Beatrix Castine

"If you really want to know, I don't mind telling you... for a price."

0 · 463 views · located in Steampowered London - 1885

a character in “Death Comes to London”, originally authored by Nemeseia, as played by RolePlayGateway

So begins...

Beatrix Castine's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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London - Office of Ramsey and Associates, Inc.
June 15, 1885 - 10:04 a.m. - Drizzle
Beatrix Castine

Beatrix tugged the coat closer to her body that provided some shelter from the drizzle. The rain would be heavier around the evening, however; she wanted to find the source of the tingle, as she called it, first. She was always more aware than most people, seeing things she ought not to, hearing things that were not meant for the living, however; she needed this more than anything. There were things happing in her troupe, things she couldn't quite explain. What she'd learned from the tingle, though, was that there were people who could help her.

It had led her to a building that felt odd. She could feel the presence of something she had no name for, however; she pulled in a deep breath, and pushed the door open. The soft chiming of the bell caused her to look up at it, and tilt her head. It sounded almost like the bell Julian used for his performances. Shaking her thoughts, she turned her attention towards the inside, spotting a young woman sitting at a desk. Her hair was lighter than Beatrix's own, being closer to an ash hue, whereas Beatrix's was more along the lines of a wheat color. Another woman sat to the left, her hair a dark brown in color.

“Oh, hello," she spoke, lowering the tone of her voice just a smidge. She was under her guise as a boy today, her hair tucked away beneath a hat, and a simple white shirt tucked into trousers. Her boots were black in color, resting just beneath her knees. She had a brown overcoat on as well, giving her more of a paperboy appearance than anything. It helped hide the more feminine aspects of her profile. “I was wondering if you may be able to service me," she continued, keeping a friendly smile on her face to appear non-threatening.

The dark-haired woman looked up first, her face almost startlingly doll-like, an upturned little nose and rose-colored lips set neatly beneath a very large pair of green eyes. She blinked slightly, as if trying to parse Beatrix's English. "Please come in," she said, a gesture inviting Beatrix to step away from the threshold. "Are you in need of Mr. Ramsey? He is the investigator here." Her accent was musical, but difficult to place. It emulated the soft verbiage of the well-spoken and well-educated elite, but there was something about it that was off somehow.

“Is that his name?" she asked. The light-haired woman nodded in Beatrix's direction, standing momentarily and trained her eye on Beatrix. It was a little startling, if anything, but Beatrix merely smiled. The woman was as pretty as the brown haired young woman, with soft blue eyes, however; where the other woman's eyes were large and jovial, the other woman's were narrow and wary.

“What business do you have with Mr. Ramsey?" she asked, arching a brow in Beatrix's direction. Beatrix cleared her throat softly, and allowed her smile to widen.

“I was hoping he could help me with a dilemma," she stated her claim, watching as the light-haired woman's lips pursed together. She finally sighed, her shoulders slumping slightly before she straightened back out.

“I'll fetch him; wait here," she spoke, walking out from behind the desk, and disappearing into a back area. Beatrix nodded and kept her eyes on the brown haired woman.

“I'm Bea, by the way," she introduced herself. It was masculine enough that it wouldn't jeopardize her disguise. Besides, it wasn't too uncommon for some people to be without a surname. Plus, the English's way of addressing people was rather strange, calling people Lady, Lord, Miss, or Mr. depending on their status. While Beatrix adhered to the policy, she loathed being called Mr. Castine, or Miss Castine in some instances.

The dark-haired woman smiled, the expression subtly strange in a similar manner to her voice. "I'm Charlotte," she replied politely, then amended. "Charlotte Blythe. Please feel welcome to take a seat." She set about tidying some of the work off the desk, though it wasn't exactly clear what kind of work they'd do here.

There wasn't any time to find out more, however, as the second woman returned, followed by a gentleman with dark golden hair and foggy violet eyes, partially obscured by square spectacles. He was quite tall, and built well if the fit of his waistcoat and straight black trousers was any indication. Like Beatrix, he wore a white long sleeved shirt buttoned to his neck, with a dark grey cravat. He certainly didn't seem to need to hide any aspect of his profile with a coat, and indeed his eyes narrowed almost immediately at hers. It was a bit odd to be wearing one in the summer, even if it was drizzling.

"I'm Ramsey," he said, almost curtly. His eyes swept her once, though not in the manner of some men she'd encountered. The assessment was cold; clinical, even, as if she were more specimen than person. "My apprentice tells me you have a problem, Miss...?" Dislike of formality or not, he did not seem like the kind of person to press the point with.

And he'd seen completely through her disguise, it seemed.

If her case hadn't been so pressing, Beatrix might have been in awe, however; she smoothed out her coat, and nodded her head. “Beatrix Castine," she answered, giving her name in the process and returning her voice to its normal, feminine tone. There was no point in feigning ignorance, after all. “I am not quite sure if it's a problem, moreso than it's a murder," she stated, pursing her lips together.

“Recently, members of my... troupe have been disappearing. It's been happening since we left Dublin," she stated, allowing her gaze to fall to the floor. “Only one member was ever found, but..." she paused, and glanced back up to Mr. Ramsey.

“He was found dead," she continued.

“Are you saying he was murdered, Miss Castine? He could have died of a natural cause," the light-haired woman spoke, causing Beatrix to frown.

“I could sense he'd gone in a violent manner," she retorted. She didn't quite like the woman's implication that Jacque might have died naturally. He had been one of the most healthy people in her troupe. And he'd never touched the drink, like her ringmaster did.

Ramsey hummed quietly, shooting the woman he'd called his apprentice a slight sideward glance, almost as if vaguely surprised by her adamant tone. But his eyes landed back on Beatrix just a moment later. "Explain what you mean by 'sense,' if you please." He didn't sound chastising or skeptical or anything like that. In fact there was very little feeling in his tone at all, but what was there seemed to be simple curiosity.

She sighed softly. “I'm..." she paused, hesitating only for a second before she continued, “I'm what most people consider a medium, or a psychic to others. I can't speak to you telepathically, or that kind of nonsense, but I can vaguely read the future through tarot cards, and..." she paused again.

“I can sense the spiritual, or supernatural. Whatever term it is that you use," she explained. “It's like the aura that you emit, Mr. Ramsey. It isn't human, but it's not something I've encountered before. The same with Miss Blythe," she stated, continuing her explanation as she glanced in Miss Blythe's direction. As far as she could tell, the light haired woman and herself were the only humans in the building.

“When Jacque died, though, his essence was still lingering. It was like his soul hadn't quite left his body, yet, and I felt it. The rage, the surprise, the guilt," and so many other emotions she couldn't put a name to.

He nodded slightly. "I suspect you are not in a position to pay for my services," he said, bluntly but not unkindly. "However, given the circumstances, I am willing to offer them to you anyway." Ramsey crossed his arms over his chest, standing with the same well-centered, effortless balance of a tightrope walker. "Does your employer know you've sought me out?"

Beatrix flinched slightly. “No, he doesn't," she answered. “But... there's a reason for that," she quickly added, standing a little taller than was necessary. She was nervous about the admission she was about to make. The aura Jacque left behind felt familiar, like he knew who it was before he died. It has to be someone in the troupe, otherwise Jacque would never have let his guard down. He was our blademaster," she stated. Jacque was the one who entertained people with his blades; whether he was juggling them, throwing them, or swallowing them, that was his gift.

“And if it was someone Jacque knew, my employer might be behind it," she confessed softly. She couldn't rule anyone out, not when it was this personal.

"Reasonable," he replied, nodding just slightly as if in approval. "However, that will necessitate a change in our usual approach..." He paused for a moment, glancing at Charlotte before his attention fixed more firmly on the woman who hadn't introduced herself. "I suppose Vera has taught you some unnecessarily-flashy shots by this point, Miss Whitaker?"

“She has been teaching me everything she knows," the woman, Miss Whitaker, stated, arching a delicate brow in Mr. Ramsey's direction. Beatrix was slightly confused, though. Why would Miss Whitaker need to know flashy shots? “She has also been teaching me other, fun things, if that is what you meant," she added, glancing back towards Beatrix.

“I don't follow," she finally spoke. If Miss Whitaker didn't appear as stoic as Mr. Ramsey, Bea would have thought that she looked slightly amused.

"I believe Mr. Ramsey is implying that we will be going undercover for this," Charlotte added, her voice oddly bright for the topic of discussion.

But it obviously didn't register as odd to Ramsey, or if it did he completely ignored the fact. "If the troupe is seeking new talent, yes. I believe that would be our best way in."

“That's... actually very bright," Beatrix spoke, smiling to match Miss Blythe's. She felt oddly comforted by that declaration. “With Jacque gone, along with a couple of our other members, my employer will be seeking new talent. I can put in a good word for the three of you," she stated, watching as Miss Whitaker frowned slightly.

“I just hope Mr. Jaziri doesn't catch wind of this," Miss Whitaker spoke, though it was more of a mutter beneath her breath.

"Very well," the investigator replied. "If you'll give us a location, and a time convenient for you, we will arrange our schedules and appear tomorrow."

“Do you have paper and a pen?" Beatrix asked. Miss Whitaker nodded her head, and made her way towards the desk where Miss Blythe was sitting. She retreived a piece of paper, along with a quill, and handed it to Beatrix. “You'll find the tent, here," she stated, writing down the address so that it was eligible. “It's best if you come first thing in the morning. Our performances are usually slated for an afternoon and evening time frame."

Beatrix handed the paper back to Miss Whitaker when she was finished, and watched as she took it to Mr. Ramsey. “Thank you... very much," she spoke, as she glanced back to Mr. Ramsey.

"Thank us when the work is done," he said tersely, but the slight nod that accompanied the words softened them just slightly. "We'll be there."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Circo Della Notte Grounds
June 16, 1885 - 07:00 a.m. - Fog
Ephraim Ramsey

'First thing in the morning' wasn't exactly the same for a circus troupe as it was for everyone else. Like the staff at the Red Moon, for example, they tended to run later into the night, and many didn't necessarily sleep until around sunup. That said, even in deference to this fact Ephraim did not desire to be late, so he'd arranged for the group to appear shortly after sunrise.

Despite Miss Lancaster's desires, Mr. Jaziri had caught wind of their plans and invited himself along. Ephraim did not see this as wholly bad, as he'd promised to bring a few pieces of portable alchemy equipment, which should suitably expedite any tests necessary during the investigation while allowing them to keep cover. He was unsure what appropriate talents the dhampir intended to audition with, but he also didn't care.

Hoisting his satchel slightly higher on his shoulder, he cast a glance over his shoulder to check on the others. He had no idea what excuse Miss Lancaster had given her father for an indeterminate absence, but that wasn't his business either. Everyone had dressed reasonably appropriately, at least. Carnies were not wealthy in general, and could not afford custom tailoring or anything at their typical respective price points, so in effect they were disguised. Ephraim himself had donned a slightly frayed waistcoat and a shirt about a size too large, soft with use rather than crisp as he usually preferred. His trousers and boots were of a similar quality, though the dark brown and white was inoffensive as far as color combinations went.

He'd also foregone his spectacles, which was annoying because he could now see death clocks regardless of whether he wanted to, but he'd learned to ignore them when he had to. It was... somewhat reassuring that those of his companions who had them had large, constantly fluctuating numbers—no one was in imminent danger, of course. Miss Blythe still unsettlingly lacked one.

Satisfied that they were following at a decent pace, he passed under the faded arch that read Circo Della Notte in decorative, embellished letters. The print was white against a deep blue background, and featured a silvery star motif. Clearly it had seen better days, financially; the paint was chipped and the tents they approached were dingy in the encroaching daylight. Ephraim wondered if the troupe had always plied a nocturnal theme or if it had simply become necessary to do so in order to conceal the signs of creeping destitution.

Either way, he filed the facts in the back of his mind and dwelt on them no further.

The first person they came across happened to be Miss Castine. She cast them a bright smile, passing off the cloth she was holding to another person. She spoke something to them, causing the woman who'd taken the cloth to glance in Ephraim's general direction. She nodded in what seemed to be in an agreeing manner before Miss Castine made her way towards him. She was dressed in a similar manner she'd been yesterday, however; the hat was missing, and her hair had been pulled back into a short tail.

“I'm glad you made it!" she chirped, folding her hands in front of her as she rolled on her heels. “Master Bianchi will be expecting you near his tent," she stated, her eyes glancing over the group. “Oh, I've not been acquainted with you, Mr..." she trailed off when her eyes landed on Mr. Jaziri. He flashed her a bright, crooked smile. Miss Lancaster visibly rolled her eyes at the gesture, but said nothing as Mr. Jaziri stepped forward.

Placing one hand across his abdomen, Mr. Jaziri bowed, keeping his head up so that he was still looking at Miss Castine. “Khalil Jaziri, at your service," he spoke. Miss Castine laughed softly, before shaking her head.

“I would give you a proper introduction, Mr. Khalil, however; Master Bianchi will be expecting you all... soon," she spoke, stepping off to the side. Her mode of address only caused Mr. Jaziri's grin to widen. “If you'll follow me, I can take you to him," she stated, taking a few steps forward and glancing over her shoulder. Miss Lancaster was the first to follow Miss Castine. They followed her to a tent that was not as decrepit as the others. It was well kept, if anything. As they neared, a man appeared through the flap, dressed in red trousers, and a simple white shirt. He had a round stature, and his hair was dark and curly, pulled back into a low tail. The beard sprouting from his face was long, falling to the center of his abdomen.

He took a drink from a jug in his hands before his eyes landed on the group. "Who the hell are you all? We're not open yet," he spoke, turning to spit to the side.

Ephraim easily suppressed his distaste, speaking before one of the others could say something clever and ruin their chances at this before they'd even begun. "We're lookin' for work," he said, gesturing vaguely behind him at the others and affecting an accent decidedly more lower-class than the one he typically used. Cockney, it was called. "Seas'nal. Maybe longer, if yeh figure we're up to code. 'Eard you had a few op'nens."

The man arched a thick brow at Ephraim, his dark eyes narrowing slightly. “You must be the group Castine was talking about," he spoke, glancing towards Miss Castine. She fidgeted beneath his stare, but kept her smile on her face.

“They are, and they're really talented, Master Bianchi! I think..." she was cut short when he raised a hand in a gesture meant to silence. She took a step back as the man stepped forward. His eyes lingered on Ephraim for a moment before they swept over towards the others. He lingered a little longer on Miss Lancaster and Miss Blythe for a moment too long, before he swept back towards Ephraim. He made a tsking noise as he took another drink from his jug.

“Dressed poorly, posture all wrong, what makes you think you've the talent?" he asked, putting an emphasis on the word.

Suppressing the desire to roll his eyes now was harder. This man was by all indications lacking employees and hardly in a position to be choosy based on wardrobe, but Ephraim had been expecting some obstacles.

"C'n always change th' clothes," he said with a shrug, hefting his satchel again. "As fer the talent, well... howabouts we demonstrate and you c'n decide for yourself?"

The man simply took a long swig from the jug, before letting out a satisfied breath. “Fine. Trixie, take them to the large tent. I'll meet you there in five. Whatever your talent is, the large tent will have all the supplies necessary to demonstrate," he spoke, ducking back into his tent. Miss Castine was still smiling, though it seemed a little strained by the time he disappeared.

“I'm sorry for Master Bianchi. He hasn't quite had his fill for the day so he's a little grumpy," she spoke, earning a light scoff from Miss Lancaster.

“Charming," she spoke, the sarcasm dripping from her voice. If it bothered Miss Castine, she didn't show it, and instead, turned on her heel to lead them to the tent. Mr. Jaziri was abnormally quiet, though that might have been for the best.

“So, what did you have in mind, Mr. Ramsey? That way I can set you up, first."

As soon as he stepped into the tent, Ephraim's posture straightened, and he dropped the accent, confident that there was no one around but them. "I'm with her," he said, tilting his chin towards Miss Lancaster. "If you set the targets up however she wants them, I will be able to accommodate accordingly." He had determined that, given the nature of Miss Lancaster's act and her need for assistance in certain parts, they would be better served as a unit.

He dropped the satchel he'd been carrying on the ground, and unbuttoned his sleeves to roll them up. His forearms were inked in arcane tattoos, the black ink stark against the light tan of his complexion. This was a fact that, while it might work against him in genteel company, wouldn't matter a whit to carnies. If anything it made him more believable as one.

Once the sleeves rested just below his elbows, he opened the satchel and withdrew a heavy bandoleer, host to a dozen identically-sized knife sheaths, all of them occupied.

Mr. Jaziri snickered softly at Ephraim's comment, but didn't give his own. Miss Castine merely nodded and turned her attention to Miss Lancaster. “So are you going to be throwing knives at Mr. Ramsey? Because if that's the case, we can set up the targets in this general area. That way, they don't risk accidentally hitting someone." Miss Lancaster raised a brow in Miss Castine's direction, almost as if she were offended, however; she smiled and shook her head.

“No, Miss Castine. I will be shooting the targets in a flashy manner," she spoke, shooting Ephraim a smirk before returning her attention towards Miss Castine. “And Mr. Ramsey will be acting as my assistant in a particular scene," she continued.

“Oh, that'll be lovely to watch," Miss Castine spoke, turning her attention towards Mr. Jaziri and Miss Blythe. “And what of the two of you? Will you be a duo act as well?" she asked, seemingly curious to their answer. Mr. Jaziri shook his head, though.

“Unfortunately, not. How acquainted with the spiritual is your ring master?" he asked. “Ramsey informed me of your particular gift," he added as a confused expression crossed Miss Castine's face.

“Ah, that would explain why your aura isn't quite human, either. Um, he's a collector of the strange and wayward, but he's quite aware of the unnatural if that's what you mean," she stated, causing Mr. Jaziri to grin.

“Great. Then I'll just be his man-beast. He doesn't have one of those, right?" he asked as Miss Castine shook her head in response.

Ephraim looked sharply at him. "First Law," he reminded tersely. "Even if the owner is aware, the audience may not be. Make sure it looks plausibly fake before any of them see it." It didn't have to be obviously false, but it couldn't be obviously-real, either.

“Oh, right, right," Mr. Jaziri spoke, pursing his lips together. “What about an animal tamer? You got one of those, 'cause I'm really good with bears," he stated, still grinning as he did. Miss Castine furrowed her brows a bit, but nodded her head.

“We do, but I'm sure Maestro wouldn't mind a second hand. We do have a bear named Petunia, though, that hasn't seen a show since her last tamer died. Oh, perhaps you could step in with her!" she stated. Mr. Jaziri merely nodded his head.

“And what of you, Miss Blythe?"

When eyes turned to his assistant, it was to find her in the process of shucking her long skirt. She had leggings and a shorter one on underneath, of course, but circus costuming was hardly modest by present standards, and she'd dressed beneath her outermost layers with movement in mind. She seemed not at all embarrassed, and indeed smoothed down the knee-length skirt with a smile. It was made of chiffon, he thought, something light and effervescent like that.

"I can do a bit of tumbling," she said, rather modestly in Ephraim's estimation. Still, he knew he didn't have to remind her about the First Law. She'd keep it within reasonably human parameters.

“Oh, that sounds like you'd be a perfect fit in Miss Tanner's group. They were a trio of acrobats before Adelaide left. I'll go set up the areas while we wait for Master Bianchi," she spoke, leaving the group to themselves. True to his word, Mr. Bianchi appeared five minutes later, just as Miss Castine finished setting up the first act for Ephraim and Miss Lancaster.

“Alright, let's see what you've got, then," he stated, rolling out his shoulders. “You going first?" he asked, keeping his gaze with Ephraim's. He didn't seem to mind who actually went first, though, from the way his eyes began to roam between the group.

Ephraim nodded shortly, making brief eye contact with Miss Lancaster and drawing one of the knives from his bandolier.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

London - Circo Della Notte Grounds
June 18, 1885 - 10:13 a.m. - Overcast

Charlotte spooned another mouthful of tasteless oatmeal from the small bowl in front of her, humming thoughtfully as she ate. From her position at this table in the food tent, she could see most of the other occupants. Though Mr. Harris and Mr. Davis had probably eaten hours ago, this was about the time that most of the actual performers started to wake up, she'd learned.

The first couple days of their time with the circus hadn't been that eventful. Mostly they met people, pretended to choose costuming and setups for their acts, helped out with chores, and met the other members of the troupe. A lot of them were temporary, like she was supposed to be, but there was a core group let of about fifteen people, including four roadies, ten performers of various types, and the ringmaster. She knew everyone's names by now, at least, and had started noting their habits as well as she could.

She was at a bit of a disadvantage in this regard in a certain way, though. Charlotte didn't know enough about humans to be able to filter her observations, to know what was odd and what was perfectly normal. When Mr. Parker the temporary juggler and Miss O'Donaghue the trick rider entered the tent together, she noted that they did this at every meal, but this time Mr. Parker did not seem to have combed his hair that morning. But she knew he was usually well-kept, ad had probably done so when he woke. So what had messed it up? And why was there a smudge of something reddish fading at the edge of his collar?

Oh. The answer hit her all at once: they'd been kissing. Was that important, though? Charlotte had no idea, so she filed it away with all the other information, unsure it was safe to ignore. People sometimes committed crimes because of related things; Amelia's first case with the group was proof enough of that.

A movement closer to her drew her attention. Mrs. Blanchette set down her bowl of oatmeal with a grimace and dropped heavily onto the bench opposite her. “So bloody obvious, aren't they?" she asked, her tone conveying a grumpiness that Charlotte thought had more to do with the fact that she'd just woken up than anything.

Mrs. Blanchette was usually a tumbler, but as she was currently about halfway through a pregnancy, she wasn't able to perform at the moment. Her husband, Mr. Blanchette, was Charlotte's partner for her act. Mrs. Blanchette supervised practice and suggested things still, and though she was a bit acerbic, it hardly bothered Charlotte. She spent most of her time around Mr. Ramsey, after all.

"Should they be keeping it secret?" she asked, puzzled. Everyone seemed to make such a to-do about who was kissing whom, which Charlotte thought was kind of silly. Kissing looked kind of silly itself, honestly. She found it hard to believe it was so enjoyable.

Mrs. Blanchette sighed, tugging at her loose dress with clear frustration. It didn't seem to want to lay right; it was very big on her even with her pregnancy taken into account, and looked too heavy to be comfortable at this time of year. “Trust me, dear, that hasn't been secret for ages. Lydia's just being dramatic so people go back to talking about her instead of you lot."

"About us?" Charlotte cocked her head to the side. She wasn't sure it would be useful information, but maybe it could be. "What are people saying?"

The older woman waved a hand, digging into her oatmeal with a sigh. “There's always gossip about newcomers. Outlandish, usually. Some idiot was saying that Mr. Bianchi and Davis got into a fistfight over your friend. Amelia?" At Charlotte's nod, she hummed around a spoonful of oatmeal. “That kind of thing. It's just people blowing off steam."

“Hm, but who can really blame them?" Mr. Jaziri spoke, holding a bowl of what appeared to be oatmeal as well. He didn't immediately touch it, nor did he move to take a seat. He simply stood at the side of the table and grinned at Mrs. Blanchette. “Miss Whitaker's a lovely specimen, but it also explains why she's been hanging around Ramsey more," he continued, finally placing his spoon inside of the bowl and scooping out a bite. He ate his oatmeal before it looked like he'd decided to finally sit. He sat on the same side as Charlotte, but left a decent space between them.

“But what about you Mrs. Blanchette? How're you holding up with that little 'un?" he asked, genuine intrigue laced in his voice, or so it seemed. Mr. Jaziri had taken to the circus quite easily when they'd arrived, perhaps because he'd always been different. Maybe this felt normal to him compared to his every day life?

“Getting enough nutrition?"

She tilted an eyebrow at him, something Charlotte thought might have been amusement flicking over her features. “When I can keep it down, yes. I for one have never appreciated the plainness of Mr. Downey's cooking as much as I do right now." She raised her voice on the last part, loud enough to be heard across the tent. A few chuckles followed, including from the cook, Mr. Downey himself.

“Made it special for you, Ginger," he replied without missing a beat.

Mrs. Blanchette grinned and shook her head, turning back to Charlotte and Mr. Jaziri. She absently patted her stomach, then took another bite. “Anyway, I meant to ask after all you new ones. I know Charlotte here's settling into her act so well I'm worried about my job," she said, in a tone Charlotte interpreted as jocular. “But how are you, Mr. Jaziri? I know Adam can be a bit... terse, with the new hires. Prefers animals to people."

Mr. Jaziri merely chuckled, and grinned a little wider. “It's been pretty interesting. I just pretend I'm one of those animals so it makes getting along with him rather easy," he spoke, though the way he said it sounded like he was being serious. The snort that escaped him a few seconds later deemed otherwise.

“It's not as bad as it could be. People like me are used to being ostracized, after all, but Adam's been really decent," he spoke, his grin softening to a smile. He took another bite of his oatmeal before speaking again. “On a sidenote, do let me know if there's anything I can do for you to make it easier. I've picked up a few things about certain herbs and medicines along the road," he stated. He grinned as if a sudden thought amused him.

“You should name her Petunia!" he stated. “She's been a real doll, and I'm sure you'd have one, too," he continued, perhaps referring to Mrs. Blanchette's child.

She snorted at that. “And here Henri is convinced we're having a boy," she replied, though before she could say any more, Mr. Harris burst into the tent, pale and askew.

“It's—Adam!" he said, panting for breath. “In the animal tent, he—"

Enough noise erupted to drown out the words. Charlotte rose to her feet immediately, knowing there was about to be a crowd and understanding that the need to preserve the scene was vital.

“Oh..." Mrs. Blanchette looked vaguely queasy, but when Charlotte hesitated, unsure if she should help, the woman waved a hand. “You two go ahead. Don't let them all gawk at the poor man, you hear?"

Mr. Jaziri's face betrayed nothing of what his was feeling, if he was feeling anything at all. He merely nodded at Mrs. Blanchette and glanced towards Charlotte. “We better get there before anyone else has a chance," he spoke low enough for her to hear. He glanced over his shoulder, as if to make sure Charlotte was following him, before walking ahead. Once they were a far enough distance, Mr. Jaziri's face turned into a scowl.

“I was just with him not more than half an hour ago," he muttered, as if he were talking to himself, and not Charlotte. “I didn't smell anything unusual or hear anything," he added, turning his attention to Charlotte. They passed a couple of smaller tents before they came to a larger one. It wasn't quite as large as the main tent, but it looked wide enough to fit a couple of the carriages inside of it.

“This is where he practices and tends to his animals," Mr. Jaziri spoke, opening the flap and motioning for Charlotte to step through, first. There were several pieces of equipment strewn about, and what appeared to be a stand in the middle of an arena. There were several other stands with large circles attached off to the side as well, however; a couple of cages seemed rather worn. The metal was rusted around the bars, and the wood looked like it'd been roughed up a bit.

What was more, one of them was open, hanging ajar.

Charlotte's eyes tracked to the left, and she gasped sharply.

In her short time with Mr. Ramsey, she'd seen a lot more death than most people ever would—some of them quite gruesome. But this... it was clear that Mr. Taylor, Adam, had been mauled by one of his own animals. He bore heavy slash wounds that had torn through the fabric of his shirt, and a large bite had crushed his collarbone and torn into the meat of his shoulder. More distressing still was the fact that there was no such creature in sight anywhere.

"Mr. Jaziri," Charlotte said, keeping her voice level and calm. "Which of the animals is currently missing?"

Mr. Jaziri clicked his tongue as he glanced around. “Sasha's missing," he finally stated, glancing down to Charlotte. “His lion, Sasha, is currently not in his cage. We need to find him before he attacks someone else," he stated, though his voice was soft. He sounded upset, but it didn't show on his facial expressions. His hand twitched slightly, and he moved forward as if to do something. He stopped, though, and shook his head.

“We should probably notify the others," he muttered, his brows furrowing softly.

Fortunately, they didn't have to; no doubt the commotion had done that already.

Mr. Ramsey stepped into the tent first, Amelia and Miss Beatrix on his heels. Mr. Harris lingered some way back, looking inside and wringing his hands. He seemed to be sweating a great deal for the climate conditions; perhaps he was anxious. She supposed that was an understandable reaction to seeing someone dead that you know.

"Mr. Ramsey—"

He cut her off with a shake of his head, his eyes flicking briefly to their audience. "I heard. Go, both of you."

Charlotte nodded gravely and turned to Mr. Jaziri, touching a hand softly to his elbow before heading out the same way they'd come in. That was supposed to be a kind gesture, right? A polite way of asking him to follow without saying anything? She thought so, anyway.

Only when they were well clear of the gathering crowd did she frown, tipping her head back. She still hadn't quite forgotten his reaction to her blood that one time, though they'd spoken no more of it. There were more important matters to deal with right now, regardless.

"Can you smell him?" she asked softly.

He sighed softly, but tilted his head upwards. His nostrils flared a few times before his head turned eastward. His eyes narrowed slightly in the direction; thick brush and some trees lined the view. He blinked slowly before he finally glanced back to Charlotte.

“He's still close by which is good," he paused and frowned, “but at the same time, it's not. We can't risk anyone else getting hurt." He kept his gaze steady with hers for a few moments, as if he were trying to read what was on her mind, or studying her face, however; his expression softened.

“We don't know what kind of condition Sasha's in. If he attacked Adam, chances are he'll attack us, too," he spoke, pursing his lips together into a fine line. “Will you do me a favor?" he began, his face taking on a serious expression. “I know you can handle yourself pretty well, but... will you stay behind me when we approach Sasha? I don't..." he paused and grimaced, almost as if he'd offended himself somehow.

“I don't want you to get hurt, or have a repeat of what happened at Dor's if you do." He seemed genuinely concerned for her saftey, if anything else.

Charlotte blinked. It was an awfully strange thing, to feel that someone was concerned about her safety. As far as she could tell, no injury she'd ever sustained had done her permanent damage, and she'd suffered more than a few in the early days of trying to figure out how her body worked. But the other concern at least made sense to her.

"I'll do my best," she said, placing a sincere hand over her heart. Even with the fabric there, she swore she could feel the slightly raised ridges in her skin. "But if you're in danger, I'm definitely going to try and protect you, so be prepared." She gave him a smile, then gestured for him to precede her.

That produced a small smile on Mr. Jaziri's face. “Sure thing, Miss Blythe. I'll consider it an honor of the highest regards."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Circo Della Notte Grounds
June 19, 1885 - 13:53 p.m. - Sunny
Ephraim Ramsey

It took considerable effort for Ephraim not to sneeze. The tent, made of garish dark purple fabric with embroidered starts, was filled with the smell of cheap incense, the kind made and purchased by people who could not afford the more delicate sorts that one might find in certain temples or shrines elsewhere in the world. He did not hold this fact against the tent's owner—merely the fact that she seemed to use an absurd excess of it.

He glared momentarily at the stick of it placed in a simple wooden censer, grey smoke curling benignly from the end. But the expression passed as quickly as it had appeared, and he refocused his attention on the subject of their interview—Miss Rowena Marsh, the troupe's senior soothsayer. He figured she had a modicum of real talent, which she likely oversupplemented with crystal balls and tea dregs and the like to make it look more 'real' to people who didn't know the first thing about metacognition.

Fortunately, most of the paraphernalia was absent at the moment. She and Miss Lancaster sat at the small, round table draped in heavy blue velvet, while he and Miss Castine stood at what distance the cramped tend would allow. It was where she conducted business, not where she slept, so sans the other drapes, strings of glass beads, muted sources of light, and the damnable censer, it was mostly empty. It managed to feel cluttered regardless.

"That is correct," he clarified, resisting the urge to grimace when his nose itched. "We are, in fact, here to investigate. As Miss Castine trusts you not to be the culprit, any insight you have would be of great value."


Miss Marsh simply nodded, strands of her greying red hair moving with the motion. “Is there something specific you'd like to know?" she asked. Miss Castine glanced up at Ephraim before her eyes moved back to Miss Lancaster and Miss Marsh. Miss Lancaster nodded once, her eyes shifting briefly to Miss Castine and Ephraim.

“You're aware of what happened with Mr. Taylor, correct?" she asked, her attention back on Miss Marsh. The woman tilted her head lightly to the left, but nodded. “We have reason to believe that his lion was infected with rabies, however; Mr. Jaziri spoke quite keenly on Mr. Taylor's habits. Was there anything unusual happening the nights prior?"

Miss Marsh took a long breath before she answered. “You'll have to be more specific, dear. If you haven't noticed, you're in a circus. Everything here is unusual."

She had a fair point, in all honesty. This was not, as the saying went, Ephraim's first circus. "In particular, we want to know if anyone was out of place, doing anything that departs from their own sort of usual. Anyone especially nervous, excited, moving around at strange hours for themselves, perhaps lurking around the animals tent when they had no reason to be there."

The trouble was, they couldn't make their questions too specific, lest they exclude information that could be relevant. Strictly speaking, for example, he didn't care in the slightest who in the troupe was sleeping with whom or feuding with their tentmate or whatever else, but anything could be a cause or possible motive at this stage. Other than being motivated by revenge—or at least claiming such—and targeting only members of the troupe, there was little commonality. The victim before Mr. Taylor had been 'accidentally' hung by some of the trapeze netting, and the two before that had simply disappeared, their causes of death unknown. It was technically possible they were still alive, but he doubted it.

Miss Marsh smiled in Ephraim's direction. “Well, when you put it that way," she started, leaning back into her chair. “Other than the usual sneaking into each others' tents, the only person I could say would be," she paused for a moment and narrowed her eyes. “Mr. Davis."

“In what way?" Miss Lancaster asked as she arched her brow.

“The man is known to be a stickler for routine, despite his grotesque manners," she began, pursing her lips into a fine line. “But a few days ago, he was pacing back and forth near his tent, and disappeared for a few hours.

“He doesn't normally disappear all night," Miss Castine added. Miss Marsh nodded her head as if to agree.

“How is that unusual, though? He could have been restless," Miss Lancaster spoke, her brows furrowing in frustration, it seemed.

“When you've been here as long as I have, you learn people's routines. Who they're with, where they're going, and at what times. Some of the people around you aren't exactly as concerned with reputations and what-have-you."

"He shares a tent, does he not?" Ephraim asked, eyes narrowing. There were a lot of things such behavior could indicate, and he wasn't one to jump to the obvious conclusion just because it was easy.

“He does," she answered, though she didn't give the names of his tentmates.

“And who would they be?"

“Harris and Parker share a tent with Mr. Davis," Miss Castine answered, smiling as if she were happy with herself for answering the question.

“Perhaps he had a falling out with one of them which caused him to seek shelter elsewhere for the night?" Miss Marsh stated, glancing in Miss Lancaster's direction, a sly smile crossing her face. Miss Lancaster merely kept her expression, smooth.

“It would be worth a look," she muttered.

“Oh, but I did see Mr. Parker go after Mr. Davis. He didn't look too happy, whatever their conversation might have been about," Miss Marsh added.

Ephraim nodded slightly, doubting that there was much more Miss Marsh could tell them about this particular issue. Instead, he changed the topic. "Any other recent disputes or arguments? Particularly relevant rumors, perhaps?" He shifted his weight slightly, crossing his arms over his chest. It wasn't meant to be an aggressive posture, so he kept them loose, as there was nothing to lean on to look less imposing.

His eyes occasionally drifted to Miss Marsh's death clock. It was oscillating in a peculiar way between two figures: either a week from this date or else about three and a half years. He supposed she was quite elderly by human standards, and carnies lived harder lives than most. The week figure was interesting though—far enough out that he wasn't sure if it had anything to do with the case or not. Either way, she was likely not the next victim of choice.

Miss Marsh laughed softly as she fixed her gaze on Ephraim. “Depends on what you interpret relevant to be," she stated. “Rumors litter the circus grounds: from scandalous affairs, to widowed ghosts haunting some of the men," she continued, her smile growing almost into a grin.


“Oh, yes, plenty of ghosts, Miss Whitaker. They're attracted to people like us," Miss Castine stated as if it was the most obvious thing to her. Perhaps to Miss Lancaster, it wasn't.

"There's also a rumor that says Mr. Bianchi is haunted by his sister's ghost, for example," Miss Castine stated, though she frowned slightly at the statemtent.

“If I may ask, what happened to her?" Miss Lancaster seemed interested in the subject as she leaned a little towards Miss Marsh.

“It was before our time. They say she died in an accident of sorts, but others say Mr. Bianchi accidentally strangled her in a fit of rage."

"The sister's name... Martina?" Ephraim knew he was right before Miss Marsh nodded, though she did.

They weren't wrong about ghosts tending to frequent this sort of place, nor to gravitate towards people with abilities such as theirs. "Have there been any sightings of her in particular in recent memory?"

Miss Marsh pursed her lips together, her eyes narrowing in thought. “She's been spotted a few times, but I think the most recent one was just before your group arrived," she responded, her lips parting just slightly as if she'd remembered something else. “I believe it was actually the night before, and I think it was Mary who spotted her. Poor girl, it was the first time she'd seen something like that," she added.

“She was shaking pretty badly after the whole thing. Even Master Bianchi tried to calm her down," Miss Castine added.

“Have you ever attempted to speak to Mr. Bianchi's sister?" Miss Lancaster asked, her eyes narrowed as if she were trying to figure something out.

“Normally, I do not converse with the dead. They do not put food on my plate or money in my pockets."

“I've tried," Miss Castine interjected, glancing up at Ephraim as she did. “I've tried going to the spots where she was last seen to see if I could glean anything from her, but..."

“It's always nothing. It's like her essence is too far gone that she leaves nothing behind," Miss Marsh answered, sighing in her chair and leaning back in it.

Ephraim thought the answer may be a little more obvious than that, in truth, but for the moment it was only a suspicion. Still, it was worth noting that this so-called ghost had appeared the night before the first note showed up. Along with Davis's suspicious activity, he was beginning to form a hypothesis.

Still, it was better not to become attached to any version of events, so that he could take in new evidence without bias, and he set it aside for the moment. Sensing that there was little else Miss Marsh could give them, he nodded courteously, not betraying his haste to get back out into relatively-fresh air.

"Our thanks for your assistance, Miss Marsh. We will trouble you no further, unless perhaps my apprentice has anything further?" He lifted an eyebrow at Miss Lancaster as he said it.

Miss Lancaster's lips were pursed into a fine line, perhaps more in thought than in frustration. “I don't," she finally answered. She stood from her chair, and glanced at Miss Marsh. “Thank you for the information," she spoke before turning her attention towards Ephraim.

“If I may offer one more thing," Miss Marsh stated, causing Miss Lancaster and Miss Castine to turn towards her. “Be wary of Mr. Parker. He might seem harmless, but," she trailed off, a slight shrug of her shoulders as if to suggest otherwise.

Ephraim only nodded slightly in response. 'Not-harmless' could apply to a great many people here, he suspected, but if she saw fit to warn him, he would take it into account.

Pushing aside the flap of the tent, he inhaled perhaps a tad too deeply too quickly, and the sneeze he'd been fighting off snuck up on him. Turning slightly so that he'd expel it into his elbow rather than onto either of his companions, he sniffed, blinked, and straightened.

"What is your recommendation for our next course of action, Miss Whitaker?" He'd been doing that fairly often today especially; asking what she would do with the investigation rather than telling her what they were collectively doing. Occasionally, he'd had to guide her back onto the optimal track, but for the most part she was acquitting herself well. She'd thought the senior fortune teller might be useful, even without the advantage he had of being able to sense Miss Marsh's gifts. Most people would dismiss her as a charlatan and assume she had nothing to offer. In this respect, Miss Lancaster had proven commendably unconventional.

“We need to find out what the others know of 'Martina'," she replied after a few moments of silence. “I think there may be more to this 'ghost', but asking Mr. Bianchi outright doesn't seem like the plausible course of action at the moment." Her brows smoothed out from where they had been furrowed, and she glanced out into the grounds.

“Perhaps we should see if anyone was with Mr. Bianchi at the time his sister was still presumed alive and around," she stated, glancing back up at him.

"A fair place to start," Ephraim agreed. He turned his attention to Miss Castine. "Of those working here, which have been present that long? If you know."

“I know Mr. Davis, Mr. Vitali, Adam..." her voice trailed and softened at the mention of Mr. Taylor's name. “Mr. Harris, I think, and Miss Johnson were all here before I was part of the troupe. I've only been here for," she paused her eyes losing focus as if she were trying to recall the years she'd spent with Mr. Bianchi's group.

“I've been here for ten years," she finally spoke. Miss Lancaster sighed heavily, perhaps because Mr. Davis's name was among those listed.

“We should start with one of them."

By now, Ephraim knew that at this time of day the roadies would be getting things set up for the evening's performances, which for the first time, he and his associates would be actively participating in. Considering the evidence Miss Blythe and Mr. Jaziri had turned up, it was quite possible that the show itself could become a target of sabotage soon, or already had been somehow. Trying to speak with one of them could serve two purposes, but it was also likely to be busy enough that they'd draw attention.

It was one thing to tell Miss Marsh of their true purpose, another thing entirely for everyone else to know.

"We'll have to be subtle," he noted. With a glance at Miss Castine, he inclined his head. "Our thanks for your assistance, Miss Castine, but as Miss Whitaker and myself are commonly seen together anyway, it may make more sense for us to attempt this alone."

“Oh, you're very welcome," she stated, curtseying as best as she could. It was obvious that she wasn't used to doing things like that, but she straightened back out. “If there's anything else you require from me, please let me know! I want... I want to do as much as I can to help you," she stated, smiling up at Ephraim.

“Thank you, Miss Castine," Miss Lancaster stated, doing her best it seemed to give Miss Castine a reassuring smile. “If you notice anything strange, or see anything," she began, putting an emphasis on the word, “do let us know." Miss Castine nodded her head and departed from Ephraim and Miss Lancaster.

Miss Lancaster pulled in a long breath before she seemed to relax. “I agree, we should be subtle about it, which means," she stated, removing the large coat she'd been wearing, and folding it over a nearby post. It left her in a longsleeved shirt, loose enough that it folded slightly over the underbust she had on. “This should make it just a bit easier," she stated, pursing her lips a bit.

The set of Ephraim's mouth did not change, but his eyes narrowed faintly. He could see the reasoning of course: at least one of the men with whom they wished to talk had expressed a marked—to the point of being distasteful—enjoyment of Miss Lancaster's physical form, and sans the coat her figure was much more obvious and overtly feminine.

He took the coat from the post and draped it over his arm, choosing not to remark upon it. "If you find the idea uncomfortable, we need not pursue at this angle," he said quietly, studying her face for any sign of uncertainty. "This job does not mandate that you use your physicality in such a manner, and I will never ask or require you to."

“Hm, I am quite aware of that, thank you, Mr. Ramsey," she spoke, but her face smoothed back out. “I find it easier this way to draw out the information we'll want. It's not a... tasteful tactic, but it is one nonetheless. And it makes it easier to ask questions without being too obvious about it," she continued. She rolled out her shoulders once more, before taking a step forward.

“Men's minds are simple that way, no offense," she shrugged, and continued forward.

"As I'm not a man, I can hardly take offense," Ephraim replied flatly. Frankly, he thought humans' minds were relatively simple in this fashion, to varying degrees, but he did not say so, merely following at a slight distance behind her.

Davis was not hard to find, though he didn't seem to be with Harris this time, rather working by himself, though within visible distance of a few others, meaning that their decision to approach in a smaller number was likely the right one. Ephraim stopped a fair distance before Miss Lancaster did, out of human earshot but well within range of his superior hearing, and set her coat down on a crate, seating himself in front of it and removing the flask from his belt.

To any passerby, he'd be the new fellow taking a break to have a drink, paying no mind whatsoever to whatever his attractive counterpart was discussing with the senior roadie.

Of course, he could hear absolutely everything, and see from the corner of his eye, too. Davis had glanced briefly at the approaching figure, as if to mark their passage before returning to hammering the stake for the largest performance tent. But he did a double-take when he recognized Miss Lancaster and straightened, his leer no less obvious now than it had been last time.

“Afternoon, Miss," He flashed crooked, yellowing teeth in what might once have been an effective smile for its purpose. “See y've lost the dead weight. Ya lookin' fer a real man this time?"

To her credit, Miss Lancaster merely smiled, tilting her head as if she were slightly confused. “Temporarily misplaced, I would say," she responded, placing a hand to rest on her hip. “I was taking a break from practice and thought that you could use a hand with..." she made a gesture in the direction of the stake. “But if you're a real man, you really wouldn't need help from little 'ol me, right?" she continued, the force of her smile narrowing her eyes.

“I was also wondering if you could help me with something," she stated, her smile fading slightly as she did.

Davis leaned on the long mallet he was using to pound the stake, eyes narrowing uncertainly, like he wasn't sure if he'd just been challenged or insulted somehow. In the end, though, the query at the end apparently made it simple enough for him to bypass the words with a broad-shouldered shrug. His eyes, Ephraim thought, lingered somewhere in the vicinity of Miss Lancaster's chest before crawling up to her face.

“There's a lot I could help you wif, love? What's ya got in mind, eh?"

“Well," she started, folding her arms over her chest, “I've been hearing some disturbing tales about ghosts haunting these grounds. I want to know if it's something I should be worried about." Her voice held a sort of quiver to it, as if she were trying to feign a sort of fear of the subject.

“Is it true that Mr. Bianchi's sister is one of them?"

If anything, Davis seemed displeased that this of all things was the topic of conversation. Ephraim took a sip of the water inside his flask, nodding to Mr. O'Donaghue as he passed but saying nothing.

“Who?" Davis asked. “Martina?" He shifted vaguely uncomfortably for a minute. “I dunno nuffink about that, love. That's Mr. Bianchi's business."

“Did you know her?" she asked, tilting her head slightly to the right. “Because if you're saying that there are no ghosts I should be afraid of, it'll help me sleep a little better, tonight," she added, offering Mr. Davis a meek smile.

He shook his head slightly, unusually pale even for his native complexion. “I ain't sayin' nuffink about Martina, lass, and you best stop askin'. Mr Bianchi don't like 'earin' about 'her, and it'll get back to 'im."

“I was just asking about ghosts, Mr. Davis," Miss Lancaster spoke, letting her arms fall to the side. “When I was a little girl, they used to haunt me," she stated in a soft voice, her eyes falling to the floor. “I just wanted to make sure that there weren't any ghosts, here, that I had to worry about. It'd be a nightmare all over again," she continued, pursing her lips together.

“I guess I'll leave you to your work, then, Mr. Davis. Sorry to have bothered you," she stated, and nodding her head in Mr. Davis's direction.

Whatever sympathy he might have pretended to dredge up at Miss Lancaster's feigned plight was obviously drowned by the desire not to speak of Martina Bianchi. He only nodded and returned to his work, without so much as another pass at her.

When she returned to his side, Ephraim offered her the flask. "It's just water," he explained. It was midafternoon in June, after all. "Tell me what you took away from that."

She took the flask from him, and took a drink before she answered. “He knows something about Martina. His aversion to the topic, the way his pallor changed, he was either there, or he knows what happened between Mr. Bianchi and his sister." She handed him the flask back, and glanced around. Her brows furrowed slightly as if she were trying to figure something else out.

“He doesn't strike me as the type of person to be afraid of small things like that, but whatever it is he knows, he's not going to talk about it. No matter the extremes I were to go to."

Ephraim nodded. "Very good. And for all his faults, Mr. Davis does not seem the kind of man to avoid gossip or an opportunity to avail himself of a social advantage simply for politeness or fear of his employer, despite his assurance that Mr. Bianchi would find out. Which suggests that something else about the situation frightens him so. What might that be, do you think?" Capping the flask, he stowed it at his him and regarded her silently, still sitting on the crate. The fact that she stood drew their heights closer to even than usual, though there was still a difference.

“I would have to assume it's the recent events and deaths," she answered, her eyes narrowing slightly towards the circus grounds. She glanced back at him, though, and arched a brow. “Nothing scares a man more than the prospect of an early demise," she stated.

It wasn't far off the mark, he didn't think. "Quite so. All that remains is to discover why he believes information relating to Martina Bianchi constitutes a threat of early demise."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

0.00 INK

London - Circ Della Notte Grounds
June 19, 1885 - 19:17 p.m. - Clear
Amelia Lancaster

Amelia rolled out her shoulders, trying to adjust to her outfit. They'd given her an underbust, black in color, with a plain white shirt to go underneath. Amelia wouldn't even call it a shirt, though. Mostly sleeveless, it was more along the lines of something she'd wear to bed. It did, however, contrast against the red jacket she pulled over it, or what constituted as a jacket. It was little more than long sleeves attached at the back. She understood the mindset behind her outfit; keep the audience fixed on her rather than her talent, but it wasn't like she was here for that. It was actually refreshing to be in something that wouldn't limit her movements too much. Even the red trousers allowed her enough breathing room that she felt comfortable.

Once she was satisfied with her outfit, she grabbed the firearm she was going to be using. The pistol was ideal since she'd be able to aim with better accuracy, however; she glanced towards the shotgun that lay just to the right side of her. Miss Vera had taught her a few other things with the weapon, and she would be lying if she said she wasn't itching to test out her abilities with it.

“Miss Whitaker?" Beatrix's voice pulled Amelia from her thoughts as she turned to the young woman. “Do you have a moment?" she asked, causing Amelia to motion her inside. Beatrix hurried inside, clutching something to her chest. “I wanted you to have this for your performance, tonight. I know you're here for a job, but..." she trailed off, causing Amelia to smile softly.

“What is it, Miss Castine?" she asked. Beatrix, Amelia learned, was a sweet, thoughtful young woman. It wasn't in the same way as Charlie, but she could see similar airs. Beatrix, however, smiled and produced the item she was holding.

“I'm sure it's nothing as extravagant as you may be used to wearing, but I thought you should wear this with your outfit," she spoke, causing Amelia to briefly look confused. Did Beatrix know something about her true name? Pushing the thought away, she took the offered item, and inspected it. It was a thin sheet of material, however; it looked like it resemebled a thick-banded necklace. There was a single gem on it as well, a deep purple that Amelia could appreciate. It was, after all, her favorite color.

“Thank you, Miss Castine, it's lovely," she responded, watching as Beatrix's smile bloomed.

“You're very welcome, Miss Whitaker! We should go see if the others are ready, too, before the show starts. It'll be soon," she stated. Amelia agreed; they should go see if the others were prepared. She fastened the necklace around her neck, first, before she grabbed her materials.

“After you," she stated, following Miss Castine out onto the circus grounds.

The hum and buzz of preparations was all around, something about it seemingly more intense on the nights when Amelia had merely been a spectator. A certain sort of nervous energy seemed to hover about the performers and crew, no doubt exacerbated by the recent murder, and the concern that there could be another. This was a livelihood for most of the people that plied it, but they would not be able to keep the news to themselves for much longer now that there had been an actual body. The police would be drawn here soon, and even if they weren't, rumors would circulate, business might decline, and their very way of life would be in peril because of that.

But still, it was important that this didn't come through, and so even as the roadies rushed about with last minute preparations and performers ran through their warmups, there was a sort of professional stoicism that kept the anxiety from getting out of hand. Mr. and Mrs. Blanchette were helping Charlie with her own costume. While Mr. Blanchette wore a tight-fitting long, striped leotard that reached his knees but had no sleeves, Charlie was meant to be more flowy and flashy, it seemed. She had a short dress with a fitted bodice, not too constricting but secure enough to keep her covered while she tumbled. It had loose sleeves that were more ribbon than sleeve, blue and green glittering to her elbows. The skirt was ribbonlike in the same way, to her knees, but she was wearing a similar leotard underneath, and ballet shoes, so while she'd sparkle and shine as she moved, it wouldn't be too revealing. Her hair was pinned tightly to her head; Mrs. Blanchette was applying more glitter to it.

Charlie caught Amelia's eye and waved, though doubtless she couldn't break from her preparations right at the moment.

Amelia smiled in Charlie's direction, and made her way over. Beatrix trailed behind, apparently content to follow Amelia. She didn't mind, and greeted Mr. and Mrs. Blanchette. “You look lovely, Charlie," she stated, grinning at the woman. Beatrix nodded her head in agreement, causing Amelia to shake her head lightly.

“Is there any word from Mr. Ramsey or Mr. Jaziri?" she asked, noticing the lack of prescence in the latter mentioned name. He wasn't one to just disappear. He thrived on attention, of any kind, and it mildly surprised her that he wasn't here with Charlie. She did appreciate the silence, though. Mr. Jaziri had a very special talent of crawling beneath her skin, and Amelia was almost certain he did it on purpose. From the way his lips stretched across his face when he smiled, to the crass remarks he'd make. He was intelligent, though, she'd give him that.

Charlie hummed, standing very still to allow Mrs. Blanchette to apply a layer of kohl to the outside of her lash-lines. "I'm not sure exactly where they are at the moment," she admitted. "I'm sure Mr. Jaziri has to make sure Petunia is ready for the act. Mr. Ramsey is probably..." She pursed her lips.

"Actually I'm not sure. For all I know he found something to, um." Her eyes flickered to the Blanchettes. "Occupy him?" It seemed to be a way of suggesting that he might be doing some kind of investigation, even now.

That made sense considering that they were here for an investigation. Amelia hummed softly in the back of her throat. “I will leave you, so that you can finish preparing," she stated, giving Charlie one last smile before glancing towards Beatrix. “I should go find Ramsey; he's my other half in this participation act," she stated, watching in mild curiosity as the smile on Beatrix's face lit up.

“Of course he is," she stated in a simple manner. “I'm going to finish helping with the setup. If I hear or see anything, I will let you know," she spoke, curtseying before she left. Beatrix was a strange woman, but Amelia shoved that thought to the back of her mind. Her priority at the moment was finding Ramsey to see if anything else had come up.

He was a bit difficult to locate, actually, but she found him in one of the equipment tents, just adjusting the lapels of his frock coat. He normally preferred a long duster, she knew, but this thing was some interesting mix of flashy and actually quite nice—it wouldn't have been entirely out of place on a member of the nobility. Black silk with a subtle pattern of dark grey, the gold and silver embroidery concentrated around the cuffs would catch the light, making his deft throws look all the more vivid. The coat was fitted reasonably well to his dimensions, though not tight enough to impede motion. The waistcoat was subtler, and perhaps most strikingly he had both two belts and a bandolier filled with knives, their matching, polished handles in neat rows.

He must have noticed her entrance, but he was frowning at one of the cuffs of his coat. It looked like one of the links had become caught on a loose thread.

She felt the edges of her lips tilt slightly upward, but sighed through her nose. Her father always had James help him with his cufflinks. On occasion, she helped when James was busy with other preparations. Rolling her eyes mostly at herself, she approached Ramsey, clearing her throat to get his attention. “Let me see, if you don't mind," she spoke, holding her hand out as she waited for him to comply. Once he did, she set to work fixing his link so that it wouldn't become a bother later on. As she finished, she glanced up in his direction, arching a delicate brow.

“It's been relatively quiet," she spoke, dropping her hands to her side once she was satisfied with the outcome of the links. “There haven't been any new developments, and most of the members seem to be tense," which was a given, really. It was only recently that one of their members had been mauled to death, and others were reportedly missing.

"As one would expect," he replied simply, echoing her thoughts. Gently, he lifted his arm away from her grip when the link was fixed, nodding in what she was relatively sure was Mr. Ramsey's version of gratitude. As it happens, I—"

He was cut off by the sound of a woman's scream, and sighed quietly. "That will be our next warning," he said, seeming quite certain of this fact.

Amelia nodded, and stepped out of the tent. She could see a small crowd of people gathered by one of the nearby poles, the one that was often used for target practice by the members. She made her way to the front, frowning when she spotted the note. Walking closer so that she could inspect it, her lips pursed into a fine line.

Not a fault of it was hers!
If it wasn't for you, her reputation
wouldn't have suffered. Bianchi's a liar
and a thief! Now watch your world
burn as hers did!

What? was the only thought she had. Not only was the handwritting different, the style of the note was different as well. It seemed personal, blaming Mr. Bianchi for something he did. If she had to guess, the her in the note must refer to Mr. Bianchi's sister. She still wasn't entirely sure what happened between the two of them, but it was becoming obvious that they had a falling out of some kind. Whatever it was, resulted in a ruined reputation, it seemed. Still...

“We need to let Miss Blythe and Jaziri know to keep a look out," she stated once she was closer to Ramsey. “If this note is similar to last time, chances are high that something has already happened."

"A wise suggestion," he agreed. "If you find them to deliver the news, I will advise the others to double-check all of their apparatuses before they take stage tonight. The verbiage suggests an escalation, and nothing would achieve that quite so well as a death in the middle of a show." If the killer's desire was to bring Mr. Bianchi to ruin, that would surely do it.

“I know Miss Blythe's current location; I'll go notify her, now. If I see Jaziri, I'll let him know as well," she stated, narrowing her eyes where she knew Charlie to be. She was slightly relieved that she'd checked her pistol and shotgun before she left her tent. She would have known if they had been tampered with. She was certain Ramsey would have done the same thing with his own weapons. With that in mind, she left him to find Charlie, slightly glad that Mr. Jaziri was with her, when she did.

“Whitaker," he stated, his brows furrowed as he called out to her. “What was the screaming about?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest. He was wearing a simple vest, white in color, with a black, sleeveless shirt beneath it. The trousers were red, which Amelia thought clashed a bit. But she wasn't here for those things.

“There was another letter," she stated, watching as Mr. Jaziri mouthed an 'oh'. “If it's anything like the last time, we need to be on the lookout," she continued, glancing in Charlie's direction. “You know what to do if something looks out of place. If you have the time, check any equipment you are going to be using, tonight." There shouldn't be unnecessary risks, but at the same time, they couldn't let the culprit know that they were on to him.

Charlie nodded immediately. "We're part of the opening, so I'll be sure Mr. Blanchette checks his things, too," she said. There wasn't a lot of equipment for their act, but they did use rings hung from the tent beams, and possibly those aerial silk things, if Charlie had learned enough about them in time. Either of those could be a hazard if a line snapped.

She hastened away, probably to try and make those last-minute checks. Mr. Bianchi was out among the crowd now, getting everyone back to their preparations with hushed yelling, odd as the phrase was. The crowd were already beginning to filter into the tent from the other side. If they didn't take their places soon, they wouldn't be ready for the show itself.

“And you will do well to make sure Petunia is in shape to perform." she stated, earning a sharp bark of laughter from Mr. Jaziri.

“Your word is my command, m'lady," he stated, bowing before he straightened back up. His face smoothed back out, though, into something a little more serious. It was out of place on his face, but it seemed concerned and genuine. “But you and Ramsey take care, yourselves, too."

Amelia smirked slightly. “Don't worry, Jaziri."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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London - Circo Della Notte
June 19, 1885 - 22:15 p.m. - Clear
Amelia Lancaster

Amelia stared at the people gathered around her and the others. Her brows were furrowed, and she could feel the frown threatening to pull at her lips. She wasn't particularly pleased about the current affairs. The trapeze wires had been tampered with to the point that someone would have died if they'd performed at all tonight. And if Charlie hadn't sent Jaziri back to warn them... it was a thought Amelia did not want to finish.

She glanced in the direction of Mr. Bianchi, and had to keep herself from giving him a flat look. He was angry and confused; that much was obvious on his face. He, the Blanchettes, Miss Marsh, Mr. Davis, O'Donaghue, and Parker were all gathered inside of the performance tent. It was at Ramsey's and her's request, of course, which was, perhaps, the reason why Bianchi was confused. He finally stepped forward, and this time, Amelia did not bother to hide the expression on her face when he spoke.

“What is the meaning of this?" he stated, though from the tone of his voice, it sounded more like a demand than anything. Amelia merely glanced towards Ramsey, before allowing her gaze to travel back to Bianchi.

“As soon as Jaziri and Miss Blythe return," she began, making sure to keep eye contact with Bianchi, “we will inform you." Until then, he was going to have to be patient. Luck seemed to be on his side, though. Jaziri and Charlie came into sight not soon after Amelia had spoken, and seemed to have the last piece of the puzzle with them: Mr. Harris.

Charlotte seemed to have no issue holding him, despite the fact that she was gripping both of his wrists with only one hand. The only apparent issue was that she was so small she had to force them tightly together to hold. She looked a touch winded, but managed to smile pleasantly at everyone regardless. Perhaps to most it might have looked a touch vacant, but there was a keenness to her eyes that Amelia was learning to recognize. She might seem childlike at times, but Charlie was actually quite observant.

The fight, if ever there had been any, seemed to have gone out of Mr. Harris entirely. Though no few of the other performers looked outright surprised to see him being carted in in such a manner, two faces stood out for not sharing the surprise: Mr. Ramsey and Mr. Davis.

Davis looked oddly relieved; his shoulders slumped as if he'd been divested of some great burden. Mr. Ramsey, however, looked utterly nonplussed, as though this were a development he'd been expecting for quite some time.

Leaning down a little, he spoke quietly near Amelia's ear. "I believe you and Miss Blythe can handle most of this," he said. "By all means, show them who you are." It was an unusual choice of phrase, but there was no ambiguity in one thing: he was trusting them to handle this part, to put the case together with the evidence they had in hand, and to do it in front of this audience of those most closely involved.

Amelia felt the corners of her lips turn upwards, however; she kept herself from smiling outright. Instead, she fixed her attention towards the group, and smoothed her expression out. “Firstly, I'd like to thank you all for your cooperation," she started, glancing at the people's expressions. “We've asked you all here because we were asked to solve a particular problem of yours." Some of the expressions that flickered across their faces all pointed towards confusion, save for Mr. Bianchi who seemed to be narrowing his eyes at Ramsey.

“As you are aware, I am Amelia Whitaker, an associate of Mr. Ramsey's investigative firm," she continued. She could hear the confused whispers as a couple of the suspects murmured to each other. “We were invited by Miss Castine to help solve a case involving the deaths of several of your members," she continued, glancing towards Charlie.

Charlie nodded, and seemed to exchange a few words with Mr. Jaziri, too quiet to be heard. It resolved with him taking over holding Mr. Harris, though not before Charlie put something in the pocket of her skirt.

She stepped forward to join Amelia. "In order to investigate the disappearances of the members of this troupe, we decided it would be best to pose as performers ourselves, so that we might be able to observe everyone without being known for what we were." She smiled, a trifle apologetic, but it was also fairly clear that she didn't think it was something she really needed to apologize for, exactly.

"But only a day after we arrived, a note was pinned to one of the tents, and then Mr. Taylor was mauled by his lion, Sasha." This, she said very seriously. "Alchemical testing confirmed that Sasha had been given a version of the rabies virus, which drives an animal mad, and causes them to attack viciously. Since we know the incubation period for rabies is multiple days, this injection of the virus had to have been administered before the threatening note was placed."

She turned back to Amelia.

“Which means someone knew Sasha would attack Mr. Taylor," she stated, her eyes narrowing slightly as a few of the people fidgeted in their spot. “It also means that the person who wrote the note, was the same one who injected Sasha, or at least knew about it."

“That doesn't prove anything, though. It could have been any number of people who were at the performances, even audience members," one of them stated, Mr. Parker from the looks of it. Amelia actually smiled, then.

“An audience member wouldn't be able to stomach getting close to a lion, let alone injecting one. Besides," she let her eyes slide to Jaziri for a moment, “we have it on authority that Sasha wouldn't let just anyone near him. Only members of the troupe were allowed to get near him without him trying to attack, or people he was comfortable with."

"Which was a very good reason to look closer at people who had been around longer, rather than new members or temporary help," Charlotte added. "Additionally, we knew that the killer was claiming a motivation from revenge. As they believed they had not yet driven their point home enough, we expected that the nature of the killings was likely to escalate, and that the new pattern of sabotage was probably going to continue."

“Tonight's performance," Mrs. Blanchette said, one hand resting absently on her distended abdomen. “If someone died during an act, the authorities would be down on our heads and we'd be disbanded for certain."

Charlie nodded slightly. "So we made sure everyone checked their equipment before the show. That meant if sabotage was going to work, the killer would have to do it during the performance. And since the second note was delivered, we knew it would probably be tonight, rather than tomorrow or the next day."

“Why not tell us this?!" Miss O'Donaghue demanded, her pretty face flushed with anger. She took a step towards Amelia and Charlie, but at that point, Mr. Ramsey intervened.

He wasn't showy about it, merely detaching himself from the tent pole he'd been leaning against and narrowing his eyes slightly. She shrank back immediately, but did not retract her question.

Amelia stared at Miss O'Donaghue through narrowed eyes. “Imagine, for a second, Miss, O'Donaghue, that you were the killer," she began, trying to give the woman the benefit of the doubt for asking such a question. “If you had been told that someone was on to you, what would you have done?" She didn't give Miss O'Donaghue the chance to answer, though, and continued.

“The killer would have immediately known that we were on to them, and we would have, potentially, lost the chance to solve this case. That is a simple fact." More murmurs, more confusion.

“What about the notes, though?" Mr. Parker asked. “Why write them if they were just going to kill someone?" he continued. Amelia frowned slightly at that question.

"Well as we said," Charlie began, sounding a little less certain this time. "The motivation was revenge. We believe the notes were written to inspire fear, so that people would know exactly what was coming and who to blame, and that this as much as the deaths was important for the killer."

“I knew it!" Davis growled, stepping forward for the first time and jabbing a thick finger towards Mr. Harris. “I knew you were sneaking out to get up to no good, you fuckin' shit!"

Harris rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner. “You thought I was sneaking out to fuck a woman, you moronic dolt. Don't pretend you knew anything of significance."

Davis's face turned red, but when Mr. Ramsey cleared his throat softly, he lapsed back into silence.

"Erm..." Charlie's face was a bit red as well, but that might have been something to do with the crudeness of Mr. Harris's language. It would seem that even she knew what that meant. "In any case, we knew we had to watch tonight, and during the show I spotted Mr. Harris leaving the tent. He ran, and Mr. Jaziri and I caught up with him. He had this—"

Here, she fished the object out of her pocket that she'd collected earlier—it seemed to be a piece of wire. "Based on this fact, I deduced that he'd managed to sabotage the trapeze equipment, and so we made sure that the trapeze artists did not perform tonight."

“She's right," Mr. Blanchette said, nodding slightly. “Davis and I took a look. The nets and the left hand swing both wouldn't have held up more than a few minutes."

“Why the revenge? We didn't do anything to Mr. Harris," Miss Marsh spoke, finally, after remaining silent through a majority of the explanation. Amelia's expression smoothed out somewhat as she turned to face the woman.

“The second note mentioned a woman being ruined, somehow. We believe that it was for her," she stated, watching as Miss Marsh's brows furrowed.

“What woman? As far as I know, Mr. Harris didn't have a lover of which he would go to that degree, for," Miss March stated, glancing in Harris's direction. That was an answer Amelia couldn't give. She had a hypothesis as to whom it was, however; she didn't want to give out a name and be completely wrong about it.

"Martina Bianchi," Mr. Ramsey replied, stepping into the conversation at last. He gave both Amelia and Charlie a nod of acknowledgment, but without so much as a word to the effect, he'd directed the attention of the entire room upon himself.

There was an eruption of noise at the proclamation; both Mr. Bianchi's and Mr. Harris's faces had turned stark white. They looked, ironically enough, like they'd seen a ghost.

The reaction from the others was mixed.

"But she's dead?"

"—a ghost—"

"Did Mr. Bianchi mur—"


Mr. Ramsey sighed, letting the noise die down on its own, which it did remarkably quickly. Probably because he was glaring. "She is in fact very much alive. Mr. Bianchi allowed rumors of her death to continue because it forestalled questions on her disappearance, when in fact he ran her out of the business after an injury stopped her from performing. Is this not so?"

Mr. Bianchi looked absolutely livid, but he made no effort to deny the claim. Amelia furrowed her brows in his direction, though. Why would he do such a thing? Surely she could have recovered from the injury with time, and could have still performed.

“It was her own goddamn fault!" Bianchi finally snapped, glaring at Ramsey as he did so. “If she would have done everything I had asked of her, she wouldn't have become crippled by her own stupidity!" he spat, causing Amelia to narrow her eyes at him.

“You didn't need to run her out, though," she stated, receiving the glare from Bianchi he had given to Ramsey. “Crippled or not, just because she couldn't perform did not mean she couldn't help out in other ways," she stated.

Miss Castine, who had been quiet throughout the entire ordeal, finally stepped forward, something wet at the corners of her eyes. “But why did our friends deserve to die?" she asked in such a quiet voice that Amelia wasn't certain if Beatrix had actually spoken. “They did nothing to you," she continued, her gaze going towards Mr. Harris.

Harris scowled at her. "What? The chattel? The harlots and whoresons and roadside dirt? What does anyone care, girl? They were his means of making a living, and it's his life what needed the ruining. They were collateral damage, and it doesn't. Bloody. Matter."

"That's enough." Mr. Ramsey's voice cracked sharply over the tumult that had arisen, no few of those present looking at Harris with obvious hatred for his words. "Scotland Yard should be here any moment. Jaziri—get him out of here before they take his tongue." He didn't seem to be exaggerating... and the way Mr. Parker and Mr. Blanchette were looking at him, he didn't have to.

Jaziri nodded his head and guided Mr. Harris away from the crowd. He wasn't gentle about it, either, if the winch on Mr. Harris's face was anything to go by. Amelia sighed softly to herself, and glanced at Beatrix and the others. She felt her hand twitch slightly as Beatrix did little to hide the tears on her face, but Amelia stayed where she was for the moment.

“Given the nature of things," she began glancing at Mr. Bianchi who had his face in his hand.

“There's no way we'll be able to continue. Reputation is ruined, no one will come see us," he began, and Amelia felt she knew where he was going with this. “I quit. All of you... go home. Or whatever homes you used to have," he spoke, walking away from the crowd. Amelia took the moment to walk towards Beatrix, and laid a hand on her shoulder.

“Will you be alright, Castine?" she asked, watching as Beatrix wiped the corners of her eyes and nodded. Amelia pursed her lips slightly, but didn't say anything. Instead, she patted Beatrix's shoulder once more, and made her way towards Ramsey and Charlie.

The case was solved; there was nothing more for them to do here.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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London - Office of Ramsey & Associates
June 21, 1885 - 17:37 p.m. - Overcast
Beatrix Castine

Two days.

The only life she'd ever known, was gone. After Master Bianchi disbanded the circus, Beatrix found herself roaming the streets of London in search of work. Miss Marsh had stayed behind as well, since the both of them had never really had a home to begin with. Beatrix was a street urchin from Paris, and Miss Marsh had always been a bit of a nomad. She'd never stayed in one place for too long simply because it wasn't where she belonged. The circus had, however, provided a sense of belonging. Now... that was gone.

Beatrix shook the thoughts from her head, glancing up at the building she'd happened to stop in front of. Her eyes widened slightly as she read the lettering, and allowed a small smile to stretch across her face. Without much thought, Beatrix allowed her feet to carry her inside. She owed them so much, and she never got to properly thank them. Once she was inside, she glanced around the office space, spotting the familiar faces of Charlotte and Miss Whitaker, the latter whom looked slightly surprised to see her. There was a third woman, someone she'd never seen before, with buttery blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She was gorgeous, in Beatrix's mind, and she felt suddenly shy.

“Miss Castine, to what do we owe the pleasure?" Miss Whitaker was the first to speak, keeping her gaze on Beatrix.

“I... just..." she began, clearing her throat when she realized something was lodged in it. She smiled something small, and glanced back at the three women. “I happened to be passing by, is all. I thought I'd come and... thank you all once again for everything you, Miss Blythe, and Mr. Ramsey did for me," she spoke, earning a sympathetic smile from Miss Whitaker.

Charlotte smiled, too, though she didn't seem to be aware of the particular edge of emotion in Beatrix's words. Rather, she just looked pleased to see her. "Well that's quite all right, Miss Bea," she said brightly, but then her face fell a little. "I'm sorry though. About the circus disbanding. Do you know what you'll be doing now?"

Beatrix managed to keep the smile on her face, even if she didn't quite feel alright. “For the time being, Miss Marsh and I are taking in London," she finally spoke, and was glad that her voice didn't crack. Miss Whitaker's brow arched slightly, and her eyes narrowed slightly as if she were studying Beatrix. “But after tomorrow, we're... probably going to head back to France," she lied. She felt bad about lying to the people who'd helped her, but they also had no reason to help her any further. Miss Whitaker glanced to the other woman, as if conveying a silent statement, before she stood.

“If you're not adversed to it," she stated, pushing in her chair and walking towards the door to grab her coat, “Perhaps you'd like to join us at the Red Moon."

“Oh, I don't want to intrude!" Beatrix replied, frowning slightly. She didn't know the establishment, and it seemed like the three of them were already doing something. Miss Whitaker merely shook her head, though.

“Nonsense. Oh, Vera, this is Beatrix Castine. She's the one Ramsey, Charlie, and I helped out a couple of days ago," she stated, introducing Beatrix to the woman named Vera. “And Miss Castine, this is Miss Vera. She's a friend of the establishment and my tutor," she continued.

The woman named Miss Vera smiled, inclining her head graciously. She had the first hints of lines at the corners of her eyes, but still looked remarkably young otherwise; it was actually rather difficult to place her age. When she spoke, there was a slight hint of something Slavic in her accent. "A pleasure, Miss Castine. May I call you Beatrix?"

She accepted her hat from Charlotte, who passed Amelia's to her as well before donning her own in anticipation of stepping out into the evening street, no doubt. Summer precluded the need for coats or anything of the sort, fortunately.

“I'd like that," Beatrix stated, managing a genuine smile. “Almost everyone calls me Bea, though, so if you'd like, you can too," she stated, following behind the three women. They set out on foot, something Beatrix found a little strange for someone of Miss Vera and Miss Whitaker's stature. They were of a higher social status; Beatrix could gather that much from them. It didn't seem to bother the both of them, though, to be in such places.

When they stopped, it was outside a rather bland building with heavy velvet drapes. The only noticeable thing about it was a brass-handled door that looked heavier than it had any right to be. Perhaps as a means to give the occupants peace of mind? Miss Whitaker simply opened the door and ushered everyone inside. It was a strange place, however; Beatrix was too enarmored with her surroundings to notice anything else at the moment.

“Welcome to the Red Moon, Bea," Miss Whitaker stated, motioning with a forward gesture of her hands.

The group collectively removed their hats, drawing further into the smoky, dimly lit room. Red and silver seemed to be the theme colors, accented with rich dark wood and delicate embroidery in places. The clientele seemed to be mostly masculine, though there were no few women dotted through the audience as well, and a few people attired and presenting in such a way that it was hard to be sure which, if either, they were.

The group by some silent consensus took a particular booth in the back, large enough to accommodate all four of them quite easily. A shy-looking waitress with dark red hair was promptly with them; Miss Vera took care of the ordering.

"I suspect we'll be seeing the owner shortly," she said after the girl had left. "She's a friend of mine, and knows Charlotte and Amelia as well—though I suppose here they are Sparrow and Lily. It's a bit of a conceit of the genre, if you will. For as long as we're here, we use false names."

Beatrix allowed her eyes to widen at Miss Vera's statement before pursing her lips together. She didn't think she had such a unique name to offer, but she supposed she could think of one at a later time. Her eyes softened at the realization that she didn't have to. She wouldn't be in London much longer, and chances were she'd never visit this place again.

“And what about you, Miss Vera? What do they address you as, here?" she asked, slightly curious. Both Amelia and Charlotte had names referencing a bird and a flower. She understood why the names were chosen: Miss Charlotte had a sort of bird-like sound to her voice when she was excited, and Miss Amelia smelled like flowers.

Miss Vera rolled her eyes, though it seemed to be in a good-natured kind of way. "Angel," she replied with a soft laugh. "It's... something of a joke between Liang and I, I suppose."

"Amusing as I find it, I'd not call it a joke, precisely." The new voice belonged to a different woman, about the same height as Miss Vera, but with lengths of exquisite dark hair and fine, gentle East Asian features. She smiled, a gesture that gracefully curved her painted lips, and slid into the booth next to the Russian woman.

"Lovely to see you again, everyone," she said smoothly, gesturing for the waitress to advance with their tray of food: sweets and tea, by the looks of it. "And I see you've brought the guest I was expecting."

She gave no indication of how she'd been expecting to see Beatrix, but graced her with a warm smile, something a bit more genuine than the artful thing she seemed to wear by default. "Miss Castine, is it?" She reached a hand across the table. "I am Liang Wu, the owner of this establishment."

Beatrix smiled softly, and briefly wondered if Miss Wu was like her, a seer. She nodded her head, though. “Beatrix Castine," she spoke, “but most people just call me Bea." Most people being her friends, at least.

“May I ask why you were expecting me, Miss Wu?" she asked. She would be lying if she said wasn't curious about it. She'd never met Miss Wu before. For her to have known Beatrix's name, she was starting to believe that Miss Wu was, indeed, like her.

Miss Wu gave a light chuckle, shaking her head faintly almost as if she could see the line of thought Beatrix was pursuing. "I have a friend," she said, accepting a cup of tea passed to her by Charlotte and lifting it to her mouth. "Within these walls, he's Mr. Kerberos, but I do believe you all call him Ramsey. He explained you'd be by eventually, and wished for me to meet you."

Taking a sip of the team, she lowered it back into the saucer. "But let us not rush. How has everyone been?"

“Exhausted," Miss Whitaker spoke first, but there was a grin on her face that suggested otherwise. “But it has been an interesting adventure," she continued, taking a drink from the tea settled in front of her. “And what of you, Miss Wu? The last time I was in here, your silent admirer had managed to move tables so that he was closer to you. Any luck with that one?" she asked, arching her brow in an inquisitive manner.

Beatrix did the same thing, and turned to face Miss Wu.

Miss Wu hummed at the question; Miss Vera outright laughed.

"No change yet," the former replied, picking up a light brown macaron between her thumb and forefinger. She contemplated it for a moment under the light, as if searching the smooth shell for imperfections. "Which is a shame; he's really quite handsome. Perhaps I shall contrive an encounter next time his nephew is in, too. Conspiracy does require fellow conspirators, after all."

She nibbled at the macaron. "Kerberos tells me you've a sort of second sight, Beatrix," she continued, tilting her head. A strand of inky hair fell forward over her shoulder. "How does it work?"

Beatrix nodded at the statement, and folded her hands across her lap. “It sort of acts on its own," she began, not entirely sure how she was going to explain this particular aspect of her gift. She'd never been properly trained in it, and Miss Marsh could only do so much. “If I have something to focus with, it makes it easier to see. Especially if it's a personal object that I'm given." She supposed it acted sort of like psychometry, in that sense, however; it wasn't quite the same.

“Other times, it just... sort of happens. Flashes, small glimpses," and it's never quite the same.

Miss Wu nodded at the explanation, sipping at her tea and finishing her macaron. In the time it took her to eat one, Charlotte had eaten about six, but no one at the table seemed to mind.

"Can you read tarot?" The club owner arched a delicate eyebrow. "Or tea leaves or the I Ching? Anything like that?"

“I can read tarot," she replied, her features brightening up. “Miss Marsh was teaching me tea leaves, but we haven't had the time to continue. I Ching isn't something I'm familiar with, but I think Miss Marsh might be. She's the same as me," but more controlled with her gift. Perhaps not as strong, as she'd mentioned once, but still the same.

“She's taught me a lot about my gift and thinks that I'll be able to get it under control in few more years," she continued. That was, of course, if she continued to study underneath Miss Marsh. It was possible that Miss Marsh and her would have to go their own way, and she wouldn't be able to continue her training.

Another slow nod. "How would you like to do that here? You and Miss Marsh? I'm always looking for new things to liven up the atmosphere, and as long as you're willing to do chores like all the other performers do, I think there's a place for both of you here."

Beatrix blinked slowly at Miss Wu. She was slightly grateful that she was seated because it felt like her legs were currently useless. The question hadn't quite registered in her mind, though, and she continued to stare blankly at Miss Wu.

“I think you've broken little Bea," Miss Whitaker spoke, handing Miss Blythe one of her macarons. The statement was enough to cause Beatrix to smile brightly, and she nodded her head, profusely.

“Of course, Miss Wu! I'd love to! I mean..." she stopped, feeling a flush of heat rise to her cheeks. “If it's not too intrusive, of course," she continued, fidgeting in her chair. If Miss Wu was serious, both Beatrix and Miss Marsh would have a place of employment. That would eliminate the need to leave London, quite so soon.

“Have you and Miss Marsh found a place to live, though?" Amelia asked, causing Beatrix to frown.

“We haven't." That, however, didn't mean they wouldn't. Miss Wu was offering them a place of employment which meant that they would be able to afford to rent a place for themselves. It, of course, was all dependent on what they actually made.

"Oh well that's hardly a problem," Miss Vera broke in, smiling brightly. "I've plenty of room in mine. Dear Ephy would never recommend someone for a job he didn't trust. I see no reason not to do the same. I believe my rates are quite reasonable." She winked then took a sip from her teacup.

“You... you'd do that for me?" Beatrix asked, sending Miss Vera an incredulous look. “But... I," she couldn't finish her sentence. She didn't know what to say to that. Miss Vera and Mr. Ramsey hardly knew her, so why would they go out of their way to help her? Miss Whitaker sighed softly, handing another macaron to Charlotte.

“If they didn't think you trustworthy, Bea, they wouldn't have suggested it. If you're opposed to the idea, though, I can think of a few other places that might be willing to provide you with housing, but," she paused, glancing towards Miss Vera before returning her attention towards Beatrix. “I'd say that you'd be in good company if you chose to stay with Miss Vera."

Charlotte swallowed the remains of Amelia's macaron in just enough time to nod with some enthusiasm. "Mr. Ramsey and I live there too, and Miss Vera's son Teddy. It'd be a lot of fun if you lived with us, too!"

Miss Vera's smile nearly became a grin. "Well there you have it. More fun for everyone involved. And truly, I do love having tenants—the house is really much too big for Teddy and I alone."

Beatrix couldn't stop the tears from falling down her cheek. She could feel the smile on her face, but she didn't quite understand why these people were willing to do so much for her. She owed them in ways she'd never be able to repay. Now they were offering her employment, and a place to stay. It was a little too much for her to handle, she supposed, and she merely nodded her head.

“Well, there," Miss Whitaker spoke, leaning back into her chair with a grin that matched Miss Vera's. “It's settled, then. Welcome to the group, Bea." It wasn't quite the circus, however; Beatrix had a feeling that this place, these people... it wouldn't take long for it to feel like a home.

“Thank you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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London - The Red Moon
June 28, 1885 - 22:11 p.m. - Drizzle
Dorian Graham

Dorian sighed heavily into his drink. He could almost hear his nephew laughing at his current predicament. Considering that Khalil was currently amusing himself in the company of two women, it might have been a little strange to some people. Dorian couldn't read minds, and he certainly didn't have the hearing of a dhampir, or what-have-you. He just knew his nephew better than most. And considering the establishment they were currently visiting, he didn't blame Khalil; not in the slightest. The reason for his visit, though, sat at a table not too far from him.

With raven hair, a beautiful smile that could light up a room... it was difficult to even breathe in her presence. The Eastern features to her face only seemed to accentuate the sort of femininity most women couldn't acheive.

And he was a captive fool.

“You know, staring at someone is considered an unflattering trait in people," Khalil spoke, sliding into one of the empty seats in front of Dorian. Dorian merely pursed his lips at Khalil, and gave him a flat look. “I'm just saying; if you were a woman and a guy was staring at you like you were a piece of meat, you'd be put off by it, too," he continued, leaning forward on his hands.

“I'm not... is that true?" Dorian asked, his eyes widening slightly. Was that the reason she didn't talk to him? Because she found him repulsive? Khalil let out a bark of laughter, drawing eyes to their table in the process as Dorian tried to quiet him. “Shh, Khalil! We don't want to seem stranger than we already are!" he pleaded, causing Khalil to laugh a bit louder.

“Dor, have you not seen the place we're in?"

He had a point.

“She'll never talk to me, now, if she thinks I'm a... zahf," he spoke the last word in his native tongue. He wasn't entirely sure how to pronounce it in the language they spoke in London.

“Yeah, Dor, she thinks you're a creep," Khalil stated, rolling his eyes. “Look, just go talk to her; say hi if you can, and don't stare too long that you start drooling. She's right over there."

That was easier said than done, though.

She was presently occupied, it seemed, helping an unfamiliar girl adjust the way her dress lay on her shoulders. She was wearing a little gentle smile, and the way she shifted the garment gently on the girl's shoulders suggested genuine affection and care.

"Qipao are quite new even to me," she explained, shifting her hands up to neaten the fitted collar with long, delicate fingers. "Apparently they're all the rage in Shanghai now, the result of some new innovation in machine weaving. If it turns out to be too uncomfortable, please let me know. It's certainly not your uniform."

Apparently satisfied, she gave the girl a little nod, pulling part of her blonde hair forward over her shoulder. "There. Better?"

The young girl nodded her head and smiled brightly in return. “Yes, it is. Thank you," she started, and Dorian's eyes widened slightly. He was about to hear her name for the first time. Khalil wouldn't give it to him for some unknown reason, but here was his chance. “Miss—"

“Dorian!" and his heart dropped. “I'm talking to you," Khalil continued as Dorian turned towards his nephew, eyes slightly downcast towards the table. “Thought it'd be that easy, didn't you?" he spoke, his lips tilting slightly into a grin. “You've got to ask it straight from the horse's mouth if you want to know her name."

“She's not a horse, you twat," Dorian spoke, narrowing his eyes at Khalil. Khalil simply laughed it off but Dorian took a drink from his cup before setting it back onto the table. It was at this point, the young girl who'd been talking earlier, appeared with her, and Dorian felt his throat tighten a bit.

“Good evening, I'm Sibyl! Could I interest you in a reading?" she spoke, smiling just as brightly as she had been, before.

“What kind of reading?"

“A tarot one, if you're interested. I can do past, present, and future, or even your love life!"

“He wants one."

Dorian didn't have the chance to decline since the young woman slipped into one of the empty seats, and pulled out a deck of tarot cards.

Next to his arm, however, another drink appeared, this one in a fine-stemmed wineglass. From the scent alone, it was one of the oaken, full-bodied whites he preferred, with an unusual note of... vanilla? The hand that placed it led up to the amused expression and quirked eyebrow of her, at least until she let go of it.

"His generosity is noticed, and appreciated," she said, the words themselves suggesting that it was a response to Khalil. Her eyes—dark grey, nearly black—did not leave Dorian's, however. "Sibyl is only just beginning her work with us, and finds herself in need of a friendly face to practice on. I thought perhaps one of our dear regulars might not object." Her voice was like silk, smooth and rich.

"If you've no objections, I should like to sit in as well."

It was decided that the One was, indeed, a cruel One.

Those eyes... he could get lost in them for days. Years, even. The young woman, Sibyl, nodded her head in an enthusiastic manner, though, drawing Dorian away from her and towards Sibyl. “And since Mr. Khalil is someone I am acquainted with, if you'd be agreeable to it, I'd like to practice with you, Mr..." she trailed off, obviously asking for Dorian's name.

“Do... Dori," he tried to sputter out. He cleared his throat, slightly thankful for the darkness of his skin and of the room. He was almost certain his cheeks were slightly heated from his current debacle. “Dorian Graham," he finally managed out, causing Sibyl to nod her head.

“If you'd be so kind as to cut the deck, Mr. Dorian, I can begin working on your reading. Oh, but which kind would you like to know?"

“Definitely the future of his non-existent love-life," Khalil chimed in, causing Sibyl to giggle.

“I'm not sure what you mean by that, Mr. Khalil. Mr. Dorian's love-life just needs the right push, is all," she stated, causing Dorian to clear his throat in an awkward manner. Khalil didn't bother hiding the bark of laughter that left him.

She settled into a spot next to Sibyl, setting her own glass of wine—red, something fruity—down on the tabletop and folding her hands neatly on the surface. Apparently she was content mostly to observe the reading, as she'd said, though it seemed like her eyes flickered towards him more than once.

He swallowed thickly, and allowed his eyes to focus on Sibyl. He did as Sibyl asked of him, and shuffled the cards. He wasn't particularly thrilled with the subject of his tarot card reading, however; he couldn't exactly change it. If he did, he knew Khalil would try and revert it back, or call him some name that'd cause Dorian to suck it up and do it. And that was what Dorian was going to do. He'd allow Sibyl to read his tarot for love. He was beginning to think he didn't even have a chance at a normal one considering the person he was interested didn't seem remotely interested in him. The occasional eye contact didn't mean anything... or so that's what he thought.

“Alright Mr. Dorian, I'm going to need you to focus a bit on the cards, and project your thoughts and feelings into them. Once you do, I'll draw three of them, and we'll go from there. Are you ready?" she asked, causing Dorian to take in a deep breath.

He nodded.

“Great. Now, just focus as I shuffle through them," she spoke, and Dorian did his best to keep his thoughts in the right place. Even if it was a bit difficult with her in such close proximity. Once she was finished shuffling, she drew her first card. “Interesting," she stated, placing it down so that Dorian could see it. “This card is your past, and is The Knight of Pentacles. It symbolizes the virtues of patience, honor, and dependability. Having this in your spread means you possess these qualities as well," she spoke, smiling in his direction.

“You're not entirely off." Thankfully, she ignored Khalil, and continued.

“In this particular position, it tells me that the difficulties you have experienced in your love life have helped you to grow. You shouldn't give up on your aspirations, Mr. Dorian," she stated happily, glancing in her direction.

For her part, the club's mysterious owner smiled slightly over the rim of her wineglass before taking a sip. Oddly, her complexion seemed a little flush, though it wasn't especially warm in the room at the moment. She didn't seem to be intoxicated, either—Dorian was very familiar with the signs of that affliction.

"Aspirations, is it?" she said, so softly he almost missed the words. She arched a delicate eyebrow at him. "Those are always nice to have. What of his present, dear Sibyl?"

Beatrix smiled almost in a knowing way, and nodded her head. She drew a second card, and allowed the smile on her face to stretch further across. “This one, Mr. Dorian, represents your present and will give you some insight to your situation," she stated, showing him the card. “It's the Star." He would admit, he was a little unfamiliar with the tarot reading, but Sibyl seemed to know what she was doing.

“What does that mean?" he asked.

“The Star represents renewal for you, Mr. Dorian. It's a positive sign, especially if you or someone close to you is recovering from an illness or injury of some sort. It's also stating to conserve your energies, that way it'll lead to the best balance of extroversion. Finding someone to love is sometimes easiest when you're emotionally available to others. In your case, Mr. Dorian, it's having the strength to do something first."

He had to do something first? What did that mean? Again, she glanced in her direction, causing Dorian to do the same thing.

She looked back at Sibyl with almost a hint of remonstrance in her expression, about as gentle as it could be. "You don't need my approval, dear Sibyl, I think you're doing quite fine. It's solid advice besides—most people admire a fellow with a little initiative." The subtle reproach became the faintest hint of... challenge? Though it wasn't clear who it was aimed at.

"Perhaps you'd care to tell Dr. Graham of his future now?"

Sibyl seemed a little excited, and drew the last card. She didn't immediately show it, but whatever it was, it caused her to giggle. “This last card is your future, Mr. Dorian. It's the Wheel of Fortune. It speaks to good beginnings. If you continue down this path, this will inevitably lead you to spontaneous events that are rare opportunities to meet someone new. It'll lead you towards companionship, and if you see the value in all things, you will grow," she spoke, causing the familiar heat in Dorian's cheeks to return.

Khalil, however, couldn't seem to hold back his laughter any longer, and had to wipe something away from his eyes. “I told you she'd be good," he spoke, directing his attention towards her.

It... was a lot to take in, on Dorian's side. He was fairly certain she spoke his name, but his mind was currently swimming with all of the information Sibyl had given him.

"Very good, Sibyl," she said with a sly little smile. "Perhaps now you could read Mr. Jaziri's fortune, hm?" It was as if she sensed the need for Dorian to consider things and neatly turned away the two people most likely to crowd him.

In fact, the way the smile gentled when she turned her eyes to him, it was almost certain. "Do try the wine, Dr. Graham. I believe it will be to your liking. Perhaps especially at this moment?"

He took her advice, and grabbed the glass of wine. Perhaps he should have taken his time with it, however; he downed the glass as quickly as he possibly could. It wasn't his finest moment, but his throat was dry, and his own current emotional state wasn't quite where it should have been. Sibyl, however, motioned for Khalil to follow her elsewhere, perhaps to read his fortune from a different table.

That left them. Alone.

He fumbled with the empty glass, refusing to glance at her. Everything Sibyl had spoken of, was, in a sense, true. He needed to do something, say something to banish the awkward feeling he currently felt. It didn't help that he was also nervous. “Thank you for the wine," he finally managed out, though he didn't get a chance to actually enjoy it.

"You're welcome, of course." With his gaze adhered to his hands, he couldn't see her face, but it wasn't hard to tell that she was amused by something. It didn't seem to be mean-spirited though. In his peripheral vision, one of her hands moved, her thumb smoothing a droplet of wine away from the rim of her glass.

"You've been a regular here for... oh it must be about eight months now, yes? Since perhaps November of last year or so?" It seemed like a question she knew the answer to, as her tone suggested musing rather than uncertainty. "I hope it's been to your enjoyment; even if perhaps Khalil is the reason for it?"

Dorian was certain his heart was going to beat right out of his chest. It was thrumming loudly in his ears, and he swallowed thickly. Had she noticed for that long? Taking in a soft breath, he finally forced himself to glance up at her, his eyes meeting hers, and did his best to keep the glance as professional as he could. It figured that she knew Khalil's name, considering that his nephew was the reason Dorian even knew about The Red Moon.

“I didn't think I was that memorable," he finally spoke. “I'm his uncle, Dorian Graham," he finally introduced himself to her. Finally took that first step. And it didn't feel as liberating as he thought it would. If anything, it felt like his chest was tighter, and it was getting hard to breathe properly.

"You are," she said simply, though it was ambiguous whether she was telling him he was in fact memorable, or just confirming that she'd already known his name. Her smile was nothing more than a quirk of her lips, but she did extend her free hand forward over the table towards him.

"And I am Liang Wu, owner of the Red Moon. It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Dorian Graham." She tilted her head, and a lock of smooth hair fell forward over one delicate shoulder.

For a brief second, Dorian felt a little stupid. He stared at her hand before it registered exactly what had happened, and what he was supposed to do. He leaned slightly forward, and grabbed her hand, gently. He could feel a fine tremor go through his body before he placed a chaste kiss to the back of her hand, and settled back into his seat.

Part of him was slightly ecstatic that he'd finally learned her name, and the other part still felt slightly inebriated. Slow. Stupid. He couldn't get his thoughts set properly.

“It is a..." he paused, and cleared his throat. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you as well, Lady Wu," he stated, cursing himself momentarily for the mode of address. But he didn't particularly care, either. To him, she was a Lady.

She drew her hand back gently, ducking her head slightly for some reason that wasn't clear. "Truly," she said, voice soft and perhaps a trifle uncertain. "Miss is quite fine, if a title is needed. All told, I prefer Liang." She took a sip of the wine quite quickly; it would seem that something had pinked her cheeks.

Dorian felt his lips twitch, and before he knew it, he was smiling. “Liang," he spoke, testing out the way her name felt on his lips. He rather liked it. Perhaps too much. “If that is what you prefer, then I shall respect your wishes, Liang," he continued, the smile on his face growing wider. He could feel his eyes narrowing with the force of it.

She almost looked relieved when she smiled that time, something a little brighter, like something as simple as hearing her name made her happy enough to justify it.

"In that case, you've my gratitude... Dorian."

“For you, always," he replied. If he were slightly more sober, he'd have realized the words he'd spoken were a bit more intimate than he'd anticipated. As it were, he was simply happy enough that she'd called him Dorian, and that he had permission to use her first name. First step, perhaps that was what Sibyl meant when she told him that was what he needed.

Perhaps he ought to take more steps, but for now, he'd satisfy himself with this: knowing her name at last.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Red Moon Cabaret Club
June 30, 1885 - 20:00 p.m. - Rain
Ephraim Ramsey

Ephraim paused to hang his hat on an empty hook at the front of the Red Moon, casting his eyes over the room. Though this was just nearing the beginning of peak hours for the establishment, he knew there would not be a large crowd tonight. It was raining, and besides that it was a week night, which always meant less business, considering how many of Liang's regulars had to work early the next morning.

He took his customary seat at the usual table, ordering only a glass of whiskey from the waitress. Jezebel, tonight; someone who liked to wear a rather blasphemous name boldly. No doubt she like many of those who worked here was none too fond of the Church.

He found the specific person he was looking for at another table, apparently reading the fortune of a guest. Miss Castine looked to be comfortable, and in her element. He of course did not disturb her, though he did make brief eye contact and nod, so that she would know he was present. If she did not desire to speak with him or was too busy, that was of course her own business.

As it was, she spotted him and smiled brightly in his direction. She continued with her fortune, finishing it up with a small flourish as the person she was entertaining, clapped softly. They seemed satisfied with whatever she'd told them, and she seemed to excuse herself. Once she was closer to Ephraim, she waved cheerfully and slid into the open seat in front of him.

“Mr. Ramsey!" she greeted, still wearing the smile on her face. It wasn't quite like Charlotte's, innocent, but it was, nonetheless, genuine. “What brings you here?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

Somehow he hadn't quite been expecting the direct query. Ephraim blinked, then lifted his shoulders in an approximation of a human shrug. A strange piece of gestural communication that his kind were not natively socialized to use. He still had to think about them, sometimes.

When Jezebel returned with his glass and a smile, he nodded his thanks to her, and tilted it slightly towards Miss Castine in the air. "A few things. This is one of them." Typically he did not have much fondness for spirits, but some of them had an appealing enough taste. Even though he could not himself become intoxicated by them.

"You seem to be settling in well," he observed, studying the pattern of her clothing for a moment. It was certainly more well-made than what she'd worn for circus purposes, but then Liang was herself a gifted tailor and would have insisted upon as much. "Is it to your liking?"

She smiled a little ruefully, but nodded her head. “Miss Liang has been a wonderful host," she began, folding her hands out in front, but keeping them tucked closely to her. “And I do like it here," she continued, but it was obvious enough in the tone of her voice that she wasn't quite used to it. She kept her gaze focused on her hands, and the smile on her lips was nothing more than a thin line, now.

“I suppose in any new environment, I still have a lot of adjusting to do," she stated, finally lifting her eyes to meet his. “But I have you, Miss Amelia, Mr. Khalil, and Miss Charlotte to thank for that, especially you," the smile returned to her face at that statement. “I wouldn't have had a place if it weren't for you speaking to Miss Liang."

She was factually correct on this point, of course. But he wasn't sure her implications were entirely apropos, and considered his next words while he took a slow sip from the glass. As usual, his lenses stopped the presence of his death clock, and so he was not distracted reading the numbers associated with anyone he saw. It was a hard habit to break, and one he found made interacting with humans and their ilk... strange, in a certain way.

He'd seen hers; he just didn't really want to know if it changed. It might well have—her life was no doubt on an entirely new trajectory now.

"Would you do a reading for me?" he asked, tilting his chin at her deck. Perhaps unlike other customers who asked the same question, he did so in full seriousness and with a respect for the gift that would ensure her answers meant something.

“Of course," she replied, holding out the deck in front of her as her eyes narrowed slightly in delight. “It's the least I can do for you after all you've done for me," she continued as she shuffled the deck. She stopped suddenly, though, and glanced back up at him.

“Oh, but what kind of reading would you like, Mr. Ramsey?" she asked, tilting her head with the query. “Many of the patrons here like to know what their love life looks like. I hardly ever get requests for their future, in general," she stated, her nose scrunching slightly at the previous statement. It seemed she found some humor in it all.

He gave this a moment's consideration. Not between the options presented—the idea that he should ask about romantic prospects verged on unintelligible, as he was a demon of all things—but between a few he'd had in mind.

"I'm... looking for something," he said after a long moment. It was not something he'd ever told anyone else on this plane, and even what he could say now would be by necessity vague. "I cannot name it, exactly, because I do not know what it is. I am unsure if you would be able to work with something so unclear even to me. If not, I suppose a read of the future would suffice instead."

Miss Castine hummed softly for a moment, and remained fixed on Ephraim. It was as if she were studying him for something else, some underlying factor of some sort. “Given its nature," she began, her eyes going back to the tarot deck, “I don't think I can be of much use, however; I might be able to give you some insight if it's something you focus on as I divine your future."

She continued to shuffle the deck until she was, apparently satisfied. “Focus on what it is you are looking for as you cut the deck. Also," she paused, briefly meeting his gaze. “If you have something personal, something that you think might be of future help or use, can you place it in the center of the table?" she asked.

“It'll help with my focus," she added, handing the tarot deck to Ephraim.

Ephraim didn't make a habit of attaching sentiment to objects, an extension of his general tendency not to attach sentiment to anything. But if it would help, he supposed the closest thing he had was in fact on hand. Reaching into the pocket of his waistcoat, he withdrew a pocketwatch, the silvered face of its cover engraved with the same ornate cross as he sometimes wore on the lapel of his coat.

It was, properly speaking, the Gehennan Cross, though as with many other symbols from before the time of Unification, the Church of the One had appropriated devices that looked similar enough that it was easily mistaken for an expression of mainstream religious faith.

Never mind that it really symbolized something so much older and realer than anything a priest could conjure for the masses.

He set it carefully on the table, detaching the chain from his pocket as well and then cutting the deck.

Where can I find the thing that disturbs the balance?

Once he handed the deck back to Miss Castine, she shuffled it once more. She drew a card and placed it near his pocket watch, a frown adorning her lips. She drew another one, and placed it beside the first card, and repeated the process until she had six cards drawn. She seemed confused about something, and her brows furrowed deeply.

“I don't... understand," she mused out loud, though it seemed like something she was thinking about rather than speaking to Ephraim. “What you seek isn't here," she began, tilting her head in confusion as she continued to stare at the cards. “But at the same time, it's close by. It's almost as if you're in the right place, but it's not quite here, in this time."

She finally glanced up at Ephraim, her head still tilted in a confused manner. Her eyes narrowed slightly at him before they seemed to gloss over. She remained that way for a few minutes before she finally blinked. Her eyes fell to her hands before she glanced away from him. “I'm not sure what time it could be in, though. It's not entirely clear."

"That's fine," Ephraim said, shaking his head faintly. "If it is not now, it is later. If it had already been, we would know." He did not specify who the we was; he hadn't even meant to say it as such.

"Have you any hint as to its nature?"

She shook her head. “I'm afraid I don't, but," she paused, chewing the bottom of her lip with uncertainty. “It... might be connected to someone you know," she finally spoke after a brief period of silence. “I didn't see who it was, but it's someone close to you. If not now, sometime in the near-future," she continued, her brows smoothing out slightly.

Someone he already knew. If true, that narrowed the field considerably, though 'related' was a very vague word. Still, he appreciated that her art was not a science, and only nodded slightly in return. "That in itself is very helpful, thank you."

Turning slightly, he caught Jezebel's eye and motioned slightly towards Miss Castine. If he was going to keep her here, he might as well at least provide a glass of whatever she liked to drink, alcohol or otherwise. The Red Moon also served an extensive collection of teas, coffees, and fruit juices, though as far as he knew, the last were typically mixed with the intoxicants.

She fidgeted in her seat a moment, the frown on her face no longer there, and replaced with something more curiosity than anything. “If I may say, Mr. Ramsey," she spoke, glancing in Jezebel's direction when she'd arrived. “Oh, maybe some jasmine tea, please," she stated before Jezebel had a chance to ask. She returned her attention to Ephraim, afterwards, and smiled somewhat.

“This person... that you're close to. They... don't mean any harm, but I think they're just lost. Confused, maybe, so... when the time comes," she paused, taking in a deep breath before she continued, “don't be too harsh with them. You'll have new friends, by then; people whom you'll trust and will trust you. One in particular who will be... I don't know the right word for it."

“Important? Friend? Something like that. They will help you through this if you let them."

His brows furrowed slightly, but Ephraim nodded anyway. He would take the words along with the others, and perhaps in time their meaning would become clear.

Jezebel returned with the tea, and he remained silent long enough for her to place it down and depart before he thinned his lips thoughtfully and finally responded. "I will bear this in mind, but the nature of the issue is—" He shook his head. He shouldn't say more. While Miss Castine was clearly aware of things beyond human ken, and no violation of the First Law was entailed by speaking to her of these matters, the First Law was not the only thing to consider here.

She smiled at him, though. “It's okay, Mr. Ephraim, I understand. It means a lot that you will at least heed the words. Whether or not you are allowed much freedom to make your own choice... I suppose it'll be enough." She took the cup that had been placed before her, and took a drink, the smile still on her face when she set it back down.

“Besides, if anything else comes up, I will let you know. Reading tarot is not the only gift I have, remember?" she stated cheerfully. “If I happen to see anything, you'll be the first to know. Although," she trailed off at the end, pursing her lips together slightly. “I don't know how inclined you may be, but, if there is something of personal value to you, other than this pocket watch, it might help focus my visions on the particular subject of what you're searching for. Only if you're able to, Mr. Ephraim."

Ephraim frowned slightly, picking up the watch. He depressed the trigger on top, opening the cover to reveal a cracked glass face. It still kept the time faithfully, though the numerals along the perimeter of the face were none a human would recognize, and it was not tracking a twenty-four hour day divided into seconds and minutes and hours. Instead there were a half-dozen hands, each currently oriented in a slightly different direction.

He closed it back over and replaced it in his pocket. "I own nothing else of personal value, Miss Castine," he replied simply. This was the one item that was always on him; nothing else would have near its psychic significance, not even one of his weapons, which he had not brought to the Red Moon. Liang was not particularly fond of them.

“That's okay, Mr. Ephraim," she replied, taking another sip of her tea. “The offer still remains: if I see anything, I'll let you know. Oh, also," she stated, setting the tea cup down and wrapping her hands around it. “I know I've probably said it too many times, but... thank you." She kept his gaze for a moment, the force of her smile narrowing her eyes a bit.

“I don't think I would have made it much longer without your help," she continued, though she didn't elaborate on what she meant by that. “You're a really nice person."

He was quite ready to nod and accept her thanks—unnecessary as he found them—but when she ended, he frowned outright. Nice was not a word anyone had ever used to describe him before. He tried to decide what part of him qualified and decided she must simply be speaking from her sense of gratitude.

Draining the last of his glass, he set it down with care, disinclined to damage Liang's table. "You are welcome," he said simply.