Marie and Sir John made their way into the sparsely decorated church hall joining people already seated for the advertised service. Mostly, they seemed to be a dour sort, dressed in dark colours and with solemn faces.
“I hope we have more luck here,” said Sir John. “We don’t have any leads at all so far. None of the devices have shown anything.”
“I agree,” said Marie, “but there is one thing I wonder. Mademoiselle Copperwaite ‘as been unmoving for a year. But her muscles, they are still there, no wasting.”
Sir John turned to look at his wife. “How interesting, I wonder… oh look it’s starting.”
The gentle susurration of whispering voices stopped and a man walked in the room. He wore a turban on his head with an ornate jewel at the forehead. His clothes were equally flamboyant, having a vibrant pattern with an oriental feel.
“Namaste, my congregation,” intoned the man. There was a mumbled response from the crowd. The man looked imperiously across the room, his eyes glancing at Marie and Sir John. The man remained standing and held out his arms. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply and noisily. “I am now contacting the spirit world,” he said. When he spoke again his voice had changed. It was more nasal with a drowsy, sing-song quality. The crowd was completely silent.
“We have newcomers amongst us,” said the turbaned man and turned his face, eyes still closed, towards Sir John and Marie. The crowd muttered in approval, apparently wowed by the insight.
“Good evening,” said Sir John, his voice a little tremulous. “I am Sir John Jennings and this is my wife, Marie.”
“Allo,” said Marie.
“You have travelled far,” intoned the man again, and again there were murmurs of approval. “You have travelled far to speak to me, Count Alfonso di Montmartre. You seek answers? Answers from… the Other Side.”
“Yes, we came from London, er, recently,” said Sir John.
“One has come further,” said the turbaned man.
“My wife is from France,” said Sir John and there was a rumble of approval from the crowd at this revelation. Marie rolled her eyes.
“You seek some knowledge, something you cannot find in London. Something you can only find from… the Other Side.”
“We were wondering,” said Sir John, “if you know about Mesmerism.”
A woman gasped loudly, and the crowd all started murmuring again.
“Yes, sir,” said the turbaned man. “I know of this. You think you want to know too? Well, that foul practise is the very gateway to hell. That obscene art is the purest poison from the bosom of the beast. It is the quickest and surest road to the very abyss itself. Do you want that, sir? Do you want your soul to be in torment? Your body in flames? The very fires of hell licking your feet, your legs, and your buttocks for all eternity?”
“Perhaps not,” said Sir John.
“Then ask no more,” said the turbaned man and turned away from the Jennings. “I sense there is one here who has lost someone recently, someone who has passed beyond.”
Many hands raised into the air and the turbaned man continued. He spoke to three or four people offering vague messages from their relatives and after that the meeting ended.
As the Jennings got up to leave, a small man knocked into Sir John. He looked annoyed and then confused and then looked down at his hand.
“Well, we are, as you say, back to the first square,” said Marie mournfully.
“Perhaps not,” said Sir John and showed her the card he had been passed.