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.