Journey to New Europa
Chapter 13, In pursuit of Murchison
It's moving day. We are leaving the hotel for Old Oak Manor in East Acton. The cartsmen arrive and load up, and we follow in carriages, after leaving generous vails with the staff. (It sure is easier to go adventuring when you're filthy rich.)
There are small boys waiting for us when we arrive. They greet us and run to fetch Mitchel, the small-boy-in-chief. While three or four strapping village lads show up to help move in (and snoop), the boys report that they haven't lost anyone else, nor found anyone else either. Mitchel shows and explains the two strangers that did business with the vanished Murchison are now staying at a boarding house. A third minion has come and gone by normal means. We commend and tip him, and warn him again to be careful.
The rental furniture starts arriving. Old Jenny Murray and her daughter Kitty show up, too, with a huge basket and a stewpot, in case they didn't have any food in London. We stroll about, planning things like:
Before we've finished lunch, there's another knock and another "person." Kitty can't pronounce his name, from which we infer he's Germanic, probably Bavarian. And indeed its a Lieutenant Gunder...thing...mumble from the Embassy, to deliver a "dispatch." It's a scrawly sort of letter from Morrolan. He can't recall exactly what he said at our last meeting (He was exhausted.) except that we'd arranged to meet again. When would we like to do that? and he apologizes for forgetting if we said last time. We invite him for tea.
We unpack our weaponry in the newly-designated gym and learn that Mithriel has learned to shop since arriving here ... mostly for knives and swords, but also for things like a five-shot non-ferrous revolver. She also picked up lots of neat-looking stuff at a magicians' supply store, for the lab -- pure white sand, silk, silver, candles, special waters, etc. Good girl.
Old Jenny's cousins, the Jeffries brothers, show up, having been recommended to us by Jenny for butler and groom. We hire them. Around two, we hear the sounds of a fight. Dafnord and Tom investigate and find Jenny brandishing a frying pan, but actually whacking with the back of her other hand, her target being a smallish man who runs off. We notice the kitchen silver ever so slightly out of skew and gather than this was a local thief whom Jenny has just dispatched. She seems to have things well under control, so we compliment her and leave.
Are 2:30, Mitchel bursts in, reporting a mysterious gleam up in the church belfry. Kate, Dafnord, and Nick follow him out to the yard and get the belfry pointed out to them. Mitchel also assures us there are "lads" all around the church.
We sneak over, evading a priest tidying up after yesterday's Sunday services, and make our way to the belfry. No one is there. But there's a lot of dust, bearing footprints leading back and forth but, finally, to the southern arch. There, the sill at the southwest corner has marks in the dust as if something narrow were laid there, pointed at our house.
Nick does a retrocog and confirms that a man was recently kneeling here, sighting through a rifle at us, with a telescopic sight. He looks like Holmes' picture of Murchison. He went down a handy trapdoor to another stairway, older and narrower. Nick probes down this path by second sight and hears excited boys' voices. Two of them are stooping over a third, trying to rouse him. They succeed and he complains.
Nick leaves a tracer in the belfry and then we all go down to examine the boy. He probably passed out, though he doesn't remember it, as is usual. And he passed out because he was thumped in the head by a door suddenly opening on him. Presumably Murchison scrammed out of the belfry and thumped him by, we hope, accident.
We take him to Lorelei, who decides he may be mildly concussed. She heals him up and does some telepathy on him to try and dig out the experience, but the memory simply isn't there. Lorelei tells the kids to back off, because Murchison is dangerous Mitchel, the one being addressed nods knowingly and assures her he'll tell the kids to leave Murchison alone ... but does not seem to number himself among the "kids." sigh
Morrolan shows up around 4:00, in the ambassadorial carriage, drawn by six perfectly matched horses, accompanied by tons of military escort. He sheds these as well as he is able and enters. We ask about the attack we heard of. He was attacked by zombies, he tells us, muttering "Murderer" at him. He tried mind-control on them, which failed for lack of target, and was forced to dismember them instead. This is obviously necromancy, and therefore obviously Golden Dawn work. It would have to be the work of more than one wizard, presumably a "standard star of seven."
His leg got re-stressed in the fray. Lorelei works on it some more and we trade tales. Since he was assaulted in the Bavarian Embassy, we now have an international incident brewing. He tells us the Unseelie may have been investigating us in Somerton, and we tell him about the horned "person" at the hotel. We also tell him we're preparing a report on all we've learned, though we do NOT tell him how widely we're planning to distribute it.
Morrolan tells us that the late Blackthorne was a master theoretician, working on things like mass zombie animation, with obvious military application. Lorelei says, "Oh! There's this lake in Bavaria--" then stops. Over the telepathy net, she tells us that there is a legend of an army of undead at the bottom of a Bavarian lake. Morrolan, meanwhile, denies that the Illuminati attack the Temple of Ra lab that blew up the other day.
Then there's another knock at the door. A Bavarian functionary comes in and delivers a letter, saying there's a messenger waiting. The letter is from deClare of the Golden Dawn. He informs us that Blackthorne's brother Simon is "no longer a problem. He died tragically by his own hand. The others caught by the ashes he strewed so wantonly in front of the restaurant have all been taken care of." We send a thank-you back and repress shudders.
Morrolan tells us that Auberon has concluded his investigations of us and, as he predicted, could not reach a definite conclusion, but admits that our story checks out as far as checking it is possible. Auberon will probably be back in Britain soon and wanting to talk with us. Good.
After Morrolan leaves, Lorelei leads a security sweep through the house. Nick finds a potted plant with some magic on it. Analyzing, he decides it's fay and similar to a second-sight tracer. Where'd it come from, anyway?
We ask Jenny, who remarks there were several plants here, and the place was rather tidied up before she got here. We evict all the plants in case their bugged. If we're lucky, it's only brownies.
Next, we get a letter (Victorian England had almost as much mail as the Internet) from Katrina, saying she has been investigating Professor Stoutworthy, the academic who murdered the minister by dropping a vase on his head. We invite her over for tomorrow morning, to tell us about it.
Nick then returns to the belfry under cover of invisibility and sets up some glamour to skew anyone's efforts to aim out of the belfry.
Tuesday morning comes, with Katrina. She has a thick report on Stoutworthy, the upshot of which is that he is monumentally boring. However, enough spadework reveals he was in or near the location of several of these "Mesopotamia" incidents.
AND, speaking of "Mesopotamia," yesterday afternoon's papers had a "Mesopotamia" ad in the agonies. (We were far too busy yesterday to scan papers.) It gives a PO box. Here is our chance to intercept these plotters.
Katrina leads Tom back to London, to the offices of the relevant paper. The paper itself runs the PO boxes. While Katrina tries to ferret out something about the placers of the ad, Tom locates the physical box and finds it empty. He tries to put a tracer on it, but does only so-so.
He telepaths to Nick, who comes in that afternoon to do psychic repairs. (Publicly, this means that first Tom, in the morning, then Nick, in the afternoon, wander in off the street and stare abstractedly for a moment at the wall of PO boxes.)
Katrina, meanwhile, tries ferreting again with a different shift of the staff. She is not really surprised to find that this box is NOT listed as rented. Nor were any of the other "Mesopotamia" boxes. So they were fronts. But how to ensure that they weren't really used by someone else?
Nick, who has been eavesdropping psychically, drifts in to join Katrina. The clerk, meanwhile, has joined us in confusion because he remembers renting out the box just last night. He shows us the ledger page, insisting that someone is dinking the records, somehow removing the writing from the ledger. Nick spots that the writing on the ledger, though appearing to be the genuine product of several different hands, is in fact all by one hand -- forged. Close examination of the binding shows that it has been tampered with. (No trace of magic, though.)
Neat trick, that, altering a ledger in constant use in a busy office. The clerk, meanwhile, is sufficiently ticked by the tampering to "accidentally" let slip that the name given by the (erased) renter was "Jonathan Warren" and the address was 43A Hawthorn Place. He consoles himself for the breech of professional ethics by reflecting that you can hardly betray the confidence of someone who isn't there, which the records clearly show he was not...
Nick and Katrina betake themselves to Holmes. He saw the ad already and has investigated. The address given is fictitious. He points out how impossible it would be to tamper with the ledger, as has obviously been done, and we begin to reflect that this sort of impossibility can be accomplished by time-travel. A Temple of Ra specialty.
When Holmes learns of the tampered ledger, he recalls a man there with non-local clay on his boots and chides himself for not following up on this obvious clue. He will sketch the man.
The name "Jonathan Warren" MAY be real. There are three in the London directory. It is also the name of the personal secretary of Somerset Hall, the philanthropist whose name was on the Archdruid's list. Fascinating.
Holmes accordingly wants to look into Hall's whereabouts. He was in Paris last week, but he does have a London townhouse, and Warren may be there, even if Hall isn't.
So Holmes, Nick, and Katrina are off with pistol and deerstalker. It's evening by now. There are lights on in the townhouse. Nick sends in clairvoyance, through a balcony window, into a library, occupied by a distinguished-looking, heavy-set man with a mustache, reading old newspapers. Nick describes him to Holmes, who identifies Hall. He wonders why he is reading old papers that he could have got in Paris.
Hall paces the room, scanning the books, looking upset and frustrated. He toys with one book briefly -- a French novel -- then suddenly storms out. Nick reports this to Holmes and Katrina. The two men slip out of the cab and pursue Hall down the street, staying on the other side. Suddenly, Holmes gaze is fixed and his jaw clenched. He points and Nick spots Murchison, trailing behind Hall.
Nick raises the telepathy net and covers himself and Holmes with camouflage glamour. They then track Hall and Murchison to Hyde Park. Hall enters, still steamed about something. Murchison hesitates before crossing the street, with its brightly-lit areas, but is forced to follow. He then pulls a gun. Holmes follows suit.
As Murchison fires on Hall, though, Nick deftly pushes the gun aside with TK. The gun is silenced. Nick skews the next shot, too, but this time it ricochets noisily. Hall, alerted, turns and crouches. Murchison takes aim again. Nick glamours a noisy clattering of many approaching people and a spotlight beam that moves toward Murchison. Holmes takes a bead on Murchison.
Murchison fires anyway, but Nick makes him miss again. Murchison then dives into the nearby Serpentine. Hall, who probably heard that last bullet whistle past his ear, dives into some handy bushes.
Nick makes himself and Holmes fully invisible, as Katrina approaches, having ditched the cab after some careful misdirection. Hall, meanwhile, has emerged from the bushes, keeping low. He hides behind a big tree, and there we shall hang our cliff.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.