Friday 5th January 1923

Dearest Diary, what a day I have had today. I hardly know where to begin. It started this morning, while we were all at The VC. We were discussing the front page story in The Times; three Turkish men had been found murdered in The Chelsea Arms Hotel overnight and all three of them had identification stating that they were a Mehmet Makryat. To make things more mysterious there really was a Mehmnet Makryat, a Trukish art dealer, but when the Police had gone to his address he was missing.

Of course all of this was very interesting but it became irrelevant when we spotted another news article; Uncle Julius’s townhouse had burnt down overnight! Not only that but Uncle Julius’s valet, Beddows, had been seen leaving the house just before the fire broke out. Surly they could not think that loyal old Beddows could have been responsible? The notion was absurd.

The five of us drove over to St. John’s Woods as quickly as we could. It was heart-breaking to see Uncle Julius’s poor old house reduced to a smouldering ruin. Detective Meads pulled a few strings with the police and firemen and we were allowed to search through the remains of the house. I’m not sure what we were looking for but we found nothing to explain the tragedy. The blaze must have been terrible. There did not seem to be a portion of the house that was not touched.

Despondently we headed back to The VC. We had barely set foot inside when one of the staff handed me a note; it seemed to be from Uncle Julius but was written in Beddows’s hand. It implored us to come to him (there was an address on the back) and warned us to make sure we were not followed.

The address on the card was a very unattractive part of London and the thick fog that enshrouded the city did nothing to make it more welcoming. It was certainly an area that I would have been weary of visiting alone or after dark. As we left the cars we were all on edge. Some of us were sure that we spotted someone watching from across the road but the figure, if there really had been one, slipped away in to the mist.

We were met at the door by Beddows. He looked worn and tired and, although I did not give it much heed at the time, his hands were badly burnt. Beddows’s injuries were nothing compared to Uncle Julius’s though. Even as I write these words I have to hold back tears at the memory of Uncle Julius’s ravaged body lying there in that dark, dank room. I wanted to run over and hug him and never let go but at the same time I feared that the slightest touch on his horribly burnt skin would be an agony for him. How he was still alive, injure as he was, I could scarcely imagine and even if he survived I feared that he would only ever be a shell of the man I knew.

With great difficulty Brave Uncle Julius told his tale, a tale so bizarre that I have difficulty believing it all. He had been endeavouring to locate, and then ultimately destroy, a magical Statue called The Sedefkar Simulcrum but it appeared that he had rivals in his quest. In the early hours some Arabic men had broken in to his home and started the fire. It had only been thanks to Beddows’s bravery that Uncle Julius had made it out of the blaze alive. He now implored us to pick up the quest where he had left off and find this statue before his enemies did. Uncle Julius knew that the Sedefkar Simulcrum had be broken down into different parts and scattered through-out Europe at the end of the 18th Century. There might be pieces in Paris, Venice, Trieste, Belgrade, Sofia and Milan. If we could find the fragments they would have to be taken to Constantinople for destruction using a ritual that could be found in something called the Sedefkar Scrolls. It was all so bizarre but clearly the attack on Uncle Julius had been horribly, horribly real.

We all agreed at once.

Telling us his story had weakened Uncle Julius to the point of exhaustion. Beddows told us that Uncle Julius had planned to take a journey on the Orient Express as it stopped in all of the countries we had heard of in connection with the statue. He also produced a valise of money; some £1000 in all, which would have been Uncle Julius’s travelling costs. 

We made our plans. The death of the three Mehmet Makryats had to be connected with the attack on Uncle Julius. Antonio and I would see if we could find out what had happened to the real Mehmet Makryat. Detective Mead and Father O’Donnell would pursue the police angle with both the fire and the murders. That left Alberto to check to see if Uncle Julius had left any additional paperwork at The VC, his office at the University of London or perhaps the Oriental Club. We would meet up latter at The VC to compare notes.

Rather annoyingly the article in The Times did not even hint at Mr Markryat’s address. Luckily Antonio had the clever notion of talking to the reporter who wrote the article so we headed to Fleet Street. The reporter was a Mr. Malcom Fricker. Antonio kept back while I worked that special little magic that has stood me I such good stead over the years and I soon had Mr Fricker eating out of my hand. Men are so delightfully weak-willed! Mr. Fricke eagerly gave out the address of Makryat’s shop as well as his own business card and soon enough Antonio and I were heading for Brolfy Lane, Islington.

It was gone four when we reached the shop and a combination of  short, Winter days and thick fog gave everything an eerie look. Of course the shop was locked up but Antonio proved that he was a dab hand with a set of lockpicks (I should not have been surprised, he has very agile fingers). Inside the shop was deserted. I did not need to be an expert to notice that Mr Makryat’s stock was mostly tat that I would only use for kindling. Antonio volunteered that some of it was fakes too. We searched the shop and the flat upstairs but found very little of interest. We did notice that there was no luggage and that, suggestively, a lot of cloths seemed to have been removed recently. Perhaps Mr Makryat was going on a trip. We also found his ledgers. The last entry caught our eye; he had sold a Wrightson Special Trainset to a Henry Stanley. Trains sets did not seem to be in keeping with the rest of the shop’s stock, perhaps it was a code-word for something more nefarious. Looking back through the ledger we found mention of one being purchased from the estate of one Randolf Alexis nine months earlier.

It looked like we had run out of leads at the shop. As we exited I spotted a figure watching us from across the road. Thanks to fog and the gloom I could make out his features but I am certain that the man was wearing a fez, something that would take on sinister meaning latter on. Spotting that I had seen him the figure retreated back in to the fog. I dashed after him but, by the time I reached the spot where he had been standing, the man had made good his escape.

Back at The VC we met up with our friends and learnt of their activities.

Alberto had had no luck at The University and had not made it to the Oriental Club but he did have better luck here at The VC. He had found an old diary of Uncle Julius’s that it looked like he had got out of storage quite recently. Flicking through the diary Alberto had found a letter posted in to the pages. While the writer of this letter was not identified it talked about how he (I am only guessing it was a man), Uncle Julius and some unnamed friends had contested with a cult called “Children of the Blood Red Fez” (no, I;m not making this up) to find and destroy The Blood Red Fez. Of course this brought to mind the fez wearing stranger who had been spying on Antonio and myself at the shop. But there was even more to tie in with our current investigation; one of the leaders of Children of the Blood Red Fez was a Menkaph who was a “past ally of the evil Selim Makryat”! Not only that but Uncle Julius had added a notation to the letter: “Linked to Randolph Alexis”; surly the same Randolph Alexis from whose estate Makryat had purchased a train set nine months ago!

What could it all mean?

Darling Antonio did have one thought; he had run across the name Randolph Alexis during his own studies into the occult. The man had been a notorious occultist some years ago, associated with groups with exotic sounding names “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” and “The Order of the Silver Twilight”. He believed that Ranolph had inducted his own son, Albert, into the mysteries of the supernatural. Perhaps someone we could speak to?

Detective Meads and Father O’Driscoll had also had their fair share of luck. Firstly they had returned to St. John Woods and spoken to DS Rigby. The good father had persuaded Rigby to plant a false story with the press that Uncle Julius’s body had been found in the fire ravaged remains of his house. A clever rues but my intuition made me fear that whoever was responsible for the attack already new that Uncle Julius had escaped. While they did not mention it directly from his dark expression I got the feeling that Detective Means had not left a good impression on his college.

Then the pair had gone to Scotland Yard to speak to Insp Fleming, the officer in charge of the murders at the Chelsea Arms. They had found Fleming very accommodating and he had shared with them some details that had not been made public. Each of the fake Makryatses has a telegram on their person telling them to come at once to London. Each telegram had only been signed with an “M”. M for Makryat perhaps? Was he the ringleader of this group? More salacious was a description of the wounds on the three men. Yes, they had all been killed by a knife wound to the heart as the news article said but in addition each one had been partially skinned! One man was missing the skin on his arms, another the skin on his chest and a third the skin on his legs. What could it all mean? Father O’Driscoll suggested that there was a connection between the mutilations and the breaking-up of the Sedefkar Simulacrum. I was not convinced myself but to be honest I could not think of a better explanation.   

And now the day is over. Has it only been a matter of hours since we were perusing the morning papers in the Breakfast Room of The VC? Now we are chasing after cults and statues and who knows what else. What will tomorrow bring?


Topics: Great Britain, Horror on the Orient Express |

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