A Countesses Conundrum: Chapter 6, Scene 1
Angela went out into the surrounding area hunting for clothes. Ten minutes later, she returned with an armful of possibilities. Coincidentally, they bundled James Wheaton in to an old choir robe, which hung off the thin man like a tent over a scarecrow. The trio left the skeletal church through the back door that Angela used to enter. The odd-looking group walked with purpose through the grassy lot and went back over the fence. Ignatius led them southward along a quiet street lined with small clapboard town homes. Wood smoke cast a gray haze over structures with second or third floors.
“Do you think them soldiers be able to help me out?” Jim asked.
“I think they can keep you safe from dangerous elements like Bey-Feng,” said Ignatius. “I would not mind spending some time with you as a matter of course. I find your case fascinating. I think you are the center of an amazing phenomenon and the fact that you have no recollection of the event afterward is even more tantalizing. What sort of situation could create this result?”
“One investigation at a time, Ignatius,” said Angela.
“I think you are correct, my dear. Let us take this street all the way down to Cameron. From there we will strike out to the nearest Police Station and remand Mr. Wheaton into their care. The coppers will be only too glad to perform a stint as couriers to the fort.”
“Maybe we’ll get to see Winifred,” said Angela, a genuine smile gracing her face.
“Perhaps. From the station, we will procure a hansom cab to take us to the Countess’s home where we will lay this case to rest, so to speak. Not to worry James, we shall endeavor not mention you by name. I feel confident that you did not act under your own influences.”
Jim stumped along next to Angela and bobbed his head, “That’s mighty kind of yeh.”
“Think nothing of it. I fail to see what gain there would be to bring you into the light of day.”
“What of yerself? It sounded like that Bey-Feng feller gonna be pissed at you.”
“It is high time that I took steps to impress upon Bey-Feng that leaving me alone carries more benefits than crossing me.”
Angela cast a sideways look at Ignatius pondering what schemes might be forming in his mind. She knew he was ready to lash out at someone. His frustration with the search for Mary Kendall was reaching its breaking point. What worked in her favor was that Ignatius did not appear to be using any form of narcotics, either purchased on the street or concocted in his laboratory. He would be more susceptible to persuasion when not addled by drugs.
They crested a cross street and before them, laid out at their feet, was the entirety of Harrisburg, the Susquehanna River and the western shore. A weak sun pierced the cloud coverage to glitter across the water’s surface. Upriver the clouds were darker, more foreboding. The city below them had quite a peaceful demeanor. The Capitol building rose over the surrounding shops and homes. The row of factories along Cameron blew streams of smoke and steam into the air. Several gaps interrupted the line of manufacturing sites, victims to a lunatic’s whim. In fact, Ignatius pursued that same person with dogged determination.
This latest scheme seemed a strange ploy. Ignatius considered what was at stake, the purchase of some mineral rich land. The mysterious nemesis declared a deep affection for the mechanical. Natural gas would give him power, small compact power if he was as refined as Johnathan Fawkes was. The group began their descent towards Cameron Street. Traffic was moving briskly for early afternoon.
They came to the intersection of Cameron and took a moment to orient themselves before headin off to the Police Station. Ignatius entered the station house, his nose wrinkling at the acrid stench of drunks, junkies and fear and desperation. The desk sergeant peered down at Ignatius and raised a shaggy eyebrow.
“Afternoon, sir. How may I be of assistance to you?” he asked.
“Sergeant, is Officer Goodman in?” Ignatius inquired.
“He may be. Might I ask who you are, sonny Jim?”
“My name is: Ignatius St. Eligius and this is my companion, Angela Boas. Be a lamb and go find Office Goodman for me,” Ignatius said turning his back on the man.
Muttering under his breath, loudly enough for Ignatius to make out every word, the desk sergeant heaved his massive frame out of the wooden chair and vanished in search of Winifred Goodman. A minute later, the ginger haired Goodman came out to the lobby nodded briskly at both Ignatius and Angela.
“Good to see you again. How goes the campaign?”
“It changes constantly Winifred. I need a bit of a favor,” said Ignatius.
“What do you need?” replied Officer Goodman without hesitation.
“This gentleman must be kept safe. I was hoping you could transport him over to Fort Couch.”
“Why the fort? Wouldn’t the Police do just as well?” asked the desk sergeant in a terse voice.
Ignatius fixed the man with a cold look, “There exists a lack of confidence in the Police. Rumor has it they are all snoops and eavesdroppers.”
“Ignatius,” began Winifred warning his friend with a glance and twitch of his bushy mustache.
“What?” snapped the inventor.
“Settle yourself. Mulrooney raises a fair question, if this gentleman needs safe keeping, why not the Police?”
Ignatius motioned Winifred over to the far corner of the room. In a low voice, he said “Mr. Wheaton here possess power, the likes of which I have never seen. Nor do I think he is in control of it. Couple that with the fact that we do not know what triggers this power I felt it would be best to remand him into the custody of Colonel Witmore.”
“What sort of power?” asked Winifred with some trepidation.
“He was able to raise the dead apparently. There was Vodou and nudity, I am sure you do not wish to hear too many details. Give me a moment to compose a note to the Colonel outlining the situation.”
“Of course Ignatius. Is he violent?”
“He has not shown any sort of tendency since coming out of his state. Do you have a piece of paper and a pencil?”
“Yes. Follow me.”
Winifred led Ignatius back along a dim hallway to a pigeonhole office. Ignatius sat at Office Goodman’s desk and quickly drafted a letter to Colonel Witmore of the Federal army at Fort Couch. The Colonel was responsible for getting Ignatius released from the Pennsylvania State Hospital for the Insane. Witmore wanted Ignatius to investigate unusual happenings that seemed to be culminating in Harrisburg.
There was a movement afoot aimed at overthrowing the government and according to the Colonel it was starting in Harrisburg. Ignatius pondered the potential links between this case and the Colonel’s series of investigations. Ignatius pulled his attention back to the present, re-read his letter and satisfied, folded it and gave it to Winifred.
“Take this directly to the Colonel. I have outlined my suspicions about Mr. Wheaton and his ties to a larger plot. I hope that it will encourage the Colonel to take preventative measures. Now, I must catch a cab over to the Countess Dubois’s residence. Angela and I must report.”
“All right, Ignatius. I’ll have your man delivered within the hour. Personally.”
“Thank you, Winifred. I could not ask for a better reassurance than that.”
The pair returned to the station’s lobby where Ignatius bade farewell to James Wheaton.
“Rest assured Mr. Wheaton that you are in capable hands. I feel every confidence that we will meet again in the not too distant future,” said Ignatius.
“That’d be nice. We can set a spell and have a cuppa coffee or somethin'”
“That would be superlative. We must bid you a good day, sir.”
Ignatius pumped James’s hand vigorously and exited the station followed by Angela.
“Onward to the Countess,” declared Ignatius, waving his cane at a passing cab, which drew over to the side of the road in response.
After they had boarded and given directions to the driver, Angela sat back and asked, “Why didn’t you mention Bey-Feng to Winifred? Shouldn’t he know so he can be on the lookout for trouble?”
“Bey-Feng could not know by now what transpired in the church. Besides Winifred can handle himself. Any notion what we are going to tell the Countess?”
Angela frowned and looked out the window as the shops of Second Street passed by.
“I don’t know. She isn’t going to be happy. I mean it appears that Fredrich’s land purchase was on the level, but the association with Bey-Feng is not going to go over well at all.”
“There are also the rather occult proceedings. We might want to go over those as quick as possible. I get the impression that we may be at risk for being the bearer of the bad news.”
“She has a fair set of lungs on her doesn’t she?”
“Indeed,” agreed Ignatius.
The cab slowed to a halt in front of the Countesses’ manor. The driver hastened to open the door for Angela and assisted her down to the sidewalk. Ignatius followed her. He instructed the man to wait, gave him some money and turned to face the drive and front doors.
Angela laid a hand on his shoulder, “I am going to go home and slip into a hot bath. I need to wash some of this off of me. Then I am going to take a nap. May I call on you later?” she asked.
“Of course, Angela,” said Ignatius. “I will just nip in and bring her up to speed on the situation.”
“You know, she’ll probably want proof or even the body, right?”
“Naturally, she has a perfectly good grave in the back garden, we would not want it to go to waste,” replied Ignatius tipping his hat to Angela and striding up the drive to the Countesses’ door.
He struck the door with the handle of his cane and in a moment, Jefferies the butler arrived to open the door for Ignatius.
“Welcome back, sir. Everything went well I hope.”
“More or less as planned. Is your employer about?”
“Indeed. She has just taken tea in the back solarium. Follow me please, sir.”
The butler led Ignatius through the house toward the back. The solarium looked out onto the back lawn. The grass was brown, dying off for the winter. From his vantage Ignatius could see the hedges that framed Fredrich’s gravesite. The butler held up his hand, preventing Ignatius from stepping out onto the porch.
“You have news?” snapped a cold voice from a plush chair facing away from Ignatius.
Ignatius peered at the glass windows of the solarium and spied the countenance of the Countess. “I do. We located the source of your brother’s distress and took care of it.”
“That has a very permanent sound to it.”
“Yes, well it was a problem that needed to be eradicated.”
“Certainly,” said Ignatius, feeling that a certain amount of the truth would not hurt in this situation.
“Vhere is he?”
“Fredrich? His body is in an abandoned church on Allison Hill. There was no opportunity to bring him with us,” said Ignatius in an apologetic tone.
“Vell, he vill have to come beck.”
“I am prepared to assist you in this. I have a team of men who can retrieve Fredrich and bring him here.”
“Good, make it so. Do you require payment now?”
“My dear lady, I do not. In fact I do not require payment at any time.”
“Lovely. I can use the savings on my new venture.”
“Speaking of general things, did you have the gardener removed?”
“Yes, the police vere very lovely. You have my thanks for doing this thing,” she said.
“I must say you seem to be handling things well.”
“Yes, it vas vhen I realized that my brother vas a fool and Jefferies was so good as to introduce me to his little assistant.”
The butler did not meet Ignatius’s eyes, when the inventor looked over at him. The butler put a gloved hand up and coughed nervously.
“Then you are in capable hands, so to speak. I will leave you then and seek out the comfort of my own home. A hot meal and some rest perhaps,” said Ignatius.
“Should you require anything, anything at all, do not hesitate to call on me,” Countess Margaret said, waving a gloved hand of dismissal at Ignatius. “You can show yourself out, can’t you? Jefferies must see to my, ah, needs I think.”
“Of course, a pleasant evening to you both then,” said Ignatius. He hastened back down along the hallway and left the Countess to her butler.