All the members of the Illumination Society were present for the opening of the Maudslay Collection at the British Museum on January 1st, 1923. It was there that Professor Smith provided them all invitations to the Challenger Trust Lecture on Wednesday evening.
At the lecture Professor Smith spoke on “hauntings”, events where objects or people that had disappeared from this world reappeared occasionally as ghostly apparitions. His lecture conjectured that there may be a scientific explanation for such events, one involving dimensions of existence beyond our perception and curtains or gates between dimensions that perhaps one day mankind would learn to master to do wondrous things. During the social mingling after the lecture, Josephine noticed a stranger with a bushy mustache, most certainly a foreigner, watching them. When she mentioned him, he had faded into the crowd.
On Saturday morning, there was a startling article in the paper that Professor Smith’s home had burned to the ground and the good professor gone missing. There was also an article about a “Man Dies Three Times in One Night”:
That evening a message was delivered to Josephines manor house, just as the Illumination Society was meeting to determine what to do about the disappearance of Professor Smith. It was an envelope delivered by cab, sealed with an impression of Professor Smith’s unique Society signet ring. Inside was his business card, on the back of which was scrawled, “Come at once. I haven’t long.For god’s sake let no-one follow you. J.A. Smith.” On the front was written an address.
The address was a cheap bed-sit in Cheapside, the worst part of London. Arriving late at night and knocking on the door they found Beddows answering. He was nervous and his hands were bandaged. Inside, on a rickety bed, was Poor Professor Smith. He was badly burned and in terrible shape. Smith mustered what remaining energy he had and told them how they had been attacked by Turkish madmen who burned down their house with them inside when they failed to force their way in. Smith described how he had been researching an artifact that was rumored to contain a horrible power, the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Prophecies and portents pointed to a time when the Simulacrum would waken and call foul forces to it’s aid, and Smith thought that time was nearing due to described conjunctions in astronomy.
Smith implored them to finish his work and find the Simulacrum and destroy it before the forces of evil could use it for foulness. As Smith rambled, Beddows took notes for the group:
When finished Smith collapsed, and Beddows gave him something that made him sleep. Dr Culver checked on Smith and stated his need for hospital. Beddows said they were worried their assailants would be watching for burn victims at the hospital, and Beddows planned to take him to a veterans hospital in the country under an assumed name, but Smith insisted on meeting with the society members first. Beddows gave them a satchel with 200 5 pound notes to fund their expedition. Beddows said Professor Smith had planned to use the Orient Express as it’s Simplon route went where he needed to go. Beddows promised to telegram to the stations of the Orient Express in Dr Yates name with updates.
On Sunday another curious newspaper article the Times caught their attention:
They had a few days until they could leave (Trains leave Wednesday and Saturday), so Dr Yates used his priveleges at the Reading Room of the British Museum to research this Sedefkar Simulacrum and the Sedefkar Scrolls on Monday and Tuesday.. All he was able to find was references to a 13th century illuminated manuscript called the Devil’s Simulare, research showed that more information should be found the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and a reference to some manuscripts called the Sedefkar Scrolls in the Topkapi Museum in Constantinople before the Great War. However, those weren’t the most surprising finds. The last day of research was a dark and stormy day, so the Reading Room was not very busy. Throughout the day Professor Yates had seen a man rudely wearing a hat and top coat indoors slumped over his books, he seemed to be dozing. However, when a librarian touched him to inform him that the library would be closing soon, he toppled over revealing a completely skinned corpse underneath. Pinned to the corpses chest was a section of human skin upon which were scrawled the words (in Turkish) “The Skinless One will not be denied”. Professor Yates quickly checked the corpses ID when the librarian ran off to get the police. It was none other than loyal Beddows…