Monday, June 13, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.4

During the month following their return to London, the investigators pursued their own separate inquiries as well as focused on their personal lives.

Doctor Thomas McKinley spent his days at the Army hospital caring for wounded soldiers back from Belgian.  He also studied the book found in the house in Grove and determined it was the diary of a man named Corwin who had lived in and died in the house during the 1830s. Working through the compact handwriting, McKinley read that Corwin claimed to have obtained the knowledge of dreams from a German book called Der Gerbrochen Tram.  He had borrowed the book from the Silver Spiral's Chapel in London during the 1830s.  The doctor began studying books on the occult and learning to read German during this time.

On a fortunate "leave of absence" from the railroad company for the war effort, Trahaearn Taliesin (Tali) spend his month convalescing from his injuries.  For a week, he experienced troubled sleep, fevers, and vomited bile. Following his recovery, he met a young woman Lillian Grey, and the two of them began a passionate relationship.

Harris Benjamin wrote a number of articles for the New York Times during the month, his best covering the Shell Crisis in May and the transition to the War Government.  Benjamin's knowledge of the Alaistair/Snodgrass ring led him to insinuate in his article that corruption in the Quartermaster's office played a role in the equipment shortages.

During his "spare time" - Benjamin has the Workaholic disadvantage and is often sleep deprived - he plied the old London Times clippings desk looking for information about the Silver Spiral during the 1830s and 40s.  After weeks of searching, he found an article from December of 1841 about a police raid in Whitechapel that resulted in the destruction of the Silver Spiral's building.  In mid-June, Benjamin received a telegram from his mother that Benjamin's father was withdrawn and worried.

Reginald Smythe the Third took advantage of the nice weather at the end of May and early June to play numerous games of tennis with his friends at the club.  One such meeting put him in contact with the son of a rare book dealer.  Taking the book dealer to lunch, Reginald asked the man to find a copy of the book Der Gerbrochen Tram.  McKinley had also told Smythe of a reference in Corwin's diary to the "King of Rags and Patches."  During his conversation with the book dealer, the man told Smythe he recalled reading that Christopher Marlowe had written a play by that name and agreed to look for it as well.  We had the idea for Smythe to use Sports (Tennis) as a social skill.

***

Friday, June 18th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

At the New York Times office in London, Harris Benjamin is stopped by an assistant.  "You wanted me to keep an eye out for anything related to those stage magicians." the man mentioned.  Benjamin nodded. "I found a missing persons notice.  One Charles Horse of London, magician and entertainer, posted an inquiry as to the location of his friend Andrew Rochester - last seen in the company of the Society of Conjurers."  Benjamin thanked the man, contacted Horse for a meeting, then sent word to his fellow investigators.

Horse proved unable to meet them during the day as he was preparing for a performance at a theatre on Drury Lane.  He sent Benjamin an invitation to the show that evening and dinner at a local pub after.

They arrive at the performance at 7pm.  Both McKinley and Benjamin wore suits while Tali has dressed in his poor-fitting, borrowed jacket.  Smythe is dressed smartly, but not so nice as to offend the attendees by drawing attention to their own bad taste.

At about two hundred people in attendance, the theatre was half full.  The first four of five performers delivered a series of mediocre performances ranging from card tricks to rabbits in hats.  Finally, Horse appeared on stage.  A large, imposing bald man, he creaked as he moves.  His left eye was covered by an eyepatch.  Horse himself was marginally better.  His card tricks showed more control and at the end he made a dove vanish from a handkerchief.

Following the performance, Horse asked them to the pub, Nell of Old Drury, nearby. When asked about the Society of Conjurers, he told them he received an invitation to join them two months ago, but couldn't really afford the expense.  He also seems intolerant of the Chinese.

However, he was approached by a young friend and stage magician, Andrew Rochester who was trying to build a vanishing contraption without much success.  Horse decided to give Rochester information the invitation.  The young man later told him he had auditioned and been accepted.

Rochester's acts began to improve once he joined the group, but last week - before he disappeared - the young man seemed frightened.  The night before he vanished, Rochester had admitted to Horse he had stolen something..

"If you ask me," Horse told them.  "It's that Yellow menace Ling Soo.  Lord knows, what he is doing here.  Opium? Tarts?  Devil magic?"

Horse excused himself to go to the lavatory, but never returned.  The investigators assumed he had stiffed them with the meal.

Having received Andrew Rochester's address, they decided to drive to his flat.  Smythe just managed to be sober enough to drive.  On the way over, Benjamin noticed they were being followed.  Smythe parked the car in front of a police station and they watched a delivery truck with the word Hogan and Sons written on the side drive past.

Leaving the car, they made their way along the block in the coal fire light of the gaslanterns.  Rochester's flat sat in neighborhoods once the height of fashionable living the 1880s but now a in decline.  The halls of the building were clean and lit by gaslight.  Making their way slowly to the first floor, they stopped outside Rochester's door.  Scanning the hall, Tali knelt and tried to pick the lock.  After little success, he decided to check for another entry.

Benjamin, Tali, and Smythe ascended to the roof to look for Tali some rope, while McKinley kept watch outside the door.  Tali found an unusual specimen of wooden stairs and ladders down the side of the building (an early stair fire escape.)  Descending the rickety stairs, Tali made his way down to Rochester's window while his companions watched.

As McKinley stood in the hall, he realized he heard the sound of scratching and then the gaslight dimmed.  Glancing over the edge of the stairs, he saw two hairless men, wearing dark suits, bowlers, and dark glasses (despite it being after 11 pm.)  The doctor knocked on a door down the hall trying to rouse a neighbor as the footsteps creaked up the stairs.  He heard someone in the flat moving and coughing then turned to see the two men reach the landing.

The door to the flat opened and he pushed his way in telling the man he was a doctor and someone had sent for him.  The resident, confused, stood in the doorway staring as the doctor entered.  He insisted the man close the door as one of the two dark suited men appeared in the opening.

McKinley yelled for the resident of the flat to move aside and removed his revolver.  Rushing forwards he shot the intruder and knocked him back, then grabbed the confused resident and drug him down the hall.

By the time they heard the gunshot, Tali, Benjamin, and Smythe had descended to Rochester's flat and entered through one of the windows.  Tali rushed to the front door and opened it only to find himself confronted by a hairless man.  The man in dark glasses stepped forward while Tali pulled his wrench from his belt.  Though Tali managed to bash the man in the arm, he was soon being choked.

Inside, Benjamin had moved away from the gunshot into Rochester's bedroom.  Smythe moved to leave by the window, but when he saw Tali being choked to death he drew the sword from his cane and rushed over.

McKinley fired two more shots into the hairless man rushing down the flat hallway and dropped him.  The resident who had let him in trembled as the doctor told him to go into his room.

He arrived in the hall in time to find one of the suited men choking Tali and then a sword stick through the back of the man's head.  With both intruders laying on the floor, McKinley rushed to help Tali, whom he found unconscious and choking to death on his own tongue.  After some intense moments, he cleared the Welshman's airway.  He and Smythe looked at the bodies of the intruders only to find they had collapsed into a pile of blue dust within the clothing.

In the apartment, Benjamin found Rochester's diary and pocketed it before coming to see if the violence was over.  Seeing Tali, he gulped and suggested they leave.  Smythe insisted Benjamin and McKinley take Tali out the back and wait in an alley for him.  He returned to the car and brought it around to pickup his companions.

***

Saturday, June 19th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

McKinley took Tali to his flat for observation, while Smythe and Benjamin went their separate ways.  That night after Tali fell asleep, McKinley gave himself an allotment of morphine and slept. 

He found himself walking along the Thames in the morning.  Tali, just visible in the fog, stood on the edge of the river.  The doctor approached his companion and reached a hand out only to stop when he noticed the oddly mottled skin on his neck.

Turning to the river, he saw the bloated bodies of children varying in ages from six to twelve, floating by the bank.  He stared at them and realized their eyes were all gone and blue dust covered their faces.

Waking in a sweat, McKinley found himself unable to return to sleep.  The rest of the night he prepared the blue dust for examination under a microscope where he discovered it to be fungal spores.  Reviewing his books, he could find no example of it.  The doctor fell back asleep at dawn, determined to send a sample to a college in Cambridge for review.

Harris Benjamin spent Saturday reading Rochester's diary.  The beginning he found tedious, long passages complaining about London, but at the end he found the last entry.  Rochester was worried.  He had stolen a book from the Society of Conjurers and expected retaliation.

*** 

Sunday, June 20th, 1915 - London, United Kingdom

Tali felt well enough Sunday for the investigators to visit the Society of Conjurers that afternoon.  They were greeted by a Chinese man in English servant clothes who asked their business.  When Tali mentioned he performed conjuring tricks and wanted to join, the greeter lead them inside through the heavy wood front door and to the right into a reception room.  A painting of Chung Ling Soo hung in the foyer.  McKinley felt something looked off about the painting but he couldn't quite identify what this was. 

The reception room was filled with arm chairs and a fireplace (the weather being warmer no fire burned.)  A number of Chinese vases and a jade dog stood on decorative stands dotting the room.  A rug tied the room together with a Chinese dragon motif.

They were served Oolong tea from a copper pot and a plate of fried wontons while they waited. After half an hour, they were met by a young Chinese man in a modest suit and tie.  He introduced himself in crisp English as Prester Tien.

When Tali expressed an interest in joining the Society of Conjurers, Tien informed him he would need to audition.  Checking his leather-bound diary, he noted they were holding an audition for two other candidates that very Friday (June 25th) and Tali was welcome to attend.

He did not answer further questions about the Society itself, insisting only members have access to this information.

As they prepared to leave, Tali pocketed the jade dog statue without being seen.

Walking to Smythe's car they agreed to meet back on Thursday to discuss what needed to be done for the audition.

***

Another good game.  I am impressed by how much 75 point (50 point disadvantage) characters can do, while violence remains very dangerous.

This story continues in Its Hour Come Round at Last 1.5.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last - Doctor Thomas McKinley

Doctor Thomas McKinley of York, England
Born - January 6, 1883
Age at campaign start - 32

A British Army officer and doctor before World War I, McKinley studied medicine at Cambridge.

ST:10  DX:10  IQ:12  HT:10
HP:10  FP:10  Will:12  Per:12

Advantages:
Eidetic Memory (5)
Intuition (15)
Language: English (Native) (0)
Language: French (Spoken, A; Written: B) (3)
Language: German (Written, B) (1),
Patron: The British Army (Appears 6-; Minimal Intervention) (5)
Patron: The Gasworks (appears 6-, Equipment, Secret) (5),
Rank: Military (British Army) 3 (15),
Rank: Administrative (The Gasworks) 1 (5),
Talent: Healer 1 (10)

Disadvantages:
Addiction: Morphine (-10)
Atheist (-1),
Chronic Pain (-5)
Code of Honor: Hippocratic Oath (-5)
Duty: British Army (FR: 12, Extremely Hazardous, Involuntary) (-20)
Habit: Walks with a cane (-1)
Light Sleeper (-5)
Obsession:Explain the "supernatural" with science (-10)
Strange Dreams (1)

Skills:
Area Knowledge:York, England 13 (2)
Biology: Mycology 10 (2)
Chemistry-11 (2)
Diagnosis 13/TL 6 (4)
Diplomacy 11 (2)
Dreaming 11 (2)
Expert Skill: Thantology 11(2)
Fast Talk 12 (2)
First Aid 14 (2)
Guns: Pistol 11 (2)
Observation 12 (2)
Occultism-12 (2)
Pharmacy: Synthetic 12 (2)
Physician 13 (4)
Physiology: Humans 12 (2)
Poisons 11 (2)
Research 12 (2)
Surgery/TL6 12 (4)
Writing 12 (2) 

CP: 1

Updates:
Hour 3 - Added 1 CP to German: Written and 2 CP to Occultism

Its Hour Come Round at Last - Trahaearn Taliesin (Tali)

Trahearn Taliesin (Tali), originally of Cardiff, Wales, now of London.

Born: May 21st, 1883
Age at Campaign Start: 31
Current Age: 32

Left at an orphanage at as a child after the disappearance of his parents, Tali escaped as an eight year old and joined a gang of street children.  At the age of sixteen, he took a job working for the Great Western Railroad and worked his way into a mechanic position.

A member of a the British Rail Syndicate (an anarcho-syndicate group) he participated in struggles and strikes for worker rights in the years prior to the First World War.  Tali developed an affection for pictures of Queen Victoria as a child in the orphanage and sees these struggles as a defense of Crown and Country.

ST:12 DX:11 IQ:10 HT:10
HP:12 FP:10 Will:11 Per: 10

Advantages:
Claim to Hospitality: British Rail Syndicate (2)
Contacts: British Rail Syndicate (Skill 12, Group, Appears 9, Somewhat reliable) (5)
Fit (5)
Language: English (Spoken, A; Written, A) (4)
Language: Welsh (Spoken, N; Written, N) (0)
Patron: The Gasworks (Appear 6, Equipment, Secret) (5)
Rank 1: Administrative, Lamplighters (5)

Disadvantages:
Bad Back: Mild (15)
Congenial (-1)
Curious (-5)
Delusion: Steam Engines are out to get me (-5)
Dislikes Beef (-1)
Habit: Smokes Lucky Strikes.  Their Toasted! (-1)
Kleptomania (-15)
Proud (-1)
Sense of Duty: King and Country (-10)

Skills:
Axe/Mace 12 (4)
Bicycling 12 (2)
Boating: Unpowered 11 (2)
Boxing 12 (4)
Carousing 12 (4)
Climbing 11 (2)
Dancing 11 (2)
Escape 11 (4)
Fast-Talk 12 (8)
Filch 12 (4)
First Aid 11 (4)
Fishing 11 (2)
Guns/TL 6: Rifle 12 (2)
Guns/TL 6: Pistol 12 (2)
Hidden Lore: Horrors 9 (1)
Knife 12 (2)
Lockpicking/TL 6 11 (4)
Machinist/TL6 10 (2)
Mechanic/TL6: Steam Engine 10 (2)
Observation 11 (4)
Panhandling 11 (2)
Scrounging 11 (2)
Sleight of Hand 10 (2)
Smuggling 11 (4)
Stealth 12 (4)
Streetwise 11 (4)
Urban Survival 10 (2) 

CP: 5

Updates:
Hour 4 - Escape (2)
Hour 6 - Fast-Talk (4), Guns/TL6: Pistol (2), Hidden Lore: Horrors (1), Lockpicking/TL6 (2), Observation (2), Stealth (2)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Its Hour Come Round at Last - Harris Benjamin

Harris Benjamin of New York, NY, United States of America
Born: December 19th, 1888
Age at campaign start: 28
Current Age: 28

College educated and from an upper middle class family, Benjamin decided to pursue journalism as a career, much to his parents chagrin.  Having covered the Western front in 1914, he is now in London covering the English homefront.

ST:10  DX:10  IQ:12  HT:10
HP:10  FP:10  Will:12  Per:12

Advantages:
Charisma 2 (10)
Contact: Sgt James Dixon/Scotland Yard - Effective Skill 15, Appears 12-, Somewhat reliable (4)
Language: English (Spoken, N; Written, N) 0
Patron: The New York Times (9, Special Ability - Press Pass) (15)
Patron: The Gasworks (6, Equipment, Secret) (5)
Rank 1: Administrative, Lamplighters (5)

Disadvantages:
Cigar Chompin' (-1)
Habit (Middle Atlantic American Accent) (-1)
Jealousy (-10)
Obsession: Get to the Top (-10)
Workaholic (-5)

Skills:
Area Knowledge: London 13 (2)
Current Affairs: Headline News 14 (4)
Current Affairs: Politics 13 (2)
Detect Lies 12 (4)
Fast-Talk 12 (2)
Guns: Pistol 11 (2)
Hidden Lore: Horrors 11 (1)
Observation 12 (2)
Photography 13 (4)
Research 13 (4)
Savoir-Faire: High Society 13 (2)
Shadowing 13 (4)
Speed Reading 12 (2)
Stealth 10 (2)
Streetwise 13 (4)
Writing 13 (4)

CP: 1

Updates:
Hour 6: Detect Lies (2), Guns/TL6: Pistols (1), Hidden Lore: Horrors (1), Observation (2), Stealth (2), Contact: Sgt James Dixon/Scotland Yard - Effective Skill 15, Appears 12-, Somewhat reliable (4)

Its Hour Come Round at Last - Reginald Smythe III

Reginald Smythe III of London, England
Born: January 1, 1890
Age at campaign start: 25

The scion of the Smythe textile family of Paddington, London and heir to his father's baroncy, Smythe is a well dressed member of the London smart set.

ST:10  DX:10  IQ:10  HT:10
HP:10  FP:10  Will:10  Per:10

Advantages:
Alcohol Tolerance (1)
Appearance: Attractive (4)
Claim to Hospitality: Smythe Family friends (2)
Fashion Sense (5)
Language: English (Spoken, N; Written, N) (0)
Language: French (Spoken, A; Written, B) (3)
Patron: Smythe Family of London (12, Family Assets) (60)
Patron: The Gasworks (6, Equipment, Secret) (5)
Rank: Administrative, Lamplighters 1 (5)
Status: United Kingdom, son of a Baron 1 (5)

Disadvantages:
Alcoholism (-15)
Chummy (-5)
Code of Honor: Gentleman's (-10)
Overconfidence (-5)
Selfish (-5)
Short Attention Span (-10)


Skills:
Connoisseur:Wine 10 (2)
Current Affairs: Popular Culture 10 (1)
Driving: Automobile 12 (8)
Fast-Draw: Sword 11 (2)
Occultism 10 (2)
Rapier 12 (8)
Riding: Equine 12 (8)
Savoir-Faire: High Society 13 (8)
Sports: Tennis 12 (8)

CP: 0

Updates
Hour 3 - Added 1 to Fast-Draw:Sword and Occultism

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.