Archive for December, 2018

Satan’s Claws Are Coming To Town chapter 5 – the conclusion

December 20, 2018

Chapter 5

Mere moments later, I had done all that Wimpybar had instructed me to, but I was still perplexed. Who was my devilish nemesis? Who wished me consigned to a hellish oblivion? Surely it couldn’t be…?

We had yet to re-join our fellow guests in the lounge. Wimpybar was holding up a green-faced Mrs Petty.

‘We must return to the party,’ said Wimpybar.

I glanced at the wretched Mrs Petty. Her eyes were glazed, and she was barely aware of her surroundings. ‘But tell me, Wimpybar…’

‘Oh, do call me Greenford,’ he pleaded.

‘We’re not children, Wimpybar,’ I said firmly. ‘If you didn’t curse me, who did?’

He stared at me in amazement. ‘Have you really not worked it out?’

‘I wouldn’t be asking you if I had!’

A smile cracked his face. Charmingly, he looked less evil when he smiled. Perhaps he wasn’t the villain after all. ‘You’ll find out soon enough.  But you must do exactly as I tell you.  No quibbles.  Understand?’

I nodded.

We returned to the Lounge. Servants had already mopped up the mess, not just that caused by Mrs Petty, but the fake blood used in the children’s little show.  One would hardly know that anything had happened. The children had been packed off somewhere; bed, home, the hospital, I knew not where, and I couldn’t waste my thoughts on trivialities like that.

A game of charades was in action. Miss Lemon was acting out – I learned later – Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag. Dr Petty had such a look of intense concentration on his face as he watched her that he failed to notice the reappearance of his drained wife.  The others glanced up and even Miss Lemon ceased acting out the words ‘Kit bag’ in mid-mime.

My head was in a whirl. I couldn’t believe what Wimpybar had just told me, but I knew that if this bizarre situation was true than I had only moments left to live. After all I had nothing to lose by trying. If it was all nonsense, then no harm would be done. If it was true, however, the wretched rotter who had cursed me would face his own ghastly doom. And good bloody riddance!

‘Crackers, everybody!’ shrieked Lady Fistula as Spambot staggered in, clutching a tray laden with the explosive novelties. I knew exactly which one to pick.

I took a deep breath and approached my target. ‘Goosey, old chap,’ I said, trying to keep the tremble out of my voice. ‘Pull my cracker!’

Without even thinking, he took the other end of my proffered cracker and before he could change his mind I started to tug. He jerked back, my cracker erupted and the contents spilled out. Goosey caught them in his hand.

‘Well-played, sir!’ I cried, unsure yet whether to feel relieved by Goosey’s firm yank on my cracker.

Goosey rummaged in the cracker and retrieved a purple paper hat which he instantly placed on top of his head.

‘How do I look?’ he giggled.

‘Like a naked purple Bishop,’ I told him.

Instantly, Wimpybar was at my side. ‘Oh, do tell us the joke, Reverend.’

Goosey looked in the cracker again and drew out a paper item. ‘Oh, I hope the joke is good’un. I can use it in my next sermon.’ He unfolded the paper, and his chubby face darkened. He looked up at me, his eyes ablaze with fear – and anger.

‘You… you… bounder, Sausage.’

It was the parchment. On Wimpybar’s instructions, I had inserted the parchment in the cracker which I had then weakened so that my opponent would win.

He glanced at the clock.


‘No!’ he screamed. ‘My plan was perfect!’

Flecks of froth formed at the side of his mouth. He thrust the parchment at me. ‘Take it back! I insist you take it back!’

I retreated and put my hands firmly behind my back.

‘But why did you want The Viscount dead?’ asked Wimpybar.

‘Look at him,’ Goosey sneered. ‘So handsome, so dashing, so well-endowed, so rich, so popular, so aristocratic…’

‘Yes, I know,’ I said, ‘But why do you hate me that much?’

‘You made the war hell for me,’ the owl-faced villain snarled.

‘The Germans did that, surely?’ said Miss Lemon, astutely.

‘He,’ he said, pointing at me, ‘humiliated me every day. Mocking me. I can’t help being portly, yet I was shamed daily. Made to run errands in the nude…’

‘Oh yes?’ said Sir Dickie and Lady Fistula simultaneously.

‘You weren’t made to run errands in the nude,’ I corrected him. ‘It was merely suggested for humorous reasons that…’

‘Called stupid names in front of the lower orders,’ continued Goosey. ‘Owl-face, Lard-arse, Wobbly-tits…

‘Goosey,’ I added, probably unhelpfully.

‘My plan should’ve worked,’ frothed Goosey, his left eye twitching, his teeth grinding. I noticed with distaste he was almost tumescent in his rage although, sadly, it made very little difference. ‘The runes should’ve doomed you. And just in case I conjured up the gargoyles…’

‘I saved the Viscount from those hellish monstrosities,’ said Wimpybar.

‘Oh, was that you in the scarf?’ I asked him. ‘I did wonder.’

‘The ritual of the frenzied children was supposed to whip up even more Infernal forces, until that silly woman,’ he gestured at Mrs Petty, ‘ruined it with her spewing.’

To everyone’s astonishment, Mrs Petty fell to her knees and kissed Goosey’s feet. ‘Forgive me, Master!’ she pleaded.

Even Goosey had the grace to look a bit embarrassed. ‘The Pettys were my disciples,’ he explained.

Lady Fistula was shocked. ‘You brought acolytes to my house for Christmas lunch?’ she accused him. ‘You told me they were devout nudists. Look at her, her charlies have never seen the light of day.’

Sir Dickie’s moustache flared up. ‘I’ll have you struck off, you bounder!’ he told Dr Petty.

‘It was her,’ said Dr Petty, gesturing at his prostrate wife with one hand, cupping his orchestras with the other. ‘She had a bit of a thing for the Vicar. I had no say in the matter. I didn’t want to come. Removing one’s underpants in public, it’s not decent.’

‘You utter weed!’ exclaimed Lady Fistula.

‘That level of modesty won’t stand you in good stead as either a nudist or a Satanist,‘ said Wimpybar, wryly.

‘Or a bally doctor,’ I chipped in.

‘It’s all failed,’ said Goosey, sadly. His shoulders slumped lower than his nipples. ‘And now I am doomed.’

I felt a bit sorry for him. ‘Can’t you, I don’t know, absolve yourself of the curse?’

He shook his stout and bespectacled head.

‘You sold your soul to the Devil?’ asked Wimpybar in horror.

‘I hope you kept the receipt,’ said Miss Lemon.

The clock struck five.

Goosey’s eyes saucered and he said in a forlorn voice, ‘Oh cripes!’

Miss Lemon waved her hand in front of her nose. ‘Brimstone!’ she said in disgust.

‘No, that was me,’ said Goosey, his teeth chattering. ‘I must get out of here.’

‘There’s nowhere to run,’ warned Wimpybar.

Goosey didn’t heed him, and, booting Mrs Petty away from his feet, ran from the lounge, with yours truly hot-footed after him. Judging by the sounds, in his panic he wasn’t looking where he was going. I found Spambot the butler on his back, legs waving in the air, unable, turtle-like, to get to his feet again.

I reached the vestibule which looked as though a hurricane had blasted through it. I surmised that Goosey had crashed into the crucifix, knocked it over, ricocheted into the suit of armour, knocked that over as well. The swastika was missing too.

I dashed out into the snow, my bare feet baulking at the frosty ground. The weather outside was frightful and I hated going out in the snow. The icy wind whipped viciously around the short-&-curlies. Taking a leaf out of Dr Petty’s book, I cupped the old meat-&-two-veg, not from modesty, but to prevent frostbite. I stared around, blinded by the snowy tumult. There was no sign of Goosey. He wouldn’t last long in these conditions, although, to be honest, he had a better coating of blubber than I did.

The icy tornado grew to a crescendo. My ears were assaulted by a frightful racket, like the foulest carol singers shrieking in agony…

And then all was calm, all was bright.

The snow ceased. There was no sign of Goosey

First thing I noticed was that the snowmen had vanished. All that were left were little mounds of snow topped with discarded hats and scarves.

Then I spotted Goosey. He was lying in the snow, face down, his prominent rump thrust into the air, already crusted with a permafrost, the swastika flag wrapped around his left ankle. I approached him.

‘Goosey?’ I called. ‘Are you alright?’ No reply. ‘Goosey?’

But as I neared him, I espied with horror that he was already blue, his lifeless eyes, goggling behind ice-encrusted spectacles. The final horror though was that every orifice was stuffed with carrots…


And, that young Simon, is how yours truly began his esteemed career as a vanquisher of the evil forces which have besieged this benighted world.’

‘Crikey!’ replied Simon. Not quite the admiring response I had desired, but words weren’t his strong point.

But what happened after you found Goosey?’ Simon asked. 

‘I went back inside, frozen to the marrow. I narrowly avoided chilblains of the clockweights by jumping into a hot bath, aided by those two charming maids – Polynesian I later learned – and then we continued with our Christmas celebrations.

‘The local Plod later removed Goosey’s body. We didn’t want to sully his reputation with gossip of devilry, so we told everyone he’d got frightfully drunk, gone outside to indulge in some self-abuse with carrots and fallen asleep in the snow and died of hypothermia. No one quibbled.’

Henceforth, under the tutelage of both Dr Greenford Wimpybar and Miss Diabeticia Lemon, I learned all that was necessary to confront the armies of darkness. And thanks to the darling Sir Dickie and Lady Fistula Whizzer-Chips I embraced the joys of nudism and have exposed myself all over the world.

‘What happened to the Pettys?’

‘Last heard he was atoning for his sins by treating the poor somewhere ghastly in the East End while also campaigning to make nudity illegal, the ridiculous man. She fell in with a bad crowd and ended up as a drug-addled stripper. Banged up in chokey, Holloway, I think.’

But whose obituary reminded you of all this, Uncle?’

‘Ah yes, it seems poor old Wimpybar has fallen off his perch. A blessed relief to be sure. He’d not been the same since our encounter with the Loch Ness Monster a few Christmases ago. But that’s another story…’

‘Next Christmas, Uncle?’

‘If you’ve been a good lad and done your duty by King and country and slaughteted some of our enemies, then yes...’

‘Merry Christmas, Uncle Charles!’

‘And a happy new year, Simon!’





To hear Sir Desmond at work, go to


Tags: ChristmasChristmas ghost storyghostshorrorschooldaysstirlingwheatley


Satan’s Claws Are Coming To Town chapter 4

December 19, 2018

Chapter 4

We were led through a vast vestibule with the expected accoutrements – suits of armour, disembodied heads of livestock, stocks (presumably for the humiliation of disobedient servants, I noted approvingly), a large Swastika flag flying over the staircase; a stuffed native of some Godforsaken part of the Empire, a full-size crucifix with an extraordinarily life-like Christ hanging from it…

‘Left-footers, eh?’ I whispered to Goosey. He shrugged. ‘Not as far as I know. Never seen them at church, but the gentry usually have their own chapel and parson.’

‘The Whizzer-Chips are known for having progressive beliefs,’ said Wimpybar.

That sounded alarming. I hoped we weren’t going to be expected to sacrifice a small animal – unless it was a goose, of course – or dance around a maypole.

Spambot the butler showed us into a small room. There were coat hooks on the wall and hangers. It remined me of the rugby changing room at school only without the pungent aroma of soiled jockstrap. Oh, how I miss those days.

‘Do the Sirs require a member of staff to help them undress?’ the ancient butler gasped.

‘I think we’re all capable of doing that unaided by this age, thank you, Spambot,’ said Goosey.

‘Very well, Reverend.’ Spambot clapped his hands and a pair of twin girls, possibly Philippino, maybe Thai, approximately 20 years old, maybe 21, appeared at his side.  ’You will not be needed, girls, back to your duties.’ They giggled, bowed and left.

I was convinced I heard Wimpybar say something under his breath. Was it ‘Damn?’

Goosey, with an enthusiasm I found mildly distasteful, proceed to divest himself of clothes. He didn’t bother to hang anything up, and within a few seconds he was naked, surrounded by a moat of ecclesiastical garments and underpants. It would be unseemly to describe a man of God in his state of nudity; let’s just say if we are all born in the image of God, the god in question was Buddha. I had often seen Goosey in a similar state of undress many times in the trenches when we had convinced him it was safer for him to deliver despatches in the nude, the colour of flesh being less noticeable to the Bosch through their binoculars. He never found out we were joshing him!

Goosey had kept his socks on and I wondered if this was allowed. Verrucae are, after all, a serious public health issue.

I quickly shed my apparel as did Wimpybar by my side. I glanced at him. Au naturel, he was much as to be expected. Pink, not as tubby as I had assumed, hairless…nondescript in most ways, except…

I paused. ‘Except?’ urged Simon.

‘All I wish to say is that Dr Wimpybar was endowed in a way few men are. But most wish to be.’

Simon looked blank. Honestly, a stint in the army, preferably indulging in a particularly brutal war, would help that lad, cute as he may be, to grow up.

‘What do you mean, Uncle?’

There was no time to pussyfoot about. ‘Cove had a huge Johnson. Like a fire extinguisher.’

Within moments we were all three of us in state of complete and utter dishabille.

‘Now what?’ I asked. ‘Do we wait for that antediluvian butler to come and fetch us?’

‘We could die of old age ourselves waiting for that,’ barked an unfamiliar voice. ‘We’ll make our own way to the reception room.’

We all looked around. Somehow, we had missed a fourth person in the changing room.

‘Ah, Miss Lemon,’ said Goosey, holding out his hand. ‘May I introduce Charles, Viscount de Bourbon a Bisquit. And Doctor Greenford Wimpybar.’’

Our new acquaintance was an elderly lady, somewhat stout of figure, head tipped with a mop of uncontrollable grey hair – still covered with a woolly hat. She had more than chins than the Shanghai telephone directory, the lowest of which reclined on her mighty cleavage. Her vast breasts – even more impressive than Goosey’s – dangled either side of her. She had tucked them out of her way with her hands on her hips. Her overlapped stomach protected her modesty – her knees too, almost – and -you’re looking a bit green, Simon, is the heat getting too much?

She squinted at us. Her left eye gave me the impression that it may be false. I had begun to suspect she may be a tad eccentric.

‘Miss Lemon?’ asked Wimpybar. ‘Miss Diabeticia Lemon? The clairvoyant.’

‘I knew you were going to ask me that?’ she said and roared with laughter.

‘She always says that,’ explained Goosey. ‘It’s her joke.’

‘Merry Christmas, gents! Call me Bitter, everyone does. Follow me!’ and she marched out of the small room, buttocks shuddering like skittish piglets.

No, fear not, Simon, I won’t say any more about her backside. Suffice to say, we could tell she had cycled to lunch today.

A short while later, we had all convened in the reception room. There were eight of us including our esteemed hosts, all as nude as the day we were born. Fortunately, there was a roaring fire in the hearth so no chance of goose pimples. Goosey had already had a mishap with pine needles as he walked past the vast Christmas tree in the vestibule. Miss Lemon had bravely volunteered to remove them without even a pair of tweezers to aid her.

Aside from ourselves and Miss Lemon, the only other guests seemed to be a rather mousey couple, Dr and Mrs Petty. He was, I gathered, a local GP, only invited because Sir Dicky Whizzer-Chips was, by all accounts, a bit of a hypochondriac. Mrs Petty reeked of social-climbing and was prepared to bare her meagre wares in public, despite her obvious discomfort (judging by the way she hid behind her weedy husband) at so exposing herself, in order to say she had dined with the aristocracy. Neither had much to say so, aside from my customary good manners, I dismissed them as of little consequence.

Our hosts were a fascinating pair. Sir Dickie Whizzer-Chips was an amiable old chap, about seventy years of age, walrus-moustached with matching short-and-curlies, a wig of an unconvincing nature perched on the summit of his pate. His wife, Lady Fistula, was petite but what she lacked in height she more than made up for in clockweights – although not literally, that was visible to all. She wore the trousers in that household, I guessed, well, if she ever actually wore anything at all. She sized us all up with her shrewd eyes, embraced Miss Lemon which I thought frightfully brave of her as she could so easily have gone AWOL in that cleavage; patted Goosey on the posterior; shook hands very firmly with yours truly; ignored the Pettys; then to my surprise grabbed Wimpybar by the elbow and led him away. They proceeded to chat very animatedly about something. I tried to earwig, but Miss Lemon drowned out any chance of that with her raucous slurping of the champagne we had just been proffered.

Lunch was an excellent twelve-course affair, from smoked salmon to caviar kedgeree to tripe mousse to kipper cocktail. The highlight was a six-bird joint; starting with a sparrow inside a wren inside a duck inside a capon inside a goose, the whole lot stuffed inside an emu. Eventually, bloated to point of heaving, we cried no more until Spambot the butler presented a flaming Christmas pud. Luckily the old boy had little hair, either on his head or around the orchestras, otherwise it would have whooshed up in smoke when he staggered under the weight of the mucilaginous dessert at one point.

The Pettys only managed a pitiful spoonful each, and even I had to decline a second helping, but the pud was soon demolished by Goosey and Miss Lemon. The former had visibly ballooned throughout the repast to the point where I worried even his socks might fly off, whereas Miss Lemon had made space by constantly and noisily breaking wind during the meal. Most of us were too well-brought up to acknowledge the noises or aroma of her anal ejaculations, but Mrs Petty betrayed her lower middle-class origins by visibly wincing and holding a handkerchief to her nose.

Lunch finished and replete to the point of nausea, we were led to the lounge where we had been promised ‘a little show.’ I was, I admit, somewhat overwhelmed with apprehension about my imminent demise, but would never have been so common as to reveal my feelings. We all sat on sofas and armchairs which were swathed in washable towelette covers.

Wimpybar sat next to me on the sofa and hissed,’ Where’s the Reverend?’ I peered around. Goosey had vanished. I shrugged.’ Little boy’s room, one presumes. Wouldn’t mind an hour or so in there myself.’ Wimpybar looked worried. ‘’Perhaps I’ll go and check,’ he started to say, when darling Lady Fistula stood up to make an announcement.

‘We have a surprise for you,’ she said, loudly. ‘It’s an old Whizzer-Chips tradition that after lunch the children should regale us with Yuletide-themed play to remind us all what we are celebrating today.’

‘What children?’ I asked.

She shrugged. ‘Grandchildren, I expect. I’m never too sure where they come from.’

‘Why weren’t they at lunch?’

Sir Dickie leaned over to me and whispered, ‘’Watching children eat makes Lady Fistula very angry indeed. We didn’t sit at table with our own children until their respective 21st birthday parties.’

Lady Fistula shushed us, clapped her hands and said, ‘And so please give a big hand for the Vicar who has staged this little tableau.  And Sir Dickie, don’t snore!’

During this speech Spambot had hauled with a difficulty a large and rather gaudy chair and placed it just behind where Lady Fistula stood.

I decided to leave. If there were to be children present, I wouldn’t want them witnessing my no doubt grisly death. Such innocent little things. I made to stand… But Wimpybar put a firm hand on my arm and stopped me. ‘Not yet,’ he muttered under his breath.

Goosey appeared, still naked except for a tea towel wrapped around his head.

‘Hello everybody,’ he announced, ‘The children will now perform a little piece, written and directed by myself of that most heart-warming of Christmas stories from the Bible… The Slaughter of the Innocents!’

We applauded.

‘Oh, and I take the role of Herod,’ he suddenly remembered. ‘Hence…’ he pointed the tea towel.

He sat down on the large chair. ‘This is my throne’ he explained quietly, then raised his voice. ‘I am King Herod,’ he announced in a voice usually served for the Demon King in panto.

A young lad appeared, clothed in what appeared to be a dressing gown and, like Goosey, his head adorned by a tea towel. ‘Your Majesty, Three Wise men from the East are at the door asking for directions.’

‘Bring them forth!’

There more young boys appeared, draped in curtains, wearing cardboard crowns on their heads.

‘Your Majesty,’ they chanted in unison. ‘We are Three Wise Men from The East. We seek the young king.’

‘You’re looking at him,’ replied Goosey.

‘No, this one’s a babby apparently,’ they said. ‘A bright star has led us here to find the new King of the Jews.’

‘That can’t be right,’ said Herod, scratching his chin. ‘After all, I’m the King of the Jews, the Jewish VIP.’

Goosey held his hand to hide his mouth from the Wise Men and said to us, the audience, ‘Methinks I had better find out more.’

I have to admit, despite my sense of imminent doom, I was rather gripped. Who knew Goosey had such literary skills?

Herod then told the Wise Men to go and find this little king and then come back and tell him where he was so that Herod too could pay homage.

The Wise men pretended to walk for a long way, while a ‘Mary’ and ‘Joseph set up their manger, along with a doll for the baby Jesus. The Wise men stopped, bowed to the manger and said,’ Hail, King of the Jews. We bring presents.’ Gift having been exchanged, the Wise Men said they were nipping back to tell old Herod all about the baby. As they returned in the direction of Goosey, Joseph said to Mary, ‘I don’t like the sound of that, old girl, quick, let’s scarper!’ They picked up their manger and left the stage.

Meanwhile, the Wise Men were blabbing to Herod about all they had seen, the big-mouthed buffoons. Herod pretended to be enthusiastic, but his side scowls at the audience revealed his true feelings. Once the Wise Men had buggered off, Herod summoned a soldier.

I have to say these children were marvellously convincing. How they remembered their lines and where to move, I just don’t know.

Herod said to the soldier, ‘I want all kiddies under two years old slain.’ Goosey drew a finger across his throat and gurgled. The old red stuff ran cold, I can tell you. ‘Pronto!’

We in the audience booed. Miss Lemon chucked a tangerine at Goosey and missed.

And this was the point when the play turned somewhat strange.

Some small girls came out carrying dolls, followed by boys dressed as soldiers. The boys started to grab the dolls and wrench them apart. Someone had been busy as the dolls were full of unmentionable goo and oomskah which seeped out all over the shop. One small boy even wrenched a doll’s head off with his bare teeth, while a different lad karate chopped another doll in half. The little girls started to fight back, kicking and scratching at the boys. It was all frightfully realistic, the sort of avant-garde nonsense the French get up to. But very rapidly the violence escalated. The ersatz gore got messier, the biting and scratching became more brutal, it was hard to tell which blood was real and which fake. It played havoc with the carpets which would displease Lady Fistula I was sure.

And in the middle of this carnage, Goosey sat on his throne, a broad grin on his face, rubbing his hands with glee. He seemed to be muttering something under his breath.

I stared around at my fellow audience. Eyes wide, jaws dropped, they all seemed to be a in a trance. The Mrs Petty broke the spell by projectile vomiting. She splattered some of the children who promptly ceased their carnage, gaped at each other and burst into tears.

Instantly, the adults snapped out of their hypnotic state. Lady Fistula began to mop the children down with a hanky, Sir Dickie poured himself a whisky, Mrs Petty burst into agitated tears while her husband tried ineffectively to soothe her. Didn’t the silly man know you were supposed to wallop a hysterical woman?

Only Miss Lemon seemed to be way with the fairies still. Wimpybar grabbed her by the shoulder and shook her. Everything shuddered downwards and up again like a tsunami of flesh. ‘Tell me, woman, what are you receiving?’

I didn’t hear her response, but Wimpybar looked grimly satisfied like a chap who’s managed, against the odds, to complete sexual congress with an ugly lass.

‘Never fear, Petty!’ bellowed Wimpybar, pushing the diminutive quack back onto the sofa. ‘I am a fully qualified physician, I will deal with your good wife. And you can assist me, Viscount!’ With that, Wimpybar grabs me rather roughly by the elbow and drags me out of the lounge with him before I can protest.

In the hallway, I snatched my elbow away from the uncouth ruffian. ‘What on Earth…?’ I began, until he placed his index finger on my lips. Oh dear, I thought, fellow’s a Dorothy Perkins.

Spambot was in the hallway dusting a bust of Mussolini. He pointed at a small door which we assumed led to a lavatory, and so we pushed Mrs Petty into it.

‘What do you mean ‘qualified physician?’,’ I continued, ‘You’re not a proper doctor.’

‘I needed a few moments alone with you,’ he said urgently. I was very mindful of his colossal ding-wallace pressing against my thigh.

‘Now look here. Wimpybar, live and let live and I have been in the army, but you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think…’

‘Shh!’ he said and listened carefully. All we could hear was the sound of Mrs Petty wasting a perfectly good Christmas lunch down the lavatory.

The next course of refreshments was waiting to be taken in by the maids: Coffee pots, cups, jugs of steaming milk, a box of Quality Street and a tray of crackers – Harrods, I presumed.

‘Have you finally accepted that you are doomed?’ he asked me.

I wanted to say that it was all ridiculous and of course I didn’t believe any such delusory gobbledygook… but at that moment I realised that I did believe it, every ludicrous word, and was frankly, in a dreadful funk about it. Wimpybar was obviously convinced it was true and… one just accepts the word of a chap with such an immense Captain Standish.

Wimpybar smiled grimly. ‘At last! And would you like me to save you?’

I gasped. ‘But I thought you had spun the curse on me in the first place.’

His eyebrow whizzed heavenwards. ‘I?’ He laughed, a sound I found annoying and curiously reassuring at the same time. ‘I, my dear Viscount , am on the side of the Angels. ‘

I grabbed him by what should have been the lapels, but in our state of dishabille were actually his nipples. He winced.

‘Sorry. But how can you save me?’

‘Have you brought the parchment with you?’

‘Of course. It’s in my jacket pocket.’

‘Fetch it! Now! And this is what I want you to do…’

‘What did he want you to do, Uncle?’

‘Not yet, Simon, I’ll tell you when the time is dramatically right.’





To hear Sir Desmond at work, go to


Tags: ChristmasChristmas ghost storyghostshorrorschooldaysstirlingwheatley


Satan’s Claws Are Coming To Town chapter 3

December 18, 2018

Chapter 3


Yes, the flatus from the arse of Hades! Even in those days, before my spectre-hunting skills had been wholly developed, I recognised that malevolent whiff.

Wrapping my scarf around my face, I listened carefully. The singing was now emanating from behind me. And it was getting louder by the second. I spun around.

I was confronted with a group of carol singers. One of them was holding a lantern on a stick, bathing them in a sinister yellow glow. At first, they seemed like ordinary children, swathed in scarves and woolly hats. But as they approached, I could see to my amazement and horror that they were gargoyles! Not just particularly ugly children, but the actual stone effigies of medieval times, seemingly alive!  I glanced up at the eaves of the church. There was a definite absence of gargoyles and grotesques that one would expect of a church of this age.

Now the odious choir was so close to me that I could see their mouths. I quaked at the sight. My God, will I never erase that disgusting vision from my poor brain! Tiny snapping teeth in mouths seemingly carved into the masonry of the head. They chattered vilely, the teeth making repugnant clicking noises as they sang their blasphemous words. Their chins were covered in sickening scraggy bristles. With horror, I realised that the nauseating orifices reminded me of ladies’…

‘Of ladies’ what, Uncle?’ asked Simon, his eyes saucer-wide.

I sighed. ‘Oh, you know, young man, ladies’…’ I pointed in the general direction, ‘…downstairs.’

‘Their wine cellars?’ asked Simon, clearly puzzled.

‘No,’ I said, exasperated at the ingenuous lad. His naiveté had a certain charm but only to a point. I was really going to have to give him ’the talk’ before the whole thing blew up in his face when he eventually joined the army. ’You do know the difference between ladies and chaps, don’t you?’

‘Girls play lacrosse, boys play rugger.’

‘Well, yes…’

‘Girls can type.’


‘And,’ Simon said, heartbreakingly triumphantly, ‘girls squirt babies out of their bottoms.’

I blame his parents. His mother was no better than she should be, and his father’s never been right since Wipers.

‘Let’s continue with my story, Simon. We’ll worry about your alarming lack of genital savvy after Christmas.’


The infernal choristers crept nearer and nearer. Nowadays, I would have no problem in despatching the repugnant blighters, but then I was stumped. Bullies, communists, pansies, vegetarians, Catholics, the lower orders… those oiks I could soon send packing, but stone fiends from Hell! Hadn’t a clue, frankly.

The Bourbons a Bisquits have never been yellow, but I genuinely thought that my only way of saving my skin was to scarper, pronto. One usually takes sanctuary from the denizens of the underworld in the nearest church, but I had no wish to put Goosey’s parishioners at risk.

But then something quite uncanny happened. A figure, enveloped in hat and scarves, not an inch of his face visible to the world, appeared from nowhere. He – obviously a he – was carrying a large bucket, and he chucked the contents of it all over the damnable brutes. Instantly, they all screamed, and I stared in fascination as the stone monstrosities writhed in horror, their screeches of pain piercing me to my very soul. Then with an ear-splitting bang, the gargoyles exploded! With the reflexes of an old tommie, I instinctively ducked as the shrapnel whizzed past my face.

I cautiously raised my head when the onslaught was over. My faceless saviour was rummaging in the debris.

‘Thanks, old bean,’ I called to him. ‘Much obliged.’

He nodded. ‘Holy water,’ his muffled voice explained from behind the scarf. And with that he grabbed a handful of the gravel remnants and scarpered!

‘I say, who the Dickens are you?’ I called after him, but he’d vanished into the churning blizzard.

I briefly contemplated following him but decided that the warmth and bright candles of the church were more my priority.

But who was that scarfed cove?

The carol service was the jollity I needed after my supernatural happenstance. I managed to join in occasionally, even reaching levels of gusto when we sang about Emmanuelle coming, but I have to admit that while Goosey was in the pulpit blathering on about virgin births and shepherds and whatnot, I was deep in thought about the chilling events of earlier. And little was I to know that I had just been set on the path of righteousness. Yes, Simon, that night, my role as warrior against the creatures of the night started.

‘Crikey!’ exclaimed Simon, vulgarly.

After the service, I waited while Goosey exchanged pleasantries and season’s greetings with his parishioners and, his hand out, accepted gifts from them, including some fatly-stuffed envelopes, and then we walked back to the rectory together (I won’t deny that I kept a wary look-out during the short journey) along with one of the older altar boys, a strapping lad called Toby.

Toby was assisting at the first service in the morning so was sleeping in the box room (‘saves the poor boy making his way back to the church at the crack of dawn in this weather.’).  Goosey packed Toby off to bed with strict instructions to leave his door open for Father Christmas. I’d have thought the lad too old for that sort of childishness, but maybe they grow up later in the sticks.

Once we were thawing out in front of Goosey’s inglenook, sipping from the cocoa which Mrs Brain had ready for us (into which Goosey had tipped a very welcome tot of Scotch), I confided to my ecclesiastic chum the singular events which had taken place earlier.

To my surprise, Goosey pooh-poohed the whole story. ‘Local oiks playing japes on you,’ he giggled. He dismissed any suggestion of the supernatural, which I found rather rum considering his profession.

‘Oh, we’re far too modern in the church today to countenance that sort of claptrap,’ he explained. I was rather shocked. Either you believe in your own nonsense or else, why bother?

‘No, I know exactly which children were to blame for your little adventure. Their parents will be at the mid-morning service tomorrow. I’ll wag a few fingers in the appropriate direction. ‘

He drained his cocoa and stood up. ’Early matinee tomorrow, so I think I had better be up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire.’

He yawned and stretched. ’Merry Christmas, old chum. Put that silliness of earlier out of your mind and have a good night’s sleep. You’ll giggle about it in the morning.’

‘Merry Christmas, Goosey,’ I said absently.

‘Don’t worry about any sounds from upstairs, I’ll just be filling Toby’s stocking.’

With that Goosey scurried upstairs.

I retrieved the rune-inscribed parchment from my pocket and stared at it. Was it true? Was I cursed? Was I destined not to see Boxing Day? I’d dismissed the threat as nonsense, but almost being grabbed by the gargoyles earlier had opened me up to all sorts of possibilities. None of them comfortable.

I gulped down the dregs of my cocoa. The only advantage I could see in my current predicament was that I could get pleasantly legless without suffering the consequences.

I was suddenly aware that I wasn’t alone. I looked up – yes, fearfully I am man enough to admit. Dr Wimpybar was in the doorway looking at me.

‘Who hates you enough to curse you to an eternity of hellfire?’’ he asked quietly.

I considered. ‘Hmm, well, my ex-wife Marjory, perhaps… otherwise I like to think I am generally adored.’

‘No,’ he insisted, ‘earlier than that?’

‘The midwife? I gather I wasn’t an easy birth.’`

Wimpybar sighed. ‘You are a very stupid man, Viscount. Perhaps you deserve your infernal fate.’

Which was just rude.


Christmas morn dawned. The snow lay deep and crisp and even, although the frost looked pretty damn cruel.

‘It’s Christmas time,’ I muttered to myself as I looked out of my bedroom window. ‘But is there a need to be afraid?’

The driveway to Daryl Hall was hurriedly being cleared of snow by locals, young and old, so that we could pass through in Goosey’s pony-and-trap.

‘Isn’t it wonderful that the poor can earn money on Christmas Day, rather than sitting around all day remaining poor, unable even to beg because decent people aren’t out in the streets,’ said Goosey. Rather a profound statement, I thought. Perhaps being a vicar wasn’t such a surprising calling for him?

To my astonishment, Dr Grenford Wimpybar was joining us for lunch. ‘Isn’t he a bit non-U for lunch in such exalted company?’ I whispered to Goosey.

‘He was specifically invited,’ Goosey replied. ‘The Whizzer-Chips read his monograph on the links between tight underpants and communism and so were rather keen to meet him.’

Wimpybar had remained silent throughout the journey, occasionally distracted by the snow-drenched peasants we passed, although whenever I glanced at him, he was staring at me rather too intently for comfort.

My experience the evening before now seemed like a bad dream, the result of too much cheese at night. However, even though I thought I’d convinced myself that the Satanic death sentence was claptrap, deep down a grinding in my gut was ever-present. Maybe that was the late-night cheese too? Or the now-empty decanter of whisky?

But whatever unholy shenanigans were going on, I was sure that Wimpybar was somehow behind it all. His devilish demeanour and the bespoke nature of his silky accent automatically made him dubious to my eyes. Perhaps he had joined us for lunch to see my monstrous demise with his own cunning eyes?

‘I say, look at those!’ I pointed ahead of us.

Daryl Hall was ringed by a circle of huge snowmen, scarfed and hatted, coal for eyes and buttons, and, unusually, two carrots each; one for the nose as is the tradition, the other protruding proudly just below the waist. The pubic tubers certainly made for an impressive, if unorthodox, vision.  The snowmen faced outwards as though on sentry duty against intruders, their orange Johnsons thrusting out in the en garde position.

‘Abominable!’ muttered Wimpybar under his breath.

Goosey giggled uncertainly ‘How naughtily pagan. I shall have to have a word with the Whizzer-Chips.’

Our transport pulled up outside the imposing main entrance to Daryl Hall. We disembarked and approached the front door; Goosey rang the bell.

The door to Daryl Hall was opened by a rather imposing butler who was – I jest not, Simon – as starkers as we are now.


Stark buttock naked! And bearing in mind the cove was eighty if he was a day, it was an alarming sight.

‘Merry Christmas, Spambot,’ exclaimed Goosey.

When Goosey had mentioned that the Whizzer-Chips were nudists, it hadn’t occurred to me that their lunch guests were expected to follow suit – or to be precise, no suits at all.

‘Yuletide greetings, Reverend,’ wheezed the elderly servant. ‘Please come in and I will lead you to the disrobing room.’ He turned, displaying buttocks so fleshless that sitting comfortably must surely be impossible for him, and limped away, his jagged left hip looking as though it may pierce through his gossamer skin at any moment. I was briefly reminded of being taken to see the remains of Tutankhamen when I was boy.

I glanced at Wimpybar. He merely raised an eyebrow. I was not then the committed nudist I am now, but as the owner of a young and fit body at the time…

‘As you are now,’ chipped in Simon, the darling boy.

‘…I had no fear of doffing the clobber, but neither Goosey nor Dr Wimpybar were exactly fine specimens of manhood. In fact, I think they wouldn’t have disagreed with me that they were both blobby buckets of lard encased in repellently pale and dimpled skin.’

Simon rightly shuddered.

Before we were led into the house, I glimpsed back the way we came. I looked at the snowmen again. Something about them made me shudder. They coal eyes seemed to be staring right at me. Hang on a dashed moment, weren’t they facing away from the house when we arrived…? I shook my head. No, I surely must’ve been mistaken.





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Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town chapter 2

December 17, 2018

Chapter 2

I glanced up sharply. To my astonishment, the odd character from the station was standing in the doorway, a dusting of snow on the shoulders of his cape, pointing that silver-tipped cane at us. Even in my surprise I noted that the silver tip was sculpted in the shape of a goat’s head. I briefly thought he was going to slap Goosey’s hand away from the parchment with his cane.

‘Don’t touch it!’ he repeated. As Goosey hadn’t even made the slightest effort to do as he was told, there was no need for this repeated warning.

‘You,’ the man said, pointing at me. ‘You pick it up.’ I don’t usually respond well to orders barked at me by unknown fellows, but I found myself automatically reaching down and picking up the wretched parchment.

‘Who the devil are you, Sir?’ I inquired of the stranger.

‘Ah, may I introduce you two gents,’ said Goosey. ‘This,’ he pointed at the newcomer, ‘is Doctor Greenford Wimpybar. Eminent historian and crypto-anthropologist.’

I hadn’t the foggiest what one of those was, but I wasn’t about to reveal my ignorance.

‘Ah, you’re one of those,’ I said, knowingly.

‘And this’, Goosey gestured at yours truly, ‘is Charles, Viscount de Bourbon a Bisquit.’

Doctor Wimpybar and I nodded at each other, both of us, I could sense, sizing the other up; our weaknesses, our strengths, the girth of our respective metiers.

‘Dr Wimpybar is residing here in the vicarage while doing some historical research,’ Goosey continued.

‘Over Christmas?’ I said, surprised.

‘The festive season means little to me, with the exception of its pagan origins,’ Doctor Wimpybar replied.

Ah, the naivete of my youthful self! The word ‘pagan’ now would set off alarm bells in my head, but in those days. I merely thought it meant ‘the olden days.’

‘I say, that was neat trick you pulled with the ticket back at the station,’ I said.

Goosey looked at me inquiringly. I explained the circumstances of our earlier encounter.

‘A mere act of legerdemain,’ the Doctor said airily. ‘Nothing that an end of the pier conjurer couldn’t do. I saw your ticket fall to the ground, picked it up, and with a subsequent simple act of manual dexterity extracted it from your lug-‘ole.’

My organ in question pricked up at this lapse. ‘Lug-‘ole’ indeed. Not quite as well-bred as you’d like us to think, m’lad.  Filed this information away in case it was needed.

I laughed, and Wimpybar and I shook hands. His grip was surprisingly firm; I was expecting a damp eel. All that ‘manual dexterity’ had put muscle in his wrists.

I waved the parchment at Dr Wimpybar. I am convinced he flinched. ‘So, what is this bit of nonsense, eh?’ I asked him. ‘Why wouldn’t you let Goosey pick it up?’

A very sombre expression settled on Doctor Wimpybar’s face and he touched his fingers together.  ‘I think you may have infuriated someone, Viscount.’

I chortled. ‘Oh, I’ve made many enemies in my time. Who hasn’t?’

Doctor Wimpybar put on a steely face.’ No, this is someone who wants you dead!’

I gasped. So did Goosey.

Doctor Wimpybar pointed at the parchment. ‘Those runes are a death sentence. While they are in your possession, you are dooomed!’

I was convinced the fellow added an extra letter ‘O’ to ‘doomed.’

‘Well, I’ll just throw them away,’ I said and strode towards the open fire.

‘No!’ roared Wimpybar. ‘That will not work. The only way to divest them is to pass them onto another person – who will then be dooomed in your place.’

Dooomed. He did it again.

‘Thanks heavens I don’t believe in all that mumbo-jumbo then,’ I replied. ‘Or else my knees would be knocking and not from the weather.’ I laughed and glanced at Goosey. But he had gone deathly white.

‘Don’t mock the forces of darkness, Sausage,’ he quavered.

‘Oh, come now, Goosey, surely you don’t swallow all that cock.’

He coughed. ‘Well, I am a vicar. Rather goes with the territory.’

Doctor Wimpybar approached me, the contours of his jowls lit rather spookily by the flames from the open fire. ‘Be warned, Viscount, your death is imminent – and it will not be a peaceful one.’

You know me, young Simon, no man puts the willies up yours truly so easily. I chuckled again, right in the wretched Doctor’s face. ‘Sorry, old chap, you may be a brainy boffin and all that, but yours truly doesn’t easily fall for any of that flapdoodle!’

And I flung the parchment in the fire.

Doctor Wimpybar’s pink face was impassive, but Goosey gasped. I thought my old batman was going to reach out to rescue the parchment from the flames. Wimpybar again used his silver-tipped cane to prevent anyone approaching the fire.

‘Watch!’ he whispered.

Blow me down with a pink oboe if the blasted piece of parchment didn’t fly out of the flames and land back in my hand. It wasn’t even hot, although a couple of sparks from the flames singed my palm.

‘Well, I never…!’ I exhaled. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Goosey crossing himself which I thought was a tad Popeish for my liking.

Doctor Wimpybar confronted me. ‘Your death is written, Viscount. Someone wishes you dead. And imminently so. I am sorry.’

‘When?’ asked Goosey.

’24 hours from the moment the Viscount first touched the parchment,’ replied Wimpybar.

‘So, approximately 5pm tomorrow. Christmas day!’ I gulped.

I grabbed Wimpybar by the cane. ‘Is there nothing I can do?’ Yes, I’ll admit it, Simon, my disdain for the supernatural was beginning to crumble.

Doctor Wimpybar looked rueful. ‘Only by condemning someone else to a horrible death can you save yourself.’

I contemplated whom I really disliked. ‘Who’s the local Labour MP?’ I asked Goosey.

He just looked crestfallen and said he would see if supper was ready.

After he’d left the room, I looked Doctor Wimpybar squarely in the eye and asked, ‘Is this really true? Am I doomed?’

‘Eat, drink and be merry, my dear Viscount!’ he cried. ‘you won’t need to worry about a hangover on Boxing Day.’


The rest of the evening passed in somewhat of a daze. Wimpybar had gone out, ostensibly for ‘his research,’ although I suspected the blighter was up to no good somewhere. Goosey’s housekeeper had made a splendid tripe-and-onions omelette for supper, but I barely tasted it. Of course, I knew that no-one could be sentenced to death by a piece of parchment. This was the twentieth century, after all. An epoch of scientific discovery. Look at all the marvellous weapons we had now! War was now state of the art, no spears and tomahawks and getting drenched in the enemies’ gore.  I was rather looking forward to the next war – if indeed I was to be allowed to live to see it.

I made a pretence of listening to Goosey’s natter, but he soon gave me up as a bad job and excused himself, citing a need to darn a hole in his cassock ready for midnight mass.

I did what I always do when engulfed in uncertainty. I poured a large whisky. Alcohol! A cuddle from one’s nanny for adults. A few tumblers of Glenlivet’s finest and my fears of earlier had receded. The evening passed. Goosey had popped his owlish head around the door to say he was off to the church and urging me not to be late. He wanted me to hand out hymn sheets and start the round of applause after his sermon.

The clock struck 11.30.

I took a final swig of whisky and stood up. ‘Well, off to church I bally well toddle,’ I announced, although as Yours Truly was the only cove in the room it was somewhat of a redundant statement.

The walk to St Sheila the Shameless was only a few minutes, one side of the graveyard to the other. The cemetery to the font; the reverse of our usual journey, I pondered morbidly.

One wouldn’t usually bother with outdoor apparel – apart from a hat, obviously, I am not a barbarian –  but the snow was whirling like a Turkish dervish, and I could imagine the temperature had plummeted to a degree that would make one fear for the wellbeing of one’s orchestras.

In the hallway I donned my hat and coat. As I was pulling on my muffler, the front door opened and, accompanied by a severe drop in the temperature, haloed by a swirling cloud of snow, Dr Greenford Wimpybar entered the vicarage. By the glow on his pale cheeks, I surmised a few snifters had been downed at the local hostelry The Thruppenny Bits.

‘Evening, old chap,’ I boomed at him. ‘Merry Christmas! Well, almost.’ I could’ve sworn he flinched.

‘Reciprocated,’ he replied, with a faint smile, and made his way to the stairs.

‘Coming to Midnight Mass?’

He paused at the foot of the stairs and turned back to me, ‘Regrettably, I must work.’

‘On Christmas Eve? The most magical night of the year. Who are you, Father Christmas?’ I guffawed.

A carefully-constructed half-smile appeared on his lips. ‘Perhaps I do plan to bring a gift to all mankind this Yuletide.’ The smile abruptly left, and his eyes quickly changed from disdain to worry and then back to his usual piercing stare, as though he had briefly said too much.

‘All mankind. Eh? I can think of a few ladies for whom I’d happily empty my sack in their bedrooms this very night.’ Unforgivably vulgar, but my tongue had been loosened by the whisky, and besides there were no ladies or vicars present, so no harm done. Although I know Goosey would’ve roared, but I’d never been convinced that his ‘calling’ was anything truly spiritual. The church and the stage are where the otherwise unemployable usually end up.

Wimpybar’s left eyebrow fleetingly raised, he nodded at me, and resumed his journey upstairs.

‘You’ll be missing a jolly good sing-song,’ I entreated him. ‘What’s Christmas without a midnight knees-up to celebrate Our Saviour’s birth?’

Wimpybar continued to climb the stairs, giving no hint that he’d heard me.

‘Nightcap when Goosey and I get back?’ I suggested to his ascending back. He didn’t respond.

‘God rest ye merry…’ I muttered under my breath (but unable to say the word ‘gentleman’ where that curious chap was involved) and girded my, frankly, substantial loins for the imminent cold air outside.

One certainly didn’t have to dream of a White Christmas, it was happening. The combination of a vicious icy wind and the eddying snowflakes blasted me as I stepped outside. So much for a gentle stroll through the graveyard to the church.  I finally discovered the reason men have eyelashes as they prevented the snow from blinding me completely.

Despite the howl of the wind I could hear the sound of Christmas carols in the distance. Was I late? Had the service started already?

While Shepherds Washed Their Cocks By Night…

Had I misheard? Perhaps my ears were already suffering from frostbite? Those weren’t the words I recalled from school, not even in the Lower Fourth, and we were all far from angelic at that age.

Silent Night, Holy Shite…

I stopped. There was something wicked afoot. I was yet to be the fearless investigator of the occult at that point in time, but even with stalactites forming from my nose I could smell a very peculiar rat.

Not just a rat. My nostrils, despite the numbing from the arctic air, suddenly got a whiff of an offensively pungent odour. Was it…? Could it be…?




(c) Anthony Keetch

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Tags: ChristmasChristmas ghost storyghostshorrorschooldaysstirlingwheatley


Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town

December 16, 2018

Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town by Sir Desmond Stirling


Chapter 1

‘Merry Christmas, Uncle Charles!’

‘Merry Christmas, Simon!’

Charles, Viscount de Bourbon a Bisquit, gentleman, adventurer, patriot and Englishman (despite his gallic title), clanked champagne glasses with his young nephew. They both took a swig of the bubbly nectar.

‘I say, Uncle, this new Turkish bath of your is frightfully hot.’

‘It’s supposed to be,’ Charles smiled at his nephew and watched the perspiration rolling down the young man’s firm cricket-enhanced pectorals. ‘That’s why we’re both sans clobber.’

Charles stood up and poured water onto the infernally red coals. They sizzled, and steam erupted into the air. Charles sat down again, eschewing the towel he had initially wrapped around his waist. He unself-consciously perched one leg up on the bench, his manhood gleaming with sweat, and began to casually exfoliate himself with his strigil.

Simon nonchalantly flicked his adorable blonde fringe out of his eyes; a spray of sweat flew across the sauna, a salty bead landing on his uncle’s face.

‘I don’t think I can cope with much more, Uncle.’ He flapped his hands in front of his face.

‘Nonsense’ replied his uncle firmly. ‘you’ll face a lot more heat than this in the Sudan when you get posted there. Don’t forget, the fuzzy-wuzzies are accustomed to it and will use that to their fiendish advantage, so you’ll be spending lot more time in here over the Yuletide holiday…’

Simon groaned.

‘Even if I have to tear your clothes off and drag you in here myself!’

Both men laughed at the prospect.

‘Now,’ said Charles, ‘where are the holly branches? Time to give you a jolly good whisking!’

‘What?’ exclaimed Simon, alarmed.

‘Relax, said his uncle, ‘it’s what the Reds and the Finns do to each other in their bath-houses. Marvellous for the circulation, apparently. Gets the gander up and throbbing.’

‘Tell you what, Uncle,’ said Simon, keen to avoid a thrashing, remembering the spankings Charles used to give him in his youth, often for the most trivial misdemeanour, ‘why not tell me one of your marvellous spooky yarns. It is nearly Christmas after all.’

Charles ceased scraping his thigh, unclasped his strigil, and thought for a while. ‘Funny you should say that, lad, this morning at breakfast I was reading The Times obituary page and I was reminded of something that happened a long time ago…’


It was the 24th of December. I can’t recall which year, but sometime between the wars. I had accepted an invitation from my old school chum and later army batman, Arthur Gander, known affectionately to his chums as Goosey. Now officially the Reverend Arthur Gander, Goosey had bagged himself a tasty parish in the idyllic Cotswold village of Murphy Grumbar. He’d been surprisingly popular, managing not to upset his bishop or get himself arrested as vicars are wont to do.

Goosey had, out of the blue, asked me to spend Christmas with him and read the lesson at midnight mass. I’d recently had an unwise dalliance with a certain young lady – no names, no packdrill, but as I didn’t relish being King one day, it was gently suggested at the end of a Beefeater’s pike that I leave town for a while. I was sailing for Kuala Lumpur in the new year, but, beforehand, a traditional Yuletide in the Shires appealed.

Delayed by financial negotiations with a particularly truculent grande horizontale, I had seized my suitcase, put my manservant Staunchpole into kennels, grabbed the post, and raced to Paddington station. I’d only just made my train and, annoyed to find First Class packed, I had reluctantly taken a seat in Second Class. I had firmly made it clear to the scum in my carriage that they were to speak only when spoken to, and settled down to read my post.

I discarded the begging letters (one from my accountant pleading to be paid, the nerve!), the Christmas cards from obscure relatives, a reminder to renew my subscription to English Manhood periodical. In other words, nothing that couldn’t have been ignored until after the holiday had finished. I discarded the lot out of the carriage window. I was about to close my eyes and enjoy a comfy snooze when I saw that I had missed one piece of post which was, judging from its size and feel, another Christmas card. It was about to follow its brethren into the icy outdoors when I decided to open it. One leftover foolishness from my childhood is the forlorn hope that maybe there will be a very welcome postal order bestowed on yours truly by an uncle with more money than sense or perhaps wanting to buy silence for that unwise stroking of a thigh at a long-ago family tea party.

The card was nondescript, bearing an image of a robin so banal that it wasn’t even unforgivably vulgar. It was unsigned with no clue as to the sender. I struggled to think of which elderly kin was so demented that they’d forget to inscribe a card, but as most of one’s aging aunties seem to be so far gone that euthanasia would be a kindness, it was hard to pin down a culprit.

I noticed that something was stuck to the inside of the card, a loose piece of paper. I tugged, and it came loose. It was a thin strip of paper, almost translucent. At first, I thought it was blank, but as I stared at it, unearthly symbols appeared on the paper. Don’t look at me like that, young Simon, I know exactly how it sounds, but I swear it’s true.  Now in those days I wasn’t the expert on the occult I have since become so I didn’t recognise these uncanny cryptograms for what they were – runes!

No, not prunes, Simon, runes! A form of alphabet used by heathens in the olden days. Yes, I know the effect prunes have on you, it’s a family curse, we all suffer from it. Beastly things. Clockweights of the devil.

Where was I? Ah yes, the slip of paper with the runes. I hadn’t the foggiest what they meant, but something deep down inside me suspected that this card and its occupant shouldn’t be discarded like the rest, so I tucked them inside my pocket, put the whole mystery out of my mind and, lulled by the steady rattle of the train, settled down for my nap.

At first sleep eluded me. I opened my eyes. There was an advertising poster on the wall opposite my seat. It depicted a pretty young lass of the lower orders, her blonde hair wrapped in a scarf, as she recommended the use of some liquid for a domestic purpose. I was idly speculating why the domestic staff one employed were never as attractive as that… when I could have sworn that the woman in the poster moved. I blinked my eyes. Perhaps I had fallen asleep without realising it? The poster woman looked right at me. Not generally out of the poster, but directly at myself. I blinked again. She was definitely glaring straight at me – and then she made the most unlady-like of gestures. I looked around to see if anyone else could see this, but my fellow travellers were either snoozing or had their noses buried in tawdry magazines. I returned my gaze to the poster. Now the blurb on the poster – instead of being the usual balderdash about the product they were promoting – simply read:


CHARLES, VISCOUNT de Bourbon a Bisquit




Naturally I was outraged. I have never been smelly; indeed my odour has often been praised as the most appealing of musks, masculine, yet aromatic.

I summoned the guard. He shambled over to me, insolently irked at having to leave whatever nefarious pastime he was doing rather than the job for which the railway company was amply remunerating him.

‘Tell me, my good man,’ I said between clenched teeth, and pointed at the poster. ‘what is the meaning of this?’

He peered at the poster. It never occurred to me that maybe the base fellow couldn’t read but, lips moving silently, he stared at the writing.

‘Well, sir, it appears to be suggesting that the use of this particular detergent will remove stubborn stains from even the most soiled of underwear.’

My fury was starting to boil over. ‘Not the advertising claptrap,’ I said. ‘The other part. The bit about Viscount Charles being smelly and dying on Christmas Day.’

He looked at me, an even more confused expression than usual on his stupid face and gazed back at the poster. He shrugged. ‘Can’t see nothing like that, sir.’

Barely able to stop myself cuffing the silly fellow, I pointed back at the poster. ‘It’s there! Right under your…’

I gaped, probably looking as gormless as the guard, only with better breeding. The writing about yours truly had gone! Vanished! Just the usual inane marketing drivel, not the insolent stuff about my fragrance or my death.

‘Is that all, sir?’ asked the guard, his demeanour suggesting he thought I was drunk or gaga. I was too baffled to be upset by this and just dismissed him with my hand.

I got up close to the poster and sniffed. Maybe some trick ink had been used? But I could smell nothing untoward. Perhaps I had been dreaming?

I retired to my seat and stared at the poster. But nothing changed, it remained as innocuous as it had before. I found myself hypnotised by the colours of the image, and next thing I knew, I was fast asleep.

I had woken just in time to evacuate my bladder and splash some water on my face before the train pulled into the little station of Murphy Grumbar. I summoned the porter, a shriveled gnome of a man, probably inbred, and instructed him to take my trunk. He made a great pretence of it being an effort, as the proletariat are wont to do. For goodness sake, it wasn’t that much bigger than his puny little carcass.

It had begun to snow, and I strode off to the exit through the swirling flakes, groping for my ticket in my breast pocket. But to my shock, my ticket wasn’t there. I had definitely secured it in that particular pocket before boarding. I looked around suspiciously. Had one of my fellow passengers pinched it while I had dozed? I was rummaging throughout my person just to make sure I hadn’t secreted it in some other nook or cranny when someone barged into me.

‘Watch it!’ I chastised the oaf.

‘I do apologise’. The voice was surprisingly silky. I glanced at its owner. He was an insignificant-looking chap, of a similar height to myself, somewhat pink of face, a silver-tipped cane in his hand. He doffed his Fedora to me, revealing a hairless dome, possibly shaved rather than a result of diminished masculinity. He did however affect a beard, but alas no moustache, an unwise pretension. The beard started along his jawline and was sculpted into a point beneath his chin, resulting in a somewhat saturnine effect, no doubt deliberate.

‘Hmm!’ I harrumphed, admittedly rather ungraciously, but the loss of my ticket had rattled me. Once it wouldn’t have mattered, but in these days of bumptious Bolsheviks, my word as a gentleman would no longer suffice and I’d have to cough up the tin again.

The man replaced his hat and said in rather an oily fashion, ‘Apologies once more.’ He started to turn away, but then stared at me and said, ‘You seem to have something in your ear.’ Before I could stop him, he’d placed his long fingers to my ear and retrieved something from it.

‘What the deuce!’ I spluttered, then stopped and stared in wonder as I saw that the object salvaged from my ear was… my ticket!

‘How the dickens did you…?’ I started, but the man had gone. How on earth had he moved so quickly? His legs seemed to be too short to be that nippy.

Was this the culprit who’d half-inched my ticket in the first place or what? Cove was obviously a wizard at the old sleight of hand, but he didn’t look like a thief. Too well-spoken for a start.

The snow was getting heavier now, and even a magnificent specimen as I was – and still am – could feel the cold seeping into one’s bones. I hailed a taxi – probably the only one in the village, judging by the fist shaken in my direction by the middle-aged biddy in the queue who, frankly, looked as though she needed the exercise.

The clergy know how to look after themselves well, so I was not surprised to find the vicarage to be a haven of warmth and comfort. Goosey greeted me warmly with a cry of ‘Sausage!’ (my nickname in the army for reasons you won’t, in our current circumstances, need explaining, although Goosey as lower ranks shouldn’t really have used it), and while his elderly housekeeper lugged my trunk to my room, he led me into his living room where are blazing fire awaited me, along with buttered crumpets and steaming hot cocoa.

As I defrosted myself in front of the fire and indulged in the delicious crumpets, I listened contentedly as Goosey gave me the latest gossip about our old school chums; who was dead, who was banged up in chokey, who was going through a messy divorce, who had caught frostbite while indulging with a guardsman in Hyde Park in sub-zero conditions…

Goosey hadn’t really changed since the end of war. Maybe a tad fatter, he still resembled an obese owl, peering through large round glasses which he only prevented sliding down his nose with an extraordinary grimace. He hadn’t been the best of batmen, his short legs too short to get him where he had been despatched in ample time, his weight often causing him to get stuck in the mud. I seemed to be forever chastising him, but usually with a twinkle in my eyes, and I was fond of the tubby little fathead.

‘I say, Goosey,’ I said with a mouthful of crumpet, butter dribbling down my chin, ‘I am glad you asked me here for Christmas.’

‘Well, my dear,’ chuckled Goosey, breathing on his huge round specs and wiping them with a mantilla, ‘once we have my tedious Church duties out of the way, we’re going to have the most delicious fun. We’ve been invited to Daryl Hall for Christmas lunch. The Whizzer-Chips, Darling Sir Dicky and Lady Fistula. A delightful couple. Do you know them?’ I shook my head.’ He’s something big in weaponry, and she’s the second daughter of the Duke of Northfields. ‘

I recalled that I had heard of them. Staunch naturists and admirers of Mussolini, they were reputed to be splendid hosts and always kept a warm fire and a Swastika flying. I hasten to add this was before those damned Nazis spoiled fascism for everybody with their boorish behaviour.

Goosey confirmed this. ‘Devoted nudists the pair of them. Dicky proposed a bill in Parliament earlier this year to make nudity compulsory in schools and government departments.  It was defeated due to the high cost of heating that would then be required. ‘

‘In schools?’ I guffawed. ‘Don’t recall any heating in our alma mater, and we were usually clothed. Except in the baths after games and double French on Tuesdays.’

‘Oh, that Monsieur Copine, he was such a scream!’ Goosey clapped his hands together. ‘Dead now, of course. Went off to fight in the Spanish civil war. ‘

‘Killed in combat? I gasped.

‘Don’t be silly,’ giggled Goosey. ‘Had a stroke in a gentleman’s convenience in Folkestone waiting for the ferry.’

We toasted the old monsieur and his futile death, then wished each other the merriment of the season. The heat from the hearth was beginning to make me perspire after the cold of the train so I reached into my pocket for my handkerchief, and out fluttered something which fell to the floor.

‘You’ve dropped something,’ said Goosey

‘You’re much the shorter of the pair of us, Goosey,’ I said, ‘Reach down and pick it up, there’s a good batman.’

‘Don’t touch that, Reverend!’ a loud voice startled us.





(c) Anthony Keetch 2018

Be alarmed…

Be really quite alarmed…

Sir Desmond Stirling, world-acclaimed author, patriot, bon viveur, war hero, & great political thinker of our time offers his loyal readers an exclusive chance to eavesdrop as he writes his latest novel.

Listen as a brand new Satanic chiller spurts forth from the brain of the master story-teller!

Gasp at the horror of it all!

Feel humbled at the enormous privilege you are experiencing!

Who is the mysterious intruder in socialite Marjorie Ashbrook’s bedroom?

Why are there Nazis in Hampstead?

Will playboy and dog-meat heir Simon Tubular-Wells succumb to an act of shame which could diminish his standing in society?

What diabolical &  probably foreign mastermind is behind it all?

Can Charles, the tough, but classy aristocrat, rescue his friends and save the world from the dark Satanic forces which threaten to engulf it?

… or will even he forfeit his soul in the War Against Beastliness?