Journey to New Europa
Chapter 25, Back to London
RewindCast your minds back to Helene, where our heroes were recently buying Robbie a new body and stocking up on useful gadgets. While they were hanging about the farmstead, waiting for Robbie's new body to get finished, they received a visitor. She was, or appeared to be, a young woman of Oriental aspect, but with very pale, slightly iridescent skin, purple eyes, and mahogany temples to her otherwise black hair.
(Actually, this looks slightly old-fashioned to Tom. There was a fad, about a century ago, for cosmetic mutation, and this looks positively restrained compared to, say, antlers.)
She is wearing a black cloak with the lyre-curve-and-stars sigil of the KaiSenese Association, identifying her as a KaiSenese Liaison Officer. She presents Tom with a letter from KaiSen itself, telling us that her name is Salimar and she is at our disposal for reasons that KaiSen is not yet completely aware of here and now. (This is what you get for dealing with a race-mind that (1) compartmentalizes its memory by place, and (2) is involved in time-travel.)
A short acquaintance convinces Tom that Salimar only looks human. She exhibits a slow and rubbery sort of shapeshifting ability and doubtless has more tricks up her sleeve and, who knows, maybe more sleeves. She admits to being an ET and we will no doubt learn more when her player has had time to sort out the particulars. Meanwhile, she's been with the party for some time, making the transition with us back to Faerie and thence to Auberon's summer house in alternate London.
Z, on the other hand, stays behind in Faerie. The party now consists of Mithriel, Dafnord, Kate, Katrina, and Tom, with the recent additions of Robbie and Salimar, and the recent subtractions of Z, Nick, Lorelei and Ashleigh.
We left our heroes newly returned to Auberon's summer house. Morrolan is anxious to hurry off and write down all his new discoveries, and debrief to Auberon, etc. We ponder for a bit and decide that our next reasonable move is to return to London and resume investigations of Murchison, Moriarty, and the World Crime League, on the one hand, and Dragomilov and the Assassination Bureau, on the other.
We go back to the hotel where we first stayed, and move back into the non-ferrous rooms on the top floor. We send a wire to Mr. Sommerset Hall, informing him we're back. He wires back and invites us to come over.
We do. As we set out, a bell-hop whom we recall from our last stay warns us that there is an elvish gentleman on our floor, just moved in, who has been asking a lot of questions about us. Very useful. We thank him.
Hall is a little flustered, partly because that seems to be his natural condition by now, but also by our change of personnel, especially since Salimar looks exotic (and wavers gradually between kinda human and kinda fay) and Robbie looks hairless and gray. (Most of the locals take him for some kind of fay.)
We go out to dinner with Hall at "The Raj," where they do all sorts of curry. Hall has not had any interesting encounters since last we met (which was, after all, only a day or so ago, by his clock). We decide to concentrate our attentions on Dragomilov, using more or less mundane methods to start with. Meanwhile, Kate recommends that Hall move out of his house and send Dragomilov a forwarding address. Nothing much else gets done over dinner.
On returning to the hotel, we recall the bell-hop's warning. Tom sends Second Sight into the inquisitive elf's room and finds that he is our friend de Alqua. Dafnord lumbers over and invites de Alqua to join us. We lay our plans before him.
De Alqua knows nothing of Dragomilov directly, but may have encountered the work of the Assassination Bureau on a recent assignment in Madrid. There, the Spanish ambassador to Austria and the Austrian ambassador to Spain both died within three days of each other -- first, the Spanish ambassador, then Austrian on his first public appearance since the death of his colleague. Neither death involved magic directly. The Spanish ambassador died fell or jumped off a bridge and, despite the shortness of the fall, managed to break his neck. The Austrian simply collapsed in the street.
Kate and Tom speculate that we are up against Fiendish Devices or Mesmerism. De Alqua clarifies that there was no magic involved at the sites of the deaths. Magic may have been involved less directly. He didn't have the chance to investigate that, or to look at the bodies. The local authorities got in the way.
Tom asks who these deaths benefit. It's a long story. De Alqua tells some of it. The deaths scramble a family alliance, bollix one business deal, but expedite another. Deaths of people like that usually have lots of ramifications.
We decide to start churning through newspapers again, tomorrow, and public records, and to call once more on Holmes.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.