Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town


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

SMELLY IDIOT

DIED CHRISTMAS DAY 193-

 

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.

 

Continued

 

 

(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?fro

www.whatnoise.co.uk

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