The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 6

“Moderately Explosive”

Dear Sir John

I was wondering as I was writing this whether “Dear Sir John” was the correct way to start the letter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ascertain this because the local library is only open during daylight hours and my friend has been out of town for some time. At least that is what his butler informs me.

I was of a mind to deliver the device to you personally, but when Miss Henderson came to visit me with your instructions, she was very clear on the dangers. I do hope that the cloud of poisonous gas that has encircled your holiday resort clears shortly so that you may leave the town and indeed to allow visitors to approach it as well. Perhaps you could let me know exactly where you are, as Miss Henderson had a coughing fit whenever she said the name and I couldn’t be certain of what she said. I do hope she isn’t sickening for something. The same problem seemed to occur when she came back to pick up the device and this letter. I suggested a machine of my own invention that might help her, but she seemed a little startled when I suggested getting a closer look at her throat.

Anyway, I digress, I received the instructions in the telegrams and worked on the device as you asked. It might have been useful to show you exactly how to use it, but I will have to describe it here. I must admit to being intrigued by the nature of the investigation to warrant the construction of such a machine. What kind of situation have you encountered that needs a device to scan for all possible and even theoretical psychic energies? Or have you simply become bored idling your days in the sunshine and invented the device for fun?

Either way, I shall not bore you too much with some of the construction details. Suffice to say that mounting the ecto-plasmatic converter on the metallic crypto-zoetrope was quite fiddly and moderately explosive. Luckily for me, I keep a bucket of sand handy for such eventualities.

So as you requested, the device has a moveable sprocket connection to the main psychic flange which allows for adjustment of the measurement range. In short, you should be able to point the device at any object that you suspect may be infused by some magical force and adjust the range of energies measured even beyond that known to us paranormal investigators. The range is quite extensive; you should be able to detect energies both from strange eldritch creatures that live deep in the oceans in sunken cities or even beings from deep outer space, if such things existed! Excuse my fanciful nature, I have been reading some rather strange literature recently.

I hope this finds you otherwise well, and please let me know how your investigation into whatever it is and wherever it is proceeds.

 

Your friend

Phlebotomous Bosch

PS – Don’t turn the sprocket all the way to the left, the device is liable to explode

PPS – Or the right

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 5

Sir John, Marie, and Lord Hollingbury sat in a snug in the Cock and Bull with a view overlooking the harbour and a small collection of fish themed horsebrasses. Lord Hollingbury was sipping his second double whisky, Marie had a glass from the only wine bottle in the pub, and Sir John had a pint of ale which was going cold. Marie’s wine glass was some distance away from her. When she had taken a sip of the wine she had said some words that Sir John didn’t know she knew.

SS Ch 5“*&!% ç*#&!”

“So,” said Lord Hollingbury, “did anything seem out of the ordinary in that church?”

“I have to confess,” said Sir John, “that I have no idea what you regard as ordinary.”

Lord Hollingbury pulled a small moue.

“Yes, you have a point,” he said. “Well did anything seem out of ordinary to you then?”

“The decoration was bizarre, the vicar was deranged, and the atmosphere was oppressive. There were motifs that I’ve seen in no church before, even some of the more esoteric ones.” said Sir John.

“Strangely, we’re in agreement,” said Lord Hollingbury,” perhaps it’s the scotch. Mrs Jennings, as an etranger, what was your view of the strange place.”

“It is nothing like I have seen either, and there was something … some energy or some feeling I cannot describe,” said Marie.

“Do go on,” said Lord Hollingbury, “I suspect at the end of that marginally incoherent sentence is something rather interesting.”

“Do you mind!” said Sir John. “That’s my wife you’re talking to.”

Lord Hollingbury smiled.

“Sir John, with the greatest possible respect, I’m fairly certain that if Mrs Jennings were in any way offended she could make me drop my trousers and walk down the promenade singing loudly and get me to thank her afterwards.”

“That sounds like the sort of thing you’d do anyway,” said Sir John.

Touché,” said Lord Hollingbury.

Messieurs,” said Marie in exasperation, “let me think. There was something there. Something I haven’t felt before. Every creature is a little different you know, has a different … pattern or … feel to it. A … a gargoyle doesn’t feel like a pookah, say. But this … this was more different than anything. Like a different sort of mind.”

“Something different even from paranormal creatures?” said Lord Hollingbury. “What might that be?”

“I can answer that,” said a man with unkempt white hair who suddenly sat down at their table. They all looked at him.

“What was the question?” he asked.

“Is everyone in this town some kind of lunatic?” said Sir John.

“I rather think they are,” said Lord Hollingbury. “It’s starting to endear the place to me.”

“I’m not mad,” said the man. “I can answer your question because I’ve lived here all my born days. So I can answer any question. I see you, all huddled up, you’ve seen something and you want to know more. Well I can help, see.”

“That’s very noble,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Is this desire to help driven by some inexplicable civic pride or is there some ulterior motive?”

“I’m sure the gentleman is just keen to assist,” said Sir John irritably. “Not everyone has a hidden agenda.”

“Indeed, I don’t have a hidden agenda,” said the man and pushed an empty whisky glass in front of him.

“Oh Sir John,” said Lord Hollingbury, “ever the innocent.”

A bottle of whisky was procured for the table, glasses filled and the man began his tale.

“See, like I say, I been here all my life. My name’s William Joseph, and I tend to the lighthouse. My father did the job before me and my grandfather before him. So this place is in my blood. And good blood it is, too. You know this place had a reputation for long life. Well that were true. My grandfather was 130 when he died and was fit as an ox to the last day. And do you know why?”

“He was an inveterate liar?” said Lord Hollingbury. The lighthouse keeper looked shocked when a hand landed on his shoulder.

“Come on Bill, time to stop getting drinks from the visitors in exchange for tall stories.”

The pub landlord beamed down at the quartet and looked at Bill Joseph.

“There’s a game of cribbage going in the corner, why don’t you go and join that instead.”

Bill Joseph got up grumbling and wandered over to the where the landlord pointed.

“Sorry about that,” said the landlord. “Nice chap but a bit do-lally.”

“Well, we seem to be running short of leads here,” said Lord Hollingbury, who then looked at the bottle of scotch he had bought. “As well as drinks.”

“Actually,” said Sir John, “I think I have an idea. Marie, we need to send a telegram home.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 6

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 4

“This is hardly typical church material,” said Sir John looking at the inside of the holy building.

The walls were a deep azure and baize green. Complex, sinister murals adorned them at every angle, showing bizarre aquatic imagery. Here, a deep sea fish, its baleful eyes regarding the world with disdain. There, a many tentacled creature holding a collection of strange, unworldly objects. Above, on the ceiling, was a mosaic of stars, arranged in a form like no constellation man had seen. At its apex, a gibbous moon hung proud and sinister. The altar was similarly peculiar, draped with fish nets and lobster pots, buoys and rods. Behind the altar was a man, arms outstretched but on a boat, not a cross. Seahorses, lobsters, dolphins and jellyfish all leaped towards him. Above his head a triangle hung in space with one eye staring unblinking into the world.

Aquatic 1“Strange Feeling”

“Is this one of those modern churches?” said Lord Hollingbury. “The ones where they do a lot of singing and dancing?”

“I don’t believe so,” said Sir John. “I have no idea what this is at all. Marie, does it seem … normal?”

“To my eyes not at all,” said Marie, “but I feel no magic. Or, rather, no magic I recognise. There is … something … some strange feeling.”

“It’s probably a natural reaction to the colour scheme,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I have to concur, I see a whole lot of strange, even for me, but nothing I recognise.”

“Well, what is it all about?” said Sir John.

“Jesus!” came a loud voice from behind them. They turned round to see an older man, wild hair, disheveled beard and manic eyes walking towards them. He was dressed in black with a tired looking dog collar.

“He was a fisher … of men,” continued the vicar. “He would have understood. He would have seen these paintings and statues and known what they meant.”

The vicar had drawn up to the trio now.

“Not like a bunch of land-lubbers and city dwellers,” he finished and glared at them all.

“Rev Philips, I suppose,” said Sir John.

“You suppose a lot,” snapped the vicar. “You suppose a lot indeed, but in this case you are correct.”

“We were sorry to ‘ear about Mr Wombly,” said Marie. The vicar’s head snapped round to look at her.

“He were a good man, they all were.” he said. “They will return. Oh yes, they will return at the resurrection.”

“So the church is primarily for fisherfolk?” said Lord Hollingbury. “Hence the, er, remarkable decoration.”

“Our parish is the sea,” said Reverend Phillips. “Our flock is a shoal. We tend to the fisherfolk as our patron saint would want it.”

“Who is that?” said Sir John.

“Saint Zyggryk” said the vicar.

“Polish? Hungarian?” said Lord Hollingbury. The vicar just glared at him.

“What are you all here for anyway?” he asked. “This is a place of worship, not a holiday home.”

“You’re in this guide to the town,” said Sir John, showing the vicar. He snatched the guide away and read it quickly, his lips twitching as he did.

“Them new folk,” he said half to himself then handed the guide back to Sir John. “You don’t want to believe everything you read.”

“Unless it’s in the Bible,” said Lord Hollingbury cheerily. He was rewarded with a glare.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” he said pointing to the door, “but I have to prepare for a service.”

The trio took their cue to leave and the vicar watched until they had walked down the street before closing the door.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 5

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 3

The mournful foghorn sound carried over the bay to the small harbour whilst the beam from the lighthouse pulsed in counterpoint. The clinking of ropes on masts and the groaning of hull wood issued from the boats, barely visible in the fog. One final sound completed the symphony of Sunnyport Harbour:

“Come see the picturesque port,” said a man’s voice, dripping with sarcasm, “for a glimpse back in time to a gentler world.”

Mon cher,” said a woman, “please.”

“The only glimpse back in time here is to the primordial soup!” said Sir John, emerging from the fog and clutching a leaflet. “Enjoy the view; an artist’s paradise.”

The couple reached the edge of the harbour and looked across to the lighthouse, barely visible in the smog.

foggy faros“The Holiday?”

“You know it’s not too far to get home,” said Sir John. “Half a day most. We could be sipping brandy and eating biscuits by tea time.”

Marie smiled and put her head on her husband’s shoulder.

“But mon cher,” she said, “you know how it is. There’s no peace there. Mr Bosch would come by with some invention that would break and make a mess. Miss Henderson would come in and roll her eyes at the mess. Morag would need walking and someone to go with her, so she wasn’t caught as a stray. Then Inspector Symonds would come round with another case to see if there was a supernatural influence. There wouldn’t be, but he and Miss Henderson would exchange meaningful glances.”

“Inspector Symonds and Miss Henderson?” said Sir John. “Are they sweet on each other?”

Marie smiled and nodded.

“But he’s so…” started Sir John. “And she’s so…”

“Indeed,” said Marie, “that is the way of the heart.”

“I suppose you’re right,” said Sir John. “And at least it isn’t raining. It could be worse.”

“Aha!” called an aristocratic voice. “Just out for a little walk are we, by the harbour?”

“And now it is worse,” said Sir John.

Lord Hollingbury emerged from the mist.

“That’s a curious coincidence for two people who, and I quote, aren’t investigating the disappearances.”

“It was in the tourist brochure,” said Sir John, “although having visited the harbour, the disappearances seem a little less mysterious to me.”

“We heard about Mr Wombly,” said Marie.

“Yes, it seems the old drunk was swallowed by the drink,” said Lord Hollingbury. “Seems rather ironic.”

“Apparently he was a reformed man,” said Sir John. “I don’t imagine you know what that means.”

“Someone that was dull because they drank who became duller because they didn’t, I would say,” said Lord Hollingbury. “But I’m impressed, I hadn’t heard that story. You’re ‘not investigating’ is really yielding results.”

“Why are you investigating?” said Marie.

“Well, let’s just say there was an embarrassing situation back home in Brighton. I thought it would be best for all concerned if I was out of town for a few days. The nunnery in question was asking awkward questions in public.”

“So you came here…” said Marie.

“And was thoroughly bored. I was forced to drink all day to cope. Then I found out about these disappearances and suddenly I had something to do. To complement the drinking all day.”

“These are human beings,” said Sir John. “It’s undignified to be so flippant.”

“Sir Jennings,” said Lord Hollingbury, “being undignified and flippant is a way of life for me. It’s in my nature.”

There was a silence as both men looked at each other.

“Lord Hollingbury,” said Marie, “you remember what I am?”

“Yes,” said Lord Hollingbury.

“So imagine what is in my nature.”

There was a small rise in temperature, an imperceptible change of light.

“Forgive me madam, sir,” said Lord Hollingbury. “My manners are sorely lacking,”

“Apology accepted,” said Sir John, who didn’t look like he meant it.

“So, as you are not investigating and I am, tell me how the sot Mr Wombly became a sober member of society.”

“Apparently it was Rev Phillips’ church,” said Sir John, “if that makes any sense to you.”

“Oh yes,” said Lord Hollingbury, “that makes a lot of sense to me. I keep hearing about this church. I would rather suggest we visit. It seems to be connected to more than one disappearance.”

“Good idea,” said Sir John.

Mon cher,” said Marie, “the holiday?”

“Well the church is on all those awful tourist guides,” said Lord Hollingbury, “so you could call it sightseeing. Look, I’d go alone, but I have a morbid fear of churches.”

“Why is that?” said Sir John.

Lord Hollingbury pursed his lips and looked at Sir John.

“Well I’m hardly typical church material,” he said.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 4

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 2

“Insufferable, pompous, arrogant, debauched idiot,” muttered Sir John as he sat in the breakfast room of the Shalimar.

“Are you still going on about Lord Hollingbury?” said Marie.

“Well of all the nerve,” said Sir John.

“Can I get you tea or orange juice?” said Mrs Pimplenick, landlady of the bed and breakfast.

“Do you ‘ave any coffee?” asked Marie. Mrs Pimplenick looked aghast.

“We have tea,” she said.

“Can I get tea and orange juice?” asked Sir John.

“It’s one or the other,” said Mrs Pimplenick in exasperation, pointing at a small menu on the table.

“Two teas then,” said Sir John. “For a change.”

Chapter Two“Two teas.”

A man came into the breakfast room wearing overalls. He carried a large box which had the warm odour of smoked mackerel.

“Here you go Mrs P,” said the man. “This month’s delivery.”

Mrs Pimplenick looked put out.

“This should really be delivered via the tradesmen’s entrance,” she said, suddenly acquiring the diction of a minor royal.

“It’s bloomin’ heavy though,” said the man as Mrs Pimplenick rolled her eyes.

“There’s been another one you know,” he said.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Mrs Pimplenick, trying to indicate Sir John and Marie by a tilting of her head. The gesture seemed to go unnoticed as the man continued.

“Another disappearance Mrs P,” he said, “another fisherman who didn’t come home. That’s the third this month. Mr Wombly this time.”

The landlady made a snorting noise and her accent descended several social strata.

“We’ll they’ll be mourning that loss in the Cock and Bull,” she said. “He never seemed to be out of there. I’m surprised he lasted this long.”

“That’s not true anymore,” said the delivery man. “He is, well he was, a reformed character. Went to that new church that Rev Phillips runs. He got right off the booze and on the straight and narrow. Tragedy is what it is.”

“Excuse me,” said Sir John. “What disappearances are these?”

The delivery man turned round and saw the Jennings for the first time. He face dropped in shock.

“Oh, oh, it’s nothing,” the delivery man said. “Just some local gossip.”

Mrs Pimplenick walked off shaking her head and carrying the large box of mackerel easily in her large arms. When she reached the kitchen the man leaned over the Jennings.

“But the gossip is there’s something not right about the water. Ever since they made that promenade, people have been disappearing. Fisherfolk and the like. All locals, never the tourists. Which is just as well as people here don’t want it getting out. Bad for business see. Don’t tell anyone I told you.”

At this the man left, looking about himself as he did.

“That must be what that lunatic was talking about yesterday,” said Sir John. “Something wrong with the water eh, maybe…”

Mon cher,” said Marie, “we are supposed to be ‘aving a holiday.”

Just then Mrs Pimplenick returned with two cups and a teapot.

“I’m afraid I’m out of milk,” she said, “so you’ll have to have it black. Also the sugar doesn’t come until Tuesday.”

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 3

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 1

The rain lashed down on the window of the Friendship Tea Rooms as Sir John and Marie stared out.

“Perhaps it will brighten up this afternoon,” he said morosely. “How long until we can return to the bed and breakfast?”

Marie looked at the clock on the wall, with the numbers 4 and 6 missing.

“About seven hours I think,” she said.

Sir John took the last sip of lukewarm tea in the cup in front of him, and put the cup down on its chipped saucer. Almost immediately the waitress appeared.

“Can I get you anything else,” she asked blankly.

“I think we’re alright for a moment,” said Sir John.

The waitress immediately glanced at a sign saying “no loitering”. Marie looked around the room, empty save for a dishevelled looking man in a gaudy outfit nursing a cup of tea. The waitress peered out at the rain.

“You’ve been unlucky with the weather,” she said. Sir John sighed.

“Two more teas, please,” he said and the waitress went away.

bandstand storm 2.jpg“Two Teas”

“We can’t stay here seven hours,” said Sir John. “We’ll be bankrupt by teatime.”

The other man in the cafe turned his tea cup upside down and spun it round. Sir John looked on curiously.

“Is he alright do you think?” he said. The man turned his cup back up and peered at his saucer. He look surprised then glanced toward Marie and Sir John. Sir John looked down quickly as the man walked over.

“Please excuse me,” said the man, “but I do believe we have a common interest. My name is Lord Hollingbury, and, if my Aunt Mabel’s parlour trick isn’t mistaken, at least one of you is, shall we say, in possession of special talents.”

Sir John looked confused at the apparent gap between the man’s appearance and manner.

“I beg your pardon,” he said.

“Well, if you need me to pardon you, you must have done something very wicked,” said Lord Hollingbury sitting down.

“Two teas,” announced the waitress as she returned. She looked distastefully at the development of social intercourse in the tea rooms and beat a hurried retreat in case it was catching.

“Let me get down to brass tacks,” said Lord Hollingbury. “I am, shall we say, gifted myself in certain areas. One might call me a magician, if you like, but I prefer the term Nouveaumancer. You are … well one of you … and I think I know who, is most certainly gifted.”

“The tea leaves tell you this?” said Marie.

“Indeed, I was carrying out a little old-fashioned divination,” said the Nouveaumancer. “I think even magic has a certain … terroir, n’est-ce pas?”

“Now look here,” said Sir John, “I don’t know who you are…”

“Yes, you do,” said the Nouveaumancer, “I told you. The reverse is true, I don’t know who you are.”

Sir John’s mouth opened and closed.

“I am Marie Jennings, and this is my ‘usband Sir John Jennings,” said Marie. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Enchanted,” said the Nouveaumancer, “and enlightened. You’re the investigators of the paranormal, aren’t you? I read about you in the papers. I had no idea that you were … poachers turned gamekeepers.”

“Now look here!” said Sir John.

“We’ve done that part and moved on a little,” said the Nouveaumancer. “Do try and keep up. So I presume you’re here to investigate the disappearances.”

Sir John looked confused and aghast.

“You can’t say things like that to a chap’s face,” said Sir John.

“Well which part of a chap should I address these remarks to?” said the Nouveaumancer.

“Please, both of you,” said Marie, “Lord Hollingbury … what disappearances?”

“Oh, I see,” said the Nouveaumancer, “so you ‘don’t know about the disappearances’ and I’m guessing you’re ‘just here on holiday’.”

“Yes, exactly,” said Sir John.

“Oh, well that’s a shame,” said the Nouveaumancer, “I was rather hoping to pool resources. Oh well, if you change your mind, you can probably find me at the Cock and Bull. It really is the only place in town to get half decent scotch.”

The Nouveaumancer stood up and left the tea rooms. As he walked through the rain it seemed to somehow fall around him.

“Has he gone?” said the waitress who had appeared mysteriously.

“I believe so,” said Sir John.

“Well you can have his bill then,” she said, passing the couple a small piece of paper.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 2

Welcome to Sunnyport!

Tatty Seaside Town“Tatty Seaside Town”

So readers have been asking in their droves: where is Sunnyport? Those photographs seem familiar…

A cursory glance at a map of Southern England will reveal no such place. It is of course a fictional location, but as all such places, one rooted in some real experiences. We thought it might be informative and enlightening to list some of the ideas that run behind the town.

Inaptronymic placenames: it is the author’s general experience that the pleasantness of English seaside town-names is indirectly proportional to how agreeable the towns really are. Thus “Claphole-by-Sea” would be perfectly nice, but “Haven Bay” would be a crime-ridden rat-infested nightmare. Incidentally, the same applies to hotels and public houses. Any public house called The Friendship will have an undercurrent of violence, and any hotel called the Bella Vista will face a gasworks.

Sunnydale: which holds a special place in our hearts even twenty years on.

Innsmouth: “you’ll never leave” – a local town for local people.

Seaside holidays in the nineteen seventies: for many reasons the author does not wish to relate his experience of holidaying in B&Bs of various kinds, nor expand on the manner of hospitality extended in such places. To our readers who visited the English seaside in decades past, I am sure the reasons are clear.  To those who missed such an experience, the first chapter of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small island” should serve as an introduction.

And one thing that is not an influence on the fictional town of Sunnyport…

London-by-Sea: The self confessed “tatty seaside town” of Brighton (and Hove) will quite often be the “location shots” for Sunnyport. As a previous resident of this wonderful and unique town I can wholeheartedly state that Sunnyport is not Brighton. Brighton is much, much weirder.

The Sunnyport Shadow: Prologue

bandstand sun 2“Diverse Diversions”

Dear Mr Sir Jenkins

We are delighted to accept your booking at the Shalimar Bed and Breakfast in Sunnyport. We are looking forward to seeing you in May at our most salubrious establishment, which we feel certain will be ideally suited to a gentleman of your refined tastes.

You neglect to mention in your booking request if you have visited Sunnyport before. I have taken the liberty of assuming that this is your first visit to our seaside paradise. Forgive me, then, for any redundancy and permit me the time to avail you of some of the town’s attractions. For in truth, I delight in such a task.

Sunnyport is one of the premier resorts on the south coast of England. It benefits from an unusually sheltered aspect leading to a microclimate which, I truly believe, can be described as mediterranean. The town itself expanded around one hundred years ago when the healing powers of the unique sea air were discovered to have been responsible for the extended lifespan of its inhabitants, then mostly fisherfolk. As you can imagine, people flocked from far and wide to breath the healing air. That gifted the town its first wave of tourists, and such seekers of the healthy airs still regularly make the pilgrimage to our town.

But there is more to Sunnyport than fine air! Indeed, the town and its surrounds are of such an unnatural beauty that many a soul has been moved to tears on first arrival. You may recall that the poet Samuel Porlock wrote his famous “Ode to a Roman Ruin” here and the composer Edward Engerland wrote “Oh Stormy, Stormy Sea” in the Cock and Bull public house.

Sunnyport truly has it all. Indeed, any coastal resort would swell with civic pride if only it had our advantages. But the town fathers of Sunnyport are not the kind of men to rest on their laurels. No sir, for they have of late fashioned a most wondrous promenade replete with bandstands, teahouses, and diverse diversions to entertain our guests.

So whether you are exploring Sunnyport’s heritage in the old harbour, marvelling at its lighthouse, promenading with your good lady on the front, taking the sea air, or simply basking in the sunshine I guarantee you will find your stay in Sunnyport an experience you will remember all your life.

In order to secure the reservation we require settlement of the account plus a deposit equal to one half the value of the account, a local tourist tax fee equal to one quarter and finally a linen and cleaning charge equal to one quarter. You may check in to the establishment any time between the hours of two and four in the afternoon and checkout is by nine am strictly. Guests are requested to vacate the premises between the hours of nine thirty and five in the afternoon to permit cleaning. Guests must wear formal dress in the communal areas at all time and noise is strictly prohibited between the hours of ten at night and eight in the morning. Failure to comply with any of these rules may lead to ejection from the premises and loss of fees.

Yours most cordially

Mr Francis Pimplenick

Proprietor and owner Shalimar Deluxe Bed and Breakfast

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 1

The Cornish Curse: Epilogue

Sir John and Marie sat in the front room of their home in London with Phlebotomous Bosch. Marie was crocheting, Phlebotomous was tinkering with some mechanical device and Sir John was reading The Times when Miss Henderson came in. The room was quiet apart from the rhythmic snoring of Morag, lying by the fire.

“The afternoon post has arrived,” Miss Henderson announced and handed Sir John a letter. He took it and opened it.

“Ah, it’s from the Mallums!” he said. “They send their greetings to everyone, including you Miss Henderson, and thank us again for our help.”

“That’s generous of them,” said Miss Henderson.

“Well, we only uncovered their, er, problem,” said Sir John. “They go on to especially thank Morag for giving them the details of the tincture which reduces the symptoms of their daughters’ condition. Apparently they are now able to function normally during a full moon without, well, transforming.”

Morag lifter her head up from where she had been dozing by the fire.

“Ach, it’s nothing,” she said, “just a case of balancing the silver out with some extra gold.”

“Yes,” said Sir John, ”they mention how pleased they are that their farm labourers have returned to work for them as the gold is quite expensive. Apparently, the girls all asked to be remembered to Phlebotomous and reiterated their sorrow and embarrassment at the final night.”

Phlebotomous looked a little awkward.

“It was quite a scare,” said the vampire. “It’s made me think about possible future romantic attachments. I think it wise if I keep to the bachelor life. However attractive I may be to these girls, I think it’s for the best all round.”

Miss Henderson unfortunately had a small coughing fit at that point, which she covered with a handkerchief. Marie stared quite determinedly at her crochet as her shoulders gave a small shake.

“Sounds very sensible Mr Bosch,” said Sir John. “They also say that they fear news of the incident may have spread. Apparently Marsh left their employment shortly afterwards and started working for Lord du Bois. Now, Lord du Bois is rarely seen in their house. Mr Mallum is somewhat distressed by this and fears the worst.”

“I imagine Mr Marsh is more comfortable under Lord du Bois,” said Miss Henderson. Sir John looked at her quizzically.

“He seemed more like a man’s man,” she said, by way of explanation.

“Yes,” said Sir John,” I believe you are right. Anyway, they conclude by saying all is well and we are welcome to visit any time.”

Sir John folded the letter and put it down.

“Another satisfied customer,” he said. “Miss Henderson, perhaps we could have some tea and biscuits.”

“Yes, Sir Jennings,” she said and left.

“Oh. They have informed us that the payment will take a little time to arrange,” said Sir John sounding glum.

“Well, we have plenty of money after the alchemist, ne c’est pas?” said Marie.

“Indeed,” said Sir John, still looking at the letter and sounding glum.

“What is it?” said Marie.

“In lieu of the first payment they have sent us this drawing by Prudence,” said Sir John. “It’s of Mr Bosch.”

Marie and Phlebotomous looked at the drawing. They both frowned in unison

“I think it’s what you call the … modern style,” said Sir John.

CC Epilogue“Modern Style”

*With apologies to Pablo Picasso…

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 14

Marie and the adult Mallums were sitting in the parlour when Sir John came in. Marie looked up at him, concerned.

“How was Lord du Bois, mon cher?” she asked.

“I think I rather startled him at first, but after a brief conversation he recovered his composure,” said Sir John. Mr Mallum looked a little concerned.

“I trust you didn’t put him in an ill humour,” he said.

“Not at all,” said Sir John, “when I left he was distinctly gay.”

“So,” said Marie, ”there was nothing of concern?”

“Nothing at all,” said Sir John. “Where are Mr Bosch and the girls on this moonlit evening?”

“Mr Bosch is taking his walk and the girls have retired to bed early. I think they are tired from the ball,” said Mr Mallum.

“What’s that noise?” said Mrs Mallum. “It’s sounds like a kettle.”

They all listened as a high pitched sound got louder and louder. Finally there was the crash of the front door opening, and then the parlour door as Phlebotomous came in screeching.

CC Ch 14“Your Girls!”

“Wolves! They’re wolves!” he said, and presently four giant wolves came in after him. Instantly, everyone jumped on the furniture. The four wolves started circling around the chair Phlebotomous was standing on.

“Oh, my girls! We must warn them!” said Mr Mallum. “The beasts are in the house!”

“Mr Mallum, these are your girls,” said Phlebotomous.

“What!” he said.

“They’re werewolves,” said Phlebotomous. One of the quartet nudged the chair and it wobbled, provoking a strangulated noise from Phlebotomous.

“I really hate heights,” he said. Suddenly, Mrs Mallum burst into tears.

“This is all my fault!” she said.

“What?” said Mr Mallum.

“It skips a generation or two, my mother was … I hoped our daughters would be spared,” she said.

“You knew?” said Mr Mallum.

“I didn’t dare admit it, even to myself,” said Mrs Mallum.

“What are we going to do,” wailed Mr Mallum.

“Look, a coach has drawn up,” said Marie.

“Who is it?” said Mr Mallum, “I can’t see from this chaise-longue.”

“Someone tall, I think, with a dog,” said Marie.

“Lord du Bois!” said Mr Mallum. “He has come to save us!”

The figures approached the house and could be heard coming in the front door. A large dog came into the room. Instantly the dog barked and growled at the four werewolves. The four turned to face her and the largest wolf started to growl back, before the dog barked ferociously. At this, all four wolves lay down and made whimpering noises. The Jennings and the Mallums got down from the furniture. Phlebotomous stayed on the chair.

“Honestly!” said the dog. “What kind of a numpty halfwit goes looking for a magical dog and leaves the one they have sitting at home?”

Instead of Lord du Bois, a young lady came into the room.

“Have you managed to successfully intoxicate them?” she said to the dog.

“Morag! Miss Henderson!” said Sir John. “We are most delighted to receive your presence here this evening.”

“Aye, I imagine ye are!” said Morag.

The Cornish Curse: Epilogue