Word Count: 14, 505
Summary: Samuel thought he could put his past aside as easily as the Winchester name but he was wrong. Dean never thought he'd be riding hell for leather through the dark streets of London to save his brother's life. As both brothers try to put the past behind them a new threat emerges from the darkness leaving a trail of dead in his wake.
Warnings: Violence, minor character deaths, suicide, language and references to alcohol
Acknowledgements: *facepalms* I was so incredibly brain fried when originally posting this that I left off my acknowledgements. First and foremost I couldn't have done this fic without dauntdraws . She had me locked in on this project the moment she told me the only element I definitely had to keep was replacing the Impala with a big, beautiful, black Friesian horse. She's been an incredible partner to me working on this fic from brainstorming and research to being wonderfully frank about her constructive criticism. I couldn't have done this without her and I look forward to working with her again in this Victorian!Verse we've created together. I also owe a thanks to lady_fetish for helping me get unstuck when I got mired down in places when I was writing in the wee hours of the morning as well as her feedback on the final read. And I won't even begin to get started on how she wound up being the inspiration for the Queen of the Winter Court Fae. *snickers* You are awesome, hon!
Moonlight spilled through the window marred only by a single shadow as Bess, the landlord’s daughter, paced back and forth, watching and waiting.
"He promised me," she whispered to herself. "He promised me he’d come, come and take me away from here."
Bess could picture him in her mind’s eye so very well. She’d been walking in the street with a cousin of hers and he’d pulled up in his carriage. She knew better than to get in, her cousin had even tried to dissuade her, but when he’d spoken to her so kindly how could she possibly resist? She’d climbed into the carriage and sat beside him on the seat. He’d laid a white gloved hand upon her knee and told her what a beautiful woman she was, how fair and sweet she was. She’d eaten up his compliments like bread spread thick with honey. They’d met three more times and when she’d parted from his side the last time he had told her to wait two nights then look for him by moonlight on the third when he would come to run away with her to be married. Then he’d kissed her on the lips, gentle at first then in such a fashion that he’d aroused a passion she’d never known before.
The two nights had passed swiftly but both were marked by dreams of lustful passion. Her body bared and entwined with her secret love as he whispered words of encouragement, urging her on till she awoke in a cold sweat. Tonight was the night he’d promised he’d come but so far there was no sign of him. Purpled blackness slowly faded with the warmth of dawn on the horizon and still Bess’s secret love hadn’t come to claim her. She felt her heart ache in her chest as she realized he had proven false. Tears ran down her face as she moved to bar her door then threw herself on the bed and wept despairingly. Days and nights passed and her parents begged her to open the door but Bess refused. Finally on the third night, while her parents slept, Bess crept from her room and took her father’s musket down from above the fireplace. She loaded it clumsily then stripped off her clothes before pressing the cold tip of the barrel against her breast and pulling the trigger.
He sat at the end of the bed, a brief wave of relief washing over him at the thought that maybe Jessica had escaped the carnage he’d seen on his way in. Something liquid dripped on his hands, he lifted his hand to examine more closely. Blood. He looked up and gasped. Jessica was pinned there, face pale, a thick gash across her midsection bleeding heavily. Her mouth moved as if to speak before blue flames spilled out around her. He could hear himself calling out to her frantically as the heat of the flames that devoured her pressed against him.
Samuel snapped awake with a start, briefly disoriented by his strange surroundings. Only the even breathing of his brother in the bed across from him was familiar. His brother, the one that had taken him away from Jessica to hunt some ghost, the one who had pulled him from the fire at the Moore’s residence on Bedford Row, had shoved him into the saddle of his horse Taliesin and had ridden away with him into the night. Samuel ran his hand through his hair shaking away the last vestiges of the dream that’d been haunting him for over a week now.
"Don’t call me that," he said softly, "Sammy is a little boy running about in his first breeches, it’s Samuel."
"Samuel, then," said Dean with a weary sigh as he sat up in his bed. "Another nightmare?"
Samuel wished it was just that, a nightmare, a figment of his imagination. Instead it was a harsh reality that he’d been struggling to accept since that night his brother had pulled him from the house he’d finally been able to call home after years spent wandering the English countryside and the back alleys of London with his father. All his hope of a normal life, gone the instant he’d set foot in the door that night. There had been blood everywhere, every servant had been butchered. He’d found Jessica’s father, his mentor and employer, in his study, throat slit. Jessica’s mother had been in the upstairs hallway, neck snapped. He could only imagine what Jessica had endured listening as that fiend had massacred the entire household then finally finishing the dirty deed by pinning her to the ceiling like that. Samuel leaned forward, palming his face with his hands. The sad fact was that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst was that if he’d told Jessica about the dreams or if he’d arrived sooner, perhaps he could’ve prevented it all.
A sharp knocking on the door shook Samuel from his depressing thoughts and sent both he and Dean scrambling for their garments.
"Who’s there?" Dean called out as he tugged on his trousers.
"Just me, Joanna, Mother says to make yourselves decent and get your arses downstairs. And coffee is getting cold in the dining room, if you want any you’d be wise to hurry up."
"We’ll be down as soon as Samuel finishes preening in front of the mirror."
Feminine laughter pealed from the other side of the door, gradually growing softer as Joanna walked away.
"Bastard, I’m not a woman," huffed Samuel as he moved to part the drapes that were cloaking the room in mostly darkness.
"Gah, you arse! You did that on purpose."
Samuel simply smiled, ignoring his brother’s complaint as he poked his head out into the hallway to collect the bowl of clean, warm water Joanna had left when she’d knocked for shaving with.
Ellen shook her head and sighed when she heard the thunder of boots on the stairs.
"Like a herd of elephants, those boys," she remarked.
"Boys will be boys," Bill reminded her gently.
"Which is why I’m thankful we have none of our own," she said with a teasing smile as she checked the coffee and pastries that were laid out for breakfast.
Bill simply chuckled and returned his attention to the morning paper laid out before him on the table as he sipped his coffee.
"Please, Ellen, tell me there’s coffee left," said Dean as he strode into the dining room.
"Good morning, Mrs. Harvelle," Samuel added pointedly with a respectful nod before fixing his brother with a disapproving gaze. "I see your manners are just as common as ever, Dean."
"Good morning, Samuel. And you’re in luck, Dean, when I sent Joanna up to fetch you boys I warmed up another pot. You’ll likely need it," she said as she handed an envelope to Samuel.
"The Professor I’d wager, likely he has a case for you boys. Been some interesting bits in the paper lately that warrant a look," said Bill.
"Open it up, Sammy," demanded Dean as he poured himself some coffee.
Samuel shot Dean a look for using that irritating nickname again then pulled a small blade from his pocket to open the missive.
"You were right, sir," he said as he perused the short letter inside then read it aloud. "Professor Robert Singer urgently requests your presence in his office at King’s College at no later than two o’clock this afternoon, signed Associate Professor Asher Miles."
"Urgent, huh? Wonder if this is a new case or something pertaining to what happened at the Moore residence," said Dean.
"I suppose we’ll find out when we get there."
"I’ll tell Caleb to hitch up the coach, the roads are likely too crowded for you to simply ride there and to walk could take hours," said Ellen.
"Have him hitch up Bran to the coach; I don’t want to be left without some means of making a quick getaway."
Both Ellen and Bill nodded in agreement and Ellen headed out to the coach house. Samuel eyed his brother with a mixture of worry and repulsion as he took a rather large bite of a sweet pastry after making that statement.
"Are you afraid we’ll be followed?"
"I’m not ruling out the possibility especially given the urgency of Bobby’s message. After what happened, I don’t want to take any chances."
Samuel watched Dean finish the pastry in another bite or two with a look in his eyes that he knew all too well from when they’d been younger. He’d never quite understood the reason behind that look but he always got it when Dean was feeling especially protective of him like now.
"Understood," he said, picking up an apple for himself. "I suppose being well armed wouldn’t be out of order either?"
Dean looked up from his coffee and smiled at him.
"Like riding a horse isn’t it?"
Samuel let out his most put upon sigh as he turned and left to head back upstairs to double check that he had everything he possibly could or would need to fend off an attacker on his person. Part of him hoped that Dean was wrong to worry but what had happened to his future in-laws was no random incident. Something was very wrong and it was up to him and his brother to figure out just what it was.
Sophia Carlton was walking with her friend Andrea along Regent Street admiring the dresses in the window on their way to a fitting for Andrea’s impending nuptials.
"You are so fortunate, Andrea, to make a match like that, a love match and one that benefits your station. Your parents must be giddy with happiness."
"Yes, Christopher is a good man and I love him and his little boy, Lucas. It’s such a tragedy for a child to never know his mother."
"Indeed. Have you met the boy?"
"I have, he’s very sweet and kind, mild tempered, he looks a great deal like his father."
"And is he looking forward to having you for a step-mother?"
"He was a little unsettled at first, having to share his father’s attention with another after it being just the two of them for so long but he seems to have accepted me into the family."
"That’s quite good…then…"
Andrea turned her head toward Sophia as her voice trailed off and followed her line of sight. A dark, stately carriage was approaching and when it came alongside her and Sophia it stopped.
"Mistress Sophia Carlton, I presume?" said a soft voice from inside the carriage.
"That would be correct, sir, and you are?"
"A secret admirer, my dear, won’t you join me for a ride in my carriage? You look tired like you’ve walked a long way; surely you could use the rest."
"Sophia, don’t, you know it’s dangerous to be in the company of a stranger, and a male stranger at that," said Andrea worriedly, seizing hold of her friend’s hand.
Sophia looked at her and smiled as she patted Andrea’s hand.
"Don’t worry, Andrea, I’ll be perfectly fine. He seems rather nice and I am rather weary of walking."
"But Sophia, your virtue, if you are seen riding alone with him there will be talk. I…I won’t be able to associate with you. Please, heed my words, my dearest friend."
"Beautiful Sophia, please come, I cannot wait all day for your company."
A white gloved hand beckoned from the window of the carriage as Sophia’s hand slipped away from Andrea’s. Andrea watched with horror as her friend took hold of the mysterious gentleman’s hand and allowed him to draw her inside with him. The same gloved hand waved to her as Sophia settled on the seat and the carriage bore the both of them away leaving Andrea all alone.
"How much further, Caleb?" said Samuel.
"Not much, we’re almost there, got a bit of a jam going with it being luncheon and all but we’ll get there on time."
"Something bothering you, Samuel? I’d think you’d be used to getting around like this going to all those fancy parties to make the acquaintance of the kind of people who would make or break a man like you," teased Dean.
"It’s nothing, just…a feeling I guess. Whatever this is that Bobby’s summoned us for…it’s not good, not at all."
Samuel jumped slightly when Dean leaned over and laid his hand on his knee.
"Thought as much, wound tight as a watch. You need to calm yourself, Sam. You’ve been like this ever since…well…you know. You’re not sleeping well; you’re agitated by the smallest things…"
"Your concern for my well being is touching, Dean, but not needed."
"I beg to differ considering now that we’re in this together I’ll need you to watch my back now and again. I need you sharp, Sammy."
Samuel nodded and turned to look out the window at the crowded London streets. One thing that stood out to his gaze was a rather fancy carriage that passed them by pulled by a team of matched chestnuts. Typically the London gentry didn’t head toward the east unless they had unsavory business to attend to. It passed rather swiftly once the driver found a break in the crowd and Samuel didn’t catch a view of the passengers.
"Not much longer now, gents, King’s College dead ahead," Caleb called out cheerfully.
Samuel turned his attention back to his brother who had taken his hand away and was checking the various pockets in his long, dark coat. He smiled when he spotted the ivory handled "Thunderer" safely tucked within its holster and found himself slipping his hand inside his own coat to brush the familiar mother of pearl grip on his own .38 caliber "Lightning". Both revolvers had been a gift from their father, imported from Colt Manufacturing over in America, when Samuel had turned sixteen. Dean glanced up at him and shared a knowing look before pulling his coat back shut to keep out the London chill. ‘Just like old times,’ Samuel thought to himself, both reassured and unnerved by the thought considering he’d worked so hard to deny it.
"Glad to see you lads could make it on such short notice," said Professor Singer as he stood up from his desk and gestured for Dean and Samuel to have a seat.
"You said it was urgent, Bobby," said Dean with a shrug, "So here we are."
"And to be sure it is, first of all, it’s good to see you again, Samuel, although I wish it weren’t under such grim circumstances."
"Likewise, Professor," said Samuel, his lips quirking a little as the bearded Scotsman set him at ease.
"Second of all, I have Asher looking into what happened on the night of November second. That lad is a wonder at research so if there be anything to be found, he’ll find it."
"You summoned us here for that?" said Dean incredulously.
Professor Singer scowled disapprovingly at Dean and harrumphed before moving back around his desk which was quite some feat considering how cluttered things were with books and other odds and ends.
"No, lad, I summoned you here because of a series of suicides I’ve been reading about in the papers."
Dean made a derisive noise but Samuel sat further forward in his chair listening attentively.
"This isn’t something to be taken lightly, Dean. I know you believe these things are common and with the places you frequent I can’t say I’m surprised but there is more than meets the eye here."
Professor Singer handed over a folder with newspaper clippings all of which were dated within the past six months.
"Starvation, threw herself in front of a carriage, drowned in the river, drowned in her bath," said Samuel as he paged through them, eyes widening when he came across an especially gruesome one.
"The most recent one was a pretty lass named Bess, shot herself with her da’s musket."
"So what’s the pattern?" said Dean, finally taking an interest in the situation.
"From the looks of it, all female, most of marriageable age, single…"
"I’d thought of that," said Professor Singer. "No sign of coitus with any of the victims."
"Which would make them all virgins as well," said Samuel thoughtfully. "Could be some kind of…compulsion perhaps?"
"A compulsion? Maybe they were simply depressed, Sammy," said Dean, tugging the folder from his brother’s grip. "See here, this one overdosed on laudanum, I’ve heard of those brain quacks prescribing that for when a woman gets too weepy."
"Not just depressed, Dean, heartbroken. Every single account mentions the woman raving about some man she met and then a few days later she’s dead. Something or someone is leading these women on, something powerful enough that when it’s gone the women simply can’t live without it."
"He’s called Gancanaugh or Gan Ceanach," said Professor Singer as he flipped open one of the many tomes on his desk. "It was the broken heart that tipped me off to it. Gan Ceanach is Irish for Love Talker. This ruddy bastard seduces women with his voice, flattering them until they believe he’s in love with them. Then with a quick kiss he’s off to the next one and the one he’s seduced pines away for want of him…"
"Until she simply can’t bear the thought of living without him and kills herself," finished Samuel.
"Twisted little son of a bitch," said Dean as he peered at the manuscript the Professor had opened, "Looks like we’ll need to break out the consecrated iron."
"Fae?" Samuel bit his lip. "That doesn’t bode well."
"No, it doesn’t," said the Professor. "There’s been rumbling amongst the Fae courts since the changing of power between the two. Notice the deaths become more frequent past the autumnal equinox."
"From the looks of this regardless of which court the bloody bastard is aligned with we need to snuff him. These are innocent young women we’re talking about," said Dean, jaw set in a stubborn line that reminded Samuel of their father a bit.
"He’s most likely aligned with either Winter or the Wild ones. My hope is for the latter, if he’s working for the Winter Court then we’re in for quite a shite storm when word gets back to the Queen."
"Either way we’re taking a big chance, but Dean’s right, we can’t let him woo another innocent into killing herself for him."
Professor Singer nodded in agreement.
"Trickiest part is going to be finding him. No one knows what he looks like which means he could be anybody. Might even be able to change his appearance on a whim bein’ a Fae and all. And there’s not much in this manuscript that will help either."
"I don’t know about that, Bobby. I would say a person walking around in the daylight with no shadow to speak of and birds silencing in their presence is pretty obvious. Same goes for the trail of mist," said Dean.
"But he hasn’t been walking," said Samuel as he retrieved the file from where it’d landed in Dean’s lap and flipped it open to the most recent article. "See here, the account from Bess’s cousin. She says that a carriage pulled up alongside them and a male occupant called out Bess’s name. He then proceeded to persuade her into joining him in the carriage before taking off."
"Does the cousin mention seeing anything distinct about the man? Clothes, voice, face?"
"White gloves and he seemed to be well dressed. Not exactly much to go on. There are several titled men in the city; it wouldn’t take much to impersonate one. Even someone as common as you could likely pull it off, given the time and tutelage. And the carriage serves to keep away the sunlight thereby masking the fact that he doesn’t have a shadow."
Dean scowled and made an obscene gesture at his brother’s insult.
"Dean!" scolded Professor Singer with a shake of his head. "The fact that he knew the lass on sight is rather interesting, implies that perhaps he did some scouting ahead of time."
"A good point," said Samuel as he perused the file. "I’m going to need more than this though if I want to plot out how this Fae is choosing his victims. There has to be something more they all have in common, some place that they go where this creature would be able to ascertain who they are."
"You’re welcome to take the file with you lads. Harvelle has several maps of the city in his possession that should be useful to you."
"Thanks, Bobby," said Dean as he stood up and reached over the desk to shake hands with their friend and mentor. "We’ll let you know what we find out."
"Likewise, lad. And if Asher turns up anything or if I run across anything here I’ll be sure to send a note your way."
Samuel stood and tipped his hat to Professor Singer before following Dean out of the office.
"I think we should stop by Scotland Yard on our way back to Harvelle’s," said Dean as they strode along through the college halls. "I think it would be wise to try and find out more from the cousin about Bess’s habits just prior to the incident with the carriage and her subsequent demise."
"Sounds like a good plan especially since with most of these other instances the trail is long grown cold by now. In some instances the deceased’s family may not live in the city or even in the country at this point."
"Very true, also if we do manage to secure the cousin’s address she’ll be more likely to speak with us right now. It’s nearing tea time after all."
Samuel rolled his eyes at his brother while watching him get into the coach.
"Always thinking with your stomach, aren’t you?" he said with playful disgust as he climbed in afterwards.
"You’ve obviously never experienced afternoon tea at Harvelle’s. Ellen allows Joanna to prepare that and she is a horror in the kitchen. She’d do well to marry someone well off enough to have a cook in the household who can mind the kitchen for her."
"Surely she’s not…"
"Sammy, her scones could be used to knock a man out from fifty paces. Just ask Caleb, we seriously considered testing that theory once or twice."
"He speaks the truth, Samuel. I nearly put a goose egg on Pastor James’s head with one last Sunday."
"I’ll wager he was quite put out with you over that," laughed Dean.
"That he was, he told Missus Ellen that she should make me scrub every pan in the kitchen as punishment."
"And did she?"
"She did, she would’ve made you come and scrub as well but I kept mum about it being your idea."
Samuel sighed and shook his head as his older brother’s mischief making.
"So where are we off to now, gents?" inquired Caleb as he maneuvered back out into the busy London streets.
"Scotland Yard, Caleb, as quickly as you can manage without tiring Bran out. We have work to do," said Samuel.
Their stop at the Yard was a rather short one by Samuel’s estimation. He had stayed behind in the coach to continue reading over the clippings in the Professor’s file and was surprised when Dean returned in less than fifteen minutes with the cousin’s address in hand. He had handed it up to Caleb before swinging up into the coach and taking a seat beside Samuel.
"Hailey Collins, sister of Thomas and Benjamin Collins both of whom she lives with, parents are deceased and Hailey is engaged to some man named Roy," he said with a smug grin.
"What alias did you use this time, Dean?"
"Detective James Page, seemed like a common enough name to permit me access to what I needed."
Samuel made a soft sound of assent and returned his attention to the papers as their coach took off again. He had just finished re-reading the article about Elizabeth "Bess" Noyes for what seemed like the third or fourth time when Dean tapped his shoulder. He climbed out of the coach first and Dean surprisingly didn’t argue over him taking the lead as they strolled up to the door of the Collins residence and knocked.
"I’m sorry gentlemen; the Collins family isn’t receiving visitors at this time."
"We’re aware of the family being in mourning, sir, that’s why we’re here. I’m Detective Jones and this is Detective Page from Scotland Yard. We were hoping we could speak with Miss Collins as part of the investigation into the death of her cousin," said Samuel, hoping his gentle earnestness would gain them entry.
The butler eyed the two of them skeptically then nodded.
"Wait here," he said before closing the door in their faces.
"Nasty old bugger," muttered Dean as he crossed his arms and waited impatiently.
"He’s just doing his job, Dean."
That knowledge didn’t keep Samuel from worrying his own lip with anxiety hoping that Miss Collins would be willing to speak with them. He checked his watch twice before the door finally opened again and they were allowed inside. Samuel removed his hat at once out of respect and held it at his side as the butler showed them into the drawing room where Miss Hailey Collins sat working on needlepoint while one of her brothers sat in a nearby chair with a pipe.
"So Scotland Yard has taken an interest in my cousin’s suicide, have they?" said the young man as he stood up, eyeing Dean and Samuel. "I have to say that’s rather unusual."
"We don’t believe it’s a suicide, Mister Collins," said Dean firmly. "We were alerted by an anonymous source that there may have been foul play involved here."
Samuel looked at Dean wondering what on earth he was playing at but Dean simply gave him that look that meant he should play along and not question him.
"Foul play? From whom? I can think of no one with a motive who would harm my cousin. She was a woman of kind heart and gentle soul much like my sister."
"The man in the carriage, you think he’s behind this?"
Samuel turned away from his brother and Mister Collins when Hailey spoke up.
"We think it’s a possibility, yes," he said. "What can you tell us about him?"
"Well, like I told the newspaper man, I wasn’t able to see the man’s face; he shifted position a couple of times while he was speaking to Bess like he was attempting to stay out of the sunlight."
"It was daylight when he came across you?"
"Yes, we were going for a fitting at one of the shops on Regent Street. All the best dress shops are along there and with my wedding being just a few weeks away I wanted Bess to be fitted for her bridesmaid dress as well as checking on my own gown."
"That is what makes this matter even more unfortunate, we’ve had to delay my sister’s wedding now until the period of mourning for poor Bess has concluded. It would be in poor taste to continue otherwise," said Mr. Collins dryly.
"Agreed," said Samuel as he moved to slide over an ottoman before taking a seat on it facing Hailey. "What else do you recall from that day, Miss Collins?"
"It was a very ornate carriage, the driver was well dressed and it was pulled by a team of matched chestnuts. I was intrigued at first because Bess had been rather depressed of late owing most likely to my impending marriage to Roy. I thought perhaps this was a man of means who would simply pass Bess his card and ask to call on her at some time."
"But instead he invited her into the carriage?" said Dean.
"Yes, he asked if she was Mistress Elizabeth Noyes and Bess responded that she was and then he held out his hand to beckon for her to climb into the carriage with him."
"A white gloved hand?"
"Yes, he was wearing white gloves and a well tailored grey coat with silver cufflinks."
"And you said in the paper that you tried to persuade your cousin not to go with this strange gentleman?" said Samuel.
"I did. But she didn’t listen to me. It was like I was speaking but she wasn’t truly hearing what I had to say."
"What did he sound like?"
"He was difficult to hear over the noise of the street. If I hadn’t been standing so close to Bess I doubt I would’ve heard him at all. It was as if he were whispering to her almost."
Samuel looked up at Dean who had a thoughtful look on his face as he took in all the information Hailey was giving them.
"This is all very interesting but I don’t believe a word of it," scoffed Mister Collins. "My cousin died by her own hand after raving like a madwoman over this non-existent person. That is all."
"He wasn’t a delusion, Thomas, I saw the man with my own eyes."
Thomas made a derisive snort and turned away from his sister and the Winchesters.
"Miss Collins did you and your cousin attend any festivities in the days just prior to this encounter with the stranger in the carriage?" said Samuel as he returned his attention to Hailey.
"Why would you want to know that?"
"We find it rather unsettling that this stranger knew your cousin well enough to refer to her by name. We think perhaps that this stranger may have selected her as his victim by running across her in some common meeting place such as a park or a theatre."
Hailey pursed her lips obviously deep in thought trying to recall any instances such as Samuel had suggested.
"Covent Garden," said a young, male voice from the doorway. "My sister’s fiancé Roy invited Hailey and Bess to a performance of Aida at the Convent Garden Theatre a couple of nights prior to the incident."
"You must be Benjamin," said Dean, turning toward the voice.
"Did you attend the performance as well or was it just your sister, cousin, and future brother-in-law?"
"I was there. Thomas insisted."
"Did you see anyone suspicious around your cousin at any time during the opera?" said Samuel.
"No, not at the time, not that I can recall, it was rather crowded that evening so it would’ve been difficult to distinguish between a normal person and someone with malicious intentions."
"Did you see anyone that matched the description your sister gave the police and the papers regarding the gentleman in the carriage?"
"Possibly, but it would’ve only been a glimpse. A man wearing white gloves does tend to stand out like an orange in a basket of apples. I didn’t get a good look at his face."
"Are you satisfied now, Detectives?" huffed Thomas.
Dean glared at Thomas then glanced from him to Hailey to Benjamin before turning to his brother looking for confirmation that they had every bit they needed to know.
"Yes," said Samuel with a nod, meeting his brother’s gaze before turning a sympathetic look toward Hailey. "Thank you for your time, Miss Collins. I’ll be sure to keep you informed of our investigation."
"You’re welcome, Detective Jones," she said with a sad smile. "I only wish your men had taken an interest in this sooner."
"So do I, but now that we’re on the case you can be sure we’ll be doing everything in our power to prevent another such incident."
Samuel stood up and placed the ottoman back where it belonged before nodding to Thomas and shaking hands with Benjamin. Dean followed his lead although he barely acknowledged Thomas then followed Samuel out to where Caleb was waiting with the carriage.
"Well that turned out well even if the older brother was a bit of a nuisance," said Dean, leaning back and nibbling on a sandwich he’d swiped from a tray on the way out the door.
Samuel nodded, not even glaring at Dean over the sandwich before delving back into the clippings seeking references to Regent Street and Covent Garden Theatre.
"Good grief, Sammy, you stare at those papers much more your eyes are going to wind up crossed."
"Worried? About what?"
"I saw the carriage. The one Hailey described, gilded with a pair of matched chestnuts. When we were heading to the College a carriage like that went past us headed for the east side of the city."
"You saw it? Why the devil didn’t you say anything sooner? We could’ve gone after it!"
"I didn’t know at the time, you arse, we hadn’t even gotten the case yet."
"Bleeding hell!" snapped Dean, slamming his fist down on the seat. "Did you see the passengers?"
Dean glowered, finally understanding Samuel’s desperate need to piece together the pattern this foul creature was laying out before another life ended. When Caleb returned them to Harvelle’s, Samuel headed upstairs without so much as a word of greeting to Ellen and Bill. Dean watched him go then headed into the library where he knew Bill would be.
"Well, Dean?" said Bill when he entered the room.
"I need a good map of the city, Bill. Samuel’s already upstairs with the file. There’s a Fae preying on women."
Bill was out of his chair in a heartbeat rummaging through his maps and finally pressing one into Dean’s hands.
"Go on then, I’ll tell Ellen to send dinner up to you boys."
"Thank you, sir."
Samuel was standing by the table with the clippings and a box of bullets that would serve well as markers when Dean got upstairs with the map. They unrolled it carefully and Dean picked up the folder of clippings while Samuel studied the map, marking off Covent Garden and Regent Street as well as the Collins residence. The address of each victim was listed in the paper and Samuel marked each one with a bullet as Dean read them off.
"Well, the bastard definitely has a pattern and preference where his victims are concerned," remarked Dean as he stood up carefully to look at the spots Samuel had marked.
"A rather odd preference actually if you think about it especially if he wanted to avoid being noticed."
"Ah but he has gone unnoticed, Sammy, you read the clippings yourself. Every single one has been chalked up to the young lady simply going mad and killing herself. Nothing to investigate, no sign of foul play, just some mysterious man in a carriage that the police aren’t going to think is worth pursuing."
Samuel’s brow furrowed as he thought then his mouth upturned in a smirk.
"Very true, and really of all the economic classes he could have chosen, middle to upper is the most likely to guarantee his victims are virgins and being a Fae and especially if he’s a Winter Fae that plays heavily into his power. The lower a woman is monetarily speaking the more likely it is that she’s been sampled already."
"Heh, yeah, unfortunately, and sometimes not all that willingly either."
Samuel quirked his brow at Dean and shook his head knowing his brother was likely referring to things he’d overheard rather than his own experience.
"So with all these women being of the same class then what, he scouts them out at the Theatre, picks out women who are there with other women or seemingly no escort of their own other than family? Then picks them up on Regent Street while they’re out shopping?"
"That does seem to be his pattern, yes. The other thing I noticed in perusing these articles again is that there seems to be a regular interval of time between that first meeting and the young lady’s untimely demise."
"Oh? I’m surprised I didn’t notice that earlier."
"Mmmm hmmm, see here…first meeting occurs…"
"New moon…and the woman kills herself on the last day of the full moon. His power is at its peak at that point and the woman’s death releases all that power to him."
"So that gives us some time but not much," said Dean with a slight sigh of relief.
"Maybe, better not to assume too much here."
"Go check the sky, Samuel, it’s dark enough now that if there’s a moon it should be up."
Samuel nodded and pushed open the window to peer out into the night. There didn’t look to be a moon at all, no sign of its light anywhere. A knock at their door startled him and caused him to bang his head on the side of the window frame. Dean chuckled as he opened the door to admit Joanna who was carrying a tray with bowls of stew and mugs of beer.
"Father said you have a new case," she said as Dean carefully put away their map and the clippings.
"That’s right," said Samuel as he came over rubbing his head.
"Anything I can do to help?"
"You’ve done enough, Joanna, thank you," said Dean, ushering her out of the room.
Joanna harrumphed at being kicked out and slammed the door loudly behind her.
"Since when does Joanna show an interest in cases?" said Samuel as he sat down at the table.
"Since Bill allowed her to tag along on one, they were a mess when they got back from running around in the sewers."
Samuel chuckled and dug into his dinner heartily, trying not to move his sore head to much.
"So what’s the plan for tomorrow?" said Dean between heaping spoonfuls.
"I’m not sure. We don’t know who he picked up today and I’m not sure how we’d go about finding out either."
"I don’t like the sound of that."
"Neither do I. We could try checking out the theatre tomorrow night."
"But if he’s already picked up his target then why would he go back there."
"I don’t know, maybe he’ll meet up with her again there. To get the kind of reaction he’s eliciting from these women surely it would take repeated exposure."
"It’s worth a try, I suppose."
The rest of their dinner was consumed in relaxed silence and the dishes set out in the hallway before they turned in for the night.
Samuel awoke early the next morning while Dean was still snoring peacefully in his bed. The nightmare had played itself out yet again leaving him feeling less than rested but he still pulled himself out of bed and dressed for the day. He contemplated waking Dean to go with him to the theatre to procure tickets to the evening’s performance but decided against it figuring his brother would likely cause trouble. He went downstairs and quietly headed out to the stable to saddle Taliesin himself before taking off to Covent Garden.
"Sorry, sir, tonight’s performance is sold out, not a single seat or space available."
"Sold out? How is that possible? It’s been two months since the end of the Season."
"I don’t know, sir. All I know is that tonight’s performance is not available nor is any performance for at least seven days from now."
Samuel attempted to keep as tight a rein on his frustration as he could. This could not be happening. He and Dean had to find out who the woman had been in that carriage. They had to save her before it was too late.
"Could you possibly give me a list of those persons who will be attending the theatre tonight? Perhaps I can find a friend who’ll share a ticket with me."
"I’m sorry, sir. I cannot give out that information to anyone other than an officer of the law."
Samuel hid a sigh as he knew trying to claim to be a detective would be unwise at this point considering the story he’d initially given the man about wanting desperately to see this particular opera. He could however send Dean back by later to get the list for him to peruse.
"Where do you think you’re going, Sophia?" whispered Andrea as she sat next to her parents watching the opera.
"To see him, he promised he’d meet with me here."
"Sophia, I don’t think that would be wise. How will I explain your absence to my parents? It was difficult enough explaining what happened a couple days ago."
"Just tell them I needed some air, if they even notice I’m gone that is."
Andrea bit her lip with worry as she watched her friend duck through the curtain to go meet with her mystery man.