Along The Hudson

 

By

Teel James Glenn

 

Chapter One:

Calling Down the Devil

 

My pulse quickened as the wakening island of Manhattan came into sight further down the Hudson. Our pre-dawn dirigible flight from Montreal to the airship port on Governors Island, New York had been uneventful, but upon arrival I knew things would become interesting when I saw my old friend, Mad Mike.

“I suppose you ain’t comin’ with me to that there Metropolitan Opera place when we land, eh, Athelstan?” My Aunt Minerva said, knowing in advance that Der Nibelungren bored me.

“I had hoped to look up Mike Ellenbogen,” I said.

“You mean Mad Mike from Cairo?” Aunt Mini asked. She lived down to her nick-name at barely five feet tall.  She’d raised me when my parents and her husband, Lord Camden had been killed. I was raised mostly in England by her, but the former Miss Minerva Strump was as American as the city we were approaching.

“Same Mad Mike,” I said with a laugh. I touched the Eye of Horus amulet I wore that Mike had given me, remembering some of our escapades in Egypt three years before.

My aunt and I were among a dozen or so passengers of the great airship observation window, watching the bustling city and busy harbor ahead. With a population over a million and a half it ranked as the nation’s largest port, with piers, factories and even working farms on it.

We passed over the gun emplacements of Fort Tryon at the northern tip of the island, fortified still from when the city was made the capital of the new republic during their civil war when the southern states had burned Washington- and idea they stole from we Albions in 1814.

But beyond all its commerce and prestige, beyond all its Astor high society and its striving immigrants, it was an open secret that New York City was also the vice capital of the United States.  And Mad Mike was little part of that, running ‘Mike and Spike’s Sphinx Saloon’ on the west side at 23rd Street.

Our airship, The Ottawa, cruised slowly down the Hudson, over the river traffic and with a clear view of the bustling metropolis that truly rivaled London. The density of the population increased as we went down island from Washington Heights near rural development. The last time I had been in the great city I’d arrived and left by ocean liner so I was as much in awe of the panoramic view as my fellow passengers at the rail of the observation deck.

“Impressive, is it not, Lady Camden,” one of my fellow travelers said with a thick French accent. “I never imagined these Americans were so-“

“Civilized?” Aunt Mini finished.

“”Well, yes,” the Frenchman said. “Why there are even buildings that look to be eleven stories tall!”

I sensed Aunt Mini was about to create an international incident with her next words so I intervened.

“These former colonist of ours,” I said, “Are really quite clever, Monsieur.  I am sure they will love your observations on their comparative status to primitives.”

His face blanched and my aunt gave an un-lady-like snort.

“My good Baronet Grey,” the Frenchman said, “One would think you would not take the side of those who revolted against your country.”

“All past, Monsieur,” I said. “The children have left the house long ago and are standing on their own.”

“Darn tootin’,” My aunt said. “Standing, dancing and kicking a-“

“Mini!” I said and she checked herself, just barely.

The Frenchman turned away and chose retreat as the better course of valor, slipping away into the others on the observation deck.

“You are going to get us into trouble one of these days, Auntie,” I said. Mini giggled like a schoolgirl.

“I ain’t never got into no trouble that wasn’t some sort of fun, Athelstan,” she said with glee. “And none I couldn’t get out of.”

“So far,” I pointed out.

“You are turning into a terrible dull fellow, nephew,” she said with a snort. “You’d think all that time with that little Aztec girl we had to say goodbye to in Montreal would give you a sense of adventure.”

It was my turn to laugh out loud. “That is a whole different kind of adventure, Auntie, you saucy old baggage!” She elbowed me and we both giggled.  She had always been a constant source of shock and amusement to the social circles of my uncle and my parents- and had raised me after their deaths with a healthy skepticism to convention, but still sometimes surprised even me.

We enjoyed the view in relaxed silence as the airship glided down the island and off its tip to the fortressed Governors Island. The smoke from the coal-powered factories was already casting a haze over the bustling city but did nothing to mare the sense of energetic industry, of seeing the future before us.

It made me reflect on the Albion Empire and my home in London.  While I was proud of my heritage, an inherited baronet from my father and an Oxford education, I could not help but feel, especially after my time working for the East India Company in Bombay, that it was built on the backs of others. How unlike it this young, vigorous country was.

These people, these Americans, had carved homes out of the wilderness, true, there had been contention with natives, but they had made their peace now. And they had, successfully both fought off Albion’s control and had their growing pains in their own civil war.

An alliance with the Mexhican Empire to their south (and their Aztec magicks) had allowed the Americans to establish themselves as a minor world power, balanced with Albion, the Ottoman Empire, and The Mali Confederacy.

The Ottawa glided into docking port on Governor’s Island in early morning but it was almost afternoon before we had all debarked and passed through customs. We took a ferry across to Manhattan, with the Frenchman pointedly avoiding interaction with either myself or Auntie. Our bags were sent ahead to our hotel and we hailed a taxi.

Last chance for that Wagner hoop-de-do At Hammerstein’s, Opera House up at 34th Street, nephew,” Mini said as she climbed into the hansom cab.

“No thanks, Auntie, but I’ll ride up as far as 23rd Street with you.”

I hopped in and we were off up the Battery past the Customs house into the business district of the metropolis. The odor of the city was a mix of horse leavings, coal-oil smoke and that indefinable collection of very human smells. It reminded me more of Bombay than London in that respect. It was controlled chaos, a cacophony of sound and movement, a babble of languages even more varied than Paris.

I found it exhilarating!

Our carriage moved haltingly up Broadway through the crush of traffic until we reached 23nd street. I took my leave of my aunt then and jumped off.

“I’ll see you at the hotel, Mini,” I said as I waved.

“You say hello to Mad Mike for me,” she called back, “And watch yourself, nephew- the two of you together are worse than me and my sister used to be. ”

“I will, auntie, I will.”

I watched the carriage pull away and turned to head west toward the river where Mike’s pub was located. It was a eight block walk and I set off at a jaunty pace, swinging my newly acquired walking stick- a present from the Ambassador from the Mexhico Empire.

It was almost a like a walk in Whitechapel for all the attention I got from ‘working ladies’ in my walk. I had been told there were upwards of 40,000 prostitutes working the streets of New York and it seemed that most of them were in that four-block stroll.

I dare say it was not my dashing blond good looks that drew the feminine attention to me (though I have not had difficulty in that department elsewhere), rather it was the expensive cut of my cloak and clearly European style of my low-crowned top hat. And the purse they both implied. The boldest of the ‘ladies’ approached me as I passed under the elevated train at Sixth Avenue.

“Hey, Toff, “ a pox marked ‘beauty’ called to me, “Need a date?”

“I saw him first, Dora,” a second said as she stepped up close to me. She was a red-haired Irish accented vixen with a bit more flesh than was good for her but a ready smile. I smiled back.

“Sorry, ladies, “I said, “but I am on my way to Mike and Spike’s for a drink. Perhaps, later.” I had no inclinations in their direction, but auntie taught me not to disappoint.

“Ladies,” Dora said with a laugh. ‘You are a gent!” But they let me pass.

“”Ain’t heard about Mike or the others have you?” the red head’s tone was suddenly dark and it made me stop.

“Hush up, Agnes,” Dora said, crossing herself. “Don’t’ be calling down the devil.”

“What about Mike?” I turned to face the lasses but they were now backing way from me. “What do you mean?”

“Ain’t no never mind what I mean,” Dora said darkly then tried to drum up a bit more of my business. “The Bull’s head is open and I know they serve-“

I never heard the rest of her recommendation for a grog shop, as I was at a dead run for the pub, with a chill premonition of disaster settling on me.

 

Chapter Two:

Death in the Family

 

When I reached the corner of 10th Avenue and 23rd Street I stopped short with my worst fears confirmed.  Mike & Spike’s Pub- my friend’s bar– was draped in black and purple bunting. I felt a chill that went to my soul. There was a sign, crudely painted that said, “Closed till further notice.”

“No!” I hissed. I forced myself to calm and walked across the street to the heavy door of the drinking emporium. After I composed myself I knocked on the frosted glass.

After an eternity of waiting I heard heavy footsteps within and a thick Scot’s accented voice called out, “We’re still closed, bugger off!”

“I’m a friend of Mike’s; I need to find out what is going on.”

The sound of a bolt being pulled back followed and a red-bearded face, a head above mine was thrust out a crack in the door. “And ye be?”

“Sir Athelstan Grey, Baronet, “ I said. “I am acquainted with Master Ellenbogen from our time in Cairo.”

The bushy red eyebrows of the rugged face rose and fell as the Cerberus scrutinized me.  “Master Mike was murdered last week; we are still in mourning; come back next week, maybe we will reopen then.” He made to close the door but I held the edge.

“I must speak to this, sirah,” I said. “Is Miss Ellenbogen here? I wish to express my condolences to her.” I handed him my card which he regarded much as if I had handed him the snake from the garden.

The highlander, who was easily close to eighteen stone, was dressed in full Mackintosh kilt with the spotted mountain cat sporran of a chief, tried to close the door once more then relented, opening it to stare at me with flinty blue eyes. “I’ll see if the lassie is in.” He indicated I should enter.  I cleaned my boots of horse dropping on the wrought iron scraper and stepped inside.

The Scotsman threw the bolt on the door behind us and gave me a stern look. “Wait here, “ he said firmly before moving off into the interior of the darkened pub.

I felt as if I was at the levee’s at St. James waiting to be presented to Her Majesty.

The large room was much as I imagined it would be from Mike’s descriptions- a long, wood lined room with the broad windows facing out to the street, but with the shades pulled so little or no light entered from them. All around were souvenirs from his time in the lands of the sands-the décor made the pub an exotic oasis-sphynx statues, scarab wall fixtures; it was an Arabian nights fantasy come to life.

There were tables set around what looked to be a sunken dance floor and a long bar along the far wall. It looked to be as much nightspot as one would find in any great city, as it was a pub. It was appointed with crystal chandeliers, gaslights along the walls and brass fittings everywhere.

I thought about Mike’s letters, many of them since our meeting in Egypt where he had described building the pub.

And he had written about his little sister, Bathsheba who always went by the very unlady-like ‘Spike.’ She was his partner in the pub, and now, I supposed, sole owner.

There was a gallery along the back wall with stairs that went up to it and this is where the Scotsman went, only reaching halfway up the stairs before another figure appeared at the top of the steps. It was a petite girl, dressed, oddly enough, in a black and purple riding habit; Spike.

“What is it, Angus,” she said in a high, thin voice.

“Says he knew Mike, lassie.” He handed my card up to her and she peered at it in the dim light. Even across the room I could see her square features- so reminiscent in a soft mirror- of her brother’s light in a smile.

“Athelstan!” she said and swept down the stairs past the giant Scot and across the floor to me. She came up to give me a very improper hug before I could react. She came barely to my chest, but her arms made me gasp with their strength.

“Madam!” I managed to exclaim.

She pulled away from me and colored, as if suddenly realizing what she had done. “Excuse me, baronet,” she said, “I am out of sorts because of my brother’s passing, but- but it is almost that I know you, my brother spoke so much of you.”

“And of you, Miss Ellenbogen, and that is why I had to stop in to find out what happened.”

Her pretty features twisted into a pained scowl. “Come up stairs, we can talk there.”

I followed the girl up past the grim looking highlander to a sitting room on the second floor where we sat opposite each other in two comfortable chairs. The red haired giant wheeled a tea service in between us and I felt, oddly enough, as if I was back in Mayfair.

“It is real tea, baronet,” she said with great pride, “not recycled; directly from China.”

For a time we sipped the imported tea and spoke of inconsequential things- my trip from Montreal, the weather in New Orleans (where I had been prior to my trip north) and the like. It was as if she was afraid to even mention her brother again or his death. Like most Americans she was somewhat in awe of my title and I had to explain to her that I was not a peer, as such, with my inherited title. The complexities of the English system of titles amazed the former colonies and, I admit, sometimes even escaped my own understanding.

I took the opportunity of our relaxed conversation to observe her closely; it was true she had features that echoed her brother’s- jet black hair, crystal blue eyes and a strong jaw, though on her is was gentled where it had been sharp on him.

Her hands were delicate and long fingered, darting nervously like small birds, never lighting long on either teacup nor lap. Her silent Scotsman stood nearby, a gorgon eye cast on me all the while we talked.

After a time, when I deduced she would not get around to mentioning her brother I did. “When I spoke to Mike ten days ago from Montreal on the tele-crystal he seemed happy and healthy,” I said. “How did he—well, what happened?”

The pretty girl shivered as if from a cold. I thought I had upset her beyond propriety but she showed grit and quickly got a hold of herself and looked me in the eye.

“If you do not mind, I will let Angus show you,” she said. She looked to the roi giant who nodded and waved me back out of the room and down the stairs.

We went through the pub’s main room to a short corridor that led to the offices.

“This was Mister Mike’s office,” the Scotsman said, his burr so thick I had to listen carefully to understand. “It is just as we found it.” He pushed the door to a room inward and allowed me to step in.

What I saw was a horrific image that will stay in my mind’s eye for the rest of my life; the office was a shambles with the walls splattered with what could only have been blood!

The room was wood paneled and had been nicely appointed before whatever had ravaged it.  There were nick-knacks from his travels- souvenirs from Arabia and Turkey, rugs, statues and icons, many of them smashed and scattered around the room. I recognized some of the curios he had purchased in my presence in Cairo- a clay tablet, a medallion of Horus that matched the one I wore, and a jewel encrusted dagger with a bloody blade. The plush carpet, upholstered chairs a fine oak desk were all torn to shreds and stained dark with the life essence that had been my friend’s.

“Miss Ellenbogen and I returned from shopping ten days ago on a Sunday afternoon to discover it like this,” the Scotsman said. “Except that what was left of Mister Mike was scattered across the desk and floor; torn to pieces like a pack of wolves had been at him.” The giant’s stoic face shadowed with the memory before returning to neutral, though his voice revealed his emotions.

I stepped into the room and felt an eerie sense of foreboding.

I could clearly see what appeared to be claw marks scratched deeply into the dark wood of the desk and the carpet had been torn up as if by scythe blades. All showed that a terrific struggle had taken place.

“And you have no idea what happened?”

“No,” Angus said. “No one else was in the building when it happened, sir, except the bar back. And we never found Little Tony. No one has seen hide nor hair of him.”

I walked slowly to the desk and looked down on the sanguine spot where my friend must have died. The stain was not much of a monument to a man like Mike; self made, a bold, laughing fellow who, though not to be crossed, never willfully hurt anyone.

There was a photo frame on the desk that was overturned, the glass shattered. I lifted it up. It was a photo of me, Mike standing shoulder to shoulder with Aunt Mini between us, dwarfed by us and smiling. It had been taken in Cairo. His lantern jaw was set in an easy smile and his eyes shined with mischief. I found my vision blurring with tears at I stared at the blood-spattered space on the desk.

“We have to find this Tony, then,” I said when I could speak. “We will find out what happened to Mike and someone will pay!”

 

 

 

Chapter Three:

The Forrest Primeval

“Ye think we’ve not tried, sir?” the Scotsman sneered at me at the edge of impertinence. “Every wharf rat and street walker has been questioned.”

“The police?”

“Useless,” he said. “They just took a quick look and then dismissed it as just another saloon keeper, a low life they couldn’t care less about.”

That made me angry but as I turned to face the Scotsman I felt a tingling through my right hand where I held my sword cane.  The sensation was much like my hand was asleep and traveled up my arm. The gem on the knob of the stick glowed a soft blue.

“What is that, sir?” Angus asked.

“Do the police here have a Merlin?” I countered.

“A what?”

“A government sanctioned sorcerer like we have in England,” I said.

“No, sir; the metropolitan police have a shaman on the force, on loan from the Choctaw Nation for major cases that might involve magick, but they don’t come around for barkeeps. Why?” He looked to my walking stick. “Because of that?”

“Yes,” I said. “The Ambassador from Mexhico gave this to me; it has an obsidian blade but the jewel on the handle is sensitive to occult energies. There has been dark magick used in this room.”

“Mister Mike never had truck with such things,” the servant insisted. “He was raised a good Christian man.”

“Even the Anglican church accepts magick- albeit in form of official Merlins,” I said. “But be that as it may, it could be our lead to Mike’s killer; if Mike did not use it than his killer did.”

We went back up stairs to the parlor where Miss Ellenbogen waited for us. She was sipping her tea with deliberate calm when we reentered the room. It was as if she had not moved since we left.

“You saw.” Was all she said.

I sat opposite her again and told her about my discovery of dark sorcery.

“Then, “ she said, “my brother was not just killed, but foully killed.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Perhaps like the others,” Angus spoke up.

“Others?”

“Since Mike was—“ she said, “ Since Mike died, two other saloon owners in the neighborhood have died.”

“Much the same way,” the Scotsman added. “Oh, not so spectacularly-sorry, ma’am- as Mister Mike, but violently.”

“And this roused no interest from the authorities?” I asked.

“We are not ‘respectable, baronet,” The girl said with obvious pain. “So death in our class, violent or otherwise is not much of a concern to the police forces.”

“I thought you Americans were all about lack of class distinctions,” I said. The girl snorted in derision. “Well,” I continued, “We will not let this rest, dear lady, I promise you I will find out who did this.”

She looked at me with eyes a blink away from tears, “Why?” she asked, “Why would you do this for us?”

I noted she said ‘us’ and that was telling.

“He was my friend,” I said. “And you are his sister; is that not enough?”

She sat upright. “I am sorry, baronet,” she said quietly. “Of course- from what Mike said about you I should have realized it would be.”

“How shall we proceed, your lordship,” Angus asked.

“First off, call me Athelstan,” I replied, “I am not a lord.”

“Then you should call me Spike, ‘ the girl said, sniffing away her tears. I nodded.

“Alright, Spike,” I continued, “ Secondly, I think we need to look at who would benefit from Mike’s death.”

“Benefit?” The girl asked.

“Competitors or creditors who would want him out of the way.”

“Mister Mike had no creditors, sir,” Angus said. “At least since he returned from Egypt he has always been able to pay cash for all his bills of lading.”

“Cash?” I said. I knew that Mike was a canny businessman, but he had only on his journey to the sands of Egypt because of a steamship ticket he won in a poker game. He had not been a wealthy man—not then.

“Yes,” Miss Ellenbogen said. “We inherited a small bar on 14th Street from our dad and ran it at the edge of foreclosure for two years before he went away but when he returned he had the money to buy Mike and Spike’s. He would never tell me where the money came from.”

I studied the remains of my tea in its cup for a long moment while I digested that while I hesitated to voice my thoughts about my friend, but realized I had to.

“Could Mike have been involved in some sort of criminal enterprise, Spike-something that would make any secret partners-“

“Mister Mike was the salt of the earth, sir,” Angus injected before the girl could object. “He would no more be involved with that sort than—than a vicar with a rum runner!”

Both Spike and I looked to the giant who shrugged. “Seemed like a good analogy to me,” He said.

“I personally know a vicar on the Romney Marshes that ran rum,” I said. “But yes, I get the point; I don’t believe Mike could be anything but a little mischievous and just enough crooked to keep on the right side of things.”  That got a giggle from Spike.

“But,” I continued, “ that does not mean that someone else did not think he was not trustworthy- people tend to see themselves in people.”

“Yes,” she said. “Mike could cut a good deal, a sharp deal, so some people might have—well…”

“So tell me who he might owe or more importantly, who might owe him?”

“There were five I can think of he either had lent money to or had problems with us opening here,” Spike said. “Hanover Jones, who I hear went back to Brooklyn, Juice Martin over on Fourteenth Street and the Marble brothers over on Third are left. Race Mangani and Dave Burton were—they were -this last week-.”

“The other murders?” I asked.

“Yes,” Angus said. “Race was found floating in the Hudson – they said sharks or fish got to him but he was all torn up, and Burton well, they only found his head and a lot of blood in his brothel on the east side.”

I thought for a moment then held out my empty cup. “I think this is a two tea cup problem, Spike,” I said. “We have plans to make.”

****

The New York-Brooklyn Bridge was an amazing edifice and proof positive that this raw new country called the United States of America was ready for its place in the greater world.

Its granite towers and steel cables rose over two hundred and seventy feet from the water of the East River and connected the island of Manhattan to the larger Long Island at the city of Brooklyn. It was over fifteen hundred feet long and wide enough for four lanes of carriage traffic and pedestrians walks ways on the outside, while trolleys ran along the center of the bridge.

Beneath it steam ships chugged and beside it small, ‘commuter’ dirigibles, looking like floating pickles, buzzed across the river in a steady stream from both directions.

Angus was driving a closed hansom with Miss Ellenbogen and myself in the back. I had sent a message to my aunt that I would be late and the three of us had decided that the first course of action would be to venture to the adjacent city of Brooklyn and visit one Mister Hanover Jones.

After sitting in the closed pub the young lady was charged with excitement at being able to actively do something about finding her brother’s killer. Even the taciturn highlander was grinning with the prospect of some action. Little did we all realize just how much action we would be finding.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four:

Knuckles for Lunch

The bridge disgorged us onto the broad Atlantic Avenue and the semi-rural nature of this near city to Manhattan was immediately clear. The air was crisper and with none of the soot from the island though the wide streets were still thronging with people. It was a large city in its own right but of a very different character than its near neighbor.

The streets were wider and the nature of the shops were more exotic, with Syrian and Lebanese signs on food and clothing storefronts. We moved with the flow of horse carriage traffic along side horse drawn trolleys.

“After we pass Borough Hall we can move along the water front more quickly than this main avenue,” Angus called from the driver’s seat.

“You know the way?” I called up.

“Aye, sir,” The highlander tossed back, raising his voice above the sound of the street, “I accompanied Mister Mike out here when he came back from Egypt to meet with Mister Jones.

“Hanover is hiding out at his ‘country’ place in Brighton Beach,” Spike said with disgust. “ He was raised out there; then he had the bar down the block from us on Fourteenth Street. He owed markers to our dad and when Mike and I inherited they came to us. He resented that and for a time he contested them, but when Mike came back from Egypt they had that meeting and my brother said afterward that the debt was forgiven.”

I touched the eye of Horus amulet my friend had given me on our stay in Cairo and felt a deep sadness again that rose to anger quickly. “Why would Mike do that?” I asked.

“I asked him,” she said, “ but he just said that since we were moving to Twenty Third there was no point in keeping any sort of anger going- that there was enough room for all of us.”

“It would seem to me that would make this Hanover Jones grateful, not angry.”

“I know,” she said, “ but it was just the opposite, he said it shamed him, made him seem a welcher- though he never made any effort to pay off. He started to badmouth Mike to anyone who would listen.”

“This would all be a little easier if we could locate this Little Tony you say is missing,” I remarked as he pulled off the main avenue.

“We tried,” Spike said. “But it is like he just vanished.”

Angus wheeled our carriage past the municipality’s governmental offices and to a roadway that led along the East River waterfront.

We rode for a while in uncomfortable silence, driving by sugar refining plants, dockyards, gas refineries, ironworks, several slaughterhouses, and factories, I was told, that produced everything from clocks, pencils, and glue, to cakes, beer, and some fine cigars.

I pondered the scarcity of facts about Mike’s death when the carriage rounded a turn onto a short causeway that would bring us to the Coney Island. The resort was a complex of entertainment parks, racetracks and beaches for recreation.

As we pulled onto Surf Avenue the marvel I had heard about presented itself to our eyes. Looming over the landscape was The Elephant Hotel! At 150 feet tall, The Coney Island Elephant was an astounding sight to behold as it loomed over the amusement centers of the Brighton Beach portion of Coney Island. Its legs were 18 feet in diameter, with the front legs serving as a cigar store while the back legs held the entrance to the actual hotel via a circular stairway. Angus proudly told me “Its construction cost a quarter million American dollars!”

I knew Aunt Mini would want to see it for her self, possibly even stay in one of the rooms before we left New York; it had not been built when she was last here.

In short order we pulled up in front of a vulgarly painted house on a side street off of Surf Avenue. It was all greens and yellows in bright, Caribbean colors and while it might have looked at home in Kingston Jamaica stood out even against the brightly colored brick or wooden buildings in the area of this resort community.

The Jones refuge was two stories and sprawling with a wide porch that surrounded the whole of the building, which was set back from the road with a broad lawn, effectively a green moat. When we stepped out of the coach the sharp tang of salt air was brisk and refreshing.

“Mister Jones may not be very receptive,” Angus said from the driver’s perch. “Perhaps I should go first?”

“I’ve never been afraid of that big windbag,” Spike said with a vigor that reminded me again of Aunt Mini. “And beside, I have his lordship with me, if Hanover starts anything it will be an international incident.”

“I’m not a lord,” I reminded her, “but I do hope to be of use should this fellow get stroppy.” I brandished my sword cane and grinned. “I do need to try this out.”

We walked up the steps to the building but as we mounted the stairs the door to the building opened and two large gentlemen exited.

“What do you want?” The bald headed fellow to the left of the door said. He had a large mustache and considerable evidence of a pugilistic past marked in scar tissue around his eyes and in a deformed left ear.

“We are here to see Mister Jones,” I said, offering my card. “We have no appointment, but I am sure he will see us.” I gave my most engaging smile.

The thug did not look at the card but made a point of dropping it and stepping on it. “Mister Jones ain’t here. Go.”

I looked to Spike. “I think the gentleman has forgotten the rules of grammar,” I said.

“Leave, Limey,” the thug said. “We don’t want what you are selling.”

“Not selling anything,” I said, “I’m giving this away-“ I laughed then and drove the knob of my walking stick into the fellow’s stomach. It was a muscled one, but he still gasped and doubled, his beady eyes bugging out.

His companion guardian reacted with snake-quick speed, producing a folding knife and lunging at me.

Spike yelled a warning, but I had anticipated some action so whirled my cane to slash it across the fellow’s temple, felling him.

“I suggest you tell Mister Jones we simply must see him,” I suggested to the coughing man. I turned him around and gave him a gentle shove toward the door. “And do hurry, I don’t relish being in this town after dark.”

The wounded fellow stumbled in through the door and closed it behind him.

“He’ll come back with a gun,” Spike said. She signaled to Angus who produced a carriage gun from beneath his seat on the hansom, but I waved him off.

“I think not, “ I said. “I suspect Mister Jones will be too intrigued to send us off without looking us over personally.”

She looked at me with her head tilted to the side like a curious cat and gave an elfish smile. “Mike said you were as mad as he was,” she said. “Now I see he was wasn’t exaggerating.”

Mad perhaps, but I had calculated correctly, for when the door opened again it was a liveried butler.

“If you would follow me this way please,” The black servant said. “Master Jones will see you in his study.”

I held out my arm for the girl and she took it. “You certainly know how to make an entrance, Athelstan.”

“I learned from Aunt Mini.”

****

The ‘study’ of our host proved to be a gymnasium where Mister Hanover Jones was dutifully and handily working a heavy canvas boxing bag. It was a large room at the back of the house that had probably first been constructed as a conservatory, with large glass floor-to-ceiling windows that showed a lush back yard and the amusements of Brighton Beach beyond. The impressive edifice of the Elephant Hotel loomed large with a racetrack visible behind it.

Above the Elephant a commercial airship painted with the green and red colors of the Mali Empire floated like some whale of the air heading to dock in Manhattan.

Our host was stripped to the waist and wearing tights while he attacked the heavy bag with vigor.  When we entered he slowed his assault but did not look up or stop.

“Connal here says you want to see me,” he said. When he did glance up he saw my companion and stopped. “Well, Spike- all the way out here in the hinterlands.” He held out a hand and an overly made up blonde woman, dressed gaudily for daytime in a pink and blue gown, handed him a towel. “Sorry to hear about your brother.” My two playmates from the front stoop were standing at the window scowling past their employer and, I imagine, daydreaming of a rematch.

The blonde woman kept her left hand hidden in the folds of her dress. The two stout fellows lounging near the windows made a point of ‘casually’ being obvious about guns under their ill-fitting jackets.

Hanover Jones was a dark skinned man of obvious mixed blood with a shaven head and a slight trace of a Jamaican accent beneath his New York one. He wiped down his face and the put the towel around his shoulders, turning his attention to me with a long, condescending glance. “Who’s the dandy?”

I handed my hat to the butler and shrugged off my cloak while smiling at the well-muscled Jones. “Sir Athelstan Grey,” I said.  I extended my hand but made no move to step toward him and grasp it.

Jones made no move to take my hand. “So,” he said. “ What do you want?”

“Jonesy!” Spike exclaimed. “That’s no way to talk to a baronet! He came all the way from England to see the sights and you talk rude to him like that! I oughta box your ears!”

“We fought a war not to have to cowtow to lords and such, Spike.”

“I’m not a peer,” I pointed out again cheerfully as I took his measure, “so cowtowing is not required at all; just common courtesy would be fine. You should try it.”

Hanover snorted and took a step toward me that promised violence.

Miss Ellenbogen intervened and threw an exploratory salvo at the pugilist. “We came to ask if you’d seen Little Tony, Hanover.”

“Why would I see that slob?” Jones asked.

“Well,” she said, “ you made yourself scarce about the same time as Tony disappeared- when Mike was—well, anyway we thought you might know what happened to him.”

“I couldn’t care less.” He said a little too quickly and turned his back on us.

I did not like that and I decided not to let it go.

“You are a cad, sir,” I said. Jones froze. “And a coward, from the looks of things.”

The pugilist spun at that and glared at me.

“Baronet!” Spike said with sudden fear in her voice. “We better go.”

“Yes, your lordship,” Jones said. “You had better go.”

“”What is it with you colonials,” I said as I loosened my cravat and handed my stick and Horus medallion to a confused Spike. “You seemed obsessed with elevating me to a peerage.” I produced my leather riding gloves and donned them, stepping forward to the center of the room, my eyes locked with Jones’. He clearly understood the meaning of the gesture and smiled with cold glee.

“I’d like to elevate you to the pearly gates,” our host said. He put up his fists and took a boxing stance. “No one called Hanover Jones a coward and walks away.”

 

 

Chapter Five:

Bruise and Consequences

 

“You and I in single contention, unmolested by your aids?’ I stated my terms. “And no harm to Miss Ellenbogen either way this works out?” This brought a savage grin from the muscular Jones.

“Stay back all of you,” he called out to his servants, his eyes still locked with mine. “And I’d never bring harm to Spike-“ he grinned like an urchin and was suddenly less menacing. “She’s like a little cousin to me.”

Spike snorted a laugh at that. “I’d ain’t got no family as homely as you, Jonesy.”

“Call the rounds, Candy,” Jones called to his blonde doxie. The girl nodded and picked up a spoon to use as an improvised striker to hit a metal mug as a makeshift bell.

Jones came at me like a hurricane, his leather-mittened fists flying like a flock of crows driven by a gale. It was clear he fully expected to overwhelm ‘ the dandy’ who stood before him in the first rush and assert his control over the room.

I, however, had other plans.

Aunt Mini laced my first boxing gloves on me when I was six years old. I’d came home from school with a bloody nose, courtesy of some older form boys who did not like my being raised by a ‘savage American’ woman and so had beat me up on the football pitch.

She coached me for a week after which I’d faced each of them individually, trouncing them publicly and completely. They left me alone afterward.

Since then I had studied the manly arts under many instructors and had more than enough chances to put it to practical tests in many alleys and bars from Liverpool to Bombay.

As Jones advanced I danced away slipping each punch with light slaps to his fists. I angled to his left as I back-pedaled, forcing him to circle and extend himself to keep up his attack.

I saw the annoyance on his face as his calculated plan to humiliate me faltered and he reassessed how to defeat me.

It was as I wanted it.

I’d seen his kind before, they had no respect for anyone who did not stand up to them. If we had left at Jones’ order we wouldn’t have learned anything. If I could hold my own against him then, if he did have anything of import to tell us about Mike’s death or his man Tony, he might tell us.

I kept back pedaling, slowly, letting the pugilist appear to make progress with a flurry of combinations I barely blocked, then faded away from him to draw him on.

Jones realized I was moving backward to tire him out and decided to hold his ground and force me to bring the fight to him. So I did.

I glided in and fired two quick, but weak, left jabs at him that he blocked with solid technique. He then tried to counter, thinking I had no starch because of my ‘weak’ jabs.

I let him send a powerful right my way, hunching my shoulder to absorb the blow (though is was still quite powerful and hurt a darn sight) then twisted in low to drive the hardest right uppercut I could launch into Jones’ diaphragm.

The blow landed perfectly. The pugilist was lifted up off the ground and sent back two steps. He did not, however, fall.

Suddenly the improvised bell sounded and round one was done.

Jones gasped for breath, but I will say he was rum, as he never dropped his guard. He kept his eyes focused on me like two flaming beacons as he stumbled back to his blonde.

I smiled.

“You see, Mister Jones,” I said, “You really shouldn’t judge people by appearances alone.”

He growled and smiled a feral smile.

“Athelstan,” Spike whispered tensely, “this is crazy.” Her eyes were wide with worry. “You’ve been lucky so far, but Jonesy is a killer with his fists he-“

“Shhh,” I said with a cocked eyebrow. “You do not inspire confidence.”

“But he-“

“No buts,” I said. “He is not trying to kill me, he wants to- needs to humiliate me in front of his people.”

“So -“

“Be at ease, Miss,” I said. “I have things well in hand.”

The blonde clanged the spoon against the mug and round two began.

The pugilist came back at me with a quick series of punches that I also dodged, replying to him with several quick jabs to his upper arms, targeting the biceps to weaken him. He grinned at that attack with understanding, clearly reassessing my skill.

“You got this, boss,” one of the bodyguards at the window chimed in. “You can take out the limey trash.”

I didn’t honor the comment with much notice but threw another combination at Jones to back him up in response.

“Not what you expected from me, is it, Mister Jones,” I said. “But then I did not expect you to be so frightened by someone or something that would drive you to Brooklyn with armed guards in the room with you-including charming miss Candy there- after Mike was murdered.”

“I’m not frightened of anyone,” Jones said and launched a renewed attack at me. This time he was cautious and powerful and I was hard pressed to block, dodge or reply to his complex combinations.

I gave ground but grudgingly and was able to land a few light blows as I backpedaled.

“If not any ’one’ then just what are you afraid of?” I asked, “What do you know about Mike’s death?”

My question seemed to infuriate him and he pressed harder, his speed and power all but doubled. I let him drive me for a few moments then as I dodged a hard right that would have ‘taken my head off’, as they say, I stepped in and swung an elbow hard into his temple.

The blow caught him solidly and his knees turned to rubber and he almost buckled. The moment he faltered his two men at the window reached under their coats but Jones danced backward and held up a hand.

“No,” he commanded. “He’s mine.”

“Nice thought, Mister Jones,” I said, impressed by his code of honor, but I added. “But I really am my own man.”

We paused then, fists up and eyed each other. I knew he had reassessed me as someone ‘possibly’ worth dealing with. If not as an ‘equal’ then as not quite so dismissible. I knew I had earned enough of his respect that he might tell us what we needed to know.

“Stop this!” Spike yelled, “Hanover Jones, if you know something about Mike’s death you have to tell us.”

Hanover gave her a sidelong glance. “You need to keep yourself quiet, girl; we have men’s work to do.”

The tiny girl seemed to grow a foot and stepped toward us. “You don’t tell me to shut up, Jonesy!  You’d never have talked to me like that when Mike was around-“

Just as I thought she was physically going accost my opponent she froze, a puzzled expression eclipsing her angry one.

“Athelstan,” she said with an alarmed tone. “Your walking stick—it—it- the jewel on the handle is vibrating.”

“What?” I exclaimed, “That means there is occult energies in-“

At that moment the windows exploded inward and a nightmare entered the room!

 

Chapter Six:

Highland Fling

 

The exploding glass shards sliced into the two bodyguards by the window slashing them virtually to ribbons.

The thing that landed in the center of the room was a living horror.

It was the twisted image of an animal, all fangs and fur. It landed, four-footedly and snarled at us.

Candy, frozen with the sudden appearance of the creature, came unstuck at the snarl and drew a pistol from the folds of her dress to fire at the monster.

Five quick shots struck the shaggy apparition that roared in defiance but the conventional bullet didn’t seem to do much but annoy the monster. It sprang at the blonde, knocking her off her feet. The beast slashed at her with razored claws, spraying gore everywhere.

Jones yelled and dove for the body of one of his guards to try and get a gun from the man’s holster, but his leather mittens hindered him.

I grabbed my sword-cane from a horrified Spike and drew the obsidian blade. I was hoping that it was not only good for detecting occult energies, but might be practical in eliminating them as well. My present from the Mexhican ambassador was not just a deadly edged weapon, but was imbued with centuries of Aztec magicks.

I sprang at the beast just as Jones managed to snatch off his mittens and brought a forty-five caliber pistol up to fire.

The beast turned as Jones fired, pausing and shuddering slightly with each impact but undaunted by the impacts.  The bullet hits seemed only served to enrage the creature. It leapt on the pugilist with a roar that sounded like a tormented soul.

Jones screamed in answering terror as the weight of the monster pinned him to the ground. He barely managed to get his hands up just in time to keep the slathering jaws from his throat.

I was on the beast in the next instant, slashing wildly at its eyes with the black blade of my sword cane to try to drive it off the man. The monster yelped when my blade cut a long gash along its snout. A bluish liquid I assumed was blood splashed from the wounds, yet it continued to try to tear at Jones’ throat. I changed tactics and, remembering the cry from Agincourt of ‘Estoc’, I thrust at it instead of slashing. I drove the point into were the head joined its upper body.

I felt a tingling surge of occult power flow from the black blade that almost numbed my fingers.

The roar of pain from the monster was like a hurricane of sound driving against my diaphragm and staggering me back.

The animal was hurt.

It roared once more as it turned and jumped at me, but I ducked and slashed upward along its side as it passed over me. It twisted in the air and landed off balance, just in front of Spike.

“Run!” I screamed, but the girl was frozen with fear.

I spun, intent on attacking the creature before it could attack her, but it did something strange. It did absolutely nothing.

The huge brute simply stood, only a foot or two away from the terrified girl and sniffed. She shivered but did not back away from the creature.

I yelled and lunged at the monster’s back. Just then the inner door of the room was kicked open and seven feet of highlander charged in.

“Drop, Lassie!” Angus ordered. A shocked Spike complied as he discharged the coach gun directly in the apparition’s face.

The beast was literally blown backward by the concussion of the gun, tumbling into me and taking me down to the ground but it was not hurt.

The beast rolled to its feet, growled once more and spun to leap out through the shattered windows.

Suddenly everything was still in the silence of the aftermath, with only the sound that of the wounded Hanover Jones gasping for breath.

“God’s garters,” Angus said as he reloaded the two barrels of the shotgun. “What in the name of Merlin was that?”

Spike, her courage used up in holding her ground before the monster, was in a near faint, falling to one knee with release.

I scrambled to the two bodyguards, but they were both beyond help. Candy was also clearly dead so I did not even try to help her. Jones, however, was another story.

I ripped off my cravat and attempted to staunch some of the blood on the fallen man, but it was clearly a wasted effort.

“Oh my God,” Spike whispered. She saw what I was doing and, spunky young woman that she was, she pulled herself together and crawled to Hanover’s side.

“Jonesy!” The girl cradled the fallen man’s head and looked to me but I shook my head.

“I’m goin’, kid,” Jones said.  His voice was flat and his eyes were already glassing over. “Really am sorry about Mike, kid,” he coughed blood and it was clear he was dying.

“What do you know?” I asked, “Where is this Little Tony and –“

The dying fighter had a violent spasm and then fixed me with his eyes. “Juice Martin- Lordship,” he gasped, “Ask Juice.” Then he coughed once more and was absolutely still.  Dead.

“Everyone wants to elevate me,” I whispered.

Spike worked at not crying.

“We had better be going, lassie, baronet,” Angus said from the window. “The wee beastie is gone, but the police will be called after all this.”

“Right you are, Angus,” I said. I gently put my hand on Spike’s shoulder. “Come girl, we can’t be detained by the authorities now.”

She reached down and touched the dead boxer on his cheek as if to say goodbye, then crossed herself and stood up with a determined expression on her pretty face. “Let’s go talk to Juice,” she said. “We have to stop this.”

****

Angus got us swiftly away from the sight of the carnage and we took Surf Avenue, mixing with the late afternoon traffic before the other servants in Jones’ mansion could fully grasp what had happened in the building.

The shock of what she had seen was beginning to manifest in Spike, her slight form shaking for a chill that was not all motivated by the salty sea air, the girl was shaken near hysteria.

We were also all covered with blood to some degree that was sticking our clothes to us.  I wrapped my clean cloak over the girl to warm her and Angus had a Mackinaw that he had under his seat. It was large on me but I was grateful for the warmth.

“Jonesy was a jerk,” Spike whispered, “ but—but he didn’t deserve-“ She was at the edge of tears. “That—that was how Mike died.”

“Why do they call you Spike,” I startled her with my non-sequitor  question. I knew I needed to distract her and occupy her mind to keep her from dwelling on the horror she had witnessed.

“What?”

“How does a young lady named Bathsheba end up with an nom-de-guerre like Spike?”

The girl focused on me and I saw the panic in her eyes fade a bit as she cast her mind back to a better past and spoke. “We grew up in a pretty tough neighborhood and I wanted to be like Mike- my wonderful big brother, you know, and I dressed like him in pants and all-“ She indicated her split-skirt riding habit that had seemed so unusual on a city girl.  “They were his hand me downs, really- and I decided that Bathsheba was too girly a name as well. “

Tears came now, but gently as she spoke, her eyes focused not on me anymore, but a memory.  She looked away, out toward the city.  “He always looked out for me, tried to teach me how to be a good person and to take care of those with less. He told me that cause someone was strong meant they had to use that strength for others, not against them. And he was strong, but he never was a bully to the others in the neighborhood. I was.”  She giggled like a school girl-“ He was constantly having to rescue people from me. I was small but kind of bossy, I guess.”

I laughed. “I’m familiar with that kind of gal,” I said, thinking of my dear Aunt Mini.

“Mike got daddy to send me to finishing school to try and make a lady of me, to give me better prospects, he said. It was all the way up in Tuxedo, up state, but it didn’t take. I hated it. Then when daddy died while Mike was on his trip, I ran away.  When Mike came back he hunted me down over in New Jersey and he promised me that he wouldn’t send me back to the school. He bought the bar on Twenty Third Street I think so he could keep an eye on me, but we were happy. We were a good team.”

I could see the tears were going to start again so I interrupted her train of thought.

“Loathe as I am to bring it up, Spike,” I said, “ but we have to consider that since Master Jones was fourth in a line of pub owners who this beast has killed- with Mike number three- we have to think about the possibility that it followed you here or the beast is taking out all the bar owners.” He eyes widened when I added, “And now you are one. You could certainly be on any list. This is not just about finding Mike’s killer anymore—it is about protecting you as well.”

Chapter Seven:

On the Town

 

“Dat is real prime, eh, Athelstan,” Mad Mike Ellenbogen said in his quaint American idiom as he pressed his nose up against the glass window of the curio shop. We were on a back street in the Motkattam Highlands section of Cairo and it was a hot afternoon. “Wouldn’t that make a guy look the potentate wearing it?”

It was exactly the type of outrageous statement Mike had made regularly during our month wandering the bazaars and alleys of the ancient city the natives called Masr in Arabic.

The brusk American was a refreshing breath of fresh air with the stuffy crowd of English ex-patriots that, though only five percent of the population, occupied most of the government positions since the Ablion Empire took over. He reminded me of my Aunt and her very direct ways, though she had some forty years of exposure to the peers of the realm to learn to be circumspect now and then. Mike didn’t.

He now stood like a child at a confectioner’s window, looking at all the oil lamps, icons, prayer rugs and such in the display, as he had in many shops as we wandered. He talked of furnishing a ‘perfect gin joint’- a pub, when he got home at almost every shop we passed It would be a future for his sister and himself.

He never spoke about revenge, or getting more than the other guy, only his own goals, making his own way. And I liked that about him- he was his own man and didn’t blame the world or any other man for his misfortunes or expect succor from them. He believed in hard work and ‘running his own race’.

“We’d better be going, “ I said to Mike, “We have to meet my Aunt Mini over in Medieval Cairo at the Madrasa of the Amir Sarghatmish before their evening prayers. And I do want to see it before sunset.”

“Alright, buddy,” Mike said. “But I really like those medallions- the ones behind that lamp there.  Gonna come back for ‘em tomorrow.”

And Mike did, and gave me one which I clutched as I rode with his sister along Broadway of Manhattan, heading up town.

The girl had been silent after my proclamation of fear for her safety, lost in her own thoughts, but to her credit and my delight, she was not cowed or overcome with fear. She had set her jaw in a determined attitude that told me she would see this through to the end to find out who controlled her brother’s killer and find a way to destroy the monster.

I grasped the Horus medallion and thought again about not only Mike, but the story of Horus and Set. The ancient Egyptian name for the Cairo was Khere-Ohe, “The Place of Combat”, supposedly in reference to mythical battles that took place between the ancient gods, Seth and Horus.

 

 

 

They fought be the successor to the throne of Osiris to see who would be king. Was that what was happening to the saloon owners? If so, who was the Seth is all this? I held the Horus medallion and smiled, remembering that in the various battles Horus beat Seth each time.

“We’re here, M’lordship,” Angus called back from the driver’s seat. While I was woolgathering we had made it all the way to the gin parlor run on 14th Street by Juice Martin, one of those contending for kingship.

The gaslamps were lit along the darkened streets by now and the evening crowds were out and about. It seemed that there was little or no diminishment of the number from the daytime throngs that populated the thoroughfares. This city was indeed a marvel.

The establishment of Juice Martin was two blocks from the rival emporiums of Macy and James A Hearn & Son, across from Union Square Park. The other end of the block was a number of piano stores, as the area seemed to be a hub for such places; all now closed with the fall of night.

There were strollers in the park and not a few of them came across toward the street, dodging the clanging streetcar, to head into Juice Martin’s saloon, the Iron Apple.

It was a brassy sort of place, loud and garishly furnished with bright colors and mirrors. Two large Iroquois in full battle regalia and war paint stood at the door.

“You sure you don’t want me to come in with you, lassie?” Angus called down to Spike as she hopped down from the hansom.

“No, Angus,” she said. “If we need to make a quick get away we’ll need you out here.” He didn’t look like he liked the idea.

“She is right, old man,” I said. Angus’ mack’ hung a bit loosely on me but, while not fashionable, it covered the bloodstains on my trousers. Spike threw off my cloak and seemed mindless of the bloodstains on her dark split skirt. “I have a feeling we may need to exit expeditiously; keep your coach gun ready.”

My diminutive companion marched right up to one of the totem door guards, past a line of attendees waiting to enter the saloon. The native- a Mohawk from his dress- put a hand out to stop her.

“I need to see Juice,” she said with an edge to her voice.

The stone-faced Cerberus flicked a look to his partner, who was Seneca and the two of them stepped in to block Spike.

“Go,” the Mohawk said. Spike tried to shake his hand but he clamped a grip on her shoulder. She squirmed but made no sound, though I could tell it was a painful hold.

“You have till three to remove your hand, my good fellow,” I said. “Or I will become angry.” The Mohawk stared venomously at me.

I smiled. “Enhskat, Tekeni-“ I counted in his native tongue. His stoicism cracked and his hand eased up. Spike used the distraction to slip from him and headed into the noisy interior.

In answer to his unasked question I said, “I served with the Her Majesty’s First Iroquois Skirmishers in the Crimea; your people fought well.” His confusion transformed.

Akweks?” He said with a moment of recognition, calling me by the name the warriors on the line had given me after a particularly rough engagement with the Russian troops. It meant eagle.

“I have to see Juice,” I said in his language. “It is important for me and the girl. We are not here to bring any harm to your employer; this I swear.”

Spike had stopped just inside the door and was looking back at me, not sure what was going on with my conversation with the guard.

The Mohawk warrior nodded to his companion and waved me on.

“What was that?” Spike asked in awe.

“I’ll tell you later if we survive this.” I took her arm and we entered the Iron Apple. “But it does seem as if we can not enter anywhere without some sort of furor!”

Furor was not strong enough a term for the cacophony within the iron Apple; it was a madhouse of debauchery to rival anything on the west bank in Paris or the East End in London. Through the cloud of acrid tobacco smoke the packed main room of the saloon was a garish tableau, with a dozen scantily clad women on a stage at the opposite end of the room doing a vulgar version of the Parisian dance (that I had first seen in Marseilles) the Can-Can.

To say that it was not the sort of thing one should allow a young girl like Spike to see is an understatement, but it did not seem to disturb the young Miss Ellenbogen.

“There’s Juice,” she said, pointing through the haze toward a theatre style box overlooking the stage, wherein sat the owner of the establishment.

“That is Juice?” I asked, incredulously.

My shock came from the fact that the individual she indicated was a busty, red haired Amazon, dressed in silks and feathers and flanked by two equally impressive females.

“Sure,” Spike said with an expression that seemed to doubt my intellect. “What did you expect?”

I was at a loss for words and just shrugged. ‘Well,” I said, Shall we beard this beardless lion in her den?”

The girl nodded and we proceeded into the smoke and chaos to our appointment with destiny.

 

Chapter Eight:

Pow Wow

If I had worried about our appearance before entering the maelstrom I lost all such fears when I saw the clientele of the smoky, noisy Apple. They were as disparate and disreputable a gathering as I could hope to see anywhere in the world. The state of our clothing, blood-soaked or not- was not an issue.

More the issue was the young lady we met at the staircase that led up to the private box of Juice.

“No, go!” the Mohawk woman said. She was not dressed in Six Nation garb, but rather in a conventional-European evening gown that showed off her copper-colored shoulders, but I could see she had a Tomahawk comfortably hidden in her shawl. No doubt her long black hair, done up in a chignon, concealed a knife as well.

“We have to see Juice Martin,” I said in her native tongue, which had the same effect of stunning her to silence as it had at the front door with her compatriot. When she seemed confused as to what to do next I added, “I am Akweks.”

Again my fame preceded me and she held up a hand. “You wait.” Before she turned and headed up the stairs.

“You certainly know some odd people,” Spike said.

“Present company included?”  That got a stuck out tongue from Miss Ellenbogen. Before I could add a comment the Mohawk girl was back and waved us up the stairs.

“So, you’re the English Toff that the Indians think so much of?” Juice Martin said as she stepped into the doorway of her private box to face us. The red haired woman was half a head taller than I, easily my weight or more and, shall I say, ‘substantial’ all around. She wore a green gown that showed off her décolletage in a way that was, to say the least distracting.

“Sir Athelstan Grey, Madam,” I said.

“He’s a baronet,” Spike chimed in.

“I’m no madam,” Juice said. She had a high, nasal voice that would have been more expected from a smaller woman. “But I ain’t met no baronet before, what can I do you for?”

Besides the two women who flanked her there was a fourth figure in the box, a thin, bearded, brown skinned man who I guessed was Middle Eastern, he was dressed casually in a rather non-descript brown suit that hung loosely on his thin limbs. He seemed especially small and drab next to the women who were dressed in silk and lace, and like their employer, were Amazonian in proportions. Both women clearly had pistols at the ready in their clutches. Women in this country were all apparently armed to the teeth.

“It may be more about what we can do for you, Miss Martin,” I said. “Your life may be in danger.”

“Oh stop it, Juice,” Spike spoke up. “We just came from Hanover Jones.”

“Sorry to hear about him,” Juice said, “But what does his death have to do with me?”

“We think his killer might be after you next,” I said quickly. I could feel the walking stick’s tingle of warning again but did not let on. “So you should take precautions.”

The woman laughed. “Girls,” She said. At her word the two females from the box produced their revolvers. The redhead waved them to re-holster and said, “So you see, I don’t need no protection from a half-pint like you, Spike.”

The girl beside me made a strangled sound of fury and started to step forward but I blocked her. “That is good to hear, Miss Martin,” I said. “We were sorry to have troubled you.”

‘Oh you can stay around, Lordship,” Martin said, “ but we have standards here, she has to go.”

Spike exploded past me and I had to act fast to grab and restrain her. She yelled some very un-lady-like phrases at the saloon owner as I wrestled her back toward the stairs.

Juice laughed long and loud in her squeaky voice.

I looked back and was struck by the posture of the little brown man, he seemed about to cry, his large dark eyes watery and his shoulders slumped as he watched me half carry the girl to the stairs and down.

I walked Spike through the saloon’s main floor like she was a drunken sailor while she continued to spew invectives. When we got out the door Angus jumped down from the carriage and looked ready to come to blows with me when he saw me manhandling the girl, but she broke away and went past him to jump up into the hansom.

“What’s all this?” the highlander challenged me.

“Take us around the park, Angus,” I said, “I’ll explain to both of you as we go.”

“I’m not talking to you,” Spike snapped at me when I sat beside her.

“Then just listen-“

“I don’t have to listen to a damn thing you have to say, you high buttoned, over-bred invader!” She hissed at me, her arms crossed and looking straight ahead. “Some friend of Mike’s taking the part of that giant sized floozy!”

I had to work manfully to keep from laughing at the girl.

Angus took us up Union Square West at a slow walk and I filled him in on what had happened in the saloon.

“But why did ye not confront the woman with accusation, sir,” he said to me.

“Yes, “ Spike said, “Why did you just give her a how-ya-do and then turn tail and leave.”

“What did Juice say when you told her we had just come from Hanover Jones’?”

“She said he was sorry to hear about him, so?” Spike had finally looked at me but there was still fire in her eyes.

“How did she know to be sorry, for what? I didn’t tell her anything, and neither did you.”

“But-“

“She already knew that Hanover was dead. How? We all but raced back here.”

“Telephone?”

“Possibly, but why would someone call her unless to report a job well done?”

She nodded, having completely forgotten she was angry at me by now and looked me square in the face.

We had made a circle of the park and were back on Fourteen Street. “Then you think Juice hired the killer?” She asked. “Do you think Little Tony is somewhere in her place?”

“Both seem possible, “ I said, “ but we had best go see the last set of suspects straight away- they are either the guilty ones or set to be murdered if our prodding’s have any effect on Miss Martin.”

“Head to the Marble Brother’s place, Angus,” she called up. Then she turned to look at me. “I guess Mike wasn’t all full of prune juice about you after all.”

“Thank you, I think.”

Angus steered us along the street till we came to Third Avenue where he turned south under the rumbling elevated tramway. The establishment of the Marble siblings was on Tenth Street and Third Avenue in the shadow of the elevated train.

The street was choked with traffic, pedestrian and horse, as the many saloons and restaurants along the street began their nocturnal cycle of business. It was a very different clientele than even the few blocks over where the Iron Apple was located.

This was the sort of strata of society that only came out after dark, pimps and prostitutes, gadabouts looking for thrills, simply risqué or actually illicit.

“The Marbles are the lowest of the low,” Spike said to me as if reading my thoughts. “But they own six joints along here and are beginning to angle to move uptown to the thirties and get a little class.” She snorted, “Like that could ever happen!”

“I don’t care what you say, lassie,” Angus said from the driver’s seat, “I’m going into that place with you two.” He slipped his coach gun under his coat and smiled.

I could understand his concern, the ‘flagship’ gin joint of the Marbles miniature empire was subtly called “the Bucket of Blood,’ and would have been at home in the seediest Glasgow or Bombay waterfront pub. Two huge negroes, easily Angus size stood at the door but did not even give us a second look as we entered. I even felt the worldly Spike tense, but fortunately, there was no tingling of occult energy from my walking stick.

I am always thankful for small favors in the uncertain world.

 

 

Chapter Nine:

Twiddle Dee and Sibling

 

The Bucket of Blood made me reassess the vulgarity level of Juice Martin’s establishment. The tobacco smoke was as thick, the noise level as high, but the atmosphere was not one of ribald licentiousness, but rather of a deliberate, desperate sort of revelry. It was as if everyone in the crowded room sought oblivion with a fierce determination.

I have been in opium dens in China that had a more hopeful air about them.

The three of us pushed through the boisterous crowd until we collided with an open space at the long bar.

“This place is nae a place for you, lassie,” Angus said, quite unnecessarily. “Let his lordship and I talk to the Marbles.”

I had given up correcting people on peerage, though the Scotsman should have known better.

“No,” Spike said, “I can see this through.”

She had spunk, there was no denying it.

“We need to see the owners,” I said to the bartender, a scarred fellow with only one good eye which he regarded me with as if I was a week old fish.

There was a piano playing and some woman, pretending to be singer, warbled a popular tune as she floated out above the heads of the crowd (and just out of grabbing height) on a flying carpet. She was dressed as some damsel from Arabian Nights to show off her ample figure and when she waved at the audience the general level of noise commensurate with football pitch or a bullfight.

Whatever form of magick- Aztec, smuggled Merlinian or other, used to fly the carpet made my walking stick useless for detecting any occult threats, but one can not have everything.

I stared back at the barkeep and said with a slight raise in my voice’s volume, “Well?”

“Nobody sees the brothers,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. “But I am not ‘Nobody.” I reached across the bar and grabbed the large fellow by his left ear and yanked him face forward into the bar so that he was mercifully unconscious when the ‘singer’ began-

‘Oh, promise me that someday you and I

Will take our love together to some sky

Where we may be alone and faith renew,’

A bouncer appeared out of the maelstrom of the room, stout cudgel in his hand just as the crowd joined the singer in the next chorus.

And find the hollows where those flowers grew,

Those first sweet violets of early spring,

Which come in whispers, thrill us both, and sing

Of love unspeakable that is to be;

Oh, promise me! Oh, promise me!’

 

The bouncer quickly found Angus’ coach gun shoved up against his girthsome stomach and froze in midstep.

“As I said,” I repeated for his benefit, “I am here to see the Marble brothers. And really don’t like to be disappointed.”

A second security thug appeared but the first waved him off.

“Oh knock it off,” Spike called out, “Shamus and Donal know me- tell them Spike Ellenbogen has information for them.”

The second bouncer disappeared into the crowd while the woman on the stage got the crowd to join her enthusiastically in the rest of the off-key drinking song.

Oh, promise me that you will take my hand,

The most unworthy in this lonely land,

And let me sit beside you in your eyes,

Seeing the vision of our paradise,

Hearing God’s message while the organ rolls

Its mighty music to our very souls,

No love less perfect than a life with thee;

Oh, promise me! Oh, promise me!

 

I began to regret not going to the Wagner opera.

“You are insane,” Spike yelled to me above the din with a smile. “Mike really was right about you.”

A few tense minutes and a horrid repeat of the refrain later the guard returned and rescued us from having to listen to the third chorus. We were led (Angus still held his gun to the bouncer’s belly) directly beneath the hovering carpet to a short corridor at the back of the cavernous room.

My walking stick was continuously tingling now so I ignored it.

At the entrance to the short corridor a figure stepped from the shadows. It was the same small man in a rumpled brown suit I had seen at Juice Martin’s. Seeing him closer I suspected him to be middle-eastern, possibly Arabic.

Sadeeqy Spike,” the man said to the girl and ignoring the rest of us.  “You must leave this place.”

The girl evidenced no immediate recognition of the little man. “I ain’t leaving here till I see the Marbles,” she said.

“You do not understand,” he said. “I must obey the words as they are spoken.”

“What are you talking about?” Spiked asked. She looked back at me with an arched eyebrow.

He saw the gesture and looked directly at me and his eyes seemed to linger on my Eye of Horus medallion. “Azizi” he said which I knew meant friend in Arabic so my guess at his ancestry seemed accurate. “She must not linger in this place. I must follow the words exactly.”

Before I could ask him what he meant the door at the end of the short corridor opened and flooded the hall with illumination. The little man shied from it as if scalded by the light and jumped back into the shadows of the alcove he had come from.

“Bring them in here!” A booming voice called out from inside. The bouncer waved us forward and our little parade proceeded. When I looked back I could not see the little man at all.

“Well, Little Sister,” one of the Marble brothers said to Spike when we entered the back office. I surmised who he was from the fact that the two men seated behind a massive desk were as alike as two peas in a pod. They were as round as their namesakes, as well, with multiple chins and bushy side-whiskers in bright red. They wore matching green plaid suits and incongruously small bowler hats.

“Spike, my girl,” the brother on the right said. “What brings you here?”

“Slumming, girl?” the left brother asked.

“Don’t you talk to me like that, Shamus Marble,” she shot back. “We came here to warn you about Juice-.”

At that moment another figure stepped from an alcove beyond the desks, a fellow almost as stout as the two brothers, but on a slightly smaller scale. He had a shaven head and a boxer’s ear on the left side.

“Little Tony!” Spike blurted out.

“That is ‘little’ Tony?” I asked.

“I’m sorry Miss Spike,” the new arrival said, “I didn’t mean for Mister Mike-“

“Shut up, Tony,” The right brother, whom I took to be Donal, said. “You don’t have to say anything to this little vixen.”

“Watch it, mon,” Angus said. He removed his coach gun from the bouncer’s gut and swung it around to menace the brothers. “Yea’ll not talk to the lassie that way.”

“Easy, all of you,” I said. “Come on, Spike- these ‘gentlemen’ do not need help from us; we are done here.”

She started to object but I flashed her a look that quieted her- she was beginning to respect my ‘hunches.’

We three, with the two ‘bouncers’ walked back out through the short corridor in reverse order to our entering. The door to the office closed with a decidedly hostile slam and I suspected we would not have been leaving under our own power if Angus did not have his coach gun.

I saw no sign of the little Arab fellow but I was soon distracted from looking by the fresh aural assault on us by the floating carpet singer.

Star of the East, Oh Bethlehem’s star,

Guiding us on to Heaven afar!

Sorrow and grief and lull’d by thy light,

Thou hope of each mortal, in death’s lonely night!

 

Mercifully the crowd was not singing along, but the lady warbler was more than proficient at musical murder on her own.

“Will you tell me what-“ Spike began but I cut her off.

“When we are outside,” I said, “I will tell you my suspicions, but there are to many ears in here.”

Fearless and tranquil, we look up to Thee!

Knowing thou beam’st thro’ eternity!

Help us to follow where Thou still dost guide,

Pilgrims of earth so wide.

 

Abruptly there was a shrill scream that was loud enough to eclipse the ‘sultry’ singer-It was a sound of such agony and unbridled horror that even the denizens of the Bucket froze where they stood. The jewel on my walking stick near burned my hand with the intensity of the power it projected.

“God’s garters!” Angus exclaimed.

The two security men ran for the door and I turned to the Scotsman.

“Take her to the hansom, Angus,” I yelled at him. “And if she gives you problems subdue her if you must, but get her out!” I did not wait to see if he complied and raced after the bouncers.

 

 

 

Chapter Ten:

Juice and Justice

 

The door to the Marble Brother’s office was bolted from within but the two burly security men preceded me slammed themselves against it repeatedly till the bolt gave. I was right behind them.

The scene we burst in on was as hideous as the one at Hanover Jones’ place. The two Marble siblings were ripped open like slaughtered beef, hanging over their desks with most of their entrails spilled all over the floor.

Little Tony was just in process of expiring, his rotund body sprawled before the desk. Standing over him was the same creature that had killed Jones, its jaws slathered with gore. It looked up at us, snarled and began to move toward us.

I drew my sword cane and brandished it, the jewel in its pommel glowing with the etheric energies it was detecting.

The beast paused and then as if in a nightmare began to waver and dissolve into a smoky mass that blew toward the flue of the fireplace.

As we watched in stunned inaction the dissolved fiend disappeared up the chimney like a demented version of Santa Claus.

“What the hell was dat?” One of the bouncers asked when he could speak.

“I think I finally know,” I managed to whisper. I knelt by the dying Tony. His eyes were unfocused and blood poured from his mouth but he could still make sound.

“I didn’t mean it.” He hissed through the bubbling blood. “Juice offered me so much money-“

“It was an artifact?” I asked. “Mike brought it back from Egypt?”

“Yes.”  His voice was weaker and I am not sure he even knew he was speaking to me anymore and not just confessing his sins. “Thought it was just money. Juice-she knew, somehow she knew.”

“Where does she keep it?”

“Safe,” the dying man whispered. “Office.” Then his body convulsed and then Little Tony was no more.

“Jeez,” one of the bouncers said sotto voce, “I ain’t paid enough for this.”

“Eloquent, sir,” I said as I rose. “Tell that to the police when they arrive.” Then I headed out through the saloon crowd to the carriage. To add to the horror of the situation the warbler had started up again.

Oh star that leads to God above!

Whose rays are peace and joy and love!

Watch o’er us still till life hath ceased,

Beam on, bright star, sweet Bethlehem star!

 

 

I imagined the words might be comfort for the departed brothers, but they did nothing to improve my mood.

“What happened?”  A very angry Spike shot at me when I jumped into the hansom.

I ignored her and yelled up to the Scotsman, “Back to Juice’s place, Angus, as fast as you can, things are about to come to a head.” Then to quiet the girl I told her what I had seen and heard.

“So he as much as confessed he killed Mike?” she was so shocked by the betrayal of her former employee that her anger at me for excluding her was blunted.

“Not quite,” I said. The highlander was threading the carriage through the busy streets with a recklessness abandon that would put any London Cabbie to shame.

“But you said-“ She began.

“No,” I injected, “ I think he honestly thought it was just going to be a robbery- perhaps he even intended to pass it off as the work of someone else. But then things went wrong. If I am right it was much more than he bargained for. Yet, somehow, Juice knew.”

“Knew what?” She all but grabbed me to try and force the words from me but Angus was already pulling to the curb in front of Juice’s emporium so I jumped from the hansom.

“I’ll show you inside,” I said. “Come on, Angus, we’ll need that coach gun of yours.” I raced ahead of Miss Ellenbogen and up to the Iroquois door guard.

“Your mistress is in danger,” I said with real urgency in my tone. “We must see her.”

He looked at me with curiosity. “Is this so, Akweks?”

“Yes.” My tone and the anxious faced of my companions convinced him it was so. I did not tell him that we were the probable reason that his boss was in danger.

The Mohawk led the three of us into the Iron Apple and across the main floor to a corridor accessed by a door guarded by yet another of his tribe.

I could sense that Spike wanted to ask me exactly what we were doing, but was wise enough to realize she could not do it in front of the Mohawk. She did fix me with a cold stare and I smiled back as nonchalantly as possible.

We were escorted down the corridor to a second door, outside of which stood the female Mohawk guard from before.

Our guide spoke to her briefly and the siren stepped aside for we three to enter, though her grim expression showed she was not convinced. We ushered into the sanctum of Juice Martin, a large, lavishly appointed office-cum-lounge.

The saloon owner was seated on a couch with one of the painted women from before rubbing her feet. The other woman from the box was pouring a drink from a small bar on the side of the room when we entered and all three turned to gawk at us.

“What is all this, Orenda?” Juice asked of the Mohawk.

I felt quite the cad, but before our guide could answer- and the second the door was closed- I spun quickly and slammed my walking stick against his head, rendering him very unconscious.

“Angus- cover them!” I yelled and the coachman produced his gun from beneath his coat.

The two women froze but Juice made to spring up from her couch and speak. I would not allow that.

I leapt forward and drew my sword blade and pressed it directly to her throat.

“Do not utter a sound, madam, I said, “ not a single sound or I will slit your throat. I know.”

Here eyes widened with that. She almost spoke but she saw the determination in my eyes and remained silent.

“What is going on, Athelstan,” Spike asked, unable to contain herself any longer.

“In a moment, Spike, first I need to get some information from this lady, silently.”

I stared daggers at Juice. “With just your fingers indicate the numbers of your safe,” I said. “But no sounds or I will find out if my cracksman skills are still up to the challenge.” She saw I was serious and quickly formed numbers with her hands.

“20, 43, 50,” I repeated. “Spike, go to that painting there- the horrid landscape- and try the safe behind it.”

“Right or left?” She asked when she slid the picture aside.

“Try a couple of combinations and see-“ I said. “We don’t dare ask this ‘lady’-when that is open I think all will be explained.”

Spike’s second attempt at the combination worked and the safe door swung open to reveal the cavity within which was divided into several shelves. I could see paper money, some jewels and other papers and the thing I had thought would be there on the top shelf.

“That,” I nodded to the object. “Take it out and say these words. “I command you now.”

“What?’ Spike said.

“No!” Juice screamed. Despite my sword point at her throat she started to turn and head for Spike. I jumped forward and clotted her on the side of the head with my left fist hard enough to stun her and drop her to her knees.

“Do it, Spike, now. Those words!”

She looked at me like I had sprouted wings, but she obeyed.

“I command you now,” Spike said.

There was a rushing sound in the room, a brilliant flash of blue light and then that strange little man from the Bucket of Blood stood before Spike, though now his clothing was bright silks styled after the Egyptian fashion.

“Thank Allah,” The little man said. He looked at me and bowed. “You understood all, Azizi,” he said. “Now I serve only Miss Ellenbogen.”

Spike looked stunned, almost dropping the old style Arabic oil lamp she held in her hand.

“Oh my God,” she said, “ He’s a Genie!”

 

 Epilogue:

Answers like the Wind.

“A Jinn,” the little man said. “A race made by Allah of fire and smoke to serve his later creations.”

“But- but-“

“Damn you, Limey bastard,” Juice hissed from her knees.

“Doesn’t matter what you say now,” I said, resheathing my sword cane. “You can’t order this fellow-“

“I am called Abdul-Ghafur.”

“Abdul then, anymore,” I continued. “Only Spike can. Like Mike did.”

“Mike?” Spike said.

“Yes,” I said. “He bought that lamp in Cairo- I remember him looking in a window that had it. Of course, I don’t think he knew what it was then-“

“No, Azizi,” Abdul said. “He discovered me and my powers on the airship on the way home.” He looked sad. “He was a good man. No master I have ever had in the two thousand years since Solomon confined me to that lamp has been so gentle and unselfish. He wished only for the money he needed to begin your café, Mistress Spike.”

“That’s why he forgave all those debts,” Spike said. She looked at the lamp in her hands and then at the little brown man with a shocked expression.

“Kill them,” Juice screamed from her knees. “Stop them you stupid little freak!”

Abdul regarded her as I have seen dogs look at fleas. “I had to obey her words, mistress- as she spoke them.”

“When she sent you to kill the other saloon owners?” I asked.

“Yes, “Abdul said. “I had orders to kill anyone who tried to stop me from killing Mister Hanover Jones and then to kill anyone in the room with the Marble Brothers.”

“It was why you tried to warn us to stay out.” I said.

“Yes,” he nodded. “I had no orders not to speak to you-“ he turned to bow slightly to Spike-“and hoped to save you, mistress.”

“Kill them!” Juice hissed again, her lips fairly foaming, her complexion florid and eyes wide. “I command you, tear them to pieces.”

“Shut up!” Spike said to her then turned to Abdul. “You—you killed Mike, didn’t you?”

Before the little man could speak I interjected, “Don’t blame him, Spike. He had to obey any orders she gave him with an exactitude he can not control.”

“It is so, mistress,” the Jinn said, “ but I did not kill Master Mike. Mistress Juice came to meet the one called Little Tony who knew where my lamp was hidden, though did not know of its power. But she did!” He pointed at the kneeling, near apoplectic Juice.

“Yes I stuck the pig,” she snapped, “ He came after Tony had opened the cabinet for me. He tried to stop me so I gutted him then had my little pet genie go to and make it worse; strike real fear in all of them that thought me less for being a woman.” She laughed and there was an echo of the insane in her tone.

“And you set about eliminating everyone of the others,” I said. “When all you had to do was wish up money like Mike did you chose vengeance and death.”

“Those pricks deserved it,” Juice said. “You know what a girl had to put up with to deal with the likes of them.”

“Mike was never like that!” Spike protested. She set the lamp down now and moved across the room to face the kneeling Juice directly. So tall was the murderess that on her knees she was almost eye level with the petite Spike. “He was kind man; he never took advantage of any woman.”

Juice laughed. “You think you know your holier-than-though brother? He wanted me, alright-“

The companion that had been massaging Juice’s feet snickered then. Juice shot her a look. “Rachel don’t you-“

“You can’t lie about it, Juice,” Rachel persisted, “You was all over him and he wanted no part of you.”

Juice spun on her knees and backhanded the girl to stagger her.

The Mohawk outside the door started to beat against it.

“Spike,” I said, “Tell Abdul to keep her from raising the alarm.”

“What?” She said.

“Tell him in those words,” I insisted. “Repeat it.”

“Keep her from raising the alarm, Abdul,” Spike said.

The little brown man seemed to flicker like a torch flame then smiled. “It is done, Mistress.”

The pounding on the door had stopped.

“What—what did you do?” Spike asked.

“I simply used the essence of the poppy to cause the lady to become very sleepy, Mistress,” the Jinn said. “I did not think anything more permanent was needed.”

“Yes, right,” she said. “That is fine.” She seemed a bit overcome by the suddenness of it all and sat down in an overstuffed leather chair. Abdul stepped to her side and produced a cup and saucer.

“Tea, Mistress, to calm you nerves?” He said.

The girl took the tea and sipped before she realized she had. “He’s a-a-genie!”

“Yes, Spike,” I said. “ he is a Jinn-“

“Thank you , sir,” Abdul said at my correction.

“And you have some new responsibilities now.”

“Responsibilities?”

“Yes, Persian, Indian and Aztec magicks are just as strong as Merlinian,” I said. “Perhaps a fair sight more, in fact. In any case, Like Mike you have great power now to literally make a wish and have it granted.”

“A wish?” She sounded stunned.

“Many, Mistress,” Abdul said. “I am bound by Wise Solomon to obey the words as you speak them.”

“The exact words, I suspect,” I added, “If legends are to be believed.”

“Just so, azizi,” Abdul concurred. “And while I have some latitude to interpret it is best to not be a ambiguous.”

“You mean Mike could-“

“Yes,” I said. “Your brother could have been greedy or cruel or vindictive like Juice- but he chose not to.”

“He wished for the money to cover all the debts owed him,” the Jinn said. “And to endow the charity hospital and orphanage. He was very clear that no one was to be harmed.” His expression became sad. “Truly the best master I have had.”

At that Juice screamed an incoherent cry of anger and thrust her hand into her skirts and pulled a small derringer that she pointed at Spike.

“Die, bitch!” Juice said. “The lamp is mine!”

“No!” Angus yelled and blasted away with his coach gun. The kneeling saloon owner was blown backward in a spray of gore.

Rachel screamed while her companion floozy simply fainted.

“Oh my God!” Spike said. I sprinted to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

‘Easy, girl,” I said. She took several deep breaths and composed herself admirably.

“I’m okay,” she said then indicated the hyperventilating Rachel. “But she isn’t.” She turned to Abdul. “Can you quiet her down like the guard?”

The Jinn nodded and there was another blue flash. The panicked girl closed her eyes and she gently collapsed to the floor. In a moment she was snoring peacefully.

“What now?” Spike asked.

“Well,’ I answered. “If Abdul can make these ladies forget we were here we can decamp and you begin your life as a wish-maker.”

“They say power corrupts,” Spike said as she rose to look down at the gory corpse of Miss Martin. “How did Mike resist? How can I?”

The little brown man smiled and gave a slight nod. “You are blood of his blood, flesh of his flesh, Mistress,” he said. “I have faith you will do what is right.” With that he wavered and dissolved into a column of smoke that flowed across the room to enter the lamp and, with a curled tendril pulled the stopper into place to seal the vessel behind him.

“I second that, lassie” Angus said. “Bully!”

“Indeed,” I said. “Let’s get out of here and get out of these cloths into some fresh ones; I think we can make it up to the opera before Wotan walks off into the fire; Aunt Mini is going to want to hear about this all first hand.”

 

THE END

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