Saturday, September 29, 2007

Made to Pay: Part Six

"I ran up, past the old school, flying across the roads, ignoring cars, even rolling over the bonnet of one car." The Green Man spoke urgently, still looking out to sea. One hand was on my gun. I was looking for any trace of what had happened to Sparrowhawk. Finding Powell Street, a little street, scarcely more than an alley, I ran up it, not adring to think what I might find.

"In the middle of the street, on my left, was a towering chapel, dark and glowering. It looked almost derelict, the black noticeboard peeling, white letters proclaiming 'Y Tabernacl.' There was a monument within railing to one side of the chapel's portico, while a dropped gun lay in the gutter.

"This had to be a sign that Sparrowhawk had been there. I looked for another trace of her, my heart sinking. I looked for the lady I loved, praying that she should not be dead.

"A glimpse of brown leather out of the corner of my eye told me that I had found her. She lay within one set of railings, her lovely form bearing the traces of a terrible assault. Her hard-wearing costume was scored with knife-thrusts, while a pool of blod was forming under her. Blood trickled from her mouth. Only the slow movement of her chest showed she was alive. And her mask was off. I recognised the woman behind the mask, and knew why she had been so careful to hide her identity.

"I was able to hide her identity, as a local doctor treated her. I took her to an isolated house by the sea, outside Aberystwyth. For eight months I did nothing more than look after her. Of course it was without my mask. I knew now who this courageous young woman was, and I could not hide myself from her.
"Although her body healed, her mind remained broken, hopelessly lost. She didn't seem to recognise me. I once found her standing out on the beach, looking out so sea. At last I had to bow to the inevitable. She's still living, at a private nursing home in the countryside. And I still hope that she will recover one day."
"And what does that have to do with me?" Sian asked breathlessly.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Made To Pay: Part Five

The Green Man continued his story, still looking out to sea. Sian Rule was cold, but she willed herself to stay, realising that this was something significant. The connection that the Green Man had had with this remarkable woman clearly went deep.

"The Station had only recently closed," the Green Man went on, "the ticket office had been moved to the only remaining open platform, while the station buildings were abandoned until they were converted to a pub. We established our base there, knowing that the agent was to use the train. We took turns in watching the platform through the window that looked down there. Sparrowhawk insisted on taking the first watch, even though she was clearly exhausted. I stayed awake until she dropped off to sleep, her forehead resting against the glass. I was able to move her from there and put her to bed." There was a real tenderness in the Green Man's voice as he spoke.

"The only people who I saw getting off the train were students and locals. Not one person looked like the picture that Sparrowhawk had given me. Shortly after three, I had to wake up my slumbering lady. She blinked sleepily and tried to get back to sleep, a cute contrast to her usual loveliness.

"But she went to her post at last," the Green Man told Sian, "and I slept. By the time I awoke, the station was filled with the silver sunshine of autumn morning. I rose and looked for Sparrowhawk.

"I couldn't see any trace of my lady," the Green Man shook his head. "For some reason she'd left me asleep while she'd slipped out. I knew that she wouldn't be as crass as to do this just for a walk - something must have happened.

"I left the station silently, the same way I had entered, and hurried to the taxi rank. There was a man there who told me he'd seen my lady run out of the station, followed by a couple of men. She had run off in the direction of Powell Street, one of the little streets that lead off the street that leads to the bridge.

"I knew that she must have been detected somehow, must have decided to lead the enemy away from my position. Knew that she had to be in terrible danger."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Made to Pay: Four

The chill wind of autumn caused Sian Rule to shudder, but the Green man just kept looking out to sea, his eyes on the slowly blinking light by the harbour.

"I went as fast as I could," the Green Man told Miss Rule. "She was afraid, and I knew that this had to be serious." He shook his head, still looking away from Miss Rule. "She met me close to the station. And she was beautiful-more beautiful than I've ever seen her. He golden hair shone in the breeze, as she looked down on me from the fire escape she was holding to. She checked the alley before dropping down beside me.

"She soke softly, telling me that I had to come back to her lodging. I hurried back there with her, and she told me that she was on the track of something big. She had only just realised exactly what it was. The man she had seen seemed to be a drug-peddler, but she had seen him meet another figure, a man connected with an East European state. She had opened his safe and found secret documents relating to new British naval projects. She had been caught and managed to knock out the men, but now she was hiding, hunting them as they hunted her. They were to rendezvous at Aberystwyth, for which Shrewsbury is the railhead from Birmingham. I told her she could count on my help.

"And it was then that she kissed me. The action took me utterly by surprise. Whenever we'd met she'd teased me, but no more than that. She normally seemed distant, unable to draw near to anyone. When she held tight to me and whispered, I knew it was no act..."

Sian Rule felt a tear well in her eye. She shook her head.

"But why are you telling me?" she asked. "What has all this to do with us here, now?"
"All in good time," the Green Man told her. "For now, just know that we arrived in Aberystwyth on a dark night in late October, as the rain caused the rough prom to shine, and the angry waves lashed at the beach. A few drunk students, the girls in worryingly brief skirts, staggered home from the pubs, as we made for the station, which was derelict at the time."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Made to Pay: Part Three

The Green Man looked down on the lights of the town, shining through the gloom. The cold wind of night tugged at his long coat. He seemed very distant to Sian Rule, but she had no desire to escape his presence. The years seemed to hang very heavy on the avenger that night.

"She was called Sparrowhawk," the Green Man went on. "She wore a mask and a costume that stopped men on its own. She carried a bull-whip that she could do anything with. She was a hunter, Sian, and evil men were her prey.

"We met in Monaco. She was after a crime boss from America, and I was after a swindler. The first time we met she told me not to get in her way. The second time I told her not to get in my way. She said nothing, but I found the swindler tied up outside the derelict building I was using as my headquarters.

"We met several times after that, always professionally. I never found out who she was, and she never even asked who I was. Even so, I let her have the number of my private line - the one my agents have."

The Green Man paused for a long time. He looked out over the darkened sea, across to where the lights of Aberdovey and Towyn sparkled on the waves, although the towns themselves were hidden.

"When I got a call from Sparrowhawk saying she was in Shrewsbury and wanted to see me," the Green Man sighed, "I had to respond. I told her that I'd take the next train from London. She promised to wait. Even though she wouldn't tell me what she was up against, I knew it had to be serious. I could hear the worry in her voice."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Made to Pay: Part Two

Sian Rule looked at the mysterious figure in silence for a very long time. She hardly knew what to say. While the unioversity had given very good lessons in how to deal with potential kidnappers and/or rapists, legendary defenders of the weak and smiters of the guilty were quite another thing altogether. So she looked up at the night sky, through the crisp clarity of an autumn night, when the rains have not yet come to Aberystwyth

And the Green Man looked too. He sighed and shook his head.

"The night is beautiful," he told her, "and no-one should ever fear the night. Yet we do. We fear the night because evil has made the night its hiding-place. If you are to find evil in its true colours, night reveals them, and evil becomes known in darkness. Do you fear the night, Miss Rule?"

"I suppose so," she replied. "I was worried when I took this shortcut, but I still took it. Why do you ask?"

"Whenever I ask someone to step into the darkness," the Green Man told her, "I have to know that they respect it, understand it. And fear it. Because what is not feared can too easily destroy."

"Why are you here?" Sian Rule asked, "and what does it have to do with me?"
"I am here," the Green Man told her, "because of a very brave young woman, one who gave her life for others. She was here, a very long time ago. When the world was young."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Escape

Joseph Stone was a musician. At least, he was a musician if he could be described as anything. Truth to tell, he had never really ceased to be a student, except that his university had thrown his out after three years in which he acquired nothing but vices. He always left without paying his bills, leaving landlords with enough bounced cheques to paper a room and former flatmates having to meet the bills that he had run up. One of them, a girl he had used then discarded, killed herself and her unborn child. Her parents tried to bring the man responsible for her death to justice. They could not. And he told the press that it was nothing to do with him, while moving into a new house under an assumed name. The reprobate tried to disappear.

He was woken one night by a hammering on the door. There he found his landlord with a guest. A figure in green, a scarf drawn across his face. With a grim smile the landlord told the man that he was wanted.

They found his body hanging from a tree in the Cathedral Close, Norwich. The same tree that his girlfriend hand hanged herself on.
And vengeance was satisfied.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Made to Pay: One

The sun sank low in the west, painting the sea golden and the sky pink. The old buildings of the College at Aberystwyth glowed in the sinking sun. People walked on the beach, savouring the last few days before the return of the students to the little university town. At the Glengower Hotel, at the start of the gothic terrace that leads up to the prom, young men and women looked out over the sea. As summer died, it was not without a little regret that some looked out to sea, especially those for whom the end of summer meant the need to get a job.

The sun sank lower in the west, the pink sky turning slowly to a deep purple, as another day passed. The old town saw it pass away as it had seen so many days pass, and people started to drift home. Among them was one Sian Rule, a student in her final year at the University, returned early from her family home in Carmarthenshire to her job in a cafe on the seafront. Turning off the front, she walked up North Road, past the playing fields, before taking a shortcut up the hill, behind houses.

She would have been a liar if she had not felt a little fear, for the night was dark, and even in "Aber" fools attacked unaccompanied women. So when she saw a man in a long coat blocking her path, his face in deep shadow, she started, a stab of fear running through her.

"Sian Rule," the figure spoke, his coat blowing in the evening breeze, "I am the Green Man. I am the avenger of evil. And you are going to help me make the wicked pay. Follow me."
Sian Rule felt she had no choice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back to College: Another New Term

Sir Richard Arcos, Eduction Correspondent writes: Another new term is begun, and all over this green and pleasant land. I was deputed to accompany Alice Rule, my youngest Grandchild, to her first term at the East Anglian Institute of Advanced Science. The dear child wishes to be a forensic examiner or something. Dashed if I know why.
I arrived to find the place is an old country house in the depths of rural no-where, with a large heli-pad. The halls of Residence are in the converted stables, while main classrooms in the house, Apparently there is a cyclotron in a vast underground lab under the grounds, and the greenhouse in the foreground houses man-eating plants. There was a man staked out on an anthill a little way away.
My daughter tells me that the dean of the University is a super-villain, but apparently his appointment was upheld on the grounds of diversity.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Twenty

The Grey Tabby laughed, as the Green Man looked first to him, then to the slowly collapsing girls. There was a note of triumph in the costumed villain's voice.

"Your choice, Green Man," the villain smiled. "Does the hero rescue the damsels in distress or destroy the baddie?"

"You know the answer!" the Green Man dealt a heavy blow to the jaw of the Grey Tabby. The villain, taken by surprise, staggered back against the wall. Before the Green Man could complete his assult on the villain, the remains of the house began to burst into flames. The Green Man drew a small pair of wire-cutters from his coat. Cutting through the girls' chains, the Green Man put one over each shoulder, glad that neither was particularly heavy, before he hurried from the house, as the remaining woodwork in the ruined house began to burn fiercely.

Looking back, he saw the grey skies begin to clear, as something in the house exploded. The girls both passed out, rather than being helpless with agony. Laying them on the lawn, the Green Man made his way back towards the house.

It was too late, but it was an inferno. No-one could have lived through that unless the Grey Tabby had yet to use up his nine lives. The Green Man smiled grimly at the blaze, glad that an attempt on his organisation had been foiled. Turning back to the two girls, he saw Ms. Madison beginning to sit up.

"What happened?" She asked, rubbing her head. "I've not felt this bad since that time Sir Richard Arcos gave me half a bottle of his best brandy by mistake. He just kept re-filling it..."

"I had to abandon the Grey Tabby." The Green Man looked back to the inferno. "In there."
And, with that, he walked off into the gathering gloom.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Nineteen

The Grey Tabby laughed wickedly, as Ms. Madison andLady Sylvia bent, their bodies convulsed with pain. His evil laughter filled the air. The creature fell, too, blood pouring from its mouth and nose.

"Die!" he shouted, "die and know that I triumph!"

"No." The Green Man smiled, removing another device from his pocket. To the horror of the Grey Tabby, he was completely unaffected.

"It can't be!" the Grey Tabby motioned to his goons, "get him, destroy him!"

"It can be," the Green Man gunned down two of the goons. "You are protected. As am I. If one person can create an antidote, another can. I discovered that the technology for this neural net was stolen from Government laboratories and had a blocker made."

"Your assistants will die, though," the Grey Tabby told him. "Unless you can find the power source and turn it off, they will perish."

"Like this, you mean?" the Green Man pressed a button on the device that he had taken from his pocket. Nothing happened, and the Grey Tabby laughed once more.

"It's lead shielded!" the Grey Tabby laughed, "and in five minutes the whole house will be destroyed, the girls with it!"
"No." the Green Man raised his gun. "You will end this. Or you will die."
"All right." the Grey Tabby smiled, "but you must let me go in order to save your friends."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ever-Increasing Darkness: Eighteen

Closer and closer drew the ghastly thing. From a distance, it had seemed almost human, but as it drew closer, all appearance of humanity fled from it. The girls trembled, as it screamed over and over. The Grey Tabby laughed with triumph, as they shrank from its foul breath.

"The Green Man was in London last night!" Ms. Madison cried out. "Surely you don't really think he could be here now?"

"Stranger things have happened," the Grey Tabby told her. "And if he lives, then he will try to rescue you. I know the Green Man, and he's as predictable as the weather in this part of the world. At least, as predictable as it was."

"You have to be mad!" Lady Sylvia gasped, as the creature moved towards her. "Utterly mad!"

"This is revenge, my dear," he told her, "but I am as mad as you are. The Green Man is the one great obstacle to my plans. When he comes here, then at once the neural net that surrounds this place will be activated. The electicity from the net will literally tear his brain apart. Of course, it will also slay you."

"And if you're still here," Ms. Madison pointed out, "then your brain's going to fry as well."

"No," the Grey Tabby drawled urbanely. "You see, I have invented a device that will keep that from happening. My men and I are protected.

"From that, perhaps," a voice came from the shadows. "But there is no protection against the vengeance of the Green Man."

"The Green Man." The Grey Tabby stepped forward, smiling. "I knew you'd come. Be ready to protect your beautiful friends. How do you do it?"

"That's a trade secret," the Green Man replied. "Now, let us discard all talk of neural mets and such." He drew his gun. "This ends now, Tabby. Let the girls go, it's me you want."

After Lady Sylvia foiled by plan for the Republic of London?" the Grey Tabby shook his head. "Oh no, it's all of you."

He pressed a button. Lady Sylvia screamed, as the world seemed to tear itself apart.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Sunday Supplement: At the End of the Pier

Sir Richard Arcos writes: My wife and I have returned from a long and most productive holiday, which was mostly spent on the South Coast. I spent much of it visiting old churches and finishing the proofs of my new book Diotrephes, or Cess-Pools I have known, while Lady Arcos did a little fishingt. She caught seven supermarket Trolleys, Five Sea-Bass and a Cross-Channel swimmer.

A few Sundays ago we happened to drop in on the pleasant resort town of East Haven. Not knowing of any fellowship there, we dropped in on a rather jolly place that billed itself as 'Christchurch: A non-Denominational group of Christians wor...' The sign was apparently a little too small for what they had wanted to say. Still, it looked nice, and the only other church we'd seen was the Cat-Baptists, so we popped in.

There was an old man in there playing on a battered little piano, in the manner of the accompanist of a silent movie. I looked for the screen but found none. The wife asked me where it was too, so I was not alone. Someone came and spoke to us. She asked where we were from and I told her we were from Norfolk, a village called Little Pudding. She then said she'd been to Norfolk once, but couldn't remember where. I told her I couldn't either.

Before she could say anything more, the minister entered the pulpit. We all stood, as he pronounced the opening benediction. The opening hymn, 'Marching to Zion' was given out. As she minister reached for his hymn-book, the organ began to play, as if from no-where, The lights dimmed, and coloured lights picked out the Bible verse above the lectern.

From below the pulpit, a huge Wurlitzer organ rose in stately fashion, its tones filling the vast space. All thoughts of worship passed, as Lady Arcos started laughing fit to burst.