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!”