God save me from intellectual men meaning to do good. I was trapped with two of them for the better part of an hour and it was torture, pure and simple.
I had been roused from my affairs by Professor Mercurio to be thrust once more on this wild goose chase to find that damned Scottish rake. After gathering up Milna et al, we went in great haste to the Police Barracks. At least we had Mercurio’s chaise to take us there, especially since there was only room for him and me to ride in the compartment, I had a relief of those infuriating children. Working at a University would be perfect save for the students.
We arrived just before sunset. Upon our arrival, I noticed that Nikolina had joined us, precariously straddling one of the rear wheels with one foot on the axle and the other on the wheel hub and hanging onto a side railing. What possessed her to act? She couldn’t possibly have been mine!
We all charged into the barracks with Mercurio searching for Inspector Smelchak. After finding him involved in the abuse of a prisoner, we settled into this office for a discussion. I still could see no earthly reason why I was a party to this whole escapade.
It started bizarrely with Mercurio first dropping hints about monsters and such and then quickly switching over to angling to get his daughter a job with the Inspector. We went on about wanting her to gain maturity by putting her into a profession, possibly the law and that there was no better way for her to start by seeing justice, such as it was, being done from the ground up.
Now I understand that the world changes and women were becoming more apt to push their way into the men’s occupations and also that Professor Mercurio was never what one would consider conventional. Still, this request took me completely by surprise and the Inspector was struck nearly dumb by the outlandishness of the proposal. He finally managed to stammer out his concerns about placing such a refined young lady in such a horrid position as working in a police barracks.
It was then that I realized the Mercurio’s plan was to have her snatched away from Milna. Ye gods, how desperate he must be to have her avoid the young donkey walloper if he would rather subject her to Smelchak’s crew? In the end Smelchak grudgingly agreed, especially since Mercurio said she would need no compensation and he would pay for any of her expenses. Mercurio dispatched a letter to her, telling her to appear at the police barracks in the morning to learn how to be a detective.
With that strange business out of the way, we returned to matter of Dalhousie’s disappearance. Now here is the part that truly drove me to distraction. For Smelchak wished to solve the disappearance and Mercurio wished to aid him. Could the two of them simply have stated that and gone on to assist one anmother? Of course not! The policeman’s suspicious mind clashed against Mercurio’s mysterious nature and the result was a full half of an hour with an ever increasingly tedious argument over why both of them were there. Thus,
Smelchak: Why are you here?
Mercurio: Isn’t that obvious?
S: No, it’s not. Why do you want to help?
M: Isn’t that obvious?
S: No, it’s not. You just said rare earth salts were used to preserve monsters, what did you mean?
M: That rare earth salts are used to preserve monsters.
S: What exactly do you mean by that?
M: Isn’t that obvious?
This went on for an interminable time. Until the priest burst into the room.
Diary of Jan Milna, unpublished
29th of August, 1832
Everyone has heard of Prince Leopold, of course, a great hero of liberty since he was a boy general during the Americans’ Revolution. Even after he was exiled from Ruritania in 1815, he led an army of volunteers to wage war in liberty’s name throughout the world. Everyone thrilled at the man’s courage and tenacity, both of which were shared by his son Count Leonardo.
Therefore, I was more than willing to assist these noble men and help free Leonardo from his undeserved imprisonment. However, I was troubled by the vagueness of Voynich’s plans. It was clear that he had given little thought to how difficult and dangerous it would be to snatch so valuable a prize from under the noses of the King, the Regent, their guards, and even the Russian agents of the Third Section.
Thus, when Fisztic interrupted and took us to follow Professor Mercurio, I was upset in being disturbed from our planning, there being but two days until our rescue attempt and only vaguely aware of what the Dean required of us.
During our trip to the police barracks and after our arrival, I questioned Sufflay and Topicz as to the plan. It seemed that they assumed they would burst into the ballroom, and a few warning shots fired into the ceiling that would cow the guards and thus be able to spirit the Count away. When I asked what they planned to do with him afterwards, the only idea they had was to hide him in an empty cask at the Café Mirski until he could be got out of the country. When I brought up the fact that the Café was likely to first place to be searched if an association with student revolutionaries could be made. They had no answer to this.
I suggested that the rescuers might be better served to be disguised, perhaps as Turkish or Austrian soldiers, thus distracting from their true identity and, with luck, increasing the tension with Ruritania’s neighbors. The girl, Coralina or whatever, who always seemed to be underfoot, suggested we borrow more costumes from the theatre.
I said this was a good start and the odd girl nearly burst into tears at my somewhat complimentary words. Of course, I put it down to the fact that her father Fisztic never acknowledged her and was hardly the doting father. Poor thing, I pitied her as one would an unjustly whipped puppy.
Further discussion on this was halted when the main door to the barracks flew open and a large, heavily-armed priest strode in.
Topicz leapt up and shouted, “Ah Bobo, you have arrived at last. I am so glad to see you! But however did you find us here?”
“I would hardly be a good inquisitor if I could not find a couple of students. When I saw that you were not in your residence or in the pub, I went to the next logical place, the police. So what is that you have done to get yourself arrested?”
“No holy Bobo, we are not arrested but here to help the Inspector in discovering a missing person.”
“Ah! Is one of Leutonia about which you wrote me?”
No, Bobo, it is a Scotsman.”
“The ones who wear the dresses? Eh..Well so do the Greeks and they are fine fighter. So are the Scots I hear.”
“Yes they are, Bobo, but I think his disappearance may be related to the disappearances among our people that caused me to summons you.”
“Yes, we must rescue our people! Where is the head of these policemen. I must speak to him.”
With that he flung open the door and charged into the Inspector’s office.
The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak
The priest’s arrival was not really a disturbance. Mercurio’s insolent mysteriousness had led us to something of a stalemate. Bobo Drko’s appearance brought that rapidly to an end.
For my foreign reader who may be unfamiliar with tenets of our Church in Ruritania, let me say a few words about our Faith lest the good Bobo’s actions appear eccentric.
The official faith of the Kingdom is that of the Greco-Roman Catholic Church, which bears the unique distinction of being in communion with both the Pope and the Patriarchs. Unfortunately, there is some truth to the rumor that the reason for this state of affairs that both Authorities were too embarrassed by the adhesion of our faithful to admit it, or even mention it and thus was it was allowed to continue.
The reason for this embarrassment was the rather unusual doctrine that our Church developed. Always claiming to have roots in both, in time, we lost sight of the cultural antecedents that linked our Church mutually to East and West and ultimately the strange notion arose that the Faith was associated with the style of wrestling that came to be known as Greco-Roman. It is said that this idea originated with the first King Ladislav, the Liberator, who was noted for his great courage but not his particular intellectual prowess, a trait shared too often with his descendants, along with the hereditary speech impediment. This notion became coupled with an existing fanatical obsession with the physical defense of the faith, acquired during the long years of the Turkish occupation, leading to the development of a most militant theology. All priests were heavily trained in unarmed, as well as armed, combat and feats of physical prowess are included as part of the liturgy. Thus the blessing was rendered, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Double-Leg Takedown.” A somewhat unorthodox form of Christianity but one that has met our needs down the centuries.
Now Bobo Drko was as pure an embodiment of this Ideal as one could imagine. I should mention that the term “Bobo” means simply “uncle” and is the title afforded to our priests, the belief being that no priest should be called “father” since there is only one true Father in heaven. As soon as he spoke, I recognized that Bobo Drko was a Leutonian.
Now Leutonia is the largest province in Ruritania and also the most poverty-stricken and backward. Technically a separate entity from the Crown of Ruritania, it had been the last territory liberated from Turks, shortly before Ladislav I’s death in 1741.
Its people have a reputation for a certain slowness of thought coupled with a stolidity and remarkable endurance. These traits have led to them being recruited in great numbers to serve at laborers in some of the most difficult occupations. As a result thousands of them are spread throughout in the Kingdom working at the most taxing and dangerous jobs.
Before I could inquire, the Bobo spoke, “You look for one missing Scotsman. I am here because there are more than twenty score Leutonians missing, both living and dead, gone missing from the Province of Strelzov.”
“What do you mean living and de-“
“Fifteen score who have vanished with no body recovered and five score whose bodies were taken from their graves, deprived of God’s good rest! Twenty score good Leutonian families, crying, with much gnashing of their teeth, them have still have them, and spilling of tears into their brnish, diluting its God-given strength, all for not seeing the remains of their dear departed!”
Now I had been somewhat aware of that the number of Leutonians in the city had risen considerably. However, as Little Leutonia was not part of my District, it was purely an academic interest. Also, it was not alarming, since most members of Leutonian diaspora did not enjoy long life, most succumbing to violence among themselves or industrial negligence.
I called over to Sergeant Loncar to bring me the monthly provincial crime reports. As I examined them, I saw that in the past three months nearly 600 people went missing. This would have been an astonishing number except that I saw that over 400 were Leutonians, many missing from the salt mines at Grebnach which had a very high mortality rate under normal circumstances.
I also noticed that there were reports of nearly 400 graves vandalized. Over half came from the graveyard of Svenkta Vonda, a large parish just near the boundary of my district.
“Of course,” I said, “All of these missing, nearly one thousand. They are the subject of Baron Dalhousie’s enterprise. The bodies will be preserved and shipped to Scotland.
Mercurio interjected, “As is well known Scotland is famous for its excellent medical schools. An excellence founded in part on a unique understanding of anatomy. Unfortunately, the dark secret to this success is the continuous need for cadavers. I suspect that Baron Dalhousie saw an opportunity for wealthy by supplying that need. Although if Doctor Dippel was involved there may have been an even darker purpose.”
“Yes” I said. “It appears that the enterprise may have gone beyond mere grave-robbing and even beyond casual murder to mass slaughter. I suspect that the good Baron may have fallen afoul of his compatriots in this endeavor and met a bad end. However, we shall not mention this suspicion to Lady Dalhousie until we are certain of it.”
Noticing the late hour, I suggested, “Tomorrow morning we shall have an interview with Doctor Dippel and then perhaps pay a visit to the salt mines at Grebnach.
Now Elisabeth has been kind, Nikolina thought, very kind. But of course she didn’t understand that Jan was to be Nikolina’s. Oh of course, he seemed to prefer Elisabeth now but that was only, what did the playwright call it? The complications, yes that was it. Soon, she would do something wonderful for him and he would realize that she was the girl for him. And then they would marry and live happily ever after.
That was why she had to stay close to him so that when the opportunity to do something wonderful for him came along, she didn’t miss it.
Now when Papa and the others were done talking in the Inspector’s office, they all split up. Professor Mercurio said he was not going home but back to work on some things, she saw Jan’s face light up with that delightful smile of his. As the Professor was walking to his office, Jan ran back to the chaise and quickly ordered it to take him back to Elisabeth’s house.
Nikolina leapt onto the back of the carriage. She had gotten quite use to riding this way, although she had to make sure her skirt didn’t get caught in the wheels.
Jan had them stop at his residence first and he came back with the uniform he was going to wear to the ball, the uniform that Nikolina had given him! She felt so proud!
The house was about a mile outside of town, a big new style mansion. Nikolina didn’t feel bad that she would take Jan away from Elisabeth since Elisabeth was so rich and had so many nice things, she wouldn’t miss Jan a bit. But for Nikolina, Jan was EVERYTHING.
When Elisabeth saw Jan, she greeted him with a large smile and said what a pleasant surprise to see Jan. Nikolina didn’t mind, she know exactly how it felt to get that pleasant surprise of seeing him. Of course, Jan shouldn't have smiled back at her that way nor should she have let him linger over kissing her hand. She was thinking Elisabeth might not be as nice a girl as she thought. She was glad when they both stopped smiling and holding hands and went into the house.
Fortunately, all of that house-breaking she had learned as a child was finally worth something. She climbed up a rain spout to a second story window that someone had left open. She then crept downstairs to listen to what Jan and Elisabeth were discussing. She was able to find a hiding place behind a big bush in a pot near the door to the parlor where Jan and Elisabeth sat chatting.
It was mostly about clothes and the things they were going to wear to the Ball and how good looking they both were. They both thought the other’s outfit sounded so wonderful that they agreed to model them for each other. Well they did both look very good but Nikolina was sure if she had an expensive dress and jewels and servants to prepare her hair then she would look just as pretty. But Jan! Jan was …magnificent. When she looked at him she felt a very strange feeling sort of like a stomach ache but more…fluttery …and well…lower.
Jan and Elisabeth agreed they looked so good together that they needed a portrait made and so Elisabeth called for the artist her father had working to pictures on the wall of the mansion. The artist, a Sylvanian with a funny name was very good and painted very quickly but it was very late when he finished. Elisabeth said it was too late for Jan to go back to the University so why didn't he stay at the mansion in one of the guest rooms. He smiled quite a lot then and Nikolina got a bad feeling.
When the rest of the house had gone to sleep, Nikolina crept out from behind the bush in the pot. She took a close look at the picture of Elisabeth and thought it made her look even prettier than normal. Nikolina got frightened that Elisabeth might give the picture to Jan who would be so busy looking at it that he wouldn't notice when Nikolina did that wonderful thing she was supposed to do. So Nikolina took a piece of charcoal from the fireplace and drew a large mustache and pointy beard on Elisabeth's face.
Then just to be make sure she was nearby, she crept upstairs and found the room that Jan was staying in. He was in there alone. Nikolina didn't know why she thought he wouldn't be but she felt, what was the word? Relieved. To make sure no one disturbed him, she crept in and crawled under the bed. She listened to him breathing all night long and it made her feel wonderful and fluttery again.
As the dawn began to light the room, she heard Jan stirring. He could hear him washing and getting dressed. She thought about how wonderful it will be when they were married and she could sleep on top of the bed, she could watch him as he did these things in the morning.
Soon he went downstairs and the smell of wonderful food wafted up toward her. She imagined having breakfast with Jan and feeding him bits of goat kidneys from a silver fork. Then she heard the uproar. It was about the picture of Elisabeth. Nikolina thought it would be a good time to leave. She climbed down the wall from Jan's bedroom, there was a big creeper plant growing on that side of the building, very convenient.
She saw that the chaise was being brought around, probably to take Jan back to help Professor Mercurio with the investigation. Nikolina leapt lightly into the passenger compartment. She would have the whole ride back to the University to share with Jan.
He came out of the house and stopped when he saw her. "What are you doing in there?" he asked with a strange look on his handsome face.
"Well I was out for a morning walk and thought I would walk over and say hello to Elisabeth." Nikolina hated lying to Jan but he was looking at her so strangely!
"You went for a stroll in the wolf-infested woods at night? For pleasure?"
"Well, no, its just that…"
"Get out of the carriage, Nikolina," he said very quietly and very seriously.
"Oh Jan, don't be …"
"Why do you follow me so? Have I done anything to encourage you? Your attentions are too much, they disturb me. Are you mad!"
When she would get out of the carriage, the servants came and dragged her out, leaving her in the dirt of the drive. But as the carriage drove away, Jan looked back with a sad look on his face. Maybe he felt bad about treating her so meanly. My, Nikolina thought, there were far more complications than in any play she had ever seen but that will only make their ultimate reunion that much sweeter!
As she sat on the cobblestones thinking about all this, the black-coated Postman rode up to the house.
"Girl, I have a letter for Banna Mercurio from her father, is she at home."
"Yes, give it to me and I shall take it to her." Nikolina didn't know quite why she said that and really didn't know why she opened the letter after the Postman left.
The letter said Elisabeth was to join them in the investigation so she could learn a profession, perhaps in the law, under her father's watchful eye. But Jan was helping with the investigation! He would never notice Nikolina if Elisabeth was always hanging about. Nikolina tore the letter into little pieces.
"Nikolushka! Whatever are you doing here?" It was Elisabeth.
"I was just thinking about you, Nikolushka! You want to be an actress, yes? Well I just thought of the perfect opportunity for you to meet some of the great patrons of the arts. You see tomorrow night will be a Royal Ball. I have gown, not too old, that we can get made to fit you and you can borrow some of my jewels and old Gora can do up your hair…"
Nikolina thought she might cry.
Excerpt from A Man of Many Talents, The Memoirs of Ratko Fisztics
The next morning, I arrived at Paracelsus Hall just after dawn. I brought with me the sword I had retrieved from Milna’s father when the man had been killed in Russia. I hoped that we would not need the weapon but I would rather bear the burden rather than regret the absence of it.
Mercurio was still there from the night before and had not appeared to have slept a wink. There was a strange odor coming from his office and I saw that some type of chalk drawing had been hastily wiped from the floor. It was obvious that he too expected our day would contain trouble.
Shortly after this, our three student burdens arrived. Milna looked especially well-rested and more eager than usual.
With insufferable cordiality, he said to Mercurio, “I must complement you on cook, sir. A most excellent make of breakfast.”
Mercurio looked at the boy in sharp surprise. Before the Pole’s statement could be dissected further, a large police van loudly caromed to halt just outside the Hall. The Inspector, Lady D. and her gypsy exited the vehicle.
We all immediately set off across the University grounds to the College of Medicine. In Dippel’s office we were met by his secretary, Her Kolowrat, a simpering Austrian.
“I am sorry, Herr Inspektor but Herr Doktor Dippel is unavailable.” The College of Medicine had become ostentatiously Teutonic under Dippel’s leadership. “Nein, he will is visiting his country residence and will not return to Strelzov until Friday night when he will be attending the Royal Ball. Perhaps you could come back next Monday, although Wednesday would be better.”
The Inspector asked in a very deliberate and almost menacing manner, “Where is his country estate?”
“Och, I am sorry, Herr Inspektor, but Herr Doktor Dippel is a most private individual. Even if I wished, I could not tell you since I do not know myself.”
“In that case, I wish to examine his office.”
“That is impossible, Herr Inspektor.”
Now life can be full of surprises. I had taken Smelchak for a typical posh lawyer type, even somewhat effete. But when he turned on Kolowrat and began to threat him, I was most impressed. He never raised his voice or even swore but certainly conveyed to Kolowrat the terrible consequences that would befall him and his family should he insist on sacrificing himself to protect Dippel’s privacy. The awareness that most of his policemen were little better than thugs certainly played a part in convincing the secretary to be forthcoming.
In a few moments, Kolowrat was reduced nearly to tears and waived us into Dippel’s inner sanctum. I immediately went to the large desk and proceeded to use my keys to open the drawers. Smelchak’s slightly raised eyebrow the only comment on my possession of keys to a College other than the one that employed me. We found a host of business document within.
The rest of our group fanned out across the room and began searching for anything that might provide a clue. The Bobo was the last to enter the room. He stood silently for a moment and peered about him. Then he abruptly pointed and said “There.”
He walked over to a large clock that stood in the corner. With a few deft hand motions, he opened a secret compartment in the clock. I have to this day no idea how he was able to recognize the hiding place let alone opened it. I had looked directly at the thing earlier and had not seen any sort of hiding mechanism.
The Bobo pulled several notebooks out of the clock. He and Mercurio then proceed to study them, clucking and muttering to each other as they did so.
I took the opportunity to place an incriminating rebel pamphlet I had taken from Nikolina in a nearby book. I thought the threat of a treason investigation might lend us extra leverage against the doctor should we need it.
Doctor Dippel was very influential and much favored by the Regent’s crowd, mostly for his supposed cure of the cholera outbreak. Of course, this was nonsense but they had allowed him to string electric cabling throughout the sewers and water supplies of Strelzov based solely on his claim that it would be used to purify the waters and eliminate the plague causing miasma.
Unfortunately, Lady Dalhousie plucked up the book I had placed the pamphlet in and much to my surprise, revealed that the book also contained a false compartment with a small mechanical device. This was Topicz’ department and the Leutonian mechanic peered over the thing, finally declaring it some device for recording sounds. It was clear that it was intended to operate automatically after some intruder entered. It was operating while Mercurio and the priest were working. We hastily destroyed the wax tube upon which our conversations had been taken down.
Finally, Mercurio and the priest looked up from their study. They declared that Dippel was behind a plot to obtain bodies, dead or those that soon were made dead.
Bobo Drko declared, “Dippel has been studying, perhaps unwittingly, Things Which Man Was Not Meant To Know. Perhaps out of his dedication to his profession or perhaps out of personal pride and greed, he has been trying methods to bring life to the dead.”
Smelchak looked skeptical but keep silent.
“According to these notebooks, he has been experimenting with galcanics as a means of bringing dead tissue back to life.”
“However,” Mercurio interjected, “by all the laws of natural philosophy, his methods should not be producing the results that he claims to have achieved.”
“So what has provided him with his success?”
“Black magic,” was the Bobo’s reply.
Every one feared Big Saucy. When he approached Lorena, who was working the river piers that afternoon, she tried to be pleasant, keep the fear out of her voice. But business had been bad, so few workers were around and most of them working longer hours under tighter control.
“How are things going, Lorenushka?” he asked.
Lorena drew in her breath, “Not good, Ban Bezobrazan.” She quickly tried to explain but he interrupted her.
“Don’t worry Lorenushka. You are not in trouble. I can see, not many customers around. Tell me where are all the big Leutonians? I know you were a favorite with them.”
“I don’t know, Ban. They say a lot ran off, things getting too hard even for them. Some say they didn’t like hauling all the coffins.”
“Big chests really but lots of them. Strange they were. Some of the Leuties said they were coffins for them and didn’t want to haul their own burial box. I think most ran off.”
“Thanks, Lorenushka. I have a friend who is worried about the Leuties. This will ease his mind. You are good girl, take the rest of the day off and here’s a couple of atvaras to buy a new hat. Don’t mention to anyone we talked about this, right?”
“Talked about what, Ban Bezobrazan?”
"Good girl. Saucy loves you."
Ivan Ggur, owner of the Vulgar Angel was not used to have a big shot like Big Saucy in his place. His clientele usually ran to petty thieves and housebreakers. He quaked as the man came over to the bar even though Ggur had four bully boys and the Pimp was alone.
“Ivan Ggur, what a fine place you have here. I am sorry I have never visited it before.”
“Thank you. What I can do for you.”
“A drink first… then maybe a little chat about some of your customers.”
“Most of my customers come and go, I don’t know much about them or what they do.”
“Is that so,” the Pimp said, pulling out a cigar, sniffing it, and rolling it in his fingers. “You are a most uncurious man.”
He set the cigar on the bar top and pulled out his knife, a big curved American knife that he was famous for using to do all sorts of terrible things. The bully boys hadn’t moved, fear showing in their eyes. The Pimp cut the tip off the cigar.
“Maybe you know more than you know, Ivan Ggur. Lots of people have gone missing this summer.”
“Oh no, Ban Bezobrazan, we don’t do that kind of business here, none of my customers do… murder.”
“Of course, not, Ivan Ggur. Besides, I’m not asking about the live ones who disappeared, I want to know about the dead ones. What has Krotomanic the Grave Robber been up to these days.”
“He hasn’t been in much lately, been busy, working for some toff.
“Where’s he working now?”
Ivan gulped. He didn’t owe anything to Old Kroto, nothing worth risking his life. “He’s laying low now. I heard he has another job at Svenkta Vonda’s, Saturday morning about 2:00. He hired on a few extra boys in here the other night, going be a big job.”
“You see, Ivan Ggur, you are much smarter than you thought. Smart enough to know not to mention our talk, yes?"
Big Saucy said it with so much menace that Ivan could only nod his agreement.
"Good! Everybody I meet today is so smart. I'm surrounded by fucking geniuses.
"You really do have nice place here, Ivan Ggur. I’m so glad you get to keep it.”
The Case of the Resurrection Men in The Natural Philosophy of Crime by Anton Smelchak
The day had fled away too quickly. After pouring over all of the evidence and cataloguing it, waiting for Fisztic to return from meeting with his mysterious contact, the sun was already setting as we left the city for the ten mile drive to the Grebnach Salt Mines.
These had been in existence since before the first Ruritanii had crossed the Ister to fight the Romans. They said some of the shafts ran to the very bowels of the earth. They were harsh places, only convicts and Leutonians worked there.
We arrived after 9:00 o’clock that night. A strange quiet loomed over area. There was a large collection of wood huts for the workers and a single two-story wood building that served as an office.
The office was closed so we went to the line of huts. They were all abandoned, spaces for nearly a thousand men, and not one soul present. There were signs of a hasty departure. There were blood stains in some of the huts.
The Priest had not entered the huts. He stood with the same look on his face as when he entered Dippel’s office and discovered his secret notebooks.
He pointed to the mine entrance, “There …is the Gate to Hell…”