Week 7, Madame Zoltan
We left our heroes in Carlfax Abbey, in London, 1894, having just staked out a pair of vampires (woman and child). In the process, they have attracted the attention of passers-by, the police, and Professor Challenger.
We are sneaking invisibly out past the cops when we decide it is too risky to leave the vampires' bodies, even hidden and glamoured as they are. Chris and Tom make a quick trip back to the basement, where Chris uses Alchemy to reduce the boy-vampire's body to dust.
Meanwhile, Alag Second Sights on the female vampire's room, where Challenger is still busily detecting. The corpse, in two distinct pieces, is invisibly lodged up in the rafters. We decide to sneak in and retrieve it for more speed-rotting. Cantrel and Chris waft in through the hole conveniently provided by Lorelei's hand grenade, under cover of invisibility, while Tom hovers invisibly on the roof, riding shotgun. Challenger is looking straight at the hole, but he does not appear to track our invisible agents. He does, however, order one of the subordinate adventurers with him to keep an eye on the hole.
Cantrel tips over a jar on one of the vampire's dressers. This diverts Challenger, but not his sentinel. However, Chris is able to retrieve the body and head without any active interference from Challenger & Co., and he and Cantrel flit off to find somewhere quiet to rot them.
There is a graveyard nearby. Perfect. As the come in for a landing, Cantrel scans the place for signs of disturbance. There is, in fact, one crypt with a sort of a path leading to it. The grass is not beaten down but is merely dead. Chris X-rays the crypt with Second Sight and finds an iron grill-work gate, an iron-bound wooden door behind that, and inside some signs of disturbance. There are two brass candle-stands, one upright, the other fallen and battered. There are stone sarcophagi, two occupied by conventional corpses, the other with a cracked lid, empty. No passages appear under the floor or under the dead sod, but marks on the wooden door indicate powerful pounding from inside. The door lock is broken, perhaps by the candlestand.
The names inscribed here and there reveal this is the crypt of the Graham family, and the empty coffin belonged to Yvette Graham. Perchance we have brought Yvette home? Whoever she is, Chris rots her quickly to dust and we head home. We go part of the way invisibly, then drop our glamour and hail a cab. Alag tries to gloss over Cantrel's signs of recent conflict, but he objects, so we bring him home au naturel.
At sundown, the pantope shows up as arranged and the dimension ticker beeps TWICE. The second signal comes in from about the same distance as registered for the disturbance we traced to London University College. Tom throws his vision to a tracer he left there and starts dowsing for this new dimensional door. After a few seconds, it closes. Rats. He memorizes the location and withdraws.
Cantrel suggests setting up a second dimensional sensor to triangulate with. Great idea. We climb aboard the pantope, and Tom and Daewen cobble up a second sensor, disguised as a stone block. Cantrel lets the autodoc minister to his various wounds.
We return to the house a few minutes later, having been gone for some hours, and spend an uneasy night worrying about vampiric reprisals. However, Tuesday morning finds us all alive and unafflicted with mysterious anemias. The morning papers announce that the mysterious explosions and odd lights reported along the Thames, and earlier along the Channel, appear to have moved in-land to the Hyde Park area, Carlfax Abbey in particular. Professor George Edward Challenger is studying the phenomenon. We also learn there was another jewel theft at Thromdiddle house.
Chris, between masses of Levitation, Glamour, Firekey, and Alchemy, and a sleepless night, stays at home while Cantrel and Sophie take a picnic basket out to Regents Park to plant the second sensor somewhere near the botanical gardens. On the way, Sophie notes they are being followed by a Baker Street Irregular. "There's a small boy following us," she remarks to Cantrel.
"I wouldn't call him SMALL," Cantrel replies. It is a dozen or so paces before they realize that each has spotted a different pursuer. Surreptitious examination finds only these two, however. Cantrel has brought a stun-gun. Aiming sideways, through his cloak, he zaps the young man he spotted, who crumples. He then zaps the little boy Sophie spotted, but the kid just staggers and looks faint and puzzled. Cantrel tries again a couple of blocks later, and the boy faints. (Probably just as well not to have too many mysterious faintings in one place.) Cantrel's cloak is by now completely unconscious...
No other tailers show up. They proceed to the botanical gardens, where Sophie casts an invisibility over Cantrel, then substitutes an image of him with which she conducts desultory conversation while the real Cantrel flits off into the air with the second sensor. He leaves it on top of a building, then returns to Sophie's one-woman dialogue, where he segues with his image using a discreet jump of startlement and a "What was that?" to mask the transition. now they can enjoy their picnic.
A little after Sophie and Cantrel go out on their picnic, Alag, Pfusand, and Tom set out for the occult bookshop with the general plan of attracting the notice of the local occult community. A short way from the house, they come upon a small crowd gathered about a young man who seems to have fainted... A doctor is bustling up to tend him.
>From a discreet distance, Tom X-rays the young man's person and effects. He carries no weapons. The calling cards in his wallet read "Jonathan Goodhue." Most interesting, he bears a silver medallion with the figure of a dragon or serpent twined around a tree. This actually feels enchanted -- nothing structured or individual, just a vague residue of ESPish psi.
Goodhue wakes up and automatically clutches for the medallion. Tom casts a Detect Psi at this movement and is surprised to feel another Detect Psi come back, almost like an echo. Goodhue clutches his charm tighter, looks around, and meets Tom's gaze. Tom tries to look grave and wizardly but only succeeds in looking dyspeptic. About then, the doctor hurries Mr. Goodhue off to his offices.
Alag filters through the crowd after them and traces them to a nearby brownstone bearing a brass plaque reading "A. A. Johnson, MD" Alag turns around and follows Pfusand and Tom, keeping a few yards distant.
At the occult bookstore, the clerk recognizes Tom and Pfusand from the last visit. Tom inquires about strange explosions and lights. He learns that the lights were unlike any lighting known to the Victorians and brightly colored. (Like laser light, perhaps.) The clerk, however, does not regard them as supernatural phenomena and so has not been at pains to collect data on them. Tom asks if he (the clerk) could give him (Tom) the names of any occultists who WOULD be interested in bizarre phenomena and/or Carlfax Abbey. The clerk's professional standards don't allow him to give out other people's names, so Tom leaves him with some calling cards to give to those who might be interested (reading "Merl Jackson.") They leave after putting down a deposit on a monograph by Dr. van Helsing.
Next stop is an establishment run by a Madame Zoltan, a fortuneteller. It is a shabby little tea-room in a rundown neighborhood and Mme. Zoltan is a short, chubby lady of middle age and middle European extraction. "How classic," Pfusand murmurs to Tom.
Tom inquires after "the odd events at Carlfax Abbey" and Pfusand makes a more standard inquiry about "my fate, or at least the next step upon the path." Mme. Zoltan seems somewhat rattled, perhaps by the strange request, perhaps by the business-like, matter-of-fact attitude of her clients. Good; we want to memorable.
While Tom sits in the waiting room, Pfusand waits in the sitting room for Mme. Zoltan to brew some tea. She then has Pfusand pour the tea and drink some of it, followed by a tea-leaf reading in the classic manner:
"Your path leads far, and to the east. You will be led there by a very dangerous individual of whom you should be careful. In this place ... I do not see it clearly. There are powerful disruptive forces. It is something even more turbulent than your dangerous guide that clouds the mists of time. I feel there is a thing that you either seek now or you will come to seek, but that is not disrupting, though it is the center of things."
(Tom has been running a Detect Psi. Nothing.) Pfusand: "Have I already met this dangerous guide?"
Mme. Z (showing the first glimmer of psi that Tom has noticed): I believe he is unknown to you. He is a man, but there may be a woman's hand somewhere in your journey, that I cannot identify." (Another faint glimmer of psi.) "You should not trust this man."
Pfusand is satisfied with the reading (which has its intriguing points, hinting as it does of diadems, rival psychics, and Pfusand's original identity as a female), and offers to pay. Mme. Zoltan says that she may have to work hard to escape the notice of the powers she's mentioned, so she must charge a guinea, though the price is usually two shillings. Pfusand pays without demur.
Mme. Zoltan can tell Tom nothing. He thanks her, gives her a shilling for her time, and departs, leaving a tracer behind. Through the tracer, he sees her come out and very thoroughly search the room where Tom had sat waiting.
Meanwhile, Sophie and Chris have gone to the library to do a bit of research. Sophie has found an obituary and a picture for Yvette Graham, who died four years ago. The picture shows considerable resemblance to the she-vampire, but not enough for a sure identification. However, the she-vampires looks were so outrageously good as to be outside the human range. We need only suppose this was a part of the powers of the undead.
Chris contacts Tom telepathically to relay the news. Tom tells him about his adventures, including the medallion-bearing Mr. Goodhue. Sophie looks up the Goodhues and finds they are an upper-middle-class family; some of them attended the Toffington party where Chris and Sophie ran into Holmes. They are drygoods merchants and a C. W. Goodhue lives in the Hyde Park area.
People head for home. The next course of action is to check out the London University College area for people with odd hobbies or extensive laboratories.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.