It was a chill November Sunday morning, and Sebastian’s head was still buzzing. He and Henry had woke up in the Explorer’s Club after a particularly indulgent Saturday Eve, and after his kedgeree he had decided that a stroll through Hyde Park would be just the ticket. Much to his irritation, a silent Marco followed them out, smoking one of his turkish cigarettes and walking quietly a few paces behind. What was even more annoying was that it seemed that most of the ladies glanced at Marco rather than at himself. Dammit, Marco didn’t even have decent whiskers.
“Let’s head for Speaker’s Corner” said Sebastian, “Most entertaining if you’ve not been there before.”
“What’s that old man?” asked Henry.
“It’s a place where traditionally any lunatic can voice any oddball views-religious, political or otherwise, and get away with it” replied Sebastian. “The onlookers mostly heckle, and in extreme cases throw chestnuts at them.”
“Lead on then.”
They strolled through the park to the north eastern Cumberland Gate, and saw ahead of them the fabled corner. It was getting on now, and the bitter cold had probably kept many potential gawkers away, but there were still several dozen people arrayed around the handful of speakers. A bored looking policeman did a desultory patrol. There was also a stall selling hot chestnuts and tin mugs of tea, and they decided that this might be the best vantage point.
Sebastian noted idly that a neat bearded man was spouting some nonsense about Home Rule, but the majority of the crowd were jeering at the three suffragettes nearer the chestnut stand. As usual in these instances, the two frumpy ones were holding placards and lending moral support, while a prettier one was haranguing the crowd about the evils of the male species and// or drink. Sebastian yawned.
“And even on the Red Planet” the pretty little chit harped on, "Martian women of the great tribes enjoy a form of franchisement within the tribe.Why, pray tell, are civilized women not permitted the same rights enjoyed by a barbaric Martian female?”
“just come ‘ome wiv’ me darlin” jeered some working class lout, egged on by his mates, “And I’ll show yer wot womenfolk are best enjoyed for.” His half dozen be -capped mates hooted with laughter.
Sebastian frowned. The chit was spouting nonsense of course but she was nevertheless clearly a person of quality, no matter how misguided. Women had weak minds after all, and could be forgiven. But that didn’t mean that these workshy louts could speak to a young woman in such over familiar terms. The blonde haired chit caught his eye and he froze.
“Blast it it’s young Madeline, my cousin!” Sebastian realised with a shock. He had failed to attend some sort of family going away party for her some weeks before, on the basis that the whole affair sounded deadly dull and he had a game of cards arranged with the chaps. He had presumed that she was off to marry some sort of pen pushing administrator type, but more likely now he realised she was likely off to be a schoolteacher, or typist, or some such nonsense. Either way, he hadn’t actually seen her for three or four years. My, how she’d grown.
The roughs were wrestling the two frumps for their placards now, and Sebastian started to edge forward. Tomatoes were hurled, and as the jeering level rose he saw that Madeline was
shouting at two of the toughs, who were making lewd remarks and closing in on her. Some of the onlookers started to get a little nervous.
As Sebastian tried to reason with the toughs Henry was aware that Marco had dropped his cigarette and was stubbing it out with his boot. He glanced over to his right and saw that two dapper gents who had been conversing with the Home Rule Speaker, were trying to edge their way around the affray, behind the suffragettes. It was then that one of the toughs swung for Sebastian.
Henry and Marco rushed forward, hampered somewhat by two brats of children egging the participants on. He briefly saw Marco lift his cap off and headbutt one of the men who fell to the floor with a cry.
As the fracas developed an off duty soldier- a corporal of the Royal Artillery pitched in to assist Henry. As Sebastian glanced round he caught a glimpse of his cousin as she suddenly froze with a startled cry in mid pose, and then slumped to the ground. With some concern he spotted that her side was discoloured with blood.
Marco was badly winded, but the half dozen toughs were now licking their wounds. The cries of the nearby women had alerted the policeman, and they were aware that he was blowing his whistle and approaching. Sebastian leaned down over his cousin.
“She’s been stabbed dammit!” he cried, “Someone send for a Doctor!” The corporal promised a shilling to a nearby child and sent him off swiftly. Henry quickly stuffed his handkerchief against the wound, and bound it round tight with a strip torn from the suffragette’s banner.
“Two chaps talking to that Home Rule fellow were walking behind her” he said, “They went off to the north.”
“Right, we’ll be off after them” snapped Sebastian. “Corporal, see to the Police there’s a good chap. Time is off the essence.” They raced off. The Home Rule speaker had also vanished.
The two men had a good start, but they were trying to be inconspicuous and so were moving only at a brisk walking pace. Just as they cleared the edge of the park they spotted the two men alighting into a cab. They hailed another to follow.
The chase led north towards Paddington. Although a Sunday there was still a fair amount of traffic, but eventually the two men alighted and made their way down a quiet street, and entered a Perfume Shop. “Bloody Foreigners” muttered Sebastian.
“What now old chap?” asked Henry.
“Well, I suggest we wait till dusk and then pay a call” said Sebastian, “There’s more to this than meets the eye. You keep tabs, and I’ll go fetch Marko. This is a three man job; there’ll be a tea house or something nearby and we can take shifts keeping watch.” Henry nodded.
An hour or so later Sebastian reappeared with Marko, having also retrieved his Webley. The three settled in for the wait, with two watching and one taking their turn at the Tea Shop.
By six o ’clock the streets had pretty much cleared. There were lights on at the upper floors, but Marko moved over to the rear door and producing a narrow probe from his pocket, managed to open the lock. They crept inside, and ignoring the silent shop downstairs, made their way up a set of stairs. A light behind a door indicated activity on the first floor, and Henry opened the door as quietly as he could.
Not quietly enough. The man staring at him from the corridor ahead was not at all whom you would expect to find in a perfume shop; a rough sailor, half shaven, wearing a pistol at his side. he looked at Henry for a brief moment, before drawing his pistol and ducking into a room with a yell. The game was up.
The man reappeared and fired at Henry. More faces appeared, including one of the two men they had seen in the park. Sebastian raced up the corridor and ducked into the first room, which was empty, followed by Marko.
As Henry exchanged fire, knocking one of the men backwards, Marko bull rushed one of the men in the opposite room, pushing him backwards and Marko into the room away from the line of fire.
There appeared to be six men in total-three sailors and the three men from the park- one being the Home Rule speaker. Covered by Sebastian and Henry Markos tactic worked against a third sailor, and they could hear the man’s screams as his head was pounded against the wall, or something similar. The leader and the other two men from the park were a different proposition however, as they seemed to be both canny and good shots, and both Sebastian and Henry were wounded. One of the men rushed into the room where Marko was, and the other managed to shoot Sebastian again, who slumped senseless to the ground.
“Things looked decidedly grim” thought Henry, as he reloaded round the corner. All of a sudden however, a turn of fortune prevailed. After taking a several grazes in a difficult close combat, Marko managed to punch his assailant hard in the throat, who collapsed to the floor gasping. Almost simultaneously Henry wounded one of the others, and as staggered back into the room for cover, Marko rushed out again and followed him in, rapidly disposing of him.
The change in the Tide of Fortune wrought a swift descision in the leader, who snarling raced across the corridor into the master bedroom, shooting across the corridor at Marko as he did so. Henry moved up to the doorway to cover him
""Meddling Fools!" snarled the dastardly villain, twirling his moustache, “You don’t know what you are dealing with!” With that he fired another shot at Henry and then crashed trough the bedroom window, and down onto the street below. Henry raced toward the window, but the man was gone.
" We need to go" said Marko. “The Police. They will come.”
“I need to see to Sebastian first” said Henry. “See what you can find Marko, quickly.”