Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday Supplement: My Way

Sir Richard Arcos writes: Resuming my peripatetic and occasional tours of the country, I decided to drop in this Sunday at the Acle Straight Free Will Baptist Church. Having for some years been pastor of a Free Grace Baptist Church, I was a little curious to see what goes on in a Free Will Baptist Church. In addition, I do happen to be getting on a bit, and if they were offering free Wills, I thought it might save me a little bit of money. Not that it's tight or anything, it's just that one of my daughters is likely to rather need as much help as she can when I shuffle off this mortal coil. I was handed a book of hymns at the door, and sat down in a quiet pew. The organ played while the chapel filled, people chatting, playing hopscotch, cards, or whatever elese took their fancy.

The service started at about eleven. I say 'about eleven' advisedly, because there seemed to be no set time, people drifting in and out of the building when they felt like it. When the pastor entered the pulpit, about half the congregation ignored him and went on talking. Several people were in a heated discussion, which went on for most of the service. When the first hymn was announced, several people uttered quite loud expressions of disagreement, and two walked out, muttering darkly. Several other people declared that they did not want to sing that particular hymn, and sung another one instead, turning the opening of the service into a rather odd cacophony. The couple behind me shouted that they wanted some minor key hymns, while another chap said he only did rousing hymns.

The Bible reading was announced, but several people declared that they didn't want that passage, others saying they thought the prayer should be next. Someone else suggested the sermon. I was tempted to suggest they all went home, but, after a rather chaotic ad hoc meeting, a vote was taken, and the Bible was read. A couple of carefully selected passages, to do with the 'Whosoever wills' of Christ. Someone fired a pea-shooter at the pastor half way through. He beamed and said that if that was their free will, he accepted it.
The long prayer consisted of thanking God for giving us free wills, and asking God to do certain things, if people wanted Him to do them. I did rather wonder whether it might not, given that theology, have made more sense to ask the people in question. Another hymn was sung, and the collection plate was passed round. It was twice emptied by people who felt like helping themselves to the money. This, since it was their exercise of their free will, seemed to be perfectly aceptable. Someone else challenged one of these chaps, and got knocked out.

The sermon was greeted with cries of annoyance, which were only silenced when the pastor promised not to take more than fifteen minutes. Then some other people declared they wanted a half-hour sermon. The pastor suggested a compromise on twenty minutes, whereupon the entire congregation (except the couple behind me), declared that their free will was being violated, and walked out. I think they went to the pub.
The couple behind me explained that this happens every week. We played snap for the remainder of the service, while the pastor preached and the organist played the organ, both to their hearts' content.
After which, since I was feeling a little peckish, I motored down to Trunch Free Grub Baptist Church, who do a very good spread.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why the Delay?

The recent long pauses in the publication the 'The Vengeance of the Green Man' have been due to circumstances beyond the control of anyone in particular, being variously writer's block and other projects. Rest assured, we shall soon be back to our regular doses of battle, murder and sudden death. Hopefully in time for Christmas.

Sir Richard Arcos wishes to thank the one person who wrote to his lawyer asking whether he was dead. He would like to report that he has in fact made a complete recovery, although sadly his doctor died the other night after a short illness. Caused by the cyanide someone had paid him to feed Sir Richard.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Eighteen

Sparrowhawk looked dubiously at the undergrowth, as she concealed herself in the undergrowth alongside Ms. Madison. The Green Man's secretary looked at the masked girl in leather and tried to smile encouragingly. Sparrowhawk did not smile back, only looking out at the desterted terrace, searching for a sign of movement.

"Why do you dress like that?" Ms. Madison spoke, trying to pass the time.
"I have my reasons," Sparrowhawk was curt.
"Oh." The blonde secretary sounded a little hurt. "Be that way, then..."
Sparrowhawk was quiet for a long time, looking down at the beaten earth, at the undergrowth and the rubble. She looked thoughtful, and not a little sad. There was, the English girl noted, something a little tragic about the little girl in leather. She looked away, feeling that she was looking at something very private.
"I'm sorry," she spoke at last, "but this place is really awful. I remember what they did to me in court, the way that every neurosis of mine was dragged out and paraded in front of the court. Look," she shook her head, "you must know that I'm not exactly normal, that I'm a messed up little thing. Being here brings back memories of a time when the life of a crime-fighter was an interlude between going in and out of private hospitals."
Ms. Madison shook her head, looking sympathetic. She reached out for the masked girl's arm, but she jerked it away.

"There'll be time for that later." She looked out at the fields around them, as dusk fell over the flat agricultural land. The Green Man stood a little way away from them, the wind blowing at his coat, looking down. Ms. Madison shuddered.
"I know," Sparrowhawk spoke soberly. Driven. I've been there and done that. Isn't he magnificent?"
"He's also got a girlfriend." Ms. Madison spoke sternly to the girl in leather.
"Yeah," Sparrowhawk shook her head. "But I'm a naughty girl. Still, after tonight, the Girl in Grey may not have a rival."

Ms. Madison knew not to challenge the masked maiden further. She shook her head, and went back to checking her gun.
The Green Man slipped from the building, leaving the two girls alone. He knew that they could look after themselves. Drawing his gun, he vanished into the undergrowth. A trace of movement revealed a rough looking man at a telephone box.
So the Green Man struck.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked

Sparrowhawk leapt out of the car, closely followed by Ms. Madison. This time, they had followed the drive that had once led up to the great doors of Tollholme Priory. Now, all they saw was the shattered remains of the entrance front. Ms. Madison strained to keep up, as thegirl in leather shot across the drive, towards a now-overgrown porch. She had not spoken since they had left Greyminster, and her intensity frightened the Green Man's secretary. She knew that the blonde bombshell had spent time in a mental hospital, and apparently hadn't been all that stable before that. Here, in the ruins of a house she claimed to have visited fifty years ago, who knew what might be going through her head?

"Hey!" she exclaimed at last, "what's going on? Why here?"
"Because the end is near."
The voice of the Green Man caused Ms. Madison to start. Not that it should have, she reflected. After all, he was known for turning up in the most odd places. Still, here and now...

"I thought you'd get the hint." Hawkie smiled at him, striking a pose.

"And I never thought you'd give up." The Green Man nodded. "Now that they're facing exposure, I think they'll return to the old sanctuary, don't you?"
"But why?" Ms. Madison shook her head. "They have to know that you're onto them. Why risk it all by coming here?"
"Why did the monks build here?" The Green Man looked out over the windswept plain around the ruins, gaunt and deserted, now that the grounds were gone, the gardens overgrown, ponds choked with weeds. "This was the site of an early Christian mission, Lynette. And many of those missions were built on the sites of pagan rituals. They meet here because they belive that mystical energies flow through this place."
"Now they know Lord Ambrose will fight against all they can throw at him," Hawkie spoke savagely, "they'll seek even diabolic power to stop him."
"But it will do them no good." The Green Man smiled grimly. "Load your pistol, Ms. Madison. Tonight this ends."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Agony Column

Our guest columnist, Sparrowhawk addresses the problems and concerns of people who've written in. To her. She says:
Daddy suggested that I fill in for him while he's on holiday in South America, so I thought I'd give people the benefit of my experience (the life of adventure bit, not being stuck in a nursing home for a decade). Well, here goes...
Dear Hawkie: My boyfriend's been ignoring me lately, and I think there may be another woman on his mind, what should I do? Anonymous, Brighton.
First, check that he has a mind. Then tell him about your troubles. If he still ignores you, then tie him to the sofa. That ought to get his attention.
Dear Hawkie: There's this really nice girl at work who I'd like to ask out, only she thinks I'm a joke and won't take me seriously. What do you suggest? Confused, Bath.
I suggest you rob the safe and run off to... No, sorry, scrub that, I'm meant to be a good girl. Just buy her chocolates, stuff like that. If she still won't have you, then send all the chocolates to me, c/o Sir Richard Arcos. I'll appreciate them.
Dear Hawkie: My boss has asked me to have an affair with him. It's really embarrassing and he keeps asking, what do I do? Miss X, Perth.
I've always found a kidney punch deters unwelcome suitors. Failing that, push him out of a first floor window. If you can't, I'll do it for you. Next!
Dear Hawkie: About a year ago, I started going out with a really nice guy. He seemed to share all my interests, and was really kind and considerate. A few months ago, his ex-girlfriend came back from the dead, so to speak, and started trying to get back with him. If she keeps on this way, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ... oh, you know what I mean, keep your hands off the Green Man if you want to stay healthy, you interfering, conniving little... Anonymous, London.
(Gulp), love to answer your question, but I gotta run! Catch you again, folks!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Sixteen

Lord Ambrose Vaughan stood on a platform in the hall of the Greymister Conservative Working Mens Club, and surveyed the crowd that had gathered. Normally, such a gathering would be little more than a meeting of the party faithful and a few representatives of the local press. But the attempted murder that had left his sister in hospital had turned the election into a major news event. Representatives of most of the major newspapers were there, and there wa a crowd outside who could not get in. Behind his lectern, Lord Ambrose adjusted his tie, as he looked out on the crowd.

"Ladies and gentlemen..." he cleared his throat, "I have to confess that I was not expecting such an event. This would have been simply the announcement that I shall be the Conservative candidate for Greyminster in the by-election. However, events have clearly made it necessary that I should say more. My sister, Lady Sylvia, lies in hospital, after taking a knife-thrust intended for me, and that is not the first threat I have had. There are people who do not want the curtain lifted on their little world, with its corruption and wickedness. They have shown themselves willing to do anything to keep me from being named on the ballot paper, or to drive me underground. But I cannot - will not - give in to such evil. I will fight those forces, for the sake of people here who live under the shadow of death and evil, and for the sake of my sister, a great young woman, a courageous girl who put her life on the line for my sake. The least I can do for this town is to put my life on the line for Greyminster..."

The young aristocrat spoke on, his clear voice resonating around the hall, the press and people hanging on his words, as he outlined his vision for the future of the town. Lord Ambrose pounded the podium as his reached his peroration. Men and women leaned forward.

As Lord Ambrose finished, the party workers rose, applauding. Lord Ambrose stood back, drinking in the applause. A curt smile appeared for a moment on his face. As the applause died away, he acknowledged the audience. His appearance had a little of the Roundhead aristocrat about him, the enthusiastic, privileged reformer.

All he could see, however, was the face of a cheerful brunette, joking about his candidature, and doing her level best to undermine him, in her own happy way. He missed Sylvia, and wished she could have been there with him.

"Lord Ambrose!" a man from a major newspaper rose to his feet. "The Government party have selected a local man. What do you have to say to the accusation that you are an incomer?"
"I was asked to contest the seat, and I don't spend the majority of my time at Greyminster Park." Lord Ambrose nodded. "But one reason I was asked is that, although I am a major local employer and landowner, I am not a part of the society here. The people who asked me believe that this place is deeply troubled and needs to have the power of a few broken. I shall do that."
The meeting broke up in applause.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Fifteen

Something unpleasantly like a red-hot poker brushed Lady Sylvia's ribs, as the brave brunette placed herself between the knife-man and her brother. She heard someone scream, and felt hot blood soak her blouse. A punch to the jaw of the man sent him to the ground, where a couple of burly locals sat on him.

"Sylv!" Lord Ambrose grabbled his sister's arms, looking down at the spreading bloodstain on her front.

"Is this involved enough, bro?" she smiled proudly, her eyes looking up into his. "Tell you what, if you win this one, I'll even come down to the House for your maiden speech...." Her eyelids flickered, and she passed out in his arms.

Sparrowhawk, kneeling on a parapet not three feet away, muttered a curse. She could see Ms. Madison across the street, turning away from the scene she had been too late to prevent taking place.

"It happened before," she told Ms. Madison at the back of the railway station later. "Then it was a councillor. His wife was killed protecting him, and after the case was dismissed, he left the area. He was later found dead. The coroner reprted it as suicide, and the worst part is that he might have been right."

"Okay," Ms. Madison shrugged, "so there's something sinister going on here. Lady Sylvia's not dead, and it was her brother who was the target, anyway. The Green Man's watching over Lord Ambrose, and Sylvia's at Greyminster Park, where she can be properly guarded. The police have had to take this seriously, and the county constabulary aren't a part of this. More, on the strength of this, Lord Ambrose is bound to be the opposition candidate. Where do we fit in?"

"That's easy." Beneath her mask, Sparrowhawk's blue eyes narrowed. "We do what we should have done a long time ago."

"Single out the most plausible leaders and kill them?" Ms. Madison looked confused.
"Tempting but risky," Sparrowhawk smiled dangerously. "No, Lynette. "We go back to the source of all this. We go back to Tollholme Priory."
The gleam in Sparrowhawk's eyes was that of the moonlight on the brass plate of a coffin.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Fourteen

Day dawned to find Greyminster Park in silence, not even a trace of the events of the night before. Sparrowhawk and the Green Man had manhandled the villains into a wheelbarrow, and disposed of them, leaving even Lady Sylvia unaware of the rough-house. In the elegantly appoined breakfast room, the year could almost have been 1930, and the upper-classes still very much possessed of the upper hand. Lord Ambrose wore a blue rosette on his tweed jacket already, while Lady Sylvia was idly looking over an election leaflet.

"You haven't been selected yet, bro," she told him, "so why have you printed all your stuff?"
"My dear girl," Lord Ambrose drawled, "whether I am selected or not, I shall be contesting this seat. I have been asked to do so to end the tyranny of a circle which dominates this corner of England, whatever their declared creed may be. I stand against the leaders, so-called of this community..."

"I know the speech, bro." Lady Sylvia laughed. "You don't need to convince me. After all, I don't even have a vote here."
"Sylv." Lord Ambrose shook his head. "You are a rather silly girl, even though you work for the Green Man. This is serious, my own struggle against the forces of evil. And you are coming with me, whether you like it or not. I've got to go to the station to meet my would-be agent later, and you are coming with me."
Which was why, about an hour or two later, Lady Sylvia was standing outside the minister which gave its name to the division, surrounded by members of her brother's committee. She now wore a rosette and blue suit. In light of her brother's unmarried status, she was filling the space normally occupied by the candidate's wife.

"Rather fun, isn't it, dear?" a lady with grey hair addressed the young aristocrat in tones just as refined. "You know, this is probably the best chance we've ever had of taking this seat from the Socialists. I remember 1983..."

"I don't," Lady Sylvia smiled impishly. "I was born a year later..."
The woman stepped back, spluttering, and Lady Sylvia chalked up another reason why she'd never become a politician. Which served as something of a consolation for the lovely aristocrat. Her heart went out to her brother, as he was forced to shake hands with every person who presented themselves to him.
Until she saw one man pull a knife and rush forward suddenly.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Tabernacle, Aberystwyth, the chapel that Sparrowhawk was almost killed outside back in 1997, is no more on 4 July, the chapel was set alight by arsonists, and on 11 April, the remains, having been declared unsafe, were demolished. The church had been empty since 2002, when the congregation of 70 ceased using the massive building, which had been constructed for 1800 people. The fourth chapel on the site, it is likely to be the last. The intention was to turn the building into flats. Now both exterior and interior are lost.

The building looked unloved, even in 1997, when it was in use. Entered from a side-street, the chapel presented a starkly classical aspect to the town by the station, from which is was the most obvious building, jutting out into Mill Street. The Green Man would have seen it above everything else, and Sparrowhawk, spotted by the man she had been pursuing for so long, must have headed there in the hope of finding some sort of sanctuary.

Now the chapel is gone, leaving a gaping hole in the town's skyline, probably to be replaced by an anonymous block of flats. A little more of the romance has gone out of the life of this lovely town in Mid-Wales. And, like Sparrowhawk, I suppose that this adds a nother reminder that the past is a place to which we can never return.
In Memoriam, Y Tabernacl, Aberystwyth.

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Thirteen

The shadowy figures crept down the long, dark corridors of Greyminster Park, intent on their terrible mission. Their faces were set like flint, evil in their hearts. As they crept further into the mansion, they muttered arcane spells of protection.

"It is here..." the men paused by a large door. "He is sleeping..."

They tried the door, but it would not open. The men took a step back, one of them taking aim at the lock. His silenced pistol fired, the bullet shattering the lock. They stepped up to the door again, one man leaning on the door, turning the door handle. The door remained stubbornly locked. The man muttered a curse.

"It's bolted." The voice of Sparrowhawk caused the men to turn. The men looked, dumbstruck at the leather-clad figure.
"Who the hell are you?" the man who had tried to open the door raised his gun.
"Scary warrior girl," Sparrowhawk struck out with her whip, tearing the gun from the man's hand. Her boot slammed into the man's jaw, and he slept. "You guys need to realise that I've dealt with slouches like you before. You can pick a lock, but try unbolting a door from the other side."
Another man drew, only to be knocked cold by a blow from Hawkie's gauntleted fist. A short struggled followed, but the men, dependent on their guns, and expecting the element of surprise, were outclassed from the beginning. Sparrowhawks fists and feet seemed to be everywhere at once, knocking the men back against very hard walls.
"Yes," Sparrowhawk struck a pose, leaning on the door frame. "I'm good."

Monday, July 21, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Twelve

"No." Sparrowhawk looked defiantly at the Green Man. "You don't brush me off like that. We hunt together, even if you don't love me any more." There was more than a trace of bitterness in her voice.

"Look," the Green Man sighed, "I thought you understood. What we had was never more than a promise that was never fulfilled."

"Story of my life," Hawkie laughed bitterly. "Still, at least I can kick a bad guy in the head when life starts geting me down."

The Green Man smiled grimly, looking up at the moon. Full, it bathed the gardens of the house in an unearthly light. It also gave no cover at all for the wicked. And that was just the way things ought to be. Beside him, Hawkie was tensed, ready to spring on the attackers, the whip by her side ready to do some serious injury. Perhaps this young woman was being more than a little obsessive, but there was little the Green Man could do to stop that. Showing the wicked their proper place (six feet under) was a good way of keeping his mind off things.

"There." The Green Man pointed to a shadow that fled across the lawns. Sparrowhawk slipped the whip from her belt, the light in her eyes suggesting that the wicked had something very nasty pending.
As the blond bombshell raced across the lawn, the Green Man slipped back into the shadows.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The interruption in Service

Sir Richard Arcos writes: Discerning and learned readers may have noticed an interruption in service. This is because the Green Man was engaged in helping the wife and I squash a particularly septic pustule by the name of Sir Algebald Belhus, a former chemical factory owner whose appalling safety recod has created a great many widows and orphans. Under cover of an invitation to a conference, he was lured to a remote castle in Suffolk, where he was fed food laced with the toxic residue from his own factories. Since the poison was slow and unpredictable, sadly the Green Man was unable to leave said remote castle until it was obvious that the agonies of death had set in. Having delivered the message of doom to the hapless merchat of death, the Green Man was able to resume his duties in the field of visiting vengeance on the satanists of remotest Greyminster.

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Eleven

The sun was sinking low on the horizon, as Sparrowhawk and the Green Man lingered in the garden. The blonde in leather looked up at the Green Man, her blue eyes wide and fascinated.

"Look..." she laid a gloved hand on his arm, "I...I know it's hard, but to me, that night in the station wasn't a decade ago. It was just the other day."

"You lost that decade," the Green Man shook his head. "And I lost you a decade ago, under the shadow of that old chapel. When you walked back into my life it was out of the past. You have to understand that for the rest of us ten years passed. I've met someone else, and it's serious. We never really got started..."

"Then how can you know I'm not the one?" Sparrowhawk sighed, brushing strands of golden hair out of her face. The setting sun gleamed on her hair, offsetting her mask. "I know how it must seem, my striding back in the way I did. But I can't help it. After all this time, have you really forgotten?"

She leaned close to him, her other hand climbing to his lapel. She raised red lips, her eyes closing langourously. This close, the Green Man could not fail to notice her perfume.

"Sparrowhawk." The Green Man turned away, looking up to the moon that was slowly showing above the trees. "I can't, and you really shouldn't..."
"Sure," she sighed, "but I'm a naughty little Hawkie. Besides, it's not like I've got that much to lose. You want me out of here, don't you?"
"Forty years or so ago," the Green Man nodded, "someone wearing your mask and costume let an evil man get away because they got too involved. I'm not going to let that happen again."
"And you're not gonna get too involved with me, either." Sparrowhawk shook her head, sighing. "Look, I'm in now, so what do we do?"
"We catch the guys who are about to try to kill Lord Ambrose." The Green Man spoke sternly to the blonde in leather. "You take the North wing. I'll take the South."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Ten

Lady Sylvia looked from the Green Man to the irritated expression of Hawkie, then back again. She sensed a lot of anger in the slender girl in leather. As Sparrowhawk's fists clenched, she wondered whether Hawkie was going to hit someone. She shook her head, as Sparrowhawk stepped up to the Green Man.
"You won't shut me out," she spoke firmly. "And you're not going to try, or you'll find out what it's like to get beaten up by a very angry ex-girlfriend."

"The magistrate dismissed the case after he found out the amount of time you'd spent in several private nursing homes in the United States." The Green Man remained firm.
Sparrowhawk slapped the Green Man, eyes flaring with anger.
"Never use that against me!" she shouted, colouring, he voice a little hysterical. "Okay, so I'm still crazy about you, but that doesn't let you call me insane!"
She was, Lady Sylvia reflected, a little more touchy about that than was entirely safe. But then, she was still a friend, no matter what. And she was great in a fight.
"I can't let this fail again, Sparrowhawk," the Green Man still shook his head. "You know how that is."

Sparrowhawk turned her back on the Green Man.
"I'm in this," she glared at the Green Man. "I've been in for a very long time. And I'm not giving up for you. Of course," she smiled, "if you promised me a date, I might just..."
"You're in," the Green Man spoke sharply.
"Oh!" Sparrowhawk pouted, folding her arms.
The Green Man took Sparrowhawk's arm and led her through the garden, at last vanishing among the walls and the roses. Lady Sylvia watched them go, wondering just what was going on between the Green Man and his old flame.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Nine

Lady Sylvia rose from her seat, still upset, looking at the Green Man incredulously.

"Just when I needed you..." she held out a hand. "How did you know?"

"It is enough that I knew. " The Green Man took her hand. "Now, the time has come for you to know, Lady Sylvia Vaughan. Some fifty years ago, the richest man in this area, Lord St. Martyn, decided that wealth was not enough. Through diabolic arts, he sought immortality and power. To obtain that, he kidnapped people for human sacrifice. He was stopped and his house, Tolholme Priory, destroyed. He was not the only member of this diabolic cult, however. The late MP was also implicated, although nothing was ever proved. And so was the mayor. Your brother was approached by a group of local people who believe that those fifty years have seen the members of that diabolic group take all the positions of power in the locality. What he does not know is that those people have also approached me. I need your help, Lady Sylvia, to destroy this evil. "

"You've got it," Lady Sylvia nodded soberly. "How come these people were allowed to remain in power, if their leader was exposed?"

"Long story," the Green Man walked on, Lady Sylvia at his side. "But the Government at the time mad a very slim majority. That may have played a part, and the Police were unable to produce the one witness who would have proved the case against the others beyond all doubt."

"Why?" Lady Sylvia looked up at the Green Man with big eyes. "Did they kill him?"

"No killing, no intimidation," the Green Man shook his head. "It was simply that she could not appear in court. There were conditions attached to her appearance that the witness would not accept. And they said that they would not accept anonymous evidence, given by a person in a mask."

"So who was it?" Lady Sylvia leaned forward, eyes aglow.

"The person was Sparrowhawk," the Green Man shook his head. "I had not heard this before the approach to Lord Ambrose, but apparently there was a Sparrowhawk there then. She led the group that broke up the coven at Tolholme, but they wouldn't accept her evidence. And it wasn't just the fact she wore a mask..."
"It was the psychiatric assessment." A new voice broke in on the conversation, as the trim figure of Sparrowhawk dropped over the wall. "They said I was dangerous, erratic, maybe even psychotic. So I was ignored."
"Ms. Madison brought you..." the Green Man drew back.
"She wasn't supposed to, was she?" Sparrowhawk drew closer, her blue eyes burning with anger. "This is the tail end of one of my old cases, and you want to keep me out of it..."
"Yes." The Green Man spoke firmly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Eight

Lady Sylvia looked incredulously at her brother. She shook her head, eyes narrowing with suspicion.

"You almost had me there," she chuckled, "but you? No, bro, there has to be another reason."

"There isn't." Lord Ambrose regarded his sister sternly. "This town has hidden a terrible secret for far too long, and it's time that secret was brought out into the light. This is the only way. Some fifty years ago, a terrible thing was done here, a thing that I was only recently made aware of. A thing that the people who control this town want desperately to keep hidden. It has remained hidden for far too long. I intend to bring it out into the light. Whatever it takes, Sylv. And it looks like it's going to take a real threat to their monopoly on power."

Lay Sylvia could only shake her head, looking away from her brother. She walked a little further into the blooming garden, the scent seeing to follow her.

"But why you, Ambrose?" she looked to the ancient house. "And why now. Surely that's all in the past now. whatever happened then, we have to look to the future now. Even if the people responsible..."

"But they haven't given up, Sylv!" Lord Ambrose strode after her. "The same evil, the same blasphemous nonsense, even now it seeks to..."

"Then let someone else fight it!" Lady Sylvia ran from him, tears in her eyes, seeking shelter in the strange garden. At last, sure that her brother had given up the search, she sank down on a garden bench. Why, she asked herself, did Lord Ambrose have to do this now, and here?"

She shook with sobs, burying her head in her hands. What could she do? It was a strange situation really, here on a mission for the Green Man, but being roped into an election campaign.

"You weep, Sylvia," a familiar voice trespassed on her sorrowful musings.
"That's right." Lady Sylvia looked up through her tears. "Maybe you'll tell me just why you sent me here."
"But, of course." The Green Man stepped out of the shadows, gun held ready.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Seven

Lady Sylvia stood in the drawing Room at Greyminster Park, looking out of the window at the gardens, down to the moat which surrounded the house at a distance. She deliberately looked away from the posters and election leaflets which cluttered the tables and stood in boxes all around. Not by nature a political person, she had assumed that her brother shared her disdain for these things, and was more than a little distressed to find that his views were opposed to hers.

"Worried, sis?" Lord Ambrose stolled into the room, sporting a large blue and green rosette on the lapel of his well-cut tweed suit. "I suppose you know Greyminster was held by the Government - with them in te pickle they're in now, I think we stand a..."

"Ambrose..." Lady Sylvia sighed. "I don't care. You know I don't care about politics. I think it's a terif waste of time, and that you, you of all people, could be doing something better with your life. I mean, what about your business interests?"

"I can pay people to look after them for a bit." Lord Ambrose moved to his sister's side. "Besides, I'll only be an MP, I don't have to give them up, just be careful not to let them interfere with my political life. I don't see myself as a minister, do you?"

Frankly," Lady sylvia sighed, "I still don't see you as an MP."

"Sylv." Lod Ambrose shook his head, "are you oing to help out, or are you just going to undermine me all the time?"

"I thought I'd undermine you all the time." She smiled mischievously. "I mean, it's not like someone else couldn't be MP for Greyminster. And what do you have to do with the town anyway?"

"I own the Greyminster Works, one of the major employers in the town," Lord Ambrose grinned boyishly. "As well as Greyminster Park. You're not the only one with deep, dark secrets, sis."

Maybe," Sylvia looked away, "but my secrets are a lot more fun than yours. I suppose you know half our relatives 'ld despise you if they knew you made money from business?"

"Only the half of our relatives whose scorn is probablysome sort of a badge of honour." Lord Ambrose laughed again. "Look, Sylvia, I have my reasons for running for Parliament, and here of all places. I didm't ask you here, but now that you're here, I'm glad to see you."

"What are your reasons?" Lady Sylvia looked up again, her eyes blazing. "I know you, bro, so you'd better not say 'public service'."
"But it's true." Lord Ambrose put an arm around his sister's shoulders. "Wouldn't exposing the corruption and evil at the centre of this town be a public service?"

Saturday, June 07, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Six

Ms. Madison shook her head again. There might have been many things about the masked maiden that were hard to explain, but the idea that Hawkie was somehow ageless was more than she was prepared to accept. Looking out over the fields that had once, doubtless, been the park of the great house, she drew in breath. The prospect was daunting, the clouds above threatened to open at any moment.

"I know you don't believe me," Hawkie smiled mockingly. "After all, it is incredible. But those events happened, believe it happened to someone else if you want, I really don't care. The important thing is that it happened, Satanism and attempted human sacrifice in a remote corner of Nottinghamshire, only forty years ago. Check with the local cops if you like."

"You've got no reason to lie." Ms. Madison nodded. "Does anyone know what happened to Lord St. Martyn?"

"Not at all," Hawkie shook her head. "Some people said he was consumed in a mystic fire that burned on the altar, others that he was dragged down to hell, like damned Faust. But I think there was a secret passage in the chapel, leading through into a hidden crypt, and he used this to escape when it became obvious that his plans had gone awry. I think he used hidden assets, the results of his evil activities, to live a secret life, that the accidents at this place which caused it to be abandoned were not accidents at all."

"You don't mean they were somehow supernatural?" Ms. Madison raised one eyebrow.

"Perhaps," Hawkie smiled enigmatically. "Or maybe they were the actions of other members of the Satanist circle that infests this place. "I suspected that several prominent men in the town of Greyminster were involved, but they were absent at the time of the ceremony. Maybe this section stands over the hidden crypt, where the relics of the evil remain, relics that will reveal hidden things. But enough, we have to go to Greyminster."

As Ms. Madison followed Sparrowhawk from the remains of the house, she felt that she knew why the Green man had once been in love with her. She was as awkward as he was.

As they got back into the car, Ms. Madison took a last look at the gaunt ruins, licking up against the horizon like the chimneys of an old colliery. Or broken gravestones.
She shuddered at the thought.

Friday, June 06, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Five

Sparrowhawk looked up at the gaunt ruins, the wind blowing through he golden hair. She was silent for a very long time. Ms. Madison sighed, moving closer to the masked girl.

"This used to be Tolholme Priory," Sparrowhawk ignored Ms. Madison, her voice soft, full of foreboding. "It was the home of the Viscounts St. Martyn, the sort of thing your pal Lady Sylvia might have known. The last one was a pretty weird guy. He was into Satanism and things. He kidnapped a couple of kids from a minor public school in order to sacrifice them to the devil. I joined up with a couple of pals to find out what had happened, and we ended up running Lord St. Martyn to ground here, doing something pretty blasphemous in the chapel - it was still consecrated, you see..."

"Devil-worship?" Ms. Madison laughed scornfully. "Here in England, you can't..."

"More than you know, Lynette..." Sparrowhawk sighed. "Have you heard of Houghton on the Hill?"

"No," Ms. Madison shook her head, "should I?"

"Houghton on the Hill," Sparrowhawk explained, "is a place in Norfolk. It used to be a village, but in 1933 the church was deserted. Due to the events of the war, the church was simply forgotten, it was allowed to become overgrown with brambles. People just forgot it existed. Most importantly, the church was never formally deconsecrated. When a member of the local Women's Institute discovered the church in the summer of 1992, she found the church full of the signs of evil rituals. Bodies had been dug up, and there were signs of sacrifices, maybe even human ones. And this was in the middle of rural England. Just because a thing seems fantasic doesn't mean it's impossible. Of course, for the really big ceremonies, these people need consecrated ground, so they don't happen often. this place had a private chapel, and that made it an ideal place for this sort of foul nastiness. Look around you - how remote is this?"

"Okay..." Ms. Madison looked unconvinced, "so what happened here after you found what was going on here?"

"Look around you..." Sparrowhawk indicated the few shattered ruins. "I broke up the cult, most of them were killed when some really weird stuff went down. Viscount St. Martyn disappeared, and the house came down soon after, as no-one would live there. The demolition stopped after a couple of really odd accidents."
"No..." Ms. Madison shook her head. "This place has been like this for decades."
"You ... you're right," Sparrowhawk looked Ms. Madison in the eyes. "You see, these events took place in 1962."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

No Rest for the Wicked: Part Four

Ms. Madison looked at the gaunt ruin through the rain. It seemed to be what was left of an old gothic building of some description, either ecclesiatical or domestic. Whatever it was, it had obviously seen better days. And it seemed to be known to Hawkie, for the masked maiden stepped out of the car, her face set towards it.

"What is it? Ms. Madison asked, concerned.

"A memory." Sparrowhawk turned, thoughtful. "I know this place, and I'm sure the memory's not pleasant. The memory of evil..." she sighed. "It's so hard, Lynette, I'm like somene who's just woken up from a really long dream, and I think it's affected my memory. But I seem to remember being here years and years ago..."

"If what you said to me back in Wales is true," Ms. Madison sighed, "you've probably been to a lot of p;aces years and years ago."

"Sure," Hawkie ignored the implied accusation. "But a lot fewer where I know something bad happened. And I mean really bad. As in evil."

The way that Hawkie uttered those words caused Ms. Madison to shudder. She knew instinctively that the blonde was not guilty of exaggeration. Hawkie shook her head, big blue eyes full of concern.

"I... I don't know," she confessed, "but I'm going to try and find out - you coming?" She headed off towards the ruins, climbing easily over the gate.

Ms. Madison hurried after her, somewhat hampered by the fact that she wore a skirt. She thought of protesting, but decided that would make her look like a wimp, so followed the strange, intense figure of Sparrowhawk without overt disagreement. She wondered if this was the way that Miss Arcos usually got her own way, then decided that it probably was.

Close to, the ruins were clearly the remains of a great house, largely demolished save for a tower and a portion of the front, capped with turrets and possessed of a number of windows after the style of the fifteenth century. The whole was clearly no earlier than the close of the eighteenth century.

"Any more ideas?" Ms. Madison drew closer to Sparrowhawk.
"Yes." She nodded grimly. "And it's not good."