The Story Thus Far, Part One
The city of London was rocked by two recent murders, both conducted with a startling degree of strength and bloody brutality. Both of the victims, shockingly, were of the upper class, members of the prestigious Orpheus Collective, whose scientific study of spiritualism had been recently (and rightfully) celebrated by the British aristocracy. Scotland Yard’s investigation pointed to Mack Kennedy, a large, ill-mannered American whose frequent boasts of physical prowess highlighted him as likely suspect. The Orpheus Collective sent an associate, Doctor Gabriel Longley, to meet this strongman and gauge the level of potential threat. Mr. Kennedy was scheduled to attend a midwinter social event being held at the lavish North London manor of the respected socialite Lady Muriel Collington. Scotland Yard asked one of their irregulars, Luther Samuelson, to attend the gathering as well.
Luther and Doctor Longley, by chance, had worked together a two years prior. Each recognized the other and correctly surmised the reason for their presence. Although Doctor Longley recognized Mr. Kennedy’s potential for violence—as an American of Irish descent, he was potentially both uncivilized and intoxicated—he and Luther discovered the retired sideshow performer’s whereabouts had been accounted for during the nights of both murders: at the homes of other London elite, seeking the patronage of the idle wealthy. But our intrepid friends were collectively astonished to discover there was yet another would-be investigator present at the soiree—and a woman at that! An tall aristocratic woman in a scandalous black-and-red dress, Lady Driani’s impeccable British accent did nothing to hide her passionate Italian heritage; her dark hair and pale skin made her ancestry quite apparent.
Doctor Longley took notice of the abstract occult patterns sewn into Driani’s gown; few symbols he recognized specifically, save for a number that promised a measure of protection against possession. The young woman dropped a small silver ring, obviously intending for Mr. Kennedy to pick it up for her. Surprisingly, the ring seemed to cause pain and discomfort to the giant, despite the fact that it was barely half the size of his thumbnail. Luther stepped in and helped disguise Mr. Kennedy’s discomfort—was Samuelson suspicious of the mysterious Lady’s intent? And did she see through this improvised deception?
Our investigators may never know what Lady Driani’s purpose was, for her life was cut short mere moments later. She left the party swiftly and quietly after her encounter with Mr. Kennedy. Doctor Longley cleverly followed her out into the snowy night, and when she abruptly increased her pace, he believed he had been spotted. But she was running from something else, something not of this world, something silent and unseen. By the time the doctor caught up to her, it was too late.
Driani’s death was sudden, abrupt, and obviously supernatural. As Doctor Longley conducted an impromptu investigation of the scene, Mr. Kennedy and Luther arrived, having heard the victim’s screams all the way from the Collington Estate, several blocks away. Mr. Kennedy in particular was disturbed by the violence and gore, needing to stand several paces away and catch his breath. He confirmed what Doctor Longley had initially seen: there were no tracks in the snow other than the woman’s, no evidence of a physical killer. (Mr. Kennedy did feel something in the air, some intuition of danger, or perhaps of being watched, but was this merely a symptom of his shock at viewing the battered corpse, or a portent of something more ominous?)
Doctor Longley, working quickly and without the benefit of strong light, determined that the woman’s rib cage had been shattered and torn apart. Her lungs and viscera were damaged and disturbed, though her heart was in curiously pristine condition. The mode of impact was most curious, however. Her bones appeared to have been shattered from within, not without. What known force, indeed, could do such a thing? What other answer than the unknown, the supernatural?
Among Lady Driani’s effects, the investigators found the small silver ring they had seen before, a wickedly sharp double-bladed silver knife, and a sweet-smelling vial filled with a medley of unidentified dried herbs, the glass cracked but still intact.
Moments later, the London Constabulary arrived and were debriefed. Doctor Longley and Luther felt the need for a more private setting in which to discuss their findings, and Mister Kennedy followed them a few blocks further away, where the three found a tiny public house, surprisingly open late, at the end of an old village green bordered by a old chapel and a crumbling greengrocers. The gentle flow of the pub’s hearth promised a peaceful refuge from the horrors of the murder in the snow.
This promise, unfortunately, was all-too-soon to be broken…