We hope to bring back the short stories, news and comment from the writing team David Coles and Jack Everett, aka Everett Coles, from Adele Abbot and from our friends... we write fantasy and science fiction, historical and thriller fiction and may poke our noses into places where they're not wanted!
Studies in Shadow...from the team at Archimedes Presse breaking news: book of the month for July at the Book Awards ~ 'The Diamond Seekers'
It seems obvious that most people have an
unconscious realization that something odd happens at the heart of a
functioning washing machine. A realization which most are too diffident to
discuss with others.
How many people have bitten their tongue
rather than given vent to their feelings when an article of clothing has
emerged so tangled and unrecognisable that it is beyond wearability?
Well, these changes are the result of
messing with the basic stuff of the universe, the causality which underpins our
very existence. I have invested considerable time (and space)in understanding
the nature of the phenomena.
THE INTERCHANGEABILITY CONJECTURE.
At the heart of the washing machine is a
drum, sometimes carefully non-cylindrical, sometimes merely studded with three
or four ribs protruding into the interior. These departures from symmetry or
smoothness not only stir up the washing load but interact with, at least, the
three familiar dimensions of space and one of time.
This results in garments being turned –
partially or fully – inside out: knickers with the label firmly attached to the
outside, shirts with one or both arms inside out – even with a breast pocket
inside out and everything else apparently
The reason behind this is that the three
dimensions of observable space become muddled, width may become height, length
become width, and so on. Rather less common is the incident of a fourth spatial
dimension being involved – where half a pair of socks will disappear completely
and turn up in some other washing machine entirely. Finally is the equally
confusing occurrence when a lone sock or any other small garment disappears
only to reappear in a later wash – and usually right side out.
Large washing machines – like those in
launderettes – are less prone to the problems of the smaller domestic
varieties. Their larger drum size is not able to disturb the spacial dimensions
to the same extent but, when there are such occasions, the results can be very
much more serious and widespread. A street full of shops suddenly collapsing, a
carefully constructed pile of boxes suddenly falling apart, even individuals
vanishing and coming to in a totally unknown location or never being found
again; this last phenomenon is more likely to happen to elderly males using
laundry facilities after work or late in the evening.
THE FOLLOW-THROUGH COROLLARY
Now that we have seen how common these
phenomena are, it is possible to follow-up on slightly more complicated
It becomes obvious with a little thought
that the entanglement of the contents of a washing machine is almost universal.
Indeed, the odd garment which emerges right side outside and in a more less
recognisable shape is not an article which has escaped entanglement, it is an
article which has undergone entanglement twice, four or any even number of
times. A garment with, say one leg inside out and the other right side out, is
a garment which has experienced partial entanglement. There may also be
occasions when the lone sock has been moved to a future or past machine cycle
and returned along the same time-like curve.
I have derived equations to describe the
dimensional interactions involved but they are currently the subject of patent
applications and so cannot be divulged here, even if there were the space (and
time) to do so.
I am willing to accept invitations to speak
on the subject in return for only slightly exorbitant fees. Please write to the
Institute for Research into Temporary Space-Time like Curves at Droppeny Marsh,
In less than an hour the austringas, clad in black
spiked leather with their claymores across their backs, assembled in the square
astride their short legged Doolish unicorns, holding onto leashes fastened to
the jesses on the legs of their restless shawkyn spooghey. "We go this
morrow to feed our bond-mates troll flesh!" cried Olloo, as he drew forth
his claymore with a ring. At once the entire squad bolted away into the dark
with the red glow of dawn at their backs.
Through the Great Strah they charged, big blue stem
grass waving above their heads in the growing light, Dooleys at full gallop
with the giant black crested white falcons impatiently idling along at their
sides, keenly anxious for the big kill ahead. Flushed larks tinkled, soaring
high into the sky from the ground here and there along the way. By broad
daylight, the Maidenhair Woods rose up ahead once again. The austringas dismounted
their lathered and winded Dooleys and left them with jockeys as they hurried
into the woods on foot with their strike falcons. Through the timber they went,
softening the falcons' movements with shushed encouragements.
At the edge of the clearing below the cave they found
Yn Armee in the broad daylight, sitting dead silent in the maidenhair ferns on
either side of their assembled trebuchet, its gigantic boom drawn back with a
huge petard in its sling and fastened with a trip. In the ferns nestled two
more petards, ready if needed. The austringas and their strike falcons began
carefully taking positions. Tramman and Jeelys took up a position safely to one
side of the mouth of the cave while Obbree and his falcon, Aalid took the other
side. Olloo and Baase found a position between the Cave and the trebuchet, with
the remaining bond-mates scattered between. When they were settled, Olloo gave
the signal and Yn Armee Hassooagh lit their petard and launched it at the mouth
of the cave.
Right in. A bone-jarring explosion inside the cave
thumped the ground all over the hillside. After a second's hesitation, muffled
screams and shouts could be heard within, boiling over to echo through the
woods as Elf Killers came running and stumbling out of the cave mouth, covered
with bleeding cuts, led by Fnanar, the big male known to them as the Big
Butcher, who had snatched the first child from Balley Cheerey. Jeelys and Aalid
jumped him together, disemboweling him before he hit the ground. In less than a
minute they had him thoroughly shredded. Jeelys gobbled down a piece of his
windpipe and with a flutter of his stubby wings, knocked down another troll who
was running by. Tramman and Obbree charged amongst the fleeing Marooderyn
Imshee, cleaving head after head with furious two handed swings of their
claymores as all the rest of the austringas, strike falcons and Yn Armee
Hassooagh jumped into the fray.
Baase had just started making a kill as Olloo yanked
back his claymore from a killing thrust he had just made. "Tramman!"
he hollered as he turned to see Fnanar's brother Gnophn running for the brush
at the edge of the clearing. "That one! Get him!"
Tramman turned and concentrated on Gnophn disappearing
into the brush as he whistled for Jeelys, who streaked right to place in the
brush where Gnophn had vanished and crashed out of sight. Tramman charged
after, claymore in hand. In a few minutes, he and Jeelys returned to find the
"Did you manage to get him?" said Olloo,
still catching his breath as he pulled out a rag to clean his blade.
"He got clean away," said Tramman.
"Did you recognize him?"
"Isn't he the other really big one who always
turned up alongside Big Butcher?"
"I'm certain of it," he said as he started
his sword into its scabbard. "Next time they attack, even if it's years
from now, I'd lay odds he'll be the one leading them. Now I'm not taking you to
task, Tramman. If anyone could have got him it would've been you or Jeelys, but
it's right ill news all the same, him getting away."
Tramman drug his filthy blood spattered arm across his
sweaty brow and looked out across the quiet carnage. To his elation, scores of
the Marooderyn Imshee had fallen. At least this was some vengeance for the
three children, and felling Fnanar first thing had certainly done away with
their nightmarish might for the time being. However, he quickly saw others who
wrenched his heart. They too, had lost many men, austringas and army alike. And
they had lost the only two strike falcons he had seen killed in his entire ten
years as an austringa. He hoped it had been worth the cost.
That evening, after an eternity of twenty four hours,
Inney heard sudden pounding footsteps and her bed being dragged aside overhead.
She jerked upright, breathing in tight little gasps as her heart pounded in her
ears. It was either over or this was her death coming. Suddenly the trapdoor
was thrown back and light flooded into the cellar, blinding her to the
silhouette who had just stepped into the light. She flung her arm across her
face to shade her eyes, still unable to see.
"It is safe to come out now, Inney!" called
Tramman as he came down a step. "They're gone and won't be coming back any
time soon." He was elated, but he also had a strange tone to his voice.
"How can you be so sure?" said Inney, with
the skepticism of one who has seen far too much evil.
Tramman tousled her short silver hair and said:
"Fetch your eyas out of the cellar and I'll tell you everything."
Inney nodded and followed him out at once. She
carefully set Sheshey on the shelf by her bed and sat down on it beside Tramman
and waited with large solemn eyes for him to tell his tale.
"It was amazing, Inney," he said. "It
went almost exactly as Olloo had planned. Since the stinkers raided while it
was still light, we were finally able to track them into the Maidenhair Woods
to their huge cave that runs back into the first slope of the Sleityn Beayn. We
had only to return with our strike falcons and Yn Armee Hassooagh used their
trebuchet to throw a petard into the mouth of it. They must've thought the
mountain was falling on them. When they came frothing from the mouth of the
cave, their Big Butcher, the one Olloo's certain has been leading their raids,
was right in the lead. He was a true coward when his own hide was in danger,
like most bullies."
"So, then what happened?"
"Obbree and Aalid were positioned on one side of
the cave and Jeelys and I were on the other. Both falcons pounced on him at
once. They gave him exactly what he had coming, and right smart. Then they went
to work on other trolls, one after another. Of course Obbree and I were busy
cleaving heads, alongside the regular army. So it was an easy victory."
"Easy?" said Inney looking at him with
"Yes. Our quick dispatch of their Big Butcher
knocked them boss-eyed."
"Good," said Inney. "And, then you
rescued the captives?"
Tramman's face fell as he looked away. "None
"Dear Fates," said Inney with a dry swallow,
as she bravely kept her proper posture in spite of the fact that she was seven
years old and badly needed a hug. "Dear, dear Fates." A tear raced
down her cheek. She had played with those kids.
This married team write what might be the most blood
thirsty stories you can find in fantasy (five, currently on Amazon). It’s not
the clash of titans or the war against Satan, it’s a constant war between elves
– whom we’ve come to think of as a refined race – thanks to Tolkien, and trolls
whom we traditionally think of as dim-witted and slightly laughable creatures –
thanks to Terry Pratchett. Probably nursery rhymes also have something to do
So these gruesome and gory tales are quite startling
to the new reader. Make sure you’ve got the hand of youngster close by –to clutch at when you’re most disturbed.
carefully put away the birthday gifts which she had received for her seventh
naming day (ninety-ninth birthday) in the small shed which she would call home
for the next several years. Most of her presents would not be used for some
time except for the hamper, where her downy eyas would sleep and grow into the
shawk spoogh or strike falcon, who would be her companion for the rest of her life.
Of course, she would at once fasten the jesses and bells to his legs in
preparation for the day she would use the swivel and leash. She would have to
get him used to wearing the rufter hood right away as well, or at least as soon
as he would allow her to touch him without shying away, since it was one of the
most important training tools an Elven austringa had.
studied her eyas as he in turn watched every single movement of hers with keen
orange eyes from the straw of his hamper by her bed. "Sizing me up, are
you, Sheshey?" she said. "I hope you approve of what you see because
you've got me for good." She washed her hands in the small basin as she
was told to do before handling him. "Well, time to get acquainted."
She picked up the special feather from Tramman's shawk spoogh, Jeelys and
approached, talking reassuringly to him. Slowly she touched him with it for the
first time. He trembled just enough to notice, but did not jerk away as she
knew many new ones do. Thus encouraged, she stroked him generously. He was
quite wary at first, but he never jumped or pulled away. With a smile of
delight, she put away the feather for the time being.
knock on the door announced that Tramman had arrived with feed. He was a master
austringa who had been assigned as her mentor. He and his shawk spoogh, Jeelys,
had been together for ten years already.
in Tramman!" she called out.
door opened vigorously as the youthful Elf entered, smiling as he handed hera
pail of freshly cubed lean beef. She gave the whistle she had decided upon as
she took a piece of the meat and passed it by Sheshey's face.
you'll never be called Ooree again," said Tramman. "So now that
you're Inney forever, what'll you call him?"
will be Sheshey, I think," said Inney as she began feeding the eyas piece
after piece of meat. "Don't you think it suits him?"
mate, aye?" said Tramman with a sincere nod. "It seems right
nodded and then froze to listen with horror as screams suddenly broke out all
around outside the eyas shed.
ordered Tramman, as he rushed to fling aside the throw rug and lift the
trapdoor to the cellar made for this very purpose.
did not have to be told twice. She snatched up Sheshey in his box and flew down
the steps and into the cellar. She lit the oil lamp and turned to see if
Tramman had come down, just as the trapdoor closed. He stayed above. She
listened to him dragging her bed across the floor to better hide the way to
where she was. Somehow she knew he would join the battle. She prayed the Fates
would spare him and Jeelys. They were the best team of their clan and were both
her friends. She sat on the cot that would be her bedtonight if the
battle went long, she pulled Sheshey's box close to her.
felt a wave of fear and pain as she remembered a particular raid that the
Marooderyn Imshee or Elf Killers, a kind of troll, had made on her clan when
she was seventy-one (five for an Elf). They took many women and children
including her, along with her own mother and baby brother. She had been one of
the few lucky ones to be rescued by the clan's austringas and strike falcons,
but not before she hadexperienced the horror of watching her mother and brother
cooked alive and then eaten. She knew she would always live with the nightmare.
She wondered who would die this time.
his sword drawn, Tramman threw open the door of the eyas shed just in time for
Jeelys to knock down and rip open one of the Marooderyn Imshee right in the
doorway. Jeelys spun around and pounced on another troll. The one in the
doorway staggered up onto a knee, intestines hanging. As he drew back his spear
to hurl at Jeelys Tramman ran him through at the shoulder blades with his
claymore, then had to draw back and run to jump across his huge carcass to get
outside. By now Jeelys had thoroughly ripped apart the second troll and with a
rasping shriek had knocked down a third. Tramman looked around wildly and
dashed off after a Marooderyn Imshee who had just snatched up a little girl.
With furious rage he leaped and planted a foot in the small of the troll's back
and cleaved his head with a ringing two handed swing of his claymore. The child
tore away screaming, drenched in the brute's blood.
immediately wheeled aside to help his master Olloo, who was bleeding badly from
his shoulder while being set upon by a particularly huge Marooderyn Imshee.
With a decisive roar, the troll knocked the sword from Olloo's hand and drew
back his mace to make his kill. Tramman sliced off the troll's arm just above the
elbow. The troll swung 'round, his eyes ablaze with fury, blood pumping from
his stump, as he thrust forth with a spear in his remaining hand. Tramman was
caught by surprise. He stumbled, catching himself on his elbows, losing his
sword as he fell. As the troll drew back the spear to finish him, Olloo slashed
the brute deeply across his back. At once Jeelys slammed into him feet first,
knocking him down and disemboweling him, ripping open his throat with his
rose on wobbly legs and stood beside Olloo. They studied the grizzly remains of
their attackers as Jeelys gave the last troll a final shake for good measure
and turned his bloody beak to snap up a stray piece of Elf Killer meat clinging
to Tramman's hair. Satisfied that Tramman was indeed unharmed, he stood on the
troll's remains and set to work, preening the ichor of battle from his
let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. He noticed how eerily
still things had become and glanced about warily to see if the enemy was
entirely gone. "I can't believe that they attacked with this much
daylight," he said. "Have you seen them do this before?"
since the one time when I was younger than you," said Olloo as he clapped
his arm around Tramman's shoulders. "This gives us the opportunity of a
lifetime. Obbree saw the Big Butcher amongst the first wave of them. Come. We
must gather the austringas and the regular army and find their stinking
it's going to be dark right soon. The strike falcons won't come and the light
will be entirely gone, long before we reach the mountains."
won't need the falcons, and all we need is to see just how they entered
Maidenhair Woods to figure out their cave. Besides, there's going to be a full
moon. We've had this strategy waiting for months. Just get moving."
knew he was lucky to get this much out of Olloo. He immediately took Jeelys to
the mews and hurried to the council house where he found Olloo and the other
austringas and some of the regular army. At once the austringas were on the
trail of the Elf Killers. The regular army, known to them as Yn Armee
Hassooagh, followed slowly in their wake, quietly hauling along a disassembled
siege engine. They covered almost two leagues, running over the table-flat Strah,
through the ten foot tall big blue stem grass before the light failed. Nearly a
league remained between them and the woods and mountains, but by the looks of
things the trolls had done all of the furtive switching of directions that they
were going to during their first league out from Balley Cheerey, and now their
trail was heading for the woods in a straight line. They would search for the
nearest cave straight into the woods. Yn Armee Hassooagh would wait for them
outside the woods in the edge of the Strah.
a narrow border of briar and rose thicket, the Maidenhair Woods reared up
abruptly at the feet of the Eternal Mountains or Sleityn Beayn. Here, Olloo,
Trammen and Obbree left the other austringas to wait for Yn Armee while they
entered the woods to scout for theMarooderyn Imshee encampment. They had to be most cautious for fear of
being spotted by the trolls, who could see far better in the dark than any
Elves. They were in luck, for before long Tramman spotted a light high up on a
slope that rose Out of a clearing, which turned out to be a cooking fire at the
mouth of a large cavern occupied by trolls. Tramman was sent ahead to
investigate. He crept his way up the slope to some bushes to behold in horror
the trolls gathered around the fire, feasting on the roasted carcasses of the
three children they had stolen away from the village well in Balley Cheerey. He
crawled away as quick and as far as he could so that he would not be heard.
"Cursed drogh spyrrdyn!" he said, coughing on his vomit. "Rotten
found Olloo and Obbree and they returned with his news to a most grim-faced
group of austringas at the edge of the Strah.
hope we kill every one of those oainjeragh," said Daaney, a gnarly faced
Elf with coal black hair. His heated pronouncement was met with a round of
hearty agreement, but they all lapsed into silence. No one really wanted to
talk about it.
thought Tramman as he gave a
convulsive shudder, trying to control his fury. Children! Those monsters are
eating innocent children. He glanced aside at Olloo and saw by the tear
tracks on his master's grimy cheeks that he had been having his own reactions
to this atrocity. He clenched his fists and pounded the dirt where he squatted,
silently vowing to make every one of the foul beasts suffer and die that he
could. And how he hoped the Fates would grant that it would be a good many of
needed to be afoot to track, but no unicorns was an oversight," said Olloo.
"Three leagues is a long run this night to be back by sunrise with our
shawkyn spooghey. Let's go."
the austringas arrived back at Balley Cheerey it felt as though it had an air
of morbid expectancy about it. Of course, thought Tramman grimly. None
of them ever believed we'd get back with the little tykes. They've only waited
for affirmation so they can get on with mourning. He felt a hot shot of
anger surge through him.
said Tramman quietly, as if he were speaking out at a funeral, which he
I release Inney from her cellar, or wait?"
her to stay until we return again. The Marooderyn Imshee might follow us back
to here once we've done our deed. She'd better stay put."
nodded as he and Obbree headed for the eyas shed to look in on Inney on their
way to the mews.
A STRANGER WILL TELL YOU MORE THAN A FRIEND Part
of our morality tale by
“Mind if I join you Harry?”
I am, as by now you will have
gathered, many things but one thing I’m not and that’s ungracious and
gratuitously rude. Give me reason to be so, and I will, but it was Gerald’s
presence I resented, he had yet to rile me.
“Not at all old boy. One thing James
is not, and that’s skimpy on supplies. Plenty of glasses in the cabinet and, as
of yet, I’ve not drunk all the Scotch. Nuts and bites over there as well. Have
you eaten Gerald? I expect there’s food enough to feed the fifty-thousand in
the kitchen. All the staff may have gone though.”
“No, I ate at the club.” He
grabbed a glass from the bow-fronted, walnut drinks cabinet, a crystal affair
with the Devenish coat of arms: a pair of peacocks embossed on it; and then,
much to my annoyance, took the decanter and placed it on another table out of
“Have you met up with all the
rest?” I asked, standing and making a point of retrieving what I considered to
be mine. I replaced it heavily in its square coaster, and carried on speaking.
“There’s some blackjack, and
whatever, going on elsewhere that should interest you old sport.” Hoping that
he took my point of wanting to be on my own.
I didn’t know him well and didn’t
want to. He was a tall imposing man, late fifties with a full head of grey
hair, a gushing personality which suited his proprietorship of one of London’s
oldest and most prestigious gambling clubs -- strictly members only. The very
last thing I wanted was some monotonous conversation about the intricacies of
the roulette table.
“Last thing I need is to watch a
collection of inebriates throwing money at each other. If it was coming my way,
then it would be a different matter.” He laughed in that pretentious way, the
kind that means ‘I know more of what you’re speaking about than you, but I’ll indulge
I fashioned a smirk in return,
not seeking to hide my irritation.
“In any case, this library is
sort of a second home for me.” Ignoring my far from gracious gesture he
expanded without being asked, as he made a beeline to one of the shelves that
lined the entire room.
“My book is here, look. Have a
thumb through while you’re deliberating on whatever it is that keeps you here
in solitude.” Knowing exactly where it was, he handed me a thick, beige colored
hardback with the title embossed in blue lettering: ‘From Dulwich To The
Fastnet, And Return.’
A frequent guest then.
“I’m President of the Royal Ocean
Racing Club, and off to Cowes on Sunday. Blowing the start horn for this year’s
race. Took part in it on six occasions. Twice as crew and then skippered my own
yacht on the other four, runner-up twice.” He frowned in disappointment, which
I must say I felt, having tasted defeat a few times myself. “Never did win the
blighter.” A pause and a drink, as if to wash away the memory. “I’m only here
for tomorrow’s drive and then I’m off. Have some business to discuss with his
highness, my friend James. Then I’ll be gone. You here for both days Harry?”
Blast I thought, he wants to
“Yes I am. Cancelled our own
shoot due to the wet winter we had in Yorkshire. Had to put it back for a week
or so. James throws such a good bash at everything, thought I’d spend the
weekend down here.” I never referred to my friend as ‘Bots’ to unwelcome
I use Crockett’s, his gaming club
a lot, as it has one of the finest private eating venues in London, far better
than Boddles, my own club, which I only use for meetings and such, not even
taking rooms there, although of course I could. The other great attraction is
the sights to behold inside the plush and comfortable premises and not
necessarily do I mean the winning and losing aspects of the clientele. The
women that frequent the place are normally extremely desirable and worth the
view. I have, on more than one occasion, met and enjoyed the company of
That was where I had first seen
Tamy, and I hasten to add, I had seen her there more than once.
“You say you have business to
speak of with James, Gerald? Must be important to drag you all the way from
town. Bit of a wide diversion to the Isle of Wight coming here though isn’t
it?” I lit another cigarette; I always smoke too much when bored.
“A mite delicate old chap, a
question of money. Partially I guess due to you, and your introduction of the
club to him.” He refilled his glass, this time leaving the decanter where it
“How’s that then?” I followed
suit but poured more, as if to emphasis my co-opted ownership.
“He intends to call on you for
the financial assistance he needs. Did it not cross your mind that it was
rather fortuitous that you were invited? Jimmy was diligent in finding out
about that weather you had. He had good reason to be. It wasn’t done through
simple benevolence or past associated Guards allegiances you know. He’s a user
Harry, and a loser. An inveterate and unlucky gambler is our Jimmy.”
“He is what?” This news shook me
so dramatically that I flew from the chair, ending up standing directly in
front of him.
“Sit down Harry, it’s not my
fault that our mutual friend cannot keep his hands in his pockets for long, now
is it? I’m sorry for this, but he’s mortgaged up to the hilt and then some. I
have his boat which I’m selling, but you were setup a bit I’m afraid. The
weather was a bonus of course, and when you said that you were coming, well, it
sort of saved the day.” A supercilious grin followed that remark and lingered
whilst he carried on.
“Otherwise, he would’ve had to
think of another way of, how can I say, enlisting your help. Jimmy did suggest
the ‘twelfth’ to be a genial time in your calendar, and I was not going to miss
my appointment at the Royal Squadron. Prince Phillip will be there on Sunday
you know. I’m hosting the lunch for him. Jimmy phoned me as soon as you arrived
and told of the card game he'd arranged. You’re a creature of habit old boy, I
knew where to find you. He is worried Harry. He’s hoping that you and your
father could open the vaults up at ‘Annie’s‘ and lend him some cash on
His insistence on using ‘Jimmy’
as his reference to James was particularly grating on my shredded nerves.
“Good grief man, what are you
saying?” I had regained my composure somewhat and was now seated. “How much
does he owe for goodness sake?”
“After what I expect to get for
the boat, almost twenty. That’s without interest, but I won’t settle that on
him now. Thought he was good for it you see, had no reason to think differently
until he came clean a month or so back.”
“Twenty what, thousand, surely he
“Where does that brain of yours
live Paterson, cloud cuckoo land! Millions man, be real please. I wouldn’t have
gone to all this trouble for a meager twenty-thousand.”
I sat heavily back into that red,
winged, leather arm chair and felt swallowed up by it; claustrophobic in its
embrace, with the bitter realization that my lifelong belief had been wrong.
“Did you know that he’s engaged?”
It just spurted out uncontrollably, as if it could be a blow of some kind, and
thereby giving me breathing space to comprehend all of this.
He laughed quietly then added as
if an afterthought. “No, I didn’t. Has she got money perchance, that would be a
bonus? Is that why he’s marrying her?”
That had been one of the things I
had been trying to find out by telephoning so many of both Bots and my friends.
I had no knowledge then, nor suspicions, of a financial issue but it was part
of my worries into her motives in so readily accepting the engagement. I had
stupidly thought that she may have been after Bots now missing fortune.
“Name of Tamy, short for
Kymberly, but I never got her surname. Very attractive woman,” searching for
time, I declared.
Gerald’s attention up to this
point had alternated from his glass, his fat Cuban cigar, and any point on the
wall between the door and the empty fireplace which his matching chair faced.
Seldom had he directly looked at me. On the mention of the name Tamy, his neck
almost broke, as his startled reaction whipped it around to confront me.
“Tamy!” he exclaimed.
“Know her Gerald?” It was an
unnecessary question as it was obvious in the way he had replied that he did.
His answer though was surprising.
“No, can’t say I’ve heard the
name before. Very nice for James, and of course her. Look old chap, I’m a bit
knackered and I’m sure all this talk about money could be continued some other
time. I’m for bed. Goodnight Harry, enjoyed the conversation. There are some
good snaps in the book if nothing else. I never wrote it, just dictated some
stuff into a machine. Written by a ghostwriter; soulless.”
With that, and an emptying gulp
of his whiskey, he was gone. Leaving that last spoken word dispassionately
trapped in the smoke swirling air.
I was up early not because of the
night’s events, but I always checked my guns before using them. I am, it’s
true, a creature of habit. Back home at the Hall I had a dedicated gun room and
it was a ritual on a Saturday morning to clean them all, used or not. Here the
case was at the foot of a wardrobe. I ran a wad through both barrels then, with
one final wipe and a quick polish over the stock and forearm, they were put
away, waiting to be collected by whoever was appointed to be my loader.
The sun was low but bright, with
the day offering promise, as I set off for a stroll around the outside of the
house. I hoped my demeanor would improve to match it. There were no signs of
other guests up at this hour as I passed through the high corridors, and then
out through the main double doors and into the shadow cast by that morning
As I rounded a corner I saw the
two of them, Bots and Gerald, on the terrace where I had left Tamy the previous
day. They were having a gesticulating conversation and not unnaturally I
suspected it was about me. Having no wish to face them, and talk over what I
had been told, I dived off to my left and entered the building through a
service door directly below where they stood. A bolted, black wrought-iron gate
was at the top of a winding concrete stairway and I would have been able to
hear what was being said, but unfortunately I had missed most. It was Gerald
who brought the proceedings to an end as their shadows passed in towards the
main part of the house.
“Just get rid of her Jimmy and
the slate is wiped clean. You have my word.” I heard no response from
‘Get rid of her.’ In what
sense I wondered?
I continued with my stroll,
mulling over in my mind all the information I had garnered from my enquiries. That,
coupled with the knowledge of Bot’s debts and Gerald Neil’s just spoken
request, brought nothing to silence those doubts about Tamy and her involvement
in all of this, as indeed there seemed to be one. One more phone call just
might open the door.
My father, Lord Elliot, had raced
in the Fastnet and through our family name I had good connections inside the
Royal Yacht Squadron, but my would-be informant was of an even higher station
than my own in society. I needed to have my speech rehearsed before calling,
and time was at a premium. He, would be shooting today!
An hour after placing my first
call to ‘Ten Gloucestershire’ I had all the answers.
“Thank you Sir,” I said closing
my phone. The trouble now was, I didn’t know how to apply them.
Bots was nowhere to be found and
neither was Tamy. I had asked three members of staff as to their whereabouts
and drew a blank from each. I was dressed for the shoot and on my way to the
swimming pool as a final place to check, when I saw him coming in the opposite
direction, but I never got a chance to speak, being ambushed as I passed
through a reception room.
“Hello there young Harry, saw you
last night when you looked engaged in other things. Miles away you were. How’s
Elliot these days? I haven’t seen him since that debate on fox hunting. Your
father’ not one of those who turn up regularly, simply for the day’s
“Sir Giles, good to see you.” I
shook his proffered hand. “I think he’s far too busy to worry about the
allowance he’s due for any attendance at the House of Lords. I rarely see him
myself. In charge at Queen Anne’s Gate so he lives virtually all the time at
the London town house.” Bots had disappeared, but he must have seen the two of
us I reasoned.
“Must say that you always stand
out in a crowd Harry. There’s the rest of us keeping up appearances with all
the regalia of plus-fours and shooting jackets, and then there’s you. Some
moth-eaten old leather jerkin and a T-shirt. You could do with a haircut as well
by the look of things. Never feel conspicuous; even slightly?” It was asked
with a smile and not as a reproach or dismissal. “Come on you scruffy young
man, let’s go bag us a few brace for chef’s fricassee tonight, I hear he does a
rather presentable one.”
I laughed, and momentarily my
mind was distracted from Bots. My father and Sir Leonard Giles were old
friends, and I knew him well.
“Is it a prerequisite to becoming
Solicitor General, to possess a silver tongue Sir Giles? You always manage to
capture me with your repartee. I see your lady wife is with you. Is she staying
in the house or are the women on the field of battle, watching from a safe
distance?” We continued in our discourse as we made our way to the assembly
Bots was there, and with Tamy.
However, there was no Gerald Neil to be seen.
“For those who do not already
know of my engagement, may I present my fiancée to you ladies and gentleman;
Miss Kymberly Burns. She will be loading for me today. I would be obliged if
the ‘gentlemen’ all kept their envious eyes on the birds in front and not the
one behind me.” He gleefully proclaimed to a collective cheer of
congratulations, but I was puzzled, mouthing the word ‘why’ when I caught his
eye. He gave an imperceptible shake of the head and a grimace that anyone else
would have to have been quick to see.
He led the party off with me
trailing at the rear.
I was stationed at the end of the
line of fourteen guns. Usually the least proficient shooters take up the
centre, as that is where the birds would fly more in a pack. Grouse are very
fast and fly low, then ascend quickly into a glide, making them extremely
difficult to hit. The tall conifers, that faced us, would not make it easy to
pick them out. Any bird not killed outright would be dead as soon as a dog got
to it. They were in front of us, with the beaters, barking in a frenzied
I had the right flank, with the
sun at my back. To my immediate left was Bots with Tamy behind, still unloading
his guns from their leather slips. To his left were Sir Giles and his estate
loader. Mine stood behind me holding one loaded gun, the other was loaded and
broken, lying across my arm.
It was my first real chance to
speak, but Bots took the initiative away from me.
“Harry I’m sorry that you had to
hear all about my plight from that bore Gerald Neil, it was taken out of my
hands, but all is okay now I can assure you. I won’t be calling on our
friendship and embarrassing myself further. I’m going abroad, selling up here
and running. Too much has taken place in my life since father died, and in
truth the responsibilities of heritage became a tiresome load to carry. I
didn’t handle things very well.”
“All’s fine with me Bots. You and
Tamy okay? She handled guns before?” I asked but never had a satisfactory
reply, as in the distance the start whistle was blown and the noise of the
beaters cut through the silence that lay before of us.
“Ear muffs, Ladies and Gents.
We’re off!” The estate manager shouted.
It was on the third flush when it
all went so tragically wrong.
All I saw was a flash out of my
left eye. I heard a simultaneous scream and something hit the back of my head
with a wallop.
As I turned, Bots was on the
ground. The unbroken gun lay between him and I, and the misshapen remains of a
skull, half on and half off that once belonged to Kymberly, was nestled in his
hands. She was dead. Part of her head was what had hit me!
My instinct was to pick up the
gun and make it safe. The only time that any gun is not dangerous is when it is
unloaded and not in human hands. It was then that I knew what had happened.
Now here is where you finally
have that chance to make up your mind about me. Those previous impressions are
either going to be found just, or misplaced.
As I broke the gun open, two
cartridge cases were ejected.
There have been cases of
accidental death due to the firing of a shotgun, but a Purdey is a side by side
affair, with two hammers and two triggers. To pull one....may be an accident.
To pull two, requires a tiny but nevertheless deliberate physical movement of
withdrawal of the finger from one trigger, and then insertion onto the other,
is murder. One cannot pull ‘through’ both triggers.
I inserted a live cartridge in
the left barrel. It would not have ejected if not fired.
Sir Leonard was the next person
to hold the gun which I thrust upon him. I saw him empty that live round as I
comforted and pulled my friend away, whispering in his ear. “It’s okay Bots, I
know what you’ve done and I’ve covered it.”
“I knew you would Harry, I’m so
A weeks or so later at the
inquest, with the Coroner taking evidence from James, the serving Government’s
Solicitor General and of course me, it was judged to have been another of those
accidents where the inexperienced are allowed to handle firearms.
The case made headline news,
internationally, as do most involving the English gentry, but nothing untoward
was discovered by any inquisitive journalist. None had my connections, and the
power that they had, to do research.
You see here is the twist in all of
this, and what I found out when Highgrove called me back earlier that morning.
Kymberly Burns, under another
name, was Gerald’s lover when he stood trial for the murder of a woman he was
seeing at the same time as her. It was her testimony that refuted the
circumstantial evidence that the Police had. He was found not guilty on the
strength of that attestation.
Bots later confirmed that Tamy
was extorting money from Gerald, he heard that on the terrace that morning, and
she had been doing so for years, hence her visits to the club. The phrase, get
rid of, meant precisely that. Kill her! James saw it as his only way in
protecting his family’s name.
As a way of justifying my actions
to myself, I figured that as she had covered Gerald’s guilt, she had contributed
to her own death. I felt no impulse to declare exactly what had happened, and
thereby destroy my friend.
The trouble is, I know that I do
not escape condemnation in this sordid affair. I am trying to come to terms
with it. Something that comes from living a life ruled by tradition.
The English class system is probably no more weird than any where else in the world but from the point of view of one of the plebeians, the upper class's only purpose in the scheme of things is to spend the fortunes amassed by their forbears. However, this little tale of motives and loyalties seems resonate right across the social divides and teaches those of us with entrenched views that the human condition applies whatever part of society we occupy.
(part two to be posted next week)
Allow me to introduce myself
then, like many before you, you can form an opinion about me. However, do save
some prejudice that you may initially have until the end of this tale. Then
there might well be more reason for any dislike you immediately find.
I’m thirty-seven, and an
Honorable. That’s my official title, the opposite to my; general disposition
shall I say. On the death of my father I shall inherit not only the vast estate
in Harrogate, with all trimmings that goes with that, but also the Lordship that
was bestowed on my family centuries ago.
My name is Harry Paterson, or HP
for short. I’m the eldest son of three, and I guess to sum up myself in one
word it would have to be; playboy. I have served time in the Army, seeing
conflict in Bosnia and I’m a qualified chemical analyst, but I spend more time
playing at life than actually contributing to it.
I have put on about a stone in
weight since I stopped playing rugby four years ago, not only because of
damaged knees but I also suffered a perforated kidney that finally ended my
participation. Nowadays my exercise is confined to riding, swimming, socializing
and I shoot. The shooting is what has brought me to the outskirts of Bath, here
in the cider County of Somerset.
I am single, both for this coming
weekend, and in life, never having wished to tie myself to one woman in
particular, preferring to ‘play’ at relationships, and thereby simply indulge
myself in them without responsibility. I steer away from being responsible in
Is your estimation so far that
I’m a chauvinistic, shallow individual, lucky to be wealthy but utterly
worthless to the rest of society?
If that is your opinion, then I
will not disagree with most of it but apart from the car that I drive, you
would never guess that I’m wealthy. I have a habit, that some find annoying, of dressing
Today is no different. I’m
probably too confident in myself to care much about how I look. Now you have
me. Shabby, rich and couldn’t give a flying monkey’s fart about the rest of the
With that in mind, I will begin
to tell the story of Tamy, and how the events surrounding her unraveled.
I had arrived just before lunch
on the Friday, having left my London club at around ten that morning. The drive
had been pleasant and without incident, enjoyed with the roof open and the sun
beating down on my covered head. The invitation to the annual grouse shoot had
come from an old Army and University friend of mine.
Yes, it’s the ‘Glorious Twelfth’
and I’ve enjoyed a great August up to now away from Harrogate Hall, my
ancestral home at the heart of the family estate, and the work involved in the
running of that mini empire. Instead, I had shared various homes with various
women in variously shaped beds. I needed the break.
Viscount James Philip Bottomly,
or simply Bots to me, was junior in the echelons of nobility to my eventual
station of becoming an Earl, but far surpassed me in style. The least
pretentious word that could be used to describe him would be flamboyant, and
the most would have to be extravagant. When in the Army I outranked him again,
being a major to his lieutenant, but the cut of his bespoke uniform was worn
with that special degree of sophistication that those who pay constant
attention to detail, seem to carry off in a natural way. Even then I was more
functional than aesthetically pleasing on the eye.
There he was, on the steps of
Devenish House clad in a red and brown striped suit without a hair out of
place, as I rolled the Bentley to a halt.
“Well, well, HP his very self in
the flesh and tatters. Nothing changes I’m so pleased to see, and delighted to
remark on, from in the wilds of our northern provinces. Ever heard of Savile
Row, old chap? Sell clothes there you know, for discerning loaded gents like
yourself. How’s Annie’s? The old family bank still churning out cash is it? So
outstandingly pleased you have honored us with your expertise this weekend.
Show the rest of us what’s what, eh?” He had started his slow deliberate
descent as he spoke.
“Do so hope you’ve brought a
dinner jacket old boy, else it’s the kitchen for you at supper time.” He gave a
very disapproving glance at my badly creased blue linen jacket and mismatched somber
black trousers as I removed my weekend bag from the rear seat. My gun case was locked
away in the boot. Priorities you see, cared about the Purdeys but not the
“Do believe I threw one in the
bag Bots, but if not I’ll let some width into one of yours. I was sure in the
knowledge that you had plenty.” Who’s here then? I asked, shaking his proffered
hand and into his other, I thrust the bag. Once a subaltern always a subaltern,
tradition of the Guards.
It was a buffet lunch, practical
in the circumstances, as not all were arriving at the same time. I was helping
myself to some cold minted new potatoes when I saw her. She was on her own, and
about to pour a glass of champagne. I did try to look away, briefly, but my
fascination and surprise overcame that innate deficiency. As much as I enjoyed
potatoes, attractive and mysterious women took precedence. The potatoes could
I didn’t wait for a formal
introduction. ‘Those who wait, get left behind Harry.’ An old maxim of my late
great-grandfather, who too knew a thing about women. It seemed to run in the
“Good afternoon to you, allow me
to do that. I’m Harry Paterson.” I said as I drew alongside, taking the bottle
from her hand but managing to brush my fingers against hers.
“I’m sure we’ve never met,
otherwise I could never have forgotten your name. But you seem so familiar.
It’s as if you’ve graced every magazine cover, every front page and every
fashion advert that I’ve ever seen,” the glass was full and we were looking
directly in each other's eyes. I never stopped my method of attack.
“You’re far too beautiful to
pass-by without at least saying hello and offering; assistance in any manner I
could.” I mustered up the most lecherous, beguiling look that was possible
before delivering my normal final line.
“I must say that the dress you’re
wearing is very stunning and compliments you brilliantly, but.” I was not
allowed to finish that hackneyed opening as the centre of my attention cut me
“You’re just about to add that
you think I would look so much better without it, aren’t you Harry?” She had
twinkling eyes, blue and vibrant, not just relying on the color for the
attraction that matched the wide condescending smile that now filled her face.
She was tall, elegant and feminine in every way imaginable.
“Ah, you have me. Yes, I was. Has
it been said to you before then, and if so, am I about to have my impish face
gently tickled by a make believe slap of annoyance?” Trying my best to be as
playful and appealing as I could, I asked.
Her left hand moved, but she was
not concerned in admonishing me. Instead she swept a locket of red hair away
from her high forehead to nestle behind her ear, exposing the full curvature
and line of her delicate shapely face.
“Not to me, but James warned me
of your coming, and he related - as a warning -- some tales of your; what shall we call it… promiscuity?”
“Infamy, infamy. They all have it
in for me,” I laughed. “Got that line from a ‘Carry-On’ film, way before your
time though. Didn’t catch the name? Yours I mean, not the actor who spoke
them.” Was there more than one James here I wondered.
“Tamy, it’s short for Kymberly. I
do recognize you from someway, just can’t place where.” Her petite nose curled
slightly at the tip with her thick lips giving a wry grin, as she peered deep into my eyes as if
they would give me away. She was dark skinned and the tan looked natural,
around the early twenties I assumed, and I knew exactly where I had seen her
“What a thoroughly delicious and
evocative name Tamy. It conjures up the vision of a sleek lioness to the mind.
Perhaps you’re a forthright character, in for the early kill or, are you more
the stalking tiger type? Taking time over your prey before you so sexily pounce
and devour them? Sorry my mind is drifting, on other things.” I laughed, but
didn’t wait for a reply. “How do you know Bots then Tamy?”
“Bots? Quizzically she asked.
“The Viscount, our host. It’s
what I call him, thought everyone did.”
“Ah, he has a nickname then? From
his Schooldays or Army is that?” She did know him.
“Never given a thought to that.
With a surname like Bottomly he sort of got lumbered with it at birth, I guess.
He never mentioned it to you?”
“I haven’t known him that long
really. It’s been sort of an old fashioned whirlwind romance. We met at a party
given by one of his friends. You may know him.” She looked over my shoulder to
rediscover the whereabouts of the person in question, and as she leaned forward
I caught a drift of her heavenly perfume.
“Over there behind you. By that
huge seascape painting, bald chap, bit on the tubby side.” I turned and saw
Hugh Pickering, a City financier. I nodded adding. “Yes, I know Hugh.”
“Hired the whole ballroom at the
Dorchester for his birthday bash a month ago. We met there, and Bots, as you
call him, proposed the following weekend. Needless to say, I accepted. Were you
there, perhaps that’s where I know you from?”
We had moved on to the crowded
terrace, with the warm sun beating heavily down on us both. I didn’t answer,
although that was not where I had first seen her, and she had no need to
confirm her acceptance. I would have expected nothing less.
“Well, well, sneaky old Bots.
Never said a word on the phone when he called. Must have a word with the
blighter. I’m somewhat embarrassed now, hitting on a pal's loved one as it
were. I’m terribly sorry about that. Will you excuse me Tamy but I really must
go and speak to someone I noticed. We’ll catch up on our conversation later no
doubt. I’ll unpack my things and go find James. Give him an ear bashing about
keeping such elegance and charm, secret from me. You’ll be safe with this mob,
harmless the lot of them” I waved at old friends and enemies alike.
She made light of my flirting and
mumbled something about forgiving me, smiling as she did. I was confused, but
managed to hide it, having to get away and collect my thoughts.
Most of that afternoon I spent in
my room, on the telephone. I had not sought out Bots after leaving her, not
speaking to him since our greeting. Had we bumped into one another, I would not
have told him what I suspected about his fiancée, it was after all; only
I was seated away from the
engaged couple at dinner, but a few times I caught one, or the other, looking
in my direction, once having to smile back at Bots as he called out “you cad
Harry Paterson.” Fortunately he never elaborated on that remark, leaving it for
the assembled to just giggle at, and then forget. I was not in an explaining
frame of mind nor feeling particularly comfortable amongst the declining
revelry on show. The proceedings inevitably descended into the customary bread
throwing affair as the fine wines took toll of the gathered collective sanity.
You might be surprised at the way
the rich and famous quickly become degenerate fools, when surrounded by their
own breed, and without the distraction of having to appear superior.
There was a card game arranged
for the partially sober, to satiate any remaining appetite on, as a fifth
course after the sumptuous meal. I declined. I am many things, but not a
gambler. The one thing that Bots and I had as a common leveler, was that
neither of us was. However, the mention of blackjack only served to reinforce
my concerns about Tamy who had her attention elsewhere as I left, leaving me
with impression that neither she, nor James, would be staying downstairs for
With the raucous enjoyment about
to overflow to the games room, I retired in the opposite direction to find the
solitude of the library, preferring the quiet there to exercise the demons
flying around in my head, and hopefully reach a decision. That choice was taken
from me as the door clicked open like a rifle shot. My only defense is that I
have never been blessed with foresight.
“Bless my cotton socks if it
isn’t the Honorable Harry Paterson in the flesh and spirit. How’s life with you
old sport, still floating the good ship Isle of Jura are we?” He nodded at the
decanter and the glass of my favorite whiskey at my side. “How the bloody hell
are you?” It was Gerald Neil, part owner of Crockett’s, the famous London
gaming club. He had just arrived!