Who Murdered Chris Kitsume?

I have decided to investigate the murder of my friend Kitsume. That he was brutally murdered is beyond dispute. His mangled corpse was found in a derelict warehouse in the worst part of town. The morgue admitted he died horrifically. Apparently from, for lack of a more rational explanation, spontaneous combustion. His chest and entire core were incinerated. Yet his extremities were still somewhat intact and the horrific fire which killed him left only sinister scorch marks on the warehouse floor. A fiery silhouette scorched into the decayed wood. But it was not the only sinister scorching found in that forbidding warehouse. You see, my poor friend Kitsume apparently perished in the very same dismal warehouse where a century ago the last of the Guttersnipes were likewise dispatched. Some by bullets. Some by ….. well….. at the time the autopsy described it as …..spontaneous combustion.

Of course only Dickens and Nineteenth Century types actually believed in death by spontaneous combustion. The very idea is too fantastical for any modern person to accept. But Kitsume was researching death by spontaneous combustion at the time of this death. His last incoherent messages to me raved about his pathological fear of dying by spontaneous combustion which apparently dispatched so many of the last desperate Guttersnipes fleeing from both the police and union busting thugs hired by Wellus House International back in the 1870s. The morgue back then could not explain the death of the Guttersnipes who perished of not just bullets but also apparently spontaneous combustion. And the present day morgue could not explain how my friend died in a way he warned me he might die. The same death which dispatched the last Guttersnipes. The long ago deaths which spawned the original Nineteenth Century urban myths. The new death which is now spawning new urban myths. Death by spontaneous combustion. And the autopsy could not provide a rational explanation —- then or now. No one has ever provided a rational explanation for death by spontaneous combustion. Or at least no scientist has provided an explanation.

J.E.F. Rose’s penny dreadful thriller ‘The Rise And Fall Of The Swell Mob Of The Seven Dials’ has provided a theory. The human body carries greater or lesser amounts of natural occurring static electricity. Indeed, some bodies carry unusually high amounts which have actually been documented to interfere with scientific instruments or to even ignite laboratory experiments under certain rare conditions.  J.E.F. Rose speculated that the body’s natural static electricity could be artificially induced to fatal levels which might cause the symptoms of spontaneous combustion: a flickering fire like Saint Elmo’s Fire erupting out of the core as if dancing blue flames which cannot be put out. The fire feeding off the built up static electricity contained in the core. Death in five minutes. Such a death would also naturally leave the extremities pretty much undamaged as well as the environment which is the perplexing characteristic of spontaneous combustion. It is a very localized if horrific death. Indeed I joked at the time to Kitsume that if anyone could develop such a weapon it would be the best weapon any army might wish to possess. Atomic bombs leave radiation which prevents the territory from being seized. Liquidation of armies alone is rarely the desired goal. Conquest of the territory is. And chemical weapons are too uncontrollable for an army to exploit without fear of becoming the accidental victims of their own weapons of mass destruction. But spontaneous combustion would be an ideal weapon. It would incinerate the enemy while leaving the prize of war, territory, intact.

Of course no merchant of death has ever developed such a weapon and surely humanity would outlaw it if only to save conventional warfare. The powers to be need war to be an option for them to achieve their goals. But cannon fodder would balk at death by either chemical warfare or thermonuclear warfare or death by spontaneous combustion. It is simply too horrific for most cannon fodder to endure. So to stock armies with enough fools willing to die you have to limit weaponry to ‘conventional’ methods of socially acceptable mass slaughter. Otherwise, you simply could not get enough suicidal fools to volunteer to fight. So a weapon which causes death by spontaneous combustion would be outlawed simply because it would prevent the elite from having enough voluntary cannon fodder to wage their wars. Medals cannot be pinned to ash and cinder. And the home front simply will not put up with caskets filled by ash and cinder. Only the most brainwashed would volunteer to fight if fighting might result in being burned alive.

Yet Kitsume was burned alive. He died by spontaneous combustion. It seems too incredulous! Yet could it be mere chance that Kitsume should perish by this very manner of frightening death which he was investigating? Kitsume was murdered! His last message to the world was that his murderers were entering that dismal warehouse to silence him. And many of his earlier messages said he was investigating the rumors of a weapon which caused death by spontaneous combustion. He said he feared dying and especially dying by spontaneous combustion. He died in the very warehouse where the Nineteenth Century Guttersnipe Anarchists perished —- by a hail of bullets and by spontaneous combustion —- at least according to urban myths and historic police reports and documented morgue autopsy records. And exams of Kitsume’s crime scene, the dismal warehouse, reveal both bullet holes in the decayed wooden walls and faded by unmistakable scorch marks of other fiery silhouettes as if human bodies burned leaving distinctive and horrifying silhouettes down to the same intensity of fire erupting from the core while leaving the extremities somewhat intact. I have the crime scene photographs. The modern crime scene experts discovered the ancient crime scene evidence as they documented Kitsume’s tragic death. In fact that is what has reopened the historic case for new inquiry as modern eyes restudy the older crime revealed by the newer crime. Kitsume’s death has resurrected a moldering crime long forgotten except for penny dreadful writers like J.E.F. Rose and collectors of fashionable relics of Guttersnipe propaganda. A new death which mirrored long ago deaths has ignited a new investigation. Similar deaths occurring in the same notorious crime scene over a century’s span has draw renewed public attention to a previous half forgotten massacre. Death by spontaneous combustion.

The now heavily publicized crime scene photographs document with new scientific precision something no one has heretofore ever been able to explain. Each scorched silhouette matching ancient or modern morgue photographs. Each ancient or modern morgue photograph able to present a scorched but still somewhat intact face and fingerprints to provide identity to the victim of a horrific mode of death. A face. A name. This is what has reignited public fascination. A face. A name. A humanity to each corpse. Therefore a horror which humanity infuses to a crime. All four city newspapers and all digital and internet reporting sites have presented the tragic faces, what remains of them, side by side for modern eyes to acknowledge and modern theories to speculate on. And the internet, the lover of all conspiracies, has gone viral. There is suddenly even talk of doing a Guttersnipe movie about the original victims though I suspect no movie will ever voluntarily choose to dramatize my poor friend as anything other than the minor role of Judas to the new heroine of the age: Punk Patriot. Being more heroic, the Guttersnipes are more appealing to the allure of the cinema than any ambiguous role my poor friend played in the upraising of The Havens.

Unlike the modern day protesters led by Punk Patriot, the Nineteenth Century Guttersnipes were despised lower class industrial workers fighting and dying for unions as champions of the exploited in an era where Robber Barons and industrial tycoons were the popular giants of the time. Class was class. And class stuck to class. And class was the measure by which everyone was judged. The lower class Guttersnipes fought mostly alone and without popular city support. They died very much alone. Hunted by everyone. Their terrible deaths were ignored except for the horror of their dispatching. The Guttersnipes were rough types. Children of the slums. Nothing more than MOLK. The cost of human suffering factored into production costs by industry. Mostly illiterate. Malnourished. Dirty. Prematurely aged. Anything but handsome or pretty. The opposite of fashionable. Devoid of chic. Not even honored by a dime novel or penny dreadful in their dreadful lifetimes. Not even inspiring a cheap matinee melodrama. In an era where the consumptive Black Eald was adored not so much because he was mayor as the fact he was an eald and a fashionable aristocrat caught up in a famous coup while enmeshed in a forbidden romance, the Guttersnipes were the dredges of the slums. While the notorious Sykes was a least a lower middle class but literate rural son of the Heartlands condemned by tragic circumstances to become a criminal, but an aristocratic criminal, the elite of criminals, a skilled cat thief, and a genuine engineer to boot, the Guttersnipes were human riffraff. There was nothing romantic about their sordid desperation or their brutalized lives or their horrific deaths. Zendula’s most famous film actor, Daffy Gilbert-Blackheart, might have done films on the Black Eald and Bill Sykes, but he never bothered to do a film on the Guttersnipes. There was no market for such a film —– which was tragic.

Only one Guttersnipe had any formal education: a consumptive teacher in a slum school. Jenny Riggs was a slums born common law wife of the illiterate leader of the beleaguered Guttersnipes: Joe. No last name. Jenny Riggs always signed for him. Hence only her name is known. His origins were as mysterious as his unexpected brilliance as an insurgent. Certainly an Anarchist. But not what today we might call a Red. Pragmatic strategy. Playing the long game with ‘unnerving calmness’ some described as Zen. Joe once explained he anticipated every day dying so he was entirely free of fear and able to live entirely for the moment. Joe was a brilliant street savvy politician able to sway desperate unions into engaging in the first mass city strikes in Zendula’s history. Cunning in his street fights with ruthless private detectives hired by Wellus House and used like their private army. Equally cunning in dividing the police. Wooing the honest police into looking the other way while deftly avoiding snare after snare laid by the corrupt police.

Clearly Joe had insiders in the police as well as the sheriff department. He might have even had a snitch inside Celebeau House. Apparently he was so charismatic he even once met King Astel, that old Ranger, at a top secret midnight rendevous in a city park. Joe wooed him over to his cause as much as the old king dared to go. The Magnanimous Charter did bind the old king’s hands constitutionally. Chief Navigator Hood was not going to lose his precarious majority in the Steering Committee over unionists and strikers.

Joe could give speeches to college educated female middle class slum do-goodies as it astonish them. Not just repeating rote stuff Jenny Riggs might have found. Debate. Persuade. One said he romanced their starched shirt intellect. She said there was nothing so seductive as someone who apparently loved smart women but treated them as if a noble if street born paladin. Another college educated female working in a slum school later said she never met a more charismatic dizen of the slums. While Joe died of both bullets and spontaneous combustion with an old gun still held in one scorched hand, poor Jenny’s corpse was found slumped against the bullet riddled wall.

Another Guttersnipe was Blackie Rollie. Another obvious nickname for a mix race ethic washed ashore from obscure parentage somewhere in the Pearls of the Pacific. Perhaps a mix of British and Malay and Chinese. Blackie Rollie only knew how to sign his name with Chinese letters. He was the second in command after Joe. Then there was  Zoe Penny. Probably also an alias. Zoe Penny was a widow of industrial labor killed in a Wellus House pier accident. Zoe Penny was also the sister of another victim of Wellus House. A ‘matchstick girl’ who perished like so many from the sulfur and chemicals used to make ‘Lucifer’ matches. The fumes literally ate away their faces and brains. The acid fumes always starting with the jaw but ending with the brains. That is how Zoe’s sister perished some months before the infamous shootout. And that is about as awful a way to die as ever existed outside of spontaneous combustion.

Then there was Sweeney Hollows. Probably also a nickname. Also illiterate. Only able to sign by way of a X. Ex-convict. But a fierce fighter for unions. Why? No one knows to this day. Then there is Bess. No last name. The only thing known was that she was an ex-maid thrown out of a great house after becoming pregnant. A dollymop it was called back then. Thrown out to fend for herself. Her child died at birth on the dirty streets. Then the starving Bess become a whore. Finally Bess became the common wife of Sweeney Hollows. They apparently died side by side. Their scorched silhouettes were found merged together, holding each other as they burned to death. Another Guttersnipe was Ching Ho. Might be a real name. Ching Ho was an one time clipper ship sailor turned union fighter. He was multi-lingual if illiterate. He served as the liaison with the unions. Ching Ho appeared to have been involved with Maggie Red. The latter a nickname because of her red hair. Maggie Red was a Maestusian gypsy. How she became an union fighter is anyone’s guess. She was the liaison with the textile girls. They were some of the most dangerous sweat shops of all because of the raw cotton so easily ignited into fiery infernos. So it was a sick irony that Maggie Red would die of spontaneous combustion.

Little Tom. He was the youngest Guttersnipe. I think his morgue photograph was the most tragic. Little Tom was a six year old union runner as well as look out. His spindly little body and rickety legs made him the perfect spy. In slums filled by thousands of abandoned children he was invisible. He was so stunted by malnutrition he looked four instead of six. His tiny corpse was found slumped against the bullet riddled wall alongside Zoe Penny who apparently died trying to shield the poor child from the hail of bullets as Blackie Rollie tried to shield her. All three bullet riddled corpses were found huddled together in a last tragic act of shared humanity denied them in their tragic lifetimes. That makes their crime scene photographs no less than their individual morgue photographs so very tragic.

Little Tom usually hung out with Gorilla. Gorilla was a politically incorrect name for a towering African sailor turned navvy turned bare knuckle street fighter. Gorilla was the bodyguard of sorts for the Guttersnipes. Conspicuously, his burly body was found both riddled with bullets and also scorched by spontaneous combustion in a position which indicated he died charging his assassins, cheap one shot pistols in both hands. That meant he died charging his murderers as he was not only bleeding to death but was erupting into fire. Such heroism! I cannot conceive of it. The Guttersnipes did not go quietly into the embrace of death!

Then there was Sammy. Age twelve. Sammy was crippled by a factory floor accident in a textile mill. His sister was Molly. Age fourteen. How she lived long enough to die riddled with bullets in that long ago shootout is still a mystery. Poor Molly was an ex-match girl. Half of her face was devoured by toxic Wellus House industrial chemicals. Most of her entire jaw was gone. I imagine in life she tried to hide the horror of her face in a rag mask. The old morgue photograph of her corpse was more brutally explicit. They died holding onto each other as bullets mowed them down.

And the last Guttersnipe was a school dropout turned propagandist for the Guttersnipes. Gilly Giles. Alcoholic. Some upper class swine’s abandoned bastard. Apparently he could read and write and worked in art studios as a janitor. Sometimes he could do quite sophisticated work after hours in empty studios. He might even have had some art training. Some of his work featured access to expensive etching equipment. Gilly Giles designed most of the now highly collectable Guttersnipe propaganda which today is prized by rich elite types and even graces some museums. I guess you could call Gilly Giles the original Tagger. Back then the Guttersnipe propaganda was printed by wood blocks or litho stones salvaged from construction sites on cheap recycled paper and then pasted over commercial advertizing everywhere the Guttersnipes could slither. Paste and run in the depths of the night. Gilly Giles would design and craft highly striking images and then modify them with hand printed messages with crayon or ink. Kitsume spend the last year of his life collecting images, photographs, and museum post cards of the Guttersnipe propaganda which Gilly Giles executed before he was cut down. And before Kitsume was cut down. Both were tragic doomed souls. Howbeit, Gilly Giles had infinitely more talent than poor Kitsume. One was a genius at turning advertizing into not only propaganda but art. One only dreamed of doing the same. Poor Kitsume. I wished he had lived to finish his last propaganda project!

Sometimes even today a contractor overhauling some old building to become a fashionable digs for computer geeks will tear down moldering wall paper and discover Guttersnipe propaganda concealed within. So it is sad to think Gilly Giles was starving as he died riddled with bullets in that dismal warehouse where the last Guttersnipes huddled together as both police and union busting thugs hired by Wellus House hunted them down. At the time no one thought their apparently crude propaganda was ‘art’. But then no one though a lot of the sophisticated advertising of that era would also end up in museums or homes of elite collectors.  But Victorian advertisers also did not end up as mangled or incinerated corpses either.

The newspaper flutters in the wind as I survey the old Nineteenth Century morgue photographs of the long ago notorious union leaders fighting the industrial elite for beleaguered and exploited workers suffering unspeakably in industrial conditions which are beyond the pale of what we could ever imagine, much less endure today. It was their fierce fighting and the secret support of the then unpopular King Astel and later the chiasmatic Black Eald Theri Anthrope to their blight which forced the biggest and most notorious industrialist, Wellus, to bring new workers to the Wellus House factories who would not join unions or strike over horrible working conditions. Very controversial replacement workers……

What is remarkable is each crime scene photograph of each victim. That is to say each chillingly distinctive scorched silhouette by a particular weapon other than a conventional gun. You could even tell how each victim fell. How some victims fell together as if trying to protect their lovers. Each scorched silhouette fades away at the extremities of the hands and feet and part of the head. A perfect fiery silhouette would prove to be a rigged special effect or else a body burned after being shot. It is the very fact the fiery silhouettes, both ancient and recent, those that were not riddled with bullets, actually fade out at the hands and feet and part of each head which proves that these historic and recent deaths were  — believe it or not —– apparently death by spontaneous combustion. And for multiple victims to perish at the same time, the Guttersnipes, and then for Kitsume to perish the same way, all —- well —– apparently proves that someone or something can cause death by spontaneous combustion. This cannot be chance! This cannot be an environmental causality! The only way to explain it is —- well — a weapon! And it was a known historic fact the private detectives hired by Wellus House to hunt down the Guttersnipes always worked in tandem with one or two Wellus House ‘Security Caste’ personal. And they welded other weapons.

Kitsume was investigating the Guttersnipe movement at the time of his death. Their run-ins with Wellus House International were legendary and have become legendary once again. Even today Wellus House International is one of the world’s largest military industrial complexes and notorious weapons developer and munitions manufacturer with an infamous reputation for dealing with dictators and tyrants of every stripe including recently reputed sales to ISIS. In the Nineteenth Century Wellus House were one of the world’s most notorious ‘merchants of death’ as munitions and gunnery once was called. Toxic chemicals and batteries and safety matches were a side line to use up surplus toxic byproducts of munitions manufacturing. As far as Wellus House was concerned, waste not, want not!

‘We only use the finest ingredients for our weapons’ was one of their sick advertizing campaigns. The sick angle all the more sick considering the fate of the poor doomed match girls. It was reputed if a factory worker of child laborer fell into the gears they used their blood as lubricant. Their mangled corpses were thrown into the coal fires which supplied the power. Their products were featured in every global war. Newspapers accused Wellus House of deliberately manufacturing wars to sell their products. After all, a merchant of death loses money during times of peace. In the American Civil War they were rumored to be about to sell the Confederacy a monumental weapon which promised to ‘turn the tide in Dixie’s favor’ when Lincoln was assassinated.

Kitsume told me a more important detail. Ten crates were seized by King Astel on the Wellus House Pier slated to go to Dixie in a gun running ship. British agents as well as Zendula agents were all over the pier and the crates. And one Yankee spy was also seen there. Then the crates were hauled away never to be seen again. Everything was hushed up. But Zu House which represents corporate Zendula businesses was hauled into Celebeau House and cross examined for a week. Then he was threatened with an audit. You know. The type which featured a dark room without windows covered by cork to muffle screams and black uniformed examiners nicknamed ‘Ravens’ welding steel tipped pens like talons resulting in a death by a thousand pen cuts. That sort of ‘audit’. He quit along with five other CEOs including three from Wellus House.

Between the notorious Wellus House Robbery by the infamous cat thief Sykes hired by an mysterious insider involved with the Wellus House Research and Development laboratory and the time of the Guttersnipes Labor Strikes Wellus House was involved with a weaponry arms race with several international merchants of death who boasted better products than Wellus House. This was when gunnery was rapidly evolving with revolutionary rifle technology, breech loading technology, repeater technology, and R & D into full metal jacket bullets. Everyone was racing to replace the musket with not just a rifle but a rifle which was better than the top gun on the market: the Pin Rifle which Prussia was using to conquer Europe. Wellus House was struggling to keep ahead of international competition. It needed a new product. And it needed something else as well. So Wellus house was also involved with massive industrial takeovers of key industries required by their products. To be exact: steel.

So Wellus House engaged in a ‘hostile takeover’ of Smithiton Steel in the New Citadel which according to rumors was literally hostile. Urban myths said Smithiton Senior was literally shoved off the roof of Wellus House Londinium when he refused to capitulate. The official ruling was ‘suicide’. But even then no one believed it. Then Smithiton Junior vanished during the infamous Wellus House Steel Strike where over three hundred striking workers died in a rumored factory floor massacre. Why did Wellus House get away with mass murder including the death of Smithiton Junior? Habius corpus. Produce the corpse! No corpses meant no ability to prosecute! Rumors said the bodies where hurled into the steel foundry fires and incinerated to ash and cinder. The families of the steel workers were threatened with their lives. Ditto the remaining Smithitons.

Then apparently a deal was struck —- after the CEO of Wellus House Londinium who reputedly ‘persuaded’ Smithiton Senior to commit ‘suicide’ was found murdered in Zu House where he was suppose to be attending a business conference of the top Zendula corporations. Wellus House might have been ‘impregnable’ but Zu House wasn’t! He apparently died very nastily! The Smithitons continued to run Smithton Steel FOR Wellus House International in a quid pro quo. Whatever the board room might say, the Old Citadel’s authority only extended to the front gates of the New Citadel. It is an uneasy relationship of hostages and threats and reprisals and MOLK which is the price of human suffering factored into the cost of industrial production, which exists to this day.

Unconfirmed rumors say Punk Patriot was a Smithiton. If so she had good reason to hate Wellus House which was one of the reputed corporate backers of the attempted coup of Zendula. Naturally their fingerprints were wiped off all connections to the coup as each and every coup plotter was conveniently found dead. Victims of ‘suicide’. Every dangling thread oh so conveniently snipped before authorities could arrest them. Including the sniper who shot Punk Patriot. Oh so conveniently found dead! Therefore Wellus House has to be the prime suspect for ordering the murder of my troubled friend Kitsume. He was a dangling thread who would have been a threat to them.

But the trouble is Kitsume was up to his neck in the coup. And the coup had many corporate sponsors. So as the private investigator I have hired has warned me: only an ass assumes to use an English expression. There are other candidates just as suspect in the murder of my friend. For instance Kitsume’s obsession with the Guttersnipes and the role which Wellus House played in their demise was well known. Someone could have fabricated the death based on those old Nineteenth Century morgue and crime scene photographs to deliberately copy the dire end of the Guttersnipes to obscure the real killer of my poor troubled friend.

For instance the Punk Patriots hated Kistume once it was revealed that he was a double agent working for both the Punk Patriots AND the coup plotters. It could be argued that Kitsume was a sort of …..well…… Judas. Though I sincerely believed Kitsume actually defected from the coup plotters to sincerely join the Punk Patriots. Though it could be argued that I am being naive. Kitsume did play both sides of the propaganda game at the same time. But there are many members of the Punk Patriots who would have wanted to see Kitsume dead in revenge —- especially as he might have been sorta kinda implicated in the assassination of Punk Patriot herself. The red laser dot danced on first his forehead and then her forehead before the sniper took her out. Did he know? Did he maneuver Punk Patriot into that particular spot so that assassin could take out Punk Patriot? Or was he the target? Did he accidentally move just in time for Punk Patriot to take the bullet meant for him?

Of course the coup plotters would have wanted to take her out! No less than Kitsume. Of course! Both were logical targets. Both were on the hit list. And then there is the coup plotters themselves. If they were so ruthless as to shove the advertizing executive overseeing the coup propaganda campaign off the balcony of his towering condo to silence him and his role in the coup then they would certainly need to silence his hireling: Kitsume. And Wellus House in particular has a modus operandi in terminating people by ‘persuading’ them to exit life via the roof minus a golden parachute. Sure! Sure! Kitsume hysterically hinted to me he murdered his boss. But Kitsume had a record of confessing to the murders of others as the Blue Mountains Murders indicated. It is a common psychosis. My friend was not capable of murder. But coup plotters tying up loose ends would be! And like I said: Wellus House is notorious for exactly that modus operandi of death.

But there was no reason why Kitsume would have known the coup plotters hired an assassin to kill Punk Patriot. Kitsume was only hired to infiltrate the propaganda tent. To steal the inside scoop on the propaganda for the coup plotters to suborn it. Advertizing companies always do such dirty tricks to steal the campaign of rival advertizing companies. It was a job! Like selling pickles! A campaign! An advertizing campaign which became entangled in a coup and then an upraising. Kitsume ended up out of his depth and over his head. Punk Patriot died a hero. Kitsume died a Judas. So sure! Sure! So any number of bitter ex-Punk Patriots might have wanted to see Kitsume dead.

Then there is the propaganda tent which Kitsume worked in. The tragic death of the Tagger was blamed on Kitsume. I know his incoherent accounts on his laptop imply Kitsume was jealous of the much more talented Tagger and he was paranoid. But like I said. Kitsume might have been many things but he was no murderer. He did not even have a gun. Well….. he did….. but I am sure it did not even work. So the friends of the Tagger might have murdered Kitsume out of revenge. That is possible! Graffiti taggers are an incestuous lot. Intensely close and intensely loyal and intensely obsessive compulsive and at the same time intensely jealous of each other. Rivals and betrayers are equally reviled. The messages left on the Kitsume Site are so vicious I cannot help but think one of them could be Kitsume’s killer!

Then there is that suspicious pair of Brits: Jon Marlowe and Jack Philips. In hindsight I think there is much more to them than I originally told Kitsume. Jon Marlowe’s grandfather is a retired spy from MI 5. And Jon Marlowe is too conveniently a junior member of the British Embassy to be entirely as banal as he makes out to be. And Jack Philips is more than he seems. He works openly for JANE which is international weaponry. Mostly airplanes. But war is war and JANE is war. Wellus House is a member of JANE. And Jack Philips’ father is in MI 6. Too obvious surely yet too convenient to be entirely ignored. Both appeared too conveniently at the time of the upraising against the coup. And both claimed to be graduate students of Oxbridge yet they were already graduated and departed from Oxbridge. Britain has a vested interest in keep one of their oldest allies, Zendula, stable. MI 6 had to be there. So frankly only the most naive would not suspect Jon Marlowe and Jack Philips.

But both have stayed even after the coup was defeated and a new Queen was nominated by The Master for election by the Steering Committee. And election which appears to be popular and is anticipated to proceed timely toward a tourist flocking coronation — once all of the blood and debris of the coup and uprising is cleaned up. So why have they stayed? Sure! Jon Marlowe appears to work casually for the British Embassy but it is all just too convenient. And why is Jack Philips staying? Kitsume was terrified of this pair. There actually might have been a reason for Kitsume to be afraid of them. I underestimated them because Kitsume was inclined to be paranoid. But frankly there were reasons for Kitsume to be paranoid —- at least by them. I have met them twice and each time I came away ever more uneasy about that pair of cooly devious Brits. Jon Marlowe reminds me of his grandfather. Silky voice and all. And too slippery by half. And Jack Philips is a ‘grey’ — a coin with two faces.

And the investigator says the Blue Mountains Moor Murders might be a connection as well. I don’t think so. The police long ago released Kitume as an active suspect. There have not been any more murders. Nevertheless, the investigator has asked to go to the Blue Mountains to reopen the dormant case and Kitsume’s role in it. He says the Blue Mountains Moor Murders have not been resolved. He says every instinct he has as a professional investigator is screaming out that there is more to the Blue Mountain Moor Murders than has been publicly disclosed.

And as I study Kitsume’s collection of Guttersnipe propaganda I find it more and more disturbing. ‘We know who killed Smithiton’. The last Guttersnipe  propaganda hinted ‘We know who killed Smithiton’. ‘We know’ the propaganda threatened. Clearly the Guttersnipes appeared to imply they had the smoking gun or more correctly the smoking evidence which could implicate Wellus House in the Smithiton murders. And there is no statute of limitations to murder or conspiracy to commit murder. Smithiton Senior or Smithiton Junior or the three hundred striking steel workers. Either or all could still bring down Wellus House International. Then. Or now. What did the Guttersnipes imply they had on Wellus House? A smoking gun? Or more likely a photograph of a corpse. An important corpse. Smithiton Junior.

Who cares how many striking steel workers might have died? But Smithiton was and still is a famous industrial clan. A brand name. A historic name. A name which can still sell a murder even if it occurred nearly a century ago. Some infamous murders never lose their morbid appeal. The murders of Smithiton Senior and Junior is one of them. A Nineteenth Century photograph of Smithiton Junior’s corpse proving violent death would blow a historic case right open! At the very least the living Smithitons can sue Wellus House for Weregilt. Blood Debt. I checked at the Chancery yesterday. The Smithitons could break the back of Wellus House with Blood Debt the way Adrian Reid broke the back of Sneed’s movie studio. Ignoring the superstitious belief that Weregild and Weregilt can hex the offender with contagious bad luck, it definitely can drive the convicted right into bankruptcy. Interest would be computed from the moment Smithiton Junior was murdered. That would make it nearly a century’s worth of interest. The Chancery clerk said that would definitely bankrupt even Wellus House!

And Kitsume implied he found something in that old warehouse which the Guttersnipes long ago secreted away just before they were cornered like rats and shot or else incinerated by hit men. Something about a mad homeless man and a laptop. And indeed that homeless man did give me Kitsume’s laptop. But he said Kitsume found something too. A photograph of a corpse secreted away in an old tin can and oil cloth secreted under floorboards. A decaying photograph of a man’s head —- or what remained of a man’s head  —- after a bullet exited through it. And a century later Kitsume perished the same way in the same warehouse? Chance? Chance only happens in Dickens novels. And one of the last Guttersnipe propaganda images they plastered over old Nineteenth Century advertizing said ‘There is no such thing as spontaneous combustion’.

If Wellus House really did invent a weapon which caused death by spontaneous combustion then the first human test subjects were the Guttersnipes! And then nearly a century later Kitsume! You see, that crazy old man told me he gave the evidence Kitsume found to the biggest newspaper in The Havens —- just as Kistume begged him to. But the biggest newspaper in The Havens denies ever receiving anything from that crazy old man. Who should I believe? You see…… Wellus House owns that newspaper through hidden syndicate manipulations which Kitsume did not know about. What happened to the smoking evidence which could even today bring down Wellus House?

Rumors said the infamous Sykes Robbery of Wellus House’s R & D lab was just such a weapon. And J.E.F. Rose’s potboiler speculated about just such a weapon. A weapon which could cause death by spontaneous combustion. And Sykes was known to have died on fire as he hurled himself through the glass dome roof of the Wellus House R & D lab as if a human torch. Back then Wellus House, a notorious munitions and batteries and ‘Lucifer matches’ manufacturer, used gaslight as well as coal to fuel the turbines. Gaslight means exposed flickering flames. No safety protocols could totally contain gaslight. Gaslight is Gas. And Wellus House never engaged in any safety protocols. So Wellus House was a gigantic bomb. All a bomb needs is a lighted fuse. And Wellus House Londinium blew up as if a Victorian version of a nuclear bomb. And rumors said the insider who watched Sykes die from her prototype airship before fleeing just before the explosions hired Sykes to steal a prototype from than lab. A weapon.

A weapon being rushed forward for sale for the next anticipated war: the American Civil War. And liked I said: Dixie was saying they were about to receive weapons which would ‘turn the tide’ of the war. And King Astel and spies were all over the place on that Wellus House pier. What was in those ten crates earmarked for Dixie? Yet such a weapon has never been mass produced or sold on the public market. Then. Or now. Yet if such a weapon really existed and still exists it would be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. If the murders of the Smithitons and the Smithiton Steel Workers and the Guttersnipes and now Kitsume could all be linked to an illegal weapon of mass destruction still possessed by Wellus House it could bring down Wellus House International! So I need to contact J.E.F.Rose. He left an obscure message implying my life might be in danger. But as his pot boiler of an e-book has not done him in I think he just does not want sales of his book impacted by poor Kitsume’s death. I intend to contact him regardless of his passive aggressive message.

And then there is the other angle Kitsume was hinting to me. The owners of Wellus House International. Wellus House is a massive consortium of corporations  who shares headquarters in the mysterious Old Citadel which is off limits to almost anyone other than the ‘Mansions’ or corporations of the exclusive syndicate of the consortiums of Old Citadel. Urban myths have always spread rumors that the notorious syndicate inhabiting the sinister Old Citadel is well….. strange. Not just ruthless. Strange. As in…..well….not exactly….. well….. human. Humanoid. But not exactly …..well… human. At least not conventionally human by any popular definition outside of Zendula definitions of what constitutes ‘human’. At least not conventionally human.

First off there is the fact the Syndicate is so rarely seen it is ….well….. reclusive to the extreme. Then there is the fact that they mostly entirely dwell in a very suspect place: the Old Citadel. The Old Citadel is massively polluted with ancient and modern industrial pollution, toxic slag from mithril mining which is radioactive, poisonous chemicals, and no end of dire industrial muck. Sure. There are also rumors of a massive underground city of ancient pedigree and fabled reputation. But that once fabulous underground city was sealed up centuries ago. And it was sealed up for good reason. Obscure reasons. But apparently very good reasons. Very, very good reasons. King Gildagad and Durham The Deathless not withstanding, very, very good reasons. Some things really need to stay buried in time. The Old Citadel is one of them. And indeed for centuries it was assumed no one lived in the Old Citadel. The New Citadel was sealed off from the Old Citadel —- for good reasons. Or so the New Citadel said. Until the mid Nineteenth Century during the heavily polluting Industrial Age it was assumed no one inhabited the Old Citadel until the very mysterious Mr. Wellus emerged to found Wellus House International. And to this day few other such dizens of that mysterious underground city have emerged other than the members of the consortiums of corporations of the ‘mansion’ or ‘mountain’ of Wellus House.

Urban myths says the CEO’s of the syndicate of the ‘mansions’ ie ‘mountains’ of consortiums of corporations which form the byzantine syndicate of the Old Citadel dine on gigantic mutant cockroaches instead of lobsters in that underground city.  Though frankly having seen a Boston lobster I think it looks like a gigantic cockroach and therefore the origin of the urban myth. But still. The urban myths have to have originated from some kernels of truth. Sure. Gigantic greenhouse domes glow in the snow of the Ice Pass which transverses the hidden underground city. But frankly, how can an entire population inside a hidden underground city live off ornate old status symbol greenhouses? They do not order take out! Nor do they invite anyone in! And everyone knows mithril is highly radioactive unless processed by mercury which is highly toxic. There was a reason why after the death of Durham The Deathless the Old Citadel was sealed up. Rumors said the inhabitants were mutating! Really! So many offspring were grotesque the surviving families fled while abandoning their fabled rich mansions carved into the mountains of the Pale which boasted the Ice Pass. And it was said the desperate last survivors not only fled while leaving their riches behind, they left their deformed and grotesque children behind. Something was going terribly wrong in the Old Citadel! Something so terrible no one has ever confessed it!

And the anti-union safety protocols of Wellus House and the other syndicate owners is admittedly weird. To prevent unions or labor stoppages or worker unrest or bad publicity such as the match girls as well as to maintain production quotas the workers ‘outsourced’ from the Old Citadel are housed in site in each massive Wellus House or other syndicate factory. No one ever sees them during the day. Only at night. And then only the upper ‘castes’. The CEO. The engineers. The R & D types. The managers. The administrators. Occasionally the security guards if a worker escapes or strikes or defects. Never the factory floor workers or manual laborers. The grunts. I mean! That is weird! Isn’t it? But a sighting is as rare as a sighting of Garbo used to be in New York City. And then there is the timing. They started to appear during the heavily polluted Nineteenth Century when the industrial age was spewing out toxic chemicals and belching out industrial pollutants and befouling the air and water and earth with poisonous muck in every form. Don’t you see? It was during a time when Zendula and indeed the entire industrial world was befouling the environment into a carbon copy of —– the Old Citadel.

If those deformed and grotesque offspring abandoned so long ago continued to survive in that toxic underground city befouled by glowing mithril slag and other industrial wastes then they must have —- well — adopted —- evolved —– mutated —- to live in such a deadly environment. And they only emerged when the industrial world started to resemble their deadly environment. And after the Astel Protocols and Reforms and then during the 1960s the industries were ordered to clean up their acts. And guess who vanished from sight? Yeah. The ‘outsourced’ workers from the Old Citadel who were shipped by sealed trains to Wellus House factories in the cities of Zendula and also London at one point. Or at least until something very bad happened in London which required the Wellus House London factory to be ‘sealed’ forever in concrete.

Most of the Wellus House Zendula factories have been closed since the 1960s as the air and water and soil have become somewhat cleaner once again. Most of the ‘outsourced’ workers have apparently been shipped back to the Old Citadel. In fact only the Wellus House Havens branch of the consortium is still operating visibly. But almost no one sees them. The CEO only appears at Zu House which is next door to Wellus House headquarters for corporate meetings via an underground tunnel. He never poises for photographs. In fact the only Wellus House CEO who ever posed for photographs and actively interfaced with people was the Nineteenth Century CEO who was the lover of the wife of the railroad tycoon Teddy Pendergrass. A romantic triangle which saw lover and wife dead and Teddy a fugitive from a murder charge hiding inside his house for fear of emerging to be arrested. So you are talking about a very reclusive bunch of people. And ‘reclusive’ is an understatement!

And these very reclusive people have spawn no end of urban myths and penny dreadfuls like J.E.F. Rose’s pot boiler ‘The Rise And Fall of the Swell Mob of the Seven Dials’. And I shudder at rumors of this retired professor’s up and coming Zendula Gaslight Gothic followup! The Black Eald! Yea gods! It screams pot boiler! Teddy love triangle and all! Be afraid! Be very, very afraid! But he apparently is not afraid so his message to me is just being passive aggressive. He wants me off his pathetic e book turf! Fairawayland and all! I could not even sit through one of his Daffy Gilbert-Blackheart novellas on the airplane back from London. He is so old school! But what can you expect from some old academic turned to fiction writing in his retirement? Rose’s forte in academia and fiction has always been research. He just does not want to share his sources with me. That is all. I have tried to contact him and he only emailed me back that ‘They want to be fiction so no one will realize they are fact.’ What the hell does that bullshit mean?

But still! There has to be a kernel of truth to inspire such rumors. I mean! Why is each member of the syndicate so paranoid about secrecy? It can’t all be preserving industrial secrets and patents and copyrights? Or to keep their workers in line? The Old Citadel is a noxious stew of ancient and modern industrial pollution. How can anyone live there? Why would anyone live there? And why do the remaining ‘outsourced’ industrial bastions run by the Old Citadel Syndicate keep their workers concealed? Even their CEO’s are rarely seen and only at night. It is creepy…. isn’t it? I mean! Zendula does have some weird genetics unique to us so we have become used to being ….. well ….. different …. but this is weird even for us! Could the urban myths be true? Could Wellus House and other ‘mansions’ of the syndicate of the Old Citadel be …..Morlocks?

– Kitsume Client.