The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 3

It was dark and a full moon lit the street. The doors to the Hotel Raoul stood impassive as ever. Suddenly a man appeared on the floor. He gasped for air, his voice raspy and weak.

“Help me!” he said. “Someone help me.”

Another, short man, walked over to him from a little distance away. The one on the ground looked up, his cut and bruised face turned to the short man.

“P-pook?” he said.

“Mr Bisset,” said Pook cheerily. “How was the ordeal, you were successful?”

“Help me…” said Bisset. “For God’s sake help me.”

“I shall make an assumption perchance that my question would be answered in the negative,” said Pook. “Ah well, it is good for the master to know the servant’s toils I think. Then he can truly appreciate the service given to him.”

“They came, they were, what were they?” rambled Bisset. “Abominations, yes, abominations disguised as angels. Please help me man.”

“Well,” said Pook, “you will no doubt be pleased, nay ecstatic, to hear that I am most certainly capable of offering you assistance. Indeed, as a precaution against just such an eventuality I have a doctor and, not one but two, nurses waiting but a short distance along.”

“You’re good… a good man,” said Bisset, “Fetch them.”

“I do have one small favour to ask first though,” said Pook. “I assume you will be more than happy to acquisie under the, shall we say, trying circumstances you find yourself.”

“What are you talking about,” said Bisset. 

“I need you to sign over control of your organisation to me,” said Pook.

“What!” said Bisset. “Of course not, I’d rather die.”

“Very well,” said Pook and made a waving gesture with his hand toward the end of the street.

“Stop, stop” said Bisset. “Are you serious?”

“Indeed, I have never felt further from humour in my life,” said Pook. “As proof of my vast sincerity in this matter, let me show you a contract.”

Pook, still smiling, produced a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and an expensive looking pen. He opened the piece of paper and pointed to a space.

“Sign here,” he said cheerily.

“You, you…” said Bisset. “This is an outrage.”

“Actually it’s rather more like a coup, but we can perchance discuss semantics later.”

Bisset swiped at the pen.

“Where’s the ink?” he said.

“Oh I prefer blood, it’s more… permanent,” said Pook. “Look, you have some already.”

Pook stuck the pen into an open wound and Bisset screamed.

“There we go, all done now,” said Pook and handed the pen to Bisset.

With a shaking hand the broken man signed the contract. When he was done, Pook took it, folded it and returned it to his jacket.

“Actually there is no doctor, or even a nurse,” said Pook.

“You…” started Bisset.

“What there is, is this,” continued Pook, and grasped Bisset’s head.

There was a sickly sound of tissue shifting and moving. Bisset stared open eyed, his mouth moving soundlessly. His wounds began to close and the bruises cleared to pure skin. Pook stared impassively, his breath shallow. When it was done Bisset stood up, unharmed, undamaged.

“How?’ he said.

Pook’s eyes looked glassy as he stared into space.

“I am that, that you should fear,” he said in a flat mechanical voice. “That, that rules and that, that you will kneel to.”

Bisset looked in awe and went down on his knees, timidly bowing his head. 

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 2

Henderson Prisma

Sir John suddenly appeared in front the doors of the Hotel Raoul; blinking into the Paris evening and said,

“Oh no, not again.”

This spontaneous comment had been prompted by the sight of Miss Henderson hitting the policeman known as Pierre very, very hard. The man looked surprised, offended and ultimately unconscious as he made his way down to the ground.

“Felicity!” said Morag, “You’ve punched a policeman! Again!”

“Miss Henderson,” said Sir John crossing the road. “We should probably have a talk about this.”

Miss Henderson stood over the policeman and breathed heavily. Her face was a deep crimson colour that Sir John hadn’t seen before.

“Wake up you backstabber,” said Miss Henderson. “Wake up so I can hit you again.”

“We really can’t keep on hitting policemen,” said Sir John, careful to maintain a reasonable distance.

“Feel free to stop anytime you like,” said Miss Henderson, staring at the constable and seemingly willing him awake. “I’m happy with the arrangements as they stand.”

“But Felicity,” said Morag. “He is on our side. Or was.”

“No, he was not,” said Miss Henderson. “I saw him look at the other chap, the poncey one, and before that he scratched his nose.”

“If you hit every copper that scratches his nose, we’re going to be hitting an awfa lotta coppers,” said Morag.

“What other chap?” said Sir John.

“The one that went in with you,” said Miss Henderson.

“The lizard?” said Sir John. “He was already there.”

“A lizard?” said Miss Henderson, finally turning away from the policeman. 

Pierre, apparently noticing he was unobserved, jumped up and ran off.

“Oh… Blast” said Miss Henderson, “Come back you coward, so I can hit you some more.”

“Does that ever work?” said Morag.

“Funnily enough, yes”, said Miss Henderson.

“Look everyone, stop please,” said Sir John. “What has happened here?”

Miss Henderson sighed, the anger leaking out of her.

“That so-called copper, Pierre was a fraud, I’d bet my life on it. Just before you went in Sir John, he looked down the road and scratched his nose, and the next thing you know this fancy looking fellow comes tearing down the street and runs into the doors. They glanced at each other.”

“Miss Henderson,” said Sir John, “I know we need to be cautious but, Morag was right earlier. It’s not strange to scratch your nose or look at someone running.”

Miss Henderson looked a little crestfallen.

“There was something else,” she said, “something that made me think…”

“Look, I’m sure they’ll understand if we explain, it’s an easy mistake to make and everyone is very on edge….” started Sir John.

Miss Henderson clicked her fingers.

“When did you tell him about the avatar?” said Miss Henderson.

“I didn’t,” said Sir John. “I mean we agreed…”

“He said, ‘Is that the avatar?’,” said Miss Henderson.

“Oh dear,” said Sir John.

“Did you see the other fella in there?” said Morag. “Did he get the key piece?”

“No, in fact, actually, well, without wishing to brag, I got the piece,” said Sir John. “So, no harm done.”

“Except,” said Miss Henderson. “if those coppers were in cahoots with Pook and Clackprattle, they know where we stay, they know where the other key pieces are and they know we’re all here.”

The three of them looked at each other then started running.


Miss Henderson

The Paris Awakening: Invocation – Part 1

Henderson Family Portrait

There were two things that annoyed Miss Felicity Henderson. Actually, that’s not strictly speaking true, many things annoyed Miss Felicity Henderson. There were two things that sent her apoplectic.

The first thing was being conned. Now, one would imagine that the daughter of the patriarch of one of the largest crime families in London would know every trick in the book and would be somehow impossible to fool, but you would be wrong. As it happened, everyone that Miss Henderson knew as she was growing up was extremely aware that she was the daughter of the patriarch of one of the largest crime families in London and was extremely careful to never, ever give the impression that they might be trying anything untoward. Whilst bad things might sometimes happen to good people, bad things always happened to people who crossed the Hendersons no matter what their moral character. Those bad things tended to involve impromptu surgery and that was often before a visit to a hospital. 

When Miss Henderson had decided to make her own way in the world she had been initially surprised at just how duplicitous humanity was, especially to young ladies. The kindly philanthropist with the warm smile and the wandering hands, the handsome young man with expensive tastes and the well-educated employer who somehow couldn’t count her wages correctly. She had come across them all, and whilst she was certain she wanted no support from her family, she was not without means to extract recompense by herself. What galled her was not that she might be somehow harmed, for that was a near impossibility, but at the sheer effrontery of people that thought she might be gulled. And it was all the worse if they were right. So she had developed what she hoped was excellent judgement as to the character of others and woe betide the others if she was proved wrong.

The second thing that was almost guaranteed to send Miss Henderson into a righteous and frankly often violent fury was when someone she considered under her wing was harmed. Miss Henderson had kept a sense of expanded family from her youth and had tended to extend that to her friends, people she was employed by and occasionally complete strangers she met who seemed on their uppers. Miss Henderson would travel a thousand miles to help someone she considered in her protection, possibly to find the perpetrator of the injustice and beat them senseless.

All of which explains what happened next outside the Hotel Raoul. Miss Henderson had had some niggling doubts about the policeman that had been allegedly protecting them, but had ignored her better judgement and dismissed it as prejudice. However, she had very clearly seen Pee-Air make a signal to someone when Sir John had opened the door. That someone had then run down the street and very definitely exchanged a glance with Pierre before disappearing into the door with Sir John. That meant that Pierre was, at a minimum, keeping secrets from them and far more likely in cahoots with their tormentors.

And so, immediately after Sir John and then Bisset entered the door, Miss Felicity Henderson hit the policeman known as Pierre very, very hard.


Family Portrait

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 16

Heirarchy of Angels Prisma

Once again Bisset found himself pretending to be fascinated by a mundane estate agent selling dilapidated properties in an impoverished part of town. He glanced down the street to see the Jennings entourage, or what was left of it, standing outside the strange doors of the Hotel Raoul. He had seen Sir John in a state of intoxication, seen him sniffing the wall like a dog and now he seemed to be approaching the door with, well, Bisset wasn’t sure. In fact. He wasn’t sure of the efficacy of any of these British people. The idiot Clackprattle might have thought that Sir John was a potent adversary, but Bisset just saw a drug addled idiot. Not, Bisset thought wryly, that would exclude him from people who could outwit Clackprattle.

All of this had been going through his mind when Claude their fake policeman had mentioned the word he was waiting for: avatar. At the sound of it and the sight of the secret sign, Bisset had run towards the door, lest it close before he might enter the place of challenge. That he might outwit Sir John, he had neither doubt nor fear.

Sir John had disappeared almost in front of Bisset and he had shot a disapproving glance at the faux constable on his way in. The man could have given him a few more seconds to make the run. Nevertheless, Bisset entered the doorway, although Sir John was nowhere to be seen. Instead he was confronted with a blasphemy, a six foot lizard with a crown.

“Five to one baby, one in five,” said the lizard.

“Out of my way, you idiot,” said Bisset and pushed past the obscene creature. He passed through a corridor of imbecilic art of the sort that might grace a Montmartre whorehouse before entering into a large room with a throne in it. He was momentarily confused until he looked up and saw the mural.

“Ah,” he said with some satisfaction as he gazed on the spectacle. The quality of the artwork was exquisite enough, but the subject matter was, in every sense, ideal. He saw angels, powers and principalities, arranged in perfect order. It was the very image of the heavenly hierarchy.

“My lords,” he said with a mixture of deference but also recognition that he had a place in this hierarchy too. As if to confirm this, the painting sprang to life, with the multitudinous horde pointing to the throne.

“Of course, of course,” he muttered as he walked to the throne. “This is for me.”

His hands touched the engraved wooden throne with anticipation and satisfaction. He wondered briefly at the serpentine carvings and the fate of Sir John, but only for an instant as this was his throne, his position, his destiny.

He sat on the throne and looked up at the ceiling again, to fix himself in his place in the firmament. His eyes filled with horror at what he saw, as angels, powers and principalities looked on aghast at him. Swords were drawn, fangs were bared and the host of heaven began a malicious descent.

Unable to move, Bisset screamed.


Hierarchy of Angels

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 15


Sir John walked down the wood paneled hallway and tried not to look at the art. Some of it was distinctly modern and whilst he imagined Emile might have been able to make sense of it, it wasn’t Sir John’s cup of tea. There was a nice painting of a place that was apparently called Sunnyport, but other than that little caught his eye. Eventually the corridor came to an end in a vast room, with white walls, empty save for a large throne on the opposite side. The throne was highly ornate with carvings of a serpentine nature. 

Confused by the absence of anything else, Sir John looked around and then finally up.

“Ah” he said, then “Aha.”

The ceiling was one giant mural. Like some of the artwork on the way it looked rather abstract, except that Sir John recognised the motifs. He stared up at a  collection of interconnected cogs, gears and machine parts, with flashes of lightning in between.

“This is how I see the world,” he said. “A mechanical, physical universe invigorated with the energy of spirit.”

As soon as Sir John had said this the mural started moving, gears and cogs turning and lightning flashing between the parts. Sir John stared up, fascinated. He then began to notice a pattern to the lightning. The bolts seemed to be following a path that converged over the throne.

“I bet that energy extends down,” he mused,” into the chair. I wish I had the ectoscopic glasses, they might be able to see it.”

Sir John touched his temples. They were on his head.

“Of course,” he said quietly and pulled them down.

Sir John could now clearly see the paths of power forking to the chair, and more, he could see a being formed out of that power. Sir John grinned.

“A fifth avatar, of course, from the four come the fifth,” he thought, “A being of pure spirit.”

Sir John looked at the creature. It was hard to make sense of as it was formed of lightning energy. But it seemed that it was speaking although Sir John could not hear. 

“I think I have the hang of this now,” said Sir John. “I imagine if I hold out my right hand, my Thanatograph would be here.”

Sir John touched the machine and turned it on. The machine, which was adapted from a gramophone and was intended to pick up spectral voices, began to spin. A deep and sonorous timbre came from the large horn on top.

“You seek the key piece then,” said the Avatar.

“Indeed,” said Sir John, “what must I do to acquire it.”

“You mean you don’t know,” said the voice chuckling.

“Ah,” said Sir John, “yes. Rather obvious. And to get home the same. I imagine.”

The Thanatograph was silent, but the avatar smiled. Sir John reached down and picked up a small metal rod.

“Well goodbye then,” he said and  promptly disappeared.

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 14


“Alright then,” said Sir John, “here goes nothing.”

He wasn’t, he had to admit, feeling very confident in this endeavour. Nevertheless, he moved towards the massive facade doors of Hotel Raoul. His hand gripped the imaginary key they had all spent the last evening making, if gripped was the right word. Or even making.  He  was having trouble focusing on pretending it was there. He felt a little foolish for a start.

He scanned the door to find where the key might go, but the door didn’t seem to be designed to accommodate any kind of key, imaginary or not. This was an unforeseen setback.

“I can’t see a keyhole,” said Sir John to the others across the road. “Can you see from over there?”

“Where do you think it should be?” called Miss Henderson after a pause. It seemed a strange question to ask under the circumstances.

“Well, I imagine it would be about here,” said Sir John indicating an area of the door just above waist height on the right. From a great height a penny started falling.

“Oh!” he said as it achieved terminal velocity.

For if this was an imaginary key then it followed that it may have an imaginary keyhole too. And that keyhole was most certainly likely to be where he imagined it would be. Sir John pushed the key into the space he had indicated. It fitted perfectly. 

“I think I may have found it. I’ll turn the key,” he said, feeling rather pleased he had solved the puzzle.

There was an audible click and Sir John stood back. The door was now ajar. Sir John squinted into the dark corridor that lay behind.

“Good Lord!” he said. A six foot lizard stood on two legs, a lopsided crown stuck at a jaunty angle and its arms held out to the side. Sir John couldn’t tell if it was intended as a welcome or not, it looked more like the lizard was mimicking a crucifix stance.

“Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name,” said the lizard.

“Well, hello to you too,” said Sir John. “I’m not sure I feel the same way, but it’s nice to meet you nevertheless.”

“I am the lizard king,” said the creature, “and I can do anything.”

“I see,” said Sir John. “Well, to answer your question I’m Sir John Jennings and I’m hoping to take the challenge. I assume you’re who I think you are?”

“The gate is straight, deep and wide,” said the Lizard King. “Break on through to the other side.”

“Yes, I’m ready to… break through?” said Sir John. “Is that what you said?”

The Lizard King pointed behind himself down the corridor. It was a wood paneled affair, with paintings on both sides. Sir John could just make out images of pyramids and circus acts. It looked like a gentlemen’s club or stately home. In something of a strange daze, Sir John walked forward and slipped into the house.

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 13


“Alright then,” said Sir John, “here goes nothing.”

He moved towards the massive facade doors of Hotel Raoul. His hand apparently gripped something but in fact was empty.

“I can’t see a keyhole,” said Sir John.

“I cannot see a key,” said Pierre, looking perplexed.

“It’s a special kind of key,” said Miss Henderson, standing close to him. “It took us hours to make. We had to build a special machine for it.”

“It is… invisible?” said Pierre. 

“More or less,” said Miss Henderson. She thought about how they had planned the construction of the imaginary key. How Phlebotomous had imagined a machine to build the key, Morag had concocted some fictitious alchemy to give it puissance and how she had polished the key as if it were real. It had felt like a child’s game and she felt bad for secretly thinking it was doomed to failure. But she hadn’t shown her feelings.

“Can you see from over there?” said Sir John.

From across the road Miss Henderson took a moment to look up at the giant doors and the ornate frame that held them. It was a most impressive frontage and had it actually been attached to a building she was sure the building itself would have been magnificent. As it was, it seemed to be only the doors that had been built. She hadn’t bothered asking anyone why. This was Paris after all. That sort of thing was bound to happen.

Morag stood on Miss Henderson’s foot and she leaned down.

“Ask him where he thinks it should be.” whispered Morag. Miss Henderson stood up and looked up a bit confused.

“Where do you think it should be?” she said.

“Well I imagine it would be about here,” said Sir John indicating an area of the door just above waist height on the right. “Oh!”

Sir John pushed his hand into the space he had indicated. 

“I think I may have found it. I’ll turn the key,” he said.

There was an audible click and Sir John stood back.

“Good Lord!” he said.

“What is it!” said Pierre.

“Well hello to you too,” said Sir John, staring at the door. “I’m not sure I feel the same way, but it’s nice to meet you nevertheless.”

“Who’s he talking to?” said Pierre.

Miss Henderson didn’t want to say, but she could guess.

“I see,” said Sir John. “Well, to answer your question I’m Sir John Jennings and I’m hoping to take the challenge. I assume you’re who I think you are?”

“Is he talking to the avatar?” said Pierre. He looked down the street and scratched his nose.

“Yes I’m ready to… break through?” said Sir John. “Is that what you said?”

He took a step forward and walked into the closed door. Miss Henderson couldn’t see the moment, or how it happened, but he definitely disappeared.

Just then an aristocratically dressed man ran past Pierre, glanced at him then ran at the door where Sir John had been. The man disappeared too.

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 12

Thinking Prisma

The church was candle lit and Sir John, Phlebotomous, Osvold, Miss Henderson and Morag sat around the table. Constable Claude was back outside.

“So,” said Phlebotomous, looking slightly uncomfortable, “you want to build an imaginary machine?”

“No, that’s not it,” said Sir John.

“Ah good,” said Phlebotomous, looking relieved. “Because I was worried that…”

“I want to build a machine that lets me see imagination itself,” said Sir John.

“Oh dear,” said Phlebotomous.

“Perhaps a nice cup of tea and a sit down would help,” said Miss Henderson in a slow steady voice. She maintained both a fixed smile and a fixed stare at Sir John throughout.

“Look I know this sounds crazy,” said Sir John to everyone. Nobody disagreed.

“It’s not crazy crazy, more ‘day after ye took some powerful drugs’ crazy,” said Morag. “Sort of ‘maybe you should sleep on it before saying it aloud’ crazy.”

“It’s what Miss Henderson said,” said Sir John. Miss Henderson looked appalled.

“I did no such thing!” she said.

“You mentioned the Ectoscopic glasses and the Thanatograph. They let you see and hear spectral activity of course. And I was about to say that this is different, as the spectral forces are things one can’t normally see and hear, but they do exist. Well this is the other way round, see?” said Sir John. Four blank faces looked at him.

“I mean in this instance, we are looking for imaginary things. Imaginary things don’t exist but some people can still see them,” said Sir John. “So we simply need to build a machine which will let us see things that don’t exist.”

“I’ll put the kettle on,” said Miss Henderson and got up to leave, backing away from the table.

“I sort of follow you,” said Morag. “Absent a few of the details, but how would you build something that can see things that don’t exist. I mean, there’s an awfa lot of things that don’t exist.”

Sir John sat down and held his chin.

“Hmm,” he said. “You have a point.”

He stared at the table muttering to himself.

“How do we know which non-existent thing is the thing we want? That’s why I wish we had an artist. They can use the eyes of the imagination and bring something into being. I think if we knew what the avatar thought it should look like, we might be able to see it.”

“Maybe,” said Phlebotomous, “we should apply some logical problem solving.”

“Break the problem down you mean?” said Sir John. “Good idea. The avatar seems to be connected to the doors. I wonder perhaps if the doors have an imaginary counterpart?”

“Here’s some nice tea with 3 sugars,” said Miss Henderson, returning with a tray.

“So the question, then, is – how do you open an imaginary door?” said Sir John.

“Use an imaginary key,” said Miss Henderson absently, sitting down.

She looked to see four faces staring at her.

“What?” she said.

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 11

Stitched Panorama

“It’s definitely here?” said Sir John looking at the large door. “Only my memory is a little vague.”

“Yes,” said Mrs Henderson. “This is the only door without a building I’ve seen. Is it the only one in Paris, Pee-air?”

“That’s Pierre,” said the man in police uniform accompanying them. “And yes, this is indeed where we met after the unfortunate incident.”

“Sounds rather like a fortunate incident to me,” said Sir John absently. He looked puzzled  but then something caught his eye. He crouched down to look at the wall next to the door closer up.

“It’s curious there is, uh, no-one to greet us,” he said, staring intently at the wall.

He squinted at the wall and Morag came up and sniffed.

“Poodle,” she whispered to Sir John.

“What is the monsieur talking about may I h’ask.” said Pierre. 

“You may h’ask but I may not necessarily h’answer,” said Miss Henderson haughtily. She was quite enjoying having the police at her beck and call for a change.

“It’s a tiny painting of a lizard,” said Sir John, still crouching. “You know they say that if you look at a flame with the right eyes you can see a salamander at the heart of it.”

“Are the powders still affecting him?” said Miss Henderson to Morag in a botched sotto voce.

“No I feel fine,” said Sir John standing up rapidly before holding on to the wall. “I think I know why there isn’t some creature to meet us here. And I think we may be in trouble.”

“How so,” said Pierre, brow furrowing.

Sir John looked at the policeman, then glanced behind him.

“I think maybe something untoward is happening over there,” he said.

The policeman looked puzzled and turned around.

“They’ve just gone round the corner,” said Sir John and the policeman went off.

“I didn’t see anything?” said Miss Henderson.

“I want him out of earshot,” said Sir John. “I think I’ve found the avatar.”

“I don’t see anything there either,” said Miss Henderson.

“I think there is one, but we can’t see it with our eyes,” said Sir John.

“Told you,” said Miss Henderson to Morag.

“We need to be able, or need someone who can use the eyes of imagination,” said Sir John.

“I see,” said Miss Henderson.

“No you don’t,” said Sir John. “That’s precisely the problem. And neither do I, I’m not the artistic type.”

“If only Sabine were here,” said Miss Henderson wistfully. Morag looked up at her, head tilted to one side.

“Indeed,” said Sir John and looked down.

“But you’re very creative, Sir John,” said Miss Henderson. “You made all those devices and whatnots. Like that ecto-whatsit that lets you see ghosts. And that thanatomata… ta ta… thing”

“Yes but that’s to see things that normal eyesight can’t see, whereas this is….” he trailed off and looked into the middle distance. His eyes flicked back and forth and his lips moved. He swiveled to the group, stared at Miss Henderson.

“My God, you’re right!” he said and started running back towards the artists’ church.

Morag sighed and looked at Miss Henderson.

“You may have a point,” she said.


The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 10

fake policeman copy prisma

The two men sat shivering, their bruised faces looking anxiously at the well dressed gentlemen standing opposite.

“So,” said Pook, “I understand the operation was, shall we say, less than successful?”

“We had no idea,” said the man sitting, “how strong the lady was. We was more worried about the dog.”

“The… lady?” asked Pook.

“Yes Mr Pook sir,” said the second man. “She was a maid with Sir John. He seemed like he’d been drinking or maybe taking something stronger and the maid and the dog were trying to keep up with him.”

“Oh, I understand now,” said Pook, clapping his hands together. “Sir John did this to you in a crazed drunken stupor?”

“Not exactly Mr Pook,” said the first man, looking down at shoes, or as far as he could with the ropes around him. “At first they seemed shocked, on account of the uniforms I suppose. But then they gets wind of who we are and… well the maid… she must…”

“She must have had some training or somesuch,” said the second man. “She was fast and strong and…”

“Violent,” said the first. “She were very, very violent. Hence this.”

The man tried to indicate the bruises on his naked torso but the ropes prevented him from moving.

“So,” said Bisset, “your finest men were beaten half to death in a Paris side street by a… maid?’

Pook pursed his lips and looked sharply at the two men who trembled.

“So it was lucky for you when the police arrived I suppose?” said Pook.

“Yes sir,” said the first man, “we would have got a proper walloping otherwise. Then they hauled us away in the back of a wagon and… well… here we are.”

“Well here we are,” echoed Pook, a big smile on his face. “Thank you gentlemen for your report. I’d be pleased if you waited in the next room.”

Pook nodded into the darkness and a man came forward, cutting the others free from their chairs. They rubbed their arms and wrists as they were manoeuvred into a side room.

As the door closed behind them, Bisset covered his hand with his mouth and made a strange snorting noise. Pook smiled widely at him.

“Your little ruse worked then?” said Bisset. “At least on them.”

“Indeed,” said Pook. “As I was sure it would. Pierre? Please come and tell us more.”

A man dressed in a police uniform came forward.

“It was a complete success,” he said. “They trusted us absolutely.”

“And now?” said Pook.

“We have convinced them that they need us for protection. Even now Claude is the church, keeping watch.”

Pook clapped his hands together.

“You see what happens when a simple change of management occurs,” he said to Bisset.

“Indeed,” said Bisset, “it is excellent work. We now have our adversary under constant surveillance.”

Pook nodded Pierre to go.

“So we just need to be sure if they have found the location of the key,” said Pook. “Then we can proceed.”

Bisset nodded in approval.

“What about those two?” said Bisset, nodding to the other room. “They are merely stooges, no?”

Pook’s eyes widened.

“But we must make an example,” he said. “Otherwise standards will fall.”

From the room next door there came a loud scream, then panicked shouting, another scream and finally silence.

Bisset covered his mouth again and made the snorting noise while Pook giggled lightly.