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Charles Whitehurst

Into the Depths Once More Wednesday Evening 4/13

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Lantern held high, golden dagger in his pocket, Charles led Sam down the narrow steps of the palace secret passage.  It was not easy to find the trigger for the hidden vault; but, fortunately, he had made the trip on more than one occasion with Susan Herbert, so he was confident he would locate the release.

As always, he was in uniform so he would be easy to identify for other soldiers of the Guard.  "It is around here," he whispered to his captain, the words having a slight echo.  Would he be able to conjure the spirit once more to prove the truthfulness of his story with Sam?  They were about to find out.

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Sam, also wearing her uniform, followed Charles into the secret passageways below the palace. She had always known they were there, but had never been called upon to patrol the place. Nor had it interested her overmuch until she had heard Lord Langdon’s unbelievable tale. Would he actually lead her to a secret room with a skeleton in it or was he only jesting with her? In her heart, she wished that he wanted to be alone with her, but she knew that he saw her as only a good friend.. Would he treat her differently if he knew the truth about Newmarket? He had probably forgotten all about it. To her knowledge, he had never tried to find that mysterious woman.

 

Shaking her head to clear it of those dangerous thoughts, she focused on his words. “How can you tell?” she asked. “The walls all look the same to me.”

 

The raised stone was not hard to find in the light of the lantern. All Charles had to do was step on it to open the door.

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Stepping upon the trigger, Charles waited for the door to open. Moving inward with his lantern, he ushered Sam inside and closed the door.

The expectation as that the room would not have been disturbed since the last time he and Susan had visited.  Charles moved the lantern about to assure himself that such was the case. "I found the dagger here."  He pointed to the ledge that had hidden it.  "Here are the remains of the man that was murdered over his love for another man's wife," he explained.  "His spirit has been trapped seeking some form of justice.  Perhaps we can contact him again together."

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Sam watched as Charles took a step closer to the wall, and one eyebrow rose as part of it swiveled open, revealing a dark space behind it. He had not touched the wall, so she assumed that he had stepped on something that had caused it to open. She could see nothing unusual on the floor. “I hope you’ll let me close it when we're done,” she remarked as she followed him into the room, glimpsing its contents as Charles waved the lantern about.

 

He would see that everything was just as he and Susan had left it on New Year’s Eve. It didn’t appear as if anybody else had discovered the chamber and it was still a secret than only Charles, Susan, and now Sam, were aware of.

 

She glanced up at the ledge on which he had found the dagger. Perhaps the killer had thought that nobody would find it up so high. Do you know why the murderer didn’t take it with him? It seems to me that he would want to get rid of the evidence, even though this room is hidden well. I doubt that he was the only person who knew about it, unless he also found it by accident.”

 

Sam strode over to the skeleton. Unlike Susan, she was not a bit wary of it. She had seen bodies in various stages of decomposition that were fare more revolting than a pile of bones. It seemed to be intact, which seemed strange after so many years but on further inspection, it seemed that the remnants of his clothing was holding his bones together.  She was no fashion expert, but the tattered clothes did resemble the pictures she had seen of Tudor attire in books.

 

Charles mentioned the ghost again, claiming that the spirit of the dead man was trapped in the place of his death and sought justice. Sam was still unsure whether he was teasing her or not. Her eyes were adjusting to the dimness and she turned and gazed at him. “Are you sure he’s still here? Perhaps you scared him so much that he deserted the premises,” she jested.

 

The flame in Charles’ lantern began flickering merrily, almost as if it was laughing.

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"Nothing has changed," Langdon noted aloud as he surveyed the room.  "The dust is undisturbed."

Sam asked various questions and Charles nodded.  "These are all good questions.  This is especially true because the retrieval of the dagger is so important now."  As he thought on it, he added "maybe the murderers were hired and did not think to take the dagger."

The flicker of the lantern was a signal to Charles.  "The spirit is still here.  It is how he communicates with me," Charles explained.  "We felt no other wind gusts as we walked here or entered, so it cannot be a normal thing for the lantern to flicker so."

"Spirit, please flicker the lantern twice to signal my Captain that you are here.  We have found the man that has sought  your dagger."

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“Perhaps,” Sam replied thoughtfully. “The assassin might have left it accidentally, intending to retrieve it, but couldn’t find the room again. He could have told the man who hired him that he had disposed of it. But why Lewin … if he is behind all this … is going to such great lengths to get his hands on it a century later remains a mystery. I wish we could have been able to ambush him this morning. Maybe we would have more answers now."

 

Sam looked at the lantern when it flickered. Ever observant, she had not noticed any disturbance that could cause it. Charles claimed that the ghost communicated through the lantern, but she thought there must be some other explanation.

 

Then he actually spoke to the spirit. Had he gone completely bonkers?

 

The flame in the lantern remained still. Sam stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to say. There was no ghost. That was pretty clear. Maybe Charles needed to take some time off. He had been working quite hard lately with this dagger business and now the murder in the palace gardens. But how did she tell him …?

 

The lantern flickered once. There was a pause and then it flickered again, before once more dancing cheerfully as if it was amused. Had the spirit hesitated on purpose? Perhaps the ghost had a quirky sense of humor.

 

It took all the will Same possessed to stop herself from taking an involuntary step back. As it was, she was rendered speechless. Surely this must be some kind of joke that Charles had planned beforehand.

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"I was beginning to think you had left," Charles replied when the flame flickered at last.  "I have come to tell you what we have learned since last we spoke."

Charles summarized what he and Susan had learned about the ghost's identity, as well as the Swan, though he left out mention of Susan to protect her identity from Sam.  He then went on to explain about visiting Tamsin's house and finding the secret room and box.  He then completed the tale with learning the identity of Master Lewin and the interrogation of the two servants.

"We were planning to arrest Lewin this morning but I do not have evidence beyond your murder, and Lewin had nothing to do with it, unless he is a descendant of the man that murdered you.  Do you recognize the name?  One flicker for yes and two for no," he suggested so that Sam could follow the communication.

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The flame in the lantern remained still as Charles told the ghost everything he and Susan had learned since New Years Eve. Yet when he mentioned Tamsin’s house and the secret room, the flame blazed brighter and higher, and then returned to its normal size as he continued.

 

As Charles focused on the spirit, Sam … trying not to be too obvious … scanned the area around the lantern, looking for any devices that might be able to emit a blast of air. She couldn’t think of any other way to make the candle flicker like that. There was nothing close to the lantern at all.

 

When the flame suddenly flared in height, she had trouble keeping her mouth from dropping to the floor. Charles spoke to the ghost as if they were old friends, and he seemed very serious. She watched his hands, thinking that he must be holding something that was able to control the flame while he asked the ghost if it recognized Lewin’s name.

 

The lantern flickered twice. If Charles was trying to scare her, he would have the spirit confirm that it knew who Lewin was. His hands had not moved either. Could it be that ghosts were real, and he had been telling the truth all along? Sam didn’t know what to believe anymore.

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Two flickers meant no.  Charles sighed.  The spirit did not recognize the name Lewin.  The young officer had assumed that Lewin was somehow related to the assassin.

"That is all we have.  I cannot easily arrest Lewin without more evidence.  Even if I could link him to your murder, there would be little justification given that he was not the assassin.  I am thinking of waiting until next season to collect more information.  I hope to gain answers when I confront the man with more facts."  He had not expected much assistance form the spirit.  The primary purpose of the trip was to convince Sam that he was not a looney.

"I will look for ways to move your bones to be with the Swan once we find her final resting place.  If nothing else, I hope to do you that service."  There might not be other need to visit the spirit until then.

"Have we missed anything in this room?" Charles asked as he surveyed the room.  "Captain, do you have any questions for our spirit?"

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Charles seemed genuinely disappointed by the ‘ghost’s' answer, and Sam doubted that he was a very good actor. She still wasn’t convinced that he was communicating with a spirit, but she decided to suspend her disbelief for now.

 

“I haven’t had much time to look around yet,” she replied. “I would like to inspect the skeleton more thou thoroughly before we go.” She looked at the lantern. “Do you mind?” The flame flickered twice and then danced as if it was laughing again.

 

What if she was really speaking to a ghost? The very notion was difficult for Sam to wrap her mind around. Charles asked if she had any questions for the spirit. She almost said no, and then she remembered how long ago it had been since the man had been killed. Though Charles had mentioned that Lewin might be one of the assassin’s descendants, he had not asked directly.

 

“Even though you do not recognize the name, is it possible that Lewin could be a descendant of the person who murdered you?”

 

The lantern flickered three times.

 

Sam glanced at Charles. “What do three flickers mean?”

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"Three flickers is equivalent to I do not know.  His spirit is trapped here and he cannot leave this place, as far as I know, until we can lay him to rest," Charles attempted to explain.  "Do you believe me now?"  Sam was completely loyal to him, but he had brought her here to see the situation for herself.

"Go ahead and ask something more.  I will step away from the lantern."  He was debating revealing that Susan Herbert had accompanied him and was another witness.  Unless necessary, he would protect her participation.

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Sam didn’t answer Charles immediately, because she wasn’t certain what she felt. Were they really communicating with a ghost? There were no windows in the room for a gust of air to blow through, and the room smelled a bit stale, which likely meant that no fresh air was getting in at all. Nobody could control the flame from another room, assuming there was one. Everything she had seen indicated that ghosts did exist and that they could communicate with humans. Still, it was difficult to believe.

 

“The facts are in your favor,” she said finally, not yet ready to commit to the idea. At least I know he isn’t mad. His sanity was more important to her than the existence of ghosts.

 

“I do have a few more questions.” Sam focused on the lantern again. "So it’s possible that Lewin is the descendant of the killer and for some unknown reason, wants to get his hands on the murder weapon. Did the dagger belong to the man who killed you?”

 

Two flickers.

 

“Did … I mean does … it belong to you?”

 

One flicker.

 

Her gaze moved back to Charles. “Why would the killer’s descendants want it if it isn’t even theirs? If Lewin is the spirit’s descendant, then the story of what his ancestor did must have been passed down through the generations, including the description of the dagger.”

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"Yes it is a puzzle," Charles admitted.  "Lewin must either be a descendant of the murderers or a descendant of the spirit.  If the latter, then perhaps we should not treat him as a villain."

Turning back to the spirit and lantern, Charles inquired "if we find this Master Lewin is indeed your descendant, perhaps a great grandson, would you want me to give the dagger to him, or keep it myself until everything is sorted out?  One flicker to give it to him now,"  Charles requested.

Until this moment the young officer had assumed Lewin was related to the assassins.  It had not occurred to him that the man might be entitled to the dagger.  That would make the whole affair less dangerous.  But why would Lewin hire thugs to attack Tamsin?

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The lantern flickered twice. Sam frowned. Why would the ghost … if he existed at all … want to keep the dagger away from his great-grandson? “Maybe somebody from his own family killed him?"

 

The lantern flickered three times, even though she had not asked the spirit a direct question. The long dead lord seemed to have no idea who his murderer was. Either he had not seen the killer, or an enemy hired an assassin to do away with him, as Charles had already suggested. It seemed like the smartest course of action.

 

She raised her eyes to her superior officer. “I can see why you are so intrigued by this mystery, my lord. It’s drawn me in as well. Will you let me help you solve it?” If so, it would take some of the pressure away from him. He was dealing with a lot these days.

 

Sam glanced over at the skeleton. She still wanted to inspect it more closely before they left.

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It was an interesting revelation that the victim did not know the identity of his killer.  He would not know the identityof his grandchild either.  They were missing the motive for Lewin.  It was frustrating.

 

"I brought you here so that you might help."  Yjay signaled that she was already a part of the mystery now.  I would welcome your ideas and theories.  We are at something of a dead end.  I should tell you that Susan Herbert has been helping me as well.  She has researched our Swan and Lion. and helped identify the dagger and identities involved."  Now that Sam was part of the team, she needed to know that.  He only hoped that Sam would not roll her eyes at the picture he painted.  Susan had been very helpful.

"Any other questions or searching before we take our leave?" he askd, looking about the room again for ideas.  Had they missed something?  Perhaps a fresh perspective would help.

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Sam felt as if she had been punched in the gut when Charles revealed that Lady Susan Herbert was involved in the mystery as well. She had hoped that they would share a secret known only to them. Did he fancy Lady Susan? She was beautiful and feminine and noble, everything that Sam was not. And he could marry her if he chose to do so.

 

Then again, Sam had no delusions that he would ever marry her. Earls did not wed commoners and even if they broke the rules, their wives would never be accepted into court society. Once a peasant, always a peasant. Even if the rules changed, he would want her to quit the military and become a proper wife, which she had no intention of doing.  She loved her profession and the freedom that posing as a man gave her.

 

The best she could hope for was to be his mistress and ... if she was lucky ... the love of his life. If he married, he might be more likely to take a lover, as many noblemen did.

 

I’m just fooling myself. We’ll never be nothing but friends. I should forget my romantic notions altogether. After all, illicit love had done the ghost no favors. It had gotten him killed and now his spirit was stuck forever haunting this room unless his bones could be buried next to the woman he had loved.

 

Her inner turmoil did not show on her face. Soldiers learned quickly to keep their expressions neutral. “I hope you’ll fill me in on everything the two of you have discovered. A new perspective could be useful. I’d like to inspect the skeleton again but it shouldn’t take very long. I doubt there is anything else to be found.”

 

The lantern flickered once.

 

Sam’ eyes widened. “There is something that has not yet been discovered?”

 

Another single flicker.

 

She turned to Charles. “Do you want to join me?"

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Charles was blind to Sam's inner turmoil.  He had thought her passionately devoted to him in a martial friendship.  Thus the disclosure about Susan Herbert could hardly been seen as provocative.

"We missed something?"  Charles was genuinely surprised.  He had thought the skeleton had been searched thoroughly.  Moving his lantern beside the bones, Charles offered "yes, let us take a close look."  With that, he went to him knees and began sifting through the dust surrounding the skeleton.

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Sam did the same, sweeping off the dust and examining the skeleton closely. She was more interested in inspecting the bones than she was in finding a hidden object. Though she had seen many corpses in her career, she had never seen an intact skeleton and was unlikely to see another. It was quite intriguing to observe how well the bones fit together. “It’s missing its hands” she observed. “I wonder if the killers cut them off before they stabbed him.” She was unaware that they had fallen off when Charles and Susan fond it, revealing the chest that it held.
 

Underneath one foot, Charles would find a small small diamond brooch tangled in the remains of the sole of a shoe. Accented with gold, it was clearly quite valuable.

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"No, the hands were intact.  They are here somewhere."  Charles found himself examining the floor to reassure himself that his memory was correct.

The further search identified a brooch in the dead man's shoe.  Had he hidden it just prior to be attacked?  He cursed himself silently for missing the jewelry in his earlier searches.  "Was this to be a gift for the Swan?  Or, was this a gift from her to you?" He found himself addressing the lamp, looking for a flicker or two for each query.  "Is this an important clue to find the man that ordered your death?" he asked as a follow up.  Rightly or wrongly, it seemed important to the ghost.  Maybe he just wanted to bestow it to Charles, or maybe he wanted him to give it to a great-granddaughter of the Swan.

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Sam found the skeletal hands in a pile of dust and bent down to observe them. It didn’t look like it would be possible to put them back in place. Nor did the spirit seem to care much about the remains he had long since left behind. In spite of her misgivings about the existence of ghosts, she had no doubt that what she and Charles were experiencing was real. There was simply no other explanation.

 

As she rose, she stepped on something hard. Bending back down, she saw a carved gold button on the floor. Scooping it up, she was about to tell Charles about it when she noticed the glittering brooch he had discovered. Compared to the valuable piece of jewelry, the button seemed unimportant, and she tucked into one of the pockets of her uniform. Perhaps she would keep it. For some reason, she wanted something to remember this evening by.

 

The flame in the lantern danced as if it was laughing again, and Sam wondered if the ghost had read her mind. All of Charles’ questions received two flickers. It had not been a gift from either of the lovers and it wasn’t a clue that would help them find the murderer. Whether it was important or not to their investigation, Sam did not know.

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"Blast."  Maybe Charles had been expecting a major break through, like a letter of confession from the killer or some such nonsense.  It was naive of him to hope for that.

"It is a pretty brooch," he commented as he turned it so that the lamplight would catch it. Unaware that Sam had secreted a piece of evidence, Charles sighed.  Would he give the brooch to Darlene?  He would give it to Sam, but he was thinking that might seem inappropriate to her, as if he only viewed her as a woman whose head swam with dreams of jewelry.   Darlene seemed more appropriate.

"Is there anything else in here for us to discover?" he found himself asking the lamp.  "If not, I suppose we will retreat and consider our options.  We will leave your bones here until we are done.  I want to make sure we can contact you again," he explained.  With a look to Sam, the Major asked "anything else you wish to see in here before we leave?"

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The lantern flickered twice. It seemed as if there was nothing left to find The brooch had been hidden well and would probably have remained under the skeleton’s foot if the ghost had not told them they had missed something. Why, Sam wondered, had he hidden it in his shoe before he was killed? It must have some sort of significance.

 

Charles conversed with the spirit almost as if they were old friends. That made her smile. “I’m ready to go. I don’t think there’s anything else we can do here tonight.”

 

The flame suddenly grew stronger and flared toward the hand in which Charles held the brooch. If he didn’t drop it, he would risk severe burns.

 

Sam stepped back. “I don’t think he wants us to take the brooch with us.”

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The flare caught him by surprise.  "Blazing cannons."  Charles found himself lowering the brooch to the ground and facing the lantern with a "why?"

"The brooch does no good hidden under dust in a room that none but us may ever see again.  Jewelry is to be admired." It made no sense to the young officer.  He had no problem with the pearl ring or dagger.  So why the upset with the brooch?

"Was this from your mother?  The Swan?  A sister perhaps? The Queen?"  He looked for answers in the flame.

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Charles’ first question was answered with two flickers. The second received one. There was no response to the others, as the ghost had indicated that the brooch had belonged to his former lover.

 

“It was the Swan's but it was not a gift,” Sam mused. “Maybe he stole it from her.”

 

One flicker.

 

“Is the brooch your connection to the Swan?” she asked the lantern directly.

 

The flame flared again, first in the direction of Charles and then  Sam. She had no idea what the spirit was trying to tell them. “What do you think that means?” she asked him.

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"Curious," Charles mumbled as he watched Sam interact with the spirit.  The young officer wondered at the movement of the flame.

"Either he wants us to leave it here to be near his bones," Charles ventured slowly "or wants us to return it to her ..." he continued, though doubting that last supposition.

"Or, he knows your secret Sam."  By that he meant that the spirit knew she was a woman and that the pair were close friends.  "He may want me to give it to you," he whispered as he looked towards the lamp.

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The flame flickered twice at each of Charles’ suppositions. So the ghost didn’t want them to leave the brooch with him or return it to he Swan. There must be some reason the flame had pointed to each of them when asked if the beautiful piece of jewelry was his connection to the Swan, but she couldn’t figure it out.

 

Sam nearly jumped when Charles surmised that the spirit knew her secret, but instead just shifted from foot to foot, looking a bit uncomfortable. Did he know that she was the woman he had shagged at Newmarket? Was he aware of her feelings for him?

 

Realizing that he was referring to her male disguise, she relaxed. Hopefully, he had not noticed her uneasiness.  “It might look a bit odd if you gave jewelry to one of your men,” she joked. “But if he doesn’t want us to leave the brooch here, perhaps one of us should keep it. It must be able to aid us in some way even if it doesn't lead us to his murderer.”

 

The flame flickered once.

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Happy that he had apparently surmised the meaning of the spirit, Charles nodded and gave the brooch to Sam.  The spirit might know her true gender and might just be gallant about a gift.  Had the spirit read his mind about potentially gifting it to Darlene? It made him wonder.

"We will entrust this beautiful brooch into your care," Charles announced aloud as he handed his captain the piece of jewelry.  "Now we had best take our leave."  As he moved towards the door, the young officer asked "is there anything else?"  It was to the spirit rather than his fellow officer. 

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Sam accepted the brooch, tucking it into the same pocket with the button she had found. She wouldn’t be able to wear it, of course, but she could carry it around with her whenever she and Charles investigated aspects of this strange but intriguing mystery. She still wished they could interrogate Lewin, but the murder at the palace was more important, since the King’s life could possibly be in danger.

 

She looked at the lantern. “I promise I’ll keep it safe for you.” It still seemed odd to be speaking to a ghost who communicated through flickering flames, but she was no longer skeptical about the spirit’s existence and hoped that they would help it find peace.

 

The flame flickered twice to Charles’ question. “I’m ready to go,” Sam agreed. “Thank you for bringing me here, my lord. It has been a very enlightening evening.”

 

 

(OOC: Ready to wrap this one up?)

 

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And so off the duo went, ironically enlightened by a lamp.  "I think he likes you," Charles jested as the secret door closed and they began their trek upwards.  "Now do you still think I am looney to believe in a ghost?" he offered with a satisfied smile.  He had worried that the Lion would not appear this evening and Charles would be left to look foolish.

~ finis.  Merci

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“I should hope so,” Sam replied with a chuckle. “I would hate to be on the bad side of a ghost.” She still wondered if the spirit knew both her secrets … the one she was hiding from the world and the one she was hiding from Charles. It was fortunate that the Lion could only communicate by the flame of a lantern with yes or no answers.

 

Striding beside him, she grinned at Charles when he asked if she thought he was loony. “Not for believing in a ghost, but as to whether you are loony in general …” Sam shrugged, enjoying the opportunity to tease him a bit.

 

 

(OOC: Sam just had to have the last word. 😉)

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