Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town chapter 2

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

To hear Sir Desmond at work, go to


Tags: ChristmasChristmas ghost storyghostshorrorschooldaysstirlingwheatley



One Response to “Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town chapter 2”

  1. Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town | The Gospel According to Sir Desmond Stirling Says:

    […] to my apostles « Sir Desmond Stirling – the man, the myth,the legend… Satan’s Claws Are Coming to Town chapter 2 […]

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