Recovering from their harrowing adventure on the Doom train, they had a couple days until their train left on Monday. Dr William Yates, not having experienced the Doom Train, settled in to read over the old journal of his missing friend Dr. Julius Smith.
The friends of Professor Smith mentioned as taking the journey included:
Professor Harry Worth, British Archaeologist
Captain Roderick Barrington, Bart., British Military Officer
George Banks, Reforming British Criminal
Amelia Meadowcraft, British Adventuress
Dr Kasim Polat, Turkish Historian
Dr Jean-Louis Rocher, French Medical Doctor
This group all knew each other through various connections and were all members of The Illumination Society. Worth, Polat and Rocher were enjoying an evening at the Oriental Club while Barrington and Meadowcraft were reliving their adventures in Afghanistan at a small cafe down the street late on a Sunday evening. Banks was outside with Professor Worth’s carriage when a street urchin delivered a message for Worth:
It seemed their good friend Dr Smith was in some sort of trouble again so they all hurried to the address arriving just after midnight. Smith was waiting for them, he was very nervous. Barrington spotted a figure in the midnight fog that appeared to be wearing a fez, but it disappeared into the creepy fog.
Smith led them into the small 2 story bed sit, which had a handful of rooms it let. Mrs Grimm, the elderly landlady exchanged a few words with Smith who slipped her some money and led the investigators upstairs. In a room upstairs was a very sick man laying in a small bed. He was naked except for small clothes and was wizened and gaunt. A fez was upon his head, the color of old blood. The room smelled foul. Standing beside the man in bed was a Doctor by the name of Hobbs. Smith explained that 4 days ago a well dressed man around 40 with silver hair, a top hat and swallow tail coat offered Mrs Grimm a large sum of money for the room. Soon men in fezzes dragged a semi conscious man into the room. The door was locked and only the top hatted man came and went. On the second night weird sounds afflicted the tenants as if the building was full of whispers. Tenants also reported strange shadows on the landing. By the third night there was shrieking and thumping and the top hatted man offered Mrs Grimm more money for her troubles explaining that he had a drug addicted brother he was trying to cure. By the fourth night, tonight, things could no longer be ignored. Shrieks of agony burst from the room and unearthly noised, rattles and thumps filled the building. Mrs Grimm sent one of her tenants for the police. The top hatted man and men in fezzes must have seen this and fled, leaving the wizened man on the bed. The police came, took reports and have since left, leaving a police doctor, Dr Hobbs, to see to the victim. The victim whispered Julius’ name and passed out.
Smith said he thought he knew the man, his name was Matthew Pook, a student of a colleague in Constantinople, Pook was actually much younger than he looked right now. He explained that he called them here because he was worried the men in fezzes might be lurking about and he needed help moving Pook. He warned that the men in fezzes were very dangerous and that they should not hesitate in defending themselves.
Professor Worth and Dr Roche investigated Pook and consulted with Dr Hobbs. The Fez was somehow grafted to Pooks head and would need surgery in a hospital to remove. Strange symbols seemed to crawl under the surface of the oily felt of the fez, and as Professor Worth leaned in close he could hear sibilant whispers coming from UNDER the fez! As he pointed this out, Pook let out a blood curdling scream finishing with a death rattle, then relaxed on the bed and died. The fez dropped of his head and rolled on the ground. Dr Hobbs leaned in to verify Pook was indeed dead when the candles went out as great shadows loomed up in the room and plunged it into darkness. Then there was a horrifying scream as Pook rose from the bed, his head elongated into a fez like shape on top, his eyes burning coldly, and 3 foot long flailed barbed tongue lashed out around Dr Hobbs neck as Pook bit off Hobbs nose and large chunks of his face.
This was too much for Worth and Roche, they reeled in shock. George Banks leaped in to try and save the poor doctor, but when his switchblade did very little to the monster he decided old George was more important than that and fled. Hobbs crumpled to the ground, while Captain Barrington heroically assaulted the creature and Amelia filled the room with bullets from large caliber pearl handled revolvers. The Thing that was Matthew Pook was very resilient to bullets and blades, but it’s soft rubbery body was more easily crumpled by the hilt of Barringtons cavalry saber. Putting The Thing that was Matthew Pook down, Barrington had been somewhat injured.
They called the police to deal with the body and Dr Hobbs and retired for the evening, taking the fez. Smith and Polat stayed at Smiths house with the fez. They were bothered by whispering throughout the night and Polat thought he saw figures in fezzes lurking outside.
The next morning they met at a cafe to discuss what was happening. Smith had telegramed Professor Demir in Constantinople and confirmed the man was Pook. Smith had exchanged telegrams with Demir over the past week and this morning:
Smith indicated that he trusts Professor Demir implicitly and he was a member of the Society. Smith said the fez needed to be taken to Constantinople immediately, especially as the enemy is still in London. He had contacted another trusted ally and society meber, Baron von Hoeffler, and Austrian nobleman and occultist who knew something of the lore of the fez. Baron von Hoeffler had agreed to wire money to finance the trip to Constantinople. Smith dared not travel himself as on a previous trip he had opposed on Selim Makryat who led a ruthless group of cultists, and Demir had informed him that Makryat was now out for deadly revenge against Smith. Smith proposed his friends do the task, they agreed. They would take the Orient Express to Constanitinople, financed by Baron von Hoeffler. They would meet he Baron in Vienna for the remainder of the journey and he would aid them. They would then meet Demir in Constantinople and finish the quest. The train left Wednesday so they had 2 days.
Professor Worth and Dr Roche researched the fez on Monday and assembled their notes:
Professor Smith visited Pooks flat in an attempt to find contact information for his next of kin to inform them of Pooks death. He found a journal the student kept and gave it to the group on Tuesday:
They went to the fez collectors address and were surprised to find a constable guarding the front porch. The fez collector had been murdered late last week and it was an active crime scene. Banks broke in the back door, fezzes were strewn about, a glass case was shattered but empty and a large blood stain was in the study. Searching the desk, Banks found a letter from a Mr Leeds in Pera, Constantinople, offering the princely sum of 100 pounds for the book The Whispering Fez that he understands had recently come into the possession of Mr Devore. It seemed the book had been stolen from the glass case…
They left for their journey Wednesday morning, a train from London to a steamer to Calais. In Calais they took a train to Chalons-Sur-Marne east of Paris where they were to board the Orient Express. They each had a hat box with a fez in it amongst their luggage, Captain Barrington had the real one.
The Orient Express was elegant beyond imagination. They met their carriage conductor, an unflappable Belgian named Henri who spoke frequently in third person (“Henri is here. How may Henri be of assistance?”). Henri helped them into their elegant accommodations aboard the Orient Express, Worth and Banks in cabin 1, Polat and Roche in cabin 2,.Barrington sharing with a Colonel Neville Goodenough of the Royal Engineers, retired. Amelia sharing with a young Scottish woman named Aileen McGregor.
Several of them chose to visit the Salon car for drinks before retiring as the Orient Express steamed eastwards. In the salon car they were joined by Colonel Goodenough, and Aileen McGregor was also there writing in a journal. There were 3 Russian gentleman, 2 of them appearing to be Russian nobility (one older one younger) and a man servant. They were conversing in Russian. At another table was a middle aged man wearing an opera cape with long white hair pulled back to his shoulders and a long stage villain mustache who was conversing conspiratorially with a balding middle aged man in a crumpled suit. This pair was watched over by a hulking turk about 50 years old with a square jaw and flat nose.
They had a few drinks then retired for the evening towards their luxurious accommodations aboard the famed Orient Express…