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

Topics: Horror on the Orient Express, Switzerland |

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