Journey to New Europa
Chapter 5, Investigating Murders
Our second morning in this magic-rich version of Victorian London dawns with still no reply from Sommerset Hall, which is a little unusual. But, since there is nothing more to be done on that front, we turn our attention to Katrina Constantine. There are four Constantines in the London directory. (Not a phone directory -- just a directory.) We send wires to all four, asking if there is a Katrina living there.
Our wire comes as a surprise to Katrina, neice of Sergius Constantine, resident of a comfortably upper-middle-class section of London. She is also surprised by the sign-off on the wire: "Lord Nicholas and Lady Mithriel." She sends a footman back to the hotel with a note offering to meet us there. We invite her to lunch and she sends back saying to expect her at 1:00.
Tom spends the meantime going to an occult bookstore and buying the introductions to magic that are available to the general public. (The good stuff is kept secret by the various orders of wizardry.) The basic metaphor for magic in this world is the knot; spells are knots of magical energy, and the practice of magic depends on sensing the threads of this energy and tying them into the right kinds of knots. If Baden-Powell founds the Boy Scouts here soon, as he does on the home line, there are going to be some interesting merit badges available...
These knots tie in with the psionic calculations Tom has done and with his psychic impressions of a texture to the background psi. He tries a slow, careful experiment with patterning some glamour. It still explodes in Disneydust, but he senses a sort of psionic granny-knot in it.
Katrina, when she arrives, proves to be a pleasant, tallish young woman with dark hair, dressed for a social visit. She wears no wedding ring, we note. We invite her in to lunch, which the hotel hastens to roll in, and Nick explains about getting her name from Alexander MacLeish, along with the names of Sherlock Holmes and Sommerset Hall. He is a little less clear when he "explains" about NOT getting the name of Tom Olam from him, though she eventually sorts it out.
He also explains about our being asked to address the "current troubles." Does she have any opinions about what those would be, since MacLeish didn't want to tell us?
Katrina says she believes there to be an obscure connection between several recent disasters, particularly several murders and "accidental" deaths.
Nick: "Anything worth conjuring people out of Faerie for?"
Katrina (without batting an eye): "No. And I have no notion why MacLeish would refer you to me. But I am a freelance reporter, writing under the name of K. Winters."
Ashleigh notes privately that "K. Winters" was one of the repeated names of reporters we noticed on alarming stories, while scanning the papers. Her stories were usually violent ones.
Katrina offers more details and incidents. The manners of death have more in common that do the victims. And it's very slickly done, because there are no suspects, even when it's clearly murder. It amounts, in the public eye, to no more than a slight excess in unexplained deaths in the last 18 to 20 months. Many of these were very convenient to one party or another.
Z asks if there is a pattern to the timing. Not that Katrina can see. Once, there were two on one day.
Tom asks about Sommerset Hall. Katrina tells us that he is an upper-class business man and philanthropist. His philanthropy is of the "hit-and-run" school -- throwing useful quantities of money at particular causes on a non-repeating basis, prompted by particular incidents.
Z asks if there is any pattern to the selection of victims -- e.g. their names coming in alphabetical order or some such. Katrina has not found any such thing. Z then asks if Katrina could show us one of the sites of these tragedies. Katrina suggests the place where Martin Blackthorne, member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, was run down by a horse; it's nearby. We agree to that and ask to see the horse, too. That could require more research, as it was a cab horse.
Katrina leaves with Z, Nick, Lorelei, Cailin, Mithriel, and Kate. First stop is her own house, to pick up her notes. Then off to Grosvenor (sp?) Square, the neighborhood of the death.
Martin Blackthorne, we learn, was strolling in the park when a hired horse slipped away from its cabby and the couple waiting for it at a nearby hotel, and ran down Blackthorne. The hotel doorway is easy to find, and Katrina also gives a more general pointer to the actual death site. The party uses their various psychic sensibilities to do retrocognition and scrying on these places. We learn that a slight, nondescript man passed the horse a minute before the incident and patted its nose. There was no emotion felt at all, so if this was something magical involving the murder, it was very cold-blooded. There were emotional traces of shock and pain at the site of the death, but that is neither surprising nor informative.
A little digging searches out the horse, at a cab stable on the east side. His name is Ned and the hostler is very genial about a bunch of toffs with an arguably morbid curiosity about the fatal horse -- whom they claim to know. They give Ned some apples and do a gentle memory audit on him. He did NOT like stepping on the man; people are squishy and very bad footing. He doesn't like thinking about that incident; he'd much rather think about apples. There's no clear memory about WHY he went charging off.
Z inspects his harness and finds a faint, triangular indentation that matches a funny stray scrape on Ned's shoulder. Lorelei scries the harness and discovers a trace of sharp pain, fulling free, and running wild.
Katrina does not visibly react to people who investigate by long stretches of silent staring at horses and harnesses, or who make occasional remarks such as "The horse doesn't remember."
They move on to an earlier suspicious death. This was over a month ago, when one Judge Pelham dropped dead while on his usual 11:00 walk between the Old Bailey and St. Paul's. This was never explained medically. Pelham was noted as a very controversial judge, who had recently passed a very severe sentence on one of a pair of partners charged with grand theft and fraud as part of an intricate financial muddle.
Katrina has a hard time finding the exact place. Nick dowses for it and then the ladies try ESP on it. They come up dry. Z suggests probing the judge's grave, but Nick would rather not, thank you...
Tea time. Katrina directs them to a nice tea shop and has some tea sent out to the cabbies that have been bemusedly carting them all over London. Prompted telepathically by Tom, the party ask Katrina if the victims might have in common that they were not ... very nice.
Not obviously, but Katrina admits that a high proportion of them, at least, were arguably not-nice people.
Katrina next leads them to the site of a murder-robbery (an unusual combination of crimes in London of that era), where one Mr. Brown was done in just in time to allow his partner, Smythe, to back out of a disasterous business deal. He was stabbed. ESP gets us images of a portly and somewhat slimy-looking gentleman being accosted by a tiny, rat-faced man with a handlebar mustache, who thumps him with a blackjack, pulls him into an alley, stabs him, and quickly frisks him for the obvious valuables. This includes taking some papers from his pocket. The scry of the emotional traces is oddly quiet. The victim didn't have time to suffer much, and the murderer seems to have been unexcited.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, we've received a wire from Sommerset Hall. Seems he is in Paris at the moment, which explains the delay in response. He regrets not being able to entertain us, but would be happy to see us sometime soon.
The investigators return to the hotel, and Katrina goes home.
The next morning, we find a note under the door from the management, announcing that a lot more clothes have arrived for us. The first half of our order. Over breakfast, a wire comes in:
Cousin: Any news? S.Ashleigh, divining that this is from her "cousin" Sherlock, sends back:
Yes, news. Will drop by later.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.