The Cornish Curse: Chapter 6

“Do you see anything Phlebotomous?” said Sir John to the vampire. Phlebotomous was wearing a large contraption on his head that had two telescopic protrusions around the eyes. The two were at the site that Old Jim had talked about.

cc-ch6“Special Sight?”

“Not really,” said Phlebotomous, “A large man with a significant beard has gone into the Mallum’s house and one of the girls has pulled a face through the window.”

“That’s not due south,” said Sir John and walked over to Phlebotomous, swiveling the vampire to the correct direction. Phlebotomous let out a shriek.

“What is it?” said Sir John.

“That gives me terrible vertigo,” said Phlebotomous. He produced a small stick from one of his pockets and pressed a button on in. It extended out to a staff and he leaned on it.

“That’s better,” he said. “I can see even less now, I’m just staring into the dark countryside.”

“Don’t you have … special sight?” said Sir John.

“Why?” said Phlebotomous.

“Well, you’re, you know, a night creature,” said Sir John.

“No, I have terrible eyesight at the best of times. And I don’t like going out at night so I didn’t bother to fix anything onto this binoscope for night vision,” said Phlebotomous, tapping the apparatus.

“You don’t like going out at night?” said Sir John, perplexed.

“I don’t like the dark, it makes me nervous,” said Phlebotomous.

Sir John went to speak again then shook his head.

“Was it definitely due south?” said Phlebotomous. “That seems like a very precise direction for a man you said had consumed liquor.”

“Is there anything South-ish then?” said Sir John.

“Apart from that large mansion on the edge of the village, nothing,” said Phlebotomous.

“It’s not that,” said Sir John. “I’ve met the friendly owner and his large and even friendlier dog. Marie and I have an open invite to visit.”

“Maybe you should go visit,” said Phlebotomous, “to eliminate him from the investigation.”

“Have you been reading penny dreadfuls about crimes?” said Sir John.

“It was a long coach ride,” said Phlebotomous. He sighed.

“This is useless, and I’m not sure I believe this Jim personage. How could anyone cross the moor at night,” said Phlebotomous. “You can barely see your feet.”

“Hmm,” said Sir John, “I think Old Jim said that it was … good God!”

Phlebotomous ripped off the headpiece at this outburst.

“What is it?” he said. “Is it the beast?”

“No, and I don’t think we’ll be finding anything tonight,” said Sir John. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. Mr Bosch, what kind of creature is like a big dog and comes out at full moon?”

“Full moon!” said Phlebotomous, “Why didn’t you say … it must be a…”

“Yes,” said Sir John, “a lycanthrope.”

“Oh,” said Phlebotomous, “I was going to say werewolf.”

Sir John looked at Phlebotomous.

“It’s the same thing,” he said.

“A lycanthrope isn’t just someone who dislikes people licking things?” said Phlebotomous.

“No,” said Sir John.

“Well then, cousin Vlad owes me five shillings!” said Phlebotomous.

The Valentine Victuals

valentines-card“Mon Cher”

“It’s a mystery, a complete and utter mystery!” said Sir John, looking perplexed.

“What is?” said Phlebotomous.

“I can’t find a dinner table in all of London. What’s so special about a mid-week in February?” said Sir John.

“I have one booked,” said Phlebotomous. “A lady friend who said she’d like to see me. A Miss Isabella Swan. I’m quite excited about it as I believe Miss Swan is interested in a new gearing mechanism I’ve invented.”

The vampire leaned forward.

“I intend to show her the plans,” he said conspiratorially. “In fact I’d better go and prepare. I want to make sure I have the final draft for this evening.”

Phlebotomous left the room and Miss Henderson walked in the room with a pot of tea. Her eyes were rather red.

“Miss Henderson, I know you wanted this evening off, but we’re having trouble getting a table, would tomorrow be acceptable instead?” asked Sir John.

“I don’t care if I never have an evening off again,” said Miss Henderson. “I shall die an old maid either way.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “Yes … well … just tonight, really. Oh, by the way, this was in the mail for you.”

Sir John passed Miss Henderson a letter and left the room, glancing quickly back at Miss Henderson as he did. Miss Henderson opened the letter to find a card. Her face suddenly lit up. She fell into the seat and absently reached for a biscuit. She barely noticed Marie come in the room and shot up out of the seat when she did.

“I’m sorry Mrs Jennings,” she said, “only I just had some good news.”

“It’s fine Miss Henderson,” said Marie. “Are you alright? You look like you have been crying.”

“I was … expecting something,” said Miss Henderson, “and … that something didn’t happen and then it did happen.”

Marie looked puzzled, so Miss Henderson showed her the card and Marie smiled.

“So you shall be dining with the young detective,” she said.

“Sush, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, turning red, “or the world will… Oh no!”

“What is it?” said Marie as she saw the maid’s face fall.

“I told Sir John I would stay in this evening,” said Miss Henderson mournfully, “when I thought I was abandoned.”

“Well, we are going out ourselves,” said Marie, “so I don’t imagine that’s an inconvenience.”

“No, Mrs Jennings,” said Miss Henderson, “Sir Jennings said he couldn’t get a table. That’s why he asked me to stay.”

“Ah,” said Marie, “maybe I had better assist.”

Marie went to the telephone and picked it up. She looked in the directory then dialed a number.

“‘’Ello, is that the Ritz” she said, “I would like to book a table for two this evening.”

There was a pause and a quiet voice could be heard on the other end.

“I see, no tables at all,” said Marie. “Perhaps if you look again you could … trouver! Yes, seven pm is perfect. The name is Jennings.”

“Thank you Mrs Jennings!” said Miss Henderson. Sir John came in the room at that point and Miss Henderson bounded out.

The Jennings sat down for tea and biscuits.

“I found us a table for tonight,” said Marie, “at the Ritz.”

“Oh good, good,” said Sir John, a little distracted. There was a short pause while he slurped some tea.

“Do you think,” said Sir John, “that there’s anything amiss with Miss Henderson?”

Marie smiled a little.

“No mon cher,” she said, “not now. But it’s good of you to notice.”

Sir John munched on a biscuit.

“I really think,” said Sir John, “that I’m developing an intuition for these things.”

There was a sound from near the fireplace from Morag. It must have been a noise she was making in her sleep and sounded strangely like a chuckle.

*Thanks to The Graphics Fairy for the lovely vintage Valentine’s card.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5

The girls and Marie sat in the Mallum’s front room. Patience was staring out of the window, Joy was reading a religious tract, Constance a novel and Prudence was sketching. Marie was busy with crochet.

cc-ch-5“And … Fussy”

“It must be very exciting living in London,” said Patience to Marie. Marie smiled.

“It is an interesting city,” she said. “I like living there. I’m sure you’ll get to visit some day.”

“Oh, I’d love to go,” said Prudence. “All those art galleries.”

“All those museums!” said Constance and the youngest two sighed in unison.

“Mr Bosch is quite an interesting man,” said Patience, absently. “Are there a lot of people like him in London?”

“I think he is one of a kind,” said Marie.

“He seems very principled,” said Joy, “telling us he was a vegetarian and eating so little at dinner.”

“It’s strange how he sleeps all day,” said Prudence. “I think he must have an artistic temperament.”

“But he’s an inventor, a scientist,” said Constance. “Remember, he told us about his inventions at dinner.”

“He’s so unlike the local boys,” said Patience to Marie. “They are so, tanned, muscular and uncomplicated. Mr Bosch is so pale and thin and … fussy.”

There was an audible sigh from all the girls.

“And now he risks his life for us, walking on the moor at night,” said Patience, looking out the window.

“With Sir Jennings, of course,” she added.

“Does Mr Bosch have a lady friend,” asked Joy. “A … special lady friend.”

Marie made a strange noise and started coughing. She reached for some water and drank.

“Excuse me,” she said, “perhaps the air is a little dry. I don’t believe Mr Bosch has a … special friend.”

All four girls made a contented sound and went back to their diversions.

“Oh, no!” said Patience as the sound of a horse came from outside. There was a knock at the door and some sound of conversation. The butler opened the door.

“Lord du Bois,” he announced. The girls all stood and Marie did automatically, despite herself.

“Good evening, ladies,” said du Bois. “Please be seated, I shall tarry you but a short while.”

“Good evening, Lord du Bois,” the girls said in a half hearted manner as they sat down.

“Good evening,” said Marie.

“Mrs Jennings!” said du Bois heartily, “A pleasure to see you again and hear your delightful accent. How are we all this fine evening?”

“Very well, sir,” said Prudence, “and you, sir?”

“Splendid!” said du Bois, by way of response to both comments. There was a short silence in the room.

“Well,” said du Bois, “I must go and speak to your father. Take care, ladies.”

He left the room and the girls all sighed. Patience muttered something under her breath.

“He seems a pleasant man,” said Marie. Joy looked appalled from behind her pamphlet.

“He’s not the sort of man I like at all,” said Patience. “He’s so … loud and garrulous. And so certain of himself and his place in the world.”

“Not like Mr Bosch,” said Marie slyly and there was a murmur of consent in the room.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 6

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 4

“So did you find anything, Sir John?” said Mr Mallum, hopefully.

The Mallum family and the Jennings were all sitting together in the front room in the darkness of late evening. Sir John looked up from the book of maps he was studying.

“Hmm, no, sadly not,” he said. “We could see nothing obvious from the direction Old Jim described. I’m looking now in the maps to see if there might be anything.”

“We did meet someone interesting,” said Marie. “Lord du Bois.”

“Oh yes, he’s a very fine fellow,” said Mr Mallum. “He visits here quite regularly. I believe he has taken a shine to our girls, and I believe they like him in return.”

Patience rolled her eyes and continued to stare out of the windows. The other girls continued with their reading or card playing in a stoic manner.

“Now then, Father,” said Mrs Mallum, “don’t vex the girls so.”

“But he’s such a wonderful gentleman,” said Mr Mallum, “with such a large estate.”

“Someone’s coming,” said Patience, who was still looking out of the window.

“That will be him now.” said Mr Mallum.

“No, it’s not his carriage, it’s … how odd, it has no horse,” said Prudence.

At this the family all looked out of the window.

cc-chapter-4“Someone’s Coming”

“Who is it?” said Joy, “I can’t see. You’re all in the way!”

“He’s coming to the door,” said Prudence, “I don’t recognise him at all.”

Sir John and Marie exchanged a quizzical glance. There was some conversation at the front door and then the butler came in.

“Sir Jennings, I believe it’s an associate of yours,” said the butler.

“Thank you, Marsh,” said Sir Jennings and a short, pale man in a baggy suit and cloak came into the room.

“I got your note and came here as soon as I could,” said the man to Sir John and Marie.

“Phlebotomous?” said Sir John.

“Mr Bosch,” said Marie, “what do you mean?”

“When I went to visit you, Miss Henderson gave me this,” said Phlebotomous, holding a card, which he began to read. “Dear Visitor, we are away on urgent business in Cornwall. We may be a few weeks.”

Sir John looked blank.

“I don’t follow?” he said. Phlebotomous took off his cloak and put it on a chair.

“Well, I understood you had an investigation so urgent that you didn’t have time to contact me,” said Phlebotomous. “But I managed to find the coach that brought you here and so found your destination. Pretty clever eh! So here I am.”

“But we didn’t…” started Sir John then looked at Phlebotomous’ proud and eager expression.

“We didn’t ‘ave time to let you know,” said Marie. “Mrs Mallum, would you have room for another guest?”

“Yes, that would be very helpful if you did,” said Sir John. “Mr Mallum, Mrs Mallum, girls, may I present Mr Phlebotomous Bosch, investigator … extraordinaire. In every sense.”

Phlebotomous looked round the room at the family as though he had only just seen them. They all looked puzzled at Phlebotomous.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m a vegetarian.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 5

 

Skeletons in the Booth

bird-skeleton“Entertainment in the Days Before Television” 

Dear Reader

We were recently intrigued by an interesting tidbit we found whilst researching Joy Mallum’s reading material. It was in the restricted section of the library, in a book which also had some information about a rare bit of magic. But our interest in this instance was drawn to something called, rather poetically, the Skeleton Army.

These vile hordes, were, it seems, the sworn enemies of their near namesake, the Salvation Army. Appalled at the notion of tee-totalism, they organised counter demonstrations where they subverted the Army’s songs, shouted foul slogans, and even engaged in violent opposition to the Army. After some unfortunate fatalities their activities petered out, but one can’t help thinking they should appear in some fictionalised form somewhere. Who could write such a thing…

The picture we have chosen to illustrate this little nugget is a skeleton of a bird from the marvellous Booth Museum in Hove. The most tenuous link is the skeleton of one army and the founder, Booth, of the other. We understand neither are related.

Should you ever find yourselves in the Brighton and Hove area (and many people do find themselves in this area) then we recommend a visit. The collection of preserved birds, insects, skeletons and more curios is enough to entertain adults and children with strong stomachs for a couple of hours. One may then find a local hostelry to repair to and, in defiance of the other Booth, restore one’s spirits with a stiff drink.

 

 

 

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 3

Sir John and Marie stood shivering on the moor a quarter of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet north east of the Old Well and looked due south.

“Nothing,” said Sir John. “There’s nothing for miles.”

“Well, that’s the countryside, mon cher,” said Marie with a wry smile. “It’s not so easy to find things here.”

“We should have asked him how loud it was, or if it moved,” said Sir John. “Then maybe we could have estimated the distance.”

“I think we asked him enough,” said Marie. “He was quite cross-eyed at the end.”

“I’m not sure that was the questions,” said Sir John. “Well, let’s look at the map. I’ve marked the killings. This thing must sleep somewhere. Maybe we can draw a line south from here and see if there’s a pattern.”

He took the map out and tried to lay it on the ground, but the wind kept catching it. After a minute of fighting with the map he crumpled it up and put it back in his pocket.

“Perhaps we can do that later,” he said. “I hate to ask, Marie, is there some magical thing we, well you, can do? If we believe this is a magical creature, of course.”

“Which you don’t?” said Marie.

“Not entirely,” said Sir John. “The only spirits I’ve seen so far are the one’s in Old Jim’s glass.”

“Maybe I can try and look for a big dog,” said Marie. “I can use a pendulum.”

Sir John shrugged and Marie took off her necklace. She held it in her fingers and let it dangle.

Trouver,” said Maire and instantly the pendulum shot horizontal north toward the summit.

“My word!” said Sir John. “Good show!”

Just then a large dog appeared over the summit. It was nearly as tall as Marie and at the sight of them it bounded forward barking.

“Run!” shouted Sir John.

Marie just waved her hand and said, “calmer.” Instantly the dog sat down and Sir John stayed where he was.

“Was that for me or the dog,” asked Sir John.

“The dog,” said Marie, “mostly.”

du-bois-dog“Good Show”

A tall well-built and immaculately dressed man mounted the crest of the hill.

“Hoy, Arthur,” called the man. “Here, boy.”

The dog ran back to the man wagging his tail and the pair walked down to Sir John and Marie.

“Good morrow, good sir, good lady” said the man as he approached. “Please let me introduce myself, I am Lord Vulpine du Bois and this is my, rather enthusiastic Irish Wolfhound, Arthur. I hope he didn’t startle you.”

“Not at all,” said Sir John. “I’m Sir John Jennings, and this is my wife, Marie.”

“Oh, I’ve heard all about you two,” said Lord du Bois, “I get all the gossip. You’re staying with the Mallums, yes? Looking for the mystery beast.”

“For a moment we rather thought we found him,” said Sir John, looking at the dog. Lord du Bois roared with laughter.

“Oh, that’s a good one,” he said. “Old Arthur here is daft as a brush. The only danger is he’d lick you to death.”

As they talked the dog nudged his nose into Marie’s hand and made a whining noise. She stroked his head and he fell onto his back, sticking his legs into the air.

“Why don’t you come for tea one day?” said Lord du Bois. “I’ve not been long here myself, and I could use some news from the outside word. This little village is very pleasant but a little isolated.”

“We’d be delighted to,” said Marie. “Where do you live.”

“See that frightful old pile,” said du Bois, pointing to a mansion on the eastern edge of the village. “That’s Bennet House. Come see me anytime.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 4

Name This Automaton

name-this-automaton“No automatons were harmed in the making of this post.”

Whilst enjoying luncheon at one of our favourite haunts in our hometown, our eyes were drawn to the curious contraption above which was affixed to the wall. Speculation flowed imminently as to its origins and purpose. After a protracted debate over a delicious fish soup, the conclusion was that it must have been the head of a serving automaton. Debate One terminated, the next topic of conversation was on what might possibly be the automaton’s name. Sadly, the bill and complementary liquor arrived before we could conclude, and other matters took up the day. So we invite you, dear Reader, to consider this topic and comment if it pleases you.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 2

“I were coming over the moor under the moonlight when I heard this unearthly sound…” started Old Jim, looking dramatically into middle distance.  He was a gentleman of advancing years with wild grey hair and bushy eyebrows. The wrinkled thick skin on his face came from a lifetime of work outdoors and the glassy look in his eyes from an afternoon spent drinking whisky.

“I see,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we can get a bit more specific.”

He produced a map of the area and laid it on the table of the public house, between Old Jim and himself and Marie.

“Could you indicate where you were exactly?” asked Sir John.

“I couldn’t be right sure,” said Jim. “It were dark and I had been … visiting friends.”

“Maybe you recall passing some landmark, or seeing one ahead?” asked Sir John.

Old Jim though for a minute.

“Reckon I’d just passed Devil’s Peak,” said Old Jim

“On the right? Left?” asked Sir John.

“On … the right I imagine,” said Old Jim. “I were heading back to the village.”

“So you were around here,” said Sir John, looking at the map. “There looks to be a well here, was that in front or behind of you.”

“That would be the Old Well, it were … in front,” said Jim, eyes screwed tight in remembrance.

“Was it far?” asked Sir John.

“Mebbe … fifty feet?” said Old Jim.

“So, that puts you quarter of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet north-east of the Dry Well.”

“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Dry Well, under the moonlight.”

“Where was the moon?” asked Marie.

“In the sky?” said Old Jim, confused.

“Where in the sky I mean?” asked Marie.

“It were … over the village, I suppose,” said Old Jim.

“So south-west?” said Sir John. He got out an almanac. “And this was a week ago, yes, so it must have been pretty full?”

“Yes,” said Old Jim, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south-west when…”

cc-ch-2“Unearthly Sound”

“You heard a sound, yes, could you describe it?” said SIr John.

“It were unlike nothing I heard before. It went ‘oow-ooo’,” said Old Jim, with some theatre.

Sir John produced a small set of panpipes from his bag.

“Could you do that again please?” he asked. Old Jim repeated the sound and Sir John blew in the pipes.

“A little higher, mon cher,” said Marie, and SIr John blew again. Marie nodded at the note produced.

“F sharp,” said Sir John. “Sorry Jim, would you mind doing that again?”

Looking sheepish, Old Jim made the sound again. Sir John tried a couple of notes until Marie nodded and wrote them down.

“So thats two notes, a quaver of F sharp and a dotted minim of A sharp,” said Sir John. He played them again.

“Which direction did it come from?” asked Marie.

Old Jim looked exasperated. He pointed to the left of him.

“Due south.” said Sir John, making notes. He showed Old Jim the paper. “Is this correct?”

Old Jim pulled himself up and looked into middle distance again.

“Yes,” he said, “I were walking over the moor a quart’ of a mile south of Devil’s Peak and fifty feet nor’east of the Old Well, lit by the nearly full moon from the south west when I heard a quaver of F sharp with a dotted minim of A sharp coming from the due south.”

“Thank you” said Marie, smiling. “‘Ave we missed anything?”

Old Jim leaned in at the pair, looking a little crestfallen.

“It were … unearthly,” he said.

“How interesting,” said Sir John.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 3

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 1

The room was bright and decorated pleasantly, if a little old fashioned. Four girls and an older couple sat in the room, evidently the parents by virtue of appearance. The eldest was staring out of the window in a listless manner. Next to her, the second eldest girl was reading a book on the Temperance movement. Her sister sat next to her playing solitaire, and the final, youngest sat at a piano playing a light air. The father read a newspaper and the mother knitted. Apart from the fidgeting of the elder girl, the room seemed in calm repose.

card-game“Sisters, Please!”

Suddenly the eldest gasped, “They’re coming!” There was a sound of horse and cart and the man stood up and went to the door.

“Do you have to make such a fuss, Patience?” said the girl with the book.

“Just because you’d rather die of boredom, Joy,” pouted the eldest, “doesn’t mean we all should.”

“Sisters, please,” said the girl at the piano, “let’s not fight when we have guests.”

“Well said, Prudence,” said the girl with the cards as the other two sisters glared at each other.

The father came back in the room and everyone stood up.

“May I present, Sir John and, er, Mrs Jennings,” he said beaming. “Sir Jennings, Mrs Jennings, may I present Mrs Mallum.”

“Delighted,” said Sir John and Mrs Mallum made a small curtsey.

“My eldest, Patience,” continued Mr Mallum. Patience made a dramatic curtsey and then giggled.

“My daughter, Joy,” said Mr Mallum, and Joy nodded briefly.

“And the youngest two, Constance and Prudence,” finished Mr Mallum. The two girls smiled warmly.

“Delighted to meet you all,” said Sir John.

“So you’re going to save us from the dreaded ghost hound?” said Patience.

“Are you really French?” said Prudence to Marie.

“Girls, please!” said Mrs Mallum, “show some decorum. I am sorry Sir Jennings, Mrs Jennings, we get so few visitors, Especially … these days.”

“Please, think nothing of it,” said Sir John.

“And yes, I am French,” said Marie smiling, drawing gasps from three of the girls.

“Well, girls, perhaps you could entertain yourselves elsewhere, so I may talk with our guests,” said Mr Mallum. After some complaining from Patience, the quartet left.

“So, to business then,” said Sir John. “First, perhaps you can tell why you are so certain this is a supernatural phenomenon?”

“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Mr Mallum, graver now that the children had left, “and I have seen every form of wildlife that lives here. I’ve seen foxes and even the odd rabid dog in the countryside. But I’ve never seen anything make paw prints like that or cause such damage to livestock. I’m not alone in that assessment either, Sir John. I hear the gossip in the local village and the verdict is the same. Something ungodly is abroad.”

“You say ungodly,” started Sir John. “What makes you say that?”

“When a fox takes a chicken, he does so for food,” said Mr Mallum. “What this beast has done, it has done for sport. No creature leaves his prey behind, or leaves it rent apart, unconsumed.”

He looked at Marie then.

“I’m sorry, madam, if…” he started.

“Please don’t apologise,” said Marie. “We need the facts and we have seen … unpleasant things too.”

“Is there a witness we could perhaps talk to?” said Sir John. “Someone that has seen the beast?”

“Seen it, no,” said Mr Mallum. “But I can introduce to one that has heard it.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 2

My Darling Cephalopod

mydarlingcephalopod“Otto”

Gentle reader,

We hope you are enjoying a pleasant Friday with the promise of a thrilling week-end to come: sipping schnapps, nibbling corn-based savoury snacks, and enjoying the first episode of our latest series. In the interim, we have found this most delightful blog post on a topic close to our hearts. We wish you the very best of weekends.

Yours, &c.

The Benthic Times

http://www.susanelainejones.com/single-post/2017/01/02/Make-no-bones-about-it