in regards to PC Alderton?”

His expression did not change, “My intent is to cast no disparagements – nor, to allude to her gender, which is of course, no fault of her own. I am merely making an observation? One could conclude that for all the supposed significance – perhaps this unfortunate woman’s murder is not supposed to be solved.”

“I can assure you, sir, if that were the case then a mistake has already been made.” I told him far more calmly than I at the felt, as he was only giving voice to suspicions I had begun to harbour “For I am on the case – and I care not to whose patch the evidence will eventually lead.”

He looked about and then said in a lowered voice, “Then I offer a word of warning Inspector. Take care – for if I am correct, a solution is not something in anyone’s interests. And – as I have seen such bureaucratic mechanisations in Whitechapel, if you need assistance, do not hesitate to enlist my aid.”

He then stepped away. I stood for a moment watching him as he moved over to his own desk. Thus it was more than obvious to me . . .

I sighed and made my way down to see Vera Alderton. She was at her desk reviewing the lengthy compendium of her notes, before she was aware of my approach I saw her sigh as it as obvious she wanted to slump onto her desk, but, rather jerked back at the last minute, self-conscious and trying to preserve a modicum of decorum.

“I can of course understand to some degree your reticence in wanting to discuss the occurrences of late,” Stone said as he pulled up a chair, "There is much of this case which strikes strange – but with diligence, together, we will have the truth of it. But to do so, you much enlighten me.”

She sighed once again and looked up from her notes, “Only if you promise to not throw me to the mad house.”

I shook my head, “I can assure you, that if madness were the reasoning behind this case, then the both of us are truly bound for the asylum. But, as was the case with jack, the madness in my estimation is contrived. And so, what happened in the underground?”

Alone as we were in the solitary environment of her basement office she still gave a rather anxious look to see if anyone happened to be within earshot: "I met with a man who went to great lengths to get me there alone.”

“This man — do you know who he is?” I asked with some concern, “Did he reveal himself to you?”

“No and no.” She replied, “He insists on the anonymity of being called The Red Circle.” And then took a deep breath and held her face in her hands at the absurdity of the sound of it.

I said nothing in regards to the sobriquet and instead pulled up a chair to sit beside her.

“According to him, Ms. Dean was murdered by exsanguination, and was butchered as a red herring to make us think it was Jack.”

I surveyed the notes and files upon her desk, “The police surgeon’s report, do you have it there.”

She shook her head, “It has not yet been forthcoming. I was going to see the him this morning actually,"

“Ah, well, then at least this conjecture can be confirmed or denied.” I said thoughtfully, “Did he explain the reasoning behind this subterfuge with Jack?”

As we spoke I began to see the renewed animation of PC Alderton’s usual disposition, “A few reasons apparently. Firstly, to throw suspicion off of the Navy because apparently she was involved in some sort of spy ring they were running. Secondly, to set up a couple of choice people for failure.” And she then gave me a mindful look.



I nodded and arose from my desk to step around to the side of it.

“And lastly, to hide some sort of organization that apparently hasn’t existed since 1894 and their main form of maintain their anonymity is by killing those who either uncover them or suspect their activities.”

I frowned, “Did he specify what those activities might be?”

She looked at me a bit quizzically as I appeared to be looking for something, “According to Red, we need to trust him to "guide us through the maze.” Whatever that may mean. I am not certain the man is not delusional. But the maze apparently, according to him began to go far afield as far back as 1895. He said we needed to look into a John Seward and his asylum and also apparently that copy of Dracula—is vital as well.”

I reached down and lifted the square of cardboard we had discovered at Dean’s flat, upon which there was the crude drawing of a red circle upon it, “Then this was some contrivance for communication?”

She nodded, “Yes. To summon him.” Then she looked at me, “The same thing which as well probably got her killed.”

I stood for a long moment in thought as I looked at the drawing, “This gentleman, did he give an indication as to how he is privy to such information?”

“No.” She replied, “Just that he used to be Dean’s informant . . . and to be honest, I’m not at all impressed with his track record of survival for those with whom he makes connections.”

I put the red circle drawing back down beside her desk and sighed as I ran a hand long the back of my neck, “Seward . . . Seward . . . that name . . . it is familiar to me, and yet, I can not recall it’s importance. Perhaps it is in my notes.”

Suddenly there was a voice from behind us – and I was now rather piqued with people stepping up from behind: "Dr. John Seward. He ran a asylum in Purfleet. Went mad himself – back in 1895, as she says.”

We turned to see Inspector Ffolliott standing with is hands in his trouser pockets, leaning against the door jam.

“Well, at least its a better lead than the bloke who bought Alaska for the United States.” Alderton told him rather sarcastically

“You should remember the case Stone.” Inspector Ffolliott replied, “A bad one it was.”

“Purfleet – Dr. Hennessey.” I recalled and looked at Ffollioot, “The one who like cutting up young girls.”

PC Alderton cut a curt glance, “Anyone else noticing how many dismembered people have been thrown our way this month? or at the very least, people prone to dismembering others.”

Inspector Ffolliott continued to leisurely lean up against the door, "The very one—and then when they had him booked and in bang-up, what happened but the word is given, open it up and let the door swing and he walks free.”

“His solicitors?” Alderton asked.

‘The law had very little to do with it.” Inspector Ffolliott replied. “Seems very shortly after the cell door had clanged upon the good Dr. Hennessey his people arrived. He was quite valuable. A repository of information, if one had the right key. And the the key of course was to the door of the lock up. His information? It concerned a mad doctor. Seward was his name"

“As I recall there was a raid on the asylum – the doctor missing.” I said remembering now – we had reviewed the case several years ago in connection to some similar homicides.

“Right, Special Branch handled all the logistics. Apparently all manner of clandestine meetings of some kind were held, seems this Seward was wanted by various government agencies and services. And a right Mad Jack he was.” Ffolliott continued, ‘The place was set up like a chamber of bloody horrors, all sorts of rooms used for bizarre experiments – from the description of one of them it would have brought a tear to the eye of Torqumanda himself. But it seemed the mad doctor, he was long gone. Some one had attempted to raid the premises before the Yard.”

“Another Mad Jack.” Alderton said thoughtfully.

The inspector smiled, “Right – only this one they kept secret. Two missing Jacks was one too many.”

“To what significance can any of this bring to our current a situation. This was from what 1894?” I said rather dismissively, wishing for Ffolliott to depart – as I knew not why he was even there lounging against the door.

“1895," Ffolliott corrected, “I would say it might be because the very ones one would have suspected to be sniffing about this case – although, back then, in 1895, is was the Foreign Intelligence Committee rather than the NID – but still it was Admiralty. And, where are they now?”

Odd that he should now articulate my previous concerns.

“This Hennessey – his specialty was with a blade.” I had looked over the files years ago in connection to a series of grisly sexual mutilations.

Inspector Ffolliott pushed off from his too leisurely perch against the door, hands still casually in his pockets, “Scalpel it was – a post-modem blade. Slit them up – and like the rumour before during the time of our Saucy Jack – he was in fact a womb collector.”

I frowned for once again there were far too many coincidences – and no end to a steady supply of information that either had no bearing on the case at hand or was being used to in order to obfuscate matters, “Then by this reckoning, the motivation for this runs much further back – back to 1895?”

“Pardon me sir, I don’t want to appear rude.” PC Alderton said turning now in her chair and looking rather pointedly at Inspector Ffollioot, “But, may I ask, why did you come to my office?

“Seward’s an open cold file.” Inspector Ffolliott said ignoring Alderton’s question as he pushed off from the door jam and began moving along the rows of wooden file cabinets, which were the overflow for storage of cold case files, which inhabited the basement where Vera’s office had been set up. He looked at the cabinets and opened one, removing a file, “Here it is – and as I suspected guess who has notification pending on the file?”
Neither of us offered an any response.

He closed the drawer and stepped over quite casually to hand the file over to me. I took the file. I must admit I had found Inspector Ffolliott to be rather unconventional in his own way – flamboyant to say the least, a twat to be sure, but, the man had a memory that was uncanny. But now, it was even more uncanny that he should make this sudden appearance in PC Aldteron’s basement recess. What divination had given him foresight into the fact Seward would be mentioned? To see to it that we had the connection from this Purfleet doctor to yet another physician with a penchant for mutilation of young girls. And from there to the Yard and then to the Admiralty. Had he consulted a spirit board? For Alderton had but relayed the topic of conversation with this “Red Circle” informant only moments before his arrival

I took notice that Alderton was making further notations in her notebook, and while not looking up, she dismissed Ffolliott, “Your assistance is much appreciated Inspector – and should we have further need of assistance in the future, we shall journey straightway up to your office.”

His displeasure at being so dismissed he wore like a bad carnival mask – not at all well. He looked to me, "They made a deal with Hennessey for his information. He’s still about, somewhere. It’s a wonder he’s not been caught with a girl and a scalpel since. As for Seward – they believe he left the country. Of course, there was talk of an accomplice. A Dutchman. Although the file is here among cold cases, you can see it still has a pending notification on the file – should anything turn up on this Seward the is to be contact with the Naval Department.” He informed me as if I were still in the process of taking reading lessons.

As he continues to prattle on PC Alderton cut me a gaze that indicated she wished him gone. “As I said Sir, thank you so very, very, very much for your assistance. These are indeed some weighty matters you have conveyed, and so, if would you please excuse Inspector Stone and I, we would like to have a word in private?”

Inspector Ffolliott lifts his hands, palm’s out and smiles, "You know where my desk is—“

“That we do Sir – that we do.” She informed him.

Thereupon he then excused himself and took his leave, ascending the stairs from the basement confines. As he departs, Alderton rises from her chair and checks the door, closing it.

I took a quick glance at the file he had retrieved from the cabinet and tossed it upon her desk.

“I think we need to devise an means of extraction . . .” She said as she returned to her desk

I did not as yet catch her context, “Meaning?”

She sat down and sighed, “Navy conspiracies. Death by exsanguination. Shadowy organizations. Vampire books. Womb collectors. All taking place with so much jurisdictional overlap, we’ll soon be at a point where we wont be able to cough without violating some form of red tape and we’re supposed to blindly follow a man with a penchant for Doyle and geometry?” She asks incredulously, “And then, to top it all off. Ffolliott—who has barely said two words to me since I joined the force – and now he’s offering assistance as if we’ve been best friends for ages? We need to find a way to do our job but some how get outside of all . . . this." She made a swirling motion with her arms.

“In this we are in agreement. I admit I am aware of the man’s talents but his character is beyond my liking.” I assented. “So – I gather you are recommending we select another location from which to make our inquires?”

“It is not that I am advising we give up – “ She continued, “Or that we break the law, but as things stand . . . if even half of what Red told us is true . . . even if we solve this, its not going to end well.”

She looked at me, “I am not frightened of being demoted – or even of being dismissed from service, or of being made to look demented and run through the Fleet Street editions as a madwoman – and god there are more than enough individuals who lay claim to that title in this insane case . . .”

“These are very serious considerations.” I agreed – having ponder a few myself.

“I’m even not . . . terribly frightened of being shot by a suspect over the course of our work.” She added, “You know that from the other day, but – what I am frightened of is the last thing I feel, being a pistol in the back of my head in the dead of night, or the last thing I see being my own pillow suspended above my head – in order to preserve some elaborate fabrication of the truth, because instead of protecting and serving justice, we have just became pawns in some political machination – of, by, and for whom I have not the slightest.”

“Yes. It is for these reasons, Vera, we can not afford to allow ourselves to be so directed as as to be lead astray, to be alone, as you were, earlier, with this aficionado of Doyle’s.” I stood for a moment pondering the situation, “Perhaps, I may be wise that we should consider a relocation of our investigation from these far too familiar surroundings, where it is know where we can be found. For since we were assigned this case, I can not help but feel the hand of of someone moving us about a game board of someone’s devising.”

“We must take care to be ever wary from this point on of to whom we can trust.” And she turns her notepad to allow me to view her notepad, revealing where she has written Ffollett under possible suspects.

‘I agree,” I told her and then revealed, “I must confess – to test the configuration of this game board, I have reached out and am attempting to arrange a meeting with Robertson-Kirk.”

“I leave that to your discretion – you know her better than I.”

“And so – I gather, our next course of action as I understand it is you wish to see the police surgeon?” He asked.

“Yes – we have an appointment with Dr. Wrayburn this morning, actually.’

Just then where was a rap of knuckles upon the door jam of the small office. Turning I saw Sergeant Pumberton standing a bit awkwardly, as he opened the door, “Pardon, Inspector.”

’Yes, Sergeant."

“A telegram arrived for you and as I was told you were . . . down here, sir.” He stepped forward and passed the postal telegram over.

“Hello Sergeant Pumberton” Alderton smiled at him.

He returned her smile, “If you need anything – to make this . . .” he looked about the narrow confines of the room, “Please come and see me.”

She smiled at him and he nodded and left, closing the door behind him.

I quickly opened the telegram and frowned, "Have you ever been to the Cavern of the Golden Calf, Vera?” I asked.

“No, I haven’t, but I think I’ve heard Irene mention it”

“Well, we are invited. This evening.” I said, handing over the telegram, “By Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk, herself.”

She took it gingerly in a kerchief to examine it.

Telegram, Margaret Trelawny, London to Sybil Frost, Bucharest
Be advised Milton running off book resources. Hound has been unleashed. Confirmation: Program compromised.

However Did All This Turn Sinister
Session Seven - Part Five


Jackson Elias Journal – Continued
13 March, 1916, Bucharest — Edmond Richmond sat forward and placed his hat upon the table, his handsome face having grown serious, “Wait – you are truly upset.”

My perplexity was apparently more obvious than I had intended – but, the lovely green-eyed lady had so captivated my attention, I had not, to my estimation, maintained my usual wariness – something that in my occupation could prove to be quite fatal. Which is why her sudden use of my name had so unnerved me – coming as it did seemingly out of nowhere. Just who the hell was she? Richmond seemed to indicate he didn’t know. “Well, Mr. Richmond I am a rationalist – or at least I have always been. But, I must admit there was an air of something, something intangible, I can’t tell you what, but there was – well, something sinister – about the atmosphere of the bookshop and M. Rákóczi in particular.” I said and lifted my tea cup to find it had grown cold and so I replaced the cup back in its saucer. “And then, I felt it again in something she said with regards to the dead.”

“Well, first,” He looked around the small, narrow tea room and lifted a hand to attract the attention of the waiter, who was in some animated conversation with a woman, whose cigarette was used to emphasize whatever ardent point she was trying to make, “Let us get you a warm cup of tea – and then, you can tell me all about our sinister M. Rákóczi and his gloomy bookshop. And of course, this mysterious lady who has upset you.”

With a look of some gratitude for having been extricated from the vigorous conversation, the waiter stepped over to our table. Mr. Richmond pointed to my tea cup, “Yes. The lady’s tea has grown cold and I will have a coffee, Turkish; and,“ He glanced over at me, “A menu – I hurried to change and had little time to eat? Say, I don’t think I even had dinner. What about you?”

“I have breakfasted.” I told him and he nodded and grinned.

“Then just a lovely cup of hot tea for the lady.” He told the waiter who nodded and began to turn away, but Richmond held up a finger, “Now, don’t forget the menu.”

The waiter gave him a most impassive look and departed.

“So – tell me what was it she said about the dead.” He pushed his hat to one side of the table and gave me one of his most charming smiles – one reserved no doubt exclusively for those ladies for which he had an attraction. And it was obvious he was most definitely attracted – a fact I had taken notice of from the very first moment when he had stood up from the dining table, when I arrived and Lord Cyril was introducing me. The unfortunate young man.

“We were discussing M. Rákóczi. And his rather timely acquisition of M. Turcanu’s bookshop –“ I told him glancing once again though the falling snow to the store front, “And the possible influence by some of his rather surprising affiliations when oddly the topic turned to communing with the dead.” I began.

Deftly, one-handed, he reached into his inner jacket pocket and removed his silver cigarette case, and opened it to remove one, which he then tapped idly upon the case, in order to pack the loose bits of tobacco, after having snapped it closed. “Communing with the dead? I say, what a morbid luncheon for such two lovely ladies.”

“Of course, we had been speaking of outré’ interests. Occultists and secret societies. Rituals and handshakes, all that sort of thing.” I smiled skeptically.

He grinned, “Ah. Table rapping. Spirit Boards and crystal balls.” Then he laughed, “Bells and trumpets—“ But he was interrupted in midsentence by the return of the waiter, who removed my tea cup and replaced it with one which was steaming hot and handed Mr. Richmond a small hand-written menu as he placed a cup of coffee before him. Richmond quickly scanned the small menu and ordered, handing the menu back. The waiter nodded slightly and departed, allowing him to resume, “Now, of course, I must say, I really don’t understand this whole row about the ringing of bells and the tooting of these rather tatty-looking trumpets. I mean, who do you know does that while they are alive – really – and so, why ever would they just suddenly take up such rather odiously noisome habit once they are dead.”

I lifted a brow and smiled, “Yes, well, but I gather she was discussing some far more recherché. Necromancy.

He lit his cigarette, “Necromancy.” His grin unable to contain the escaping wisps of smoke, “My, you certainly did have quite a fascinating conversation. But—still, you seem rather level-head, so what was it she said that gave you the chills?”

“The dead travel fast.” I told him, “I have heard it before. Read it as well. She indicated it was a poem?”

He nodded, “Yes. It is German. Lenore, written by Gottfried Bürger. An 18th century poem. Bothersomely Gothic. The gist of it is the fiancé of a young woman – who as you can guess just happens to be named Lenore – had fought in the Battle of Prague – but he had failed to return.” He tapped ashes into an ashtray he had pulled closer to him, “Long story condensed, Lenore, seeing how other young men from the battle have return is, as you would expect, distraught and so she has a rather bang-up quarrel with God, telling him that as far as she can see, he’s rather unfair and he hasn’t done much for her. And so, sometime after midnight – it’s always around midnight, don’t you see – she receives a knock on her door and there stands a ‘mysterious stranger,’ who uncommonly for the hour asks her to accompany him for a moonlight ride to which she of course ascents – oh, did I mention he looked like her fiancé? Well – there they are off racing through the night headlong on horseback, wind in the hair, all that, which she begins to find all a bit reckless, to say the least, and so she asks why are they going so fast, and he replies ‘the dead travel fast. Wherein at sunrise, Lenore, whose found herself taken to a cemetery, discovers her mysterious horseman is not her fiancé after all, but rather its Death, and as the ground beneath her feet begins to crumble, he informs her that he has come for her as no one is to quarrel with God. All rather lovely – but, how ever did this come up?”

I took a sip of my tea and looked out the window to the winter wonderland of falling snow, “As I said, we were discussing M. Rákóczi’s ownership of the Inima Muntelui , and she brought up the fact that M. Rákóczi’s apparent possession of M. Turcanu’s bookshop, without adjudication, was apparently by way of influence, possibly bribery, from an apparent affiliation with some esoteric group in England. The Pimander Club.”

“The Pimander Club?” His smile was now one well practiced.

“You know if it?” I asked.

He tapped ashes into the ashtray, “Some high society spiritualist club or other. There are quite a few these days. More and more spiritualists, mediums, about as you can imagine. Business being quite brisk at the moment—what with all the mourning mothers and young weeping widows. Seeking some solace from their dearly departed. Gassed in the trenches. Blown apart by endless artillery. Shot in some mad attempt to take a few feet of muddy ground in a No Man’s Land. But,” He continued to idly tap ashes into the ashtray, “however did this all turn sinister.

I looked at him over the rim of my tea cup, “Well, she was pointing out that this Club had been formed owing in part to a certain snobbery against those not of a certain social class – in America, they are looked down upon as well as ‘climbers’, but she said, they seemed to have had no prejudice whatsoever in communing with the dead. Which in turn led her to ask me an odd question – how did I feel about communing with the dead? And I of course explained the dead were the dead – and then, I made a comment in that I didn’t think she look as if she were someone who would have believed in such silly superstition. To which she most pointedly replied that I didn’t look like I was someone who should have to be forewarned.” I put down my tea cup, “Which, of course, was a warning, itself. And then to emphasize, what I think she sat down for in the first place, to give me a fair warning, she used my name – my real name . . . as if to say we know who you are and where you can be found . . . and then, she told me perhaps I should not be in Bucharest.”

“And why are you in Bucharest?” he asked pointedly as he took a sip of his coffee.

I gave him a demure smile, “Why are you in Imports & Exports?”


“I mean, two trade representatives, Mr. Richmond?” I asked with an elevated brow, “London has such a surplus of talented young men during a world war?”

“Only one now.” He said with a disappearance of his smile.

“Then you have heard about Mr. Montague.”

“Yes.” He said putting down his coffee and bringing his cigarette to his lips, thoughtfully. “A rather beastly way to die, what?”

I pressed, “Oddly – just as beastly as M. Turcanu.”

“Well, that was the only—” He started to say sharply but quickly paused as he caught himself.

I smiled, “Yes – the only? What?”

But the waiter returned suddenly to place before Mr. Richmond a bowel of fried eggs and potatoes and a very fresh looking salad. “You are sure you don’t want something to eat . . . oh, blast –“ He said, and the roguish grin returned, “I have to ask. Since you brought it up. Do I call you Miss Bishop or Miss Elias, or Elisa or Louse, or Jackson . . . or however many names you have.“

“Well if you want me to reply, I would not to use Miss Bishop. And I absolutely loathe Elisa.” I said slyly, “My friends call me Jackson. Are we to be friends Mr. Richmond?”

“Oh, I do so hope.” He said and this time his attraction was far too evident in his eyes.

I looked out the window toward the front of the bookshop, “Inima Muntelui. Do you know what it means?”

“The Heart of the Mountain,” He said as he slipped a fork into his egg and potatoes.

I opened my purse and removed a cigarette. Reaching over, I took his from where he had rested it on the ashtray as he began to eat. I used it to light my own. “I am told it refers to a school of sorcery. The Scholomance?”

He placed the top of his hand, which held is fork, to his lips, “I must say, Jackson. That was really quite some early morning conversation.”

“You have heard of it?” I asked.

“The Scholomance?” He asked and took a drink of his coffee and then reached over to crushed the cigarette into the ashtray, as the smoke was wafting back into his food. “A myth. It’s supposedly some legendary school of Black Magic. Transylvanian, I think. Or maybe it’s Moldavian. Can’t remember which actually. I would not think M. Turcanu would have been holding Scholomance classes – I don’t think he was quite the devil.”

“Strigoi.” The waiter suddenly said now in Romanian, rather than the French we had previously used, as he startled me for I had not heard him approach to check and see if either Mr. Richmond’s coffee or my tea needed to be refreshed – no doubt in an attempt to make up for having allowed mine to go cold earlier.

“Strigoi?” I repeated as I took note that Mr. Richmond’s brow knitted in a slight frown.

“Turcanu. He was Strigoi.” The waiter said with a subdued voice as I took notice that a couple sitting nearby looked over the utterance of the word with some anxiety. “Everyone on Gral Street was aware. Of course, he took care to make sure he kept his peace with those of Gral Street. For this, everyone they look away. Gave his bookshop—” He motioned with his head to the store front of the bookshop across the street, “—a wide berth. Save for those few who thought it a good thing. To have Strigoi in the neighborhood. These, they sought his protection or asked of him retribution for misdeeds done to them in kind, as recompense for the peaceful coexistence.”

I held my cigarette so that the smoke curled up toward the window, which we all were now looking through, “Peaceful coexistence?”

“As I say, he when elsewhere to do his evil.”

“Strigoi.” I repeated and brought my cigarette to my lips.
“Strigoi is Roman. In most cases it means a witch.” Mr. Richmond replied.

I took a long inhalation from the cigarette, “In Dracula is it not a vampire.”

And the waiter suddenly stepped away as he grew aware some in the café were giving him rather censorious looks – as if he were divulging a secret they all conspired to keep, even with M. Turcanu having lost his head. He might not have been the Devil – but even dead these people didn’t want him talked about.

Richmond laughed, “Dracula? You’ve read that crazy thing?”

“It’s rather well written actually.” I tapped ashes into the ashtray, where his crushed cigarette still lay smoldering “Better than anything else Stoker has written. Before or since.”

“Penny Dreadfuls, I would not have guess.” He shook his head disapprovingly. “Jackson Elias – crime reporter reading a Penny Awful.”

“And one sure way of dispatching a vampire is decapitation.” I ignored the misdirection of making light of my reading habits and closely watching him for some reaction.

Which was that he suddenly stopped eating and looked at me with that well practiced charming smile of his, “Really? You’re an American – the silly belief in these nocturnal creatures is an Eastern European bother. The living dead? A corpse arising from the grave?’ He shook his head, “And here I thought you said you were an rationalist.”

“Well I guess you have never heard of Exeter?” I told him and flicked ashes idly into the ashtray as he sat suddenly looking rather oddly, with an uncharacteristic loss of words.

“Exeter, Rhode Island. And poor Mercy Brown.” I explained and his face seemed suddenly to relax.

“Oh, Exeter, Rhode Island.” He repeated oddly with some relief, but was still looking at me rather quizzically, “Mercy Brown?”

“It was a year before I was born.” I explained, knowing full well there was also an Exeter in Dracula – which I now knew Mr. Richmond was just as well aware of, which made it quite obvious Mr. Richmond was really well acquainted with Mr. Stoker’s Dreadul work – and was very intrigued at his reaction both to the mention of the novel and certainly of Exeter. “In the Brown family several members had died, the Mother, two daughters, Mary Olive and Mercy . . . and then the son, Edwin, began to waste away as well and it and appeared he would be the next to go. Now, in New England, where I was born, Connecticut – not Eastern Europe – the belief of the undead . . . vampires . . . has not something merely from a Penny Dreadful. They had been exhuming corpses for quite some time. In fact, I grew up as a child well aware of what had happened to Mercy Brown – the horrible thought that they dug her up, a lovely girl of just 19, and then preceded to cut out her heart and then her liver and burned them like steaks and made her brother Edwin eat them.”

“My God.” Richmond said aghast. “In America? That’s positively incestuously ghoulish.”

“You know we burned witches there as well.” I said with a wry smile.

“Everyone burns witches.” He said with a renewal of his grin.

I was careful to exhale smoke from my cigarette so that it would not disturb his breakfast, which he apparently found uncommonly good – or he was very hungry. “I can remember as a little girl wondering if the reason they found her in such pristine condition was the fact she might have been alive and like in Poe’s Premature Burial had been mistakenly placed in that vault . . . and so . . . she might have felt those knives cutting into her. The very thought of grown men violating and mutilating her body.”

“You must have been a very strange little girl.” He said as he returned to his bowl of eggs.

I smiled, “I am an even stranger woman.”

He grinned and was about to say something when we both took notice of a wagon pulling to a halt in front of the bookshop across the street. We watched with interest as M. Rákóczi stepped out of the bookshop. He wore a long overcoat unbuttoned, which the wind caught and bellowed about him as he turned and locked the door. Then he began to stride rather languidly toward the wagon and for a moment, when he looked up and across the street to the Café, I could almost swear he was looking right at me. It was the same macabre feeling I had had that night on the Danube – when the mysterious assailant who had dispatched the Bulgarian patrol on the river with such ease turned to look out at the river and I was certain I could feel his gaze as if it were looking through the lenses of my binoculars.

“Seems a rather large wagon, what?” Mr. Richmond remarked as M. Rákóczi grasped the side of the wagon and pulled himself up to sit beside the driver.

“Must be quite an consignment.” I replied.

We watched as the wagon driver jerked the reigns and the two horses began to move and the wagon began to make its way up Gral street. “Well—I guess that settles it. It’s daylight.”

I cut him a knowing look, “Vampires move about during the day.”

“Oh, you really do have a fascination.” He grinned, “An American journalist who believes in the undead. I never would have thought.”

“Let’s have a look.” I said to him eagerly as I took a drink of my tea before it cooled any further.

As he had just taken a bite of eggs and potatoes, he chewed for a moment before asking, “A look at what.”

I glanced over to the bookshop.

“Jackson, really.”

“Why not – what is really going on over there?” I said leaning forward, “Remember what the waiter said? I mean, just what evil did he practice elsewhere.”

Mr. Richmond took another bite of his breakfast and a drink of coffee, “Even thought this is Bucharest, Jackson, there are laws about breaking into someone’s establishment – especially . . . about breaking into someone’s establishment. And look here, are we not sitting and watching the storefront – which is precisely what I suspect everyone here will be doing if they see us heading over there. And just how do you propose to enter into the bookshop? We just saw him lock the door. Really, I do think this suggestion is not at all well laid out.”

“Your breakfast looks wonderful, perhaps you should finish it.” I replied for I was already contemplating the best way to enter the bookshop. I was certain I could pick the lock of the front door, but, as Richmond had said that would mean we would be seen by anyone passing-by and certainly watched by those in the café – we had already gathered more than enough interest, what with our conversation. The absolute desireable would be if there was an alley and as best as I could recollect on the ride to Gral Street, nearly all the lanes and boulevards we had passed seemed to have had rather narrow ones. Certainly far narrower than the wagon M. Rákóczi had climbed upon. Yes, an alley would be ideal.

I finished smoking my cigarette and Mr. Richmond finished his bowl of eggs – but he must have gathered my impatience – or was concealing his own as he left the salad more than barely touched. And yet, he tossed his napkin upon the table and took a long drink of his coffee, before trying once more to discourage me, “So from that look, I would say I haven’t a chance in dissuading you from this endeavor now that you’ve got your wind up.”

I smiled mischievously – which I knew he could not resist as I was aware of his interest. And so, he took out his wallet and placed more than enough lei to cover he price of my tea and his breakfast, “Well,” he grinned and said in a low voice, “Shall be break the law?”

The snow now having accumulated so that soon my pumps would not be adequate for the weather, we made our way down the walk and crossed the street at the intersection several establishments beyond the windows of the café and the bookshop – the hem of my longcoat just barely skimming above the damp hoariness of the gathering snow. Mr. Richmond kept an observant eye on the street but there were few out venturing against the wind and continuing snow fall. He as well seemed to keep a wary eye on me should I slip. As we rounded the corner I was happily rewarded with sighting the entrance to a narrow alleyway. Very narrow indeed, more a route than a destination. I glanced at him and he returned the look with an bit more earnestness now that we were approaching the alley – for as I suspected his earlier reluctance was a feint. Mr. Richmond wanted to see inside that bookshop such as much as I – if he had not already. Which now was a thought. He looked about before motioning with his hand for me to enter quickly the mouth of the alley.

It was just wide enough for us to walk abreast as we moved along, “I think that would be the back entrance,” He pointed out in the falling snow as I reached into my purse. With a little deft lock picking I got us inside. The back entrance was a tight space, narrow and obstructed with stacks of books – which must have had some diminishing value as they were back here well away from the major sales floor of the bookshop. Mr. Richmond stepped around and led the way. I was now even more of the opinion he had been inside the bookshop before.

I took notice a table and a small wooden box which contained some old rags – I grabbed one and began to wipe at the snowy dampness of my shoes and tossed one over to Richmond – who seeing me, did likewise.

In rather short order we came to the conclusion that there was little of interest except books – and if one were an occultist, I would think there were more than enough odd volumes which would pique ones outré curiosity, but they held little fascination for me. I was not at all quite sure want I was looking for – but did a fairly competent ransack of a roll toped desk. Accounting ledgers, sales journals. Receipts. Bills of Lading – several from London. The Pimander Club. “Odd.” I said as I held out a letter in German from Herren Klopstock & Billreuth, “A bank in Budapest.”

Richmond stepped over and scanned it, “Seems Turcanu had a line of credit there.”

I knelt to open several drawers.

“Well – it seems all rather gloomy and ill kept.” Richmond said as he rubbed at his fingertips to indicate the dust. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place does not seem to have been either M. Turcanu or M. Rákóczi’s motto. Certainly would have disappointed my grandmother.” He said as I continued beside him rifling through letters and a miscellany of papers, some in French, mostly in German, some in what I took to be Romanian, Hungarian, Serbian, one of two in Russian, several in Spanish, and a couple in English. A request from the Pimander Club regarding something called the Le Dragon Rouge and their need to compare something to a corresponding volume the Le Dragon Nior – which, they were apparently most eager for Rákóczi to locate, as apparently they had word from Turcanu indicating he had possibly located The Black Dragon. When Richmond turned his back to look about at a ledger in some better light, I furtively folded the letter, which I had rather hastily scanned, and put it in my coat pocket.

I arose and moved cautiously out into the main sales floor, but the sheer number of old volumes and the smell of dust and paper seemed absolutely daunting, particularly since I had no idea what I was truly looking for – and so for a moment I just stood there with my hands in my coat pockets. I smiled and stepped over and lifted a book, Drakula: Angol Regény – Harker Jonathan Naplója. I flipped through the pages, it was an Hungarian edition. Published in 1898. I wonder how that had sold? I put it back and stopped for a moment. I thought I had heard someone at the front door – but it was locked and the bell did not jangle. I slipped back into a shadowy recess – but quickly determined it was the brisk wind rattling at the door.

I moved back into the office area and found Richmond kneeling before a safe. He looked at me and I laughed, “Picking locks is one thing – I am not a safe cracker. Although I should add that to my repertoire.”

I moved past him and opened a side door and found at least someone had installed a water closet, although it looked long neglected, but even though it was rather nasty – there was no discomforting scent of sewerage and so I glanced over at Richmond and quickly entered and closed the door and turned the latch. I truly had to pee. The room was narrow, cloistered like some vulgar confession. The toilet itself was constructed like some well used pew. Lifting the lid it was obvious some chemical process was used in the tank about which the wooden toilet bench had been constructed. Which at the moment was of little consequence to my necessity. I lifted a brow wondering how well noises carried. It was a relief – then there was a light rap at the door, “I say, anything the matter?”

I finished up and closed the lid of the toilet pew. I opened the door and smiled as he looked inside and then rolled his eyes.
“I had to pee.’ I told him. But, as I was preparing to exit the chamber, I suddenly stopped and stepped back to kneel down before the toilet pew. There were various stains on the floor, “Does that look like dried blood.”

He peered over my shoulder, “Mostly, I am more familiar with fresh blood,’ he lifted his arm in the sling, “I am not sure.”

I was more than certain that it was as I had been to several murder scenes in New York. I stood up contemplating the stains, when I noticed some odd scrapes on the floor. I moved over and ran my fingers over then – the scrapes seemed as if something had been moving over the floorboards. I stood and began to rap on the wall, which sounded hollow, “I think there’s something behind here.”

“Jackson, it is a water closet, does one really want to see where all that –“ He motioned to the small toilet and the large foul looking piping, “—goes?”

Only I knew this was not a running water toilet and so I rapped on the wall in various places and ran my fingers over the wall until I touched what felt to be a loose tile. I pushed on it and the wall suddenly popped open. “Ah, want to see where it leads?”

“If it is into some sewerage – remember I bear an open wound.” He said half-humorously.

“Damn, I don’t have a torch.” I remembered as I peered into the opening and pressed the wall further expanding the entrance. I hesitated for a moment, I did have some matches, but how many and how long would they last. I opened my purse and was shaking the box when Richmond appeared at the narrow door with a pewter candlestick and a half burned taper – he was striking his small lighter and lit the wick. “Does the mademoiselle need a light?”

“Ah, you are not completely with out use.” I smiled. He grinned, “See you are going to want me around a lot longer than you imagined.”

I took the candlestick well aware of the awkwardness eventually to come when I would have to explain that my inclination was not at all for handsome, charming Englishmen – which I suspected would elicit a rather silly, mock pout and a comment about American men vs. English men; only the pout would rather quickly disappear to give way to a certain shock and incredulous, before ultimately becoming an failed attempt to conceal a certain repulsion, when I would fully explain, by way of saying – men of any nationality. But now, there was the candle and the secret panel and what laid beyond and so I dropped the box of matches back into my purse and removed the Styer. Richmond pulled out his Webley revolver.

“Be careful,” he whispered, “There might be vampires.”

I gave him a look and then entered to find a flight of stairs, which descended into the darkness, “Well, it seems a bit more Gothic than Penney Dreadful,” I said over my shoulder.

“Or Grand Guignol.” He remarked as we make our way down the small flight of stairs guns at the ready only to find a storage room. Wooden crates, barrels, a work table, some tools. It was all very dusty and seemingly long neglected. There were some old shelving along the walls with a miscellanea of colored bottles and jars. A couple of odd looking pieces of mechanical equipment.

“Or an old store room.” I said with some irritation. I held the candle aloft and felt the cling of cobwebbing, which I brought the candle down quickly to try and remove. I so hate the feel of cobwebs!

He stood looking about, “We should really be going Jackson, we have no idea where and for how long Rákóczi shall be away.”

I felt there had to be something here. Why else build a secret panel in a water closet, but Richmond had a point. We did not know when Rákóczi may return. I was about to turn back toward the stairs when I detected a strange smell. I glanced over to Richmond, who had already moved back to the foot of the short flight of stairs and lifting the pewter candlestick, in the flickering light of the candles flame, I now saw thin streaks of bluish smoke drifting along the floor at the base of the far wall.

“Over here.” I said in a hushed voice as I moved closer and the blue stream seemed now less like smoke and more like some translucent flowing illumination. Richmond now stood beside me as we looked at this spectral light – his revolver held ready but I don’t think either of us knew precisely for what. I touched the stone wall. It felt warm. Having found one odd passage in this strange bookshop, I set about looking for another – only it was Richmond who discovered what looked to be some primitive wall paintings of what for all appearances seemed to be rather crudely drawn red and black dragons. Upon closer inspection the section of wall upon which they appeared seemed to have been cut so that a oblong stone, perhaps chiseled from some other stone wall, bearing the paintings, could be inset. He looked at me for a long moment in some uncertainty. Well aware that Rákóczi could descend the stairs behind as at any time, I reached up and placing my palm between the dragons pushed.

We looked at one another as there came now the sound of what seemed like mechanical gears and the wall moved back. My candle revealed a narrow passageway. The air seem very cold and carried with it a bittersweet scent. I stepped forward and as I did so, it became apparent that we were walking now beyond the bookshop’s structural dimension above as the cellar was cut far larger, and this way would lead no doubt under the narrow alleyway, which by my estimation as above us. We proceeded a good fifteen or twenty feet in the narrow passage before it opened up to a large circular room. A red room. The walls, the floor, the ceiling having all been painted a bright, blood red. In the center of the room stood a long black marble altar. On the wall behind it there were symbols the likes of which I had never seen. “Satanists?” I whispered.

Richmond, holding his arm suspended in his sling sighed, “No. I don’t think it’s Satan.”

I gave him a quizzical look.

He seemed now to be confronted with the physical evidence of things to which he was privy and would not have ever divulge, “I am aware of a cult which still adheres to some an very ancient religion devoted to a Dacian deity. Zaimoxis. Who supposedly bestows enteral life.”

“This is a sacrificial room?” I asked, and touched the warm wall, “Do you think this paint is mixed with blood.”

He looked at the altar, “I think it is best we slowly, very slowly make our retreat . . . and discuss this somewhere that is far safer.”

Yes, there was certainly going to be a far more in-depth discussion as I felt my suspicions were now confirmed – Mr. Richmond, Trade Representative to the British Consulate was not whom he claimed to be. And I was also certain that whatever was going on in that horrid room, Lord Cyril would also be one well informed as to its meaning. We proceeded back the way we came and with another push upon the dragon stone the wall clicked back into place. I understood now what the significance of this gloomy occult bookshop held and why it had not been allowed to follow the normal legal routes to determine legal ownership after Turcanu’s death. What had the lovely green-eyed lady said? There are things far older than the bible. All these beliefs in God and Monsters and the Devil – what madness had taken place in that room, on that altar, in the name of some ancient deity? Or monstrosity.

With some determination, we made our way now toward the short flight of stairs leading back up to the dirty water closet, when Richmond stopped short and took the candle from me. He moved over to a far corner as he looked oddly at a large wooden crate.

“What is it?” I asked, renewing my grip on the Steyr.

“It—it can be.” He whispered, “I mean, I never actually saw one – but I have heard descriptions. Saw a photograph.”

I stepped closer to the large, oblong wooden crate. “What is it.”

“Earth boxes.” He said incredulously, “One of his bloody earth boxes.”

Even more incredulously I think I knew who He was.

Richmond hurried over and began to pry at the lid of the crate. Together we were able to lift it free and slide it over and as we did so we were instantly rewarded with the thick heady odor of earth, damp earth, and something else, something I am hard but to put a name to, which escaped. Richmond moved the candle closer so we could see inside. Inside, revealed by the flicker of the candle flame, we found a young woman – who from all appearances, of her dress, did not quite seem to be one of the many young ladies who plied their trade along the boulevards. I reached in to see if I could determine if she were dead or alive and I gasped as her eyes suddenly opened to stare at me. She did not move. In fact I was of the opinion that she could not move, save only her eyes which conveyed the most frightening mix of anguish and horror – I have ever seen. I have never looked into the eyes of someone being tortured, but having looked into hers, I could not imagine them to be anything less than the extricating torment I saw in those woman’s eyes. “We have to get out of here—" Richmond said and grabbed me forcibly.

“Now, Goddamnit!”

I shouted, “We have to help her!”

He pulled me with is good hand and tried to manhandle me to the stairs, “We have to get out of here. Now!” He said placing himself before me and blocking my way back to the crate and that poor desperate young woman.

He looked very, very grim. And a bit terrified.

“Them we must get the authorities . . .”

“And tell them what?”

“There is a woman trapped down here – in some kind of an earth bo—" I stopped.

“Up and out, now.” He demanded and I allowed him to push me stumbling up the stairs an out of the secret passage into the dirty water closet. He closed the door behind us and pushed me out into the office and toward the back entrance. I allowed him to do so – as I felt myself reeling from the possibility – of what I had seen and what it all might mean. We were back into the snowfall in the alley and he took a long shivering breath as he ran his fingers through his hair – “Their power is diminished during the day – but in this grey winter’s light with the sun obscured, and I am not at all certain how much they may retain."

I looked at him now in all seriousness and he knew I was demanding a very straightforward answer: “She’s a vampire?”

He turned to look at me in all earnestness, “No—not quite yet – but he is cooking her up to be one.”

Whatever Had Transpired
Session Seven - Part Four


Dorian Calder’s Notebook #24
Bucharest, Athene Palace, Room 402, 11 March, 1916 – I will admit to being a man that gets far too excitable when deep in the mindspace of the inventor, but I like to think of myself as calm and collected otherwise. A photographer all aflutter would never take a steady shot. But this morning, I awoke to a scene that shook me. I dare say I do indulge in a fair bit of drink, I’ll blame my Irish grandmother for that, but I had never imbibed as much so as to render myself blind to the memories of the previous night. The fact that I woke up in my bed with no such memory of having gotten into it, or any memory at all of having pushed my way back through the revolving door of the hotel from having left that horrid dock and that abysmal river and what was found there would in itself have brought me considerable shock and shame, had it not been for the woman I discovered lying in my bed so as to increase my feeling of shame and shock tenfold!

What was I thinking – if I were thinking rationally. But who could maintain rationality when exposed to such mindless brutality – in particular to a man of the cloth. For the body on the dock was certainly dressed as such – notwithstanding the Commissioner’s identification of the corpse as that of some member of the British Consulate. Some minor functionary – a representative of somethingorother, they said, a Mr. Nigel Montague by name.

Someone told me the river was not navigable and yet there are docks or quays as the Commissioner and the Sergeant spoke of them, cold and damp with a quiver of a river fog. “Wind is shifting I think,” the Commissioner had said, maybe. “Snow in the morning,” the Sergeant added.

He had no head. The man called Montague. He had been decapitated. The gapping wound of the neck was clean. Nothing jagged, no slow hacking or sawing but a quick powerful blow which indicated some very sharp sword or scythe such as Death carries. This river – it was taking a photograph of the river Styx. I don’t think I had enough in my pocket for passage.

Yet here I was taking photographs of Hell.

It was the same room I had checked into of this I was certain for there was the charring along the wall near the bureau where my experiment gone all wrong and there is where the stiff necked prick of a manager had stood shouting. Back in Room 402. The Athene Palace.

My bare feet scuffing along the hardwood floor, I strode over to pull back the drapes and felt the cold radiating through the windowpanes as I stood to watch the falling of the Sergeant’s snow. I looked heavenward and yes – I could see the flakes from on high falling, falling, falling, endlessly falling. I could have stood there longer, dizzily so as I watched them fall, but the cold from the window was bitter against my nudity.

An inventory. Yes. My clothing. A heap upon the floor. The dresser cluttered with my cameras. The lens all lying far too haphazardly. A crumpled pack of cigarettes. French. Two of them having spilled from the pack, slightly bent but not broken. A bottle of rye whiskey beside a two glasses, one empty, the other containing about two fingers from the night before. I do seem to have some recollection now of having the bottle in hand while stumbling up the stairs which seemed endless – my thoughts a maze in a haze trying to remember if I had included the last ingredient to the formula – whatever it’s number. So many. So many failure. It’s well past number 54. Yes. I remember reaching the top of the stairs. The empty glass has traces of lip rouge. In the mirror now I saw her lying in the tousled linen of my bed. Longlegged, the left exposed from foot to ankle to calf to knee to thigh to the hint of darken wisps—

“Monsieur Dorian . . . Good morning”, she said in French as she lifted her arms to streeettch and the sheets fell so as to expose the smooth orbs of her breasts.

“I . . . I . . g-good m-m-moring,” I replied—with no recollection at all of her or of her name or how she became undressed and naked in my bed and whatever had transpired there, which in reflection, seeing in the mirror more and more of than oh so ample flesh, must have been quite gratifying. I suddenly had a vague recollection of her tongue.

I quickly drained the remaining two fingers of rye.

“Is that snow,” she inquired looking to the window where I had left the drape pulled back.

“Y-yes – it a-appears to be . . . s-sett-ling in,” I explained trying now most earnestly to recall her name.

“Ah, then, it is cold and the bed is warm and so we shall stay here in it together for the morning, oui. Later, much later, then you shall take your photographs and I will pose for you as we have said,” and she sat up letting the linen slide down so that she was naked from the waist up – or in reflection, naked save for the right leg, concealed still nestled within the linens.

“Y-ye . . . ess, after . . . after b . . . breakfast.” I agreed.

And she pushed back her shoulders and streettch once more and as she did so her hair fell back off her shoulders and her breasts lifted, “ C’est si adorable, breakfast in bed.” She smiled so seductively, “Would Monsieur not like to eat? Oui? Come here,” she patted the bed with her hand,” être un cher and bring me a cigarette, s’il vous plait. And for breakfast, can we not have Champaign?

I picked up the crumbled pack of French cigarettes careful to return the bent ones back into the package and returned to the bed where I settled next to her trying to hand her the cigarettes and pick up the phone to ring for room service at the same time, but doing neither very successfully. She took the package from my hand and removed one, a bent one which she carefully realigned and then reached over to the beside table for a box of matches, aware that my eyes were captivated by the sway of her breasts as she did so, even more so as she shook the box to assure herself there were indeed matches within before she brings them and an ashtray with her to sit back against the headboard of the bed looking at me as I make the call and order breakfast wondering if I am speaking French.

The match flared into a brilliant flame and she lit her cigarette and whipped the match to extinguish it as she dropped it in the ashtray nestled between her thighs – where my eyes were now most ashamedly lured.

“So you do not remember me, do you Monsieur?” She asked exhaling a plume of bluish-grey smoke ceilingward.

“I . . I. . . must apologize but—but I don’t really . . . y-you see. . . t-there . . . are p-parts . . . of l-last night which . . . are . . . “ I confessed and she smiled,

“Ah – mon cheri this is most distressing as I can ensure you last night was most enjoyable – “ and so, she said with emphasis, “There is nothing for it then but for us, after we have had our breakfast and a little Champaign, to perform a re-enactment, oui?”

And I abruptly arose and she looked at me somewhat perplexed and more than a little disconcerted. “Don’t move!” I ordered as I completely forgot my own nudity as I hurried over to the dresser and selected one of my cameras and turned quickly for I had to capture her sitting there in just that pose in just that light with . . .

I stood hipshot with the my camera in hand looking at her—“ No, No,” I told her, “Exactly as you were. The ashtray . . . yes. Move the linen. No.”

I stepped over and pulled the linen back so as to reveal the heavy crystal ashtray position. . . just so – “There, and please, if you will hold the cigarette as you were.”

And she did so with her arm held up against her breast, just as it had been when I first had my inspiration for the photograph, with the wrist bent back just so and the curl of the smoke of the cigarette, curling in the harsh winter’s morning light falling at just the precise angle through the window – and I took the photograph. Then two more.

“I am your model?” The smoke curling deliciously.

“Oui.” I told her and took another picture from a different angle. Now with the camera in my hand I felt I should ask, “Where did you and I—“ I asked moving around the bed to take another photograph.

“Ah—Oui, “ She said as she sat posing, giving me a most early morning look. “You came into the bar last night, it was very, very late and you looked oh so very pale and oh so forlorn even with all your funny cameras as you sat drinking your rye so all alone. And then I had to find one of your lenses, the special one as you say, it rolled across the floor of the bar like the wayward puppy and I handed it to you and voilà.”

I put the camera down as it needed to be reloaded. “I-I must . . . once a-again apologize . . . but I don’t—“

She smiled as she took a languid drag from her cigarette, “Livia. Livia Vinea.”

I moved back over to the bed and sat next to her again, “Livia Vinea. I-I a-am Dorian, Dorian Calder.”

“Mais oui, Dorian, my funny camera man – oh, and what is this . . . “

But there was suddenly a knock upon the door.

“Y-yes?” I snapped around staring at the door.

“It is Commissioner Câmpineanu, Monsieur Calder,” came the all too familiar voice from behind the door.

“I thought it would be breakfast and our Champaign,” Livia puffed on her cigarette as she slightly pouted. I glanced at her and then at the door,

“I . . . I sup . . . suppose it would be . . . be to much to assume you you brought the the r . . . room service too?”

There was some irritation in the Commissioners voice as he replied, “M. Calder. Please open the door, I have little time this morning for the distractions.”

Beside me, Livia sighed, “ Mon Cheri_ , if you would be so kind, do you see my purse?’

I was not at all certain the reasoning for her request as I had to admit as I had woken this morning I was filled with a certain mixture of shock and shame upon the discovery of my circumstance, but now the thought of this ample body beside me departing so suddenly filled me with some dismay.

“P. . . pardon?”

She held her cigarette out as she leaned forward peering over the side of the bed, My purse—do you see it?”

“Monsieur Calder. What is the difficulty this morning. Open the door, we have official business.” The Commissioner was becoming irritated.

Livia began to move the linen back as if to get out of bed and I hurriedly looked around and took notice of a purse on the chair across the room. I quickly retrieved it, “N-no . . . Livia . . . we we made p-plans, it . . . l-l’ll only be a mo . . . mo-ment.” And I handed her the purse and she smiled at me knowingly. “So . . j-just put put on a r-robe for now, no . . . no need to-to get . . . get dressed . . . en-enjoy the break . . . a-and we . . . can h-have breakfast when it c-omes.”

There is another knock, more insistent this time. “One one mo . . . moment”, I called out to the door.

“Monsieur Calder?” It was now the Sergeant – they both are outside the door? Surely there was no further need to knock. They know I am in here, and I am a bit confused as I have more than bit of a morning head. So stop the knocking, I feel like shouting out, but it is the local constabulary and as I have found out from experience one should not excite the local constabulary. I arose from the bed and Livia Vinea and stepped over to the door motioning for her to remain quite, please and then opened it forgetting I was not wearing anything more than she – and she wore a smile whereas I didn’t.

“Y . . . yes?” I said hastily and somewhat embarrassed before the disapproving gaze of Commissioner Câmpineanu and the too wry smile of Sergeant Saval.

“Pardon, Monsieur Calder.” The fastidious Commissioner of the Prosecutor’s Office said looking at me and then beyond to the bed and the woman. “I would have thought you would have been up,” he continued and then uninvited he pushed past me and entered the room, where he stood inspecting the unkemptness with a very censorious look.

He glanced down to the clothing heaped upon the floor, “If you would not mind, perhaps you may wish to dress.”

I was prepared to appear anything less than sanguine as I stepped to the bed post and retrieved my trousers from where they had been hanging and hurriedly stepped into them. One should have one’s privacy in one’s hotel room. I was aware that the Sergeant had closed the hotel door and had moved over toward the bed, where Livia looked at them and refused to cover herself as she appeared much too comfortable beneath the gaze of men.

She continued to smoke her cigarette, “If but I had known you were coming Sergeant, we would have ordered something more from room service.”

“I’ve had my bite this morning, Livia.” He told her, “So—while I am here, let me have a look at your registration.“

As this was transpiring about my bed, the Commissioner lifted a tired brow, “Well, Monsieur, the photographs—you indicated they would be ready this morning.”

I looked over at the Sergeant whose attitude matched his leer, “P . . . pardon s . . . sir but I ob . . . object to you . . . inter . . . interrogating my my guest . . . “

Only the Sergeant, with his hands buried deep into the pockets of his coat, just looked me rather unemotionally, "Not to worry, monsieur. It’s just procedure.

As I buckled my belt and ran the comb of my fingers through my hair I watched as Livia crushed her cigarette out into the ashtray nestled between her thighs and lifting it up she then placed it on the bedside table and reached down to pick up her purse, allowing her breasts to sway so as the Commissioner gave me a somewhat dismayed look as she opened her purse and removed a small cardboard enclosed document. She handed it over to the Sergeant.

“The photographs Monsieur Calder,” The Commissioner said once again reminding me with some exasperation.

I nodded and moved over to the dresser and opened one of the top drawers and reached in to remove some exposures partially stained from the chemical explosion the night before and handed them to him, which he took and stood rifling though rather quickly.

In the mirror I watched the Sergeant remove a document and begin an examination of it.

“Says here it is about time Livia for a check-up,” he told her.

She laughed at him, “I am a model now.”

“Ah you don’t say,” he replied amused.

“And I . . .I’m a photo . . . photographer. so . . . so may, I, pl please have my pa . . . papers back.”

Only the Commissioner looked up from the photographs and was severely displease, “M. Calder, I can see the landmarks of Bucharest upon any brisk evening stroll, I do not need these,” and he tossed them on the dresser. “I wish to see the ones you took last night at the quay."

His eyes taking notice of the bottle of rye. “You do recall Monsieur? For the intervention in halting M. Molnár’s eviction of you and your equipment last night owing to the mishap of your little – what you called the experiment—you agreed to accompany us to the scene of the crime and to take photographs.”

“Y-yes, those . . . y-yes, “ I said in hopes that I would not encounter yet more shock and shame in having ruined the exposures.

I quickly moved over to the water closet to find the red light on, and the photographs hanging from the thin cord I had stretched about. I hurriedly unclipped them and brought them back into the bedroom and handed them to the Commissioner who was far happier as he began to examine them.

I leaned over confidentially, “Th-these pa-papers,” I motioned to the cardboard folder the Sergeant was now returning to Livia.

“A registration, compulsory with the Ministry of Health – alas, we have so many plying her occupation on the thoroughfares, the cafes, the theaters, the houses of tolerance.” He explained with a wave of his hand as he continued to look at the photographs of the body of Mr Nigel Montague. He slowly slipped one photograph behind the other.

“So, you are beginning a new occupation, Livia?” The Sergeant asked.

“I am as I said, a model now. “

“Y-yes . . . w-we have a rather b-busy sch-schedule for the d-day.” I told the Sergeant, wishing either they would depart or the breakfast would arrive. Beside me the Commissioner suddenly stops sorting through the photographs and stood looking at one in particular.

“This photopgrah, Monsieur.” And suddenly he lifted it and flipped it around to show me.

“T-hat . . . . is one . . . I. . .happened . . . to-take with m-my Spectral l-ens w-which I h-ave been . . . d-deve-loping.” I said distracted by the Sergeant’s rather informal interrogation of Livia.

The Commissioner continued to hold it up for me to see. “Here—you see this. . . here – at the angle from which you took the picture – you can see the street. And here,” he points with his finger, “ This blur, here. What would make such a blemish in such an exposure for the rest of the photograph it appears most pristine.”

Livia now leans back against the headboard, "Did they say when breakfast was coming?”
“I-it, c . . . could be an im . . . imperfection. It is . . n-new, this . . . l-lens.” I told him.

The Commissioner looks at it more closely. The Sergeant has stepped over to look at is as well, “Is that – it looks like it could be a person there in the shadow by the street lamp. This could be a hand.”

I sighed and shook my head, this Police interference was becoming bothersome, I took their pictures and now they have them and they should leave, and I looked over to Livia lighting another cigarette,

“They . . . they said as . . . as soon as they ca . . . can.” I informed her of the arrival of our breakfast.

The Commissioner turned to me, “Monsieur Calder, could you take this and make what they call the—“ and he made a motion with his hands as if pulling something to make it bigger “– I think, the explosion picture?

“B-blow up, I corrected, longing now myself for a cigarette. “I’m . . . I’m . . . quite bu . . . busy . . . I . . . I wouldn’t be able to . . . tooo tomorrow.”

The Commissioner pushed the photograph at me, “No. Now if you please.”

I looked at Livia nude in my bed – the shock and shame long since having dissipated.

The Commissioner aware of the preoccupation in my bed sighed, “Perhaps, this afternoon, when Mademoiselle Vinea is perhaps partaking of her lunch?" He glances at her nudity. “You are most aware are you not that we have most kindly asked the hotel to maintain your rooms for as long as you are officially helping us with our investigation.”

I looked at him and nodded, ““Y-yes – y-yes, th-this afternoon.”

He held the photograph up as if I were blind, “This one, I would very much like to see this photograph exploded.”

“B-blown up . . . cer . . . certainty . . . “ Would they never leave? I had to piss now terribly.

“I can take this one with me, Oui? He asked still holding up the photograph as if showing it to a child, “You can do the work with I think the negative?”

“Ye . . . yes . . . thos . . . those are all for . . . for you . . . “ I told him and then in trying to seize back some of my day I stepped over and opened the door.

“Very good,” He nodded and placed the photographs into his coat pocket and he and the Sergeant strode over to the door, “We shall return this afternoon.”
“Y-es . . . Y-yes,” I said as the waiter with the room service cart now arrived.

“Pardon,” The Commissioner said as he stepped out the door and past the waiter.

Sergeant Saval turned and smiled at Livia sitting in bed her back leaning against the headboard, "Here’s your breakfast.’ Then he winked at me, “ Bon Appetit.
To Know and to Keep Silent
Session Seven – Part Three (b)


Klaus Vordenburg’s Journal
13 March, Bucharest — Coincidence? Perhaps. But in any event it can not seem anything other than highly suspicious. I had not heard from Lord Cyril, for years? How many? I would have to look up in my correspondence. And at the moment I do not have all of my papers. Or, my library for that matter. Horvat is cautious. And Reilly? I wonder. Still, he has been capable of procuring so much of my hastily left possessions thus far, I can only wonder how much he may be in league with the Evidenzboro. Although, the truth be told there lingers within the Evidenzboro the taint of corruption. Even so the man is astounding for how many sides he plays one against the other. A magician in beguiling one into allowing themselves to be exploited. Of course, I presume whatever he has been able to smuggle out has been thoroughly sifted through by an number of curious intelligencers – human and otherwise. For I am more than certain The Count by now has been made well aware of EDOM’s interests – for he has far too many operatives in Transylvania and Montague knew so very little of the wild country – and if so, then he surely must know of my involvement as well. Van Helsing and my grandfather may be counted now as among those who have fallen victim to his merciless ally Time – but, he will be quite aware of the threat I may pose.

Thus my concern when Teodora handed me his card. Lord Cyril, here? Now? Has Hawkins sent him – I wonder. “Yes, by all means, Teodora, send him in.” I told her.

He was far older than I anticipated. Not frail, no, but a man definitely slowed by the years. "Lord Cyril. This is a most unexpected pleasure. I was quite unaware you were in Bucharest.” I greeted my old correspondent warmly as I put aside my copy of Torchia’s Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows and stepped around the desk to shake his hand – which was freezing. I hope he did not detect the involuntary rise of my brow.

He explained that he had made quite a trip of which I assume was of some consequence particularly during these most trying of times and how glad he was for us to finally meet. “Yes, yes –“ I agreed “Teodora, we will not wish to be disturbed.” I replied giving her a knowing glance, which she completely comprehended and exited the study, closing the doors behind her.

“Now come – have a seat,” I told him with a reassuring pat upon his shoulder, “And a brandy.” I saw for a moment a protest in his eye but I quickly waved it off, “Never mind the hour. No, it is much too cold and you need warmth."

“Amen to that. I thought it was cold enough out there, then this blasted wind picks up.”

“Ah,” I said as I stepped over to the sideboard and lifted the crystal decanter, “The locals call it the cravat. They say it has teeth.” I proceeded to pour the brandy into glasses. “It comes from Russia were everything is cold.” And then, I recapped the decanter and turned to step over with our brand. I handed him one. He took it as I motioned over toward the chesterfield chair and the warming fire. “Have a seat and tell me what brings you to Bucharest during these trying times.”

As he moved over toward the chair there was a loud snap. A log in the hearth gave off a small shower of glowing embers.

He sat across from me as I settled back into my high-backed chair. "When last you wrote you were in Kostantiniyye.”

Having taken a sip of his brandy, he nodded. “Goodness, has it really been that long? I left Kostantiniyye back in ’91.”

“My dear friend, it has been a very long time and much has happened. To us and to the world.” I reflected as if watched the brandy swirled in my glass, “As most evident, you can see—I have had to evacuated my home as well as my position in Budapest," I waved a dismissive hand, “Even now I must depend upon smugglers to assure my library and possessions make it safely through enemy lines.”

“Smugglers?” he said with some amazement. “One would think such things would be unnecessary here. At least as long as Rumania remains neutral.”

“Ah, yes.” I picked up my cigarette box opening it to remove on and offered them to Lord Cyril, which he declined. I took note that as I close the lid and placed the box back on the table beside my chair he looked at the Browning laying close to hand. "The Neutrality. It has allowed București to become a cauldron of conspiracies. For you see my old friend you will soon discover there is no shortage here in Bucharest of the clandestine services of various governments. Your own as well.” I continued as I reached into my jacket pocket and removed a box of matches. “As to my hasty departure from Budapest, it was in fact facilitated by my assistance to one of your countrymen.” I closed the matchbox and struck a blue-tipped one, which flared into flame with a snap of sparks as I lit my cigarette.

“Oh, do tell.” He said as he took another sip of his brandy. Of course, I was more than certain he was already well aware of Monsieur Montague and the intrigue he brought to my door. The question now in my mind upmost was whether Hawkins sent him? And the answer I felt was most certainly – but, was he a part of the corruption, trying to ascertain it’s depths, or was unaware of the Count’s infiltration?

“And now, my old friend, arrives.’” I said with more than a hint of irony as I extinguished the match and dropped it into the ashtray on the table beside my chair, “Could this be but coincidence?"

He shrugged, “Coincidence? Perhaps. As for me, you remember I was writing you about Turkish folklore from Kostantiniyye. I was a much younger man then.” He seemed to relax now with the comfort of the fire and the warmth of the brandy. “Oh, remember that gel I wrote you about, Ianthe? We finally got married. Father never approved, but he passed in ’91. That’s why I stopped writing. Had to return to the home islands and raise a family. Things got too busy for research.” He took another sip of brandy and continued his reflection. “She passed away in ‘06. In Ragusa. I’ve been there ever since. I probably should have written then. Us both being in Die Österreich and all.” He paused for a moment. "But what of you? How long have you been in Bucharest? Tell me more about this hasty departure and the need for smugglers.”

“Well, as I am sure you are aware, It’s not always so much the getting in as it is in getting out.” I replied, “Especially when one becomes persona non grata with the Evidenzboro.”

He looked at me perplexed, “The Evidenzboro?”

“Precisely,” I said with some irritation, in having been betrayed without regard to past liaisons. Forced to rely upon Reilly and his rather questionable resources to make my way across the border – in particular the far too impatient chef de train and the unfortunate incident with the constabulary at Szolnok, wherein we forced to abandon the train. “Even now I cannot believe it – for all the use of my consultations, the ignominy of having to flee the Evidenzburo. I regret, Lord Cyril, the world is changing. Even for us. We will no longer be free to do our research, to collaborate amongst ourselves – no matter with whom we may have or have had associations. The future I fear is going to be enforced borders and pledges of allegiance.”

We sat for a long moment in silence – each of us in our own contemplation of the future that we both could foresee – even after the conclusion of this horrid war.

But it was time to get to the crux of the matter. As he had said, we had not corresponded for some time – and I needed to know how much he was mindful of: “You are aware Van Helsing passed.”

“I had not heard, no.” I answered.

“Yes, in his bed. At home in Amsterdam.”

The news produced a prolonged sigh in reflection, “First Vámbéry, now Van Helsing. All the greats.”

I placed my brandy on the table beside the Browning, “Vámbéry. Abraham. Jakob ten Brinken. Gone. And now—they settle about us like crows.” I nodded in agreement, “Alas, Lord Cyril we are last in the line of defense.” And I took another long inhalation of my cigarette as I sat back into the comfort of the niche made by the wing of my high, winged-back chair. "Of course, Abraham forwarded much of his research to me as if he knew the end was near. Extraordinary. Simply extraordinary. I had only hints of the furtherance of their research – he and that mad man Seward had began years ago. When Abraham was working with Abteilung IIIB.” I said with a very dismissive wave of my hand. There had been good reason Abraham had been so easily dissuaded from his original plan for furtively spiriting his prize away from England to Berlin. The Abteilung IIIB in ’84 – if the British had bungled their insane plan, IIIB would have fouled it up even worse.

I knitted my brows, “IIIB? Really?”

“Of course, as we know back then they were rather understaffed and quite ineffectual, although in 1899 . . . they did find the wherewithal to financed Jakob’s research.” I continued as I took another long inhalation from my cigarette. Whatever Lord Cyril’s knowledge of the past it was finally good to have someone to converse with, someone where one was not constrained to know and to keep silent. I reached over and tapped ashes into my ashtray, “Their Projekt Mandragora – which of course, was yet another disaster. Abraham had tried to warn him. But, Jakob was always too head-strong and of course he was far too influence by his nephew, who was already deeply involved with Abteilung – both of which lead to Jakob’s eventual downfall. Of course, I don’t think at the time, either of us had foreseen the fact Jakob would fall victim to the allure of his own creation.“

I watched as he sat forward now with growing interest.

And suddenly it became obvious Lord Cyril’s time in Ragusa had isolated him from correspondence with not only myself, but with Vámbéry and Van Helsing. “I mean, you were aware, were you not?” I asked, "Of Abraham’s loose associated with the Abteilung IIIB. I mean, although then, Confidant Number 184 relied far too heavily upon the Evidenzboro. In fact, in 1894, It was they who had passed on intelligence in regards to what unconscionable actions were being contemplated by members of your British intelligence services, based apparently upon the evidence supplied by Vámbéry and George Stoker – and so they were eager to initiate their own research along the same lines of inquiry as your English X Club and EDOM.

Lord Cyril says: “I had my suspicions. But nothing concrete.”

“Yes. Well, as you know, Seward had come into contact with a patient which demonstrated all the symptoms of the victimization of the scourge. And Abraham, when he received Seward’s telegram was, of course, to say the least overjoyed at the prospect – as would I in that I have only my grandfather’s notes in that regard – to be able to witness first hand the progression and the actual transformation . . . should the worst come to pass.” I reached over once again and tapped ashes from the cigarette, “I mean at the time—none of us had actually witnessed first-hand the slow metamorphosis. And so, when the worse came to pass, he quickly devised a sly subterfuge and was quite prepared to purloin the subject from England’s shores and transport it to Berlin by way of Amsterdam, as I said, for further study. But then – he was persuaded instead to spirited her away to Seward’s asylum from where their experimentation’s invaluable understanding of the transformation was obtained. This of course, being after Hawkins had been given authorization to terminate Him who sought to invade your homeland. And thought he may have been momentarily thwarted, he ever has time on his side and vengeance in his cold undead heart and seeks even now to destroy England. Thus this war.”

Lord Cyril pulled out his pipe and pouch of tobacco from his jacket pocket. “So it is true then. He really is up and about again?”

“The Count?” I nodded, "Alas – it is all too true as he was never put down by this supposed Crew of Light. I am sorry, perhaps I presumed too much Lord Cyril – just how much have you been privy to in regards to that reckless action?”

“The details are sketchy, you’ll forgive my memory. But from what Hawkins had told me, and my own experiences in Dalmatia, I was certain He was still out there. I had no idea just how . . .” having filled his pipe he lit it, breathing in the smoke for a moment before exhaling. " . . . active, He might have been since."

“Over time, your EDOM has done well in obscuring the facts, what with that preposterous novel written by George Stoker’s brother. They even saw to it there was an early translation into Hungarian. And so . . . what is fact? What is fiction. And in the mixing of them over the years what does EDOM truly know. And as to that, Lord Cyril, I must say – Hawkins strained a bit too much naming the operation upon Isaiah 34:14. I know his fascination with sortes virgilianae – but his connection of the Island and Lilith?” I waved a derisive hand, “Nevertheless, whatever the name, the occurrences of 1894 – they continue to reverberate through the years.” I added with some emphasis. "I am sure you are familiar with the particulars. Hawkins felt he had devised a most diabolically brilliant plan for the recruitment of what he thought to be the perfect agent – but he had no idea what his letter to the Count unleashed from the Carpathians.. For from the arrival of Hawkin’s letter the old warlord had devised his own plans to invade Pax Britannia. I can imagine him in his castle, devising his plans, reviewing survey maps of London, writing dispatches to agents already being beguiled to his service, redistributing his wealth across the continent, infiltrating like some malignance.”

“We know the past Klaus,” Lord Cyril said with sudden impatience, “Or at least part of it. It’s the present and future that worries me. He set up this war. You say so yourself, and there are others that corroborate. But to what end? To conquer Britain on the field of battle? No matter what the War Office is telling the people back home, that seems a remote prospect with the German Navy unable to match his Majesties. France perhaps, but to actually land troops in Britain?” He sat forward on the edge of his seat, having put down his brandy glass. Perhaps it was the discussion of the invasion of his homeland, or of the war being directed by Him at England, but Lord Cyril now grew rather animatedly, his hands and arms far more expressively. “No, this is all an elaborate distraction to him. All the death, the resources poured into war. What is his game Klaus? What is his ‘Pale Agenda’?”

I looked at him, listening to the fire crackling in the hearth, as I pondered just how much more I should impart. What did I know of my old friend? Was he an agent of Hawkins? Or of the Count? Ah, the golden rule of survival – To know and to keep silent. But if he was an unwitting agent of Hawkins – or worse of Milton – there were too few of us remaining and I had an obligation to inform him. For now, sitting here in my study, he was a part of the game of shadows. “That is precisely the question. One for which I have been trying to find an answer, to piece together. For Abraham was correct to call him King Vampire.” I took a long thoughtful inhalation from the growing stub of the cigarette, “For centuries, these undead have been quite content to remain in the shadows – to haunt the night, but now . . . now He has left the heights of the Carpathians and He plots and strategizes against the living. He organizes. He has redistributed his wealth across the continent. He has slowly infiltrated our institutions, our governments with his ever growing malignancy. He finances and masterminds anarchists and their conspirators To further this Pale Agenda. I know not, as yet, his ultimate goal. But I am aware now that He orchestrates a growing network of not only the beguiled living but of the shrewd undead.” I suppressed a shiver at the thought of what He could accomplish left unchecked, “Centuries, Lord Cyril, centuries – think of it, for all these centuries these undead, these predators have solitarily stalked their hapless, unfortunate victims for nothing more than substance – and now, now he has begun the creation of a shadowy network. A conspiracy of the undead. But to what end? Dominance? Our submission? You say this war is for him a distraction – it may well be one for us. I know he is using it in an attempt to destroy the one nation that retains a network of agents that constantly seek to bring his existence to an end. “

Lord Cyril sat on the edge of chis chair as I could see him pondering the somber possibilities of the Count’s intent.

“I know he is dedicated to EDOM’s destruction. To that end you must warn Hawkins – He has finally compromised EDOM. He has infiltrated it from within and it’s destruction is paramount to the intention of his Pale Agenda.” I opened the cigarette box to extracted another, which I lit with the remains of the one he had been smoking, before I crushed it into the ashtray beside me. “But I fear even greater portents. Hawkin’s man, Montague, or Monsignor Jon Manoilescu as he called himself – he came to me in Budapest. I must say at first I was most suspicious for he brought with him an old travelogue supposedly once in the possession of Doctor Martin Hesselius. But upon examination I found it to be one of my grandfather’s as it had sections irrefutably written in his code. I deciphered it to reveal that apparently the Count had two castles. EDOM of course ransacked and destroyed the one at Borgo Pass, but alas there was another. And there it seems He maintained a great alchemical laboratory. As there were vague hints alluding to in the coded section regarding my Grandfather’s visit with Countess Ida Varkony in Vienna, which makes reference to some mysterious elixir He had once created. We know and I so informed your man Montague, Dracula attended the Scholomance. A wicked school of sorcery as you well know. He asked if it gave any indication as to what this elixir may be, but I had to inform him no. Could this be part of His Pale Agenda? I told him I feared it could be some horrible scourge as we have already seen on the battlefield."

“Poison Gas . . .” Lord Cyril uttered with hesitation.

“Or worse.” I suggested.

“This is the Pale Agenda?” He asked in somber reflection – just as Montague had previously.

“Though my contacts—“ I began and then paused for a moment, “Well, those I once had with the Evidenzboro, I am aware of various suspicions regarding individuals and institutions he may well have corrupted while in London – and that one such has secretly obtained financial control of an English industrial group – one which has an controlling interest in a chemical company.”

“I see.” He said leaning back once more in his chair, lifting his pipe to my lips to find it had gone cold. “This chemical company, what do you know if it?”

“It has members upon the board of the Chemical Society. As well as having financial agreements with chemical concerns in France and Spain,” He answered, “They have contracts with the War Department as well – but as to what they are.” I waved my hand, “I have lost my contact with the Evidenzboro. I strongly suspect His hand in that – particularly as I suspect He had become aware of what your man was attempting. As he was going to Transylvania in search of the second castle."

He gave me an odd look and said. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard about Montague today.”

This was significance news of which I was not aware. Montague was to contact me when he returned to Bucharest – but apparently he had not, if this was true. “He has returned? He found the castle? The Count’s journals?”

“They found him, or someone made to seem like him, decapitated by the quayside in the small hours of the morning.”

“This is most distressing news, Lord Cyril. Most distressing. He is . . . aware. . . I had thought him in Germany—but perhaps I was wrong. Or that was disinformation on his part. In either case, his agents are active – if He himself is not here, owing to whatever Montague may have discovered.”

So—Montague’s journey to Transylvania had drawn his attention – perhaps even diverted resources. Whatever was within the castle at Izvorul Calimanului must be significant. Had Montague found it?

“You believe he is here?” he asked holding his pipe, which he seemed to have forgotten.

“If so – then whatever Montague may have uncovered is of some import as it would mean the Count has diverted attention from his enterprise in London. You must take care Lord Cyril. I am undoubted watched. And so now, will you. Do you have anyone close whom you can trust?"

“I do, though they are ignorant of everything, I think they have suspicions. But I’m hesitant to involve them, though. You must take care also.” He said as he tapped his pipe over the ashtray, emptying it’s contents.

But at that moment there was a slight rap upon the door and Teodora entered, "Professor, sorry to disturb, but a message from Cuza just arrived for you.”

Finally, word from Gerhard. My first thoughts were that perhaps he had more information regarding the late Monsieur Montague. Impatiently I reached out my hand, “Yes, yes, please.” Teodora stepped over and handed me the envelope.

I quickly opened the post and it was from Gerhard:

Morning, 13th March (in German)
Bucharest Perfect of Police informs Monsieur Montague has been discovered murdered. Decapitated. Commissioner Avram Câmpineanu assigned. Nothing of significance as yet discovered – other than he traveled under the false travel documents for Monsignor Manoilescu. Quick search of Montague’s apartment reveled nothing of interest. Surveillance of Câmpineanu – he has interest in Athene Palace. A British Earl, Lord Cyril Bathing and an American reporter, Elisa Bishop – traveling under the name Jackson Elias. The woman left early and breakfasted at Casa Caspi – which of some interest as she sat six tables from you. Followed her to Gral Street where she entered Turcanu’s bookshop, Inima Muntelui. She spoke at length with Viorel Rákóczi. The American woman left and took a position at café across the street – and was met by Katherine Reed. A discussion took place and upon conclusion I began surveil of Reed – only she may have spotted me as she quickly out maneuvered my surveillance. Will contact latter.

“Are the American’s now involved?" I must have inadvertently muttered aloud.

For Lord Cyril asked: “Is something the matter?”

“I am not certain – it seems there is an American woman,“ I began – owing to the fact Gerhard’s message indicated she was of interest to the Commissioner assigned to Montague’s murder as well as an interest in Lord Cyril. And Lord Cyril had indicated only moments before there might be someone within his trust – perhaps it was she, and there was only one way to be certain. . .

“An American woman.” I said as if still reading.

Lord Cyril cleared his throat, “An American woman, you say?”

I looked up, “Yes. There is a bookshop. It was owned by one of the undead. Montague dispatched him—shortly before he came to see me in Budapest. In fact, it was in his bookshop that he found my grandfather’s journal. The store itself has recently been purchased by a mysterious owner. A member of a group, the Frăția lui mortii vii. Who undoubtedly has ties to Him as well. And so, it would seem this bookshop was visited today by an American woman. But, more importantly this American was approached by someone I would not have thought would have made herself known."

“I think I know this American woman.” Lord Cyril said, “She is the one I told you of. Who approached her?”

“You must take care, Lord Cyril.” I now sat forward in all earnestness – Montague’s death and now Katherine Reed’s interest – meaning of course Her interest as well. Events were taking a sinister turn. “As I said earlier, they are settling now about us like crows. His minions . . . as well members of the purported Crew of Light. Jonathan Harker. Quincey Morris. While she as yet remains in London. And now, Katherine Reed makes herself known. It was she who spoke to this woman of your acquaintance. With as Miss Eliza Bennet would say – tricks and stratagems. For there is yet another Richmond in the field* . . . .” I squinted against the curl of my cigarette’s smoke, “This American woman do you know her well?”

“I know her well enough to trust my life to her.” He said with emphasis.

“Then she must be warned.” I told him.

“I—I am uncertain how or whether to even broach the whole of the subject—“ he began.

I sat back, “If she is as you say . . . someone to whom you would entrust with your life, then her life may very well now be within your hands. For whatever reason she has been sought out – for I have as yet not ascertained to what purpose Reed has arrived in service of interests to whom she is aligned. But be that as it may—your friend, this . . . “ And I almost used the name supplied by Gerhard, but instead brought the cigarette once more to my lips, “. . . this American woman she must be forewarned, in particular of her countryman Quincy Morris. For I have found Americans in a foreign land tend to have an affinity one to another. And he is not to be trusted. For it was Morris and Harker who perpetrated the subterfuge of His demise and were the Count’s cat’s paws in the plans of EDOM.”

For many the absurd mixture of fact and fiction of the novel was but merely the fanciful imagination of a theatrical stage manager. A sensational gothic. Where as others, it was a masterful invention to obfuscate the facts – facts already disguised by those who had presented them to their superiors. While others of us knew it to be as Stoker’s Mr. Swales would have said, “It be all fool-talk, lock, stock, and barrel . . . a pack of lies. Only I did not know how much Lord Cyril knew to be false.

Outside the windows the snow had begun to fall in a hurried descent, obscuring the street beyond. A log in the fire collapsed, “If I may suggest,” I went on, “Perhaps it may be more promising to bring her here where we two, together, may offer explanation and enlightenment. It is a hard truth to be told.”

“Perhaps. And yes, I will take care. But you must care for your own well being as well.”

I took notice that his eyes glanced once again at the browning on the table beside me.

“When I arrived I saw a dark mark appear and disappear upon your door. I don’t know it’s meaning, but it can not bode well." He continued.

This too had troubled me for I had seen upon several occasions of late, “Evil is a malignancy my friend. I too have taken note of this odd phenomenon—but as yet, I have not deciphered it’s import. I must confess – I feel the lost of Van Helsing. The Dutchman was our anchor and now – we few who can stand against this darkness grow ever fewer. While his minions multiply and he ever has time on his side. I fear this Pale Agenda—and what it’s significance may be.”

There was a long moment of silence as we both contemplated what horrors that could mean. Suddenly he spoke up, “This is a young man’s task Klaus. How long can we fight?"

“Well my old friend—I suspect there will be much bitter waters before we taste the sweet. And so, we shall do as ever, all as we can. For it is us alone against the dying of the light, and so, perhaps we must truly formulate now our own Crew of Light. Perhaps we begin with this woman of whom you trust – but, it is imperative you must get a message to Hawkins. He must be made aware his beloved EDOM has been compromised. He must know that She was at Van Helsing’s bedside when he died.”

Even now I am uncertain as to how much he knows about what truly transpired. But his reaction to that statement leaves me concerned. His arrival was it is it merely coincidence – for what is most worrisome is he did not ask then or later who She is.

  • As chronicled in Shakespeare’s Richard III (5:4): “I think there be six Richmonds in the field; five have I slain today.” Refers to an unforeseen participant or attender.

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