Miss Penny Dreadful introduces:
“The Life and Crimes of Lockhart and Doppler”
Part 2 “The Stone of The Sons of Horus”
The odour in the cellar was quite overwhelming now, Bert Flowers had loosed his bowels in terror of Doppler and her syringe; of course, having yours sincerely hold a gun to your head doesn’t help either. I knew who Bert was talking about, ‘The Frenchman’ was Rene de Cavellier, like myself, an explorer or more honestly, treasure hunter. He had recently returned from Egypt with a pretty artefact known as The Stone of The Sons of Horus, said to have mystical properties, but to me, a collectable. Doppler and I had relieved him of it, I was sure he wouldn’t notice, no that’s a lie, it was for the sport, the meddling to annoy...
We had travelled in the Professor Selwyn, landing on the boarder of Lille and Belgium. I knew where the de Cavellier chateaux lay and hitched a lift on a potato cart for the knobbly ride. Upon arrival and from a discreet vantage point I surveyed the hideous confection through my spyglass, he seemed to have 3 hired hands, occasionally visible as they did their rounds. The house was a lavish, very French affair with what appeared to be 2 main entrances, front and back, with a side door on the east side I assumed accessed the kitchens.
When darkness fell, we quickly and quietly advanced through the surrounding rhododendrons, Doppler made ready a dart infused with a mixture of fast acting Chloral hydrate (we’re not killers!), and as one of the trio rounded the east wing, shot him in the thigh. We crouched low as he twitched and scratched his leg, assuming a bite or sting, we hoped, muttering and staggering he discovered the small dart, yanked it out and as he was about to cry out, gurgled and dropped to the ground. Swiftly we raced over the open grass, taking hold of his feet and under arms, we shifted him into the shadow of a particularly aromatic rose bush—Doppler reckoned we had about an hour until he woke with a nasty headache.
From my worked leather pouch I pulled my latest toy, a pair of night vision goggles, on ‘loan’ from Professor Nitro, sturdy leather and brass with lenses that had been treated in some alchemical manner, allowing for a tinted but lightened view when there was absolute darkness. I took a Betty from my waistband and applied it carefully to the side door lock, we stayed still for a full half minute, there were some very distant sounds of laughter from an open window; Monsieur de Cavellier was entertaining guests. After some delicate manoeuvring, a snick told me the lock was open. Doppler was to keep nix at the door and I was to infiltrate as I had night vision. I liberally applied oil to the hinges, rubbed in with my warmed fingers and cautiously opened the door –silence, dark, a blended odour of damp, embers, roasted meats and wine. The passageway was stone floored, my boots were old, soft, silent. To my immediate left was what appeared to be a laundry room, further on to the right was a doorway that probably led to the kitchen, I could hear movement and light humming from within. I crept stealthily along and took a quick gander. Lifting my goggles to the light I saw the single occupant of the room was a hefty, middle aged woman, busily massaging a great pile of dough, turned with her back to me I carefully closed the door on her and wedged it shut. I needed to make a quick decision as to where Monsieur had put his new prize.
I had made my way across the darkened hallway, thankfully be-rugged, the earlier laughter I had heard was almost imperceptible from this end of the chateaux, when a figure carrying a glass oil lamp, the butler, appeared from a far doorway and strode in my direction, I attempted to disappear into the shadowed woodwork of the stairs, he stopped en route to open a second door and peer in, I dashed abruptly around the newel post and jammed myself into the first corner of the stairwell as the manservant closed, then locked the door behind him. I wondered at this, why would he be locking up when there were evidently still guests in the house? He didn’t lock any other doors and continued in my direction before turning to his right towards the north and back of the house, I noticed a heavy weight swinging from his belt, this man wasn’t simply a butler, he was a damned bludger, the gaslight revealing a half missing ear as he passed—I held my breath.
I decided to chance it, I ran along the recently locked room and crouched before the smooth, polished lock, a fleur de lis gracing the knob, glancing left and right, I pulled the lock pick out, took a calming breath and set to. It seemed an eternity, a loud exclamation in French from the west wing, roars of laughter, a door opening and closing upstairs, I needed to focus, my mouth was dry, padding steps descending, the snap of a closing pocket watch, a hummed extract from Offenbach’s Infernal Galop. The lock clicked
And I all but fell into the dark room beyond. I softly pressed the door home, replaced my goggles and viewed, from my semi crouched position; a study, approximately twenty foot square, a swift glanced showed that the prize was, amazingly, displayed on de Cavaliers’ desk. Approximately the shape and size of a canopic jar, but with four heads on the top looking outwards, stood on a golden lotus flower, the features practically as clear as the day they were painted, but most fabulously, the whole thing was lapis , this sized piece was worth a fortune, but that was beside the point, well, not really. I took hold, it was, not surprisingly, heavy, and pushed it into another leather pouch. Glanced towards the door, which in that instance was flung open, the butler stood there, cosh in hand. He advanced swiftly, I unhitched my whip and cracked him one across his good ear. That stopped him. Only briefly though, I had hoped not to make a noise and attract more men, I lashed again, this time catching him around the neck, I pulled, he pulled harder! As I skittered towards him, using my free hand I pulled the Stone from the pouch and struck him smartly across the side of the head, he dropped like, well, like a stone. I could hear a faint tapping on the window glass, Doppler. A light entered the room...
“Arreter! Stop or I shoot!”
I turned slowly from the window with my hands raised and smiled as innocently as I could, Rene de Cavellier strode manfully towards me, gas lamp in one hand, pearl handled revolver in the other. I heard a faint click behind me, I backed towards the window.
“Monsieur, I am a weak woman, you see? I am no ruffian, I do not mean any harm.”
“Madam, you have something of mine I think” nodding towards the Stone I still held, “and you’re not that weak either.” he glanced towards his manservant.
As he turned back I lobbed the Stone upwards, he couldn’t help but follow its trajectory with his eyes, I kicked him smartly in the groin. As he doubled over, I caught the stone and fled through the window opened by Doppler, “Farewell Monsieur! Merci pour le cadeau!”
To be continued...