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The Bamworth Legacy – Briefing


From: G M Blaize

To Operatives: Steve Anderson, Dr Matt Culver, John Henry, Darius McGregor, Benedict Riggs, Professor Adam Twitchin

Subject: The Bamworth Legacy

Code: C/13/336/41F

Rendezvous: Central lobby of Oxford railway station, 1000 hours, 13 June 1997.

Destination: Middlechase, a small village situated amid the countryside of Oxfordshire. The village is thought to date from as early as the thirteenth century, and has been intimately connected with the estate of the Bamworths since the fifteenth (see below). The settlement originally functioned as a meeting place and market for farmers of the region. A powerful farming cooperative still dominates the local economy.

Travel arrangements: From Oxford you will take the 1015 hours bus destined for Broughton Poggs. Tickets to Middlechase Square should be requested.

Cover: You are representatives of Orgus Antiques, a dealer in books of specialist interest and scholarly manuscripts of historical interest, based in Lion's Road, Bedford. You are visiting Middlechase with your colleagues with your associates in order to attend the auction on 19 June, and attempt purchase of the Bamworth library.

Background Information:

  • 1497 Estate founded by the Rev. Peter Bamworth, using funds gifted to him by the Church.
  • 1507 Jessica Bamworth tried and burned at the stake for witchcraft. Following this incident, several women are also tried and executed. The exact numbers are unknown, but probably run into double figures. The ashes of the dead women were spread around the fields.
  • 1566 John Bamworth instigates the trial of his own wife, Avril, for witchcraft. A local farmer, also implicated, fled to avoid execution.
  • 1710 Elouise Bamworth commits suicide.
  • 1793 Joseph Bamworth kills himself by hurling himself onto the altar railings of the estate's chapel.
  • 1907 Caroline Bamworth committed to an asylum after being driven mad by "the screams of dying women".
  • 1966 Emmanuelle Bamworth drowns in the river Thames after hearing strange voices calling to her from the fields.
  • 1996 Sir Harvey Bamworth, little-known occult scholar, dies.

Your mission: In the interest of further investigation into the Unexplained, SITU would like to gain control of the Bamworth library, which promises to be a useful resource of occult knowledge. For this purpose, the team is assigned to attend the reception and auction of the library (to be held over the week 12/6/96 to 19/6/96 inclusive). The team is given a budget of £500,000 in order to make the purchase.

Contacts: Harriet Bamworth, sole heir to the Bamworth Estate and supervisor of the auction, has been informed of the probable attendance of representatives of Orgus Antiques. Rooms have been reserved at the local guest house for the entirety of the week, with the possibility of extension. The proprietor is Bill Norse.

Expenses: SITU will reimburse Operatives for all reasonable expenses incurred during the investigation. Receipts will be required.

General advice: All operatives should be aware that, while they may choose to operate outside the law, they are not above it. SITU does not condone unlawful activity of any nature. Note that SITU will not act on the behalf of an Operative who is cautioned, arrested, charged, etc in the course of an investigation. Indeed, if an Operative were to attempt to contact SITU in such a situation, he/she would find all telephone numbers unobtainable and all addresses unoccupied.


Obituary to Sir Harvey Bamworth (from The Times)

SIR HARVEY ISAAC BAMWORTH, respected scholar and popular local figure, has died at the age of 52 years.

Sir Harvey, a graduate from Lincoln College, Oxford, spent the whole of his life at his family estate in Middlechase, Oxon, where he eventually passed on painlessly in his sleep as the result of a long-term illness. He will be sorely missed by the local community for whom he was a leading figure, and will be remembered for his small but significant contributions to the academic study of popular folklore.

The funeral was held at the church of the village he loved last Sunday. He leaves one daughter, Harriet.

Middlechase Women's Institute are currently accepting donations towards a plaque in Sir Harvey's memory. In addition, a private auction of numerous effects, including the contents of the Bamworth estate's substantial library will be taking place on Thursday, 19 June.


Prelude

After two weeks the hot summer weather has finally broken. The roads towards Middlechase are a rabbit's warren of narrow lanes, now flanked by waterlogged ditches, and the elderly Oxford-Broughton Poggs bus takes the corners and hump-backed bridges at a cautious speed, like a plump dowager negotiating a narrow corridor.

Outside, the world is awash under a sky like a swathe of old muslin. In some fields, corn dulls and droops under the lash of the weather. In others, the dark bulks of seated cattle are visible under the trees.

Within the minibus, conversation has been wary and intermittent, lapsing as the depressive effective of the weather takes its toll.

Apparently with the intention of maintaining personal distance, Steve Anderson has chosen a seat at the very back, clearing a patch of steam from the window to watch the Oxfordshire countryside scroll past. "Side-step", the name he gave during introductions at the railway station, has the sound of a nick-name, but his somewhat aloof demeanour is not calculated to encourage further enquiry. He is rather short and slight, with a brown crew-cut, and is dressed casually in jeans and an American-style flying jacket.

A few seats in front of him, Professor Adam Twitchin has withdrawn from the desultory attempts at conversation, and is now involved in scrutinizing the Times crossword puzzle through his spectacles. His tall but frail figure is rather dowdily dressed in an elderly-looking tweed jacket and brown corduroy trousers. Although less than imposing in appearance, in speech he is engaging and articulate.

Riggs occupies the next seat forward, seemingly oblivious to the cold in his black t-shirt and jeans. The tall, slim American has already managed to unnerve most of his companions, with his curious mannerisms - he spent some time cautiously examining the underside of the bus before getting on, and now he keeps twisting round to gaze anxiously up ino the clouded sky, his long, black hair falling in strands across his pale face.

Dr Matt Culver has positioned himself at the very front, occasionally breaking off a dialogue with the driver to address remarks over his shoulder to one or another of his companions. Apparently in his late twenties, he is tall and fairly well built, his rounded, youthful features slightly tanned. He wears a gold nose-stud and a ring through his right earlobe, and a red AIDS ribbon is visible on the lapel of his black, leather motorcycle jacket. His manner is charming if occasionally disconcerting.

Two seats behind him, in an eye-crunching lumberjack shirt chequered in pink and lime-green, John Henry is persisting in a good-humoured, if slightly emphatic monologue. His watery blue eyes are diminished in sizes by his pebble-lenses, and his brown hair shows signs of balding. In his lap rests a battered leather satchel. Since the departure from the station, his verbal flow has been as persistent as the rain, and only now loses its energy, as a dismal huddle of buildings come into sight beyond the hedgerows.

Darius McGregor shares a seat with Henry, and has thus been the unassuming recipient of his companion's speech for much of the journey. He seems willing to allow the other free reign over the conversation, and is quick to make the appropriate noises of encouragement or interest at relevant junctures. Darius has dark hair and eyes, and appears to have barely entered his twenties. His unexceptional appearance and diminutive stature render him an unobtrusive addition to the group.

After a short duel of will with an on-coming Renault, the little bus manages the awkward turn into the village square, parking in one of a grid of spaces surrounding the central war memorial, a slick finger of grey stone listing the immortal dead in black letters. Five minutes later it departs, leaving the SITU agents amid their luggage in the rain-glazed square.

"You the Orgus people?" Holding aloft a broken-winged parody of an umbrella, a small, angular man is picking his way across the puddles towards the group, blinking against the rain and showing his teeth in an attempt at an ingratiating smile. "I'm Bill Norse. Six rooms for the week, that's right?" The guest house owner assists in carrying the luggage out of the rain, occasionally allowing his eyes to flicker over the motley company with ill-concealed curiosity.

The guest house itself is a clutter of olde worlde bric-a-brac, the walls thick with mock-Victorian prints of bonneted, bouquet-bearing toddlers with precocious smiles. Over the fireplace a moose's head stares into the middle distance with an expression of murderous intent in its red glass eyes. Standing on a stool, a fox-haired, freckle-faced woman of reserved but resolute demeanour is attempting to reattach one antler onto its head with sticky tape. She is introduced as Bill's wife Karen.

Lunch is a fairly dismal affair, a pallid swathe of pastry hiding meat of indeterminable origin, accompanied by some yellowing sprouts the size of marbles. Norse can be overheard in the kitchen employing a tone of extreme sarcasm.

Towards the end of dessert, a portly man in the uniform of a police constable can be seen entering the guest house. Karen Norse gives him a questioning look as he drops himself heavily into the armchair nearest to the radiator.

"Any news of Tracey Hammond, Constable Brice?" He shakes his head slowly.

"They've started calling in men from the stations in Ducklington and Black Bourton to look for her. Well, it's been twenty-four hours now. But it doesn't look good. They've started to find the girl's clothes, scattered over the fields..."

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