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About Varied / Professional Brian PartridgeUnited Kingdom Recent Activity
Deviant for 12 Years
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A Topiary Menagerie by maryanne42 A Topiary Menagerie :iconmaryanne42:maryanne42 12 1 A House Best Avoided - Cover design. by maryanne42 A House Best Avoided - Cover design. :iconmaryanne42:maryanne42 6 0 Flamingodo or Dodingo? by maryanne42 Flamingodo or Dodingo? :iconmaryanne42:maryanne42 6 1 Yorkshire Journal Illustration by maryanne42 Yorkshire Journal Illustration :iconmaryanne42:maryanne42 10 2 Illustration by maryanne42
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I can't believe how many readers I seem to have found, not that I will be writing my Booker acceptance speech quite yet, but I have at least made a first step towards it and anyway, to be honest, my few readers mean more to me than any Bookery thousands.
Here is my latest effort, completed today, though it will maybe have a few changes in the future; the ending is a bit sudden.

  Revenge on the Square


There he is look, my old chum, irascible as ever.  Sitting up late in company with his old half-blind cat, Bunzel, and a bottle of cheap sherry; going through the day's papers in the hope of finding treasure.  Tonight it seems that he may have been lucky because out comes his scissors and snip snip; another tasty morsel for the archive.  Edward is proud of his collection of files and folders, organised boxes and haphazard piles of yellowed crumbling paper, that fills up so much of his life and so many acres of shelving.  It has taken him a good deal of effort to accumulate but was worth it, at least to him, as it has proved itself invaluable in many ways not least in helping him to earn quite a fair living in an unforgiving and difficult world, that of freelance journalism; and not just that.  His usual work, I am sure he wouldn't mind me telling you, was of a highly speculative and specific nature, much frowned upon by the intelligent press; that of the supernatural.
It was the strange and spooky, the unexplained and disbelieved, that he was interested in and Edward was never so happy as when he had one of his files out, lost within the net of his researches, chasing down all manner of herrings, be they red, pink or sky-blue purple.  Imagine for yourself an elderly Morse, hunting down puzzles in a Borgesian library, busily leaping from shelf to nonsensical shelf in a vain attempt at solving the great mystery of who killed the English language, or at best, robbed literature at pen-point and made off with its heritage.
Snip, snip, yes, he has something at last!  He's hauled himself out of his comfy fireside chair, thrown the mutilated newspaper behind him, and weighted down its body with the murderous scissors.  He has shuffled of towards his shelves, the precious cutting held before him between a shaky finger and inky thumb, distant, reverential; a trodden creepy crawly or a pennyworth of flayed skin from a recent martyr.  He finds the wanted file.  He opens it with the care of a new parent opening the door to their daughter's nursery and places the infant offering safe inside with a sigh.  He is mightily pleased yet it is a small enough creature really, merely a footnote to the great scheme of things, a piece of literary fluff, a sensationalist chip from the old 'silly season' block that scarcely requires any attention paid to it;  except that I know different.
By some strange quirk of fate, or circumstance, I know this story, the real one that is, the one that lies unread between the words; the one that sulks beneath the froth more than half obscured by the insincere vagaries and bland exaggerations of a, luckily for them, nameless hack.  Just how I know I will not say.  It has little bearing on the case and I am almost certain I would not be believed in any case.  It is sufficient for you to know that I have my sources and I assure you they are all good ones (in the main), and of the highest reliability.
* * *
The story concerned the finding of a body, cold and grey as an unlettered  gravestone, neatly arranged across a checker-board floor (White Knight's fourth to be exact and on the diagonal!) with no readily discernible cause of death nor any convincing reason to be where he was.  
What's that you say, a sudden death?  Unexplained?  Where's the sensation in that?  There must be a dozen every week.  Two dozen.  Three even!  The television's full of them; and, of course, you're probably right except that I hadn't quite finished.  Firstly, you see, it was soon established that the deceased had met his end solely through fright, a damn good scare in fact, and secondly the distinctive floor, so obvious if you are in the know, was that of the local Masonic Hall; a grim place indeed for such an exotic event.
As corpses go, Little Jimmy's was as poor a specimen as you could imagine and lying there, waxy skinned and pale, draped indifferently across the stark black-and-white tiles, he resembled nothing so much as an unstrung puppet; a Pinocchio without his magic dream.  He lay there twisted, half on his back, his surprised face staring up at the star-struck ceiling with such an expression of fear and horror written across it that even I looked away, unwilling to share, albeit by proxy, in the terror that the man had obviously felt during his last few minutes.
It was doubtful, no, strike that; it was a sure fire certainty, that despite his rather pathetic and mysterious end, James Auger esquire, probably the last male equivalent of a 'spinster of the parish', would not be greatly mourned or missed in any way except as a long endured boil being finally burst, an itch scratched or a festering splinter recently removed from a red and throbbing derrière.  By common consent he was, or had been, a thoroughly nasty man, and I should think that across the land, and within many a deep panelled chamber, glasses were being raised that evening and toasts made in celebration.  
The story of his life was not such a long one, nor over-burdened with incident, because through it all he had managed to accomplish precisely nothing,   His first career had taken him nowhere worth the getting to; so that lately the man had been forced to earn his daily bread from being a minor clerical cog within a great company machine that, to his eternal frustration, hardly knew of his existence (and cared even less).  He'd dreams of course, convoluted plans and schemes a-plenty, but nothing had actually been done.   James had lived an empty life alone in an empty, soul-less cave of a flat which had been carved from a newly built mausoleum disfiguring the edge of an old distinguished town that undoubtedly deserved far better.  I say 'lived' but he was hardly ever there.  Over time, the obstinate man argued with most of his family up to and past the point of no return.  He'd no friends worthy of the term, and few, if any, visitors that were not compelled out of duty or business.  Consequently his time was spent either at his place of work, where he was severely (if secretly) disliked, or at the lodge, where he was (without too fine a point) openly hated.
James  you see, had been a life long Mason.  Not out of any deep felt sympathy with his brother man, nor even out of any Blytonesque desire to be part of a gang and play at secret signs or codes, all boys together, dyb dyb dyb and so on; but purely out of the need for some sort of status, to have power, influence and coincidentally, but just as importantly, a few extra bob in the bank. He wanted, desperately, to be close to the top of one of life's ladders and, as he knew he couldn't manage much out in the real world, he sought to scale the necessary heights within the confines of a smaller one; one that had more obvious rules and less certainty of failure.  The Masons were his home and his nursery, the little pond in which he could swim the bigger fish, his begrudging family that, just like his real one, would preffer, by far, to have done without.
I only met him the once.  He was, I found, a charming fellow, amiable to a fault, but the smile was only on his lips never in his eyes which always had a scared but calculating look in them, as if he were searching for a weakness but frightened of finding it in case it was within himself and not his acquaintance. I nearly said 'opponent' as he did seem to look upon any meeting as a trial of will.  Who's in charge? Who would have the upper hand?  The word I would use to describe him, if I ever had to, would be 'Heepish', a dickens of a word that is probably my own invention. Other than that the word 'sly' comes to mind; a good old word that seems to include, within its economy of size, all the slipperiness, suspicion and arrogance he personified so neatly.  
James was as vain as the proverbial; conceited as any dictator and twice as insecure.  If his job allowed, he would have worn a uniform, one with all the extra braid and frogging he could muster and all the medal ribbons he could invent.  In fact he conducted himself, at all times, as if he were already fully kitted out in such an outfit and, imaginary as it was, he was always somewhat put out that nobody seemed impressed by it or able to defer to it as tradition, or his frail ego, required.  
He was fearless in his vanity and it was an armour that few, if any, could penetrate except, well, except that like all armoured warriors he had one little weakness, one chink through which his victims could slip a swift retaliation, and that weakness, in this case, was his height; or lack of it.  James Auger was rather on the short side (hence his unofficial moniker 'Little Jimmy'), and any reference to that sad fact, real or imagined, was sure to sting him as sharp as any arrow point of Paris,   Such was his sensitivity on the subject that, had he overheard the Tyler refer to him as 'a jumped up little Hitler' (a reference often made), it was the word 'little' that he would have taken the most exception to and caused the greatest offence.
That one meeting of ours, short but memorable for all the wrong reasons, had been enough to last.  I kept out of his way as much as possible from then on and I am glad, in a way, that our second encounter was as one sided as it was.  You see it was me as found the body.
* * *
No one could explain, with any credible certainty, just how the man came to be alone in the Temple after the place was known to have been shuttered-up and secured for the night, though it was such a rambling, mysterious place that almost anything was possible.
The building, like many of the brethren who met there, was both middle aged and unremarkable having been put together in the first quarter of the nineteenth century and tricked out in a neat but un-imposing style that the likes of Pevsner would probably describe as 'mock late-Georgian'.  However, by the end of that busy century, the Victorian fathers had made their mark covering that utilitarian skeleton with a body of Gothic curlicues and vague Arthur-isms that were intended both to impress and to create a connection, of sorts, with the lodge's supposed medieval antecedents.  They succeeded to perfection.  No expense had been spared by those ambitious individuals so that amongst the carved shields and symbolic allusions that littered the walls and furniture, the muttered oaths and invented precedence that haunted the rooms and corridors, it was not surprising to find that the place had been initiated with its very own ghost; a fierce, unfeeling creature, a Templar knight who had died un-shriven under murderous circumstances and who was known to walk the hall at the dead of certain nights seeking vengeance for wronged brothers or martyred Masons; past or present.
Little Jimmy was fully aware of the legendary knight but was not superstitious, at least not enough to let it stop his skulduggery, in fact, such was the low opinion he had of his fellows, he was relying on it to narrow down the chances of his discovery.  They were such a credulous bunch of ninnies, he thought, that few, if any, would dare brave the Temple in the small of the night especially after all the hints and suggestions he himself had spread around and about the place over the recent weeks.
James, you see, had recently suffered yet another attempt at getting him expelled from the lodge.  The usual reasons of course; un-kept promises, unpaid bills, the placing of metaphorical knives between unsuspecting shoulder blades and gossip, always gossip!  The creature was past master at the art of rumouring and innuendo, the insidious aside and the almost imperceptible hint or allusion.  He hadn't been worried, at first, after all he had been through it all before, on several different occasions in fact, and had always weathered the storm; but this time it was different, the opposition a little more organised, a little more determined.  He was thinking it best not to leave anything to chance; hence this nocturnal visit.  His purpose was to look about a bit; to run his fingers through some drawers and delve into a pocket or two, poke around in any cupboards he could find, any likely looking cabinets, and generally to ferret out anything, good or, hopefully bad, that may afford him some leverage, giving him an edge so to speak, to use in the coming campaign.  The man was up against it but determined.  He was not about to loose everything without a fight and knew, from past experience, that there was always something to be found.
A Masonic hall is not a difficult place to burglarise, once one is inside, as the codes of the organisation, considered unbreakable by all but James, generally discourage the necessity for locks and keys.  Even the building itself lends a hand as there are no windows, not even a spiteful skylight, to peach on a visitor by showing a torch beam to any inquisitive passers by.  In fact lights can be put on with impunity and noise is scarcely a problem either with such walls as these, well made for the keeping in of secrets and the keeping out of prying eyes.
James had been about his business for some hours, with indifferent success, when he found himself crossing through the main body of the place, the Temple itself, where all the fraternal mysteries had their focal point of perspective.  It was probably about three in the morning, that strange time when the night takes a dip and pauses before it starts its climb into the new day.   Three is when light sleepers turn over and re-gather the bedclothes against the chill and people say that it is also a popular time for death's unwelcomed visit around the homes and hospitals of the country.  Just the thought of three in the morning brings a shudder and a nervousness, even to me, and James was no stranger to this common susceptibility.  He stopped and glanced about him; a guilty rat waiting for a probable pounce.  The silence creaked.
It was precisely that time when, in certain types of film, a base clock, conveniently alluded to in a previous scene, would count out the hours with a reverberating hollowness, emphasising the emptiness of the place and drawing attention to the vulnerability of the tiny figure alone amongst the shadows.  Bonggg! Bonggg! Bongggggg!  James shuddered, his imagination providing the echo of the strike, his eyes eating into the darkness desperate to find some sort of safety.  Another creak but this time more sustained. The door posts before him seemed to move.  They lost their gloss and wrinkled, putting out shoots that quickly stretched into branches fully twigged and leaved, perfectly convincing as only nightmare trees can be.  All the bench-ends and chair backs threw up stems as well, one after the other, and the walls soon disappeared amongst the shadows that crouched within the leafy gloom.   An owl hooted. The air thickened with the atmosphere of sap and unseen animals, the pollen and the living dust that danced up amongst the stars; the smell of open space.
At either end, the grand chairs resplendent in their gilt and velveteen, mossed over and became embowered amongst the ivied trees.  Another hoot, this time more urgent, further away in the depths of the wood.  A distant hunter.  James staggered and nearly lost his footing as the tiles beneath him cracked and heaved with the pressure of the hungry roots, grass growing through the gaps with flowers amongst the grass, until the whole room resembled nothing so much as a forest glade.  A fox barked amongst the ferns.  A sudden breeze made James look up; just in time to see the tail of a falling star arc across the sky, daybreak to twilight, dawn to dusk, and disappear before the storm clouds gathered.
The breathy wind became a little more lively, stirring the leaves and even moving a branch or two in its eagerness.  There was a roll of thunder.  The leaves danced with excitement.   Then the lightning sizzled through the air followed by the inevitable crash!  James looked into the tangle of trees that stood between him and where the doorway had been just moments ago.  He stared with wide and frightened eyes because he had seen, or he thought he had seen, a movement.  It couldn't be; but flash! another bolt lit up the spaces under the maddened leaves and there it was;  the sparkle of light from the mail, the shine of armour and the sudden glint from the blade edge.  There stood the knight in all its frightfulness, its face clearly seen under the broken helmet: the empty hollows that held no human eyes, the sheared hawk's nose, and beneath them a blood caked beard, parted by a mortal slash that only served to emphasise the gleaming bone and grinning teeth beneath.  He took a step forward and James reached out to fend him off, to push him away, to delay, if he could the inevitable; but the hand met no resistance.  The air was clear; the knight as tangible as vapour.  The sword was raised and flashed, sharp as the lightning, as it dropped onto James's head.  He screamed, just the once, and in the silence that followed he fell, like the sack of evil bones he was, across the polished tiles of the Temple floor, never to move again.
* * *
'Riveting stuff', I hear you say, 'very thrilling, very 'Boy's Own'. but . . . but . . .'.  
Yes, there are always 'buts' to be had.  Every author has them, every story-teller fears them, but they are a necessary fact of creative life.  For instance you might ask how, if James had been alone in that fortress of a hall, how did I come to find his body?  Well, I could say, by way of explanation, that I too had overstayed my welcome and gotten myself locked in; although in my case purely by accident.  
The particular Temple in question serves, as you may know, more than one lodge and so, having slightly more money to hand than other such establishments, it had a few extra amenities, among them a comfortable and well stocked library (the envy of many a fog-bound  Gentleman's club in far-off London town), which is where I had fallen asleep over a comforting volume of Blackwood's tales, snug in a voluminous chair and which is why, I suppose, I hadn't been noticed when the Tyler made his rounds.
Then again, you might also reasonably inquire, how I came to be privy, in such mesmerising detail, to the hated man's last moments on this earth?  
Ah-ha!  There you have me!  I should have quit whilst the going was good. I suppose, now, I shall have to come clean?  Well, O.K., I admit it, it was all a story.  There was no Templar ghost.  There was no body and no hated and reviled James (at least not there) and that Mason's hall is a fiction too; though there may well be something similar somewhere in this poor benighted land.
The thing is; my chum Edward, well,  I love him dearly (he is my oldest friend) but he's a prize bore sometimes as well as something of a diva. Me! me! me!  He can be more than difficult when the mood takes him and, on occasion, a little selfish, especially when it comes to stories.  Over and again he has stolen ideas from me, wiped the sweat from my imaginative brow and wrung it into print on his own behalf, stealing my hard dreampt ideas and leaving me bereft, deadlines looming and nothing in store.  I'd had enough!
So, I thought, I would get back my own.  I planted a story, the purest fiction of my own invention, into a late edition (it isn't hard at this time of year if you know the right editor), and waited for Edward to plunder it.  He could hardly resist: a frightened corpse and the Mason's too?  Perfection!  All I had to do is wait for him to refer to it, as a fact, in one of his articles or pompous books and then I should have him!  Exposed!  The gullible Mr. Sampson stripped for all to see.
Of course I'll never go through with it;  I never do.  A friend is a friend after all but, my goodness, he is so irritating at times!  That story was obviously hokum and yet he swallowed it all, hook and byline complete, despite his being 'an authority on the subject' and knowing full well that the press can't be trusted; especially if I'm on the staff!  
It is possible, I suppose, that it was only honest greed on his part, an overwhelming desire to collect every story he could find regardless, a minor species of addiction; or maybe he's a secret fan of my work and, recognising it as such, sought only to preserve it for posterity.  A friend might do that, Perhaps, but for whatever reason Edward chose to dilute his store of knowledge with such glaring nonsense, I am done.  It's beyond me.  I shall leave him to his own company from now on and welcome to it.   He always was something of an enigma, wasn't he, and I doubt if he will ever change.  I don't know why he named his cat 'Bunzel' either.  Interesting though isn't it?
* * * * *
Still busy busy with the stories.  The current one has been proving rather stubborn, so much so the the other day I gave it up as a (temporary) bad job and took both myself and a cup of tea off for a nap.  I came to myself an hour later to find cold tea and a head full of words; I had dreamed a paragraph that is almost complete in itself.  It has nothing to do with the work in hand so will be kept safe until later in the year though I have no idea where I can the thing, or if indeed it needs any more to it.  Perhaps I should think of having a few 'fragment' as a separate thing at the end of a book?  Anyway, I post it here as a curiosity and maybe an inspiration for anyone that might be in search of an idea.  There is, after all, nothing truly original is there?

----------

It should be quite a memorable occurrence, or so I would have thought, for any solitary sleeper to be woken up, unceremoniously, in the early hours of a dark and thunderous morning, by a naked child with angry eyes and a shock of wild, un-tamable hair, the more so if she also held knives in her hands and had horrible hieroglyphs painted across her body in, what looked like, fresh blood that still glistened in the light of the sudden lightning; but when I later came to myself, snug and warm in the midst of a bright, calm, post-stormy morning, I had no difficulty in passing the event of as a fancy, a dream, or a practical joke on behalf of my subconscious and, in hindsight, I am more than glad I could do so.  
Even when later, in the broad and cheerful light of day, I found the unmistakable remains of a child's footprint impressed upon my bedside rug; I did not believe in the reality of my nocturnal visitor.  Such things only happened on film sets surely, not here in the real world of fishcakes and tweezers?  We may live strange and unnatural lives but there are rules. and those rules surely do not allow for white haired figments to scare us witless without due cause and a damn  good reason to boot!  So I dismissed the whole thing as a nonsense, brought about by stress or a surfeit of cheese, gave the rug a good shaking, and went back to my daily routine without a second thought.

-----------

As I was thinking about this post, and re-reading my paragraph, I was reminded of a photograph, or couple of photographs of Jan Saudek; a photographer whose work I find intriguing though I know it is also much hated.  The images I have in mind feature a man, apparently in despair, hunched up in the corner of a strange basement like space, whilst some way away a naked child, holding her doll, stands and watches him.  There is another where the child is pointing a gun!   They seem to be halfway towards illustrating my little bit of prose.
This time last year I was busy with a story that ended up taking over six months to write; not really a long time seeing as how I had the idea for it rattling round my brain for over twenty five years.  This was the first time I had got close to writing it down but I wasn't quite happy.  I wanted a happier ending and then the main character seemed to want more flesh to her bones by way of a history.  Eventually I finished it, complete in three chapters', and even planned a sort of sequel, but then there was a mix up with the publisher; a difference of expectations.  The end of it was that the sequel was written as chapter four, followed by a prequel and then, eventually, a last chapter almost wrote itself.  It should be published later this year once I have finished the dozen illustrations needed.  It will be glorious. or so I think.  Here I am posting the short first section.  I'm not sure how it will travel, as it is very English in it's references, but I dare say you will muddle through.

                                                                                                                                                A House Best Avoided

1
The morning sun seemed more than happy to share some 0f its glamour with the rough grey stones and recently painted woodwork of the new house; built scarcely eighteen months ago but already a much loved family home.
Its style had been mock-Gothic; its cost had been more than a little on the expensive side, and its future was an auspicious shade of rosy.  It stood proudly next to its twin, conjoined by a heavy looking lead drainpipe, but permanently divided by both a middle aged birch and the remains of an old, anonymous tree stump which together formed the last vestiges of the site's previous incarnation; that of a small, but ancient, stand of trees known locally as 'Owl's Wood'.  The house (or houses) rested quietly in a little patch of shadowed greenery, now mostly grass, cut off from the remaining fields by a fiercely orange fence of un-seasoned wood.  The enclosure was empty but for a bush or three, with a few newly planted twigs and saplings dotted about here and there, that showed the promise of a fine garden (or gardens) yet to be.  
Everything about the place seemed bright and optimistic.  Windows glinted, roof tiles shone, and even the walls themselves appeared glad to be alive.  It was a rock that any family could rely on; a sanctuary or domestic fortress that would withstand anything but everything the years could throw.  It was one of the many vertebrae that made up the backbone of England; the strength of the Empire and a beacon to the world!  Victoria was Queen and 'the family' her much loved fortitude and inspiration. Three rousing cheers!  Hip, hip . . .


Elizabeth stood at the window absentmindedly brushing her frizz of hair without having much effect.  She had woken up too early and still felt tired even though it seemed, to her, that she had been asleep, snug in her feather bed, for an awfully long time; for years maybe.  For years and years or even longer! But she was still sleepy, none the less, and couldn't stop herself from yawning, try as she might.  Maybe if she could go back to bed for just another hour . . .  
The child remembered that she'd had such a peculiar dream, with some sort of party in the garden and lots of other girls, who she didn't really know, all wearing their Sunday best and being very girlish; laughing at nothing and playing all sorts of silly games.  It had been very vivid.  She could feel the wet grass between her toes and smell the self-satisfied leaf mold, while above her head she could see grey clouds gathering across the little patch of ethereal blue that had, at first, seemed so comforting.  It had been a happy sort of dream but then, on the whole, most of her dreams were; at least the ones she could remember.  She yawned again and supposed she really couldn't put the new day off any longer.  It was seven O'clock already.
There were the sounds of a horse and cart in the road outside, the milkman on his round and the boy from Davies, the butcher, making the first of his day's deliveries.  The world was astir and everyone was busy; except her!  She gave up on her hair (a hopeless task anyway) and hurried to dress.  Then, resisting the temptation to look at the dolls' house (her pride and joy) that sat, ever ready, in a corner of her room, the child was off for her breakfast.  She galloped down the stairs, two steps at a time, giving the banister a regular thump with her hand as she did so, keeping in time with her feet and making the most satisfying of clumpy dins.
"Walk, Lizzie, walk", came a stern voice from somewhere downstairs, "You are a child, you know, not a carthorse.  You shall be heard halfway down the road and goodness knows what the servants will think".
Elizabeth stopped. Then taking a deep breath, in a futile attempt to stifle her frustration, she continued her descent at a more graceful and becoming speed.  
"Hello Mr. Chesterfield", she said, when she reached the last step, "I am sorry to have woken you but it is a gloriously sunny day so you do need to be awake, you know, to appreciate it".  She was, as was her habit, addressing the lion's head that had been carved, rather clumsily, into the end of the banister. Was it a lion? It was certainly a wild cat of some sort though a little boss eyed and, it must be said, the snarl on its lips might just have been merely a self conscious say-cheesy grin.   The thing was quite harmless of course but the girl had been a little scared of it, when the family first moved in, which made going up and down the stairs something of a trial; so her mother gave it a name, to make it seem more friendly, and the child had never outgrown the idea.  Mr Chesterfield it was, and always would be, and she made a point, everyday, of saying "Good morning", and giving its smooth, warm head a pat or two for luck.  Lizzie and Mr. Chesterfield were the greatest of friends and everyone in the house, except Henry, the terminally jealous cat, had gotten quite used to finding her, at any time of the day, sitting at the bottom of the stairs and gossiping away to apparently thin air.  The child told Mr. Chesterfield everything and, as she assured Tilly (the maid), he understood every word and often returned the confidences with stories of his own.
The girl hitched up her woollen stockings.  She was now standing in the hallway which, with its polished wood and beautifully coloured tiled floor; its high, white ceiling and its glorious display of fresh cut flowers, reminded her of a church and she always felt that here, at least, she should be on best behaviour.  The door leading in to the breakfast room was open and there was the sound of serious voices; mother was quietly giving Tilly a dressing down.  The embarrassed child hovered in the doorway, unwilling to go in, but with nowhere else to go. This was the worst part of her day.  No matter what offence Tilly had committed (probably nothing except to be just Tilly) Lizzie was certain to be next in line as she had usually done something, however small, to earn her mother's displeasure, and most days started with a telling off.  As the girl wavered on the threshold she noticed something like a drop of wet ink lying on the floor. It was a coat button, probably one of father's, and she bent to pick it up.
"Is that you Elizabeth?" asked her mother, noticing the movement. "Where have you been?  Look at the time.  You should have been down half an hour ago.  Tilly cannot hover around here, all morning, waiting for you to decide whether to join us or not; she has other duties to attend to.   What have you got there?".
"Nothing, mother", the girl said, wearing her straightest face, her serious blue eyes looking so innocent they would have fooled even a professional poker player.  She slipped the button quietly into her dress pocket.  It was just what she needed for her dolls' house.  Now if she could just find a few more matches she would be able to make that little table she needed, to put by the chair next to the fire . . .
"Do stop dreaming, child, and come and get your breakfast".
Mother was sitting alone at the large octagonal table (the maid having made herself scarce), presiding over the breakfast things, like everything else, with the air of a newly crowned Queen whose enthusiasm had yet to be dulled by trial or custom.  Lizzie was particularly fond of the breakfast room.  It was a beautiful place, she thought, full of space and light, always welcoming, even on cold winter mornings when it had the luxury of a roaring fire to recommend it.  To her it seemed the very centre of the family and she always spent as much time there as she could reasonably get away with.  Today it seemed extra nice because the sun had been out for some time, warming the furniture and putting it all into the best of moods.  
Elizabeth smiled as she glanced about; silently wishing everything a bright "Good morning".  Being an only child, and somewhat lonesome, she had made friends with nearly all of the chairs, tables and other bits and sticks of furniture, though she found they did tend to be rather staid and stuffy creatures, being mostly of the practical sort, solidly built in a High Victorian style (as was generally the fashion) and therefore not much fun.  However there were a few older pieces that had been inherited from her father's side of the family and these were more daring.  Being freer spirits, from a greater, more romantic age, they possessed an unmistakable air of elegant danger and with them there was always the chance of  adventure!  They had a subversive streak to them and liked nothing more than to chivy the sober newcomers, egging them on to join in the mischief and sometimes, leaving them with the blame! Altogether every piece had been invested with a character and personality of its own and the imaginative girl had created quite a jolly tribe out of them all.  They had been through many fantastical trials and tribulations and the child firmly believed, expected and hoped, that there were many more yet to come.  
As it was such a nice morning a window had been pulled down a little, to let in some air, so the room was full of the sounds of little brown birds chirping busily in their shrubbery just outside.  On top of the bow fronted sideboard, a jade-green Chinese vase was filled with pastel coloured delphiniums that looked, to Elizabeth, like some kind of frozen firework display.  There was toast for breakfast, and eggs and bacon, together with something called Kedgeree that the girl didn't really like, (she much preferred her fish to at least look like fish!); but already she had been distracted again.  Lying next to the flowers was an incongruous bundle of something shapeless, half wrapped in brown paper and looking very interesting.
"Now don't go poking about there, child.  That is nothing to do with . . ."
Too late!  Nimble fingers were already exploring the parcel, delving inside with the relentless curiosity of a child forbidden.  Lizzie was more than surprised, however, by what she found.  Within the coarse paper there was a large quantity of feathery softness which had a certain cold limpness to it that sent a shiver up her spine.  It was a dead bird.
"Now do leave that dreadful thing alone and come and eat your breakfast.  Really, you are a dreamboat this morning".  Mother was pouring the tea as she spoke, "Didn't you sleep well last night?  Mind you it would be something of a miracle if you had with all that racket going on".  She put the filled cup next to Lizzie's place mat and cast a glance over at the little carcass where it lay quietly encased in its sepia shroud. "I don't know where it could have come from but it was certainly noisy enough, hooting away to itself all the night long".  
Lizzie was still looking down at the the sad little corpse, trying to recall something important but unable, for some reason, to remember the 'whats' or 'whys'.  Her mother carried on talking; not noticing the frown that had puckered up the girl's freckled forehead.
"I am amazed you didn't hear it though", she continued, "it was in that tree outside your bedroom window the entire night, hoot, hooting as if the world depended.  Yet, lo and behold, there it was this morning, dead on the grass and not a feather out of place.   Your father found it lying in a patch of daisies when he went out for his morning pipe; a perfect still life, so he said, as if it had been carefully arranged by a drawing master from the Academy and put there on purpose.  He is going to have the horrid thing stuffed and mounted to put in his study.  Heaven knows why; but he has been acting rather oddly, of recent, have you noticed?  Shut in his study all day and sitting up half the night with his books, pacing about and talking to himself, and he's got that cabinet of my mother's full of the most disgusting rubbish: dirty old coins, arrowheads, odd shaped stones and queer bits of metal; even . . . ' she gave an involuntary shudder, 'even a box of bones . . . all found, he says, while they were clearing the ground for our house.   History he calls it, and that's as may be, but Tilly won't clean in there anymore because she keeps on seeing things, so that's another problem.  Servants!  Sometimes I think they are more trouble than they are worth; you'll find the same one day you see if you don't'.  The woman paused to fortify herself with a quick, nervous nibble at a corner of toast. 'Anyway', she continued, 'There will be a man coming for the poor unfortunate thing later today and I, for one, will be glad to see it gone.  Now do hurry and eat up.  Tilly is waiting to clear and I want you to take a cup of tea down to the study, otherwise your father won't be having anything until lunchtime.  Really; that man and his books".
Elizabeth wasn't listening.  One word had caught her attention by the toe and just wouldn't let go;  Stuffed!  That was it.  She remembered now.  There had been a stuffed owl in her dream last night; a dream that had been really more of a nightmare and best forgot (or so she had thought).  It all came flooding back, now, and with it a growing sense of panic. It mustn't be allowed!   Without doubt something had to be done, and the child quickly came to a decision as to what that something was.  Roughly gathering up the parcel she ran for the door.  Her mother cried out in astonishment but Lizzie ignored her. Without scarce a second thought she made off down the clattering passage, running all the way to the furthest end, then pushing herself quickly through the door and into the sudden heat of the usually forbidden kitchen.  
Tilly and the cook looked up in amazement at the child's unexpected entrance, whilst the little skivvy, busy with the washing-up, was so surprised she dropped a cup into the sink!   It smashed into a dozen pieces, reducing the poor startled girl to tears of embarrassment and shame, but Lizzie was not to be distracted.  She hurried over to the great blacked range, where the breakfast fire still fumed and crackled in a somewhat spiteful humour, and snatching open the iron door, she thrust the parcel inside, bird, paper and all, slamming the thing shut again and standing over it, transfixed, waiting to see what would happen next.  
She didn't have long to wait.  
There was an awful shriek from inside the stove; a searing cry of pain and anguish, almost human, that filled the kitchen right to the herb-hung rafters leaving no space at all for any kind of human thought.  Tilly shut her eyes and covered her ears against the noise; whilst the still tearful skivvy ran to hide behind the cook's voluminous apron (which she firmly believed to be proof against all disasters, fire and flood included).  There was the sound of a frantic flapping and a scuffle of desperation from inside the little furnace, and the door seemed to rattle and shake, though Elizabeth had made sure it was shut, tight as could be.  What a noise!  The cooking pots and copper pans trembled uncontrollably on their hooks; the very crockery seemed deafened and lay quaking in its draws whilst, over in the sink, the water in the skivvy's bowl lost all its froth.  It was a horror that curdled the air and steamed the windows, and for a while it appeared that the whole world had become but a single mad house.  Gradually, however, the noise died down and, after one last spasm, everything fell quiet again.  Hush!  The whole room gave a communal sigh of relief; but one that was felt rather than heard. The fire had gone out and nothing of it remained except a thick pall of smoke, black and odorous, hanging over the stove looking the very stuff of nightmare. Lizzie turned towards the servants, who were still standing frozen to their respective spots, and gave them the palest and most fragile of smiles.
"That's that", she said, in a voice that was little more than a whisper but one that sounded like a shout in the returning silence.  Then the ceiling turned into walls and the stony floor swirled up to meet her as she dropped like a ragged doll; an abandoned plaything cast across the flags in a dead and sudden faint.
The doctor was called, came, and went, but it was after lunchtime before the girl had come to herself again.  Lying ashen pale on her bed Lizzie was coddled and feted relentlessly though she would give no explanation for what she had done other than to say, over and again, that now they were all safe.  When her father looked in she burst into tears and was inconsolable for the best part of an hour, but even his questions went without an answer, so, in the end, they had no choice but to let her be.
Once she was alone, the child went and sat herself down in front of her beloved dolls' house.  She opened the front and looked inside.  "Tomorrow you shall have a good Spring-clean", she thought, "and afterwards we will see about making that new table". The girl yawned, then, after putting the button down where she could easily find it, next to the used match she had found yesterday, she went off back to bed and slept a sound and dreamless sleep until she was called for her tea.  What a day it had been!
She hoped there would be cake.

To be continued (maybe)
I am both surprised and humbled to see that over a hundred of you have looked at my last - and first - offering and I am sufficiently encouraged to post another effort, just finished, that may also amuse though it is not quite the same sort of creature as the last.  It does have a ghost it is true but not like the other one.  There are no frights or spooky goings on; but still, there are more ways to skin the proverbial so . . .

Stephen

The lonely tree grew, tall and solitary, on a daisy specked island of grass within a shallow spinney close behind the village shop; and as it grew it whistled.  Day after day it trilled out a long, sad tune that rivalled even the ones the birds used to sing in the time when they were as common amongst its leaves above as the flowers are below.  I say the tree whistled but really it was the boy who stood next to her; the thin, ragged boy with ruffled hair and the moon in his eyes.  However, as he was a ghost and as almost nobody else could see him, or even guess at his existence, it is easy to understand how such a mistake came to be made and easier, perhaps, to forgive it.  After all; whoever believes in whistling ghosts these days?
She was a young tree, having seen scarcely fifty spring times and even fewer snowfalls.  Her narrow body was upright, smooth, green with lichen and grey from the days.  From between her moss bound roots grew a tendril of ivy that crawled up and twisted about her like a conscience; all but hiding the old initials, the carved hearts and arrows, the forgotten hopes and dreams of the often thwarted villagers.  
At head height her trunk forked into two identical stems like a pair of shapely upraised arms. As they rose they split again and again, dividing themselves over and over, getting thinner and thinner as they did so until they became nothing but a haze of twiglets that sieved the sun and muffled the moon as the seasons danced across them. 
Each year the tree put on a new dress. Every twig had a posy of little white flowers blushing prettily with the joy of their delightful extremity.  The breeze shook them and the sun caressed them with its warmth.  She was the most famous tree in the County and people came to visit her, from miles around, bringing garlands of ribbons and flags and paper messages which they fixed to her skin with golden pins; but still she was lonely.  She knew they only came to listen to the whistling, not to see her or her beautiful blossom.  It was not really her they wanted.  She felt as invisible as the boy; and her sighs ruffled through the petals like a fever.
Standing beside her the boy pursed up his lips and whistled his sad tunes without a pause whilst the seasons changed around him regardless.  The twigs would let go of their posies and wave sudden leaves instead; shaking them like flags at a careless world (which already had more than enough of leaves); and through it all the people came.
After the leaves followed the fruit with all the wasps in the village and all the children who dared.  It was the busiest time, and the grass was quickly trodden down, but the whistling never faltered and the ghost was never seen. 
Then the air would take a bite.  The leaves would rust away and take a tumble, carried off by the rain and hail, the flurried snow and relentless winds of year's end and new beginning.  Yet still the people came.
In their ignorance they thought that the thin, meandering tunes were special. They believed the sounds carried tales of the future; bringing good luck and a fortune with them.  Happy was the child who heard them.  Rich would be the man and fruitful his wife.  Under its shade the girls looked for love and the boys sought the girls. Day after day the people brought their offerings and questions but nobody saw the ghost and, in the end, no one saw the tree either. Time passed.  The seasons changed but everything else stayed the same.


One morning a cat came walking.  It was as sleek and grey as the dawn and when it heard the whistling it stopped to listen.  It sat itself down in the midst of the tree's purple shadow and looked at the boy carefully through large, un-blinking eyes.  After a moment or two it spoke.
'What are you doing there, boy?' it asked.
The tree was astonished.  No one had ever spoken to the boy before or even seen him in the first place.  She began to feel worried and gave her leaves a sudden shake; but the boy ignored the question and kept on whistling his tune.
'Boy', the cat repeated, 'Who are you and what are you up to, skulking under that poor tree amongst the ivy and the shadows?'.
The boy stopped his whistling and looked down at the cat.  It was the first time in ever so many years that the tunes had failed.  The tree trembled with apprehension.
'Well?' said the cat. 'speak up.  I haven't got your tongue you know.  Who are you and why are you here annoying these daisies and this poor child of a tree?'.  
'I'm Stephen', said the boy, 'or, at least, I was Stephen, once upon a time (I've forgotten quite when).  I have to whistle my tunes here because there are no birds left to sing and the world needs bird song more than anything'.
The cat stared with its great green eyes and waited.  Half an explanation was worse than none and he was determined to know the truth, however long it took.  The tree shook its leaves.  She felt that Autumn was coming early this year and feared the worst.  The ghost seemed to take a deep breath and then, after a long pause, launched into his story.
'My mother owned the village shop and I was her only son.  I wasn't a very good son, I think, because I never did my chores properly and never brought in the coal without an argument first.  My mother sent me to school every day but I didn't pay much attention to what I was being taught.  Instead of counting numbers or learning letters, I preferred to watch the clouds sailing over the tree tops and dream of all the things I was going to see and do 'one day'.  Mischief was my middle name.  I would throw sticks at the dogs and chase cats (here the cat let out an involuntary meow of horror), I would break windows and knock over fences if they were in my way and my poor old mother spent a lot of time excusing me and apologising to the neighbours'.  
The ghost looked very sad and, if he had been able too, I think he might have cried.
'Anyway, one of my favourite things to do was to collect eggs; not from the chickens, which would have at least been useful, but from the wild birds that flew about the woods and fields and nested amongst the brambles.  This tree was a favoured haunt of the littlest birds.  There were always a dozen or so singing away amongst its leaves and I knew that some of them nested here too.  One day I decided that, instead of delivering Mrs. Brown's tea and bacon, I would climb up it and see what eggs I could find.  I soon discovered there were lots of nests hidden away amongst the topmost branches and that they nearly all had an egg or two.  The birds flew about me, and fluttered their wings in fright and panic, but I kept on.  I took all the eggs; all except one that I could see in a tiny nest at the end of the thinnest of the branches.  It was all but impossible for a boy to reach but I wasn't about to give up.  I climbed and crawled about and reached as high as I could when, just as I was about to close my fingers over my prize, crack!  The branch broke from under me and I fell, eggs and all, through the tree and through the air until I landed on the ground with a bang and a thump and a darkness that fell around me like a shroud.  I had broken the tree and broken all the eggs and broken myself up too.  We none of us could ever be mended.
The tree shook hard at the memory and sighed over her broken stump of a branch which had grown again but was not quite as it had been (These things happened to a tree but their nature was always to forgive and get on with life regardless).
The cat stared on in silence.
'Because I had taken all the eggs there were no new birds that year, and because of that, all the others flew away and kept away, never nesting here again out of fear and sadness.  There were no more coloured feathers dropped onto the grass and never any songs to greet the sun in the morning.  Then the world, or something higher, had an idea and I was put here to sing instead of the birds, to replace the songs I had stolen and whistle away my time until the crime could be forgiven.  It has been many years now.  I don't think it ever will be forgiven, do you?'.
The cat remained silent.  He blinked and wiped his nose but never spoke again.  He was a Christian cat and could forgive anything except throwing sticks at dogs or running after cats. After a while he got up and stalked away.  He wasn't going to waste time on that sort of boy; and in any case there was a storm coming and he needed to find a comfortable fire to sit by.
With the cat gone the tree calmed down a little and the ghost boy went back to his whistling. Everything carried on as before except for the line of fretful clouds that were gathering on the horizon. 
When the storm arrived it was with a suddenness that seemed to shake the earth and quaver the very roots of the tree.
One minute there was sunshine and a pleasant summer day; the next there was a dark and terrible fury with rain spots the size of pennies and a wind that bent the tree until her slender fingers nearly touched the ground.  There was a thrashing of leaves and a hammering of hail but still the ghost whistled on, from his niche amongst the ivy; unheard now as well as unseen.
Then the thunder came with its metal boots and rolling barrels; rumbling round the hills and spreading wakefulness amongst the villagers.  Crash!  the first lightning lit up the sky and all the world beneath it.  Crash! a second one two miles nearer and then a third, almost immediately, directly overhead; CRASH!  The noise was deafening and if any villager had still been asleep, he certainly wasn't now.  Curtains were drawn back and anxious faces peered blindly into the raging blackness.  Something had happened but nobody knew what.  Lightning had struck but no one knew where.  There was panic in the nurseries and concern in the kitchens.  The storm raged and the whole world was in turmoil along with it.


The  morning brought peace along with an awful revelation.  It was the tree that had been struck,  the whistling tree, and it was no more.
The villagers were mortified.  They had lost their luck and their fortunes.  They dragged away the fallen tree and raked together all the broken branches and the ragged bits of burnt ribbon, scorched cloth and scattered leaves.  Then they had a grand bonfire.  It burnt all day and it was said the curl of smoke could be seen from as far away as London.
When the tree was all gone to ash and dust, the villagers were at a loss as to what to do next.  A stranger came with a box of little bottles.  He filled them one by one with the black ash and sold them to the gullible for tuppence ha'penny a time.  He had a good dinner that night you can be sure!
Then someone noticed the whistling; it hadn't stopped.  The tree was gone indeed but the tunes remained; coming out of nowhere and hanging in the air like a recrimination.  
The people still couldn't see Stephen, who hadn't moved (because lightning couldn't hurt him), so they heard the sad tunes and thought of angry ghosts and burning trees.  They became afraid.  One after another they quickly left the little patch of daisied grass that had meant so much to them and never went back again. 
Gradually, over the years, the villagers moved away or grew old and lay down in the churchyard.  The incomers who replaced them knew nothing of the whistling tree or its tunes but had heard the story of the angry ghost of the shattered tree and so shunned the little field behind the old village shop.  Even the children kept away although they all knew it was the best place to find daisies for their chains.
Now and then a sleek cat would wander by; a great grand child of the grumpy Christian.  It would be concentrating on chasing mice through the daisy stems and therefore far too busy to notice Stephen but the boy-ghost scarcely minded.  He stood resolute in his old spot, whistling to the clouds and any passing shadows.  Now he was surrounded by a small grove of slender grey-green saplings who listened to his tunes and swayed to their rhythms.  His tunes were not so sad these days and now and then he thought he heard a blackbird or two joining in, maybe a Robin, and once a little flock of finches stopped by on their way south.
One afternoon, hope came and sat on his shoulder and whispered a new tune. Stephen felt encouraged.  'Maybe', he thought, 'I might be forgiven after all'.
And so he was . . . eventually. 


I have been scribbling a lot recently and it has been interesting to use a different sort of pen for a change.  Here is something for my new book which is being typeset at this very moment and should see the light of bookshelf by the end of this spring.  It is a book of ghost stories, or rather I should say it is a book of stories that have ghosts in them.  This one bellow is the shortest and the most violent.

The Same But Flatter


The little community of Eastlake-0n-Sea was remarkable for just two things; its similarity and its flatness.  
Each and every house was exactly the same as its neighbour, and all the people who lived inside them did their level best to follow suit, so that there was hardly a brightly painted front door, or a wooden leg, to differentiate between the one home and another.  The place (or indeed the plaice!) was all laid out, as flat as any board game, across a spit of the world that had been divided equally into two flatness's; the land half, which was green with orange squares pasted on it, and the sea which was mostly blue with little flecks of white.  
'Oh!', I can hear you say, 'that can't be right, the sea is not always flat, there are waves and there is 'weather', and you would be right, of course, except here, in this little corner of England's pleasant pastures, no-one dared to venture 'out of doors' (what a strange expression that is!) if there were even the remotest chance of either waves or 'weather', so to them the sea was always as flat as paper.
The orange squares, of course, represent the houses, arranged in neat little clusters along a maze of gently curving roadways, each as identical to the other as peas in a pod; luscious round peas in a heavily pregnant pod, as flat as any you can find in those very glossy magazines at the dentists.  There were no trees, no chimneys, and very few visitors to the nearby cliffs.  Indeed I doubt very much if the town council would have tolerated anyone to live there at all if they were more than half an inch taller than the average.
Tom and Barbara were both average. They were very happy to be so and together they enjoyed their lives to the full.  Tom played interminable games on the very flat golf course nearby while Barbara read her murder books and 'kept up appearances'.  Nothing could be nicer; except that Tom and Barbara had a secret and it was one they hoped would never be discovered.  It wasn't really anything too dreadful but, you see, it marked them out as different and that was quite possibly the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone at Eastlake-On-Sea.  
Simply put they had a ghost.  Their house was haunted and there was nothing at all they could do about it.
It was Barbara who first discovered the problem.  She came in late one day, with a pile of new murders from the mobile library, and there it was; standing in the kitchen doorway, with a doll in one hand and a knife in the other, exactly like a real child.  Barbara nearly screamed; but couldn't.  She was petrified with fear so that by the time she had managed to pull herself together, and pick up all her tumbled books, the girl had gone.  Gone; and taken all the couple's happiness with her.
Of course Tom didn't believe a word of Barbara's garbled story although, after he had put away his precious clubs, he did search the house, all the way from vacant loft to empty cellar, just for the sake of the neighbours (the all-important appearances, you understand), and maybe to prove a point, but without any admission of liability (old habits etc. etc.). Tom had worked in insurance for twenty years, knew all the tricks, and had the heart of a true sceptic, He was used to always being proved right in the end.
It was over a week later that Tom changed his mind and finally believed his long suffering wife.
He had slept in.  He'd rolled over and found himself being carefully studied by a very small girl with plaits and a doll under her arm; and a broad grin that showed the largest number of particularly white and sharp looking teeth.  He was horrified and woke himself up immediately only to find that he already was awake and that the girl was not a dream at all but really standing there, and really grinning, seemingly without any intention of ever leaving.  
Tom noticed the curve of her long red eyelashes, counted the freckles that flocked across her nose, and did everything possible to avoid looking at the knife the girl was holding onto with such a grim determination; the long knife with the bright red handle that looked so much the longer being in a child's hand and so much the sharper because of the blood.   Just like his wife he wanted to scream; but didn't.  He wanted to run or hide or disappear; but couldn't.  He stared at the girl, and she glared back, until his wife called him for his breakfast (for the second time) and at the sound of that sharp and irritated voice, the child vanished just like a popped balloon (but without the 'pop').
That morning, after his breakfast, Tom took all the kitchen knives and buried them deep under the Nasturtiums by the back door.  He hoped that he hadn't been seen by the neighbours, or anyone to do with the council, but he couldn't dare to wait until it got dark.  There had been something wild in that child's eyes that had made his flesh creep and he didn't really want to chance it.  He was worried.  It put him off his game so much that he landed in the rough more times than usual and even lost one ball over the cliff.  He heard his partner mutter something to their caddy and laugh.  They both laughed at him together and it ruined his day.  When he got home Tom found his dinner ruined too.  Barbara hadn't been able to follow the recipe properly, always looking up in case . . . and anyway, there weren't any knives to do the potatoes.
Tom and Barbara spent that evening sitting in front of a blank television screen, watching the ceiling and listening to the clunk slap of a ball being bounced up against the attic wall. Barbara was so scared she squeezed Tom's hand until it was white.  Every now and again there would be a pause in the game (whatever it might have been) and during that silence they could hear a little tinkling laugh, icy cold, like old frost in a galvanized bucket.  Tom didn't like that laugh; in many ways it was worse than the bouncing ball.  It sounded not quite right for a child, a little bit on the mad side, maybe, and he hated anything like that; especially after what had happened last year with Aunt Edie.  Tom squeezed Barbara's hand back until it went numb.  Slap clunk, slap clunk. The noise seemed to go on forever.  Tom and Barbara were just about as scared as they could ever be; but just past midnight the girl apparently got tired of her game and the house fell suddenly silent.  At last the couple were able to soak their painful fingers and try and get themselves some sleep.
The next morning, Barbara went downstairs to make the breakfast; and screamed.  There were little tufts of hair scattered all over the black and white tiles of her nice new kitchen floor.
The sudden scream woke up Tom who slowly opened his tired old eyes to find the child standing there the same as the day before, with her tiger's grin and ginger plaits, except that now her doll had half his hair cut away.  The girl was holding up Barbara's best dress-making scissors and whilst she stared at Tom she opened and closed them, opened and closed them, again and again; snip, snip, snip.
Tom was late for his golf.  As he struggled with the car keys, his neighbour glared at him as a punishment for all the noise last night and Barbara's screaming this morning.  Eastlake-On-Sea wasn't used to such rowdiness.  Tom smiled back a little sheepishly.  He pulled the wooly hat a little lower over his new, rather eccentric, hairstyle and hoped against hope the Barbara had managed to find somewhere safe to hide all her scissors.
Tom and Barbara spent a second evening sitting on the sofa listening to the ball bouncing against the attic wall.  It was a very annoying sound and Barbara was beginning to look a bit like Aunt Edie did; just before her little holiday.  Clunk slap, clunk slap.  It was more than she could bear.  She threw away Tom's hand and stood up.  She pulled her hair and rolled her eyes as she rushed from the room and stormed up the stairs to the attic; two steps at a time.  Tom held his breath.  He had never seen Barbara so angry.  He heard her reach the top of the stairs and open the door with a push and a slam!
'Will you stop that infernal noise'. he heard her scream. 'It's way past your bed-time.  If you don't behave yourself, you will have to go'.  And with that she turned on her heels and clattered back down the stairs.  I am not sure now, who was the most scared of Barbara, Tom or the ghost, but it certainly worked.  They didn't hear another peep from the girl all that night.  
'It wasn't a ball you know', whispered Barbara when at last she had come back to herself. 'She's playing with the dolls head; but it isn't a doll's head'.  She looked at Tom with wide eyes and trembled as she spoke; 'It's her brother's'.
The couple hardly slept a wink.
The next morning, when Tom woke, he found the girl standing by his bed again, this time with her thumb in her mouth just like any other child. Her eyes were swollen red as if she had been crying and, for the first time, he didn't feel quite so scared.  In fact she seemed rather sad really so he tried his best not to notice the bruises on the head of her doll; or stare too much at the brown marks on her summery dress that looked, to him, for all the world like dried blood.  
After Tom went off to the office, Barbara was left alone with the housework, her murder books, and the little visitor; who still showed no signs of wanting to leave.  It was a long day.  There was a thick sea-fret hanging around in the front room, which made the dusting rather difficult.  Barbara kept the main light on all day and it hung there, moon-pale and vague, staring out of the mist like the great eye of some long lost lighthouse; whilst outside in the hallway a strange wailing sound drifted up and down the stairs giving the frightened woman an almost painfull attack of the heebie-jeebies.  The girl herself took to appearing in odd places, at the most unexpected of times, and would stand at the bottom of the stairs, or in the kitchen doorway, staring and staring with her curious grey-green eyes as wide as any soup-plate, holding her brother by the remains of his hair and grinning, always grinning, until Barbara would loose her patience and shout.  
The child was sure to vanish if she was shouted at, but was never gone for long, and when she came back it was inevitably with more 'weather'.  Oh! how that creature loved a good fog!
Tom was late home that evening and looked very tired.  He asked, as he always did, how his wife's day had been and she answered, untruthfully (as she always did), 'fine'.  She didn't mention all the weather dripping over the front room, or the lights, or the mournfull wailing up and down the stairs; and he never told her how he was being teased over his new haircut, or about the large spotted cat, the colour of buttered toast, that had followed him to work, to the club and almost everywhere else, eventualy settling itself warm over his heart like some big, flat, stone.
However nothing lasts forever not even fear and desperation. Over the weeks, Tom and Barbara began to get used to having the little ghost around and almost stopped feeling scared; though they still kept the scissors hidden and checked, every day, that the Nasturtiums hadn't been disturbed.
Whenever she turned up, the child always had that ugly, half-bald boy-doll tucked under her arm and Barbara decided that both the 'children' ought to have names.  She called the girl 'Mabel', because she looked a little bit like her great auntie Mabel, who had once lived in Lewisham; and the doll she called 'Timothy' just because she liked the name and because if she had ever been blessed with a son that's who he would have been.  Tom and Barbara began to feel that now they were a family.  They became careless and that was how the secret finally came out.
It was Barbara's fault.  When the mobile library came round she asked for a book of ghost stories instead of her usual murders.  Mrs. Willis overheard and started to wonder.  The next day she and Mrs. Fielding, from number seventeen, invited themselves round for afternoon tea.  Barbara got into a right tizzy about it.  She made three sorts of sandwiches and a jam sponge, then ordered a half dozen mixed fancies from the bakers. That made the baker's wife suspicious and so then the gossip really started;  the Bennett's at number thirty-five were 'up to something'.  Cakes and screams and noises in the night must add up to something surely?  Rumours were started and some people thought about pointing a finger.  It was up to Mrs. Fielding and Mrs. Willis to find out what was going on, the gossips said, and that they did; though it turned out to be nothing like anything they could have possibly imagined.
Halfway through their tea, just as Barbara began, rather nervously, to cut the cake (she had bought a new knife special) a half-bald head rolled in through the doorway closely followed by the dramatic appearance of Mabel who had brushed out her ginger hair for the occassion and put on her bloodiest dress.  Barbara was horrified and ransacked her brain for any possible excuse or explanation she could use without appearing to have gone mad.  She couldn't have put up with that.  Everyone knew about aunt Edie of course, and had been very understanding at the time, but she doubted they would forgive the lightening a second strike.
The rolling head came to a bloody stop against one of Mrs. Fielding's sensible shoes, and Barbara feared the worst; but to her surprise the woman took no notice and went on with her tea as if nothing untoward had happened.  Well, she was a Vicar's wife, I suppose, and probably used to such things.  Mrs, Willis, of course, was naturaly politeness itself:
'And who, pray, is this young lady?' she asked, in her clipped Edinburugh drawl, looking over towards Mabel and sounding genuinely interested (which she was, as you know).
Barbara stuttered, 'Erhm, this is Mabel who has come to stay.  She is a . . . she's our ghost'.
Two flowery cups fell onto their two matching saucers with a splash and a clatter; and two pairs of penciled eyebrows were raised in astonishment.  Barbara held her breath and Mabel's freckled grin grew the wider.
'A ghost!' said Mrs. Willis, 'A real ghost?'.
'I'm afraid so', said Barbara, her eyes closed and fingers crossed, the crumbley knife held tight behind her back; hopefully out of Mabel's sight.
'Oh how marvelous!'. said Mrs. Fielding, 'My husband will be so fascinated'.
Barbara opened her eyes and stared with disbelief; that wasn't at all the reaction she had expected.
Mabel hadn't expected it either.  There was an icy blast across the room and a row of icicles formed along the edge of the imitation marble mantlepiece.  Barbara closed the door to hide the mournful cries from the hallway and she sincerely hoped the two ladies wouldn't be long having their tea.  Why, oh why, had she turned out so much food?
'My Edwin has always wanted to meet an unquiet spirit', continued Mrs. Fielding. 'Tell me, does she talk?'.
Barbara didn't think so.
'What a pity'.  The woman gently kicked Timothy's head back to his sister. 'Maybe we could use a Scrabble set.  I've got one somewhere I'm sure.  Could my husband and I come and see her tomorrow?'.
Barbara thought they could, if they wanted to, and then screamed.  Mabel had discovered the poker and was heating it up in the fire!
For the next few weeks, Tom and Barbara hardly had a moment to themselves; what with visitors all day and hauntings all night.  They had quickly become the celebrities of Eastlake-On-Sea, and because of them there were many changes:
Firstly, Mr. Willis decided that 'if they could have ghosts then he could have a train'; and he set about building a large expensive layout in his garden.   It was the sort of train that people could ride on and when he fired it up, the smoke swirled up into the sky like a great grey snake, towering over the little orange roofs and ruining all their flatness.  Then the Reverend Fielding was visited by angels in the night and they told him to build a tower onto the end of his house and fill it with bells.  This he did, despite the Council's objections, and from then on Eastlake-On-Sea became a very different sort of place, full of noise and very busy on a Sunday.  Trees were planted and aerials put up.  The television screens weren't always blank anymore.  
An official collection was made and a wooden bench, with the names 'Tom and Barbara' carved into its back, was installed on the cliffs so that people could admire the view without getting tired; and it soon became the favorite seat of an old buttery cat who could be found there, sleeping like a stone, at all times of the day or night.
Of course, by this time, Tom and Barbara no longer lived in the town.  After one last walk, hand in hand, along those self-same cliffs, they had quite suddenly, and with no explanation, moved on to pastures new.  Barbara never managed the perfect murder so she was allowed to join one of the grander celestial choirs; and Tom discovered a talent he never knew he had; becoming foreman in charge of the sunset painters who so ably looked after that part of the coast.  The couple were still very happy, the more so when they found, to their great relief, that Paradise generally discouraged flatness and, on a point of principle, excluded all ghosts (with or without brothers) along with the playing of any form of ball games after dark.
Tom and Barbaras's house was put up for sale and, after a good deal of financial pushing and shoving (as well as more than a shade of sculduggery), it was sold for a very good price, ghosts and all, to Joyce and Kenneth, a newly married couple from London who owned a pedigree dog and were absolutely thrilled at having a haunted house of their very own.
Unfortunately no-one knew to tell Kenneth about making sure the knives were buried, and Joyce never thought to hide the scissors, so their new life in the pleasant town of Eastlake-On-Sea was not quite as uneventful as they had hoped.
Mabel, on the other hand, was pleased as punch and the child grinned more than ever as she played with her brother in the attic, Clunk slap, clunk slap; and wandered through the house, snip, snip, snip.  She wailed up and down the stairs whenever she felt like it and let in a new fog every other day regardless; but best of all, Mabel was more than happy that, no matter what she did, no one ever, ever, dared to shout at her again.
I can't believe how many readers I seem to have found, not that I will be writing my Booker acceptance speech quite yet, but I have at least made a first step towards it and anyway, to be honest, my few readers mean more to me than any Bookery thousands.
Here is my latest effort, completed today, though it will maybe have a few changes in the future; the ending is a bit sudden.

  Revenge on the Square


There he is look, my old chum, irascible as ever.  Sitting up late in company with his old half-blind cat, Bunzel, and a bottle of cheap sherry; going through the day's papers in the hope of finding treasure.  Tonight it seems that he may have been lucky because out comes his scissors and snip snip; another tasty morsel for the archive.  Edward is proud of his collection of files and folders, organised boxes and haphazard piles of yellowed crumbling paper, that fills up so much of his life and so many acres of shelving.  It has taken him a good deal of effort to accumulate but was worth it, at least to him, as it has proved itself invaluable in many ways not least in helping him to earn quite a fair living in an unforgiving and difficult world, that of freelance journalism; and not just that.  His usual work, I am sure he wouldn't mind me telling you, was of a highly speculative and specific nature, much frowned upon by the intelligent press; that of the supernatural.
It was the strange and spooky, the unexplained and disbelieved, that he was interested in and Edward was never so happy as when he had one of his files out, lost within the net of his researches, chasing down all manner of herrings, be they red, pink or sky-blue purple.  Imagine for yourself an elderly Morse, hunting down puzzles in a Borgesian library, busily leaping from shelf to nonsensical shelf in a vain attempt at solving the great mystery of who killed the English language, or at best, robbed literature at pen-point and made off with its heritage.
Snip, snip, yes, he has something at last!  He's hauled himself out of his comfy fireside chair, thrown the mutilated newspaper behind him, and weighted down its body with the murderous scissors.  He has shuffled of towards his shelves, the precious cutting held before him between a shaky finger and inky thumb, distant, reverential; a trodden creepy crawly or a pennyworth of flayed skin from a recent martyr.  He finds the wanted file.  He opens it with the care of a new parent opening the door to their daughter's nursery and places the infant offering safe inside with a sigh.  He is mightily pleased yet it is a small enough creature really, merely a footnote to the great scheme of things, a piece of literary fluff, a sensationalist chip from the old 'silly season' block that scarcely requires any attention paid to it;  except that I know different.
By some strange quirk of fate, or circumstance, I know this story, the real one that is, the one that lies unread between the words; the one that sulks beneath the froth more than half obscured by the insincere vagaries and bland exaggerations of a, luckily for them, nameless hack.  Just how I know I will not say.  It has little bearing on the case and I am almost certain I would not be believed in any case.  It is sufficient for you to know that I have my sources and I assure you they are all good ones (in the main), and of the highest reliability.
* * *
The story concerned the finding of a body, cold and grey as an unlettered  gravestone, neatly arranged across a checker-board floor (White Knight's fourth to be exact and on the diagonal!) with no readily discernible cause of death nor any convincing reason to be where he was.  
What's that you say, a sudden death?  Unexplained?  Where's the sensation in that?  There must be a dozen every week.  Two dozen.  Three even!  The television's full of them; and, of course, you're probably right except that I hadn't quite finished.  Firstly, you see, it was soon established that the deceased had met his end solely through fright, a damn good scare in fact, and secondly the distinctive floor, so obvious if you are in the know, was that of the local Masonic Hall; a grim place indeed for such an exotic event.
As corpses go, Little Jimmy's was as poor a specimen as you could imagine and lying there, waxy skinned and pale, draped indifferently across the stark black-and-white tiles, he resembled nothing so much as an unstrung puppet; a Pinocchio without his magic dream.  He lay there twisted, half on his back, his surprised face staring up at the star-struck ceiling with such an expression of fear and horror written across it that even I looked away, unwilling to share, albeit by proxy, in the terror that the man had obviously felt during his last few minutes.
It was doubtful, no, strike that; it was a sure fire certainty, that despite his rather pathetic and mysterious end, James Auger esquire, probably the last male equivalent of a 'spinster of the parish', would not be greatly mourned or missed in any way except as a long endured boil being finally burst, an itch scratched or a festering splinter recently removed from a red and throbbing derrière.  By common consent he was, or had been, a thoroughly nasty man, and I should think that across the land, and within many a deep panelled chamber, glasses were being raised that evening and toasts made in celebration.  
The story of his life was not such a long one, nor over-burdened with incident, because through it all he had managed to accomplish precisely nothing,   His first career had taken him nowhere worth the getting to; so that lately the man had been forced to earn his daily bread from being a minor clerical cog within a great company machine that, to his eternal frustration, hardly knew of his existence (and cared even less).  He'd dreams of course, convoluted plans and schemes a-plenty, but nothing had actually been done.   James had lived an empty life alone in an empty, soul-less cave of a flat which had been carved from a newly built mausoleum disfiguring the edge of an old distinguished town that undoubtedly deserved far better.  I say 'lived' but he was hardly ever there.  Over time, the obstinate man argued with most of his family up to and past the point of no return.  He'd no friends worthy of the term, and few, if any, visitors that were not compelled out of duty or business.  Consequently his time was spent either at his place of work, where he was severely (if secretly) disliked, or at the lodge, where he was (without too fine a point) openly hated.
James  you see, had been a life long Mason.  Not out of any deep felt sympathy with his brother man, nor even out of any Blytonesque desire to be part of a gang and play at secret signs or codes, all boys together, dyb dyb dyb and so on; but purely out of the need for some sort of status, to have power, influence and coincidentally, but just as importantly, a few extra bob in the bank. He wanted, desperately, to be close to the top of one of life's ladders and, as he knew he couldn't manage much out in the real world, he sought to scale the necessary heights within the confines of a smaller one; one that had more obvious rules and less certainty of failure.  The Masons were his home and his nursery, the little pond in which he could swim the bigger fish, his begrudging family that, just like his real one, would preffer, by far, to have done without.
I only met him the once.  He was, I found, a charming fellow, amiable to a fault, but the smile was only on his lips never in his eyes which always had a scared but calculating look in them, as if he were searching for a weakness but frightened of finding it in case it was within himself and not his acquaintance. I nearly said 'opponent' as he did seem to look upon any meeting as a trial of will.  Who's in charge? Who would have the upper hand?  The word I would use to describe him, if I ever had to, would be 'Heepish', a dickens of a word that is probably my own invention. Other than that the word 'sly' comes to mind; a good old word that seems to include, within its economy of size, all the slipperiness, suspicion and arrogance he personified so neatly.  
James was as vain as the proverbial; conceited as any dictator and twice as insecure.  If his job allowed, he would have worn a uniform, one with all the extra braid and frogging he could muster and all the medal ribbons he could invent.  In fact he conducted himself, at all times, as if he were already fully kitted out in such an outfit and, imaginary as it was, he was always somewhat put out that nobody seemed impressed by it or able to defer to it as tradition, or his frail ego, required.  
He was fearless in his vanity and it was an armour that few, if any, could penetrate except, well, except that like all armoured warriors he had one little weakness, one chink through which his victims could slip a swift retaliation, and that weakness, in this case, was his height; or lack of it.  James Auger was rather on the short side (hence his unofficial moniker 'Little Jimmy'), and any reference to that sad fact, real or imagined, was sure to sting him as sharp as any arrow point of Paris,   Such was his sensitivity on the subject that, had he overheard the Tyler refer to him as 'a jumped up little Hitler' (a reference often made), it was the word 'little' that he would have taken the most exception to and caused the greatest offence.
That one meeting of ours, short but memorable for all the wrong reasons, had been enough to last.  I kept out of his way as much as possible from then on and I am glad, in a way, that our second encounter was as one sided as it was.  You see it was me as found the body.
* * *
No one could explain, with any credible certainty, just how the man came to be alone in the Temple after the place was known to have been shuttered-up and secured for the night, though it was such a rambling, mysterious place that almost anything was possible.
The building, like many of the brethren who met there, was both middle aged and unremarkable having been put together in the first quarter of the nineteenth century and tricked out in a neat but un-imposing style that the likes of Pevsner would probably describe as 'mock late-Georgian'.  However, by the end of that busy century, the Victorian fathers had made their mark covering that utilitarian skeleton with a body of Gothic curlicues and vague Arthur-isms that were intended both to impress and to create a connection, of sorts, with the lodge's supposed medieval antecedents.  They succeeded to perfection.  No expense had been spared by those ambitious individuals so that amongst the carved shields and symbolic allusions that littered the walls and furniture, the muttered oaths and invented precedence that haunted the rooms and corridors, it was not surprising to find that the place had been initiated with its very own ghost; a fierce, unfeeling creature, a Templar knight who had died un-shriven under murderous circumstances and who was known to walk the hall at the dead of certain nights seeking vengeance for wronged brothers or martyred Masons; past or present.
Little Jimmy was fully aware of the legendary knight but was not superstitious, at least not enough to let it stop his skulduggery, in fact, such was the low opinion he had of his fellows, he was relying on it to narrow down the chances of his discovery.  They were such a credulous bunch of ninnies, he thought, that few, if any, would dare brave the Temple in the small of the night especially after all the hints and suggestions he himself had spread around and about the place over the recent weeks.
James, you see, had recently suffered yet another attempt at getting him expelled from the lodge.  The usual reasons of course; un-kept promises, unpaid bills, the placing of metaphorical knives between unsuspecting shoulder blades and gossip, always gossip!  The creature was past master at the art of rumouring and innuendo, the insidious aside and the almost imperceptible hint or allusion.  He hadn't been worried, at first, after all he had been through it all before, on several different occasions in fact, and had always weathered the storm; but this time it was different, the opposition a little more organised, a little more determined.  He was thinking it best not to leave anything to chance; hence this nocturnal visit.  His purpose was to look about a bit; to run his fingers through some drawers and delve into a pocket or two, poke around in any cupboards he could find, any likely looking cabinets, and generally to ferret out anything, good or, hopefully bad, that may afford him some leverage, giving him an edge so to speak, to use in the coming campaign.  The man was up against it but determined.  He was not about to loose everything without a fight and knew, from past experience, that there was always something to be found.
A Masonic hall is not a difficult place to burglarise, once one is inside, as the codes of the organisation, considered unbreakable by all but James, generally discourage the necessity for locks and keys.  Even the building itself lends a hand as there are no windows, not even a spiteful skylight, to peach on a visitor by showing a torch beam to any inquisitive passers by.  In fact lights can be put on with impunity and noise is scarcely a problem either with such walls as these, well made for the keeping in of secrets and the keeping out of prying eyes.
James had been about his business for some hours, with indifferent success, when he found himself crossing through the main body of the place, the Temple itself, where all the fraternal mysteries had their focal point of perspective.  It was probably about three in the morning, that strange time when the night takes a dip and pauses before it starts its climb into the new day.   Three is when light sleepers turn over and re-gather the bedclothes against the chill and people say that it is also a popular time for death's unwelcomed visit around the homes and hospitals of the country.  Just the thought of three in the morning brings a shudder and a nervousness, even to me, and James was no stranger to this common susceptibility.  He stopped and glanced about him; a guilty rat waiting for a probable pounce.  The silence creaked.
It was precisely that time when, in certain types of film, a base clock, conveniently alluded to in a previous scene, would count out the hours with a reverberating hollowness, emphasising the emptiness of the place and drawing attention to the vulnerability of the tiny figure alone amongst the shadows.  Bonggg! Bonggg! Bongggggg!  James shuddered, his imagination providing the echo of the strike, his eyes eating into the darkness desperate to find some sort of safety.  Another creak but this time more sustained. The door posts before him seemed to move.  They lost their gloss and wrinkled, putting out shoots that quickly stretched into branches fully twigged and leaved, perfectly convincing as only nightmare trees can be.  All the bench-ends and chair backs threw up stems as well, one after the other, and the walls soon disappeared amongst the shadows that crouched within the leafy gloom.   An owl hooted. The air thickened with the atmosphere of sap and unseen animals, the pollen and the living dust that danced up amongst the stars; the smell of open space.
At either end, the grand chairs resplendent in their gilt and velveteen, mossed over and became embowered amongst the ivied trees.  Another hoot, this time more urgent, further away in the depths of the wood.  A distant hunter.  James staggered and nearly lost his footing as the tiles beneath him cracked and heaved with the pressure of the hungry roots, grass growing through the gaps with flowers amongst the grass, until the whole room resembled nothing so much as a forest glade.  A fox barked amongst the ferns.  A sudden breeze made James look up; just in time to see the tail of a falling star arc across the sky, daybreak to twilight, dawn to dusk, and disappear before the storm clouds gathered.
The breathy wind became a little more lively, stirring the leaves and even moving a branch or two in its eagerness.  There was a roll of thunder.  The leaves danced with excitement.   Then the lightning sizzled through the air followed by the inevitable crash!  James looked into the tangle of trees that stood between him and where the doorway had been just moments ago.  He stared with wide and frightened eyes because he had seen, or he thought he had seen, a movement.  It couldn't be; but flash! another bolt lit up the spaces under the maddened leaves and there it was;  the sparkle of light from the mail, the shine of armour and the sudden glint from the blade edge.  There stood the knight in all its frightfulness, its face clearly seen under the broken helmet: the empty hollows that held no human eyes, the sheared hawk's nose, and beneath them a blood caked beard, parted by a mortal slash that only served to emphasise the gleaming bone and grinning teeth beneath.  He took a step forward and James reached out to fend him off, to push him away, to delay, if he could the inevitable; but the hand met no resistance.  The air was clear; the knight as tangible as vapour.  The sword was raised and flashed, sharp as the lightning, as it dropped onto James's head.  He screamed, just the once, and in the silence that followed he fell, like the sack of evil bones he was, across the polished tiles of the Temple floor, never to move again.
* * *
'Riveting stuff', I hear you say, 'very thrilling, very 'Boy's Own'. but . . . but . . .'.  
Yes, there are always 'buts' to be had.  Every author has them, every story-teller fears them, but they are a necessary fact of creative life.  For instance you might ask how, if James had been alone in that fortress of a hall, how did I come to find his body?  Well, I could say, by way of explanation, that I too had overstayed my welcome and gotten myself locked in; although in my case purely by accident.  
The particular Temple in question serves, as you may know, more than one lodge and so, having slightly more money to hand than other such establishments, it had a few extra amenities, among them a comfortable and well stocked library (the envy of many a fog-bound  Gentleman's club in far-off London town), which is where I had fallen asleep over a comforting volume of Blackwood's tales, snug in a voluminous chair and which is why, I suppose, I hadn't been noticed when the Tyler made his rounds.
Then again, you might also reasonably inquire, how I came to be privy, in such mesmerising detail, to the hated man's last moments on this earth?  
Ah-ha!  There you have me!  I should have quit whilst the going was good. I suppose, now, I shall have to come clean?  Well, O.K., I admit it, it was all a story.  There was no Templar ghost.  There was no body and no hated and reviled James (at least not there) and that Mason's hall is a fiction too; though there may well be something similar somewhere in this poor benighted land.
The thing is; my chum Edward, well,  I love him dearly (he is my oldest friend) but he's a prize bore sometimes as well as something of a diva. Me! me! me!  He can be more than difficult when the mood takes him and, on occasion, a little selfish, especially when it comes to stories.  Over and again he has stolen ideas from me, wiped the sweat from my imaginative brow and wrung it into print on his own behalf, stealing my hard dreampt ideas and leaving me bereft, deadlines looming and nothing in store.  I'd had enough!
So, I thought, I would get back my own.  I planted a story, the purest fiction of my own invention, into a late edition (it isn't hard at this time of year if you know the right editor), and waited for Edward to plunder it.  He could hardly resist: a frightened corpse and the Mason's too?  Perfection!  All I had to do is wait for him to refer to it, as a fact, in one of his articles or pompous books and then I should have him!  Exposed!  The gullible Mr. Sampson stripped for all to see.
Of course I'll never go through with it;  I never do.  A friend is a friend after all but, my goodness, he is so irritating at times!  That story was obviously hokum and yet he swallowed it all, hook and byline complete, despite his being 'an authority on the subject' and knowing full well that the press can't be trusted; especially if I'm on the staff!  
It is possible, I suppose, that it was only honest greed on his part, an overwhelming desire to collect every story he could find regardless, a minor species of addiction; or maybe he's a secret fan of my work and, recognising it as such, sought only to preserve it for posterity.  A friend might do that, Perhaps, but for whatever reason Edward chose to dilute his store of knowledge with such glaring nonsense, I am done.  It's beyond me.  I shall leave him to his own company from now on and welcome to it.   He always was something of an enigma, wasn't he, and I doubt if he will ever change.  I don't know why he named his cat 'Bunzel' either.  Interesting though isn't it?
* * * * *

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maryanne42
Brian Partridge
Artist | Professional | Varied
United Kingdom

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:iconbustermaximus:
bustermaximus Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2017
Your drawings are gorgeous.
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:iconmaryanne42:
maryanne42 Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2017  Professional General Artist
thank you kidly.  Much appreciated
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:iconlucy-ro:
lucy-ro Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
Your works have quite the intricate detailing! Just magnificent!!
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:iconmaryanne42:
maryanne42 Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2017  Professional General Artist
Thank you kindly
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:icondrawn2pencils:
drawn2pencils Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Fantastic devotion to your love of art.  Forced to Watch.
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:iconavilef62:
avilef62 Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2016  Professional Traditional Artist
Nice
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:iconsapmilife:
Sapmilife Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2015
Your art is wonderful, so different and so many details.
I must ask you a question - I'm from Sweden, and I have seen one of your drawings in a Facebook group and someone have painted it, is that okey?
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:icongreenmomwithtwins:
greenmomwithtwins Featured By Owner Oct 19, 2015
If a picture paints a thousand words then you may well have a library worth of words in each of your pictures.  I love that I am able to imagine that I am in the world your work would bring to life.  You have a beautiful talent.  I can hardly wait to see what you will do next.
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:iconmaryanne42:
maryanne42 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2015  Professional General Artist
thank you kindly .  much needed encouragement gratefully received,
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:iconkitgryph:
kitgryph Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2015
Ah, I see,,,. I hate computers myself,, though I am likewise addicted to the bloody things. Sigh.
I shall then live on hope, and expectation, for the seeing of more of your work. Hope that is good for a dram of enthusiasm and the like.
Ciao.
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