Friday, August 31, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Seventeen

The Grey Tabby's evil footsoldiers advanced on the girls, guns in hands, only too ready to gun the girls down if they could. The girls were forced to surrender meekly to the wicked men. They were chained to some fantastic looking machines that the walls of the wrecked mansion opened to receive. The Grey Tabby laughed, looking at the open sky above the shattered walls of the ancient mansion.

"So," Ms. Madison shot back, "what's the plan this time, Grey Tabby? The last two times it was to create a republic of criminals."

This time, my dear," the Grey Tabby replied, "my plan is very much easier. To destroy the Green Man and his allies. Then we criminals shall be free again."

"Freedom for evil to have its course," Ms. Madison glared back at the costumed criminal. "Do you really think..."

"My dear Ms. Madison," the Grey Tabby shook his head. "I don't just think. I know. If the Green Man had not interfered with my plans, then London would today be a Republic of Criminals. And most Londoners would be better off."

"All the ones who survived the chemical weapons attack," Ms. Madison looked unimpressed.

"Well, of course, Ms. Madison," the mastermind smiled. "But that would have been worth it. And ten of the most deadly criminals in the world would still be alive."

"Pardon?" Lady Sylvia looked confused.
"The men who forwarded the money for the project," the Grey Tabby told her. "I could not repay the money, so I had to slay them. Just as I will slay you, should the Green Man fail to show. Men, call the creature!"
With a massive beating of wings, the girls saw a shadow descend on the house.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Sixteen

The grls looked at the menacing figure of the Cat-like criminal. The Grey Tabby only laughed in triumph.

"Yes," he replied, "I escaped."

"I've always known you had," Lady Sylvia replied bravely. "The Green Man was waiting for the next time that you would show your hand."

"And I was waiting for the Green Man to move within my orbit again," the Grey Tabby replied brutally. "Ever since my plans for the Republic of London were foiled [See: The Grey Tabby] I have been waiting and planning."

"So this...?" Lady Sylvia looked about her at the overgrown ruins of Tonn House.

"Was one gigantic trap," he replied. "I found a lonely place, close to a house owned by a school-friend of Lady Sylvia Vaughan," the Grey Tabby smiled wickedly. "And I began to assemble my trap. From genetically engineered nightmares to this weather, it couldn't fail to attract the attention of the Green Man."

"And you believe this can trap the Green Man?" Ms. Madison scoffed. "You must have been born yesterday, brother..."

"No." The Grey Tabby laughed. "One of my agents reports that the Green Man was shot last night in London. And if he has survived, then he will come here."

"Maybe," Lady Sylvia shot back defiantly. "But it really doesn't matter. The Green Man will destroy your plan."

"When he tries to rescue you," the Grey Tabby replied viciously, "he will die. And if he is already dead, then you will join him."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Fifteen

The dawn brought no fresh news. The Green Man had not reported back from breaking into the flat of Mr. Orr, while further searches on the property records had yielded nothing of value. It was therefore perhaps understandable that the girls decided to cast caution to the wind. Or at least a largish proprtion of it. They went up the the ruins of Tonn, in spite of their misgivings about the things they had seen.

The ruins of Tonn were still more fallen, the decay of decades having taken place in a very few days. They picked their way slowly through the debris, keeping an eye out for the creature, as well as falling stonework.

"Why would someone do a thing like this?" Jill asked. "I can't understand what purpose this would serve. I mean, it's like the world's gone mad. Did you ever see this sort of thing before?"

"Well..." Ms. Madison paused, colouring, as she looked up at the crumbling buildings."

"This weather gone mad?" Jill pressed.
"We saw something like this in Africa," came the reply. "A machine known as 'the Terror', that could suppress energy waves. A refined version might be able to reverse the weather. But the machine was destroyed."

"What's destroyed can be rebuilt. What's lost re-discovered, my dear girls."

A cultured, mocking voice caused the girls to turn. There, standing in the doorway, was the Grey Tabby.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Fourteen

Chjristopher Orr lived in a stylish flat in Londn's Docklands. A few people, out late at night, saw a shadow flit between buildings, once leaping across an apparently impossible chasm. They shivered, examining themselves, guilty thoughts springing to mind, despite their best efforts to conceal them.

Christopher Orr was woken up by something landing on his balcony, just too heavy to be a cat. He sat up in bed, as the doors opened to admit a a shadowy figure.

"Who the hell are you?" he demanded angrily. "What do you mean by walking in here?"

"I am the Green Man," came the sinister reply. "And I mean to ask you a few questions. Why did you buy Tonn House?"
"I never heard about it," the man shot back rudely.
A strong hand took him by the throat.
"That's the wrong answer," the Green Man replied. "Do not lie to the Green Man, Christopher Orr. I know the truth. You must confirm it to me. Why did you buy Tonn House before selling it to your brother? What did you mean to do with the house?"

"We were going to turn it into a hotel," he told the implaccable figure in Green. "But the Council..."
"Again, you lie!" the Green Man's vice-like grip tightened on Orr's throat. "Maybe you think I am a fool, that I cannot kill you. But you are not my only source. And a corpse, properly presented, can open all sorts of mouths."
"Okay!" Orr screamed, terrified, "Okay! I'll tell you everything! Tonn House is built on an old Roman Mine, a mine that was closed because the Romans believed they had struck the entrance to hades itself! Doctor..."
He said no more. A gunshot split the still air. Orr pitched forward, then was still. The Green Man turned, drawing his guns. The gun spoke again, and the Green Man stumbled back, pitching over the balcony rail, into the unyielding night.

Holiday Supplement: Back to Camp. One

Ms. Madison writes: In a departure for this column, I was asked to write about the Church Camp I attended the other week. It was held by Soar Chapel, a little Baptist Chapel a short walk from the Savoy Hotel, the nearest thing I have to a permanent home. We were going to be staying at the 'Cruise Holiday Camp,' close to the beach, for sun, sea and sermons. I packed by swimsuits and lots of sun-tan cream, then booked a few sessions at the gym for the next week - last camp I was at left me positively bloated!

turned off the road to Blackpool, which should have been the first sign of difficulty. I asked whether anyone had been there before, only to be told that they hadn't been able to get their usual venue, and everyone was wondering what it was like.

Well, my heart fell when I saw the overgrown buildings! It turned out the brochure the church elders had looked at was twenty years out of date!

I was bunked with a couple of girls from the church and found out that we had to use a communal shower block - outside! I had to cross the grass to wash in the morning!

We had our food and ministry in the communal block, which resembles a large and rotting cruise liner. We used the top deck room as a chapel, until the pastor fell through the floor, after which we used the ground floor. Until we found a cellar. Or he did.

We had to hold the Bible club on the beach, as it was the safest place. Someone had to rescue a child, while I fell into a rock pool and cut my legs. It stung like crazy, and I had to wear a long dress or trousers for the rest of the week!

Only one person had to be airlifted to hospital, but I think the operators will be having a little visit from the Green Man.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Thirteen

Lady Sylvia lay full-length on the sofa in the castle, looking up at the rather overblown 'Jacobethan' ceiling, her shoe hanging off one foot. A weekn of research by Ms. Madison had so far turned up very little. Tonn House had been briefly owned by a business consortium. They had sold it on, however, before making any applications for anything. The Green Man appeared to have melted away into the woodwork, although reports that Ms. Madison dealt with on a daily basis suggested that the Green Man was still at work.

On this particular evening, the girls were dressed for dinner, although they had no guests. Jill and Lady Sylvia were waiting for the remaining diner, Ms. Madison. She had come in from the still snowbound countryiside unusually silent.

"Well," Jill, looked up, as Ms. Madison descended the stairs, "look who just walked in. "Find anything more out, Lynette?"

"Enough," the blonde nodded, smiling. "I found out a little more about the consortium. The head men were very careful to hide who they were."

"And?" Lady Sylvia's eyes opened.

"There were three of them. A local businessman, named Lewis, who lives in Carmarthen town, a man called Reed Chase, who lives in London, and a Harley Street doctor, whose name I couldn't find out."

"And?" Lady Sylvia repeated.

"And that Reed Chase used to be an actor," Ms. Madison replied simply. "Reed Chase is a stage name. His real name is Christopher Orr. John W. Orr was his brother. Tonight, the Green Man will pay him a visit."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Twelve

Back at Jill's house, the Green Man looked out over the snow-covered park. He smiled grimly, looking back over the hills, towards Tonn. While Lady Slyvia and Jill waited on a sofa in one corner of the room, Ms. Madison stood a little way away from her chief, hands folded.

"What is going on?" Ms. Madison asked him. "I mean, after what we saw, is this some sort of evil magic?"

I don't think so," the Green Man told her. "Did you know who owned that house?"

"Some ghastly town people, according to Jill," Ms. Madison replied.

"A man by the name of John W. Orr," he told her quietly. "A man who's been on my books for some years. He's used fake magic to con gullible old people out of their savings for years, but I've never been able to pin anything on him. Not even enough for a visit from the justice of the Green Man. What he did here is puzling, though. The snow and that creature..."

"Could he have actually performed some magic rite by accident?" Ms. Madison asked.

"Whatever he did," the Green Man nodded, "I suspect this wasn't supposed to happen. Orr is a worm, a wart who needs to be crushed. But if this is an illusion, then it's far beyond his ability to create."

"And if it isn't?" Ms. Madison pressed further.

"Then the answer's the same," the Green Man told her. "But the evil has come from the pit itself."

There was along silence, as they looked back out at the snowy park.

"And who'd do this if it wasn't the devil?" Ms. Madison spoke softly. "I mean, isn't this sort of huge?"

"Naturally," the Green Man looked straight into the blonde's eyes. She shuddered at the fire she saw in them. "And if the person who has done this is mortal, then there's something going on. "Can you get to the nearest planning office tomorrow, Ms. Madison?"

"Of course," she nodded. "What do you want me to look for?"

"Any planning applications about the Tonn Estate," the Green Man told her.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Eleven

The Green Man smiled at the shock of the girls, moving forward into the house, out of the shadows. The avenger of evil and the punishment of the wicked approached an open-mouthed Ms. Madison.

"Where did you come from?" Ms. Madison asked incredulously.

"I know," the Green Man told her. "Something like this doesn't happen without the Green Man's knowledge. What exactly happened here, Ms. Madison?"

"Ask Jill," Ms. Madison indicated the tweed-clad aristocrat. "She saw it all."

"It was some sort of black magic ritual," Jill told the Green Man. "There was a human sacrifice - everything."

"And the people here?"

"New," Jill told them. "The old people had to sell up and some people from London bought it up. I think he was a stockbroker and she was something in the wine trade."

"And what was the name?" the Green Man leaned forward, his voice intense.

"I don't know," Jill confessed. "I suppose I've got it written down somewhere, and my Butler's bound to know. But why should I have cared? They were incomers and they had nothing to do with the area. I think all their pals were in London, too. Does it matter?"

"We have to know who they were," the Green Man confirmed. "Anyone who'd do this probably has previous for this sort of insanity."

"And the thing?" Lady Sylvia asked.

"Later." The Green Man headed for the door.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Ten

The girls watched, the colour draining from their faces, as the creature took flight. Ms. Madison shook her head her jaw dropping slowly.

"Was that who I thought it was?" she asked.

"That was what I saw," Jill told her. "Ascending from the ruins of the house. A fiend raised from the depths."

"Or something so close to it I'd never believe," Ms. Madison sighed deeply.

Jill looked grim, looking around the shattered ruins of Tonn House. She could scarcely recognise the mighty place now, it even seemed like the undergrowth was spreading visibly.

"If it isn't something like that," she shook her head, "how d'you explain this?"

"Right now," Ms. Madison replied smartly, "I don't. If I've learned anything working for the Green Man, it's that things don't always make sense, even if we want them to."

"But how could the plants have done this?" Lady Sylvia asked, "how could they have grown this much overnight?"

"Well?" Jill pressed the point.
"Just because we don't know everything," a new voice, that of a man, broke in. "It does not mean that we can know nothing. And I know just a lttle more."
The girls turned. There, lurking in the shadows, was the Green Man.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Nine

"What did you see, Jill?" Lady Sylvia asked eagerly.

"Some terrible evil," the girl replied. "What I saw looked like the devil, with horns and wings. And I'm not a hysterical girl - you know that."

"But you still saw the devil," Ms. Madison nodded. "I get the idea, Jill. Most people start with that sort of thing. But you don't need to justify yourself. Not to me."

"Who are you?" the welsh aristocrat asked. "I mean, apart from your being Sylv's pal?"

"My father's a senior man at Scotland Yard," Ms. Madison replied. "I work for the Green Man."

Jill was silent for a moment. She looked at Ms. Madison with an open mouth.

"Isn't he a myth?" Jill spoke very softly.

"I hope not," Ms. Madison laughed. "He pays my wages!"

"Lynette's a crack shot," Lady Sylvia explained. "She should be able to cope with anything we meet."

"Almost," came the reply. "If what you saw really was some sort of black magic, I'm not sure I can. I forgot to pack my silver bullets, and ...."

Ms. Madison was cut off by a scream from Lady Sylvia. She turned. The brunette was looking up at a craggy cliff, high above the ruins of the house. Ms. Madison's eyes followed those of her friend.

She, too, gasped with surprise.

There, clearly outlined against the rock-face was a figure. And it was plainly not human. Possessed of great bat-wings, hand raised to its head, the creature looked up to the sky with eyes like glowing coals.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Eight

The girls approached the ruined mansion cautiously, scarecely darig to breahe. Making their way around the back, they entered the ruin through the servants' entrance - in itself a sign that things were not well, for normally none of the girls would even have considered making such an entrance. But desperate times and stanic black magic call for desprate measures. And for three well-bred girls (okay, two and a Policeman's daughter) to enter a good house by the back door is surely such a measure.

Ms. Madison looked at the devastation of the house. Undergrowth was everywhere, and soft moss. Here and there she could see traces of fire damage.

"This place looks like its been deserted for years," she observed.
"But it burned down last night," Jill replied firmly. "I saw the place burn. Like the snow, this proves something's going on. Something supernatural. Something evil."
The girls pressed forward into the ruins, undergrowth pulling at their clothes. They looked for signs of the terrible thing that had happed, brely understanding that this shaggy ruin was all such a trace.

"How could this happen?" Jill shook her head. "I was visiting here only a year ago, but it looks like this has been empty forever. What did they do?"

"Whatever it was," Lady Sylvia shuddered, "I don't think they meant it to happen like this. I mean, who could have survived?"
"Not who," Jill replied darkly. "What. Something survived. I saw and heard it."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Seven

"Do I have to?" Ms. Madison regarded the thermal garments that Jill had produced with a fair measure of suspicion, coupled with some distress. "I mean, what do they do to a girl's figure?"

"Keep it warm," Jill replied brutally. "Now get dressed and stop moaning. It's a long way to Tonn, and we need to be ready if the car won't get us there."

Ms Madison looked distressed, but did what she was told. Lady Sylvia changed without complaint. But then, Ms. Madison reflected, that was hardly surprising. Her colleague wasn't that long out of school. She was used to following orders and wearing clothes that were a great deal less stylish than Ms. Madison liked. Once they were fully clothed, hatted and booted, they stepped out into the cold.

The Land Rover did not stop in the snow, but struggled forward against the heaped snow. Ms. Madison shivered, now thankful for her unstylish clothes. She willed the car on, over the desolate mountains. This was an area totally deserted, wild. She could well believe that some evil had stayed on here, never to completely die.

Jill stopped the car by the gates of the house. Getting out and donning snowshoes, the girls made their way down the long drive. Lady Sylvia looked aroung her, shaking her head.

"Is this really summer?" she looked doubtful. "Lynette, did we call him?"

"No," Ms. Madison confessed. "So no getting captured today, huh?"

"I'll try," Lady Sylvia reassured her colleague. "How much further, Jill? - I'm freezing!"

"You won't be soon," Ms. Madison spoke , pointing to the ground ahead of them. The snow stopped abruptly, giving way to a rugged spot of ground. It looked like a lot of recent growth had taken place.

And there, emerging from the undergrowth was the shattered ruin of a mighty mansion, its empty windows like sightless eyes.

The girls shuddered, feeling that something evil waited there.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Six

The girls looked out at the snow together. For a long time they said nothing. There seemed nothing to say. The whole spectacle was just so utterly insane.

"I know it's been a bad summer," Ms. Madison sighed, "but this is ridiculous."

"More ridiculous than human sacrifice in Wales in the twenty-first century?" Jill shook her head.

"Some people 'ld say that wasn't in the least bit ridiculous," Ms. Madison pointed out. "Some people 'ld say that it was unlimited. As the religion which marked Welsh life from the 1730s faded, so people retreat into older forms of life and belief. It's called atavism. Have you ever read Lord of the Flies?"

"I've seen Lord of the Dance at the London Palladium," Lady Sylvia replied, somewhat unnecessarily. "And when the amateur anthropology's done, I'd say it was really insane. This is the West, not darkes Africa!"

"The soul of man is the same the world over," Ms. Madison shot back. "At least, that's what he'd say..."

"You're probably right," the titled girl gurgled with laughter. "And I'll grant that for a moment, since the rest of you see to think it that way. Now, what do we do?"

"We visit Tonn," Ms. Madison was firm. "If the human sacrifice caused something really weird to happen, we'll find traces there."

"Right now?" Jill turned pale, starting.

Ms. Madison shook her lovely head, still smiling.
"No time like the present," the girl looked out over the snow-covered park.
"Okay," Jill nodded, "but you'll need to change." She examined Ms. Madison's elegant attire with a critical eye.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Five

The girls got Jill inside her house and arranged with the butler to get water and smelling-salts. It was only with some difficulty that they revived the fainting Miss D'Estrange. Again, she smiled at the two girls, particularly at Lady Sylvia.

"Boy, am I glad to see you, Sylv," she laughed softly. "Sorry I passed out back there, I guess you must 've been shocked, hard old me, passing out. But of you'd seen what I saw..."

"I heard," Lady Sylvia nodded sympathetically. "Just remember, I'm here for you. I was the girl who always listened to everyone at school, always tried to help, even when I wasn't wanted. Even when I got a black eye for my pains."
"Oh, yes!" Jill laughed, brightening a little. "And who's your pal, Sylv?"

"This is Lynette," the young aristocrat replied. "She's a pal."

"And you've told her about what I said?" the girl asked.

"Even if I hadn't," came the reply, "she'd 've come. Now, what's going on, Jill?"

"Tonn, the closest house to me, burned down last night," Jill explained. "I was there when it happened - or just before - I saw some occult ceremony, with human sacrifice and stuff. I ran away when that happened, then the house blew up - I don't think that was a co-incidence."

"And I'm inclined to agree." Lady Sylvia nodded. "Someone can't mess with powers beyond our understanding without things happening."

"What were you doing there?" Ms. Madison asked pointedly.

"Trying to burgle the place," Jill confessed. "I've got no money, and thought I could steal something to pay the bills."

"Okay," the blonde shook her head. "Now, what other signs are there of strange stuff?"

"How about that?" Lady Sylvia pointed to the windows, where snow had started to fall.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Four

The 'plane from the South Seas landed at Cardif International Airport as unseasonal rain sluiced down on Wales. Looking out of the window, Ms. Madison wrinkled her cute nose at the sight, thinking of the sun-kissed beaches they had left behind.

"This had better be serious," she told Lady Sylvia. "If your friend's just feeling a bit fragile, I'll arrange for her to get framed for murder."

"I know Jill," Lady Sylvia reassured her friend. "She's not that type. Jill's tough as they come. Her family were Norman warriors who carved out a lordship in the Welsh hills. She's a bit of a throwback herself, tough and fearless."

The girls left the 'plane, hurrying into a waiting taxi. The taxi in question was green, and had turned away a number of other people. Ms. Madison smiled, as the driver got out to put away their baggage.

"One of us," she told Lady Sylvia happily. "The Green Man's got an agent in every city. Now, shift over, I need to sleep."

Lady Sylvia watched her friend, as the elegantly dressed Ms. Madison slumbered, while the taxi climed up from Cardiff towards the Valleys, passing beautiful castles and deep woodland. These gave way to the post-industrial wastes of the valleys, the taxi passing through the once-flourishing metropolis of Merthyr Tydfil. Then they were amid the wild country of the Brecon Beacons, glowering hills, wasteland. From there, the landscape softened a little, with fields divided by hedges. And a few remains of Norman timber castles, green hills surrounded by banks and ditches. This was the boundary of the lordship that the D'Estranges had carved out from the territory of Welsh princes.

At last, the taxi passed between the tall gate piers of Jill's house. The taxi's wheels slid on the mud of a drive which had seen better days. Lady Sylvia slipped on the seat, almost falling to the floor. Ms. Madison began to stir.

At the door, Jill D'Estange waited. As soon as the taxi stopped, the young aristocrat ran to it, throwing open the door.
"Thank goodness!" she shouted, face flushed, "I don't know what I'd 've done if you hadn't come! The Devil's walking these hills!"
And, with that, she fainted.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Announcement: Apology for the Interruption in service

The Green Man offers his apology for his absence of the past week. Although rumours of his demise have been circulating in the underworld, along with those that the Green Man has been forced into hiding by the wrath of Madison of the Yard, these are in fact not true.

As one Mark Maloney discovered last week, when the Green Man tracked him down and slew him for the many crimes he has been guilty of.

The Green Man does not sleep, nor does he take a holiday. Vengeance will overtake the wicked.

'Their Step shall slide in due time.'