Khalil Jaziri

"I'm a glutton for a lot of things. Mostly things people wouldn't understand."

0 · 401 views · located in Steampowered London - 1885

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

So begins...

Khalil Jaziri's Story

Characters Present

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

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London - Dr. Graham's Clinic
June 2, 1885 - 13:49 p.m. - Clear
Khalil Jaziri

The use of office space was wasted. Khalil was no decorator, but his uncle had poor taste in designs. It was mostly spartan save for the desk—where he was currently sitting—and a couple of chairs for potential clients. The room in the back, though, had all of the medical supplies and equipment. Dorian had asked him to watch the clinic while he went to lunch, “Selfish bastard," but really, Khalil couldn't fault him for that. He was, himself, a selfish person. “Must run in the family," he muttered, leaning forward to prop his head on his closed fist. Taking in a deep breath, his nose wrinkled and he frowned.

“Why does everything have to smell so sterile?" he continued, slumping forward so that his forehead was laying on the desk and his arm was outstretched. “And why couldn't he just close the clinic for the day. I wanted to go to the Red Moon, too," he spoke with a sort of whine laced in his tone. He sighed before straightening himself out, running a swarthy hand through his dark hair. “I guess I can just wait it out for another two hours," he stated, glancing towards the grandfather clock in the room. He didn't understand Dorian's obsession with it, only that he'd kept it right in the front where everyone could see it.

“Alright that's it, if nothing happens in the next twenty minutes, I'm closing shop," regardless if Dorian was back or not. His uncle couldn't be the only one having fun... even if the man was completely hopeless and too dense for his own good.

He had almost reached his arbitrary deadline when, as luck would have it, something happened. The door at the front of the office opened, and three people filed in. The first was a man in a coat that looked a touch too heavy for the season, even with the ridiculously stuffy standards of dress in this country. Everything about him said military, except his hair, which was a tad too long for that. He smelled... odd. There was something unusual about it, underneath the obvious gunpowder, ink, parchment, and slight tang of alchemical reagents. He looked a bit too grumpy for Khalil's taste, and he could already feel his brows furrowing.

The second was a young woman just shy of her twenties. Khalil could almost taste the lily and lilac scent coming from her, and he could feel his mouth watering just a bit. Her sun-colored hair was pulled into a tail, setting against her back and her eyes were a lovely shade of violet-blue. Light enough to be mistaken for pale blue, but Khalil's eyes were trained to notice the smaller details of a person's appearance. She was beautiful in a way that Khalil found himself grinning at her approach, his brow raising just a tad bit in a seductive manner. It worked every time for him; this would be no different. She, however, paid him no mind, and glanced around the office. He almost felt his stomach drop. First time for everything, he supposed.

The third and final guest looked a touch younger than the second, and though they shared the fair complexion fashionable in England, that was where the similarities ended. The second woman had deep brown hair, and big, blue-green eyes with a thick fan of dark lashes. She was dressed in a way that somehow matched the other two without being exactly the same. She smelled more strongly of herbs and reagents than the other two, but it did a poor job of masking the sweetness underneath, like candy floss, vanilla, and lavender. It was clear even without asking that they were here together, and none of them looked the least bit sick.

Hello gorgeous, Khalil flashed a smile in her direction, and stood once he remembered his manners. “Welcome to Dr. Graham's clinc," he started. Even if they weren't sick, he wasn't going to refuse three beautiful people, though the male could be made an exception for. “What can I do for you two beautiful ladies? And you of course," he stated, winking an eye in the man's direction. The blond woman visibly rolled her eyes with an arched brow.

The brunette, though, smiled back, if only briefly, before turning her attention to the clinic itself. Despite his uncle's lack of taste, she seemed quite interested by it for some reason, particularly the few pieces of medical equipment laying around—though of course most of that was in the back.

The man's face smoothed from a resting frown into near-complete blankness, somehow conveying disapproval in the way that it conveyed nothing at all. "Mr. Khalil Jaziri?" he asked flatly. He slid his hands into the pockets of his coat. For a moment he tilted his head slightly, making direct eye contact. His eyes narrowed in something like suspicion for just a moment, but then even this trace of thought faded from his face.

Khalil frowned for a fraction of a second before he grinned. “That is I," he replied. He didn't like the particular look on the man's face, but he wasn't really in the mood—yet of course—to see if he could get a different reaction out of the man. “But you can all call me Khal if it's easier on your tongues," he stated, though he didn't suspect the man would need to. He'd said his name almost perfectly, the accent included. It might have been a trick of the mind, but it wasn't that important. “Especially you two—I'd actually prefer it," he stated towards the brunette and blond. The fair-haired woman rolled her eyes again, earning a short snort from Khalil.

The other one seemed puzzled by this, and tilted her head slightly to the side. "Oh, but the whole name is so nice," she replied, voice lilting with some unidentifiable accent. It wasn't quite any of those he'd heard in London. "Khalil. It's musical, almost."

The man sighed through his nose. "Mr. Jaziri," he continued, not accepting even the milder form of the offer, "you are familiar with a woman by the name of Elizabeth Demsky, are you not? We need to ask you a few questions."

“Depends on what you mean by familiar," he responded, tilting his head to the left. He knew the name, and the person it belonged to, but he wasn't going to admit to that just yet. He'd seen her just the other day. “Why do you need to ask me questions, though? I'm sure you could just go ask her," he stated, frowning just slightly. Did she say something to the officials?

“She can't; she's dead," the lily-scented woman answered in a dull tone. Her eyes were narrowed in his direction though, almost as if she were accusing him of doing the deed.

“Whoa there, princess," he spoke, settling himself down in the chair. “She's dead? Are you sure?" he had to ask. How could she be dead? He'd been with her the other day just for their meeting, but he hadn't heard from her since. Now that he thought about it, she hadn't contacted him in at least a day. That was strange of her.

“It's Miss Whitaker, and yes, we are certain. She's in the morgue if you'd like to confirm for yourself, but we'd like to ask you a few questions before you do," she stated, her expression smoothing out a bit.

“What do you want to know?"

"The victims parents have indicated that you were trysting with their daughter," the man said bluntly. Clearly this one did not bother being delicate. "As such entanglements commonly provide motives for murder, we are very interested in what you were doing two nights ago, around twenty-one hundred." He pushed his glasses—severely-angled rectangular frames—up the bridge of his nose before dropping his hand back down to his side. It moved the hem of his coat just a little—Khalil could see the grip of a long-barreled pistol strapped to his leg.

Khalil groaned into his hand. Of course her parents would say something like that. “It's actually not that complicated. I was only with her..." he paused for a moment to remember how many times he'd been with her, “a few times. And two nights ago I was picking up my uncle from a night out."

In other words, Dorian had drank himself to sleep at the Red Moon and Liang had asked Khalil to retrieve him. He frowned for a second. That happened slightly earlier than the time the man spoke of. “Ah, I was with Eli...za...beth," he slowed his speech once he realized he'd spoken Elizabeth's name. He groaned again. Might as well serve myself on a silver plate.

“But look, I didn't kill her. I don't kill people," he spoke, his lips pulling into a deep frown. He didn't kill people unless he had to, and the one person he did kill...

“Were you there the entire night with her?" Miss Whitaker asked, bringing him out of his reverie. There was something soft in her eyes when she'd asked him, but maybe that was just a play on the lighting. Khalil pursed his lips together.

“No—I didn't stay with her long. I was only there for ten minutes. She said she had someone else she was meeting so I left," he answered. It wasn't much of an answer, he knew, but that was all he could give them. “Didn't you search her apartment?" he decided to ask. “You must have found something, otherwise you wouldn't be so interested in what I was doing two nights ago."

"What we found was her corpse, stuffed up a chimney, with body temperature placing her time of death in that interval," the man replied brusquely. For all that, though, the way his eyes narrowed at Khalil was more assessing than accusatory.

He turned to his associates. "Miss Blythe, Miss Whitaker, please step outside for a moment." It wasn't clear why he was asking them to leave now, considering the implication that they'd seen the crime scene. It certainly couldn't be any concern for their sensibilities as women if that was so.

The brunette—Miss Blythe, apparently—nodded slightly, and looped her arm through one of Miss Whitaker's. "Shall we?"

Miss Whitaker looked confused for a second, her eyes glancing from Miss Blythe to the man. “Very well," she replied, letting Miss Blythe lead her away. Once they were out of sight, Khalil sighed heavily and slumped forward in his chair.

“I'd offer you a seat, but you're clearly after something else." He wouldn't ask his female companions to leave, after all, if he were interested in anything else Khalil had to say.

“What can I help you with, Mr..." he trailed off, giving the man a chance to state his name. If he so desired, that is. Chances were, a grump like him wouldn't even bother. He'd just get straight to the questions and the reason to why his associates left. But what did Khalil know?

"Ramsey," he replied with a short nod. Raising his arms, he crossed them over his chest, brows knitting slightly. "Your paramour's parents pointed us to you because they don't like you, and they don't like you because you aren't English. They all but said it. I came here to do my due diligence, just in case there was something to the suspicion, and while you haven't given me more reason to rule you out than I already had..." He trailed off, apparently deciding something before he continued flatly.

"There were no puncture marks on Miss Demsky. That doesn't exclude you entirely, but it is suggestive." He dropped his arms, reaching back into his pocket, from which he extracted a glass vial, stoppered with a cork. Inside was what looked like a scrap of fabric. "I was able to detect an unusual scent on her body that I could not identify. Perhaps your nose might succeed where mine has failed. You might consider it a chance to prove your good intentions." The hardness of his stare said the rest without much need for words: lie to me, and I'll know.

Khalil blinked in mild surprise. The only people who knew what he was, were Dorian, and Liang. No one else knew, and Khalil had made damn sure he was careful. He narrowed his eyes at Ramsey, but sighed heavily. There wasn't any point in trying to pretend he didn't know what Ramsey was talking about, nor was their any point trying to deny it.

“Hand it here," he stated, his hand outstretching to retrieve the vial. Once he had it, he popped the top off and pursed his lips together. He raised the vial close to his nose and took a deep breath. “Well... shit," he stated, furrowing his brows. There were a few scents that were mingled together. One, he could tell wasn't human, but the others were all mixed together.

“Smells like you have yourself a shifter. You do know what those are, right?" he asked. Chances were that Ramsey knew what a shifter was if he knew what Khalil was. “They smell like a dog's ass laced with pheromones, but this one..." he trailed off, taking another whiff of the vial. It smelled different.

“It smells a little... off. Maybe it went rabid?" That didn't seem right, though. There would be more bodies strewn about if it was rabid. “Was there anything else that you found?" he decided to ask. He was trying to identify some of the scents that were laced with the shifter's. Some of it smelled familiar, like things he would find in his uncle's clinic, but the scent was too mild. He needed something with a stronger scent.

Reaching into his other pocket, Ramsey produced a sealed plastic bag with a clump of what looked like fur in it. "I could smell the shifter myself," he replied, handing the bag over as well, "but the chemical smell is different from outright disease. It's too faint for me to say anything more discerning, but if you can identify even some of the components, we can take it from there."

Khalil shivered slightly. He really didn't want to smell the fur, but if it would help clear his name... he didn't have much of a choice. “You need a better nose," Khalil muttered beneath his breath. He took the sealed pack, and opened it. He took the clump of fur out, and lifted it to his nose, inhaling as deeply as he could. “There is a faint smell of something..." he began, closing his eyes to clear his mind a bit. The scent was almost like alcohol, laced with a type of opiate. Coca, was the first word that entered his thoughts, as he took slower breath.

“I can smell faint traces of coca," he finally spoke. “There's something else laced with it that I can't quite make out, but I definitely smell coca. And it's not the processed cocaine, either. It's purer than that," he continued, frowning further. They had to have used the oils from the crushed coca leaves and seeds in order to make a strand that pure.

Ramsey frowned slightly, but then nodded. He headed for the door, almost as if he were leaving without his things, but when the two women reappeared, his intentions became more obvious. "Coca laced with something else. What kind of substance would that make?"

The little one, Miss Blythe, blinked, her eyes rounding in something like surprise. "Coca is for stimulants," she chirped. "But... usually only addictive and unpredictable ones. Weaker concoctions made with it might help someone stay awake if they didn't want to sleep, but with the right other ingredients, it could induce hallucinations, and probably inhibit reasoning, as well as temporarily make someone much stronger than usual."

Ramsey nodded slightly. "I think I know a market for that." His eyes, a dull purple, slid to Khalil. "If you smelled that again, do you think you could identify the person taking it in a crowd?"

“As long as they were the only one who smelled like a dog's ass," he replied, leaning back in his chair. He'd tucked the fur back into the bag and tossed it on the table a little further from him. He didn't particularly like being used in such a fashion, A bloody hound, but if he could find out who killed Elizabeth... well he'd just have to put his nose to work.

“Yeah, I could identify the person who took it. It's a very distinctive smell," he began, watching as Miss Whitaker arched her brow. He grinned and tapped his nose. “You'd know it, too, if you were a doctor," he explained. Clearly Ramsey didn't want to expose what Khalil was to the women, so he had to sate Miss Whitaker's curiosity. He would have much preferred to do it another way, though.

"Good," Ramsey replied. If he sensed Khalil's dissatisfaction, he didn't show it. "We'll be back at twenty-three hundred. Don't dress too nicely."

“And here I thought I could dazzle you all in my nice clothes."

Characters Present

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

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Weaver's Row Underground
June 2, 1885 - 23:43 p.m. - Balmy
Ephraim Ramsey

The dilapidated former sewer tunnel now referred to as Weaver's Row Underground honestly didn't smell much better than it probably had when it was still a sewer tunnel. This was less due to excrement, and more due to the cocktail of sweat, blood, dirt, and urine that pervaded one of the less-illustrious illegal fighting rings in the city, though it was also somewhat large for a gathering of its type. The cavernous space was at the moment host to no fewer than fifty men, in various states of intoxication or sobriety, either participating in or more frequently betting on the bareknuckled pugilism matches taking place in a makeshift dirt rin in the center.

This far belowground, no one saw the need to be especially quiet, and shouts of encouragement or dissatisfaction created a clamor loud enough to make ordinary conversation quite difficult. Fortunately, Ephraim took it for granted that he didn't really need to say much; it was clear just from looking that this was not the kind of place where women would usually be welcomed, and to this end both of his apprentices had donned appropriate disguises. Even Jaziri didn't stick out too much—though there was no escaping the fact that he was not a native European, he wasn't the only man with a sun-touched complexion in the room. Such boundaries mattered less in places like this than they did among the upper class, at least usually.

"Anything yet?" Ephraim asked him, elevating his tone to be heard over the clamor. They were only on the periphery of the crowd now, but if they didn't have to get any closer, he wasn't going to.

“Nothing," he replied, his nose wrinkling as he glanced towards Ephraim. “There's too many things going on in one spot; someone vomited where you're about to step, though," he continued, pointing towards the floor. He lifted his head slightly higher, his nose moving subtly in the air as if he were just taking a deep breath. He moved in a little closer to Ephraim, though, and glanced at him from the corner of his eye.

“There's a similar scent coming from further in, though," he stated in a low voice, perhaps to keep anyone else from hearing him. “It's not quite the same one, but there is a similarity to it. If we can get a little closer, I might be able to pick up on the exact scent."

Of course, getting a little closer in a crowd like this was going to involve one of two things: forcing it, which could involve starting a fight Ephraim really didn't want to deal with, or expressing the desire to compete, which would see the participant and their group ushered towards the edge of the ring. Neither option was particularly appealing, but one was definitely more controlled.

"I suppose we'll need to get the promoter's attention," he said, suppressing a sigh.

Miss Blythe tilted her head at him. "I can do it," she replied, nodding her chin towards the ring. "You have a good nose, too, Mr. Ramsey, so it seems better for you to be investigating."

He snorted—that would make quite the picture, but she had a point. He certainly wasn't concerned with her ability to handle it, though there was still Miss Lancaster to consider. "Fine," he conceded at last, locking eyes with one of the promoters over the heads of most of the crowd.

The man, a short, grimy-looking fellow with an oily mustache, clearly sensed an opportunity. “O-ho!" he called, gesturing the crowd aside. “Looks like we've a challenger, fellas. You fixin' to step in ta the ring, boyo?"

Ephraim shook his head, stepping slightly aside so that Miss Blythe, in her guise, was more readily visible. "Not me. The boy."

The promoter took one look at Miss Blythe's slight stature and delicate face, then threw back his head and laughed. “Tha'ssa good one, mate. Your boy there wouldn't last five seconds in the ring with one'a mine, would 'e, lads?" A general chorus of guffaws and taunts followed, as they undoubtedly would.

Ephraim resisted the urge to sigh. This was a waste of time.

From the pocket of his coat, he pulled a billfold, extracting two hundred-pound notes. "He'll last the whole match, and he'll win it. Unless you're not inclined to take the bet."

The notes were swiftly snatched from his hand. “Not sure what you have against 'im, but we'll take your bet. Come on up to the front here; wouldn't want ya ta miss it."

“Are you certain he'll be able to win that fight?" Miss Lancaster asked, keeping in disguise by calling Charlotte, he. “It seems a bit... dangerous," she continued. Mr. Jaziri arched a brow as well, indicating he was slightly curious to the answer.

“Whitaker has a point, but Blythe is also correct. It would be better for Ramsey to continue the investigation with Blythe acting as a distraction," he added in. “If Blythe says they can handle it, I'm sure they'll be alright," he continued, placing a hand on Miss Lancaster's shoulder. She merely shrugged it off and shook her head.

“I suppose we should get closer, then."

Of course, Ephraim knew better than either of them the strange extent of Miss Blythe's capabilities, but for now he remained noncomittal, shrugging as they were led to the edge of the ring. His assistant made sure her hat was secure on her head, hair tucked firmly into place beneath the short wig. Simply tucking her hair up worked for going out on a normal occasion, but if there was a risk of scrutiny such as now, the disguise got a little more elaborate.

“All right, boys, we got a new contender, and some money to back 'im up, so who wants to step inta the ring, eh? You'll make an easy buck, but ya might feel bad about it." This earned more than a few chuckles and guffaws, but it was precisely the unscrupulous type who'd agree to fight a much smaller person that they were probably looking for. Alchemy could do a lot to a person's mind, and the use of a substance strong enough to drive a shifter into a murderous rage was likely to have aggressive side-effects as well.

The first to step up was a medium-height man, banded muscle of practical dimension suggesting a laborer by trade. His hands were rough, a bit overlarge for his body, but his anatomy bore none of the other hints of shifter ancestry. Perhaps, it was him, but also perhaps not. It would be unlikely that they struck upon a suspect the first time they tried, even if he'd picked the right location.

A couple of the others clapped him on the shoulders as he passed, or mussed his short crop of hair. “Go get 'em, Ernie."

Ephraim had a feeling he knew what this was—a test, of sorts.

Miss Blythe looked as placid as ever, adjusting her leather gloves with a quiet nonchalance that apparently greatly amused those on her side of the ring.

“Oy, Ernie, not even the girly-boy's scarda ya! You sure you got this one?"

“Aye, lay off wouldja? I got this, I got this. Girly-boyo ain't gunna know what 'it 'em."

Mr. Jaziri snorted softly, perhaps at the statement, however; he frowned. “He's an alcoholic, but he's not the one you're looking for." Jaziri moved off towards the side of the crowd, keeping himself between Miss Lancaster and another man that was interested in the fight. “There is a faint smell coming from the back, though. It... kind of smells like alcohol and iron. I think someone's getting bandaged up," he continued, shifting in his spot.

“Ugh, haven't these people ever washed themselves? It's hard to get a good scent in here," he muttered beneath his breath, moving slightly forward. He glanced around the area, his eyes occasionally going to Charlotte, however; he moved his gaze to Ephraim. “I think I have something. It's too faint to be certain but it's coming from the back. Do they keep contenders back there?" he asked.

"That seems likely. Less likely is us getting back there quietly. Better to let the contenders come to us." He nodded towards the ring, where Miss Blythe was now squaring off against her foe. Ernie had stripped to the waist, as was relatively common in such matches, but fortunately not required.

He rubbed at a spot of dirt on the side of his nose, sniffing sharply. From the odd angle of it, it had been broken several times already and not healed properly; he had in fact the squashed face of a pugilist who wasn't especially good at his trade. Why he got to test out the new blood, no doubt. Anyone not good enough to give him a few good hits wasn't good enough for any of the more exciting fighters in the back.

“Awright!" the promoter shouted from his spot next to Ephraim. “Place your bets, place your final bets, cos we're about to get star'ed." A few last moments of shuffling, and then he dropped the filthy rag that served as match flag, and the fight was on.

It went more or less exactly as Ephraim expected it to. Ernie, brash and overconfident, stepped in and swung almost lazily, with more force than finesse. Miss Blythe ducked it effortlessly, then struck him in the ribcage with the heel of her hand. She checked the blow, but it still hit with an audible thud, forcing Ernie several steps backwards.

“Wha' the?" For a moment, he looked as if he were unsure if that had just happened. Not an entirely unfamiliar feeling for an alcoholic of his caliber, perhaps.

His second punch was a much faster, wilder haymaker. Again, Miss Blythe stepped nimbly aside, footwork solid and deliberate. Her brows knitted; she shot Ephraim a questioning glance.

He nodded. No point drawing this out.

With a little huff, more visible than audible considering the volume of the crowd, she stepped in, little fists thudding in a rapid staccato into Ernie's midsection. His paltry defense cracked under the assault, and before long she'd forced him to the very edge of the ring, where he staggered backwards into the bar, grabbing onto it for support.

The only way to end a match in a place like this was a knockout.

"I'm sorry for this," Miss Blythe said, cocking her fist back and clocking him directly in the brow.

Ernie's head snapped back; his neck hadn't broken, but would certainly be sore for several days. More importantly, he slumped to the ground, entirely void of consciousness.

Ephraim almost smirked.

Jaziri snorted before he scoffed and leaned in close to Ephraim. “Seems you trained that one well," Jaziri stated, clearly amused by the sharp gasps from the crowd. It was quiet for a moment before the people errupted into laughter, angry shouts, and awe.

“Blythe clearly can handle themself well," Miss Lancaster stated, crossing her arms against her chest and frowning slightly.

“If you ask really nicely, I can teach you how to handle yourself well, too," Jaziri spoke, earning a flat look from Miss Lancaster.

“No thank you," earned a short bark of laughter from Jaziri. He merely shrugged his shoulders, though.

“Oh, I think we just got lucky," he stated suddenly, his head snapping up towards Charlotte's direction. “I think our second contender is the one we want."

There'd been a bit of a scramble for someone new after the surprising victory, and something about the mood shifted with this new fighter, as though the crowd was not quite so eager to risk drawing attention to itself.

The man that entered the ring was quite enormous, perhaps a near thing to seven feet tall, with a frame easily twice as wide as Miss Blythe's. He was obviously hirsute, covered in a thick layer of wiry-looking blond hair, matching the tight curls atop his head. There was a scar on his left cheekbone—it looked like a cut with a bladed instrument had just barely missed his eye. And though ephraim couldn't quite scent it through the stink of the crowd, he had no reason to suppose Jaziri was lying to him.

“Double or nothin'?" The promoter asked hopefully.

Much to his obvious surprise, Ephraim nodded.

Bets were placed, many of them taken by a much smaller man accompanying the giant, nervous of gesture but quick to funnel cash into his pockets, marking all the bets down on a scrap of paper. He had more of the look of an alchemist about him, and a strong chemical odor that Ephraim could easily pick out.

"Ideally we wait until the shifter is unconscious, then corner he and his friend elsewhere, but be ready to move if anything goes wrong before then." A shifter was a real physical threat to any of them, especially if he changed. No doubt he'd usually not do that in front of humans, but... Ephraim glanced over at Miss Lancaster, then reached for the pistol holstered on his thigh.

"Use it if you need to, but try not to need to," he said simply, pressing the handle into her palm. "Safety's on."

She took the pistol in her hand, turned it as if inspecting it, and nodded. “I was taught about this particular model. I know how the safety works," she stated, keeping her voice low, perhaps to not draw attention to herself. Appearances were easy to disguise, but voices were a different matter. Miss Lancaster usually kept to the quiet side when she donned her men's garb. She placed the pistol to her side, though, keeping it concealed until she would need it. If she would need it. Jaziri, however, frowned deeply to the point that his brows were furrowed in a harsh manner.

“That stench... I'm surprised the others aren't cringing from it. That's definitely our guy; he's got the scent of coca on him and dog's ass. You should tell Blythe to be a bit careful with this one. His scent's a little stronger this time around," he spoke, keeping his voice to the bare minimum so that Ephraim was the only one to hear.

There wasn't much chance to talk to her, but one look confirmed that she knew it. Miss Blythe's brow was still furrowed, this time a little more worried than remorseful, but she didn't look afraid, nor did she give any indication that she wished to back out. Ephraim had little gauge of what she was capable of other than his observations and her own—he honestly had no idea what the girl even was.

This time, when the match started, it was quite quiet, as though the crowd collectively held its breath. This man, called only "The Beast" by the promoter, was aggressive, but much more dangerously so than his predecessor. His blows were aimed well, and Miss Blythe was swiftly on the defensive, darting about the ring much more hastily than she had before.

For all that, he could seem to score a hit on her. At first, the changes were subtle: both of them increased the speed and strength of their attempts so gradually it wasn't noticeable. But fifteen minutes in, there was still no decisive hit, and to Ephraim's eyes, they were clearly well into the use of supernatural force. Not enough that it looked too obvious, but close. A few of the more sober audience members were squinting at the match, as though aware that something wasn't right, but unable to pinpoint exactly what.

Jaziri's eyes remained glued on the match as well as Miss Lancaster's. She seemed more worried than Jaziri did since her brows were knitted together. She winced visibly when a blow would almost hit Charlotte, but otherwise kept her eyes on the arena. "The Beast" seemed to grow frustrated, though, when he couldn't land a hit. He would grunt on occasion, or growl in a way that still seemed human. It wasn't until ten minutes later that something changed. The man, seemingly agitated by the fact that he couldn't hit Charlotte, roared in anger. It startled the row of people closest to the arena, and caused them all to step back.

“Well... shit," Khalil cursed beneath his breath. It was obvious why when the sound of bones cracking filled the air. "The Beast" was changing, though it was minimal at first. His hands grew slightly larger, but his fingers were elongated with sharpened nails. They weren't quite claws, but somewhere in between. His eyes, dull brown at one point, were now almost citrine in color. Splotches of fur began covering his body, mostly around his shoulders and spread to his abdomen. To the human eye, it looked like his body hair was becoming darker, and fuller.

“What's happening to him?" Miss Lancaster asked, her voice laced with a sort of morbid curiosity. Her eyes were slightly wide, but not in fear. They seemed more in awe and wonder than anything else.

“That, sweetheart, is what's called a shifter, but it looks like he's only half way. I'd get into more detail about it, but that's going to have to wait," Jaziri spoke, his brow raised in a curious manner. “So... what do you want to do about it, Ramsey?" he asked, turning in Ephraim's direction. The Beast was moving slightly faster now, and not quite as fluid. He was moving in a rage-filled way, his swings going too far off to one side in giant sweeping motions.

Ephraim grimaced. They were headed for a rather spectacular First Law violation here in a moment, and they had to—

The words he'd been about to say died in his throat as the shifter finally landed a square hit on Miss Blythe. A clawed fist slammed into her stomach, doubling her over. Before he could follow up with the doublehand blow to her head he was winding up for, Ephraim threw himself over the railing, shoulder-checking Miss Blythe out of the way with enough force to send her sprawling to the ground. Crossing his arms up over his head, he took the force of the blow himself, grimacing at the sensation. If the man had been fully shifted, that might have fractured his arm, but even as it was he'd have heavy bruises tomorrow.

Undoubtedly startled by this development, the shifter reeled back, almost confused. The smaller man who'd been with him whistled sharply, apparently some kind of signal, because before Ephraim could react, the halfshifted fighter was sprinting towards his friend, picking him up easily in one arm and bolting down the sewer tunnel.

"Jaziri, grab her and follow. Whitaker, with me, now." He took off after the shifter, barreling through the stunned crowd without regard for those he knocked down in the process.

Miss Lancaster was right behind Ephraim, trying to keep up with him as they gave chase. “Hey, Ramsey, they're going to get away if we don't pick up the speed here. And I don't think little Miss Whitaker there's going to be able to keep up," Jaziri spoke once he caught up with Eprhaim and Miss Lancaster. He was carrying Charlotte on his back, apparently having decided that was the best course of action.

He was, unfortunately, quite right. Ephraim grimaced, then halted abruptly. "Get on," he said, crouching so she could. "I'll explain later, but it will be much faster this way."

Characters Present

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

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London - London Streets
June 2, 1885 - 01:01 a.m. - Balmy
Amelia Lancaster

Amelia didn't even hesitate. She looped her arms around Mr. Ramsey's shoulders, and hoisted herself on his back. Were this any other occasion, it might have been considered improper, however; the current situation called for it. Whatever they were chasing, it was clearly not human, and Amelia didn't know what to make of it. Were those fairy tales she'd been told as a child, true? Were there really demons, as the church proclaimed, and other such supernatural entities? Having seen that shifter first hand, she was inclined to believe that there was some truth to what was told. That, or she'd finally lost her mind. That was an option as well.

She didn't linger on the thought, though, and took a deep breath. “I'm set," she stated, holding tightly to Mr. Ramsey's shoulders. She didn't want to accidentally fall off, even if his grip on her was good, and she didn't want to lose her balance, either.

“Make sure you hold on tight, Whitaker. It's about to get a little windy," Jaziri stated, his grip on Charlotte adjusting just slightly as if he were getting a better hold on her.

Beneath her, he shifted, returning to his feet with a kind of controlled, fluid swiftness that made it seem as though she weighed nothing at all. His gloved hands grasped her just beneath her knees—while hardly the most proper place for a man to be touching a lady, it was about as polite as he could be, considering the circumstances. Even through his gloves and her trousers, the difference in warmth was perceptible.

"Don't shoot me," he said blandly, drawing her attention to the fact that his gun was, in fact, still gripped tightly in one of her hands. She had just enough time to adjust her grip before he and Jaziri both took off, and suddenly they were hurtling down the tunnels at a speed that left the details blurring around her, at least until they turned a corner and plunged into what seemed like total darkness.

Their footsteps, however, did not falter, and the motion was so smooth that she could actually feel the pattern of Mr. Ramsey's breath, the slow, even intake and exhalation of air. About a minute after they'd entered the dark corridor, it changed, and he clicked his tongue against his teeth in what sounded like frustration.

"They've gone up. Miss Blythe, get the manhole cover."

"Yes, sir," she replied, her voice at least sounding clear now. There was the sound of clothes rustling, and then another set of feet hitting the ground at a run. "Thank you, Mr. Jaziri, but I'm okay now," she said, and then even as they ran her footsteps disappeared, followed by a heavy impact sound and the appearance of a sudden circle of light further down the tunnel.

"Don't let go," Mr. Ramsey muttered, almost under his breath but plenty loud enough for her to hear. "We're going up."

Seeing first Miss Blythe and then Mr. Jaziri disappear onto street level in single jumps indicated that they were not going to be climbing the rungs to do it, either.

Amelia gripped the pistol tightly in her hand before allowing her forearms to grip tighter around Mr. Ramsey's shoulders. This way, she wouldn't drop the pistol when he jumped, and she wouldn't lose her grip on him and fall off. They made the jump in a single go; it was a weird feeling to be hoisted up in such a way. It had nothing to do with the way he was holding her—it was the fact that the people she knew weren't exactly human. This wasn't what she thought she'd be involved with. Shifters, whatever Mr. Jaziri and Ramsey were, and even Charlotte. They all had human guises, but this...

She shifted her thoughts. There would be a time and place for that, however; at the moment they were chasing a suspect, and she needed to be focused on that. Even if she could barely see the surroundings as they rushed by, she could faintly see the two people in front. The Beast and the promoter were at least a few hundred yards in front of them.

“Oi, Ramsey," Mr. Jaziri spoke first, slowing his pace so that he was running beside Mr. Ramsey. “Even at our speed, he's getting further away. You have any ideas how to slow him down?" he asked, though Amelia could see his eyes glance towards the pistol that was in her hands.

Mr. Ramsey hummed, but his thoughts seemed to be running in the same direction. "Miss Whitaker: I'm going to get you as close as I can. I want you to shoot him. Can you do that?" His head turned slightly so that she could see the corner of one violet eye, but his steps never faltered.

She nodded, “Yes." She pulled the pistol so that it was over Mr. Ramsey's shoulder, and furrowed her brows. While Miss Vera was a good tutor, she hadn't exactly prepared Amelia to shoot whilst moving. She could shoot moving targets with a strange ease, but they were moving. Not her.

“Make sure you get a good shot, Whitaker. You don't want to accidentally shoot off Mr. Ramsey's ear," Mr. Jaziri stated, causing her to frown slightly.

“Mr. Jaziri, I politely request that you shut up before I accidentally shoot you," she retorted. She didn't need him to tell her that. She wasn't a novice playing with some toy. There was a sharper puff of air from Mr. Ramsey, barely audible over the rush, but it sounded almost amused.

Taking a deep breath, she re-aimed the pistol towards The Beast. If she timed this right, she could catch him in the shoulder which should cause him to drop the man he was carrying. That would be enough to at least get them both to stop. This would be under the assumption that the man was that important for the Beast to go back for him.

It's now or never, and with that single thought, she pulled the trigger. The bullet lodged itself in the back of The Beast's knee, causing him to fall forward. Amelia grimaced slightly—she wasn't aiming for his leg.

It didn't seem to be much of an issue in any case, though; he staggered, and his momentum was such that the man on his shoulder fell, pitched forward and onto the street. They lost precious seconds as the pursuit caught up, but then, almost as if it were some kind of miracle, the larger man stood, the bullet falling out of his wound and to the stone with a light clink, as though something had pushed it out. He scooped up his partner and leaped, this time alighting on a nearby rooftop.

Oddly, this didn't seem to surprise Mr. Ramsey any, and he followed—a great deal more smoothly than the men they were chasing. Even if the Beast had been able to shrug off a bullet, the stumble had cost them time, and the pursuers were steadily gaining the advantage. Shifting his grip on her, Mr. Ramsey reached up and gently took the gun from her hands, sliding it back into its holster.

"Just focus on holding on," he advised. "It won't be smooth for long."

Ahead of them, she could barely make out something happening to the man they were chasing. The furlike hair he'd sprouted earlier thickened, his back hunching and limbs seeming to grow long and thick enough to strain the seams of his trousers. There was a splitting sound—at least a few of them had given way—and then a dreadful, half-shrieking howl. Their quarry accelerated, leaping from one rooftop to the next, and the others followed. Amelia was briefly weightless as they soared, only to be brought back to ground again as Mr. Ramsey landed.

"Jaziri, Blythe: go east. You should be able to flank him around Porter street if you take the fastest track there. We'll herd him towards you."

Mr. Jaziri nodded, “You got it." He and Charlotte shifted towards the east, and disappeared. Amelia adjusted her grip on Mr. Ramsey, assuring herself that it was firm enough that she wouldn't risk falling off. She also didn't want to impede Mr. Ramsey's movement in any way. Once she was satisfied, she forced her gaze forward and ignored the slight drying sensation of her eyes. She could still see the creature in front of her and Mr. Ramsey, almost flying ahead of them as they continued their pursuit.

For a brief moment, Amelia lost sight of the creature as it rounded a corner. It looked like a sharp one to take, and she could hear the screeching of nails against stone. It sounded like the creature had to readjust himself, though how he managed while holding another person baffled Amelia. They took the corner, keeping their pursuit of the man until Amelia caught sight of Mr. Jaziri and Charlotte. They both appeared rather well, despite the fact that they had been running at an inhuman speed. Perks of being something not human, she supposed.

“Looks like they've managed to corner him," she stated. That was dangerous, though. Human or not, anything that felt cornered became more dangerous than it already was.

“Oi, mutt—I'd appreciate it if you'd stop running now," Jaziri commented, though he looked excited about something. Amelia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He was something no words could describe, but mostly he was giving her a headache.

Mr. Ramsey landed on the same rooftop with a soft thud and a bit of a grinding sound on the shingles. Carefully, he let her slide down until her feet made contact as well, then stepped forward and away from her. Without looking, he passed the gun back to her, but she could already tell that it was only a precaution. The creature—whatever it was—already bristled, and it was clear enough that the other three were going to be facing it directly, where the risk of accidentally hitting them if she shot was very high.

With deliberate, quiet steps, Mr Ramsey circled around behind the creature and its companion, hemming it in with Mr. Jaziri and Miss Blythe. Though he expressed none of Mr. Jaziri's excitement, there was a strange light to his eyes all the same: a glint of something she'd not seen before. Almost like... anticipation.

But it was the creature that moved first, lunging for Miss Blythe. The young girl drew her fist back and threw it forward, meeting the creature in the middle of its lunge, tiny curled hand landing square in the middle of its elongated nose. There was an uncomfortable, wet crunch, and then a yelp; both of them staggered back. Miss Blythe had several red welts along with long tears in her shirt, right around her ribcage, but she'd smashed the creature's lupine snout halfway in, by the look of it.

Now seemingly desperate and furious, it charged Mr. Jaziri instead, still seeking an opening, an escape.

Mr. Jaziri didn't even blink as the creature lunged for him, though he did look disappointed about something. He shifted to the side in an effortless manner, as if he were just gliding on a dance floor. He brough his arm in, bent at the elbow, and jabbed it into the creature's side with enough force to send it staggering to his left. “That won't do, mutt." Amelia didn't understand why he was trying to goad the creature. Why rile the creature up to make it more dangerous? She briefly wondered if she should have accidentally shot Mr. Jaziri, but that would have given the creature the escape he needed. Sighing inwardly, she continued watching as Mr. Jaziri and the beast attacked each other.

“Jaziri, stop playing with it," she finally spoke, watching as he grinned in her direction. From the look on his face, he appeared mostly to be playing with the creature rather than trying to fight it and bring it down. Unfortunately for her, though, the creature set its sights on her. Perhaps it could sense that, despite being by Mr. Ramsey, it would have a better chance going through her than it did any of the other three. It turned as if to make its way towards her, however; Mr. Jaziri tsked and grabbed it by its hind leg.

“And where do you think you're going, mutt? We were just getting started," he stated. From this distance, Amelia could see something slightly different about Jaziri. While he looked mostly fine, his hands seemed a little larger, and his fingers seemed elongated with sharp claws. He pulled the creature towards him, and whether it was the momentum, or the fact that Jaziri's claws were in the creature's hind leg, it caused the creature to stagger. It gave Jaziri a chance to twist the leg he was holding, and with a wet pop, Amelia knew he'd broken the leg.

“Not gonna stay broken for long, but..." he stated, pausing momentarily to give the leg a quick jerk, pulling it out of the socket, it seemed, “that should keep it from healing too quickly." With a broken leg, there wasn't much the creature could do, or so Amelia thought.

Of course, it still had three others, and that proved to be enough for it to shake free of Mr. Jaziri, and it made another grab for Amelia. This time, however, it was stymied by Mr. Ramsey, who caught the scruff of its furry neck as it passed by and yanked, slamming the creature into the rooftop. The shingles underneath their feet trembled, the structure creaking in protest at the mishandling.

The reason for what might have otherwise been excessive force soon became clear, though—a higher-pitched, more human yelp preceded a thud. It seemed the creature's companion had been trying to make a stealthy escape while the beast fought its losing battle. Now, however, the small man found himself swiftly detained by Miss Blythe, and the creature itself was clearly unconscious from the impact. Slowly, his form receded, until Mr. Ramsey was holding a large, but fully human-looking man by the nape of his neck.

Clicking his tongue against this teeth, Mr. Ramsey dropped the man, then canted his head slightly, as though sniffing the air. "Are you getting a bit of her perfume?" he asked of Mr. Jaziri. "It's faint under the drugs, but I think it's there."

Mr. Jaziri wrinkled his nose as he took a closer step to the beast. “It's there, just beneath the musk of dog's ass," he spoke, his nose wrinkling further. He'd made it abundantly clear that he did not like the smell of shifters, though Amelia did roll her eyes at the statement. It just smelled like wet dog to her, but she supposed if Mr. Jaziri's sense of smell was stronger, it might smell differently to him.

“I can say with certainty that this is the guy you want for Elizabeth's murder," he continued, his lips pursing into a fine line. His eyes narrowed almost into slits, as if he were trying to set this man—or creature—on fire with just his mind. For all she knew, he probably could. When the creature did not burst into flames, however; she turned her attention towards Mr. Ramsey and Charlotte.

“So, how are we going to process this one?" she asked. They couldn't exactly hand him over to the Yard, unless they were equipped to deal with beings like The Beast. His human counterpart, perhaps, but not the beast himself.

Charlotte pursed her lips, her visage uncommonly grave. "They've both violated the First Law," she said softly. "And that means it's not up to us what happens anymore."

As if on an unspoken cue, Mr. Ramsey advanced towards the fallen beast. Though Amelia was still holding his pistol, there was another gun in his hand. He pointed it square at the creature's forehead, speaking too low for Amelia to make out the words. The last of the fight seemed to leave the beast, its form receding until it once more bore the face and manner of a man, braced on his hands and knees. Tears streamed down his face, reflecting the scarce light of gas lamps and the moon overhead.

She could hear him well enough. “I'm sorry," he said, choking on the words, voice ragged as though it hurt to speak. “I didn't mean to hurt her. I didn't mean to attack you. The drugs, I—I didn't know."

Mr. Ramsey's expression did not change: hard, cold, pitiless. He cocked the hammer of the gun with a decisive click.

“Mr. Ramsey," Amelia wasn't sure why she spoke. Perhaps it was something in the man's voice, but Amelia was not the cold heart Mr. Ramsey seemed to be. Something squeezed painfully at her heart, and she took a few steps so that she was standing next to Mr. Ramsey. The man, whoever he was, did not deserve pity, but he deserved mercy. Of what nature, Amelia couldn't be sure. She was not accustomed to what Charlotte spoke of, this First Law, but she knew the laws of men. She had been studying them when she wasn't practicing with Miss Vera, and when she had the free time in Mr. Ramsey's establishment.

“Is it not enough that he can be charged for Elizabeth's murder, and let the Yard sentence him?" she asked. “Apologies do not bring back the dead," she continued, briefly glancing towards the man, “but shouldn't the Yard be the one to sentence him? To show Miss Elizabeth's parents that the perpetrator has been caught and is being dealt with?" Amelia was allowing her emotions to guide her on this, that much she was aware of.

Mr. Ramsey's glance cut sharp in her direction, steely and hard under the light, but he did not reply.

Mr. Jaziri, however, shook his head. “It's not that simple, Miss Whitaker. You see, you are human, and are governed by your human laws, however; creatures like us," he spoke, his eyes glancing in Charlotte and Mr. Ramsey's direction, “are governed by something a little different. I'm not entirely versed in what it is, myself, but what Mr. Ramsey is going to do is considered something of a mercy."

“This mercy you feel is wasted on creatures like him... like us," he spoke almost in a solemn tone, though Amelia didn't quite understand.

Mr. Ramsey squeezed the trigger of his gun, and though there was a brief flash at the muzzle, it made almost no sound at all. Instead of obliterating the creature's head, something else happened. Whatever projectile was fired from the barrel hit, and the target jerked backwards as if from heavy impact, but more notable still was the fact that something... ghostly was ejected from his body, which slumped to the ground, to all appearances dead.

It looked like a translucent, floating version of how the man had seemed when he transformed, tethered to the physical body by softly-luminous chains. They shuffled and clinked against one another; the apparition looked at Mr. Ramsey as if with new understanding.

“Demon," he breathed.

Stowing the gun, Mr. Ramsey withdrew what looked to be a long knife from somewhere near his belt. With a swift motion, he cleaved through the chains, gathering them up in his free hand. He drew the knife across his own cheek thereafter, thin rivulets of blood dripping from his jaw to the ground.

Charlotte's arm wound around one of Amelia's own. "Don't look directly inside," she said, a warning that at first made no sense at all.

But then Amelia blinked, and suddenly in the spot Mr. Ramsey's blood had fallen, there were a pair of doors, set into an arch. It was black and shiny, like they were made of volcanic glass, wrought iron patterns at the edges evoking bones and dead trees. The doors were flanked by snarling hounds made of granite, their eyes glittering rubies that seemed to almost be on fire from within. Mr. Ramsey said something in a language she'd never heard before, and with a creaking groan, the gates swung inwards.

As if in recognition that the result was inevitable, the shifter stepped into the gates voluntarily. No sooner had all of him disappeared than the chains in Mr. Ramsey's hands faded to wisps and then disappeared. The gates themselves vanished with another mere blink.

"The pugilist suffered a heart attack as a result of consuming too many of the substances his friend offered," he said, no less decisive for his quiet tone. "It was in an induced rage he could not predict that he killed the victim. Everyone involved was entirely human—anything that may be said otherwise by members of the fighting ring was the delirium of too much drink. You will confess to all of this as well." He gave the small man a hard stare when he said it.

"Technically, you did not violate the First Law, but you may no longer count your status as protected. I suggest you find a better use for your alchemy than enhancing fighters to bet on." He pressed his lips together, then shifted his attention to Amelia. "Both the Yard and the victim's family will have their resolution, whatever they may find it to be worth."

Amelia released a breath she did not know she had been holding. This was... all new information for her. She always knew that there was something more to her world, but nothing like this. Demon. Shifter. These were words she'd only heard in congregation and during the times she'd actually attended church with her father. These were things she'd been taught by James when he tutored her, but they were more fairy tale than they were truths being told.

Seeing all of this, knowing what she knew now...

“Uh, Miss Whitaker, you're shaking," it was Jaziri's words that brought her back, and she glanced down at her hands. She was trembling, and the fine tremor through her spine confirmed Mr. Jaziri was correct. She took in a steady breath, and glanced in his direction.

“I'm quite alright, Mr. Jaziri," she replied once she was able to calm her nerves. “There is much I still need to learn," she added, glancing towards Charlotte and Mr. Ramsey.

“Well I'll say this: you've got good aim. If it weren't for your shot, we wouldn't have been able to catch up to him." Amelia inwardly grimaced.

She had been aiming for his shoulder.

Characters Present

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

0.00 INK

London - Office of Ramsey and Associates, Inc.
June 6th, 1885 - 14:03 p.m. - Overcast
Khalil Jaziri

Khalil whistled to himself, standing outside of the establishment he'd been looking for. It had taken him a few hours to find it, mostly because he tried finding the place by scent alone. That had been a mistake. London was filled with smoke, the steam-powered vehicles that smelled strongly of the substance used to fuel them, and of horse manure from the carriages that were still used. That was to say nothing of the people that littered the streets. He could not understand why people chose to smell the way they did. Most of them had some sort of access to scented items. Perfume, shampoo, or something of that nature. He wrinkled his nose slightly before making his way towards the door.

He paused, took a step back to make sure he was at the right place, before walking in through the front door. There was a soft chime from the door, and the sound of footsteps made it to his ear. Pale blue eyes blinked in a confused manner before Miss Whitaker's face smoothed out to a sort of passive state. She looked unamused for a second before she seemingly remembered her manners, and smiled. It seemed a little strained, though, and it only caused Khalil to grin.

“Hello to you as well, Whitaker," he spoke. He could see the corner of her eye twitch slightly, but to her credit, her smile smoothed out to be a little less strained.

“I'll let Mr. Ramsey know you are here," she stated, turning on her heel and walking towards the back. Khalil raised a brow, his grin still in place. He could smell Miss Blythe before he even saw her, and grinned wider. He didn't bother to wait for Ramsey and Whitaker to show back up, and instead, made his way towards the other woman.

“It's good to see you in good health, Miss Blythe," he stated, pulling one of the chairs away from the empty desk, and setting it in front of Blythe.

She looked up from her work for the second time since he'd entered, smiling faintly. "Thank you, Mr. Jaziri. I was able to recover swiftly from my injuries. It's nice to see you, too." Whether the corresponding remark about his health was left off on purpose or simply because he had not been injured was unclear. She didn't seem to be implying anything, at any rate.

Setting her pen down, she reached up and tucked a small bit of hair behind her ear. "Have you come with another case, or was there something else you needed?" Her head tilted in what seemed to be an inquiring fashion.

Khalil just grinned at her and shook his head. “I came because I wanted to see how you and Whitaker were doing. Whitaker because of what she saw, and you because of what happened. Now that I know the two of you are doing well, I am here for a more personal reason," he stated, leaning forward so that he could rest his chin on the back of his propped hand.

While it was mostly true, the truth was that Khalil was bored. What happened a few days ago had been the most fun he'd had in a long time. If they had cases like this, often, he wanted to be a part of them. Mostly because he'd have something to do with himself other than help out his uncle at the clinic. And not to mention he'd be in the company of two very beautiful women. That was always a plus to him.

Of course, he'd also be in the company of a rather grumpy demon, as he was reminded when Whitaker returned, Ramsey in tow. The Ferryman's face didn't betray much, not even when he laid eyes on Khalil. His brow quirked a little, perhaps at the exaggerated familiarity in the way Khalil leaned against Miss Blythe's desk.

"Jaziri," he said, tone as neutral as his face. "I was not expecting you."

“No one really does," he responded casually, pulling away from Blythe's desk so he could stand and face Ramsey. Whitaker, however, rolled her eyes, and moved so that she was next to him. She reached forward, almost as if she were going to brush her hand against him, however; she seemed to be reaching for the chair he was sitting on. She moved it around to the other side of Blythe before taking a seat in it. Apparently they were sharing a desk, how cute.

“I'm here to see how my favorite people are doing," he spoke, earning a soft snort from Whitaker.

“You're not here to check on our well-being, Mr. Jaziri. Your body language suggests you are here for something else," she spoke, earning a grin from Khalil. She was right, but he didn't suspect that she'd know that. Perhaps she had a keener eye than he gave her credit for? She did manage to shoot that beast, after all. He merely shrugged.

“I came to see if I could tag along on the next interesting case you got," he stated, turning to Ramsey. There was no point in beating around the bushes, now.

Ramsey regarded him evenly. "Why?" he asked after a beat too long. "Our job is not a form of tourism, Mr. Jaziri. It isn't something one picks up and leaves whenever the mood strikes them."

Khalil grinned, but did his best to keep it from becoming too broad. Ramsey had a good point, though. Who was to say that in a few months—or even a few days—he wouldn't grow bored with this? Khalil trusted himself to know that once he was invested in something, he would be for a long time. But these people didn't know him, and as much of a pain as it'd be, he would prove to them that he had given some actual thought to this. Khalil, as a general rule, did things on a whim and left just as quickly. Five days ago, however, had moved him in a strange way. Chasing a criminal—one of a non-human nature—awakened something in him. Whatever it was, he wanted to do more of it. He wouldn't be entirely useless to them, though.

“Because there are things I can do that you cannot," he finally replied. That much was obvious, and supported by what happened with the shifter. The Demon didn't have as strong of a nose as Khalil did, and while he'd rather not be used as a hound, he was willing to help out in that fashion if it was required. “Not to mention I am skilled with medical alchemy and the sorts," he continued. It would be useful especially if something happened to them. Their own healing factors would be more than enough to keep them safe if they were hurt, though he wasn't entirely sure about Blythe. He couldn't figure out what she was just by scent. She wasn't quite something he'd ever met before. Whitaker, though, was human. She would likely need some help to keep herself alive if things became too heated.

To his credit, Ramsey did not give any indication of displeasure at a shortcoming of his being pointed out. Instead, his eyes shifted to Blythe, then back to Khalil. "Very well," he said after a moment. "You may accompany us on the next case on one condition: I want you to continue Miss Blythe's alchemy lessons. It is not my specialty, and she has learned all she can from me and my library already. If the arrangement works, we can discuss its potential permanency."

Khalil grinned as large as his face allowed him. Any more and he'd likely split his face in half, and he didn't want to do that. “Deal!" he stated, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. He shrugged it off, though, and glanced towards Blythe. Whitaker had her brows furrowed, and her lips were pursed softly, but she did not comment on Ramsey's statement.

“Seems like you and I will become partners for a while, Miss Blythe," he stated, nearly laughing in the process on the expression Whitaker's face took. She did not look too happy about his statement, and he could see her hand twitch slightly. Her jaw clenched a little tightly before she relaxed.

“I would advise you against trying anything strange with Miss Blythe, Mr. Jaziri," she spoke, her eyes going to the papers on her side of the desk. She spoke in a casual manner, but Khalil knew she was threatening him. He chuckled lightly.

Ramsey rolled his eyes and shook his head, moving to the room's other desk and settling down in front of it. "I'll get you a list of kit you'll need," he said, pulling a fresh sheaf of paper towards himself and taking up a pen in his left hand. "You'll have more alchemy equipment than we need, but there are a few other things as well. Make sure you have them within the week."

"Welcome to Ramsey and Associates," Miss Blythe added. Between Whitaker's glaring and Ramsey's apparent indifference, she was probably the only one that could actually say that an also mean it. She was either ignoring Whitaker's obvious threat or else oblivious to it—it was honestly impossible to tell which.

Still, it was a long time since he last felt welcomed someplace other than Wu's. He wasn't going to mess this up.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

London - Graham's Clinic
June 12, 1885 - 14:45 p.m. - Warm
Charlotte Blythe

Harley Street, in Marylebone, Central London, was an extremely popular location for prestigious physician's practice buildings, and Charlotte had to pass a lot of them to reach her destination. Not all of them were open, of course—sometimes the eminent doctors here practiced elsewhere, or attended at one of the city's many hospitals, but midafternoon was not an unusual time for them to be in-house. She could even at her distance hear the low murmur of voices in some of the buildings, through open windows. In others various people moved or shuffled about. At least one had the distinct, sharp scent of alcohol wafting from it: the cleaning kind rather than the drinking kind, and there were a few other alchemical reagents in the mix as well.

Of course, few human physicians were true alchemists as such, because the art was as much magic as science, but she knew one in particular who was likely to have what she was looking for.

Dr. Graham's clinic sat a bit awkwardly sandwiched between the two buildings on either side of it, almost as though its proprietor had to elbow and squeeze its way into this layer of society. Charlotte knew pale humans sometimes had something against darker-skinned humans, or even those who were from other countries in general. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to her even after Mr. Ramsey had explained it, but she did know it could not have been simple for Dr. Graham to acquire the property he worked out of, even with the funds for the purchase.

The clinic was indeed quieter than many of its counterparts, though the smell of tinctures and chemicals was stronger to her nose. Charlotte paused in front of the door, hesitating for a moment for reasons she couldn't quite pin down. She felt the need to smooth down her skirts a bit and adjust the her cuffs so that her sleeves lay neatly from shoulder to wrist. A few stray hairs got tucked behind her ears—she wasn't disguised as a boy today so there was no hat to hide it all under.

Puzzled by her own behavior, she filed it away for later consideration and opened the door, jingling the bell softly in the process and stepping inside the relatively-cooler air of the clinic.

There was some shuffling in one of the back rooms, a small thud, and a soft curse beneath someone's breath. It didn't sound quite like Mr. Jaziri, but the dialect that had been used was similar. A man that resembled Mr. Jaziri, appeared from the back room, blinked at Charlotte, and smiled broadly.

“Welcome," he spoke, standing a few feet in front of her. He took a quick glanceover and pursed his lips together. “I'm Doctor Graham; how can I be of service?" he asked, his brow tilting up slightly. Before Charlotte could respond, the door opened behind her, producing another person.

“Blythe?" it was Mr. Jaziri who spoke. He looked vaguely confused before a large grin spread on his face. “What brings you, here, Miss Blythe?" he asked, setting the bag he was holding down on a nearby table. “Oh, Dor, this is Miss Blythe, the woman I was telling you about. Blythe, this is my uncle, Dorian."

Charlotte's smile, which had been polite, if genuine, bloomed into a little half-grin when Mr. Jaziri appeared. She felt an unfamiliar lurch in her chest, but thought nothing of it. "Hello, Mr. Jaziri," she chirped in reply, curtseying at the other man. "And it's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Graham. I'm Charlotte Blythe." She could pretty easily pick out the resemblance between them, but she knew right away that Dr. Graham was a human, not a dhampir like Mr. Jaziri. Of course, that wasn't surprising. Dhampir were quite rare, as she understood it—it was actually nice to see one who got along with part of his human family. Miss Wu didn't, unfortunately.

"I was actually here to purchase some alchemy supplies, if you've any for sale. Our usual supplier is fine for the usual things, but I'm trying to brew a bone-knitting tincture, and some of the reagents are a bit... unorthodox." Such things went beyond ordinary alchemy into the realm of the supernatural, something they both knew plenty about, judging from the array of scents issuing from their back rooms.

At the mention of supplies, Mr. Jaziri's eyes lightened up, and a large grin bloomed over his face. He looked like he was going to say something, however; before he had the chance, Dr. Graham moved to stand in front of him. “Splendid!" he spoke, cutting off any response Mr. Jaziri might have had. Dr. Graham clasped his hands in front of him before holding his hand out. “We've all sorts of ingredients and items for your viewing," he continued, almost as if he were inviting Charlotte to walk with him.

“Ass," was muttered beneath Mr. Jaziri's breath, but he smiled nonetheless.“Dor, perhaps you might ask what kind she actually needs before ushering her around. It would be beneficial," he spoke, arching a brow in his uncle's direction. Dr. Graham furrowed his brows before a look of realization crossed his features.

“But there might be other things that might interest her. You don't just need one alchemic ingredient when there's a whole slew of them around," he countered, causing Mr. Jaziri to sigh heavily and roll his eyes.

Charlotte couldn't say she understood exactly what was going on. There was the surface-level conversation, of course, but there seemed to be an almost playful or argumentative undertone to it that she couldn't really pin down.

As she'd been told was the proper response, she stepped neatly into place beside Dr. Graham, content to be led where he thought it was most prudent to go. She smiled at the both of them, though, and shook her head. "Well I'm mostly here for supplements to my kit for the bone-knitting tincture: I'm afraid I've no wolfram left, and if you happen to carry aether dust and monkshood, I could do with those as well." Anything interesting or rare would be a good purchase though—Mr. Ramsey had been quite clear that he didn't mind her spending a little extra to procure materials for her learning.

Wolfram was common enough even among human doctors, and monkshood wasn't too hard to find in the right places, but aether dust was a much rarer reagent. Typically it was created from the bones or teeth of certain kinds of reanimated dead, as a touch of the energies of life and death was suffused into the skeleton of a corpse so desecrated. It encouraged the healing of living bone, too, in small doses mixed properly with other ingredients.

“Aether dust, aether dust," Dr. Graham spoke, pursing his lips together as his brows knitted. “Monkshood and Wolfram I have in stock, but I might be out of aether dust," he spoke as he led the way towards the back of the clinic, perhaps towards the area where he kept the supplies. Mr. Jaziri, however, rolled his eyes as he followed from behind.

“We received aether dust yesterday morning, Dor. I had to go get it, personally," he spoke, though he sounded a bit upset about that. Dr. Graham's face lit up with a bright smile as if he'd suddendly remembered that information. “I swear," Mr. Jaziri muttered beneath his breath as he trailed behind Dr. Graham.

“We also have ember flowers, if that's something you're interested in, Miss Blythe," Dr. Graham stated as he turned his attention back to Charlotte. “They work well in healing potions and other such elixirs. Oh, and we also have mandrake root," he continued, listing off two ingredients he had in stock.

“She doesn't need mandrake. Miss Blythe isn't cooking up a poison; she's much too innocent for things like that," Mr. Jaziri chimed in. Dr. Graham merely mouthed an 'oh' before opening a door on his left. “And this, Miss Blythe, is our alchemy room. If there's anything you see that you like, or need, feel free to take it. I owe you that much," he stated, winking his eye in her direction.

The ingredients in the room were arranged neatly on the shelves, many of them backed into thick glass jars or tied into bundles and wrapped in parchment, for both preservation and cleanliness. Scrawled handwritten labels on the shelves identified them, though Charlotte would have recognized may just by sight or smell. She supposed the same had to be true of Mr. Jaziri, with his superior olfaction, so she supposed the labels were primarily for Dr. Graham.

Stepping inside, Charlotte stepped lightly so that the heels of her boots would not clack too loudly on the wooden floors. Carpet in a room such as this was most inadvisable of course, and as such the slats were bare, if also smooth and polished to a shine. Alembics, retorts, and various other equipment and glassware seemed to be stored on the far side, the shelves and cabinets concentrated on the far wall, leaving plenty of room for what must have been the two gentlemen's current laboratory setup.

Her eyes went wide. "Is that a Browning?" she asked, transfixed by the microscope on one of the worktables. The unique shape of the base suggested that it was, but she'd never actually seen one before. They were well-reputed to be the best microscopes available, and were only usually found in university settings or in the kind of learned society halls she would never be permitted to make use of.

In her excitement, she entirely forgot to puzzle over the meaning of Mr. Jaziri's comment about owing her, or what on earth the winking gesture might mean.

“It is!" Dr. Graham stated excitedly, moving so that he was standing on the opposite side of the table. “Difficult to get, though," he mumbled as he ushered Charlotte over. Mr. Jaziri snorted softly, but remained quiet as Dr. Graham continued his explanation. “As you're aware, my nephew is a dhampir," he began, glancing towards Mr. Jaziri who merely shrugged his shoulders. “This helps me study the different structures of his cells, and how they differ from someone like me," he stated, leaning foward to peer into the microscope.

“I think what Dor is getting at is that he likes to study the different compounds of the molecular kind. Be careful, though, he might want to poke at you with his needles as well," Mr. Jaziri spoke, taking a seat at one of chairs in the room. Dr. Graham smiled broadly as he rounded the corner of the table, and was standing at a polite distance away from Charlotte.

“It was mentioned that you're not entirely human yourself, right?" he began, earning a somewhat cautionary glare from Mr. Jaziri. “If you would not be opposed to it, I would like to take a sample of your blood to study it. Only if you approve of course."

“Dor, she's not here to be a test subject; that's what you have me for," Mr. Jaziri cut in. “Besides, she's looking for ingredients that," he paused, shuffling towards the end of the room. He stood in front of shelf that held a few vials, each filled with a different substance. Probably more alchemic ingredients, however; he reached into a drawer and pulled out a dark brown pouch. “Are right here. Aether dust, correct?" he asked, holding the bag out towards Charlotte.

She reached for it with a smile, accepting the little leather pouch in cupped hands. "Thank you so very much," she said earnestly, tucking it away in one of the hidden pockets of her dress. Her fingers just brushed his hand, an accident, and one further mediated by gloves, but she felt a little momentary skitter of something anyway, a reaction she ignored.

Turning a bit so she could regard both men at the same time, she continued on the previous thread of conversation. "Actually I've looked at a lot of my own materials before, since I don't know exactly what I am." Her smile dimmed a little, but did not fade entirely. Somehow, she always felt strange when she spoke about this. "But my microscope isn't nearly as good. Maybe you'd see something I can't. I'd be happy to provide you with samples."

Even as she said so, she started rolling up the sleeve of her dress, dimly aware that it wasn't really the sort of thing a 'lady' was supposed to do in polite company. But honestly Charlotte only ever felt like she was pretending to be a lady anyway, and this was in the interests of science, so she doubted either of these scientifically-minded gentlemen would care at all. It was just an arm, after all, just pale skin and blood vessels and muscle and bone underneath. She didn't see what was so strange about it that she was supposed to keep it hidden.

“We don't have to do it this instant, Blythe," Mr. Jaziri spoke, however; he was silenced by a wave of Dr. Graham's arm.

“Nonsense, Khal! Miss Blythe," he spoke, turning so that he was fully facing her. “If you'd like to take a look, first, you are more than welcome to," he stated, still smiling brightly at her. “If you'll excuse me, I need to go get the needles and sterilize them before we can commence," he added, making his way out of the room. Mr. Jaziri sighed, and shook his head, though.

“Blythe, we can do this another time, if you'd like. Perhaps in a more appropriate area?" he spoke, pulling one of the chairs from a nearby table and placing it near the table where the Browning sat. “But if you want to continue, you might as well sit down," he stated, turning the chair in Charotte's direction.

She accepted the chair, smoothing her gloved hands over her skirts so they would lay nicely. "Is there something inconvenient about this location?" she inquired. "I thought it would be simplest here, since the supplies are already nearby?" She tilted her head at him, birdlike, and suddenly very aware of how tall he was. Even ordinarily, he towered by comparison to herself, of course, but the distance was only magnified when she sat and he did not.

Mr. Jaziri sighed, perhaps a bit too heavily. “It's not so much the location as it is the company, Blythe. I'm sure Ramsey told you about what's deemed proper for a young woman such as yourself. A young, unmarried woman in an establishment with two unmarried men. It's..." he paused, pursing his lips together. Before he could finish his sentence, Dr. Graham returned with a couple of vials, and a needle.

“Nonsense, Khal, Miss Blythe is at the clinic with someone she knows," Dr. Graham spoke, causing Mr. Jaziri's frown to grow.

“But not related, Dor."

“You worry too much, Khal. I'm just collecting a small sample; no one's going to know about it," Dr. Graham continued, causing Mr. Jaziri to shake his head. “Well, Miss Blythe, the choice is yours. Would you like me to take a sample for the sake of science?" he asked.

Mr. Jaziri muttered something that vaguely sounded like, “For science my ass."

In all honesty, Charlotte appreciated the concern. Having people be concerned for her was still something she was getting used to. "Thank you, Mr. Jaziri," she said, a little softer than her usual chirpy tone might suggest she could be. "But I trust you, and I know you won't go telling anyone about exactly how these tests were conducted." She honestly didn't really understand why there were such rules in the first place. It wasn't as though anyone here was going to hurt her, and their marital status didn't have anything to do with that.

She extended her arm to allow Dr. Graham to take his samples. "I can't stay much longer today, I'm afraid. Mr. Ramsey expects me back soon. But if you don't mind, I'd love to come by and look at slides some other time?"

“If that is what you wish," Dr. Graham spoke first, smiling as he pulled a chair next to Charlotte's. He took her arm in a delicate manner, and grabbed a cloth that smelled strongly of alcohol. He rubbed it on a part of her arm before grabbing the needle and injecting it into her arm. The puncture was enough to draw a small red dot from the area, however; Mr. Jaziri's eyes widened slightly. He took a step forward, allowing Charlotte to see that his eyes were no longer the bright citrine color they normally were.

They were darker, almost bronze in color. “Khal?" Dr. Graham addressed Mr. Jaziri who still looked slightly lost. “Khalil," he tried again, taking the needle from Charlotte's skin and standing. From her angle, she could see Mr. Jaziri's mouth was slightly parted, and his eyeteeth were visible.

“It's..." he started, his voice slightly deeper than normal. “It's... the smell," he continued, finally moving his hand towards his face as if to cover it from something unpleasant. “Excuse me," he stated as he quickly left the room, hitting his shoulder on the corner on the way out. Dr. Graham breathed a heavy sigh as his shoulders slumped.

“That was unusual," he stated, and shook his head. “I apologize, Miss Blythe. Khal has never reacted that way before," he added, furrowing his brows slightly. “I wonder," he spoke to himself as he resumed his early actions. Once he filled the two small vials, he cleaned the area where the needle had been, and placed a small bandage on it.

“It seems that you smell particularly nice to Khal. I wonder if it's something to do with this," he stated, holding up one of the vials as if to inspect it. “I will send word to you if I find anything unusual, Miss Blythe. In the mean time, do take care, and feel free to visit the next time you can. Again, I apologize for Khalil," he spoke with a soft smile on his face.

Charlotte thought that if anyone in this situation needed to apologize, it was probably her. She knew, intellectually, that Mr. Jaziri was half-vampire, and that dhampir could in fact sustain themselves on blood as their forebears did. She'd just... not thought it would make any difference.

"Oh, no, please," she said quickly, rolling her sleeve down over the admittedly-unnecessary bandage. "I didn't think of his comfort before accepting." The guilt came through clearly in her tone even as she stood. She could sense Mr. Jaziri had left the area, but didn't think he would welcome being followed.

"I will have to apologize next time I see him." Her brows furrowed, and she shifted her eyes to Dr. Graham. "Um... would you tell him I'm not upset, and that he's still welcome at Mr. Ramsey's?" She hoped she hadn't done anything so stupid as to keep him away. Herself notwithstanding, she imagined it must be nice for him to be around the others, people who knew and accepted who he was, instead of having to pretend to be human all the time.

Dr. Graham shook his head, but still smiled softly at her. “The fault lies with no one, Miss Blythe. It was just an unfortunate circumstance. If I know Khal, and I do, he'll likely apologize, first." Dr. Graham looked certain of his comment as the smile grew wider. “Besides, he's usually more controlled than that. Nevertheless, I will tell him what you said," he stated, walking Charlotte to the front door.

“And Miss Blythe," he spoke, holding his hand on the door knob, “don't take it personally. Khalil meant no harm; it's the first time in a long while that something like that has happened to him."

"I understand," she replied mildly, though truthfully she wasn't sure she did. She had no idea what it was like to be as Mr. Jaziri was, and wouldn't unless he deigned to share with her, something she hardly expected him to do with a mere acquaintance such as herself. But in any event, she took no offense from his departure, and said a polite goodbye to Dr. Graham at the door, before heading back out onto the sidewalk, intent for now at least on returning to the office.

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

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#, 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: Charlotte Blythe Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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London - Outskirts of Circus Grounds
June 18, 1885 - 10:47 a.m. - Overcast
Khalil Jaziri

Sometimes, Khalil forgot that he wasn't supposed to get attached to things that weren't real. Being at the circus felt strangely normal to him, like this was where he belonged, however; he might have been delusional. Perhaps he was just fooling himself, though. His attention was brought towards Blythe, causing him to sigh softly. He might have been imagining it, however; she seemed to be little quieter around him. He pursed his lips together and furrowed his brows. The incident between them had been left unresolved, and Dorian had stated that Blythe looked upset. Now wasn't the time to try and rectify that, however; he also didn't want her to feel bad about it. It wasn't her fault, exactly.

“Hey, Blythe," he began, casting her a glance. “About the other day," he paused, pursing his lips together. He didn't know how to go about this, which was a little unnerving for him. He wasn't used to being delicate or soft around women, but for some reason, he wanted to with Blythe. Perhaps because he knew she wasn't a woman, at least not in the normal sense. She was something else, and the scent of her blood could attest to that. Such a small drop had nearly caused him to go into a thirsting rage. If Dorian hadn't been there, if the other sterile scents hadn't been around, he might have attacked Blythe.

“I want to apoloize for what happened at Dor's clinic." He paused in his steps for a second to take in the scents around him. It wasn't hard honing in on Sasha's scent, but Blythe's scent almost overwhelmed it. He frowned mostly to himself, but pushed it to the back of his mind. “I hope I didn't scare you, or upset you in anyway," because he wouldn't know how to deal with that if he had.

For a moment, he didn't glance at Blythe. He kept his eyes fixed in front of him, noting a few broken branches and twigs. He walked towards them, and pulled a tuff of animal fur from it. From the color alone he could tell it was Sasha's. He brought it to his nose and sniffed it, frowning as he did so. He couldn't smell anything odd about it.

Miss Blythe was quiet for a moment while he examined the tuft. Only once he'd picked a direction again and started walking did she reply. "I'm not scared of you, Mr. Jaziri," she said softly, wordlessly increasing her pace to keep up with his longer strides. It didn't seem to cause her any difficulty. "And I wasn't upset earlier. Well, I was a little bit, but only at myself. I didn't think of the fact that what we were doing might cause you any trouble, and I'm very sorry."

She did, indeed, appear to be so, head tilted to regard him earnestly even as she navigated with apparent automatic ease, the long skirt of her plain blue dress swishing as she hastened.

Khalil furrowed his brows at her reply. “If I'm being honest," and he was “I didn't think it would have caused trouble. Blood doesn't usually affect me the same way it would have if I were a full-blood. I only need blood once every few weeks; human food is usually enough to sustain me." It would have been different if he were an actual vampire, and not a dhampir. Taking in a deep breath, he coughed lightly when the scent of smoke entered his senses. Perhaps someone had killed a fire not too long ago? That didn't bode well. It meant that there were likely people around, and that meant they were likely in Sasha's path.

“There was something about the way it smelled," though he couldn't describe the scent if he wanted to. It wasn't like anything he'd ever been exposed to. He cleared his throat, though, and continued walking. “Just promise me you'll be gentle with me if I ever get like that again," he tried jesting with her. He certainly hoped she wouldn't if he ever attacked her. He wanted her to do whatever was necessary to preserve her own life if it ever came down to that.

She appeared to consider this for a moment, and touched her fingertips to right about where her sternum was with a slight frown, though there was no indication as to why. Her expression cleared at his joke, though, and she nodded back in a way that seemed lighter somehow.

"I'll do my best," she promised, eyes narrowing at the corners with the force of her smile. "Maybe something Dr. Graham does will tell us why it's so different from a human's blood." The reminder that he regularly drank such for sustenance didn't seem to faze her in the slightest—if anything he could tell that she was concerned still for his comfort around her rather than her safety around him.

Hopefully, he thought. He gave Blythe a reassuring smile, and turned his attention back to the task at hand. They followed the trail a little further in, and from the way the sun was positioned in the sky, Khalil could tell they'd been tracking Sasha for at least thirty minutes. He pulled aside some brush, stopping only for a moment when a strange sound entered his senses. It sounded like someone, or something, was wheezing. He stepped into a clearing when he spotted the reason for the sound.

“Sasha," he spoke softly, his eyes gentling as he peered upon the lion. He was laying on his side, his maw slightly ajar. He didn't have to smell the blood on Sasha's mouth to know it was Adam's. The lion's eyes were slightly glazed over, however; Khalil could almost smell the death that was close. He glanced briefly towards Blythe before making his way towards Sasha. It was obvious to Khalil that the lion wouldn't be moving any time soon, nor did it have the strength to try and attack. Perhaps it was this thought in mind that caused him to kneel beside Sasha, and place a hand into the lion's mane. He gently stroked it's fur, making shushing noises in a comforting manner.

“Hey, it's alright Sasha," he spoke. Khalil ran a hand once more through the lion's man before he felt Sasha take his final breath. He sighed heavily and stood, turning his attention towards Charlotte. “At least no one else will be harmed," he spoke grimly.

Her brows were deeply furrowed now, all traces of previous lighter mood gone as the reality of the situation settled back in, over the both of them like some kind of shroud. He could see her throat work as she swallowed thickly, and nodded.

After a moment of stillness, she reached into one of the deep pockets of her dress, pulling out what seemed to be a capped syringe. "Something isn't right," she said softly. "I think someone might have done something to him to make him attack Mr. Taylor, and it's possible that it killed him, too. I think maybe we should find out."

Uncapping the syringe, she made her way to his side, crouching next to Sasha and running her fingertips along the side of the lion's face before turning her attention to one of his massive forelimbs. She was quite precise with the needle, and drew half the glass body's worth of blood before replacing the cap. "Can you see any signs that maybe someone injected him, or fed him something bad?" Carefully, she pulled back one of the lion's lips, pressing hers into a thin line at the odd excess of saliva.

"His teeth look normal," she murmured.

The saliva also looked a little thick to Khalil, once he glanced back over Sasha. Perhaps he'd been dehydrated somehow? Shaking his head at himself, he took a deep breath through his nose. He didn't smell anything out of the ordinary.

“Adam usually fed Sasha from his own supply. It's doubtful, but plausible that something in Sasha's feed might have caused him to attack Adam," he stated. Adam was usually insistent that he be the only one who fed Sasha. Something about bonds and not breaking them. From the way they'd interacted with each other, Khalil would admit that there was something more than just trainer and trained animal. He moved to the otherside of Sasha, and carefully rolled the beast over, checking the body for any abnormalities.

“He's slightly bloated, but that may just be the death settling in," even if it'd only been a couple of minutes. “If it was something he ate, we'd have a better chance determining that by testing his blood," he stated, pursing his lips slightly. He could do that in one of two ways: take it back to where his alchemy equipment was, or taste the blood, himself. The latter wasn't too appealing, and if Sasha had been poisoned, there was no telling how it would affect Khalil.

“We should head back to my tent. I've got some alchemy supplies there that might be of use," he spoke, glancing back at Blythe.

"Right," she agreed. "And we should be sure to let the circus know where he is. Poor fellow." With a last backward glance at Sasha, Miss Blythe turned from the scene to follow him.

Getting back to the tent didn't take long, and she helped him set up his equipment. Helpfully, she actually knew what everything was, though from the way she set the syringe itself down, she was perfectly content to trust his experience with the actual testing. "Do you want me to prep some slides for samples while you isolate them?" she asked, tilting her chin at the smaller, more portable microscope he'd brought as part of his kit.

He nodded his head in way of response. His attention was currently on the portable microscope that sat on the makeshift table. It wasn't quite the Browning back at the clinic, but it would do for something as small as checking blood samples. Once everything was in order, Khalil took one of the prepped blood slides, and slid it carefully beneath the microscope. He adjusted the lens as best as he could, and pursed his lips together. From first glance, he didn't notice anything in particular. The white cells and red cells looked healthy, however; if Sasha had eaten something, it should show up somewhere.

“Blythe," he spoke, motioning her over towards him. “What does that look like to you?" he asked, removing himself from the microscope so that she could see. There were odd shapes inside of the sample, but it wasn't something he was quite familiar with. He had only studied under Dorian for a couple of years. He wasn't quite versed with all of the diseases that were around since he was still learning from Dorian.

She stepped in close enough to peer down into the microscope, adjusting a few of the dials with very slight, delicate movements and humming softly under her breath. "Oh," she said softly after a moment. Straightening and blinking a few times, she peered back at the sample a second time as if to confirm. "I suppose that makes a certain kind of sense."

Stepping away, she gestured for him to look back at the sample. "Do you see those virions that look a little like bullets? I think they're lyssavirus—I think the more popular term is 'rabies.'"

Miss Blythe frowned. "The thing is... the lyssavirus has an incubation period of at least several days before symptoms appear, which would mean that Sasha was infected with it before that note appeared on the grounds."

Khalil cursed beneath his breath. If they'd been here a few days earlier, he could have...

He didn't allow himself to finish that thought, and instead, turned to face Blythe. “That doesn't seem right, though. Adam was strict when it came to Sasha's feeding," or at least that's what he'd observed the last couple of days they were here, “and he wouldn't let just anyone feed or near Sasha." It was starting to make sense to why Castine thought it was a troupe member. He ran a hand through his hair, pulling at the ends of it, briefly, before allowing his hand to fall back to his side.

“That means we should isolate the other animals as well. And I'll deal with Sasha's remains," he stated. They hadn't told anyone, yet, about where to find the lion's carcass, but “we don't need the virus spreading to someone who might be careless."

“We need to find out who else had access to Sasha's feedings," which wouldn't be easy. Adam didn't exactly keep that kind of information written down, and Khalil wasn't around during feeding times. He was off talking to the other members, or trying to gather information.

"It wouldn't necessarily have to be something fed to him," Miss Blythe pointed out gently. "If they had a moderate ability with alchemy, or even just access to certain kinds of alchemists or alchemy equipment and an infected animal, they could have injected him directly. Maybe while everyone was sleeping?"

That made a little more sense. And it meant it would be that much more difficult finding out who it was. He let out a frustrated sigh, and dragged a hand down his face. “That could be anyone, though," he finally muttered. “But from what I've been able to gather, no one really has that kind of access, or talent." It was also probable that they weren't going to just offer up that information, either.

He took a deep, slow breath, before he glanced towards Blythe. “We're going to have to double our efforts, somehow. Keep a closer eye on people."

She frowned, but then nodded and perked up a little. "Well, we can tell Mr. Ramsey what we found out at least. Maybe someone's noticed someone else moving around at strange times of night, or acting oddly at the times we know are important now." If indeed these deaths and disappearances were set up possibly days ahead of their actual happening, it meant more days were of interest than they initially thought. If nothing else, it gave them more questions to ask, and more ways to decide what information may or may not be relevant.

"We can do this, Mr. Jaziri. You'll see. Mr. Ramsey always gets the criminal in the end, and he's got all of us to help him now, too." Miss Blythe reached forward, putting a hand on his arm and giving a brief pat before pulling away and turning in a rustle of skirts, apparently inclined to go tell the aforementioned investigator of their findings immediately.

It wasn't a matter of whether or not they get the criminal in the end; it was trying to protect an innocent person from a possible grisly death.

“I'll take your word for it, Blythe." It was all he really could do.

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 - 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

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Circo Della Notte Performance Tent
June 19, 1885 - 20:10 p.m. - Clear
Charlotte Blythe

Charlotte flew through the air in a controlled arc, propelling her body neatly through the metal hoop in a flutter of fabric and a neat somersault. Untucking at the exact moment she'd been taught, she landed feet-down, twisting through the air not unlike a housecat. Her knees bent slightly to absorb the impact, but the landing was light, and she straightened immediately, beaming a smile at the audience as Mrs. Blanchette had instructed her to do.

Shouts of approval and applause burst forth from the audience; there was apparently a reason the flashy tumbling was the opening act of the circus. She could almost sense the excitement thickening in the air, but it was something she put from her mind as Mr. Blanchette came up behind her, sheeting his hands on her waist.

“Upsa-daisy, lass," he said softly, and Charlotte jumped at the same time as he tossed, the combined force launching her straight up high into the air. She stretched one of her legs in front and the other behind in a full horizontal split, tucking them together again and leaning back just in time for Mr. Blanchette to catch her. Then, with a heave of considerable strength, he launched her again, and this time she spun in midair, rolling side-over side with her arms out to whip the ribbons of her sleeves about like some kind of flower.

Again she tucked in just enough time for the catch, and when he caught her this time, he did not toss again, instead lifting her onto his shoulders and holding steady so she could pull her legs up underneath her and stand there, balanced solidly on the much taller man, and give the audience a cheeky bow.

More applause; Charlotte used the slight break in immediate activity to look around as much as she could. She could glimpse a few of the others backstage, but that could easily just be preparation for acts; nothing suspicious on its own.

Mr. Bianchi was situated in the middle of the ring, grinning in a broad manner. He looked pleased with himself, dressed in his bright red tailcoat with gold trimmings. He had his top hat in his left hand, holding it out as if to present it to his audience.

“Benvenuto a Circo Della Notte, the Greatest Show you'll ever see! he greeted, turning around in his position to get a good look at everyone. “With our lovely opening performance," he began, glancing and motioning towards Mr. Blanchette and Charlotte, “I give you our next performer. Hailing from Giza, our very own, Jaziri can tame the most ferocious of beasts, making them bend to his every whim!"

At the introduction, Mr. Jaziri appeared, grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps more-so than Mr. Bianchi had, however; he waved towards the audience with his whip in hand.

That was Charlotte's cue to exit, and she hopped off Mr. Blanchette's shoulders. The two of them hurried back behind the stage curtain, and Charlotte immediately started to shed the more difficult parts of her costume, leaving her in something a bit easier to move in. With her role in the performance over for now, she needed to keep an eye on as much of the rest as she could.

Finding a place to perch herself that wouldn't interrupt the flow of performers and also let her peer out to the ongoing acts, Charlotte tried to make herself small and observe the others as they came and went. It looked like Mr. Jaziri's act was just starting in full through the gap in the curtain, too.

Mr. Jaziri seemed pleased with the reaction from the crowd, their applause causing him to bow. He hadn't started his performance, yet, and seemed to be soaking up the attention. “Ladies," he started, his grin settling to a small smile, “and gentleman, I give you my lovely assitant, Petunia!" With the bear's name mentioned, she roared, waddling towards Mr. Jaziri from the far side of the ring. A few of the audience members inhaled sharply, either from surprise, or awe.

Mr. Jaziri, however, kept grinning, and ushered Petunia towards the middle of the ring. He motioned with his hand that held the whip, though he made no effort to use it. Petunia seemed to understand what he meant, though, and stood on both of her legs. “As you can see, Petunia's a little unhappy with me," he stated, his eyes flickering towards the audience. He might have been scanning the audience for anything suspicious, as well, but he returned his attention back to the bear.

“Now be a good girl, Petunia, and sing for them," he spoke, earning a disgruntled snort from the bear.

Charlotte giggled softly from her perch. Things seemed to be all right out there at least. Turning her attention back inwards, she swept her eyes over the comings and goings. Mr. and Mrs. Blanchette were helping the trapeze artists get into costume, but that wasn't unusual as far as she knew. The clowns were donning their heavy stage makeup, and Mr. Bianchi appeared to be giving directions to the stagehands. He looked agitated by something, but then Charlotte had discovered that Mr. Bianchi always looked agitated by something.

He was a little red-faced, as was Mr. Davis. Mr. Harris looked a bit nervous and fidgety, and kept glancing between the other two like he wasn't sure if he should intervene. Charlotte wondered about that herself, and was just considering trying to get closer to hear what they were talking about when Mr. Bianchi threw his hands in the air and stalked off, ending... whatever that had been.

Charlotte's brows furrowed. She wasn't sure if that was important or just normal show stress. Either way, it was probably getting close to time for Mr. Ramsey and Miss Lancaster to go on.

Mr. Jaziri seemed to be wrapping up his act, bowing to the audience with Petunia. “You've been wonderful!" were his parting words before he ushered the bear off of the stage. Mr. Ramsey and Miss Lancaster's set-up for their act was already on the floor, prepared a head of time to keep the circus going. Mr. Bianchi reappeared onto the floor, any sign of his previous engagement clear from his face. He thanked Mr. Jaziri before he turned to the audience, and introduced Mr. Ramsey and Miss Lancaster.

“Now, we give you a dangerous beauty with a gun, Miss Amelia Whitaker, and her fearless assistant, Mr. Ramsey!" he stated as they took the stage. Miss Lancaster wore a smile almost as large as Mr. Jaziri's, though it did seem slightly strained. She rested her pistol against her shoulder as she glanced towards Mr. Ramsey.

“Shall we?" she stated, arching a brow in Mr. Ramsey's direction and taking aim.

With a slight gesture of his hand, Mr. Ramsey produced a bright red apple, giving it a toss into the air and catching it easily. Once it was plainly clear that the audience was paying rapt attention to what they were doing, he lobbed it high, stepping back and rather unexpectedly opening an umbrella over his head, still with an entirely stoic expression on his face.

Miss Lancaster grinned and aimed her pistol at the falling apple. Once she pulled the trigger, the once whole apple fell to pieces around Mr. Ramsey. Parts of it hit the umbrella while other parts landed outside of the ring. Miss Lancaster looked rather pleased with herself, however; her eyes had trailed the pieces of apple. She was, perhaps, keeping an eye on the audience as well. Once she seemed satisfied with her surveillance, she turned back to Mr. Ramsey and motioned for another apple. She held up two fingers, though, as if signaling for Mr. Ramsey to toss two at a time.

He produced them with the same sleight-of-hand—where was he getting them from?—three rather than two. To Charlotte's surprise, he started off by juggling them quite deftly, actually, then abruptly tossed two at once, followed by the third, a barely-perceptible curl to one side of his mouth as he picked up the umbrella again.

It looked like, for a moment, Miss Lancaster was surprised. Her eyes widened, but she grinned as she kept her gaze on Mr. Ramsey. She lifted her pistol, eyes still focused on Mr. Ramsey, and pulled the trigger. Her eyes flickered towards the audience as she aimed for the last one. Once again, Mr. Ramsey had apple parts falling around him, thudding against the umbrella and the floor of the ring. There was applause throughout the audience, even a few gasps of awe, before Miss Lancaster turned towards Mr. Ramsey.

“One more for the road?" she stated, taking aim slightly above his head.

He sighed audibly. One last apple went onto his head, perfectly balanced. He looked not in the least concerned, either, maintaining perfect stillness and an even, stoic expression. Charlotte, on the other hand, found herself holding her breath as she peered through the curtain, even aware as she was of Amelia's accuracy with the pistol.

Amelia grinned before she closed her eyes. The audience gasped loudly, some of them leaning forward into their seats as she fiddled with the trigger. Her head titled slightly before she finally squeezed the trigger, the apple on Mr. Ramsey's head no longer there. Bits of the apple were lodged into Mr. Ramsey's hair, but most of it was on the floor around him. Amelia mouthed something to Mr. Ramsey, sorry, it looked like. The applause was loud, and she made her way towards Mr. Ramsey and stood next to him. She turned to face the audience thereafter.

Charlotte knew that this was the point at which they pulled a surprise reversal on the crowd, and Mr. Ramsey transitioned into throwing knives, with Amelia in the role of assistant. She would have been interested to see, as this was a talent of Mr. Ramsey's he'd never demonstrated to her before, but as it happened she noticed a movement from the corner of her eye.

It could have been nothing, just a shadow passing from somewhere behind the tent, but... something struck her instincts, and quietly Charlotte made her way down from her perch and around the side of the tent where the performers could enter and exit.

It was quite dark outside, the lamps turned down for the sake of the state lighting inside the tent, but she could see a smallish figure moving in the gloom.

"Hello?" she called, unsure whether this was something to be worried about or not.

She caught a flash of something—wire, maybe?—but the figure darted away before she could study them in any detail. Wire, wire... the trapeze!

Charlotte knew that team was preparing to go on next, but if she didn't manage to follow this person, she might never find out who the saboteur is.

"Mr. Jaziri!" she called in a low voice, knowing his sharp ears would probably pick up on it. "Tell Miss Castine not to let the trapeze team on. She should stop the show if she has to. I'm going to chase someone; please help if you can afterwards!"

And then she was off.

The figure wasn't, she thought, faster than her, but they had a head start and the tents and grounds were a maze. Charlotte did her best to pursue, but between the performers milling about, the curious crowd who hadn't paid for tent-seats, and the rest... she wasn't sure where they'd gone.

“Blythe," Mr. Jaziri appeared next to her, perhaps having found her after he did as she requested. “What did you see?" he asked once he was settled next to her. “If you tell me something that might be of use..." he trailed off, pointing to his own nose as if he were asking for a scent to follow.

Charlotte frowned. Unfortunately, nothing came immediately to mind, except—

"I've been chasing them for at least five minutes," she said, raising one of her wrists as it to let him scent it. It had a costume glove on it, of course. Maybe a nose as sharp as his could pick out the scent from that alone. She'd been running after her target, after all, and that meant into the scent trail they were leaving behind.

"It's someone small, if that helps narrow it down," she added quickly. "Not as small as me, but smaller than you."

Mr. Jaziri made a face, but didn't say anything. He took a deep breath, before his lips pursed into a fine line and his brows furrowed. “Someone small, and five minutes ago," he spoke, but it seemed like he was talking to himself rather than to Charlotte. He took in another breath, as if trying to get a taste of the air before he turned to face Charlotte.

“You didn't see Harris, by chance, did you? He's the only one I can pick out that matches the scent on you," Jaziri seemed fairly certain that they were after Mr. Harris if the look on his face was anything to go by.

"Mr. Harris?" Charlotte took a quick mental inventory of all the people she'd run past in her pursuit, people she knew were not the subject of her chase. "It could be him," she said after a moment. "Can you find him now?"

“Give me a moment," he spoke, his nose wrinkling slightly. “Too many scents to shift through," he continued, pausing briefly to glance in another direction. He was by Charlotte's side after he made a decision, and glanced at her. “He's heading this way," were the only words he said before moving a little faster. They weaved through the grounds, passing more of the members who were either resting, or preparing for the next event. Mr. Jaziri would turn a corner every few seconds, lips pursed as if something were bothering him, or confusing him.

“Damn, where'd he go?" he muttered beneath his breath, though loud enough that Charlotte could still hear him. He paused in his pursuit, briefly, before he took in a deep breath. He was off again, and it wasn't long before Mr. Jaziri's eyes widened slightly along with a grin spreading across his lips. “There he is!" he stated, pointing out just ahead of them to where a silhouette could be made out.

Charlotte didn't hesitate, digging her heels into the ground and accelerating on the straightaway. She felt a brief sensation of heat above her heart, and then her power kicked in and she was practically flying over the ground, making a running leap and wrapping her arms around Mr. Harris.

They hit the dirt in a tangle of limbs, the impact nearly knocking her shoulder out of its socket, but though there was a stab of pain, she rolled over quickly, pinning Mr. Harris's arms behind his back with one hand.

"I'm very sorry, Mr. Harris," she said blandly, shaking some loose hair out of her face. "But I am going to have to request your cooperation while we finish investigating the recent murders."

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: 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: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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#, as written by Aethyia


Outside London - The Former Parish of St. Lukas
July 4, 1885 - 19:30 p.m. - Overcast
Veronika Kent

Vera suppressed a sigh, selecting a small snifter of brandy from the tray as the servant passed. To the man himself, she gave a gracious smile and nod, but she let him get on with his business. Turning around and bringing the glass to her lips, she surveyed the ballroom with a weary, practiced eye. Though a string quartet set up in one corner placed soft music, no one was dancing yet, which was unsurprising. Most of that wouldn't happen until later, when the sun had set and the chandelier had been lit.

Like most of the rooms here, the walls were wood-paneled stone, the wood a relatively recent addition to make the building into a home more than the church it had once been. Almost the entire interior of the building had been gutted and refitted by the late Lord de Jaager, preserving the lovely exterior and rectory gardens, but making the rest into a manor on par with nearly anything in London proper.

Vera hadn't known him as well as she'd have liked to; though he and her friend Anne had been married for several years before his death, it had still been a new development by most standards. Also new was Anne's status as a widow, but that was only a year gone. Vera could sympathize, of course, and perhaps that was why they'd grown closer in the dozen months since. She would hesitate to say she'd mourned Alistair as much as Anne had mourned Thomas, but... there was commonality nonetheless.

The brandy was smooth and sweet on the way down; Vera did sigh then, just a little, and reached over to pat Teddy on the shoulder. "You don't have to keep me company," she said, nodding to a small cluster of younger folk. A private garden party like this wouldn't boast more than thirty or so guests, but at least three or four were around his age.

A look of relief passed over his face, almost enough to make her laugh outright. "Thanks, mum." No doubt he did not want to hobnob with the people her age, and she couldn't blame him.

She didn't really want to, either.

It wasn't more than five minutes when familiar faces entered Vera's view. Amelia stood next to her father, face smoothed into practiced neutrality with just the faintest hint of a smile. Lord Lancaster, however, did not seem to hide the way his lips were slightly tilted downwards, as if he'd rather be elsewhere. Perhaps he did? He was the first to turn in Vera's direction, though, a look of mild surprise crossing his features before he said something to Amelia. She glanced in the same direction, and smiled at Vera as they crossed the floor towards her.

“Lady Kent," Lord Lancaster spoke, first, bowing slightly in a strangely stiff manner. Amelia seemed amused by it, though she didn't say anything to him.

“Good evening, Lady Kent," Amelia greeted as well, smiling in Vera's direction.

Vera immediately felt herself smile, the pall of the evening lifting considerably at the sight of two people she actually enjoyed talking to. She resisted the urge to outright grin at Lord Lancaster's strange stiffness, though she could admit to herself that she found it endearing, in an odd sort of way. Taking up a handful of her midnight-blue skirt, she curtsied in return, letting the silk fall back against its petticoat. While tonight's event was formal enough for a gown, it was certainly no ball, and hers was a simple, unfussy thing, designed to give her figure a delicate, tasteful emphasis only.

"Lord Lancaster. Amelia. I hadn't expected to see you here. Are you also friends of Lady Anne?" Lord de Jaager's title was mostly a courtesy, bestowed to him after his retirement from the vicarage, but it was still the polite thing to honor it, and the one it gave his wife.

Amelia nodded her head, but it was Lord Lancaster who spoke. “We were acquaintances," he stated, his eyes turning towards the open area. Amelia took the moment to roll her eyes, it seemed, at her father's strange behavior and sighed softly.

“I believe what he's trying to say is that we used to see Lord and Lady de Jaager at church. He would, occasionally, converse with them if he had the time," she filled in for Lord Lancaster, who glanced down at Amelia as if to give silent thanks. His attention, however, returned to Vera, and he smiled a bit strangely. Strained, almost, but he seemed to smooth it out.

Ah, that would make sense. No doubt the former priest had remained a religious man; Anne had always been of a bent like that herself. She returned Lord Lancaster's smile, but her own had faded until it was a bit smaller. Perhaps it was thinking of the late Lord de Jaager that was the cause? His hadn't been a natural death, after all—even for soldiers like themselves, civilian murders could feel... different. It wasn't the kind of thing they were supposed to expect in this context.

Seeking to move the conversation away from uncomfortable topics and perhaps cheer him a little, Vera tilted her head, assuming a slightly more playful expression. "Perhaps you would like a spot on my dance card, Lord Lancaster? I suspect it would be a most illuminating preview of our upcoming match." By most standards, it was forward of her to ask him, given their respective genders, but then Vera hadn't gotten anywhere in life being a wilting flower in the corner.

Something in her statement caused Lord Lancaster to blink in mild surprise. He did not immediately reply to her, though, and tilted his head in a manner Amelia did when she was trying to figure something out. Perhaps it was the lighting, or some other cause, but there was a faint hint of pink dusting Lord Lancaster's face. Amelia seemed amused by something since her shoulders were shaking slightly, and she was grinning, however; Lord Lancaster merely cleared his throat.

“It would be my honor," he finally spoke, clearing his throat once more before grabbing a glass of white wine from a passing servant's tray. He took a drink from it, and though it was a slow sip, it seemed restrained. Almost as if he were going to drink it all at once.

A little puzzled, Vera took another sip of brandy herself. Pacing was necessary, as there was to be a tasting later tonight, of the various whiskeys and brandies the distillery on the property produced. Vera was quite looking forward to it.

“Ah, Vera, there you are!"

Instinctively, she turned her head towards the new voice, only to see a rather weary-looking Anne approaching. Vera could not help but notice that the hem of her pale green dress was more worn than it had seemed from a distance, and her friend's red-auburn curls were not sitting quite as neatly in her chignon as they might have been on most days like this one. It was hard to tell unless up close, but it was evident to Vera's keen eyes that she'd applied a thicker layer of powder under her own pale grey ones, perhaps to hide evidence of fatigue.

"Anne," Vera replied, injecting a bit of lightness into her tone mostly for the sake of not letting on that she noticed anything was amiss. "Delightful to see you; your home looks lovely." She stepped slightly aside, allowing Anne to integrate with the conversation—as expected, her friend looked most grateful for this.

“I'm so sorry to intrude," she said, her volume much softer. “And upon you, Lord Lancaster, Lady Amelia. It's just that I haven't had a moment's peace all day and I have to say you looked exactly like sanctuary to me in this moment." Her hands were clasped in front of her; she seemed to be toying with some sort of small object, though Vera could not tell what it was.

“Lady de Jaager, it's a pleasure," Amelia responded, giving the other woman a smile, and stepping a little closer to her father. Lord Lancaster inclined his head as a greeting, it seemed, and gave Anne a small bow. It wasn't as stiff as the one he'd given Vera, though.

“Lady de Jaager," he spoke. Whether he'd noticed the same things Vera had, he made no obvious inclination that he knew. “As always it is a pleasure to see you in good health," he stated, taking a slower drink of his wine now that Anne was with them.

Anne managed a little smile, inclining her head in return. “And you as well, Lord Lancaster. I fear I almost didn't recognize Lady Amelia; it seems you've grown while my mind was elsewhere."

Vera supposed that young women of Amelia's age had a way of doing that—she was still in some sense becoming the person she would eventually be. Not that most people would really understand that, of course. No small segment of the population seemed to believe that once a lady had breasts, she was as she would always be until she aged back into undesirability. Never mind what was in her head.

Anne continued to fidget with the item in her hands. Vera tilted her head slightly and let her eyes fall to it. "If you don't mind saying, dear, what exactly are we sanctuary from?"

Her friend sighed softly, the weariness she was trying to hide coming through in the sound of it. “It's a little bit of many things," she confessed. “I hope it is not uncouth of me to complain, but I daresay my past and my future are colliding, and everyone seems to want something from me of late. I fear I haven't near as much to give as they might expect."

Amelia cast Vera a glance before turning her attention to her father, and placed a hand on his forearm. “Would you be kind enough to retrieve a drink for me?" she asked, causing Lord Lancaster to arch a brow in her direction. She simply smiled at him as he sighed softly, and nodded his head. She turned her attention to Anne after he'd left their side.

“Not at all, Lady de Jaager. If you'd like to explain further, I'd be willing to listen," Amelia spoke, giving Anne a sincere smile. She seemed genuinely interested in Anne's current situation. “After all, I hear it is best to let it all out, so to speak, rather than keep it contained for too long."

Vera recognized that particular conversational move. Genuinely concerned or not, Amelia also sensed gossip in the making. Hiding a smile in her snifter, she took a sip, turning her eyes to her friend.

Anne smiled slightly, exhaling another sigh. This one at least managed to relax her shoulders a little bit. Though she no doubt also saw through the bid for information, she seemed also to accept that their concern was genuine. No doubt she very much wanted to talk, as well.

“It's... well, it's a lot," she said, grimacing faintly. “It's hard to tell now, but the distillery is not doing very well. I'm afraid I just don't know how to run a business of this kind, and I honestly think some of my suppliers are fleecing me, but I can't prove it." She dropped her eyes and shook her head. “So as you may know, I've decided to sell, but I can't seem to find anyone willing to pay what it's really worth. And what's worse is that Edward's being so persistent about what he will offer."

"Edward? Edward Hollis?" Vera's eyebrows went up. She didn't know him for having much business interest in land of all things, but she supposed he was a capitalist, and might well be interested in expanding his holdings. Still, it seemed awfully stingy for a man who had always been well-to-do

Anne nodded, still fidgeting with whatever golden thing she was holding. “Yes. And Mary's such a dear friend—it makes it very difficult to be firm with her brother of all people."

Amelia remained quiet through Anne's statement, her brows slightly furrowed as she tilted her head as if to study Anne. “It's only fair, though," she finally spoke, sighing softly through her nose. “If you know the value and worth of your property, you shouldn't sell it for anything less than that. Even if Lord Hollis is a friend, he should know how much this place means to you," she spoke, a small frown pulling at her lips.

“Should he not pay what you believe is a fair price?" she continued, her eyes narrowing as if she were trying to figure something out.

“I believe he's trying to bargain," Anne replied quietly. “It's not wrong exactly, but he has become quite... persistent. And I fear Sister Mary has become more distant from me as a result. I love her so dearly—I don't know what I'd do without her, really, but..." She shook her head again, and lifted her eyes.

“And then of course Edith has come to visit so unexpectedly," she added. Then, much more quietly: “and Bradford. And the children, of course."

Amelia hummed a soft note, but did not immediately say anything. She seemed to be processing everything Anne was saying, however; the frown that adorned her face was smoothed out into a more neutral expression.

“It seems you have been a gracious host, though, considering that you have a lot to deal with. If I may," Amelia began, pausing briefly to glance in Vera's direction, “perhaps you should set a minimum of what you'd be willing to accept for the property. Perhaps then, Lord Hollis will be more inclined to pay you what your land is worth. As for Sister Mary, perhaps if you explained things with her, she wouldn't be so distant with you."

“I'm certain your sister and brother-in-law would understand if you did not, immediately, cater to them while you first get things in order," she added, keeping her gaze with Anne's.

“Ah, actually..." Anne hesitated, then grimaced a bit. “Well, never mind. They've been pretty patient, it's just having them here in the house is a sort of pressure of its own, even if they don't mean it to be."

"I'm sorry to hear that, dear. Family's rarely a simple thing," Vera said, her tone conciliatory.

“Thank you," Anne replied with a soft smile. “I do appreciate the thought. And I suppose it hasn't been all bad. It's just... at this time of year I suppose everything seems worse."

Amelia inclined her head slightly. “I suppose it would. It was around this time last year that Lord de Jaager passed, was it not?" she spoke, though her voice was soft and not at all matter-of-fact as it usually was. It was more sympathetic, perhaps more-so than she'd intended. It was around this time that Lord Lancaster returned, a glass of something in his hands. It was, perhaps, punch of some sort. A personal preference, perhaps, even if Amelia was of drinking age.

“Well, if there is ever anything Lord Lancaster and I can do to be of help, Lady de Jaager, please do let us know," she stated, taking the drink from her father. Lord Lancaster inclined his head as if he were agreeing with Amelia.

“If there is anything I can do to be of help, I will do so," he spoke, reaffirming Amelia's words.

She seemed a little cheered by the reassurances, and her smile warmed a bit, into something a bit less weary. “Thank you all. Your kindness is a gift. I'd love to stay a while longer, but I fear I'm neglecting my other guests. Please enjoy what little comfort my home can offer, and let myself or Mr. O'Sullivan know if you need anything," she said. With a polite nod, she stepped away.

Vera, intensely curious, caught a look at the item in her hand at last. Was that a... knife? No, too thin, blunt. A letter opener, with a golden handle. What an unusual object to be carrying around.

Shaking her head faintly, she turned back to the Lancasters and smiled. She was parting her lips to speak when she noticed a rather conspicuous looking gentleman entering the ballroom. Conspicuous more perhaps for his obvious difference to the other attendees than anything, though she found it interesting if anything. The deep skin tone of North Africa, dark hair, and the kind of grin that meant a great deal of trouble.

"I wasn't expecting the Prince to be in attendance at this garden party," she mused, lifting her brows and taking another slow sip.

Amelia pursed her lips in confusion, and Lord Lancaster turned in the direction Vera had been looking. “It seems that Lady de Jaager has invited nobility even from elsewhere," he spoke, taking another drink from his glass. Amelia's brows furrowed as she followed her father's gaze, however; it seemed that all color drained from her face when the Prince locked eyes with her. That same grin seemed to widen as he made his way towards them. He was accompanied by another man who seemed to resemble him, though. Perhaps he was a relative of sorts?

“If you'll excuse me, I'm going to see about another refreshment," Lord Lancaster spoke, excusing himself from Vera and Amelia. Amelia, however, seemed relieved that he'd left. Some of the tension left her shoulders, but seemed to return when the Prince arrived. He smiled a cheshire smile towards Amelia, who merely narrowed her eyes at him.

“Whitaker!" he greeted, the furrow on Amelia's brows deepening. “I didn't expect to see you here."

Vera's eyebrows ascended higher if anything; the use of that name for Amelia was something she'd believed Ephy had begun as a method of concealing Amelia Lancaster's involvement in his work. She glanced between the two, sensing that her pupil was not exactly sure how to handle the situation. Vera could buy her some time, at least.

"Amelia, you did not inform me you were acquainted with His Highness," she said, injecting the faintest note of chiding into her tone, as though she were scolding a friend for keeping some sort of secret. "Would you mind terribly granting us introductions?" It was the polite thing for her to do as the mutual, but would also take the focus away from her for a while.

Amelia looked like she was glaring at the Prince, but her expression smoothed out enough that it was formal and polite. “Miss Vera, this is Khalil Jaziri, an acquaintance of Mr. Ramsey and Miss Blythe. Jaziri, this is Lady Kent, Mr. Ramsey's land lady," she stated, turning her attention towards Prince Jaziri. He seemed pleased with the introduction, and turned his attention to Vera.

“A pleasure to meet you, Lady Kent," he stated, giving her a formal bow. Amelia, however, narrowed her eyes in Prince Jaziri's direction.

"Likewise, Your Highness," Vera replied, a glint of amusement in her eyes.

“I will explain things later, Jaziri, but you will refer to me as Lady Amelia. It's Amelia Lancaster, here, not Whitaker," she stated, causing Prince Jaziri to blink his eyes in confusion.

Vera's smile grew catlike. It was interesting indeed to find that their mutual acquaintance was Ephy. She wondered for a moment if he knew Mr. Jaziri's true identity, but then she supposed he must. It was just like him to not care in the slightest bit about such things, and treat people as their demeanors, rather than their titles, warranted.

"Do look lively, dear, I believe your father is headed back this way," she informed her young friend, polishing off the brandy in her glass and returning it to the tray of a passing servant.

Perhaps this night would be of interest to her after all.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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Outside London - The Former Parish of St. Lukas
July 4, 1885 - 19:45 p.m. - Overcast
Khalil Jaziri

Khalil wasn't entirely sure why he'd agreed to the invitation Lady de Jaager had sent to him. “Please do take care to remember that you're a Prince to these people, and that you should act like one. At least just this once?" Ah, now he remembered. He turned towards his uncle, feigning a mock hurt look, and placed a hand over his heart. Dor just gave him a flat stare, his eyes narrowing slightly as Khalil felt a small smirk creep upon his face.

“You have such little faith in me, Dor," he spoke, causing the frown on his uncle's face to deepen. “Can't you see how much more work I have to do in order to get noticed around here? Whi—Lancaster shoots me down every time, so I have to work twice as hard to make sure I end up with something tonight," he stated. That, or at least someone. It'd been far too long since his last endeavor—since Elizabeth if he were being honest. He felt like he was losing his touch if Whitaker kept rejecting his advances. Blythe... she was too innocent for him to project himself like that on her. And he was fairly certain Ramsey wouldn't exactly take too kindly to him treating his associate that way.

“Khalil, I'm warning you..." he trailed off, however; Khalil was already making his way towards the other side of the room. There was a group of women standing, gossiping perhaps, and Khalil felt the urge to talk.

The group wasn't very large, of course, but then they never were at these kinda of event. It was more of a friendly gathering than anything excessively formal, though of course there was always a layer of manners to these things. This was quite the mixed group, too: threaded amongst their number were a pretty young blonde thing in the blue and white habit of the Sisters of the Church of the One, an older woman with flamboyantly-styled grey and brown hair, a woman who was a dead-ringer for Lady de Jaager except with freckles and a pale blue gown instead of green, and—ah.

It seemed that these three and the other two ladies with them were already in the throes of a conversation with a man, maybe slightly older than Khalil. He was tall and well-built, something distinctly Irish in the lilt of his accent. With wavy brown hair and sky-blue eyes, he clearly thought himself quite the charmer. From the way the women giggled as he told a joke, they did, too.

Khalil waited as patiently as he could, trying his best to be polite. But then again, he'd never really been the polite sort. He grinned once the women settled down, and made his presence known with a soft clearing of his throat. “It seems I have missed out on some of the fun," he spoke, waiting until their attention was on him before he continued. “Prince Khalil Jaziri, at your service," he stated, giving them a formal bow before straightening back up.

It'll be like taking a candy from a baby, he thought as he glanced towards the man. Sure, he was on the attractive side, but Khalil knew his own attractiveness, complimented by his slightly exotic nature would be more than enough to garner all of the attention away from the Irishman.

The perhaps slightly overdone bow earned him a few amused titters; one of the quieter women, a lady with light brown hair in a complicated curly updo of some sort, actually blushed. The older woman with grey hair glanced him up and down and smirked like she knew what he was on about—if she did, she found it funny.

The nun predictably enough had the least reaction, but it was she who spoke first. “How unexpected!" she said, inflecting her tone with what seemed to be genuine surprise. Her dark eyes suggested something a touch more canny than that, however. “I don't think I've ever been in the company of foreign royalty before. Sister Mary Hollis, Your Highness."

Her introduction paved the way for the others to do the same, and they did. The one who'd blushed and her aunt were Catherine and Fiona Morwood, or so he had to assume from the way she stuttered through the introduction, still blushing furiously. The older woman was Lady Elizabeth Carruthers—there were a lot of English women named Elizabeth, so that was hardly a surprise. The woman with red hair and the striking resemblance to Anne de Jaager was Mrs. Edith Hayes, it seemed.

Despite her physical proximity to the Irishman, which bordered on unseemly, he was not Mr. Hayes.

“Seamus O'Sullivan," he said, when the turn had clearly come around to him. Even then, it was at a slight delay, an irritation evident in the narrowing of his eyes. “An honor to meet you, of course." He could probably have sounded less honored if he tried, but not by much.

Khalil couldn't say he blamed Mrs. Hayes. O'Sullivan was an attractive man, and women were not beholden to their husbands. It was a line Khalil would never cross, but when opportunity presented itself... well, he'd gladly do it on their behalf. Maybe that made him a bit of a hypocrite? Regardless, his smile broadened at the introductions, his eyes narrowing with the force of it.

“Please, you can call me Jaziri, or Khalil, whichever you'd prefer," because if he were being honest, they'd probably be saying both by the end of it all. And that was making light of the word. He'd rather they scream it, if he could help it. Perhaps, though, he should see who would be the more willing candidate. O'Sullivan wasn't one, if his reaction was anything to go by, and considering how close Mrs. Hayes was, he was quite certain she wouldn't be interested. Perhaps the others, then? He'd never been with an older woman before; it was always nice to try something new.

“Sorry for the intrustion, but perhaps one of you lovely ladies would like to explain the nature of this party? I'm afraid I am not as well-acquainted with the de Jaager's as my uncle is, and he's failed to tell me anything," which wasn't a total lie, he supposed.

Muttering something under his breath, O'Sullivan grabbed a glass of brandy as it passed by, downing nearly half of it in one go.

Fiona had opened her mouth to say something, it seemed, but Elizabeth got to the answer first. “Well it's a garden party, of course," she replied, a hint of sarcasm coloring the edges of her tone. “If Anne ever gets around to opening up the garden to her guests, that is." She rolled her eyes, rather subtly, and sipped slightly from her glass of wine.

“She, um." Catherine tried, looking towards her aunt as if for permission. Fiona nodded slightly. “Well, she's selling the property, Your High—I mean Khalil." She pronounced his name slowly, making some effort to get it right. She was not very successful, but the effort seemed to be genuine. “I wouldn't be surprised if she were hoping someone here makes an offer."

“It's a lovely property," Sister Mary added, eyes still slightly narrowed at him. “But not worth what she's asking for it, unfortunately."


“I've heard Lord de Jaager's property was worth quite a pretty penny," he responded, brow lifted in slight curiosity. He, of course, knew that Anne was selling the property, but it wasn't something he was interested in. This much land with that much value to it would not be worth the upkeep. And he probably would spend most of his allowance on it if he were to seriously think about it.

“Has something happened to the property that the value isn't quite what Lady de Jaager is asking for it?" He was, if slightly, interested in what the rumor was. The last he heard, Lady de Jaager was adamant about the selling price, but it wasn't bringing potential buyers. If anything, it seemed to be pushing people away.

“I don't think it's quite seemly to discuss such things in any more detail than that," Sister Mary declared, folding her hands together in front of her.

The reminder of propriety seemed to chasten the others a bit, though Elizabeth did roll her eyes again. “In any case," she said, in a much more droll tone. “I—oh, that's interesting." She seemed to be looking at something over Khalil's shoulder.

“Associate of yours, Sister Mary?"

For the first time in the exchange, the nun looked a little unsure of herself. “I—no. I've never seen that man before."

Khalil, the ever so diligent gatherer of information that he was, turned to see who'd taken the attention away from him. Even if it was for a moment, Khalil would be lying if he said he wasn't curious.

The man who'd drawn their attention stood out with an uncommon sort of severity. His face suggested youth, but a degree of harshness was present that aged him a little, so that while he might not have even hit twenty, he seemed as one who'd achieved the middle of that decade. The cut of his black cassock was more military than the typical priest wore, but the clerical collar, white tab at the center, did mark him as clergy of some kind. The Church of the one only allowed its ordained Fathers and Brothers to wear those.

His hair was a sharp contrast with the black, a bright crimson worn medium length but shorn on one side. Hard amber eyes were narrowed on the room, as though he were looking for something in particular.

“You don't suppose he's an inqusitor, do you?" Elizabeth seemed delighted at the prospect. Perhaps not unduly. Members of the Church's Inquisition were rarely-spotted, and almost always preceded the reveal of some kind of scandal.

This managed to capture Khalil's full attention. A reveal of a good scandal was always interesting. It wasn't any of his business, but Khalil never really cared about such decencies. “What do you think it's about?" he stated, grabbing a glass of brandy from a passing servant. He inclined his head in thanks before turning his attention back to the group he was with. There was a strange feeling, as if he were being watched very closely by someone, however; he knew Dorian was mingling with the other people. He'd shake the feeling off, for now.

“The only thing I could think of is Lord de Jaager's death. From what I heard, it wasn't natural," but when had murder ever been natural?

Elizabeth cleared her throat softly, her tone quieting and losing a bit of its witty edge. “It wasn't, no," she agreed. “But anyway it was a year ago, and that would be a strange time for an Inquisitor to appear, no?"

Sister Mary and the Morwoods looked a little pale and drawn, as though the man's very presence intimidated them somehow. That wasn't entirely surprising, either. The inquisition did have a bit of a reputation for mercilessness. O'Sullivan had gritted his teeth, tracking the other fellow as though he were suddenly of more concern than Khalil.

“Can't much say I like him being here unannounced," he murmured.

Of the group, only Edith looked unaffected. “Well you never know," she said with a dull shrug. “Annie's been so caught up with those Churchy sorts for years now. Thomas did used to be a Vicar, after all. Maybe they were friends."

Doubtful, was the only word Khalil could think of. A friend didn't just turn up unannounced for no reason. Unless said friend was Khal, himself. He turned up unannounced just because he could. Church-goers were a little more formal than that, especially if this newcomer was, indeed, part of the inquisition.

“Do you think he may have some new information on Lord de Jaager's death?" that was more a possibility than anything. Perhaps he did, and he was here to inform Lady de Jaager. Khalil pursed his lips, though. That... didn't seem right, now that he thought about it. If they did have more information about Lord de Jaager, they would have been a little more discreet, he would think. Perhaps he needed to spend more time with Lancaster and Ramsey?

“I'll bet you fifty pounds that's not it," O'Sullivan replied. “He's probably here for one of the other guests, using a connection with Lady de Jaager for an in. Inquisitor shows up at your house, you know you're in for it. A party like this, though? No way to know if it's about you or not." He drained the rest of his glass and set it down on the table nearest, reaching past Edith to do it. She didn't seem to mind.

“Quite possible," Elizabeth replied, though the answer looked to have unsettled the other three yet further. “Very mysterious in any case. Perhaps we'll know by who he speaks to as the night wears on, no?" She seemed almost excited by the prospect, an odd little gleam in her eyes.

“You may well be correct in that, Lady Carruthers," he stated, taking a drink of his brandy. He was almost tempted to make a remark, to make her excited about some other prospect, however; he remained where he was. He was much more interested in this new development; he could play at a later time.

“Whatever the reason, I'm sure it'll be exciting," he stated, glancing in the direction of the newcomer.

“In that," she said, “I believe you are most certainly correct."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassian Sinclair Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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#, as written by Aethyia

Outside London - The Former Parish of St. Lukas
July 4, 1885 - 20:53 p.m. - Overcast
Cassian Sinclair

Cassian's fingers tightened on the glass in his hands. The purplish liquid inside was only grape juice—he was not a wine drinker, nor inclined to fuzz his thoughts with alcohol, but he was also aware of the fact that he needed to look at least passably like he was here for the party.

He hadn't missed the whispers that had accompanied his entrance. One look at the militant cut of his uniform and they'd all assumed he was an Inquisitor, as though they'd ever seen one before. Perhaps a few of them had, but if so, they'd misidentified him anyway. It hardly mattered—what he was was close enough for the moment.

Go to the party. Drink. Mingle. Inform Hayes we have no more need of his services. Scare everyone a little, and see what you can see.

Cassian hated it when Father Hadrian was that vague. If he'd just tell him what he wanted this would all be so much easier. But no—apparently the fact that Hayes had been spotted buying an elaborate golden ornament or something with Church money had been enough to inflame his famously-cold mentor into one of those low-energy rages of his, and now here he was, having long done the important part of the job but forced to linger because his instructions specified it.

And he felt like a thing in an alchemist's jar. Put on display for these people to gawk at without the first hint of what it is they were really seeing.

Grimacing, he took a swallow of his drink, resisting the urge to spit it out when it was disgustingly warm. He really needed to get a handle on that. Frowning outright, he looked around, but could find no servant. The gardens had been opened up just a little while ago, but were still sparsely-populated compared to the inside for some reason. Cassian didn't care—in fact he much preferred it. Fewer eyes.

He tracked his way down a picturesque cobblestone path, unsurprised to find he was drawing close to the distillery building. He'd already wandered far enough afield to note that there seemed to be poppies growing down by the river. He didn't know enough about botany to say if it was a natural growth or something decidedly less innocuous, and so while he took note of it to report later, he hadn't cared to spend long investigating.

His foot crunched on something irregular; Cassian grunted, withdrawing his boot and stooping to pick up the object. A letter opener? What the fuck was a letter opener doing out in the garden? It had a golden handle, but he was pretty sure it was only plating. Into the side was inscribed a phrase in swirling, calligraphic script, over the top in its flamboyance:

To Anne, with all my love.

With a small, disgusted noise, Cassian shook his head. Instead of letting the thing drop back to the ground, he set it down on a retaining wall instead, turning back around to head for the main part of the garden again. He hadn't made it more than halfway back before a fat raindrop pattered against the shorn side of his head, and he sighed. Great.

Now he'd have to go back inside with the people.

Once he was back inside, a young woman was standing next to an older man. From the resemblance, they were likely related; a father and daughter, perhaps. The expression on the young woman's face seemed neutral, as if she were as thrilled to be at the party as Cassian, himself, was. The gentleman beside her, though, seemed content enough to be chatting with a woman who was, perhaps, a friend of sorts. The younger woman, however, glanced in Cassian's direction, blinked pale blue eyes in an uninterested fashion, before turning her attention back to the group she was with.

On the other side of the room, a swarthy gentleman was chatting away amicably with a group of women. He seemed deeply interested in what was going on if the large smile on his face was anything to go by. The women also seemed charmed by whatever statements he was making as they were smiling as well. One looked like she was blushing, and trying to hide it behind a fan in her hand.

The Irishman who'd been with that latter group earlier was gone, he noticed—so was Lady de Jaager's sister. Cassian didn't think much of it. People moved around at these things all the time, as far as he knew. Scanning the rest of the room, he made incidental eye contact with a man he knew to be Lord Edward Hollis, who went from looking extremely sour about something to a little panicked. He glanced away, resting his eyes on the flight of brandy glasses on the central table for the later tasting, and then quickly to the wall.

Cassian rolled his eyes. Outside, he could hear the rain picking up quickly until it was a steady downpour. In the distance, thunder rolled, low and rumbling. The hair on the back of his neck stood up, a reflexive reaction to the lightning he could feel in the air, that expectant and heady thing that had called to him for as long as he could remember. Sparks lanced down his spine, but he clamped down on the shudder that threatened.

The group from earlier seemed to be getting a little excited about something since one of the women laughed. Loudly, perhaps for a woman, but the gentleman she was with seemed amused by it. The gentleman's hand moved to a passing tray, picking up a glass of wine, or some other drink, before he raised it in the women's direction. He stated something to one of them before taking a drink from the glass. It resulted in another round of giggles.

The young woman from earlier seemed to glance in that direction, narrowed her eyes, and rolled them. Either the noise was enough to bother her, or she knew one of the party members in the group. From the way her eyes had settled on the gentleman, it was probably his obnoxious laugh that had caused her to roll her eyes.

Cassian took up a spot against the wall, finally finding a spot to set down his glass. He crossed his arms, a much more familiar posture than any of the more open things most of these people assumed around each other. As though they really wanted to be speaking with one another. It even looked genuine, in most cases—if he hadn't known better, he'd have been fooled.

Overhead, the halogen lights flickered, sending a murmur of surprise through the guests. Lighting flashed through the windows; another crack of thunder sounded moments later, louder and sharper. Cassian could taste the storm on the back of his tongue through the open window nearby.

Another strike followed, and then the room went dark.

There were a few gasps, but nothing that sounded too panicked. “How unusual," someone spoke, causing another person to scoff. The voices were loud enough that Cassian could hear them.

“It's not unusual for the lights to go out if there is a storm outside, Jaziri," another voice interjected. A woman from the sounds of it. A soft grunt of agreement was heard, and the shuffling of feet meant people were moving around in the dark.

“Amelia, stay with Lady Kent while I go find some lighting," another voice spoke.

“I'm sure Lady de Jaager has back-up for these kinds of things."

Cassian could hear someone stride past him, followed by a perfumed scent—quite possibly the Lady herself. He remained where he was. He could certainly solve the problem if he so desired, but that was nothing he was going to attempt here. Conversation resumed with the assurance that the problem was about to be solved, and the young monk leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes and exhaling heavily while there was no one to see that it was him.

He just wanted to be fucking done with this assignment. He'd warned off Hayes, stayed around long enough to be polite, but no doubt Father Hadrian knew that something in particular would be happening here and wanted Cassian to be around for—

A shrill scream cut through the air. Cassian's eyes snapped open; he immediately headed for the door. Footsteps behind him indicated that others were following, but he paid them no mind, least of all when the scream abruptly cut off. It was coming from one of the outbuildings?

Rain quickly soaked his hair and clothes, but Cassian picked up into a jog, heading for the nearest outbuilding. It was unlikely they could have heard it if it had come from the distillery or one of the further buildings. That left the utility house.

Grabbing the handle, he threw it open. Lightning flashed, illuminating the ground. On the floor lay two bodies: a man, near the wire box, and their hostess, a familiar gold-handled letter opener protruding from her neck.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Cassian Sinclair Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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Outside London - The Former Parish of St. Lukas
July 4, 1885 - 22:15 p.m - Thunderstorm
Amelia Lancaster

Amelia paid no mind to the rain when she'd heard the scream, and followed behind a pair of footsteps. She knew Jaziri was behind her, and it wasn't until they were outside did she realize that she'd followed the newcomer. When they'd reached the utility house, and the young man opened the door, Amelia allowed her brows to furrow and her lips to purse into a fine line. Lady de Jaager was on the floor, and a man lay next to her. Amelia didn't have to be a doctor to know that Lady de Jaager was dead. She'd seen a enough dead bodies in her line of work, already, that she knew. Jaziri, however, sucked in a breath, and furrowed his brows.

“Shit," he stated, taking in a deep breath through his nose. “Just when I thought this was going to be the day," he continued, causing Amelia to turn in his direction.

“Jaziri, isn't your uncle a doctor?" she asked, watching as he glanced in her direction. Lady de Jaager wouldn't need the services, but the man who lay next to her might. And from her understanding, the man who'd accompanied Jaziri was that very same uncle.

“Yeah, I'll go get him," he stated, but Amelia shook her head.

“No, not yet. We need to make sure no one else comes inside, quite yet," she replied. They needed to preserve as much of the scene as possible. Her attention turned to the young man with crimson hair. Whether he was part of the church or not, there was no telling how he would react, or if he'd interfere in some way. She was distracted from her thoughts, though, when the unconscious man stirred.

The young Church fellow stiffened as the other man moved, looking quite wary but nevertheless crossing the floor carefully to his side. The maintenance box hung open; Amelia noticed though that the power was still turned on. It would have been foolishly-dangerous to attempt maintenance in that case, even if the power was out. It could have come back on at any time, after all.

A soft sound drew her attention back to the center of the room. The redhead had clicked his tongue against this teeth. "Electrocution," he said flatly, his voice surprisingly melodious for someone of his appearance. "He's coming around, though. You should get that doctor, now. And the local constable. He'll want to detain the guests. No one should leave."

Jaziri nodded, surprisingly enough, and went to find the doctor, she supposed. “And notify Lady Kent," she called after him. There was no doubt in her mind that Lady Kent would want to know of her friend's recent death. From the obvious object in her neck, it looked like a straightforward murder. But Amelia knew that no murder was as straightforward and easy. There were layers to go through, people to speak with to see if anyone saw anything, however; that wouldn't be easy. All things considered, her father did not know what she did. And that's to say nothing of the current guest list. For all intents and purposes, Amelia was nobility... and she had to act the part.

The young man was correct, though. No one should leave until everyone's whereabouts were accounted for. Interviewing them, however, was going to be a bit difficult, and Amelia narrowed her eyes and swallowed thickly. She did not like the current predicament she was in, however; she had a job to do. When Jaziri returned, his uncle was with him, and he was holding a bag of sorts. He'd come prepared, apparently, or perhaps it was an old habit. From what she knew of his nephew, Jaziri didn't really require medical attention unless he was injured quite badly.

“He was electrocuted, according to him," she informed the doctor, causing him to nod his head as he kneeled down next to the man's body.

“He might be a little weak depending on how strong the electrical current was when it entered his system. For now, it's best not to move him too much," Dr. Graham spoke, resting two fingers on the inside of the man's wrist. He glanced towards Lady de Jaager's body, and pursed his lips.

There was hardly any light to see by, so a more precise inspection than that would be nearly impossible. Amelia could just barely make out that the clock had stopped—just a minute or two after ten p.m. At least they had an exact time on the power outage, this way. She could see a glint of gold at Lady de Jaager's neck, but getting any closer to a corpse in the dark was definitely going to break her cover.

“We should leave," someone said from behind her. A fair few people had followed them out here at the sound of the scream. “It's not decent, to stay while she's all—"

"The only place any of you are going is back to the house. Now. No one leaves." There was a weightiness in the Church man's command that could hardly be ignored, even despite his youth. He hardly looked young right now anyway; they could all barely see each other.

Someone who knew what to do with that much authority got most of the people heading back towards the house. "You too, doctor. It might not be best to move the patient, but we can't leave him here."

He wasn't wrong to suggest that everyone return to the house, and not leave. Amelia would need to ask the current guests questions, however; she would need to be discreet about it. With everyone back inside, it would be easier to do so under the guise of gossip. She could enlist Miss Vera's help with that, but she turned her attention towards Jaziri and his uncle.

“We can move him inside, but we'll have to be gentle about it. Khalil, it's best if you do it," Dr. Graham spoke, causing Jaziri to nod his head, and moved to stand next to the man.

“We should see about restoring power, as well," Amelia added, her brows furrowing slightly. Jaziri snorted softly, as if he found something amusing, however; he didn't say anything. Luckily for him, he could see in the dark, but Amelia wasn't that lucky. Instead, she took in a soft breath, and turned to leave the area. It was a good thing that everyone was being coralled inside of the house. It meant Lady de Jaager's body would be left undisturbed until the local constable could arrive.

Once everyone was inside, Amelia did her best to seek out Jaziri. Of all the people here, he was going to be the most useful in navigating the dark. At least for the moment, and she only sought one person. “I need you to locate Miss Vera for me," she spoke in a hushed voice, taking the opportunity when it arrived. Jaziri huffed lightly, but grabbed Amelia's wrist in a surprisingly gentle manner. She didn't expect him to do that, but she allowed him to lead her to where Miss Vera was.

“I need you to be my eyes and ears, Jaziri. Go do what I cannot. Ask the more direct questions with some of the people, and ask your uncle to inspect Lady de Jaager's body for anything out of the ordinary. I'd say use your nose for that, but considering the weather..." his nose would be useless.

“You've a point there, Lady Amelia."

“Miss Vera," she called out softly so as to not draw any interest in their direction.

"Ah, Amelia, Mr. Jaziri." In the scant light afforded by the night, her eyes still managed to seem as though they glimmered. Probably a trick of the angle, but it made her look sharper, almost severe. Her voice was anything but. "I've sent Teddy to fetch some candles; he should be back any—"

"Mum." Theodore's voice was surprisingly close. "I got some matches too... at least I think that's what they are." He shook a box, and it did sound right to Amelia.

Within a couple of moments, they had several candles lit between them.

"I do believe passing these out could make us quite popular for a while, no?" Miss Vera ventured, providing a good cover for Amelia's investigation. "Perhaps, Mr. Jaziri, you would not mind if my son accompanied you? He is quite the hand with mechanics, but I would like very much to have him escorted to the right place, so that he does not lose his way." She gave a subtle emphasis to the words, and in so speaking them, gave Mr. Jaziri a cover story of his own.

"Perhaps while you are out, you could make sure that whatever local arrives takes care to summon Mr. Ramsey? Teddy knows the address."

“I can do that, Lady Kent," he replied, flashing a grin in her direction before glancing towards Theodore. “Let's go see what we can find out, hm?" he stated, leading the way as they left. Amelia shook her head and glanced towards Miss Vera.

“Let's go see what we can find out, Miss Vera," she stated. They could pass out the candles and see what the other members knew. The first group they approached consisted of Lady Hayes and another woman Amelia didn't recognize, immediately. She cleared her throat softly so as to not startle either of them, and held out one of the candles.

“Do either of you need some light?" she asked, doing her best to smile while waiting for the opportunity to ask the question she really wanted to.

“I'd appreciate it." Mrs. Hayes was standing next to a woman in a nun's white habit, so stark it almost glowed in the darkness. The woman nodded slightly as well. Both of them looked a touch uneasy; Mrs. Hayes moreso. But then, her sister had just been killed—it was actually a bit unusual that she wasn't reacting more, but perhaps she just had one of those stoic demeanors.

Miss Vera lit a candle, handing it over to Mrs. Hayes, but before she could shake out the match, the nun halted her with a motion. “A moment, if you don't mind." From a pocket in her habit, she withdrew a box, then slid a thin cigarette out of it. “Mind if I smoke? It's been... that kind of night."

Obligingly, Miss Vera held up the match until the end of the woman's cigarette was cherry-red. The nun inhaled deeply, politely exhaling to the side and keeping the direct smoke well away from anyone's face. “I'm Sister Mary Hollis, by the way. I'd say it's a pleasure to meet you, but... I'm not really sure anything's a pleasure right now."

Amelia had to agree with the woman. It wasn't really anyone's pleasure to be meeting with anyone given that they were all potential suspects. That included Amelia as well, even if she knew otherwise. She did allow her lips to purse into a fine line, though. She might not have paid as much attention to the Church as her father did, but she wasn't aware that nuns were allowed to smoke. Wasn't that against some form of the religion? She'd have to look into that at a later time. Now wasn't the time to be curious about other things.

“I am Amelia Lancaster, and I agree. Lady de Jaager's death was most unexpected," she stated, glancing towards Lady Hayes and Sister Hollis. “It was an aweful way to go," she continued, holding the candle closer to her. She was a bit chilly from the rain, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle. “Lady Hayes, you've my condolences." As Lady de Jaager's only living relative, it would seem that everything that belonged to Lady de Jaager, would now go to Lady Hayes. It was motive and opportunity, but something didn't sit right with Amelia.

“What of you, Sister? Were you close with Lady de Jaager as well?" she asked. It was possible that Sister Hollis was an acquaintance of Lord de Jaager, but Amelia knew very little of her. Information was knowledge collected, and she planned on collecting as much information as she could. It would be helpful to Ramsey, when he arrived.

Sister Mary nodded a little. “She was—I suppose you'd say she was my best friend," she said, almost too quietly to hear over the other people crowded into the room. “I'd known she and his lordship since he was Father de Jaager. They're the reason I asked to be assigned to this parish when I took my assignment. I volunteer at the library still, even though I was reassigned, so we saw each other quite often." She swallowed, thickly enough for the motion to be visible.

“She must have confided in you," Amelia spoke, smiling just soft enough to appear sympathetic. She was, for the most part at least. She took a moment to decide her next question, unsure of how to ask it without seeming too indelicate about the current situation. A thought struck her. “Do you... do you think she was murdered because of her estate?" she asked. By this point, everyone knew Lady de Jaager was murdered.And it was widely known that she was having difficulty selling her estate.

Amelia would have to rely on how people reacted, and their body language if she wanted to learn anything else. She wouldn't be able to read their body language with so little light, though, but she'd at least be able to tell the different cadences in their voices when they spoke.

Mrs. Hayes frowned, stiffening slightly. Perhaps she was preparing to defend herself? It stood to reason that she'd need to, as the person who seemed to be in line to inherit that estate.

But Sister Mary only knitted her brows. “I can't—I hope not," she said after a moment. “There would be something even more senseless about that."

"How do you mean?" Miss Vera asked, the very picture of innocent concern. If Amelia didn't know she was fishing for information, it would have been hard to tell.

“Well, it's..." Sister Mary visibly hesitated, glancing between the three other women and lowering her voice even further. “The estate's nearly bankrupt as it is. It's why poor Anne was trying to sell it off so high. She needed to just to pay the debts she'd accrued. Whoever inherits..." she trailed off, but the conclusion was clear: the heir would inherit the debt as well.

That was interesting. Lady de Jaager had only mentioned that the estate hadn't been doing well, but she didn't mention it not doing that well. Perhaps she didn't want to thwart potential buyers by telling them that? It would make a fair amount of sense; buying an estate at a high price only to accrue its debts wasn't exactly a profitable investment. Even if the estate had, at one point, been highly successful. There had to be something more, something that they knew that they weren't going to say without the proper prodding. She sighed softly before something finally clicked for Amelia.

“Sister Hollis, you're Lord Hollis's sister," it was a more of a statement than a question, however; Amelia shook her head so as to seem like she meant nothing by it. “If you knew this about the estate, why wouldn't you tell your brother about it? I believe Lady de Jaager said he was an interested party," she continued. That didn't make sense to Amelia. If Sister Hollis knew about the state of the property, why wouldn't she warn her brother away from it?

The Sister's brow creased. “I did, actually." She seemed to bristle a bit at the criticism, her eyes narrowing on Amelia. “But Edward likes taking risks, and it's not as though he lacks the funds. I sort of hoped he would buy it, if only to relieve poor Anne of the burden. I was not, however, privy to their negotiations. I find the discussion of such matters to be..." she trailed off, letting the silence sit for a moment.

“A bit uncouth."

Miss Vera cleared her throat slightly, drawing the attention back to herself. "Forgive us," she said quietly. "I think perhaps it's just been a long day, and Lady Amelia is looking for sense wherever it may be found, difficult as that can be in such times."

Sister Mary seemed a touch mollified by this, and nodded faintly. “Then forgive me as well. It is... still sinking in, that Anne is gone. I think perhaps I am not taking it especially well."

Amelia doubted it, but she huffed softly. “Yes, please forgive my forwardness. I'm just trying to make sense of it all," she stated, though she was doing it for a different reason. Who would know, though? For any one else, it would just seem like ladies gossiping with each other.

This was going to be a long night.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

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#, as written by Aethyia

Outside London - The Former Parish of St. Lukas
July 4, 1885 - 22:30 p.m - Thunderstorm
Theodore Kent

Though young, Theodore Kent had not been small in quite some time. With two tall parents, it had always been a sort of foregone conclusion that he'd end up the same. Still, he had to quicken his pace to keep up with the Prince, who had a speed and fluidity to his motion that Theodore knew meant he probably wasn't quite human.

Not that he minded. Honestly he probably wouldn't even mention it, just in case he happened to be wrong.

They made quick time to the outbuilding. The local constable hadn't arrived yet, and the Church fellow had no doubt found it more important to keep the guests contained than watch over a corpse, which Theodore figured wasn't exactly a bad instinct. Poor lady wasn't really going anywhere.

The light from his lantern illuminated a bit more than anyone had been able to see earlier, including the cooling pool of blood Lady de Jaager was laying in. Theodore grimaced, trying not to make it obvious how much seeing her like that unnerved him. His mother hadn't ever really tried to keep truths about the world from him, but... he'd never seen a dead person so close before either. The fear frozen into her expression, her dull eyes... it wasn't something he was going to forget anytime soon.

Still, he had a job to do, and that was to help Mr. Ramsey by getting any information he could before the locals got here and messed everything up like they were always doing. Or so his mum said anyway, usually when she was teasing Mr. Ramsey the way she liked to.

"You, uh... you see anything?" he asked the Prince, not totally sure what the protocol was on a situation like this. Titles seemed kind of stupid in this situation, and this fellow had done more or less what Theodore's mum and Miss Amy had said, so he didn't seem to be too big for his trousers or anything.

The Prince didn't immediately answer, and seemed focused on Lady de Jaager. He knelt down as if to inspect something before pursing his lips together. “Other than the obvious, she was stabbed in the neck. If there were any scents that could have been connected to her, the rain's washed it away," he finally spoke, sighing deeply. He folded his arms across his chest and seemed to be contemplating something.

“The man they found with her, Seamus? He might have seen something," he muttered as if to himself. He didn't seem too convinced, though, and shook his head. “That doesn't seem right. Hey, Kent," he stated, turning towards Theodore. “Come here for a second, and..." he paused to turn back towards Lady de Jaager before pointing to a spot, “stand right there. I need to see something."

Theodore, much more interested in helping with whatever investigating the Prince was doing instead of fixing the power, moved carefully to the exact spot he specified, still holding his lantern. It gleamed off the golden handle of the thing Lady de Jaager had been stabbed with—apparently a letter opener, if he was seeing that right.

"What is it?" he asked, turning his eyes from the body and the weapon and back towards the Prince.

The Prince furrowed his brows. “It looks like a letter opener of some sort. Wasn't cheap, from the looks of it," he stated, however; he moved so that he was behind Theodore. He made a soft sound in the back of his throat before he moved back to Theodore's line of sight. “Lady de Jaager was standing forward, and stabbed from behind. I can't tell, exactly, but that's what the gist is, so Seamus wouldn't have seen anything. Let's see if we can get the power back on," he stated, moving carefully around Lady de Jaager.

“It'll be easier to see if there is anything else that might point in the direction of the murderer," he stated, making his way towards the wire box.

Theodore nodded slightly, throwing the dead woman one last uncertain glance before following the Prince to the box. Making sure that the power was shut off first, he noted that the cover was already off the box, which definitely did suggest that the O'Sullivan guy had been taking a look at it and gotten electrocuted.

"You know," he said, crouching down near the box and taking a look. "If this guy was supposed to be the handyman around here, there should be no way he forgot to check if the power was off. Seems to me like someone flipped it back on after he got here. That's not a lot of time—maybe they were followed in here directly for some reason? Then the culprit flips the switch, waits for O'Sullivan to electrocute himself, and stabs Lady De Jaager afterwards? While she's freaking out?"

It would explain the scream, and why it suddenly stopped. Maybe she hadn't seen her attacker at all, just her handyman getting possibly killed by an electric charge.

He hummed as he examined the wires. "I think the storm really did knock it out though. Nothing here looks like it was tampered with. So it wasn't a trap, you know? I'm gonna throw the backup generator on."

“That is a possibility," he replied, huffing quietly as he shook his head. “It could have just been the perfect opportunity to commit a crime, and return under the cover of darkness. I think..." he paused for a moment, “it would be something I'd take advantage of if I wanted to murder someone. It also looks like a spur of the moment kind of thing, though. Who goes around carrying a letter opener as a choice of weapon?"

“Come to think of it..." he paused again, pursing his lips together, “Why would anyone have a letter opener on them if this wasn't their home? Doesn't add up, none of it." He merely shrugged, though, and waited for Theodore to turn the backup generator on.

Theodore in the meantime had picked his way over to the backup. It was an old, squat thing, and if he was completely honest the copper wiring didn't look to be in the best shape, but as best he could tell in the dim light, it should work okay for now.

Given the recent electrocution of Mr. O'Sullivan, he was careful about it, making sure that nothing he could see was connected some way it shouldn't go, then flipping the necessary switches to start the thing up. It groaned and shuddered a little before its pitch settled at a hum, and with a slightly-worrying wheeze, started to circulate power.

The lights in the outbuilding flickered on, dimmer than they probably should have been, but enough to basically see by at least. From the dull sounds filtering in from the direction of the main house, something similar had probably happened there. "Well," he said, expelling a breath and straightening to turn towards the Prince. "I guess that's one problem solved for now."

“For now," he murmured, his lips pursed into a fine line. The Prince seemed to be thinking about something since he had a furrowed brow, and he was staring at the floor where Lady de Jaager had been found. He shook his head, though, and turned towards Theodore. “Since we have more light, perhaps we should look around to see if anything is misplaced. Perhaps a servant or two saw something out of the ordinary," he began, his face smoothing out in the process. He sniffed slightly before rubbing at his nose.

“We won't be able to find any footprints, not that it'd help, because of the rain," he muttered to himself, it seemed. “Let's go see what we can find," he stated, glancing in Theodore's direction. “If it really was a spur of the moment thing, the person might have messed up somewhere." It was likely in the event that Lady de Jaager's death wasn't planned.

Theodore scratched a bit at the back of his head at the bit about footprints and the rain, but shrugged. It sort of made sense, if that kind of thing was likely to be washed away. Glancing up, he caught side of the electric clock on the wall. 10:10. It was later than that now, of course, but he figured that was probably when the power had gone out. "I don't think the Lady has a whole lot of them," he observed. "Servants I mean. Mum said she'd written a few months ago asking for advice on how to downsize a staff. We don't have very many either, so I guess she wanted to know how it worked."

He also couldn't imagine too many of them having wanted to be outside in the rain, but maybe one of them had seen something weird earlier.

Glancing once more at the poor lady on the floor, Theodore filed out of the outbuilding behind the Prince, taking care to close it tightly behind him. There wasn't much he could do by way of being respectful, but at least this way she wouldn't be visible to anyone who walked by or anything.

“That will make things slightly difficult," he responded, his shoulders slumping as he sighed. “It would be one thing if she had a full staff, but if you're saying she downsized..." he trailed off slightly, glancing towards Theodore from the side of his eyes. “It'll still be worth asking the ones she does have. If there's even a small chance that one of them saw something, we'd have somewhat of a trail." He hummed something in the back of his throat, as if he'd figured something else out, however; he remained quiet until they reached the doors.

The Prince opened them, stepped inside, and glanced around the hall. Some of the guests were gathered in circles, chatting among themselves. Now that the lights were back on, it was easier to see who was around. The Prince didn't seem too interested in the guests though, and seemed to be looking for one of the servants. They didn't spot one until they reached the kitchen area, and he immediately walked up to them.

“Did you happen to be near the windows or doors before the lights went out?" he asked once he had their attention.

The servant, a young man probably only a few years older than Theodore, blinked, eyes going wide. Probably because he was being so directly addressed by one of the guests. “Erm, no, uh—milord. We've all been kind of... everywhere all night, but only inside the house, and erm... focused in, if y'know what I mean?" He had the typical uncertain tone of a service class individual speaking to presumed nobility, which Theodore had learned early on in life wasn't something that went away just because you said it could.

Humming a bit, he tried it the other way around. If there was anyone who'd been seen inside when the power went out, they were probably less likely to have been the killer, right? "Was anyone around you when the lights went out?" he asked.

“Erm..." The youth looked like he was trying very hard not to rub at the back of his close-cropped dark hair. “Well like I said, most of us staff have been in and out of the kitchen all night. What with the serving and all. I think I remember seeing everybody pretty close to then? Oh, and there was uh, Lord Hollis. He was really interested in the brandy for the tasting later, so I saw him just before." The servant shrugged, as if to say this sort of eccentricity wasn't unexpected.

Theodore wondered if maybe Lord Hollis wasn't one of those types that was a little too fond of liquor. A servant would be both too polite and too intimidated to tell an actual lord off for sneaking glasses of the stuff beforehand. But even if that was true, it didn't seem to have anything to do with the murder. He turned his attention to the Prince and grimaced.

"I think we might be stuck until Mr. Ramsey gets here," he admitted.

“Yeah," was the response Theodore received, however; the Prince looked puzzled by something. His brows were furrowed deeply, his lips were pursed into a fine line, and his eyes were slightly narrowed. It was almost as if he were inspecting something in the distance, but he blinked, and glanced at Theodore. “Something still doesn't smell right," he muttered, but said nothing further. Instead, he rolled out his shoulder and sighed.

“Let's wait for Ramsey, then," he stated, ushering Theodore in front of him.

The youth nodded, and led the way back to the ballroom, where it seemed nearly everyone had been gathered.

Mr. Ramsey would know what to do.