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.“You said that your step-mother had hired a mystic?” Copley asked.“Indeed, a spiritualist,” Cole said with barely concealed contempt.“She arrives tomorrow apparently.It was at that point that I wrote asking for your assistance.”“Where did she find such a person?” her father asked.“Newspapers,” she answered for Cole.“I know you never check the classified section, Papa, but there is often an advertisement or two in there for things such as clairvoyants, faith healers, tarot card readers and astrologers, especially in the London publications.”“Truly?”“Oh yes.There’s a lot of information there; items for sale from furniture to houses, and a lot of services that might not be encountered in daily life, such as psychics and spiritualists.The classified pages are fascinating, really, a tiny glimpse into the lives of others.”Her father turned to Cole.“Is that where this mystic comes from?”“I believe it was a friend of a friend recommendation.Honestly, I haven’t paid much attention to the details.”“I assume you didn’t decide this?” Thea asked.He was so against the idea, that his step-mother would have been refused had she asked his permission.“No, she sweet talked my father into it.I’m considering having him declared unfit and taking over his legal affairs but his decline in health is very recent and I’m reluctant to take that step.”“How recent?” Thea leaned forward, wondering if perhaps there was a connection to the recent events.“I first noticed around two months ago, I suppose.Although his confusion has only been very evident for four weeks and even then, it’s intermittent.”Thea wasn’t sure what to make of such a quick decline, so she filed the information away to revisit at a later date.A knock came at the door and the butler entered when bidden.“Lord and Lady Copley’s luggage has arrived, Sir.”“Have it taken to the Cavendish suite, please, and settle their servants in.”“As you wish, Sir.The party will be heading inside again soon, to prepare for dinner.”Cole looked to the grandfather clock, which ticked quietly in the corner.“I didn’t realise it was so late.Thank you, Black.”The butler left and Cole placed his cup down.“You will join us for dinner?” he asked.“Of course,” her father answered.“It will be a good opportunity to observe everyone.”“Then would you like to freshen up first? We can resume tomorrow.”“What time do you eat dinner here?”“We meet for drinks from eight, dinner is served at nine.”That left two to three hours.“How can women spend so long getting ready,” She wondered out loud.“I think I would go mad were I forced to spend so long changing clothes and hair styles.”She noticed Cole’s eyes widen a little in surprise.“She does not mean to be so forthright, but often these things slip out,” her father explained.“Yes,” she blushed.That was a rather rude thing to say, especially considering that his family and friends were surely among the party.She thought distraction might be her best option and she returned the conversation to the reason they were here.“Perhaps you could talk us through the final death?”“Yes, of course.Do you want to see where he died?”“Please.”“Right this way.” He led them to a drawing room.“We had not long joined the ladies after dinner, so there were many witnesses to what happened.”“What did happen?” Thea asked, looking around.Unlike the other rooms, there were no signs of a disturbance in here.“He complained of a headache which quickly worsened and then became violently ill.He, uh, well he made it to the coal bucket, where he was…”She understood that some things were unpleasant to talk about, and that most men had been conditioned never to speak of such things with ladies, but talking in roundabout ways was so imprecise.“He vomited in the coal bucket,” she filled in the blanks to make this easier on him.“Yes.I called for a doctor and one of the grooms was sent to fetch the local physician.Once the episode had passed, Mr Lanning said he was going to retire to bed and would await the doctor there.He and Mrs Lanning both got up, a few gentlemen were close by him, ready to offer assistance if necessary.Before he had taken a half dozen steps towards the door, he paused and swayed on his feet, he tried to say something but all that came out was gibberish, then he fell to the floor and began to convulse.When the convulsions stopped, we tried to rouse him.I tried to open his eyes and found that his right eye had turned blood red.He stopped breathing moments later.”“I take it the doctor examined him?”“Yes.He was far too late to help but he issued the death certificate.”“What was the cause of death?”“He declined to give one, instead recording his findings for an inquest.”“The red eye, was it the pupil or the sclera?”“The sclera?”“The white of the eye.”“The white,” he confirmed.“Was it all red?”“No, there was some white visible.”“Do you have the doctor’s report?”“I don’t, I’m afraid.I’m sure he would give us a copy though, he and his father before him, have treated our family for generations.”Thea made her way to the coal bucket but it had been emptied and cleaned.“What did everyone make of what happened?”“They, uh, well, being possessed by a demon seemed to be the most common sentiment.”“What did the doctor make of it?”“I think he tried to dismiss their claims but he seemed affected by it, as we all were.I have never witnessed anything quite so… odd.”“The convulsions, can you describe them?”“He went rigid, although his limbs would flail around randomly.”“How long have you known Mr Lanning?”“Since I was a child, he is a friend of my father.I invited him to the house party actually; I hoped that seeing him might bolster my father’s mood.”“Have you ever seen him have a seizure or convulsions before?”“No.Why?”“Because that sounds very much like something called a grand mal seizure, which is caused by a condition known as epilepsy.Until recently, sufferers were often thought to be possessed.Some still believe the seizures are the work of the Devil.”“And the vomiting and speaking in tongues?“Speaking in tongues?” She turned to him and raised an eyebrow.“That’s how people have been referring to his attempt at speech.”“Was he speaking another language, or did peoples’ imaginations run away with them?”“I can only speak Latin and French, but I believe it is your latter suggestion.In all honesty, his words were more like grunts and groans, I could make out no pattern to his speech, as I might expect to in a foreign language, even one I wasn’t familiar with.”“Given the other odd events of late, I can see why this would seem supernatural, but I believe it has a rational explanation.”“Oh?”“Assuming that he doesn’t have epilepsy, which I can confirm with his wife, he likely suffered an apoplectic seizure, which is bleeding in his brain.Obviously the skull is a bone and cannot stretch to accommodate the increased pressure, and I have heard of cases where that has caused bleeding into the eye.The reason for such episodes is still being debated but some appear to be the result of injury, a blow to the head, while others can be due to a weakness in the blood vessels.Whatever the reason, they are natural, not supernatural in origin.Was an autopsy performed?”“No [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]