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."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sunday Supplement: This Sermon Brought to you by...

Sir Richard Arcos writes: With my long-lost daughter back on the road doing all sorts of painful things to the bad guys, last Sunday I was able to attend a church on my own. The building in question was Harrison Road Congregational Church, Thorpe-next-No Place in Particular. This church almsot closed three years ago, but the innovative ministry of the Rev. Robert Bollingbrooke has apparently brought it back from the brink. Naturally, I was anxious to find out why. When I took my hymnbook, I noticed that it carried advertiosements on the front cover, like the old paperbacks I used to buy when I was a child. Apparently I could get 50% off my next purchase in WH Smith with the church newsletter, which seemed to be useful. Needless to say, I sneaked one for my daughter. She ought to take up drawing or something. It might take her mind off things.

When the church secretary came to the front, he started off by saying that the announcements were sponsored by Bird's Custard powder. The bible reading was given, together with a suggestion that persons should visit the church the next day for a free demonstration of something or other (I forget what).

The hymns were sung normally, although the hymnbook carried more advertisements than the free papers that some youth at the metropolitan railway stations hand out. What did rather surprise me was the children'd talk, which consisted purely of endorsements of a certain brand of satellite navigation what-not, you know, the device that helps you get lost so much more easily. While a Biblical application was given, it was somewhat spoiled by the mention of the price and the fullsome praise of the thing.

The sermon was scattered with product endorsements, from brands of coffee to the local supermarket. Talking to one of the deacons afterwards, he informs me that there is a sliding scale for such things, and one has to pay more for a mention closer to the application or inclusion in an illustration. The children's talk retails at about £150 a time, which is a fair whack when you consider that's one a week. And the hoardings attached to the galleries advertising all sorts of products were, in my opinion, a wee bit much.
Must go now, as my man informs me that I've received a telegram from the War Office to tell me that my commission is being re-activated due to a shortage of experienced men. Apparently they are giving me command of a spittoon.

Monday, June 02, 2008

No rest for the Wicked: Part Three

The old Bentley purred through the Nottinghamshire countryside, Ms. Madison at the wheel. Beside her, the masked figure of Sparowhawk looked out at the green of the land, washed by rain. She shook her head, sighing, as she looked out over the land. Ms. Madison listened to the radio, still not sure what to make of the strange girl. Was what Sir Richard had said bout her true? - could it be? Was this girl really over fifty years old, doomed to a life of endless youth? And how could that be a doom? But here she was, apparently deeply affected by a brave new world.

"They say it's going to be another wet summer," Ms. Madison tried to make polite conversation.

"It was blazing sunshine last August," Sparrowhawk shook her head. "At least the last August that I remember. Of course, for the rest of the world that was ten years ago..." there was a wistfulness about Sparrowhawk, as she looked out at the rain.

"The English countryside's lovely in every climate," Ms. Madison went on, "and the summer rain ... it reminds me of strawberries and village fetes - look at that." She indicated a rainbow, visible over the trees.

"...I trace the rainbow through the rain..." Sparrowhawk sighed again, looking away.

"What was that?" Ms. Madison looked away from the road to the pensive figure in brown leather.

"Nothing" Sparrowhawk looked down at her lap. "I was just wondering who else has died while I was in that nursing home. And who could have visited me while I didn't know it."

"You'll never know, I suppose," Ms. Madison shook her head. "Why worry, Hawkie?"

"Stop here." Sparrowhawk reached for the wheel.

Ms. Madison did exactly as she was told, worried that Sparrowhawk might cause her to crash otherwise. She would have asked the strange adventuress exactly what was going on, only the way that Sparrowhawk looked at the gaunt ruins that showed at the edge of a ploughed field told her everything she needed to know.