The Coldfall Sanction
Lady Hélène Beltham
Born in South Africa, the lovely Lady Hélène has had quite the tragic past. She had grown up with the understanding that her mother and father had been killed by marauding, rebel brigands roaming throughout the Transvaal. Amid the maddening chaos and destruction of their attack upon the outpost, she was told she had been bundled up and secreted away to safety by one of her parent’s servants—the woman she grew up to think of as mother, Laetitia Voigt.
Her childhood in the Transvaal Republic was seemingly worlds away from the lives of Lord Edward Beltham, a recipient of the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery during the First Boer War, and his lovey wife Lady Maud Beltham. But for all the distance between them their lives were infinitely entwined.
Lord Beltham remained in the Transvaal for several years after the Pretoria Convention, but he foresaw a point in time in which the rich African land would once again reveal another of her boundless mineral excesses and with it there would come a rush of imperial interests, settlers, and greedy men. And along with them the seeds of yet another war. He had been far too lucky in the last one., and so he requested and received a transfer in order to return once more to his verdant English countryside and its safety for his wife and infant daughter. Thus the family returned to the Beltham estates of Scottwell Hill. Accompanying the Lord Beltham was his aide Sergeant Nickolas Gurn. But Lord Beltham found little happiness at his ancestral home – for misery not only resided in the heat of the Transvaal. They had been home all of three months when their daughter succumbed to a relapsing fever. In an attempt to restore some harmonious relations with his melancholic wife, Lord Beltham purchased, as an anniversary gift, a spacious loft apartment in Paris – where Lady Beltham could find some solace among the Parisian boulevards and cafes of her youth, as well as with her parents. It was upon a surprise visit Lord Beltham paid upon his wife to observe the state of the ongoing renovations – and her state of mind – he discovered a horrid truth. His wife and his aide, Sergeant Gurn, were lovers – and had been for some time.
Enraged at the betrayal of his aide whom he had trusted implicitly since the days of the horrors they had endured in the Transvaal and the long expected treachery he had anticipated of his much younger wife, Lord Beltham awaited upon a decisive moment in which he knew they would be together and bursting in upon them, was fully prepared to put a bullet in the brain of Lady Maud. Instead Gurn took up a workman’s hammer and struck the Lord Beltham in the back of the head and then proceeded to strangled him. To cover up the crime, Lady Maud reported the death as a horrid night in which a drunken workman, apparently having concealed himself in order to lie in wait to assault her – unaware of her husband’s presence, not only in Paris but in the apartment – had violently overcome and killed her husband in the ensuing scuffle. As the French authorities were aware the Beltham’s had some connection to the British Royal Family, third or fourth removed, or, so it was rumored, they produced more sympathy than rigorous inquiry and continued to search for the homicidal workman.
For sometime afterwards Lady Maud continued a rather difficult relationship with Gurn – being ever mindful of any possible suspicions or surveillance. But even in her careful anxiety of a misstep, she quickly acted to assist him in bringing from South Africa a daughter he had thought lost but only recently discovered. As Laetitia Voigt had long ago told young Hélène the lie of her mother and father’s death, she now explained how she had done so in order to protect her from discovering the truth about her father, an Canadian artillery sergeant, who was a notorious thief and infamous black-marketeer. Of course she neglected to explain she had done so as well to try and shield her from the obvious truth of her abandonment. And so, Lady Beltham began to strategically establish, in England as well as France, the fabrication of the seemingly miraculous discovery of the daughter she and Lord Edward had long thought to have been lost during the African conflicts. For her part, the 15-year-old Hélène was grateful, and although she at first thought it would be quite impossible, she soon found herself building a remarkably amiable relationship with the melancholy woman, who asked only to be called mother.
Gurn and Lady Maud eventually parted ways as she began to discern the depths of his criminal activities on the continent. Even with the companionship of Hélène, Lady Maud found herself continually haunted by the memories of that night in Paris – in fact, as much as she loved Hélène, she found that each day she only reminded her of her guilt of the many sins she was complicit in with her lover – who she knew to be a uncompromising villain and a murderer. And so, one spring morning when Hélène was 18, Lady Maud, committed suicide. Thus the young girl came into the inheritance left to her by Lady Maud Beltham, which along with various property deeds and international investments made her a very wealthy young woman. Rather than remaining at the Scottswell Hill estate, where she was confronted with the remembrance of the woman who had so wanted to call her mother, she took up residence in a mansion she purchased in London.
Several years after Lady Maud’s death Nickolas Gurn appeared one afternoon with a request to see Lady Hélène Beltham. There in her parlor, awkwardly sipping tea, he proceeded to revealed a most disturbing truth: she was his daughter. He explained that he had had a on-going relationship with her mother in the Transvaal. And that owing to their situation, they had been force to make a dreadful decision. One they forever regretted. They had given her over to the care of a woman he had long trusted. A woman named Laetitia Voigt. Shocked and angry that Lady Maud’s lover not only had the imprudence to come and see her, but to reveal such an obvious vile and monstrous fabrication, she demanded him to leave at once. You must understand, he told her, your mother loved you very much – but she feared what that brute Lord Edward would do if he ever discovered you. Your mother so longed to tell you but believed you could only hate her. And thus came the full revelation that she was not only his daughter but she had been Lady Maud’s as well. This was more than she thought she could bear – the woman she had come to respect and admire had – had so heartlessly abandoned her. Left her a continent away.
In order to provide proof of his claim he explained that being fearful at some point events within the Transvaal may transpire to cause her to be separated from Laetitia, he had devised a plan of being able to assure she could be easily identified. Enlisting the aid of a most extraordinary native artist, he had returned when she was five and with Laetitia had taken her to the native artist and had him place upon the nape of her neck a very special tattoo – one Gurn explained of his own devising, which was to be so finely etched, so delicate and small, it would almost be impossible to see it as something other than a beauty mark. But nevertheless, under a magnifying glass’ examination, it could immediately be recognized as the contours of a elongated skull. A skull she asked? Why ever would you suggest such a horrid thing? Because it had been a symbol he had used when he had been a younger man and involved in a criminal network, he explained. A network that he had reestablished with much success since he and Maud had parted ways. A network to which she too was now an heir.
Hélène demanded that he leave her home and never darken its threshold again.
After he left she raced to her room where she examined the odd beauty mark upon her neck.
Subsequent investigation by a private detective agency, Hudson & Brand, revealed not only that Laetitia Voigt, old and infirm and still living in Pretoria, would confirm the grotesque story of her parentage, but that Nicholas Gurn was only one of a host of assumed names used by a brilliant criminal wanted by several European police agencies.
It was a late August afternoon when the evening post brought her a letter from Berlin. Enclosed within was a picture of the same elongated skull and a code word that the letter said would give her control of his criminal enterprises. Every since, Lady Hélène Beltham maintains very close security and sleeps with a revolver underneath her pillow.
A fashionable member of London Society, Lady Hélène Beltham is known to contribute to various children’s charities and is a member of the Spiritualist Association of Great Britain
Update, Session One, Part Two: From Okhrana With Love.
Lady Hélène Beltham, having inherited her father’s international criminal network, has secured the services of Neville Pym, as well as her own operative, Harriot Willingham, to assist in the recruitment of Veronica Wells via blackmail for some nefarious purpose as yet unrevealed. What little information provided to Veronica via Pym would indicate she has been selected by Hélène Beltham owing to her high marks in Chemistry, as well as providing information regarding her gentleman, Lt. Bradley McFarlane.