The Curse of Nineveh

The investigation continues
Contains spoilers for "Adventures in Mythos London"

Monday, 4th of February, 1924

Finsbury, London. Our four investigators leave 7 Allen Street, Finsbury. Sir Malcolm locates a telephone box and makes a telephone call to the Wentworth Club. As usual, Sykes, the Butler is on duty. Sir Malcom asks Sykes if he knows of any member of the Wentworth Club who would be an expert on starfish and similar creatures. After a moment’s thought, Sykes is able to give Sir Malcolm, the name Basil Fillmore who works at the Natural History Museum and is likely to be able to answer any questions on that subject.

It is decided to go and visit Cecil Bosco, the young man who Alice Daw was in a romantic relationship with. As all they know is that Bosco works at a garment merchants of some sort in Berry Street, it is decided to drop in at the local Police Station and ask for directions. At the police station, the name Cecil Bosco brings the attention of Constable Wilkins. Constable Wilkins knows the name as he was the first police officer who attended the Daw residence when the death of Alice Daw was reported yesterday morning. He is able to tell the investigators that Cecil Bosco works at a garment manufacturer called Rabinowitz’s on Berry Street.

At Rabinowitz’s, the investigators meet Mary Rabinowitz, presumably the wife of the proprietor, and she agrees to allow them to speak to Cecil Bosco. She reminds them that the lad had just suffered a bereavement and asks them to try to avoid distressing them, then summons him into the front room of the establishment. She leaves them in privacy. Cecil is seventeen years old and is an apprentice tailor. He tells the investigators that he last saw Alice at the end of the work day last Thursday (the 31st of January) – she worked as a seamstress at this same establishment. She was not at work on Friday. When asked where he and Alice go together, he mentions that besides seeing each other at work, they sometimes visit a cinema or go to the Angel Café, in Islington.

Elan Gwynne is asking most of the questions and is quite prepared to ask the questions that others might not ask. Sir Malcolm, in particular, is quite shocked at her candour. As well as asking outright if Cecil and Alice had enjoyed the normal intimacies that might be associated with marriage, she goes further and asks very specific questions as to whether or not they may have engaged in less common forms of sexual intimacy! The reasons for these questions is obvious – the possibly that Cecil Bosco may have somehow infected Alice with the strange starfish like parasite which it seems possible was lurking inside her is a reasonably hypothesis. But Cecil denies any intimacy at all with Alice. He also says that he has never heard of Mary Hamer, the other girl who it seems may have suffered a similar fate. The investigators seem reasonably satisfied he is telling the truth. When asked if there was anywhere else Alice was in the habit of visiting, Cecil says that she sometimes visited her Uncle Lionel, and that she also visited St James Church on occasion – he did not accompany her on these visits having little interest in meeting her Uncle, and himself being a Roman Catholic rather than sharing Alice’s Church of England affiliation.

The investigators leave Cecil and ask Mrs Rabinowitz if they can see where Alice worked. Mrs Rabinowitz takes them upstairs to a room containing five young ladies operating six sewing machines. This establishment is a modern, clean working environment that produces ready to wear clothing for a number of London stores. Alice operated the now idle machine. Searching the drawers associated with the machine, nothing of interest is found. Mrs Rabinowitz suggests the investigators talk to Sarah Peel, one of the other seamstresses.

Sarah looks like she is in her mid-twenties, the oldest working in this room. She says she knew Alice quite well and Alice was a good girl who came to her for advice, Sarah being older and somewhat wiser in the ways of the world. She seems quite open and tells them that Alice had confided in her a fear that she might be pregnant but had insisted that she had not engaged in any form of sexual intercourse. Sarah sought to reassure Alice that if that was truly the case, she had no real reason to believe she was pregnant and that the symptoms that lead her to believe she might be – Sarah assumed that Alice had not had her period since around Christmas time although Alice was not precise about such details – could have some other explanation. She had suggested the younger girl should see a Doctor and when Alice was not at work last Friday, she assumed that was what she was doing. When asked what she knew about Alice’s life outside of work, she said that she knew Alice was going out on occasion with Cecil Bosco, and that she sometimes visited the local Church. Alice was apparently devoutly religious.

Leaving the clothing establishment, it is decided to have a late lunch – Sir Malcolm in particular, feels in need of strong tea. It is decided that the Angel Café, which is not too far away is convenient, and so the investigators repair there for soup, bread and butter, and tea. Thus fortified, it is decided to make a visit to St James’ Church in Clerkenwell.

The church is in a garden setting with a residence for the clergy off to one side. The crypt of the church has been converted to a large hall, and the noticeboard outside the church indicates the hall is used by various groups in the community such as the Women’s Institute. It also indicates that there are two Ministers associated with the church – the Reverend Leigh, and the Reverend Miller. After a brief examination by Scott Rhodes reveals that the church itself is currently unoccupied, it is decided to make a call on the residence. As the investigators approach, they see a young man in clerical dress riding out of the gate on a wobbling bicycle. They hail him and watch as he almost crashes his bicycle. But he stops. This is the Reverend Miller. He is the curate here. He is running late for an appointment and says that while he did know Alice Daw, they’d be better off talking to Reverend Leigh, the vicar here, as Alice had much more contact with him. They leave him to ride off on his bicycle – the front wheel is obviously bent – while they go and knock on the door to the residence.

A woman – the housekeeper, they assume – invites them into the front parlour and says she will fetch Reverend Leigh. The parlour also looks like it serves as a library and perhaps as a study as well, but there is no time to look at it in detail, before the Reverend Leigh arrives. A middle-aged man, somewhat portly, he invites them to sit down. The investigators explain they are looking into the death of Alice Daw. Reverend Leigh acknowledges that he knew the girl as a regular visitor to his church, but he cannot really say much more than that for reasons of clerical confidentiality. Scott Rhodes makes a vigorous case for Reverend Leigh to nonetheless tell them whatever he can, but the Reverend relents only a little. Alice was a regular attendant at Sunday services with her family, but she also used to visit the church at other times to pray. Reverend Leigh did sometimes talk to her but the only unusual matter she ever raised was to ask him about what would be involved if she chose to marry a Catholic. He is surprised at the suggestion she tried to steal a book, as she always seemed to him to be honest and also not that interested in reading – he gestures to his own library and says that it would have been available to her if she had wanted to read books. Elan asks to take a look at his library – it struck her on entering as a potentially interesting one – and he agrees that she can look, but it proves far less interesting that she had initially thought. Lots of ponderous tomes on Church of England theology along with many Victorian era novels of the Eric, or, Little by Little type – books for children and young people intended to cultivate a particular idea of morality and goodness of the type approved by the church. The only book that strikes Elan as at all unusual is an 1880s Latin Vulgate Bible – a nicely bound, heavy tome. The Vulgate is the standard Bible of the Roman Catholic Church, long superseded in Church of England use by the Authorized Version – the King James’ Bible. Reverend Leigh says he has kept it largely because it is an attractive binding, and because it is, after all, a Bible – he would not use it in his Ministry, but whatever their faults, the Catholics have treated the Bible with respect. He is told about the book that Alice apparently tried to steal – the Liber de Lumine of Ramon Llull, but beyond being able to translate the title into English – Book of Light – he professes no knowledge of it. The name Llull, he thinks may have been the name of a heretic, but it’s not an area he is that interested in. He says he has a parishioner, Clive McLaglen who runs a bookbinders on Berry Street, who has an interest in old books but it’s not his own field.

The investigators take their leave of Reverend Leigh. It is somewhat later than they expected, the sun is setting and so they decide to head back to the Clerkenwell Medical Mission to see what Doctor Banks has discovered with her autopsy investigation of Alice Daw’s body. She lets them into the Mission and takes them across to her surgery. She seems nervous and somewhat unsteady. She tells them that she has completed an autopsy on Alice and the results are similar to those on Mary Hamer. It seems as if something was eating Alice’s internal organs. It is like nothing she has seen or heard of in medicine.

She goes and gets a glass of water from a pitcher in a corner of the room. She gags on it. The investigators can see a rippling across the front of her neck, and she seems to be having difficulty breathing. They manage to get her to lie on the bench along one side of her surgery and look down her throat with a torch. There is something moving there. Sir Malcolm immediately grabs a bottle of ether, and with Evelyn Sharp preventing him using too much, anaesthetizes the Doctor. With a set of forceps, Scott Rhodes pulls the moving object from her throat – there seems little choice except to let the Doctor choke on it. A great deal of blood comes with it but what is pulled out is a similar starfish like creature to that recovered in Alice Daw’s room. Sir Malcolm uses the telephone to call for an ambulance. A jar is found in which to place the creature. An ambulance arrives and the two orderlies take the unconscious Doctor Banks away. Shortly after, Constable Wilkins arrives. When he is shown evidence that the investigators have been asked to look into the death of Alice Daw and apparently overawed by Sir Malcolm’s title, he agrees to allow the investigators to carry out a search of the Medical Mission as long as he can accompany them so he can swear as to their actions if needed. Constable Wilkins seems diligent in his work. Nothing is found, but when he is given a brief overview of what the investigators suspect – that Alice died from some infestation by a strange creature, one of which also infected Doctor Banks, and may have also killed Mary Hamer, he agrees to allow them to keep possession of the starfish like creature for their investigation while he will have to contact his Inspector and ask what a police constable is supposed to do in a case like this.

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And so it begins
Contains spoilers for "Adventures in Mythos London"

Monday, 4th of February 1924

Four young people meet for the first time on the steps of 4 Aubrey Street, Kensington, London. They are Mister Scott Rhodes, archaeologist, a specialist, in so far as somebody still so near the beginning of his career may have a specialty, in Ancient Egypt, Miss Elan Gwynne, a self described ‘ghost hunter’ with a broad interest in the possible existence of the supernatural, Sir Malcolm Chandler, 2nd Baronet, an explorer recently returned from warmer climes, and Miss Evelyn Sharp, a bluestocking whose intellectual curiousity goes beyond the merely mundane. All have been summoned by letter or telegram to the home of a shared acquaintance, Mister Lionel Gullan who has given them every impression that he is urgent need of assistance but no other details.

They are admitted to the home that Mister Gullan appears to share with nobody but an unknown number of cats, and once he has them all in his library, and has served them all tea (his own fortified from a flask), he gradually comes to the point. He informs them that his seventeen year old niece, a Miss Alice Daw died yesterday morning in somewhat confused circumstances. When Mister Gullan was informed of the news, he was initially shocked to hear that his niece – who was by all he knew a Godfearing and innocent young girl – had died of a miscarriage. He had seen her only the previous afternoon – she often visited him here at his home – and he had certainly seen no sign that she was expecting a child, although her behaviour was odd. Just before she left, he saw her attempting to hide a book from his extensive library under her coat, an attempt it seemed to steal from him. This was totally out of character and also she would have known totally unnecessary. If she had needed money or anything of that nature, he would have willingly given it to her and she knew that. If she wanted to borrow the book – or even to own it herself – he’d have given her the book as well. But even stranger, when he confronted her, she seemed confused as if she was totally unaware of what was happening. She threw down the book and fled leaving Gullan confused, but he decided he would wait until the next time he saw her to ask what was going on.

Mister Gullan was asked what book it was that Alice had tried to take and he is quite willing to show it to those he has called to help him. The volume is covered in brown paper and tape with the title neatly written on this covering – Liber de Lumine by Ramon Llull. It is an 1827 copy printed in Milan of a thirteenth century work – not particularly valuable, Mister Gullan says he bought it primarily because of the attractive leather binding. It is in Latin, which Alice certainly would not have been able to read. There is no logic he can see to her wanting it.

He is pressed as to why he has asked his four visitors to come and see him and he explains to him that a Doctor Banks – a lady Doctor – came to see him yesterday evening. She had been the Doctor called when Alice’s body was discovered, as she works at the Woodbridge Chapel in Finsbury, just around the corner from the Daw family home. He believes she came to see him as Alice’s nearest adult relative besides the girl’s own parents (Gullan’s sister, Dorothy and her husband, Bartholomew). Doctor Banks wanted somebody in the girl’s family to be aware of certain things and perhaps did not feel the bereaved parents were the right choice so soon after their daughter’s death. Doctor Banks explained to him that the police were ready to label Alice’s death as a simple miscarriage, but she did not believe that such a simple explanation was correct. There was something very strange about Alice’s injuries. Mister Gullan explains that he became angry and distressed at what he was being told and he fears that he frightened Doctor Banks away before she could tell him all she came to say. That is why he has asked the four of them to come and see him. He wants them to look into what happened to Alice. To find out what was going on.

When asked why he has chosen them, Gullan is somewhat evasive. He says simply that he knows them all and what he knows of them makes him think that they will be open to unusual ideas and will not just going looking for the simple, obvious solution unless it truly does match all the facts. When pressed a little further, he says that when he was a younger man, he was involved in looking into some strange matters – but he won’t go any further even when pressed. He simply asks that they do this for him. He is quite desperate for help.

And they agree. They ask for a letter introducing them to Doctor Banks, and obtain her working address – the Woodbridge Chapel in Woodbridge Road, Finsbury, as well as the address of the Daw family  – 7 Allen Street, Finsbury. Sir Malcolm offers to drive them all to Finsbury in his rather wonderful Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, and so it is that they set off on the short drive to Finsbury. On arrival, a young boy offers to ensure that the very fine car will remain unmolested in exchange for a small gratuity. After brief haggling, Sir Malcolm nonetheless pays the boy the sixpence he originally asked for.

The Woodbridge Chapel is a block building, which also serves according to the plaque near its front door as the Clerkenwell Medical Mission, providing medical services to those of limited means. A brief interview with the nurse inside who obviously sees herself as the doorkeeper in terms of access to a Doctor is quite readily solved by donations totalling six pounds into the collection box. Doctor Edith Banks is more than willing to see such generous people. They are shown into her simple, though modern, consulting room.

They hand over the letter of introduction and once Doctor Banks, a nervous seeming woman of middle years, has satisfied herself as to why they have come – to discuss what she feels is strange about the case of Alice Daw, the Doctor leads them down into the cellar of the chapel. This room is kept cold by blocks of ice, although perhaps in February, this may not be entirely necessary. It clearly serves as a mortuary. There are four tables, three of which clearly have bodies under sheets. After satisfying herself that the gentlemen present will act with discretion, Doctor Banks removes the sheet that covers the body of Alice Daw. The unfortunate girl lies naked on the table, face down, and Doctor Banks draws the observers attention to the strange deep wound in the small of her back. A little under two inches across, the wound is ragged edged and very deep. It looks like very much like something has bored into or out of the girl’s body.

Doctor Banks explains this is the second time in recent days she has seen such a thing. And moves over to another table and again removes the sheet. Lying naked on her back is a second girl with a very similar wound, but this time it in the lower abdomen at the front. This body also bears the marks of cutting and sewing. Doctor Banks explains that this is the body of Mary Hamer, an 18 year old flower seller of Sans Walk, Finsbury. She collapsed a week ago outside her home and died before Doctor Banks, the nearest available Doctor could get to her. Doctor Banks has performed an autopsy on Mary and what she found was quite odd. A number of her internal organs – both her kidneys, her liver, and her womb had suffered significant but not necessarily fatal damage, to the extent that the Doctor could not really identify a cause of death. It could have been the failure of any one of a number of organs or simple blood loss. But it also seems to Doctor Banks as if some sort of animal was living inside the girl eating her internally, but in a way that would keep her alive as long as possible. But what it might be is beyond Doctor Bank’s knowledge. She says she intends to carry out an autopsy on Alice as well, and if they would like to come back later in the day she will share her findings with them. What has happened seems very odd, but unless she can say what did happen she does not really want to bring it to the attention of authorities. She has her own reputation to think about. If she can’t find a clear alternative cause she can put a name too, then unless she feels there is a clear danger to others, she is likely to simply endorse the police conclusion of miscarriage. Alice does show some signs that she might have been pregnant but not as many as Doctor Banks would normally expect. But she has the impression that the possibility Alice was pregnant though a shock to Alice’s father, may not have been quite as shocking to Alice’s mother.

The four investigators leave the Medical Mission resolving to return later in the day. The Rolls Royce is still in excellent condition, sixpence well spent, and it is decided to return to Mister Gullan to inform him of what they have already been told and also to get a letter of introduction to his sister and her husband, Alice’s bereaved parents. On arrival back at Aubery Street, there is no answer to a knock on the door but finding the door unlocked, the investigators enter the residence of Lionel Gullan. They find him asleep and snoring in an armchair in his library. An empty bottle of Scotch and a tumbler sit on a table next to him, a half empty bottle of cooking sherry on the floor. He is obviously drunk.

They wake him and after some brief moments of confusion the man orients himself toward coherence and understanding. He becomes somewhat belligerent when it is suggested that he seems to be taken the death of his niece very hard – obviously offended at the idea that he shouldn’t. He is further pressed for details about the strange experiences in his earlier life, in case they are relevant. He insists there is no reason to believe they might be but says he was involved as a witness in some sort of scandal involving a séance – some sort of fraud. He will not say anymore. But he agrees to sign a letter introducing the investigators to his sister and brother-in-law. And the investigators return to Finsbury.

The Daw family occupy the second floor of a terrace house. Mrs Dorothy Daw welcomes the investigators into her home when she hears they have been sent by her brother. She introduces them briefly to her husband who she persuades to go and visit a nearby pub. It seems obvious she does not want him there for the conversation with the investigators. Once he has gone, Mrs Daw seems very open to questions. She obviously is in deep mourning for her daughter, but she also wants to understand what happened. She confirms that Alice had told her a few days before that she might be pregnant but would not explain exactly why she thought this. This was something of a shock to Mrs Daw but one she took in her stride. Alice has a suitor, a young tailor’s apprentice named Cecil Bosco, the same age as Alice was, and if Alice was pregnant, it would be a relatively simple matter to arrange a quick marriage, and a somewhat ‘premature’ birth. Mrs Daw has assumed for the last year that Cecil and Alice would marry in time so while it might happen a little earlier and a little faster than expected, this would not be a disaster. However, she was waiting for the opportunity to talk to her husband about it as his initial reaction until he calmed down might have tend towards violence towards Cecil Bosco. Mr Daw still saw his daughter as an innocent little girl who had nothing to do with any boys besides her own brothers – her mother being more realistic. Now that Alice has died, she still fears that if her husband finds out about Cecil, the boy could be in danger. When asked if she knows anything about Alice’s life outside the family home, she says she knows little. She visited her Uncle regularly, but besides that and going to work (a clothing merchants on Berry Street where Cecil also works) and sometimes visiting the local Church – Alice was devout – she doesn’t really know what her daughter did. She thinks perhaps the girl may have confided some secrets to her younger brothers, Jethro aged 14, and Arthur aged 11.

The investigators ask to examine Alice’s room and Mrs Daw agrees. She takes them to the door but says she would rather not go inside herself right now. The room is much as would be expected for a girl of Alice’s age in a reasonably prosperous but not luxurious home -  a single bed, all the bedclothes removed but obvious bloodstains remain on the mattress. A chest of drawers, a dressing table with mirror, and a wardrobe. The investigators search the room and find two objects of interest. In the pocket of Alice’s coat which hangs on the back of the door, Miss Gwynne finds a piece of folded brown paper that still bears some tape. It is clearly identifiable as a book covering virtually identical to that which covered Liber de Lumine in Lionel Gullan’s library. Again a title is written on the paper – The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelley. In the dressing table, Sir Malcolm finds a ring. With his knowledge of jewellery, he can identify it as being gold with a rather inferior emerald mounted in it and the intial ‘A’ engraved inside the band. Except under close examination, it is a very nice ring, and it strikes him as the type of ring a young man of limited means might save up to but for a sweetheart. It could even be an engagement ring.

Miss Sharp looks under the bed and can see something moving under there. The bed is overturned by the two gentlemen and the scurrying creature emerges. Shaped like a five pointed star, about the size of a human hand, it scurries across the floor. Miss Gwynne stomps on it and it lies twitching on the ground. They scoop it up and put into a jar taken from Miss Gwynne’s bag. It is like a starfish, although land dwelling, with barbs and a beak. Before they can examine it in detail, the door is opened by a boy of about 14. He introduces himself as Jethro Daw. Obviously upset at the death of his sister, but trying to be grown up about it, he answers the investigators questions. The night before she died, he heard his sister run into the house, up to her room and slam the door. He didn’t think much of it because she often did such things. He can confirm she had a boyfriend named Cecil Bosco who she was going to marry someday (although Jethro is not entirely sure, Cecil knew that was going to happen). And she spent most of her spare time as far as he knew either at home, or visiting their Uncle Lionel, or the Church – St James Church, here in Finsbury.

Sir Malcolm decides he will contact the Butler at his club, the Wentworth Club, a club famous for its membership of people interested in a wide variety of intellectual and academic pursuits to get the name of somebody interested in natural history who may be able to shed some light on  the strange creature in the jar. It isn’t Sir Malcolm’s field but he would have thought he would have least known of the existence of what seems to be a land dwelling starfish.

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