Journey to New Europa
Chapter 30, Chasing our Tails
We left our heroes freshly returned to their hotel, where they tried, but failed, to apprehend one of Dragomilov's agents, the ferret-faced man.
Returning to their rooms, they consider their next move. Tom suggests getting a little more direct and making a telepathic memory audit of Prof. Stoutworthy, tonight while he's asleep. Kate agrees but suggests he practice on one of us. She volunteers.
It is now about tea-time. How to fill the hours productively? We decide to continue with our direct approach and go interview the Theosophists about their recent catastrophe with their mahatmas. As with Dragomilov, we'll send Salimar and Robbie while the rest of us lurk nearby on telepathic link, for backup.
The Theosophic temple is in a nice part of London, presently being swarmed over by workmen and the like, its roof having been blown off by two departing mahatmas. Salimar and Robbie are answered at the door by a man in a cowled white robe. Salimar presents us as "from the Druids" and refers the Report. The doorman says they are very busy at present and unable to receive them.
While Salimar politely argues about this, Tom launches a Second Sight viewpoint from her eyes and into the temple. There's a lot of rather grand architecture, presently under an open sky, with a lot of loose plaster about and plenty of infinity signs in the decor. The viewpoint gets stopped at a door, warded somehow. Peeking through the crack, though, Tom sees a circle of men robed like our doormen, only their cowls are up, revealing infinity signs on the hoods. There's a burn mark on the floor in there, and the roof is off.
Tom now takes the viewpoint UP, to look through the roof hole. The circle of men are arranged around an intricate mandala-like pattern on the floor, and the burn-mark is, in fact, a hole going all the way through the floor into the basement beneath. The floor is sagging. Here and there around the building are evidences of carpentry and other repair work.
Meanwhile, outside, Salimar asks, "When should we come back?" "Not for a day or two." Robbie asks, "Can we help?" "That would require detailed knowledge and ritual purity." (Which he seems sure we have not got.) Salimar asks, "What would cause a mahatma to go off in a huff like that?" "That is a matter of speculation best not voiced to strangers."
Meanwhile, the viewpoint has been knocking about the building, bumping into the warded areas. There are a lot of them, including the part of the basement under the conjuratory, though other parts of the basement are clear. The kitchen is warded, though its door is probably the best place to try a clandestine entry. Tom sticks a tracer in the entry hall and drops the viewpoint.
Dismissed by the doorman, Robbie and Salimar poke around outside a bit. There is surprising little trash or debris. We recall how careful Auberon's people were to clean up the debris from our own mahatma encounter.
Salimar offers to shrink herself down to something sneaky (if dense) in order to reconnoiter the Theosophists by night. Sounds good.
Back at the hotel, we find a letter from Holmes. He says he questioned the Dragomilov minion that Dafnord glued to the lamp-post and has some fascinating things to relate, but he'll be gone for the next day or two.
After dinner, Salimar begins her shapeshift into a dense snake. Kate goes to sleep and Tom tries tip-toe-ing up to her sleeping mind for a quiet memory audit. He waits until she ends a dream cycle, then deepens the link. It works; he remembers what she had for lunch. Trying a little harder, he searches for the memory of how she broke her arm (long since healed and re-set). This triggers a rather incoherent dream about pain and falling. He tries using his own Total Recall skills to straighten it out, but Kate wakes in the midst of it.
Well, so far, so good. Tom won't use Total Recall on Stoutworthy. He readies himself to contact Stoutworthy (on the strength of a mild and superficial contact made yesterday, when he interviewed the professor), and Kate, the group's next best telepath, stands by to ride psychic shotgun.
Tom reaches out for Stoutworthy... And reaches... And reaches... This is very odd. Normally, telepathic contact is instantaneous if it is possible at all. Tom feels that his telepathic focus is having to follow the lines of mana that infest this continuum. Finally, gradually, he feels he's approaching Stoutworthy. He's asleep, dreaming. Tom waits patiently at a low level of contact, noticing that the quality of the contact fades and recovers. Those threads move around, of course...
When Stoutworthy finally stops dreaming, Tom moves in and digs up the memory of being on the balcony, pushing the vase off on the finance minister's head. Yes, the memory is there, but it's surprisingly un-vivid and sketchy, as if this wasn't a very important murder.
Tom feels around for associations to Dragomilov. That's vivid. Dragomilov is a very striking figure in Stoutworthy's mind. Seeking a connection between Dragomilov and the assassination, Tom strikes a dream-like memory of a vigorous debate with Dragomilov, in the presence of others, on a political topic. Something thorny. But Dragomilov was very calm, just intense in look and voice. Something to do with recent politics. Stoutworthy starts to emote about the subject, so Tom moves on down the association chains.
There was a sudden change of perspective and a new certainty. His earlier line of reasoning was wrong. Therefore there was corruption in the government. (This is all rather mysterious.)
Tom tries associations with the face of the minister Stoutworthy killed. Memory of anxiously trying to locate that face in a crowd, then relief when he succeeds. It was one face in the audience of a theater. Did Dragomilov ever show this minister to Stoutworthy? Yes, in photos.
How about his very first meeting with Dragomilov? It was in a large den, before a fire, where Dragomilov was speaking with great eloquence and penetration, many years ago. This was just after he joined a certain club in Oxford. (Tom gets the name.)
The picture that finally emerges is that Stoutworthy has been assassinating people for Dragomilov for years. He has often been in Dragomilov's study, in the town house in London, viewing pictures of targeted victims, discussing issues such as political corruption with Dragomilov and other members of the Assassination Bureau. He has no feelings of guilt or remorse over his assassinations; they are merely jobs that must be done well. The whole tone is very methodical and scholarly, reminding Tom of his own years working with the dwarven loremasters at Dwarrowgard. If Dragomilov uses any method such as magic or hypnosis to move Stoutworthy to these acts, Stoutworthy is unaware of it. Maybe Dragomilov is just very convincing.
Tom lets go and feels his telepathic focus snap back to London like a bungee-cord jumper.
The next morning, we find that Salimar's shapeshift is not going well. We'll have to delay her reconnaissance of the Theosophists (and meanwhile avert our eyes).
Over breakfast, we get a letter from Sommerset Hall, and another in a plain envelope with no return address. The plain one turns out to be from Holmes. Both contain essentially the same news: one Major James Murchison has died of unexplained causes, collapsing suddenly while at table with some comrades in a pub. Hall is relieved, sort of. Holmes adds that the "game is afoot" and directs our attention to "page 7, col. 2," which is where the London Times carries the story about Murchison. Looking at the postmark, Kate notes that Holmes, in pursuit of his game, is now outside London, but not far.
We decide that, for the moment, the best thing we can do is visit the Bavarian Embassy and try to pool data. On our way over, Dafnord notices the ferret-faced man following in one cab, and Kate notices another, more nondescript man, following in another cab. They use their usual guile, but give no indication of being in remote contact with each other. We have definitely attracted Dragomilov's interest. Tom tacks a tracer on ferret-face and Kate keeps her Second Sight on the other guy, but we let them tail us to the Embassy. Why not?
At the Embassy, we ask to see Tom Olam and Morrolan. Unfortunately, they do not have a lot of new data for us, nor we for them. We ask what the Temple of Ra might have wanted Tom Olam for? Morrolan opines they might have wanted him to research, since he is from out of this continuum. (He gets the word "continuum" from Tom. He likes it.) They also probably regarded him as an asset for the Bavarians (true), and simply wanted to deprive the Bavarians of him.
Arcane tests show that Olam is "behind" the rest of the world because of the stasis he was in, just as Morrolan is "ahead" because of his excursion to Old Faerie, so you could say the Ra Templars stole some of Olam's time, but that probably isn't their motive.
Tom tries to check on the tracer he left on ferret-face, but botches it badly. While he trembles gently over some mild wine, Dafnord and Robbie decide to check out our tails (waiting patiently in their cabs, out in the street) more directly. They have Mithriel glamour them invisible, sneak up on ferret-face's cab, open both doors at once, and grab him. After they relieve him of his gun, Robbie (still invisible) demands, "Why'd you follow us? Who sent you?" Squeeze. "I thought I was following someone who showed interest in matters private to ourselves." "Who?" "I'm not at liberty to say." "Tell your associates that the Druids are NOT happy." Robbie then lets go. Dafnord bends the gun's barrel. They then leave and repeat the performance, with minor variations, on the other tail.
So now we know about Dragomilov, and he knows about us, and we know he knows, and he knows we know. And why any of this should matter to the Druids is more than any of us probably knows.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.