League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1766

Chapter 7

Morning tea was a delight of croissants, waffles and coffee, the three agents had found Baron Munchausen a pleasant host. Fritz and Karl were filled in on the events at Cagliostro's theatre; the Baron was all praise about Redmond Barry's surprise contribution to their battle against the murderous wolfmen. When the fight was over the grateful aristocrat approached the Irishman on the stage, recognised him and the service he worked for, then spent the next five minutes pouring praise and honour on the gatecrashing spy. Hawkeye and Chingachook patiently waited for their chance to thank their old ally from the Throttled Hog tavern for once again helping them out in a moment of desperate conflict. Juliette used the thanking time to get dressed, but not too fast, when she was introduced to the blond spy, she knew exactly what she could do to thank him. Jean said little, spending most of the time disposing of his knockout concoction.

After hearing of their mission M realised that it was intertwined with his; their target Fernand Wagner was leader of the wolfmen, who clearly served Joseph Curwen and adorned wolfskins as a homage to the Beast of Gevaudan, which the warlock obviously controlled. The Baron would like to have transferred Redmond to his League then and there, but that would be an abuse of his standing in the German military; these agents needed him to complete their mission.

It was suggested by the spies, that they be allowed to interrogate some of the wounded wolfmen from the theatre fight as to their leader's location, but were disappointed to hear that none are alive to tell anything; less than an hour after the battle, all who still lived, whether wounded or knocked out by Jean's concoction, died simultaneously from a burst blood vessel in the head. Joseph Curwen apparently had power of life and death over all those who signed up with him; upon hearing of the theatre fight's outcome from the retreaters, he would have cast a death spell over all wolfmen who were left behind. Fritz and Karl found this claim incredible, they had never heard of the evil warlock, but out of respect for the Baron, did not pursue the matter.

Twirling the tip of his moustache, Munchausen announced he remembered where he had seen Fernand Wagner, he was employed as a gardener for the Marquis St de Evremonde who had a temporary chateau in the area.

"The Marquis is having a party tonight." Said the Baron. "Followed by a wolf hunt tomorrow. Me and my current guests are invited; you two should get employment as waiters for this party, they will be needed and I can give you references; once you're in there you should find him. Redmond will have to come in with me as an extra guest, Wagner might recognise him now, so only call him to service when the target has been located."

Fritz, Karl and Redmond thanked the Baron for his guidance and hospitality, waited for the references then accepted them gleefully; Redmond agreed to show up at the Chateau de Lune early afternoon and let Munchausen help him out with his formal attire for the party. The three agents departed giving a Prussian salute.

M walked into the main lounge to find the league members rigorously questioning Jean Baptiste Grenouille about how he made that knockout concoction. The perfumer started by saying that it is his profession to make liquid mixtures that tantalise, seduce and even confuse people; it's therefore within his skill range to manufacture a perfume that has the strength to cause a sensory overload, thus knocking the sniffer out. Juliette was not content with this basic explanation and demanded to know the recipe for this concoction.

Jean explained that he doesn't know it, at least not in words, the substances in Cagliostro's backstage laboratory were not labeled, he picked out the ingredients by scent alone; the makeshift mask was made up with filtering scents to prevent him getting knocked out by his own concoction.

Hawkeye went on to ask why he disposed of the knockout perfume, it would have been useful in future engagements. Jean tried to explain that the mixture would have putrefied, lost its usefulness then stunk out the theatre or wherever it was taken; if there was more time he could have made a more enduring concoction.

An apology from Baron Munchausen ended the questioning; Grenouille was relieved.

"I don't know if you have heard." Said the Baron. " But the Beast of Gevaudan had claimed another victim last night. I would like you all to come with me to the site and view the evidence for clues. The coach will leave soon."

The League members rushed to their rooms to get ready, except Jean who asked M for leave to return to Cagliostro's theatre to help him prepare some stage concoctions as well as some liquid mixtures that would be helpful to the League, including some more knockout perfume.

"Jean." He Said. "I have much faith in your judgement that you will be more useful there than at the attack site. You were brilliant at that theatre, if there is where you will best be of use to us, then there you should go. A separate coach will be arranged for you, I reckon your going to impress all of us again and again. Albrecht, Adolphus and Gustavus will be very proud of you."

The perfumer was near speechless, he managed an awkward thanks then walked to his room to prepare.

It was about noon when the coach arrived at the park; M, Juliette, Hawkeye and Chingachook got out to see civilians on the periphery kept out by a police cordon manned by soldiers, volunteers and gendarmes. Their were monks leading a procession of schoolboys on a orderly hike; they were turned away when they got to the cordon. After a brief word with the present magistrate M gained permission for his entourage to enter the park. Statues, monoliths and a fishpond decorated the recreational area, but it was at the sundial where the grisly kill was done.

Munchausen caught a glimpse of the gory site then told Juliette to leave the park and wait near the coach; despite having many unladylike experiences, she decided seeing a horrendously mutilated corpse would be one she could do without. Twirling her parasol, Juliette headed back to the coach, wondering why she had come; well it was a lovely day for a walk in the countryside.

The charnel sight of the mutilated corpse sent a swell of stomach churning revulsion through the two trappers; they had seen corpses mauled by grizzly bears, but this was a whole new level of horror. Baron Munchausen took one look and went to nearby rock to sit down and recover; none of his adventures had prepared him for this. The body, what was left of it, was that of an adult woman; it was in pieces that were ripped from the torso then chewed and partially devoured; the spine had been torn out the back, the head severed, the ribcage torn open and internal organs extracted then half eaten.

"This is work of big wolf." Said Chingachook. "Nothing like what we have back home."

The German aristocrat recovered his composure then began to question the police and medical examiners at the site. The victim was an Englishwoman, Pamela Andrews B, she was touring France with her children; for some unknown reason she went into the park alone after telling her coachman to wait down the road. Munchausen excused himself from the frontiersmen to go and question Humphrey Clinker, the victim's coach driver.

Hawkeye took a good look at the bite marks on the corpse and deduced that this beast would have a wide mouth and big teeth, larger than that of a bear. Chingachook closely examined the wolf's tracks then shared with Hawkeye his estimation of the Beast's extremely large size and extra heavy mass. The two trappers readied their muskets and kept them close as they began to follow the bloodied tracks.

Juliette left the park through the police cordon, but did not return to the coach, she was going to have a lovely walk. Apart from roads and the occasional building, the outskirts of the park were all pleasant countryside rich in trees and bushes. It was at a very picturesque scene that a young man of aristocratic bearing approached her.

"My my." He said. "I come out here to observe the beauty of the natural world and I find that no tree, no flower, no ornamental lake could match the splendid vision I have before me now. Tell me does this figure of loveliness have a name."

"Juliette." Said the flattered woman with a smile. "And you."

"Viscomte de Valmont, Mademoiselle." He answered. "This is a grand place, but I know of a beautiful place near here, where a beautiful woman would look and feel magnificent, just being there would be the highlight of her life."

"So where is this place." Asked Juliette.

"It's in a vale just a short walk from here. Take my arm and I will take you there." Said Viscomte.

She wrapped her arm about his. Viscomte gently took her hand and kissed it as he led her down the hills. The vale was beautiful as he said, the grass was verdant green dotted with yellow sunflowers, a babbling brook flowed in sweet rhythm, the trees were dense, the bushes plush and best of all, it was private.

Juliette took a few moments to savour the surroundings as Valmont kept his eyes on her; she turned to him and they kissed.

The wolf tracks lead the two frontiersmen outside the park. Chingachook stopped for a second when the old tracks crossed a more recent set of tracks from the same beast; this trail lead into the forest and went along some low hilltops. The trees were getting more numerous and the bushes thicker, there were many places for a wolf to hide. A choice hilltop provided a good view of the immediate area; it was here that the Mohican hunter signalled his fellow trapper to stop and stay alert.

"Why are we stopping here." Asked Hawkeye.

Chingachook looked around scanning the area in a frustrating attempt to pinpoint a location in this foreign countryside.

"Be alert son." Warned the Mohican mentor. " The Beast is very near."

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