Journey to New Europa
Chapter 14, Springing a trap for Hall
We left our heroes divided, most of them at Old Oak Manor, Nick and Katerina with Sherlock Holmes in Hyde Park. Nick and Holmes had just rescued Somerset Hall from a murder attempt by Major Murchison, who probably didn't know his gun was being TK'd and eventually escaped by diving into the Serpentine.
After a few tense moments, Nick checks his tracer on Murchison. The man is now dripping his way down Rotten Row, retreating. Nick suggests to Holmes that they approach Hall. The detective agrees. Nick makes them visible again and they start to approach.
Hall, meanwhile, has been hiding behind a tree, dodging the gunfire. Katerina approaches and inquires if he's all right. He warns her of the gunfire and asks her to leave for her own safety. Just then, Nick and Holmes arrive. "This evening," Nick says, "I appear to be your fairy godfather." He performs introductions all around and recommends they scram. They pile into the cab Katerina had been riding in and head for private rooms at a nearby restaurant. Meanwhile, the rest of the party have been in touch telepathically and decide to send out Z, Tom, and Mithriel to meet Nick at the restaurant. Nick warns Hall, so he can order enough places at the table.
Nick reminds Hall of our letter to him, about a week back, mentions MacLeish the archdruid and our conjuration by him and his folk, and, in general, spills the first course of beans, including what we know about Murchison and the string of strange crimes. This seems to strike a chord in Hall, who looks furtive and uneasy when we mention the code word "Mesopotamia" in the newspaper ads.
"How did you come to be in Hyde Park?" he asks. Nick explains that they were driving by his house and saw him leave, trailed by Murchison. This is the truth, but not the whole truth, since it leaves out things like ESP and Holmes' investigations on our behalf. He does mention using TK on Murchison's gun. "I suppose I owe you my life," says Hall, not seeming too pleased about that. "I certainly owe you an explanation."
Just then, Z, Tom, and Mithriel arrive, get introduced, and go through the motions of being updated. "What do you know about me?" Hall asks. We say we've heard he's a philanthropist. That amuses him slightly. "I suppose so. I'm also an amateur investigator."
His curiosity was sparked when his friend Jeremy Witherfield died in an "accident" a while back -- much to the relief of many acquaintances. Hall says nothing explicit, but dear old Jeremy's business and personal affairs were both shady, and we gather he was an extortioner or black-mailer, or something equally pleasant, though to Hall personally he was only a witty and pleasant dinner companion.
Hall decided the death was no accident and started investigating. He soon spotted the pattern Katerina and Holmes have spotted. With more financial resources than they, he determined that this pattern extended all over Europe -- in Madrid, a Senor St. Iago died a timely death; in Paris, a M. Gaston duPrie did the same; ditto Geneva, Venice, Amsterdam. But the first and commonest occurrences were in England.
Hall's most recent trip to Paris was to meet with a subordinate investigator he had employed, since he is too cautious to entrust reports to the mails. He came home to London "perhaps on a fool's errand." HE was the one who placed the most recent "Mesopotamia" ad, to draw out the murderers. He planned to "hire" them to do an assassination and then, since the supposed victim was of high stature, insist on doing business with the bureau's higher-ups. He has, in fact, been investigating "the Assassination Bureau," not the World Crime League of which Murchison is a member, unless one is a division of the other. The "Mesopotamia" ad is their standard way of getting contacted by their customers, according to his investigations.
Nick asks how he got the newspaper's ledger re-done. He's baffled. But this does explain why the Bureau would want to routinely alter records, Nick points out. Tom suggests that maybe these two criminal organizations are being pitted against each other by someone else, rather the way the wizardly orders are. Nick remarks that, in the Blackwood case, it seems that wizards may have employed the Assassination Bureau. He wonders if the Unseelie are behind all this, and if it connects with the Second Compact. He then offers to include Hall in the distribution list for the report we're going to write up (if we ever get the spare time). Hall offers to try to get us an introduction to the Temple of Ra; he thinks one of his acquaintances is a member.
Hall then asks if Warren, his secretary, is in danger. Nick checks on his clairvoyance tracer to Murchison. The major is nearing Hall's townhouse. Nick announces this. Hall is alarmed, Holmes announces that "the game is afoot," and we all exit hurriedly.
As we hasten toward Hall's house by cab, Nick continues to clairview. Murchison has been striding very rapidly and is already at Hall's gate. He gives a bird-call whistle and is answered. Someone approaches, Murchison starts to pull out a pistol, then identifies them, and returns it. Nick asks Hall what his secretary looks like. The answer vaguely describes the man Murchison is now meeting. Nick glamours up an image -- startling Hall slightly -- and learns that, though there is a resemblance, this is NOT Warren and is unknown to Hall.
In Hall's garden, in the night, Murchison asks the newcomer, "Is it done?" A nod in answer. "I will need the men." "Yessir." They head into the house. Nick, meanwhile, has been relaying all of this, and, back at Old Oak Manor, Dafnord, Lorelei, Ashleigh, and Kate start to scramble.
Murchison's lieutenant ducks off into the bushes, and Tom launches another second sight after him. Murchison enters Hall's house, where he sees two men stuffing a body into a leather bag. This, unfortunately, is probably Warren. They then stuff the body into a closet. "Targets, sir?" they ask.
"Hall especially. And anyone else if they enter the house."
Tom's man, meanwhile, has picked up two valises, entered, and set them down in the hallway for Murchison. The larger contains tools, incendiaries, padded evening clothes, and a lot of makeup. The smaller contains weapons. It looks like they are planning to ambush Hall and then impersonate him. Murchison starts to assemble a rifle and remarks, "We need more men."
The lieutenant goes out and gives another whistle-signal. A figure crosses the street and meets him. "Reinforcements," he murmurs. At this point, Tom's psychic energies run out and he drops the clairvoyance. Nick, meanwhile, has been watching Murchison and has determined that the rifle is in fact an air-gun, and therefore nearly silent.
"Let's wait for these reinforcements," says Nick, "and then call the cops." We agree. Holmes and Hall head off to the police station. Nick and Katerina, under cover of Nick's glamour, get into the remaining cab, with Tom. Mithriel, even more englamoured, joins them.
We drop Mithriel off at a small park opposite Hall's house, to keep watch, while the rest of us head home, despite the qualms this gives Tom. Mithriel spots another observer, up a tree, but fortunately he can't see her for glamour.
Murchison, meanwhile, has gone upstairs to the master drawing room, over the front door, laid out weaponry, and begun to disguise himself as Hall with makeup and costume from his kit. Tom speculates over the net that Murchison intends to represent himself as Hall to the Assassination Bureau, on the crook-vs.-crook theory.
About now, the cops come rolling up, with Hall and Holmes. Two more minions slip in Hall's gate, Murchison completes his disguise and loads his air-rifle. Suddenly there are shots without. "Stop, in the name of the Law!" someone cries. "This is Inspector Brown of the Metropolitan Police and--" There's the shot of an air-gun and Brown cries out.
Holmes THROWS Hall into the nearest police van and dives in after him. The man in the tree above Mithriel aims an air-gun at a cop. But Mithriel lobs a silvery dagger into his ribs and finishes him off with a rapier as he drops out of the tree. "Next?" she inquires, retrieving the dagger. This is her maiden combat, but she's her mother's daughter, all right.
Murchison grabs something from a valise and runs to the back of the house. An incendiary? He left a lot of evidence behind him, unless-- BOOM Never mind. He appears to have left another incendiary behind, too.
He passes through the kitchen, where a male and a female servant sit bound, gagged, and unconscious. Murchison ungags the woman and backhands her until the pain wakes her up again. When she sees him and starts screaming, he throws his burden down. Boom, again, and smoke, and more screams. An attempt to incriminate Hall, perhaps? (Murchison cannot know that Hall is with the police outside.)
Outside, cops are crawling on the ground to avoid gunfire, fire alarms are ringing in the distance, and the front of the house is blazing. More shots ring out and another cop falls. Murchison is now out of the house and over that back fence, into another yard.
Holmes, meanwhile, has dashed into the burning house and brought out the staggering servants. Mithriel notes that the last cop downed had a dent in his helmet but is definitely alive. Meanwhile, there's a scuffle and two cops come up to the black mariah with a minion. The minion struggles in their grasp, then stiffens and slumps to the ground. The old poisoned tooth suicide trick, it looks like.
At the telepathic urging of the rest of the party, Mithriel starts to retreat, since the fire department has arrived and all the bad guys have either fled or died. The last thing she sees is Holmes and some cops emerge with the leather body bag. Hall joins them, looks, slumps, and turns away, from which we infer that it was indeed Warren, and that it was too late.
Nick still has his clairvoyant tracer on Murchison. It's no use at the moment, but might very well be in the future. On the other hand, Nick doesn't want a magician to use the tracer to trace him. So, before destroying the tracer, he gently pings on Murchison with the shallowest of telepathic contacts. He can use that to locate the man later. Murchison has a passing feeling that he is not alone, but is hardly in a position to do much about it, in the midst of making his escape.
We head home, dropping off Katerina at a newspaper office, with a really great scoop, though we ask her not to mention us.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.