Archive for June, 2021

‘The Tell-Tale Nipple’

June 29, 2021

Chapter 1

‘So tell me, Sir Desmond,’ I am often asked, ‘do you actually believe in the things you write about?’

By ‘things I write about,’ I presume they mean ‘the supernatural,’ as opposed to pretty girls and sports cars and Nazis and dashing Englishmen – all of which I not only believe in but have surrounded myself with throughout my life. The Nazis were obviously not by choice, but giving them a jolly good hiding was something I would have lamented to miss out on.

But as for the eerie and the magical and the paranormal, not to mention the forces of darkness, the jury – composed of one man just and true eg Yours Truly – is still out and sifting through all the evidence, unsure whether to believe the upstanding ‘copper’ of scientific rationalism or the smarmy ‘defence lawyer’ of myths and legends. 

I was having this very conversation the other night with chums at my club  (Abaddon’s, just off Frith Street – don’t try and find out exactly where; none of you would cut the mustard for membership). We’d just enjoyed a splendid supper of Tripe Kedgeree followed by Prune Charlotte, and had settled down with brandies and cigars in the Smoking Chamber. 

We’d just endured some magic tricks performed by ‘Snotty’ Gove, a repugnant little oik who only clung onto membership because most people never even noticed he was there. I’d been at school with his equally oily father who had been my fag until an unfortunate incident which resulted in him losing a leg which was categorically not my fault. 

There was no doubt that ‘Snotty’ was reasonably proficient at conjuring, but his banter was tedious, and the very least he could’ve done was clean his fingernails when doing sleight of hand with cards.  After he’d produced a Jack of Spades from ‘Chinny’ Chapman’s left nostril, it was rather forcefully suggested that ‘Snotty’ put his cards away and give it a rest.

Now, I’m often asked to regale my fellow members with a suitably gruesome yarn, and that evening I obliged with an old favourite about a garrotted nun who stalked an orphanage by night, auguring doom for any wretched child who glimpsed her.

I’d finished my story to much appreciation. I’d so put the willies up old ‘Chinny’ Chapman, that he’d had to guzzle an extra tablet to cope with his palpitations.

And it was then that ‘Snotty’ Gove piped up.

‘I say, Stirling, old bean. Do you actually believe the nonsense you come up with?’

I graciously ignored the word ‘nonsense’ – after all, my ‘nonsense’ has given me a very comfortable living indeed, not to mention many a coveted guest slot on Call My Bluff. I replied that my mind was open on the subject; that while many people whose opinion I trusted (the Duke of Kent, Uri Geller, darling Suzi Quatro) were staunch in their belief in the supernatural, I personally had yet to encounter any rock-solid evidence that even that boffin Dawkins couldn’t dismiss.

At that moment, Scunthorpe the waiter – a tall cadaverous cove who’d worked at the Club man and boy since the last war, maybe even the Crimean – approached and asked if our glasses needed refreshing. A redundant question! He was topping us all up when ‘Snotty’ Gove  asked Scunthorpe if he believed in ghosts.

‘I don’t believe in them, Sir,’ he replied, his curious slurring speech caused by his tongue having to keep his upper dentures from falling out, ‘I know they exist!

‘What makes you so convinced?’ I asked him, intrigued. People do so fascinate me, even the lower orders.

He looked down at me from his great height, watery eyes betraying a vehemence I’d never seen in them before. Or maybe I just never bothered to look at the staff properly, unless they were pretty gels. ‘When I were a lad,’ he slushed, ‘I saw a Ghost with my very own eyes. And I’ve never forgotten it.’ So chilled was he by his own memory that he forgot to support his dentures and they splashed into ‘Chinny’ Chapman’s whisky. Hurriedly Scunthorpe fished them out and popped them back into his cavern of a mouth. Fortunately, Chinny had lost consciousness and was unaware his drink had been in contact with another chap’s gnashers.

‘Where did this encounter take place?’ I asked, quite seriously. I never mock those who believe, no matter how ludicrous. 

Scunthorpe glanced upwards and pointed at the ceiling. ‘Why here, Sir Desmond, in the…’ he gulped and his dentures threatened to slip down his throat, ‘in the Box Room.’

I was puzzled. I thought I knew the club’s layout pretty well, but I couldn’t recall a Box Room. 

‘Is it that door on the top landing?’ asked ‘Snotty’ Gove. ‘One passes it on the way to the roof.’

In the summer, I’d spent many happy afternoons on the roof terrace sunbathing in the buff. Had I noticed a door? Come to think of it…

‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘But I’ve never given it any thought. Probably thought it was a broom cupboard. Or the staff khazi.’

‘It’s been locked these many years,’ explained Scunthorpe. ‘Ever since my own… encounter. Will that be all, gentlemen?’ He turned to leave.

‘Hold your horses, Scunthorpe,’ I said, ‘You can’t leave us in suspense. Tell us more. What sort of ghost was it?’

He shook his head fearfully. The dentures rattled in his skull. ‘I’ve said too much, sir. I swore to the Club Chairman I would never talk about it. The Box Room door was firmly locked and has never been opened since. I’ll be sacked if I say any more.’

I harrumphed. ‘They’ll sack you over my dead body, Scunthorpe. And then I’ll haunt you. Come on, old thing, spill the ghostly beans!’

But, shuddering, his bowed his head and, tottering slightly, he left the lounge.

Shortly after this, Neville Sladen-Flame arrived after an evening of rampant leg-overs with his mistress, allegedly the wife of an Archbishop, and as he regaled us with a litany of all the dirty things she was happy to do, Scunthorpe‘s ghostly encounter slipped our minds.  

The rest of the evening passed in a merry blur, and I woke to find I had been put to bed in my room at the Club, naked except for socks. (In all my years as a Member, I’ve never found out who actually performs this chore. I presume they have dedicated staff whose specific job is to tuck up pie-eyed members.)

The following evening I dined with my daughter (Sub: check her name) and her ghastly husband, the wretched Darren Frognall – the self-styled Trotsky of Terror – the chump who churns out very ‘modern’ horror novels, set on ‘council estates’ (whatever they are), filled with unnecessarily descriptive eviscerations, and in which the villains are inevitably toffs or hard-working multi-millionaire industrialists. For some reason, MI5 haven’t banged him up for being a raging red, and instead he is my son-in-law. However, he keeps a good cellar and their cook is top-notch so I’m happy to spend the occasional evening at their bijou six-bedroom house in Hampstead. Conversation usually gets frightfully heated – which we both enjoy if we’re honest – and my daughter has an early night while we indulge in our own personal edition of Question Time.

On this evening, the conversation took a somewhat different turn. I mentioned over the Foie Gras what Scunthorpe had said the previous night. Frognall instantly went to his bulging bookcase and produced an old yellowing pamphlet. He said that he’d been given it by a fan at one of his book-signing appearances and had been meaning to show it to me for ages, but our political debates always got in the way. 

Turns out that Abaddon’s, my gentlemen’s club of which I have been a member as long as I can remember, wasn’t always the hive of genteel and civilised behaviour it now prides itself on being. When it first opened in the mid-eighteenth century, it actually housed a branch of The Hellfire Club during a brief attempt to franchise that particular den of iniquity! It hosted all manner of decadent shenanigans, far removed from the refined evenings I enjoy there these days. It was opened by a rum cove called Sir Jasper de Scornly, the youngest son of the Earl of Greenford, a minor toff who had been a great favourite at court, mainly because he was an utter weed who never rocked the boat and was always happy to cough up a few groats to George the whichever number when required. 

His third son, the aforementioned Sir Jasper, was a scoundrel of the worst kind. A drinker, a fighter, an unprincipled seducer of girls, boys and indeed anything with a pulse. If I’m honest he sounds far more convivial company that most of the current members… except for one thing. He liked to indulge in festivities of the supernatural. Not just seances and table-tapping – after all, who doesn’t? – but black masses, orgies, blood-soaked rituals, nun-on-goat action and opium-fuelled bacchanalias. Disgraceful! I have written about these depraved activities in enough depth to know how shameful they are, however enticing they may seem at first glance. 

Eventually, Sir Jasper crossed a line and his Club was shut down. But this is where the mystery deepens… the official records of the current Club only begin many years later when it reopened as a bastion of decency for gentlemen of a certain class. What was the deed that was a step too far? What was Sir Jasper’s ultimate fate? 

Rumours abounded that Sir Jasper’s Club lured many otherwise upright pillars of society into its wicked portals, even – and I’d not say this lightly- royalty was beset with temptation. Not just foreign royals from whom one expects such beastly behaviour – but even the then Pr*nce of W*les was ensnared into its lascivious maw. This simply wouldn’t do and steps would have been taken. Was Sir Jasper popped in a sack and bundled off to some ghastly armpit of the Empire, to live out his days in a drunken stupor, johnson slowly rotting thanks to some exotic variety of the clap, and then on the day he was finally whisked off to meet his Maker, buried ‘neath a banana tree, forgotten and unmarked?

The de Scornly family finally died out when the last fertile male came a cropper at Wipers during the Great War. The title was mothballed, and no freshly ennobled bloke has ever claimed it. Perhaps I could nab it when my time for ermine eventually arrives (Get a move on, Your Majesty, we’re neither of us getting any younger!)

But what did this have to do with Scunthorpe’s alleged spook?

At which point Darren Frognall made an extraordinary suggestion. 

I have very little time for my oikish son-in-law. His horror novels are boorish communist propaganda, and while Frognall may have perpetuated an image of himself as a ‘grizzled laureate of the streets’,’ I knew full well that he was the product of a minor public school in west London called St Nonceslas, that he’d inherited a tidy sum from an uncle in the tobacco trade, and that he’d invested heavily in an oil well in Abu Doli.

But his idea intrigued me. 

He suggested that I spend the night in the haunted room!

**************

I was surprised how readily that the Club President granted permission for my ghost-hunting mission. Naturally, he demanded that I promised not to write about my mission and equally naturally I lied and said I wouldn’t. 

Abaddon’s is notoriously publicity-shy, always guaranteeing sanctuary from the real world for the reprobates who comprise the membership. But losing the use of a room due to the superstitions of its simpleton staff must have rankled, so if I could clear up the enigma one way or the other, they would claim this as a result. I might even get free life membership if the upshot is to their liking.

A date was set for my night of ghostly vigil. I had hoped that Frognall would join me as an unbiased observer, but his lack of membership prohibited him, and the Committee refused to sanction any relaxation of rules to allow him to take part. Another stipulation – with which I agreed – was that no other member should know of my vigil. I didn’t want any of the rotters to play any tricks and scupper the serious scientific nature of my investigation.

I chose as my date the 14th February. I knew that on this date most of the members would be absent, being forced to take their wives, mistresses, boyfriends, favourite tarts and sundry significant others out for some kind of romantic occasion. It was also, I discovered from my research, the anniversary of the day that Sir Jasper de Scornly was unceremoniously booted out of the Club. If his spook was holding a grudge then surely that of all days would be when he would most likely manifest himself?

I went shopping for the apparatus I would need for my evening of ghost-hunting:  Candles, some holy water, an infra-red camera, a cracking bottle of Gleniskinnock whisky, a notepad and a pen. 

As the planned evening approached, my sense of anticipation tautened. I’m not easily frightened – I once parachuted into Germany dressed as nun; it wasn’t the war, I’d just lost a bet with the Duke of Edinburgh – but my pulse quickened when I thought of the night ahead.

I’d often unmasked those who were pretending to be ghosts (most recently my ex-wife and her girlfriend Pam at my alma mater Scarhelldeath Hall), but I was unprepared for what to do if the spooky rogue I encountered was the real McCoy. Would I keep my nerve? Or would I succumb to the heebie-jeebies like Scunthorpe had? It seems unlikely for a war hero such as myself, trained in the art of death by combat to go jelly-kneed at the sight of a ghost, but even the most lion-hearted of fellows has been known to bespoil their trousers when caught unawares. Perhaps I ought to doff the clothes and go knackers akimbo during my vigil? Hmm, could be a bit chilly in the Box Room and besides, one can be a tad vulnerable in such a state of sans trews.

The Feast of St Valentine’s dawned. I spent the day preparing for my long night of supernatural vigil. I had a splendid five-course lunch, snoozed most of the afternoon, then supped in my Club, followed by a brandy or two. The place was pleasingly quiet. I chuckled at the thought of my fellow Members having to endure a mandatory romantic evening with their trouble-&-strifes, followed by a duty knee-trembler. I did worry whether old ‘Chinny’ Chapman was in any fit state to indulge in carnal congress, but then recalled that his wife had run off with a bus driver a year or two before so he was excused the tedium of Valentines Day. In fact, I spotted him fast asleep in the Club Lounge, his pipe dangling precariously from his drooping mouth. I wondered how ‘Snotty’ Gove was spending the evening. I couldn’t imagine him in any kind of romantic or erotic circumstances, but ‘for every foot there’s a sock’ as my old Nanny used to say. Although in the case of Snotty’s pater there’s a somewhat redundant sock. 

The clock struck. 10pm. Time to start. I’d been given the keys to the Box Room earlier. Scunthorpe handed them over very reluctantly and had pleaded me with me to drop my investigation. I’d been very firm with him, even suggesting he join me in my vigil to face his fears. He shook his head in dismay and scuttled off to wherever minions go. It didn’t surprise me to find him off duty that evening. He never took time off, but he was in such a funk that he’d fled the building. I wondered where he went on his free time. He was such a part of the fabric of the Club that I couldn’t envisage him existing in the outside world. He probably went to the pictures or maybe something saucier. Like all good Club staff he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local tarts and their specialities, and could always recommend the right person, whatever the required fetish. Maybe he was owed some commission?t

I climbed the stairs to the Box Room. I wasn’t feeling my usual tingle of anticipation before an adventure; rather I was aware of a gnawing in the pit of my gut, although that could’ve been the Spotted Dick.

I reached the door to the Box Room. Now I was aware of it I couldn’t see how I’d missed it so many times as I’d trekked to the roof for my nude sunbathing. I fumbled for the keys and I placed the Yale in the lock…

‘Go away!’

Who was that? I’d definitely heard that. Didn’t I? I stared around, but there wasn’t a fellow in the vicinity. I withdrew the key. Did I really want to do this? Wasn’t it a foolish way to spend the night when there was a very comfortable armchair downstairs with easy access to unlimited booze? 

I shook my head. What was I thinking? Old Stirling had never chickened out of anything before. There could be a bestselling book out of this. The Rolls needed a new gearbox, and my latest instalment of The Derek Playfair Adventures – a guaranteed money-spinner – had stalled in my brain.

I quickly turned the key in its lock and opened the door…

I entered the allegedly haunted Box Room. The air was stale, reeking of dust and damp. I fumbled for a light switch, but all my hand encountered was a cobweb. I dug out the torch from my bag and switched it on. The beam was powerful but limited; it illuminated a narrow strip of the room, revealing fragments of furniture. I’d brought along a large supply of candles and holders. I lit a brace of them in the corridor, then took them in. The flickering luminance didn’t enhance the room’s welcoming atmosphere, but I placed the candles on a heavy wooden chest of drawers, then quickly ignited another pair. I now had ample light by which to examine the Box Room more throughly. It was a small room, sparsely furnished. The aforementioned chest, a single bed, and a rocking chair. The wallpaper was dark and cheerless. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling, thick enough to be mistaken for lace curtains, in which large spiders scuttled away as they were hit by the light from the candles. 

There was no window. 

I sighed. Not the most comfortable of rooms in which to spend a night. I tentatively patted the bed. A cloud of dust mushroomed up, enveloping me and triggering a coughing fit. Perhaps if I stripped the bed of its sheets, maybe the mattress itself would be less grimy. I grabbed the eiderdown and tugged, but it disintegrated in my hand. I was beginning to wonder if I should have tried bribing the less nervous members of the cleaning staff to have given the room a quick once-over before attempting my vigil. Oh well, too late now. I would have to share my night with the dust mites, the spiders… and who knew what else?

My mighty imagination has been a boon for me most of my life. My many best-selling novels sprouted from it, and it has been the source of the comfortable lifestyle which I have enjoyed since I first put nib-to-parchment. But it has a downside. Whereas the Man in The Clapham Omnibus looks at a shadow and merely sees an absence of light, we scribes see a black abyss of the unknown in which all manners of bogeymen writhe and breed in their ghastliness. I pride myself on being firmly in control of my imagination, never succumbing to the vapours which women and other feeble creatures succumb. But I cannot tell a lie, this room induced a queer uneasiness in me.

I brought my bag in the room and shut the door. To make the room a tad less Chez Lugosi, I lit a few more candles, but even the extra lumens didn’t improve the ambience, merely added more shadows. A couple of whiskeys and I wouldn’t even notice the unpleasantness, I told myself. I unpacked what I’d need from my bag, lugged the rocking chair to a corner of the room from which I could survey it all, and settled down. The chair creaked as I sat, and the rocking motion was abrupt. I felt as though I could easily tip backwards all the way to the floor. I resolved to find something to jam under the rockers to keep it still. 

A vision of the jolly cosy bedroom two storeys below popped into my head, the one in which I often stayed when I didn’t want to traipse back to the Old Rectory late at night, usually because I was somewhat newt-like. I gave myself a good finger-wagging. This night had the potential to be an adventure, a lucrative one, what’s more. Not something that the Stirling of old would’ve balked at, the Stirling that fought in the war, the Stirling that once wrestled an ostrich, the Stirling that had laughed when faced with a firing squad comprising Bolivian Satanists, the Stirling who had marched through central London at the front of the Nudist Pride March … even the Stirling that had given the correct definition of frottage on Call My Bluff.

As I gingerly settled back in the rocking chair, my wedged foot preventing me from ending up unnecessarily horizontal, I surveyed the room again by torchlight – which was when I noticed the portrait. It hung over the mantelpiece which topped a blocked-up fireplace. Competently painted, but no forgotten masterpiece, it depicted a cove in mid-eighteenth century clobber. The subject was a young man, floridly dressed, quite handsome, his expression spoiled by a supercilious air, the mouth twisted in a cruel sneer. But the eyes… one jokes about the eyes of a portrait following one around the room, but these seemed almost alive! I truly felt they were staring right at me, no, right into me, piercing my own eyes to read my thoughts, perhaps even my very soul! 

Did this painting depict Sir Jasper de Scornly himself? Had this been his bedroom back in the day? This was more like a servant’s quarters, but perhaps it was where he indulged his more outré carnal romps? Not that he struck me as a chap who had any qualms about keeping his peccadilloes quiet. And if the painting were of he, then his roguish reputation seems to have been vindicated. 

Frankly, I wasn’t spending the night being stared at by this wretched painting so I turned it around so all I could see was the back of the frame. Doing this disturbed remarkably little dust which, surprisingly for a man of my forensic astuteness, didn’t strike me as at all odd.

I returned to the rocking chair and wondered how I was going to spend the long night ahead. I produced the camera from my bag and set them up ready to be galvanised into action if necessary. I took a swig from my hip flask, contemplated making some notes… and next thing I knew I was fast asleep!

I awoke with a start from a deep but dreamless snooze. For a moment I hadn’t the foggiest clue of where I was, but as soon as the brain clicked into place I remembered. I fumbled for my watch. Was it nearly morning? Could I leave this unpleasant little room and go back to my own bed? 

1.17am. 

Damn!

I rather fancied a hot milky drink – a posset with plenty of nutmeg and rum – but I doubted that the Night Porter would traipse all the way up here with one, even if I had any means to contact him. I’d have to make do with another swig of whisky. I threw back my head to glug the warming nectar down my throat when I noticed…

The portrait had been turned back the right way. Those blasted eyes were staring at me again. And the cruel smirk seemed even more disdainful than before.

I snapped myself wide awake. I contemplated my next strategy. There were two possibilities: either someone had come into the room while I was asleep or something supernatural was afoot. I was sceptical about the latter which meant the former was more likely.

A chilling prospect.

Who could it have been? I cursed myself for not locking the door. I hadn’t even shut it properly, leaving it slightly ajar in case… well, just in case.

I examined the portrait again. The face almost seemed familiar, but frankly I’ve spent many a weekend in a chum’s country estate, and the places are chockablock with similar paintings and all the subjects, no matter which house, all look as though they’re all related. Knowing our aristocracy they probably are. 

I necked more whisky and put the hip flask on the mantelpiece. I went to the door, closed it firmly and locked it. I didn’t relish the idea of being locked in; after all, the first rule of warfare is keep an option for a tactical retreat, but neither did I want anyone sneaking up on me.

I tried the door to make sure it was firmly locked. On my way back to the rocking chair I reached for my hip flask…

It was gone.

*********

This was ludicrous! It had been less than 30 seconds and no one else was in the room!

I flopped back into the rocking chair in a puzzled huff. I stared at the portrait. I could swear the bugger was smirking at me. This was going to be a prolonged enough night without whisky deprivation to boot. I decided to examine the room thoroughly to see if there were any possible secret entrances. Wouldn’t be the first time a priest’s hole had been the answer to a few questions.

I tapped walls, lifted a rug (which disintegrated into a cloud of rancid dust), and even peered under the bed (a fossilised mouse and a chipped Edgar Allen). I examined the fireplace lest the blocking off wasn’t quite so thorough, but it would require a mallet and a brace of navvies to get though that.

I admit, I was stumped. 

I shivered. The temperature in the Box Room had definitely dropped. As a consequence I felt a twitch in my bladder and became aware that I would imminently have to thrust Thomas at the Twyfords. But I worried that if I left the room, I would be reluctant to return. Perhaps I would have to use the Gazunder I’d just found.

My blood ran cold. The portrait was most definitely staring at me! The eyes were blazing with light, malignancy burning from them as they gleamed wickedly at me. I gasped and rubbed my eyes. When I looked again, the eyes were normal. Cruel and piercing still, but not aflame as before.

I had to admit that something fishy was afoot. Either I was experiencing genuine paranormal activity or someone was arsing about – and if I found out who, they’d be in for a severe hiding.

‘Give me back my bloody booze, you rotten spook!’ I suddenly erupted. To hell with it, I was going downstairs to get myself a bottle of something. Abaddon’s prides itself that alcohol, a bed, and a scrubber are never knowingly unavailable. 

As I reached the door, there was a chuckle. 

I whirled around. I’d definitely heard that. It was a laugh. A man’s laugh, but not a good-natured one. It was a joyless, sarcastic sound. But where had it come from?

‘Was that you?’ I asked the portrait, my hand still on the doorknob. 

There was an eerie glow emanating from the portrait. I rubbed my eyes.

Standing in front of the portrait of what I assumed was Sir Jasper de Scornly was the man himself. It was as though the painting had come alive and stepped out from the frame. 

Reader, I am man enough to admit that only the staunchest clenching of my buttocks prevented me from from being involuntarily at stool.  While the logical circuits of my brain were computing the various rational likelihoods of what I was seeing, my instincts were screaming ‘Ghost! Run!’ I knew that I should be snapping away with my camera, but it was on the other side of room, requiring me to actually get nearer the fiendish apparition.

I gulped and tried to pull myself together.

‘Can I help you?’ I asked the manifestation, my voice at least an higher octave than listeners of my occasional spots on The Moral Maze would recognise.

The ghost smiled the ghastliest of smiles and crooked its finger, gesturing for me to approach.

I sensibly stayed where I was. Or thought I did. My legs had other ideas and despite my best efforts they forced me step by step into the arms of the Ghost!

The Phantom’s chilly embrace overwhelmed me; my head swam, I feared I was going to lose consciousness, and then I found myself… somewhere else.  

It was a large drawing room, a dark thundery sky outside, the room lit by a roaring fire in the hearth. Two men were arguing. An old cove in fancy dress, eighteenth century I thought, was wagging his finger at the other man – whom I recognised as the living manifestation of the Ghost. This must be Jasper de Scornly and his father. 

The older man, the Earl of Greenford, was a feeble beast, spindly of leg, a moth-eaten wig perched precariously on his chinless head, a blanket around his weedy shoulders. He was chastising his son with a distinct lack of authority. Sir Jasper towered over his ineffectual father, contempt emanating off him. If he were my son, a clip around the ear would be the least he would get, but the Earl would’ve needed a stepladder just to reach his son’s ear.

I couldn’t hear what was being said, but I presumed that the Earl was trying to persuade his son to behave less like an arse and more like the son of aristocrat, not that in my experience there’s that much of a chasm between the two. Jasper threw back his head and laughed at his father, his hands on his hips. They did actually do that in the olden days, I marvelled, it wasn’t just something invented by Douglas Fairbanks. It was a practise I resolved to adopt myself, particularly the next time the quack urges me to cut down on the drink.

I have no idea what the Earl said next, but Jasper suddenly whipped his sword out and held the tip to his father’s throat.  The Earl’s knees actually knocked and his lip trembled. Jasper abruptly sheathed his sword and swept from the room, curses obviously falling silently from his mouth.

I was no longer in the drawing room. I was witness to a rapid barrage of different scenes of Jasper up to no good; gambling, whoring, fighting duels, knocking back the grog in diverse taverns – indeed having a splendid time which I rather envied. Then things turned darker: occult rituals in a dank crypt, naked lasses tied to altars, chickens getting their throats cuts, a tubby man having the blood of the poor deceased bird rubbed into his corpulent frame… by the rapt way his fellow Satanists fawned on him I rather suspected he might be royalty. This was confirmed when the crypt was raided by soldiers and the chubby man was deferred to while all the other participants were manhandled somewhat roughly.

Then suddenly we were in the Box Room – yes, this very room in which I was spending the night – where Jasper was greeted by a young woman in servant’s garb. For the first time Jasper showed a tenderness as he kissed and embraced the young maid followed by such a right royal rogering that even I felt I ought to avert my eyes – which I resisted as I considered it my duty to watch all the Phantom was showing me.

Before I’d had time to catch my breath or indeed rearrange my underpants, we were swept to a bleak graveyard where a funeral was taking place. A coffin was lowered into an open grave while a vicar soundlessly intoned prayers.

 A group of mourners each flung a sod of earth into the grave, but then Sir Jasper appeared, striding determinedly towards the grave. Several mourners (his brothers, I wondered) produced their swords and chased him away. Jasper shook his fist at the men and leaped onto his waiting horse.

Next, we were at a dockside beside a rough grey sea. Jasper, bound and gagged, is pushed at sword point up the gangplank by the same men from the graveyard. They watch until the ship has sailed, only leaving when the ship has reached the horizon. After they leave, only one person is left at the dockside watching the diminishing ship. It is the maid from earlier, her cheeks stained with tears. She is very palpably up the duff. Following this we see – quite unnecessarily, I thought – the maid in childbirth which was quite gruesome, all blood and guts and slime, not what any fellow should be forced to witness.

The result was a baby boy. Sadly I don’t think the mother survived the ordeal. The child grew swiftly in front of my eyes, time speeding faster and faster as I watched him spawn a son himself who in turn spawned another boy and so on and so on… The acceleration of the visions became too much for me and I was overwhelmed with dizziness. I roared, pleaded for it to stop…

… and next thing I knew I was lying on the bed back in the Box Room, the very bed on which I had recently observed the maid giving birth so messily.

I sat up and shook my head. How long had all that taken? It felt like I had watched those centuries pass in real time. I glanced at my watch. 3.57am.  Was it still the same night?

A hand passed me my hip flask. ‘Thank you,’ I said automatically, but just as I was about to swig, I froze. I glanced up. The Ghost of Sir Jasper de Scornly was standing in front of me!

The spectre of Sir Jasper de Scornly stared at me, his fiery eyes burning deep into my soul. He looked as solid as flesh, but I knew that if I touched him he would evaporate like steam from a kettle so I kept my hands to myself.

‘Hello,’ I said feebly. ‘Jolly interesting life you had.’ Hardly Wildean, but the etiquette for addressing a ghost evaded me.

A hint of a sneer crossed Sir Jasper’s face, but I suspected that was his default expression. 

‘Verily,’ he hissed, ‘Me life was stolen from me, as indeed was me inheritance.’ He whipped out his sword from its scabbard. I ducked, but he pointed it at the window. ‘Five thousand leagues west of here, me bones lay rotting ‘neath a solitary tree. The feeble cross marking the grave has many years hence been the shit of the woodworm.’

‘Shame,’ I commiserated. ‘Still, you packed a lot of hijinks in your life, short as it may have been. Haven’t seen so much debauchery…’ I considered. ‘Well, for months…’

I hadn’t even finished before Sir Jasper had the point of his sword pressing into my neck, just to the right of my Adam’s Apple. ‘What is life for except for indulging the flesh in the pleasure it craves?’

‘Quite,’ I agreed.

The point of the sword was sliding down my front, opting buttons of my shirt. I was relieved it was just a British Home Stores shirt, not a bespoke one from Monsieur Herring of Mayfair. 

‘Me life was curtailed while there was still so much bodily gratification to explore.’ The spook brushed his free hand against what I hoped was a codpiece.

‘That’s a shame.’ I wasn’t quite sure what he expected me to do about it. It wasn’t as though he still had a body to gratify. Not a corporeal one anyway. I could point him in the direction of Dolores of Frith Street, but even she would balk at pleasuring a randy wraith, and she will usually do anything as long as one has washed one’s Johnson first.

‘I demand only one appeasement,’ Sir Jasper shouted, retrieving his sword from my throat. ‘The restoration of me bloodline – and the rightful ennoblement of the most recent of the spawn of me spawn.’ 

Yes, I’d suspected it might be something like that. Why else show me the procession of descendants of the little bastard who was born in this very room?

‘Genealogy isn’t my strong point, old darling,’ I replied. ‘rummaging through dusty ledgers and birth certificates and whatnot. Leave that to the librarians and other weeds. Making stuff up is more my forte.’

A smirk passed across the phantasm’s face.  ‘There is a simple way of identifying a true de Scornly…’ he said, and with that, he thrust open his garments and exposed himself to me.

I gasped! ‘You have three!’ I exclaimed. ‘In all my days as a nudist I’ve never seen that before.’

De Scornly sneered. ‘The third nipple has been passed down from de Scornly to de Scornly from time immemorial. Even me feeble father and me scurvy brothers possessed the Sacred Blemish.’

‘Yes, well,’ I began, ‘unique as it may be, and devoted nudist that I am, I can’t very well go asking random chaps to show me their chests. I’m not Dickie Wattis!’

The ghost’s eyes narrowed.

‘And besides,‘ I hastily continued, ‘even if the Nudist camps were allowed to open, it’s still winter. However hardy the de Scornlys may be…’

The wretched phantom emitted an unearthly shriek. ‘Find me progeny.’ He pointed a boney finger at me. I noticed his fingernail was filthy and wondered if it was from scrabbling at the coffin lid. ‘Or I shall haunt ye until the end of time, Sir Desmond Stirling.’

I shrugged. I wasn’t going to give this spectral oik the satisfaction of intimidating me. ‘I’ll do me best… my best, I mean.’ I pointed at the window. ‘Look, dawn is imminent and I need my beauty sleep and surely you need to return to your grave?’

Sir Jasper glanced at the flecks of light which were breaking up the night. ‘Return here when you have found me issue. I will be waiting for ye.’

At this the candles blew out and the room was plunged into darkness. I hastily re-lit the nearest candle. 

Sir Jasper was gone!

I had lied to the spook. Sleep was the last thing on my mind, and besides I had no intention of spending another minute in that ghastly little room. I raced down the stairs, left the Club (ignoring the puzzled look of the Night Porter) and searched for a taxi. Within minutes I’d flagged one down and instructed the driver to hotfoot me to Hampstead.

My son-in-law – Darren Frognall, self-Styled Mao Tse Tung of the Macabre – was not best pleased to be woken at what he considered an ungodly hour. Frankly, if he were in the army this would be almost time for elevenses. He stared at me in his improbably short dressing gown which revealed unsurprisingly skinny legs and a shamefully hairless chest. But he soon saw that I had important intel to impart, so he lead me into the kitchen and fired up the coffee percolator.

He offered me toast too, and then demonstrated a remarkable machine – unimaginably called a ‘toaster’ – which actually toasts bread! I haven’t made any toast myself since schooldays when we  held the bread on forks in front of the roaring fire prepared earlier by our fag (and if the fire wasn’t roaring, said fag wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week! Or in the case of ‘Snotty’ Gove’s pater, unable to stand). 

Eventually we were sitting down at the kitchen table with our coffee and freshly buttered toast, and I related my adventures of the previous night. Frognall listened keenly, with the surprisingly good sense not to interrupt a master storyteller at work. I had reached the point when Sir Jasper had revealed the presence of his descendants. A strange look crossed Frognall’s face and he leant forward, causing his dressing gown to fall open… revealing, just to the right of the centre of his pitiful chest, the presence of a third nipple!

To be continued…

Listen to Sir Desmond read this story out loud here…

Little Did You Know…

June 22, 2021

My idiot nephew Anthony Keetch has been interviewed on camera. I am mentioned in passing which is embarrassing.

The Tell-Tale Nipple!

June 4, 2021

You will be delighted to know that the first instalment of my gripping new yarn THE TELL-TALE NIPPLE is now available. And what’s more, you can hear Yours Truly actually reading it out loud. According to my idiot nephew, it can be found on YouTube or Anchor FM or Spotify and on other ‘podcast’ thingies soon too.

But, sadly, not the Home Service.