Saturday 27th January 1923

Dearest Diary you will not believe the tale that Detective M had to tell over breakfast this morning. It seems that he was awoken by a tap, tap, tapping on his bedroom window; a window that was three floors up with nothing but a drop down to the canal below. Cautiously the detective got out of bed and went over to investigate and what did he find? It was a bloody Bauta Mask, tied to the window frame by one of its straps. As Detective M opened the window to bring the mask in he caught sight of a hunched figure on the path of the far side of the canal. “Whoever” the figure was (and let’s be honest here Dear Diary who could it have been but Comte Fenalik?) waited just long enough to make sure he was spotted and then slinked off in to the fog. I’ve got to say that Detective M was in the foulest mood this morning, saying that we have allowed ourselves to get side tracked. His nocturnal visitation has certainly shaken him and the Detective demanded that we move hotels for our safety. The other agreed which is a shame as I’m certainly going to miss the Gritti Place.

We have decided that we have wasted too much time and should make an attempt to recover the Simulacrum’s leg as soon as practical. To that end we split into two groups this morning. Darling Antonio and Albert headed back to the Bibliotheca Marcianna to see if “The Devil’s Simulare” was amongst the books rescued from St. Mary’s during the fire. Meanwhile Detective M, Father P and I would go to the Basilica San Marco to get the lay of the land in preparation for the theft.

After the attack by the Brotherhood of the Skin yesterday no one is going anywhere on their own. Luckily both the Bibliotheca and the Basilica are on Piazza San Marco so we travelled their as a group. If anything the sense of fear amongst the people of Venice is even stronger then yesterday.  There are mobs of people roaming the footpaths looking for witches and warlocks. There are wild tales of immense fish with human arms being seen in the canals last night!

The two groups parted at the plaza and the three of us headed in to the Basilica. Both Detective M and Father P had been there before but their descriptions of its beauty and grandeur did not do the place justice; it was a riot of precious metals and gems.  In these troubled times the good people of Venice had turned to Mother Church for protection; I would not go so far to say that it was packed but the Basilica was certainly busy and I had heard that record numbers were turning up for mass. We found the Chapel of St. Isidoro easily enough. It was open to the public, in fact it I not even have doors. The room was not overly large although it had a high ceiling. The shrine took up most of the space but there was room to walk around it. Detailed mosaics depicted the martyrdom and death of St.Isidoro. It appeared that he was executed by having horses drag him through the city by ropes tied to, would you believe it, his left leg; it would appear that Capitaine Dubois had a sense of humour.

The black flagstone was easy enough to find as it stood out from all the rest in both colour and composition. It was a shiny black slab, almost liquid to look at. The mortar around the slab looked poorly maintained and weak. Pretending to tie his laces Detective M touched the stone and said it was strangely cold to the touch. I wonder Dearest Diary; Darling Antonio had said that he found it odd that burying the leg would end the plague and had speculated that it might be down to the holy ground it was buried in. I wonder if the real reason could not be this odd stone slab instead.

After our visit to the Chapel we took our time checking out the rest of the Basilica, identifying how many ways in and out there were, how many doors there were, what the locks were like and that sort of thing.  Once we were satisfied we headed back to the Gritti Palace where Detective M began to make arrangement for our move to the Hotel Daniel. While he wanted a clean break I was concerned that, if Dreamy Georgio needed me…opps I meant “us”, he would not know where to find us. So I sent him a letter, via Maria’s house, with our new address.

Darling Antonio and Albert returned shortly after we did looking very pleased with themselves. The boys had found the book that they wanted, it had been misidentified. It was quite big and would take a while to read so they had simply decided to steal it instead. While Albert had distracted the librarian Darling Antonio had slipped it under his coat.

Our next move was to say goodbye to the Gritti Place and head for our new home-away-from-home of the Hotel Daniel. I can’t say that I like it as much, I miss my suite, but at least it is closer to the Basilica.

We debated how we should steal the leg; whether it was better to try to break in to the church in the very early hours when it was closed or to slip in when it was open and use the noise of a Mass to cover the theft. We were staring to go towards the latter when a member of staff informed Albert that we had a visitor.

It turned out that my woman’s intuition was correct as the visitor turned out to be no one other than Maria’s maid with a letter from her mistress (and to think that Detective M had doubted me!). The letter was a desperate plea for help; Maria was being held a prisoner in her own home by Fatty Alberto who planned to force her to marry him.

With only one voice of dissention (miserable old Detective M again) we swung in to action. Heading to my room I dug out the sap that I picked up yesterday. I also grabbed the pistol that Albert had recovered from the assassin in the Milan opera house (just in case things really got out of hand) before we hit the crowded streets of Venice. The people of Venice are certainly getting desperate. As we made our way through the crow we say an importune exorcism being carried out right there in the street!

Rather than head straight to Maria’s house we went looking for Dreamy Georgio. We found him first try, in the café he had taken us to on the 24th. His perfect face was marred by a few bruises that had not been there yesterday; he had had a run in with more of Fatty Alberto’s goons that morning but had given as good as he got. As soon as he showed him the letter Dreamy Georgio was all fired up and together we raced through the streets to Venice to Maria’s home and a showdown with Fatty Alberto.


Topics: Horror on the Orient Express, Italy |

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