Sunday 21st January 1923

Dearest Diary, I am quickly writing down the events of the day before I finally go to sleep. The day has been full of incident and some have them have been so strange, so uncanny, that I am tempted to believe that I never returned from that dream world at all. Or that, perhaps, some of its madness has followed us back to the real world.  

After a couple of hours sleep I felt reinvigorated and met up with my travelling companions in the dining car. The food was, of course, first class and the view from the train, as we speed through the mountains towards Italy, was nothing short of magical. Unfortunately the whole experience was soured by the constant and boorish complaining of the worst sort of Englishman abroad He was a retired colonel with the rather comical name of Herring and he was a pig of the highest order. Colonel H complained about everything while the meal was being served from the food to the staff. Detective M rather bravely tried to trade barbed insults with the man but it was clear that Colonel H had skin thicker than a rhino. To be honest, if I thought that I could get away with it, I would have been tempted to push him off the train. I would probably be doing everyone a favour, especially his poor, quivering wife.

Reviewing our copious notes reminded us that one part of the Simulacrum had been purchased in Paris just after the Great War and that the buyer had come from Milan. That was not a lot to go on. 

We had a few hours before we were due to stop in Milan. I was reminded of the strange, sealed cabin during our time on the “dream train” earlier this morning. At the time we had speculated that it signified that there was something strange, and probably supernatural, about that room on the real train so I decided to pass the time by doing a little sleuthing. After a few clever questions with the staff I had learnt that the compartment was being used by an American by the name of Franklin Meyers but he had not emerged at all day, even taking his meals in the room.

With no really plan in mind I wandered down the passageway and lingered outside of the compartment door. There was no trace of the nasty smell that had emanated from the compartment while we were in the dream world (and, according to Detective M) he had smelt in the vicinity on our first night out of Paris). Double checking to make sure that there was no one about I put my ear to the compartment door and was rewarded by the sound of a man’s voice. It took me a moment or two to figure it out but the man was speaking in German. From the tone of voice I think that Mr Meyers, if it was indeed him, was reading a load rather than having a conversation. The words were hard to make out but I defiantly heard mention of a “protective stone” and then there was a world that was defiantly not German, or indeed any other language that I had ever heard before. “S-thogua” is the best approximation that I can make of it.

I intended to go back and talk to Darling Antonio when I spotted Detective M heading down the passage towards me. I was just about to wave him over when lighting and sound on the OE took on a different feel. We had entered the famous Simplon Tunnel; the interior of the train was now only illuminated by its gas lighting and the noise of the train, echoing back to us off the walls if the tunnel, was noticeably louder. Not so loud that I didn’t hear a gasp of surprise, or perhaps fear, from inside Mr. Meyers compartment.  Well you know me, Dear Diary, I had been looking for a pretext to knock on the compartment door ever since I had arrived and now one had landed in my lap. It took a few seconds of knocking before there was a response from inside. The voice was male and had an unmissable American twang. At the time I assumed it was Mr Myers but now I am not so sure. The voice assured me that everything was fine and that, despite my offer, he needed no aid. In fact, despite my best efforts, I could not get Mr Myers to leave his compartment or even open the door. Without resorting to drastic action there seemed nothing more that I could do and so gave in.

I was just letting Detective M know what had happened when things took a turn for the bizarre (and not the last time it would do so this day) as Albert entered the carriage from the direction of the baggage cart. He had a perplexed look on his face and was holding a broken chair leg in his hand. Albert had been paying a visit on the animals that were being transported in the baggage. He had noticed that the animal seemed to be on edge and, just after we had entered the tunnel, he became aware of furtive movement amongst the various trunks and cases. Investigating Albert had spotted what he described as a small green man and that the imp had tried to lure him deeper in to the darkness. Now this all sounded jolly exiting so I suggested that I round up Father P and Darling Antonio so we could go and investigate.

Off I went and in the time it took me to find my two travelling companions, and a couple of flashlights, the situation had changed yet again! Albert was no longer carrying his improvised club and Detective M had a firm and painful grasp of the ear of a young boy in a green blazer. It transpired that, while I had been getting the other, Albert and Detective M (who I suspect had only agreed to my plan to get little old me “safely” out of the way) had headed back in to the baggage cart. There they had discovered that Albert’s little green man was nothing more than a mischievous six-year old boy. Without belabouring the point it was hate at first sight between Detective M and the boy and they spent the rest of time till we reached Milan locked in their own personal battle of wills. Detective M trying to brow beat the little brat in to behaving and young Mr Jones (I forget his first name) alternating between throwing insults and hiding behind his mother’s skirts.

Crisis over I drifted off With Darling Antonio to share my discoveries about Mr Myers. Cleaver thing that he is Darling Antonio had heard of “S-thogua”; apparently he is some sort of demon worshiped by the more obscure practitioners of the occult.

It was probably only ten minutes after we had left The Simplon Tunnel when the EO began to slow down to a stop. We hadn’t reached our destination though, it was just a Customs check. While this was an irritation it did have a silver lining, it meant that Mr Myers would have to come out of his room so his papers could be checked. I scanned the small crown that was gathering but I could see no unfamiliar faces amongst it. Detective M, who was clearly thinking along the same lines as myself, pointed out that there were no American passports amongst the bundle being carried by the train staff. We spotted a hushed conversation between the customs officers and the strain staff and a group headed off in to the train. Since my papers had already been checked I drifted after them. As I hoped they made for Mr Meyer’s compartment. I spotted them unlock the door and head in. I wanted to get closer but there was a distinct lack of cover in the passageway of the rain.

Over the next forty minutes or so the police were summoned. From the train staff we learnt that Mr Meyers was nowhere to be found and it was suspected that he had absconded from the train. We noted a number of items being removed from the compartment, most notably a briefcase attached to a still closed handcuff.

It was over an hour before we were on our way again. An experience made even worse by Colonel Herring complaining the whole time.

Once we were on our way we had about an hour before we reached Milan and I for one was itching to have a look inside Mr Myers compartment. The door was, of course, locked but I knew that Darling Antonio knew his was around such things. Father P and Albert positioned themselves at either end of the passageway as lookout and Darling Antonio set to work on the lock. Unfortunately it proved far more stubborn then we had hoped to the point that Darling Antonio snapped one of his picks in the mechanism. Luckily Father P rose to the occasion. He slipped in to the room he shared with Detective M and returned a moment latter with a crowbar. It was a bit drastic but in a flash we had the door open. No sooner had we done so when we heard a member of the train staff heading down the passage way. Quick as a flash Father P disposed of the incriminating evidence by throwing the crowbar out of a window. And then went over to have a chat with the member of staff. The Father’s distraction gave Darling Antonio time to pull me in to a passionate kiss and we embrace to obscure the dame to the door.

Once it was all clear Darling Antonio and I slipped in to the compartment. Considering all the trouble it had taken to gain access it was rather of a let-down. An unpleasant odour hung in the air. There were a few red marks showing where blood had been cleared up in a hurry and, rather ghoulishly, Darling Antoni found a tiny chunk of what looked like human flesh. However we found nothing to tell us who Mr Meyers was or suggest what had happened to him.

BY now we were rapidly approaching Milan. The view from the train had changed dramatically and not for the better. Before the tunnel it had been all mountains and villages, like something out of a fairy tale, but now it had been replaced by a sprawling, industrial landscape painted in shades of black, grey and brown. The sky was thick with smoke and fumes through which a wintery sun was having trouble making its presence know.

Pulling in the station we found it almost devoid of life. There was no one to greet us and we had to hunt high and low to find even two porters. There were only a handful of other customers in the station and they seemed subdued and almost ghostly. While the others arranged taxis to take us to our hotel I headed off on a wasted journey to the telegraph office. When I returned it was clear that something was up with my travelling companions. Albert (who spoke Italian) had found a newsagents and purchased a paper. The front page was full of the disappearance of our friend Catarina Cavollaro. Apparently she had arrived on the OE yesterday but then seemed to have vanished in to thin air!

We headed immediately to our hotel in La Galleria Vittorio-Emanuele. As we were driven through the streets of Milan it seemed that its inhabitants shuffled about as if in a world weary daze. At the time I wondered if it was the disappearance of Caterina that had reduced the people of Milan to such a sorry state but in the last few hours I have come to believe that there is something very wrong with this city, a sort of collective madness.

At least our lodging was something to write home about Dear Diary.  In Paris and Lausanne I had to endure second best when it came to our hotels thanks to the penny pinching of my companions but La Galleria made amends. It was a fantastic building laid out in a cross shape and roofed with a soaring, ultra-modern dome of glass and steel. The walls were extensively decorated with Egyptian-themed pictures and statues.  It was marvellous. It also appeared that Caterina had been true to her word and wired ahead to reserve us rooms. We had also hoped that we might find word from her waiting for us but in that regard we were disappointed.

Once we had settled in to our rooms we had a little council of war. We seemed to have two goals; find the part of the Simulacrum and try to track down what had happened to Caterina. Caterina seemed the more pressing so we would concentrate on that. We split in to two groups; Darling Antonio and I would see if there was any news of the missing Opera Singer at the theatre while the rest would head back to the station and see if they could find any eyewitnesses to Caterina’s arrival.

A combination of the language barrier and a very surly stage hand meant that Darling Antonio and my own trip to the Teatro alla Scala (a rather bland building from the outside) was a total waste of time. We headed back to our hotel and soon found the other. They had been blessed with far more luck. They had found one of the porter who had been on duty yesterday. They had helped her with her luggage but when she exited the station a man in a black Alfa Romeo RL had caught her eye. Catarina had gone over to speak with the man and then, after waving off her entourage (including her manager), had driven off with the man. 

A return trip to Teatro alla Scala seemed to be in order. Perhaps we could speak to Caterina’s manager or at least find someone there who could point us in the right direction. Unfortunately once again, we could not even get past the door even with Albert there to translate.

Our search for Caterina had ground to a halt but we still had our second objective, the segment of the Simulacrum.

At Detective M’s suggestion we paid a visit on the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of the world famous painting of The Last Supper. AS we travelled through the city we were struck again and again by the sense of despair that enveloped its population. They all seemed to be struggling under the weight of some nameless angst that left them as grey and lifeless as the smog filled skies.

The Last Supper was certainly a stunning piece of art and what’s more there was a rather knowledgeable gentleman to hand who talked us through its subtle artistic treasures. We took the opportunity to ask if the gentleman’s expertise extended to statues and sculpture. I named-dropped The Sedefkar Simulacrum but he had not heard of it. However he was able to suggest places that we could look for answers; the castle, the cathedral, the library and amongst the intellectual café set (especially “Biffies” which just so happened to be in La Galleria).

We made our next stop Milan Cathedral and what an astonishing building it proved to be; a huge gothic master piece. Apparently it took six hundred years to complete and I could see why. We headed in to find quite a large mournful crowd inside that had come to pray for the safe return (or perhaps the mortal soul of) Caterina. There were numerous pictures of her leant against a shrine and dozens upon dozens of candles burning around them. As Detective M said it seemed that the people of Melan had given her up for dead already. We were greeted by a Father Angelico, a surprisingly muscular priest who spoke dreadful English. We accepted his invitation for a tour of the artistic treasures of the Cathedral.  To begin with Father Angelico was full of energy and enthusiasm for his subject but as the tour went on we could almost see the joy drain out of him and the poor made went to pieces before our eyes. Before long he was sitting on a pew and sobbing in despair at the spiritual malaise that reigned in Milan. Father P did his best to comfort his fellow man of the cloth. I had just decided to grab the bull by the horns and ask if Father Angelico knew anything about the Simulacrum when the strangest thing happened. It was so inexplicable that I still have trouble crediting that it really happened (and I was in a literal Dream World only this morning!). The cathedral started to echo to the sound of clucking. Looking around we saw a man, not far off, who had begun to act like a chicken; clucking, scratching his foot and pecking at the stone floor. Before our eyes his peeking became more vigorous causing a glass jar to tumble from his coat and shatter on the ground releasing its cargo of dead moths. Out of nowhere sprang a bug-eyed lizard that started to make a meal of the dead insects.

As we went over towards this clearly mad man he dashed out of the cathedral. Albert and Detective M ran after him but lost him in the streets outside. I had a similar lack of luck when I tried to catch the lizard as it gave me the slip by heading under the pews.

With nothing else to do we made to leave the Catherdral and it was then that we had pretty much our only lucky break since arriving in Milan. Almost on a whim Albert went to talk to three only crones who were praying for Caterina. It turned out that one of them had once worked at the theatre and advised Albert that, if he wanted to get past the doorman, he should invoke the name of the Teatro alla Scala’s director of music, Toscanini.

Evening was drawing in so we decided to delay our third trip to the theatre till tomorrow.

Darling Antonio was in one of his boring moods and decided to that he would spend the evening in our hotel room studying Edgar Wellington’s translation of the Sedefkar Scrolls. I was determined that I was going to let me hair down with or without him. I had heard mention of Biffies and decided to mix a little business with a lot of pleasure. I spent the evening surrounded by the rich and the handsome, just how I liked it. Once or twice I spotted Father P and Detective M having an intense discussion with a gentlemen about the relative merits of American, English and Italian cars but I kept my distance. I made subtle enquiries in to collectors or statues and sculpture and came away with the name of a Michael Catario, a seller of high-class statues, as well as his address. It sounded like a good lead to follow.

In the wee small hours I headed back to our hotel tired but happy. I caught a glimpse of Albert leading a young woman to his room. He had the right idea and I was delighted to find that Darling Antonio was still up. I was just about to drag him away from his studies to our bed when the day proved that it was not out of surprises yet. From outside we began to hear the sound of a woman singing. And not just any woman, it was unmistakably the voice of Caterina. We rushed to our room’s balcony to see if we could spot the missing Opera star. We were clearly not the only people who could hear the voice as people were crowding their balconies and coming out in to the streets trying to find Caterina. Her voice hand an unworldly quality about it, seeing to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. I glanced upwards, thinking that she might be up in the dome. Were my eyes deceiving me or had the pictures and statues subtly changed; taking on aggressive and haughty expressions that glared down at us with anger and contempt.

Darling Antonio and I dashed out of our room. In the hallway we ran in to Detective M, Father P and Albert. Together the five of us down through the lobby and out on to the streets. It appeared that the singing had lured out the entire population of Milan and they were haring back and forth in a confused and chaotic attempt to find Caterina. What else could we do but join in but I am certain that we were making more headway as we followed the music. It seemed to lead away from the main streets and down an alley way. Luckily Darling Antonio had grabbed a flashlight before he left our room. For a moment or two we lost the trail and then Father P called out for us to follow him as he had spotted, of all things, the lizard from the Cathedral. Following Father P took us down an even darker alley. The lizard seemed to have given us the slip but we soon realised that we were not alone when four sinister men stepped out of the darkness! Each one had a vicious looking hooked knife extending like a metal claw from between their second and third figure. Oddly enough they didn’t look like they were Turkish.

There were four of them and five of us. I had every confidence in Detective M’s ability to handle himself in a fight; he was a modern-day Sampson and handy with his fists. Despite having the muscular development of a bean pole I knew that Albert could acquit himself with honours when things got tough.  Unfortunately Father P was a man of peace and Darling Antonio punched like an old woman (honestly, it is lucky that he is so good looking!). As I drew my .22 I cursed myself, not for the first time since leaving London, for not packing a bigger handgun (Papa’s old service revolver perhaps). Ignoring the words of wisdom of my instructors I used up one of my six rounds firing a warning-shot over their heads. It turned out to be a waste of a bullet as the four knifemen rushed towards us. One of the attackers made a beeline straight for me and I dodged away from a disembowelling slash. Before he could recover I pressed my pistil against his ribs and pumped the trigger three times. As my attacker fell I glanced around for a new target. Two more of our would be assailants were down; there was blood on Albert’s knife but by the look of their injuries it was Detective M and his stout truncheon that had put them down. The forth attacker was only now realising that he was totally alone and he did the sensible thing and turned and fled. We would have followed by Caterina’s spectral singing was coming from another direction. I snatched up one of the dropped knives (after all I only had two bullets left) as we sped off in on the trail of Caterina. We had barely exited the alleyway where we had been ambushed when the singing simply ended, leaving us and what looked like most of the citizens of Milan standing around looking baffled. A scream from the alley when had only just left told us that someone had found the bodies of our attackers so we decided to slip away as unobtrusively as possible.

Tired and confused we returned to our hotel. The various pictures and statues that decorated La Galleria had returned to their original form. Had they ever really changed? Was it simply the result of my overwrought imagination?  

Darling Antonio and I headed back to our room where there was one final, unpleasant surprise in store for us. The signs were subtle but it was clear that someone had been through the room in our absence. Darling Antonio was certain that someone had moved the Sedefkar Scroll that he had been examining that evening. Then we noticed there was a strange lump under the covers of our bed. With a certain amount of trepidation we pulled back the covers to reveal a bloodless, severed human hand amongst the sheets. That was the last straw. All the madness of the day seemed to catch up with me and I swear that I would have fainted if Darling Antonio had not been there to support me. When I could finally bring myself to look at the hand we noticed that it seemed to have been arranged to point at the book shelf. With a certain morbid dread we went to the shelf to have a look and imminently spotted large book that had not been there before. It was not only its size that singled it out, the book was clearly very old. There was nothing on the spine to identify the time so we took it down and had a look at the cover. Even to my untrained eye the printing-style looked old. Written in German on the cover were two words “Unaussprechlichen Kulten” or Nameless Cults.


Emma

Case: Horror on the Orient Express, Italy | No Comments »

Saturday 20th January 1923

Dearest Diary, as I write this it is sometime between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning and I am very, very tired. I want to set the events of the last in writing before I get some sleep in case I forget them. Of all the bizarre things I have experienced in the last few days this is by far the most unreal.

After leaving the taxidermy shop (and the scene of a double murder) we made our way back to the hotel quickly and quietly. After a rather subdued night we checked out and found ourselves on the train platform on a cold and frosty pre-morning, stamping our feet to ward off the cold and waiting for the OE to arrive. It drew in to the station at about 6:45. We were the only passengers to get on and there certainly was none of the fanfare that accompanied our departure from Paris but the blue uniformed staff were as courteous and professional as we had come to expect.

We had decided that we would use the Dream Potion straight away so we assembled in the adjoining compartments. From Edgar’s diary we knew that he could take things in to Dream Lausanne by holding them in his hands so I made sure to have my pistol in one hand and a few spare magazines in the other. I also raided my jewellery box for a few rings and necklaces that I could spare, just in case we had to batter. The others made sure that they were well equipped with torches and truncheons and the like. We also, made sure we took the fake scroll that Edgar had whipped up, just in case.

Father P had volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on our sleeping bodies while the rest of us took the potion. Then all we had to do was take a few drops from the tiny bottle. Pretty much as soon as they touched my lips I felt all my energy drain away and within moments I had fallen asleep. My eyes flicked back open and for a brief moment I thought that it had not worked, we were still sitting in the cabin on board the train. But then then we started to notice small differences. For one thing Father P was no longer there. My pistol as gone as had the touches that some of us had been clutching. Detective M still had his truncheon but it had now turned in to a rough cudgel rather than a standard issue Metropolitan Police Force truncheon. Our cloths were the same and yet at the same time different, as if they had been made in a more primitive time. The blind was drawn over the carriage window (had it been drawn before we took the potion, I could not remember) but a harsh, white light was seeping in around the edges. Detective M tried to raise the blind but it would not budge. A little dazed we exited the compartment in to the connecting corridor. All the blinds were down and had the same, vaguely sinister light behind them. All the compartment doors were open apart from one at the very end of the passage. We headed down to have a look but found that the door would not budge. There was, however, a nasty smell of decay emanating from inside so, to be honest, I was glad we could not get it open.

With nothing else to do on the train and no reason to stay we disembarked. The world outside was a featureless plain of pale white dust under a pale white sky. There was no sound and there was no sign of life as far as the eye could see. The world of dreams was dusty and dead. There seemed to be only two structures in the entire world; the train we had just disembarked from and a solitary door that stood on its own nearby, a door that was open.

With no little trepidation we stepped through the door and found ourselves in what appeared to be Edgar Wellington’s taxidermy shop. Like our cloths and possessions the shop was the same and yet at the same time different. There were no traces of modern life in the shop; electric lights had been replaced by candles and oil lamps. The examples of the Wellington brother’s handwork were also subtly different. I find stuffed animals creepy at the best of times but there was the hint of the nightmare about the ones that now populated the shop; they stank of death and the stitching seemed crude and barely adequate as if they would explode apart at any moment releasing the unpreserved offal that we could tell was still inside.

We had entered Edgar’s shop from the back and from out front we could hear the sound of a tolling bell and what sounded like the passage of a murmuring crowd.

Personally I wanted nothing more than to get out of the shop but Detective M suggested that we search place in case Edgar had hidden the scrolls we were seeking her. A search of the downstairs turned up nothing and when we headed upstairs we found that the doors off of the stair case were blocked.   

With nothing else for it we headed out of the shop by the front door. Real Lausanne had a gothic look about it but Dream Lausanne was like a gothic nightmare. The building were the same (or at least similar) but they seemed to have shrunk together making narrow, inescapable corridors through which a crowd of people marched. Overhead hung a sick, grey moon in a sky that was the same purple as an ugly bruise.  The constant tolling of a bell, one that we knew for certainly was coming from the cathedral, echoed down the streets calling the people of this strange dream world to assembly.

With nowhere else to go we followed the crowd. It was a strange journey through the streets of Dream Lausanne. Nothing seemed to be constant. One moment we were in the thick of the crowd and the next we were out in front and another second we were trailing behind. If you looked away from the buildings for an instant they would be subtly different when you looked back. The people were the same; strangely lacking in individuality and at the same time always constantly shifting. Only the four of use seemed to be reassuringly fixed.

The pilgrimage through the streets to the Cathedral seemed to take an age, sometimes our destination seemed just ahead and other times miles away, and we passed several specifically on our way.  At one point we turned a corner and found our progress blocked by a huge chasm in the road from which issued an icy wind. With no other option we turned about and found another route through the maze of winding streets.

Just after that we say a face we recognised. It was Jon the porter from the station. He was standing mournfully by the side of the street and gazing up at an iron cage, one of many that hung from gibbets along our route. In this cage was the body of a woman. Jon told us that it was the corpse of his wife Maude, sentenced to death by “The Jigsaw Prince” for being sinful. He begged us to get her down and Detective M obliged, climbing up, opening the cage and lowering the corpse. When Jon turned down our offer to come with us we pressed on without him.

A little later we came across a parade of men and women in grotesque costumes; Death, a lion, a solder, a rustic man and his rustic wife to name but a few. All were beating themselves as they processed along the street. As we drew level with the parade the lion suddenly grew wings and took to the sky followed a moment or two later by the solder. As they flew over our heads blood fell like a fine rain from their self-inflicted wounds down onto our up-turned faces. Repulsed I tried to wipe the blood away and it turned in to dust. Darling Antonio and Albert both pointed out that he winged lion was the symbol of Venice and that, perhaps, the Soldier represented Napoleonian.

After the parade we passed a stretch of the road that was lined with bowls of garlic flowers, the scent of which filled the air. As we passed we noticed that, while this stretch of street was well lit nothing there cast any shadows.

On a street corner ahead we saw an old crone stirring a huge caldron. She offered us dinner, some of the soup that she was cooking. Intrigued and repulsed at the same time I could not resist looking in to the pot and was greeted with a sickening sight. The think broth that the crone was stirring was made up of severed human limbs. Quickly we hurried on our way and left the crone far behind.

The next person we came across in our dreamlike journey through the city was a magician. Not a “wizard” or a “sorcerer” but a “magician”, like someone on the bill of a variety act. As we approached him he placed hit tall hat on the ground and inserted first his hand and then his arm up to the shoulder in to it. Then his other arm went in and then both his legs. He was left a limbless torso ling on cobbles and he called out to us in a laughing voice; asking if we could reach in to the hat and retrieve his arms and legs. After the horror of the crone and her caldron I was going nowhere near him and it seemed that neither were my friends. When it was clear that we were not going to help him The Magician’s laughter became over more manic and he started rolling down the steep road and, thankfully, out of sight.   

The next spectacle on our journey was a street sized game of chess but here in Dream Lausanne it appeared that the chess pieces play the game and people are their playing pieces. Two statues, one white and the other black, stood at opposite ends of the board and on it were people who, at the silent commands of the statues, sped about the board slitting each other’s throats. Soon the chess board was awash with blood and corpses. The White Statue was found his king in check and signalled his defeat but falling apart.

Beyond the street where we say the chess match was a large square and beyond that, at last was the cathedral. IN the middle of the square was a grotesque statue formed of barbed wire. From these wicked barbs hung dozens, perhaps hundreds of slips of torn skin. After a few moments the square was filled with the most angelic singing I had ever heard. Incredibly the song was coming from the barbed wire statue. Unable to endure the beauty of the song we fled across the square, giving the statue a wide birth, for the steps of the Cathedral and the large crowd that had gathered at the foot of them.

At the top of the steps we could see three figures. One was the handless statue that we had seen during our visit to the real Lausanne.  There was also a hooded man who we discovered soon enough was The Jigsaw Prince. The third figure was none other than Edgar Wellington. I had not been expecting that. After all we had found his body in his shop. Did that mean if you died while under the effects of the Dream Potion you lived on here in Dream Lausanne? How long for? It was all too unreal.

As soon as The Jigsaw Prince spoke I recognised his voice, I’m sure we all did, as none other than Duc Essientes. It seemed that poor Edgar was on trial and the Duke, or the Prince, was going to be judge, jury and executioner. This wasn’t good if we wanted to find the scrolls. The Duke asked if anyone would speak for the accused. His tone of voice sounded like he was just doing it as a formality but we spoke up and offered ourselves for the job. Duc Essientes made a show of welcoming our involvement but the anger behind his words was easy to hear and I had no doubt that we would be joining Edgar in whatever punishment awaited him if things went badly.

So now there was a Prosecution (Duc Essientes) and a Defence (us) all we needed was a judge. What happened next was so horrible, so grotesque that my hand is now trembling at the thought of committing it to paper. The Duke called out to the assembled crowd, asking for someone to offer themselves for justice. The crowd were all eager to oblige and The Jigsaw Prince picked one at random. As one the mob fell upon the man, beating him with their fist and stabbing with daggers. Before my disbelieving eyes the volunteer was first murdered and then his very skin was torn from his body! My world span as I struggled to make sense of the nightmare scene. I am sure that I screamed and I would have fallen to the ground if I had not been caught by Darling Antonio. The bloody skin of the man was thrown over the handless statue and a macabre transformation took place. Where once there ha only been a statue of Oto III there was now the man himself ready to pass judgement.

The whole trial, as you might have guessed Dear Diary, was a farce. Edgar stood accused as of three things. The first two were kicking up a ruckus when he was arrested (wouldn’t we all!) and being foreign. We did our best to counter these arguments (Albert pointed out it was “The Jigsaw Prince” himself who invited Edgar to Dream Lausanne by giving him the Dream Potion) but it was hard to tell if we were making any headway. The third charge really brought home that this was nothing to do with crime and punishment but about Duc Essientes not getting his own way; Edgar was accused of illegally hiding the scroll from The Jigsaw Prince. Well we had just the cure for that and we handed the fake scroll over at once. As soon as The Duke has what he thought was the scroll in his hands he pretty much forgot all about us. He gleefully declared Edgar to be a free man and called for a revel to celebrate his own good fortune.

As the assembled throng fell in to an orgy of violent celebrations we made a swift exit.  True to the dream-like nature of the city we were in the journey back to the shop, which seemed to have taken at least an hour the first time, took only a matter of seconds going back the other way. Edgar headed straight to his workshop and, much to my disgust, plunged his hand in to his stuffed bear. He routed around for a few moments and came out with a set of rolled, slightly bloody parchments bound in string. The Sedefkar Scrolls!

It was now time to leave but we felt it was only far that we told Edgar that…well that he was dead. He refused to believe us and said we were mistaken. Darling Antonio did point out that none of us were doctors and that perhaps Edgar had just been very, very unconscious when we found him. Personally I didn’t believe it but giving Edgar false hope was better than no hope at all. Leaving the nightmarish world of Dream Lausanne was simply a matter of leaving through the door we had first entered by, the door at the back of Edgar’s workshop. Beyond we found ourselves back on the dusty plane. The train was just were we left it but before we could reach it Edgar started to cry out with alarm and confusion. With a horrible predictability as soon as he had left Dream Lausanne Edgar had started to fade away to nothing. Powerless to help him I averted my gaze and turned a deaf ear until Edgar had completely gone. 

I don’t actually remember getting on board the train. I think I can remember us returning to our cabin but I’m not sure. The next thing that I do remember clearly was waking up back in the compartment where we had taken the sleeping potion. Incredibly the OE was still pulling out of Lausanne. Like something out of A Christmas Carol the whole experience had only taken minutes, maybe only seconds. Most importantly of all, clutched tightly in his hand, Detective M had The Sedefkar Scrolls! 


Emma

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Friday 19th January 1923 (later)

Well today has not gone anything like I thought it would. When we is embarked from the OE in the city of Lausanne it was cold, frosty and misty. There was pretty much no one about but we were able to borrow a luggage cart (on to which the boys loaded the coffin sized, lead-lined case in which we had stowed the left arm of the Simulacrum) and trundled across the road to have a hot pot of coffee (which was very welcome as I think that we had all had too much Champaigne and not enough sleep last night).

From there we got a cab, by which I mean a horse drawn cab as Lausanne is rather behind-the-times, to our hotel. Following all the arguments in Paris about which hotel to use I knew that the boys would not go for the best hotel in the guide book so I settled for second place and The Grand Hotel Lausanne-Place-Bue-Site. As the crow flies our hotel was probably less than half a mile from the station but the streets were narrow and steep and our luggage was heavy so it took quite a while for the cab to reach our destination. As we arrived what did we spy on the pavement outside but a pair of Arabic men in fezes! I made sure to disembark first and pretended to head in to the hotel only to circle around and sneak up on the gentlemen. I could not get close enough to hear what they were saying but if they were members of the Blood Red Fez I was determined to follow them back to their base of operations. I hung around in the cold for several minutes before the pair headed in to the hotel. I followed them in and spotted that they had meet up with a third fess wearer before heading up stairs. I was able to charm out of a member of staff (luckily he spoke German) that they were staying in room 416.

After dropping off our luggage we headed for the nearest post office where we were greeted by yet another telegram from Beddows or perhaps Uncle Julius himself saying that they had reviewed documents from the Deutschen Order and were certain that the statue could only be destroyed once it was all in one piece and we need to obtain the “Sedefkar Scrolls”. Well I didn’t have a clue what the Deutschen Order was but luckily both Darling Antonio and Albert had; they were better known as the Teutonic Knights, on order of holy warriors active during the crusades. I supposed that that made sense as The Sedefkar Simulacrum had come from that part of the world in the first place.

The reason for our visit to chilly old Lausanne had been to find out about the mysterious Edgar Wellington. There was some debate as to whether we should go straight to his address and talk to him or try to do a little digging around first. Finally it was decided to take the direct approach so we headed off to the Rue St. Etiene, keeping an eye out for fess waring Turks as we went.

After reading the letter that he had sent to Poissy I had made two assumptions about Mr. Edgar; that he was English and that he was some sort of academic. Well it turned out that I was right about the English part but, when we got to his address, I was surprised to find that it was, of all things, a taxidermy shop. The door was locked but the sign said the shop was open so we knocked. After a few moments the door was opened by a non-descript man who we learnt was Edgar Wellington. He invited us in out of the cold and took us upstairs for a cup of tea. I must admit, that I find the taxidermist’s art a rather ghoulish one and cannot see what anyone would find attractive in surrounding themselves with dead animals stuffed with saw dust. Where ever I looked there were dozens of glassy eyes silently staring back at me. The upstairs room was cosy and the tea much appreciated (it is always tricky finding a good cup of tea while on The Continent). It was here that we made the acquaintance of Mr Wellington’s brother William. There was something rather creepy about William. He never once blinked but always stared straight ahead. Edgar told us that his brother was a mute and had suffered badly in The Great War. This seemed to arouse Detective M’s interest and, while I wouldn’t say that he warmed to the man Detective M did at least seem to shown the former solder a certain respect.

 We explained why we had come and Mr. Wellington told us his tale.  During the war he had meet a French soldier called Rue Malon who had swapped some antique scrolls that had belonged to his family for rations and the like. Of course I recognised the family name at one, it had been Captain Louis Malon who had lead the raid on Comte Fenalik’s estate.  According to Mr Wellington the scrolls were “Turkish words in Arabic script”. He had deciphered enough to learn that they were about the Sedefkar Simulacrum but that was all. Mr Wellington had no great attachment to the scrolls and was interested in selling them for the rather eye-watering price of £250. We were about to get down to some haggling when Mr Wellington heard a customer downstairs and left us to go see. While he was gone Darling Antonio took the opportunity to point out that he doubted that they were The Sedefkar Scrolls as his research said that they were elsewhere. Oh dear, he may be pretty, dear diary, but Darling Antonio could also be rather foolish at times; even if they were not the proper Sedefkar Scrolls they could still be scrolls about the Sedefkar Simulacrum and have useful information, who knows they could even have been written by Comte Fenalik himself.

Mr Wellington returned with another guest. A well dressed, distinguished man who he introduced as Duc Esseintes. It appeared that Duc Esseintes was a good friend of Mr Wellington and another potential buyer of the scrolls. It was during our discussions that we mentioned the Turks that we had seen around the hotel. From the Duke we learnt that the city was awash with Middle Eastern-types at the moment. There was an international conference being hosted in Lausanne at the moment to decide the fate of the crumbling Ottoman Empire.

Mr Wellington would not be drawn in to discussions about buying the scrolls, or even displaying them, at the time and asked us to meet with him and the Duke at the “7:30 Club” at Le Chat Noir at 8 o’clock that evening. In the meantime Duc Esseintes offered to show us the sights of the city.  He started by taking us to the local Cathedral, a massive gothic building with five towers. Inside he pointed out a statue of Otto III. Oddly it had no hands. More attractive then the rather oppressive cathedral was the fine terrace. The mists had cleared enough to give a stunning view of Lake Geneva. From there the Duke took us to The Cantonal Museum and Library. Between you and me, Dear Diary, I found it rather a bore with its collection of freshwater shells and its library boasting 120,000 volumes. Darling Antonio and Albert seemed to find it interesting though so they stayed behind for a longer look. Our tour ended with a fine lunch at Le Chat Noir. The Duke had been the most charming company throughout. I had noticed that he had a tendency to rub his wrists. I had kept an eye on his hands and had been “rewarded” with a glimpse of his wrist. What I had seen was not pretty, his skin was a mass of ugly scars. I was glad that I had seen it before having lunch. I mentioned my observations to Father P and Detective M

After lunch we parted company with Duc Esseintes, promising to see him again at La Chat Noir that evening. Detective M gave the Duke a particularly hard handshake. After the Duke had gone the Detective explained that we had wanted to prompt a reaction from the man, perhaps get him to talk about the injuryto his arms, but had been surprised when Duc Esseintes had not seemed to feel it at all. How curious.

Back at the hotel we found Darling Antonio and Albert waiting for us. A little research on their part had turned up very little about the Duke other than that he had arrived after The Great War. They had looked in to the history of the handless statue. Apparently Otto had been a bit of a Robin Hood character and had lost his hand for his crimes.

After resting for a few hours in our hotel it was time to brave the cold again and return to Le Chat Noir. To our surprise neither Mr Wellington nor Duc Esseintes were there but the third member of their little social club was and, to my mind, he more than made up for their absence. The gentleman’s name was Maximillian von Verhime. A German with an athletic physique, blond hair and blue eyes. Max was without doubt the most handsome man I had met in quite a long time. He apologised for his friends’ lateness, assuring us that they would be along soon. In the meantime Max entertained us with the story of his life. To be honest I didn’t really listed much to what he had to say, something about a scheming brother and a misplaced will I think, I was too busy staring into his gorgeous eyes and promising myself that we would be sharing a bed before the night was out. Unfortunately, fate had other plans. Half an hour past and neither Mr Wellington nor Duc Esseintes had appeared. Both Detective M and Darling Antonio were getting worried and made their excuses. I seriously considered going with them but decided that someone had to keep a close eye on Max. About ten minutes later I caught a glimpse of Darling Antonio and Detective M staring in through the café window and then they were off again. Twenty minutes after that Darling Antonio reappeared without the detective and it was clear that our evening was over. Not without great regret we left Max where he was and headed for Mr Wellington’s shop. As we went Darling Antonio explained that, after leaving Le Chat Noir, Detective M had insisted that they go back to the hotel to make sure the Simulacrum arm was safe. After that they had headed back to the Café (just in case Mr Wellington or Duc Esseintes had arrived in their absence) and then headed on to the taxidermy shop. They had found the shop in darkness but the front door a jar. Fearing fowl play Detective M had stayed behind to keep an eye on the shop while Darling Antonio had rushed back to find us.

If the taxidermy shop had been creepy during the day it was twice as unsettling at night. I was very glad that I had decided to bring my .22 with me. Rather rashly to my mind Father P called out to see if anyone was home but there was no response. We heading upstairs to start our search. The kitchen-come-dining room where we had taken tea a few hours earlier was in chaos. The body of William Wellington lay amongst the wreckage. He had been stabbed in both his front and back and blood was pooling around him. The knife, a rather plain kitchen knife, lay discarded beside the body. William’s shirt had been ripped open to reveal not only the physical scars that he had brought back from The Great War but also a newer wound where a large rectangle or skin had been cut away with surgical precision. The sort of wound that we had come to associate with The Blood Fez. We checked one of the doors off of the murder scene. It led to what turned out to be Edgar’s bedroom and it was here that we found Edgar’s body. It is strange how the sight of death affects you differently each time. Edgar’s body was far less gruesome then that of his brother and we had been expecting it but it still struck home harder than finding William, hard enough that I cried out. Embarrassed by my weakness I hastily backed out of the room. There was a second door off of the kitchen so I decided to make myself useful and check it out. This had clearly been William’s room but there seemed nothing amiss there. By the time I felt composed enough to head back and re-join the others they had already looked over Edgar’s room and made several interesting discoveries. It was clear from the old puncture wounds on his left arm, as well as the bits and pieces scattered around the room, that Edgar Wellington had been a morphine user. But at the same time there was a fresh looking puncture wound on his right arm that was unlikely to have been self-inflicted. Under the bed my friends had spotted a rolled up parchment. We would probably have thought it was the scroll that we were interested in if we had not also found a receipt dated today for fine parchment, string and sealing wax. It appeared that Mr Wellington was not above a little forgery.

There was a book lying open on the floor that turned out to be Edgar Wellington’s diary. It told the unhappy tale of the Wellington brothers; how they returned from the war alive but wounded in body and soul. Unable to find happiness in England they had ended up in Switzerland where Edgar had made fallen in to the company of the Duke. A book the Duke had lent Edgar had reminded him about the scrolls he had obtained during the war. Edgar had suffered with insomnia, no doubt induced by the horrors he had endured during the war, and the Duke had given him a bottle marked “Dream Lausanne” (we found the bottle on the floor of the bedroom). No mere sleeping draught the contents of the bottle had transported Edgar to “a most vivid dream of Lausanne in olden times”. Experimentation had shown him that he could take items from the waking world in to this dream world and leave them there and that he could then return on another night to collect them. As a combination of his occult researches and drug habit had used up his money Edgar had decided to sell his scroll to the Duke but he needed another party to start a bidding war and drive up the price. Edgar had also taken the precaution of hiding the real scroll in Dream Lausanne.

It was clear what we would have to do. We needed to take the dream potion ourselves and go after the scroll. We could not do it in Mr Wellington’s shop however. After talking Detective M and Father P put of calling the police we took the scrolls and the bottle of Dream Lausanne and made a stealthy departure in to the cold, wintry night.


Emma

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Friday 19th January 1923 (pre-dawn)

Dearest Diary, it is about 7 o’clock in the morning and I have just snatched a couple of hours of sleep. The Orient Express should be arriving in Lausanne in a few minutes where we will try to find the mysteries Mr Wellington and see what he knows about our prize. It looks very cold out there.

I am feeling a little drained but it was a wonderful night. It was after midnight when the Express pulled out of Paris and it soon became clear that the passengers were eager full an all-night party. I headed to my room and emerged in one of my finest outfits (the silver one) ready to turn heads and break hearts. Most of the other passengers were men, the only other woman of note was the opera singer Catarina Cavollaro who was looking stunning in a dark blue dress.

At some point in the evening a member of staff brought Albert a telegram that had arrived for us at the stations telegraph office. It must have been from faithful old Beddows letting us know that Uncle Julius was receiving much needed attention and wishing us good luck.

The best looking man in the carriage was a French man called Ronald Lakeby. He proved to be excellent and charming company. He claimed (although I now have good reason to believe he was lying) a salesman. He spoke a number of languages. Considering all the stops we would be making along the way that might have proved useful and I toyed with the idea of recruiting him to our cause. I had been flirting with him for a while when a drinks waiter slipped me a note along with a fresh glass of Champaign. I excused myself from Ronald and slipped away to the powder room to check out the note. I recognised the handwriting, it was grumpy old Detective Meads (who, Dear Diary, I should point out had been hanging around the party with a look on his face declaring that he would rather be anywhere else than here) warning me that Ron was a crook. I can’t say that I was surprised but it was pleasing to know that Detective M was keeping an eye on me (perhaps I should reward him).

As I re-joined the party and found Ron waiting with a glass for both of us. How thoughtful. We were soon joined by Darling Antonio and Albert and they brought Catarina with them. I really did not want to like the woman but she had a charming, open and genuine demeanour that was hard not to warm to. When Catarina learnt that we would be spending some time in Milan soon she generously offered to arrange tickets to see her perform at the Teatro ala Scala as well as reserve rooms for us at The Hotel de la Ville.

 I got a little distracted talking to here and was a little surprised to notice that Ron had gone, replaced by Detective M. He can certainly move quietly for such a large man. The five of us moved over to the corner where Father P had been sharing a bottle of brandy with an old man who turned out to be called Mr. Jean Pourvois, who I had caught casting lingering glances my way more than once while I had been chatting with Ron.

It was clear that the booth was far too small for all of us so I did the decent thing and split off with Jean. We chatted for a while. My word he seemed to have more arms then an octopus and it was hard to keep track of where they all were at any given time. Of course he was far too old and ugly for me to seriously consider letting him seduce me.  Luckily I was saved by Catarina re-entering the carriage; she must have slipped back to her room to get changed as she was now wearing a long silver dress with one of the Egyptian symbols in around her neck and dramatic mascara. She was clearly not the only who had been back to their room as Albert had returned with his faithful travelling companion; no not Pongo but his violin.

Accompanied by The Express’s harpsicord player and our own Albert, Catarina proceeded to enthral us with a transporting performance from Aida. It was mesmerising. The next hour flew by in a whirl of music. Before I knew it it was 3 o’clock in the morning. The end of Catarina’s performance seemed a natural conclusion to the party. Not that I objected as I practically dragged Darling Antonio back to my room.

After we made love I drifted off into a blissful sleep and I experienced the most peculiar dream. I dreamt that I was on board a train but rather than being made of metal and wood it was a living creature. My friends were all there but there were other, stranger passengers too. Some seemed to be from the past while others were creatures that seemed straight out a dream, or a nightmare. Amongst this strange company we went on a long journey through strange lands with nonsense names. At times we had to play the diplomat and at other times we had to fight off faceless horrors. There was a cloaked Sorcerer with mesmerising red eyes who was looking for The Lover’s Heart. The dream ended when the train ran out of land to travel on and cast itself into the void. 

I only awoke about an hour ago. As I was getting ready to greet the day I noticed Darling Antonio sketching away in his journal and was not altogether surprised to recognise some of the phantasmagorical creatures that drawing from last night’s dream.  I have checked with Father P, Detective M and Albert and we all have the same dream last night.


Emma

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Night of Thursday 18th January in to Early hours of Friday 19th January 1923

The Orient Express pulled out of the station at exactly midnight. This is the first time that we have officially been on the OA. The carriages are being pulled by a magnificent blue and gold engine. There was a huge crowd there to see us off as there is a bit of a celebrity on board the train with us; the opera singer Cantarenn Cavollaro, fresh from another standing ovation performing Aida at the Paris Opera House.

As we pulled out of the stating my friends and I were sure we caught a fleeting glimpse of a shadowy figure with piercing eyes lurking at the back of the crows. My instincts warn me that it was Comte Fenalik and that we have not heard the last of him. 


Emma

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Thursday 18th January 1923 (morning)

All seems back to normal in Poissy. In fact all three of the Lorien family are reporting that the various ailments of their left arms are feeling better. It can be no coincidence, however, that Detective M is reporting that he is suffering from a mild stiffness of his left arm. Darling Antonio is suggesting that we should obtain a large, lead-lined box to carry the parts of the Simulacrum in.

We are returning to Paris this morning.


Emma

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Wednesday 17th January 1923

We have decided to stay in Poissy for a couple of days to make sure that there are no explorations under Dr Lorien’s house or in case Comte Fenalik tries to attack Quintterie again.


Emma

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Tuesday 16th January 1923

Today we have made a major breakthrough in our quest to recover the Sedefkar Simulacrum but I will admit that it was touch and go for a few moments whether we would escape with our lives.

As the sun rose Dr. Lorien left to check on the welfare of his family, leaving us with his blessing to carry out our excavations. Darling Antonio had been looking over the floorplan that we obtained yesterday, comparing it to the old wall, and had narrowed down our search are for the way down into the cellars to a piece of ground ten yards or so behind the house. The boys set to work with the spades and picks that we had acquired in Paris. I must say that Detective M may be a pain in the neck at times but it was fun to watch him working away; he is a veritable Samson!

After about three hours we had uncovered stone work and fire charred bricks. A little while after that we uncovered the top of a flight of stairs leading downwards. Shinning our flash-lights down the stairs we say that it ended in a sturdy looking iron door. There was a lock but it looked far to corroded to be of any use so Detective M once again put his mighty physique to good use and, using a crowbar, forced the door open. Beyond was the subterranean world of Comte Fenalik that was hinted at in the reports that we had read, the one where he had indulged his perverted passion for other people’s suffering. Although old the place was clearly well constructed with stone walls and flag stone floors. Here and there the flagstones had been lifted and benefiter pits had been dug in the earth. Looking down one pit Detective M reported it was more like the end of a shaft as, about six feet down, the pit went off at an angle.

We soon found traces of the Counts fetishes as there were side rooms off of the cellar which were clearly prison cells. Peering through hatches we could still see the skeletal remains of his captives trapped within. The largest room was clearly a torture chamber where multiple captives could be tormented at once. In the middle of the room was the rotted remains of a couch and it was easy to imagine The Count relining here while he watched his victims being tortured for his gratification. It was while we were looking around this room that we spotted a strange, bluish light coming from another chamber.

Investigating the light we found the most disturbing sight yet. I am not sure that I can convey with words alone the nightmarish nature of what we found. It was like something out of the fevered dream of an opium addict. Against all the rules of nature and sanity there was a tangled rose bush growing in the room bearing a perfusion of blue, black and purple roses. The rose bush grew up from the ground and carried on up through the roof and entangles and intertwined with in its may vines were numerous human skeletons. The light we had seen being shed from the very middle of the rose patch and was being shed by a stone arm of an eerie bluey-black rock.

The sight was so uncanny that for a moment I thought that I was going to feint and a felt my flashlight slip from my nerveless fingers. Luckily it did not break and I snatched it back up again. I did not want the boys to see how shaken I was so I retreated to the dusty old torture chamber until I had regained my nerve. By the time I had returned to the chamber with the roses Detective M had hacked his way to the centre of the rosebush and freed the arm from the tangle. Once the arm had been removed the bush began to visible begin to wither and rot away.

The arm could only be the first piece of the Simulacrum. Detective M had wrapped it sack cloth and we were about to head back to the surface and sunlight when we heard furtive noises from up ahead. In the beams of our flashlights we began to see humanoid figures pulling themselves up out of the earth pits between us and the way out.  With their lean but muscular bodies and bestial faces they matched the description of the creature, the ghoul, which Detective M and Father O had glimpsed in the Paris catacombs. It was clear that their intentions were hostile. Darling Antonio ordered that we should run for our lives. I needed no second telling. Before the ghouls could close in and block our escape I dashed towards the way out, slipping between two of the ghouls (they stank of fresh earth and death). Aware that one was chasing me I drew my pistol and fired nearly blind over my shoulder. I don’t know if I missed but the ghoul kept on coming. A few seconds later I was through the door and starting up the stairs. I heard a cry behind me and turned to see that Father O, despite his bulk, had also reached the door but had gone no further. He was clearly waiting to throw the door shut when the rest of our party was through but two ghouls had reached him first and were clawing to get him.  Before the ghouls could pull down the priest one of them was hammered to one side by Detective M who was swinging the stone arm of the Simulacrum like a stone club and caved its head in. Antonio and Albert rushed through the opening that had been made. I caught a glimpse of spade that Albert was carrying, there was a black blood in the end; he must have been using it against the ghouls like an axe. From the whoops and hollers there was a horde of ghouls close behind them.

Steading my aim, and nerve, I emptied the last three rounds from my pistol in to the ghoul that was half through the door. As it went down Father O reached back into the darkness and pulled Detective M through. Detective M and Albert threw their weight against the door, driving it shut just as the ghouls crashed in to it. With supreme effort the pair held the door back as the rest of us started to brace it with whatever we could get our hands on.  Once we were sure that the door would hold we headed back up the stone stairs and began to rebury the opening. All the time we could hear the frenzied punching of the ghouls on the other side of the door.


Emma

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Monday 15th January 1923.

Dear Diary, I am writing this while sitting in the house of Doctor Christian Lorien in the town of Poissy. With me are my four fellow members of the VC and Dr.Lorien himself while his wife and daughter are using our rooms at the White Rose hotel following an attack by Comte Fenalik himself!

Let me explain how this came to be. We departed Paris on the 10 a.m. train. I had spent the preceding hour purchasing some warm and sturdy outdoor clothing as I imagined that we would soon be traipsing around The French countryside. The boys had picked up some digging equipment.

It does not take long to get from Paris to Poissy by train, less than half an hour. We passed through the “Foret de Saint-Germain” on the journey. A dark and lonely looking place in winter. It is easy to imagine that bears and wolves make their lair in it.

The Town of Poissy is small and quaint. There only seemed to be one hotel, the White Rose, so we booked rooms there. Enquiries revealed that the town had neither a library nor a museum and that the only source of old maps and documents would be the town hall.  With the exception of Detective M we all headed for the town hall but it soon became apparent that the old records were not open to the general public and a disastrous attempt by Albert to bride the man behind the desk resulted in us all being asked to leave. Father O suggested that we look for a church. It was in the oldest part of the town and must have been hundreds of years old. Beside it was an imposing building that, whatever it’s original purpose, was not the town jail. 

Father O was able to strike up a friendship with the local priest; a sweet old man with comically large ears and passable grasp of the English language called Father Michael. With Father Michael to vouch for us Father O, Darling Antonio and I were able to gain access to the town records (Albert decided to keep a low profile, probably for the best). It did not take us long to find the location of The Count’s old mansion. Not only that but we found an old floor plan (which I am sure will prove very useful) and the name of the current own of the land, Dr.Lorien.

 Heading back to The White Rose we rounded up Albert and Detective M. The Detective had been making his own attempts to the find out about the mansion with very little success. He had befriended a local chemist, who spoke very good English, who he had invited over to share a drink with us that evening.

Since it was only on the edge of town and we had an hour to kill we decided to take a walk over to the old location of The Count’s mansion and see what the site was like. The plot of land was surrounded by an old but sturdy stone wall that was almost hidden behind a riotous growth of rose bushes. During summer, in full bloom, I suspect that they would have been a delight to the eye and nose but in the dead of winter they looked like an unwelcoming barrier of tangled vines and nasty vicious thorns. We were certain that the wall belonged to the Count’s original estate. Looking through the gateway (there was no gate) we could see modest grounds with a small housing sitting at the centre. A warm glow came from the windows and smoke rose from the chimney.

The house was clearly comparatively new, maybe only a hundred years old, and was presumably the home of Dr.Loren. We decided to pay him a visit, passing ourselves off as historians who wanted to write a history about the scandalous Comte Fenalik and his time in Paris. Dr.Lorien was very hospitable and we were invited in. We soon made the acquaintance of his young daughter, a golden haired angel called Quintterie, and a while later his rather plain wife Veronique. What we all noticed was that each member of the Lorien family had something wrong with their left arm; Dr. Lorien had a rather nasty cut on his arm and little Quintterie had an extremely painful rash (she screamed the place down when some warm coffee was accidently spilt on her arm). Mrs Lorien had it the wrist as her left hand and wrist were twisted into a useless claw by arthritis. She was also pale and seemed to be exhausted. Later on, when we had a little privacy, Father O put forward in interesting idea; perhaps the piece of the Simulacrum that the Count had possessed was the left arm and its proximity was the cause of the Lorien family’s arm-related ill health.

By now evening was creeping in and Dr.Lorien invited us to stay to dinner. With the exception of Detective M, who was determined to meet his chemist friend back at the White Rose, we accepted. Over a pleasant if rather rustic meal of beef stew we explained that we wanted to excavate the grounds in the hopes of finding the remains of Comte Fenalik’s house. While we talked we mentioned that we would be travelling on The Orient Express and that our next scheduled stop was in Lausanne, Switzerland. Tis run a bell with our host who headed off to his study and returned with a letter that he had received a few months ago. The letter was from a Mr Edgar Wellington who lived at Rue St.Etienne, Lausanne, Switzerland (although the name sounds more British or perhaps American to me that Swiss). What was the thrust of Mr. Wellington’s letter? He claimed to be a scholar researching the Sedefkar Simulacrum! Dr.Lorien let us take a copy of this unusual letter.

It was now getting late and were thinking of heading home when things took a dramatic turn. Pretty much simultaneously we heard Quitterie scream in her room above us, the sound of breaking glass and, from outside, the unmistakable sound of a Metropolitan Police whistle being blown. We all dashed upstairs towards the sound of the screaming child. Quintterie came running the other way and threw herself hysterically into the arms of her parents. Darling Antonio and I headed in to her bedroom. The window was broken. Bending down Antonio retrieved a very familiar wooden truncheon from the floor. Going over to the window I looked out to see Father O, who had clearly ran out of the front door as the rest of us had gone upstairs, helping Detective M to his feet.

Detective M’s story went something like this. As he had left the cottage a few hours before he had experienced a strange sensation of being watched. Slipping in to cover he had watched the outside of the house for any sign of the spy but all he had noticed was an usually thick puff of smoke or mist drifting through the grass. 

With nothing else to do Detective M had gone back to the bar of the White Rose where he had spent an unremarkable few hours with his new chemist friend. After that he had returned to the cottage and to his amazement had disturbed a figure hanging on to the vines that grew up the side of the house and looking in through what we now knew to be Quitterie’s bedroom window. Acting quickly Detective M had hurled his trusty truncheon at the intruder (missing but smashing the bedroom window) and begun sounding his whistle. The intruder, with unnatural speed and agility, had leapt down from the wall and dashed towards the Detective. Before he reached Detective M however, the burly policeman was hurled aside by some unknown force. As he pulled himself together Detective M caught a fleeting glimpse of the intruder disperses into a thick fog and vanished in to the night!

As Detective M himself said it had all the hallmarks of something out of Dracula. Had the intruder been Comte Fenalik and if so was Fenalik an honest-to-god vampire?

And so here we are. Mrs Lorien and her daughter have gone to The White Rose and we are taking it in turns, along, with Dr. Lorien, to watch the house in case Comte Fenalik returns during the night.


Emma

Case: France, Horror on the Orient Express | No Comments »

Sunday 14th January 1923

We have spent most of the day at the Charenton Asylum looking in to the fate of Comte Fenalik.  What we have discovered is both baffling and worrying in its suggestiveness.

The asylum itself is a sprawling brick building with an impressive Greek-style façade. Inside the walls were made of a rather disconcerting black and grey pattern of bricks. Getting in was simple enough and we made our way to a receptionist who worry a very eye-catching red lipstick (I regret not finding the time to ask her where she got it from). From there we were escorted through the maze of corridors to the office of the asylum director; a Doctor Leroux. Perhaps it was my mind playing tricks on me but there was something slightly unnerving about the hospital, as if all the light in the world could not quite dispel the shadows that clung to the corners. Periodically, throughout the course of the day, we would here snatched of voices echoing down corridors; ghostly cries and laughs of the poor souls committed to the hospital. Incongruously there were also snitches of music that we later learnt were part of the asylum’s policy of art therapy. Most macabre of all were the times when the lights would suddenly dim for a few seconds, a sure sign that somewhere some poor man or woman was being subjected to electro-shock treatment.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We ended up in the office of Dr. Leroux. I cannot say that I warmed to the man nor did he to me. The way he looked me over as we entered mad it apparent that he did not approve of modern fashions. I suspect that to his mind a woman’s place was at home in the kitchen. That said Dr. Leroux seemed cooperative enough and agreed to let us search through the asylum achieves for any records concerning Comte Fenalik. One other thing that I should mention is that it appeared that Dr. Leroux had not been in his office long; the name plaque folder on his office door was empty and there were several cardboard boxes full of books and journals that were stacked in a corner and seemed to be awaiting collection.

We were escorted deeper into the bowls of the hospital, shown as duty old store room full of files and were pretty much left to our own devices. After a few hours searching we had turned up very little but then Father O made a breakthrough. He found a simple record with the count’s name on it confirming that he had been committed to the asylum but that was it. This was puzzling as we had seen numerous other records during our search and they had always shown things like the date the patient had been released, transferred or died. How odd.

While we had been searching Detective M, who really hadn’t been search at all, had noticed that one of the orderlies had passed by far too often. The Detective was convinced that the little man was spying on us. When he called the orderly over the man just ran away.

Next time the orderly drifted past I fluttered my eyelashes at him and reeled him in. It wasn’t much of a conversation as his English was about as good as my French. I was able to learn that his name was Paul but when I mentioned Dr. Leroux the orderly became very nervous and quickly made his excuses. I was convinced that, if Paul was indeed spying on us, he was not doing so on behalf of the asylum’s director. 

Albert wandered off and got chatting with the receptionist. Our suspicions had been correct, Dr. Leroux had only been in the role of director for a few weeks following the death of his predecessor, Dr. Delplace. There was a hint of scandal about Dr. Delplace’s death. Officially he had been killed by a faulty electro-shock machine. This was scandal enough as the machine had been designed by Dr. Leroux but there was also a suggestion that the death was connected with one of the orderlies who had lost his mind some time earlier. With a little bit of wheedling Albert had received the advice that an orderly called Paul Mandrin might know more.

Since it looked like we had discovered all we were going to in the achieves we headed back to the director’s office. On the way back we spotted “Paul”, who was almost certainly the Paul Mandrin we had heard mentioned. Albert sidled up to him and had a hushed conversation.  Yes, Paul knew about the other orderly, the one who had gone mad, as well as the death of Dr. Delplace but he was not prepared to talk about it at the hospital; he would meet us at the nearby Red Café after work.

Back at the director’s office we thanked Dr. Leroux and took our leave. Just as we were about to go Detective M asked the director if he knew who had been the man in charge back in the 1780s. The director admitted that he did not know and popped out to ask his secretary. I don’t know if that had been a ruse cooked up between the pair of them but as soon as Dr. Leroux was out of the office Albert made straight for the boxes we had seen before and started to look through them. He found a number of journals belonging to non-other than the late Dr. Delplace. At Darling Antonio’s suggestion Albert slipped what appeared to be the most recent on in to his pocket.

What we found in the journal when Albert read it later, confirmed by the words of Paul Mandrin when we met up with him a few hours later at the Red Café told a rather sinister tale. Granted that there was nothing concrete to connect with our mysterious Comte Fenalick but I know in my heart that the two a linked.

The story begins with a rather dubious hospital orderly called Guimart who seemed to have a predilection for sneaking inmates down to a cellar to do unspeakable things to them. When he disappeared one day Paul was sent to look for Guimart. Paul found him in the cellar, wounded and mad, and with him was an unknown man who was in a terrible physical condition and non-responsive. There was a suggestion that Guimart had been keeping the man a prisoner in a bricked-up part of the cellar.

The beastly Guimart had never regained his wits. Dr. Delplace placed the mystery man in a private room and tried to nurse him back to health. In the end he had resorted to electrotherapy in an attempt to bring him around. This seemed to have worked but he man was incredibly weak and only raved in “very old forms of Greek and Latin…tales of crumbling cities, and other, darker things.” It appeared that Dr. Delplace had become rather obsessed with the mystery man, believing that he could use him to access a sort of “racial memory” (whatever that is, I must ask Darling Antonio) but then he had his fateful accident and the mystery patient seems to have vanished.

What could it all mean? As insane as it all sounds could it be that the mystery patient was Comte Fenalik himself somehow alive one hundred and fifty years later. Surly it is no more impossible then some of the things we have seen recently. If it was the Comte where was he now? My guess is that he would flee to somewhere he knew. The old records that we found yesterday in the libraries seemed to suggest that he was deeply affected when his mansion was burnt down. Could he have fled back there?

I guess that we will soon know as there seem to be nothing else to keep us here in Paris, tomorrow we depart for Poissy.  


Emma

Case: France, Horror on the Orient Express | No Comments »

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