Red Sands

Alexandria
9th January 1889

Up on deck Bertie found Marko leaning against the steamer rail: in the distance they could now see the lights of the harbour as they approached Alexandria in the early morning light. Against all his natural instincts he had been obliged to get up early this morning of their arrival, and he thought a turn on the deck might actually wake him up. He eyed Marko curiously.

“Been here before old chap?” he asked. “Alexandria that is?” Marko paused and turned round, offering Bertie one of his Turkish cigarettes.

“I have been here many times” he answered, “And was in Egypt at least less than a year ago: it was here the Explorers Society invited me to come to London.”

“I say”, replied Bertie. “Know this Hutchinson chap then?”

“I do not” responded Marko. “But I have accompanied some of these Egypt Professors before into the desert. They are very strange men.”

“I don’t doubt it Marko old chap” said Bertie, “Obsessed with dead bodies and bits of old pots I suspect. Cheery sort of living, I don’t think.”

They wandered downstairs for breakfast; they had made most of their disembarkation preparations the night before, and so they were ready a couple of hours later when the steamer finally pulled into port.

The first sight of Alexandria that greeted them were the white walls of the Ras el-Tin palace, a fortress that rose on a headland to the right of the ship, just above the modern lighthouse built on the site of an ancient temple to Poseidon.

As the ship sailed into the inner harbor to dock, numerous small boats representing every travel agency known to man surrounded the vessel. Marko sighed. The air became vibrant with Arabic and English exhortations: “Take up a tour with our agency!” and “Stay at our hotel!”

The view from on deck was like looking into a pit of lions at feeding time. Once the ship docked the group passed through customs. Ahead of them a British traveller was arguing with an official over his case of guns.

“I say, there won’t be a problem will there?” asked Bertie.

“Customs very sensitive” explained Marko. “Remember Egypt is only recently British ‘Protectorate’. There is much bad feeling – even riots. Special permits needed to own guns. Did you not get any in London?”

“Er no.” said Bertie sheepishly.

“You are British so shouldn’t be a problem. You will have many forms to fill out however.”

Bertie nodded in glum resignation.

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Glad Tidings of Comfort and Joy (23rd December 1888)
23rd December 1888

A steam ferry? On December 27th?" exclaimed a horrified Bertie. “But I’ll miss the annual Loafer’s Club Fancy Dress Animal Dance!”.

Professor Bottoms had summoned them to the Explorer’s Club, only two days before Christmas.

“It can’t be helped.” said the Professor. “Professor Hutchinson’s telegram sounds urgent. I need to send my daughter Esmeralda as soon as possible, and I’d like you to accompany her. Consider it an Act of Faith.”

“But at CHRISTMAS?” complained Bertie.

“Two days after Christmas” said the Professor firmly. “And consider yourself lucky I didn’t book the Boxing Day ferry. Anyway, across to Calais, cross country to Marseilles and then a steamer direct to Alexandria.”

“So tell us about Professor Hutchinson Sir” asked Henry.

“Hutchinson is a renowned Egyptologist employed by the Smithsonian” explained Bottomley. “He is currently excavating at the Saqquara necropolis – a joint venture with the Explorers Society.”

“Why does he need your daughter Sir?” asked Sebastian.

“Esmarelda has specialist knowledge of the region, – as well as being my daughter of course. He discussed this at length with her when he was my guest a few months ago. It is our duty to help him in any way that he deems necessary. Our Prestige is at stake here.”

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Inspector Hunter Speaks (17th November 1888)
17th November 1888

Inspector Hunter was a dapper figure, and Sebastian recognised the signs of his India Service. His elaborate moustache and urbane attitude was clearly rankling with Doctor Oswaldtwistle. He smoked constantly, except when filling his pipe or fiddling with his lucifers. His manner seemed elaborately friendly and joking, although his eyes were hard and shrewd.

They sat in the Doctors Study, after the chaos of the previous evening.

“The plan was to kill the real Sir Vernon, and replace him with this Russian Golyadkin. The mask is…errr peculiar to say the least” said the Inspector. “Real flesh – grown or some such – and the Russians bone structure is quite similar. Very convincing.”

“And it was these Commonists Sir?” said Sebastian. “These damned socialists?”

“That we’re not so sure of” replied Hunter. “Enquiries are ongoing.”

“Well, well, All’s well that ends Well” said the Doctor. “And the Library. Amazing. And with some documents to be recovered from Chokers House- a treasure trove.”

“There have been clues to it in the College Records of course.” he continued. “I suspect the masonic symbols were added by Sir Christopher Wren during his work on the college in the 17th century. The library is much older of course, and Wren must have kept it hidden. There is much to be discovered for a scholar.” he smacked his lips in anticipation.

“In the meanwhile the College owes you all an enormous debt” said the Doctor.

“And don’t worry about the thugs who attacked you” said Hunter. “Her majesty’s Government will see to that: no doubt dupes of our conspirators.”

“There must be something we can do for you” added the Doctor.

Visions of enormous quantities of food and sacks of gold briefly flitted across Bertie’s mind, which then solidified into a vision of his Aunt Agatha, tapping her fingers. He sighed.

“Well there is one thing old chap” he said with a forced smile. “About young Ponsonby……”

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The Chamber of the Spheres (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

Lying directly beneath the Great Hall of Trinity College, and forgotten for who knew how long -stood this hidden chamber. It’s circular walls were carven with designs of magnificent intricacy. Cogwheels, compass lines, angles, all spelled out an intricate and enormous blueprint for some fabulous and arcane engine. The design was decorated with angels and demons, clarion trumpets, and esoteric and astrological symbols.

In the chamber’s far side, recessed in a niche, stood a statue of a figure similar to the Virgin Mary, but with an imperious expression and seated between two pillars, one black, one white.

In front of it all, incongruous by its modernity, was a large assembly of wine crates, clearly stuffed with dynamite. Before them was a clockwork device, balanced on pivots and hinges, along with a clock and a sequence of levers. In front were Choker, MacPherson, a dapper man who looked like Sir Vernon Harcourt, and two rough looking thugs.

“You meddlesome children!” screamed Choker. “We can still strike a blow that will send ripples throughout this Empire!” He cackled as the villains moved forward.

Guns were drawn, and Choker threw something into the doorway – a trick he had used with some effect back in his house against Bertie and Henry. A cloud of fumes puffed outwards, triggering a surge of panic and fright amongst the group, but this time to no effect. Marko rushed into the room and smashed Choker against the wall, while Sebastian winged one of the thugs.

Harcourt, or whoever he was lunged at the machinery, and tugged several of the levers; ominously and very quickly, the clock stared to circle round to the hour. It would reach the midnight position in less than a minute.

MacPherson proved to be an able shot, and once again Sebastian was wounded, falling prone on the floor. Marko managed to make short work of Choker however, and Henry dispatched one of the thugs.

Screaming, and apparently wearing some sort of metal gauntlet, Harcourt rushed forward and swung at Bertie, who reeled back as though struck by a sledgehammer.

Ignoring MacPherson Marko ducked behind a crate, and examined the complex clockwork arrangement. Of all of the group, his maritime background and knowledge of mechanics perhaps best placed him to tackle the problem. Time was short. He made a descision and reached forward.

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Hidden Cambridge (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

It was dark by six, and by six thirty they were in a punt near one of the larger grates. Henry had plotted the possibilities on a map and regarded this as the likeliest option. Marko opened a carpet bag, and much to Sebastian’s surprise, Lady Glossop set to work with a pair of narrow files.

“This padlock is new” she said. “This has been used recently.” Hopefully that was a good sign.

They opened the grate, and were able to punt inside, their lamps illuminating the dank interior.
Inside was a small dock for punts, where several dozen were stowed awaiting the following summer. There were also a couple tied up. A short series of steps led up to an apparently blank wall, but realising that there was space behind it, a few moments searching revealed a switch which swung a section open, revealing a set of steps leading up perhaps thirty feet into a small chamber. A lever here swung another section of wall open, and emerged onto a paved tunnel; they were hit with a gust of warmer air and cooking smells. In the distance could be heard the clatter of a kitchen. Bertie gave a thumbs up, as they filed into the darkened tunnel., and Lady Glossop, clad in dark riding breeches and a black silk blouse, motioned as she crept ahead.

“Wonder if she’ll keep her top on this time?” wondered Bertie. He glanced briefly at Marko, who raised his eyebrows and smiled.

Ahead of her as she headed towards the clatter, the corridor tuned a sharp right angle right. She peered round and saw that shortly thereafter it turned another sharp right angle left. The noises were a little clearer here.

Her lantern caught a detail on the wall opposite the corner, and she crept over and examined it. At the top of the wall was the etched symbol of a pair of crossed compasses, and below there were other carvings; she motioned the others over.

Ponsonby had spoken of a hidden door discovered by Choker and the Russian, and they still had the cryptic message taken from MacPherson. As they fiddled a hidden door swung open, revealing a small, bare room.

“I say” said Bertie, “An old Priest’s Hole. There was rumoured to be one somewhere below decks.”

“On the Serpent and the Lightning, Dexter Fess of the Priest Hole, touch the Hidden God in Solomon’s Keystone” said Marko, recalling the cryptic clue they had discovered.

Well right of the Priest’s Hole is this compass thingy." said Bertie. “Wait a minute. Solomon’s Keystone: the keystone is at the top of an arch. And Solomon’s Keystone – Temple of Solomon – trouser wigglers.”

“I beg your pardon?” said Sebastian.

“Trouser wiggler chaps. Secret handshakes. Freemasons!” said Bertie smugly. It dawned on some of them that compasses were a symbol associated with Freemasonry. They pressed the small symbol in the centre of the compasses, and another door swung silently open.

Proceeding from Solomon’s Keystone, a four-foot wide passage emerged onto a narrow, rail-less stone bridge, twenty five feet long, which crossed a wide, cylindrical well. The ceiling was five feet above, and to either side of the bridge, the well plunged into the darkness.

Reaching across this was a brass cantilever bridge. Looking at it dubiously, Sebastian motioned for the others to wait while he crossed.

On the far side they could see an arch with a statue of the Grim Reaper standing next to it. Ominously, a series of skulls were carved into the arch stones surrounding the portal.

As he stepped on he fealt a click, and the bridge seemed to tilt slightly. Increasing his pace Sebastian soon realised his mistake. More clicks were heard and the others saw that with a hiss of gears and hidden mechanisms the surface twisted and tilted, threatening to dump their companion into the dark well.

Sebastian saw that he was now going to make it, as the floor tilted a full ninety degrees to the vertical, and his stomach lurched. With a final effort he kicked the bottom edge before he slid completely of, and made a leap in the darkness. His fingers reached and he caught, literally by his fingertips, the edge of the ledge outside the Skull Portal. Panting he managed to drag himself up.

With a groan of gears and clicks, the bridge slowly righted itself.

“There are symbols on the floor of the bridge” said Henry, who had been watching closely. There seemed to be four different types, repeated in two foot by two foot squares across the length of the bridge. They were all variations on a triangle.

“I wonder if they represent the elements” pondered Bertie. “Alchemy and all that. Earth, Air, Fire and Water?” The others shrugged.

“I’m going to try something” he announced. Stepping lightly, he jumped on identical symbols all the way across, and arrived safely.

“Easy” he beamed. Hesitantly, the others followed.

“This way chaps” he said, stepping through the portal. A click told him he shouldn’t have, and as he fealt the rush of air he dived forwards into the room, feeling a burning pain as a blade scythed out from the wall, ruining his jacket and narrowly missing inflicting a serious wound. With several clicking noises, the blade withdrew into the wall.

“Pressure plate” said Lady Glossop. “Just jump over it.”

The octagonal chamber had recently been ransacked, but was clearly some sort of ancient library.

“Must be valuable” whistled Bertie. “Look at this: ’ Bibliotheca Occulta,” or “Circle of Eight”; until now. I bet no one knew such a place even existed.”

There were hundreds of scrolls and handwritten grimoires lining its shelves, but much had clearly ben removed. In the centre were several crates similar to some they had seen in Choker’s cellar. No doubt he ha been busy stealing them.

On the opposite wall, which was free of books, was an elaborate stone door carved into the wall, with no obvious way to open in. In the door’s centre was a carved stone cherubic head, with pouting lips; traces of once rich paint could still be seen.

Egged on by Bertie, Lady Glossop made a face and kissed the pouting lips. Immediately she wished she hadn’t as she experienced a burning sensation, even as the door clicked as the stone mouth receded as the door opened.

“Poison” she screeched, wiping her mouth. But now they had other problems.

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Getting Ready for Dinner (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

Back at College they discussed their options. Clearly there was a threat to the Apostles DInner, but they had little idea where this would be held, or at what time.

“Well Eight or Nine is usual for these Bunfights” said Bertie. “I’ll slip out and have a word with the Porters.”

When he returned he said that he Porters had informed him that par of the Great Court would be off limits after 3 p.m. Queen Elizabeth Gate was to be closed as was the Great Hall.

“I gather part of the path will be roped off, and Porters stationed at the various alleyways and such.” explained Bertie.

“Sounds like an exclusive dinner to me” said Lady Glossop. “Maybe with VIPs”.

“We need to get down to the lower levels” said Sebastian. “Any ideas anyone?”

Bertie explained that the kitchens would likely be in full swing, and unauthorised access would be difficult. He confirmed that there was reputed to be a maze of cellars and old tunnels beneath the College.

“There might be another way chaps” he pondered. “Trinity backs directly onto the River Cam – the gardens end in balustraded embankments, with steps down to the water’s edge. By Garret Hostel Bridge, Trinity College even has its own punts – used to do quite a bit of that in the summer.”

“Anyway,” he continued, " In the embankment are quite a lot of tunnels covered by metal grates – drainage or ventilation I think. Even rumours they lead to old cellars. Might be an option."

“Righto” said Henry. “Marko and I will hire a punt and see if we can spot a likely possibility. Meanwhile, we should try to get some rest.” They had all been up for much of the night.

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Endless Delays (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

Lady Glossop’s title and tearful description of brave gentlemen defending her virtue against evil ruffians clearly had an effect on Constable Soames, who they had extracted from his bed wearing a nightshirt and bedsocks.

“Well I have to take your statements and details, and then I’ll parse it on to my superiors in Cambridge” he said. He had gone out to the scene of the attack with Bertie, while Henry and Lady Glossop had waited at the In, and secured a Trap and driver for their return and journey to Cambridge.

When he returned, the shotgun, knives and nail clubs had clearly influenced Constable Soames views. With a little more soft soaping, and promises to report at the Cambridge Police Station the following day, they were allowed to continue homewards. Soames had known one of the men as a tinker who visited the area occasionally, but didn’t know the others.

Sebastian’s opinion was that they were louts known to the escaping Russian, who had told them to wait in ambush.

It was well after noon when they finally returned to Trinity.

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Early Risers (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

It was after three a.m. when Henry, Bertie and Lady Glossop set out for Grantchester: hopefully they could hire a wagon there to collect Sebastian and Marko, and then head back to Cambridge. It was icy cold and in pitch darkness, illuminated only by the couple of lamps they had brought from the house.

The road was not a straight one, and it was after five when they saw a few early lights twinkling in the village ahead. And then Lady Glossop realised that they were not alone. Half a dozen dark and flat capped figures were rushing towards them; a shotgun blast narrowly missed Henry.

“I say!” thought Bertie, “Working class louts. And what’s worse, Northerners from the sound of their ill educated accents.”

“Eee Bah Gum” yelled the foremost workshy bumpkin, “Twat them southern Jessies!”

But the shotgun blast had been a mistake: three pistols blazed away at the attackers, slowing them down sufficiently for Henry to put in a series of precise shots."

“Bugger me! Ah want me Mam” yelled one of the cowardly Neanderthals, running off into the darkness. Those who hesitated received the gift of additional bullets.

“Oh dear” said Lady Glossop, “I think some of them are dead.” Henry tried to do what he could with a couple of the others – it would look better for them when they informed the police. Clearly they had to do that, or it would cause no end of problems.

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Extracting Ponsonby (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

Sebastian was not in a good way, and Marko too was pretty badly mauled. As Lady Glossop saw to their bruises, Henry returned from outside, looking more than a little frustrated.

He and Bertie had been involved in a firefight in the western half of the upper floor with a man they realised was in fact Doctor Choker. He had displayed some strange abilities in combat, and when they looked saw that fixed – indeed planted – on his left forearm was some sort of bracer like device, with several phials – some now empty – affixed to the back of the device. They had left him to see to the others, and to corner the raving Mrs. Wiggins.

“I’m afraid the chap at the window has escaped” said Henry. “I think there was another carriage kept in the stable and I think he’s taken that. What’s worse I checked outside the gate and MacPherson and his fly have vanished too. The escapee probably cut his bonds.”

“That only leaves Choker and the Housekeeper” said Bertie. “I doubt we’ll get much sense out of the Village Idiot.”

It was worse than Bertie had surmised: Choker too was now missing, bullet holes and all.

“There was something strange going on with that fellow” opined Bertie. “He was hit enough to take several people down – and he was so fast.” Lady Glossop frowned, and thought of the Commonist Manifesto she had read, with its strange ideas.

With Mrs. Wiggins cursing non stop and gagged and tied to a chair, the three of them checked the rest of the house. At three o clock in the morning and no transport, several miles from Grantchester, there was little else they could do. They built a fire up and rested Sebastian on a couch, with Marko watching him nearby, and then they explored.

“There was something about the gentleman at the window I ought to tell you” said Lady Glossop. “I recognised him.”

“Another of our College friends?” suggested Bertie.

“Much odder than that” replied Lady Glossop.

“It was SIr WIlliam Vernon Harcourt. I’m sure of it.” she said simply.

“Er…..whom?” said Bertie. “You’ll have to enlighten me Old Girl.” Henry too was mystified.

“Sir WIlliam Vernon Harcourt” said Lady Glossop slowly, “Is a prominent member of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and widely tipped to be Chancellor of the Exchequer after the next Election.”

“The Deuce you say!” exclaimed Henry. “Well that is odd.”

A search of the basement revealed a real Circus of Horrors. A series of six lockups off a corridor stinking of animal dung contained a grossly muscled dog, barely able to move;
a pair of sickly looking swans, feathers glowing greenly in the semi-darkness; and a monstrous-looking ape, with wires protruding from its head. With intelligence in its eyes, the ape grabbed the bars and hammered violently yet mutely—its voicebox had been removed, surmised Henry. Loading his pistol he put each of them out of its misery.

Choker’s laboratory was half operating theater, half chamber of horrors. There was an operating table, with straps and restraints, and ranks of jars containing animal parts and what looked like partially grown human faces. Lady Glossop scanned through some notes, and realised with mounting horror that the faces were apparently being grown from fragments of skin!

A stout wooden door with a single ventilation grate was unlocked using one of Mrs. Wiggins keys. Inside was a dishevelled and dirty Edward Ponsonby.

“Still looks like a halibut” thought Bertie.

“Chin up old chap” he said, “It’s me…. Bertie.”

“B…B…Bertie? Bertie Wilburforce – Stretham?” stammered Ponsonby.

“The very same” smirked Bertie. “Now what’s all this Russkie Rot you’ve got yourself all tangled up in young Fellow – me – Lad?” Slowly, and with some coaxing from Lady Glossop, Ponsonby blurted out his story.

Edward was obviously well meaning, but had developed some socialist leanings. Fascinated by Fyodorov’s theories , he had become thick with Stepan Narodnikov, who inducted him into the Cambridge Commonist cell.

However he had recently discovered the existence of an assassination plot which had thrown his beliefs into question, and his state of mind into despair. Fyodorov’s theories had electrified him, but he now realized that Narodnikov, and Choker had no interest in regenerating the world, but rather wanted to spread destruction, chaos, and war – a “cleansing fire” to bring about their “glorious revolution.”

“And what about the presence of Sir Willaim Vernon Harcourt?” smiled Lady Glossop secretly.

“Wha…what? I don’t know what you’re talking about ma’am.” Edward seemed genuinely surprised.

“Rumour has it that he is attending the Apostles Dinner this evening I suppose” he added thoughtfully.

“Apostles Dinner?” asked Henry.

“Apostles old chap” explained Bertie. "Although the Apostles’ Society is “secret,” most fellows at Cambridge hear about it. Supposed to be some elite society of thinkers and debaters, founded by twelve original members in 1820 that meets once a week on Saturday evenings. Lots of the Jolly Old Empire’s leading luminaries are reputed among its alumni. "

“Including Harcourt?” asked Lady Glossop.

“Well he’s a Cambridge man, so possibly.” said Bertie.. “Oddly enough I was never invited.”

“Anyway, it traditionally draws members from St John’s, King’s, and Trinity Colleges. The term “apostle” properly refers only to undergraduate members; graduates, including those who have left the university, are known as “angels.” One can only join the Apostles by invitation, of course.”

“Lots of trouser leg rolling and all that rot too” continued Bertie. "Lots of odd traditions. Prospective members are secretly vetted at “embryo parties,” and must take a dreadful oath before joining. No women are allowed. Meeting records are written in a leather diary known as “the Book,” kept in a cedar chest called “the Ark.”

“And every few years, the Apostles’ Society holds a secret dinner at a Cambridge college. Angels are known to attend: and there’s one this evening.” added Ponsonby.

“And this assassination plot you say you stumbled across?” said Lady Glossop.

“Choker was stockpiling dynamite – lots of it” said Ponsonby. “I wanted none of it so first he fabricated charges against me, and then had me kidnapped. What are we going to do?”

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Fen House (16th November 1888)
16th November 1888

“On the Serpent and the Lightning, Dexter Fess of the Priest Hole, touch the Hidden God in Solomon’s Keystone.”

“Doesn’t make sense” said Henry, reading the small parchment they had abstracted from MacPherson, hidden inside a cigar tube.

They were now in MacPherson’s cab, driving through the Cambridge countryside in the Dead of Night towards Fen House – the residence of Doctor Choker. Bertie had fumbled some sort of excuse towards the Porters, and after a quick change of cloths for the cold November night, they were driving through a small village called Grantchester. Lady Glossop had joined them

“Well Dexter is Right of course” said Bertie. “Classical education and all that. So to the Right of something.”

Fen House was a handsome 18th century dwelling in an isolated marsh meadow between Cambridge and Grantchester. From the iron gates it looked a little unkempt from what they could make out, with a faded stucco façade and Georgian windows. It’s once-genteel gardens seemed unloved, except for a large kitchen garden.

As they hid amongst some rhodedendrons they could make out a few outbuildings including a carriage house and stable, presumably to house the rickety old fly and nag Bill
MacPherson had brought them in: he was now safely tied up outside the wall, with the fly parked in the lane.

Although very late, it appeared that there was still a light on downstairs. Lady Glossop tip toed forward, only to get caught in the tangle of a rose bush; cursing she rattled it free, and then waited a few moments, breathing deeply. She crept forward to a side door, and motioned the others forward.

The door was locked, but it was the work of seconds for her to twist in a narrow lockpick, and gently open the door. Red firelight seeped outside, a welcome change from the icy November air. She entered a tiny vestibule opening into a well-appointed kitchen. A huge dog was stood up growling in a low voice and looking at her. A chair stood behind the dog, and behind this stood a small unkempt woman with untidy hair, perhaps in her late fifties or so.

“Would ye’ like some tea darlin’” she piped, in a shrill irish voice, “To take out the chill. A noice cup a tea. Go on now?” Lady Glossop beamed, edging through the door but maintaining her distance from the dog.

“Ah no thank you” she smiled. “My trap seems to have broken down outside and I saw the light on in your house. I know its very late but……”

“Ach it’s aall rooight darlin’” said the woman. “But eff ye won’t have some tea perhaps ye’d loike dis?” She produced a double barrelled shotgun and fired, fragmenting a shelf full of china.

The report was clearly heard, and the others started to rush inside, led by Sebastian.

“Gripper, kill!” yelled the woman, and disappeared through an archway, but not before winging Sebastian.

The dog delayed them for several precious moments, sinking its teeth into Henry before a clout from a weapon butt knocked it senseless. The rest of the house was in darkness, but entering into a Hall they could hear commotion where the woman was retreating upstairs.

A polished wooden balustrade led up into a mezzanine separating the two upper halves of the first floor; there were numerous doors and a corridor towards the front of the house, through which Sebastian thought he could hear the woman yelling and retreating.

“Wassup Mum?” he heard a deep voice ponderously respond.

Mark tried a door off the landing leading into a bedroom, while Henry opened a door to their right into a bathroom. Sebastian crept forward into the far corridor.

A gunshot and a curse from Marko signalled a near miss as he ducked back into the mezzanine; Lady Glossop peered past him and saw only an other open doorway beyond. Sneaking over she looked out and saw the open window – and a brief glimpse of the face as it disappeared below the sill. The smiling visage surprised her – so much so that by the time she had raced forward the figure had hit the ground and was running off into the darkness. Cursing she turned back round.

Another shotgun blast hand winged Sebastian, and now there were indications of a scuffle. Peering round into the corridor she saw a huge figure of a man, hunchbacked and with a cherubic idiot face, swinging ham like fists at Sebastian. She winced as a blow made contact, knocking him sprawling.

“Marko!” she screamed, levelling her pistol. Behind her she could hear shooting as Henry and Bertie no doubt made contact with another of Fen House’s residents. The brute lumbered forwards, and then Marko managed to interpose himself in font of her, delivering a powerful uppercut to the brute, before hacking him in the shin. Grinning the idiot turned his attention to Marko.

“Go on Billy boyo, protect yer old Mam!” called the woman. Over the din of the combat she spoke again, yelling this time.

“Should oi put the kettle on Doctor?” she called.

“Not just now Mrs. Wiggins!” called a voice Lady Glossop did not recognise from behind her, punctuated by several revolver shots.

Blows were exchanged, and although the brute seemed winded, Marko was in rough shape. She was suddenly aware of Henry beside her, levelling his LeMat; a clear moment presented itself and they both fired, hitting the brute.

Siezing his opportunity Marko swung both fists upwards in a rabbit punch, knocking Billy’s jaw upwards and backwards. Finally he slumped to the floor.

“Billy boy Nooooooo!” screamed the woman.

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