Joined: 20 Jan 2006
|Posted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:13 pm Post subject: Horror on the Orient Express - episode 9
|Death in Venice
Georgio stuffed the wad of bills under his overcoat and headed out into the dark and wet evening air. Reverend Fellowes had given him the money to help raise a group of Bolshevik sympathisers to help rescue Marie from the Fascists. Dr Fellowes and his companions had agreed to meet Georgio and his comrades in a nearby tavern in two hours time.
While they waited for Georgio’s return Mr Paparazzo decided to seek additional allies at the home of the left-wing newspaper where he had recently made a contact. On arrival at the newspaper’s offices Paparazzo was shocked to see Fascists arresting the staff and dragging them into the street. He retreated quickly and rejoined Dr Fellowes.
Meanwhile, Professor Carlton-Gore and Commander Pembroke decided to reconnoitre Maria’s family home. They noted two entrances – one leading to a street and another to the canal – and also that a black-shirted Fascist was stationed outside each.
At the appointed hour Fellowes, Carlton-Gore and Pembroke made their way to the tavern named by Georgio. This turned out to be a rough sort of place and most of the customers wore the cheese-cutter caps of the Italian working classes. Georgio was there, along with six stout comrades. Four of these comrades were Italians – Giuseppe, Luigi, Alberto and Marco – and two were striking Serbs. Mr Zlatan Krankjar was immensely strongly built and Mr Slovdan Inkovic was immensely ugly.
Reverend Fellowes told Georgio of the arrest of the newspaper staff and word quickly spread through the bar. A palpable feeling of anger began to build. The patrons began to leave in small groups, several hefting makeshift weapons as they departed. Georgio, his comrades and the three gentlemen remained and discussed a plan of attack.
Eventually the small group of new companions left the tavern and made their way through the winding streets of Venice to Maria’s house. A heavy fog had rolled in and had reduced visibility to almost nil. In the distance, the sound of breaking glass and Police sirens indicated that scenes at the newspaper offices had become quite violent.
While the rest of the gang waited around a corner, Commander Pembroke approached the Fascist at the back door. He walked past him and then turned back to face him. “Can you tell me the way to Harry’s Bar?” he asked. As the Fascist turned to answer, Reverend Fellowes signalled for the thugs to attack. The Fascist heard their footsteps before they could reach him, but before he could react Commander Pembroke stepped between him and the door – preventing his retreat.
The guard was quickly knocked unconscious and his limp body dragged inside the house. The gang entered the house as one and locked the door behind them. The two Serbs and Marco were left to guard the door while the others rushed towards the front of the house and the only other exit. The guard here was again neutralised quickly, his body dragged inside and the door bolted and locked behind him.
With the exits now secure the gang began to move through the house slowly. They heard jovial laughter and ribald jokes behind one door and burst in. Battle against the remaining Fascists was quickly joined. The Fascists were unarmed, but the gang were inexperienced and armed only with clubs and iron bars. The Italian Bolsheviks were all quickly eliminated from the combat – two being killed outright and the remainder badly injured or knocked unconscious.
Slowly the gang began to take the upper hand and then tragedy struck. First Professor Carlton-Gore went down in a crumpled and bloodied heap and then Commander Pembroke joined him on the hard, stone floor. Reverend Fellowes did his best, but the wounds were beyond his skills to treat and the two men died in his tender arms.
Despite their victories, the Fascists were eventually forced to flee from the combined might of comrade Zlatan and comrade Slovdan. They fled up the stairs and then dived from a second storey window into the foul-smelling waters of the canal. Slovdan pursued them right to the window and as the sounds of splashing died away he became aware of the sound of weeping coming from a door behind him.
The Serbian pushed the door open and found Maria and her maid weeping in each other’s arms. They looked at his hideously scarred face and sudden intrusion in horror. The incredibly ugly thug paused, searched for the right words and then spoke in thickly accented Italian. “I save you for me.” Both women screamed.
Hearing the cry of his beloved, Georgio raced up the stairs and was quickly at Maria’s side. He calmed her down while his companions dumped the bodies of the slain into the waters of the canal. Reverend Fellowes did his best to ensure a proper farewell was given to each corpse before it vanished, but he was left feeling rushed, guilty and deeply concerned for the state of their immortal souls.
Maria and her maid quickly threw together what belongings they could. Maria explained that Rossini had gone to fetch a priest to marry them and she was anxious to leave before the Fascist leader returned.
Once all arrangements had been made, Reverend Fellowes opened the back door a crack and checked the street outside. He saw that Rossini was about to knock on the door and a nervous looking priest was standing behind him. Rossini lowered his hand and said something in Italian through the crack Fellowes had opened. Fellowes gave a quick, violent signal to Slovdan and Zlatan and then opened the door wide. In a flash, Zlatan and Slovdan had dragged the startled Fascist and the frightened priest inside the house. Zlatan held Rossini tightly in his grip and the Fascist began to struggle for breath. Reverend Fellowes ordered Slovdan to release the priest and then he led the priest, Maria and the servant into a drawing room and away from the two Serbs and the struggling Fascist. Speaking with authority the vicar told the priest of Rossini’s intentions and Maria quickly corroborated this story and professed her love for Georgio.
The priest was given a couple of stiff glasses of grappa and to distract him further Fellowes persuaded him to marry Maria and Georgio. The service was carried out as Rossini was quietly strangled to death by Zlatan in the adjoining room. Reverend Fellowes and the maid acted as witnesses, the good Reverend suffering a great crisis of conscience about whether he should sign the wedding licence using his real name or not. He eventually reached a conclusion his conscious could live with as Rossini’s limp body was thrown into the canal.
At the service’s completion the anxious Italian priest began to fret about how Rossini might react to his actions and collapsed in a nervous faint. Slovdan lifted him up and carried him as the young lovers and their companions joined him and hurried from the house. Reverend Fellowes took the bottle of grappa with him and, once they were distant enough from the house, he asked Slovdan to put the unconscious priest on the ground. He withdrew the marriage licence from the man’s robes, gave this to Maria and then poured the remaining grappa onto the priest to ensure that if he told his story, no-one would believe it.
After bidding a quick farewell to Georgio and Maria, Reverend Fellowes turned to Zlatan and Slovdan. “Our night’s villainy is not yet complete”, he said. “We have one task left to us.” The two Serbs looked uncertain but regained their composure when the Reverend slipped them an additional ₤5 each. He led them through the dark and winding streets of Venice to the Palazzo Rezzoniani, where a part of the simulacrum was alleged to be held.
The Palazzo was heavily locked up, but it was empty and in an isolated part of Venice. The occasional gun-shot could be heard to indicate that any authorities on duty that night were still being kept busy at the newspaper offices.
Using a heavy iron bar, Zlatan removed the iron bars covering a window into the palace. The English vicar and the two Bolshevik thugs then clambered inside. They had no bought no steady light source with them, and the inside of the Palazzo was pitch black. Matches were lit and a door to the large piazza at the centre of the palace was eventually found.
The iron bar was again employed to break into the door at the base of the clock tower which stood in the centre of the piazza. The fog had turned to drizzle now and the steep steps of the clock tower were treacherously wet. The climb to the top of the tower was therefore difficult and not without incident – Zlatan slipping and landing heavily, and Slovdan putting his foot through a rotten board. At the top of the tower was a trapdoor and the padlock holding this closed proved difficult to break. Eventually a way past was found and the three men reached the clock mechanism at the top of the tower. A number of giant automatons sat on a track amongst the great cogs and wheels. Only a couple were accessible and neither of these appeared to have the simulacrum’s porcelain leg.
The clock ticked over to the hour and the mechanism started up. A deafening toll sounded as a bell rang and then the automatons began to move. As a figure of a sword-wielding Turk moved past them Dr Fellowes took an involuntary breath. Beneath a layer of paint he saw the gleam of something white. He grabbed at the leg of the Turk and was surprised at how easily it came away. As the vicar stepped back with the leg in his hands the automated Turk slowly began to topple over. Fellowes tried to stop it, but the automaton was twice his size and solidly built. It fell with a crash into the mechanism smashing the inner workings before crashing into a door leading to the outside of the tower. This door swung open and cast against the rain Slovdan, Zlatan and Dr Fellowes caught a brief glimpse of a startled old man with wild, greying hair on the other side. The old man fell backwards from the roof of the tower. Slovdan later swore that the man had been carried by something. Something black and huge that flapped wetly away into the night after he had fallen.
The clock mechanism began to grind itself to pieces. Springs and wires began to fly through the air and the automatons thrashed about wildly. Reverend Fellowes and Slovdan were badly injured by the disintegrating machine. Slovdan received an injury to his legs that left him virtually immobile. As the Reverend fled with the leg clasped to his chest, Zlatan helped his comrade to the exit. Slipping and sliding the clambered down the tower and then out of the palace and into the backstreets of Venice.
Venice appeared wild with panic as the three men stole back to the vicar’s hotel. Many canals and footpaths were blocked by Police and members of the Fascist party. The rioting and violence appeared to be spreading and many a hand twitched nervously on a police baton. At the hotel frightened guests tried to make travel arrangements away from the city as anxious staff repeated that a curfew was now in place.
Reverend Fellowes suggested to Zlatan and Slovdan that they should leave the city as soon as possible. He told them that he was planning to travel to Serbia and suggested that they join him. As more black-shirted Fascists leapt from trucks behind them to go hunting for Bolsheviks, the two quickly agreed. A large bribe made to the hotel manager saw first-class tickets on the first train to Trieste quickly arranged.
Reverend Fellowes and the two Serbs spent an anxious night in their beds, fully expecting the Fascists to arrive at any moment. At daybreak Reverend Fellowes roused Mr Paparazzo and Marcel and urged them to pack their belongings at once. Within an hour he, his companions and their two new Serbian friends were on an express service to the east.
My favourite roleplaying memory - "Daisy at Colonus", two drunk cowboys and a pantomime cow in a 'reinterpretation' of Sophocles greatest play.