The characters have received an invitation to a party thrown in honor of Mr. John Bidwell. Mr. Bidwell is a well-known, wealthy entrepreneur in the London area. He is involved in shipping and industry in Britain and its colonies. He is something of an adventurer and has visited America, the Orient, and Australia. He is a well-educated man known for his keen mind and sharp wit. Bidwell has many influential (wealthy) and powerful friends including members of the royal family. He has never married and has no family. Bidwell has been conspicuously absent from society for sometime. Rumor has it that he has been suffering from some sort of exotic illness and was confined to a hospital until until just recently. This party is his homecoming celebration.
The investigators arrive at the party in the damp, foggy London eve. Encouraged to mingle about and enjoy the treats and alcohol that is in abundance, the investigators find themselves hobnobbing with some of London’s elite.
Henry Matthews, the Home Secretary
Major Henry Smith, the Commissioner of the London Police
Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society
Florence Farr and Dr. William Wynn Wescott of the Golden Dawn
Robert James Lees, official psychic to Queen Victoria
Godfrey Williamson, celebrated psychic
Nigel Stander, wealthy shipping magnate
Col. Albert Hardwicke, retired from Her Majesty’s Royal British Army
Arthur Conan Doyle, author
Bram Stoker, author
H.G. Wells, author
Henry Irving, actor
Ellen Terry, actress and frequent leading lady to Mr. Irving
Walter Sickert, artist
Aubrey Beardsley, artist
The party is pleasant and several of the investigators make use of the bar to indulge in alcoholic refreshment. Conversation is had for all.
At 9:00pm, Mr. Bidwell makes his appearance. He looks gaunt and frail. His black hair and goatee are streaked with silver and he is dressed in formal wear. He is walking with the aid of his cane.
Bidwell spends the next 2 hours conversing with his guests, which includes the investigators.
Some of the conversations that Bidwell engages in are concerning the occult – it seems he has a keen interest in it.
Periodically through the night, a manservant makes a quiet inquiry of each investigator asking if their invitation was signed by Mr. Bidwell. Upon hearing in each case that it indeed was, the investigator is told that Mr. Bidwell would enjoy their company in the library at 11:30pm.
Webster Dudley, having indulged too much, is taken by Mr. Mark Smith to another room to “recover” from his night’s drinking.
The investigators arrive at the library at the appointed hour, including Mr. Dudley having recovered sufficiently, and Mr. Smith.