Friday, July 20, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Three

The sun beat down on the little island in the South Pacific. Waves lapped gently on the white shores, while seabirds wheeled lazily overhead. Most of the guests spent their time idly sunbathing, or drinking in the bars of the hotel that occupied much of the island. A few were more active, swimming, surfing or water-skiing. A few people were a little more adventurous, exploring the island. Close by the hotel terrace, a young brunette in a sarong was in the process of picking coconuts from a palm tree, while a tanned blonde in a skirt and brief top was waiting to catch them, keeping an eye out for hotel staff.

Sylvia Vaughan felt a little precarious, as she passed down another coconut to her friend. She hoped to be able to get down from the tree without any embarrassing exposure. A look from her friend told her that someone was on their way.

"Lady Sylvia Vaughan?" the liveried man asked, looking up into the palm tree.
"Yes?" the brunette looked down, blushing, long legs grasping the palm tree.
"'Phone call for you," the man spoke softly, looking a little red.
"Did you tell them I was busy?" Lady Sylvia asked, sounding a little put out.

"Several times," the man protested, "but the young lady insisted - more than once."
"Andrea?" Ms. Madison looked up.
"The name she gave was Jill D'Estrange, Madam," the man replied.
"Jill!" Lady Sylvia let go of the tree and dropped lightly onto the sand. "What did she say?"
"That you had to get over to her house at once," the man replied. "That it was a matter of life and death - for us all."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Two

Jill D'Estrange drove for what seemed like an age, through and ever-darkening landscape, her mind awhirl. It had happened, the inevitable ruin of the family finances. Yet she would not - could not - bring herself to part with the castle and estate. At last, a plan began to form in her mind. It was insane, but it might just work. At Cheltenham, she had been part of the gymnastics team, as well as learning a few skills from one of the girls there. She had learned to pick locks and scale almost sheer surfaces, and that was more than enough. Just a few miles away was Tonn Hall. If she could break into the house and lift a few of the art treasures which the wealthy and vulgar owner had stockpiled there, it might produce just enough to see her through another winter.

She drove through the night, a grim expression on Shutting off the car engine, she left the vehicle and scaled the wall, listening out for dogs. Hearing no sound except the beating of her own heart, Jill pressed on through the estate. The rain soaked her to the skin, but she ignored it, thinking only of the dilapidated old manor house she would lose of this failed. Prison or some poky flat, each would be worse than death to her. Reaching the house, she saw a light on, and moved forward cautiously, sizing up the place.

Pausing in a flower-bed, and thus showing that she was no sort of thief, Jill sneaked a look into the house.
What she saw appalled her. A young woman was strapped to an altar, while oddly-robed figures chanted. A knife was lifted, and Jill tried to scream, only to find that power had deserted her. She could only watch helplessly, as the knife buried itself in the victim's chest. Only then did the power of action return to her.
And Jill knew exactly what to do with it, taking to her heels. As the sprinted through the woods, she heard an explosion behind her. Running as though all the fiends of hell were after her, Jill scrambled back over the wall, leaving a trainer behind her, before driving back to the house. She had one thing on her mind. She had to speak to her friend, the friend who had taught her so much - Sylvia Vaughan.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: One

The summer had been brief and none too glorious, despite the predictions of weather forecasters who would have been stoned to death if they'd practised their art in any other age. Rain pattered down outside the great grey manor house, lending a lush green aspect to the rolling lawn, of the type so beloved by the Victorians. It was October in July, holidaymakers were losing their tempers in poky caravans. But high in the hills, all was as it will ever be. Sheep sheltered under hedges, and men bent into the wind, seeking to keep as dry as possible as they hurried home, cowed by a glowering landscape.

By the fire of the great house, a young woman lay on the hearthrug, wearing comfortable jeans and a tee-shirt. Despite the fire, she was trembling, as she read and re-read a letter. It bore the crest of a bank, and the statement was quite clear:

"Dear Miss D'Estrange, further to our letter of the 23rd, inst. We regret to inform you that it will be impossible to extend your overdraft facility further. In addition, we are unable to defer repayment of your loan. We suggest that..."

Jill D'Estrange did not need to read any further. She knew the rest of it off by heart. Crumpling up the letter, she tossed it into the fire. She was ruined, and the house would soon have to go, she knew that only too well. Her father had worked himself into an early grave to keep the estate going, and her mother had not long outlived her. Now the only person left was her. Last of the D'Estranges. Logic dictated that she should give up, meekly surrender the house and grounds to the family's creditors.

But Jill was not a logical girl when it came to the family home. She was a D'Estrange. Her family had wrested this land from its old lords by force of arms, and she was going to die before she let it go any other way. Slowly, the trembling subsided, as Jill rose to her feet. She strode from the room, passingMorgan, the old family Butler, a man who now had to keep his young mistress fed from his own savings.

"Miss Jill?" he asked anxiously. "You goin' somewhere?"

"Out," she told him. "I might be some time. Don't wait up - and don't let anybody in while I'm gone."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Revolution! Conclusion

Back at the Savoy, a rather battered, but recovering Ms. Madison spoke to a surprised Andrea. The Green Man had dropped her at the door, before leaving to wherever he was between visiting terror upon the wicked.

"So, who was he?" Andrea asked eagerly.

"Some deluded soul," the blonde replied, voice soft and compassionate. "He really did think he was Jack the Ripper back from the dead. My Dad's men couldn't really identify him. Apparently he'd had his face and body altered."

"How can you say that, after what I heard at the City Hall?" Andrea looked confused. "We spoke far too much about evil and Jack the Ripper for the guy to be just deluded."

"Really?" Ms. Madison shook her head. "Andrea, maybe the guys we fight with are flesh and blood, but the forces behind them are far, far more than that. The evil that inspired Jack the Ripper is still very much alive."

"Evil is the only thing?" Andrea's eyes widened.

"The only thing?" Ms. Madison shook her head. "Andrea, the Green Man's tangled with guys who thought the Ripper was controlling them in the past. Maybe the reason why the Police never caught the original Ripper was that he couldn't be caught."

"You don't mean...?" Andrea shook her head.

Ms. Madison nodded grimly, rising to look out at the shining city.

"I do." Ms. Madison sighed. "Andrea, I've been with the Green Man long enough to know that there is far more than this world. Perhaps the Ripper has always been directed from the pit of hell. Perhaps we've just played another part in the cosmic drama of good and evil. Maybe we all have a part to play."

"And what next?" Andrea asked eagerly.

"The next step," Ms. Madison laughed, "is a holiday. Sylv is going off to the tropics and she's invited me to come along."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Revolution! Part Twenty-Three

The Green Man laughed, as his opponent cringed back in terror. Ms. Madison watched from the floor, feeling a great deal better, despite her aching limbs. In the doorway, two men appeared. A few shots from the Green Man dispatched them.

"You have no chance," the Green Man told him. "Your plan will fail. Even now, Andrea and Superintendent Madison are arresting your agents of destruction."

"It can't be!" the man cried.

The Green man shook his head, before levelling his gun at the man in the tall hat.
"Justice will prevail," the Green Man told him. "You will shortly know the vengeance of the Green Man. There is no escape."

Ms. Madison tried to get up, but her strength failed her. She crumpled to to ground with a gasp of pain. The evil man looked to see the Green Man avoid this, but nothing happened. Ms. Madison joined the Green Man in laughing.

"No!" the man screamed, "No! I have to win!"

"The evil cannot win," the Green Man's finger tightened on the trigger. "Crime does not pay."

The gun spoke, and the evil man crumpled to the ground, quite dead.The Green Man stepped over his body, towards the trembling form of Ms. Madison. She held out her hand, smiling gratefully, as he helped her to her feet. Removing his coat, he draped the trembling blonde, helping her towards the door.

Revolution! Twenty-Two

The Green Man chuckled, as the man dressed as Jack the Ripper fell back, confusion writ large in his manner.

"You fool," he shook his head. "Did you really think that you could deceive the Green Man? I have fought evil these many years, and you will not disturb me any more than the other people of evil."

"How...?" the evil man breathed.

"Justice," the Green Man told him, "will find a way."
"If you go forward," the evil man laughed, "then the lovely, if battered blonde on the ground will die. Men!" The two men made to draw guns.

The gun of the Green Man spoke twice. Two bullets lodged in two hearts. The big men fell, lifeless to the ground, as the Green Man stepped in front of Ms. Madison.

"No, Jack," the Green Man shook his head. "You are up against the defenders of order. Your death is certain."

"Don't you want to know why?" the man chuckled.

"I already know," the Green Man told him. "And your doom is sealed."
The evil man froze, as the Green Man moved towards him.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Revolution! Part Twenty-One

Ms. Madison heard the laughter of the evil man begin to fill her ears. The men picked her up. One pinned her to the wall, while the other hit her a couple of times. She felt hot blood on her bare skin. Black spots began to spin in on her vision. She spluttered blood, still gazing at the evil man, as he laughed.

"You were wrong!" he mocked her, "I will get away with this! I will have my will, Ms. Madison. I will be the greatest criminal in all of history."

"Never..." Ms. Madison sighed through the pain. "You've...."

Another blow silenced her, driving the breath from her body. She gasped in pain, falling back to the floor, grazing one knee.

"The world will be consumed in fire!" the man continued to rant, looking down at Ms. Madison's helpless form. "You are the first to suffer, but all will suffer before I am done, I, the greatest criminal of all time, Jack the Ripper! You think I am weak, that I will not do as I have sworn! You stupid little blonde, I have no conscience, no reason to hold back from my evil! You will see that before you die - just before you die!"
Ms. Madison tried to get up, but found her strength had deserted her. Someone kicked her, and she fell back on the ground. The evil man's laughter became more strident.

"What she was trying to say," a new voice broke in on the scene, "was that you wouldn't leave when you could watch a helpless girl being tortured. You were always a sucker for that, weren't you, Jack?"

The evil man stopped laughing. There, in the corner of the cell, deep in the shadows, stood the Green Man.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Revolution! Part Twenty

Ms. Madison lay on the rough bed in her cell wishing someone had left her something to wear. It was not a warm cell. Nor was it particularly well-kept, with peeling plaster and a dusty floor. She was a little worried. The man had called himself the devil, and she knew most people who call themselves that are less than shining examples of moral virtue. She dropped off after a while, only to wake up suddenly, as someone opened the door. There, outlined in the doorway, was her captor.

"Lynette Madison," the man chuckled. "I have told my people that you are an enemy of the workers."

"That shouldn't worry them," the blonde cracked. "Last time I looked, most of them don't work. Sort of like Karl Marx, don't you know?"

"I'm sorry you're going to have to die," the man laughed wickedly.
"You're not," Ms. Madison shook her head.
"Okay," the man confessed, "I'm only sorry I won't be here to see you die, pleading for mercy. But I've got a city to destroy. At last, my desire will be accomplished - London destroyed!"

"Why?" Ms. Madison started forward, looking for the man's face.

A blow from the man's fist sent her reeling back.

"You don't get to know that." The draped man drew back, allowing two large and vicious-looking thugs to enter the cell. You just get to be tortured to death here, while London burns and I see the destruction of the greatest city in Britain. Then I shall make my demands!"

A large man grabbed Ms. Madison's arm, pulling the blonde towards him. He drove his other fist into her stomach. She doubled up, retching.

"And don't ask any more," the man chuckled. "Just let the nice men beat you into a cute little pulp."
" won't..." Ms. Madison gasped.
"Get away with it?" the man shook his head. "Oh, I've been dead a very long time, Lynette. Poor little Lynette...." He continued to watch, as the men continued to batter Ms. Madison's helpless form.
Ms. Madison tasted blood and bile in her mouth. He legs ave way under her, and the men closed in. She heard the evil man laugh.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Return of the Sunday Supplement: Anti-Social Gospel

Sir Richard Arcos writes: After the sort of long holiday that only I can take, Lady Arcos and I returned to these shores some time last week. I don't know exactly when, as I was asleep at the time. Fortunately, my daughters can handle a 'plane, even when the pilot's asleep.

Last Sunday, I decided to attend the little tin chapel in West Sundae, a village to the East of Little Pudding. The chapel belongs to the Elusive Brethren, but fortunately I have a membership card for them somewhere. In fact, they didn't ask for it.

The Elusive Brethren have strict rules about contact with the outside world, and believe that no-one but members of their church should have anything to do with the church. Since the membership is somewhat devoid of builders, their chapel is slowly sliding into dereliction. As I entered, I ducked a piece of chicken wire.

The current congregation consists of three old women, two old men and a circus freak who goes by the name of 'the Lion Man.' The sermon was on the duty of separation, which the preacher, Mr. Laidup has been preaching for the last thirty years, as I was told by one of the congregation. Not a series on the need for this, but the same sermon.

Every Sunday.

Some of the congregation took notes. Two of them went to sleep. The Lion Man started growling at something. One of the men went outside in the middle of the sermon holding his head, muttering, 'I can't take it any more.' He came back after the sermon, just in time to see the preacher go off to another way station of the Brethren, wishing the man a safe journey.

Afterwards I learned that the man had siphoned off most of the preacher's petrol and was hoping that he'd be stuck somewhere.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Revolution! Part Nineteen

Superintendent Madison sighed deeply, looking down the stacks of the archives. He shook his head.

"In each of these crimes where the criminal left behind clues that a despised and distrusted group were in some way responsible. Even the recent case where a man committed some evil crimes while allegedly told to by Jack the Ripper was also allegedly paid by a Jewish financier. And one set of attacks on property in East London in the late 1950s carried all the signs of being a campaign by immigrants to drive out established local residents. In that case all the notes were destroyed. A predecessor of mine in the 1930s had to destroy evidence that would have helped the British Union of Fascists."

Andrea laughed charmingly.

"And I was worried that you were a square," she grinned. "I guess the Green Man's right that the police can be more flexible. But what would the public say?"

"They'll never know," Mr. Madison told her. "Now, what we have to to is find my daughter. Miss Van, what was she up to when she vanished?"

"Trying to stop the mad commies from blowing up the Bank of England," she told him. The Green Man saw the man who looks like Jack the Ripper kidnap her."

"And he let it happen?" Mr. Madison glared.

"That's what I said," Andrea confessed. "But the Green Man trusts Lynette to do her stuff and foil the bad guys."
"Maybe he does," Mr. Madison growled. "But she's my daughter, and I wouldn't trust her as far as I can throw her. What are you doing right now, Miss Van?"
"Standin' in a vault under City Hall," Andrea shot back.
"Well," he told her sternly, "not for much longer. "You're coming with me. To Scotland Yard."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Revolution! Part Eighteen

Muchto Andrea's surprise, the man who spoke was not the Green Man. Instead, it was a somewhat sleepy-looking man in a battered felt hat. He looked cynically at the redheaded girl and shook his head.

"Andrea Van," he sighed, "gun-girl, associate of the Green Man. I should have known he was in this somewhere."

"And you are?" the redhead enquired.

"Superintendent Madison, Scotland Yard," the man replied. "I think you know my daughter."

"Well, sure," she laughed with relief, "Lynette's a swell pal. And she's sort of..."

"Don't say anything more," the detective told her. "I don't want to have to arrest my own girl. I'm here for one reason. She's fallen into the hands of a man who thinks he's Jack the Ripper."

"And this 'revolution?'" Andrea's eyes widened.

"As Mr. Popple was about to say," Inspector Madison told her, "he's behind this too. You see, there was more to Jack the Ripper than just a number of shockingly bloody murders."

"More?" Andrea took a step back.

"Oh, indeed," Mr. Popple nodded eagerly. "One of the features of the last Ripper crime was an inscription that seemed to suggest the Jews were involved somehow."

"An inscription that the Police destroyed," Mr. Madison told her. "As the Islamic inscriptions in Cardiff ten years later. Someone - or some group - has been spending over a century trying to destroy society."