It seems that the War of the Wasp Men is becoming more complicated by the moment. I have had yet more adventures, but I cannot say that I have been very fond of them. I had been thinking of seeing the wonders of far-off places, not the horrors that seem to lurk around every corner nowadays.
Forgive me. I digress.
Some evenings ago, I was sought out by Blind Pew. While I cannot say that I am pleased at this, I must in all honesty admit that Blind Pew has, so far, not behaved badly towards me. He is a vampire, of course, and therefore the most wretched cad and villain, but he is at least polite, or what he believes passes for politeness. He never brings any rats with him, save for Albert. Albert has developed quite a fondness for fine Roquefort cheese, and insists on sniffing most pointedly in my general direction until I give him a bit, at which point he will scurry away to a nearby rock to eat it, and then spend some considerable time grooming himself whisker for whisker. Like his master, Albert has been extremely well-behaved so far, for a rat, but he is still the size of a small dog and I remain quite convinced that if Blind Pew were to wish it, he would leap at me and attempt to tear out my throat. Because of this, any conversation that I have with Blind Pew tends to be polite, but tense.
Blind Pew had sought me out because he wished me to convey a warning to one Lady Katherine Lenix, a Baroness who lived some distance away. It seems that the vampires had become convinced that one of her chamber-maids had become a wasp-man, or wasp-woman in this case. They were so certain of the diagnosis that assassins had been dispatched, and these assassins would be coming to the home of the Baroness that very evening! The Baroness was away at a concert, but Blind Pew wished her to stay overnight in London. The vampires were not out to hurt her, but he emphasized that the killings of the Wasp-men were violent things, and he did not want the Baroness to come home and be harmed in the uproar.
This seemed like a bad idea for a number of reasons, not the least of which was how to go about warning the Baroness. Father, as a barrister, is very well-to-do, but as a family, we are hardly accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the nobility! Common young ladies, even well-bred ones, are not permitted into the concert-boxes of the noble houses.
It seemed that the only solution would be to write a note to her; but what sort of note would be appropriate? Father holds a great deal of faith in the power of the written word, and our tutors were under the strictest orders that everyone in the household should be expected to produce writing of the most flawless character, particularly when writing letters. Even Ian spends hours practicing his penmanship to ensure that it is perfect. Consequently, a good portion of my education had revolved around the writing of letters; letters of introduction, business letters, letters to friends, and so on.
However, I never at any time discussed with my tutors the proper letter format when attempting to warn a Baroness of assassins. Furthermore, wouldn’t such a letter cause her to go home at once? But, I consoled myself with the thought that she would certainly return home after the concert in any case, and it would be better to return early and prepared than late and unprepared, or so I hoped. After some consideration, I also decided that a business letter would be the most appropriate format, and wrote the following:
Dear Baroness Lenix:
I have been requested to relay a message to you. The sender of the message wishes to remain anonymous. The message is as follows:
The sender of the message wishes to convey to you that he believes assassins have been dispatched to your home this evening. He has stated that you may return home safely after sunrise, but fears that any visit during the night-time hours would be perilous. He begs you to remain in London this evening, and return home only after the sun has fully risen.
As the sender of the message clearly indicated that he believed that the matter would best be handled privately, I have not yet notified the police. I shall defer to your judgement as to whether or not you wish them to become involved. I regret to say that I am not at liberty to divulge the identity of the sender of the message, but shall of course make myself available at your convenience to answer any other questions as best I can, and shall cooperate with a police inquiry if you should wish to raise one.
Yours Sincerely, Sophie St. Claire
I also sent a note to Sir Gregory, explaining the situation. I could only hope that he could help. I was certain that the Baroness would rush home at once, but couldn’t think what else to do, and so put on an appropriate gown, and went to the summer concert.
Summer concerts are usually very enjoyable. They are held outdoors around the Musical Gazebo, and often tents and carpets are placed out for the nobility, while the lesser folk generally bring blankets or folding chairs to sit upon. I, myself, gotten into the habit of arriving early enough to claim a spot on one of the coveted park benches, and usually read until the concert is ready to begin.
Today, however, I spoke to the Maitre D, and she agreed to send my note to the Baroness. I supposed that the Baroness should wish to speak to me once she read it, and so waited after the Maitre D had departed. This proved to be an unfortunate decision on my part.
There was a man in the crowd with a top hat, and a pair of dark glasses, and underneath them… did he have glittery eyes? The sight quite alarmed me, particularly when he turned and began to walk towards me in the crowd. I was determined to hold my ground, alarmed or not. After all, I was not standing in a dark alleyway, but in the middle of a crowd at a summer concert.
This is why I was so surprised to feel something unhuman behind me. I admit that this seems like an overly dramatic statement; but there is simply no other way in which the occurance can be accurately recounted. I couldn’t see anyone as my back was turned, but I was as certain that he was there as if I had seen or heard him.
When I turned, I had the brief impression of a Scotsman standing there – or at least, what looked like a Scotsman. His appearance was perfect, with flaming red hair, and a blue-and-green kilt, perhaps Douglas or Abercrombie, but I doubted very much that he had ever set foot in Scotland.
But behind me, someone cried, “You foolish girl, look out!” I turned back around to see the man with the top hat leap in the air in front of me. I thought for a moment he had jumped to knock me down, but then there was a sound. It was ridiculously small, a sort of “Fffft” noise, but it was followed immediately by an enormous spurt of blood, and the man in the top knocked me down.
Everything was very confused. It was clear at once that he had been shot. Someone screamed, and then there was a lot of running about and shouting. Other than being utterly horrified, my one thought was that the shooter might shoot again. If this idea had not occured to me, I think I should have been paralyzed with fright; but as it was I tried to drag the poor man behind the cover of the nearest tree.
I am not a doctor, but the quantity of blood made me immediately certain that the wound was a fatal one. I tried to staunch the flow, but it was no good. “Take this!” The man thrust something at me with trembling hands, and I saw with some surprise that they were goggles, with odd, glittering facets. He was so determined that I took them and put them into my bag. “Don’t talk. Save your strength,” I told him, but we both knew that it was the end. “Take care of my granddaughter,” he gasped at me. “Above the shop… above the shop… Willow is so delicate… Willow! Willow!”
And just like that, he was gone.
I never saw anyone die before. I closed his eyes, and covered his head with the light little jacket I had worn to the concert. It seemed so inadequate. I didn’t know what else to do.
I am not entirely certain of the order of events which transpired over the remainder of the evening. I recall the Maitre D’ calling for a doctor, and I am certain that I met the Baroness Lenix, and a widow named Chloe Wicaine, and her escort. I must have looked like a horror and a fright; but I have a vague recollection of a hot bath and a drink that tasted strongly of brandy.
A great deal had transpired when I awakened the following morning. The baroness had indeed gone home to discover there were vampires in her home. The Widow’s Escort had gone with her, and Sir Gregory had met them both there. The maid had indeed been a wasp-woman, and had been killed in the uproar, along with two other maids who had also been stung. The Baroness’ house had been set afire during the commotion, and while I understood that the damage could be repaired, this would take time.
There is a great deal more to say about the events of that day; but I am wearied now, and it shall have to wait for another time.