Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.3

When we left our agents, McKinley and Tali, they had returned to the abandoned house in Grove with a constable in tow.  Having explored the basement and found a secret room, Tali touched a silver circle in the wall and found his foot grabbed by an emaciated corpse.  

***

May 18th, 1915 - Grove, United Kingdom 

Tali screamed as the corpse threw him across the room,  'The dead are rising!"

From the first basement room, McKinley heard Tali's scream, unholstered his Webley, and rushed into the hidden room.  Seeing the standing corpse, he screamed as well and, backing towards the hole in the boards, fired a shot into the corpse.  Pieces of the body exploded away, and the corpse turned to stare at McKinley.

The doctor screamed again.

Tali rushed the corpse with his wrench and smashed it's shoulder only to be clawed across the throat and chest.  Since Tali had run in front of McKinley's line of sight, the doctor accidentally shot him in the shoulder as well.  Barely conscious, Tali slumped to the floor

As the corpse stumbled closer, the doctor battered at it with his cane.  Quite accidentally, the cane looped the necklace and pulled it free from the corpse, which collapsed in a pile of dust.  Glancing around the room, shaken and ill, McKinley rushed to Tali and applied a few quick tourniquets to staunch bleeding.  He then drug the mechanic from the room, past the dead constable, and up the stairs.

Shifting Tali so he could bear his weight, they stumble-walked together back to the Inn.  The innkeeper greeted them with a look of concern, especially when McKinley told him to bring hot water.

***

May 18th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom 

The morning of May 18th, one Reginald Smythe III of London is awoken early by his valet and informed that his father, Reginald Smythe II, has insisted he meet him at the Fulham Gasworks that very morning.  Reginald protested as loudly as his hangover allowed then bathed and dressed as slowly as he dared.

Dressed impeccably, Smythe sat in the Gasworks reception room nursing a glass of scotch.  He debated leaving and as he was muster the will to do so, his father entered followed by a thirtish Army Captain.  "Beastly day we're having," he smiled thinly.

Reginald Smythe III
"My boy," his father began, "as you may recall, or might if your mind wasn't so pickled, in my younger days I, like my father before me, was involved with a group known as the Lamplighters."

"Some sort of social club if I remember right," Smythe smiled and drained his glass.  Pouring himself another drink, he watched his father's face redden.

The captain looked unfazed. "Something of a family tradition, your father means."  He opened a folder.  "If you are interested then in serving King and Country, we have need of your assistance."

Smythe eyed his father and calculated how much his allowance, access to family cars, and general lifestyle would suffer if he refused.  "Of course," he said finally.

At that his father smiled, "I knew you'd not let me down, my boy."

Captain Watson passed Smythe three photographs.  "We received a contact from four recruits in the field.  They are in need of some assistance."  He passed the photographs to Smythe.  "We do not have resources available at this time to assist, so your father and I have decided to recruit you."

Smythe drained his second scotch and stared at his father and Captain Watson.  "When do I leave?"

Captain Watson smiled.  "Now."

***

May 18th, 1915 - London and Grove, United Kingdom 

Benjamin noticed the man tailing him before boarding the train at Paddington Station.  Surprising for one of Gabriel or Snodgrass's men, his tail was well dressed in Edwardian finery.  'Not a common thug,' Benjamin thought.

As the man took a private car, Benjamin lost track of him on the trip to Grove. However, at the station he saw the same man disembark as well.  Pretending to ignore his shadow, Benjamin made his way to the Volunteer Inn to check in with Tali, McKinley, and Lattimore.

'How devilishly easy this is,' thought Smythe.  'This American fellow hasn't even noticed me.'  Pleased with his natural talent, he followed Benjamin through the streets of Grove to the inn.  'How awful,' he thought as he looked at the houses.

Inside the inn, the innkeeper met Benjamin and directed him upstairs immediately where he found McKinley in Tali's room preparing to remove the bullet from the Welshman's shoulder.  The reported noticed several gashes across the mechanic's neck as well.  "Let me get my camera!" he shouted and turned to leave.  "Damn it man," the doctor stopped him.  "Help me."

Minutes later, the bullet removed and Tali stitched and sedated, McKinley sat on a chair and filled in the previous day to Benjamin.

"The dead rose?"  remarked Benjamin.  "Nonsense.  Did you get a picture?"

The doctor sighed.  "No, and I don't know if the man was truly dead.  It seems impossible he wouldn't be."

Benjamin removed a pair of cigars from his jacket pocket, cut, then offered one to the doctor.  Both sat smoking silently for a time until Benjamin told McKinley about the meeting with Gabriel yesterday.  "I inquired after him last night.  It seems he's mixed up in a group known as the Society of Conjurers."

McKinley shook his head.  "Don't tell me they are wizards."

Harris Benjamin shook his head.  "They a stage magician's club."

The doctor sighed.  "At least something is still mundane.

***

 May 18th, 1915 - Grove, United Kingdom 

Once Tali was sleeping soundly, McKinley and Benjamin decided to head back downstairs.  "I was followed by the way," Benjamin told the doctor.  When they entered the inn's main room, Benjamin whispered.  "That's him at the table by the window."  They both sat at a table on the opposite side of the room. 

'They're clueless,' Smythe thought bemused.  'Best make their acquaintance while the mood is still upon me.'  Standing he walked across the room and greeted them.  "Good afternoon, Doctor McKinley.  Mr Benjamin. I'm Reginald Smythe the Third."

The two men stared at Smythe.

"You called for help, so of course, I came," Smythe smiled benignly at the them.  "Have you eaten?"  He proceeded to order food for everyone from the innkeeper and sat at the table.  Then after a question from McKinley, produced a document from Watson explaining that Smythe had been sent to assist them.

"Samuel Lattimore is dead," McKinley told Smythe and Benjamin.  He explained how he had found Lattimore and an unknown woman in the basement of the house and then how they'd left the dead constable.

Smythe signed.  "Best get someone to come out and take care of things," he told them.  After a call to the Gasworks, Watson agreed to send a crew to the abandoned house.  Once back at the table, Smythe noted.  "We should return to that barn and have Benjamin photograph everything."

That afternoon, they decided to drive back to the Dowell farm.  Tali woke, surprisingly, after only an hour sleep and insisted on joining them. He was down to a single hitpoint.  Smythe being the only one who knew how to drive the car, he drove them back to the farm. Smythe is an non-sober Alcoholic yet the only one drives - driving is a gentleman's sport he likes to say - thus he needed a HT for the amount of alcohol he consumed -he also as Alcohol Tolerance as a perk - plus a driving roll.

At the farm, Tali insisted on waiting by the car and smoked his Lucky Strikes while the rest went inside.  Benjamin was disgusted by the cattle, while Smythe decided not to view it.  McKinley noted there were more flies now.

Reaching the second barn, Benjamin took several photographs of the circle and spiral.

Upon entering, Smythe whistled low.  "Well, well."

"You know what this is," asked McKinley.

"The silver spiral," replied Smythe.  "Never seen them myself, but daddy used to talk about them.  He and his companions had a few tussles with them, oh, thirty plus years ago."  He walked around the circle and took a drink from his flask.  "He always said they'd been wiped out."

"I guess not," replied McKinley.

"Quite," noted Smythe. 

Standing by the car, Tali felt tired.  The morphine had taken away the pain in this neck and back, and he knew he should sleep, but his mind raced.  He glanced at the house and thought he saw movement.  Hobbling over to the front porch, Tali pulled himself up the stairs and then looked inside.  Nothing moved.  He saw his companions emerge from the second barn and waved to them.

When the rest approached the front porch, Tali told them he had seen movement inside.  It was decided that McKinley and Benjamin would enter the house from the kitchen while Smythe and Tali entered the front.  The Welshman agreed to stay behind Smythe so as not to find himself further injured.

Benjamin and McKinley entered the kitchen at the rear of the house, while Smythe and Tali entered the front door.  They all heard scurrying.  "Rats!" McKinley and Benjamin cried.  As the pair entered, the rats dispersed.  Benjamin breathed a sigh of relief.

In the front foyer, Tali and Smythe glanced into a former sitting room, but saw no one.  Moving into the dining room from the kitchen, Benjamin and McKinley moved cautiously.  McKinley unholstered his pistol.  Suddenly, a man in a black suit, dark glasses, and bowler hat rushed from the corner and stabbed McKinley in the shoulder.

Surprised, he shot the man clean in the chest.  When the man did not fall but came back to attack, the doctor and Benjamin fired each shot dropping the man.  The journalist cursed.  Tali limped over to the stranger.  Carefully, McKinley removed the man's glasses only to find his eye sockets were empty and covered in a strange blue dust.  The doctor questioned whether any of the dust had been released and whether he or Benjamin had inhaled any.

Everyone but McKinley were taken aback at the eyeless man.

In the breastpocket of the dead man, the found a card for the Society of Conjurers.

As the cadre prepared to leave, Tali found some kerosene in the kitchen, poured it on the floor, and light the house on fire.  For a while, as Smythe drove away he watched it burn.  As they reached the road and the house disappeared behind the trees, none of them saw the shadows from the top of the house flow downward and extinguish the flames.

***

May 20th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

After returning to London, the group went their separate ways for a few days to recover some and prepare a briefing for the Gasworks.  Benjamin also developed his photographs.

On the evening of Thursday, May 20, as British, Canadian, and Indian troops pressed the offensive along the Ypres front, the companions met at the Fulham Gasworks.  They were shown to the room they had met in a week and a half earlier where they were provided refreshments and asked to wait.

The consultant
Some twenty minutes later, Captain David Watson and a sixtyish, thin, greying man entered the room.  One by one, Watson asked each of them to relay their stories of what happened.  He and the other man examined the photographs, the knife, and the necklace.

"This confirms our suspicions," Watson said when they were done.  "The Silver Spiral has returned."

The elderly man nodded.  "Other reports collaborate this."

McKinley spoke up.  "About the knife rising through the air or the corpse.  These things shouldn't be able to happen.  Magic shouldn't be able to happen."

The elderly man smiled.  "But they did.  However, Mr. McKinley, there is no such thing as magic.  Only phenomena for which we do not yet currently have an explanation."  He lit a cigarette and continued.  "I trust your observant and inquisitive mind can be of use in this."

Captain Watson nodded. "I wish to offer each of you official membership in the Lamplighters.   You have done well and, if you accept, will become agents."  He closed the journal he had been writing in.  "The Lamplighters are an old organization.  Formed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, we have protected the realm from what has been called occult or arcane threats for centuries."

After they all agreed to join the Lamplighers, Watson continued.  "Another cadre in the field waiting in Oxford when you went to Grove.  We suspected your efforts, not yet fully experienced in the ways of subtlety would draw attention and even send them fleeing."  He smiled.  "I would like you to follow up on any leads you have in London for the time being."


***

The end of our first arc.  The story will continue in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.4.

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