The Sinister Seat: Chapter 2

The man opened the door and let Sir John and Marie into the entrance hall of Deer Abbey in Headbourne Smithy. He was dishevelled with unkempt hair, unironed clothes and a wild manic stare from his red beady eyes.

“You, you came,” he exclaimed, tears in his eyes.  “My god, you came. It is you isn’t it, not some fiendish trick?”

“Er…yes,” said Sir John. “I’m Sir John Jennings and this is my wife Marie. Is Lord Arlington in?”

“Is he in? Is he in?” chuckled the man. “He’s always in. Always.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “May we… meet him perchance?”

At that the man’s chuckles erupted into hysterical laughter.

“Seem I that strange to you?” he said. “I must, I must. It is me, I am him. I am Lord Arlington!”

“Oh,” said Sir John. “My apologies, pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine, all mine, Sir John, Mrs Jennings,” said Lord Arlington. “Please call me Edward.”

Enchante,” said Marie. She kept a little distance from the deranged man.

“Well this is indeed a magnificent house,” said Sir John. He cast his eyes around the hall, the wide stairs and the gallery above.

“No!” shouted Lord Arlington, making Sir John jump. “No… it is… it is… you will see. You will see. Come, come.”

Lord Arlington took Sir John’s sleeve and tried to drag him into the room to the right.

“If I may… just unpack some of my tools,” said Sir John, looking alarmed. “To help?”

“Of course, of course,” said Lord Arlington. “Forgive my haste, I just need you…need someone to see it.”

“He’s quite mad you know,” said a female voice from above.

Sir John and Marie looked up to see a woman dressed in white. She stood in the gallery, and was looking down with a wry expression on her face.

“Lady Arlington,” said the woman by way of explanation. “I fear your journey here may be in vain, if you hope to find something supernatural. I’m afraid my husband is merely… overwrought.”

“Hurry, hurry,” hissed Lord Arlington, ignoring the woman.

“You don’t think anything is amiss?” said Marie while Sir John unpacked a suitcase he had been carrying.

“Oh something is very much amiss,” said Lady Arlington. “You see, my husband was rather unlucky in some business dealings. We had to let the staff go, sell off a few things. It quite unhinged him. I’ve tried, God knows, to keep him calm. The doctor won’t let him out of the house, but that doesn’t stop him writing letters.”

“Quickly!” said Lord Arlington.

Sir John was by now wearing a hat with metallic arms protruding from it and a jacket bulging with mechanical devices.

“Perhaps I’d better…,” said Sir John to Marie  and was promptly dragged into the room next door.

“Behold the study!” said Lord Arlington from the room.

Lady Arlington sighed.

“Still, this may yet do some good,” she said. “If Sir John tells him the truth of the situation, that there is nothing even slightly unearthly to see, he may come to his senses. Or at least realise they have deserted him.”

“I had better join them,” said Marie.

“Oh really, don’t bother yourself,” said Lady Arlington. “There is nothing to see but a perfectly ordinary mansion, absent a few pieces here and there. Rather, come up here with me. We’ll have a lovely cup of tea and I can explain what’s really going on.”

Marie glanced into the study and saw her husband and Lord Arlington. The latter was pointing here and there wildly and Sir John just looked puzzled.
Alors,” said Marie. “I shall come up and join you.”

The Sinister Seat: Chapter 1

Dear Sir John,

First, I must apologise for the unsteady formation of my words on this page. In truth, my hand is ever gripped with trembles and shakes and it is a struggle to write my letters well. This is not, though, the result of some terrible disease such as those that ravage the muscles. No sir, this is the result of events that have instead ravaged my nerves.

But I get ahead of myself. Let me first make introductions. My name is Viscount Arlington and I have my seat in the small village of Headbourne Smithy in Hampshire. It is, it was, a most handsome house with fertile farmlands and a vista across the finest of England’s landscape. In truth, even now it retains these traits and yet…

Again I run too fast, too quickly. I fear you will not understand and if you do not understand you may not come to my aid. You may regard these words as the ranting of a lunatic and dismiss them. And indeed, sir, you would not be entirely wrong. There is a grain of truth in this, for whilst I am not completely insane yet, my mind is unravelling more and more as the terrible events unfold. I beseech you not to turn away at this stage, but hold fast as I explain.

If indeed, I can explain. What is there to explain? What is there I can commit to paper that would not in turn have me committed to Bedlam? Oh Lord, how hard it is. I can only hope that you, with the experience of the paranormal, the bizarre, may know what I hint at without using words. That you may understand what can happen when a man’s house and home is invaded by the uncanny.

There, I have said it, and I will not take it back. This is the truth of it. Were I less possessed of pride or a sense of history, I would simply flee the house. Indeed, every hour the thought comes to my mind. But I know that for the sake of my family and my history, I must stay and see this thing through to the end.

I have tried, Lord knows I have tried, these past two months to defend my home on my own. But every night has been worse and now, now, the most terrible change. Now the day itself is no longer sacred. Now even the sunlight is not enough to banish them. Sir John, I am so much in need of assistance in these matters from one such as yourself. One with experience, one with knowledge and one with the moral strength to see these terrible… things… down.

I have money, much money, and so on that score you need not be concerned. I beg you, beseech you to at least do the honour of coming for a visitation, so that I may explain and, maybe even show, to you what I confront in my own home.

Yours in hope,

Viscount Edward Arlington

Now That’s Showbusiness!

Gentle Reader

It cannot have escaped your attention that our recent and rather prolonged story has come to a satisfactory conclusion. “Another job well done, Mr Michael,” we hear you cry. Please, please, no need for such words. Your perpetual adoration is reward enough for him.

“What next then,” we hear your further cry. “What of the new tale?”

What indeed! Well, Dear Reader, we are delighted to announce that Mr Michael’s latest stellar, stormy and salubrious story – The Sinister Seat – will begin serialising from next weekend. We hope you can contain your excitement!

“Hurrah!” you cry, “and here’s to many more!”

Ah…whilst we salute your insatiable appetite for our tales of the Jennings, there we may have to disappoint you. We suggest that you are seated and have a stiff brandy in your hand because…


“No!” you exclaim, “that cannot be so. Surely a man as young, handsome and vital as Mr Michael has a veritable library of tales in him.”

Well yes, perhaps he does, and at risk of sending you once more on a rollecoaster of emotions, there will be more writing. But not much more on the Jennings. You see, his intention was to create 8 stories and 2 novels in this great saga. That second novel will be a slowly evolving, multi-facted, grand-guignol magnum opus. And Mr Michael feels that this should be developed carefully, slowly, in the dark. Rather like a bad hangover.

But do not fear, Dear Reader, the intention is to share this novel, once completed, with you all via the means of some book publishing platform. Indeed, given that we have fished our original stories out from the mighty Amazon, it has been our intention to republish all our collection of wondrous tales in such a manner. In fact, Gentle Reader, if you can recommend such a place, where one may publish “e-books” (as we believe they are called) and offer them to the public for little or no charge, please feel free to let us know.

Well, Dear Reader, we hope that our little announcements haven’t put you in ill-sorts but rather that you are excited for our new tale.

Yours etc

The good people of the Benthic Times

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 16

Sir John and Marie were sitting in the drawing room of their Southampton Row house. Marie was busy with her crochet and Sir John was simultaneously reading the newspaper and eating biscuits. A series of grumbling sounds and appreciative mutterings were issuing from him, depending on the activity.

“Well I’m glad that all got resolved,” he said, putting down the paper.

“What did?” said Marie.

“That whole business,” he said, waving a hand vaguely at the paper. 

There was a knock at the front door. They could hear conversation and what sounded like giggling before Miss Henderson entered with Detective Symonds.

“Detective Symonds,” she announced. “I shall fetch some tea. Oh, and some more biscuits.”

“Sit down Detective,” said Sir John. “How are things, is the swine behind bars where he belongs.”

Detective Symomds sighed.

“Sadly not,” he said. “It rather seems that the Viscount had a cosy relationship with the police up there. They were… reluctant to press charges. In fact, they seemed more than a little keen to press charges against yourself and your… entourage.”

“What!” said Sir John.

“Don’t worry,” said Detective Symonds. “I disabused them of that notion.”

“How on earth did you manage that,” said Sir John. 

“I issued vague threats of unleashing an army of ninja maids and vampires on their patch,” said Detective Symonds. “Not to mention pointing out they had failed to protect the Viscount from assault by a circus troupe. They backed down in the end. But, I wouldn’t rush up there in a while.”

“So the swine walks free?” said Sir John.

“Well as I said, there was little we could have charged him with,” said Detective Symonds. “You may have to reconcile yourself with having rescued the puppets and thwarted his plan.”

“Hmm…” said SIr John. “On that score I received a letter from the Conjuror. He was most delighted to be reunited with his troupe, and says he’ll be forever in our debt.”

“I suspect he’s forever in a few people’s debt,” said Marie.

There was a knock at the door again, and after a pause Phlebotomous came in.

“Miss Henderson says there will be some tea and biscuits coming soon as long as,” he screwed up his face trying to remember, “no one else turns up unexpectedly when she’s supposed to be doing the bloody ironing.”

“She said that to you?” said Sir John.

“No, she was several feet away but I have excellent hearing,” said Phlebotomous.

“We were just talking about the Conjuror,” said Marie.

Phlebotomous scoffed. 

“That fraud,” he said and rolled his eyes. It had the effect of looking like he was about to pass out and Sir John instinctively reached forward.

Miss Henderson arrived then with an enormous plate of biscuits and a vast pot of tea.

“Just in case,” she said as she laid it out.

“Will you take a cup with us?” said Sir John. “You did save our bacon, again.”

“I should be delighted to, Sir John, but I am presently engaged in domestic matters. I would be grateful if Mr Bosch might come down later to look at some of the machinery. I feel if it were working properly I might be better domesticated.”

“Finally!” said Phlebotomous, “something interesting to do!”