That pure Cane Spirit since 1848.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Part Eleven

My journal had faltered at this point.
It was a full week and more until I could take up my pen, such did the subsequent horrors upset my equilibrium.
This much I remember:
The seat of the Von Redheads, its mad architecture crowned with a tall tower, (the whimsy of a previous wild occupant), appeared fixed in the eye of some monstrous swirl of cloud and vapour wheeling above, its axis the soaring pinnacle of that insane folly.
Immediately we had stepped down, our luggage was thrown off like jetsam, and the struggling coachman only just managed to turn his horses as they bolted in a wild-eyed lather, leaving us standing before the castle’s massive studded door.
There we stood, swaying on the concourse in a stupor. And, staring up at that edifice, tall as a lighthouse and festooned with all manner of diabolical atmospheric apparatus, while those awesome clouds spun and twisted about it in a tormented maelstrom, one would be forgiven the belief that here, at outrageous Castle Alucard, was the Titanic Pivot upon which The World itself turned.
A sickening vertigo gripped me, so that I fancied I would fall straight up into that Hellish sky.
Surely, a device of the castle’s evil incumbent.
As if in confirmation, the very heavens above protested, with a forlorn, heart-stopping wail which rose to the most fearsome shriek.

“Ah, the skirl of the bagpipes,” said Bananas brightly, “how thoughtful.”

There, sure enough, on the high battlements, was poor Mr McShae, fighting with a set of the hated instruments, his drones all awry in the wind.

“Makes your mandolin plucking seem almost tuneful Ayres,” remarked Bananas with a brave smile.
His efforts to lighten our hearts, apparently falling on deaf ears as far as Ayres was concerned, such was the wind.

The huge door had now opened and framed in the aperture stood the red headed comedian, the electrical static in the air making his red hair spikier than normal.

“Hello, good afternoon, and welcome.” he shouted, “I’m so glad to see so many of you here today, if you would follow me to the library, the Master will join you, fnar fnar, get it?”

As Bananas and I stooped to collect our belongings scattered on the gravel, (for no servants had appeared) Ayres was unfortunately gazing in awe at the tower, scrutinizing its copper and brass attachments when another, most vivid bolt discharged to the array of conductors in a silent, sizzling, tingle.

“Bleargh!” said Ayres in dismay.

There was no sign of poor Mr McShae.

Between us, we led Ayres to the Library as bidden, to await Doctor Evil.

Doctor Evil PhD, at that moment was conducting his rounds. Stomping through his labyrinth with his coterie in attendance, he would stop and look through an inspection hatch set in the door of each of his ‘treatment rooms’, issue curt instructions and continue to the next.
In one, a terrible creature in blue fur leapt in its restraints shouting;

“Cookie, cookie, me want COOKIE!” While the hand of an unseen torturer waved a well-known packet in its little blue face.
“No Monstee, Jaffa. You want Jaffa…” said the unseen tormentor in mock patience.
“Jaffa-Jaffa-Jaffa!” Wailed the beast.
“Good progress,” muttered Evil, moving on to the next door, “what’s this case?”
“Extension my lord,” said Glark, rubbing his hands, and hopping from foot to foot in his crablike motion, trying to keep up.
“Extension eh?” Asked Evil looking in.

There was the Inspector, miserable, with an 8 ounce weight dangling.

“What’s he at?” asked the mad doctor.
“3 inches so far, and that’s with a half pound, your lordship.” gurgled Glark in glee.
“Right. Up him to 12 ounces. The things young people do to themselves, I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s all vanity these days.”

The progress ceased as the beautiful Miss Redhead approached.

“Cedrique Dahlink! Your guests are here.”

We had been shown into a sizeable chamber, its agreeable donnish mahogany somewhat diminished by various pagan sculptures and occult artefacts on display. Above the fire hung the portrait of a barbarous red haired warrior, staring out from a blood-soaked field strewn with his fallen foes. By some artifice of the painter, the eyes of that image stared at us as we moved around, pervading the room with a feeling of malevolent scrutiny.
Momentarily left to ourselves, we undertook a thorough forensic examination of the enemy’s lair.
I sat at his desk and prised a drawer with a fine Toledo letter opener, Ayres squinted at the shelves of books while Bananas with his extraordinary deductive powers, examined some of the impressive diplomas and awards framed upon the wall, reading them out to us.

“Docteur de Philosophie, Ecole Polytechnique, Laboratoire De Garnier…‘Grand Order of the Goat Rampant’ presented by Crown Prince Zippo of Alb…”

Behind them, unseen by Gorilla Bananas or Ayres, the Master himself with Miss Lilly Redhead, had glided silently into our company.
I stood up, throwing down an arrangement of swinging steel balls I had been examining, but before I could announce their arrival, Bananas continued in the most sneering tones;

“These are simply cod certificates and snake oil testimonials; ‘Amway Triple Platinum Distributor‘…D.Lit. University of East Anglia…pshaw!”
“Gentlemen…” I began,
“Listen to this Bananas,” interrupted Ayres, bent closely over a chained tome bound in black lignum vitae, reading its carved title with one eye shut.

“Ayres…” I started again, but he would not be stopped.

“NECRONOMICON. Ex Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica!” he whispered breathlessly, “why there’s a three guinea fine due on this volume alone! The scoundrel!”
“I zee your eyezight at least, is improving Zeer Keem!” laughed Miss Redhead.

Ayres stood and turned suddenly; “Miss Redhead! How do you do?” he said, extending his hand to an obscene statue of Pan.
In theatrical delight, Miss Redhead took it and what’s more, pinched his cheek in a startling display of familiarity.
Ayres, always the broken reed in the presence of the fair sect, fawned and chuckled.

Oblivious to all, Evil and Bananas stood regarding each other for the first time in the flesh.
“Ah, Mister Bananas, we meet at last!”

Friday, February 17, 2006

Part Ten

The memory of that short journey, a matter of a few miles, remains branded upon my mind forever. I could not shake an anxiety that had landed on me and remained on my shoulder like an albatross around my neck. The horses pulled reluctantly into the gale, which no matter how the road wound, was for ever head on and the slow moving landscape seen through the little window was more like the grey Atlantic in the grip of a storm. We three had the coach to ourselves and I fancy that my unspoken dread was passed in contagion to my friends, for we sat in silence. The well padded plush of that coach was to me, nought more than a straw-strewn tumbrel shaking over the broken cobbles of lawless Paris, carrying us off to our doom.

“Japanese drink. question mark: Three letters, middle one’s an ‘ i ’.” said Bananas, suddenly looking up from his paper.

Ayres was holding a hand in front of his face, closely examining it with each eye alternately.

“Everything’s blue with this one, and utterly red with this one, and totally blurred with both!” he said miserably.

He had been staring straight at the sky when the lightning had struck and was still without his full visual acuity.

“How can you sit there toying with crosswords when who knows what awaits us at that dread castle?” I exclaimed, “I hope you at least, have brought your service Webley, Ayres.”
“Show him our armoury,” said Bananas encouragingly.

Ayres threw open a small satchel and rummaged for a moment among some undergarments, letting fall to the floor a small jar of ointment and a packet of pills.
Retrieving them I read that the embrocation was for the treatment of…the jar was snatched from my grasp, the packet of pills followed too, but not before I read that they were ‘Perkin’s Tonic. The Gentleman’s Friend’.

“What is it?” I asked puzzled. “Do we put it in their tea and then rub on the unguent?”
“Wrong bag Maroon. Ayres can‘t see properly yet.” Said Bananas, “Look in that Gladstone on the seat there.”

Sure enough, inside was a flask of water marked “Souvenir des Lourdes” (BBE 1891), a string of white Italian garlic, and a particularly realistic crucifix.

“How will these help?” I asked.
“They are the traditional weapons against the Undead,” muttered Ayres, wrapping his medicines in some woollen drawers and stuffing them forcefully to the bottom of his bag.
“Are they Catholics then?” I asked Ayres.
“The Undead” I answered.
“I fail to see why that…”
“If they are not Catholic, what power will these symbols have over them? What if they’re Orthodox? They are from the east you know.” I explained.
“They are from America.”
“They could be Anglicans then. Or Lutherans, or Dutch reformed. They could be Jewish. Have you thought of that?” I argued reasonably.
“Professor Van Hellsing has proved that when it comes to this sort of stuff, nobody does it better,” said Ayres with conviction.
“They will suffice.”

Remarked Gorilla Bananas, putting an end to the discussion, but not my misgivings.
I felt the reassuring bulk of my own weapon concealed in my trousers and kept my peace.

* * *

Up at Castle Alucard, Miss Lindy also had her misgivings. At breakfast that morning she had been surprised to find a message no bigger than a business card, wrapped in greaseproof paper, under a fried egg on her plate. With a practiced deftness, she had slipped it into her sleeve ignoring the yolk on her cuff.
“See me in the kitchen. Bring the Book,” it had read, and now she stood in that cavernous hive of preparative activity, conferring in whispers with Mrs Cat the housekeeper.

“I have trained with burly men of six-foot-three from the Yukon,” explained Mrs Cat, “Master Hing has told me all about you, I shall be your trainer for the dark battle to come.”
“Vol-au-vents for 40!” Called M Barnee. “How am I expected to work in these conditions?”
“Did you bring the book?” asked Mrs Cat
Miss Lindy handed it over. ‘Japanese for Dummies’
Holding it up, Mrs Cat bent back the spine…
“You shouldn’t…” protested Miss Lindy.

At that, a strip of rice paper slid from its hiding place. On it, three ideograms.

The dawning of understanding was creeping across El Barbudo like a cold fever. He had talked through most of the night with Glark and had learned much about Doctor Evil’s Organisation. He was now in a more comfortable ‘treatment room’ still tethered but at the same time strangely cosseted. Reading the various charts and advertising bills on the walls of his cell;

‘Phrenology, Bumps and your character‘. ‘Water treatment for hysteria‘. ‘Dr E Scientist’s patent steam therapy for depression’ ‘New for 88, electro-aversion techniques’…
He felt his fear being replaced by a red anger he had never known.

“Blistering Barnacles!” he screamed, “I’ll get you for this Bananas, you festering fish-hook you!”

A dawning of understanding of a different sort was creeping over the meddlesome Inspector. He was now tethered against the familiar wall, his trousers somehow removed through the night.

“You’ve had quite a shock,” said Eater, “I told you not to touch those switches. Never mind, a member 27 inches long is some compensation surely.”
“But I don’t have a member 27 inches long.” wailed the Inspector
“You will, when we’ve finished with you.” grockled Glark.

Eater smiled: “Bring forth the weights!”

* * *

The carriage came to a crunching rest in the howl. We had arrived!
“Nip” said Ayres.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Part Ten

Dear friends, I've got a cracking episode ready but Blogger won't let me in here to post it.
Please refer comments part 9.
It lets me post this, but not a bonafidel bit.
It's a mystery.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Part Nine

Daylight, if such it could be called, brought no lifting of our spirits at the little inn.
The land had lost its colour overnight and instead had absorbed the matt hues of the air which writhed in turmoil above it. A dull grey seemed to have seeped into every twisted branch and blade of grass on that dank country as far as the eye could see. The low cloud, torn to shreds on the stunted peaks of the Moor, flew across the dismal sky in a hurry to be gone from the place. Each and every rag of vapour, urged on by the baying wind, appeared, by some trick of the light or our overwrought imaginings, to take on the fearful shape of childhood ghosts in their terrified flight.

Due to the urgency of our mission we had decided to forgo the ‘Full English‘, choosing instead the excellent kedgeree, some admirable devilled kidneys, the Finnan haddock, and thick cut Oxford marmalade on hot buttered toast.

Now we stood amid the clatter of the forecourt in preparation for departure, watching the strange weather develop, each gathering such fortitude as he could muster.

“Looks like a storm is near come upon us.” I ventured, above the growing moan of the squall. If nothing more then, simply to test my own voice.
“Hmm, feels like thunder too.” said Gorilla Bananas, his nostrils flaring into the wind. “Wouldn’t be surprised at a bit of lightning. Smells like it.”
“I doubt it, G.B.” said Ayres, “wrong time of year you see.”

Gorilla Bananas shot me a look.

“Thunderstorms are a summer phenomenon,“ Ayres resumed, continuing his impromptu meteorological dissertation, “caused by the building of massive cumulo-nimbus cloud structures which rise to many thousands of feet. I saw Lord Kelvin’s talk on the subject at the Royal Society. Electrical fluids build up inside them until they overflow, but these are the wrong type, these…”

he turned towards the menacing cloud layer, pointing,

“these grim scudding things, these lack the required grandeur, these mean-spirited, low down, base excuses for clou…”

At that, an arc of the brightest blue electrical discharge leapt from a standing stone on a nearby Tor, ripping the fabric of the atmosphere like the dusty shroud of a forgotten Pharaoh.
Ayres, his back to us, appeared transfixed in the act of pointing, his skeleton clearly visible in silhouette for a long flickering moment through his flesh and clothes.
As he turned to us, his finger still outstretched, his eyes wide in temporary dazzlement, a rumble of thunder like the Day of Judgement, rolled past on its way to Evermore, trapped between the cowering land and the roiling cloud.

Ayres, his mouth open to speak, hesitated and stood silent as if trying to remember the name of a famous cricketer he had seen as a boy.
The kindly Gorilla Bananas remarked;
“It felt like thunder.”

* * *

In Castle Alucard, Eater the butler was bearing up under the limpet tenacity of the inspector. They were having a frank exchange of views;

“Look son, I know what I’m talking about. These copper cables leading from the lightning conductors…” listed the inspector in evidence.
“Air-conditioning.” countered Eater
“…are not for any feasible domestic purpose…” continued the inspector.
“Auxiliary refrigeration.” maintained the butler.
“I put it to you, that they are in fact used to power the vile apparatus that re-animators employ to bring unsuspecting souls back from their rightful rest.”
“Alternative energy. The Master’s very green.” said Eater, quickly running out of ‘A’s.
“Un-licensed re-animation equipment!” said the inspector significantly, “you’re looking at a very hefty fine here Sunshine!”
“Perhaps we should discuss this with the Master.” suggested Eater reasonably. Yes, he’d know how to handle this popinjay. He’d never been called Sunshine before.

* * *

Not for the first time during that Hellish descent into abomination, did my mind return to the pleasant fireside comfort of my friends’ rooms in Baker Street and the ministrations of their housekeeper Mrs Hudson.
At that very moment, Mrs Hudson was dusting the mantle when a ring on the brass bell announced the arrival of another tickertape message.

“Holmes out for the day. Bring the liniment.”

“Coming, Doctor Watson!” she sighed.

The sound of a bottle smashing at my feet amid much jeering, brought me back from my thoughts. Looking up, I saw that a crowded wagon of red headed youths was passing at the canter.
“Quick men, to the coach!” Exclaimed Bananas. “The Gathering has begun!”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Part Eight

Having done ample justice to an excellent late supper of mutton chops and new potatoes, Ayres and I retired to the snug with two quart flagons of foaming ale, a speciality of the house. There we met with our friend Mr Gorilla Bananas, settled in a fireside seat (where he had repaired earlier with a luxury fruit selection basket) busy cracking nuts in his hand, discarding the shells in the grate.
We three sat then in silence thus, each with his own considerations, the only sounds in the room being the rustling of the fire and the wind building up steadily outside on the Moor and the first drops of rain now hitting the glass, as if trying to get in, out the pitch black night.

The loud crack of another walnut, broke my reverie.

“My old friend,” I addressed the great detective, “now that we are, I believe, approaching a crisis that I may find beyond my nerve, can you not tell me more of what we are facing, that I may prepare such meagre means as are at my disposal into some rudimentary battle array for the approaching conflict? ”
“Come again?” he said.
“What’s going on?” I entreated, “please, I beg you, what can you say of these vampires, The Redheaded League, Doctor Evil, Mr McShae and Barbudo! Yes, what about Barbudo? What part is his, in this affair?

The mention of Barbudo’s name brought forth a remarkable response from my two companions.
Both suddenly looked the other in the eye, and with much eyebrow twitching, (a curious form of silent semaphore peculiar to those who spend too much time in the other‘s company), they conversed in telepathic empathy. This time it was obvious from their facial expressions, that I was NOT to be party to all the circumstances surrounding their brave agent.

It fell to Ayres to offer the lame explanation, a sop to my pride:

“There is a delicate matter of professional confidentiality Maroon, that we cannot breach. Do not press us on this.”
“As to the rest,” continued Gorilla Bananas, “it will unfold itself, never fear. Stout-hearted fellow!”

* * *

Finally, gratefully, at last alone in her bedchamber, complete with four poster, en-suite and good view, Miss Lindy, lately of Salem Massachusetts, ran through her drill for the umpteenth time.

“Right,” she said “lets try it blindfold.”

She was dressed in baggy oriental pyjamas, a gift from a kindly old Japanese called Hing Wan Onyi, her sensai in the art of combat.
Standing blindfolded at the furthest corner of the room, she suddenly leapt in the air and somersaulted backwards. Landing on her hands, she immediately sprang up again, cartwheeling across the floor making little ‘hiyah’ sounds. As she passed her dressing table, she grasped a sharpened wooden stake from the clutter of ladies acutriments, and in one fluid movement plunged it straight through the four inch thick oak door. Standing, breathing freely, she removed the blindfold. The stake had struck dead centre at the heart of a figure she had chalked upon the inside of her door.

“Bingo!” she smiled.

Outside in the corridor, the butler Eater, his hand raised in the act of knocking, looked in horror at the stake’s point, now just an inch from his own beating heart.

“I’ll maybe try again tomorrow” he thought, “yes, probably not a good time right now” And off he went to kick the cat.

For Miss Lindy, the whole evening had been odd.

Dinner had been odd:
Oh, the Master of the house had been effusive enough in his greeting, saying how “classy” it was, to have a real librarian in the house, researching his books, just like “the old money“

The other guests were odd:
There was the famous Lilly Redhead. Lindy had watched from her room, as she arrived in stupendous splendour, her coach brought to a skittering arrest in a shower of gravel.

“Delighted dahlink,” she’d said on introduction, ”vatt a beautiful nekk you haff.” kissing the air near Lindy in the manner of the famous.

There was Mr McShae: a Scotsman come down with the singer in her coach, who followed her everywhere like a collie and who, even in the warmth of the hall, kept a tartan scarf suspiciously tight around his neck.
“Michty me! What a bonny lass ye are! And strong too!” he said shaking her hand.

There was Mrs Andraste the governess: “Charmed I’m sure.” she sniffed.

And there was the daughter Sarah: “Hi” she’d said, with a bland wave, looking out the window.

These then were her companions at table.

The food was also odd:
In the first place, it had been served by a young blond girl, dressed in a black and white waitress outfit that was too frilly, too short (her ankles showed!) who teetered on high heeled patent boots, and had a huge black bow in her hair. The whole effect was subtly wanton to Miss Lindy‘s eyes.

The food itself, although tasty and satisfying, was difficult to identify, a sausage based hotpot perhaps, and Miss Lindy was sure that it moved out the corner of her eye.

Alone of their assembled guests, the Master and Lilly Redhead did not partake of this fare, preferring tall draughts of a thick, bright red liquid, which they drank with much relish, from huge jewelled cups.

At one point as she took a long slurping swig from her great goblet, a drop fell onto Ms Redhead’s snow white breast, resting next to the ruby. At the sight of this, Doctor Evil’s eyes popped, and his tongue flickered about his thin lips like a viper. Both Ms Redhead and Dr Evil then laughed in a rather lewd way, that made Miss Lindy’s blood run cold.

The daughter Sarah, only toying with her plate, (making ribald shapes with the sausages and vegetables), muttered: “Geez, get a room.”

She had made her excuses at that point, on the pretext of an early start in the library, and had retired to her chamber to practice her Fang Fu.

Downstairs in the cellar, Barbudo, in mental turmoil, had been strapped into an easy chair with one hand free to eat his dinner. He was finding the whole experience mind numbing. There had been the brief jolts of electric prodding, whenever he got an answer wrong, interspersed with periods when his welfare was enquired after, (he assumed sarcastically).

“How are you bearing up? Comfortable? Want to tell me a magic word?” asked Sarah.
“No that’s not it”

And then just as suddenly the ill treatment stopped.

“How’s the grub?” Asked Glark with a crockle.
“It’s good!” Said a puzzled Barbudo
“Usually is, on a Tuesday," gurgled the little monstrosity, “our last patient, sorry client, loved his hotpot he did…”
“Patient?” asked Barbudo, spoon halfway to his lips.
“Client!...” said Glark with a snorkely gulp.

In the heat of the castle kitchen, Mrs Cat was staring at the newly arrived caterer in dawning recognition.

“Meester Barnee, my bloody eye!” she accussed, pointing, “I know you! You’re just plain Barney from Dublin, or I’m a Dutchman.”
“Now Cat don’t let on, this is a good berth, and with a pencil moustache, and a French accent, you can go far in this world.”
“Well I’ll be watchin’ you Barney me boy, and the silver!”

In the rambling castle attics, a safety inspector now totally lost has found a lever. Reaching out a helplessly inquisitive hand…

“Wonder what this does?”

* * * *

Author’s Notes:

This morning (Thursday 9th February 2006) I received an extraordinary electronic communication or E Mail. I reproduce it here for reasons that will become self explanatory:

To: Dr AHK Maroon.
From: Renfield and Goldfrappe S.A. Zurich.

Dear Maroon.

Gothic. A Tale of mystery and suspense etc.

We, acting on behalf of the heirs and beneficiaries, holders of the world copyrights and devices thereof, valid in perpetuity, of the late Arthur Conan-Doyle, are instructed by those heirs and beneficiaries, to invite you to meet with them on 11th inst. at their domicile in Austria to discuss your proposed future use of this theme. Consequently, I have reserved travel arrangements for Friday 10th February, the electronic tickets of which may be collected at the airport of your choice.

Our research shows you to be a keen climber. You may be interested to know that the Rickenbach Falls are located not two hours from Schloss Vlad, where the family are currently in residence, and a sightseeing visit has been arranged for your benefit for the Sunday. All being well we shall return you late on Monday.

Our senior partner, Old Mister Renfield will meet you; in the meantime, in the interests of family propriety, we ask that all further communications should be avoided. Such is the nature of the mountain topography in the region, that further communication by you will be impossible until Tuesday (St Valentines Day) at the earliest.

Kind regards,

Renfield. A.

So that’s that! My bags are packed. Can’t wait! See you all again on Tuesday!

* * *

Long after Maroon had left for the airport, the bell rang, the lights flashed, and a brief addendum came out the slot. It read:

“Addendum, Please insert a comma between the words ‘late’ and ‘on’ in the last sentence of the second paragraph.”

No one could ever fault the Swiss on their attention to detail.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Part seven

“Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches,
And charging along, like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle…”

The warmth of our compartment, the hypnotic rhythm of our wheels as we clattered along at such breakneck speed, and our fine tea, had lulled my senses such that I now sat on the threshold of Nod. With my head against the pane, watching but not seeing the land pass by, I fancied I saw in the gloaming, a magnificent red coach drawn by six fine horses each plumed in red, keeping pace with the train along the Great West Road. No whip used in their encouragement, such was the eagerness of the splendid beasts to be home, the coachman’s skill being fully employed to steer.
Minutes or hours later, the squeal of the brakes and the gradual slowing of the train, brought me back, just as one of Mesmer’s subjects, at the same rate, so that I was fully conscious again simultaneous with the train coming to a complete halt.

“What time do you have Ayres?” Asked Gorilla Bananas in all innocence.
“Are you without your timepiece Bananas?” The equally innocent reply.
“No, I just want to ensure that we are synchronised at the correct time.”
“Well what time do YOU have Bananas? And I’ll synchronise with you.”
“Your watch is the more accurate Ayres, besides, I asked first!”
“You know very well it is 8:09 exactly,“ said Ayres with a sigh.
“8:09 exactly, thank you Ayres.” Making a show of winding his gold hunter, Gorilla Bananas repeated the words slowly, “eight, oh, nine, exactly. Good.”

For the first time that day, Gorilla Bananas beamed his typical smile. He took a deep breath, and with it, the cares that had been building upon him, seemed suddenly lifted. Turning to me, his wise eyes twinkling, he said:
“Still got it Maroon!”

Ayres on the other hand, had opened the compartment door and was throwing our baggage, none too gently I thought, at a porter who was standing at the ready with his barrow.

“Come on man, catch ‘em!” he berated, as the poor fellow struggled to keep up with the rate the baggage was flying out onto the platform. Had he not bent to retrieve a leather hatbox, he would certainly have taken a heavy portmanteau square in the ear.

With his barrow loaded, we set off across the concourse, porter in tow, to find a coach for Dartmoor.

“Hurry man,” urged Ayres of the porter, (I had not seen him like this) “there’s a sixpence for you if we make the 8:20 Mail for Exeter!”
“Oh the missus will be pleased,” grumbled the man, rather ungratefully I thought.

* * *

Below stairs in Castle Alucard things were also frenetic. Mrs Cat the housekeeper with much unnecessary clattering of pot and pan was rustling up an evening meal for guests and staff.

“I am NOT a COOK!” She exclaimed to the silent Joke-Mail sitting at the kitchen table.
“I told them, temporary, O.K. I said, just till the caterers arrive…but if this keeps up, they’ll get my cards at the term, you see if they don’t. I don’t mind helping in an emergency, but it’s been three days now…what’s the matter with you?”

The music hall comedian, red spiky hair slightly limp, just sighed.

“Then There’s this Gathering tomorrow,“ continued Mrs Cat gathering momentum, “caterers to organise, IF they ever come, all these people dropping in to stay, sheets, towels…the towels they go through!’s a ruination, then there’s the Master’s Work, and I think we’re in for thunder and lightening soon, I can feel it, and we know what that means…here, have a Jaffa Cake, that usually sorts you…”

Joke-Mail, took the proffered cake/biscuit/cookie and as he ate it, his bright red hair stood on end again and a smile broke through. He gave his trick buttonhole a squeeze, sending blue ink across the room. He chuckled, that always got him going, that one.

* * *

“Can’t go no further tonight!” shouted the coachman.

The Mail had pulled up at an inn, and as we stepped down, the horses were already unhitched, forestalling further discussion. That is, except from Ayres, who had been in a foul temper since the station for some reason.

“I suppose driver, you’ll be telling us you are not in cahoots with the proprietor of this establishment? Fleecing honest travellers, you should be ashamed. We are on important business and wish to reach Castle Alucard this evening!” He blustered.

“That’s as maybe sirs, but the coach is stoppin’ here this night. There’s plenty room at the inn and iffin' the gentleman wants to walk hisself to the castle, no one will stop him. There be moon enough to see the road.”

“It’s Barbudo I’m thinking of, G. B. I worry about further delay.” Said Ayres, looking up the road... dark clouds scudded across the face of the moon, showing the bleak Tors and standing stones in silhouette upon the skyline. A gathering wind, still just a breeze, but a presage of weather to come, whistled and moaned out on the Moor, just a bit like a hound or wolf.

“Good evening gents,” said the landlord come out to greet us, “you’re just in time for supper!”
With that, our spirits rose, and we entered the welcome glow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Part Six

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…”
“Before what?”
“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.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Part Five

Looking through my notes, written in a hand shaken by those terrible events as they unfolded, I realise now, that even as we considered our measured plan of action over a light luncheon in Baker Street, many miles away on bleak Dartmoor, in the cellars of Castle Alucard, our bearded agent was suffering the most degrading torment:

“You have been very naughty I think”
“What? What do you want from me? Release me this instant.”
“If you’re a good boy.”

Sarah paused and ran her hands over the array of “toys” laid out in some abominable, yet artistic pattern on the table before her.
Barbudo, bound securely against the wall with studded straps at ankle and wrist, followed her every gesture with a keen interest.

“Now, what about this one?” She asked, holding up a queer yet oddly familiar device made from India rubber, it’s diabolical purpose unclear to Barbudo. He knew with a certainty however, that he didn’t want to find out.

“Sarah Sarah!”, her father’s voice echoed down the damp stone stairway, “come on, we’re waiting for you!“
“Don’t go anywhere,” she smiled at her captive, “I’ll be back soon.”

* * *

“When will we get there?” I asked.
We had taken an earlier train from St Pancras, at Ayres’ urgent insistence, and were now smoking comfortably in our first class compartment; the rolling downs of England flying past in a blur.

“We are making excellent time. By my calculations our prodigious progress has reached 37 miles per hour, at which rate we should arrive in Devon at 8:09 pm. Precisely.”
“You astound me Bananas,” I said in admiration.
“It’s simple really, for the last 3 minutes, I have been counting the telegraph poles. They are, as we know, set fourteen to the furlong, if I therefore time how long it takes 55 of them to pass our window, it’s just a matter of arithmetic from then on to calculate our velocity and hence our arrival time.”

Looking up from his Bradstreet, Ayres said: “The timetable says 8:15.”
At this information, Gorilla bananas, stared pensively out the window in silence for several minutes. His astonishing intellect no doubt engaged on loftier matters.

I made use of this pause to review in my mind the sequence of our discussion in Baker Street that afternoon, which had precipitated our hasty departure:

Mrs Hudson had just cleared away lunch and was filling schooners with refreshing fruit juices from two sparkling crystal pitchers.
“What superb glassware you have Mrs Hudson,” I remarked.
“Oh thank you Doctor, yes, Dr Watson always says that my jugs are the best he’s…”
The last words were lost with the closing of the door.

As Gorilla Bananas sipped at his papaya and mango, I sought some information regarding Dr Evil and his household;

“What do we know of them?”
At cross purposes, Ayres answered: “Riff raff coming up the stairs all day and night…the big one takes cocaine you know…mainliner…and the screeching of that violin…they…they are not as other men…they…”
“Ayres! Please! Interrupted Bananas, “anyway you play your mandolin quite often…”
“That’s totally different…” objected Ayres.
“Is it?” sniffed Bananas “I wouldn’t really know, I’m not one for music.”
“If my mandolin annoys you so, why didn’t you say?”
“Gentlemen!” I said, putting a stop to the tiff, “What do we know about this Dr Evil fellow? That’s what I meant.”
Ayres took up the thread:
“For one thing he’s fabulously wealthy, they say he keeps a red headed jester for his amusement, who goes by the sobriquet of Joke-Mail.”
“He dresses him in armour?”
Ignoring me, Ayres continued:
“He has a governess called Mrs Andraste, for his daughter. They say she’s quite a handful, you know, fruity, a bit wayward.”
“The governess?”
“The daughter!”
With a swift look at the ceiling, Ayres continued:
“There’s also a butler called ‘Eater’ and a housekeeper called ‘Mrs Cat’, who hits the girl on the hand with a hot spoon.”
“How beastly, you seem to know a lot?” I said quizzically.
“We have a mole inside their organisation Maroon!”
“Ayres!” shouted Gorilla Bananas

The brass bell rang on Ayres' equipment , putting stop to a further round of their quarrel.
Returning from the contraption in deep contemplation, Ayres passed the message to Gorilla Bananas in silence.
“Hmmm” said the detective handing the strip to me, “It’s not in the code book.”
Feeding the paper ribbon through my fingers I read the desperate words.
“He could have saved thruppence if he’d used “onto” instead of…what?”

* * *

“Elbows Sarah” said Mrs Andraste., ”and backs straight please, like I showed you.”
With a sigh, Sarah sat up in exaggerated ramrod stiffness for a second before slumping with a puff. They were sitting at Dr Evil’s magnificent mahogany banqueting table discussing the upcoming Gathering.
Dr Evil himself sat at the head, in an overly ornate black chair resembling the throne of a minor European power. To his right, Mrs Andraste and his errant daughter, to his left, the faithful butler Eater.

Standing diagonally behind him, was a man in a loud check suit and waistcoat with a brown derby cocked “at the slant” on his head. He had one hand resting on a sideboard as if propping it up, the other hooked in his weskit pocket by a thumb.

Dr Evil cleared his throat, “I think we should go through the guest list first, then the menu…” Before he could continue, the man interrupted:
“That reminds me, Why? Why is it considered necessary to nail down the lid of a coffin?”
Dr. Evil took up his thread again; “Menus, yes, then I thought an informal itinerary, games maybe…”
For a second time, the interuption came;- “Why? Why is it that doctors call what they do practice?”
"Thanks Joke-Mail, that was terribly good. Wasn’t it everyone?”
“OK, There’s this bloke walking a dog right? Only he’s a bit of a Nancy see?, so he says..”

Doctor Evil smiling, held up his hand for silence and twisted his head through 180 degrees, while behind him, Eater the butler was frantically shaking his head and miming the act of cutting his own throat.

“I think we’ve laughed enough today, thank you so much.” he said good naturedly.
“no wait you’ll love this, What would Geronimo say if he jumped off a cliff?”
Dr Evil’s seat turned on unseen castors, the better that he might look upon the poor jester.
“That really WILL be all.”
“Thank you …thank you very much. You’re too kind” said the comic, bowing as he made his exit.
“Tough room” he muttered as he passed the man with the white helmet and clipboard at the door.

The Inspector, like a bloodhound, was following the route of a fat electric cable as it snaked it’s way round the room and disappeared up through a hole in the ceiling.

“I don’t know why you keep him Pops” said Sarah
“If you notice his hair, it may explain…excuse me sir, yes you in the hat, may we help?” asked Evil sarcastically, “who are you anyway?”
The inspector straightened his clipboard and approached the table.
"See that?" He said, pointing to the skip of his safety hat, “what does that say?”
Evil peered;
“Below that.”
“Oh I see, The county council eh? Well, I pay my rates, what do you want?”
“There’s something not right about all this, and I’m going to find out, oh yes.”
“I feel sure you will.” said Dr. Evil “Eater! Damn you!”
“Right here my Lord”
“Eater, take this council functionary up to the laboratory, and show him what the power’s for. Quickly! Damn you to the Pits of Yogsogoth! And answer the door!”

The butler led the inspector from the room by the arm, pausing only to open the front door and immediately fall catastrophically in love.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Part Four

I awoke from my slumbers to the fresh hope of a new day. The comfort and familiarity of my own sheets had done much to restore my spirits after the previous night’s macabre events; the sunlight now streaming into the room was quickly dispelling any lingering superstitious fears, like the hysterical shadows they were.
Lying there, in that delicious warm twilight that we experience before we submit to the full dawn of consciousness, I reached out for the welcome form of Mrs Maroon lying close. Stretching out a hand to stroke her hair, letting it linger before moving on, past her soft round shoulder, to the coarse coconut matting of her rock-hard bicep.

“Stop right there Maroon! And I sincerely hope that isn’t what I think it is.” said a familiar voice.
I opened my eyes into the startled face of Gorilla Bananas, his head on the pillow not six inches from mine.

“Bananas, I…I…I don’t know what to say old friend.“
“Then we’ll say no more about it. Ever!”

In a flood, the strange circumstance in which I now found myself, all came back to me.

* * *

At the inn on Dartmoor, Miss Lindy had also spent a disconcerting night.
No wind had howled round her chimney driven like demons from the high Tors and stone circles out on the Moor. No tree branch had rattle tattle tatted on her window pane. Lightning hadn’t flashed, casting appalling shapes on the wall.

It wasn’t meant to be like this, no, not like this at all.

Things had started to slip earlier, when in the inn’s common room she had cornered an old local with the intention of extracting information from him using her devious and wily ways.

“Tell me (my good man), would you say it is dangerous out on the Moor, at night, perhaps but not restricted to, that area where the road passes near to Castle Alucard, taking it for example’s sake only?” her opening gambit.
“The Moor? Nay lass. You could walk to Exeter at midnight on that road. I’ve seen us do it too, if we’ve missed the coach.” he chuckled, reminiscing.
“Then what did that coachman mean?” Lindy asked.
“Old Jack? Why, old Bob the innkeeper is his brother in law, they has an arrangement. Jack brings the guests and old Bob sees him right. That new railways line has slackened trade here somethin’ awful.”
Changing tack, she asked:
“OK what about the Castle then? What about all the young virgins disappearing?”
Blushing, because of her youth, he replied:
“Well they usually comes back after their time if you sees what I means, beggin’ your pardon lass. ‘Going to their aunties’ we calls it. Why, half of us round here was born that way! Tis no shame in it roun’ here miss.”

Things got worse with her meal. It was excellent.
The disastrous evening was crowned when she was shown into the best room she’d seen since arriving in England. With the log fire gently crackling, she lay in a Goldilocks bed and was asleep in two minutes.

* * *

Now that I was awake, I could take stock of the arrangements we had made.
At Gorilla Bananas insistence, I had stayed the previous night at Baker Street; for he had assured me that the city was no longer safe to any of us alone.

“Well he’s not bunking with me.” said Ayres, rather quickly.
“He will share my bed” Said Bananas. “In fact all this should wait till morning, when our minds will be clearer. Maroon, Ayres will give you a night shirt, and I shall send a street urchin round to your house for your overnight bag. A shilling should cover it.”

Ayres gave me a old striped nightshirt with the injunction that I “keep it” for he would not wear it again, and in that frame, we all took to bed.

We three had now breakfasted on the full English with hot rolls and butter, and were waiting for Mrs Hudson to leave, rather than discuss such untoward and disturbing affairs in front of her.
“Can I get you anything else?“ she solicited.
“Thank you, no. We are replete I think.” Said Bananas in answer for us all.
“More baps and marmalade perhaps? Dr Watson says that my baps are the best he’s ever…”
Her last words were lost, as she closed the door.

“First things first” said Bananas, “Lets get down to cases. Barbudo. We’ve left him in the field too long, his cover is blown We must bring him in from the cold. Send him the message.”
Ayres took up his position at the machine, threw a switch, and hit it a tap with his fist.
“Just warming up. Temperamental thing.” he mumbled
“Next,” continued Bananas, “Barbudo’s last message, the code book if you would Maroon. Ah yes,”


“Oh dear. We should have acted on this sooner. It looks like he’s in trouble, I hope he’s not been taken alive for his sake.”
“Well will I send the message anyway?” asked Ayres from his corner.
“Yes, tell him we’re coming with all due dispatch. Tell him we’ll be setting out immediately, after dinner tonight, on the sleeper to Devon.”

With some Abyssinian language and muttered oaths, Ayres tapped out the message.
Suddenly the door was flung open and into the room stepped a man dressed in the uniform of a captain of Russian Hussars.

“I am NOT the King of Bohemia!” he declared.
“Across the landing!” chorused Ayres and Bananas, without looking up.
* * *

Down in Devon, as the coach rattled off on the road from the inn, the old local man that Miss Lindy had questioned the previous night, joined Bob the landlord at the door, waving them off.

"Is she the one then?" Asked Bob the landlord.
The old local replied:
"Oh she’s The Slayer all right, she just don’t know it yet!"

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Part Three.

“I tell you she is a Vampire!” Exclaimed Ayres.
“Don’t be ridiculous; this is 1888, not the middle ages,” I said.
“Professor Van Hellsing gave a lecture at the Royal Society and he said…” continued Ayres.
“Never mind what this Van Herring said,” I countered, ”you’ll be telling us next that…”
“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt…did you see her incisors?” Ayres returned.
“All Americans have good teeth, it’s the dental plans!” I thrust back.
“This is getting us nowhere; her message was disturbing to me at least”
said Gorilla Bananas, forcing us to pause.

Such was the nature of our heated debate that night in Baker Street while we watched from the upstairs window as her magnificent red carriage disappeared into the London night, taking her off to Drury Lane for another sell out performance.

It had all been so different an hour before:

Ayres it turned out, was a great admirer of the singer and had pulled out his large assemblage for her inspection. He insisted she examine it, now engorged, with paper cuttings and scraps, begging her autograph on this bit or that.
McShae, his bonnet removed in her presence, sat statue still. No doubt the boat lag, and the illustrious company and the first showings of beriberi conspiring together to overwhelm him. He took another sip from his flask.

“Quinine, ye ken.” he muttered.

This activity allowed Gorilla Bananas the chance of his expert appraisal. I, as an acolyte of his astonishing deductive powers, tried likewise.
With she and Ayres sitting snug on the couch, we took in the great lady. Not an arduous task, it has to be said. Her cloak of the most profound black cast aside, we studied her, from her luxuriant hair and full lips (of a deep burgundy), to her matching gown of the deepest velvet red, a wide cut vee showing her snow white attributes to stunning effect.
At her bosom hung two drop gems the size of plovers’ eggs. A hot ruby and a cool sapphire; reputedly gifts from foreign potentates. Unable to take his eyes from them, Ayres asked:

“Are they yours?” nodding his head with a wink at her womanly embonpoint.
“Ayres! Please! A gentleman would never ask such a thing!” I protested.
“I was referring to the settings of the stones Maroon! I read somewhere that Ms Redhead makes her own jewellery.” Said Ayres hotly.
“Relaax Doktor,” she said with a smile, “I knew vott he meant. Vould you like to hold zem, Zir Kim?”
“I Vouldn’t, I mean I wouldn’t, mind.” croaked Ayres, reaching out a shaking hand.

But at that, the lights started flashing, the brass bell rang and the paper tape tickered out the slot, and Ayres tore himself away to investigate.

“Oh,” I continued, “I thought you were an American.”
“Zat iss correkt Doktor, yew-ezz-ay, all zay vay!”
“But your accent?..” I stammered
“Vott of it?”
“Perhaps” interjected Bananas, “Ms Redhead would like to tell us the purpose of her visit.”

We were to learn later, that while our discussion raged thus, many miles away in Devon, not far from Castle Alucard in fact, a brave and intrepid young lady was stepping down from a coach with the rest of the passengers; the coachman having refused to go any further that night.

“We’ll all get rooms at this ‘ere inn. Arr.” He said.
“Why? Is it unsafe to travel further on this road? Are there things abroad by moonlight on the Moor?” Asked Miss Lindy, her shorthand notebook and pencil at the ready.
“That there be, ma’am! Tain’t safe to travel no further, things bein’ what they is up at the Castle an’ all. Beggin’ your pardon miss, but you is travellin’ to the Castle isn’t you?”
“I certainly am. But you’re right, this will do for tonight.”
“My thoughts too, bein’ bold if I may. Twill be a better journay by daylight.”

And with that, the coachman led them into the inn. The keenly observant Miss Lindy noticed a friendly wink of recognition pass between the coachman and the landlord, who was standing at his door now, holding it open for them. For reassurance, she slipped her hand into her carpetbag resting it on the familiar texture of the sharpened stakes, the mallet, and most importantly The Book.

Not far up the road from the inn, Dr Evil was continuing with his preparations for “The Gathering.”

“Sarah ! Sarah!” He called from his baronial dining hall. “Where is that girl?”
“Here Pops” she replied. Appearing in the room on a wave of gardenia and petuli. “what is it you want?”
“Sit there and tell me what you think” said the excited maniac.
She slumped down and started fiddling with a short knobbly candlestick, stroking it thoughtfully.
Dr Evil spread his arms wide and sashayed across the floor, allowing his cloak to billow.
“What dya think? Isn’t this just darling? Oh this is sooo going to wow them! I can’t wait!” he exclaimed.
“Do I have to be there? It’s only a lousy Gathering. Say, can I have this candlestick for my room?” she asked.
“No! And not the candle either! We’ve spoken about this whole issue of your “toys“ before…And you are sooo going to be there my girl!” said Evil, stamping a foot.

Dr Evil’s butler chose this moment to unwisely interrupt his master.

"There’ss a Ssafety Inspector here to look at the generatorss my Lord.” he announced.
“Sonofa...Damn you Eater! Damn you to black Damnation! What does he want?” raged Evil, beside himself.
“He’s from the council apparently; there’ss been a complaint.”

In the warmth of Baker street, Ms redhead took up her tale:

“My cousin Dr Evil, zent me as an emissary Mr Bananas, to invite you down to Devon, he sayz you have no need of spies and zuchlike, you need only ask. He velcomes the challenge you present to hiz planz and vishes only to see you in ze flesh az it vere."

We three, took this news in stunned amazement, but none more so than Ayres who stood at the mantle staring at her, the tickertape message dropping to the floor.

“Zat is all I haff to zay Mr Bananas,” she continued. “Can I drop you anyvere, Mr McShae? Come, with hair like zat I haff a feeling you’re going my vay.”

and with a dramatic flourish, she stood and led the entranced McShae out to her carriage.

“What is it Ayres?” Asked Gorilla Bananas, concern for the first time in his voice.
“She wasn’t in the mirror! I stole a look at her in the mirror, and I could only see an empty davenport!” he said, gibbering slightly.

Seeing the slip of paper on the rug, I picked it up. It read:


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Part Two

“Will you no’ take the last ├ęclair Doctor? They’re as light as a feather.” asked the genial landlady clearing the crockery.
“I couldn’t Mrs Hudson, once more you have excelled. No one sets as generous an afternoon table as you.” I replied
“I’ll have it.” said Ayres.
“Ye’ll be stayin’ for dinner, it’s ma special tonight wi’ dumpling’s! My other gentlemen, them across the way, swear by them. Doctor Watson says my dumplings are the finest he’s ever come acro…”

The last words were lost as the kindly Scotch housekeeper shut the door.
Filling his pipe, Gorilla Bananas, his seat pushed back, held me for some moments with his honest stare as if weighing my quality in the assayist’s balance of his intellect.
Reaching a decision, he glanced over at Ayres, nodded in my direction and raised his brow in an unspoken question. For his part, Ayres sighed with resignation and shrugged his shoulders in reluctant agreement.

“Well now, Maroon. What we are about to impart may come as a shock, but fell deeds are afoot in this great land. Deeds that would not look out of place in the Inferno itself.
What we have yet, are only the outer threads of a complex web. A web far-reaching, that has at it’s evil centre, and I chose the word carefully, none other than our enemy of old,- Doctor E. Scientist. And this much we do know:

The Redheaded League has been revived!

But enough for now, for unless I’m mistaken, that tread upon the stair announces our first visitor of the day.”

As you will be aware, two hundred miles to the west, upon the blasted heaths and mires of Dartmoor, stands Castle Alucard. The family seat of the Von Redheads, and taken for the season by their American cousin Dr Evil.
As Ayres was ushering in the visitor in London, at the same time, the Lord of that manor had just stepped out his tradesman’s entrance into the dusk to discuss preparations with his butler newly returned with supplies in a covered ice wagon.
We cannot know their conversation that day but we may surmise:

“Take two blocks into the pantry, then take the rest and that “other stuff” up to the laboratory. Did you get the limes?”
“They only had lemons.”
“Damn your eyes Eater! I told you limes!”
“It’s only a small village shop Massster, perhapss when I’m in town tomorrow…”
Well, see you do. Damn you to Hell! I don‘t suppose they had the grenadine either?”
“No Masster, my Lord, em..”
“Well, I don’t know what our guests will think, I really don’t. Peasants! That’s what I’m surrounded by, peasants. If it’s not a pitchfork or a scythe, they don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s the Pits! an’ no mistake!”

In Baker Street, the door had opened to admit a man most striking in his appearance. His ruddy complexion suggested more than the evening nip in the air, or his exertions on the stair. His shock of wild red hair was barely contained beneath a Scotch bonnet sporting two tall grouse feathers. A dark tartan plaid over his hairy tweed suit was fastened by a huge cairngorm at the shoulder. In his right hand a cudgel-like walking stick as twisted as a corkscrew, was counter weighted by a well travelled valise in his left. Nine league boots finished his attire.

“McShae’s the name, which wan oh ye is Sherlock Holmes?”
“Neither,” replied my friend, not the least put out. “They are across the landing, but now that providence has brought you here, will you not stay and tell us how we may help? These gentlemen are my associates, you may speak freely. I am Gorilla Bananas!”
“Och it was really them I was after” he lied, in a vain attempt to strike a bargain “but maybe you’ll do jist as well. You’d likely be cheaper too, I’m thinking.”

He received no answer to this, so continued.

“It’s like this..”
“Wait!” said Gorilla Bananas holding up his leather palm, “Am I right in my deduction that you are a Scotsman, recently arrived in the city, and that a great burden weighs upon you? Moreover, you arrived today from the Orient, and that shortly after your arrival, you partook of a refreshment in a public house, where you were approached by a stranger who offered you inducements to travel to a country house in Devon on Tuesday?”
“Michty me, that’s incredible! How did ye ken?” ejaculated McShae.
“Well even I could see…” muttered the saturnine Ayres.

But the explanation was interrupted by a sudden knocking on the door announcing the arrival of the most beautiful Redheaded woman in London. None other than the singer Ms Lilly Redhead, star of West End stage, sweetheart to a million men, and well publicised consort to HRH Prince Edward.
As Ayres fussed over her, plumping cushions, pouring lemonade, and generally ingratiating himself in a sycophantic fashion, I pulled Gorilla Bananas aside.

“How DID you know all that stuff? I asked.
“Simple Maroon, I sent Barbudo out with instructions to find just such a man. We’re going to need as many decoys as possible.”