Journey to New Europa
Chapter 11, House Hunting
The next morning (Friday), Kate tries some TK. She's wobblier than Nick but better than Tom. She thinks she might be able to get the hang of it if she could just haul off and do it.
We mail off the letter Nick rote last night to the Golden Dawn, saying how we are quite willing to talk; they don't need to spell-nap us. We then set off to go look at houses to rent or buy, so we can stop living in this hotel.
Our first prospect is Old Oak Manor, in farm country, on the edge of the village of East Acton, not far from London. There is a military prison nearby, which probably helps keep the price down, and we are not scared of escaped prisoners -- it ought to be vice versa. The manor is for sale, not rent.
The estate agent explains that this place is the property of the local squire, whose family used to live here until they moved to the "new" house 150 years ago, to be more in the social whirl of the village (and its pubs). The old house is more or less Tudor in original style, being built during the Cromwellian interregnum. No known ghosts.
We ask after local fays and learn that, if we buy the place, we automatically become the landlords of "Old Tom Langhorn," who has a small property in the woods to the north of the house. Old Tom has been there for at least 180 years, though no one has seen much of him in the last 5 or so. We gather that, besides a magnificent set of horns, Old Tom has fur or maybe bark, occasional tusks, and no great height. His dwelling is more or less half cottage and half oak tree, the Old Oak, in fact, that is worked into so many local names.
On the advice of the estate agent, we go into town and seek out "Old Jenny" Murray at the grange hall. She is willing to hire on as our cook, and thinks her daughter Kitty would be willing to hire on as our maid (especially since we're doubling their wages over their latest engagements and throwing in the nearby cottage for residence). She also rustles up a large list of friends and relations to help us move in.
We spend the rest of the day bustling around for the move, expecting a reply letter from the Golden Dawn, but not getting one.
24 hours later, a kid shows up at our hotel door. He has the vaguely Irish looks of the Murray family and is probably an employee of ours in some capacity or other. He tells Lorelei, who happened to answer the door, that there is a stranger in "our" village making inquires about us. A "military toff." She tips him a shilling and comes back with him, secretly rejoicing that the villagers are already spontaneously spying for us because, while we may be weirdoes, we're already their weirdoes. Mithriel comes with her.
The boy, Mitchel by name, leads them to his cousin, who tells them that the man is still in the grange. Lorelei waits patiently until the stranger comes out, then sends his image to Nick via telepathy. Nick sketches the image and sends it off to Sherlock Holmes.
Meanwhile, Lorelei uses her various extra-senses to examine the man's pockets. Besides all the usual junk, he carries cards that identify him as Major Charles Murchison. He has a pistol in one pocket. Lorelei tells Mitchel & Co. to keep up the good work and drops by the manor, which she garnishes with clairvoyance tracers and triggers.
Back at the hotel, Katrina finds the major's picture vaguely familiar. While she is searching her memory, Holmes shows up at the door, much to our surprise, and urges us to be very cautious of Murchison. He is Moriarty's right-hand man. His presence may mean that our own investigations have attracted Moriarty's attention -- a surprising improvement in his intelligence-gathering abilities.
Murchison is capable of great violence. He is expert with pistol, garrote, sword, and knife, and is very strong. He can be stealthy, too, though he usually delegates stealthy work, along with work involving bombs and traps.
We thank Holmes profusely and send a report on all this to the Bavarian embassy.
Sunday morning rolls around. The hotel, used to our habits, sends in a breakfast before we even order it. Katrina shows up and helps us go over the morning papers for clues.
Clues turn out to b easy to find. The front-page story is about a murder: in the north of London, there was an explosion at a suspected Temple of Ra laboratory, killing a man named Chesterton and his lab assistants. It looked accidental at first, but "investigation by certain experts" revealed that a device was added to whatever device was under development in the lab. (The Temple of Ra is big on super-science gadgets, as well as magic.)
Strongly suspecting who the "certain experts" are, Tom drops by Montague Street to see Holmes. Holmes asks, "What do you deduce, Mr. Noon?" Tom knows that no one ever wins these little challenges from Holmes, but obediently hazards that the Golden Dawn is striking back at the Temple of Ra for the supposed murder by the Ra-Templars of Mr. Blackthorne.
Good, but no. The expert was not Holmes, but Morrolan, who determined that the saboteurs were not the Golden Dawn, Illuminati, or the Temple of Ra (as part of an internal feud, as it might be). The victim's full name was, by the way, John Wallace Chesterton, and not, Tom is relieved to hear, Gilbert Keith Chesterton.
We decide to poke around the crime scene for ourselves, since we have our own highly exotic methods of investigation. Katrina goes in her journalistic capacity and Nick comes along with a geodesic mapper from Tom's kit, disguised as a camera, to pose as photographer.
They come to a fashionable neighborhood, presently up in arms about the explosion. One side of the building in question is all blown out. In the back, next to the shredded lab, is a large wardrobe with the doors blown back. Katrina notes a crack in the back of the wardrobe, perhaps indicating a hidden chamber.
Nick probes this with second sight and confirms it. He finds -- not a snowy forest -- but a store of quasi-Egyptian costumery AND some sinister plain black jumpsuits just like the ones worn by the men who snatched Mr. Olam. Nick mimes photographs, then points out the hidden door to the bobby on guard, who is pleased and surprised. He packs the clothing off to the police station.
Nick and Katrina head for the Bavarian embassy, where they find that Auberon and most of his entourage have left for the continent, but Morrolan is still there -- in body, anyway, though so short on sleep that his mind keeps straying. He hasn't slept since we saw him last, but he is fascinated by their news that the Temple of Ra is Olam's abductor, and gives himself a bit of a magical pep-spell. He leads them to the police station, to examine the suits and robes for himself.
The rest of us, meanwhile, have been kept up to date by telepathy. Tom goes back Holmes and Lorelei taps in on her clairvoyant triggers. She finds that Murchison has been prowling round the manor, peeking in windows and maybe entering.
Meanwhile, Nick, Katrina, and Morrolan have retrieved the clothing from the cops and are looking it over at the police station. While Morrolan goes through the elaborate set-up required of magic in this world, Nick does retrocognition on the clothes and immediately tunes in on Olam's abduction. The wearer did not trigger the time-spell; that was done by one of his higher-ups. Nor did he know clearly what this plot was all about. Morrolan corroborates the time-spell stuff and the Temple-of-Ra provenance, and tells the cops to tuck this stuff away and keep it safe.
On the way back to the embassy, Nick replays his findings for Morrolan by glamour, who is intrigued by Nick's technique as well as by his data. Nick asks how Auberon's investigations on our credentials are coming.
This causes the sleep-deprived Morrolan to remember a letter in his jacket pocket that came last night for Auberon, after the fay king had left. It should have been sent on immediately. Bother. He summons the much-tried ambassador and gives it to him. Pity we can't read it for ourselves, since it's about us, but opening letters to elven kings is not done lightly.
While having breakfast (for Morrolan) and lunch (for themselves), Nick reads the sealed letter by clairvoyance as it rides in the satchel of a military attachÚ. Morrolan was right -- the investigation settled nothing, but it did confirm how alien we are, and therefore, to that degree, our truthfulness. Also, it seems the Unseelie are interested in us. Oh, goodie.
Morrolan stumbles off to sleep. We promise to keep in touch.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.