Thus then, were events unfolding, as we partook a pleasant high tea in the Pullman dining car with the rolling parkland of England, that finest of vistas, laid out for us in its verdant glory, a golden dusk settling on it like a benediction.
* * *
In the absence of his gaoler, El Barbudo, with much grunting and twisting had methodically tried the limits of his bonds. He had discovered to his frustrated dismay that the rings in the wall, to which his manacles and ankle bindings were tethered, had been anchored by thorough craftsmen, not only that, but also his bindings were lined with soft Kha-Houchi rubber to minimise his discomfort, which strange finding more than anything, chilled his heart with dread, a dread colder than any other he had known.
As he writhed in a last frantic effort to break free, a guttural voice from the corner said:
“I wouldn’t do that, you’ll put your back out.”
“What ? Who’s there? Come into the light! I demand to see you!”
The strangest figure now shuffled out onto the floor in front of the captive Barbudo.
“I’m only saying, if you keep on like that, you’ll do yourself a mischief.” the black shape gurgled.
“Who…no. What are you?” stuttered Barbudo.
Though his vision was blurred with the tears of his frantic frustration, and his mind a maelstrom of unspoken emotions, El Barbudo bravely forced himself to examine the hideous apparition. ‘What would Gorilla Bananas do?’ he thought, as, working up from the floor, he catalogued the gruesome details he saw before him, in the turbulent card index of his brains.
The thing’s feet were shod in good quality English riding boots. Into these were tucked a pair of black leather jodhpurs held at the waist by a studded belt, also of black leather. His, for it appeared now to be male, naked trunk was held in an arrangement, which to Barbudo’s eyes, appeared to be a harness taken from the tack room of some criminal lunatic. The head, Barbudo forced himself onwards, the head, was covered in a close fitting hood of supple leather, with slits cut for eye, nose and mouth. On his right hand only, a black leather glove.
But it was the thing’s neck, the obvious reason for its gurgling speech, that held the morbid fascination for Barbudo. A hideous red gash, recently healed, ran the circumference of the thing’s throat. The ghastly wound had been sutured with a clumsy blanket stitch and a metal rod or pin run through from ear to ear, on which the creature’s head appeared to be hinged.
Barbudo’s resolve almost failed then, for surely this was his executioner: stepped from his nightmares to despatch him in some fearful pagan ritual, his bones to be scattered at a lonely crossroads, there to be picked over by scavenging crows and rabid dogs for ever and a day…
With a gurgle the thing spake:
“Warm enough for you?”
“What?” groaned Barbudo.
“I’m asking, are you warm enough? I am, but then I’m warm blooded you see. Some people feel the cold. Not me! Just the way I’m made, lucky that way.“ continued the gurgle.
Delirious now with terror, but brave yet, Barbudo demanded:
“Who are you? What is your fell purpose demon? Name thyself!”
“My name? Yes that’s right now you mention it, there was a name, once.” gargled the little beast.
“His name’s Glark!” Said Sarah gaily skipping into the dungeonous cellar.
“Glark?” whispered El Barbudo.
“Yeah that’s it! I remember,” said Glark.
“Yes,” explained Sarah, “Father named him. Apparently it was the last word poor Glarky spoke, as he was…I mean before he…”
“Em…before his accident! Before Daddy brought him to the labora…the operating room. He IS a doctor you know. Very fine surgeon actually. Those fools will know soon enough…” she blazed suddenly, a red light in her eye.
“Accident?” tremored Barbudo.
“Shocking it was! Terrible injury…em…threshing machine?…or something.” said Sarah vaguely, just as suddenly losing interest, the light in her eyes died down, though being merely banked up for the night.
“Enough of this,” she continued, ”lets concentrate on you, my fine, big, bearded fellow. Do you want it standing up, or perhaps you’d be more comfortable lying down?”
With a wicked grin and sweep of her arm, she indicated a diabolical apparatus, which appeared to Barbudo’s scrambled senses, like a well-padded divan, with fur-lined restraints!
Upstairs, on the Grand Staircase of Castle Alucard, the splendid labour of a hundred Italian stone masons, Eater the butler with much enthusiasm, was showing the newly arrived Miss Lindy up to her chamber.
Playing gooseberry, the Inspector followed, taking silent notes on his clipboard.
“So, a bibliophile come to see the Massster’s library, eh? You ressearch bookss eh? That must be interessting,“ Eater rambled, blushing slightly.
Miss Lindy got no further than taking a breath to reply.
“Find us all right? Well you would I suppose, bit stupid to miss it really, the Castle I mean, anyway the coach would bring you, not that I think you’re stupid, ” Eater blushed more.
Mercifully they had arrived at a black oak door under a pointed arch, which he opened, ushering Lindy in.
“Well here it is,” he persisted, , “good viewss of the Moor, you can see Bran Tor on a fine day…”
The Inspector, who had followed them into the room, took a quick look out the window.
Lindy made to make a suitable reply but before she could:
“…and there’ss your bed. For ssleeping, or jusst lying on sshuold the fancy take you, I mean to ssleep, not for anything elsse, other than ressting I mean,”
The inspector gave the bed a professional pat to test the springs.
Lindy smiling now, opened her mouth to speak.
But Eater struggled on, his face now red as a beet:
“Through here, is the, the, lav…the bathroom and shower, should you want to wash, not that you would need to right away, obviously, I mean, you don’t look like you need a wash to me, you look as if you wash pretty regularly truth be told. Very clean”
The Inspector took a key from his pocket and tapped a pipe or two, turning on the taps in sequence...
Lindy, blushing herself, remained silent.
With his ears on the point of combustion, Eater finished with a rush:
“Well that’s it really, dinner’s at eight, ring the bell if you want me, to do anything that is, of a butler type nature I mean.”
He dashed out the door and stood panting in the corridor.
“Stupid stupid stupid…“ he repeated, gently bumping his head against the wall.
The door opened suddenly, and Eater quickly composed his face into a cheerful rictus while a fair but firm hand ejected the Inspector.