Niall has left us. The heiress Caroline Mathilde showed up with a baby on her arm, and told him that he was the father. So he left with her. I am a little dissapointed that he reneged on his promise to Artemis to look out for me, but I am sure that Artemis will understand that Caroline Mathilde and the babe needs his protection more than I do. He did after all help save my life during the trial, and for that I will be forever grateful.
I found the perfect weddinggift in a pawnshop: a lion carved in jade. I like jade. It is cool and smooth to the touch, and comes in so many lovely green colors. I ask Mackenzie when the wedding is, but she frowns a little and says: “Good question”. “But aren’t they supposed to get married now there is a baby?” I ask bewildered. Mackenzie looks a little resigned “That is what I used to think” she says and leaves it at that. Well, my present is ready and wrapped for when we get the invitations.
Now on to the case: Cassie asked for the story, and Vincent and I tell her. Vincent begins:
“Well, as you already know, someone from Briscoll contacted M about a bunch of disappearances among the poor people there. Since there were also rumours smelling like something demonic might be involved, M decided to send Grace and me to take a look. We got to Briscoll by train – third class, you never know who’s watching – and met up with our contact there. His name is Atkins, and he turned out to be a copper, an elderly desk sergeant at the local police department, with exactly the huge bushy moustache you’d expect. Ha, coppers: so lovingly predictable. I tried to discover how he knew about the Society, but he wouldn’t say anything except that he wasn’t supposed to talk about it. I really don’t think he liked me … at all. In fact, he didn’t really seem to like people in general”. “He even seemed sceptical about me” I add to prove the point. “Because you gave him your ‘descendent of Artemis’ spiel” Vincent says and gives me a look. “Oh. Yes. I should probably tone that down a bit, huh?”. Vincent nods and looks at Cassie. She nods too. Ok, got it. No bragging about family relations to the authorities. “Anyway”, Vincent continues “He summed up that there had been nine disappearances and several sightings of people with glowing eyes during the last three weeks in a poor part of town called Shambles. The police captain had all but ignored the whole thing, but Atkins felt convinced that there really was a problem.
We needed an in to talk to the locals, so we asked Atkins to tell us as much as he could about the missing persons, and those related to them. Turned out one had told the sergeant that her friend, Molly Bates, who had gone missing, “might have people in the capital”, so we decided to pose as Molly’s cousin and her boyfriend, who had come to find her. Briscoll’s poor parts are nicer than ours, but not by much, and everybody are as wary of strangers there as they are here, but we managed to talk to Molly’s friend, Abby. She said that everybody was afraid to go out at night, because people with glowing eyes were grabbing people off the streets after dark. I wasn’t ready to believe her, but she was convinced that she had seen glowing eyes in dark alleys twice herself and had talked to several others who had seen them in person too”.
“Grace and I started patrolling, and on our second night out we spotted someone creeping around, trying to remain unseen. I trailed him – almost sure it was a guy – and Grace followed us both at a distance. At one point it looked like our suspect was going to ambush another person, but Grace managed to throw a rock or something”. “I did” I add “A bit of cobblestone, it was”. Vincent nods and continues “The noise scared the other person away. When our suspect looked around, I managed to see his eyes – and they were glowing alright. When no new victim came along, the bad guy decided to call it a night, so we followed him to a bakery, where he went around the back, and down the staircase to the basement. A huge guy opened the door and lo and behold: he had glowing eyes as well. Great! More than one, right? And what’s more, Grace got close enough to feel that there was something demony present”. I nod and shudder at the thought. “We stayed until morning, and when the bakery opened, we went in to have a look and buy some breakfast. Guess who we see standing behind the counter, yes, none other than the huge guy from the basement. No glowing eyes, and he seems perfectly normal, if a little tired, talking to some local customer. We play it cool, even though Grace looks like she might club him right then and there”. “I would never!” I exclaim “Not unless he had attacked us with a baguette or something. Callum was very clear about first aggressions!”. “I’m just saying you had the look” Vincent says and smiles reassuringly at me. “Well, yes” I say “But I was thinking all the while ‘don’t club him!’, ‘don’t club him!’. And I didn’t”. Cassie smile. “I’m proud of you” she says, and nod to Vincent to carry on. “We buy our bread and get out fast. Back to our room, eat and sleep for a few hours, then back to stake out the bakery. After a few minutes a woman comes out of the back of the bakery, a shopping basket on her arm, strolling down the street, like everything’s peachy. We trail the woman to a local market where Grace suggest we try to talk to her. If there’s a demon, she should be able to sense it, and if there isn’t, we might be able to get her to help us. That’s what we do, and no demon”. “Well, a slight trace of demon” I explain “But that is common with someone in daily contact with demons. But I didn’t feel a presence as such”. Vincent continues “We chat her up, telling her that we are looking for our cousin and if she has seen her. Her name’s Mary and she has of course heard about the disappearances, but haven’t seen or heard anything useful. Fortunately for her, she is married to the local baker, George, who happens to be a huge guy, so she feels quite safe. Grace and I exchange glances, and after a short whisper, out of earshot, decide to tell her. So, we ask her if she has noticed anything … off, about her husband of late. No? Because we saw him with glowing eyes, letting another man, also with glowing eyes, into their basement, just this morning. She gives us a strange look, but after a moment, she seem to settle and admits that he has seemed distant, been coming and going at odd hours and has acted strange on more than one occasion. The more she thinks about it, the more she is convinced that her hubbie must be the leader, and she wants to help us catch him, so we can get the demon out of him without harming him. As I well know, helping him might not be possible, but capturing him without a fuss seems like a really good idea, so we make a plan together. The wife will make sure he is alone in the basement that night, spike his ale with sleeping powder and light a candle in the window, when he’s unconscious to let us know it’s safe to come tie him up and move him. We get a sturdy handcart, strong chains and ropes and convince Atkins that we will need a cell to hold Demon George in, once we get him to the police station. There we would keep him sedated with the laudanum drops we’ve secured and call in the experts – nothing to it”.
“Everything goes exactly as planned … but not by our plan. As soon as we get into the basement the door slaps shut behind us and we get jumped by Demon George and his four demon buddies. I manage to jump over some stuff and draw my sword and get busy keeping them at bay. I see Grace club one of them good, before another one trips me and a few painful moment later, I black out. Sometime later, I wake up and Grace fills me in on the rest of the action. You wanna finish the story Grace?” I nod.
“Well, I see Vincent get a nasty whack over his head with a rolling pin by the baker. He drops like a sack of potatoes, and I’m really scared for him!”. Cassie shudders and grabs Vincent’s arm. He pats her hand reassuringly. “It was strange. I really tried to figure out which one of the red eyed guys was the real demon, but they all just seemed controlled somehow. Tainted, but not possessed. Then, as one, they turn on me, and I feel a surge of demonic power. But streaming out of Mary, who sits in a corner, not the others! As I try to fight of the controlled men, I manage to get a feel of Mary. And the demon is shimmering just under the surface. Very well hidden, but every time she utters a command, it is clearly visible. The woman Mary was just a thin veneer over a squat, spiky, greenish demon with too many teeth and viciously glowing eyes. I run towards it, but the demon just throws its puppets in my way. I try not to crack skulls, but I do crack a few arms and legs, before I reach the demon and bring down my club on its head with all my force! The demon sort of implodes, and the body of Mary hisses and falls and starts to smell really bad! It looks like she has been dead for weeks. Behind me the baker and the others just drop, like puppets with their strings cut”. I shudder. “I have read about such rituals. A demon possesses someone stupid enough to call it – in this case probably Mary – and makes the puppet ritual: Each ritual requires a puppet – or you know: a man or woman to become a puppet – and a sacrifice – some poor person who just gets to die. Since Mary had made her husband into a puppet, which demanded a sacrifice, and four other men, which each demanded a sacrifice, all nine disappearances were accounted for. I run to Vincent and find him breathing, but unconscious. I tie up the baker and the four other men, just to be sure, and then manage to wake Vincent. He had a concussion, I think, so he is a bit groggy, but he is on his feet by the time the five men come to. They don’t remember anything when they wake up, and get really upset, when they see the remains of Mary, especially the baker, who almost breaks the ropes. They yell at us, and accuse us of attacking them and killing Mary. They believe nothing we say to them. So we go get Atkins, and he manages to make them see sense. Later he also clears us with the authorities, who are none too pleased with the whole matter. A search of the baker’s basement revealed five fresh graves, Molly Bates’ included, and the whole thing was written off as mass murder, committed by Mary – which was sort of, but not quite, true, as it was the demon, not the silly baker’s wife, who had actually done the killing. Atkins was recommended for solving the crime, but was good enough to take us out for dinner the next evening. At least he knew who to thank. We had to stay a few more days, until Vincent’s concussion had abated. I got a chance to look around Briscoll, especially their geological museum, which was quite remarkable! Do you know they’ve found fossilized remains of ancient beasts in the cliffs outside of Briscoll? I would love to get the chance to see those cliffs at some time. But I had to write up our report for M and send it. We got her answer on the morning before our return: ‘Well done. Try not to be so gullible next time’. That’s all it said” I sigh. Expecting praise from M probably was too much to expect. “We got on the train home – third class again, off course – and it was a nightmare! Seriously, I think that the train ride home was worse than fighting demons and puppets! Some farmer had decided that goats counted as pets, and five of them was allowed to travel in the passenger’s compartment! One of them ate 11 inches of my dress’ hem, before I caught on and shooed it away. When the man and the goats got off an absurdly large family got on. Three boys in the under 10 category occupied the seat next to Vincent and spent the ride climbing on and around him”. Vincent points to the tiny muddy footprints on his pants and sleeves. Cassie toots. “And the mother sat next to me with two babies. A really tiny one and and older one that kept crying. She dumped the older one on me, saying that would I mind holding the little kid, and suddenly I had a snot nosed baby in my arms. Now I like babies, but this one was bawling, and moist goo came out of several orifices of it. Tears and snot and more smelly things. I sacrificed two handkerchiefs on it, and managed to get it tolerably clean, but it would only calm down if I walked up and down the aisle with it. It fell asleep seconds before we reached London!” I deflate in my chair. “Really, Cassie, I think I prefer demons to babies. Much less trouble”. Cassie laughs and pours me some more tea. “Get a bath in the bathhouse” she says “My treat. And meet up with me in The Golden Goose tonight. Dinner’s on me”. She kisses Vincent lightly on the cheek and pulls me out of the chair to embrace me and breezes out the door. Vincent and I smile at each other. Cassie is a breeze of fresh air, and we willingly follow her advice.