When last we left our heroes: Safely home from Finland, the Society begins to argue amongst themselves until Sir Charles bursts in with his latest discovery… the location of the famed Labyrinth of Crete, home of the Minotaur!
“Oh Lord, spare me from men and their bull… fights,” Mrs. Cassandra Chatterton said.
“Come now,” Victor Terranove said, frowning skeptically. “You can’t actually mean a real Minotaur, half-man, half-bull? I mean, misshapen freaks who hide out in a lake and get confused with trolls are one thing…”
“And this is another,” Colonel Durant said with finality.
“Come now, Victor,” Kenneth, earl of Marston said, his young good looks matched only by the charm in his voice. “Greece in the summer? The open Mediterranean beneath our feet? Well, beneath a boat beneath our feet, naturally. Grandest of adventures! I promise you all!”
There was no arguing with Lord Marston when he put his exuberant face on.
Sir Charles was the first to fall. “Yes!” he cried. “I’ll start the travel and recovery plans immediately!”
“Ah, here we go…” Mrs. Chatterton said.
The others had finally left. Relaxing his smile, Kenneth walked over to one of the dark wood library shelves and pulled down an untitled thin leatherbound volume. Taking it to the desk, he sat and opened it to the ribbon-marked page.
Taking a pen in his left hand, he began to write.
The unfortunate incident with the death of the Sjotroll notwithstanding, I feel that with each expedition we come closer to understanding the motivation behind the Society’s shift from hunting to enquiry under my father’s leadership.
It is my fervent hope that this latest foray will, if not forge new ground, at least place us in the literal footsteps of our predecessors, facing the same unforseen horizon that they did.
What concerns me most at this juncture, however, is not so much the risk of mythic dangers but rather the growing bureaucratic difficulties in pursuing said peril. It was in no uncertain terms last time that the Ministry’s man informed us that further pursuits after unknown creatures were now forbidden. Though we ignored their edict once to go to Finland, I suspect that has drawn their attention and we shall not find it so easy to travel again without incident.
Looking down at his words, he absently tapped his lips with the back of the pen. A few drops of ink fell on the empty space of the journal page. Blotting them away, he hoped it wasn’t a bad omen.
The next day, preparations were made.
Mrs. Chatterton, her stoic beauty hidden beneath a veil, stepped out of a carriage in a poor quarter of London town. She strode a block away from where she disembarked and turned onto a smaller lane, taking only a moment to look behind her to see if she had been followed. She felt confident that she hadn’t been.
Approaching an unremarkable red door, she knocked twice before a pleasant looking maid answered.
“Oh! Missus Chatterton!”
“Is he in, Rose?” Cassandra asked.
“No, mum,” the maid said, escorting her quickly through the doorway, also looking down the lane for observers. “Come in quickly, though. I… I know he watches you.”
“He watches us all, Rose,” Mrs. Chatterton said. “But I won’t let that stop me from seeing her.”
Across town, Victor Terranove was involved in a wholly dishonest game of cards. He was cheating less than the other players, but he was doing it far more skillfully. The same slight of hand that served him well on stage made gambling with locals easy. As he pulled a pot of dirty coins towards his stack, he suddenly felt a wide hand fall upon his shoulder. While not unexpected, Victor had hoped to get out of London before he was found.
“Mister Terranove,” the raspy voice that belonged to the tightly gripping hand said. It wasn’t a question.
“Victor, please,” Terranove said without turning around. “We’re all friends here, Mister Batson.”
On his other side, a wiry man in a suit that was far more expensive than his breeding allowed him to wear comfortably moved into position flanking the magician.
“Mister Quill,” Victor smiled. “I’m so glad you boys caught up with me.”
Quill peered at Victor through squinted eyes, suspicious. “That wouldn’t be as you’ve got our money, would it?”
Victor looked sadly at the money on the table before him. He had so hoped to enjoy a fine Grecian wine over a fine Grecian night with a fine Grecian woman. He supposed the Society’s campsite tent would have to do. Sliding the coins into a cloth purse, he reluctantly handed them to the shorter, balder, more menacing of the two gangsters. “I would hate to inconvenience you, Mr. Batson,” he said. The burly man said nothing.
“I suppose ’twill have to do, Victor,” Quill said, taking the purse. “Don’t make us come lookin’ for yeh next week, though.”
As the two left with Victor’s winnings, Batson turned and muttered, “It does put us out a wee bit.”
Meanwhile, Sir Charles was also trying to keep a low profile. He did this by wearing an old hat and an altogether awful fake mustache. If his disguise didn’t give him away, the nervous way he walked towards the newsstand would. Fortunately, in Sir Charles’ case, no one at all was looking for him, despite his paranoia.
The man minding the stand was tall and bearded. Upon seeing Sir Charles approach, a wry smile crossed his face. He waited patiently as the scientist serpentined across the cobblestone street, approaching the newsstand from an oblique angle.
“Excuse me,” Sir Charles said in a low register, “but have you the latest issue of the Strand Magazine in?”
“Fan of the detective, guv’nor?”
“I… I enjoy the news articles,” Sir Charles stammered.
“Of course, sir.” The shopkeeper took a folded volume off of one of the racks and placed it before Sir Charles. “Anything else?”
“What about the new All About Our Day?”
The bearded man shook his head sadly. “Sold out. Should have more in Tuesday. That Dickens knows how to sell a weekly.”
“Hardy? Not this week.”
The shopkeeper let out a long patient breath. “Sir, would you just like to give me your list and have me put aside what you want each week when the dockloads come in?”
Sir Charles nodded, his hat bobbing comically. “You… you could do that?”
“Of course sir. Lot’s o’ your kind do that, you know. Saves on the fake mustaches.”
It was at night that Colonel Durant went out, and of the four, he strode with the least worry of being seen. He was also the most aware of his own shadower.
After half an hour of leading his tail through the most unpleasantly odorous streets he knew, Durant had had enough fun. Stepping quickly between stone buildings, he waited as the man passed by and grabbed him from behind.
“All right,” Durant growled, “I’ve damned well had it.”
The man who had been following him was dressed for banking, not for street brawling, and obviously had been trained similarly. It only took one punch for the old colonel to lay him on the stones.
“Every time we have a meeting you incompetents from the Ministry come out like rats. Are you really that scared of us?”
The man from the Ministry responded by pulling a firearm from his jacket and aiming it at Durant’s face.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.