The Auld Alchemist: Prologue

The room was long and narrow. It was illuminated by a row of windows on an angled wall along one side. The low winter light that came through these windows was filtered through dust and dirt and so cast a pale yellow hue to the room. If one had looked through the windows, one would have seen rooftops, were the windows cleaner.

At one end of the room was a complex apparatus which looked like a large copper milk urn with a glass window in the middle. It was balanced on a small heating device and a web of pipes and glass emanated from it. The whole thing was in a small cabinet. The inner side of the cabinet’s front doors were painted with what looked like icons, although the saints were not familiar.

Further down, sitting at a long workbench on the wall opposite the windows, was an old man with a long grey beard. His clothes were brown and tattered, worn for many years. Patches covered so many holes that it seemed that hardly any original material existed. The workbench was piled with worn leather bound books, pieces of apparatus in glass or brass and stacks and stacks of handwritten notes. The notes had words, drawings and many strange symbols.

The old man opened a drawer on the desk and took some white and black powder from two little compartments. Then he took a pestle and mortar and ground the powders together. A bottle of liquid was taken from a long shelf above the desk and added to the ground up mixture. He selected a small glass container in a tripod and added in the muddy concoction. The man lit a small candle and placed it under the container then watched as smoke began to fill the flask, all the time stroking his grey beard.

aa-chapter-1“Effects Occur!”

“Hm,” said the man.

“What’s wrong?” said a woman’s voice from the other room, with a lilting Scottish brogue.

“Hmm?” said the man.

“Father,” continued the other voice, “you have nineteen different ways of saying ‘hm’. The one you have just used is the one that means ‘I’m trying to ignore you’ and the one before that means ‘something is terribly wrong’.”

The man chuckled.

“You know me too well daughter. I am carrying out a little divination using the powders,” he said, also with a Scottish accent.

“And,” said the other.

“And, I see something very poor, some terrible darkness, some danger on our horizon,” said the old man. “An unspeakable evil is knocking at the door of our world, wanting to come in. And worse still, it has friends here that are only to keen to open that door. But Morag, we know how this goes at this stage, we’re very close again and it always makes these … effects occur. This is normal right now.”

“So,” said Morag, “you’re not in any way perturbed by it?”

“Aye, well,” said the old man, “I dinnae say that.”

Literary News

literary-newsTools of the trade

Dear Reader

We are so excited about current developments here at the Benthic Times that we have had to resort to medicinal liquor to calm our fevered minds. Please, take a seat and let us explain.

As you are most certainly aware, we have just concluded our latest Jennings and Jennings story, with a most disconcerting ending. As night follows day, a new story will start very shortly. In fact, from tomorrow you will thrill to the mercurial machinations and the salty sentiments of our sulphuric story The Auld Alchemist.

Whilst that should be enough to make anyone ecstatic with anticipation, we can also reveal that we intend to collate, tidy and publish the first four Jennings and Jennings stories in one electronic chapbook. This literary wonder should be available for you all by Christmas, at an extremely reasonable price, allowing you to use it fill your electronic socks and stockings.

(In fact Phlebotomous has a pair of electronic socks, but is forbidden from using them. This is following an incident at a ballroom competition, where four dancers were injured and another score required the help of an alienist.)

And as if that were not enough, we can reveal we are signed up to a most intriguing challenge called NaNoWriMo, wherein we hope to write, in one month,  a Jennings and Jennings novel. This aforementioned work of art should be available to all and sundry sometime early next.

So gentle reader, I imagine that, like us, you are presently reaching for the smelling salts as you feel giddy with excitement. On that note, we shall take our leave and wish you the very best sort of weekend.




The Fulham Fiend: Epilogue

“We were so close!” said one of the men in robes. “So very close. Two more days and we would have raised the demon.”

“Is it … angry … at the failure?” asked another man.

The first robed man looked around the table at the other twelve, all dressed identically. His features were invisible in his hood but the contempt in his voice was clear.

‘Of course it is angry Frater Infelix!” he said. “It demands a sacrifice.”

“Another street urchin then?” said a third voice, lazily.

“Not enough,” said the first man. “It must be one of us.”

“The … the straws then, Frater Princeps?” said Frater Infelix, “To decide?”

“The decision has already been made,” said Frater Princeps, as two men loomed out of the shadows and stood around Frater Infelix. “It wants the one who suggested this plan.”

“But I … I just read it … in the books … the failure isn’t mine!” said Frater Infelix. “The failure isn’t mine!”

“Show some dignity brother!” said another voice, “We are an order of the strong, of the brave.”

“That’s a lot easier to say when you’re not about to be sacrificed!” wailed Frater Infelix.

The two men each side of him grabbed him by the arm. He tried to struggle but they pulled him up. The chair he was sitting on fell back and he was dragged away, crying out as he left. The others sat impassive.

epilogue-sepia“Announce Yourself!”

“There is a space at the table,” said Frater Princeps. “A space that must be filled.”

“It must be filled,” they all intoned.

“We will look for candidates then, from the outer order?” said a voice.

“There is no need,” said Frater Princeps, “we have one who is perfect. Step forward brother and take your seat.”

There was muttering from the men as a very portly gentleman wearing a strange amulet around his neck came out of the darkness, picked up the overturned seat and sat on it. There was some movement just behind him as well, barely visible in the dim light.

“Announce yourself,” said Frater Princeps.

“I am Frater Gravitas Maximas,” intoned the new man.

“The most … overweight brother?” said one of the others.

“The most serious brother!” snapped Frater Gravitas Maximas.

“I’m a lecturer in Latin, I think you’ll find…” started the other.

“Enough!” said Frater Princeps. “The brother is joining us as he has some useful experience, relating to our current difficulties.”

“What’s that strange pendant?” asked another.

“This brother, is a mere replica of a more powerful artefact,” said Frater Gravitas Maximas. “The original was destroyed by a man, a man who thwarted my plans and has now thwarted yours. A man of shrewd intelligence and powerful cunning, who is unafraid to use the most appalling violence on another human’s body. I wear this a reminder never to underestimate and never to forget.”

“I say ” said another voice, “this is all well and good, and I think we can overlook the change of protocol and the ignoring of the dress code. But who is that chap behind the brother? This is supposed to be a secret meeting!”

A small man just behind Frater Gravitas Maximas leaned into the circle of thirteen.

“I am most frightfully sorry if I have caused any distress, which is furthest from my aim. I am, you see, the most loyal servant of Mr Clack … of the Frater and I merely hoped that my presence here may better facilitate my understanding of your requirements of him and hence my ability to serve both my most generous employer and your own august selves.”

There was a general mumble of assent.

“Yes, yes that seems in order,” said the one who had complained.

“Now we are all satisfied gentlemen, our future path is clear,” said Frater Princeps. “Whatever else we may do we now have one aim, one goal … to destroy Sir John Jennings.”


The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 15

Sir John and Marie were in the parlour when Detectives Symonds and Dawlish arrived with Phlebotomous.

“Bad business,” said Dawlish, after the greetings. “Very bad business”

“Do we have an idea who the Fiend was?” said Sir John.

“None at all,” said Symonds. “We searched the room he had been renting and found, ah, flasks. We think they contained the victims’ blood. There were 10 in all, arranged in a curious pattern of concentric circles. Other than that, the room was devoid of anything normal, anything … human.”

“Why do you think it was the girls’ blood?” asked Marie.

“We examined the suit the Fiend was wearing in some detail,” said Symonds. “It was an ingenious design, if horrific. The face mask had needles which were connected to a flask in the suit, identical to the ones we found in his room. We think this is how the girls were … drained. The left hand was also connected to a needle, but one that injected a person with a chemical. We’ve analysed the chemical and it’s a powerful narcotic … and anti-coagulant.”

“So, that’s why the victims were acting strange,” said Sir John.   

“Indeed,” said Symonds, “and there were motors at all the joints and so on, which gave the Fiend great strength and iron panels which provided armour.”

“Aaah!” said Phlebotomous, turning to Marie, “That’s why you were … unlucky! That’s why elves detest iron, you know. It blocks  … luck.”

Symonds looked confused at the vampire.

“There is one thing that we couldn’t work out, which was the eye pieces in the mask,” said Symonds. “We brought it so you could have a look. They seem as though they should do something.”

“When I saw through …” started Marie. She looked at Sir John. “Perhaps the ectoscope may help.”

“Ah!” said Sir John and fished out his portable ectoscope. He looked at the mask.

“There’s definitely something paranormal about this,” he said. He put the mask over his face and looked around.

“Oh, I think I see what it does. It’s used to locate vampires. Everyone else looks normal, but Phlebotomous has a pale glow around him.”

Just them Miss Henderson came in the room with tea and biscuits.

“Good lord!” said Sir John. “Miss Henderson, are you a vampire? You have a glow too.”

Miss Henderson jumped at the sight of the mask.

“No, Sir John, I’m not presently a vampire,” she said.

Symonds coughed.

“Perhaps,” he said, “it isn’t vampires that have this glow.”

Everyone turned to look at Phlebotomous, apart from Sir John.

“What! It’s hard to make the acquaintance of ladies when you’re a vampire!” said Phlebotomous. “It’s not the sort of thing that girls look for in a suitor!”

“Miss Henderson,” said Dawlish, “you are to be congratulated on your fighting skills, if I understand correctly.”

“Oh, I see!” said Sir John, who put down the mask suddenly. He had gone a shade of red.

“I had training,” said Miss Henderson. “My best friend, Veronica Fairfax, was killed by the Fiend and I vowed that it wouldn’t happen to me. I went to Chinatown to learn the ancient oriental ways of combat. When I heard that Sir Jennings was chasing the Fiend, and there was a position in his household, I put myself forward in the hope I might confront the Fiend. I hope you don’t mind, Sir Jennings.”

“Since you saved our lives, I think we can accept that,” said Sir John.

“Miss Fairfax was the first victim,” said Symonds gently. “You’ve done well to learn so quickly in just a few months.”

“I had four older brothers, so I had a head start,“ said the maid. “But it is my ambition in time to be a mistress of all the marital arts.”

Dawlish spat some tea out and Symonds went a light pink colour.

Marie took Miss Henderson by the arm.

“Perhaps we should find some cake,” she said and led the maid out of the room.

“I wonder if this is an appropriate time to discuss my invoice?” said Sir John.

Symonds and Dawlish looked a little surprised.

“Sir John,“said Dawlish, “we thought you understood this was a public service. That it was pro bono as the lawyers say.”

“Oh,” said Sir John. “That wasn’t entirely clear.”

“We have decided to give you an award though,” said Symonds, “because of your help. We have decided to make you an honorary …”

“Detective?” said Sir John excitedly.

“Constable,” finished Symonds.

“You won’t have any powers as such, but you can have this,” said Dawlish.

Sir John looked down at his hand.

chapter-15“Pro Bono!”

“To call help, if you need it,” explained Symonds.

“Well”, said Phlebotomous, “what do we do next.”

“There is little we can do,” said Dawlish. “The Fiend is dead. Whatever his twisted scheme was, it’s finished. But there are no clues to follow, no idea of who he was, where he came from. He took all that to the grave with him. It’s likely we will have to be content that we have stopped him. We may never know what he was trying to do. Or how close he came to doing it.”

Top Hats and Tentacles

Dear Reader

As I am sure you are aware, here at the Benthic Times we are extremely keen on cephalopods and crochet. We were therefore delighted to find on Messers Smith and Skarry’s most marvellous site a post combining these two topics, namely a televisual instruction on making a Crochet Octopus Mask:

Smith and Skarry: Crochet Octopus Mask

As the winter nights draw in and our thoughts turn from spending sunny days promenading under parasols to wintry days walking rapidly under umbrellas, one needs a hobby or project to while away the time. We are indeed most interested in crafting such a mask.


To show we are neither “slackers” or “amateurs” in the world of tentacular head gear, I present above a picture of a “Steampunk Styled” hat that we have. We have taken the traditional approach of attaching everything we like to a top hat, including our much loved “cuddly” Cthulhu. We hope this shows our dedication to this cause.

Incidentally, the background to this daguerrotype is a small snippet of a piece of art by the wonderful Angela McFall, whose work is also much recommended.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 14

The Fiend turned again to Miss Henderson. He walked lazily toward her.

The maid screamed,“This is for Veronica!”

She grabbed two sticks hidden amongst her flower tray. In a deft motion, the maid dropped the tray and snapped the sticks together at the end to make a staff. She held the staff behind her on the right and held her left hand in front of her. The Fiend stopped and looked down at the maid, who spun round suddenly. The staff smacked into the Fiend’s head with an audible clang and he rocked sideways. Miss Henderson span back the other way and hit the Fiend on the other side of the head.

It staggered back briefly as Miss Henderson continued spinning round, moving to ground level. The staff connected with the Fiend’s legs, but he didn’t give way. He brought down his arms to catch the whirling maid but she blocked his arms with the staff. He pressed down heavily on the staff and Miss Henderson held on, roaring at the Fiend. Eventually she jumped back and let go in one move and the Fiend toppled forward onto the ground.

Further down the street Sir John was picking himself up. He looked at Marie who was sitting and gasping for air as Phlebotomous ran toward them with his hand over his mouth.

“It’th a rorot, it’th a rorot!” he said, indicating the Fiend.

“It’s what?” said Sir John. The vampire moved his hand away from his mouth.

“Ow my teeth,” he said. “It’s made of metal, it’s a robot, not a vampire.”

“My God, what shall we do, it’s got Miss Henderson cornered,” said Sir John. The two looked around and saw Miss Henderson beating the prone Fiend as it started to rise.

“Well, more or less,” said Sir John.

“She cannot ‘old it off forever, I think,” said Marie, coming to join them. “We must do something mon cher.”

“Your light device, how does it work?” said Phlebotomous.

“Well, it’s just a collection of filament bulbs, albeit with a very strong charge,“ said Sir John holding up the device.

“The Fiend’s eye sockets are in the head,” said Phlebotomous. “I’d wager there is some other computational components there, too. Maybe we could deliver that charge to its head? The shock may disrupt its circuits.”

“Yes,” said Sir John, “good idea. We’d need some technical means of bypassing the photoelectric circuitry so we can expose the wiring.”

Phlebotomous reached for the lightbulbs and wrenched them out.

“That would do it,” said Sir John. “But how are you going to reached the Fiend’s head.”

“With this extending arm and my portable welding device,’ said Phlebotomous. Marie and Sir John instinctively stood back. The vampire took Sir John’s light device. He extended the arm grab from his right arm and produced a small welding gun on the left. He hummed merrily as he welded the device to the grab.


From several feet away Marie and Sir John observed the vampire working. Miss Henderson meanwhile had just been knocked to the ground but smoothly rolled back and onto her feet. Across the street Dawlish was rising and seemed to be contemplating joining the fray.

“Ready,” said Phlebotomous and again issued his strangled war cry as he ran toward the Fiend. He got within a few feet before turning round and running back again, still making a noise like a distressed cat.

“Blast!” he said “It’s no good, I still can’t reach.”

“Can’t you fly,” said Sir John.

“That, sir, is an unfortunate stereotype,” said Phlebotomous.

“I can ‘elp” said Marie.

“But,” said Phlebotomous, “I’m rather scared of heights.”

“Think of poor Miss Henderson,” said Marie as a shout of rage came from the maid at other end of the street.

Phlebotomous gulped and started to run again, his battle cry now more of a wail.

Voler”, said Marie and the vampire rose several feet off the ground and his battle cry rose several octaves. He flew towards the Fiend and applied the device to the back of its head. Sparks of electricity flashed across the Fiend’s body and it convulsed violently. Miss Henderson stopped her attack to watch with glee. Eventually the sparks stopped and the Fiend stood immobile, whilst Phlebotomous floated a little distance away.

“VENGEANCE!” roared Miss Henderson and using her staff as a vault, launched herself at the Fiend. He fell backwards and she landed on top of him. She grabbed the staff and whacked the Fiend on the side of the head. His face plate came off and skittered along the floor. Miss Henderson looked down in surprise.

“What is it?” said Dawlish.

“How does it work?” said Phlebotomous.

They both peered into the hood to see a man inside the metal suit.

“Who the devil are you?” said Dawlish.

“Wouldn’t you like to know!” said the man. He licked his lips, then pulled back on a tooth with a clicking sound and his face glazed over. Sir John arrived and looked down.

“What happened?” he said. Dawlish crouched down to look at the Fiend’s face, his fingers on the man’s neck.

“Poison pill,” Dawlish said. “In his tooth. The Fiend is dead.”

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 15

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

Gentle Reader

I feel that we cannot simply pen a line such as “the maid screamed” (on which our present chapter ends) without explaining a little of the literary heritage of this line. It is, in fact, a deliberate quotation from a childhood favourite. The original work is by one Charles Shultz, ventriloquised via a well known canine character, who started a novelette in the following manner:

“It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed.”

This is in itself a literary nod to the famous, or possibly, infamous opening lines to the novel Paul Clifford:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

This is the work of one Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who should be very comfortable in these pages, being as he was a Victorian Novelist with a taste for the occult.

edward_bulwer_lyttonEdward Bulwer-Lytton, not Snoopy the Dog

In fact, this gentleman led a most interesting life, working as politician denounced by his own wife at the hustings, being offered (and refusing) the Greek throne and gifting us the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

Perhaps it is one of those ironies of fate that leads him to be remembered most of all for the clunky and meandering sentence above. He gives his name to an annual competition in its honour whereby literary wags attempt to parody the style of the thing. Those who find themselves at a loss of what to do this Sunday evening may care to peruse it.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest




The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 13

“Oh, what a chill evening it is,” said Miss Henderson, “and me a poor flower girl alone on the street. Will no-one buy my flowers?”

From across the street, in an alleyway, someone made a downward waving motion. From further down and round a corner, three figures looked at the girl.

“Do you think anyone will believe she’s a flower girl,” said Sir John. “She’s been standing on an empty street for hours. Won’t the Fiend get suspicious?”

“Don’t ask me!” said Phlebotomous, “I’m not that kind of vampire.”

Sir John unwrapped a device from the bag he had been carrying.

“What’s that?” asked Phlebotomous.

“You should be careful of this,” said Sir John, “ it’s a Soluminescinator. It fires off a bright light at the same wavelength of sunlight, but ten times the intensity. Just in case.”

“Fascinating,” said Phlebotomous. “You must show me …”

“Quiet!” said Marie, “Something is happening.”

The door of the building opposite the flower girl was opening and a tall, dark, hooded figure with a pale face emerged.

ff-ch-13“Excuse Me!”

“Is that him?” said Phlebotomous.

“Well, unless it’s a boarding house for undead gentlemen who’ve fallen on hard times, I would say so,” said Sir John.

The Fiend gazed along the street before looking across at Miss Henderson. He started to walk towards her.

“Will you buy a lily sir?” said Miss Henderson as the figure crossed towards her silently.

“I said, WOULD YOU BUY A LILY SIR?” said Miss Henderson emphatically.  Suddenly policemen came running from two alleyways beside the ’s building. Directed by Dawlish and Symonds, and with whistles blaring, they attacked the Fiend. The left flank arrived first, three policeman grabbing the Fiend’s arm. The Fiend flung out his arm and the three fell backwards. He turned to face three on the other side along with the two detectives. The policemen drew truncheons and hit the Fiend but he seemed impervious to the blows. In return, he punched out at the men. They fell to the floor unconscious.

The three policemen who attacked first  got up from the floor and ran at the Fiend’s back. Dawlish and Symonds, more adept fighters, were trading blows at the front, but they were getting the worse of the deal. Symonds fell first and an impressive backhand sent Dawlish to the ground. The Fiend turned his attention to the police on his back, pulling two over his head and adding them to the pile of unconscious constabulary. Then, the Fiend turned and held the last policeman’s hand. The man instantly stopped hitting the Fiend and wandered drunkenly away. The Fiend turned back to Miss Henderson and walked forward

“Good lord!” said Sir John. He ran forward with the Soluminescinator and pointed it at the Fiend.

“Hey! I say!” said Sir John, “Excuse me!”

The Fiend turned to look at Sir John and there was a violent burst of light from Sir John’s hand. When it passed the Fiend still stood there. He took a few steps to Sir John and swept him aside with one hand. Sir John fell to the floor.

There was a sound then like a strangled cat. It came from Phlebotomous as a sort of roar as he ran full speed at the Fiend, his teeth bared. Phlebotomous jumped up at the taller creature and sank his fangs into its neck. There was an unpleasant clang and Phlebotomous grabbed his teeth with one hand. One blow from the Fiend sent him flying.

Marie stepped forward and shouted “ARRETER!”. The Fiend stopped, then looked at Marie. It picked up one of the constables truncheons and threw it at her. Marie tried to avoid the truncheon,  but it caught her in the stomach, winding her.

The Fiend turned again to Miss Henderson. He walked lazily toward her. The maid screamed.


The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 12

Sir John and Marie were sitting in the parlour when Miss Henderson opened the door.

“Your guests are here Sir and Mrs Jennings,” she said. Sir John glanced at Marie who looked a little surprised. Symonds, Dawlish, and Phlebotomous came into the room.

“Ah, Mrs Jennings,” said Dawlish, “let me introduce…”

“We’ve met,” said Marie and Phlebotomous almost instantaneously.

“So sorry about our previous encounter,” said Phlebotomous to Marie.

“A perfectly understandable mistake,” said Marie, “but one best not repeated, perhaps.”

Phlebotomous opened his mouth, stopped then closed it again. Dawlish shot a quizzical look at Symonds who looked embarrassed. At Sir John’s indication all three men sat down.

“We thought Mr Bosch may be able to help with his … specialist knowledge,” said Symonds.

“Since I’m a vampire!” said Phlebotomous.

“Indeed,” said Symonds. “It was quite some effort to get him here. And no small expense in drapery.”

Sir John looked puzzled.

“To protect Mr Bosch from sunlight,” explained Symonds.

“But congratulations are in order, Mrs Jennings,” said Dawlish. “You have found the fiend.”

“Indeed, Inspector Dawlish,” said Marie. “More accurately, I have located the building where I believe he resides. After the incident last night I was able to track him until he entered. It didn’t seem safe to enter the building itself.”

“Remarkable,” said Dawlish. “How did you accomplish this, this swine has given my men the slip for weeks.”

“I was … lucky, I suppose,” said Marie.

“Yes,” blurted Phlebotomous, “that’s why! She is very lucky!”

Dawlish and Symonds looked puzzled at the vampire.

“Well, however it was done, I have a man watching the building, but one man won’t be enough. If only we knew when he was going to strike. The killings are getting more frequent.”

“Tell us the dates,” said Sir John, “we may be able to see a pattern.”

“At first it was around once a month, then almost once a week and now we’ve had 2 in 2 days.”

“Around a month?” said Sir John. “Is it a lunar pattern?”

“Are vampires affected by moonlight?” asked Symonds.

“It’s still sunlight,” said Phlebotomous, “just reflected. I get a headache when it’s full moon.”

“Here are the dates,” said Dawlish, passing Sir John a note. Sir John dug an almanac from the bookshelf and compared.

“The first four are all on a new moon,” said Sir John. “Then, the next four are the quarters of a moon. The ninth, the one that occurred when we went to, er, meet Mr Bosch, was less than a week after that. Then yesterday the murder Marie witnessed.”

“Once a moon, once a quarter, once a day,” said Phlebotomous.

“Does that mean something?” said Symonds, “to a vampire?”

“Not really,” said Phlebotomous. “But it has a ring to it.”

“I think it means that the fiend is getting to the end of his killing, for whatever purpose it is,” said Sir John. “And the next murder will be tonight.”

“If we lay a trap, we can catch the swine,” said Dawlish. “If we had a suitable lady to tempt him…”

“You can’t use Marie!” said Sir John.

“Well, obviously,” said Symonds.

“Why obviously?” said Sir John, looking put out.

“Well … I presume obviously,” said Symonds looking embarrassed. Sir John still looked puzzled so Marie leaned toward Sir John and whispered in his ear.

“Oh!” said Sir John turning red. “Of course.”

“Why obviously?” asked Phlebotomous. Symonds leaned forward and whispered into his ear. Phlebotomous went a light shade of pink.

Just then, Miss Henderson arrived with some tea and biscuits. The room was deep in thought as she placed them on a small table, keeping away from Phlebotomous. When she had finished laying out the cups, saucers and plate, the vampire extended an arm towards the items. A small mechanical grab, on the end of an extendable arm, came out of his sleeve and headed for the biscuit plate. When it arrived, it tipped the plate over onto the floor, spilling the contents under the table.

“Hmm,” said Phlebotomous, “needs calibration.”

Mrs Henderson bent under the table to pick up the biscuits. The room was still silent when Phlebotomous leaned forward excitedly.

“Is your maid a virgin?” he said.

There was a crash from the table as Miss Henderson tried to stand up quickly. She crawled slowly out from underneath.

“Mr Bosch!” said Marie.

“Oh dear, my head,” Miss Henderson said. “I’m sure I must be hearing things.”

Marie went over to help the maid and escorted her out of the room.

Wooden box and chess pieces“Too Apt!”

“Badly put, but he has a point,” said Dawlish half to himself. “Sir John, I want to show you the layout of the area, and what I have in mind. Do you have something I might use so I can demonstrate on this table top?”

Sir John looked around the bottom of the bookshelf.

“Will this help?” he said. Dawlish’s moustache twitched in amusement.

“Almost too apt,” he said. “Alright, imagine this piece is the maid and this box is the house. My men will hide, in the alleyways with crucifixes and water. You and Mr Bosch can be here, at a safe distance, but ready to offer advice if needed.”

“Maybe we should bring Mrs Jennings?” said Phlebotomous. “Er … for luck?”

Dawlish frowned. Symonds coughed and nodded.

“I … shall ask”, said Sir John, “and see if she is feeling … lucky.”

Dawlish frowned some more.

“Well, whoever comes, when the fiend comes out to catch our bait then my men come left and right. And we have him.”

Marie came in the room.

“Miss Henderson is both capable and willing to assist this evening,” she said.

“The game’s afoot!” said Dawlish.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 11

“Marie … I …” said Sir John.

He looked down from the mirror and sighed.  Then he looked up again.

“Marie! I!” he said then looked down and shook his head. There was a knock at the door. He span round to face it.

“Come in!” he said with a tremulous voice. The door swung open.

“Marie? I …” said Sir John. Behind the door was a young maid.

“Sir Jennings?” said the girl. “There’s a French lady at the front door to see you.”

“Ah, that will be my wife,” said Sir John. “I hope. Show her in please.”

The maid started to leave the room when Sir John said,

“Wait! Who are you?”

“I’m Miss Henderson,” said the maid. “Mrs Flitwick, she’s my cousin’s aunt’s best friend, she said you would need some help as she had become spontaneously indisposed.”

“I see, very good,” said Sir John. “Please send in my wife. Oh … wait!”

Miss Henderson turned back into the room.

“What did you call me?” asked Sir John.

“Sir Jennings?” said the maid. “Have I got your name wrong, sir?”

“No, not at all,” said Sir John. “Welcome to my home.”

ff-ch11“Sir Jennings?”

Miss Henderson did a sort of curtsy then left. Shortly after, Marie came hesitantly into the room. She dropped her hat on the sideboard and looked at her husband.

“Marie, I…” started SIr John, then paused. There was silence.

“Marie. I.” said Sir John and paused again. Marie’s eyes started to water, and her chin trembled a little.

“Marie! I don’t care what you are,” said Sir John. “You’re my wife. We belong together.”

He moved to Marie and held her.  She gave a couple of little sobs.

Je t’aime,” she said.

“And I t’aime you too,” said SIr John, “with all my heart.”

“I want to explain, mon cher,” said Marie, “but first you must call the police. The fiend has struck again and …  I …  I found where he lives.”

“He has? You did? How?” said Sir John. Marie looked down.

“I’ll tell you later. I’ll tell you everything later,” she said. “But please, let Dawlish know. Farm Lane.”

Sir John left the room and Marie sat down. She looked at the crochet and picked it up absently, her fingers working as she stared into space. Presently, Sir John came back in the room and Marie stood up.

“All done, they’ll come over in the morning,” he said.

There was a pause.

“You could have told me,” said Sir John quietly.

“I … I could not,” said Marie, “I was afraid.”

“Of me?” said Sir John.

“No, not of you,” she said. “Maybe a little of what you would think. But mostly of me. Of what I can do … I … I barely know.”

Sir John stepped close to her and smiled warmly.

“We can do experiments!” he said excitedly.

Mon cher?” said Marie, a little taken aback.

“Nothing surgical, obviously, “ said Sir John, making a scissor motion absently with his fingers. Marie looked down in shock at his hand and Sir John followed her gaze. He jumped back in horror and shoved his hand in his pocket.

“I mean,” he said, “we can work this out together.  As a couple. As we should.”

Marie’s face softened and she moved close to him again.

“We certainly have all the equipment!” he said and held Marie in his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder.

There was another pause.

“What do we do now?” said Sir John.

“Something else for which we have all the equipment,” said Marie. Sir John looked puzzled.

“What’s that exactly?” he said. Marie whispered in his ear.

“Oh!” he said and turned red.