“So Bisset, we have kept our end of the bargain,” said Clackprattle, throwing down the list of names on the large table. “All your terrible foes are dead.”
“Indeed,” said Bisset. “The fraternity is most grateful for your service. We will be free from the interference that scrutiny can bring. But, I have to say, you have not perhaps kept all of you bargain? There is, shall we say, a little lacking somewhere?”
“We did more than your band of merry men could do. We have one piece of the key, if that trivial matter is what you are referring to,” he said.
“The very same,” said Bisset. “And whilst we understand the difficulty of the undertaking, we cannot help but feel a little… disappointment.”
“We’ve barely begun,” said Clackprattle, waving his hand. “Wait and see. Now that we aren’t distracted by your petty requests we’ll have the key in a week.”
“I’m afraid you are mistaken,” said Bisset. “We rather feel you are in fact, at an end.”
“Why you…” roared Clackprattle and pulled off the glove to reveal his corrupted hand. He started to lurch round the table to Bisset.
“Mr Pook?” said Bisset, arching an eyebrow lightly.
Pook nodded once and turned to face Clackprattle. Suddenly the fat man’s hand turned back towards his face.
“What is this?” he roared. “What is happening?”
“I’m afraid,” said Pook, “that I am not only in agreement with M Bisset, but I also have an agreement with M Bisset. We both feel you have, how shall I put it, run out of rope? And as such, you will rather have to swing.”
“But,” whined Clackprattle as his own hand locked around his throat and the terrible green depravity spread to his skin. “Pook, man, we have been companions.”
“Mr Clackprattle,” said Pook. “And please, allow me to call you mister. We have indeed been, shall we say, travelling companions. But I am afraid we have had different destinations for a while now.”
Clackprattle slumped onto the ground, his face green and aging, his hair falling, his eyes staring in confusion at Pook.
“And I am afraid that this is your final destination,” said Pook.
He stood over his former master as the last uttered a final wheezy plea before collapsing dead on the floor. A moment passed.
“Very elegant,” said Bisset. “And now that, as they say, the gloves are off, perhaps the masks can fall too?”
“Indeed,” said Pook, still staring down at the corpse. “For example, I think I can infer that you are not merely the servant but indeed the very master of this fraternity. Am I right?”
“Just so,” Bisset said. “And in return I may assume that your master, the one who gives you these remarkable powers, is not the ludicrous corpse slumped on the floor?”
“Indeed that is the case,” said Pook. “But there the mask must remain a little longer. It does not behoove me at this time to reveal that snippet of information.”
“A shame,” said Bisset. “I had hoped we might work further. The brotherhood is still most keen to capture the weapon. It is a matter of honour now.”
“Well then I can give a mixed report to you sir, and an offer nonetheless,” said Pook. “It seems that our little stone bug has left Paris and headed south.”
“Another failed ploy,” said Bisset, standing now and gathering his things. “Such a pity.”
“It means either Mme Jennings has left Paris, which would be an interesting development, or the bug has been detected and tampered with,” said Pook. “We will only know for sure if we investigate the situation where the Jennings are staying. As you have mentioned, your members are too public to carry out this kind of task. Which leaves you at an impasse.”
“Go on,” he said.
“But due to the ah, unfortunate and untimely demise of Mr Clackprattle, I am, as of this very minute, the head of a large secret society of fine, well educated men and women, I need only click my fingers and a team of anonymous investigators from London can appear,” Pook said, before looking up at Bisset.
“That would be… most useful,” said Bisset.
Pook clicked his fingers and there was a knock at the door.
Bisset looked at the door then at Pook.
“How?” he said.
“I knew this day was coming last week,” Pook said. “I told them to arrive here right now.”
You can find Mr Clackprattle’s glove here and the floral background here.