Death Comes to London

Steampowered London - 1885


a part of Death Comes to London, by Aethyia.

A metropolis of clockwork and steam.

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An alternate-history version of Victorian-era London, empowered by clockwork, steam, and a dash of the supernatural. Home to Ramsey & Associates, Inc., a rather unusual detective agency.
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Steampowered London - 1885

A metropolis of clockwork and steam.


Steampowered London - 1885 is a part of Death Comes to London.

6 Characters Here

Amelia Lancaster [31] "I'm waiting for something to happen. Anything, really."
Ephraim Ramsey [24] "It's an indirect way of accomplishing an indirect aim. So be it."
Charlotte Blythe [22] "I'm not sure I really - what's the phrase? - 'get it.'"
Khalil Jaziri [17] "I'm a glutton for a lot of things. Mostly things people wouldn't understand."
Beatrix Castine [9] "If you really want to know, I don't mind telling you... for a price."
Cassian Sinclair [2] "Just get out of my way."

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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: Amelia Lancaster

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London - Circo Della Notte Grounds
June 16, 1885 - 08:04 a.m. - Fog
Amelia Lancaster

If anything, Amelia was satisfied with her behavior. She had managed not to shoot Mr. Bianchi, even if her fingers were itching to do so. This was a case, and above all, she needed to be professional about it. Mr. Ramsey wouldn't have appreciated it, if she just acted, and she certainly did not want to lose her apprenticeship with him. She fancied that more than anything else. As it was, Mr. Bianchi had been impressed to the point that he'd invited Mr. Ramsey back to his tent. Amelia had tagged along because she had also been invited back. Perhaps for something dastardly, but Amelia pushed the thoughts from her mind. She was with Mr. Ramsey, and she would leave with Mr. Ramsey.

“I'd say color me impressed," Mr. Bianchi stated, pulling back the flaps to his tent as he ushered Amelia and Mr. Ramsey inside. “I didn't think a woman could be so talented with a pistol," he continued. Amelia managed to force a sweet smile for the man.

“I'd consider it a talent that has been well-cultivated," she replied, keeping the smile on her face as much as she could. The man's breath was almost rancid, perhaps from all the drink he had around, however; Amelia kept her hands to the side. There were worse smells out there; she was mometarily grateful she didn't have Mr. Jaziri's sense of smell.

Mr. Bianchi merely laughed, the sound more along the lines of a pig choking on its slop. “There's hope for you, yet, Miss Whitaker. If all goes well, we might be able to find a more permanent spot for you," he spoke, though the way he drawled the word caused Amelia to inwardly groan. Repulsive man, was the only word that came to her mind.

“These right here," he stated, making his way towards a table, and opened one of the drawers. “These are the contracts. They state that you will work for me, and will paid a decent price for your work. You get paid per successful show, and at the end of the week." He placed a pile of papers on the desk, and motioned for Mr. Ramsey and Amelia to step forward.

“Are there any concerns you have about your employment?" he asked.

"Term o' service?" Mr. Ramsey was still affecting that strange accent, the one that made him sound so much rougher. He looked it, too, with the different clothes and the tattoos on his bare forearms. They were surprisingly thick with muscle, too, but that sort of made sense, considering what he did for a living. She found it an attractive quality, nonetheless. "I know we're temps, but how long're you lot in town?"

He flipped through one of the contracts, and though he probably read every word, he managed to look like it was a bit of a struggle to read at all, squinting at the papers as though they were irritating to him. His eyes flicked up after only a perfunctory amount of time, and he appeared to take in the tent, from the printed banner proclaiming someone called the Magnificent Martina to the shoddily-kept desk itself, to the conspicuous neck of a liquor bottle visible beneath it. There were several accoutrements of Mr. Bianchi's personal life here, too, including a large trunk with bits of fabric sticking out and what appeared to be a screen behind which the man could dress, but he must have slept elsewhere, for there was nothing of that kind, at least.

“You'll be employed for the two weeks we will be here. After that, depending on how well-received your performances are, we will renegotiate terms and conditions for more permanent spots," he replied, his eyes flickering towards Amelia. He did it in a way that looked like he was trying to be discreet about it, however; Amelia resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She wondered if he did that to all of his female employees. Most likely. Instead, she allowed her own eyes to drift back to his desk, where a picture frame was settled in the corner. She could barely make out what the picture was, but she could see Mr. Bianchi's face quite clearly. He looked a bit thinner and happier. From the way his arm was angled, she could tell he had it draped over someone.

“We will provide lodging and clothing since you cannot wear that atrocious attire into the show," he added. Amelia scoffed lightly, but decided to keep her retort to herself. The lodging was going to be difficult for her, though. She couldn't just stay with the troupe, however; if Miss Vera agreed to accomodate, she could let her father know that she planned on staying a couple of days with her.

For his part, Mr. Ramsey shrugged, producing a pen from his pocket and affixing a messy scrawl to the bottom of the page. Not his actual signature, as she knew by now that was quite neat by comparison. He offered it toward her with his left hand, raising an eyebrow just slightly.

"'Ear you've 'ad a bit o' trouble wiff folks goin' missing on ya," he remarked conversationally to Mr. Bianchi.

She took the pen and wrote her own signature, doing her best to change certain strokes to her first name as she did. Mr. Bianchi, however, laughed at Mr. Ramsey's statement. The sound was almost nervous, like he was trying to shirk the idea by simply laughing.

“Most of them have left on their own accord," he spoke, taking the papers that they had signed. He filed them away in another drawer, and turned back towards both of them. “Others simply never came back," he added, running his forefinger and thumb through his beard. “Since you've signed the papers, might as well go introduce yourselves to the others. You'll find them outside readying for tonight's show. You won't be required to participate in today's, however," he paused to reach for one of his wine bottles, “you'll officially begin tomorrow night. Might as well make yourselves useful and help set up for tonight."

Amelia agreed on the grounds that anywhere was better than inside Mr. Bianchi's tent. It would also give them the opportunity to investigate the other members.

With a terse nod, Mr. Ramsey saw their way out, lifting the flap of the tent for Amelia to go first, then letting it fall closed behind them. He did not speak, however, until they were a comfortable distance away, at which point his voice was soft, still clearly intended for only her to hear.

"Impressions?" he inquired, one eyebrow arched slightly.

“I can see why Miss Castine is suspicious of Mr. Bianchi," she responded. “He spoke with no remorse about his missing troupe members, and laughed as if to deny they were missing at all," she continued, pursing her lips together. This man was supposed to be their employer, someone who looked after them. If they'd traveled together for a long time, shouldn't he have shown some concern? She calmed her thoughts, though, and sighed softly.

“But at the same time, it feels like he knows something," she added, narrowing her eyes slightly. He had to know something if he were trying to deny the fact that his troupe members were disappearing. Perhaps it was just guilt that plagued him?

Mr. Ramsey hummed. "It's possible," he agreed after a moment. "Remember, though—that he's in charge here does not entail that he cares at all for his employees. Carnivals and circuses have lots of turnover—it's the reason why he'd hire temporary workers like us at all. But just because he fails to demonstrate the appropriate concern doesn't mean he killed anyone."

He paused a moment, casting his eyes around until they alighted on two men in dirty blue coveralls. They looked to be finishing the last of breakfast: bread, half a cheese wheel, and tinned sausages right out of the can. "Those will be the people we're meant to help set up, then."

If she had still been the same Amelia Lancaster from a month ago, she might have found it repulsive how they ate. Taking in a deep breath, she allowed her face to smooth over as they approached the two men. She waited politely as they wiped their faces of any remaining food before she spoke. “Mr. Bianchi has asked that we assist with setup," she spoke, keeping her expression as smooth as possible.

If Mr. Bianchi's leering had been obvious, the once-over she got from the larger of these two was glaring. Watery blue eyes trailed from the crown of her head down to the shoes on her feet, then dragged back up again with a certain kind of grimy relish. He had the build of a laborer, broad and thick on a large frame, and despite the lack of definition to his tree-trunk arms, he might have been handsome but for the crookedness of his tobacco-stained teeth and the unappetizing expression on his face when he grinned at her through his reddish beard.

“Did 'e, now?" the man asked, folding his arms over his chest. “Plen'y o' fings I'd let a girl like you assist me wif, love."

The smaller, slighter man next to him, shook his head with a frown and jabbed an elbow into the first one's side. “Be'ave, Davis." His dark brows knit. “Sorry, Miss. Davis ain't got manners, but 'e's 'armless. I'm Harris, and we're what passes for a ground crew 'round these parts. You must be new 'ires?"

"Fresh," Mr. Ramsey replied, eyes flicking from one man to the other. "I'm Ramsey. This is Miss Whitaker." He emphasized the miss just enough that she picked up on it, a strange cadence on it that sounded almost... irritated.

“Awright." Harris, at least, flinched a little, scratching absently at his thin mustache. “Well, uh. S'pose the pens need cleanin', and then we can get t' work on settin' up the main tent. So if them's you cam in wif is here to help, too, we can split the work."

Trials, she repeated the word as if it were a mantra inside her head. She had to remind herself that there would be incidents like this in their line of work and that she had to ignore them. It would attest to her growth not only as a lady, but as Mr. Ramsey's apprentice. She forced an innocent smile on her face before glancing towards Harris.

“You mentioned passing as a ground crew. Does that mean you've been with Mr. Bianchi for a while?" she asked, keeping the smile on her face as she did. “What's it like working for him?" she added on, making it seem like she were interested in the work rather than finding out about their length of employment. If they were with Mr. Bianchi since the beginning of the disappearances, they might be more open to talking about it. She would do her part in being persuasive if they weren't up to it, though.

“Us?" Harris blinked, then shrugged. “We've been 'ere forever, Miss. The job don't change much. Set stuff up, take it down. Move when we get told ta move, stop when we get told ta stop. Ol' Bianchi's same as 'e's ever been, only drunker lately." He offered an uncertain smile, but it seemed friendly enough.

Certainly moreso than his companion, who was looking back and forth between Amelia and Mr. Ramsey, a scowl on his face.

“Sounds rather exciting," she stated blandly, glancing at Davis only to be courteous. Her eyes wandered to Ramsey for a brief second, though, before propping a hand on her hip. “Well, hopefully we'll be here longer than the others, seeing as Mr. Bianchi had to hire temps. Do people just up and leave whenever they want to? 'Cause this seems like a really good trade to be part of," she stated, glancing in Davis's direction once more.

“It's hard work, girlie," Davis said, spitting to the side. There seemed to be something almost hostile in it, and the fact that he was now outright glaring at Mr. Ramsey confirmed that, though nothing about why. For his part, her teacher did not react in the slightest.

“People find work they like better, or they don't want ta go on the road, or we toss 'em out fer bein' useless shits. Some of 'em just leave. It happens. Any carnie worf his salt'll tell ya so." He scoffed. “The ones like yer fella here go first. Pretty ones what don't know how to handle a little dirt under their fingers."

Of that, she had no doubt, however; Mr. Ramsey was more than just a pretty face. Not that this neanderthal would know about that, but she kept that thought to herself. Instead, she let out a soft puff of amused air, and tilted her head to the left. She didn't comment on Davis's last statment, though. Let him think whatever of Mr. Ramsey's relationship to her; she was here to do a job.

“Well, I s'pose it's a good thing Ramsey isn't afraid to get a little dirt on him," she stated, grinning just slightly in Harris's direction. “Perhaps we should get started on setting up as a demonstration, hm?" she stated, arching a brow in Ramsey's direction. It was clear to her that Davis was trying to be intimidating to Ramsey, though she couldn't figure out why. Ramsey was, perhaps, the most intimidating creature here, lions and bears notwithstanding. And that's when he wanted to be, she supposed.

It also seemed like they wouldn't get much information out of Davis if his intention was intimidation. Harris seemed like a nice, meek man, but he wouldn't be of much help, either, with Davis around. She sighed softly through her nose. She might have to ask Davis questions, alone. That was, however, a thought she didn't want to entertain at the moment.

Mr. Ramsey looked like he was about to agree with her, but the conversation was interrupted.

“It's happened again!" someone shouted, apparently from some ways to the right.

“Fer fuck's sake," Davis grumbled.

Harris only frowned. “Best go see."

With a grunt, the other man led the way. It didn't take long; the commotion was coming from further in, where several of the performers had or shared quarters. Pinned on the outside of a blue and white striped tent was a scrap of paper, tidy, small handwriting with an abundance of loops and swirls easily visible for the thickness of the lettering.

Three it's been, with fourth to come
Not till ten is the game zero-sum
What you took will be paid in return
Lest your silent ally you spurns

"Not much of a poet," Mr. Ramsey muttered, too low for anyone but Amelia to hear.

Amelia merely pursed her lips and furrowed her brows. “It's a riddle of sorts," she muttered mostly to herself. While she would readily admit to anyone who asked, Amelia liked riddles. They challenged her, however; this one didn't make much sense to her. Three with fourth to come? “What did they mean by again?" she spoke to Harris whom she was closer to. She was, of course, referring to the statement made by one of the other members. “Has this happened before?" she continued. She briefly wondered if this had anything to do with Miss Castine's missing troupe members, however; Miss Castine didn't mention anything of letters or riddles.

Harris looked a little like he'd seen a ghost; beneath the mustache, his face was nearly white as a sheet; quite a feat with a Mediterranean complexion such as his. “I don't—" He shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. Looking around, his reaction wasn't too different to several of the other gathered parties; one woman raised a fist to her mouth and sobbed softly. Several of the others wore grimaces, worry clear in the lines of their faces.

“Three's... two's the number of missin'," he managed after a moment more. A scowling Davis next to him nodded. “The ones we can't figure where they went. And then there was Jacque... he's dead."

“Ramsey," she stated softly, gently touching his arm to beckon him to follow her away from the crowd. Once they were a decent distance, she turned to him with pursed lips. “If three people are dead," at this point they had to be, “that means they're going to take another person, or worse." The riddle made some sense after Harris's explanation, but she still didn't know what the other parts pertained to.

“We should let the others know," she stated. She hadn't seen the others around, but chances were Mr. Jaziri at least heard the shouting.

He nodded faintly. "Good. Gather them and explain. I'm going to watch the crowd. Who reacts how is going to be useful to know."

She nodded.

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: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

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#, as written by Aethyia

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And who would they be?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We should start with one of them."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

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

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

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

Two days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster

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#, as written by Aethyia

London - Kent Estate
June 28, 1885 - 12:00 p.m. - Sunny & Warm
Veronika Kent

Vera hummed to herself as she went amount piping the last of her little cakes, arranging slices of strawberry in a flower-petal pattern at a jaunty angle and licking the last few traces of icing off her fingers. Making sure the plating was properly squared, she hoisted the cake and balanced the tray on the fingertips of her left hand, taking up the loaded pistol on the kitchen island with the other and tucking it into the holster at her waist.

The cake went onto her dining table, along with an array of other desserts she'd prepared that morning. Amelia had been kind enough to inform her that Lord Lancaster had something of a sweet tooth; as it happened, Vera had a talent for sweets.

She thought they'd be a nice consolation when she utterly destroyed him on the range.

Straightening herself, Vera brushed down her pale blue skirts, straightening the line of her dove-grey corset and making sure the laces were still properly in place. Her hair was arranged into a tight braid in the French style, one that trailed all the way to her waist. It was easier to shoot without extra weight on her head, and as she expected to actually fire on challenging targets today, she'd planned accordingly.

The heels of her boots clicked along the wood of her foyer, and she paused before crossing the midpoint of the room. The drapes were hanging properly, the floor and banisters were polished, the carpet had been run over with the new steam cleaner... Teddy and Ephy were helping get the targets set up in the yard, including some of them in her rarely-used back lot, around the sniper's nest.

Now all she really had to do was... wait for him to appear. The little flip in the pit of her stomach almost made Vera laugh at herself. Had it really been so long since she'd enjoyed the thrill of a real competition?

As it happened, the sound of hooves hitting the pavement signaled the arrival of Lord Lancaster. From the sounds of it, though, it was only one horse. He must have ridden to her estate without the escort of a carriage. It made sense, considering it wasn't Amelia joining her, but rather Lord Lancaster. He didn't need an escort as Amelia did. He was led inside by a staff member, and his eyes glanced over her dwelling before landing on her.

“Lady Kent," he called to her, bowing slightly before straightening back up. “You've a lovely home," he stated, his eyes moving to the side as if he were still taking in the home.

Vera found herself smiling without having to force it, as small talk so often required her to do. "Lord Lancaster," she replied, answering the bow with a curtsy of her own. "Thank you very much. I would offer to show you a greater part of it, but if you're quite amenable I do believe that my boarders have been preparing the set for our challenge this afternoon. If perhaps you'd like to shoot first and have tea afterwards?"

Lord Lancaster's lips twitched slightly upward, though he looked like he was refraining from smiling completely. Perhaps from a sort of confidence in his own abilities without knowing her skills? “That would be considerate, but not necessary. I wouldn't want to impose on your generosity more than I already have," he spoke, his eyes falling back to her. His smile smoothed out at the end of the statement.

“If you'd be so kind as to lead the way," he stated, referring, perhaps, to the area where the challenge was to take place.

Vera only smiled a little, confident that she could persuade him to change his mind later. But still, first things were first, and she led him back out the front door and towards the yard.

It seemed that the others had finished setting the targets at the pistol range, fresh paper ones attached to bales of hay at the end of a long corridor. Presently, it was only Ephy and Teddy, who were seeing to the selection of pistols she'd chosen from her collection, in case Lord Lancaster had not brought his own.

"I do believe some introductions are in order," Vera said with a brighter smile. "Lord Lancaster, I do believe you've met Mr. Ramsey already?"

Ephraim nodded, both a form of confirmation to her and greeting to her guest. "Your Lordship." Titles always sounded so strange in his tone of voice, as though he didn't quite believe what he was saying despite saying it with apparent respect.

"This, on the other hand, is my son Teddy. Or I suppose Lord Theodore Kent, if we're being particularly fastidious."

Teddy scrunched his nose in the familiar fashion at the use of his nickname in front of company, but he did carefully set down the gun he was loading, flipping the safety first and then wiping his hands off on a linen cloth. He strode over as well as he could stride—though fourteen years old, he was already nearly her height, and only about three inches shorter than the gentleman he approached. That said, there was a certain teenage lankiness of limb to him that made his youth abundantly clear.

Still, he stuck out his hand in greeting as he was entitled to do, even if Lord Lancaster was of a much more prominent position than either of them were. "Lancaster," he said with a bit of a grin. "Nice to meet you in the flesh."

“Lady Kent mentioned you during her visit," he spoke, briefly glancing towards Vera before turning his attention back to Teddy. “A pleasure to meet you as well, Lord Kent," he spoke, taking Teddy's hand into his own in a firm handshake. He released it shortly after, and his hand fell back to his side.

“I see that your mother taught you well," he spoke, motioning towards the gun Teddy had set down earlier. “You must be as talented as she is," he continued.

Teddy grinned broadly. "I'm pretty good, but not nearly as much as—"

Vera's eyes widened; behind Lord Lancaster, she made a sharp gesture, bringing her finger to her lips in the universal signal for silence.

"—as my mom," Teddy finished, not entirely smoothly, but not too awkwardly either. "More of a fencer than a shooter, if I'm being totally honest." He had still, of course, learned how to fire and how to maintain a weapon, but Vera was happy to let him follow his inclinations in this respect.

"We've an assortment to choose from for this first bit if you've not brought your own, Lord Lancaster," Vera added. It was quite possible that he carried his own pistol, though he was obviously not currently in possession of a rifle, which would be the next part, so she'd made sure her full arsenal was available for that.

"I do believe the British infantry favored the Hansen rimfire models? I've a pair if you're inclined, but it is rather a disadvantage over my Stepanovs." She winked; as old as military rivalries were, there were plenty of dimensions to go with, and everyone tended to think their country made the superior equipment.

Lord Lancaster raised a brow to that. “Perhaps because the people who handled them were far too indelicate with them," he spoke, the smile on his face smoothing out to something more akin to a smirk. “I may not have favored a rifle in my time with the military," he spoke, pausing briefly to glance over the array of weapons Vera had collected for their challenge.

“But I did know how to handle a pistol and make the best of what I had. Different models require a different approach, as you may be aware, Lady Kent," he continued, a sort of challenge in his tone as he spoke.

Was that...? Vera found herself momentarily thrown, unsure if he'd intended his words to have the double meaning she could read into them. Whether intentional or not, the banter did amuse her, and she didn't think it would hurt to reply in kind.

Keeping her tone similarly ambiguous, she shrugged. "That's all very true, of course," she said, sliding her pistol from its holster and checking the ammunition, as though she hadn't already done so twice already. "But you must surely also concede that some models are just... outright superior." She smiled, just a touch coyly. Let him wonder if there was a bit of entendre to her words.

"And in this particular matter, I'm afraid the experts do agree: the Russian is far more faithful and lovely a companion than her ungainly English counterpart."

He hummed softly, but shook his head. “Faithful and lovely, I will concede, however," he spoke, reaching to his side holster and retreiving his own pistol. “The precision and power behind the English counterpart are all that are required when you have something to prove."

He mimicked her actions, checking the ammunition and the barrel before holding it to his side. “Shall we see which is truly the superior one?" he asked, not bothering to hide the small smile that was on his face. Whether it was intentional or not, he made no show of letting Vera know.

Vera returned the expression, clicking her ammo cartridge into place. "I know it's typically ladies first, but I would feel rather inhospitable if I did not allow my guest his choice of lane and the first shot. Please, milord, do go right ahead."

Lord Lancaster inclined his head and turned his attention towards range. After making a decision, he made his way towards a target. He stood still for a moment, as if he were trying to get a read on the distance from his target, and where he stood. He lifted his pistol to take aim, but did not fire it, immediately. He adjusted his wrist, as if he were going to aim slightly higher, and pulled the trigger. The mark wasn't too far off from the center; even from this distance it was easy to tell. With a satisfied smile, he turned to Vera.

“Lady Kent," he spoke, lowering the pistol to his side and stepping away from his position.

It was an impressive shot, to say the least. Even with the latest advancements, pistols were not typically accurate beyond fifty or so feet in the hands of anyone but an expert, and the target was fifty meters away from the two of them.

Vera nodded in acknowledgment when Lord Lancaster stepped back, slotting herself into the same position he'd occupied, setting the toe of her boot on his mark. Lifting the gun one-handed, she sighted down the elongated barrel with both eyes and squeezed the trigger.

The bullet flew exactly as she'd aimed it, striking her target dead-center. As was duly reasonable, she fired twice more, to ensure it was no mere stroke of luck. The next two rounds, the placed just above and just below the first, so as not to risk ricochet.

Tucking her pistol back into its holster, Vera turned over her shoulder and winked playfully. "Fair's fair, Lord Lancaster. Have two more, and then we'll total the score."

The look on Lord Lancaster's face spoke of mild surprise, but he managed to smooth it out. He returned to his original position, his eyes narrowing slightly as he raised his pistol once more. He didn't fire, immediately, and instead, kept his eyes on the target in front of him. He fiddled with the trigger for a moment before raising the pistol slightly higher. Once he was apparently comfortable, he pulled the trigger, the bullet missing the center by just a few inches.

He frowned slightly and aimed slightly higher. The bullet missed the center, again, by an inch, this time. He sighed softly, and turned to Vera. “I must concede that you, Lady Kent, are a far better shot than I am," he spoke with a sort of rough edge to his voice. It wasn't harsh, but it sounded upset about something.

If she didn't know any better, she might suppose that he was pouting a bit. "If I may say so, Lord Lancaster, I fear I'm a rather high bar." Her response was not unkind, not meant to rub it in, either. Just a fact—with a shot like that, he was leagues better than most. Amelia certainly wasn't that good yet, and she had a gift for it.

The showing with the rifles was much the same, and when that was done, Vera saw the opportunity to spring her trap. "If I may, Lord Lancaster... I fear I've made rather too much for tea, but both my son and my tenant seem to have disappeared." This was, of course, because she had not told them to stay, and no doubt Teddy was following Ephy around, asking him questions about everything he did.

"I would consider it a personal favor to myself if you'd stay just a little while more and take it with me?" She smiled, somewhere between apologetic and hopeful, though she wasn't sure if she'd entirely intended to look that way or if it had just... happened.

His lips were pursed together, as if he were going to refuse her offer, however; a small tilt of his lips suggested otherwise. “Tea sounds fine, Lady Kent," he spoke, his voice softer than it had been before. He shook his head as if to himself, and glanced up so that he was keeping Vera's gaze. “If you'd be so kind as to lead the way, I'm afraid I am not acquainted with your home," he paused abruptly, almost as if he were going to add to the sentence.

He followed Vera to the dining table where she'd set up before his arrival, and his eyes widened slightly at the assortment. They, however, were not the only ones in the immediate area. “Amelia?" he stated, catching her off guard as she held one of the strawberry petals in her hands. She blinked mildly at her father before a bright smile bloomed on her face.

“What are you doing here? I thought you didn't have a piano lesson today?" he asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously at his daughter. Amelia merely grinned, and straightened herself back out.

“I came to see Lady Kent's collection of music sheets. She has a large selection to choose from and I thought I'd try practicing more of the advanced techniques," she stated, her eyes sliding to Vera.

Vera grinned, though she tried not to make it too obvious, as it was a tad incongruous with the circumstances. "And you're welcome to any of them, of course," she said mildly, giving Amelia a conspiratorial wink when Lord Lancaster wasn't looking. "My library is modest, but there are some interesting things to be found in it, if I do say so."

It was far more likely that Amelia was reading through her texts on anatomy or history or whatever other subject Ephy had her studying as part of her apprenticeship, and indeed she decided it was likely that the library's interests currently included the demon and her son both, but this of course she would never say aloud.

"Feel free to take a cake or two back with you, dear, in case you get a bit peaky later." Or rather, in case the three of them did.

“Thank you, Miss Vera," she stated, reaching for two slices of cake, and one apple tart. She immediately ducked back out of the room, though, before Lord Lancaster could say anything about her mode of address. She spoke a little quickly, and from the look on Lord Lancaster's face, it probably didn't register.

“She has taken quite a shine to you, Lady Kent," he spoke with a sort of melancholy to his voice, as if he were remembering another time. “Your tutoring has been beneficial for her," he continued, glancing back towards Vera.

Vera settled herself at the head of the table, serving herself a slice of the light, fluffy angel food cake next to the pear tarts and blackberry cobbler. She'd spent quite some time quizzing Amelia on her father's preferences, and while she figured the peppermint-chocolate ganache she'd layered over a small chocolate cake would be the biggest success, she did try to have a little of everything available.

She tilted her head slightly at the hint of sadness in his tone, but waited until Alice, her cook, had brought in the tea itself and left before she replied. "She's a joy to teach, Lord Lancaster," she replied quietly, for once not inflecting her voice with too much flair or humor. "Young women—young people, really—of Amelia's talents and drive are rare. I fear she hardly needs my instruction at all, only a place and time to apply herself to improvement."

“You would not be wrong in your deduction, Lady Kent," he spoke, his smile smoothing out a bit. “I would surmise that is mostly my fault," he continued, pouring himself a cup of tea before setting it down. “She was taught things a Lady ought not to know," he paused, his eyes flickering to Vera for a moment before they settled on one of the pear tarts. He reached for one, inspected it, but did not immediately eat it.

“Her mother passed when she was born. Any tutelage she would have received to be a proper Lady was lost to her, because of it," he spoke a little solemnly at that, though not for the loss of Amelia's mother. Perhaps more-so the loss of what Amelia would have learned if her mother was alive. “So I pushed her to learn other things; things that I could teach her."

It wasn't an unconventional way of thinking about such a situation, though Vera couldn't say she agreed. Not that traditional men were usually the best at changing their minds, but she thought perhaps she had an inroad, if she made delicate use of it.

Pausing to finish the bite she'd taken while he spoke, Vera hummed softly, dabbing at the corners of her mouth with her napkin. "Well, as someone who has taken multiple meals with her, I do not find her to be lacking in comportment," she said softly. "And I find that her keenness of mind and inclination towards learning is more admirable and necessary than any particular penchant for etiquette and embroidery. Those things can be learned at any stage, but there is no turning a dull person into a bright one. You've raised a very bright daughter, and if I may say so, you've a right to be proud. Both of her and yourself."

He chuckled softly at her statement. “James would beg to differ," he stated, some humor to his tone. “But you are right, I am very proud of her. I'm sure you must feel the same way with Lord Kent. He being without his father," he stated before taking a bite from one of the pear tarts he'd taken. His eyes widened slightly in mild surprise, though he looked pleased about the taste since he took another, quick bite.

Vera smiled, enough that her eyes crinkled at the corners. "I've got things to get through that boy's head yet," she said, letting a bit of levity return to the conversation. "But he's given me much to be proud of, yes." Gently, she set her cake fork down, watching with some amusement as he ate the tart. She was gratified by his enjoyment—few things were as satisfying to Vera as others taking pleasure in something she had done or made.

Well, there was the satisfaction of a precise bulls-eye, of course, but that wasn't much of a challenge anymore unless she went out of her way to make it one.

"We do what we can alone, I suppose," she mused. "Though I daresay between your Mr. Delaney and my Ms. Adams, there's help enough to make it work." Though she had few staff, Vera appreciated their work a great deal, and knew from experience that even having the three made running her household possible in a way it would not otherwise be.

She picked up her cup of tea and took a slow sip.

“In this, you are correct," he stated, having finished off the last of his tart before glancing back at Vera. “My compliments to your pâtissier," he stated, his eyes trailing back to the sweets, and reaching for one of the blackberry tarts. “They are quite appetizing," he added before taking a bite from the new tart. He seemed to enjoy that one as well, since he grabbed another, perhaps momentarily forgetting his manners.

Vera laughed—and she was sure it was a laugh, only somehow the sound that came out was a giggle of all things. She could not remember the last time she'd heard herself do it, and she momentarily stunned herself into silence, blinking and hiding as much of her face as possible behind the teacup. Dear One, was she fourteen again somehow?

Clearing her throat, she managed a more demure smile. "I accept them, in that case," she replied. It was sort of funny, that he should again say something to her about her without knowing. Though perhaps the pastries were a bit less surprising than the sniping.

Lord Lancaster nearly choked on the bite he'd been working on, and tapped his chest. He took a drink from his tea before he managed to calm down from the coughing. “You," he began, taking in a slow breath in order to catch it, it seemed. “You have many talents, it seems. Now I see why Amelia is so taken with you," he managed to clear his throat once more, though his face was slightly red. Whether that was from the near-choking experience or something else, was hard to tell.

“In any case, perhaps..." he paused once more, clearing his throat a third time before meeting Vera's gaze, “we could do this another time. A fencing lesson, perhaps?"

But goodness, his eyes were so very blue. Not a pale, sky-ice version of the shade like hers, either. No, this was ocean-water, azure blue, with a depth to it.

Vera caught herself staring, and it was her turn to clear her throat a bit and glance down, feeling the slightest of heat rising on her cheeks. She was being daft—if she weren't careful, the poor fellow was like as not to think she'd taken some kind of fancy to him!

"Mayhap a match first?" she asked, almost shyly. "I am perhaps due a touch of comeuppance for subjecting you to my own specialty today. I should delight in a lesson after my inevitable defeat, however." Her smile was likewise a little softer than she intended it, but she hadn't chased him away thus far, so she didn't think it would hurt.

If he were feeling shy, he didn't show it. His smile turned into a grin as he continued to hold her gaze. “Perhaps in the same amount of time? Two weeks?" he asked, his brow arching almost in an inquisitive manner.

"It's a plan, Lord Lancaster."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

0.00 INK

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

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

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

And he was a captive fool.

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

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

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

He had a point.

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

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

That was easier said than done, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What kind of reading?"

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

“He wants one."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What does that mean?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That left them. Alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Beatrix Castine

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I find the thing that disturbs the balance?

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

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

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

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

"Have you any hint as to its nature?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ephraim Ramsey Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster

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London - Office of Ramsey & Associates
July 2, 1885 - 10:30 a.m. - Drizzle
Amelia Lancaster

Leaving the estate under the guise of going to Miss Vera's was, perhaps, the easiest lie she'd ever had to tell her father. If he actually knew what she was doing, Amelia was certain that he'd have some massive heart failure, or he'd do something like keep her contained within the estate. Somehow, at least. She thanked the carriage driver, and slipped her umbrella outside, opening it so that it could shield her from the droplets of rain that refused to stop. The soft thudding of the rain drops against her umbrella, filled her senses until she reached the door to the office.

Once inside, she shook some of the moisture off of the umbrella before setting it down in the corner, and removed the hat she'd worn inside. Satisfied that she was not soaked, nor bringing in any excess moisture, she turned to glance into the place she'd grown familiar with.

It was slightly less familiar today, though, its layout oddly changed. Mr. Ramsey's desk was still placed in front of the back wall and the hearth as always, impeccably neat in its organization and polished in its shine, with the green wingback chair behind it.

Charlie's, too, was in the usual place to the left, nearest the door to the small kitchen. It was a little less neat, the other girl's notebook open at an angle with a pen still resting along the seam in the middle, and a few pieces of smaller alchemy gear clustered at one of the corners. But the little-used seating area that had occupied the spot across from that had been moved forward, to nearer the front door, and in its place was another desk.

This desk was of a match with the others, a rich, if gently-worn, teak wood, about of a size with Charlie's. The chair behind it was upholstered in a soft turquoise, a subtle variation in the shade making a paisley pattern in the fabric.

Mr. Ramsey stood in front of the desk, just setting down a leather-bound notebook and smooth, dark blue fountain pen in front of the chair. The desk had a large inbox and outbox sitting on it already, both empty, and what seemed to be an organizational calendar, but it was otherwise clear.

He stepped away once he'd put the items in their place, and nodded briefly to her. "Miss Lancaster."

She arched a brow, slightly confused as to the change, however; she nodded her head in return. “Ramsey," she greeted, brow still arched in slight confusion. “Are we expecting another addition?" she inquired, motioning towards the new desk. She quashed the thought of the possibility of the desk being Jaziri's. Ramsey was far too intelligent to do something like that. Jaziri also did not spend as much time at the office as she did, however; the possibility of it being her desk, did not cross her mind.

“If so, should I prepare a proper welcome for them?" she asked, referring, of course, to setting the tea so that it would be available when the mystery person arrived.

For a moment, Mr. Ramsey blinked at her, arching one eyebrow as if waiting for her to make some connection she had not seen. When it was not forthcoming, he huffed a short, soft breath through his nose. "Addition is not quite the correct word," he said, crossing back to his desk and picking up what seemed to be a thin file folder. It was simply blank manila, but he extended it out towards her.

He did not let go immediately, however, holding her eyes instead, intently enough that it was obvious the words that followed were going to be important. "You did good work on the Bianchi-Harris case. There is much you have yet to learn, but you have earned the right to learn it if you wish. This contains the terms of a more formal apprenticeship. You will want to look them over. Perhaps at your desk." He released the folder.

It was the first time he'd said anything regarding her provisional status since they'd come to the arrangement in mid-May. Though she'd offered to pay him the fee he'd asked for, he'd put it off until the end of that month and then just... not mentioned it again. It had been easy to forget about, with all the things she was learning. But it seemed she'd done something right in the month and a half she'd been here.

Amelia was glad that any emotion she was currently feeling, was not present on her face. She took the folder he'd handed her, but continued holding his gaze. She was looking for something; for this to be a jest of some sort. She knew, however, that Ramsey was not the joking kind. He rarely showed amusement of that sort, at least not outright. She'd learned to spot small details here and there, but it wasn't anything quite noteworthy. As he'd mentioned, she still had a lot to learn.

It finally settled in that the new desk was hers, and she allowed herself to break the gaze, moving her attention to her desk. She didn't think the possibility of getting a desk was an option. She'd planned on sharing Charlie's desk, however; it made sense to her, now, it was best if she didn't. If she was going to remain here, on a more formal basis, she would need her own space. And a new desk certainly provided that.

“I'm... grateful," because she didn't know how else to express her gratitude. It was uncouth of her to approach him for an embrace. It would be crossing a boundary she had no intentions of crossing. He was her mentor; she respected him greatly for everything that he's been able to teach her. That she'd be able to continue learning under him was something else entirely. She had no words to describe the elated feeling she currently felt.

“The fee," she began glancing back towards Ramsey. “How should I pay it?" she asked. She couldn't exactly have her father make the payment to Ramsey. It would give way to the truth. If he made the payment to Miss Vera, however, perhaps she could give it to Ramsey?

He shook his head slightly. "It's in the contract. Your wage will be garnished until the thousand is paid, at which point you'll move into full associate status and earn the standard portion of my private-case commissions. Yard consultations are effectively pro bono, but you've seen the business I do. The majority of my clients are paying in some form."

Mr. Ramsey's eyes fell to her inbox. "If you are amenable I would shift the initial filtering of requests to you as well. Miss Blythe means well, but she is not as able to discriminate the problems of one person from another, and so I have been handling the intake myself. It is not the most useful work for me, but it does help tune the instincts—there would be some benefit to you."

She knew she was smiling, now, even as he continued to speak. She was going to be an official associate once she'd paid the fee, however; something he said caught her off guard. “I'm not complaining, but," she began, furrowing her brows slightly. “Wasn't the original fee, two thousand?" She really wasn't complaining. If anything, she wanted to know why the fee had been cut in half.

The work he provided her had been impeccable, and he deserved to be paid the full amount he'd originally stated to her. It wasn't as if it'd be a bother to her, either. After she paid off her fee, whatever money she'd earn herself would be poured straight back into Ramsey's place of business. She didn't intend on keeping it for herself. She didn't need to, after all, considering her family's status. Besides, it was something she wanted to do. Perhaps she could save what she made to make smaller adjustments in the near future?

He shrugged, the motion on a slight delay, as though he had to think about it more than most people would have. "Two thousand is what I would have charged you if you were tolerable, but useless or in some other way a burden." He leaned back against his own desk, hands finding the pockets of his trousers.

"You are not."

Any other person might have been insulted by that statement, however; Amelia was not. She took that as a compliement, considering that Ramsey was not the sort to do so. Observations were more his thing, and that was what this likely was. That she was not useless or a burden had been her intention when she'd first began, after all. She'd dedicated a lot of time and effort to be useful in some manner or another. For him to say that she wasn't useless... well that was another thing entirely.

“Then I shall oblige and pay the fee you've set," she finally responded, setting the packet down on her desk. She would go through it, later, however; she turned to face Ramsey. “I shall continue to do my best to serve you well, Ramsey. Do let me know if, at any time, I fail in that." It would be an immediate correction, of course. That was the last thing she wanted to do, and that was to fail where she was currently succeeding.

He snorted softly. "As you wish. Continue to apply yourself and I foresee no such difficulty." Leaning backwards slightly and snatching up a much thicker file folder, he extended it towards her. "This is the current intake file. Do you suppose you can get it down to three cases?"

She took the file he'd handed her, and arched a brow. That sounded like a challenge, if anything, to her. The file was thick, which meant it had at least over ten cases. Considering that she was still learning, the fact that this felt like a challenge spoke volumes to her. He was entrusting her to bring these files down to three, and she'd be damned if she didn't do it.

“Are you sure you only want three? I can get it down to two, if you'd prefer," because she would if that's what he really wanted. Three wasn't too much to handle, but still... it was his call.

There was an almost imperceptible change in Mr. Ramsey's expression then, a narrowing of his eyes and the slightest alteration to the cast of them. It seemed almost to be a pleased thing, like he was smiling without physically moving the necessary muscles.

"Two and a backup," he said after a moment. "In case one of them is duller than expected and we solve it too easily." He pushed away from the desk and crossed behind it, lowering himself into his chair, no doubt to begin his own portion of the office's work.

"Welcome to the investigations business, Miss Lancaster."

She allowed a smirk to adorn her features.

She had some work to do.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Amelia Lancaster Character Portrait: Khalil Jaziri

0.00 INK

#, 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

0.00 INK

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

0.00 INK

#, 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

0.00 INK

#, 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.