Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Vengeance: Two

Ms. Madison reached Mainstone Hall just after four o'clock. In the gathering dusk, she could see the great gothic bulk of the mansion. It would have been nice to reflect on the many ancestors of Lord Ambrose Vaughan who had built up the estate. However, that would have been false. Lord Ambrose was a younger son who had inherited a great deal of money from a favourite aunt. He had bought Mainstone when it was derelict and facing demolition. His aunt's old home, and Lord Ambrose's occasional seat, was located in the Home Counties, closer to the London Clubland that was Lord Ambrose's natural habitat.

Not that Ms. Madison was complaining, for Lord Ambrose was a good 'sport.' As she stepped out of the car, the gravel crunching under her shoe, she looked at the brightly lit window that indicated the entrance hall of the mansion. Approaching the door, she rang the bell.

The door was opened by a lovely, friendly looking brunette in a yellow gown and fur coat.

"Hullo," the girl smiled, "I'm so glad you could come, Lynette. Ambrose is sorry he can't be here too, but a friend of his is holding a party in London before he goes off on a round-the-world cruise. Stil," she extended a soft, perfumed hand, "it'll be wonderful having you over."

"Thanks, Lady Sylvia," the blonde took the proferred hand. "I'm just glad to be here. When do the other guests arrive?"

"Apart from your Mr. Rake," Lady Sylvia laughed, "they're all here. Come into the Drawing Room, I'll introduce you."

The drawing room was a palatial structure, rising through two floors, with galleries. Well-dressed young men and women lounged on sofas and armchairs. The air was filled with the buzz of conversation, drinks standing on the side, liveried waiters stood by with refills.

"Wonderfully decadent," Lady Sylvia laughed. "This," she addressed the assembled company, "is Lynette Madison, a very good friend of my brother and I."

"Well," one of the young ladies laughed, "any friend of yours is a friend of mine, Sylv." She spoke with a very slight Scots burr.

"That's Mary Laing," Lady Sylvia informed the blonde, "her father has a huge palace in Scotland, as well as a nice pad in London. Her brother's with Ambrose at this good-bye party."

"Hullo, Lynette," Mary, a regal-looking brunette, gave Ms. Madison a little wave.

"Hiya, Mary," Ms. Madison smiled at the pretty Scottish girl.

"And, Lynette, this most interesting gentleman is Mr. Robert Matthew-Henry." Lady Sylvia indicated a man in his late thirties, lounging in a particularly shapeless armchair.

Ms. Madison tried very hard not to start when she laid eyes on the man in the armchair. As secretary to the Green Man, she knew most of the serious villains in the world by sight. And while she did not recognise the London gangster the Green Man had referred to, she did recognise this man. Under the long, elegantly curling hair and the moustache was the face of Monty Bristow - alias The Disturber!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Eleven

In the bright glare of morning, the shattered ruins of the derelict house looked very stark indeed. Rubble lay all about, and it was clear that no-one could have survived the building's collapse. Not that Mr. Lemon could have survived the attack by the Creeping thing, for that matter. But the exact circumstances would probably not be known until some curious person saw the twisted hand that stuck out from under the rubble of the collapsed building. Or the distorted, blood-stained, claw-like nails on the end of it, the long hair that lent it a bestial aspect.

"So," Ms. Madison turned to the Green Man, "why did you send me up to Llanthorn place?"
"I'd had my eye on Mr. Lemon for a while," the Green Man explained. "Lemon was partner in an investment firm that was revealed to have been investing in some very dubious biotechnology - including a man-primate hybrid. His partner had been about to give evidence against him when he was killed at Llanthorn place by some unknown creature. The Police were going to take him in for questioning, and I believed he would attempt to escape somehow."
"And the creeping thing?" the lovely blonde asked.
"The abomination created by those unethical experiments," the Green Man told her. He had trained it to be afraid of strong light - hence the searchlight. I realised that when he tried to use the creature to attack us, rather than shooting."

"So by shooting out the searchlight we made the creature attack him rather than us!" Ms. Madison gasped. "What do we do?"
"We disappear," the Green Man told his companion. "The news comes from London that Nora was delayed, andthey conclude that you were an impostor. By the time the collapse of this house is investigated, the body of Mr. Lemon will be completely unrecognisable - just another victim of the Creeping Thing. And no-one will ever know the extent of Mr. Lemon's evil."
"What about his wife?" Ms. Madison asked.
"She was the one who knew her husband had killed his partner," the Green Man told Ms. Madison. "It was she who contacted me."

New Year's Vengeance: One

The dawn of a new day broke over a London which was packed, bustling with tourists and bargain hunters. But in the Savoy Hotel, all was as calm and civilised as ever. From her third-floor window, looking out over the Thames, Ms. Madison could see the city swarming around her.She smiled, glad that she was able to be in London for the New Year. Still in her night things, Ms. Madison rose from her bed and walked over to the window, opening it so that she could hear the roar of traffic. It was nice to know that she was still in London, and that London was still there. She reached for the 'phone, considering that she should perhaps call Michael Rake, her long-suffering boyfriend. The last time they'd had a date, they had parted after exchanging harsh words. She hoped he would be in.

Still, she reflected, if she did call him, it would indicate that she cared for Rake more than she cared to admit. And that would put her at a disadvantage next time they met.

She was still weighing up the options when the 'phone rang. The blonde snatched up the reciever, adopting a pose of langour.

"Hi-ya..." the blonde sighed, voice low and husky.

"Ms. Madison," the Green Man's voice was urgent. "you are going to Mainstone Hall, Suffolk. You will leave Liverpool Street Station at two."

"But I was waiting for Mike - Mr. Rake!" she protested.

"Wait no more, Ms. Madison," the Green Man went on. "Rake will arrive at Mainstone Hall tomorrow, if you so wish."

"Thank you," Ms. Madison sighed. "I guess it's another houseparty. What is it this time? I can't imagine Lord Ambrose Vaughan's a villain."

"Nor I," the Green Man nodded. "But Lord Ambrose has been called away. The matter concerns one of his guests, Mr. Robert Matthew-Henry. I have my suspicions about him. I think he once went by another name. Charles Peake."
"The London gangster who drowned two years ago?" Ms. Madison gasped. "I'll be there!"
She picked up her suitcase from left luggage at the station, her usual practice, and boarded a train to Ipswich, where she was met by a Rolls-Royce bearing Lord Ambrose's coat of arms.

The Creeping Thing: Part Ten

As the red eyes moved closer, and the scrabbling of the Creeping Thing came closer, Ms. Madison grasped the Green Man's arm, her breathing erratic, eyes speaking of fear. The Green Man turned, raising his torch and his gun.

"Watch Lemon!" the Green Man instructed Ms. Madison. "And turn out that light!"

Taking a good pull at herself, Ms. Madison raised her gun, firing at the powerful searchlight.

"No!" Lemon screamed, as the light went out.

"Now hold me!" the Green Man yelled at Ms. Madison, as the breathing of the Creeping Thing came still closer. "Hold me as close as you can, Lynette! Hold on as if your life depended on it!"

"All right," she chuckled, as she followed his instructions. "But Mike 'll be mad if he finds out. What do we do now?"

The well-dressed blonde clung to the Green Man, closing her eyes and fighting to master herself. Any moment, she expected to feel the claws of the Creeping Thing on her back.

But nothing of the sort happened. The thing rans straight past them, before springing. The scream that came from the far end of the room told her that the Creeping Thing had turned on its master. As the Creeping Thing savaged Lemon, the Green Man and Ms. Madison retreated, keeping the torch beam on.

As they hurried back down the drive, towards the Green Man's mighty car, Ms. Madison heard a low roar. Behind them, something lit up the night sky. Turning, she saw the old house in ruins, ablaze from end to end.

"Lemon must have set a bomb," the Green Man told his secretary. "Just enough time for him to get clear, while the Creeping Thing finished us off. Well," he sighed, "now the creature, whatever it was, is gone for ever, destroyed with the evil mind that used it."
"Are you sure?" Ms. Madison sounded worried.
"We'll need to make sure in the morning," the Green Man told her. "There's a restaurant up in the mountains that's open all night."
"You wait there," she spoke with feeling. "I'm going to bed."

The Creeping Thing: Part Nine

There followed a breathless silence, as the Green Man and Ms. Madison stood in the doorway, looking at the seated figure, holding up their hands to shield their faces. At last,as their eyes adujusted to the light, they could make out the pale, bloated features of a man in black, a skull-cap on his head.

"Welcome to my hiding-place," he spoke again, voice soft, amused. "I see that the reputation of this house did not deter you."

"The reputation that this house is evil?" The Green Man laughed, shaking his head. "You and I both know that evil comes from the hearts of men, not buildings, and not monsters. Men."

"A crusader," the man laughed. "No wonder you wear a mask. But your young associate is unmasked. Is that not a weakness?"

"No." The Green Man shook his head again. "Once someone did kill one of my associates. No-one has done so since. Not since the man's body was discovered." The voice of the Green Man was grim, unyielding. "But youwear a deeper mask - Mr. Lemon!"

Ms. Madison started violently, as did the figure in the chair.

"How?" the man in the chair demanded. "Lemon was found dead, like the others, his face horribly mutilated."

"A body was found and identified as Lemon," the Green Man spoke softly. "But you and I know that the body was that of someone else. You are Mr. Lemon."

"Yes!" the figure laughed. "I am Mr. Lemon, a man the world believes to be dead!"

"And so you can avoid the charges of murder and fraud which you are due to be arrested on." The Green Man nodded grimly. "You thought to escape the justice which is due to you. But no man can escape the vengeance of the Green Man."

"No man?" Lemon laughed. "Look behind you, Green Man!"

Ms. Madison let out a gasp of shock. There, looking at them, was a pair of glowing red eyes.

"Green Man!" Lemon laughed, "meet the creeping thing, my terror!"

Closer and closer crept the ghastly thing. Ms. Madison could smell its fetid breath. When it howled, she could only scream.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Eight

The Green Man stopped his car at the end of the drive which led to the decaying house. Its bulk showed up through the gloom, somehow very sinister and frightening. Built in the Tudor style, it clearly belonged to the early part of the twentieth century. While the Green Man stepped away from the car, drawing his gun, Ms. Madison put on lace-up walking boots. In the bleak landscape of the moor, she felt decidedly out of place in her party dress. She left her handbag behind, after drawing a little silver automatic from it. She meant to be ready for whatever evil lurked in that house.

Still, she hurried to catch up with the Green Man, a little beathless with fear. She had heard the thing that lurked in that building, hidden in the shadows, and she had no wish to meet it close up, alone.

"The house looks deserted," the Green Man observed, still holding fast to his gun. "But it would, even if it was actually inhabited. "That way the people would stay away, especially with the noises that you described.

"The noises I heard twice!" Ms. Madison bridled, "and other people heard it, in case you think I was just getting over-wrought."

"I know you better," the Green Man chuckled. "If you heard something, it was there. Now, come on, Ms. Madison. We've work to do."

The Green Man and his companion made their way to the door, which hung open on broken hinges. Ms. Madison went ahead of the Green Man, if only so she would be seen if she was attacked.

The rooms were mostly roofless, open to the sky. But the rooms to the right of the hallway were still roofed. It was into this section that they moved, the Green Man flicking on a torch.

"This is lonesome," Ms. Madison whispered. "I suppose it's nothing like that old place Mr. Rake and I went to when we fancied a spot of quiet necking. I sat down on the stairs but they fell on me."

"Which explains one of your rare absences," the Green Man chuckled. "I trust your leaving Mr. Rake at the Savoy wasn't too difficult."

"It was a rescue," Ms. Madison sighed. "We were fighting. He wants me to give up this job and marry him."

"And you?" the Green Man chuckled.

Before Ms. Madison could answer, the thing howled, close at hand. Ms. Madison jumped, her free hand grabbing the Green Man's arm.

"I'm thinking that might not be a bad idea right now," she trembled slightly, as the Green Man kicked open a door. At once, a great light went on, blinding the duo.

There, seated in the room, was the figure of a man.

"Come in," he spoke softly. "I've been expecting you."

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Seven

Ms. Madison spent the rest of the day getting to know her fellow guests - at least all that part of the day which was not spent talking to police. She found them to be the predicatable mixed bag. Two couples; John and Mary Ivers and Robert and Joan Key; three unattached young men; Alan Lane, Robin Footeman and Joseph Chambers; and four young women, apart from herself, Mary Martin, Jocelyn Lake and two sisters by the name of Sant, Lillian and Irene. They were rich, idle and scared of the thing out on the moor. She just knew that the Green Man was the only person who could help them. They were quite unable to help themselves.

The night saw another party, Ms. Madison changing into another smart party dress. She had to sing a few songs, but no more than that. However the Green Man had got her this job, it wasn't a bad one. Ms. Madison had once considered a career in entertainment, and was glad to see she was still good.

The party was full of music and laughter. It was as if the guests were trying very hard to forget the awful things that had taken place. Ms. Madison did not blame them, even if it seemed very decadent. Lane spent a great deal of time talking to her, which got Ms. Madison some nasty looks. After all, she was supposedly just the entertainment.

At last, the party ended. As the guests went to bed, Ms. Madison chanced a wander in the grounds. As she passed behind the gardens, a familiar figure stepped out from the shadows.

"Green Man!" the blonde sighed deeply. "Boy, am I glad to see you!"

"Good evening, Ms. Madison." He chuckled. "Shall we go for a drive?"

"Where... where to?" the blonde asked.

"Out on the moor." The Green Man's reply was what she had expected.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

The Green Man and Ms. Madison
In Association with Old Mill Beer

Wish you all a very Merry Christmas

The Green Man is presented by Old Mill Beer

Brewed by the Bawdeswell Brewery co: A Family Company

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Six

The great country house was full of guests, dressed in the costumes of a past age. The windows of the mansion blazed with light. Inside, handsome men and beautiful women danced together to the music of a live orchestra, under glittering chandeliers. The air was filled with beautiful music, laughter and chattering voices. It could have been a scene of the idle rich from any age, liveried servants mixing with the guests, carrying fresh trays of drinks. Among the guests were company directors, actresses, actors and peers. All enjoying themselves immensely.

And at the heart of it all, talking to a couple of peers' daughters and a young lady barrister, was the host, resplendent in white tie and tails, a red carnation in his buttonhole, shirt-front gleaming pure white. He was regaling them with a funny story about some foreign place he had been that year. They were laughing, regarding him with admiration.

The conversation stopped for a moment, as a liveried footman approached the host, looking anxious. Words spoken in a whisper passed between the host and his servant.

"Excuse me, ladies," the host bowed to his beautiful audience, "but I have an important call."

Despite the relucatnce of the three young women, he left, hurrying to his study and picking up the 'phone. There were three on the desk, but this one was contained in a hidden panel in the wall. When he spoke, it was no longer in the light, bantering tones of the host, but the stern, menacing voice of the Green Man.

"Ms. Madison?"

"Oh, thank goodness!" the young woman sighed with relief. "Mr Lemon has been murdered!"

"I thought he might be," the Green Man replied grimly. "But there was no way I could intervene in that. Have you learned anything more?"

"The killer is a maniac or a monster of some sort," Ms. Madison continued anxiously. "strong enough to kill a man with his bare hands, and evil enough to horribly mutilate the bodies. From the noise I heard a moment ago, I'd say it might even be some sort of animal."

"Animal or not," the Green Man spoke, "the scheme which led to these deaths originated in the minds of a man - the source of all evil."

"Yes," Ms. Madison's voice was sober. "The killer seems to be linked to a deserted house on the moor. Since he seems to kill without a second thought, I'm going no-where near the place until I've got backup."

"Andrea's resting," the Green Man replied. "So you can enjoy yourself until tomorrow night. I shall contact you. Goodbye."

As he put the 'phone down, someone knocked on the door. Swiftly, the Green Man hid the 'phone and crossed to his desk. By the time the door opened, he was putting down one of the other 'phones.

"Lady Sylvia..." he looked up at the lovely brunette. "I was just about to rejoin the party."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Five

There was silence for a long time, as the news of the horror sunk in. Ms. Madison was, not unsurprisingly, the first to recover some of their wits. That said, however, she was not able to show this, but had to wait until Mr. Lane, the only man present, recovered his compsure. She secretly despised Lane, who was clearly terrified.

"B...but how?" he asked, incredulous.

"The same way as the men and women in the village," the woman explained, still tearful. "Attacked by something hideously powerful, so powerful it can break a man's neck. "

"I know that," Lane looked annoyed. "But with all the security Mr. Lemon had surrounding him..."

"All the protection in the world can't stop a determined killer," Ms. Madison replied.

"You know?" Lane glared at her.

"I heard it somewhere." Ms. Madison did not lie. Nor did she tell the whole truth. She had heard it from the Green Man in the early days of working for him.

"And I believe you." Ms. Lemon nodded soberly. "After all, my husband is dead, in spite of all his precautions."

"I'm sorry," Ms. Madison's voice dropped to a sympathetic whisper. "Really, even if..."

Before she could say any more, the dark haired woman clouted her in the mouth. All the blode could do was look at her in mute amazement.

"What do you know, you tramp!" the woman yelled. "When you come down here..."

"Er... Mrs. Lemon..." Alan Lane sighed. "This is Lynette Madison, not Nora. She couldn't come."

Mrs. Lemon tunred very red, before fleeing.

Lane could only laugh. But, as he looked upwards to something above Ms. Madison. The colour drained from his face. Turning, Ms. Madison saw it. The ruins of a huge house, hovering over the moor, like some great brooding presence. Then, before she could say anything more, she heard the same sound that had awaken her.

Coming from the house.

She followed Mrs. Lemon to the house. Snatching up the nearest 'phone, she dialled the secret number that connected her to the Green Man.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Four

After finishing her breakfast, Ms. Madison descended to the grounds of Llanthorn Place, hoping to get some local colour, or at least meet some people. While the Green Man had let her know a little more, she was still largely in the dark. And there was something downright disturbing lurking in that dark, to boot. Dressed in a cute, stylish dress and straw hat that really belonged to the summer, Ms. Madison could not help but shudder.

Still, the house was a pretty one, part severe classical, part that Frenchified Gothic so popular in the fading years of the Nineteenth Century, with a stubby tower and very large front porch. It was grand without being as ostentatious as the larger British country houses. Indeed, it as just the sort of place the stylish blonde still dreamed of living. Large enough to be grand, small enough to be lived in all the year.
And the grounds were lovely, set out in an informal manner, with paved walkways and winter flowers, the grass higher than perhaps it should have been. She paused by a particularly mature tree, looking back at the house, then out at the moors around it. This was an oasis of civilisation in the midst of bleak wilderness. She closed her eyes, drawing a great sigh.

"New here?" a voice broke in on Ms. Madison's reverie, causing her to start.
"You know it," she sighed, turning. "After all, I wasn't here yesterday."
"I suppose so." The speaker was a tall young man, broad shouldered and ruggedly handsome. "I'm Alan Lane."
"Lynette Madison," the blonde extended a slim hand. "I'm the entertainment. You?"
"Commodity broker," he told her. "i've known Mr. Lemon since High School."
"Then you can tell me who he is," she laughed. "I don't know him from Adam."
"You should be able to now," a harsh voice broke in on the conversation. The speaker was a dark-haired woman. "Adam didn't have his neck broken and his face hideously mutilated."
Ms. Madison gasped, the colour draining from her face.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part Three

Ms. Madison was awoken by a maid bearing a tray full of breakfast. Lying amid tangled sheets, it was quite obvious that the young woman had not slept well. The maid smiled cheerfully down at Ms. Madison, who returned her smile.

"What was the matter, Miss?" she asked, in a broad Welsh accent.

"I was woken up by a sound from outside," she explained earnestly. "A sort of screaming..."

The maid trembled, clearly worried.

"You heard it too," she shuddered. "I ... I expect you'll be wanting to leave as soon as you can, then?"

"Not at all!" Ms. Madison was dismissive. "I'm curious to know what it was, that's all. The terror of mystery normally vanishes when its explained."

"This one can't be explained," the maid told her. "And whenever its heard, someone dies."

"I hadn't heard about a killer on the loose," the young blonde looked concerned. "Where are we? I arrived late and was invited at the last minute."

"Llanthorn Place, Miss," the Maid gestered about her. "It's owned by Mr. Price Lemon, the industrialist. And you're here from the Green Man in place of the nightclub singer who was supposed to be here." She presented the blonde with a printed card, bearing an engraving of a foliate head, the Green Man of the medieval masons.

"Get me a 'phone," Ms. Madison rose from her bed.

She was part-way through dressing when the 'phone was brought. At once, she called the number that called the ever-changing number that contacted the Green Man.

"Ms. Madison," the voice of the Green Man came down the line. "Did you have a pleasant trip?"

"A pleasant trip," Ms. Madison confirmed. "But not a pleasant night. Green Man," the blonde's voice became anxious, "there's something out on the moor - something that kills!"

"I know." The Green Man's voice was grim. "Yet the press has said nothing about it. Ten men and women slain brutally, yet not a word about it in the papers.... Your task, Ms. Madison, is to find out what is going on - and quickly, before there are more deaths."

"We may be too late," Ms. Madison replied anxiously.

The Creeping Thing: Part Two

Ms. Madison got to Euston with time to spare. Collecting the suit case the Green Man had left for her, she mde her way swiftly to the train. She hurried up the platform, her heels tapping an urgent tattoo on the concrete of the platform. Still dressed in her party frock, she drew the gazes of most people there. Even in First Class, where she seated herself, Ms. Maidon stood out. Adding to the strangeness, the blonde unpacked her laptop computed and began to serch her files for records of what might be going on in the Wrexham area. When she found nothing, she packed it up again, lay back, and lowly drifted off to sleep.

She did not sleep so well. Having fought with Mr. Rake, she now felt bad about having left him as she had. In spite of everything, she was fond of the man, and did not want to hurt him. Or, if she was honest with herself, lose him to another. At last, she removed her 'phone from her handbag, and called Rake's number.

The 'phone rang a few times, and Ms. Madison prayed that he would pick up. At last, it was answered.

"Michael Rake," the familliar voice brought a smile to the blonde's lips.

"Mike!" she breathed a sigh of relief, "look, about tonight..."

"I was a fool," the gentleman replied gallantly. "You should keep that job. When the time comes, we'll talk about marriage again."

"You're a pal!" Ms. Madison laughed. "And, listen, if I can't make New Year's, I'll be over soon after."

After which, she was cut off by a tunnel. Still, reassured by his words, she was able to doze off, waking just as the train was pulling into Chester Station. She got a guard to help with her baggage, as she caught the train to Wrexham. There, the elegantly dressed girl stepped off onto a deserted platform. Waiting beneath the station clock, it was half an hour before a liveried chauffeur approached her.

"Lynette Madison?" he asked in rustic tones.

"The same," she smiled. "Who are you?"

"John Jones, driver to Mr. Lemon, Miss," the driver informed her. "You're a guest at the Hall, aren't you?"

"But of course," the blonde laughed, handing him her bags.

The drive to the Hall was one of mystery. She saw nothing of the countryside, only the stars in the night sky. Tired in spite of her snooze on the train, she was only vaguely aware of arriving at a great house. Once there, she was shown to her room by a housemaid, through cavernous recepition rooms. Once sure that this was her room, she changed and fell gratefully into bed.

She slept like a log. Except for one episode that will live forever in memory. At some point in the night, she was woken by the sound of a terrifying cry from outside.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Creeping Thing: Part One

London by night is, as someone once observed, a beautiful sight. All the more so at Christmas time, with it millions of twinkling lights, people thronging its streets to buy presents for their nearest and dearest. And, the closer one gets to the day itself, so the restaurants and hotels book up for Christmas parties and revels. There are few places that are not crowded, although some of the more exclusive hotels seem to manage well enough. Full of music and dancing, the Savoy Hotel retains its atmosphere of exclusivity.

And, while she is in London, this hotel is the dwelling-place of the stylish and competent Ms. Madison, secretary and assistant to the mysterious Green Man, his companion of many adventures. Currently resting after an adventure which could have seen the destruction of millions, Ms. Madison is dancing with her long-time admirer and would-be fiancé, Mr. Michael Rake, swaying slowly to the music of the band, while tripping the light fantastic.
"Lynette, darling," Rake spoke softly, holding her close, "where have you been for the last few weeks?"

"Business, Mike," the blonde looked away from him, towards the band. "You know I have to travel a lot for my boss. You said it was all right." Her tone was warm, appealing, with a slight note of warning.
"You know," Rake sighed, "I wish I could meet this employer of yours. I'd probably feel a lot better about these trips if I did..."
"You just need to trust me," she gently chided him. "What he's like shouldn't matter."
""Shouldn't," Rake pointed out. "Look here, darling, the way you do things suggests you care more about him than me. Going off on a moment's notice..."
"I get paid to do that!" Ms. Madison flushed. "I do happen to work for him! And I get paid extra for the times I rush off at a moment's notice. I told you all about my job when you asked me out. I thought you agreed not to go on at me about it!" There was a note of fragility in the blonde's voice.

Before the tiff could develop into a serious fight, a page approached nervously, bearing a piece of paper.
"Ms. Madison?" the young man asked.

"Yes?" Ms. Madison looked at him, smiling.

"'phone call for you," the page looked up at her.
"That'll be the boss," Ms. Madison gave Mr. Rake a hard look. "Probably another job. And, before you even think of objecting, I'm going. We can resume our conversation when I get back to London!"
And, with that, the lovely blonde marched out of the ballroom, picking up a telephone in the hotel's grandiose foyer.
"Ms. Madison," she spoke calmly.
"This is the Green Man." The expected voice came down the wire. "Go at once to Euston Station. Take the eleven o'clock train to Liverpool. Disembark at Chester and take a train to Wrexham. There, you will be picked up by a station wagon. You are going to a Country House party, my dear."
"Can I take anyone?" she asked mischievously.
"Too dangerous." The Green Man was emphatic. "You will know more soon. Your luggage is at the station."
And, with that, the line went dead. Pausing only to pick up her fur wrap, Ms. Madison rushed outside, into a waiting cab.
"Euston!" she called, looking down at her watch. She had twenty minutes.

Sunday Supplement: Silent Day

Sir Richard Arcos writes: Ms. Madison was supposed to do this week's offering, but she called in and told me that she was going to the Metropolitan Tabernacle, as she was in London and between cases. Accordingly, I packed my kit and drove off to a church I knew of. A large building on a hill in Suffolk, it enjoys a highly unusual climate, in that it snowed there last night. I am reliably informed that the Buarth hill in Aberystwyth is the same way. The Vicar, the Rev. Pryce Price-Pyse-Pryce, is a man of decidedly aristocratic Welsh pedigree, although he still has to glare at those in his congregation who snigger at his name when it is announced, as it always is, by the Parish clerk, the Hon. Jabez Johnson.

I arrived, and was conducted to a nice box pew, it being explained that my Rolls had been spotted coming from a long way off. I was given a hymn book, and a prayer book so old that it contained prayers for King William IV.

When the Vicar turned to the congregation and intoned the words: 'Dearly Belovéd Brethren...", I realised something was up. The words were offered so slowly that each syllable acquired a new syllable. As the liturgy continued, heads began to nod. It was with joy we rose to sing 'Come, all ye faithful...' Sitting, the liturgy resumed.
The prayer for the Sovereign was read as it stood in the prayer-book. It is to be hoped that Prince William comes to the throne soon, and enjoys a long reign. That way this deplorable circumstance can be ended by judicious use of a ball-point pen.

The congregation read the responses at the same speed as the venerable cleric. It was like watching Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. Every so often someone would fall asleep, like a soldier falling, dying, into the snow.

The sermon, a half-hour discourse on the subject of Joseph, was similarly slow. So much so, in fact, that Price-Pryse-Pryce himself fell asleep during it, and had to be awakened by the clerk, when it became clear that he was not simply pausing for thought (or breath). He shouted 'Amen!' and that ended the sermon.
I took the opportunity to have an extended sleep, and was, like the rest of the congregation, woken up in time for Sunday Lunch.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Cosmic Crime: Part Fourteen

As the countdown neared its final minutes, the laughter of the order's leader filled the bunker. Ms. Madison's flesh began to crawl, as the other members of the Order of Cain started to crow with triumph. They broke out into something that might best be described as a twisted version of the Jubilate Deo. With Andrea still lying on the floor, insensible, Ms. Madison felt very, very alone.

Then, without warning, the lights went out. The great control room fell silent. All Ms. Madison could see was the red LEDs of the countdown. Then, slowly, that, too faded from view. Cries of dismay rose from the men of the Order. Loudest among them was the leader of the Order.

"No!" he yelled, "This cannot be! Emergency power!"

Ms. Madison heard someone throwing switches, the sound of frantic activity. The leader began to curse his men, as the lights did not come back on. Then, as suddenly as they had gone out, the lights went back on, the machinery of the base humming back into life. Moments later, the countdown blinked back on, resuming from where it had left off.

"Get that countdown adjusted!" the leader cried, "those bombs must explode at exactly the right time for maximum effect!"

Ms. Madison offered up a silent prayer to heaven that the countdown might be delayed, that the bombs would do the least possible damage. But the Order's workers were easily able to adjust the numbers, until the countdown stood at a mere fifteen seconds. She felt panic rise in her breast, as the Order's leader resumed his laughter.

"Ten..." a member of the Order began to verbally count down "...nine ... eight ... seven ... six..."

Ms. Madison prayed hearder than she'd ever prayed in her life.

"Five... four ... three ... two ... one ..."

"The Order f Cain Triumphs!" the leader crowed, as the countdown reached zero. "Show the destruction on the monitors!"

"There will be no destruction." A grim voice echoed across the control room. The leader turned. Ms. Madison laughed with relief.

"The Green Man!" the leader exclaimed, " can't be!"

"Leader!" one of the technicians looked up from his control panel. "The bombs have not exploded! The radio signal didn't go out!"

"You're missing this." The Green Man produced an odd-shaped piece of circuitry from his coat.

Ms. Madison let out a cry of joy. Two of the guards of the Order rushed the figure in green. He crew a gun from his left pocket, and shot them down. With a third shot, he removed Ms. Madison's hendcuffs.

"There will be no trimph for the Order of Cain." The Green Man dashed the piece of electronics to the ground. "The moment is over. Copies of the map you left at the Mission have been received by the US government. Your bombs will be found."

While he spoke, Ms. Madison hurried to one of the dead men, picking up his gun. She covered some of the Order.

"Get the redhead over here." The Green Man gestured to one of the trembling men of the Order.

"You may have won this battle," the leader snarled, "but the Order of Cain will commit the Cosmic Crime in time."

"No." The Green Man took a step towards him. "Since I discovered your existence, I have determined that your order is one of the evils from the pit - and I shall send it back there!"

He fied a shot into one of the consoles, which burst into flame.

"I have set the self-desturct mechanism on this base into motion," the Green Man announced. "I have also disabled the doors. My friends and I will use the one escape pod. You will perish by fire, just as you planned to slay millions. Farewell."

He picked up Andrea and walked calmly through the door, locking it behind him. As he and Ms. Madison stepped into the Escape pod, a huge explosion rocked the base. It buffetted the tiny craft, as it floated to the surface. Ms. Madison and the Green Man traded relieved glances.

Sat on the beach, slowly tanning, Ms. Madison smiled at the still concealed Green Man. With Andrea in hospital for observation, she and the Green Man were alone.

"Andrea said you stopped a bullet,"she noted. "How comes you're fine?"

"Bullet-proof waistcoat," the Green Man told her. "It gave me the opportunity to do some sabotage while the Order of Cain revelled in their triumph."

"Do you think the Order's destroyed?" Ms. Madison pressed on.

"Frankly, no," the Green Man shook his head. "The Order's power is broken, but there will always be zealots who see religious enlightenment in stepping into the shadows."

"And there 'll always be the Green Man to stop them," Ms. Madison smiled.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Butler Did It: Three

Henry Tremble, butler to Judge Johnes, has been dismissed for misconduct. Believing himself wronged, the butler has gone to remonstrate with his master, taking a gun with him. The Judge refuses to be intimidated, and Tremble loses his temper, pulling on the trigger...

It's all over very quickly. The Judge catches the full force of the blast. As Henry looks down at the bloodied body by his feet, there can be no doubt that he is dead. He won't be hiring Henry again. In fact, no-one will be hiring him. Only the hangman will want to see him. If the villagers do not slay him first, for the old judge was a popular man.

Then, suddenly, unbidden, a thought occurs to him. A mad, insane thought. If he can c.over up the death for a few days, long enough for him to get on a boat to American in Liverpool. Not that long ago, a poacher slew one of the gamekeepers at Trawsgoed, Lord Lisburne's mansion over the mountains, and he was able to get to Liverpool and escape.

But then he realises someone must have heard his shot. Someone will get to the Post Ofiice and send a telegram. Once a warrant's out for his arrest, he will be as good as dead. He has to cover up the evidence, has to stop them.

And that's when it comes to him. He may be able to get away with it if he kills all the people in the mansion. He laughs, re-loads and advances up the stairs, with cat-like tread. Turning on the landing, he throws open the door of Mrs. Cookham, the Judge's widowed daughter. She's changing for bed, her maid beside her. Tremble discharges one barrel at her, but the maid throws herself in front of her mistress. The second shot fells Mrs. Cookham, and Tremble moves on to the bedroom of Miss Johnes, the younger daughter.

Only to find it empty. In his state of mind, he realises he had forgotten that she had gone out to a dance with friends. She and they will be back, and one of them is bound to raise the alarm. The gallows return to his mind. As he feels to his cottage, he hears the barking of the house dogs. He shoots them, using up all but one of his bullets. That one he uses on himself.

When Miss Johnes returns from her dance, she finds the whole grisly tableau just as Tremble had left it, except for her sister, who proves weak but alive.

There can be no doubt about Tremble, however, he is very dead indeed.

Judge Johnes is buried in great state in Caio churchyard, mourned through all Wales. At the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham, the field is silent in his memory.

And what of Henry Tremble, the Bulter who did it? He, too, is laid in Caio cemetery. But not to rest. The night after his burial, his coffin is dug up and thrown into the roadway. It is buried again, and once more it is dug up. At last, it is laid in another churchyard, in secret, although at last it returns to Caio to lie undisturbed.

And Tremble? By he sought to gain his heart's desire by stepping into the shadows. He gained only death and infamy. He will remain forever in the shadows. His body may lie at rest at last, but what of his spirit?