Clockwork 1888 Date: Saturday, April 24, 1888
The bobbies arrived and, rather than sort it all out there in the street, were intent on just taking the whole lot of them to the Yard to sort it all out. As they moved the people away from the burning place to allow the fire brigade to work, one bobby went for a paddy wagon. A well-dressed gentleman in a fine hat approached and informed the bobbies that he had seen the entire incident from his vantage point across the street. He corroborated the version of the story that matched the PCs and assured that he’d head to the Yard, shortly, to make his report.
With an apparently unbiased witness, the coppers agreed to let the PCs go and started preparing the three men for the paddy wagon. “Shouldn’t you find out where they were taking the women before the coppers take these men away?” the well-dressed gentleman whispered to Dracona. “Wait,” Dracona called as they loaded the first man into the paddy wagon, “we want to talk to this one.” But, she wondered about how the well-dressed man knew of their business in this part of town if he was indeed just a bystander.
Still, they questioned the man and got the address where they were taking the girls. It was the back doors of a place called “Falstaff’s,” in Bayswater. The man also mentioned that “Archer” was not paying them enough. Priscilla recalled the morning paper for a day or so ago that talked about Gregory Archer, an explorer who had returned from the Amazon and was displaying artifacts from the region at the museum.
Still, as the paddy wagon carted the three men off and the fire brigade got the blaze under control, the gentleman introduced himself. “I’m Vernon Culver,” he said, “and I believe we can be of use to each other. Please, join me for tea,” he suggested as he led them a short way to a small but up-scale chippie. “First, I must apologize for my associates’ over-zealous nature. They have mine and my wife’s best interests at heart,” he said with a sly smile. “But, I’m a man that loves his wife and I’d surely make it worth your while if she were returned to me. That would surely be at least twice what my interfering brother-in-law could offer.” Priscilla could tell that in spite of his words, this man loved his wife like he would a prized possession.
But, he offered a sizable sum if they would deliver his wife to him, when they found her. And, he offered to accompany them to the location that the three men were delivering women that were sent to them. Fredryck suggested that a man of Culver’s standing would be best kept out of harm’s way. With their business concluded, Vernon Culver noted that he had a report to make at the police station and excused himself.
They went to the address where the women had been delivered. At the front door way they found the sign for Falstaff’s. Windows on either side of the door showed some kind of manikin, lifelike but motionless. To the left was a man dressed in fine clothes and standing proud with his top hat and cane. To the right was a woman in a fine gown. As they were looking through the window of the door to the interior of the room beyond, Priscilla asked for the police files. The figure of the woman had a considerable resemblance to one of the first women killed. They were not totally sure because the police photo was of a dead woman but the resemblance was certain.
Peering through the door window, they could see a desk, another figure in one corner of the room, and a door leading to a room beyond. They also noticed the bell attached to the door, on a piece of spring steel to bounce it around if anybody entered. Remembering what the artist and cronies had told them about delivering the women to the back doors, they decided to go around the back.
There, they found a large set of doors, a sliding peephole set into one door, and a cord running up and into the wall next to the door. Dracona decided to play bait, again, and the others went to the side of the building. Then, Priscilla decided that it wouldn’t be safe for Dracona to go alone so she ran up to the door, too, just as Dracona pulled the bell cord. She quickly came up with a reason that two of them were there.
After a short while, they heard footsteps approach the door. The peephole slid open and a man peered through. “Closed. What do you want?” “Mr. Sharpe sent us here,” Dracona answered. “Mr. Sharpe doesn’t send people here. He comes with them. Now go away.” “But he’s still interviewing the twins,” Priscilla interjected. “He didn’t want to leave the twins just to escort us here,” she added. After a few more minutes of assurances and convincing, he told them, “Wait there,” and he closed the peephole.
They heard his footsteps leaving and then heard more returning. When the peephole opened, a different man peered at them. They reiterated their story for this man before he closed the peephole and discussed a short time with the other one. When the door opened, they admitted Dracona and Priscilla, peered to both sides outside, closed the door and locked it behind them.
The first man introduced himself as Gregory Archer while the second was Sir Richard Falstaff, the proprietor of the establishment. They showed some of Falstaff’s work shop, the frames and molds for the wax figures that he sculpts, and showed the figure of a man near the door. They pointed out that the rifle the figure held was indeed a real rifle. After all, why mold in wax what one can easily obtain. They also talked about how the wax figures will preserve the beauty and form of the ladies for an eternity. A sort of immortality, they explained.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Archer explained, “immortality. I’m here having my sculpture made. Sir Richard was working it when you arrived. Would you like to see?” With that, they escorted the ladies down the spiral staircase into the cellar work area. Dracona and Priscilla both noticed a slight bumping sound coming from a room to the rear of the stairwell but said nothing of it only giving each other a knowing glance about what possibly was behind the locked door … Jane Culver.
Falstaff commented that he’d not planned to work with a pair of ladies but that he’d try a few quick sketches to see if it inspires him. He cleared a work table asked if the ladies would pose on the table for him. Priscilla suggested that Dracona and her pose together and Falstaff agreed. As he gathered a sketchpad, the ladies climbed onto the table.
Archer went to a table near the back of the room, explaining that he’d be getting his things and making his leave. Falstaff started a sketch and commented on seeing the two with the pyramids of Egypt in the background, or the Taj Mahal of India. Priscilla wondered aloud if there was more than one pyramid in Egypt. Meanwhile, Fredryck was able to quietly ply the peephole open and was working on unlocking the back doors by putting his sword through the peephole and attempting to unlock the bolted doors.
Archer moved over to behind the ladies as they looked toward the artist. Archer explained that he had to go and he’d leave the ladies in the hands of Falstaff. But, then he thrust his hands around them and tried put rags over their faces. Dracona dodged the maneuver but he grabbed Priscilla who held her breath and struggled to get free. Dracona had been posing with her cane and slipped off the table, drawing the sword from the cane and screaming a threat at them.
Fredryck finally got the doors unlocked and he withdrew his arm from the peephole as Evgenia pulled the doors open. Falstaff pulled a revolver and told Dracona to not bring a sword to a gun fight. Priscilla managed to escape Archer’s grasp without succumbing to the chloroformed rags. Archer spotted Fredryck and the others coming down the stairs, drew a pistol, pointed it at Priscilla and suggested they stop or he’d shoot her. Evgenia and Archibald stopped on the stairs but Fredryck continued his advance. Archer fired at Priscilla … but missed. Fredryck came up behind Falstaff, put his sword up around him to his throat and asked Falstaff about bringing a sword to a gunfight.
After a short scuffle, Falstaff was injured and unconscious on the floor while Archer was disarmed. While they tied his hands and those of Falstaff, Archer informed them that they didn’t know what they were interfering with. They were on the verge of a breakthrough in immortality, itself. The dark blue flower that he brought back from the Amazon jungles of South America was the key to immortality and Falstaff had almost arrived at the correct formula. If they let them continue, Archer said that they could share in immortality when it was fully developed. With Archer’s hands tied behind his back, they questioned him about the missing women.
Dracona and Priscilla pointed to the locked door by the stairwell and asked if the women were in there. Archer told them not to open that door but they reiterated their question about the missing women. The bumping noise was still there, sporadic, but still audible from outside the bolted door. Finally, Archer smiled, “Yes, one of the women is in locked there. Go, let her out, you fools.” Dracona and Fredryck moved to the door while Priscilla, Evgenia and Archibald kept their weapons trained on Archer and the unconscious Falstaff.
Dracona unbolted the door and swung it open. The storage room was unlit but the light streaming in revealed a female form that turned and approached the open door. As the light played over the woman, they could see that it was the woman that the Veiled Lady had described that was sent to Mr. Sharpe before Jane Culver.
But, the woman’s eyes were rolled back in their sockets, a gray haze of death upon them. Her mouth was agape with a deep blue stain within it and her skin looked as if she’d been dead for a week. There was no grace in her gait, no breath from her lips, no life in her eyes … only some insatiable need to kill and feed. Archer laughed, “I told you! Do you see how close we are? She died a week ago but moves, again! We were just about to take her body for dumping when she started moving, again! We’re so close! She lives!” But, life was not what was in this woman.
The figure of the woman struck at Fredtyck with surprising strength for her small frame … the strength of undeath. Priscilla fired at it, hit the creature in the chest and it didn’t even flinch. Fredryck struck it hard with his sword but the thick dead skin of the corpse resisted the wounds he imparted. Dracona took a swig from her flask and blew fire upon it. That seemed to do damage it but it ignored that it was on fire, its need to kill and feed greater than its own survival as it struck, again, slamming Fredryck with its fist and biting him.
Archer started laughing at their efforts. “You can’t kill her! She’s immortal! All we need to do is figure out how to reduce the ill effects and we can all be immortal! Don’t you see? We need to complete our work!” Indeed, the creature seemed to almost regenerate the damage that Fredryck imparted to it. But the burns … perhaps that was how to put the poor woman’s spirit to rest …