Case number: 0100426. Statement of Denzil Cassar, regarding an unusual encounter in a bookshop.
Original statement given April 26th 2010. Audio recording by Jonathan Sims, head archivist of the Magnus Institute, London.
I'm not religious. Not that I'm, you know, against religion or anything, I don't feel the need to go all Richard Dawkins if I see someone wearing a crucifix necklace or a hijab or whatever. My older brother converted to Sikhism, oh about ten years back now, and well, my wife's a lapsed Catholic, but she still sort of believes in that sort of nebulous agnostic-y way where you don't go to mass or pray or anything but you can't bring yourself to settle on either side of the fence with any sort of confidence. I find the whole concept interesting – some of the hymns we got to belt out in assembly made an all-loving creator sound pretty neat – but it's never really spoken to me personally. My mum passed a few years ago, natural causes but still younger than she should have been, and that was the last time I went into a church. My dad sometimes goes to light a candle I think, on her birthday and their anniversary, by the statue of St Anne my mum always liked, but no, as I said, not religious.
This will all probably look a bit irrelevant to whoever is going to be reading and filing this, but I thought it was important that you know I don't believe in all that. Didn't believe. Not in God or gods or I dunno, the interconnectedness of the universe, or the afterlife, or any of it.
I'm not sure what I believe now. But I know I saw an angel.
I suppose I should tell you a bit about the bookshop. I work - well, now I've got an internship with Deloitte, which is going pretty good – but at the time I'd just packed in academia two years into my PhD, finally succumbing to the fact that a lifetime of research and journal articles and squabbling about pedagogical minutiae wasn't for me, and so I was frantically trying to get my foot on any career ladder that would take me. I was supplementing my job searching with a gig as a fast food delivery driver. It was a self-employed set up, you know how the gig economy is – people put up jobs on this network of freelancers like me around London; if you're close enough, you claim the job, go to the restaurant or takeaway or whatever, and then take it to the person and cross your fingers for a tip. Most of the job was waiting – for new jobs, for the takeaway to finish prepping the meal, for the customer to answer the door. It wasn't ideal, but I'd recently got a motorbike – a daft little lifelong ambition that my missus surprised me with for my thirtieth birthday, and it would have been stupid to own a car in London anyway – and the hours weren't too bad once you got used to it. Could choose what call-outs you took, could block places you knew would short-change you or mess you around. More freedom than most jobs I guess.
All sorts of people order takeaway, and at all sorts of hours. There's a students flat in Bloomsbury, and they had ten traffic bollards that they'd clearly knicked drunk, all placed in a row along the corridor and used as coat-racks. Not to mention, the amount of people you meet drunk in my job, big glassy smiles at the door. You get all these weird little glimpses into people's lives, their hallways through the half-open door, and honestly, you become rather desensitized to all the stuff you see. The first time I took an order to Tisbury Court in Soho though, I took one look at all the neon tube lights, and posters and signs for Adult stores or services, and I thought I was going to get mugged, or see someone shooting up near the bins or something. The order had come in from one of the adult stores where they sell toys and outfits and – I guess videos and DVDs? People clearly still pay for porn, rather than getting it on the internet, I suppose. The guy who ordered in was running a late shift, and he tipped well; I remember that he looked more like he'd work in one of the cafes, clean-shaven, little round glasses, probably studying at King's or something, and he chuckled when I said so, and he said it paid the bills.
After that initial encounter, I found I'd take more orders to some of the sketchier streets in Soho, especially those that went near Tisbury. Some of the girls at the strip club had a curry night once a month, there was a guy who clearly – ahem, well, plied his trade along that road, and we shared his pizza once on a really dull night and we chatted about The Witcher 3. I even got on first name terms with the guy at the adult store before he graduated and moved back to Dudley.
Thing is, I knew Tisbury Court well enough to have passed the bookshop right on the corner. A.Z Fell's and Co. I remember it looked so... out of place, right next door to another adult store with a garish window display that left nothing to the imagination, mannequins all decked in leather, some advert for private screenings stuck to the glass with a dildo. Like I said, you can see almost anything in London. The lights of the bookshop had sometimes been on when I made my deliveries, sometimes late into the night, but it looked incongruous, poorly cleaned windows and austere flaking paintwork, compared to everywhere else, like the rest of the street had grown up around it. I never caught a glimpse of whoever worked there until about a year ago, when I saw the Bentley parked up near where I usually slid my bike in – I remember thinking it'd get a ticket, no resident's permit or anything like that to be seen near the windscreen. Two men were by the door of the bookshop, and one of them was patting his pockets for his keys in a bit of a fluster. He had looked exactly like the sort of person who worked in a bookshop; bowtie, bobbly cardigan, a shock of whitish hair. The colour is what made him so memorable, I think, the rest of him sort of faded into the background. He looked a bit tipsy, but his companion wasn't faring much better, swaying a bit and complaining about the cold. I was delivering to the place next door, funnily enough, and the three of us nodded politely at each other as I knocked and waited. The white-haired one found his keys, and the other one, who looked a bit more hip and with it made some sort of comment that had the bookshop worker elbowing him. By then, the woman next door had answered and I had to go searching for change for her twenty, and I didn't think any more about the shop or the owner.
At least, I wouldn't have, if I hadn't seen the photo.
The Grace O'Malley is at the corner of Dean Street and St Anne's Court. You've probably not heard of it. It's one of those odd gay bars that's not lively enough for the crowd who flock to G-A-Y or Ku Bar on a Friday, but then it's not historical enough to attract the older crowd like the Admiral Duncan's. Also, it's one of the few that mostly cater for women. I wasn't working that day, oddly enough. I'd just had a job interview for a bank teller position that I thought had gone pretty well, and it was a nice enough day so I thought I'd have a stroll through London, maybe get my wife something nice from Marks and Sparks on the way home. My mate Rashida worked on the bar at the Grace O'Malley and she'd text me complaining how bored she was, how she had cleaned everything and organised all the stock and had hours left on the afternoon shift, so I thought I could go and keep her company, maybe play a game of pool while I was there.
There wasn't many people, a few drinkers, but two older women were hogging the pool table, so I just sat at the bar and chatted to Rashida. Got myself a drink, then got tempted into a second, and I was just giving the selection of spirits at the back of the bar a look when I saw the photo. Framed, musty, and I pointed it out to Rashida, asking what it was. She grinned, and pulled it down from the wall so I could have a closer look. 'It's history!' she said, sounding excited to share it with someone. There was a scrawl at the bottom of the photo – The Violet Garlands, 1921 - I was confused at that and Rashida told me that the bar had changed its name sometime in the 50's.
It was – it was a really nice picture. A big group of women, some all dressed up in top hats and tails, some in britches and ties, a few in flowery dresses, clearly in the midst of some sort of celebration, half-caught giggles and big beaming grins, some attempts to look suave thwarted by a joke. Rashida said the owner knew a few stories about some of the women, and some local historian had written a piece about one of the women on the back row in particular because she was apparently a big name in LGBT World War II circles, and she excitedly pointed out some of the women stood posing in black and white, telling me all sorts of tales about the wild things they got up to. I was about to ask more about why it was taken, when I saw the figure in the corner. Almost out of shot, looking like they'd been pulled slightly unwillingly into the photo and were going along with it with a long-suffering resigned sort of expression. Same sorts of outfits as the women, a jacket that might once have been sharp, not as put-together as the rest, a scruffy little bow-tie, one of the women with their arm flung around a shoulder to pull them in.
They looked exactly like the bookshop owner. Shock of white-hair, bow-tie, the lot. They could have been a woman, what with the androgynous fashions some of them were sporting, the softness of their face. I thought at the time, that it was uncanny, the resemblance, and laughed to myself. I snapped a photo of it on my phone – I'd a mate who was at UCL doing Gender and Sexuality Studies at the time, and she loved photos of old queer London, 'think she was considering doing her dissertation on it or something – and just clocked it as a weird little co-incidence.
But it kept happening. Over the next six months, I kept finding pictures of the bookshop owner – at least I presumed he was the owner. It started out as a curiosity and I'd tell my wife when I found one, treat it like a treasure hunt; London pubs and bars like to show off their history for the tourists, so there's often photos behind the bar or on the walls on the way to the toilets or something. I saw a photo at The Belt and Buckle, then another one in The Hyacinth and Vine, The Crown and Chairmen, The Duchess of Malborough. All of them looking like the same guy, white shock of hair, shorter stature, kind of stout under his dated suit that always looked a bit battered. The last one, when the guy behind the bar allowed me to pull it off the wall and turn it over, even had names scrawled on the back to denote those in the picture – left to right, bottom, Frank Marsh, Algie Turner, Ezra Fell – all of them wearing little – I would have guessed – green carnations on their lapels. It was uncanny, I mean the bookshop owner must have been what, this guy's grandson, great grand-son, yet he was the spitting image of him. I snapped some photos on my phone – I can give you a copy if you like, for your records.
So I was interested. It was a nice little puzzle, and I hadn't had much luck on the job front. I did some digging into the buildings at the library, and the records were ... weird. None of them had ever been raided, as I had read was apparently pretty common unless there was some bribes going on, and even then that didn't always prevent it. They weren't on police radar of known 'homosexual hotspots'; someone wrote a journal article on the relationship between the police and Soho, and they'd compiled a big comprehensive list of queer bars operating, and none of these places were on it. But there was more than that, the more I kept digging. The Belt and Buckle - the proprietor told me – had what we'd now probably call a Molotov cocktail chucked through its window during the Troubles, and he proudly said that whatever homophobic wanker had done it had done such a shoddy job that the thing had just rolled near the jukebox and fizzled out. I mean, that's a neat coincidence, but then I read that the Duchess of Malborough had been used as an air-raid shelter in the war because of its basement, and it had been bombed. I saw a newspaper clipping – the rest of the street blitzed into rubble and the Duchess all dusty with a broken window, sticking up in the middle of two ruins like a new tooth popping up. As I say, weirdly lucky.
The thing that really got me though, more than all those near misses and odd gaps in paperwork, was the reaction when I asked about the man. Some of the barstaff or owners didn't know anything about the history, of course, had inherited the running of the place from family members or taken over the lease to try and make their fortune off London students, and just kept the photos they found in the attic or whatever. But the ones that did, who knew about the photos and would happily tell me when they were taken, even the names of some of the people in them – whenever I mentioned the white-haired man, they got all shifty. And it was obvious, they'd be too quick to dismiss, say they didn't know, they couldn't remember, and the more I pressed, when I mentioned I'd seen the same face around a few places, the worse it got.
It was around then, I got, well, if I'm honest, a bit too over-invested. I've always been like that, my wife will tell you. Something takes my fancy, and I stick with it for about six months before something else grabs my attention. You should see my attic. I've got boxes of dusty home-brewery stuff from when I tried to make my own beer, down at the bottom there's a small collection of antique carriage clocks from when I got really fascinated by watch-making, next to that is when I got really into the occult, and there's all these old creaky books and a few artefacts that claim to read auras or look beyond this mortal plane but likely only lightened my wallet. That's where I got the glass from, actually, paid twenty quid for it on the Portobello Road from some old geezer, but I'll get to that.
I kept to keeping an eye on the bookshop. Nothing creepy you understand, but by then I was doing temp work at the Halifax on Old Compton Road, and so I passed near Tisbury Court pretty regularly. There was a cafe near there, bit overpriced but they'd great Bakewell tarts, so sometimes I'd sit by the window on my lunch break and peek out at the bookshop on the opposite corner.
Mr Fell, if that's even his name, was harmlessly eccentric. Odd opening hours, the blinds drawn half the time, and you know, I don't think I saw him sell a single book in the time I watched. He wasn't exactly friendly with his customers, I caught more than one person walk out in a huff, so I don't imagine customer service was high on his priority, but the locals knew him. I'd see people wave to him and he'd give a jaunty little wave back, and sometimes he'd stop, and touch their arm and make sympathetic noises at their plights when they got talking and then he'd bemoan his own trials like a regular old fishwife, usually involving 'my Anthony' who I assumed was his boyfriend, maybe the taller swish-looking guy I'd seen him with that night. He reminded me of my old geography teacher actually. Mr Stephens had been this bookish substitute who wore dramatic jumpers, and he'd taken over from Miss Darling when she went on maternity leave in year nine. Incredibly smart, always quoting something, and he wasn't as dry as some of the other teachers we'd had. Camp as they come, I know you're not meant to assume, but he called all the other teachers darling when he stopped to chat with them in the hallway, did amateur musical theatre in his spare time, apparently had an enviable collection of play programmes from the Old Vic and The National. Section 28 was still around at the time, so I dunno, maybe he wasn't comfortable being out working in a school because he never mentioned being in a relationship or anything, but this Mr Fell reminded me of him; camp in a posh, lovey sort of way, calling people 'dear' all the time, exuding this rather affected gentlemanly air, like he was someone from a lost time.
He came into the cafe once actually, while I was sitting there. He got a coffee to takeaway - “You know how he takes it, my dear,” I overheard him saying to the man at the counter – “black and three sugars, a foul concoction, oh no offence meant as to the quality of your beverages of course.” The man laughed behind his thick beard, said something about Anthony that had Mr Fell sighing and giving a 'what-can-you-do' shrug, before his interest was caught by one of the patisserie items in the glass counter. That's how I caught his name actually. Ezra, the guy at the counter called him as he handed him his change and bid him farewell. Just like the name I'd seen in the Duchess of Malborough. And in that moment, I was sure, that if anyone had been willing to tell me the name of the white haired stranger in the other photos, from the 19th century, from 1921, from 1947, from 1978, they would have all told me the same name.
It didn't even cross my mind that he might not be the same man. He must be, identical, and neither time or age seemed to touch him. London's an odd city, full of weird things and old secrets, and I was sure I'd found one or them.
I didn't tell my wife – she humours my fixations, and her personality is very similar, so she has her own hyper-focuses, we gel together like that – but I was sure she wouldn't believe me. I wasn't sure I believed me. I wondered if the man was some sort of demon, or, I don't know, tangible ghost. My brief flirtation with the occult had me jumping to all sorts of fanciful conclusions. But I took to carrying around.. look, it sounds daft to say it out loud now, but the more I was reading, the more this guy kept popping up in old letters and biographies, around names like John Dee and all those weird practitioners, and I guess I thought he was some sort of warlock, or sorcerer who'd made some pact or something to... I dunno, live a long time, hang out in gay bars and own a bookshop. So I started carrying round my scrying glass whenever I knew I'd be able to have a look at the bookshop. The glass, more of a monocle really, a little scuffed, looked old, ornate around the outside, and the little tag that came with it said it was George VI, used by magical practitioners for 'peering through the veil of reality'. But then, like I said, I'd bought it from this sketchy looking guy who looked like he sold white goods out the back of his van, and I'd shoved it into the boxes in the attic when I'd lost interest. I looked at the bookshop through it, and it was... there wasn't anything I would put my finger on. Not exactly. It didn't suddenly wreathe itself in shadow, or look out of the ordinary, but there was something about it that suggested that it was.... It sounds paranoid, but I'm convinced that the shop knew I was watching, that it was aware of me, and sometimes the light would strike off it in a way it shouldn't, or the windows would look too... bright isn't the word but it's the only one that works. I'd quickly take the glass off, breathing hard, and have to order a tea to settle my nerves. I didn't use the glass around the bookshop owner. I think I was afraid to.
Truth be told, it wasn't like I had any idea of what to do next with the information I had. I say information. It was a spooky feeling around an old shop, and some photos of a man that if the photos were all the same, if all the references to an 'Ezra Fell' I'd found were the same man, should have been hundreds of years old. I had daydreams of breaking the lock somehow, sneaking in, catching the guy chanting in a chalk circle, or raising his fingers over a glowing grimoire, but I wasn't going to do anything, not really. I kept the glass in my pocket, but I stopped looking at the building when I went to get coffee.
Then, last week, I was out with some of my mates. One of the guys at the Halifax, it was his 35th birthday, and so we'd all gone and had a pint with him after work, and then as I was thinking of heading home, an old uni friend Darragh had texted, said he was out with a few friends and if I fancied one. I text the missus to see if she wanted to come along – she'd had some big presentation at work, and I'd reckoned she'd want to blow off some steam – , but she was already out, said there was this wanky poetry thing her friend had invited her too and there was the promise of free food. So I'd gone out with Darragh, and one turned into a few like it always does. When we all finally started going home, some of us had work the next day, me included, I didn't want to bother waiting for a taxi, and so I set off walking, thinking the night air would sober me up a little, maybe I'd grab a kebab if I got peckish. I was only twenty minutes or so away, but I didn't even realise that I was walking through Soho and down Tisbury Court until one of the neon lights from the adult store made me blink and wonder where I'd got to.
In the bookshop, there was a dull light from the upstairs room – Mr Fell must live there, I assumed – but downstairs was dark, the blinds drawn, half-closed so I couldn't peek throug although I wouldn't have seen anything in the darkness. I don't know what made me try the handle of the shop. Because it was stupid o'clock in the morning, or I was drunk, or I just... I just really wanted to know. To have the courage to see inside.
The door wasn't locked.
For a moment, I couldn't believe my luck. I stared for a while, swaying a bit, before I started to smile, giddy. I glanced around, but the street was empty. Someone shouted a few streets away, and there was muffled thumping music from the strip club, but it was otherwise quiet. I wanted a peek, just a look, nothing much.
I pushed the door open. I caught a glimpse of the bell, one of those old-fashioned brass ones, and I knew to push the door as far as I could, and then reach up and grab hold of the clapper before it rang when the bell was shook. I'm luckily a tall man, and the floorboards didn't creak too loudly as I stepped inside. I didn't really have any ideas of what I would find. I half hoped to find something magical, obviously supernatural, but I was drunk, and the first feeling I recall was actually feeling disappointed. The bookshop had small narrow shelves, the width of two people standing back to back between them, and they leaned in, cramped and stuffed with dusty tomes. Shadows stretched from the feeble street light that made it through the blinds, and yeah, the dark was creepy, but any room looks creepy at four in the morning, so I ignored it. It looked and smelt like any old used bookshop. It could have been a poorly kept Oxfam for all I could see, but the books all looked pretty old and expensive.
I fumbled in my pocket, took out the glass and held it over my eyes. Nothing much changed. Actually, it made me feel a bit headachy, what with the glass being so thick, magnifying odd and unpredictable corners of the room, focusing in and stressing odd details that my uncovered eye read as normal. If there'd been the sense that the bookshop knew I was watching it, I didn't feel it, but then I was drunk so I wouldn't have felt much.
There was the low rumble of voices upstairs, and I decided to leave. To go home, grab a kebab on the way back, and stop all of this. I'd just let myself into someone's shop, what, ready to accuse them of I don't know what, and the guy, if he was anything out of the ordinary, he hadn't done anything to me. He'd seemed harmless, kind, normal, and I suddenly felt really ashamed of what I was doing.
It was then, of course, that I dropped the scrying glass.
It was heavy, and it didn't break or shatter, but there was a loud ringing clunk as it hit the floorboards, like dropping a marble from a height, and it clattered and bounced as it rolled away. I swore, going to my knees, and I think I was panicking, because I was trespassing, there'd be enough grounds for the man to accuse me of breaking in, and I'm not sure how much being drunk would help my case. The thing had rolled under one of the shelves, and I was trying to push my arm under to reach for it. There was no heavy sound of someone coming downstairs, so I jumped when I heard someone asking me what the hell I was doing, yelling up to Mr Fell that he was an idiot who'd left the door unlocked again. I couldn't see his expression behind his dark glasses, but he looked pissed off, and by this point, I'd grabbed the glass, and I think I was going to make a play for pretending I thought I'd let myself into my own house, that I'd been turning to leave when I dropped something, that I couldn't apologise enough, that I was so sorry to disturb them, but I brought the glass up higher to show him what I'd grabbed, and then I saw, a flash, a glimpse, nothing that could make sense, and I staggered back.
It wasn't a man that stood there. He was taller than he should have been. His shadow crooked, stretching out like gallow's arm over the ceiling. He moved towards me then, looking worried now at my reaction, and his motions were too slick, two many parts unfolding as he walked. He was – look, bright isn't the word, not in comparison to what I saw next, but it was like the dark corona at the edges of a thunderstorm. I think... I think there were wings, enormous, huge things, but at this point, I was babbling, panicked, and the guy – I think he was trying to tell me to calm down, to stop screaming the place down – and then I heard the tread of the other coming down the stares, saying the... the thing's name – Croughly or Crawleigh or something, asking what was wrong, what was happening.
I don't know why I brought the glass back to my eye, but I did.
Whatever came out wasn't human. It didn't even look human. You know those optical illusions? Where you have the old woman's face and then you look at it a certain way, and it's a young woman's neck? Or the two faces and a vase one. I couldn't comprehend it as a body. I looked for a second, only a flash, but it wasn't.. it wasn't a body... not at all.
I can only recall flashes. I don't think my mind can take it all in at once, so I have since been only able to put odd details together. Like the dark-haired one, there was too much of his body. It – and it's wings, there were definitely wings – dwarfed the room, like one of those towering cathedral ceilings that take your breath away, but then it was hard to tell how much of it was his body, and how much of it was the light. Maybe they were the same thing. I got... the stupidest idea that in this vision, the angel and the bookshop were part of the same... entity or whatever. There were eyes, I think, but there were too many of them, at places where eyes shouldn't be. It looked like he was tattooed, with those thick bands of blocky colour in intricate designs, like those tribal Maori designs of something, but the curves were a light brown rather than ink black, and they arched around his form like the continuous curve of an apple peel. It struck me that those bands of looping colour were the same colour as his skin had been. I wondered if that was his skin, his... his human suit. And inside, there wasn't flesh or muscle, there was... like the inside of a volcano, golden, shimmering, flowing like one of those lava lamps.... I can't remember any more. But it was... it was beautiful. They both were. Angel might not be what they were, but it's the only way I could understand what I saw.
I dropped the glass. I think I was crying. I wasn't sad, or frightened, but I sobbed, doubled over by it. One of them told me to close my eyes, that it was ok, and then two very human arms touched me, and the bookshop owner was shushing me. The dark-haired one was fretting, saying that they'd been seen, but the white-haired one calmed him, stroked my hair, told them that I probably wouldn't remember it, that my mind couldn't handle the sight. He scolded me, but in the way relieved parents do when their kid has run off, telling me how foolish I'd been, what did I think I was doing playing with one of these ghastly little things, and he pried the glass out of my hand, said it was probably in safer hands with him, hm.
I don't remember anything else. I passed out or maybe I slept. But I remember waking up on my sofa, dry mouth from the drink, blanket over me, drooling on the cushion and with my phone alarm getting me up for work. The glass was gone. I think that's for the best. And now I'm here, talking to you. I thought it best, because the memories are becoming hazier every hour, and I don't mind too much. Some things I'm not meant to know. I don't know what they were, but they didn't mean us ill. I don't think they ever have. And that's quite a nice thought, that there's something out there, keeping an eye on us.
Considering Mr Cassar's self-confessed state of intoxication at the time, and the simple fact that very little of this tale can be verified would usually incline me to dismiss this story as rather whimsical, though ultimately baseless. A.Z. Fell's and Co is indeed a rare and used book shop operating out of Tisbury Court, Soho, and Tim has, Tim has let us say a friend in Revenue and Customs who he wheedled into accessing their tax records, which he describes as suspiciously spotless. The building has been owned outright by a Mr A. Z. Fell since the mid 60's, when he inherited it from the previous Mr A. Z. Fell, presumably a relation of some sort. Notable, granted, but not so unusual as to warrant accusations of immortality or divinity. The photos that are attached to this case, all from various queer bars and pubs around the Central London area, do bear a striking likeness to each other, and whenever this archive manages to bodily drag itself into the twenty first century, maybe we'll be able to do some sort of analysis; as it stands, the point is moot. Mr A. Z. Fell was not able to be contacted by landline, and Tim has tried on more than one occasion to visit the shop during daylight hours – Mr Cassar's comment on the opening times was not in this case an exaggeration.
Martin however, to his credit, managed to do some actual work for once, and he asked permission to spend a bit more time researching – apparently he's heard of the shop by reputation, and had, as he so dramatically put it, 'a hunch'. I was, I confess, sceptical, but as it turns out, Mr Cassar's statement is not the only one pertaining to the bookshop and its inhabitants, and Martin was able to cross-reference two other statements in the mess of Gertrude Robinson's filing system that mention it by name. Neither mention the apparition Mr Cassar describes, but there are other tales of strange goings on that involve Mr Fell, and his shop. Curiously, the tall dark-haired man which Mr Cassar refers to in passing – Mr Anthony Crowley of Mayfair – features more prominently in some of these, leaving me to believe that whatever mystery is at the heart of this, the two are equally involved.
I mentioned the case to Elias in passing to see if he knew of any further investigations the Institute had done, and this yielded a far more interesting reaction. After confirming some of the details, the shop and the two involved, he sighed, and told me that Mr Crowley and Mr Fell were not unknown to the institute. He advised me to store Mr Cassar's statement and the other related cases in a box which Gertrude marked as pertaining to 'the operatives', inside of which there are a collection of other cases attributed to their involvement which I have not yet had time to process. The unusual nomenclature confused me, and I enquired about who they were working for, but Elias didn't appear to know. He gave a look of distaste, like the not-knowing bothered him, and said that for the moment, they were being classified as 'neutral parties'. Still, I suppose this makes a nice change from all the more malevolent happenings that are our usual fare. In comparison, a strangely timeless bookshop owner – I will not be describing the man as an angel, far too fanciful a term – is a welcome break. I feel that, whatever their intentions are, this won't be the last we've heard of those two.