The Sunnyport Shadow: Prologue

bandstand sun 2“Diverse Diversions”

Dear Mr Sir Jenkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours most cordially

Mr Francis Pimplenick

Proprietor and owner Shalimar Deluxe Bed and Breakfast

The Sunnyport Shadow: Chapter 1

Stop the Press!

No, wait, start the press – or the virtual one at least. For the wondrous behemoth, Amazon has spoken, and our book is available! For 3 British Pounds, or your local currency equivalent, you can read the first four Jennings and Jennings stories on your electronic reading device! Delight to these four comedy paranormal steampunk novelettes! Relive the thrill of Sir John and Marie’s adventures, even when you’re travelling by locomotive or on an airship! Rejoice, my friends, rejoice! If you find these adventures a joy, please do us the honour of reviewing them in Amazon, too.

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071V9PP6F

US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071V9PP6F

casebook one cover SMALL

For those souls expecting to be reading the start of the Sunnyport Shadow, I beg some patience. Todays news was too exciting to contain and you only have one day to wait in the Benthic Week!

The Benthic Week?

Ah! You noticed our little teaser … and the prolonged gap between posts. Let me furnish you with an explanation for all of the above.

First, The Benthic Week…

We here at the Benthic Times are tickled pink to announce the commencement of our latest venture, The Benthic Press. We are now in the business of publishing, and our initial publication will be the much anticipated collection of the first four Jennings and Jennings stories. This is working its way through the behemoth called Amazon even as we speak.

We are also thinking to produce an anthology of other writers’ stories, offer some editing/proofing services, build a small artificial island with a giant laser on it and so forth. In short, we have big dreams.

Yes, yes, that’s all very well, I hear you mutter, but what’s this Benthic Week malarkey? Well, to celebrate the creation of the press and the immanent release of the book, we have decided to have one whole week of daily posts. Now, we see you gasp in amazement! Yes, it’s true. We have already started with the epilogue for The Cornish Curse and will start, from tomorrow, our latest story: The Sunnyport Shadow.

welcome to sunnyport

This new story is inspired by two sources of existential dread and horror, by two elements which cause one to question one’s meaning in a cruel universe, one’s significance in the face of total indifference, and even one’s sanity. I refer to firstly, the writings of HP Lovecraft and secondly, a British seaside holiday in inclement weather.

Ah, now everything is clear, you say. Of course, the pause in posts was merely to create anticipation for this schmorgasbord of Benthic delights. Sadly, there we must hang our heads and confess. For in truth, the Benthic Times has relocated home once again and whilst we try to prevent personal obstacles from blocking our posting habits, this time it got the better of us. We trust that the Benthic Week, culminating in the release of the book, will suffice as apology and recompense.

Yours

Paul Michael and Josephine Pichette

The Cornish Curse: Epilogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phlebotomous looked a little awkward.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sir John folded the letter and put it down.

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?” said Marie.

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

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

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

CC Epilogue“Modern Style”

*With apologies to Pablo Picasso…

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CC Ch 14“Your Girls!”

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

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

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

“What!” he said.

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

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

“This is all my fault!” she said.

“What?” said Mr Mallum.

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

“You knew?” said Mr Mallum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Aye, I imagine ye are!” said Morag.

The Cornish Curse: Epilogue

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

One of the joys of writing a novel about historical Paris is having to do research into historical Paris. I’m discovering that fin-de-siecle Paris is even more interesting and bizarre than I’d imagined. The air seemed to be filled with esoteric ideas, nouveau musique and the aroma of exotic beverages. I had no idea, for example, that Debussy was a Rosicrucian.

The pictures today are from a hotel we stayed in last year in Paris. Lovingly rendered by Ms Pichette, they show the small bar in the lobby with the painting behind it and an absinthe dispensing device on the counter. One could almost hear the chatter of insurrection and decadence, of art and aesthetics, coming from the corner…

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 13

Phlebotomous walked into the garden and looked at the spot where the wolfsbane had been. He saw that it all been picked. He was wondering if there was enough to prevent du Bois turning into a werewolf, when Patience arrived.

CC Ch 13“Ow-oooh!”

“Hello Mr Bosch,” she said. “How are you this night?”

“Very well, er, Patience,” he said. “Isn’t a little late for you to be out?”

“Oh I’m a big girl,” said Patience. “Besides, it was you who wanted to meet by moonlight. Very romantic, B.”

“Excuse me?” said Phlebotomous.

“Excuse me, too,” said Joy, coming to join them. “What are you doing here, Patience? Are you trying to ruin my rendezvous like you ruin everything else?”

“Me!” said Patience. “What are you doing here? I was invited. I had a note.”

“Well I had one too!” said Joy.

“Really? Then show me,” said Patience. Joy’s face fell, further than usual.

“I … I can’t,” she said, “I lost the note.”

Patience looked triumphant when Prudence arrived.

“Why don’t you show us your note, Patience?” she said. “Or don’t you have it either.”

“Prudence, you too?” said Joy.

“The note was mine first, you stole it, I’m sure. It was on the seat when you all left,” said Prudence.

“Ladies,” said Phlebotomous, “I’m sure there’s been some simple mix up.”

“I don’t have it either!” shouted Patience. “It was stolen from me.”

“Do you mean this note?” said Constance, joining the quartet and brandishing a piece of paper.

“You stole it!” said Patience.

“I didn’t steal it, it was given to me,” said Constance.

“You stole it from me,” said Joy to Patience.

“No, you did from me,” said Prudence.

There was a quiet moment where the girls all glared at each other.

“Ladies…” started Phlebotomous.

“It’s obvious Mr Bosch would prefer me because I’m the most sophisticated,” said Patience. Constance made a snorting noise.

“If staring out of the window is sophistication then you may be right, but I think sophistication comes from knowledge, and that comes from reading,” she said.

“But what you read is immoral fantasy,” said Joy. “At least I read something about the ethics of proper conduct, as befitting to Mr Bosch.”

“Mr Bosch is a sensitive soul who needs an artistic companion,” said Prudence. “Besides you are all ugly hags.”

The other sisters gasped at Prudence.

“Ladies, please …” started Phlebotomous.

“Please, Mr Bosch, let me defend you from these slurs on your character,” said Constance.

“Slurs! I’ll show you slurs,” growled Joy.

“Are you threatening me?” snarled Constance.

“You are both, tedious bookworms,” barked Patience.

“Shut up!” snapped Prudence.

“Ow-oooh!” said Patience. Phlebotomous looked at her. Her nose had started to extend and hair was growing over her face. She fell to her hands and knees and her arms shortened and thickened. A long tail came from her back. Her mutation complete, she stood nearly to Phlebotomous’ chest. Her breathing was low and heavy.

“Girls!” said Phlebotomous to the other three. “I think you sister’s a werewolf.”

He heard no reply, so he turned to look at them. Three more wolves looked back at him. At his feet he saw the patch where the wolfsbane had been, now removed.

“Who’s a good girl?” he said hesitantly to the quartet of werewolves.

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 14

Look What We Found in the Letterbox…

maryjofinal_small

Here at the Benthic Times we were delighted beyond belief to receive the artwork for the forthcoming Jennings and Jennings collection. We would like to offer thanks and felicitations to the talented and wonderful Aiko Tagawa.

 

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 12

Lord du Bois was dressed in fine clothes and with a rose in his top button. He was just leaving the front door of Bennet House when Sir John arrived. The evening was deepening into night and the full moon was just showing

CC Ch 12“I Know”

“Good evening Sir John,” said du Bois.

“Good evening Vulpine,” said Sir John, “are you going out?”

“Yes … I rather fancied an evening constitutional,” said du Bois.

“Without Arthur?” said Sir John.

“Ah … yes … he is a little overtired. At the ball, he was rather popular with the children and has needed to rest. If you’ll excuse me,” said du Bois.

“Perhaps I could accompany you,” said Sir John.

“Ah … perhaps it would be best if you didn’t,” said du Bois. “The ground is rather muddy  and I’d hate you to spoil your clothes.”

“But you seem dressed rather well for such a walk?” said Sir John.

“Is everything all right?” said du Bois. “Your manner seems a little off, have I offended you? Is this because of that flower your wife had?”

“In a manner of speaking,” said Sir John. “Lord du Bois, Vulpine … I know.”

Lord du Bois’ face fell. “How, when?” he said quietly, his usual enthusiasm gone.

“At the ball, I wondered before, but the ball confirmed it.” said Sir John.

“I knew it,” said du Bois, “I went too far, it was too obvious. Talking to Marsh as I did.”

“Yes that was a large clue, letting on like that,” said Sir John.

“Will you tell anyone?” said du Bois.

“Something must be done Vulpine,” said Sir John. “For the sake of the Mallums’ reputation.”

“Oh Lord, do they know!” said du Bois.

“No,” said Sir John, “I haven’t told them.”

“But, surely you can find it in your heart to turn a blind eye. No one is being hurt,” said du Bois.

“But Lord du Bois, it’s … it’s immoral,” said Sir John.

Lord du Bois turned away to look at the moor. A tear ran down his face in the moonlight.

“So people say, but how can it be. It’s natural, it’s what I am, who I am,” said Lord du Bois.

Sir John sighed.

“You seem a decent man, I’d hoped to reason with you, to get you to stop,” said Sir John.

“I don’t want to stop … I … don’t think I should. It feels right, not wrong.” said du Bois.

“But, my god, to tear apart that livestock in that way,” said Sir John. “That can’t be natural.”

“I … what?” said du Bois.

“The savagery on the animals and the impact on the Mallums. It isn’t without consequence,” said Sir John.

“What are you talking about?” said du Bois.

“Lycanthropy,” said Sir John. “You’re a werewolf.”

“I’m a what?” said du Bois. “I thought you were here because I’m a … a confirmed bachelor.”

“A confirmed bachelor?” said Sir John.

“You know … the love that dare not speak its name. But I can speak my love’s name. It’s Marsh, the Mallums’ butler. I passed him a note that night, and I’m going to see him now. We’ve been lovers nearly since I got here.”

“Oh,” said Sir John.

“That’s … not what you meant?” said du Bois.

“No, I thought you were the beast. I think it’s a werewolf,” said Sir John.

“Why … what … why would you think that?” said du Bois.

“I, never mind,” said Sir John. “Back to square one again!”

There was a silence.

“You won’t, say anything,” said du Bois. “I have money, I can…”

“No,” said Sir John. “I don’t want any money and don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thank you”, said du Bois. “They’d throw me in jail.”

“It’s nothing,” said Sir John. “Please, go to your lover. Have your time together.”

The Cornish Curse: Chapter 13