New Scotland Yard – Two Days Later

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Online Reality Game

Two days pass. The newspapers, after their initial horror at the loss of life in the collapse of the underground railway tunnels, quickly turn to blaming the government, questioning whether the new Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, is up to the job of running a modern country. For the average man on the street, however, the incident is already becoming a thing of the past — except for those forced to find alternative means of transportation to and from work.

The weather remains cool with occasional cloudbursts to soak the city.

As our heroes mull over what has happened and how they will respond, each receives by hand delivery a cream colored envelope containing a monogrammed calling card with the single initial M. On the back of each card in beautiful cursive script is the summons:

“New Scotland Yard at 6 pm. Ask for Lestrade”

The offices of the Metropolitan Police force have become legendary. Scotland Yard, a name that recalls their original facilities in a stables nearby, has recently been renovated and increased in size as the modern police force takes on more and more detectives and administrators. Lestrade’s name is well know, apparently, and those asking to see him are conducted quickly to a second floor turret office, already crowded and redolent with cigarette smoke. The bulk of the fat man known simply as M is perched on the swivel chair behind the desk and Lestrade himself is leaning with his hip on the sill of window that looks out over the Embankment and the River Thames beyond, swollen and brown with the recent rains.

When you are gathered, M speaks in his deep, cultured tones.

“Lestrade and his men have been busy. They have discovered many things which I wish you all to know. I will let him tell you in his own words.”

Lestrade coughs self-consciously but launches into his tale in much more common accent than M’s.

“We have spoken to the officials at the Bank of England, The holes leading from the railways station intersected a corner of one of their deepest vaults and a series of ladders allowed entry. The very presence of the long ladders indicates that this was indeed the main purpose of the incursion. We have no idea how the holes were created,” he glances uncomfortably at M as he says this, but the fat man merely looks back blandly. “But we do think we know why they broke into that vault.

“Only one thing was stolen. An antique chest of cedar wood lined with lead. The contents of the chest are cataloged as being:” he reads from a type written sheet of paper, “One gold ring set with sapphires and emeralds bearing an occult symbol as a seal. One leather bound manuscript of parchment folios, illustrated and written in Coptic with a gloss in Aramaic, tentatively dated as third or fourth century Egyptian in Origin. One obsidian sacrificial knife or athame with a handle of bone, tentatively identified as human in origin.”

He looks up from his sheet.

“You’ll be wondering why these objects were stored at the Bank rather than a museum,” he says. “So did we. The Director of the Bank looked up the records and told us that they were initially housed at the British Museum but were moved to the Bank some thirty years ago at the specific request of Sir Richard Burton, the man who originally discovered the chest and artifacts in a tomb in Persia during the 1850’s. Apparently there was some urgency about the request — to defend the realm — the transfer order says. The order was signed by her Majesty Queen Victoria herself.”

Lestarde looks at M who takes up the tale.

“Clearly Fu Manchu has stolen these objects with some necromantic purpose in mind. There can be little doubt he commands arcane forces and for him to spend so much effort and energy to steal these objects makes me believe that something even worse is in the offing.

“When last we met, I asked for your help. I had not expected to do so so quickly but I ask you now to assist us in discovering what game this fiend has in play. The police are good at uncovering facts, but not imaginative enough to follow their import.”

Lestarde squirms a little at this but says nothing.

“You gentlemen come from many different backgrounds. You are not investigators by training, but you have been touched by Fu Manchu and I can offer you now the opportunity to track him down before he does more damage.

“What say you?”

James looks around at the others quizzically, before tapping out his cigarette and offering his response.

“Well… why not, eh?” he says, with a nervous laugh that somewhat spoils his carefree attitude. His sleep has been troubled of late, and his face looks uncharacteristically haggard.

“Can’t be having dastardly foreigners running about London, pilfering willy-nilly, can we? eh-hem <cough>.”

“But ‘arcane forces’? Really, gentlemen.”

After this unnecessary expostulation, James lapses into more uneasy fidgeting, smoking and frowning in further efforts to disguise his true motivation, which is that he is scared. Damned scared.

Charles’ research into Fu Manchu has uncovered that the word Manchu means Leader or Warlord. The epithet Fu means Great — so Fu Manchu equates to the Great Warlord or Great Leader in English.

Charles has been lucky to come across a fairly modern American pistol that fits the bill for Michael. The Savage Model 1907 .380 caliber automatic pistol is compact in size, easy to fire, packs a fair wallop and holds ten rounds in the clip. One of his Army officers has one and is willing to sell it along with a holster, spare clip and 50 rounds of ammunition.

Charles frowned at what he heard. He’d been about to say the same thing as James, but a small part of him held back. The doctor had been stationed in some far flung places…he’d heard and seen things that he didnt think were possible, and so despite his doubts he continued to listen.

“Do you know anything else about these items, or if Burton has ancestors who might help us? If so, a letter of introduction might be favourable…”.

Charles glanced cautiously around the room.

“The Great Warlord ” (his research had shown that was exactly how ‘Fu Manchu’ translated) ” and his cronies murdered many good people of London. It is a crime that cannot be left unpunished. I for one would see it as my duty to assist with any investigation. Can you get word to my regiment that I will be posted on special duty?”.

He paused, considering the dangers ahead.

“We have seen that Fu Manchu is a merciless killer. You said yourselves that we are in danger. To stay safe we will need to avoid our usual haunts and will require resources, is there any way you can help? For starters, I know a couple of trustworthy chaps back at the barracks. Assign them to my service. Then, if you have funds to support, I intend to book 3 separate suites in 3 separate hotels in 3 separate names. We will use these as a base for investigations, and I would ask those men to guard them.”

The doctor drew a deep breath and looked to the other passengers.

“My friends, for good of for ill I believe we are in this together. What you do next is your own choice, but I would urge you to join me.”

Michael lets the others take the lead for now. He knows the British Museum well – there may well be those there that can help them on Burton’s mementoes.

He says to Charles: “I agree we need to show solidarity or be picked off one by one. Though I should warn you, my own resources are not as plentiful as perhaps others in this room.”

He says to Lestrade: “These officials at the Bank. Do you consider them fully questioned or might there be more to discover in their records?”

James waits for M’s response, then ruminates aloud.

“Sir Richard Burton, eh? A renowned swordsman, among other things; wrote a fine book on the subject. Yes, I suppose following in that man’s footsteps could do wonders for a gentleman’s reputation.”

He is enthused for a moment by the thought of dueling with this ‘great general’ fellow, no doubt in a suitably dramatic locale and for the freedom of some dusky princess.

“Oh, and I agree – I expect the British Museum will have required detailed notes on the providence of the items in question when they were received. I don’t believe Burton was a knight at the time.” This latter remark said with some sarcasm and a wistful puff of smoke.

M greets Charles’ suggestion of seconding members of the military to act as body guards with a dubious eye.

“The fewer people who know where you are the better,” he says. “You would not believe this devil’s reach when he decides to twist a few arms. No man alive can be expected to protect you when he thinks his wife or his mother or his daughter might be at risk if he does. I can make arrangements for you to be freed up from your duties,” he nods at Charles, “and for you private chaps, I can offer a small stipend to cover expenses, keep the larder full and what not. Hardly a living wage, but enough to get by at least.

“Inspector Lestrade will also provide you with one of his young men to act as a liaison – a contact in the Force you can trust. Detective Constable Teale will be able to reach Lestrade at any time.

“As to Burton’s descendants, his wife died many years ago and they had no children. Their property – it was mostly hers – reverted to the family. A nephew, I think – Baron Arundell – if memory serves. He took possession of the entire estate at Mortlake. The Burtons are buried in a most unique tomb. It resembles an Arabian Tent, also at Mortlake, near Richmond, on the Surrey side of the River.

“You might well start there.”

To Michael’s question about the interrogation of the bank staff, M lifts and eyebrow.

“You have a dim view of authority young man,” he says. “I approve heartily. Their questioning continues under the direction of Lestrade and young Teale, but no evidence has surfaced that implicates any of them. We will keep you informed.”

To James’ comment about the British Museum, echoing the Captain’s own, he nods in agreement.

“Knowledge will be our strongest defense against this monster,” he says. “His foul game is afoot. By the sheerest chance we have a whiff of what he is planning, and now we must search heaven and earth to find out what he plans to do with these objects he has gone to such great lengths to steal. The British museum will do well as a starting point.”

He takes one of his plain calling cards from his enormous waistcoat pocket and scribbles a quick note on the back of it.

“Give this to Sir William Bracknell at the Museum. He is the curator of the rare manuscripts section of the library there and a member at my club. He will afford such assistance as he can.”

“I agree that you would do well to leave your current residences. I suspect they are already under surveillance. Lestrade has provided secure exit from the country for the two ladies, and he may be able to help you with safe houses in London. Whatever the details, it is best I do not know.”

The big man draws out an elaborate silver sniff box, extracts a pinch of white powder and inhales it. Lestrade looks annoyed at him.

“Do you have any questions, gentlemen? Otherwise I bid you Bon Chance”

James sighs, some part of him regretful that Lady Barchester has been so cruelly whisked away, admittedly to safety.

“My current residence had been growing tiresomely familiar anyway, a change of address will be no great hardship.”

He makes a mental note to have his manservant take care of the details. Somewhere tasteful, top-floor.

“As for questions, now I can think of none. But it may be a convenience if we are able to contact you in a pinch later, over the telephone – perhaps by means of those public police-boxes. A key, or permission, or what-have-you, would be marvelous.”

Charles listened carefully as M’ elaborated on his tale and offered what support he could. When he spoke of the devils reach he nodded sagely. “True. Perhaps the fewer men risked by this mission the better.”. James and Michael seemed hardy enough fellows and they at least would believe in the threat they faced.

“So we have the museum, and Burton’s property at Mortlake. I’d say a visit to Baron Arundell might be in order once we know a little more of our subject matter. Who knows what Sir Richard left at his estate. I wouldn’t be surprised if the attic was full of unusual finds or diaries of his voyages.”. Sorting through such things would be another matter however. Surely the museum would be more ‘focussed’.

“M, I would ask that you send Baron Arundell a letter of introduction on my behalf, though if you would be kind enough not to mention these other chaps I’d be grateful.”. When the time to visit came it might be handy if they had different courses of approach. Charles could try the ‘official’ enquiry, while the others might try an alternative approach, say posing as tradesmen. “Perhaps do not be specific about the threat, but make him aware some unsavory characters have been showing unwelcome interest in Burton’s artifacts and that the King offers our support to ensure his security is adequate.”.

Unless M or Lestrade had any more to add, Charles would finish his drink and stand. The dark wooden panels of the room made it feel cozy and safe. Yet the single window over London’s rooftops displayed a cold grey day outside. Reaching for his coat he pulled the collar up around his neck and invited the others to join us.

“Unless there is more to add, I say there is no time like the present. Let us pay a visit to Sir William Bracknell.”. He saluted to the officers present and made for the exit. “I will flag a taxi and have it drop me off around the corner, just in case we have anyone watching us already. It wouldn’t do to have them trail us to the museum. I will await you four streets north and one east.”.

With that, Charles slipped from the room, the weapon in his pocket suddenly feeling heavier but more welcome than before.

“Very well,” says M. “I will write this hour to Arundell and ask him to receive you in two day’s time. He’s a bit of hot head, but his heart is in the right place. He’ll do as I ask.”

As they leave Inspector Lestrade’s office the young Detective Constable Teale offers them each one of his calling cards: Claude Eustace Teal
.
“My telephone number is at the bottom,” he says. “I will arrange accommodations for tonight at number 22A Old Castle Street, just off the Whitechapel Road, near Aldgate Station. Here is a key. My men will be close by watching over you.”

Despite Charles’ elaborate precautions, he detects no sign of being followed and soon alights from his third cab at their final designated rendezvous. The others also notice no lurking strangers and they make their way nonchalantly towards the side entrance to the museum recommended by M.

“Private entrance,” says the uniformed guard who answers their knock. “Public enters through the front door. Though it’s getting late. Museum shuts in half an hour.”

Presenting M’s calling card they are reluctantly allowed inside to wait in a narrow corridor while the guard takes the card in to Sir William’s office. The surprise on his face is clear when he comes out a moment or two later to invite them inside.

“Sir William will see you now, gentlemen,” he says in a hushed voice as if he had just witnessed a savage dog lick their hands in pleasure.

Sir William Bracknell is well dressed in old fashioned but very well tailored clothes. He is perhaps sixty years old with graying hair and the erect stance of an ex-military man. He stands to greet them and moves with a distinct limp around the desk. A heavy cane stands in an umbrella stand nearby.

“You come well recommended, gentlemen,” he says flicking M’s card with his thumb and returning it to them. “What Mycroft desires it is my pleasure to provide. How may I help you?”

Michael plans to let his posher companions do the talking for now, contenting himself with giving the room (and its occupant) a thorough looking over. He also keeps an ear out for anyone using the corridor outside – he has no intention of the devil reaching him so early.

“Mycroft, eh?” James comments, airily, and seems about to expand on this, but recognizes the man before him as the sort not overly fond of airy or unnecessary remarks, and his mouth, as it were, refuses the fence.

“Ahem. Wodehouse,” he introduces himself, and the others too, if they are not forthcoming.

“You will forgive my friend here,” he says, noting Michael’s skittish behaviour. “If you are familiar with M – uh, ‘Mycroft’ – then you also may appreciate that our business with you is important and urgent. We are out-flanked, as you may say, and like any good soldiers, press the attack!”

He expects this waffle is going down well with the old bird, and charges into the breach without further doubts, but is infected somewhat by Michael’s conspiratorial unease, and lowers his voice.

“We were given to understand that that great world-trotter, Sir Richard Burton, deposited within these hallowed halls certain Persian relics, and that these items were re-housed in the Bank of England three decades ago. Our purpose here is to discover, if we can, the exact nature of those items.”

“No doubt, you had records, and… what-not.” He waves his hand as if to indicate they might be sitting on a shelf nearby. “And as a museum, I expect you are quite good at holding on to dusty, out-dated bits of paper.”

James chortles as his own witticism, then seizes up quite visibly as it occurs to him that he has probably committed one of those astonishingly fatal gaffs that have made him persona non grata at certain family functions.

James wilts under Mrs. Hasting’s disapproving glare, feeling like a school-boy being chastised for some basic error.

“Sh-sherry sounds just the thing,” he coughs out, tugging at his over-starched collar.

He wishes he had that bit of paper M. had. Or been less distracted by the mortal fear he felt during most of that particular interview, and could remember exactly what he read out.

He offers: “Some kind of ring. Or was it a jewel? And a sort of book, I think. Also, a knife. In a wooden box. Have a rummage, see what you come up with,” and concludes with a chipper smile which he has been reliably informed by certain ladies is “knock-out.”

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