IN THIS EPISODE: …Though the Chamber of Horrors lies in ruins, perhaps the story is not over yet…
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Sergeant Hoey, 1951 Fisher St.
Thursday: Second Night of the Full Moon
Sergeant Hoey yawned and took a long drag on his Thermos full of coffee. He knew his wife would scold him for not using a cup (one came attached to the bottle, after all), but it had been a long day, and he just wasn’t interested in such niceties at the moment.
He had, indeed, caught a nap in between shifts, but “nap” might have been too generous a word for it, more of a “doze” or a momentary “closing of the eyes,” really. Now, as the hour pushed closer to midnight, he was beginning to regret volunteering for this extra shift.
Still, bills must be paid, and his wife—bless her—did enjoy her shopping. So, bucking up for a second stint in the force this evening wasn’t much of a price to pay for domestic bliss.
He took another drink of coffee.
The boredom was the thing getting to him, just standing around hour after hour, watching the charred heap that only last night had been the Duprix home and waxworks as well as housing that weird Chamber of Horrors.
Now the Duprixes were almost certainly dead, though no other bodies had been found in the ruins, yet, and the Cushings were lucky just to be alive—though they remained, for the moment, homeless.
Wonder where they’ll go and what they’ll do now, Hoey thought. The two girls—twins, they said, though they looked almost nothing alike—had managed to save most of the old man’s collection of weird art objects. Maybe they could start again in some other place. They’d be lucky to find a new spot in London, though. Despite the depression, the price of flats and storefronts near the inner city remained prohibitive.
Had he heard them say something about taking the objects on the road and doing some kind of tour?
Hoey fondly remembered the traveling circuses and gypsy caravans that had rumbled through Longford when he was younger—though his policeman father didn’t much care for the gypsies. “Thieves and scoundrels, the lot of them!” he remembered his old dad saying.
Still, everyone’s got a right to make a living, I suppose.
Nearby, a few workmen were poking through the blackened ruins, looking for more bodies and rescuing whatever valuables they might find. One of Hoey’s jobs tonight was to make sure that any costly discoveries weren’t “rescued” into the workmen’s pockets.
So far, the small contingent of laborers had been quite good about staying honest.
And they’d only had a minor scare or two when one of the men had poked into a charred heap only to get a small puff of smoke and flame.
The sole fire truck remaining on the scene had quickly seen to those incidents. “Nothing to worry about,” the chief of the watch assured Hoey. “Just a couple of bad pockets here and there.”
Hoey could put up with that. And, happily, at least so far, there had been no sign at all of Lady Ashton’s supposed “werewolf.”
Off her nut, that one, Hoey though. All that supernatural rubbish!
“Oy!” one of the workmen called. “Lookee here!”
Hoey meandered over to the men. “Found something, have you?” he asked.
“Found somethin’, all right,” said the man. He and his companion were holding a large—almost man-sized—object between them, but in the dim light, Hoey couldn’t quite make out what it might be.
“Bloody miracle it is,” said the second man, “thing like this, coming out of all that fire and ruination. Shoulda been smashed to pieces.”
Hoey scrunched up his nose. “Is that a mirror?”
“Appears to be, gov,” the first man replied. “Like out of a lady’s boudoir.”
“Beautiful looking glass,” the second workman opined. He ran his hands over the edges, which were covered in golden scrollwork. “Right valuable, too, if you ask me, big stand-up mirror like this.”
“Well…” said the first, “it would be, if it weren’t broken.”
“Broken?!” exclaimed the second. “What you going on about?” He ran his hand over the smooth, dark glass of the mirror’s face. “Not a scratch on it!”
“But it don’t show no reflection,” the first man pointed out, waving his hand in front of it. And, indeed, he was right. “Musta been damaged in the fire.”
“Well, damaged or not, set it safely aside,” Hoey said. “We’ll take it back to the station, along with anything else you find.” If it didn’t belong to the Cushings, perhaps the heirs to the Duprixes—whomever that might be—would want it.
“Right you are, governor,” said the first man. He and his companion took the mirror to the edge of the park and set it down where a few other not-quite-destroyed objects lay. Broken or no, the mirror was clearly the prize of the lot.
Hoey wandered back to his post, grateful for the momentary distraction.
When a distant clocktower rang, he checked his pocket watch.
Midnight, all right.
Time seemed to be just creeping by.
Then another noise caught his attention: the sound of hoofbeats.
Odd. It was late for any kind of horse-drawn tour of the park, even a romantic one.
Yet, as Hoey watched, a long black carriage with the top down, pulled by four inky horses, emerged from Olde Kennington Park and came to a stop by the far side of the ruins.
Curious, thought Hoey, and he meandered in that direction. Perhaps the carriage held a pair of young thrill-seekers inquisitive about the fire.
Better tell them to clear off.
As he walked toward the carriage, though, a top-hatted driver dressed all in black debarked his seat and opened the carriage door. Out of the back emerged a tall, slender woman, dressed all in white. Her skin was pale and smooth, and her golden hair fell in gentle ripples across her bare shoulders.
Before Hoey could reach the woman, she was talking with the workers that Hoey had just spoken to. The men were smiling and bobbing their heads deferentially. Hoey couldn’t make out what anyone was saying, except for the workmen’s occasional, “Yes, milady,” “No, milady,” and “Of course, milady.”
In two shakes of a lamb’s tail, the pair fetched the mirror and carried it over to her carriage.
“Hear, hear!” Hoey called. “What’s all this? Put that back, immediately!”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary, captain,” the woman in white said.
“It’s just sergeant, miss,” Hoey replied, trotting up to the woman. “But I’m very much afraid it is necessary. Everything found in these ruins belongs to the former tenants or—in cases of their being deceased—to their heirs.”
The woman extended one white-gloved hand in greeting.
Without even thinking, Hoey took the hand and kissed it.
“Very nice to meet you, sergeant,” the woman said. “Though, in this case, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. You see, my company insures these premises, and anything recovered from this fire belongs to us—to cover our losses in the incident. As you can see.”
From somewhere (Hoey didn’t see where) she produced a piece of parchment with a lot of legalistic writing upon it.
“This all seems to be in order,” Hoey said, examining the paper.
“Though I assure you,” the woman continued, “that my company will deal fairly with both the former tenants and any heirs in question.”
Something about the woman’s face, her clear blue eyes maybe, made Hoey believe her. “I’m sure you will, miss.”
“Thank you. But I am a Lady, sergeant.”
Hoey bobbed his head in a slight bow and corrected himself, “Milady.”
She smiled, showing rows of straight, white teeth.
“Thank you, sergeant,” she said. “And now, I must be on my way. It was only a bit of chance that brought my nightly carriage ride past this particular property.”
“Lucky nip of fortune that you arrived when you did, milady. Take good care of that mirror, now. Bit of a miracle that it survived as well as it did.”
The woman turned and walked languidly back toward her carriage. “I don’t believe in miracles, sergeant,” she called over her shoulder. “But I will take good care of it. That I promise.”
Hoey suddenly realized something. “Excuse me, milady, but I don’t believe I caught your name.”
As she stepped aboard her carriage, the woman in white turned back to him and smiled once more.
“Lady Godalming,” she called. “But you can call me ‘Lucy.’”
Then she settled into the back seat, next to her newly reclaimed mirror.
“Goodnight to you, sergeant.”
Hoey bowed again. “And a very good night to you, milady.”
She signaled her driver and the coach pulled away, heading toward the heart of London.
Hoey let out a long sigh as they went.
Quite a lady, indeed! A real stunner.
Something nagged at him, though…
Just as she’d left, as the coach had turned toward the city, Hoey would have sworn that he saw a reflection in the dark glass of the “broken” mirror.
Funny thing, though: the woman in the reflection didn’t look much like Lucy—like Lady Godalming—at all.
It must have been a trick of the light, because the woman in the mirror had black hair, not blonde, and her eyes were dark, not a bright, compelling blue.
And though Lady Godalming’s heart-warming smile lingered as she rode out of sight, it appeared to Hoey that the woman in the mirror was laughing.
Extra-special thanks to these wonderful patrons at Credit Creature level and above:
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