Report of Constable Arthur Stokes, F Division, March 21st 1895

It being about half-past ten of the evening I was proceeding along the Lambeth Road towards the river. I was some four hundred yards from the bridge when I espied a steam truck driving towards me somewhat erratically.

Ensuring I was well-illuminated by a nearby lamp post, I held up one hand and indicated to the driver that he should come to a halt at my position. As the truck slowed down and eventually stopped I noted that there were, at least, a dozen men and women standing in the back brandishing placards, a large red flag, several shotguns and a couple of rifles.

I approached the driver’s door and engaged him in conversation.

“Where are you going in such high spirits this evening sir” I said.

“I’m not a ‘sir’ and you is a running dog of the bourgeoisie.” he replied, or words to that effect as some that he actually used were not worth recording.

“Don’t get chippy with me sir or I shall have to caution you.” I said.

Realising, at last, that he was dealing with a member of Her Majesty’s metropolitan constabulary he then sat up straight and tried to give me an ingratiating grin.

“Whereabouts are you and your friends proceeding to at this hour?” I enquired.

One of his companions in the back of the truck interjected shouting “None of your damn business, you class traitor!” I gave him a stern look and he fell silent. I then looked back at the driver.

“We was just going to a party constable” he slurred.

Having now experienced enough of his foul breath to determine his state of sobriety I continued my interrogation.

“It looks to me sir like you have already been to a party and are not in the best condition to be driving an eight-ton truck upon the highway. So I shall ask again, where were you intending to go?” I asked.

“I don’t have to tell you nuffin’ constable, I’m perfectly at liberty to proceed wherever I likes.” he stated.

“On foot perhaps sir. Unfortunately, driving a steam conveyance upon the public highway while under the influence of strong spirits is an offence under the Highway Safety Act 1888 sir, and I must ask you to step down for further examination” I said.

“Look out Sid, ‘e wants to check you over, maybe ‘e’s a molly-boy” shouted one of the women who seemed to be having some considerable difficulty in loading a shotgun.

The driver looked suspicious but, under my continued stare, chose to swing the door open and descend to the pavement in a sort of half-controlled collapse. Within the cab. I could see some crates of milk bottles with rags tied around their necks.

Once he had clawed his way upright, using the lamp post more for support than illumination, he straightened his jacket and put his cap back on his head.

“Hello constable, what’s seems to be the trouble then?” he said, as if he had only now noticed I was there.

“It is my opinion sir, that you are steaming drunk.” I said. This brought forth gales of laughter from the assembled throng in the truck. One of the women fell off the back of the truck and had to be helped back on by some of her companions.

“So what is your full name sir?” I asked.

“Don’t tell ‘im your name Jonesy.” said the woman with the shotgun, who had now dropped several cartridges at her feet. I looked at her, she looked at me and her mouth opened wide. I turned back to the driver.

“Sidney Jones I am arresting you on suspicion of driving a steam conveyance whilst under the influence of alcohol, as proscribed by the Highway Safety Act 1888. Are you going to come quietly or flopping like a fish?” I stated loudly and clearly so that the throng could also hear me.

“You can’t do that constable.” he said ” I’s got places I ‘as to be” he said, looking somewhat agitated.

“And where might that be Mr Jones?” I asked.

“Well we ‘ad this caucus see and decided it was time to overthrow the corrupt masters of the Empire and we was going to burn down the ‘ouses of Parliament.” he said. The silence from the back of the truck was deafening.

“Would this be because you are the ‘downtrodden masses’ sir?” I asked, having heard this tripe at the Dog & Duck many a long evening.

“Yes, that’s it son, we shall rise up we shall” and as he said this his legs gave way and he ended up sitting in the gutter.

It was then I noticed that he was fumbling for a service revolver that was pushed through his waistband. I applied the All-Electric English Truncheon to his head as a discouragement and he did indeed flop about a bit.

I then addressed the throng while cranking the charge box for my truncheon.

“Can anyone else drive this conveyance?” I asked.

“I can.” said one of the men, and he made his way to the front of the truck.

“Are you also drunk?” I asked.

“Probably.” he said, so I charged him with intent and left him flopping in the gutter next to his erstwhile comrade.

“Anyone else?” I said.

There was considerable muttering and shuffling of feet.

“Right then.” I said “I suggest you all dismount and proceed to the number seven omnibus stop by the bridge. There should be a late Bus along in a few minutes that can get you back to Brick Lane. No madam you can’t take your shotgun with you. Carrying one of them, and those rifles lads – put them back please, while intoxicated is also an offence. So be off with you before I consider charging you with Riotous Assembly”.

They looked at Sidney and his comrade who were, by now, in the drooling and shaking stage, then quietly got down off the truck.

Most staggered away towards the omnibus stop, but one younger man lingered a few moments.

“You’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes copper” he said.

So I charged him with threatening an officer of the law and laid him down in the gutter with the others.

This is why, Sergeant, I have three unconscious men, a steam truck previously owned by Abel Caine Imports & Exports Ltd., eight Lee-Metford Rifles, six shotguns various, two-hundred assorted rounds of ammunition, a Webley service revolver, two crates of a dozen Brick Lane bottle grenades each, two pairs of ladies unmentionables, a 12lb carton of blasting dynamite (no fuses), a nun’s habit, sixteen shillings and sixpence, one wrapped fish supper, a red flag, nine placards, two policemen’s helmets and, forty copies of a revolutionary manifesto in the station yard.

 

The Rules of Irregular Warfare, By Col. Julius Fox MC

Being a treatise on the activities of the Indian Army Special Operations Force on the North-West Frontier, delivered to officer-cadets at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, February 21st 1895.

I have kindly been asked to attend this college to recount the lessons we have learned while fighting the tribes of the North-West Frontier. To receive such an invitation was an unlooked for surprise, and in some ways is a compliment the officers, men and native troops of the Special Operations Force.

As you may know I am currently back in our homeland recovering from injuries received clearing the Khyber Pass. As you can see I am almost fully recovered, though I may need my cane for a few weeks more. Please excuse me if I have to sit down occasionally.

Gentlemen, what I have to talk to you about today is of no use to you here in the Royal Military College, no damned use at all. It will not help you pass your final examinations, nor succeed in your field exercises. However, if you are assigned, as many of you shall be, to the command of men or native troops in some far flung spot in the Empire it may make the difference between life and death.

I know that you, like many others before you, including myself, have been schooled in warfare ancient and modern. You have stood at the elbow of Crassus and Caesar, watched as Marlborough arranged his men against the French, listened to the briefings given by Napoleon and Wellington before their final meeting, and even read first hand reports of the terrible American Civil War and our more recent glories in Africa. You have learned about the movements of divisions and corps, the duties of Junior Officers at home and in the field, how to calculate fall of shot and the laying out of a sanitary camp. I need not repeat any of this for far better men than I have instructed you.

What I bring before you today has nothing to do with the direction of divisions, corps, brigades, regiments or even companies. It is to do with how you lead men to victory when you are reduced to a dozen effectives, are under fire from all points of the compass and the enemy seem to number in the hundreds. How you  make your men stand up and charge when they are knee deep in the blood and bodies of their comrades. So do I have your attention? Good.

This lithograph I hold is of a young man called Mohammed Khan. He is fifteen years old and already a Pashtun warrior. He is five foot and three inches tall and weighs about nine stone. He is carrying a British rifled musket his grandfather captured in the first Afghan War. He can trot barefoot along mountain trails for fifteen hours in a single day with only occasional stops for water, covering fifty miles as he does so, then do it again tomorrow. Alongside him will be his grandfather who is seventy years old and even smaller. His father and six brothers have already died fighting their neighbours and us.

We captured this boy in a sortie into the hills after he shot five of my men and beat a Ghurkha Sergeant to death with just his rifle butt. He shot them at ranges between seventy-five and two-hundred and fifty yards and only expended six rounds to do so. If he had been British we would be giving him the Military Cross. Shortly after this photograph was taken he escaped taking three mules worth of supplies with him. We believe he may have allowed himself to be captured for precisely this purpose.

He was brought up in a society where boys become warriors as soon as they can learn to load and fire a musket. The tribes he comes from have been fighting each other, tooth and nail since Alexander the Great marched through on his way to India. The only time they unite is when they have an invader to resist.

The Pashtun and other tribes do not fight in platoons, companies and regiments. They do not form lines, do not stand their ground to face artillery and volley fire, and they do not respect rigid chains of command.

They fight in small family groups as part of clans who are, in their turn, part of tribes. The find good positions and inflict accurate and heavy fire on an advancing enemy then surrender the position and move to another. Each group of warriors knows what is expected of him and then does it without need for reference to higher authority.

The only time they stand their ground is if we reach their villages. These are sprawling compounds of stone and tough mud brick which they hold just long enough to evacuate their families and livestock or until we are drawn deep enough into the trap they have set. Then they melt away into the mountains.

They are not cowardly. As young Khan showed us they are fanatically brave, all being fervent mohameddans and believing that to die fighting the infidels earns them a place in paradise.

They are not stupid. They are simply educated differently to us. They study their holy book, the Koran, as a parson would study the bible. Many know several languages or dialects, can perform arithmetical calculations in their head that would puzzle a Quartermaster’s subaltern, and they love poetry.

Most of all they know their land. What we see as barren mountains they make a living from and they know the position of every boulder and the course of every stream and goat track in it.

Before you ask, I do admire them in a way. They have endured in the most hostile circumstance for millennia and come out smiling. There again I have seen what they do to captured white men and women. It is a savagery I hope none of you ever have to witness. You cannot reason with a Pashtun, you cannot expect mercy and you will never see them keep their word to an infidel.

We learned all these lessons the hard way over the course of decades. Many a brash colonel has blunted his regiment upon the crags of the Himalayas, expending officers, men and native troops faster than bullets to gain but temporary lordship over a godforsaken valley.

The current Indian policy is to patrol the foothills, maintain fortified camps back from the patrol zone and use the Special Operations Force to scout the tribal areas, and to cause alarm and distress amongst the enemy. Any incursion in force by the enemy is to be met with mounted reserve forces who try to cut the incursion off while other companies establish a cordon, which works, sometimes.

Recently it seems that the Russians have upped their involvement in the Great Game and are supplying the tribes with modern weapons including rifles and machine guns. Another role of the Special Operations Force is to track down and deny these weapons to the enemy.

What our command has been perfecting is the use of irregular forces and tactics against the enemy. What I shall go through now are some of these that we have found effective.

Let me explain to you how your first few days would go if you were to join us at our base in the Punjab.

Upon your arrival you will be taken to the Quartermaster’s Hut and be issued with all the kit of a private soldier. You will turn in all your officer’s uniform and equipment. I see shocked faces in front of me, well better that than you be the first man to die. The Pashtun warrior is familiar with the ranks and uniforms of our Officers and NCO’s. We have actually found dead warriors with cigarette cards showing these. I had one young lieutenant who refused to comply with this and led his men from the front. In his first engagement he was hit by five bullets before he hit the ground and died a noble idiot.

You will fight in amongst your men, with rifle and bayonet. You can keep your pistol as all officers, men and native troops are issued with these for use at close quarters. Your sabre will be useless for the simple reason is any Pashtun you find wielding a sword will be better with it than you. Shoot the dastard and move on. It is worth noting that they do not fight with bayonet, just with rifle butts and knives.

If you have the luck to draw command with the Ghurkhas they will issue you with a Kukri and drill you in how to use it.

Your shaving kit will also be handed in. A clean chin is a clear an indication of officer status as pips on your shoulder. All men are required wear full beards, which is also practical given the cold at higher altitudes.

If you have brought a horse this shall be sent to the rear. We ride surefooted mountain ponies and mules which are shod in the Pashtun manner. A cavalry horse will not only mark you out but shall probably go lame within a day.

You will be billeted with your men. It is vital that you get to know each of them well and that they get to know you. In the field Pashtun scouts will often watch our camps and may even take pot-shots at a man who stands out from the others.

The men will not salute you and will not call you sir. They will treat you with the respect due your rank and will follow your orders, but they do have a standing order that allows them to challenge this if your inexperience is allowing you to make a mistake. Under fire they shall be steady and brave.

You shall respect your native troops. Remember that while you are defending the Empire they are defending their homes and families. The native troops selected to be part of the Special Operations Force are the most steadfast and skilled men we could find. They will fight to the death for you and will drag you back dead or wounded rather than let you fall into enemy hands. They shall look to you for clear, cool leadership under fire. It is worth learning most common commands in their native tongues and giving them in these in the field.

An aside. There are many of you in this audience that are listening to my rambling account with growing alarm. This is not what you joined the Army for. I agree, neither did I. For those of you are considering my account with interest be warned, a man taking a commission in the Special Operations Force shall forever have a mark upon his docket that will be greeted with suspicion at best and, as often as not, outright hostility at Horseguards. It is not a step to be taken by a man who aspires to high office. That said there is no corps in which you shall have greater opportunity to actually do what all good soldiers aspire to, fight against an implacable foe and protect all we hold dear.

So back to the topic at hand. Once you are settled into your company you will be deployed upon patrol during which time you will be watched carefully by your Captain and accompanied by an experienced NCO whose job is to stop you or your men getting killed unnecessarily.

Our patrols are about spending days or even weeks up in the foothills, checking trails, observing enemy movements, hunting and ambushing enemy commanders and supply trains, capturing and interrogating enemy soldiers, sabotaging wells, bridges and fortifications. All the time we are alone, in the midst of our enemy’s lands, with absolutely no hope of rescue. It is dirty and dangerous work where all the manners and behaviours of polite society and the mess are left behind.

The work we do and the information we obtain, keeps the Pashtun on their toes, and our commanders alert to their activities. In the last twelve months alone we have prevented eleven major incursions, set two tribes against one another, killed one hundred a sixty-three leaders, elders, mullahs and other warriors, captured seven tons of Russian rifles and ammunition, recovered the bodies of a Colonel of the Hussars and his wife and avenged their deaths.

We have lost seven officers, fifteen NCOs, fifty-four men and thirty-three native troops. The Force has, in that time, been awarded sixty-one commendations and three Military Crosses, two posthumously, the other being on my dress uniform.

We have formulated a few hard and fast rules we apply in the field and these may be of use to you:

  1. Never take the easy trail for it is the one the enemy watch and are prepared to ambush you on. Cut your own trails if you can.
  2. Never camp in the same place twice.
  3. If you are to engage the enemy take the high ground.
  4. Do not fire bullets at bushes. You will only have the ammunition you carry or can loot so wasting it is a crime.
  5. A wounded Pashtun is a cornered tiger.
  6. Never leave a man, or his body, behind.
  7. Keep the last bullet in your revolver for yourself. Better a quick death than one taking days at the hands of the Pashtun.
  8. Never go into a place unless you know at least two ways out.
  9. If the odds are against you, run. You can always come back with more men later. As you can imagine this rule is the most disregarded. More men die from ignoring it than from any other cause.
  10. Ambushes should be L-shaped. Your initial fire should come from one direction and force the enemy into cover you can then enfilade.
  11. Always guard your ponies.
  12. Better a cold camp than a hot welcome.
  13. The Pashtun regard frontal assaults as we would a pheasant shoot.
  14. If you get a break in battle reload, drink, tend to wounds and eat in that order.
  15. Never carry what you would discard if you had to run a mile.
  16. No orders or plan survives contact with the enemy. In the Special Operations Force we give the men objectives not orders and let them determine how they can best achieve it when they get there.
  17. Do not expect the enemy to think as you do. Imagine the worst they could do and then plan for that.
  18. Once a course of action is agreed be bold.
  19. Allow your men their say on a plan. They may have knowledge, experience and wisdom you lack. And give them credit for it if it works.
  20. Any engagement you can walk away from is a good one.

So any questions?

(The session lasted three more hours, caused several officer-cadets to walk out in disgust and ended in a short fist fight between a Captain of the Coldstream Guards and the Colonel).

Blood in the sand

It was obvious that the defenders of this remote outpost had put up a fight, well at least for as long as their ammunition had lasted. The ramparts were covered in shell casings and empty ammo boxes. Their last minutes must have been terrible though, thought Moreau.

There was more than just blood by the embrasures on the fort’s walls. Several men had wet themselves and more than one had left the last bullet for themselves, yet failed to use it. For all their desperate courage though not one Legionnaire had survived.

Moreau walked across the parapet and looked down at the tragic scene. The outpost’s Captain, one of his Sergeants and five men had made a last stand around the flag pole, giving their lives for a flag that for most of them wasn’t even their own. The enemy had used a flamethrower to annihilate this gallant band, what cruelty and dishonour there was in the heart of man…

The rest of this story can be found in the fiction section.

Along the Rio Grande…

Letter to President James Henry of the Republic of Texas, July 5th 1895.

Mr President,

Please forgive my writing to you directly and my poor use of our English language. I am a simple man and given to plain speaking.

I am writing to give you an appreciation of the situation here on the south-western frontier of our beloved Republic. My company is currently encamped on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande, where we are recuperating from our latest sortie, and training new conscripts in the ways of the Texas Rangers.

We are sorely pressed by the many threats to the Republic and our way of life. The Apache have been growing bolder since they ambushed Captain Thornton last fall. We have counted Cree, Cherokee, Sioux and Crow amongst their fighters and it is only our Gatling Guns that keep them at bay.

There have been more raids on our territory by outlaw gangs coming down from the northwest. These gangs are no longer half a dozen men looking for trouble or trying to rob a bank. They now deploy in companies of thirty or more and attack settlements and even towns. These are hard and desperate men who are oftimes better armed and supplied than we are. Only our stubborn Texan nature and our faith aids us against these raiders.

The border with Mexico has become more unsettled of late. Only last month we had to escort a troop of Federale Lancers back over the Rio Grande. They were not lost as they claimed but rustling two hundred head of steers. Only your orders to treat the  Mexican Republic with due diplomacy prevented my men from stringing them up. My men hope that next time we meet Federales they may be more inclined to resist.

Our troubles here on the border are becoming critical Mr President. We are short of men, horses, ammunition, weapons and supplies. Three times this year I have had to ignore pleas for succour by citizens because I simply did not have the wherewithal to assist. Only last month we engaged an outlaw band with half of my men on foot for want of horses and one in three armed with only a single pistol.

It is three months since the men were last paid and we have had a number of desertions, especially amongst the conscripts. I have neither the resources nor the time to hunt these men down and dispense justice. It is strange to report that the most loyal and hardy rangers are proving to be the Louisiana conscripts you sent us last fall. I never hear a complaint from any of them. As a result I am considering promoting one of them to sergeant.

We shall continue to do our duty as best we can Mr President but I fear our effectiveness, and the high regard that most citizens show us, is deteriorating through simple lack of means.

Captain Jack Robards, 4th Company, Texas Rangers.

An intercepted communique…

Transcript of a conversation between the British Foreign Secretary and his senior civil servants dated June 14th 1895. Found in the valise of a Mr William Hickok, an American citizen at Bristol Docks.

“Despite the best attempts of the Prince of Wales Company and Scotland Yard the number of ‘special incidents’ is on the rise. At the moment they are coping with this, and are emerging victorious most of the time, but the attrition rate is alarming. Captain Napier shall be in Aldershot Military hospital for at least a month after the Paris affair,  so we have had to warrant Sgt Major Borrage to hold the fort for a lack of experienced young officers. That damned Consulting Detective has gone missing again and the bloody Commissioner seems lost without him.

“The Home Secretary has asked if it time we began to draw upon other resources. It has been suggested that we engage the services of Lord Curr and Lady Quatermain, both of whom have proven to be highly effective in these irregular engagements.

“My personal opinion is that Curr is reckless and a cad and Quatermain little more than a thief and a pirate. Only their positions in society have kept them out of Newgate prison.

“That said we are in desperate times. If you read the London Daily Chronicle there was blizzard in Regents Park on Wednesday night, in June I tell you! Three chinamen were found frozen to death along with a Constable and a vagrant.

“We have Abel Caine at war with the Communes, Russians and Prussians duelling on our rooftops, agents of the Vatican hunting an Egyptian Sorcerer in our sewers and, if you can believe it, a Wallachian Prince leaving exsanguinated bodies all over the West End.

“The Explorers Club have committed most of their resources to our colonies in Africa, so recalling Sir Allan is not feasible at this time.

“The American Ambassador has scheduled a meeting with me tomorrow. I expect that he will want to repeat his government’s interminable insistence that London has become a safe haven for members of the League of Southern Gentlemen. However, he seems either unwilling or unable to identify who these fellows might be. He is also furious that we detained and expelled a dozen of his Secret Service agents last week. Something about a gunfight in the Lyons Tearoom at Hyde Park Corner? I shall need a full briefing on this before I meet him Macfarlane.

“Following him I have an appointment with no less a worthy than the French Secretary for Internal Affairs and the Home Secretary. At least it shall be amusing to watch the Americans and the French pass each other on the stairs given their current diplomatic impasse.

“It appears that we have a man calling himself ‘Dupont’ asking for asylum and carrying a letter of recommendation from Lady Helen Quatermain herself. The French seem very keen to get him back so I suspect that he is another member of Le Cabinet Noir. He must be important to winkle that wretched old republican Le Clerc out of his Parisian mouse hole.

“Penfold, please make arrangements for Curr and Quatermain to have dinner with me at the Explorer’s Club no later than Thursday. I shall explore the Home Secretary’s suggestion with them, though I shall no doubt be damned for it should it get out to the press. Other than the jolly Ghurkhas the great British public are not over fond of employing mercenaries.

“It is going to be a busy couple of weeks gentlemen, so please tell your wives that you may not be home very often, if at all. I myself shall be staying at the Diogenes club. Now where is that intolerable snob Mycroft?”

A shot in the dark

There can be few things finer in life than watching your nemesis burn, thought von Stroheim. He struck a match and lit his pipe, taking a few long puffs before turning to his loyal Feldwebel Krieg.

“You have set fire to all the exits Krieg?” He enquired.

“Jawohl Oberst” replied Krieg. “And there are Jägers covering each side of the building”.

The man was obviously out of breath having run all round the former King George Boarding House pumping flame into every door and window. Count von Stroheim stepped back and indicated that Krieg could stand at ease.

So I can finally strike Sir Allan Quatermain off my list, he thought. All I need now is to catch up with his bothersome niece and then onto Curr. He reflexively reached over and gripped the prosthesis where his left arm had once been. I will settle accounts with you Curr, soon enough he thought. This short trip to Mombasa was proving to be quite rewarding.

At that moment an explosion ripped the face off the building. The two Jägers standing closest to it were immolated instantly. Though Krieg and von Stroheim were far enough back to withstand the blast they were peppered by bits of glass and wood causing them both numerous superficial cuts. The blast also blew out most of the fire.

Count von Stroheim laughed, unnerving his Feldwebel. “A fitting end for you Quatermain!” He shouted.

A moment later there was a loud crack from the house and a Jäger to von Stroheim’s left collapsed, a red mist appearing where his head should have been. The Revivifier on the Jäger’s chest began its chorus of chirps and thuds, but even that piece of arcane technology could not bring back a man with no head. A second later another Jäger collapsed headless.

“Mein Oberst!” bawled Krieg and pushed him flat as a third crack came from the house. Count von Stroheim felt no pain so he started to try and crawl towards an irrigation ditch a few yards to his right. However, he didn’t seem to be making much progress. Then he noticed that his prosthetic left arm was lying about two meters away. That verdammt Quatermain had shot his arm off!

He felt large hands seize him by the back of his trousers and his right shoulder. Krieg hauled his master like a log and threw him into the ditch following him a moment later. In that time two more Jägers went down. One headless the other shot clean through his Revivifier and his chest.

Jägers from the other sides of the building were now returning fire, but they had no idea where in the building their enemy lay. The Count knew when he had lost the advantage. It was obvious that the old dog had some dynamite in the building and had taken the enormous risk of trying to blow his way out. Maybe Africa did look after the man as his legend claimed.

He didn’t risk a backward glance over the edge of the ditch, but with Krieg’s assistance he made his way out of sight and back to his reserve platoon. There to board his armoured steam wagon and head back to the port.

If he had looked the sight would have dismayed him. Sir Allan Quatermain strode from the wreckage, his clothes still smouldering, and calmly loading and firing, mopped up the remaining six Jägers, ignoring their increasingly desperate fire. One did manage to revivify, but was instantly downed again, a shot from both barrels of the smoking Rigby cutting him in half.

Quatermain then strolled down to a hut a hundred yards from the wrecked building, kicking von Stroheim’s metal arm aside as he did so, and dictated a short message to the terrified telegraph operator.

++HUN ON THE RUN + STOP + HEADING FOR PORT + STOP + PREPARE THE MORNING STAR FOR IMMEDIATE ENGAGEMENT + STOP + I AM ALRIGHT + STOP + GOOD HUNTING HELEN + BE THERE SOON – AQ + STOP++

All he had to do now was find a horse…

Two tickets for a exhibition…

“My master bids you a good day and asks if he might view the closed section of the exhibit?” said the elderly fellow in the fez. Behind him was a well-dressed, yet swarthy young gentleman.

Sir Gerald Carstairs felt unaccountably anxious. He wasn’t sure if it was the unusual nature of the request, the unsettling stare of the young gentleman, or the attempted break in the night before. He pulled himself together. After all this was not the way the Keeper of the Queens’ Collection in the British Museum should appear.

“What was the name of your ‘master’ again sir?” he enquired in a voice that was much calmer than he felt. He nodded politely at the young gentleman who smiled back.

“Prince Akhenaton of Tangiers, from a most ancient and noble line I assure you.” said the man in the fez.

Sir Gerald looked at him directly. The fat man had introduced himself as Professor Abdul Abul-bul-Abir of the Topkapi museum in Istanbul. He had actually been there a couple of summers ago but had no recollection of meeting this academic before.

“Well please tell his royal highness that once we have completed our repairs he shall be more than welcome to enjoy a personal showing of the Egyptian Room, but that at the moment it would neither be seemly nor safe to do so.” Sir Gerald had regained most of his composure now. Having had a running gun battle between some thugs and his Guards the evening before he was in no mood to acquiesce to some foreign potentate right at this moment.

The Professor turned back to his patron and began explaining to him in deeply obeisant tones what Sir Gerald had just said. Sir Gerald listened intently because though the language felt familiar it was most definitely not Arabic, Farsi or even Turkish, all of which Sir Gerald was fluent in. Then it hit him, the Professor was speaking medieval Hebrew, how very strange.

The Prince stepped around his servant and thrust out his right hand. Sir Gerald looked at it for a moment and then grasped it firmly, pleased that at last he seemed to be making these johnny foreigners understand. The Prince reached up and gripped Sir Gerald by the right shoulder and, looking deep into the startled Keeper’s eyes, said three words “Amon-Tet-Kep”.

The next morning when the Consulting Detective completed his examination of the still paralysed Sir Gerald he theorised that the poor man was frozen with an unaccountable terror, and that if this should continue much longer his heart would undoubtedly give out. His constant companion, an ex-army surgeon, began preparing a large syringe of morphia, which he explained would release Sir Gerald from his current awful condition.

“Anything of value taken?” asked a deep, yet womanly voice.

Inspector Coleraine of The Yard looked up into the violet eyes of Lady Helen Quartermain, self-appointed guardian of the Museum. God he hated that woman. She wore trousers, cut her hair boyishly short, smoked Turkish cigarillos and carried a C96 Mauser under her arm in some new-fangled holster. If she wasn’t Sir Gerald’s ward and a third cousin to the Queen he would have thrown her out by now.

“Just a few trinkets, a brass beetle brooch and matching bracelet” he said shortly.

“Ah the scarab regalia of Nefertiti” she breathed and, stubbing out her perfumed cigarillo, stood up and made for the main doors.

“And where do you think you’re going?” said Coleraine exasperated.

“I’m going to round up my boys and go hunting a Pharaoh” she said. She then turned on her heel and strode towards the lobby. As she passed the Consulting Detective she grinned and exchanged a wink.

Lady Helen will return soon…

A French connection…

Dubois stood under the gas lamp at the end of Mile End Road smoking an awful English cigarette. From here he had a clear view down to the lodging house. To a casual observer he looked just like any of the thousands of injured ex-army veterans who had flooded London following the disastrous Afghan campaign. He leaned heavily on his crutch and lit another cigarette from the first, coughing at the acrid taste of the smoke.
Up the road a way was a hot chestnut seller doing a brisk trade. Sat behind the vendor on the steps of a boarded up terrace were two more men sharing a bottle of gin. Dubois smiled, he had schooled his ex-Legionnaires well. The chestnut seller was English, well an Ulsterman to be precise, and the other two were Germans. All had served France for their twenty-five year term and now they served Le Cabinet Noir, France’s secret intelligence service.
A slender woman with auburn hair stepped out of the lodging house opposite the trio and into the gathering gloom of a London evening. She carried an umbrella and wore a long, nondescript coat. From her attire she could be a Governess or perhaps a lady’s seamstress. To Dubois’ trained eye he could see the armour-padding in the coat and the bulge under her left arm where her shoulder holster was. No-one else emerged with her, so obviously she had decided to go out without her usual coterie of brigands. Dubois nodded to Kohl and Bergstein and they stood up and embraced each other, leaving the bottle on the step.

The woman looked left and right before descending the six steps to the pavement, slipping carefully around the two ragged children sleeping huddled against the railings. She smiled and erected her umbrella as if expecting rain. Then she swung it in front of her just as Kohl fired all six shots from his revolver at her. Dubois was astonished as all the shots pinged off the umbrella as if it were made from Lyons steel, then he noticed the electric blue sheen on it. Merde! She has one of those damned English inventions he thought.
As planned the Ulsterman had opened the back of his little cart and was throwing Dreyse carbines to his comrades. Kohl broke right and Bergsten left. Meanwhile their target had abandoned her magneto-static shield and dived behind a coal cart that was passing between her and her attackers.
For a few seconds the three mercenaries tried to get a clear view of their quarry, but she seemed to have completely disappeared. In the distance Dubois could hear the shrill whistles of Policemen attracted by the gunfire. He waved furiously at his men and they threw down their weapons before hurrying off into the traffic, going separate ways to confound pursuit.
Dubois turned to hobble away and straight into the barrel of a Mauser C96 Machine Pistol.
“I think that you might like to start explaining why an agent of the 3rd Republic and three Legionnaires are attempting to assassinate a British Lady on the streets of London Monsieur”. The French was perfect with a slight Marseilles accent.
Dubois slowly straightened from his crippled guise, letting the crutch drop to the ground, and stared directly into the violet eyes of Lady Helen Quartermain. She continued pointing the weapon at his face. Not the safest target, but certainly the most intimdating.
“Good Evening Mademoiselle, how very nice to finally meet you” he said, trying not to allow the shock of her sudden appearance affect his voice.
He noted that she was dressed in trousers, a worn military tunic and had her hair tucked under a cap. He glanced left and watched as a couple of toughs helped the woman in the coat down from the coal cart. He laughed at the simplicity of the ruse and his own arrogance in thinking that it would be this easy.
He looked back at Lady Helen who was also smiling and putting her Mauser away in its holster. She knew she was safe. No doubt half the men on the street were hers. What he couldn’t fathom was why he and his men were still alive.
“Wondering why you are still alive?” She said with remarkable prescience. He nodded.
“For a start I am not the murderous harlot you have no doubt been led to believe.” She smiled again. “Also I have been wanting to talk to you for a some little while to discuss the Toulouse incident.”
“Forgive me Mademoiselle, but your activities in Toulouse would indicate that you are a murderer.” He shrugged.
She put her hand inside her tunic, momentarily making him start, and drew out a silver cigarette case. She opened it and offered him a slim cigarillo. He accepted and taking out a match lit both. She drew heavily on her smoke and then her voice turned more serious.
“Toulouse was a sodding mess. I had been seeking to have an ‘interview’ with that rat Mitterand for some months but he had eluded me at every turn. Then I heard through a contact that he would be visiting one of his many mistresses on the Rue des Sauvages.” she said.
“You mean Deputy Mitterand of the National Assembly. A well respected politician and industrialist” he said. She gave him a look that made him wish he had not interjected.
“Alois Mitterand was a rat. He had sold me out in Algiers and was about to sell his country out to the Society of Thule.” she said through gritted teeth. There was an uncomfortable silence and then she resumed.
“The man was a scab on the backside of France Dubois. I shall give you the papers on this later, but for now just accept what I am saying, after all it is the reason you are still alive.” she said.
Up the road the Metropolitan Police had arrived in force. They were talking to several people and examining the weapons abandoned by the chestnut stand. Lady Helen, released her hair from its captivity and shook it out before stepping forwards and slipping her arm through Dubois’ before turning and walking slowly away from the scene.
Two constables were pounding down the pavement towards the scene directly in front of her. She laughed, gripped his arm tightly and placed her head on his shoulder. He patted her head and laid a little kiss on it. The Constables ran by and down to the scene of the crime. A few hundred yards further up the street they stopped and Lady Helen let go of her ‘beau’. For Dubois it was like waking from a daze. He could now see why this slim young thing was so dangerous.
“Anyway Mitterand obviously tried to pull the same double cross on the Society as he had on me in Algiers. However, the Society are less, shall we say, ‘forgiving’ than I. Mitterand was already dead when I arrived and all I could do was mop up the remaining Prussian agents before they set the whole building ablaze.” she said.
“An enchanting tale Mademoiselle, but what evidence do you have for any of it” said Dubois, his head now completely clear.
“I have the plans that Mitterand was going to sell to the Society, and the Prussian’s counterfeit Francs they were going to use to pay him for it. I could have sold those plans on myself, but instead have held onto them until I could ferret you out.” she said.
A large man approached the couple from an alleyway. In his hands was a briefcase which Dubois immediately recognised as being the type given to high level civil servants in the French Ministry of War. He took the proffered case and glanced inside it.
“By all accounts Dubois you are an honest man, so here is everything we acquired that night.” she said. She then pulled a folded slip of paper from her tunic pocket and handed it to him.
“Here also is the address in Paris where we have held the only survivor of that night, Mitterand’s accountant. He is pretty certain that Mitterand had friends in your office in Toulouse which is why he is so scared that he has cooperated fully with my men. You will have to move quickly as my chaps will leave him tomorrow. The rest is now up to you.” she said.
Lady Helen then rolled up her hair and tucked it neatly back under her cap. Without another word she turned and walked towards the alley. From here it would be an easy shot he mused, but he doubted that his hand would reach his revolver before several of her men shot her down.
If what Lady Helen had said was true she had just moved the gun sight off her back and onto his. Suddenly he felt very, very alone…