Usual episode on Tuesday, holiday snap today thanks to http://www.chania.gr
Marie and Sir John made their way into the sparsely decorated church hall joining people already seated for the advertised service. Mostly, they seemed to be a dour sort, dressed in dark colours and with solemn faces.
“I hope we have more luck here,” said Sir John. “We don’t have any leads at all so far. None of the devices have shown anything.”
“I agree,” said Marie, “but there is one thing I wonder. Mademoiselle Copperwaite ‘as been unmoving for a year. But her muscles, they are still there, no wasting.”
Sir John turned to look at his wife. “How interesting, I wonder… oh look it’s starting.”
The gentle susurration of whispering voices stopped and a man walked in the room. He wore a turban on his head with an ornate jewel at the forehead. His clothes were equally flamboyant, having a vibrant pattern with an oriental feel.
“Namaste, my congregation,” intoned the man. There was a mumbled response from the crowd. The man looked imperiously across the room, his eyes glancing at Marie and Sir John. The man remained standing and held out his arms. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply and noisily. “I am now contacting the spirit world,” he said. When he spoke again his voice had changed. It was more nasal with a drowsy, sing-song quality. The crowd was completely silent.
“We have newcomers amongst us,” said the turbaned man and turned his face, eyes still closed, towards Sir John and Marie. The crowd muttered in approval, apparently wowed by the insight.
“Good evening,” said Sir John, his voice a little tremulous. “I am Sir John Jennings and this is my wife, Marie.”
“Allo,” said Marie.
“You have travelled far,” intoned the man again, and again there were murmurs of approval. “You have travelled far to speak to me, Count Alfonso di Montmartre. You seek answers? Answers from… the Other Side.”
“Yes, we came from London, er, recently,” said Sir John.
“One has come further,” said the turbaned man.
“My wife is from France,” said Sir John and there was a rumble of approval from the crowd at this revelation. Marie rolled her eyes.
“You seek some knowledge, something you cannot find in London. Something you can only find from… the Other Side.”
“We were wondering,” said Sir John, “if you know about Mesmerism.”
A woman gasped loudly, and the crowd all started murmuring again.
“Yes, sir,” said the turbaned man. “I know of this. You think you want to know too? Well, that foul practise is the very gateway to hell. That obscene art is the purest poison from the bosom of the beast. It is the quickest and surest road to the very abyss itself. Do you want that, sir? Do you want your soul to be in torment? Your body in flames? The very fires of hell licking your feet, your legs, and your buttocks for all eternity?”
“Perhaps not,” said Sir John.
“Then ask no more,” said the turbaned man and turned away from the Jennings. “I sense there is one here who has lost someone recently, someone who has passed beyond.”
Many hands raised into the air and the turbaned man continued. He spoke to three or four people offering vague messages from their relatives and after that the meeting ended.
As the Jennings got up to leave, a small man knocked into Sir John. He looked annoyed and then confused and then looked down at his hand.
“Well, we are, as you say, back to the first square,” said Marie mournfully.
“Perhaps not,” said Sir John and showed her the card he had been passed.
Marie and Sir John sat in front of a huge desk covered with various gold ornaments. This reflected the look of the room where expensive objects were displayed with seemingly little care for decorum. A particularly ostentatious statue of an ichthyocentaur caught Marie’s eyes as she looked around, trying to avoid the appraising gaze of the obese man behind the desk.
“So what have you found so far?” said Henry Copperwaite glaring at both his guests. His breathing was loud and rasping. Combined with his flaring nostrils, he reminded Marie of an elderly bull.
“Well,” said Sir John, “our enquiries are at an early stage. We have some interesting avenues to explore.”
“No,” boomed the man, “answer the blasted question. Not what are you going to do, what have you found?”
“Well, er, to be completely frank,” said Sir John, “very little. In fact, it wouldn’t be, er, completely inaccurate to say… nothing.”
The man grunted in what could have been approval or contempt.
“Same as all the other quacks, medics, and cranks that have come through the door. No surprise there.”
“Well, it’s early days…” started Sir John.
“Pipe down,” interrupted the man. “I know how this goes. You’ve things to check, something to test, blah blah. Well, the good news for you Mr Jennings…”
“Sir Jennings,” interjected Sir John. The large man glared at him and Sir John went red.
“Well, the good news for you Sir Jennings,” he said with mocking emphasis, “is that I am at my wit’s end and probably my life’s end but not at the end of my resources. I have little faith in your abilities no matter what I hear from other sources, but I am, frankly a desperate man.”
“I see,” said Sir John.
“I don’t need no doctor to tell me my days are numbered and all I want before I pass from this place is to see my daughter awake and alive. After her mother died young she is all I have. She’s a special girl you see, Sir John. She’s been raised well, not like me. I dragged myself up from the gutter with these grubby hands.” He showed Marie and Sir John a pair of spotless, fat fingers. “I worked like a Trojan for every penny. From nothing. I did all of this so she could have the finer things in life. And then a year ago, on the first of April…” He thumped his fist on the desk and looked away.
“I thought it was joke at first, because of the date,” said Copperwaite forlornly, “but she hasn’t woken up since.”
“You said she was special,” said Marie, “was there something she did, some interest she had, which might help us understand her.”
“Oh, well that’s a new straw to clutch at,” scoffed Mr Copperwaite, regaining some of his bullishness. “You could say that. She was one for the arts and the finer side of life, as she put it. She decorated this room for example. She had a…” he waved his hands, groping for a metaphor.
“Cultured eye?” said Sir John.
Copperwaite shrugged, “As you will. I’ve never understood it but there you go. She was interested in the ‘world beyond this’ as well. More tosh. I suppose when her mother died young, it got to her. She went to this church, spiritualist, to talk to the dead. Well, if she doesn’t wake up soon, she may need to go there to talk to me.”
Mr Copperwaite started to breathe heavily, and his head sank down a little. It was hard to tell if he was tired or sad or just bored. He waved his hand at them to indicate they could go.
“Well, that will be everything I suppose,” said Sir John starting to stand, seemingly keen to get away from the man.
“I wonder,” said Marie, “before we go, if you would have an address for that church.”
Despite wearing his Sunday best for the photoshoot, poor Sir John had to be decapitated for artistic purposes. Here he is restored to his full glory for your amusement this Friday.
We have, incidentally, created what we believe is called a “Facebook page” for this magnificent publication. You may wish to visit if you find yourself short of entertainment over the weekend. The weather forecast promises little, we’re told.
The butler led Sir John and Marie into the large, well decorated bedroom. A middle aged maid was sitting across from the bed on which the young Lillian Copperwaite lay. The prone figure gazed vacantly into space from under the covers, with just her arms and chest exposed.
“This is Miss Copperwaite,” said the butler reverently. “Mr Copperwaite thought it best you see her first.”
“Quite right!” exclaimed Sir John excitedly, causing the maid to jump. “Objectivity is vital at this stage.”
Sir John donned a pair of heavy looking goggles. “Ectoscopic glasses,” he said half to himself. He wandered around the room looking initially at the walls and the desk.
“Miss Copperwaite is over here,” said the butler, looking bemused.
“It’s a background check for residual energies,” explained Sir John. He waved his hands to aid explanation, which didn’t seem to reduce the confusion of the butler. Sir John walked around to the head of the bed still looking at the wall. He turned and looked across the bed at the maid on the other side. He jumped back, making a loud gutteral noise. The maid emitted a shriek.
“Sorry,” said Sir John. He went over to the bed and looked at Miss Copperwaite, his head looking up and down her immobile body. Then he leaned forward to peer into her face looking closely with the goggles. He lifted up the covers to peer underneath. Marie coughed. Sir John stopped and took off the goggles to look at Marie.
“Are you alright dear?” he said. Marie indicated to her right with her eyes, and Sir John saw the butler’s face looking shocked.
“Yes, well, that’s, er, all straightforward,” said Sir John, flushing a little. He looked down at Miss Copperwaite and noticed her arm outside the sheets. He picked up the hand a little and let it drop. It fell like a stone. He picked up her forearm and held it a little higher and again it fell with a small thud. Then he lifted her whole arm up and was about to drop it when Marie said urgently, “Mon cher!” Sir John looked back and she made the same motion with her eyes. The butler looked highly agitated. Sir John wandered back to his wife.
“Well, that will conclude our, er, initial analysis,” said Sir John to the butler who looked somewhat relieved. Sir John then turned to his wife and whispered, “I can’t see anything paranormal at all.”
“Perhaps I may escort Sir Jenkins and his wife to Mr Copperwaite,” said the maid. She came over to the Jennings’ and the butler left the room, muttering under his breath and glancing at Sir John.
“You ain’t found nothing. I can tell,” said the maid. “And you won’t neither. This ain’t nothing medicinal and this ain’t no spooks. Miss Copperwaite is under the thrall… of …Mesmerism.”
Marie made a loud gasp. Sir John and the maid both looked at her.
“I am sorry,” she said. “I sat on this bit of metal and it was ‘ot.”
“That will be the central ‘eating miss,” said the maid.
“How interesting,” said Sir John.
We are travelling at the moment which is proving a great source of inspiration and photographic resources. Here is one such we found at a hotel we ate at, its a cosy little snug with a most opulent design. Already we are working out how we might fit it in a story…
The four-seater train compartment was filled with boxes and a man and a woman. The man was frowning and obsessively hanging on to the boxes as the train made its bone-shaking journey. At each jolt and rattle he seemed to be trying to hang on to all the boxes at once. The woman gazed out the window at the rainy landscape with a half smile on her face.
“I am truly sorry my dear for this intolerable form of transport,” said Sir John Jennings, trying to hold down a small tube which was rolling back and forth.
“Mon cher,” said Marie Jennings, “it is fine, it is nice to journey out of London and have this pleasant view.”
“Pleasant view?” said Sir John, “How can you see a thing with that downpour? If I had known that this investigation would require such deprivations… Are you sure you can bear it?”
“It is nothing,” said Marie, “but you do need to do something.”
“I do?” said Sir John. “Do you want a different compartment? I’m not sure I can…”
“Non, mon cher,” said Marie. “You have told me so little of this investigation. Just there is a wealthy man who lives in Manchester, a sickly daughter, I don’t know a thing really.”
“I’m sorry, dear,” said Sir John, “I’ve been so busy making arrangements for the journey. Well, let me tell you about the letter I received. It was from a Henry Copperwaite, apparently a man of industry, a man of progress. He is what you might call self made, working his way up from low origins to becoming an owner of a number of factories and works. He’s funded some interesting scientific projects. I have some hope that … well, never mind. His main concern, as he relayed to me on the telephonic device, is his daughter Lillian. You see, this esteemed gentleman is not of good health and is nearing the end of his days. He is thinking of his legacy and the future of his name. He has but one daughter and no sons, and the daughter is most unwell.”
Marie looked puzzled. “That seems a shame, but what is it to us? Are we not supposed to be investigators into the paranormal or the bizarre? This sounds like a job for a physician.”
“Oh drat it all, this confounded contraption will drive us to distraction,” exclaimed Sir John after a particularly strong bump sent a small suitcase flying. “I’m sorry, dear, but this is almost too much to endure. Yes, I said the same to the gentleman, but he has insisted Miss Copperwaite has been seen by a number of physicians. The best money can buy, he said, and none of them can give an explanation for her ailment. It is like a sort of catatonia. She lies all day in bed, cannot be roused but her eyes stare open, vacant at the ceiling.”
“She is, er, not dead?” said Marie.
“I was uncertain how to raise that with him myself, but he said she breathes and she will take a little food. But no other activity. He is convinced it has a supernatural cause, and after the Howarth case, he asked us to come to see.”
“It seems most strange, I agree,” said Marie, “but this isn’t like anything we have read about or seen.”
“No, I know. It was the intrigue that caused me to consider this journey.” The train bumped violently. “Well, curiosity may not have killed this cat, but he is not too comfortable. Do try to be patient, Marie, it’s not too many more hours now,” said Sir John.
Marie continued to gaze out of the window, a serene look on her face. She watched the countryside racing past along with the occasional small town. She wondered at how different this all seemed from her native France and at how calming it was to watch the rain run diagonally across the window. It was a most interesting and relaxing journey, giving her time to pause and reflect.
“Oh damn and blast,” shouted Sir John as a small box fell from the rack onto his head.
Well Gentle Reader, we have come to the end of our story. From next week The Benthic Times is very pleased to announce the commencement of another Jennings and Jennings adventure. A story of machiavellian manipulation, of Mephistolean mind control, of melodramatic machinations called…. The Mancunian Mesmerist.
For those of you who hanker to hear a little more of the goings on at Grimley Hall, fear not. Every artistic endeavour is bound to fall foul of some errors or problems, and ours most surely has. For your general entertainment and edification we present, in the language of the common parlance, the “bloopers” from the Howarth Haunting.
“I think I detect something,” said Sir John pacing around the room.
“Yes!” proclaimed Sir John. “A definite trace left behind. Something very old and potentially evil… there!” He pointed in front of himself and pulled off the goggles to discover he was pointing at empty space.
“I’m over here, dear boy,” said Lady Howarth. Both Marie and Sir John burst into laughter.
From next door came a creaking noise that Marie knew was the Thanatograph. It sounded like something was happening this time, as a thin voice came through. Marie could just make out her husband saying, “Remarkable, isn’t it?” Then Mrs Howarth said loudly,
“What’s it saying – sounds like – ‘you’ something – ‘you – snake?’ ‘YOU SNAKE!’ No… no it doesn’t, does it? It’s supposed to be you serpent, you sodding serpent.”
Marie could hear laughter through the wall.
“You Sodding Serpent!”
“We ‘ave so little time,” said Marie, as the maid brought another tray. “If only we knew what it meant, ‘the letters spell it out’.”
There maid daintily put the tea on the table and stood back. The Jenningses both looked at it in a confused manner.
“Oh!” Started the maid suddenly a look of shock on her face. “Oh, bo…”
“Butter fingers!” quickly interrupted Marie, and Sir John started laughing.
“I’m sorry madam,” said the maid, “but I couldn’t help overhearing you yesterday. About AC and EH and… and some letters. Alice Copsey. She’s my aunt, see. Well my great aunt. There were facts about her and… and the old master…”
“Rumours?” said Marie, whose shoulder were starting to shake a little.
“Yes madam, facts that were like rumours, but were actually more sort of facts.” Marie shoulders were shaking uncontrollably. “You know what madam, I’ll come back and try again,” said the maid, desperately trying to suppress a smile.
“She is possessed by a demon!” said the Bishop and made towards Marie. He put his hand on her forehead and muttered something in Latin. Marie turned around to face him, looking wild and confused. Then as he continued, her features softened.
“Merci, Monseigneur,” she said, and snatched his crozier. She stood away from the Bishop and the wall and held the crozier behind her head. She swung it round with a grunt and hit the wall. The crozier broke instantly into 3 pieces leaving Marie with a short piece in her hand. The bishop and and Sir John started chuckling and Marie could barely hold onto the crozier for giggling.
“You just can’t get the staff these days,” said Lady Howarth, provoking much hilarity.