The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 11

Sir John, Marie, Phlebotomous and the Clockwork Conjuror all sat in the Jennings’ Southampton Row residence. The Conjuror was obviously distressed and was sniffing and occasionally making a trumpet-like sound blowing his nose. Each time he did this Phlebotomous jumped.

The door opened and Miss Henderson stepped in with Detective Symonds.

“Jo… Detective Symonds,” introduced Miss Henderson. She did an awkward half curtsey and added. “I shall fetch some tea.”

“What’s the latest?” said Sir John.

“The rogue never came back,” said Detective Symonds. “I waited there hours after you left and then posted a constable overnight.”

“Then the trail has gone cold. It’s like you said, Phlebotomous,” said Sir John.

“‘Ironic indeed,” said Phlebotomous, “‘I shall take them to my donjon’. That’s what he said.

“His…dungeon?” said Detective Symonds.

“His chateau… castle,” said Marie. “It’s an old French word.”

“Then the trail may not be cold,” said Detective Symonds, “because I think I know where that is. I found out that the warehouse where Phlebotomous was being kept was rented by one Viscount Victor Vernal. When I showed the owner the picture the automaton drew…”

There was a loud trumpet noise from the Conjuror. Phlebotomous jumped.

“…he recognised it as the Viscount. Furthermore, I found that he was listed as a known associate of Lord Anglestone, who you recall, led Draco Viridis.”

“I could hardly forget,” said Sir John. “Then we have our man.” 

“There are… complications,” said Detective Symonds. “Cawdor House is the building that is probably his… donjon. That is the family house, and is in Northumberland. I have no jurisdiction there. And… I also have no crime to arrest him for.”

“He kidnapped Phlebotomous,” said Sir John, “and the automata.”

There was another loud trumpeting sound, not unlike an elephant.

“Indeed,” said Detective Symonds. “But none of those… people… are seen as such by the law, on account of being dead. All I can arrest him for is possession of stolen goods. And the Metropolitan Police won’t let me travel that far for that.”

“That’s criminal!” cried the Conjuror.

“Sadly,” said Detective Symonds, “it’s not.”

“This changes nothing,” said Sir John. “We’ll head up at once.”

Mon chère,” said Marie. “I understand how you feel, but we need to be a bit patient here. This man will be very powerful in his own domain. We won’t have any support there.”

“We have our wits,” said Sir John, “and your skills and Phlebotomous… er …”

He was interrupted by Miss Henderson coming in with a tray of tea.

“I shall start the packing at once,” she said, putting the tray down. She cracked her knuckles and left.

“And Miss Henderson,” said Sir John.

“I don’t think it’s wise to take Fel… Miss Henderson,” said Detective Symonds. “There may be grave danger, unknown risks and the possibility of deadly violence.”

The maid stuck her head round the door.

“Mr Bosch, may I use the knife sharpening device on my katana?” she asked.

“I have no doubt there will be,” said Sir John. “Especially for Viscount Vernal.”

‘I shall take them to my donjon

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 10

There was a commotion outside the door, but the Clockwork Conjuror was silent. This was partly because he was trying to listen attentively to what was happening, and partly because he’d been gagged and strapped to a chair. Finally, the commotion resolved into some voices followed by a loud slamming sound against the door. An angry looking woman in a maid’s uniform burst in.

“We should probably proceed with a bit more caution,” said Sir John from outside the room before stepping in the room. He was followed by a man the Conjuror recognised from the puppet’s drawing.

“Good God! What happened man?” said Sir John on seeing the Conjuror. 

The Conjuror rolled his eyes and tried to indicate the gag. The maid came over and took it off and began untying him.

“I have the strangest sense of day jar view,” said the maid, “I’m Miss Henderson by the way.”

“Charmed to meet you,” said the Conjuror, “I’m David Bumblewit, Clockwork Conjuror extraordinaire.”

“Oh!” said Phlebotomous “No wonder I couldn’t find you in Debretts, I didn’t realise you used a stage name.”

“What’s happened here?” repeated Sir John.

“I, er, you really didn’t realise Clockwork Conjuror was a stage name?” said the Conjuror.

“No, or that your mechanisms were really just spirits summoned from the nether realms,” said Phlebotomous. “I’m starting to wonder if we can trust anything you say.”

He crossed his arms and tried to look stern. Miss Henderson had a small coughing fit.

“He came for them, for my little guys,” said the Conjuror, deciding to direct his attention to Sir John, who seemed a little saner. “The man in the drawing. They trashed the place.”

Sir John looked around the room surveying the general demeanour. He looked a little puzzled, as if he couldn’t see any difference.

“They?” said Sir John, “The man  had help?”

“He had henchmen,” said the Conjuror.

“Henchmen,” said Miss Henderson. She cracked her knuckles and licked her lips. The Conjuror found it a little disconcerting.

“He held Phlebotomous here captive as well,” said Sir John. “He had some dastardly scheme to extract magic from Phlebotomous and use it himself.”

“Did he succeed?” said the Conjuror, feeling worried now.

“No,” said Phlebotomous. “The wiring of his device was all wrong, it needed much more power than he had, and I’m not even sure what he was going to attempt was possible.”

“So, his machine broke down?” said the Conjuror.

“He didn’t even start it,” said Phlebotomous. “Once I mentioned that your act was phoney, he lost interest and left.”

“Phoney?” said the Conjuror.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous, “passing off common and garden spirits as machines.”

“You… you told him they were magical?” said the Conjuror.

“Well it was ironic,” said Phlebotomous.

The Conjuror was utterly perplexed.

“What will I do,” he said, “those little guys, if he takes their magic away, they’ll die won’t they?”

“Mr Bumblewit, don’t worry”, said Sir John. “We are experts in such mysteries. We can help.”

The Conjuror looked at the maid, the sulking vampire and the posh gent.

“My poor guys,” he said.

Poor little guys

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 9

There was a commotion outside the door, but Phlebotomous was silent. This was partly because he was trying to listen attentively to what was happening, and partly because he’d been gagged and strapped to a chair. Finally, the commotion resolved into some voices. They seemed to be trying to whisper and failing badly.

“Are you sure this is it?” said a man.

“Yes,” said a woman with a Scottish accent, “I could find that combination of scents if it was on the moon.”

“We’d better take the advantage of surprise,” said another man, “stand back while I…”

The door burst open, and Miss Henderson and Morag fell into the room.

“..knock the door down,” said Detective Symmonds. “Fel…Miss Henderson, that was very reckless.”

“He’s my friend too,” said the maid. “Look there he is.”

“Wait, it may be dangerous!” called out Sir John.

“It certainly will be for the gent who did this,” said Miss Henderson.

She arrived in front of Phlebotomous.

“Mr Bosch, are you all right?” she said.

“Hr…ngh…hnn…hrr,” said Phlebotomous.

“Oh right,” said Miss Henderson and removed the gag.

“Yes very well,” said Phlebotomous. “But how did you find me?”

“We, er…” started Miss Henderson.

“I could follow your… scent… from the theatre,” said Morag. “It’s quite… unique.”

“Personal hygiene is very important,” said Phlebotomous, “especially when you’re several hundred years old and dead.”

Sir John and Detective Symmonds came over. Sir John started looking at the machine next to Phlebotomous. He stared at it curiously for a while before jumping backwards.

“Good Lord,” he said, “Is this what I think it is?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?,” said Phlebotomous. “People keep asking me questions as if I could read their thoughts.”

“Isn’t that something people like you can do?” said Detective Symonds.

“Inventors?” said Phlebotomous. “Not usually.”

“It’s a machine designed to extract magical power from something,” said Sir John. “Thank heavens we got here in time.”

“It won’t work,” said Phlebotomous,” I did explain it to the man, but he didn’t seem to listen.”

“Was this the chap that abducted you?” said Detective Symonds, holding the picture that Danny the automaton had drawn.

“Yes!” said Phlebotomous. “He said he used to be a member of Draco Viridis. He remembered me from the church.”

“I wondered when we’d cross paths with them again,” said Sir John, “Let’s get you out of here, before he gets back.”.

“Actually, I don’t think he is coming back,” said Phlebotomous. “He seemed to lose interest in me after I mentioned the haunted puppets.”

“The Clockwork Conjurors puppets?” said Sir John.

“Yes, what a disappointment to discover they were just a bunch of spirits,” said Phlebotomous and sighed.

“So, he lost interest in you when he found out that they were magical creatures?” said Sir John.

“Yes,” said Phlebotomous. “He said ‘ironic indeed’ and then left in a hurry.”

Sir John and Detective Symmonds looked at each other.

“We have to check on the Conjuror,” said Sir John.

a machine designed to extract magical power

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 8

The tall, thin and rather severe looking man leant over Phlebotomous who was strapped into a chair.

“Soon, my vampiric friend, this machine will suck all of the magic out of you and will give it to me, making me powerful beyond belief,” he said. The glint in his eye suggested a manic cackle was imminent.

“You can’t do this,” said Phlebotomous.

“Oh yes I can,” said the man.

“No, you can’t,” said Phlebotomous. “Your main capacitor is overloaded by too many inputs, there is a dampener in the wrong place on the output, and the whole device is chronically short of power.”

Phlebotomous nodded to the large machine that he was connected to.

“How stupid do you think I am?” said the tall man.

“From the state of the wiring, I would guess slightly above average intelligence?” said Phlebotomous earnestly.

“Silence!” roared the man. “I am a genius!”

“Not with wiring,” said Phlebotomous, which earned him a glare.

“It’s ironic, isn’t it?” started the tall man.

“What is?” said Phlebotomous.

“What I’m about to tell you,” said the man irritably.

“Oh, then I don’t know,” said Phlebotomous.

“Don’t know what?” said the man.

“If it’s ironic or not, since I don’t know what it is yet,” said Phlebotomous.

“I know you don’t know, that’s why I’m telling you,” said the man.

“Then why did you ask my opinion on whether it was ironic?” said Phlebotomous.

“It… it was a rhetorical question!” said the man.

“Oh!” said Phlebotomous. “One of those questions you’re not supposed to answer.”

“Exactly,” said the man. “Now, have you quite finished interrupting me?”

There was an awkward pause and Phlebotomous squirmed in his chair.

“Is that rhetorical?” he said.

“Yes! No! I don’t know,” said the man. “Anyway, my point is this: It is ironic that I spent so many months going to so many magic shows to find a magical creature on the stage, when one should be in the audience.”

“That doesn’t sound ironic,” said Phlebotomous. “I can see a distinct causal link.”

“Don’t try my patience,” snapped the man. “You see I recognised you straight away from the church. From the day your friends attacked it.”

“Oh!” said Phlebotomous, “You must be one of those Draco Viridis people.”

“We do not speak of that order,” said the man, lips pursed. “It failed in all its aims and was rightfully disbanded in disgrace.”

“Are you one of those people who wanted me to bite them?” asked Phlebotomous.

“No, I have no desire to be a shadow, working in the dark,” said the tall man. “Forever driven to madness by hunger.”

“Oh things aren’t that bad,” said Phlebotomous. “We have electric lights now and I have developed a delicious plant-based alternative to human blood.”

“Enough of you chatter,” said the man. “We will commence the power transference.”

He walked away with a manic grin on his face.

“It still won’t work,” said Phlebotomous. “And your story isn’t ironic. What is ironic is going to see a show thinking it’s automata pretending to be spirits, and finding it’s spirits pretending to be automata.”

The man paused in front of a giant lever marked ON.

“What did you just say?” he said.

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 7

Sir John looked stunned.

“I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Let me understand,” said Marie. “You are a semi-competent stage magician with a ventriloquist show pretending to be automata which are actually puppets possessed by the souls of a New York construction crew.”

“Yes,” said the Conjuror. “I may be a third rate ventriloquist but it turns out I’m a half decent magician. Somewhat ironically.”

“No, that I believe,” said Sir John. “I don’t believe we’re back to square one.”

“Did you conjure more?” said Marie.

“No!” said the Conjuror, taken aback. “Once was enough. It quite put the wind up me, to be honest. And when I found who the little fellas were, well I felt like I had to help them out.”

“Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself,” said the head puppet. “We love it here, even with the weather.”

There was a general murmur of consent.

“We’d never be in show-business back home,” said another puppet.

“So when you said you haven’t seen Phlebotomous, that was true?” said Sir John.

“Cross my heart and hope to diet,” said the Conjuror.

“Shouldn’t that be “die”?” said Marie.

“After all this business I have no fear of death,” said the Conjuror, “but salad makes me nervous.”

“Then this is a red herring,” said Sir John. “We may as well leave.”

“Hold your horses,” said the lead puppet. “Maybe it is a dead end and maybe not. See, he might be focussed on the phoney hocus pocus, but we get to look out at the audience.”

“Yeah,” said another, “tell us what your friend looked like and maybe we figure out if he came.”

“Short, pale, probably nervous,” said Sir John. “Very, very pale.”

There was a general non-commital murmur.

“We seen a few of these, boss,” said the lead puppet. “This is a theatre after all.”

“He’s a vampire,” said Marie.

“Ah!” said the ensemble.

“Oh yeah, we saw one of them a few days ago. Sat in a bunch of empty seats for the first half, and then sat next to someone in the second half.”

“Sat… next to someone?” said Sir John. “Could you describe them, the one he sat next to?”

“I can do better than that,” said the lead puppet. “Danny, get over here, do your thing.”

One of the puppets shuffled to the front. 

“I’ve got a perfect memory and can draw too,” he said. “You just watch.”

The puppet grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil. There was a flurry of wooden arms and then a picture was produced of a tall, thin and rather severe looking man.

“Could you sketch Phlebotomous,” said Marie. “Just to…”

“Make sure I got this guy right?” said the puppet. “Yeah, sure no problem at all.”

There was another flurry and a picture emerged of a nervous man with a hesitant toothy smile. His hands were clasped together.

“That’s Phlebotomous,” said Sir John. “Which means…”

“This is our man,” said Marie, holding the first portrait.

Tall, thin and rather severe looking gent…

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 3

The room was darkened from black drapes on the windows and there were a number of laboratory tables covered in mechanical objects and notes in spidery writing. On one was a cup of cold coffee swimming in a small sea of black liquid next to a pile of equally cold, slightly burnt, toast. Occasionally there was a whirr or a tick, like a broken clock. But there were no sounds of living beings.

From outside the door there came a knocking.

“Mr Bosch?” said Sir John through the door. “Phlebotomous? Are you alright?”

More knocking followed, then an exclamation and the sound of a ringing bell. As the bell rang a sign lit up in the room saying VISITORS! The ringing and sign lighting continued for a little longer. Then Sir John spoke again.

“I don’t think he’s here, Detective Symonds,” he said.

“It’s good you called me,” said the Detective. “I’ll need to force an entry.”

“Oh will I get to see one of those skeleton keys?” said Sir John, sounding enthusiastic. There was then a loud thump in the door and it swung open. Detective John Symonds and Sir John Jennings walked into Phlebotomus’ house.

“Ah,” said Sir John. “Not a key.”

“Not as such,” said Detective Symonds, rubbing his shoulder. “My god, this place is in chaos, it must have been ransacked.”

“Actually,” said Sir John, “I’ve been here before, this is fairly normal.”

“Let me check the bedroom in case he’s…” said Detective Symonds heading off.

“Actually, he’s already dead,” said Sir John. He saw the lake of coffee and mountain of toast.

“Hmm,” he said. “What’s this?”

“He’s not here,” said Detective Symonds returning. “But there is an unusual perfume in the bedroom.”

“I think that’s normal too,” said Sir John. “Mr Bosch is fastidious about personal hygiene, but has no sense of what scents match well. It’s not unusual for him to smell like the perfume floor at Harrods. But look, there’s some breakfast machine here that’s been running for days. It suggests that he hasn’t been here for a while.”

Detective Symonds inspected the coffee and pile of toast. He stuck his finger in the coffee cup and licked it quizzically then spat rapidly.

“Poison!” said Sir John.

“No, sugar,” said the Detective. “I suspect three of four spoons of it.”

“Ah, yes,” said Sir John. “He has a sweet tooth.”

“Let’s look for a clue as to where he went,” said Detective Symonds “Does he have an active social life?”

Sir John snorted.

“Not as such… oh, what’s this,” he held up a flyer for a theatrical performance. Detective Symonds came over.

“The Clockwork Conjuror presents his latest show of technological wonders and robotic marvels,” the detective read. “All are invited to this spectacle at the London Palladium on October 18th.”

“Three days ago,” said Sir John. “That’s exactly the sort of thing Phlebotomous would be excited about.”

“Then we need to speak to this Clockwork Conjuror,” said Detective Symonds.

The Clockwork Conjuror: Chapter 1

Dear Mr Clockwork Conjuror

Before I begin this letter I should probably clear up how to address you. Debretts was unable to tell me the correct format for addressing a conjuror and I wasn’t sure if conjuror was an honorific. As it is the second word in your name I guessed not and then realised that I didn’t know whether you were a Mr, a Dr or even a Rev. Having checked Hansard I have established you are not an MP which at least rules out Rt Hon. I wondered if maybe I should even address you as The Clockwork Conjuror, but that seemed strange to use as a greeting. So In the end I settled for Mr. If indeed you are a medical doctor, a holder of a PhD or a minister, I apologise in advance.

So, having established that point, I now will turn to the main part of my letter. I am writing to tell you that I am very much looking forward to your upcoming show at the London Palladium. I have booked 4 tickets, one for me and two either side so nobody puts their elbows on my seat and also the one in front so a lady with a large hat won’t spoil my view. I am rather short and I have had this problem in the past. I once watched an entire performance of Giselle through an oversized ostrich feather. The problem was magnified as I have allergies to large flightless birds. And also many birds that can fly.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I was hoping that after the show we may meet up and talk about your technical achievements. I am an inventor myself and so the chance to not just witness a performance of twenty three automata, but to converse with the genius that created them, is one I don’t want to miss. I mean you of course when I mean the genius as I have assumed you have built them. If not and someone else has built them and they are also at the show, it would be nice to see them. Of course it would be nice to see you too as you could talk about how you operate the automata on stage. Again, unless there is a third person that does that. In which case, meeting all, or some, of you if you are not busy would be wonderful.

Anyway, I will be at your show on October the 18th and hope we can talk about the automata.

Best Regards

Phlebotomous Bosch

PS As I mentioned I am an inventor myself. If you are agreeable I can bring a small portfolio of some of my diverse inventions. Perhaps you may even find something useful for your show! Although I have to tell you now that I would be unable to accompany you on any tours as I have unusual sleeping arrangements and an aversion to overly starched hotel sheets. But nevertheless I could perhaps create a set of instructions to help you fully utilise any device you wished to have in your show. I am also unable to offer guarantees of safety at the request of my lawyer (made shortly before his untimely demise).

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

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