The ledger was proving impossible to decipher. The Doctor had spent countless hours trying. And failing. She gave up in disgust, and went to work in her lab. No sooner had she prepared for work when she had revelation. The description given by that Charlie character, she had seen that man before. At the auction where she procured the artificial womb! It was the man bidding against her!
“Modo, I shall need you to clear up this equipment, I must pay a visit to D.I. Jones at once!” she declared, hung up her labcoat and left.
“Modo! Modo helping! Modo tidy up for busy Doctor Lady!”
Detective Inspector Jones was found behind his desk, addressing an inordinate amount of paperwork. Most of it pertaining to the parties misadventures, with the rest relating to the disappearance of the mortal remains of one Barnaby Smith from police custody. Pleasantries exchanged, the Inspector divulges that unless further evidence is forthcoming there is little other option but to conclude that someone within the force is complicit in the latter matter. Getting to the matter at hand, the D.I. provides Dr Laburnum with access to files pertaining to the auction, wherein she finds that the man with the moustache is listed under, as she recalls, bidding number eleven, one Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe of a Bloomsbury address.
Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe, I presume?
Deciding no time is to be wasted the Doctor takes her leave of the beleaguered D.I.Jones and makes to call upon said Bloomsbury address immediately. Pausing only to collect Svetlana, on the pretence that an outing would be good for her recovery, but more for her looming presence and skill at arms in the event of hostility, the Doctor called on a smart apartment building as indicated by the address in the police records. The name for the address they wanted was James Abercrombie. This did not bode well, as the Doctor later noted in her journal… “either the address given in the police file is false, or the smart young actor who actually lives here is truly a master of disguise”.
Returning to Foxglove House somewhat disheartened the Doctor called upon her companions for assistance in deciphering the ledger and the conundrum of Mr Fanthorpe-Smythe. Mordechai revealed that he had been conducting his own investigations into the matter, and his rather less than salubrious methods and contacts (a variety of “no questions, Guv” pawn brokers and the like) that Fanthorpe-Smythe is either in the employ of one Clarence Aldridge, or is in fact Clarence Aldridge, depending upon whom one chooses to believe. This latter suggestion is discounted, although no one is personally acquainted with Mr Aldridge, finding his likeness in the public media is scarcely a challenge, and he bears no resemblance to the man seen by Dr Laburnam at the police auction.
The Hornets Nest.
These contacts revealed that Fanthorpe-Smythe spends a great deal of his time fleecing the residents of the Bermondsey Collapse, a notoriously dangerous and run down area of the metropolis south of the river. Furthermore, Mordechai had paid a visit to the Collapse the previous day, where he had observed that the area was mostly crumbling buildings, and a great many subterranean warrens derived from basements, cellars, sewers and even collapsed buildings.
On the surface he bore witness several groups he took to be local gangs, observed, and was in return was observed by, a Dhampyr hunter or vigilante who appeared to be making his rounds of the place. Perhaps most alarming was an apparent abduction he witnessed – two relatively well dressed men called at an address, spoke briefly with the woman who opened the door and disappeared inside. A few short minutes later they emerged, manhandling between them a person clearly either beaten near unconsciousness, drugged or debilitated by severe injury or illness. Given his own proclivities and activities, Mordechai decided against intervention in what may, after all have been simply a doctor tending to a patient. Then again, it could be tied to the whole meat market scheme they had recently encountered. Either way, he left well alone, his intention being to gather and relay information.
Also of note, felt the Undertaker, was that cheek by jowl with this degenerate sump of human detritus was the Rutland Arms Munitions Factory, where many of the inhabitants of the Collapse and surrounding area held employment. In short, he summarised, “the whole place appears to be a veritable hornets nest”.
The next day, Monday, saw everyone at foxglove House to try and crack the cipher. Much tea was consumed. Many idea’s where investigated and discarded, frustration followed exasperation and tea followed more tea. With tea for afters. Finally, after a great deal of head-scratching and a yet more tea, a eureka! moment was achieved, and from thence the secrets of the cipher unravelled rather rapidly.
An address was determined for Doctor Cooper, recent purchaser of “fresh meat” from the Rat Market. Several addresses where furnished for the elusive Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe, including Camden and Lambeth. The address of the old brewery at Mardyke appeared many times, at least before the activity there was disrupted, and the address of an old workshop on Neate Street, Camberwell, appeared to be in use for deliveries. The name of the firm? [[Aldridge & Beckett]]. Sadly, there was no mention of the missing Masai Spear.
The next day saw the Doctor, Svetlana and Ms Greenwood, Svetlana’s guild appointed chaperone, making camp in a tea room in Camden, opposite the address of interest. Elizabeth, Mordechai and Daniel made for Lambeth to conduct their stakeout.
In Lambeth, Mordechai quickly found his way into a disused gasworks that offered a fine snipers eye view of the main entrance to the address they where observing, a three storey town house divided into flats. Elizabeth, with Daniel for escort, made her usual displays of camaraderie and cake to “ingratiate” her way into the good graces of various and sundry passers by, particularly with Alice, a young flower girl, and with the customers of a local sandwich shop come lunchtime.
It quickly became apparent that only Alice had information of interest, most others “interviewed” being transient workers not local to the immediate area. Alice was not well disposed towards Mr Fanthorpe-Smythe, for her descriptions of the resident did indeed match that provided by the Doctor.
Over in Camden, all that was becoming apparent is that the staff at the tea-room have no idea how to brew a decent pot of tea.
Back in Lambeth, as the afternoon drew late, the much sought Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe emerged from his residence and made of in a horse drawn cab. Seeing Elizabeth making to follow suit, Mordechai descended from his perch, clambered over the fence and hopped hastily aboard the waiting cab. They followed in the vague general direction, and quickly surmised he was headed to the nearby Aldridge & Beckett works. They stopped their cab at the end of Neate Street, just around the corner and out of sight of any observers on said street.
Neate Street, it so happens, is a working district. Workshops and warehouses line both sides. Most are quiet as late afternoon has given way to early evening. Only a few stalwart worthies remain, hammering iron at a forge and loading the days output onto a cart outside. This is a few doors down from the apparently abandoned Aldridge & Beckett works. The main gate and inset access door are both securely locked. Quickly gaining access to a warehouse more or less opposite, the three settle down to wait, Elizabeth and Daniel downstairs by the main door, Mordechai upstairs by the front loading hatch, rifle trained on the Aldridge & Beckett gate.
More waiting ensues.
After a couple of hours, Fanthorpe-Smythe emerges from the door set in the gate, locks it behind him and begins to make his way eastwards up the street, away from his hidden observers. Mordechai wastes no time in putting a warning shot into the wall just ahead of their elusive quarry, and issuing a challenge. Fanthorpe-Smythe has other idea’s, and bolts for a north-bound side street only a short distance ahead of him. Mindful of the need to extract information from him, Mordechai’s cautious shot misses its mark. Daniel breaks cover and gives chase. He makes it to the corner around which Fanthorpe-Smythe has run, stops a moment, then saunters back to the others. There is a second, smaller, gate into the Aldridge & Beckett works just around the corner, and he reports that Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe has disappeared within. The stand-off is resumed, now with each party aware of the other.
Elizabeth and Daniel moved over to the gate, and struck up a conversation through the wooden gate. Well, less a conversation, and more a series of demands to the effect that Mr Fanthorpe-Smythe should emerge bearing the stolen spear (for he had confirmed he had it on the premises) and return it to the agent of it rightful owner, namely Mordechai. To this he readily agreed, once promise of his safe passage had been secured, and he was heard to scuttle away and a door to slam.
A few moments later came new sounds from within. Heavy footfalls. The rattle and clank of machinery. Drawing nearer to the gate. Becoming louder. Elizabeth and Daniel pulled back to the entrance of the warehouse across the street. The gate burst open from within, and Fanthorpe-Smythe emerged, skulking at the centre of a phalanx of four post-cadaverous automata – corpses re-animated by means of nefarious machinery grafted to their flesh, powered by various and sundry alchemical and galvanic means. This ghastly contingent made as Fanthorpe-Smythe had previously done, eastwards along the street.
Mordechai reacted in customary fashion, and the first automaton fell, its skull shattered by a rifle bullet. Daniel unsheathed his great sword and ran at them, howling as he went. His first blow drew the attention of one of the metal encrusted horrors, but little more. Elizabeth looked on, her pistol at the ready.
Mordechai fired again, and the world around him dropped into slow-motion. He could see the blast of smoke from the end of his rifle, felt it kick against his shoulder. He even caught a glimpse of the bullet as it sped from the barrel. he heard the crack as it penetrated the skull of another automaton, and then the clash of metal on metal as it glanced along the inner curve of one of the brass plates riveted to the automatons head. The bullet punched through the back of an orbit and, as the techno-terror keeled forward, burst from the vacant eye-socket and into the ample abdomen of Arthur Fanthorpe-Smythe with a soft “thwap”. (A critical hit! Since a terminal head shot was all but guaranteed anyway, I ruled that as well as destroying the automaton (the players have taken to calling them “techno-zombies”, but i can’t bring myself to use the “Z” word ;D) the shot would also incapacitate Fanthorpe-Smythe).
Fanthorpe-Smythe slumped to the ground. Daniel continued to hack at his target, to little effect. Elizabeth hurried over and advised Fanthope-Smythe that if he wanted to receive any sort of medical aide, he should order his minions to cease all resistance. This he duly did, and Daniel quickly beheaded them. The situation now under control, Mordechai engaged the ratchet on the warehouse derrick and unlocked the winching gear. Wrapping a loop of chain about his foot he grasped the chain with one hand, and with his rifle couched in the crook of his other elbow, stepped out of the upper loading hatch and rode the chain down to the street.
The occupants of the open workshop down the road emerged, flexing various heavy tools, too see what the fuss was about. They took in the hulking automata, the enthusiastic young Dhampyr beheading them, the walrus of a man heaped on the ground, pleading with a stern faced woman, and the sinister looking Undertaker descending on a chain across the street and decided it was none of their business.
Dragging Fanthorpe-Smythe into the works yard he had tried to vacate, along with the wreckage of the automata, another inhabitant was found. A hunched, portly figure of a man with straggly hair and beard, battered top hat and faded velvet coat that had long past any semblance of finery. Badger was his name, and it transpired that Fanthorpe-Smythe had dragged him here from Bermondsey, to skulk and minion for him. the missing spear as quickly located, amid a cache of other stolen trinketry. But that was not all. Also found on the premises where a large number of crates marked “”/wikis/Metropolitan%20Gas%20Works/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Metropolitan Gas Works Old Kent Road", filled with all manner of alchemical supplies, and a crate of shiny new drum fed shotguns – “Rutland Arms Roomsweepers”.
Elizabeth quickly arranged the borrowing of the cart from the workshop down the street, and the crazed but otherwise harmless Badger was instructed to take Fanthorpe-Smythe to the nearest hospital for treatment. Was that a twinkle of wickedness in Elizabeth’s eye as she gave Badger directions to said institution – knowing full well it was Bethlam Mental Hospital – the notorious Bedlam? (Due to the divergent time ine in UHM, Bethlehem Hospital was still in its older, Southwark location). To ensure his compliance, Mordechai instructed Badger to return post haste, to claim his reward – the petty cash found on the premises.
“Sufficient,” mused Badger, “for the likes ‘o me to live like a lord! Lord Badger of Bermondsey – I likes the sound o’ that!”. Off he scuttled, and duly returned to report the deed done, despite protestation from his charge, claim his reward and make off into the night, cackling with gleeful lunacy. the spoils, ahem, evidence, loaded onto the cart they where taken to Foxglove House for further perusal and consideration.
With apologies to Azahul over on the Atomic Overmind forums, from whom I “borrowed” the Bermondsey Collapse ;D