The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 9

The study was covered in books and had two comfortable chairs in front of a roaring fire. A man was sitting in one of them with a book on his lap and was snoring gently. There was a knock on the door and he sprang up. He opened the door and peered out to see Sir John Jennings in the street.

“Professor Herringbone-Stove?” asked Sir John.

“Who is enquiring?” said the man.

“It’s Sir John Jennings,” said Sir John. “I believe I have an appointment?”

“Ah, yes!” exclaimed Herringbone-Stove. “Come in!”

“Professor Herringbone-Stove?”

Sir John walked into the room and the professor glanced up and down the street before closing the door. He indicated the unoccupied chair to Sir John, who sat down.

“Just out of interest,” said Sir John, “which university are you attached to at the moment.”

“Well I’m at…” started Herringbone-Stove, before commencing a long coughing fit, during which he sat down opposite Sir John. The professor leaned forward and arched his fingers and his eyebrows.

“So,” Herringbone-Stove said, “ you wish to know about … mesmerism!”

“Indeed,” said Sir John enthusiastically. Herringbone-Stove looked a little disappointed at this response. “I have a case at the very moment that I feel you may help me with. You see it concerns a woman who I believe is under the thrall of a mesmerist. I believe him to be working to a most diabolical purpose.”

“Strong words sir and easily misused,” said Herringbone-Stove. “Some of my lectures have been described as diabolical.”

“I’m sure they have,” said Sir John. “But the fact remains, she is catatonic, the doctors can do nothing, and her last known contact … was a mesmerist.”

“Fascinating,” said Herringbone-Stove, “but I still doubt your theory. To be able to carry out such an feat, a man would need tremendous mesmeric powers, even with the help of something like the Sphere of Lethe.”

“The Sphere of Lethe?” said Sir John.

“It was an artefact possessed by Mesmer himself, that purportedly amplifies mesmeric power,” said Herringbone-Stove.

“Good Lord! Named for the river, I suppose,” said Sir John.

“The river?” said Herringbone-Stove.

“The River Lethe. One of the rivers of the Greek underworld.”

“Let me just write something down unconnected to our conversation,” said Herringbone-Stove. He started to write on a pad and said “riv – er” under his breath.

“So how does the Sphere work?” asked Sir John.

“Ah! Well, I have a theory,” started Herringbone-Stove, “that it works by enhancing aural electricity. You see, I firmly believe that mesmerists have long misunderstood their own power. They call their powers animal magnetism, and Mesmer himself believed it was identical to actual magnetism. This is palpable nonsense. The power that mesmerists use is clearly based in electricity, produced by the pineal gland, directed at the target and amplified by auditory excitation. The sphere, I believe, further increases this auditory excitation, thus enhancing the mesmerist’s power.”

“Fascinating,” said Sir John. “But how would this auditory excitation work? And how might one defend against it?”

“You, sir, are as ugly as a baboon!” shouted Herringbone-Stove.

“I beg your pardon!” said Sir John turning red.

“You see, that is an example of auditory enhancement of mesmeric electricity. I fired my pineal gland at you and enhanced that with the power of my voice. It provoked in you a marked emotional response, namely rage. That is the power of the mesmerist.”

“I see,” said Sir John, still shaking a little.

“I posit that there are two forms of defense against this. The first is that one must block up the ears to ensure they do not hear the voice of the mesmerist. The second is to direct a beam of electricity back at the mesmerist’s pineal gland. Sadly, I am no engineer, but I have no doubt that in this modern age a suitable device could be made.”

“So where is this sphere?” asked Sir John.

“Well, until recently it was held in the British Museum in London in a display of Mesmer’s effects. But I believe last year the whole collection was sold to a local artistic foundation. Around March, I think. They were displayed here in Manchester briefly. But really, Sir John, it would take a master mesmerist to use this device.”

“Professor Herringbone-Stove, my client is connected with an artistic foundation and last April was when she was struck down. I now wonder whether this Sphere was used to do that.”

“Good Lord!” said Herringbone-Stove, leaning forward and lowering his voice. “But there is only one man I can think of so powerful and malignant. Only one who would dare to defy the laws of nature in such a way. Only one who might sink to such depravity!”

“Who, man? Tell me!” said Sir John, leaning forward too.

Professor Herringbone-Stove moved as close to Sir John as he could. His face was pale and his voice barely a whisper.

“His name sir … is Arthur Clackprattle.”

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 10

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The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 8

It was silent in Miss Copperwaite’s bedroom. Weak moonlight trickled in from the tall, thin windows, barely illuminating her as she lay in her catatonic state. The door began to creak open and a figure came in quietly. The figure kept to the shadows and looked down at the supine form of Miss Copperwaite.

“You cannot wake, and I cannot sleep,” said the figure. “I keep seeing that man whenever I close my eyes. The terror on his face. And it was my fault. All my fault. What is it, this terrible thing?”

Marie stepped out of the shadow.

“What is this mesmerism?”

She gasped.

“I knew it!” she said, staring at the bed.

The figure of Miss Copperwaite began to rise slowly out of the bed. She made one slow lurching circuit of the bedroom before heading to the window. Suddenly she slumped forward, her hands just inches from the floor. She grabbed the bottom of the sash window and stepped back, pulling it up. Then she placed one hand on the low window ledge. Miss Copperwaite continued to stare blankly as her hand felt around the ledge. Eventually it found some pieces of paper and brought them into the room. She walked clumsily to a desk, sat down and opened a drawer. Again, her hand acted alone as she stared ahead, producing a pen. The hand wrote quickly on the bits of paper, finishing each with a flourish. Then Miss Copperwaite gathered the papers in her hand, and walked back to the window. She put the papers back outside, closed the window then lumbered back into bed.

Marie watched all of this in silence from the shadows. When Miss Copperwaite was back in bed, Marie went to the window. She could see a figure, a short man, scurrying away in the distance. The papers were gone.

Marie carefully open the window again and put her hand out. The ledge was low enough that she could touch the ground, and she picked up a small stone from outside. She brought the stone up to her lips, kissed it lightly and said, “vivre”. Then she held her hand flat.

The stone started to shake a little, then small cracks appeared on its side. There were three cracks on each side and from each a tiny leg came out. Then two cracks appeared at the front and two antennae appeared. The stone insect walked around Marie’s hand a few circuits, trying out its new legs.

“Little one,” said Marie, “I have a job for you. You will be a stone again in a little while, and you will wait outside the window. A man will come in the night and come to this window. When he leaves, you will follow him and then come back to me. Then you will show me where he goes.”

MM Ch 8

The insect walked around a bit more then seemed to nod. Marie put it gently on the ground. The legs and antennae curled back into the stone and it was normal again. Marie shut the window and stared outside for a while.

“I will find you, you monster,” she said, then quietly left the room.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 9

The Second Salem Witch Trials

by Professor Marmaduke Herringbone-Stove

There has been much interest recently in these fair shores on the topic of the diabolical and malevolent practice of mesmerism.

I hear you gasp at my mention of the word, but as an expert I hold no fear of these devious practices. I have spent many years studying this foul perversion of natural forces. I understand how it operates, how it can control the mind of a more fragile being, how it can destroy a man. But I have no wish now to expand on this topic. I have written elsewhere on it and frequently give speeches and lectures.

No, today I wish to keep you abreast of events on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, namely in America. It has come to my attention that there has been a  legal trial most recently near the famed city of Salem. A trial that was called by the newspapers the “Second Salem Witch Trials” although it features no witch. Indeed the indicted, one Daniel H Spofford, was accused of none other than mesmerism!

SpoffordDaniel H Spofford,  Alleged Mesmerist

Let me acquaint you of the facts as they appear to me. This seems a tragic tale indeed, a “fall from grace” if you will. For Mr Spofford was very much engaged with the brilliant if theoretically misguided Mary Baker Eddy and her Christian Science movement. Clearly, there he was exposed to the powers and practice that Mrs Eddy and others have called “animal magnetism”. But these powers have a dark side too. A power that Mrs Eddy has written about in a chapter of her famed “Science and Health” book. That she has called Malignant Animal Magnetism, or more simply, mindcrime.

Daniel H Spofford, for all his years of service to Mrs Eddy, must have been seduced by these dark powers. It was said in court that he

“is a mesmerist, and practices the art of mesmermism, and by his said art and the power of his mind influences and controls the minds and bodies of other persons, and uses his said power and art for the purposes of injuring the persons and property and social relations of others and does by said means so injure them”

In particular, the unfortunate Lucretia Brown was a target of his terrible powers, being made invalided by this devious soul Spofford. Yes, it is true she had received the injury decades before and yes, Spofford had fallen out with Mrs Eddy. It is also alleged that Mrs Eddy’s lawyers assisted in drawing up the complaint, but surely this is merely the act of a benevolent friend.

In any account, the law proved once again what an ass it can be. The case was thrown out by the Judge, who foolishly suggested the claim was vague, that no law had been broken and that the law would not be able to stop Mr Spofford if he did have the powers that Mrs Brown suggested he had. I say the law is an ass, but maybe there is another, more sinister reason why the case was rejected. My conjecture is this, Mr Spofford used his powers as a mesmerist…to mesmerise the judge!

Now surely we can see how powerful these mesmerists are and surely all good men and women should arm themselves against such mental meddling. The truth should be told, explained, and given to all mankind, that they may keep themselves safe

Professor Herringbone-Stove, Greater Manchester

(Professor Herringbone-Stove is available to deliver lectures to meetings attended by appropriate gentlefolk, birthdays for over 10s and weddings where liqour is not served.)

Please Note: The views expressed by contributors to The Benthic Times may not reflect the views of the editors or owners. Students of legal history are earnestly encouraged to study this document for an alternative perspective.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 7

Sir John and Marie both looked silently at their menus as they sat at a table for three in the pleasant restaurant. It was Marie who broke the silence first.

“I keep thinking about that poor man,” she said.

“Yes, it was a shame about that chap. I do hope he recovers,” said Sir John, “but we really weren’t to know. We merely asked him a couple of questions, it’s not like we twisted his arm or anything.”

Marie looked back down at her menu again.

“Still, the maid is coming soon,” said Sir John. “Perhaps we’ll get some information from her.”

“If we don’t kill her too,” said Marie, still looking down.

“And I saw this poster for some chap called Herringbone-Stove. He had a talk on you-know-what a couple of weeks ago. I think I’ll try and track him down too. We’ll get to the bottom of this,” said Sir John cheerily.

The maid from Miss Copperwaite’s bedroom appeared wearing her Sunday best.

“Good evening your highnesses,” she said somewhat nervously and stood behind the vacant chair.

Sir John stood up quickly.

“Please, Miss…” he started.

“Harper,” said the maid. “Mrs Harper.”

“Please, Mrs Harper, take a seat. Thank you for coming, and for your discretion,” said Sir John. “We wanted to talk to you after you mentioned to us… in the room… about… you know.”

“You mean about…” said Mrs Harper.

A waitress walked past with a tray with several bowls of soup.

“Probably best not mention it,” interrupted Sir John. “But please, we’d like to know why you said what you said.”

Mrs Harper looked at the menu in front of her.

“Oh, my… These prices are a little dear for one on my poor income,” she said. “I could barely afford a bread roll.”

“We’ll pay,” said Sir John. “As a thank you.”

“You’re very kind!” said Mrs Harper. “Now, our story begins just over a year ago. I was maid to Miss Copperwaite around that time, and she often confided to me her most innermost thoughts and secrets. Mostly it was sentimental tosh, but she had some unusual interests. She believed that art and religion could raise the common man and woman out of the poverty of their existence. She meant spiritually, of course. I don’t think she was that bothered about raising them out of their actual poverty.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “What manner of interests did she have?”

“May I take your orders?” said a waiter.

“Oh, I’ll take the soup,” said Sir John.

“And also me,” said Marie.

“I’ll have this, and this,” said Mrs Harper, pointing to the menu, “and one of them.”

The waiter left, and Mrs Harper continued her tale.

“She started an organisation that was trying to share art with people. Free galleries, art on a horse and cart, music down those telephonic devices, that sort of thing. Well, it seemed to me to be a great way to throw money away. I had to remind her that most impoverished people don’t have telephonic devices, for example. But she also got involved with what you might call new-fangled religions. Or what my father might have called utter codswallop. She went from group to group until she met this one man. She said he was the real thing. That he had powers.”

“Two soups,” said the waiter to the Jennings’, then turning to Mrs Harper, “and your lobster. The caviar is here in the bowl, and the bottle of champagne should be arriving shortly.”

MM Ch 7 %22We'll Pay%22“We’ll Pay”

“Oh, very nice,” said Mrs Harper. “Very kind of you, Sir Jenkins.”

“You’re, er, welcome,” said Sir John, a little flustered. “Perhaps you can tell us about this man?”

“She’d always meet him at the theatre, he had a box there, said he told her all sorts of things that she couldn’t tell anyone about,” said Mrs Harper.  “Then one night she went to his home. That night, she came back and went to sleep like she is now. The one thing she told me was the name for what he could do… Mesmerism!”

Sir John gasped. He waved a hand in front of his open mouth.

“This soup is rather hot,” he said. “Be careful Marie, dear. Mrs Harper, do you know the name of this mysterious gentleman?”

“That’s the funny thing,” said Mrs Harper. “You know, she told me many a time and not once did I remember his name.”

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 8

Hotwater Longcycle, Squid Detective in “Unlucky For Some”

“Hotwater Longcycle? Squid Detective? Has Saul lost his mind…”

Hotwater Longcycle SD

Unlucky For Some

I was hanging out at the end of the wharf minding my own business when I first saw her. She had that look certain dames do, all short, stumpy legs and small eyes. And she was blubbing. I can’t stand it when they blub.

“Say, what’s up?” I asked. She looked around, confused until she saw me. She seemed surprised at first but then just shrugged.

“Oh, nothing much,” she said. “Just the end of my life.”

“How so?” I said. “Girl like you, young, pretty, appropriately dressed for the inclement weather. You got everything going for you.”

“And I would have said the same too… yesterday,” she said. “But today… oh, it’s too awful. I should just… should just end it now.” Then she blubbed some more.

“Say, how ‘bout you tell me what’s up, maybe I can help.” I said. Like I say, I can’t stand it when they blub.

“Well, I guess it can’t hurt. Things couldn’t be no worse. See, up til this morning I was happy and carefree. I’d met and married the man of my dreams. Sure he was a little older, with him being 93 and me 26, but I truly loved him. It didn’t matter to me that he was a millionaire. I barely even noticed how big his mansion was when I was his nurse, pushing him around in his wheelchair. We were married last May, but fate wouldn’t even give us a year. Last night we had dinner a little later than usual, at six, and then, and then…”

“Go on,” I said. “It’ll help, believe me.”

“Well, I don’t know,” she said. “See, I can’t remember. I woke up this morning, still in the dining room. My husband was dead, slumped over his spaghetti with a big dent in his head. I was next to him, with the pepper grinder in my hand. It was a big one, Italian… and it matched the dent in his head. The staff woke me up when they came in. They saw me, saw the grinder and my husband and assumed… I can’t blame them. I just ran and ran trying to figure out what to do next. And here I am. I’m sure I didn’t kill my husband, but who would believe me? I can’t live without him, so I’m planning on joining him.”

She stared morosely into the water and I guessed there would be blubbing again soon. I made a decision then.

“Say, how about I help you. You ain’t got nothing to lose, and I don’t like to see a dame down on her luck. I’m a detective, see. A private eye. Name’s Hotwater Longcycle.”

“I’m Virginia,” she said. “Mrs Virginia Schlosswasser. ‘Least, ‘least I was.”

“I just got one question Virginia,” I said. “Look me in the eye and answer me once and answer me true. Did you murder Mr Schlosswasser?”

She looked at me clear in the eye and said, “No, Mr Longcycle. I did not.”

“Then I’m on the case,” I said.

∼∼∼

My first port of call was to mooch along the bars by the docks. Lot of those bars don’t like my kind. Lots of signs saying “NO SQUID, NO FISH, NO OCTOPUS”. Lot of bartenders won’t even look at you. Eventually I found a bar desperate enough to welcome my kind and kind enough to welcome the desperate low-life I was looking for. Johnny McQuirk, famous for his indolence and his flapping mouth. He’d help me with some information. I sat down next to him at the bar.

“How you doing Johnny?” I asked.

“I don’t talk to no squid,” he said.

“Five of the green says you do,” I said, holding out five strands of seaweed. That stuff is a delicacy around here.

“I got principles,” he says.

“Ten then,” I said, “to compensate you for your fall in standards.”

He nodded then and I passed over the weed.

“What do you want to know?” he said, not looking at me once.

“Guy called Schlosswasser wound up dead today, murdered by all accounts,” I said.

“Yeah I heard,” he said. “The little lady is what I heard.”

“What if it wasn’t?” I said. “What if it was someone else framed her?”

He turned to look at me then.

“What are you into?” he said. “That’s crazy talk. Here, keep your stinking weed, I don’t want it anyway.” He got up and left, and I could see his hand shaking as he did. His silence told me everything. The dame wasn’t lying. She’d been set up for a fall.

∼∼∼

I decided I should get better acquainted with the crime scene. Luckily, old man Schlosswasser’s mansion was on the shore, although it was 50 feet up a cliff. Since I do a little workout, is was tough, but not impossible to drag myself up by the suckers. When I got to the windows I peered in until I found the room. It was easy to spot. There was yards of police tape at hip height. But I ain’t got no hips so it didn’t stop me. I climbed in through the window and looked around. It looked like everything had been left alone. There was some mouldy spaghetti on the table and the pepper grinder, which had been dusted for prints. Two glasses of wine were still on the table, one with lipstick. I checked them both, although I don’t care for liquor. The guy’s was fine, but the gal’s had some funny taste. I knew what it was straight off. Someone had slipped the dame a mickey finn. It was starting to make me a bit woozy too when the door started to open. I hot-tentacled it across the room, looking around wildly. There was a large shield on the wall with five swords pointing out. I crawled up to it and hid behind it, my tentacles wrapped around the swords. I couldn’t see a thing, but I sure could hear. And what I heard made my hemolymph go cold.

“So the big guy’s dead, the wife is out of the picture, and the Mano Cannery is safe from prying eyes,” said one voice, refined sounding.

“You do the job yourself?” said another, gruffer voice.

“With these two hands,” said the first voice, proudly.

“Who’d a thunk it, a butler killing someone,” said gruff voice. “What is the world coming to? But I got some bad news for you. The boss ain’t gonna be pleased that the broad’s on the run. Leaves things… complicated. That’s a loose end that’s gonna need tying up.”

“Why bother?” said the butler. “The police’ll get her soon enough, or if she has any brains at all she’ll leave town.”

“If she has any brains, she might figure out what really happened,” said gruff voice. “But maybe you don’t wanna hear it from me. Maybe you wanna hear it from the boss?”

“Oh-ok,” stammered the butler. “I’ll sort it out.”

“Be sure you do,” said gruff voice, and I heard footsteps leaving. When I was sure the coast was clear, I climbed down from behind the shield and headed for the window.

∼∼∼

Once back in the water I headed to Mano Cannery. I’d heard the name, one of a bunch of fish canneries down by the docks. As I swam down I noticed there was a big factory next door with Schlosswasser Fisheries on it. Well, what do you know? Once I got to Mano I climbed up and took a look around. It looked normal enough to me, fish going in and cans coming out. But something sure smelled bad and it wasn’t just the day-old fish heads in the trash cans.

I needed to get inside so I helped myself to one of the white coats all the staff seemed to be wearing. It didn’t fit too good, being two feet too long and eight arms too short, but it got me in the building. It just seemed like a regular small time cannery. Didn’t seem worth killing a guy over. Then I saw a door said “Authorised Personnel Only”. It might as well have said “Please Come Inside”.

The door was locked, but I got some mean suckers on me, and I got it open in no time. It was a smaller factory floor with a desk and phone at one end. No one was in the room. There was some Mano Cannery cans on the tables with “Special Sauce” written on them. I looked at the cans and then I knew what was going on. The fish had been dried and ground up, but there was no mistaking the yellow colour. Angel fish, dried and ground and sold for kicks, illegal in every state. Mano Cannery was pushing angel dust.

I started to wonder who might be doing this and what it had to do with the broad when I heard the door open. I shot under the table and heard the same gruff voice shout to the main factory, “Hey, who left this door open?” He shut the door with a sigh and went to the telephone. He dialled the number, reading it aloud as he did. Guess numbers weren’t his thing.

“Mr Selachii, it’s Frank… Yeah, he’s definitely dead. It looks like he ain’t gonna be buying the Cannery no time soon. There’s some bad news, though. The little lady’s been framed by the butler like we said, but she’s on the lam… Yeah, I told him… Yeah, you bet I made it clear. Still, looks like it keeps us from being bought up and keeps our entire West Coast operation running without outside interference… Yeah, yeah, I guess that is a superfluous non-sequitur that reveals compromising information to a casual eavesdropper.”

He put the phone down and walked out the room. I was frozen like a fishstick to the spot. Selachii. I’d heard his name mentioned in some of the bars. Always whispered, always with reverence. He was a very big fish in our tiny pond. Well, I thought to myself, grow some cartilage Hotwater, you eat fish for breakfast.

∼∼∼

I went back to the wharf-side motel where I’d left Mrs Schlosswasser: a squalid, damp, rat-infested hole called the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t much, but they knew to keep their eyes open and their mouths closed. When I saw the broad she seemed happier than the night before. But given she’d been planning to take a pleasure cruise on the River Styx, she couldn’t have been sadder then.

“Oh, Mr Longcycle,” she said, “I’m so relieved!”

“Please, call me Hotwater,” I said. “What’s the story?”

“I just got off the phone to Hives, our butler. I know it was stupid, but I had to call… had to find out what was happening. It’s great news, Hotwater. He said they know it was all a silly mistake. I’m to go back tonight at 8 and he’ll square everything with the police. He’ll make sure I’m safe.”

“The only thing that creep will make sure of is that you‘ll wind up in a box,” I said, causing her to jump back. “I went there today, overheard everything. Hives is the guy that killed your husband.”

She gasped, “Oh, Hotwater, what will I do?”

“Keep calm,” I said. “I got an idea. You get ready for the big meet. I’ve got a surprise party to plan.”

∼∼

I went back to my office and picked up the phone. Gruff voice might not be good with numbers, but I am. Ten tentacles will help a guy that way. I dialled the number.

“Selachii,” said the voice on the phone. It was watery, gravelly and full of menace, like a fish bowl filled with acid.

“Good evening Mr Selachii,” I said. “I have some bad news for you. You’re being set up by a business partner. A Mr Hives? He doesn’t plan on tying up your loose end. He plans on using it to make you swing.”

“Is that so?” said Mr Selachii.

“You bet,” I said. “The loose end in question is going over there tonight. Be there at 8.30 and you’ll catch him in the act.”

“Thanks for the tip, buster,” said Mr Selachii. “But who are you anyway?”

“Let’s just say, I’m a friend,” I said.

“Where, from high school?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“From softball? We play softball? Or the wedding? You came to the wedding? Bill something?”

“No no,” I said, “just… a friend,” and I put the phone down. Selachii may have sharp teeth, but I guess that’s where it stops.

I made a call to the cops, and then I made for the Schlosswasser mansion.

∼∼∼

It was nearly 8 by the time I got there, and like before, I crawled up the wall. Hives and Mrs Schlosswasser were in the dining room. Guess that was his favourite place to kill people. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I sure saw the gun he pulled out. Mrs Schlosswasser screamed and that was when I burst in through the window.

“Who are you?” said Hives as I brushed the glass off me.

“I’m the guy that’s gonna see you go to the chair,” I said.

“Fat chance!” he laughed. “You’re just a spineless squid, and here’s me with a gun. How are you going to stop me?”

“I ain’t,” I said. “He is.”

Three guys and gruff voice walked into the room. The guys were pushing a big fish tank. They took off the lid and pulled out some guns of their own, pointing them at me and Hives. Slowly, a Great White Shark pulled itself out of the fish tank, hauled itself up and spoke.

“Mr Hives, I believe you have some explaining to do,” said Mr Selachii.

“I… I didn’t do nothing… I was just going to kill her,” started Hives. Then he started laughing. It must have been contagious cos all the other guys started laughing too. I took the opportunity to put myself between the guns and Mrs Schlosswasser. Eventually the laughter died down and I realised what was the joke. It was me. Five shooters and one shark were all pointing my way.

“Well ‘friend’,” said Mr Selachii, “you must think I’m as dumb as a sea slug. But straight after our little chat I spoke to Mr Hives and we straightened everything out. Nice try, loser. Why don’t you tell us your name so we know what to put on your grave.”

“Name’s Longcycle. Hotwater Longcycle,” I said. Then I quickly squirted ink at the shooters, slapped them with five tentacles and took their guns with the other five. They lay unconscious on the floor. “But you can call me Sir.” I added.

I never seen a Great White turn white, but I saw it then. Still he had some bravado.

“Close, but no cigar,” he said, then pressed a button on his tank. Tiny rockets came out of each side and suddenly the tank shot across the room, through the window, and fell toward the ocean.

“He’s getting away!” said Mrs Schlosswasser. I walked over to the window.

“I wouldn’t worry,” I said. “Mr Selachii’s luck is like the tide. Out.” We both looked out of the broken window to see the gangster flapping on the mud. Cops were moving towards him ready to cuff him.

“Your gonna fry Selachii,” I called down.

“This isn’t over Longcycle!” he shouted. “This isn’t over.”

∼∼∼

I was hanging out at the end of the wharf minding my own business when I saw her again. The sun was shining and so was she.

“I never really thanked you,” said Mrs Schlosswasser. “You saved my life.”

“Nothing to thank,” I said. “Guy does a girl a favour. Nothing in that. Just… just be careful what you order in a seafood restaurant.”

“I will,” she said.” And I wanted to invite you to my wedding.”

“Wedding?” I said.

“Oh, Hotwater, you won’t believe it. At the funeral I met such a nice man. He’s not as young as my last husband, and I think he has a little more money. Not that that matters. We’re to marry next week, just before his quadruple heart bypass.”

She beamed so brightly that I couldn’t help but share her joy, although I felt trepidation for some reason. I watched as she walked away with a spring in her step then sank quietly into the waves, happy at a job well done.

 

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 6

The dressing room was damp, cold and filled with mismatched furniture. A dusty mirror sat on a cluttered desk next to a chair piled up with clothes. The room was silent.

Suddenly the door handle rattled and a muffled voice came from outside.

“Locked,” said Sir John. “Looks like our luck has run out.”

“Let me try,” said Marie. There was a pause and something muttered in French. The door handle turned and the door swung in. Sir John and Marie went into the tiny room.

“How did you do that?” said Sir John. “I was sure it was locked.”

“Oh, it turned the French way,” said Marie absently. Sir John immediately lifted his modified opera glasses and moved around the miserable room.

MM Ch 6“No-one!”

“Nothing, nothing,” he muttered. “It’s the same as before. It seems like anything paranormal was coming from that box. Perhaps we should go and look there.”

“It might not be safe to confront something powerful,” said Marie. “We should look around here first and get some clues about this thing of mind control.”

“Mesmerism,” said Sir John and Marie let out a gasp. Sir John turned to look, and saw she was surprised by the stage mesmerist. He had come into the room without making a sound.

“Can I help you?” he said, a half smile on his face. “I’m afraid the show has finished and you’ll have to leave.” He waved his hand quickly in front of his face, his eyes not blinking. Sir John continued to stare through his opera glasses and came close to the man. He stared intently through them at the man’s face then down his body to the hand he had just waved.

“Fascinating,” said Sir John. “You’re utterly normal.” The mesmerist looked crestfallen.

“Who are you?” said the mesmerist. “There’s supposed to be a man to stop people getting back here.”

“We had a bit of luck there in that he didn’t notice us,” said Sir John, who had gone round the back of the man and was examining his hat. “Can you tell us how you do it?”

“The show? No I cannot, it is a trade secret of mesmerists. I am sworn to the darkest of oaths. It would be more than my mortal soul is worth to whisper even a scintilla of the craft.”

“…and, you’re not really a mesmerist, are you?” said Marie.

“I say!” said the mesmerist, whose sinister aura was evaporating by the second. “That’s a bit much.”

“Can you tell us about who is in the box?” asked Sir John. The mesmerist looked shocked.

“Look, steady on. Blimey, you’re a strange pair, aren’t you. Chaps gotta earn a crust you know. We can’t all be, you know…” he indicated Sir John.

Dire,” whispered Marie. The man gave a sigh, his shoulders sank and he spoke.

“The man in the box is…” Then he stopped suddenly, stood up bolt upright and said, “There was no-one in the box.”

“I’m sorry,” said Sir John. “That was a little confusing.”

The mesmerist’s shoulders slumped again and he said, “The man in the box is…” then he stood bolt upright as before.

“There’s no-one the box.” He face convulsed and twitched. “No-one in the box. No-one. No-one. No-one…”

Marie and Sir John backed away and out of the room as the man kept repeating the words over and over, a trickle of blood falling from his nose.

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 7

Souvenirs

When travelling abroad, it is of course necessary to procure some manner of souvenir. This has the effect of reminding one of the journey and allows one to share a little of the wonder of the holiday with friends. In that spirit, dear readers, now that we have returned from our sojourn in the sun, we present to you a little “something” we acquired on our way. We hope you like it as much as we do.

squid sepia

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 5

The tired and faded state of the decoration of the theater showed that it had seen better days, although the gaudy and sensational paintwork suggested they hadn’t been that much better. Marie and Sir John were positioned in the middle of the stalls, surrounded by a clientele that had clearly been preparing for the performance by consuming large amounts of alcohol. There was a ribald, boisterous mood amongst the crowd.

Sir John was unusual in having brought opera glasses and even more unusual in having adapted them to function as an ectoscope. As the crowd settled down a little he was staring at the stage muttering that he couldn’t see anything.

“That’s cos it ain’t started,” said someone jeeringly and there was much laughter at this. Marie was fiddling with the necklace she had brought when the clasp holding it seemed to break and it fell in her lap.

The theatre went dark and a man walked on stage. He had a long black cloak, impressive top hat and a moustache with an exaggerated curl at the end. He too looked like he had seen better days and not recently.

“Ladees and gennelmen,” he drawled, “if indeed we have such creatures here tonight…” This provoked more laughter.

“I am delighted to present for your entertainment and education a display of that most mysterious, most magnificent, most malignant art of… Mesmerism.” There was a gasp from the crowd.

“Do I have a volunteer?” asked the man on stage. Almost immediately a hand shot up and a voice rang out. It was an older lady who spoke.

“Yes sir, with pleasure, for this practice is nothing more than a trick on the mentally feeble.” The crowd roared their approval at being described this way.

“Well, madam, if indeed you are,” said the man to more laugher, “please make your way to the stage.”

The woman, who proved to be somewhat on the heavy side, made her way toward the stage. Sir John was still staring intently at the stage through the glasses and Marie let the pendant that had come loose dangle from her fingers. She whispered “chercher” and the pendant began to swing round gently. Marie kept her gaze on the spiralling pendant. By now the woman had arrived at the stage.

“Tell me madam, a little about yourself, so that we may know you better.”

“My name, sir,” said the woman, “is Mrs Buttermoss. I am a member of the Salvation Army, a member of the Temperance Society and a God-fearing Christian who has no fear of your so called powers.” She glared at the man on stage as the crowd woo-ed.

“Of course, madam,” said the man, “I may well have met my match, with a woman of your fortitude.” Then he suddenly said “sleep” and the woman shut her eyes and went rigid.

Immediately the pendant in Marie’s hand shot horizontal, pointing right toward the box. As the Mesmerist whispered to the woman on stage, Marie tried to see into the box, but it was obscured by a curtain. Sir John was muttering again. “Nothing… how odd.” Marie suddenly nudged her husband in the ribs, knocking him into facing the box.

MM Ch 5“The Box!”

“What is… my god… it’s glowing like the Blackpool Illuminations”.

The mesmerist on stage had stopped talking to the woman and said, “Please continue,” to the inert woman.

“I said I am not so easy game for one such as…”

Suddenly the mesmerist clicked his fingers and music started from somewhere. It was the can-can, played loudly and badly. Instantly the woman started dancing to the music, lifting her skirts and kicking into the air. The crowd was laughing and shouting.

“The box!” said Sir John. “There’s something coming from the box!”

The Mancunian Mesmerist: Chapter 6