A RICKETY MULE-driven cart carrying a casket lumbered lazily along, creaking, bobbing down a stone cobbled path towards Brooks Cemetery, where a restless crowd of unruly people lined the road. Between the oppressive rain someone shouted obscenities at the cart, while others threw stones. No doubt, they had no love for the deceased and an unrestrained sense of gloom filled the grey afternoon. One lucky rock-toss hit the lifeless body contained within the elaborately decorated coffin, but to no avail; the man was dead and not to be troubled further in this frivolous world.
My father had once told me never judge a man on hearsay, but upon actions and deeds. It was not hard to ascertain this poor dead soul had created many hateful enemies and admonishers among a few admirers. The question was, why?
When the cart came to a full stop at the top of the hill, a light mist filled the air, and as a young novice reporter covering the affair, it was time for inquiry. My name is Robert Thompson Simms from Chelsea in the West End, and it was my task was to report on the event.
Taking my place among the attendees, I moved restlessly toward a tall, elegant dressed gentleman standing decisively at the back of the mourners, of whom had encircled the cart after it came to a halt at the end of the procession.
I bushed past the disorderly mob to get closer to my target of inquiry; the statuesque Lord was tall, light skinned, wearing a fashionable black suit with tails and black top-hat. Coming closer, I noticed the old fellow’s face was gaunt and pale, somewhere in his late seventies, and his delicate skin was wrinkled, almost translucent in nature with light blue veins visible around the cheeks and eyes. His fine hair was the purest of white and his face wraithlike, drawn and ashen. In all he seemed quite old, yet gentle in nature.
“Lord Greyhall?” I called out.
He looked down at me indifferently, possibly wondering who this unworthy, adolescent upstart was.
“What can I do for you, young man?” he said glancing over me with little more than idle curiosity.
“Name’s Robert Simms, sir. I’m a reporter for The London Times. I’ve heard so many incredible tales about this man, Lester Rowley. Did you know him?”
“Indeed, I knew him,” the Lord scoffed with a slight grin then turned inward, reminiscing. “Rowley…Rowley, where does one begin? I can tell you this much… he was a devilish rogue and a far-flung exotic character to say the least!”
“Can you tell me a little about him? Was he a friend?”
Greyhall chuckled to himself silently and closed his umbrella, “Friend? – Oh, I wouldn’t call him that.”
“They claim he was an evil occultist,” I blurted, taking out my pad and pen.
Greyhall turned his gaze from me, deep in thought.
“He was more than that, my lad. He was a bona fide genius, an intrepid adventurer who dared penetrate the little understood, surreptitious world of ritual magic and the occult.”
“Penetrated the world of magic, sir? How so…?” I pressed, jotting notes.
“Rowley for the most part was extremely fascinated with the occult, and like an attentive scientist, experimented penetrating into the terrifying, deep dark regions of the consciousness and supernatural.”