Clockwork 1888 Date: Thursday, Sep. 25, 1890, through Monday, August 10, 1891
Evgenia returned to her family investigation business to find her new employee, Peter Auguste, hired to help out while she was away on business. He was the son of one of her father’s friends. He was a few years older than her but they were friends when they were younger. He had just returned from serving England’s military in the Mahdist War. He was more than willing to work and helped bring more of the male business in, too.
Bartley observed that he’d be turning 40 in late August. He wanted to get a birthday bash together because Julia had not yet met Zhang and Fen. He figured it would be a good time for them to meet so he was making preparations for that event.
Archibald’s theater had gotten a reputation. Sarah Bernhardt and La Belle Otero had been encouraging other performers to stop while they were in London and take on a surprise role in one of the theater’s shows. Word had gotten around and attendance was up simply because people didn’t want to miss some big name performer in an impromptu role one evening. Of course, when either lady was in England, they always stopped in to play an evening at Archibald’s theater.
Dracona still had not gotten a visit from Don Marco Marciano, her usual organized crime contact. Probably more relieved than concerned, she continued her street performing with Ovila, the harp player. Ovila had noticed a drop in income when Dracona was gone. So, he offered to increase her share of their take.
Dracona, with her Fellowship related income and income from doing stage performances at Archibald’s theater, thanked him but declined his offer as she did it more for pleasure than pounds. And, taking a hint from Ovila, she even had Archibald’s theater business cards at the performances, to promote her shows there and in case anybody was interested in more formal entertainment.
Brina continued to be Adoline’s steadfast friend at Oxford. At Adoline’s request, Fredryck posed for a new photograph that Adoline promised to keep at her bedside. The last three years in the Grenadier Guards service had helped him to shed his boyish looks for those of a fine young man. As usual, Adoline was unabashedly pleased to see Fredryck whenever she could.
It was quiet on the Fellowship front for almost a year. That gave them almost a full year to focus on their businesses and personal lives. But, on Friday, July24, 1891, Inspector Norrington visited Evgenia’s establishment.
“Arrangements have been made to transport you to Charleston, West Virginia. There you will meet Mr. Raven Thorne in his office on Bream St. at 8:00AM on August 8th. Mr. Thorne will provide further instructions.” Norrington distributed their tickets. They were to leave from Liverpool on the White Star’s latest flagship, Majestic, on Wednesday, July 29.
Before boarding the Majestic on Wednesday morning, Adoline made her usual adieu to Fredryck and Fen her reserved farewell to Bartley, accompanied by Adoline’s friend, Brina, and Fen’s father, Zhang. Peter assured Evgenia that the investigation business was in good hands and Priscilla promised Archibald to make sure the theater ran smoothly.
The stop in Queenstown, Ireland, went efficiently and they were on their way. The captain kept the saloon class passenger informed of their progress and the ship was ahead of schedule. The day before the ship might arrive, the captain announced that they might take the Blue Riband, the prize for the fastest east to west crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. They’d beat the Inman Line’s City of Paris record by over an hour.
As they arrived in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, it was clear that they had beat the previous record. They had traveled 2,777 nautical miles (5,143 km) in 5 days, 18 hours and 8 minutes. That meant that they had sped along a t 20.1 knots (37.23 km/h), a new world record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. But, the fanfare at the docks didn’t detain them in their travels.
Catching a train, their record crossing gave them a leisurely trip to Charleston, West Virginia. Arriving, they secured accommodations up to their meeting with Raven Thorne. Inquiring, they learned that Mr. Thorne was a no-nonsense private investigator in his normal life outside of the Fellowship. Of course, they would approach their meeting as potential clients so as to not expose his Fellowship involvement.
At their 8 am meeting, they noticed Thorne’s detached demeanor. But Mr. Thorne wasted no time getting down to business once they arrived at his office and their identities had been confirmed. “The Fellowship has sent you here to investigate the claims of one Ginny Rutledge of Glen Ferris. A girl of just 13 years, she was left catatonic following an accident. But, reports say she can channel the dead when a writing utensil is placed in her hand. The phenomenon is sometimes known as automatic writing.”
“Your mission is to travel to Glen Ferris and ascertain whether young Ginny possesses a legitimate supernatural ability or is just another huckster. Make sure to learn as much relevant information about Miss Rutledge as possible. Observing the girl firsthand should not be a problem, as it is my understanding that Ginny’s parents have turned her into a paying attraction. Once your research is complete, return here with your recommendation as to what steps the Fellowship should take with regard to Miss Rutledge.”
“I have made provisions for you with a nearby stable to provide you with whatever horse or carriage needs you might have to get from here to Glen Ferris. The primary trails will take you through Deepwater. Once you reach Glen Ferris, there should be a hotel that suits your needs. The region is full of proud, hard-drinking, gun-toting folk, so think before doing something stupid.” Thorne glanced at his office clock before handing them the stable information. “That’s all I know so it’s time to go.”
Heading to the stable, they ordered horses and a suitable wagon and by 9 am were on their way. They reached Deepwater by nightfall and spent the evening there to rest the horses. Inquiring in Deepwater about Ginny Rutledge, they learned that she had been heard of there.
“I heard about her. Ain’t she the girl that writes down things dead spirits tell her?” one person said. “I know somebody who went to see her,” another offered. “He said she was floating and things were flying around the room.” They got the impression that the teller of that was embellishing the experience. “I have a cousin in Glen Ferris who knows her,” yet another told. “She says that girl sits like a sack of potatoes while she writes, lookin’ at nothin’ and droolin’ like an idiot.”
As they socialized, they noticed a large, rough-looking man, dressed all in black. His angular face expressed serious concern, yet he radiated an aura of peace and calm. When approached, he introduced himself as Reverend Mr. Black.
After introducing himself, the reverend asked how they were and then mentioned, “The Lord’s work is never done. The mountains are dotted with two kinds of townships: Those with too many sinners and those where the faithful have nowhere to worship. Perhaps you’d be interested in making a contribution that would go towards saving the former and erecting churches for the latter?”
When asked about Ginny Rutledge, he answered, “She has become quite a local sensation in the last few weeks, although I can’t admit to having seen her. No, my path lies in a different direction from hers. I’m not sure I can believe the claims made about her, but the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Turning in, they left for Glen Ferris in the morning. It wasn’t far, probably three miles as the crow flies. But the topography made the physical journey closer to five miles. Arriving in Glen Ferris, they noted that it was more of a village than a town.
Glen Ferris consisted of houses scattered along and above the Kanawha River. While some of the structures in the river valley were presentable, as one looked higher into the hills and mountains, the houses became the ramshackle and sooty constructions of poor mining families. The nicest building in town was one of the first they encountered, the two-story Glen Ferris Inn.
At that time of day, the inn was practically deserted. But, the middle-aged proprietress Clara Shandy could rent rooms to them for $1 a day, breakfast included. The inn was the only quality place in town that served lunch and dinner, but each was an extra 50 cents.
In a cheery voice, she expressed pride in the history of the building, "You know, the Glen Ferris Inn was the first permanent structure built in the town, back in 1810, when it was a private residence. It was only in 1839 that Aaron Stockton converted into a hotel. Presidents Andrew Jackson and John Tyler have stayed here and the inn hosted generals from both sides during the Civil War. The Glen Ferris Inn was a stagecoach stop and served as a Union quartermaster’s depot during the American Civil War.”
“If you’re interested in unusual things, some say the Inn has the ghost of a Confederate soldier with a long beard, nicknamed The Colonel,” she said with pride. “Don’t worry though, he’s a friendly and playful ghost, known to close doors behind people, make the birdbath water bubbly and frothy, and walk around with audible footsteps. His apparition has been seen from the waist up. Now that coal mining is such a big business in these parts, most of our guests are mining officers touring the camps. What brings you to Glen Ferris?"
They mentioned interest in Ginny Rutledge and Clara started up again. “I swear folks are coming in from all over to see that girl. I had a couple from Albany, New York, just last week, and now a Midwestern gentleman is here to see if the stories are true. I don’t know if Ginny can actually contact spirits, but I sure do appreciate the business.”
When asked about the Midwestern gentleman, she answered, "His name is Garrett McBride. I asked him where he was from, but he said he traveled so much that he didn’t really have a home. He works for a circus, but I can’t remember the name of it.”
“He’s a tall, well-dressed, charming man that you wouldn’t miss if you passed him. Mr. McBride’s been here two days. He left the inn right after breakfast, but I didn’t inquire as to where he was going. Perhaps he’s at Miss Rutledge’s house," she finished with a dreamy look in her eyes. After a moment, Clara returned from her thoughts and was happy to give them general directions to the Rutledge home. She was not aware of any other lodgers being there to visit Ginny, but had assumed the rest of her guests were mining officers.
With Clara’s directions to the Rutledge residence, they made their way up the mountains of Glen Ferris. Going up, the houses became ramshackle plywood affairs, built by the coal companies and leased to miners and their families. At that hour, most able-bodies males above the age of ten were toiling in the mines, so most of the people present were women and little children. Most of those were dressed in dirty clothes and had an unhealthy look about them. Those people eyed them with mistrust but gave them accurate directions to Ginny’s when asked.
Outside the Rutledge home, a young boy and girl played in the mud. Leaning against the side of the house was a sandwich board, on which “Child Medium 25 Cents” had been painted in bold white strokes. They tried to talk to the children that played in the mud. “What can you tell us about your sister, Ginny?” Evgenia inquired.
“She fell out of a tree,” they said as they looked away, an obvious look of fear inadvertently coming to their little faces. “Can you show me the tree?” The two stared at them, the fear still in their eyes. “It’s all right,” Evgenia said, “we’ll talk to your mother,” she assured them, “so go back to playing.”
The children didn’t have to be told that twice. Knocking, the door was opened by a woman holding an infant. “Y’all here to see mah Ginny?” she asked proudly. “Why, yes,” Archibald informed, “we are.”
She nodded at each person as if doing a mental count of them. “Y’all a big group, but we should be able to fit ya.” She opened the door all the way and backed up so they could enter. “Mah name’s Beth. Welcome to mah home.”
The room inside was a cramped space intended to be a combination sitting room, dining room, and kitchen. Dominating the room was a table with several chairs. On the table was a stack of blank paper and a cheap fountain pen. The walls were plastered with hundreds of sheets of paper, all containing script. The room had one other door, which is closed.
Besides Beth, two other people were present. The first was a man in his late twenties or early thirties, who was studying the papers on the walls. He sported a passable suit, spectacles, and wore his short blond hair parted down the middle. The second was a young man who smelled of musk and dirt in his unwashed farmer’s clothes. He sat silently in one of the chairs. “Mah husband should be out with Ginny shortly, so if y’all want to look around or take a seat, go right ahead.”
Evgenia struck up a conversation with the blond-haired man, who introduced himself as Eric Wessels, Professor of Theology at the University of Pittsburgh. He explained that he heard about Miss Rutledge from a colleague. His current area of research was proving the existence of the human soul, and he was interested to know if Ginny truly could channel dead spirits.
Fredryck, Evgenia and Archibald took to looking at the papers on the walls and Beth took note of their interest. “Mah Ginny made those, every single one. Some of ‘em are from payin’ shows, but sometimes I jus’ put a pen in her hand an’ let her do what she wants.” Almost every page, however, was done in distinctly different handwriting, and several were written in languages other than English.
“Ginny did these,” Fredryck expressed in disbelief at Beth’s earlier statement. But, Beth shook her head with a knowing smile. “I know what yer thinkin’, but it’s true. Mah Ginny almost never writes the same way twice, and sometimes she writes stuff nobody ‘round Glen Ferris can read. Geez, mah Ginny couldn’t read or write none before the accident anyhow.”
Inquiring about what accident befell Ginny, Beth answered, “Back in May, she was climbin’ a tree and fell on her head. Since then she’s… well, y’all see…” Something told them that Beth was hiding something.
Many of the papers dealt with issues one might expect the deceased to have: how former possessions should be distributed, where objects could be found, final statements of love and forgiveness, what survivors should do with their lives, et cetera. Several took the form of a conversation where only half of it was documented. There were also several poems and musings, some quite clever, others banal. Drawings were also present, probably from the spirits of young children.
Fredryck found a page that was partially covered by others. It was entirely covered in block letters, contained no spaces, and made no sense. It was easy to come to the conclusion that it was in some kind of code. About that time, Wessels found another one exactly like it on the wall he had been perusing.
Wessels plucked the page from the wall and showed it to everyone and asked if anybody had found any more like it. Fredryck kept silent but noted that the two seemed identical. “I have no idea what it is,” Wessels confessed, “but I do love an intellectual challenge.” There was something about Wessels that Fredryck just didn’t trust. So he struck up a religious conversation with him. Something just wasn’t right with Wessels and, although he couldn’t put his finger on it, he was certain he was hiding something.
Dracona tried to engage the farmer in conversation and found out, through one-word answers, that his name was Elijah and he was there to talk to his dead brother Zeke. But before much more could be accomplished, a rough-looking man in his thirties entered from the back room, carrying a girl in his arms. Beth introduced the black-haired, bearded man as her husband, Obadiah. Unlike the rest of his family, Obadiah was wearing clean, new clothes. “Y’all’re here to see my daughter?” he asked in a polite but gruff tone, smiling as he set Ginny in a long-backed chair.
Ginny was slight for her age, with wispy brown hair. Dead cobalt blue eyes stared blankly above a crooked nose. Her mouth was open, and a long rivulet of drool fell down onto a calico dress stained by food and saliva. She was completely unresponsive to stimuli, and Evgenia easily determined that Ginny was in a catatonic state.
Once Ginny was settled, the baby in Beth’s arms started to wail. “How many times I gotta tell ya? Git that damn kid outta here!” raged Obadiah. Beth quickly exited into the next room, and as Obadiah turned back to his audience, his fury was replaced by the polite smile from before. “If ya don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if ya paid the quarter in advance.” Once the money was collected, he asked everybody to have a seat.
He turned to Elijah. “Now if I understand right, you want us to contact yer dead brother?” When Elijah nodded, Obadiah said, “That’ll be an additional five dollars.” Elijah grudgingly handed over the crumpled notes as if he were parting with a family heirloom. “You got something that belonged to yer brother that we can use to call his spirit to us?” asked Obadiah as he counted the bills to be sure.
Elijah took a small, well-worn object and placed it on the table. “This here is Zeke’s lucky hare’s foot. Shot it hisself.” Obadiah glanced at it, then looked back at Elijah before adding, “You know this only works if yer brother knew how to write, don’t ya?” “Yes, sir. Man from the gov’ment made me an’ Zeke go to school. I didn’t have no way with letters, but Zeke picked it up easy.”
Satisfied, Obadiah smiled as he prepared the ritual. He took a sheet of blank paper from the stack and placed it in front of Ginny. Moving both of her arms upon the table, he put the pen in her right hand and the rabbit’s foot in her left. Ginny seemed to be oblivious of her surroundings as Obadiah finally placed her right hand gently upon the page.
Bartley quietly cast a spell to detect magical effects. Evgenia focused her mind to determine if psychic powers were in use. “Prepare to be amazed,” promised Obadiah, standing behind his daughter. Nothing happened for several moments, and a scowl began to form on Elijah’s face.
“Elijah,” said Obadiah, “did yer brother write with his left hand by any chance?” After a short moment to reflect, he responded, “Yeah, he did. Teacher beat him fer it, said he was usin’ the Devil’s hand.” With that, Obadiah switched the objects in his daughter’s hands.
Two seconds after Ginny’s left hand was placed on the paper, it began writing. Ginny herself was staring at the ground, a blank expression on her face. As the poorly-spelled chicken scratches were produced, Obadiah narrated for the entire table.
“Eli, what you spendin’ hard-earned money for?” Obadiah announced. “How exactly did you die?” Elijah inquired. “I was running after a stag when Argus got underfoot. I tripped and shot myself. What did Gabe say?” Obadiah read.
“About the same,” Elijah answered. “So what’s wrong? I can hear it in yer voice,” Obadiah announced. “Gabe went an’ married Annabelle a month after you died,” Elijah added. “Belle needs someone to take care of her. It could have been you if you told her how you felt,” Obadiah read aloud. “Sorry to bother yer rest. I needed to know the truth,” Elijah said. “Bye brother,” Obadiah concluded.
Once the final sentence was penned, Ginny dropped both the pen and the rabbit’s foot, and her arms slumped off the table. “I guess that’s it then,” said Elijah, who picked up the rabbit’s foot and exited without a word of goodbye. Bartley signaled the others that he did not sense any magical effects or deceptions. But, Evgenia silently indicated that she sensed psionic energies in Ginny. Evgenia was certain that Ginny possessed a supernatural power.
“I hope y’all were dazzled and entertained here today,” said Obadiah with a smile. “Is there anything else we can do?” Eric Wessels immediately asked to purchase the coded paper he’d found on the wall. Obadiah announced that he was willing to part with it, and any other page off the wall, for $2. Wessels immediately paid the $2 and pocketed the page.
Fredryck moved to the wall where he’d spied another copy of the coded page. “I’d like to purchase all of these,” he said as he indicated a group of about a dozen pages which included the coded page. “With my buying that many, how about two for the price of one,” Fredryck suggested.
Obadiah thought a moment and then answered, “Well, the lowest I can go is $1 per page so if you want them for that, that’s what it’ll cost.” Fredryck looked at Bartley, who raised an eyebrow at Obadiah’s suggestion. “You drive a hard bargain, sir,” Fredryck smiled as he handed twelve American dollars to Obadiah and carefully removed twelve pages from the wall.
“How did Ginny get these powers,” Evgenia inquired of Obadiah. Obadiah said that Ginny fell out of a tree, the same story as his wife. Again, they could tell that he was not being forthright.
While they were keeping Obadiah’s attention, Dracona slipped over to the door to the back room and went inside. It was a cramped room with one nice brass bed and three filthy mattresses on the ground. Beth was sitting on the edge of the bed, rocking the baby to pacify it. “You don’t have to take his abuse,” Dracona whispered to Beth. "You don’t know mah Obie. He loves us. He provides fer us and he only hits us when we git out a line,” Beth staunchly defended her husband.
Dracona could tell that Beth wasn’t stupid. She was simply acting as her nature told her was right. She was sufficiently indoctrinated and accepting of the way things were. Sensing a dead end with Bet, Dracona slipped back into the main room where the others were exchanging money for wall papers.
“Now if y’all can excuse us,” explained Obadiah as he looked at a shiny new pocket watch. “We have someone comin’ over fer an appointment. It was a pleasure havin’ yer company and we hope to see y’all come back.” “Can we get another writing done?” Fredryck inquired. Obadiah said that he might be able to schedule one for the following afternoon. His daughter was too tired to do another one today.
Evgenia decided to get psychic impressions from the area. Just in case it really was a tree fall accident, she stood in the doorway so that she could view the outside, as well. As she focused her energy, a vision came to her.
Ginny was standing in the room. While the younger children were crying, a drunken Obadiah was repeatedly punching Ginny in the face and chest. Beth tugged on Obadiah’s arm and asked him to stop, but he threw his wife against the wall and continued to savage his daughter. Evgenia could hear Ginny’s ribs crack as the vision receded.
As they exited the Rutledge home, they saw a man talking to the muddy children in the front yard, who were currently giggling. He was a tall, middle-aged man dressed in a bright blue suit and matching bow tie. A bit portly, his graying hair was heavily pomaded, and he had bushy mutton chop sideburns. Seeing them, he patted the kids on the head before straightening up to introduce himself.
“Good afternoon,” said the man with a warm smile, “Garrett McBride at your service.” Introductions were made and McBride politely asked after their occupations. After confirming that they had just seen Ginny in action, McBride asked if they were entertained, if they would pay to see her again, and how much they would pay to contact one of their own relatives.
When Archibald inquired about the reason for the questions, he flashed a big grin. “I’m a recruiter for the Ringling Brothers’ Circus. I travel extensively looking for unique talent that will enthrall audiences across America, and I think Miss Ginny will do just that. In fact, I have an appointment with Mr. Rutledge right now to discuss that very proposition.” McBride would not get into any details, but he did conclude his conversation before knocking on the door and going inside.
Dracona had Athro invisibly slip back in the house when McBride went in. With McBride in the house, they noticed that Eric Wessels was still there. Fredryck asked why and Wessels explained that he made an appointment to see Mr. Rutledge following Mr. McBride’s appointment. Wessels didn’t object to their staying, also, but they could tell that he was slightly annoyed if they talked to him. He was trying to listen to the conversation inside. It seemed like a good idea and they listened, too.
McBride explained to Obadiah that Ginny had a special talent the whole nation should see. Obadiah shrewdly countered that McBride just wanted to make money from her. McBride acted hurt and said he had no intention of leaving Obadiah empty-handed after giving up his eldest child. Furthermore, once Ginny joined the circus, she would be well cared for. Obadiah asked what kind of offer McBride had in mind for Ginny.
The following silence suggested that something was written down. Obadiah said he would think it over, and when McBride stated he would have to leave the area soon, Obadiah told him to come back in the evening after dinner. With their negotiation apparently completed, McBride exited the house and gave them a knowing look. “Best of luck, and have a pleasant day.”
Evgenia asked McBride if she could walk with him a little as he was leaving. He didn’t mind and she inquired about how Ginny would be treated in the circus. “There’s nothing to worry about there,” McBride answered. “You certainly don’t let your main attraction die on you, so she’d be cared for and fed. And let’s not forget the young miss will be much cleaner and look every bit the pretty belle.”
She inquired about where McBride intended to go if he obtained Ginny. “I will rendezvous with the Ringling Brothers in Philadelphia,” he informed. And she inquired about what would happen to Ginny if she lost her ability. “I’m sure the Ringling Brothers would find a place for her in an institution,” McBride said confidently. “They’re not animals, you know.” Evgenia could tell that McBride was not being deceptive.
It was Wessels’ turn to go in for an appointment. Dracona had Athro stay inside and they listened outside. Wessels started by saying that he believed that Ginny’s powers were genuine and he would like to take her back to the University of Pittsburgh to study them further. Obadiah immediately asked how much Wessels was offering to take his daughter. The professor stammered that he had a couple hundred dollars of his own, and that the department may be able to approve one hundred or so more.
When Obadiah responded that he already had a higher offer, Wessels’ voice grew sharp as he guessed McBride. He asked whether Obadiah really wanted his daughter to be paraded around America as a circus freak or to reside where doctors could possibly improve her condition. Obadiah said that Ginny was never useful when she was healthy and he needed to think about the good of his remaining family. At that point, Wessels excused himself.
As Wessels came out, the invisible Athro flew out to Dracona and informed her of what he’d observed. The note that McBride had given to Obadiah had promised to beat any other offer by at least $1000. With offers being put on the table, Fredryck decided to enter the bidding. Before Obadiah left the doorway from Wessels’ exit, they asked to meet and he admitted them.
Fredryck told Obadiah of the asylum that he is involved with and talked about the best medical care available for Ginny. But Obadiah’s answer showed them that all he cared about was getting the most money for Ginny, and getting it up front. He had a pretty nice offer already, one where he and his kin wouldn’t have to worry for a long time, and it was in cash.
Fredryck and the others didn’t have that kind of cash on them. They would have to return to Charleston to retrieve large sums of money from a bank. They informed Obadiah that they could get it, and more, though.
“Do you know who I am?” Fredryck inquired in frustration. “My father is Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, the Governor General of Canada!” Obadiah didn’t say anything to that information. But, the look on his face told that he had no idea of who Fredryck spoke and possibly even where or what Canada was. Frustrated, but staying polite and pleasant just in case, they parted with Obadiah.
Walking back toward town but still in the hills where the miners live, they noticed a questionable structure that apparently served as a drinking establishment for miners. They thought they’d see if they could get any additional information there.