When Lazarus had made his mind up to visit the Brigadier it was nothing more than routine. Hearing the noise that was clearly audible had made him hurry his steps. The sound of raised voices alarmed him a little so he had trotted the last few yards until he could see, through the shattered French doors, what appeared to be a scene from a battle.
He had been greeted by Lord Urpington Crust along with Ernie Stallworthy pointing automatic weapons at him. Two men dressed in black combat fatigues were bound and lying on the floor. Brigadier Largepiece looked white-faced and was holding his ribs as though injured. Another man, whom Lazarus didn’t recognise, also appeared to be injured as he had a dressing on his leg.
Upon seeing the police detective Crust and Stallworthy had lowered their arms. Crust then beckoned the inspector to enter the room.
“A spot of trouble?” enquired Adam Lazarus.
“I think you had better sit down and have a drink whilst I explain,” said the long absent Lord. “Before I do though I think it best if I introduce my wounded colleague, Tommy Tickleshaft, and clarify just who we are and whom we represent. I also think it might be advisable once I have if we have those two chaps lying there placed in custody.”
And so Urpington Crust had explained all to the law officer, excluding nothing. It was a tale that was quite remarkable. Lazarus had listened attentively as between Tickleshaft and Crust the reality of what they did and why they had done it became apparent. For proof of what he told the detective, Crust had insisted Lazarus speak with his superior.
“I shall not give his number to you for I am confident you, being an officer of the law, will have no difficulty in finding it. The other reason I’d prefer not to give any numbers to you is that if our roles were reversed I would be highly suspicious of having been given a name and number to call when the ones given may be false. By your own methods you will be connected to the pertinent individual and not someone bogus working for me.”
Lazarus had liked the man’s honesty and had immediately telephoned the
office he knew to be the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service. Whitehall
The conversation had been brief. Lazarus had asked direct questions and had received answers similarly given. Urpington Crust and Tommy Tickleshaft were government operatives. That was all the information given but it was enough.
“If there is anything I can do to assist then let me know,” said Lazarus, rising from his seat.
“Those two men need locking up and the Brigadier needs some medical attention,” replied Crust breezily, but that was his manner.
Lazarus called the relevant people. The two men were removed and Largepiece taken to Muckleford General Hospital. The he made to go.
“It might be an idea if at some time when I have caught the Muckleford bank robbers then found the missing teenagers if we three could sit down together. I think it advisable if I knew a little more about these people who were hunting you and why the organisation they belong to shares a name with a right wing fascist group.”
Crust nodded and shook the inspector’s hand.
“Of course, I think it time that you chaps knew the reality of the situation.”
Lazarus left as Ernie and his Lordship started to clean the mess in the Brigadier’s living room.
Ruth knew something wasn’t right when Neil opened his front door. He looked at her with such sadness that it moved her almost to tears. Winter was harrying autumn out of its way. The mornings were cold and getting colder. Standing on Neil’s front step Ruth could feel the chill nipping at her. Its cold hand wasn’t as icy as the reception Neil gave her.
His voice was harsh. He sounded distant; removed far from her even though he was close enough to touch.
“He’s gone,” she said, as though that was sufficient reason for her to be here.
“David. He’s gone home to France.”
“May I come in?”
“I think it better if you didn’t.”
She looked into his eyes. They stared back without recognition. She felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame wash over her. She started speaking, as much to fill the silences Neil left as to impart information,
“Dafid’s gone too.”
“Back to Wales.”
Neil started to close the door. He looked again at her or rather through her for that’s how it felt. He wasn’t looking at her but beyond her. She was now a painful memory and so it was better for him not to focus on her, not to see her as she was before him – desperate and sorry.
“I had best be going,” he said. “I have things that need to be sorted out.”
The last sentence echoed within her mind.
“What things need sorting Neil? I am here now. I have come to you.”
He still refused to look at her, preferring to speak to a spot on the floor.
“I’ve put the cottage and business up for sale. I am moving to
I can get a job working at Voxco.” Winchester
She felt her stomach do a flip. Her mouth went dry. She wanted to speak but found it hard to. He asked her to repeat what she had said for he hadn’t heard her.
“I said please don’t. Please don’t go, please don’t leave me.”
He seemed not to hear or if he did he ignored her. He was being rude. She should get angry with him. She should remind him of what Verity Lambush used to say about manners maketh the man. She didn’t though; she couldn’t. She had neither the will nor the heart for it. All she wanted to do was to say sorry; to say she loved him, that her mind and heart were now made up. She didn’t say anything. She just started to weep.
“It’s too late Ruth. I think it always was for us. You never loved me as I thought you might. I don’t blame you but I cannot stay her now on the vague hope you one day might.”
She found her voice now and spoke even if the words she mouthed sounded tinny in her ears.
“But you said you could. You said you would. What’s changed?”
He looked at her now fully focused on her face, on her eyes. He spoke directly to her.
“I have made my mind up Ruth. I am sorry. I have prospective buyers arriving here shortly. I really must go and tidy up.”
With that Neil shut the door, leaving Ruth staring at the panelling. Her eyes stung as she stood gazing forlornly at the wood of the door. The blue paint was new and fresh. The brass number had been polished as had the knocker and letter box. She heard the sound of a vacuum cleaner coming from inside.
She turned away, shaken by Neil’s resoluteness, his refusal to engage with her. He had seemed so detached, so aloof, so cold. She had known him for years but had never seen him like this before. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She had needed to put things right in her mind. She no longer loved Dafid and the romance that had been at the heart of her affair with David Vanderputte had evaporated. She loved Neil. He was the one. He always had been but she hadn’t known that before.
She walked up Fekenham High Street toward the Post Office. She needed to speak to the one person who would listen: Cybil Updike.
Cybil sat with Jonah in her arms. With one hand she slid her breast back into her nursing bra; with the other she gently rocked her son. His eyes were half-closed. He was in that warm space, with stomach full, between sleep and waking. His eyes fluttered then closed.
Eileen Lovelock sat opposite mother and son, smiling. It was the smile of contentment. Her daughter seemed somehow saintly. She had a faint glow about her. It was something Eileen had not seen before but had heard of. It is the point when flesh and spirit reach a physical détente, when the two coalesce into a union that enhances body, mind and soul. The outwardly signs are of a person who seems at one with everything and at peace with all.
Eileen had smiled when he had told of his plans. That’ll be nice she had said. She knew that her
had always been soft but she loved
him for it anyway. He had been a good husband, a good provider. They had had a
happy life together, secure in the knowledge of each
other’s love. Cybil had been the blessing to their love,
albeit an unexpected one. Neither Harvey nor Eileen could have children and
Lord knows they had tried. When Verity Lambush had put her daughter Amy up for
adoption it had seemed as if God had intervened. Cybil was like Jesus in many
ways even if she hadn’t been a virgin birth. She had been given to them in
order for their love to find purpose and for the baby child to have parents. Harvey
The irony of Verity and virginity escaped Eileen but then again, good mother and good wife though she was; she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.
Eileen had ben grateful to Verity but had never much liked her. The woman had a habit of looking down her nose at those less fortunate than herself. Undeniably an excellent and caring teacher, the one thing that had forever turned Eileen against the Fekenham headmistress was the day she admonished Eileen for naming her daughter Cybil. She obviously didn’t like the name but that wasn’t her complaint; it was the way Eileen had used a C instead of an S. Whatever will people think Verity had asked to which Eileen, normally a timid person, had replied, whatever they like.
They had seldom spoken after that. Verity did the decent thing leaving the Lovelock’s to bring up their daughter as they thought fit. The only discernible attention that Verity gave, and then so subtly as to be virtually undetectable, was at school where she ensured Cybil was given full attention by her teachers.
Of course the vicar hadn’t known he was the father and neither did Eileen or Harvey. Verity had kept her secret tryst well hidden. Funny thing was that
had always liked the vicar. The two men had got on well, not just on Sunday’s
at church but in general. Both men shared a similar passion. They both loved
The Beatles. Harvey
Eileen remembered the day she and Harvey had been invited around to the vicarage for tea. The subject of the Liverpudlian group had come up and the two men had begun a conversation that went on for hours.
Eileen had sat transfixed as the two fans had spoken of the group’s success. Vicar Linkthorpe had produced his singles and album collections asking
opinions of various songs. Harvey
“What about the trilogy?”
had asked. “Are you a white or black?” Harvey
Eileen had no idea what this meant. It had sounded like code.
“Black,” replied the vicar. “I liked all three, and the white for sure but the middle one, the black album did it for me.”
“It was very brave t’ do such a thing wasn’t it, especially after ‘Peppers. I mean, no one then had ever done a trilogy of albums,” opined
“Indeed, but then again they were the pioneers of pop weren’t they. The royalty of rock.”
Eileen had found their topic of conversation unfathomable. She didn’t like The Beatles, didn’t like modern pop at all let alone Rock and Roll. She liked Frank Sinatra. She found it amusing to hear her husband hob-knobbing with someone like the vicar but then again she had never met a priest before who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Hung Like Jesus.’
Cybil shuffled in her chair. Eileen instinctively knew what was required. She rose from her seat and took Jonah gently in her arms, allowing her daughter to stand and stretch her limbs. Eileen then carefully laid Jonah in his crib.
“He is such a handsome boy,” she whispered.
Cybil didn’t seem to hear. She seemed lost in her own thoughts.
“Is everything alright dear?” asked Eileen.
“I was just thinking how typical it is for her to go off on an adventure rather than be here with her grandson.”
The last part of the sentence hurt Eileen the most.
“He’s my grandson too Cybil and I’m here. I’m your Mum.”
A look of guilt stole across Cybil’s face.
“Of course you are Mum, I know that, it’s just that Verity is and always has been conspicuous by her absence.”
“She did what she thought right for you,” replied Eileen, still gazing down in adoration at her grandchild.
“I know. I just thought I had managed to scratch that veneer but I guess I haven’t.”
Eileen moved closer to Cybil, taking hold of her shoulders.
“I think you have done more than that my dear. She loves you very much, she just doesn’t know quite how to express it and I suspect doesn’t want to upset me or your Dad.”
There came a knock at the Post Office door.
“I wonder who that is?” said Cybil.
“Shall I go?” asked Eileen.
“No, I need to stretch my legs, I’ll go.”
As Cybil walked down the stairs and turned into the shop she could see through the glass-windowed door that it was Ruth Crabtree.
It was not only Shazli who was pacing the floor; Anita had joined him as she too was now riddled with concerns; their joint fears merging in to one: that their daughter had come to some tragic and awful end.
There had been little news of late. Inspector Lazarus had called in on his way to see the Brigadier, informing them that neither Sally nor Billy had been with the two men they had arrested. The police were still looking for the other gang members but also Flora Gusset who they wanted to question. As of yet they hadn’t found any of them.
Lazarus had assured them the circus had been found and searched with no sign of the teenagers. The police inspector seemed confident that the pair would shortly be found. His confidence didn’t spread to the Braganza-Smythes.
“What if the robbers killed them then dumped their bodies somewhere?” cried Anita, barely able to control her emotions.
“These men are common bank robbers not murderers. They would not kill Billy or Sally. They may dump them somewhere but they wouldn’t kill them. Murder carries a far stiffer sentence than robbery.”
“But if they have, as you suggest, dumped them, then where are they and why haven’t the two you caught told you where they are?” asked Shazli, wringing his hands together.
Lazarus sympathised with Sally’s parents. He wasn’t a dad himself but he knew if he was he would have been going out of his mind with worry.
“They have a code which doesn’t allow them to ‘grass’ on each other. They won’t tell us anything apart from the fact that both Sally and Billy were alive when they last saw them. And just for your knowledge and hopefully to give you some comfort, Verity Lambush has arrived at the police station where the men are held. I gave authority for her to speak with them. She may find out what we can’t.”
At the name of the esteemed headmistress both Anita and Shazli’s faces took on a look of mild relief.
“Verity is one person who can manipulate people into doing what she wants,” said Anita, patently happy to learn of the ex-teacher’s involvement.
“Why are you so keen to speak with Flora Gusset?” asked Shazli.
“I need to speak with everyone who was in Fekenham or Muckleford at the time of the robbery. It is just procedure,” said Lazarus.
“But that will take forever,” moaned Anita.
“I have constables going door-to-door interviewing people in Muckleford and Cyril Updike is doing the same here. I’m off to chat with the Brigadier and one or two others. Flora Gusset is an anomaly. I need to find out why she came to Fekenham, what her connection was to the circus people and why she left so abruptly. For now though, and I know it’s easier said than done, try not to worry. We don’t believe harm has befallen your daughter. She is somewhere in this area and we will find her.
Delores Dewhip had been busy the previous night. Two missing children had not dampened the ardour of the men of Muckleford, Wick, Fekenham and Birchtickle. Their disappearance certainly hadn’t affected business. The departure of the circus had seen a slight decrease in trade but, as the reputation of Anais Sin’s bordello spread, so the visits became more frequent. Susanne was going to have to hire another professional to accommodate demand. Susanne (She) had indicated she would start interviewing soon.
Delores had wanted to get home but, feeling exhausted following her night-time exertion, decided to sleep in the bed, having changed the linen she used professionally. When Susanne came in to collect the night’s takings before banking them, Delores was fast asleep.
Lupini’s call was unexpected but not a total shock to the French lover of the village priest. Susanne had thought a confrontation was due and when she answered the door to the shop she wasn’t entirely surprised to see Lupini standing there.
“Allo!” greeted Susanne politely.
“Hello Susanne, may I please come in?”
“Oui, yes, of course.” Susanne waved her hand, indicating for Lupini to go through.
The small ante-room that had been converted after Bert Meade had sold his bakery was now warmed by a log fire. A small desk stood to the side of the front door, beside it a two-seater sofa. Lupini sat down upon it and noted how hard the seating seemed.
“I hope you don’t mind me calling on you like this but I have come to raise some personal concerns that I have.”
Susanne smiled, looking hard at Arthur Bentwhistle’s wife as she tried to read body language. Lupini wasn’t showing any signs of aggression but certainly seemed a little nervous. Susanne empathised, knowing how difficult this must be for her.
“It is my shop that causes you these concerns, yes?”
Lupini stopped fidgeting with her handbag and looked directly at the French Madame.
“No, not your shop exactly but rather one of the women in your employ.”
Susanne’s brow creased.
“What is this employ?”
“One of the women who works for you.”
“I only have one woman at this time but soon will have more.”
“I am speaking of Delores,” said Lupini.
“My Arthur and Delores had an affair,” said Lupini, her face betraying her embarrassment at such an admission.
“Elvis told me. I am sorry. Men are such, how you say, pricks.”
The obscenity didn’t bother Lupini even if the delivery with the French accent made it sound like a disease.
“Some men yes. My Arthur does have a wandering eye.”
“And a wandering willy too. He should learn to keep it where here he puts it - in his pantaloons and not ladies’ panties.”
Lupini was unsure if Susanne was naturally this blunt or if things were being lost in translation.
“I don’t want him going near that woman.”
“Yes, Delores. I have taken just about all I can of Arthur’s philandering and I will not tolerate any more.”
Susanne nodded sagely.
“We do not offer this fillyandering. We do fornication, flagellation, flogging, fellatio and foreplay and various other sensual delights but not this filly thing. He will not get it from us and I will make sure if he comes here I will send him away like a flea is in his ear.”
Lupini shuffled uneasily on the sofa then rose from it in as dignified a manner she could.
“I have no issues with your opening a bordello, none at all. I just don’t want my husband partaking of the delights of Delores.”
Susanne also got up out of her seat.
“Be resting assured, Arthur is prohibé from enjoying the fruits of Delores.”
Lupini raised an eyebrow then smiled.
“Thank you for being so understanding. I hope you didn’t mind my speaking with you regarding this matter?”
“Non, non. It is my pleasure. We have to stick to together, to work as one communauté. Men, even priests, are weak. We femmes must be strong. We must be united. There will be no Arthur coming in this bordello!”
Royston Nettle, manager of the
Muckleford branch, sat sipping at a coffee. In
front of him were seated Constance Lambush and Charles Pickle. The couple were
too old to bill and coo in public and
far too reserved to hold hands in the presence of the local bank manager but
Royston could sense the love that existed between them. It was so fresh it was
almost indecent. He peered again at the document that lay in front of him. Oxford
“I have to commend you on presenting such a professional business plan. Normally, when dealing with local entrepreneurs, matters are earthier. This is rather good. So good indeed, that having scrutinised the figures and forecasts, I have no problem at all in accepting your proposal and advancing you the funds required.
The one concern I do have, but rest assured it is a minor detail, is your respective ages. People of your vintage don’t normally purchase a retirement home, they usually move in!”
“Oh, we’ve been there and done that and didn’t much like it. Now, after our experience and at our time of life, we think we have a better perspective on how old people like to live.”
Royston extended his hand. “Thorny Hill Retirement Home is now yours to do with as you will.”
Jarvis Crunch stood outside the apartment block that housed the small flat that Regus Nasaltwist used when visiting Winchester. Being a man of means Nasaltwist had homes in London and Winchester and also owned a small gité near Antibes in southern France.
Jarvis was aware that he was not, unless it was under extreme circumstance, to visit the Tory Chief Whip at any of his residences. He was aware of the reception he would receive when the political heavyweight opened his door but Jarvis no longer cared about such things. His career was over, his marriage in ruins and the only thing left to him was his prejudice.
A life-long patriot, Jarvis could not stomach the constant influx of immigrants who seemed to flood into Albion. The Brethren had offered him not only the chance to meet like-minded individuals but also the possibility of actively doing something. It may have only been in protest, to raise a contrary point of view, but it was tangible, physical and it felt as if it made a small difference.
Seamus Fliphook had been unhinged. Jarvis was not like that. His view of the Brethren was not as some dislocated right-wing splinter group without voice or teeth but a force that could provoke thought and possibly change the shape of Albion
He wanted political change but not with the code and conduct of a street gang, not a bunch of masked men who stood outside the law, but a group, right wing in its ideology that could have grown into an alternative political party with muscle.
At first Hazel Thorny, when she had recruited him, had seemed the ideal candidate to lead such a party. Then she had disappeared only to return again later when she purchased the old people’s home. Snatch-Kiss had been an opportunist. He had no real love of the movement even if he did share the same xenophobic tendencies. Now those two had gone. The former had fled the country to Europe whilst the latter had rejected the Brethren to fulfil his dreams of being the Tory leader.
Jarvis was determined that the movement would not die just because two of its leaders had left. He wasn’t confident that he could replace them but he thought Nasaltwist might.
There was something that niggled Jarvis. He had got the distinct impression that Regus was the biggest phony of all, that the man cared more about advancing his own career within the Tory party than he did for a far-right agenda that people found hard to swallow.
Jarvis looked up again at the lit window. Behind the glass, unseen from this vantage point, was Regus Nasaltwist. Jarvis was going to have it out with the man. One way or another he had to know if the Brethren had a future.
He walked toward the building. Pressed the button marked number five, listened until a voice, sounding tinny and muted, answered.
“Regus, its Jarvis. I have to see you.”
There was a silence. A slight hiss of static as the party shark gritted his teeth in annoyance.
“I have told you before not to contact me at my home. Go away.”
Jarvis felt anger rise like bile in his throat. He found the courage he needed and spoke swiftly.
“Listen Regus and listen well. Either you see me now or I shall stay here and cause such uproar that the whole neighbourhood will hear it. I need to see you and I want to see you now.”
Again the monotone static response then the voice of Regus Nasaltwist followed by a blunt clunk as the security door opened.
“Very well, come in.”
After the short climb up the stairs the door to apartment number five opened revealing Nasaltwist dressed in dressing gown, pyjama bottoms and a pair of leather carpet slippers.
“This had better be good, Crunch. I do not like inferiors blackmailing or threatening me.”
The pair walked into a large room with modern, Italian furniture. On the ceiling, three rows of spotlights shone. In one corner three leather sofas formed a square in front of a huge television screen. A log-burning fireplace set half way up the wall sent out a pleasant heat.
Nasaltwist sat down. He did not invite Crunch to do the same and so Jarvis stood looking down at him.
“The Brethren,” intoned the former director of Fullcocks Farm Implements.
“What about them?”
“We need a leader. Someone to lead us, someone to follow, someone to rule us, some brave Apollo, someone like you Regus.”
The dark eyed, shark faced Tory laughed a mirthless laugh.
“Me? Don’t be ridiculous.”
“If not you then who, who has your passion for the cause?”
Again Nasaltwist laughed. It was a chilling sound.
“I have neither passion nor affection for this so-called cause. It may be your cause but it isn’t mine. You really don’t get it do you? The Brethren only exist here in Fekenham, your Brethren that is; the real Brethren are another matter entirely, one that you’d be wise to steer clear of.”
Nasaltwist rose with a rush of his silken gown.
“I used the Brethren for reasons of my own. Hazel Thorny was just another tool that proved useful if only briefly. It is time for you to wake up to reality, Crunch. No one apart from you and that lunatic Fliphook gives a flying fig about your pathetic organisation. Now if you’ll excuse me I have other matters to attend.”
The front door was flung open and Jarvis was ushered out before the door closed behind him. The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach wouldn’t go away. He had thought he could receive the truth he had long expected to hear but now realised he found it hard to swallow.
Rather than take the lift down he pushed the button going up. He left the lift behind him then walked the plush carpeted corridor until he came to the emergency exit. The door opened onto a cold Winchester night.
Jarvis went straight to the corner of the building and looked down. He had expected some inky abyss to reveal itself but instead he saw street lights and one or two people walking. The thought of taking his life, of throwing himself from the roof onto the cold, spit-covered, shit-covered pavement suddenly lost its appeal. It would have been easier to kill himself rather than face his own personal demons and the idea of facing them alone scared him. But he didn’t need to do it alone. He could get help and he knew just the person fit for the task - Verity Lambush. He went to turn away when he felt a hand at his back push him..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.