The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 9

“She’s a witch,” said Sir John staring blankly ahead of him.

“Perhaps,” said Symonds, shooting a glance at Phlebotomous, “we’ll finish our conversation at another time.”

He got up to leave and indicated to the vampire, who looked puzzled at him. Just then Mrs Flitwick came in wearing a hat and coat and carrying a suitcase and parasol.

“Oh, Sir Jenkins, I’m terribly sorry and I hope it isn’t inconvenient but my sister in Newcastle has just had one of her turns, and I should really go to her as my other sister is in prison.”

“She’s a witch,” said Sir John staring blankly ahead of him.

“Well, Sir Jenkins, that is a little strong, but my husband says something similar,” said Mrs Flitwick. “I shall enquire amongst my friends and family and see if anyone can come assist with your … particular needs.”

She shot a nervous glance at Phlebotomous and headed out the door with such haste that the case and parasol became stuck in the door. Symonds opened the door for her and they both left.

ff-ch-9-sepia“Quite Quickly!”

“She’s a witch,” said Sir John staring blankly ahead of him.

“So you say!” said Phlebotomous sounding cheerful. “So you keep saying!”

“Actually,” said Sir John, still looking vacant, “you said it first.”

“So I did, silly old Phlebotomous,” laughed the vampire nervously.

“How could I not know?” said Sir John.

“Well, lots of couples don’t know little facts about each other!” said Phlebotomous. “For example my sister didn’t realise for years that her husband disliked herring. It’s very similar to your situation, not knowing your wife was a supernatural creature of immense power.”

“I’m an investigator of the supernatural,” said Sir John, “I mean, I try to find supernatural creatures.”

“And look,” said Phlebotomous, “you succeeded! In fact you married one.”

“She must be laughing at me,” said Sir John.

“When she’s laughing, do tears usually pour down her face?” asked Phlebotomous. Sir John turned to look at him curiously.

“I don’t see a lot of people laughing,” explained Phlebotomous. “Mostly they look nervous … unless I’m demonstrating a device! Actually, they tend to look nervous then as well.”

“No, she doesn’t usually cry when laughing. Why?” said Sir John.

“Then she wasn’t laughing when she ran down the road,” said Phlebotomous.

“She was upset?” asked Sir John.

“When she’s upset, tears pour down her face?” asked Phlebotomous.

“Typically, yes,” said Sir John.

“Then I’d say she was upset,” said Phlebotomous.

A look of horror passed over Sir John’s face.

“Oh, what have I done?” he said. “She probably hoped I would help her, support her, with, with these powers. She was always interested in my research, and no wonder. And I practically threw her out.”

“Actually, I think she ran out,” said Phlebotomous, “quite quickly.”

“It amounts to the same,” said Sir John, “I rejected her, she’ll feel lost, abandoned. I must prepare for her return … oh … if she returns.”

Sir John stood up and opened the door and looked at Phlebotomous.

“Oh, go ahead,” said Phlebotomous. “I’ll wait here.”

“Mr Bosch,” said Sir John, “I need to be alone.”

Phlebotomous got up to leave.

“Well, it was nice having tea with you,” he said. “Well, until that business with the … when I said about … well … I’ll see myself out.”

Patronage and Other Charming Things

I think its fair to say that an artist likes nothing more than to be patronized. Thanks to the miracle of the modern “internet” craze, it’s now possible for artists to be patronized by not just the wealthy, but also by the hoi polloi. One artist whose work we admire greatly here at The Benthic Times is Professor Elemental. Whilst we’ve never been entirely clear on the educational establishment that granted the gentleman in question his title, we are nevertheless tremendously fond of his musical utterances. The good Professor has recently made use of this “internet” to invite people to support his work. Dear reader, we commend this to you.

prof-picsketched

Please Patronize Professor Elemental!

For those of who you expecting another episode of our ongoing series, The Fulham Fiend, we need to explain the wide-ranging and radical changes we merely hinted at last week. I shall elaborate here. In short, the regular Tuesday posting of a chapter will continue as is. What was the “Friday post” on a more miscellaneous topic (and which occasionally lapsed into Saturday and even Monday) will now float freely through the week according to the whims of the creators (and possibly The Creator). The second chapter each week will be presented here each Saturday. We trust this is clear and has not unnecessarily inconvenienced you on this fine Friday evening.

 

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 8

Marie ran. She ran through the rain sodden streets, past the costermongers hawking their wilted vegetables and bruised fruit. She ran past groups of women and men gawping at her as she sped past. She ran like she had in Paris, from groups of strangers filled with curiosity or rage. She ran as she had from boys in her village who threw stones at the strange girl. She ran to get away, and she ran to forget, her mind and body filled only with one purpose: keep moving.

Eventually she stopped and collapsed by a church. The breath she had needed came in great gulps.  She sat on the floor with her head down and her arms round her knees, gasping and sobbing.

From over the road a middle aged man, staggering from drink from the pub, wandered over to her.

“Everything all right, my dear?” he said. “Need any help, my darling.”

Marie’s head shot up and she stared at him. He backed away instinctively, muttering some apology as Marie watched him go.  Finally, Marie spoke.

“He knows,” she said.

“Well,” said the gargoyle a few feet above her, “that was bound to happen sooner or later.”

ff-ch-8“He Knows!”

Her head sank into her knees again.

“Ow’d he find out then, you tell him?” asked the gargoyle.

“No,” she said, “I went home after he had gone with the police. They had been to this house, the house of a vampire. I came back, and it must have been him, the vampire. He was in the room, and he just said it … said what I was.”

“You could have lied,” said the gargoyle, “told a little porky.”

“No,” she said, “I can’t lie to him. I’m just…”

“A little less than forthcoming with all the facts?” said the gargoyle.

Marie’s head sank down again.

“And now you’re thinking ‘Oh no, Sir John will never want to see me again and my life is over’ or somesuch,” said the gargoyle. There was a small nod from beneath him.

“Ain’t it ever occurred to you why you liked him, why he liked you? It weren’t a mutual appreciation of interesting cheeses.”

Marie looked up at the gargoyle, puzzled.

“Look,” he said, “it sounds like your Sir John wouldn’t know a subtle power if it sent him a telegram on a purple cushion with gold fringing. An’ he seems frightened of his own shadow. But some part of him wants all this. Wants the supernatural, wants the magic. And you, you want someone who isn’t completely boggled by all that. You want someone who can help you figure out what it is. What you can do. Dontcha?”

There was another nod. Marie’s head was up now.

“Well, this may not have been the time, manner and place that was ideal, but there’s naff all point telling me about it. You gotta go back there and talk to him, see. His head will be spinning a bit, but you’ll work it out. You belongs together.”

Marie stood up and started to walk away.

“Thassa girl,” said the gargoyle, “you go sort it out.”

“I will,” said Marie, watching a tall hooded figure moving awkwardly through the streets, “But I have something else I need to do first.”

 

 

 

Still Life with Cephalopod

bt-3Happy Benthic Teatime!

The Benthic Times is ecstatic to announce that as from next week, we shall be publishing not just one, but TWO chapters of our gripping, yet hilarious serialised stories.

Dear reader, you are most very welcome, and we wish you the most pleasant of weekends.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 7

Sir John, Detective Symonds, and Phlebotomous Bosch were sitting in the drawing room around a small table. Mrs Flitwick had come into the room with tea and cake on a silver plate. She was eyeing Phlebotomous warily and seemed intent on staying on the other side of the table from him as she laid out the tea, cups, and plates.

“So, Mr Bosch,” said Detective Symonds, “although you appear to be innocent of the crimes, we shall want to speak to someone who can confirm your movements on certain nights. I’m sure you understand, given your … condition.”

Mrs Flitwick seemed to start muttering some sort of prayer as Symonds said this.

“Of course I understand,” said Phlebotomous, “and please call me Phlebotomous. My friend usually does. As fortune has it, I am often demonstrating my many inventions of an evening and I can check my diary for the dates.”

He held his left hand just in from of him and opened his jacket. A small book shot out of it causing Symonds to duck. It landed close to a table with some crochet on it, dislodging the table cloth. Mrs Flitwick made the sign of the cross and quickly left the room. Symonds reached down and passed the book back to Phlebotomous.

ff-ch-7-sepia“A Witch?”

“That may need a little work,” said the vampire. He turned round to see Sir John peering at him through a small device like a telescope on a stick.

“What in the world is that?” asked Phlebotomous.

“It’s my portable ectoscope, for investigating magical artefacts,” said Sir John.

“Oh, how does that work?” asked Phlebotomous.

“Gentlemen,” said Symonds, “perhaps we can return to the matter at hand.”

“Of course,” said Phlebotomous and Sir John in unison.

“So on the night of the 14th?” asked Symonds.

“Let me see,” said Phlebotomous, opening his diary. “Ah! I dined with the Fotheringays, lovely couple, and demonstrated my patented Hair Untangler.”

“And they will vouch for you?” asked Symonds.

“I imagine so,” said Phlebotomous, “although there was an unfortunate incident with the dog.”

“What happened?” said Sir John.

“Well, I must have overcompensated for the feedback torque a little,” said Phlebotomous. “Long story short, the dog is now bald.”

“Oh, I had a similar experience with a Phantasm Trap,” said Sir John. “The medical bills were quite extensive.”

“Gentlemen…” started Symonds.

“How were you going to trap phantasms?” asked Phlebotomous. “Aren’t they largely non-corporeal?”

“I had an electromagnetic wire cage as a sort of containment device,” said Sir John. “The burns were rather nasty.”

“Gentlemen…” said Symonds again,

“How interesting,” said Phlebotomous. “And you use these devices to investigate supernatural phenomena?”

“Indeed,” said Sir John. “My wife and I, we work together, have so far successfully investigated a haunting and a case of mesmerism.”

“If we may continue…” said Symonds.

“And that’s all you’ve used? These devices?” asked Phlebotomous.

“And our deductive reasoning powers,” said Sir John. “And, Marie has, you know, a woman’s intuition.”

“I must insist…” said Symonds.

“Well, you must have great reasoning powers, sir, I’m impressed,” said Phlebotomous. “Usually these sorts of creatures and intelligences need a sort of … power … to work with them.”

“Gentlemen, please!” shouted Symonds. The two others looked at him with curiosity. Just then the door opened and Marie came in.

Mon cher” she started to say, then pressed herself against the wall, staring at Phlebotomous.

“Oh, of course!” he said. “Now I understand … your wife! A witch!”

“I beg your pardon!” said Sir John, “May I remind you sir that this is my house.”

“Oh, sorry”, said Phlebotomous. “Yes, I imagine it’s a secret that’s she’s a witch. I do apologise.”

“A secret?” said Sir John. “Sir, there is no secret. My wife is not a witch.”

He turned to Marie.

“My dear, I’m sorry for what this mad fellow has said. You’re clearly not a witch.”

He saw the look on her face.

“Marie?” he said.

“I’m sorry” said Marie and fled from the room.

There was a sound of the front door closing and footsteps running down the street.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 8

 

The Staircase Mystery

Following our recent transatlantic travel, the Benthic Times are a little airship-lagged and so our regular Friday post is appearing on Saturday. The ink in our well is a little dry as well, so I’m afraid we merely have this picture of a staircase from our pleasant stay at Hôtel St Jacques, Paris. We can wholeheartedly recommend this hotel for its location,  its staff, and for its collection of Victorian ephemera.

staircase-at-hotel-st-jacques-paris

 

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 6

The room was dark with just a little evening sunshine in one corner. It was filled with boxes and mechanical objects of all sizes with a large table in the middle.  A small, pale man walked into the room, yawning, and went to the table, carefully avoiding the light. He pressed a button and a clicking sound started from a far wall, followed shortly by a whistling sound. A small toy train emerged with a coffee pot on it. The train pulled up shortly in front of the man and the pot fell off, spilling its contents over the table.

“Hm,” said Phlebotomous Bosch. “Needs improvement.”

He pulled out a notebook and started writing when the door smashed open and five men burst in. Phlebotomous jumped up in horror.

“I can give you a refund!” he said.

“Quick, Symonds,” said Dawlish, “the crucifix!”

Symonds produced a crucifix as the men approached, and instantly a pair of dark glasses appeared out of Phlebotomous’ hat and landed on his eyes.

“Stake! Water!” barked Dawlish and the two men in uniform moved forward. One fired a small piece of wood from a crossbow at Phlebotomous, but a flat brass hand on a concertina extender popped out from his suit and deflected the wood. The other uniformed man squirted some water at Bosch, but an umbrella appeared from the small man’s coat and the water ran off. Dawlish ran forward and grabbed Phlebotomous and dragged him to where the sun came in. He flung open the curtains to expose Phlebotomous to the sunlight. From Phlebotomous’ hat a parasol emerged. Dawlish let go.

“So, gentlemen,” said Phlebotomous, “as you can see, I am invincible.”

He went to lean on a table that wasn’t there and fell onto the floor with a clatter. Sir John looked from behind the other four men who were peering down at the dishevelled heap of suit, umbrella, and parasol.

ff-ch-6-sepia“Needs Improvement!”

“Do you need some assistance?” asked Sir John and the other four men stared at him.

“No, no need,” said a voice from the pile of clothes and artefacts. “I have just the thing.”

Suddenly there was a loud noise like a bedspring, and the pile of clothes shot up to the ceiling, hitting it with a loud thump before falling to the ground.

“Actually, I may need help,” said the voice again.

Dawlish nodded at the two constables and they lifted the small man  to his feet.

“Mr Bosch,” said Dawlish, “Vampire! I am arresting you on suspicion of murder. Eight murders to be precise.“

“Murder?” said Phlebotomous, “I thought you were here about the folding machine. Hah! Well I can’t be a murderer, I’m a vegetarian.”

“You’re a vegetarian?” said Symonds.

“What, you’re not surprised I’m a vampire, but you’re amazed I’m a vegetarian?” said Phlebotomous.

“How do you, you know, eat,” said Sir John.

“I make a protein-based compound using mushrooms, soy, and plum tomatoes. It’s ethical, nutritious, and delicious, too!”

“Do you expect us to believe that?” said Dawlish.

“Of course not!” said Phlebotomous. “You can try it, I always keep some in stock. “

“No,” said Dawlish, “do you expect us to believe you’re not the killer?”

“Inspector Dawlish!” said a new voice from the door, “there’s been another one, a murder, within the hour.”

“But we’ve been watching this house for hours.” said Symonds.

“You see, I am proved innocent,” said Phlebotomous and went to lean on nothing again. Sir John caught his elbow before he fell down. Dawlish look furious.

“Alright, then,” he said, “so it seems. Constables, follow me. We shall investigate the murder. Sir John, take Symonds and this … creature with you. I want to know more about him.”

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 7

Local Inventor Creates Wonders for the General Public

The Yorkshire Coast Line: from Flamborough to Whitby, etc

P Bosch, Esquire, Inventor Extraordinaire, presents for the general public a plethora of devices and machines to enrich and improve daily life.

Ladies in particular will rejoice at the sight of the Folding Machine, which is capable of folding divers articles of clothing (excepting cravats). The Brush Cleaning Device with Mop Squeezing Accessory will ensure that your maid’s cleaning materials are perfect for use every time. The Egg Agitator will ensure that perfect scrambled eggs are presented for breakfast whilst the Toast Warmer keeps toast at the perfect temperature for eating.

Gentleman will enjoy using the Shaving Soap Latherer, a marvellous invention which allows a truly smooth shaving experience. The portable Automatic Toothpick will also allow the modern gentleman the confidence to eat spinach in public. The Recliner Reader, artistically illustrated above, allows one to enjoy a contemporary novel whilst pleasantly supine. It will even turn the page, allowing one to rest completely.

Mr Bosch would be delighted to demonstrate any of these, and many more, devices at households within a five mile radius of Fulham. For personal reasons Mr Bosch can only make calls at night.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 5

Sir John and Marie sat in the drawing room of their house. Sir John seemed quite animated and was glancing from time to time out of the front window whilst Marie was working on some crochet. Eventually he made a contented sound and sat back. A few moment later there was a knock at the drawing room door and it swung open. Sir John sprang up.

“Well, gentlemen, I have had some success,” he proclaimed as the maid came in, alone. She looked a little non-plussed at Sir John.

“Tea, Sir Jenkins?” she asked.

“Was there nobody at the door?” asked Sir John. There was a knocking sound just then from the external door. The maid headed to the sound and Sir John sat down again. As the drawing room door swung open, he jumped up again.

“Well, gentlemen, I have had … ” he started then saw the maid was alone.

“Two gentlemen to see you, sir,” she said. “Two gentlemen of the constabulary. Again. Should I let them in?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” said Sir John. He sat down again and fidgeted a bit. Marie patted him gently on the knee. The two detectives, Symonds and Dawlish, entered the room with maid behind.

“I believe you have had some success?” said Dawlish, the older man, as he was entering the room. Sir John sprang up, opened his mouth and then shut it again.

“Well, yes,” Sir John said, looking crestfallen. “How do you know?”

“We are policemen,” said Symonds, “it is our job to know things.”

The maid made a squeaking sort of noise and then quickly left the room.

FF Chapter 5“How Marvellous!”

“Well,” said Sir John, “I believe I have located the fiend. We have, sirs, an address. I suggest we go straight there and apprehend the fellow.”

“May we sit?” asked Dawlish.

“There’s no time to lose!” said Sir John.

“It’s daylight Sir John,” said Symonds. “The swine isn’t going anywhere.”

Sir John sat down looking defeated, and the other two men took it as their cue to sit.

“They are right mon cher,” said Marie. “From the research I did these creatures can’t move in daylight. It burns their skin. They are also vulnerable to holy water and crucifixes. And the only way to kill them is to drive a stake through their heart.”

Dawlish’s mustache wobbled in appreciation.

“Excellent work, Mrs Jennings,” he said. “Then we shall need those items. Symonds, can you get those?”

“Most certainly,” said Symonds.

“Sir John, if you can furnish me with the address I can post a constable outside to make sure there is no movement in or out,” said Dawlish.

“What can I do?” asked Sir John, handing over the paper.

“Prepare yourself, sir. I believe we may need your special skills. You will accompany us when we apprehend the villain,” answered Dawlish.

“How marvellous!” said Sir John. He sat back in his chair.

“Detective Dawlish,” said Marie, “do you really believe it is necessary for my husband to be there?”

“Have no fear, madam,” said Dawlish. “We shall keep your husband out of harm’s way. Our men will go in first. I guarantee that Sir John will come to no harm.”

“See, Marie,” said Sir John, “it’s like I said to you, there’s nothing to be worried about.”

Marie saw his hand was shaking a little.

The Fulham Fiend: Chapter 6

Two for Joy

I have discovered this week that Oscar Wilde’s “Bunbury” was likely a portmanteau of Sunbury and Banbury, following a tryst Mr Wilde allegedly had in a location twixt those two towns.

That led me to muse on my own writing and the fact that, in a less dramatic way, I do something similar. For example, Pook and Clackprattle stay at luxury rooms in Manchester Britannia Hotel because I once spent a unpleasant week in a terrible room there.

I pursued the thought to its conclusion and wondered if writers always hide some aspects of their lives in plain view like this. How many secrets of an author’s life are wrapped up in the warp and weft of their narrative, visible only to themselves and blissfully overlooked by the reader.

On the topic of unsatisfactory hostelries, the Benthic Times recently found itself in a hotel that can best be described as “adequate”. In fact it was probably the epitome of adequate.

And although the general blankness of the place worked nicely as a canvas for the imagination, it wasn’t terribly aesthetically pleasing. We did spy, though, these intriguing light fittings. It was most unusual, as we were several miles from the coast. They function as proof that even in the darkest spots, often especially so, one can find something Benthic.

light cropped