Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Man Who Got Away With it: Two

It is the year 1851, William Sheward of Norwich, 35, has killed his wife in a fit of temper. After wandering Mousehold Heath, just outside the city, he resolves to return to his house and face the music.

Imagine his surprise, therefore, when he finds no policemen waiting for him. Only the cold, stiff body of Martha. And a thought creeps, unbidden, into the mind of the murderer. He realises that he might be able to get away with murder

He hides the body of his wife under the bed, and the next day he tells the neighbours that Martha has left him and returned to London. He's lucky, for Martha had been thinking of this, and had confided in the neighbours. The fatal row seems a good excuse, and she has not been reported as a missing person.

Sheward cuts the corpse into small pieces, and in a macabre act, he spreads them all over the city. At first the authorities believe that anatomy students are having a joke, but then it becomes obvious that all the pieces add up to a whole body. The parts are re-assembled to form a headless body. The authorities realise that they are dealing with a murder.

But Sheward's luck holds. The body is incorrectly aged as belonging to a girl in her late teens or early twenties, not the middle-aged Martha. Soon, William Sheward is able to sleep well at nights, except for the occasional nightmare.

He swears off alcohol and soon becomes a successful businessman. He is able to move out of the house of death in Tabernacle street, and soon marries again. Even so, he cannot fully shake off the memory of his dreadful act.

His second marriage brings old memories back, and Sheward's health begins to suffer. Soon, his wife is wondering just what is wrong with her prosperous husband. She recommends a trip away from the city, away from his properties, away from the pressures of business.

To London.

The Cosmic Crime: Part Two

Andrea met Ms. Madison at the airport, driving a fast car. She smiled, seeing the classy beauty of the Secretary.

"I'm afraid you're going to get very dusty," she told Ms. Madison, voice hearty. "We're headed for a little cabin in the hills outside the city. And you," she looked across at the blonde, "are going to have to get some new kit. Out here everyone's relaxed. You'll stick out like a sore thumb."

"I don't mind," Ms. Madison laughed back, her tones musical. "After all, we're monk-hunting, aren't we?"

"You've got it," Andrea nodded. "Hop in. I'll fill you in on the way there."

The girls got into Andrea's roadster, and soon they were headed out of the city at speed. Ms. Madison removed her hat, letting thewind whip at her hair. She laughed, glad to feel the sun on her face. America was refrshingly different from England, and she loved it. Soon, she'd be able to wind everything up, and then she could get down to some serious sunbathing.

"This is lovely, isn't it?" she turned to speak to Andrea, donning her sunglasses.

"Better than gloomy old England," Andrea concurred. "What shall we do next?"

"Show me the hidden headquarters of the Order of Cain," Ms. Madison told her colleague. "Then we can call for the Green Man."
"I don't know where it is," Andrea confessed. "Only that that Order of Cain is active here. I was attacked by them on Sunset Boulevard - black robes and all!"
"So we operate here on the assumption that this is their base of operations, then?" Ms. Madison tore her eyes away from the scenery.
"I assume that's why the Green Man sent you over," Andrea nodded. "Do you think he's close behind?"
"Wherever he is," Ms. Madison replied, "it's the right place."
In talking, the girls had quite forgotten to check their surroundings. They did not notice the car that pulled up beside them until it slammed into the side of the roadster.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Man who got away with it.

The city of Norwich, looking towards Bishopsgate. In the year 1851, on Tabernacle Street, a small blind alley off this street, there lived a couple whose life was just another blind alley, in a small and squalid house. William Sheward, aged 35, had married middle-aged Martha, who he had met in London. At first the marriage was happy, but when the first ardour of love faded, she seemed old and cruel. Her incessant nagging of her young husband caused William to crawl inside a bottle. The house was filthy and broken down, while William was chronically short of money. Martha's sole contribution to the housekeeping was to brow-beat her husband. Soon love turned to hate. Deadly hate.

On Sunday June 15th 1851, when the congregation are gathering at the mighty Tabernacle chapel opposite the Shewards' little hovel, the temperature of the Shewards' appalling marriage reaches boiling point. After an argument about money, Sheward flees to the bathroom. Perhaps that might have been the last of it, but William's eyes at that night alight on his razor, lying by the basin. Rage boils up inside him, and he walks out of the bathroom, the razor in his hand.

His wife completely ignores him, sitting on the bed with her back to him, her manner offensive. This is the last straw. William sees red. And it's the easiest thing in the world to reach round and slit her throat. from ear to ear.

It's all over very quickly. Soon, the odious Mrs. Sheward is lying on the floor, in a rapidly spreading pool of blood. It's very red and all very real. Sheward is sorry now, but the deed is done. Martha is dead, and the dripping razor in William's hand has his fingerprints on it.

Sheward runs away, terrified by the knowledge of what he has done. He spent several hours wandering Mousehold Heath, just beyond Bishop's Bridge. He considers killing himself a few times, but he hasn't the heart to shed more blood, even his own. At last, he returns to the house of death, ready to surrender himself to the law.
He knows that he will swing for the terrible deed he has committed. He seems to hear the Judge's words. 'You will be taken from here to a prison, from there you will be taken to a place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead."

The Cosmic Crime: Part One

Two months have passed since the leader of the Order of Cain escaped from their secret temple in Ringstead, Norfolk. The Brethren in Ringstead are either dead or under arrest for the murder of a number of prominent amateur historians. While the Police believe that they have cracked the case, the Green Man knows that the Order of Cain are planning a serious crime. A crime of cosmic proportions. Accordingly, the Green Man's agents of vengeance are combing the world for a trace of the remaining members of the Order of Cain. As our story opens, Ms. Madison has been called away from a dance at the Savoy with her long-term admirer, Mr. Michael Rake and told to board a cab. This cab has taken Ms. Madison out of London and stopped at the gates of a long-deserted country house.

Ms. Madison approached the house cautiously, the heels of her evening slippers sinking into the leaf mold Straggling branches tugged at her dress, but she was able to shrug them off. Flicking on her flashlight, Ms. Madison approached the overgrown door. Brushing the bushes aside, Ms. Madison climbed the steps and entered the derelict house.

"Good evening, Ms. Madison." She was greeted by the familiar voice of the Green Man. "Did I interrupt anything?"

"Lots," Ms. Madison replied. "Mike - Mr. Rake- was about to propose. You spared me the need to think up a new excuse. Why must you hang around in places like this?"

"A house being reclaimed by nature," the Green Man spoke softly. "Appropriate for the Green Man, don't you think?"

"I suppose so," the blonde smiled. "I won't ask why I can't meet you at your real base. I know that. Now, why did you call me?"

"The Order of Cain," the Green Man replied. "Andrea has been co-ordinating search efforts in America. Today she called me from Sacramento, capital of California, to say that she's been involved in a shoot-out with some gentlemen in black robes. It looks like we have located their American base of operations. And, according to the words spoken by the leader of the order, America is to be the target of their next crime. A crime of truly cosmic proportions."

"I know," Ms. Madison nodded. "The order of Cain believe that the commission of what seem like horrifying crimes is part of the movement towards enlightenment."

"You will return to the taxi," the Green Man went on. "The taxi will take you straight to the airport, where you will board a flight to Los Angeles. There, you will meet Andrea and hunt for the base of the Order in California. We have to discover what this crime is that the order intends. And then we must stop it. Whatever it takes."

As the taxi carried her away from the derelict house, Ms. Madison could not but look back. She wondered what was the matter.

Vengeance Villa

The blackened ruins of what was once a pleasing country house, now an eyesore in its overgrown park. This house's last owner, Mr. Stephen Thanet, was an art collector, who possessed a notable collection of antiques and Old Masters.

But Thanet, who was renowned in the local community as a philanthropist, had a secret. He had been a notorious drug-smuggler and blackmailer, under his real name, Joe Spengler. Living on his ill-gotten gains, he hoped to pass a quiet life, to forget about the people he had driven to self-destruction. Now he was famous throughout the neighbourhood for his parties.

The night of the 29th November, 1998 will live for ever in the memory of the locality. Stephen Thanet threw a party in honour of his daughter, who had become engaged to the son of a local land-owner. It was to be a night to remember. At the request of the girl, the party was a fancy-dress affair. There was no theme, so people came dressed in any sort of costume. Thanet was on top of the world. This was his finest hour.

As he withdrew into his study, the evil man found a figure in green waiting for him, a gun in his hand. The Green Man offered him a choice. He could either write a confession or a suicide note, the latter saying he was killing himself because he was ruined. His money would go to the families of those Thanet had ruined, either way.

His daughter found the body, and the suicide note. She insisted that the house be sold and, when it couldn't, left it to rot. His art collection was sold. And here's the rub. The proceeds of the sale went to charity.

You see, it was Miss Thanet who had informed the Green Man of the true identity of her father.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Twenty

The lovely blonde could not contain the horrified gasp that escaped her carmined lips, raising her free hand to her mouth. The leader of the Order of Cain laughed diabolically, as he moved closer to her. Ms. Madison cringed back, the hood falling from her head. The leader reached out, taking hold of Ms. Madison's head. The blonde could not help but tremble.

"Afraid?" he chuckled mockingly.

"Let's see," Ms. Madison sighed. "I'm in a big Gothic building being menaced by guys in big black robes. Of course I'm afraid, it's all down to being trapped in a Gothic novel."

"Funny girl," another of the monkish figures observed.

"I try to be," Ms. Madison smiled. "Now, shall we get down to brass tacks? You've killed my colleagues, and now you need to deal with me."

"Why?" the leader shook his head. "You know only where our secret temple is. This isn't even our secret base. That's not even in this country. You know nothing."

"I know enough," Ms. Madison smiled cutely. "Like the fact that you hold no deep, dark secret about the early years of Christianity."

Every man there started. Ms. Madison laughed softly, shaking her lovely head.

"Got you there," she grinned.

"Well done," the leader laughed. "How did you discover that?"

"Looking through the records," Ms. Madison replied. "You sent your goons round to attack us when we hadn't enough to trace what secrets you held."

"And you guessed that it wasn't because of a hidden secret, but because that was all there was?"

"If there'd been a real secret," Ms. Madison laughed, "you'd have removed the papers about that. Therefore there had to be something in the papers we had. You were just running a neat little scam on gnosticism, weren't you?"

"Not 'just,' my dear lady," the leader laughed. "The poor stupid fools have paid for their own destruction! Seven million dollars from California alone!"

"Which means that your cosmic crime has to do with America," Ms. Madison smiled gently.

"I've already said too much," the man replied. "Sadly, you have to die." He raised his gun, and Ms. Madison prepared herself for death, as she heard the man's fingers close on the trigger. She imagined the terrible jolt that would come as the hot lead ripped through her innards.

"If you fire," a familiar voice broke in on the scene, "your death will take weeks. Not hours, not even days. Weeks."

"The Green Man!" the men of the Order of Cain fell back.

"That's right." The familiar figure in Green strode into the main body of the Church. "My associate and I had the foresight to hide at the rear of the church when we found that death device of yours. It was a couple of your own people who got cooked.

"Yeah," Andrea moved forward, covering them. "So don't try anything else."

"You're finished!" the Green Man snarled. "Put down that gun!"

The gun clattered to the floor. At the same time, however, the floor opened up to receive the leader of the order, while his brethren went for their guns. As they were gunned down, the leader vanished.

"You could have shot him!" Ms. Madison exclaimed.

"I could have." The Green Man nodded. "But the time isn't right. We have yet to know what this cosmic crime is."

"Still, Ms. Madison sighed. "This one thing's for certain. "After Samuelson brings out his book, no-one 'll be giving any money to the Order of Cain."

"We don't know if the world will last that long." Andrea's voice was doom-laden

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Nineteen

"There!" Andrea pointed up at the porch. There, in what had to be part of a Victorian restoration, was a niche, containing a statue of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He looked as if he wished he could be somewhere else, while the lamb he carried over his shoulders looked equally desperate to be elsewhere. It could have been simply a testimony to the badness of much Victorian carving, or...

Beneath the statue was an inscription in block capitals: 'I AM THE DOOR.'

That was too much to be coincidence.

"Get the ladder!" the Green Man commanded, as he drew his gun. "And place it so someone could step through the niche."

"Pardon?" Ms. Madison looked confused (as Andrea noticed the clue, and the Green Man is in charge, so that leaves Lynnette to be the dumb one. I promise to make it up to her some time).

"The inscription's a clue," Andrea laughed, as she propped the ladder up against the porch. 'Those jokers got in through the arch above the porch - at least it looks like it."

The Green Man climbed the ladder, his coat flapping in the breeze. At last, he pulled down the iron shepherd's crook, and the statue swung inwards. Moments later, a man in black robes left the way the Green Man had gone. He landed on his head, so we need bother with him no more. The girls climbed up behind, Andrea bringing up the rear, checking the scene while wielding her gun menacingly.

The space was empty, but a deep air of menace lingered over the place. As the three intrepid crime fighters made their way forward, they could hear voices, and the weird scent of incense made their way into the nostrils of the adventurers. Ms. Madison drew her own gun. There could be no doubt that the church was being used by the secret order of Cain.

Andrea lingered by the entrance, watching for any more of the brethren, cocking her gun. Ms. Madison moved towards the far door. Plucking a black robe from a hook by the door, Ms. Madison donned it by way of disguise. Master and secretary traded glances, before Ms. Madison moved into the body of the church.

The building was darkened, lit by candles, casting weird shadows, as they danced in the breeze. The brethren were gathered around a flaming brazier, as a man with a gold sash stood before it, muttering. Ms. Madison moved closer, straining to hear.

"It is almost prepared," the man with the gold sash spoke. "For too long, we of the Order of Cain have been silent. The world has forgotten us, and we have been content to leech the gullible - all the more as people looked to turn away from the church. But soon we shall attain to a greater level of perfection...."

"Soon we shall be enlightened," another of the men laughed. "Gentlemen, we shall soon be in possession of a greater power than could have been dreamed of. We shall change the shape of the world."

"Literally." the leader chuckled.

"And what of you, brother?" the man turned to Ms. Madison.

She said nothing, feeling the colour drain from her face. The man seized the blonde's wrist, pulling up the sleeve of Ms. Madison's robe, revealing the soft, ivory skin of a woman.

"An intruder!" one of the men drew a revolver. Ms. Madison looked behind her for the Green Man, only to hear a laugh from the leader of the order.

"You have friends, girl," the leader chuckled. "Well, I have more than that - this is my headquarters!" He laughed, and Ms. Madison could only watch helplessly, as flames belched from the chamber above the porch.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday Supplement: Traditionalist Church

Sir Richard Arcos writes: Having spent much time visiting the newer sorts of church, I decided this week to pay a visit to a church noted for its attachment to tradition. My daughter decided to write an annoying letter to me, telling me that I was a hypocrite for all my writing about 'modern' churches, and that I should go to a church that was more wedded to tradition.

So I decided to visit the church of St. Nicholas, Beerburgh. The Rector of Beerburgh, the hon. Stuart Steward-Sausage, is a noted defender of tradition. He has opposed every innovation over the last five decades on the basis that it 'isn't the way we do things.'

Arriving at the church for nine-fifteen, I noted that it was in a state of some disrepair. The roof has apparently been missing for twenty years, after the regiular carpenter died, and the new man proposed to use an electric saw. The small congregation now sits rather forlornly on fallen stones, while the distinguished Rector preaches from the shattered remains of the pulpit. The Organ has long since decayed, and now the congregation sings rather tunelessly from damp-stained hymnbooks.

The first hymn was 'Rock Of Ages', after which the announcements were read out. These have not been changed since 1956, which is a pity, as a number of the places mentioned no longer exist, and if anyone tries to visit the place mentioned as the point where one may go after the service, they will find it is now a leisure centre.

The sermon was entitled, 'Be British.' It was devoid of biblical content, although full of patriotic sentiment. We had numerous refences to the British Empire, although none to that everlasting kingdom. The rector mentioned his pre-war service in 'Rhodesia, which is now called by another name.' The scene was immensely affecting, although not in the right way. These were people who looked back to a kingdom that was ended, and not to that kingdom which is to come. The worship was directed to the old England, a country that is almost perished, and not 'a better country, that is, an heavenly' realm.

And yet, at evensong, this church, living on the tradtions of the British Empire sings:

So be it Lord, thy Throne shall never,
Like Earth's Proud Empires, pass away:
Thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever
Till all Thy Creatures Own Thy Sway!
If only they knew...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Eighteen

Approaching the church, the Green Man and his associates notes at once that this was a very strange building. A tall chimney stuck up from the rear of the vestry, which was attached to a side aisle so vast as to be almost another nave. With tall windows, a soft light glowing within, the church seemed the very image of mystery.

"It might be a week-evening service," Ms. Madison observed, voice soft.

"It might," the Green Man confessed. "But I don't think so. And nor, my dear Ms. Madison, do you?"

"I was trying to reassure myself," she confessed. "After what Samuelson said, I'm a bit worried about what they're up to."

"Crime of a cosmic scale." The Green Man looked across at the brooding gothic bulk of the church. "If this is the headquarters of the Order of Cain, this is where we should be. Andrea?"

"Ready," the red-head checked her gun.

"If you just mean your gun's loaded," the Green Man replied, "that is not enough. Ms. Madison, check the lane."

The blonde hurried across the churchyard, damp grass brushing her ankles, glad that she'd chosen sensible shoes. Looking down a country lane, she waited, containing a whistle as she realised she was looking for members of a secret order, Perhaps a secret order of super-criminals.

At long last, Ms. Madison saw three men in robes walking down the lane. She ducked behind a gravestone. As they drew nearer, she gave a bird call. Deep in conversation, the three men did not notice her. She breathed a sigh of relief, as they passed her position, her little heart beating fit to burst.

They did not notice her, and she was heartily glad for that. As they approached the church porch, they passed out of her sight. When she could be sure that they had not been seen, the blonde rose slowly to her feet, turning elegantly. The three dark monks would be easy to spot, she reasoned.

But there was nothing there, only a ladder resting against the tower. Ms. Madison hurried back to where Andrea and the Green Man were waiting.

She explained what had happened, and the Green Man shook his head, approaching the porch.

"They didn't use the door," he explained. "We would have heard it, and we'd have seen the light."

"If they just used the door," Andrea added, "there'd be no fun at all. But you should try the door, Lynnette."

"Okay," Ms. Madison made to enter the porch.

"Quietly," Anette looked down at the blonde's shoes.

Ms. Madison slipped off her shoes and crossed to the door, the tiles cold on her feet. She found the door thoroughly locked. There was rust on the padlock, and a spider's web across the door. It had ckearly not been opened recently. The footprints she'd left in the dust established it without a doubt. Looking back, she shook her head.

"Then where," Andrea rolled her eyes, did they go?"

The great gothic bulk of the church glowered down on them, its windows glowing, as the sun began to decline in the heavens.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Seventeen

The 'safe house' turned out to be the former village school, one of a very great number that closed not that long ago. Now converted into a pretty cottage, with a little dovecote outside, it was at that moment empty, awaiting a new occupier. The furniture was spartan but sufficient for the purposes of the crime gihters gathered there. Andrea was checking some guns, while the Green Man was making tea, and Ms. Madison, now wearing a blue evening gown, was on the 'phone to Samuelson, reviewing just exactly they did know about the Order of Cain. And that, she was fast finding out, was very little. Not even enough to cause concern, at least, if you didn't count the murders, which were now very definitely linked to them, and the events in the village pub, which certainly concerned Ms. Madison. Andrea seemed less bothered, but that might just have been a front. If she was honest, Ms. Madison had no idea how this sort of thing mught affect someone like Andrea. She had very little idea of what Andrea was like.

"From the little I've been able to extract from these papers," Samuelson informed the blonde, "it seems that some of the Order of Cain followed the crusaders back to Europe. Their dubious ideas were not appreciated, and they were persecuted. A few escaped to the darker corners of Christendom, and there are fragmentary records that the Order bought a hostelry at Ringstead, in the County of Norfolk."

"They still own that," Ms. Madison cut in. "We tried to take rooms there this morning."

"Oh dear." The cleric sounded worried.

"Oh, that's okay," Ms. Madison laughed," the Green Man found us, and then it was the Order who were in trouble. Anything else, Reverend?"

"Yes," the clergyman sounded excited. "The Order of Cain managed to 'turn' a local knight. He gave them money and other things, in the belief that they held the true secret of eternal life. A secret they will only share with a 'true believer'."

"And I'm betting that, over the years, there've been more suckers than that one knight," Ms. Madison shook her head.

"But it's impossible to know," Samuelson explained. "The membership of the Order is a deep dark secret, and only the leaders know about everyone."

"And that list could be the secret..." Ms. Madison sighed in realisation.

"Quite," Samuelson chuckled. "Apparently, the Order's people hold their meetings on consecrated ground."

"We'll check the Parish Church," Ms. Madison confirmed.

"But be careful," the retired cleric warned her. "There's evidence that the Order of Cain believe that the commission of serious, cosmic-scale crimes is the way towards illumination. Remember, they are named after Cain, the first murderer, and one of their heroes is Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ - a cosmic crime of the first water!"

"Okay," Ms. Madison agreed.

"News?" the Green Man asked her, as she put down the 'phone.

"There's every likelihood of there being something involving the Order of Cain at the Parish Church here," Ms. Madison announced.

"I'll get my gun," Andrea cut in.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Announcement

Due to the changes in blogger, the Green Man's blog has merged with Sir Richard Arcos' blog. Sir Richard Arcos then gave the Green Man his blog title, as the Green Man is the more terrifying figure.

The Green Man is not Sir Richard Arcos, nor is Sir Richard Arcos the Green Man. Witness the fact that Sir Richard is eighty, and no eighty year old can do the things the Green Man does.

Seasonal Message from our Sponsors

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The Secret Order of Doom: Part Sixteen

The girls ducked at the sound of the shot, pain shooting through them, the sort of pain the body generates when it believes that it has been injured. Then they straightened up, as each realised they had not been shot. They traded glances, then looked ahead.

The man with the gun stumbled, his gun falling from nerveless fingers. Ms. Madison and Andrea watched in relieved amazement, as the remaining monks fell back. Someone shouted, this being followed by the sound of somebody (probably the same person) getting thumped. Two of the men turned to deal with this intruder, only to duck, as the person, invisible to the girls, engaged them with tremendous ferocity). The four remaining monks watched for a moment, stunned at the turn of events.

Then, deciding that amazement time was over, the girls went on the offensive, Andrea dragging one of the men into the room, while Ms. Madison took on another. The others tried to intervene, but in the narrow passage, and finding themselves boxed in, it was not until Andrea felled her man with a jolting blow to the jaw that his fellows were able to intervene.

Ms. Madison, barefoot and in a nightie, was scarcely able to fight as well as she might have wished. Even so, she was able to render her man unconscious, before starting on the others. Combining with Adrea, she was able to put the remaining men to flight, where the Green Man (for it was he that had fired the shot) knocked them out.

"Teamwork," the Green Man stepped into the room. "Now, if you girls could break every piece of advice your mothers ever gave you and get into bad habits, we can be out of here."

The girls removed the habits from two of the brothers, and found nothing remarkable beneath. They were just normal, ordinary, everyday people. Probably pillars of the local community or something.

"I'm not ungrateful," Andrea donner a robe that trailed on the ground," but how did you find us?"

"When the landlord of the pub said you had moved on, "the Green Man explained, "I started shooting out the bottles behind the bar. He was quick enough to tell me then."

"I should have guessed," Ms. Madison laughed. "But where do we go from here?"

"We descend to the ground," the Green Man explained, "then you girls will repair to a safe house of mine in the village. There we will plan our next move, which has to be to locate their headquarters and confront them with their evil. We must know why they are killing people. And we must make them pay for their evil. In blood."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Fifteen

Ms. Madison woke slowly and painfully, her every joint aching. She knew that she had been moved. But this didn't exactly surprise the blonde secretary. There hadn't been any reason other than kidnap for feeding the girls knock-out juice in their drinks. After all, it wasn't like they had been threatening anyone, nor had they been holding anyone up.

Neither was she surprised to note that someone had undressed her. Villains tend to do that, even monkish ones (but that was obvious, as was the nightgown the girl had been dressed in). Sitting up, Ms. Madison felt even more wretched than ever. The fact that she'd got wallopped the night before probably didn't help, either. After all, Andrea, was sitting up and taking notice. She wore her underclothes, rather than a filmy nightie, and Ms. Madison felt even harsher towards the Order of Cain.

"Hello there, sleepy-head," Andrea laughed happily. "And how are you?"

"Probably concussed," Ms. Madison scowled. "You?"

"Never better," the red-head laughed. "I see they bothered to get you ready of bed."

"I'm a blonde," the secretary sighed. "That tends to make the villains dress me in skimpy clothes and leer at me, if not actually threaten to make me their wife."

"That was Dale Arden in Flash Gordon," Andrea observed brightly. "I've never read about anyone wanting to marry you, except that boyfriend of yours."

"Okay, so I exaggerated," Ms. Madison shrugged. "Do I really look like I care?"

"No," Andrea confessed, getting to her feet. "Where do you think we are, Lynette?"

"In a cell," Ms. Madison smiled impishly. "But I think we're somewhere close to the centre of the Cainite complex (hidden, of course)." And, in so doing, Ms. Madison proved that it is possible to speak in brackets.

"Swell," Andrea crossed to a window, drawing aside a curtain. She saw a very long drop towards the ground, as the brick walls of the building with the cell sloped outwards.

"We're in a windmill!" Andrea announced.

"Great," Ms. Madison sighed. "I don't suppose we have sails to climb out onto?"

"Nope," the redhead confessed. "But..."

Before she could say anything further, the door of the cell opened, admitting seven men in monkish robes. The girls started, seeing that the men were armed.

"You have come far," one of the men spoke. "But you will go no further." He cocked the pistol. The girls drew back.

The explosion of the gun in the confined space was deafening.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Fourteen

Andrea and Ms. Madison looked up at the sign of the ancient, long and low-lying inn. It read 'The Gin Trap.'

"Looks like they've got an order out against tippler," Andrea laughed. "Or do you think they're really into debauching the morals of the locals and some artist-errant stepped in?"

"Artists," Ms. Madison frowned, "are never errant. Except that they err a lot, at least around pretty blondes." Dressed in a sweater and slacks, with a sweet yachting cap on her golden curls, Ms. Madison looked refreshingly informal.

"That's what you get for being blonde," Andrea laughed. "Most of the wolves are scared of redheads."

"So, you're American, are you?" Ms. Madison returned to the personal tack she'd been trying ever since the two girls had set off from Samuelson's house.

"Possibly," Andrea remained infuriating. "But perhaps not. I was travelled a lot when I was young."

"I only recently took up travelling," Ms. Madison confessed. "The Green Man's told me all about you, but I didn't think we'd ever actually meet. He likes to keep things seperate, after all."

"Things and people," Andrea nodded. "Now, shall we call in at this hotel and pretend to be two girl tourists?"

"So long as the Green Man's paying," Ms. Madison smiled. "See, I'm afraid I'm broke right now. Heavy month and all that."

"Meaning a trip to Paris," Andrea smiled. "You really must watch out, Ms. Madison."

"Lynette, please," the young woman protested. "We are colleagues, after all."

"Sure," Andrea nodded. "Now, let's get something to eat - I'm famished!"

The girls both checked hidden weapons, Ms. Madison the small automatic she had, Andrea her rather more powerful weapon. After all, Ringstead was where the enemy had once had their seat. Indeed, given the remoteness of the village, there was every possiblity of it still being their headquarters. But that, of course, was why the two girls were there.

The lack of armed monkish figures when they walked into the bar reassured the two girls enormously, as did the friendly expression on the face of the landlord. Here, at least, it seemed that there was no cold shoulder for outsiders.

The girls ordered a couple of drinks, then sat down by the window, glad of the safe surroundings, and considering their next move. They were still wondering whento start when Andrea began to fidget, playing with her collar. Ms. Madison could see beads of perspiration on the redhead's face. And no wonder, for the room was definitely heating up.

"What's up?" she asked. Her voice seemed very faint and far away.

She never even heard Andrea's reply, for darkness claimed her.

Really Delayed Sunday Supplement: DIY Church

Ms. L. Madison, our deputy correspondent writes: Having had a fight with Mr. Rake, I decided to visit a church other than the usual local one. This church was 'The Flock of', a house church meeting in the living room of a suburban semi.

And I haven't been in a suburban semi for a very long time. My father no longer invites me to his house, mostly as he's a detective, and the Green Man is counted as a ciminal, albeit one no-one can catch.

The Pastor, a man in a crumpled gaudy shirt, welcomed us, while his wife made coffee in the kitchen. I felt most out-of-place in my Sunday best. I mean, what's a girl with a hat to do when she's sat on a sofa and it's interfering with the head of a man?

I know, 'take it off.' And that's what I did, although he still glared at me. I didn't glare back. I had to buy a lot of new frocks lately, and my bank balance is way down. The Green Man doesn't pay me lots, although the travel is free, and a girl has to have a certain aura of loadedness about her, you know...

Now, where was I?

Yes, the welcome. There was a guitar playing, although not very well. Everyone looked at me as though I was a visitor from another world. They may not have been all that wrong, as they were dressed informally, while I was dressed in my normal church clothes. And believe me, that's no good thing, folks. I felt very out of place.

Singing was done from a seated position, and I'm afraid I fell asleep during the longish singing of choruses. Someone jabbed me in the side, and I gave them a dirty look, despite them being the prosperous-looking young man (I like prosperous-looking young men. Hell, I'm so broke I'll even go for old and ugly men with some money).

There was no sermon, only an informal talk. Which I'm hardly surprised at, after all, it was a living room. The talk was on a theme, that of Jesus as our righteousness. Sadly, the Pastor was not a good speaker, and he mumbled. His wife corrected him several times, as did a younger man who looked like he thought he owned the place (I later discovered he did).

The Pastor got into a blazing row with the man in question, and the Pastor's wife got tea for everyone. Me, I decided to make myself scarce, while the gentleman who looked like he had some dough talked to me. I found out he's a stockbroker, and that he lives on a nice estate. Things went no further.

At this point, the Green Man jumped someone outside the house, and we got the pastor to perform an impromptu funeral.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Thirteen

Ms. Madison and the Rev. Samuelson waited in the dark, scracely daring to breathe, as they listened for whoever had caused the lights to go out.

"Of course, it could just be a normal power outage," the venerable cleric began.

"But I won't believe that in a million years," Ms. Madison sighed. "We're bait in a trap, Reverend, "the Green Man's trap, I'll admit, but still a trap. The Order are supposed to find us and make an attempt to wipe us out."

"Just like the others..." the clergyman groaned. "Why didn't you tell me before?"

"Easy," Ms. Madison rose to her feet, "because you'd 've refused."

The aged clergyman's silence confirmed this point. And it was at this moment that Ms. Madison's acute hearing picked up a soft footfall outside the library door. She tensed, adopting a fighting stance. Whatever she might have on, even if it was only a nightie and dressing-gown, she was going to show them what it meant to tangle with the Green Man's people. She only wished she could see enough to be able to chance a shot or two with the tiny (and very illegal) pocket pistol the Green Man had given her.

As the door creaked open, Ms. Madison drew back, she head the heaver tread of the Reverend, as he, too, drew back. She just saw movement in the open door, as someone crept stealthily inside. She could not but think of a scene from a nightmare. Just a movement in the darkness...

Somewhere, out in the grounds, she heard the roar of a gun. The figure in the shadows started, giving away his position. Ms. Madison moved swiftly, her little fist making contact with the robed figure's stomach. A few more blows determined what was where. Taken by surprised, the man crumpled to the ground, very unconscious. Ms. Madison smiled, knowing that she'd scored a small victory. And that it wasn't bad for a secretary.

Then a heavy fist struck her in the mouth. Ms. Madison span around, her head swimming. A second blow left her gasping, the iron tang of blood in her mouth. She was able to dodge a third from that source, but into a blow from another man caught her on the jaw, and she went down, her head buzzing.

"You have tried to find the secrets of the Order of Cain," someone spoke, planting a foot on Ms. Madison's throat. "Like those others who came before you, you will die."

The lights came up suddenly, and three shots rang out. The man whose foot was on Ms. Madison's throat fell over. Ms. Madison just lay there, feeling wretched. Soon, she felt a shadow fall over her. She opened her eyes again, her head still buzzing. She saw a dark gown and high-heeled shoes. And a large and threatening automatic.

"Andrea..." the blonde groaned, looking up into the smiling face of the mysterious red-head.

"You're a mess," the redhead shook her head, still smiling. "Did you know you've got a load of blood all over your nightie?"

"I don't know much right now," Ms. Madison confessed. "Apart from the buzzing in my head.

"Reverend!" Andrea called out, "get a cushion! Ms. Madison's hurt!" There was real concern in her voice, and Ms. Madison appreciated that.

Then the redhead picked up the 'phone and called a number which changed on a regualr basis.

Moments later, the lights went down again, and the Green Man strode into the library.

"All done?" the Green Man asked.

"All done," Andrea confirmed. "There's enough in those documents to blow the Order of Cain wide open."

"Reverend Samuelson?" The Green Man spoke to the retired vicar.

"No," the reverend gentleman shook his head emphatically. "This mass of paper tells us nothing. If I were to judge by all this alone, I should say that there's no secret at all guarded by the Order of Cain.

"Fascinating," the Green Man observed. "Is there anything that you have learned?"

"We know where the old secret cell was," Ms. Madison spoke from her position on the floor. "It was located in Ringstead, just up the coast from here."

"Well done!" the Green Man spoke emphatically. "You can have a bonus for that. Andrea, Ms. Madison, tomorrow, you will leave for Ringstead."

"And right now," Ms. Madison sighed, "I'm going to lose consciousness...

Which she did.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Twelve

When the Green Man had suggested that her next move should be to stay with the Rev. Samuelson and work on the papers recovered from the various murder sites, Ms. Madison had imagined that she'd be staying in a cosy country cottage, maybe with a thatched roof, and vines growing up the walls. Imagine her surprise, therefore, when she discovered that the Samuelson's house was a rambling mock-tudor pile. It had three libraries, one of which was devoted to esoteric information, including all published works on the Order of Cain. Not that this was hard, as there were five of them, and one was a children's book (albeit one that hadn't sold). Andrea, the mysterious redhead who'd brought the papers, was elsewhere, presumably checking the grounds for mysterious monkish figures. While Ms. Madison had intended to have an early night, cries of excitement from the learned and Reverend gentleman had brought her out of bed into the library. Accordingly, she was sorting through large boxes of paper while wearing her night-things. While expensive, these were hardly the sort of things of which her mother would have approved.

"What confuses me," Samelson shook his head, "is why these people were killed. If they knew the secret of the Order of Cain, why would they have been killed?"

"What do you mean?" Ms. Madison shook her head. "The secret might have..."

"No, my dear child," Samuelson leaned forward, still holding a scrawled on letter. "The Cainites believed that people were saved by coming to know the secret and hidden knowledge they guarded. If anything, they should have welcomed these people into the Order, not killed them. After all, the Order of Cain is supposed to hold a secret that, if revealed, would destroy the Church."

"Supposed is the word,"Ms. Madison lay back on a convenient chaise-longe, an old diary of a nineteenth-century member of the Order f Cain in her left hand. "Besides, are you sure you haven't mixed them up with the Priory of Sion in Dan Brown's book?"

"Yes," Samuelson sounded annoyed. The way he spoke to the blonde secretary indicated that he did not take her seriously. Given that she was wearing her night-things, she wasn't surprised.

"In that case," Ms. Madison carried on, "I agree with you. If they've got this terrific secret that could change the world, why are they killing people to keep it a secret?"

"It's a good question," Samuelson put down his manuscript. "I'd have thought they'd welcome this sort of scrutiny. Maybe the secret is more dark than any of the historians believe."

"You know," Ms. Madison stretched lazily, "I think that if we find the secret, we'll know exactly what these murders were all about."

"Despite the floor-show," Samuelson coughed, "I agree with you."

Ms. Madison blused fiercely, but before she could make a reply, all the lights went out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sinks of Iniquity 1: The Cat Hotel, Bastwick

This being an occasional series dedicated to things that should not be allowed. The reporter is our self-appointed Sinks of Iniquity correspondent, Sir Richard Arcos:

The Norfolk village of Bastwick had a lovely medieval church once. Then it fell down (or was pulled down, I fail to remember which). Only the gaunt tower now remains. And believe me, without its battlements, the tower's jolly gaunt. At some point in recentish memory, the tower was converted to offices, with useful things like floors and a ceiling. My daughter tells me there were plans to do something with these, but they fell through.

Anyway, the tower is now owned by the notorious Cat Hotel chain. This sounds like it's a boarding catttery of some sort. In fact, a perusal of the sign outside the mouldering tower reveals a very different story. Rooms in this place are let during the day only, and during working hours. I am reliably informed by some old and toothless gossip that cats can book in for a few hours for illicit trysts, and the management do not ask questions.

It's good to see that this particular sink of iniquity is closed on the Sabbath. So many sinks of iniquity violate this particular commandment as well. Take the still-notorious Adultery bureau, for example.

On second thoughts, perhaps not. They really were dubious. The blackmail as much as the hiring out of young women fresh out of Pudding Norton College.

Next time: The Cess-Pool Bandits.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Eleven

Inspector Bullock laughed wickedly, levelling his gun at the Green Man. He let his finger close slowly on the trigger, taking his time in a sadistic manner.

"Brother Lemuel." The Green Man spoke, but it was not the Green Man's voice that came from behind the mask. Rather, it was the voice of Inspector Bullock.

The Police Officer cringed back for a moment, before the explosive device concealed on his person exploded, killing him. For the second time that day, Ms. Madison's clothes were stained with blood. She groaned.

The six other robed figures were disorientated by their leader's sudden exit from this mortal life. The Green Man took the three who had stood on the Inspector's right, while Ms. Madison took those on the left, showing a surprising grasp of unarmed combat technique, given her looks and fashionable dress. All of which goes to show that one should never judge by appearances. Soon all six monkish figures were strewn about the nave of the chapel, quite senseless.

"And that never happened to the monkish types in the Da Vinci Code," Ms. Madison observed, smiling, as she smooted down her blonde hair. Her face was flushed, and her breathing faster than usual. "How was I?"

"You're a good learner," the Green Man told her admiringly. "Now, let's get the secret and get out of here."

A swift search of the tomb showed no sign of any clue at all. Ms. Madison shook her head.

"I think it was just a trap," she told the Green Man, as they walked across a playground to the rear of a large Methodist chapel. "Like the false clue in the Da Vinci Code, only deadlier. Which means that we've run up against another blank, especially with Inspector Bullock definitely off the case."

"Not a blank." The Green Man shook his head. "Remember the dead men? They all left notes. All of them must have found out the secret of the Order of Cain, and even if the papers dealing with that were destroyed, if all those papers were to be put together..."

"We'd know," Ms. Madison nodded. "But we need an expert, like the dead men."

"You've met him." The Green Man spoke briefly, and to the point.

"Samuelson?" Ms. Madison smiled. "And I suppose you've managed to get the papers somehow?"

"You could say that," the Green Man produced a mobile 'phone from under his trenchcoat. "Your red-headed colleague on my staff has been collecting them. And she'll be acting as bodyguard at Samelson's house, while you two work on the papers." He pressed a button on the 'phone, before raising it to his face.

The instrument on the other end rang a few times, before it was picked up, a little unsteadily.

"Andrea Salle," a sleepy voice on the other end declared. "Who's calling, please?"

"This is the Green Man," the avenger of evil spoke softly. "Do you have the papers?"

"I got in from burgling Nottingham Police Station two hours ago," Andrea Salle yawned. "So don't expect me to be in Norfolk until teatime. Where do I go?"

"Samuelson." The Green man spoke the name before ending the call.

"And I," Ms. Madison announced, "will be getting new kit before having a nice lunch. If I'm going to become bait for evil monks, I might as well have a good meal first."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Secret Order of Doom: Part Ten

The Green Man and Ms. Madison slipped, unnoticed into the Chapel of St. Nicholas, King's Lynn. With its mighty West Window and stubby tower, it looks rather strange. But then, as the largest private chapel in England, it is rather strange, so we must not blame it. The spire is a Victorian addition, so it must have looked still stranger before. This is because the tower belonged to an older, smaller chapel and no-one bothered to rebuild it when they did the rest of the chapel.

The Green Man drew his revolver as he opened the door, and Ms. Madison did the same with her handbag automatic (and that's the most technical we get here). But this was unnecessary, for the great building was quite empty.

Light from the great Perpendicular (I meant technical when it comes to weapons) windows flooded the space. With great windows at East and West ends, unrestricted by the needs of a tower, and no division between nave and chancel, the awesomeness of the space was almost overwhelming. Leaving the aisles, Ms. Madison stood by the font, looking down to the East window. She sighed, amazed by the power and beauty of the view.

"This is really grand." She observed. "I mean, this chapel is bigger than lots of churches."

"Probably bigger than most churches, given the size of country churches," the Green Man added. "But we're not here to admire the view, I'm afraid, my dear Ms. Madison. "We need to find the tomb Inspector Bullock was so interested in."

"Of course," Ms. Madison nodded, smiling. "Do you think it's a false trail?"

"Perhaps," the Green Man chuckled. "But whatever these men were killed for, it could be discovered by looking for it. Besides, if we follow this false trail, it's sure to lead somewhere. Remember, in the Da Vinci Code, the false trail had a message in it."

"And we can track people from that." Ms. Madison laughed. "After all, we're not after their secret."

"Only justice." The Green Man began to look around the building.

Then he saw it, high on a wall. A man and his wife, in the dress of the seventeenth century, kneeling. And, beneath them, nine little children sat either side of a skull. He pointed it out to Ms. Madison.

"The most people in the church." The lovely blonde nodded, smiling. What do you think we do next."

"Next," a voice rang out from the rear of the church, "you die!"

The crime-fighters turned, and found themselves facing Inspector Bullock. He wore an unpleasant smile on his face, and was flanked by six armed men in robes. He, too, wore a robe, albeit with the hood down.

"Inspector Bullock," the Green Man laughed. "You seem to be getting into bad habits."

The Inspector raised his gun, finger tightening on the trigger.