[b “Come one, come all! You won’t believe your eyes! From across the ocean this show comes to you straight from the wilds of America! We have bears from the mountains of Wyoming, Alligators from the glades of the French Quarter, a real life Bison and many more animals available in our petting zoo. Perfect for children of all ages! We even have a genuine real life American Cowgirl! An Indian Dancing troupe, and so much more! You won’t want to miss it!”] A mustached herald called out to a busy street of people, standing with him were several others handing out paper fliers for the show that had come to London for the week before it began its tour of the English Countryside and surrounding countries. [b “You too can view the wonders and bizarre for the low price of 5 pence!”]
[i Later that day on a field by the Thames …]
The crowd of British Patrons filtered into the field that was currently occupied by makeshift fences, wooden bleachers, and a crudely constructed show ring. Surrounding it was a scattering of tents and cages where the animals were kept. From one tent a woman looked out at the crowd while they oohed and awed at the way her fellow showman. Bruce managed to get his American Black Bears to sit on stools, ride a unicycle, and other parlor tricks. They each wore little hats and costumes, and Bruce always kept a bag of cut meat on him to reward them for a job well done. Those two bears, Bella and Jerry, were the most spoiled animals on the planet… next to her horse.
[b “Doger, you’re up next!”] a voice called to the woman, she turned her head to see who called, but they had already left the tent through the back and was on their way to the next performer after her. Charlene was her name, but her last name was what she tended to go by. She turned towards the small mirror and checked her appearance one last time before she went out into the ring. She thought the costume was a nightmare, all bright colors and star shaped patches. Money was money, and as a single woman with no family she had to make due. She had a talent and a skill predominately held by men, and she planned to monopolize it the best she could, take her earnings and go on to the next adventure.
Charlene gave her figure one last look, dressed in a knee length pair of pants made to look like a skirt, with a matching vest the colors of red white and blue. Yellow Stars decorated her vest, and she had a brilliant white hat to go with it all. Her boots were the only thing, worn in, normal, and covered in mud. At her hip was a length of rope. Charlene was a pretty woman, she had a fine strong figure, all her teeth, long shiny brown hair, perpetually tanned skin, and warm hazel eyes. All in all, she was plain, but pretty. All that was left was for her to grab her leather gloves, her rifle, and the ammo she would need for her show.
The people applauded as the bears Bella and Jerry bowed with Bruce, and he with his handlers, moved the bears from the ring to their cages to be moved to their small enclosure. At the other end of the ring, Charlene mounted her horse, and the small band began their fanfare of William Tell and Charlene rode into the ring. Standing in the saddle she fired three shots into the air with a pistol in one hand, and in the other she kept a lasso spinning over her head. In the midst of it all she whistled and yee’hawed. As usual, city slickers flinched at the sound of gunfire, but were interested in what she was going to do with the rope. That became all too clear when a riled up pig came flying into the ring, squealing and shouting as it ran about. Charlene brought her horse around to the edge of the pen, while clowns frightened the small pig to continue its terrified run around the pen. Charlene wore a smile towards the crowd, inside she was bored. Catching and tying a hog was nothing new for Charlene.
She spun the lasso from side to side of her body, stepping through and bringing it to the other side, she even added a little twirl before she flung the rope forward towards the pig, snagged him and brought him to the ground where she quickly tied up his legs in near record time. She rose up to the sound of applause and laughter. With her lasso trick done she moved on by skipping over to where her Rifle was kept on the horses saddle, and with quick movements, loaded the ammo and turned with rapid fire to hit every single tin target behind her. Positioned around the ring, were spring loaded targets that would pop up at a scheduled time, then Charlene would hit her target. She did her first few rounds on foot, to display her skill, but the talent came when she mounted her horse and rode the ring and hit her targets while moving. Stationary targets and even discs flung into the air, not a single bullet missed its mark.
The crowd was impressed, but only enough to allow for polite applause. By the end of her performance, Charlene wasn’t sure if she was that awful at preforming, or if the English didn’t know how to hoot and holler. She quickly learned it was the latter. With the show over, Charlene was able to change from her costume and into her regular clothes. Technically they were men’s clothes, but Charlene had never been much for women’s clothes. Sure they were pretty, and soft, but Charlene didn’t trust herself to keep something that pretty clean for very long. So she wore a tailored set of pants and jacket, with a vest and blouse. The dark green of the fabric made her skin more olive and tan that any color would have, while also making the green in her eyes stand out.
She certainly earned her fair share of odd looks as she walked through London dressed as a man. It was funny enough to see an American in london, funnier to see an American woman dressed like a man. On her hips sat her faithful pistols, and her hat hung down her back from off her neck. It was definitely not bright enough to have her hat on, and she could count the hours on her hands she’d seen the sun since arriving to this place. She had believed the smoke in New York have been bad, but London was certainly running for worst air quality. It made her miss the country, and its fresh clean air. Her horse was tied up to a post a few blocks down the street, and with the remainder of her afternoon free, Charlene was able to take in the sights.
Of course it didn’t help that Charlene had no idea how to get around in London. She eventually found herself lost in the city, and far away from where she had started, and where she had left her horse. It didn’t frighten her to be lost in a strange city, but it did make her anxious. Looking around at the street signs she noticed she was in an obvious residential area. Brownstones lined the streets, and down the way she spotted a crowd. They were huddled around one building, and the closer she got she noticed a Police Wagon, and several officers trying to cord off the area from curious bystanders such as herself. Her main concern was finding an officer to tell her how to get back to where she started. However she was intrigued by the scorch marks on the building. It appeared an explosion had happened. She’d seen similar things before with nitro glycerin explosions. Doing her best to politely make her way through the crowd she reached the front of the corded off area and waved down an officer.
[b “Excuse me sir, oh... ma’am,”] he tipped his head, blushing with embarrassment at his mistake. Charlene only grinned at him, not offended in the least. [b “This is a crime scene, I’ll need you to step back.”] Charlene did so compliantly but still reached out for him.
[#008000 “I was hoping to ask for yer help,”]
[b “American...”] he muttered, and Charlene couldn’t tell if he was intrigued or offended.
[#008000 “Yes’sir. I’m a little lost here, I was a‘ hoping you might be able to tell me how to get back to my horse.”] She told the officer the location she had left her horse, and chuckled at her admittance to how she managed to get lost. The officer was kind enough to oblige her and give her directions back to where she wanted to go. Before she could thank the man and leave on her way, she spotted officers coming from the building, and curiosity got the better of her. She decided to linger and see if she could learn what happened here.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Rain. Of course. And on a Sunday; The Lords Day!
But it was England, London to be precise, and so to have anything but a light spittle of rain would be perhaps sacrosanct. Regardless of the weather and like a good Christian man John Devon was returning from Sunday service with a kind smile and a good humour about him. It had been an especially good sermon. An enthusiastic opening imploring the clergy to repent for their untold sins for the week and ending with a prayer for all to continue to appease the Lord and chastise all those who sought to undermine His word. Succinct and purposeful and indeed as he passed along the rows of squalid housing on his way back to his residence he would softly mouth prayers of prosperity and peace upon those within.
Turning onto Bedford Row there were few out on the streets as expected. The only ones he knew were the Sanderson’s, an elderly couple who enjoyed walking along the shop fronts after church and talking in hushed loving tones and he raised a hand in greeting as they passed by one another. He stopped outside a bookshop with a green painted visage – his own in fact – and watched them with admiration of their long and fruitful marriage. Stepping in off the cold street his smile didn't wane but grew in the knowledge he would hopefully do the same with Dorothy in their old age – once the children had settled of course.
Ensuring the door latch is turned and the sign is turned to 'closed' he lets out a deep sigh of content. Though you would assume his family would join him at church, their children had come down with a pox of some sort and it was best to have them rest – God would understand. This thought brought on another.
[b “Dorothy,”] he called out.[b “The service is over. I was thinking perhaps we take the children and go to the park. Some fresh air would do them well.”] He calls out as he wanders to the counter and runs his well worked hands across the binders of several tomes. They are worn and weathered from years of handling but it adds character. It is as if nothing can spoil his mood.[b “Dorothy? Julia? Marcus?”] He frowns as he finished piling up the books and carefully places them onto a shelf under the counter top.
Sighing he begins to work his way to the back-room, passing by rows and shelving of books and through the doorway into the back storage room. His foot collides with a book on the floor and he rolls his eyes, leaning down to grasp it.
[b “What have I told you Marcus, take care of the books.”] He comes away with the book but his hand is wet. Upon turning it over, it is coated in a tacky crimson liquid. [i Strawberry jam on his books? Again?!] The boy would most certainly be getting his belt across his backside. He turns to go for the stairwell upstairs with fury but he is torn between a multitude of emotions when he sees a light trail of the same sticky substance coating along floorboards around some crates of books. Stepping forward cautiously the book trembles in his hands but is soon dropped entirely upon turning the corner.
There lay two very still beings. Skin ashen, hands bound by twine, wrists chaffed raw, their heads covered by Hessian sacks that are stained dark. Those.. those are Julia's shoes. And Marcus' bed wear. He mumbles incomprehensibly. The very words don't seem to form and comes out as just an agonised whine as he shuffles forward. Focused on the bodies of his children, he disregards the chalked sigil upon the floor, his foot scraping along the outer circle and breaking it's seal. A light spreads from the point at which it severs until the enter mark glows a bright green and lifts upwards.
Out on the street the front windows shatter outwards in a spray of glass shards and splintered wood, the accompanying explosion causes several houses to shake with the eruption and thunderous boom knocking loose multiple roof tiles that slide off to crash down upon the cobbles. An electric blue outburst of flame follows a fraction of a second after sending a thick and choking black smoke rising high into the grey overcast sky. Birds scatter in alarm and panic and anyone nearby is left with ringing ears. The street seems to be frozen in stunned silence until broken by a woman wailing 'Harold', Mrs Sanderson kneeling at her husbands side and desperately shaking his large frame by his arm. Her distraught sobs meld with the crackling and snapping flames and shouts for anyone to bring water.
Loose papers skitter and fly about in the wind that ebbs and grows in strength whilst travelling along the street. It is a busy Sunday by comparison to previous weeks. Groups of both local residents and those attempting to pass through stand either side of the devastated shop front. They gossip and snoop behind a blockade of men in smart navy clothing and thick overcoats held closed with brass buttons and leather belts. Wooden truncheons rest in their hands as deterrents to anyone wishing to press on for a closer look. Between the two separated groups a man strolls forward between stacks of empty oak pails, glass crackling and green wood snapping under a brown leather shoe with a well worn sole but shining polished toe. Veteran hands clasp behind an antique grey suit as he glances at the debris and nods as if he puts any effort into his cursory inspection.
Water drips slowly from the odds and ends of furnishings that remain on the shop as he steps through to inside. Men stood at guard outside the entranceway touch the brims of their helmets in respect of his position as he does so. Removing his own felt bowler hat as he enters he brushes at the shoulder of his jacket where water had splashed on him. He pushes aside soaked and charred books with his foot to clear his path. White smoke rises from a few pieces here and there, many books are either mixed as ashes with water or currently being ruined by the methods of fire fighting. One or two sets of shelves still stand, blocked from the brunt of explosion and flame by a half wall toward the front.
Heading through the debris the man is met by several others who again dip their heads. One, perhaps in his early to mid-twenties, stops him just before he goes to head through into the back room.
[+purple “Sergeant Masterson, there is an investigator back there already. He's inspecting the scene as we speak Sir.”] The older man's brow furrows and his grand moustache bristles and twitches with distaste. Stepping in he is almost struck by the strong smell of smoke, thick in the air he could taste it, but it is not like that of tobacco or pitch or match, more so that of gunpowder – he knew from his days of service. A man never forgets the smell and taste of it.
[right [pic http://i66.tinypic.com/ab7s8.jpg]][+teal “It's not gunpowder.”] The voice comes from close to the floor. Off to his right and crouched down near the ground is a man who is running his fingers near to a sunken part of the flooring where the wood was most charred. He does not touch – his fingers hover just above as if following an invisible track.
[+red “I never- what are- I say!”] He replies, flustered both by the man's brashness and how he had seemingly read his very thoughts. Sergeant Masterson grasps the lapels of his suit jacket tightly and lifts his chin in disgust at the man's actions.[+red “I demand you tell me who the devil you are and why are you here, at my crime scene?”] He tries his best to goad and intimidate the stooped man. But he reaches over and picks up a sliver of ostensibly arbitrary debris to inspect further. As the disturbed Sergeant presses to question the man further his mouth is left agape from the other's response;
[+teal “Do you mean it is your crime scene because you caused the initial crime or do you mean that it is yours because you have placed your mark upon it much like a dog urinates upon it''s territory?”] His voice is light, his tone well educated and he comes across quite assured in his mannerisms.
[+red “How dare you! I am not some blasted criminal, I am Ser-”]
[+teal “Sergeant Masterson of the Metropolitan Police, Epsilon Division, Holborn. Graduated – eventually – twenty-third of his class from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst as a Second Lieutenant of the 11th Regiment of Foot because he was deathly terrified of horses. [i Lord knows why.] You served during the Rebellion's of 1837 to '38 in Lower Canada without distinction, earning an early retirement when you inexplicably were shot in the leg despite being in a purely guard detachment and [i several kilometres from any battle.”]] His voice changes with his curiosity at several moments as he turns the wood over in his hand but casts it aside. Again the elder man was left befuddled – this time at how this stranger knew about his service record and his injury.[+teal “My name is Isaksson, tasked as part of the Queen's Guard.”] He produces a shining silver buckle from within his thick woollen coat, a Royal Insignia across the front. He doesn't turn back to produce but rather shows it over his shoulder back to the Sergeant before returning it to his pocket and shuffling across to look through more rubble.
[+red “O-o-oh. W-well. I'm sorry, I just, I didn't know-”] For a former officer in the army and current of the police, Sergeant Masterson knows a royal coat of arms when he sees one despite the very brief look.
[+teal “Quiet Edward, I am trying to find clues as to whom did this and your constant twaddle is severing my concentration.”] A hand waves at him with annoyance.
[+red “Ah, yes, my apologies Mr Isaksson-”]
[+red “Of course, Sir Isaksson,”] the man of the Queens Guard hides a devilish smile,[+red “erm, perhaps I can have the constables assist you with the search?”]
[+teal “There is no need. I have given them their duties already. However yours is to stand outside and marshal the crowds – or go away.”]
[+red “But..”] he hesitates to show further anger and bites his tongue,[+red “but of course. Quite right. I will keep that rabble in check. As you were.. Sir.”] His nose wrinkles once he has turned away and he leaves quicker than he arrived. The search continues another five or so minutes, making slow progress around the area, before perceptive eyes hone in on a particular spot on the floor.
A handkerchief is retrieved from his breast shirt pocket and he dabs at a golden-honey coloured stain, transferring it to the material. Looking it at it brings no further clues as to it's properties, nor does touching it – it is tacky like it's honey comparison but much more chalky and gritty and course. Lifting it up he sniffs at it and physically recoils from the scent, turning his head and holding the cloth away from him. He mutters a foreign curse and draws a deep breath.
[+teal “Constable Daniels!”] Isaksson calls out whilst standing, heading for the doorway the Sergeant had left through.
[+purple “Sir?”] The young man from earlier is about to step through himself when he is pushed backwards and aside and the older Guardsman heads to what remains of the counter for the shop, beckoning him to follow.
[+teal “You told me you interviewed someone outside when you arrived, some skeletal individual?”] He looks back and receives a muttered affirmation.
[+purple “Y-yes Sir. Interesting looking guy. Face the colour of fresh snow and bald as a newborn. Looked just like a skeleton. Odd thing is Sir, but I remember he-”]
[+teal “Had lips that glistened and sparkled like he had kissed starlight and his eyes were as dark as a moonless night.”] The response is both parts cryptic but accurate and the Constable chuckles amused and nervously.
[+purple “Well, yes, something like that I would suppose Sir. How did-”]
[+teal “Did he unintentionally smile?”] Conscious of his own smile Daniels' nods again.
[+purple “Erm.. yes! Yes Sir! It was like..”] He pauses.
[+teal “Like what Daniels?”] A brow raises with curiosity.
[+purple “Sorry, thought we were still doing a back and forth.. that you were still reading my mind..”] Nervous as ever his gaze drops to the floor.[+purple “Apologies Sir. Well, it was like he couldn't help himself. Like he was trying to make himself look sad.”] He rings his hands together, unsure whether to look up.
[+teal “Then it is as I thought.”] His tongue laps at his drip lips in momentary thought.[+teal “Always remember Daniels, we can never assume in situations such as this, we must follow all leads to the end to be sure.”] Brushing aside splinters and a plethora of singed papers he lays out the newly stained handkerchief, lifting a hand and clicking fingers at Daniels,[+teal [i “your pencil,”]] the order given as he withdrew a scalpel sized blade from somewhere on his belt. Hesitant at first Daniels obliges and hands over the writing apparatus – quite keen to see where this led.[+teal “What was it he reported to you? I need to know exactly what he told you, repeated verbatim.”] He leaned down to the material lain out before him and carefully grated the blade along the tip of the pencil, adding a finely grated powder of black graphite atop the sticky mixture.
[+purple “What's that Sir?”] The curious Constable enquires with wonder. Isaksson continues to work carefully as he retorts, adding enough fine gratings before he sharpens the pencil and snips the tip, placing it atop the powder and returning the usable pencil to his current accomplice.
[+teal “I believe, or rather my best guess is, that this is the remnants from the consumption of a tobacco-like product known as Etna. Sold in morsel sized waxy pellets it's said to induce a feeling of joy bordering upon euphoria that can take on both a passive and a lethal nature – dependant on whom partakes of it that is.”] He gesticulates with his hands about it's size and shape and drawing a picture with his vivid storytelling.[+teal “While not an oddity to find – indeed it is consumed by quite significant majority – this particular kind I believe is of the Vesterveld branding. They are well known for the almost lethal levels of the coca-fibre used to make it as well as their colourful golden sealants that are spat out upon consumption of said Etna.”] He rubs hands together excitedly like a boy on Christmas morn and revels in the delight at finding a clue to take on an investigation that had stagnated to a standstill. But upon looking up at the young man beside him he sees confusion on his face.
[+purple “Fascinating, Sir, whatever you said truly it is. But, well, I actually meant that word you used; vuh-bay-tam? What's that?”] His pronunciation was terribly off but the bearded detective only nodded and grasped the navy cuff of his sleeve.
[+teal “Ver-bay-tim. Latin. Means word for word. I want his exact wording how he told it to you.”] His opposite frowned more.[+teal “Okay well as best you can at least. Tell me what you know and remember please.”]
Daniels agrees to this amendment. Being in such proximity to the older man he can see features he didn't see upon first glance. To begin with the man's olive eyes gave him the look of a sage. They belie his more youthful appearance, showing a man with great wisdom beyond his years. His beard is full like that of a working class man as opposed to an elitist who often went smooth chinned with thick moustache and sideburns – similar to Masterson. It is a well tended beard though, clipped neatly and ashen brown like his hair which is cut short and wavers in the slight breeze from the street – again unlike the societally accepted longer and oiled hair. Clicking fingers refocuses his thoughts from dreamy glaring and he whispers a quiet apology before clearing his throat.
[+purple “Well he said, and this is as best I remember Sir, that he came upon the shop on fire with a.. a heat that made him feel like he was on fire, yet he was some distance from the actual flames. Said the fire must have burnt his eyes something fierce too because the flame was blue at first.”] Though he pursed his lips at this odd titbit of information Isaksson's hand gestured for him to continue on.[+purple “Oh, erm, well he went on to say how they couldn't put the fire out. They beat at a book on the street with a rug but it just wouldn't go out no matter what even when they covered it in water, it just seemed to light up again a few seconds later.”] He flinches back a step as the wise-man slaps his hands together loudly.
[+teal “Oh of course! How could I be so feckless and idiotic?!”] He pushes away from the counter top, Daniels going to follow but thinks better of it.[+teal “That was rhetorical. Keep going, keep going.”] He darted across on nimble boots to the less destroyed part of the building.
[+purple “Hmm. He said after a few minutes the fire died down, it changed to a red, yellow and orange flame, you know like a normal fire, and when they tried the water again it worked.”]
[+teal “That,”] he grunts as he retrieves something,[+teal “is because [i 'belia's flame'] feeds upon it's fuel source. Once it burns through that only then will a natural fire remain.”] He returns carrying with him a leather bag, unceremoniously dropped on the floor beside the counter. Crouching down he opens the claps and several spring-loaded drawers come forth carrying a multitude of vials on each. Selecting and replacing them several times he mumbles to himself whilst deciphering the perfect one.
[+purple “Should I carry on Sir?”]
[+teal “No, that is quite.. quite enough for now Daniels..”] Lost in thought his free hand clenches, knocking at the side of his head as if rapping upon a door seeking entrance within. Jar after jar is pulled out and several vials are shaken and jostled. Some contain liquids, others flowers still in full bloom or leaves of varying colours, several with colours, shapes and sizes that the constable couldn't recall seeing. The bag seemed unending as some thirty glass containers were removed until at last the gentleman seemed to hit on a solution; two small vials, one of rose red, the other beige, both must have contained no more than a single drop.
With the ingredients repacked the bag then snaps shut and locks itself without contact from Isaksson. Daniels wanted explanation but his attention was short lived and flittered back to Isaksson himself. Raising the two vials he cracked their wax seals with his thumbs and carefully tipped their droplets on the graphite in a particular order; maroon followed by tan. As the latter fell upon the mixture it fizzed and hissed as the reaction with the handkerchief below began. After several seconds it began to crack and pop and spark like freshly forged metal struck by a hammer. The cloth jumped about the counter top alive and the younger of the two steps back only for Isaksson to grasp his shoulder whilst staring into the waning pyrotechnics, amusement dancing in his eyes.
[+teal “Daniels.. I think it's time I spoke to the Starlight Kissed Man.”]