This is set in a gaslamp fantasy world, in 1894. It follows on from the events in the story The House On The Cliff, and people should read that story first. The action will continue in The Evil Plans Of Gideon De Ville.
Mr Naith and Mr Naith
“Please sit down, Mr Le Fay.” the detective inspector said. Except that Edwyn Le Fay did not want to sit down. He wanted to leave the police station. He wished that he had gone back up north, home, rather than stay in London in his lodgings. But how was he to know that the police would come knocking on his door?
He was now helping police with their enquiries. Except that Edwyn did not know which particular enquiries he was supposed to help them with – not at first, anyway. The police constable who had knocked on the door of his lodgings had not explained that, only that he was to come in for questioning. But there had been a latent threat in the police constable’s words – that if he, Edwyn Le Fay, did not come in willingly, then he might have to go to the police station with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Edwyn was now in a room with Detective Inspector Robert Steel, and a police constable (Edwyn had no idea of the constable’s name).
Edwyn was sat in a chair the other side of a wooden table from the detective. The constable was stood at the back of the room, behind Edwyn. Edwyn did not like the fact that the constable was standing behind him, where he could not see. Edwyn kept twisting in his chair to look at the police constable. But the constable simply stood there, staring straight ahead. He did not smirk when Edwyn turned back to face Steel.
Edwyn Le Fay could not afford to get into any trouble. He depended on the largesse of his father for the payment of his bills. But Le Fay senior had made it clear that if he got into trouble then the money would be cut off. And that would mean him having to find some sort of occupation. The only problem was that the only thing which Edwyn knew about was Magick. What was he supposed to do with that? Become a teacher at High Tor? That had no appeal to him.
“What is this about?” Edwyn asked, nervously. Did they suspect him of being a Black Magician, or something? At the back of his mind Edwyn had the consistent fear that one day he might be accused of being a diabolist, and he would be imprisoned in the Magick-proof Bradley Tower. But he was not some devil-worshipping magician: he had not actually been able to lay his hands on any forbidden Magick, albeit not for want of trying.
“Do you know the doorman at the Trismegistus Club?” Inspector Steel asked, as he leant back in his chair, studying this wizard. Steel did not like wizards. He did not like anything which he could not understand, and Magick was something which was beyond this policeman. Give him a nice juicy murder, any time, than people muttering and waving their wands about. Wizardry was all a bit suspect, as far as Steel was concerned.
“Perhaps.” Edwyn said. He was not about to admit anything which might get him into trouble. He did not trust the police.
“Mr Le Fay, I have little time for obfuscation.” Steel said. “The doorman has already admitted to having provided you with the information that Obadiah Monk had passed away. Which makes me wonder, Mr Le Fay, whether you had any part in a burglary which took place at the house of the said deceased Mr Obadiah Monk.
“The house was broken into, and some structural damage done to a house as a result of some sort of explosion in a cellar, according to a report which I have had from the Kent police. The house was ransacked, and it appears that certain valuable spellbooks were removed from the house. This was discovered by Julius Masters, the designated heir of Obadiah Monk, when he went to review the property.
“I cannot place you in the house for definite, Mr Le Fay. But give me time. I am working on it. I know that you had something to do with it; and I now know what you look like. I wonder if anybody at Victoria Railway Station would recall you purchasing a ticket to Kent.”
Edwyn looked straight ahead, avoiding the glance of Steel. He had travelled down from Victoria when he had gone down to Monk’s house on the cliffs of Kent. Would the ticket clerk recall him? Edwyn did not know. But he began to suspect that he might be in a lot of trouble if the ticket clerk did. The clerk would confirm that he had taken a train down to Kent, to the railway station closest to the house of Obadiah Monk.
“I suggest that you return those spellbooks before I can prove that you took them, Mr Le Fay.” Steel said. “I am not going to bother to search your lodgings, as I am sure that a wizard like you would not have bothered to take them there. But wherever you have hidden them, I will find them, sooner or later. And when I do, you will be for the high jump, Mr Le Fay. So do not be foolish, and return them while you still have the opportunity to do so.
“You may go, now, Mr Le Fay. I have no more questions for you – at this time. But you can rest assured that we will be speaking again.”
The detective waved his hand in the general detection of the door. The constable went over and opened the door. Edwyn looked at Detective Inspector Steel, wondering if this was just some sort of trick. But the door remained open. He got up, and got out of the police station while he still could. Edwyn did not relax until he was out on the streets of London.
It was not fair! That was what he thought as he exited the police station. He was being blamed for the disappearance of the spellbooks, when he had not even got to see them, let alone touch them. Some other wizard had beaten him to them. But he did not think that the police would believe that. They seemed to be intent on him being implicated in their theft; and the circumstantial evidence might just be enough to convince a jury.
There was only one way in which he could prove his innocence, and that was to get those spellbooks back from whoever had taken them. Yes, he could hand them over to the police, and everybody would say that he was the hero. And if he managed to hold onto the tomes for a couple of days before handing them over then he might be able to learn a couple of spells from out of them. It might actually work out in his favour.
First of all, though, he would have to find out just who else had known about the books. Who else had that doorman told about them? Was it just those strange twins? Well, he knew how he could find out.
Edwyn went straight to the Trismegistus Club. Edwyn was not actually a member of that august club for wizards, as nobody had ever proposed him as a member. Even then, if he had been proposed, he might still have been blackballed, as the members had to be in total unison about any prospective new member. But he had struck up a friendship, of sorts, with one of the doormen at the club. It had been that doorman who had told Edwyn that the old wizard on the south coast, Obadiah Monk, had passed away, and that there might be some interesting books just lying around in his house at the top of the cliff.
The doorman who Edwyn had cultivated as a source of information was not on duty, however. He had not turned up for work that morning. It occurred to Edwyn that there was a possibility that Fred was, at that moment in time, still answering questions put to him by Detective Inspector Steel. Or perhaps Fred the doorman had decided to go away for a few days so that he would not have to answer any such questions.
Edwyn turned to walk away. He paused, standing a few yards away from the doorway to the Trismegistus Club. But perhaps the current doorman might be able to help him. Edwyn turned back to speak to him.
“Excuse me, but are there a pair of wizards who are twins who are members of the Trismegistus Club?” Edwyn asked. “They are very gaunt and thin, and are quite tall.”
The doorman glanced back into the lobby, and then down the street, to make sure that nobody was watching him. The doormen of the Trismegistus Club were not supposed to hobnob, or provide information, with wizards who were not members.
“Got a shilling?” the doorman asked. Edwyn had a shilling. It ended up in the doorman’s pocket.
“I know those two.” the doorman said, keeping his voice down so that Edwyn had to bend his head down to hear what the doorman was saying. “Name of Naith. They applied to join the Trismegistus Club – sponsored by old Lucas, they were – but they were both blackballed, that was what I heard. Seems like one or more of the members didn’t think that they were gentlemen, if you know what I mean.”
“Do you know where they live?” Edwyn asked.
“Haven’t got a clue.” the doorman said. “Sorry, guv’nor.”
Edwyn had a Burke’s Wizardage back in his lodgings, though. He could always look up the address of the two wizards in there. He thanked the doorman and left.
Edwyn went home to look up the address of the twin wizards. He was hoping that it was those two who had got to the spellbooks first; and that he would somehow be able to convince the wizards to hand those books in to the authorities. If it had been somebody else who had taken the books then it would be a lot more problematic.
“Nathe, Nathe.” he muttered. It took him a little time to find the correct spelling. But there was a very short entry in Burke’s Wizardage. Their names were William and Edward Naith; and they had been privately tutored in Magick. They lived in the West End of London, sharing lodgings, by the looks of it.
Edwyn had their address. That was what he needed. But, even as he noted the address down, his initial thoughts of how to get the books back began to change.
Edwyn Le Fay could have gone and knocked on their door, and explained what was going on. He could have appealed to their better nature, and explain that the police were after the spellbooks, and wanted them returned to their rightful. But that idea now seemed ridiculous to him. They were wizards, and Edwin knew what that meant
Edwyn Le Fay was a wizard himself (albeit not a powerful one), and wizards did not surrender their spellbooks, whether they were rightfully theirs or not. So it was obvious to Edwyn that the way to get hold of the spellbooks was to steal them from the Naith twins. Why try to appeal to their better nature when they might not have one?
First of all, before Edwyn came up with some plan, he went and looked at where the Naith twins lived. It was a tall, handsome building, on the corner of two roads near the West End of London. It was the sort of place where the rent would have been far too much for the average denizen of London. The Naith twins had money.
Edwyn Le Fay did not go and knock on the door. Instead he went down an alleyway closest to the house, looking to see if the place had a yard at the back. It did.
Edwyn Le Fay did not venture any closer to the house, though, just in case the twins were inside. They had already seen him at Obadiah Monk’s on that Kent cliff top. He could not risk them seeing him here. If the spellbooks went missing, and they had seen him hanging around, they would not have had to be Sherlock Holmes to put two and two together.
Besides, there might be some sort of mystical protections inside the house, and Edwyn did not want to set them off. Also, if he did not go inside, he would not be subject to any detection spells.
No, what he needed was some urchin, some London street kid who could sneak into the house and bring out the spellbooks. Let some street kid take the risks, while he sat out the dangers.
One trip to Blackchapel later and Edwyn Le Fay was back outside the house of the Naith Twins, an urchin by the name of Al standing beside him (not that Edwyn had actually bothered to ask the kid his name).
“Right, that’s the house.” Edwyn said. “I want you to get inside there and get my spellbooks out.”
The kid gave Edwyn an odd look, and held out one dirty little hand.
“You cheeky little thing!” Edwyn declared. “You can have a shilling when you come out of the house with my spellbooks.”
“If they’re your spellbooks, ’ow com they’re in somebody else’s ’ouse?”
Edwyn sighed. He had hoped that he would not have to answer such a question. He was not naturally a very good liar.
“The spellbooks were meant for me.” Edwyn said, staring at the annoying little ragamuffin.
“If they’re yours, then why don’t you go and knock on the door and ’ave them ’and them over.”
Edwyn felt like clipping the urchin around the back of the head. The kid was too cheeky by half.
“Because the two men who live in the house acquired spellbooks which should have been destined for me.” Edwyn said to the kid. “They took them from right under my nose. They had no more right to them than I… Er…”
The kid cocked his head on one side. Edwyn had the distinct impression that the kid was in the process of outsmarting him.
“It’ll be ’alf a crown to go and blag your books. I want a shilling up front, otherwise I ain’t goin’ in.”
Edwyn sighed. But spending half a crown was worth it, to get the police off his back; and to make sure that his father kept sending him his allowance.
“Alright, half a crown.” Edwyn said, sighing again. “Just go and get the books.”
“I ain’t goin’ in now!” the kid declared, as though Edwyn had said the most stupid thing in the entire world. “What, break into some ’ouse in broad daylight? I don’t want to be up before no beak. Nah, mate, you’ve gotta watch a place first, and make sure that there ain’t nobody in the place. You ain’t done anythin’ like this before, ’ave you? No, I’ll do it tonight, when it’s dark, and bring the books to you.”
Edwyn stared at the kid. He was supposed to be telling this street urchin what to do, not the other way around.
“Oh, very well. Bring the books to me tonight, as soon as you have them.”
Edwyn gave his address to the kid, and went back to his lodgings, to wait for the spellbooks to arrive.
Edwyn spent a lot of the day pacing up and down. When he wasn’t pacing, he tried playing Patience with himself, in an effort to calm down. The cards, though, were playing up, and he only managed to complete the game once.
He would hand the spellbooks from Monk’s house into the police in the morning, he told himself, presuming that the annoying little ragamuffin got hold of them. There was no harm in having them for a single evening. There was a fair bit he night accomplish that night, though, if he didn’t sleep. He could browse through the books, and see if they delved into areas of Magick which he was unfamiliar with. He should have time to copy out at least one spell – he had parchment and ink ready for that. If the spells were relatively simple he might be able to copy out more than one. Of course, it would help if the spells were in schools of Magick which he knew. Then he could learn them with ease. But if they were some other school – something like Necromancy, which was not taught at High Tor – then he would have to learn the basics of the school before he could cast any spell. But could he teach himself just from spells? It might not be easy. But, if he had some specific spells, he could, at the very least, have a go at it. He would advance his knowledge of the art of sortilege, one way or the other.
It was only late in the afternoon, when he had paced up and down for the umpteenth time, that Edwyn Le Fay noticed that a man having a surreptitious cigarette in a doorway diagonally opposite from where he lived had been standing in the doorway for at least half an hour.
He was being watched. That was the only possibility. Edwyn Le Fay guessed that the man was probably some policeman. Of course, because the police, and Inspector Steel, intended to blame him for the fact that Edwyn Monk’s spellbooks had gone missing. How could he have known that Monk had had some relatives, who had expected to inherit his mystical tomes on the old man’s death?
The knowledge that some detective was watching his apartment did nothing to calm Le Fay down. He went back to playing Patience, but his hands were trembling so much that he could hardly deal the cards.
The next few hours, until the onset of the night, passed very slowly for the wizard, as he waited for the urchin to bring him the spellbooks. But, now, Edwyn almost wished that he had not employed the urchin. Edwyn had visions of the kid getting stopped by the policeman outside, red-handed, holding the Magickal tomes, and blurting out to the copper that Edwyn had paid him to steal them.
If Edwyn had had any alcohol in his house he would have drunk it all down, just to steady his increasingly shaky nerves.
Edwyn Le Fay almost jumped out of his skin when his living room door opened and Al the street urchin walked in, carrying a sack over his shoulder.
“Wotcher.” Al said, by way of a greeting. “Did you know that there’s a jack watching yer ’ouse?”
“What?” Edwyn asked. He had not recovered his senses, yet, from the shock of the kid boldly strolling into his living room as though he owned the place.
“A jack. A detective.” Al said. “Sticks out like a sore thumb.”
“Did he see you?” Edwyn asked.
“What, me?” Al said, as he dumped the sack on a table. “Course not. I came in the back way. Anyway, ’ere’s yer Magick books. I wants me brass.”
“Brass what?” Edwyn Le Fay asked. With the nervous afternoon he had had, he really was not on top of things at the moment.
“Brass. Gilt. Money.”
“Oh, yes.” Edwyn said. He handed over the rest of the money. The kid disappeared back out of the door. But almost before he had left Edwyn was sitting down at the table, pulling the spellbooks out of the rough hemp sack.
There were two books, both of them very old. They were each bound in hard, red leather. The pages of the books were vellum, rather than anything else. But paper was rarely used for anything to do with Magick, as it simply was not considered to be mystical enough; no, it was parchment which was used or, in this case, vellum.
Most of the spells in the books were the sort of incantations which Edwyn Le Fay already knew. But, in the first book, there was a spell which allowed a person to see in darkness, as though it was day, as long as a little light filtered into the room. It did not have to be much – even light filtering into a cellar through the smallest, dirtiest window would be enough for the subject of the spell to see by.
Edwyn began reading up the spell, trying to understand how it should be cast. He wished that he had possessed this spell back in the Dark House. The minutes passed like fleeting seconds, as Edwyn buried his head in the book, the world outside temporarily forgotten.
THUMP! That sound fully brought Edwyn Le Fay to wakefulness, out of the drowse which he had fallen into as he studied the spellbooks. He had almost fallen asleep. Edwyn thought he had only been reading the books for minutes, while hours had passed, and there was now a rosy glow in the east.
Edwyn Le Fay jumped out of his chair just as a second powerful kick – a second THUMP – knocked his front door off its hinges.
Edwyn tried to think of some spell to cast. But his mind had temporarily gone blank – which was not really what you wanted if you claimed to be a wizard. He thought that he was about to be murdered; or that the police had decided not to wait to prove that he had gone into Monk’s house, but that the police had decided to batter down the door.
It was the Naith twins who stepped into Edwyn Le Fay’s living room, however. They did not look very happy. They loomed over him like a pair of funeral directors sizing somebody up for a coffin.
“So, this is the thief, Mr Naith.” one of them said (Edwyn did not know which one).
“Yes, there are our stolen spellbooks, Mr Naith.” the other one said, looking at the books which Edwyn had been studying. “We do not like people who steal from us, do we, Mr Naith? Those who steal from us must be punished.”
“Yes, they must be punished, Mr Naith. And what particular punishment shall we inflict on this thief?”
“What? No, wait…” It suddenly clicked with Edwyn that the urchin had stolen had stolen the wrong spellbooks, and that these were the personal spellbooks of the Naith twins. He should have realised it by the lack of spells to automate skeletons; and by the fact that there was a spell which allowed a person to see in near-total darkness. That must have been the spell which the Naith twins had used when they had broken into the Obadiah Monk house.
“You’ve got it all wrong.” Edwyn stammered. “You see, I wasn’t after your books, I have to return the ones which belonged to Monk…”
Just then a man who had been watching the house ran into the living room of Edwyn Le Fay. It was not the first man, but a second individual, as the original detective had been relieved at some time during the night. But, as it was, it was getting quite crowded in the Edwyn’s front room.
“Alright, what’s going on here, then?” the detective asked.
The twins exchanged glances.
“Who are you?” one asked, while the other put his hands in his pockets, feeling around for components for some spell of violence, if it should prove necessary.
“I am Detective Sergeant Harris.” the man said, showing his police identification. “Now, what I want to know, is what is going on here? Are those the stolen spellbooks?”
“They belong to us.” one of the Naith twins said, as he carefully took his hand out of his pocket (without spell components).
“Yes, they belong to the Naith twins.” Edwyn said, as he tried to savage the situation. He did not want to get attacked by the Naith twins. And he did not want to get arrested by the police, either. “I was borrowing them. And they have come around to have them back. There’s nothing illegal going on here.”
Perhaps somebody should have told Edwyn Le Fay that people who have done nothing wrong rarely feel the need to state that fact.
“Are these not the stolen property from the Monk house?” the police detective asked, eyeing the books which Edwyn had been studying.
“No, they are our books. Our names are inscribed within.” They showed the policeman where they had signed their names (something else which Edwyn had not noticed).
“Hm.” the detective said. He sounded more than a little suspicious. “There’s something funny going on here, even if this isn’t the stolen books which I was told to look out for. “Why did you kick in this man’s front door?”
That last question was directed at the Naith twins, but it was Edwyn Le Fay who answered.
“My front door sticks, sergeant.” Edwyn said, thinking as quickly as he ever had in his life. “I had told my good friends Mr Naith and Mr Naith that I was almost finished borrowing their spellbooks, and I told them to come around and collect them, and that I would leave the front door of the latch but that the door tends to stick so that if it didn’t open they were to give it a kick, but, silly me, I forgot they were coming and I locked the door.”
That last bit all came out in one breathless gasp. Edwyn just about managed to convince the detective to leave, and that nothing untoward been going on. But that still left him the Naith twins to deal with; and they were still less than happy.
“These are your books?” Edwyn asked. “I thought that they were the ones which had belonged to Obadiah Monk. Look, you saw the policeman, they are trying to blame me for the theft of his spellbooks. It seems he left them to some relative – and the police know that I went down to the Monk house that night. They’ve told me that if I don’t return the books that they will see me in gaol, and I think that they mean it! I would never have had these taken if I had thought that they were your spellbooks.”
“We were not in time to get Obadiah Monk’s spellbooks.” one of the twins said. For a thin man, Edwyn thought, he had a very deep voice. Well, both of them did. It was like hearing a deep, dark grave start talking.
“You don’t have the books?”
“Then who took Obadiah Monk’s spellbooks?” Edwyn Le Fay asked. He was confused. If the Naith twins had not found the secret room and taken the books then he had absolutely no idea who had them.
“Shall we tell him, Mr Naith?” said one twin.
“I’m not sure that he deserves to know, Mr Naith.” replied the other. “We should not really help people who stole from us, should we?”
“Please!” Edwyn Le Fay pleaded. “I didn’t mean to take your spellbooks. I thought that they were the ones from Monk’s house. You heard that policeman, the police think that I took the books. All that I’m trying to do is to stay out of trouble.”
“Trouble you will get, if you seek to return the books.” one of the Naith twins said. The other nodded, indicating that he should tell Le Fay just who managed to get hold of the spellbooks belonging to Obadiah Monk. “There was another man in the house that night.”
“His name is Gideon De Ville.” the other twin said, seamlessly continuing. “It was he who must have obtained them. If you find him, you will find the books.”
“I think that we have helped the thief enough, Mr Naith.” the other twin said.
“Yes, Mr Naith.” said the other. “Let us take our books and go.”
Mr Naith and Mr Naith picked up their spellbooks and left Edwyn Le Fay’s lodgings. Not only had he not recovered the books which had originally belonged to Obadiah Monk – the ones which the police had accused him of stealing – but he had also had the lock on his front door broken, something which he would have to attend to as soon as possible.
For Edwyn Le Fay, it was just one more adventure which had gone horribly wrong. As usual.