Hooray! Adventures By Moonlight is my new collection that gathers together all the short stories I published in 2011 and 2012. It also features a specially written story called Adventures In The Moonlight, which I like to think of as the tale that Robert E Howard never dared tell.
That means it's packed with 71,000 words of supernatural doings and occurrences. Thrill to the adventures of occult investigator Liz Sanford as she battles with the forces of darkness - and with her own workmates. See a Victorian super-sleuth who refuses to follow the script. Find out what happens when a metaphorical being loses her lucky hand. All this and a whole lot more besides.
Features the stories:
ADVENTURES IN THE MOONLIGHT.
WAITING FOR THE WIREMAN IN 1974.
LEAVING THE CIRCLE.
THE WEAKEST LINK.
SEND ME YOUR HORROR.
THE MUMMY SHRUGGED.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE STRANGE CASE OF THE DOG.
WHEN DROMGYDDRU GETS HERE.
WHO THE HELL IS DOMINIC PINE?
THE DOWNWARD SLIDE.
DON'T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU, SANTA!
You can download Adventures By Moonlight from:
Amazon.Com, Amazon UK and all other good branches of Amazon.
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
The moment she got back from her interview, Alison Parker strode into Frank's spare room, flung her cases onto the bed, flung them open and grabbed her clothes from the wardrobe. She stared to pack...
...but the moment the first item of clothing hit the bottom of the first case, her phone rang.
She picked it up from where it lay by her bags, held it against her ear and said, 'Alison Parker Enterprises. We create dreams like cheese creates nightmares.'
'Alison, what the hell're you doing?' It was Liz and she sounded annoyed.
'I'm packing my bags.'
'To do what?'
'To go to Delgado Manor.
'That's what you think. You're unpacking those bags and you're staying where you are.'
'I take it Lou's been in touch.'
'Yes he's been in touch and he's an idiot.'
'He's your boss.'
'I don't care what he is. You're not my assistant and you never will be.'
'Well maybe you'd better listen to this recording he gave me to play to you at times of friction.'
She took her Dictaphone from by her cases, held it to the phone and pressed Play. It said, 'Betty, I'm your boss. This girl's your assistant. You'd better let her assist you or I'll replace you with a man and make you his secretary.'
Alison pressed Stop then Rewind and, again holding the phone to her ear, said, 'So, what've you got to say about that?'
On the other end, Liz gave a long long sigh. She went quiet. She did something that sounded like pacing. She did something that sounded like stopping pacing. She did something that sounded like more pacing. She stopped pacing. Finally, she said, 'You want to be exposed to danger?'
'Yes I want to be exposed to danger.'
'Right. I'll expose you to danger - and then let's see how you like it. Tonight, the moment the sun sets, I need you to do something for me.'
'Does it involve sticking my job up my arse?'
'No. It involves a drive to Sleeton.'
'An old abandoned coalfield on the way to Hangerton. According to local legend, since its desertion, it's been haunted by a creature called the Beast of Sleeton. Tonight, I want you to go to that coalfield, I want you to sit in your car in the middle of it and I want you to see if you can find the Beast.'
'From what I've heard since I got here, that thing might be what killed Danny boy.'
'And if I find it?'
'Do nothing. Stay in the car and phone me. Keep your doors and windows locked and, if it makes any move towards you, get out of there. Got that?'
'Good luck. Coz if that thing gets its teeth into you, luck's the only hope you'll have.'
Liz jabbed off her mobile phone, tossed it on the table to her left and resumed her investigation. Alison wanted to see what sort of things an occult investigator had to deal with? Well now she was going to find out. And if she didn't like what she found out? Tough. She'd dug her own grave, now she was going to have to lie in it.
As for Liz's own investigations, if her chats with the staff had been of little use to her, she had other options available. She'd tried searching the house from front to back and side to side. Now to try up and down.
Liz was on the upstairs landing, stood beneath a hatch in the ceiling. According to Rachel, when she'd been showing Liz around, it led up to the roof. Liz grabbed a table from where it stood by the wall, and dragged it to stand under the hatch.
She climbed up onto the table and, with a twist of its handle, opened the hatch. It lifted upwards. She pushed it aside and then, with a jump, hauled herself up through it.
She hauled herself up onto the roof, scrambled to her feet and put the hatch back in place. Now she straightened up, drew a lop of stray hair away from one eye and set off in search of mystic symbols and signs of sacred geometry in the house's layout.
She found none.
All she found were a few time-worn spirettes, the domed glass roof of Delgado's Ritual Room and a pigeon whose condition suggested it had been dead since just before the dawn of time.
Search concluded, Liz headed back for the hatch, lifted it, lowered herself through it and dropped down onto the table. She straightened up, grabbed the hatch above her, moved it back into place and secured it. Now she jumped down from the table and pushed it back to where she'd found it.
That was another dead-end explored.
Now for the next.
She made her way downstairs and into the entrance hall where she watched the grandfather clock whose hands were permanently stopped at three-thirty. According to Mrs Hobson, the thing had never worked since it had been installed. That didn't make sense. A clock that didn't work had no use...
...except to hide things.
She moved it away from the wall...
...and found nothing. A few raps at the section of wall behind it proved it concealed no hollowed-out passageways.
She returned the clock to its rightful place, lifted its glass-fronted cowl, set the fingers to the right time, opened its pendulum case and set its pendulum swinging.
It swung for a few moments then stopped.
Midnight found Liz in bed, using her laptop to scroll through the background info Lou'd sent her just before telling her he'd appointed Alison.
According to the files, the staff were who they said they were, and each had the back story they'd claimed to have. On top of that, none of them had anything that even resembled a criminal record. They were squeaky clean - either that or they were good at covering their tracks. Right now she wouldn't put it past all of them to have killed Daniel Robinson.
She switched off her laptop, closed its lid and put it by the bed. She flicked off the bedside lamp, slipped her gun under her pillow and laid her head on the pillow. She gazed up at the ceiling, and once again Liz Sanford settled down for a night of trying to be a victim.
With a long, slow crunch of gravel, a car came to a halt at the head of a road that had clearly once led to somewhere but didn't any more. It was Alison Parker's VW Beetle and she was here to look for the Beast of Sleeton.
She couldn't deny it, if anywhere looked like a place a mystery beast would haunt, this did; a rubble and house-brick strewn field whose over-long grass seemed to reach out like the fingers of death. A hundred yards away to her right, a skeletal figure scarred the face of a low red moon. It was the towering hulk of a pit winding head.
She switched off her engine, made sure the doors were locked then took her rucksack from the seat beside her. She opened it and retrieved three items; a Thermos flask, a Tupperware box containing her sandwiches, and a pair of binoculars. She rested the flask and box on the rucksack on the seat beside her then concentrated on the binoculars.
According to the man in the shop she'd bought them from, these weren't just any binoculars, they were sniper's binoculars. He'd reckoned they could spot a vacationing president at a mile and a half off. Then, once spotted, you could get your rifle out and pick him off at leisure. 'Pop,' he'd said, 'Bye bye, President.' She'd had the feeling he was a little odd.
Still, he clearly knew his optics. She slipped off the lens caps, put them on the dashboard then held the binoculars to her eyes.
And, leaning forward, Alison Parker peered out into darkness for any signs of a creature that could tear apart a fully armed man.
Monday, 9 September 2013
Alison stood there in Lou Ferman's office, holding the temperature gauge she'd just been given. 'I don't get it. You're giving me the job just like that?'
'Don't there have to be security checks? Reference checks? Background checks? You don't know anything about me. I could be evil. I could be incompetent. I could be lazy, mad or stupid.'
'Then you're fine for the job.'
'But you don't know my strengths, my weaknesses. You've not even heard my twelve-point plan.'
'Does it include her doing a 'fun' calendar?'
'It might do.'
'And her doing a round of in-school puppet shows?'
'It might do.'
He said, 'You know what the trouble with Betty is? No one likes her. That's why she needs books written about her. And she needs calendars and key rings and T-shirts with her on them. I've told her. “Betty, this is the 21st Century. You're a good-looking girl. You have to do the PR thing.” Does she listen? Course she doesn't. She just threatens to smack me one and keeps on alienating everyone she meets. You, Parko, are quite ugly, you look like a frog, but you're sort of cute. Cute is good for PR. And, if you turn out to be evil, well Betty can always shoot you. That's what we pay her for.'
You could call her a fashion fascist but, in Liz Sanford's opinion, no one under the age of fifty had any business wearing a fedora. That suggested it hadn't belonged to Daniel Robinson or Tom Radcliffe. It was also hard to believe it had lain undisturbed for twelve years, which implied it hadn't belonged to Valentyne Delgado. It was a safe bet it didn't belong to Mrs Hobson, Rachel or Joe, and that made its presence a mystery.
Within minutes she'd found Mrs Hobson's office halfway down the corridor to the left of the stairs. Not bothering to knock, she walked straight in and found the woman tapping away at a computer.
Hobson paid her no heed. So Liz shut the door behind her, headed for the desk and claimed a chair facing her.
'Mrs Hobson,' she said. 'I need a word with you.'
'In that case you'd better sit down hadn't you?'
She already had.
Liz watched her read the computer screen and said, 'What're you doing?'
'I'm currently in the process of ordering a new weather vane. I'm afraid the big chicken that normally tells us which way the wind blows fell off its perch three nights ago and refuses to reclaim it. Fortunately we have the wonder of the interweb. A remarkable device. Sometimes when you're using it, I swear it's like you're talking to the dead.'
'And have you done a lot of that? Talking to the dead?'
'Not since Valentyne's day. He used to like to impress the more gullible young ladies by holding seances. Nothing gets them leaping into your arms with a shriek quite like a manifestation. I don't know why but, for some reason, he had the notion that my presence would make the process more disturbing. As for you, I take it you came here for something?'
'You already have that hat.'
'I know but I don't want it. I was wondering if you know where it came from?'
'Leaving aside the fact that the sentence should have been, "From where it came?" I don't have the foggiest. To my knowledge it's been sitting on Little Daniel's desk for a week or so.'
And you don't know how it got there?'
'I'd assume a visitor brought it, though I've never seen one wearing a hat. It's certainly not Daniel's. He was startlingly devoid of anything that even vaguely resembled style. Valentyne sometimes wore one which he claimed he used to hide his eyes of a beast while roaming the back streets of Bolton. That, however, was burnt with him, in accordance with the terms of his will.'
'And Tom Radcliffe?'
'Never wore a hat.'
'Can I have a list of all the visitors Daniel had while he was here?'
'You could if I had one. Sadly, he didn't seem to trust me and insisted on sneaking them in while I was absent. He seemed to be under the impression that I was part of some conspiracy against him. "You want me out!" he used to declare. "Well this is my house now and you'll never get rid of me!"'
'And did you want him out?'
'Miss Parker, it's not my place to decide who should be in possession of this house. More pertinently, the chicken...'
'What about it?'
'It won't pay for its own replacement. Which poses the question of how you're going to fund the manor's upkeep. Do you have a vast personal fortune you can draw upon to subsidize it?'
'Fat chance. I don't know if you know this but I'm a writer.'
'Mr Rowling did mention something along those lines.'
'I was thinking of making a film here.'
'I'll be doing what Tom did. I'll hire it out to people with more money than sense.'
'You don't approve?' said Liz.
'This house, Miss Parker, was built for a specific purpose, the promulgation of occult activity. It seems a complete waste to use it for purposes that any large country house could be used.'
'You'll refuse to co-operate?'
'I'm employed by this house. I do as I'm told.'
'And those original purposes, did you have an involvement in them?'
'I was hired as an administrator, nothing more.'
'You ask a remarkable number of questions, Miss Parker.'
'That's because I'm researching my film. The more I know about the house, its history and that of those in it the better.'
'In that case, I was running a house in Bath - Charnwith Terrace. If you think Belgium is the dullest place on Earth, let me tell you you've never visited Charnwith Terrace. The couple I worked for, Mr and Mrs Respectable, never a surprise, never a shock; "Oh yes, let's have the Hadleys round for dinner and we can discuss property prices and nursery care provision." The smugness of those people. One more week and I'd have done something I'd have refused to be held responsible for. Fortunately, I saw a vacancy here advertised, and applied. It sounded like much more fun.'
'And you did what for Delgado?'
'A house like this doesn't run itself. If Valentyne wanted a filing cabinet, I got him a filing cabinet. If he wanted the roof repaired, I got him the roof repaired. If he wanted a steel gauntlet, I got him a steel gauntlet.'
'Gauntlet of the type a knight in shining armour would wear.'
'And what did he want one of those for?'
'The ritual of the steel fist.'
'And what did that involve?'
'I think you can imagine.'
'How much of what he got up to did you know about?'
'I knew everything,' said Hobson.
'Rachel says Daniel claimed the house contained a secret.'
'He thought all sorts of silliness. He kept claiming there was a creature at his window every night. Well, I've been here for fifteen years and I've never seen any creature.'
'And it didn't strike you as odd that, after two weeks of him telling you a creature was after him, he died in mysterious circumstances?'
'Where's the mystery? He arrived at the manor shortly after a jaunt abroad. He had a tropical disease. He brought it with him. He died. I wouldn't have minded but, thanks to his death, Joseph, Rachel and I had to be tested to make sure we weren't carrying it too.'
'And were you?'
'And does this house contain a secret?'
'The only secret this house contains is that it doesn't contain a secret.'
Her conversation with Hobson had taken Liz nowhere, so she set off in search of someone more helpful. That meant Rachel who seemed to be as open as Hobson was closed.
When Liz found her, she was in a bare, grey room, arms folded, stood watching a Hotpoint spin.
'What're you doing?' said Liz.
'Watching the washing.'
'Mind if I ask a few things?' Liz whipped out her note pad. 'As research for my next movie?'
'Am I going to be in it?'
'I'm sure we can fit you in as a zombie or a mummy or Screaming Victim Number One.'
'In that case...' Rachel perched herself on a tumble dryer. '...help yourself.'
Liz held her pencil ready to write. 'How long have you worked here?'
'Only since December. Mrs Hobson hired me. Tom Radcliffe was still the owner then. I think she only hired me to get at him.'
'He hated women. The last dogsbody before me, she couldn't take any more. She quit, saying she never wanted to be in the company of that man again. So what does Mrs Hobson do? She goes right out and hires the first woman she interviews.'
'And he took that how?'
'He kept throwing things at me and saying things like, "Women, women, why must I always be surrounded by them!?! They killed my cousin. I'll not have them kill me!"'
'And what did he mean by that?'
'I've no idea.'
Liz found the man called Joe, out round the back of the house and sawing wood.
'What're you doing?' she said.
'Making a coffin,' he said.
'For who?' she said.
'You,' he said.
'Me?' she said.
'You won't be with us for long.' He stopped sawing, looked her up and down, said, 'Five foot eight,' and resumed cutting.
'You don't have much faith in my survival skills do you?'
'If you own this house, you die. Valentyne Delgado didn't survive. Tom Radcliffe didn't survive. Daniel Robinson didn't survive. Why should you?' He went across to collect more wood from a pile by the shed.
The man had a whole array of saws lying around. She picked one up, a fretsaw whose jagged blade she studied. When she'd finished with Joe, she'd be taking it with her and she knew just what to do with it.
Wood collected, Joe returned.
'How long have you worked here?' she said.
He set about marking the latest piece of wood for cutting. 'Since the start. Mrs Hobson hired me. I worked at a house in Derbyshire and she tapped me up.'
'Then you know everything that happened when Delgado was in charge?'
'I know nothing.' He picked up a saw and started cutting the latest plank. 'I'm the handyman. He told me he wanted this hammering, or that sawing, and I did it. That was the beginning and end of my knowing what he did. I'll tell you one thing though. He was working on something.'
'I don't know but towards the end, he'd lock himself away in that study of his and not let anyone see what he was up to.'
'He was killed.'
'Tom Radcliffe seemed to know.'
'Tom Radcliffe was his cousin. Delgado must've told him things.'
'Things only Tom Radcliffe could tell you, and he's dead.'
'And, in this house, at nights, have you ever heard anything?'
'Rattling, creaking, banging; anything that might sound like something trying to get in?'
'Now you're talking like Robinson. He used to claim he was hearing things trying to get in.'
'When you work in this place, you hear all sorts of things, late at night, in your bed.'
'Mrs Hobson gave me the impression she's never heard a thing.'
'She has the knack of not noticing things she chooses not to notice.'
'And it doesn't bother you, living in a house whose owners tend to die in mysterious circumstances?'
'Why should it? I'm never going to own it.'
Sunday, 8 September 2013
Liz woke with a start.
She sat upright.
Where was she?
She was in Delgado Manor.
She was in bed.
And she was alive.
Being alive didn't bother her. Whatever its travails, it was still better than the alternative and, at the risk of being presumptuous, she'd expected - one way or another - to still be with us come daybreak. That wasn't the issue.
She climbed out of bed and checked the windows. No sign that anything had tried to get in through them.
She glanced across at the door, and the chair was still propped against it. As far as she could make out, there hadn't even been an attempt on her life, and that didn't make sense.
She climbed back onto the bed, crossed one leg over the other and sat there thinking. According to Carl Seevers, Daniel Robinson had been getting visitations from his very first night there, so why not her? She took a cigarette from the packet by the bed, stuck it in her mouth and lit it.
Moments later the door rattled. Someone was trying to get in, their route blocked by the chair. A greater effort and it shifted, hitting the floor, before being pushed aside by the door opening.
It was Mrs Hobson. Wordless, she strode across to Liz, took the cigarette from the investigator's mouth and crushed it in the palm of her hand. Showing no signs of having been burned by it, she placed the dead butt back in her new employer's mouth. 'Smoking in bed, young lady, costs lives.' And, with that, she headed for the door.
The woman stopped, hand on doorknob, then looked towards Liz.
'In the night,' said Liz, 'did you hear anything?'
'Noises? Rattlings? Bumpings?'
'Noises?' said the woman. 'Why on Earth would I want to hear anything like that?' And, with a slam of the door, she was gone.
First thing that morning found Alison in her best clothes and stood outside a run-down office block up a city centre backstreet. According to the card Frank had given her, it was where she'd find Liz's boss.
She looked the place up and down, waited a moment while she reset her chutzpah to eleven, and went inside.
After breakfast Liz started searching the house for whatever secret it was Daniel Robinson had thought it contained.
She didn't find anything.
She didn't find any trapdoors, secret passageways, anomalous rooms, nooks or crannies. She didn't find any patterns in any wallpaper that might have been encoded information, or any arrangement of artworks that might suggest a hidden meaning. She found nothing behind mirrors. She found nothing behind paintings. She found nothing behind drawers. She found nothing in suits of armour.
What she did find was Valentyne Delgado's study. That was hardly a shock, bearing in mind that Rachel had introduced her to it the afternoon before. She stepped inside, closed the door behind her and set about giving its walls a good knocking, in case of hidden chambers.
That got her nowhere, nor did tapping the ceiling with the feet of an upturned wooden chair. So she turned her attention to the one wall she couldn't knock. That was because there was no wall available to knock. It was completely obscured by row after row of leather-bound tomes.
She went across and checked them; Dickens, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Proust, Joyce - A A Milne. Obviously Delgado, if they were his - and the volumes on the occult pointed that way - believed in being well read. She pulled one from its shelf.
It was a dummy.
So was the one beside it.
And the one beside that.
In the entire room, not one of its books was real. Clearly he thought it more important to look like something than to actually be that thing.
She gazed around. There was nothing else in the room of any interest except the bureau, with its marble bust of Delgado - and its urn containing the great man's ashes. She picked it up, removed its lid and checked its contents. They looked like anybody's ashes to her. She licked a finger, jabbed it into the ashes then tasted them.
They tasted human to her.
She put the lid back on the urn and checked the bureau's drawers. She found nothing beyond the statutory paper clips, stapler and drawing pins. She checked behind the drawers ... and found nothing.
That left her to clear up just one mystery about the room. Who, exactly, had left behind the fedora that lay, upturned, on the bureau?
'Mr Ferman, you don't know how grateful I am that you've agreed to see me.'
Lou Ferman was not at all what Alison Parker had expected. She was expecting Skinner from the X-Files. Instead he was stood there in jeans and a T-shirt, before the world's most cluttered desk. Hanging from his chin was a goatee. His build was thin, his eyes huge. His office was as cluttered as his desk, its not-recently-cleaned window giving a partial view of the soon-to-be demolished hotel opposite.
Stood throwing darts at the board on the wall, he said, 'So, let me have it. What's this matter of life and death you've come to see me about?'
'Mr Ferman, I want a job.'
'Being Assistant Occult Investigator to my flatmate.'
'She won't let me go along with her on investigations - even when they involve me and even though she knows I need to know what she gets up to, to complete my novel.'
She put her rucksack on his desk, unbuckled its straps, undid its single brass stud and looked inside for the item she needed. After a few moments, she found it, retrieved it, made sure to get it the right way round and handed it to him.
He studied it. It was still just a title page. 'She Went in Search of Oblivion,' he said. 'That's Betty all right.' He checked the other side of the sheet. 'It's a bit short.'
'I can't write more till she lets me go along with her and I get the chance to see her in action. A writer must know her subject fully to write about it. Mr Ferman, I don't like to show off but I've got a CV to kill for, I'm honest, reliable, popular with everyone I meet. I'm not scared of hard work - or monsters - and I was up all last night working out a twelve-point plan for improving the way Liz does her job.'
'You said you don't know how Betty does her job.'
'Knowing Liz I'm betting none of it involves Public Relations.'
'You can say that again.'
She was about to go on but didn't. The man was occupied with rummaging around in a filing cabinet, till he finally found what he was after. He took it from the cabinet, shut the drawer then took her hand. He turned her hand, palm up, and placed the newly collected object in it.
She studied the thing. It was some sort of measuring implement, about the size of a cigarette packet, with a dial on it.
He said, 'What's this?'
'A temperature gauge?' she ventured.
'And what's it for?'
'Congratulations, Parko. You're our new assistant spook buster.'
Monday, 2 September 2013
Her day of getting noticed finally over, Liz returned to Delgado Manor. She left her van in the drive and headed for the house. The main doors were locked. She had keys. She let herself in then locked and bolted those twin doors. She didn't head for her room. She had other matters to deal with first. She checked her watch. It was Ten PM and she hadn't eaten since noon.
After a lengthy search, Liz finally found a room that might have been the one she was after. She pushed its door open, groped around for a light switch and flicked it on. Bingo; a large white room with a table at its centre, and walls lined by assorted white goods.
She tried for the fridge. It was a dishwasher. She tried the object beside it. It was a fridge. She checked its contents, set about making herself a sandwich then pulled out a chair to sit at the table with her ad hoc meal.
A pile of newspapers from the last few days lay to her left, which meant she had a chance to catch up with events in the real world while she ate.
According to the first paper she tried, nothing had been happening in the real world. Well, okay, plenty had been happening but nothing that was of any concern of hers. Politicians had been spouting off, celebrities had been copping off and various people you'd never heard of had been dropping off in ways that made you wonder what planet they were living on.
She tried the Daily Mail. Apart from all the names being different, its contents were the same as the previous paper's.
Or were they? Because now she'd reached page five - and that was when the thing suddenly had her attention. Under the headline, What The Hell's This Country Coming To? was a story even she couldn't ignore.
According to it, two men had been killed in an antiques shop. One of them was the owner - a Mr Andrew Jennings - - but, however tragic his death, that wasn't what interested her.
What she cared about was the name of the other victim...
Aside from being a name you could get through an entire lifetime without encountering, Boizot was also the name of one of Valentyne Delgado's female acolytes. That could have been pure coincidence - except for the murder method.
Like Valentyne Delgado, Boizot had been stabbed to death, and, again the murder weapon had been removed from the scene. No money was missing from the till, all the stock was still present and the victims' wallets hadn't been emptied. As far as anyone could make out, there was no motive for the killing whatsoever.
Well she could think of one. At the time of his death, Delgado'd been in his ceremonial robes. That meant that, if he'd been stabbed with his own dagger and not someone else's, it would've been his ceremonial one which, knowing Delgado's tendency towards self-aggrandisement was guaranteed to be some huge ornate thing festooned with jewels and precious metals. That meant it'd be of interest to a collector...
...or an antiques dealer.
What if James Boizot was the husband of Delgado's female Boizot? What if Delgado was engaged in sexual practises with her and Mr Boizot didn't like it? What if, enraged by all this, he'd gone to the manor and confronted his nemesis? There, a fight had broken out and, in the struggle, Boizot had stabbed Delgado with his own blade? Then, realising what he'd just done, he'd pulled the dagger from his victim and fled.
According to The Mail, in recent years Boizot had hit hard times, his haulage business had gone bust and his wife had left him. What if, desperate for money, he'd been forced to try and sell the only thing he had left that might be of any value?
And, what if, when he'd got there, he'd been greeted, not by the owner but by a man who was ready and waiting for him?
Liz's theory about what had happened to Boizot was pure guesswork but it was the only one she could come up with that fitted the facts and eliminated the need for untidy coincidences. And at least it filled a few of the gaps in her understanding of what was going on round here. Not that it got her within a million miles of filling the other ninety nine percent of those gaps.
Her meal over, Liz Sanford re-entered her bedroom, flicked the light on and shut the door behind her. She left it unlocked then, to guarantee a racket if anyone tried to sneak in, got a chair from by the wardrobe and propped it against the doorknob.
Now for the windows. She went across and checked they were locked. They were. She gazed at the blackness that lay beyond them. Somewhere out there lurked the thing that had killed Daniel Robinson and Tom Radcliffe.
Just after midnight, Liz was sat up in bed, making sure her gun was loaded. She slipped its safety catch on. If she was going to sleep with it under her pillow, the last thing she needed was it going off by accident and saving her would-be assassin the trouble of killing her.
This whole thing was madness. She knew that; waiting for who-knew-what to come to that window and try to slaughter her.
So why was she doing it?
Boredom because she spent all her time chasing round amusement parks, after idiots, and needed something real to tackle for once.
Curiosity because of what had happened exactly one year ago, back at the museum. Once you'd seen a thing like that, you had to see more. How could you ever rest easy knowing there were worlds out there that you knew nothing about, and never try to shed more light on them?
She slipped her gun under her pillow, gave the pillow a couple of mild punches to soften it up and then laid her head on it.
She gazed at the ceiling, and she waited for whatever horror might arrive in the night.
Sunday, 1 September 2013
'I'm sorry but what're we looking for and what does it have to do with Liz not letting me go to my own house?'
Alison and Frank were in his living room, her stood over him, leaning forward, hands on knees while she watched him rummage in the third of three low cupboards. She'd never met anyone with cupboards as cluttered as his.
'Gotcha!' In a shoe box stuffed with papers, he found whatever it was he was after. He took it from the box, stood up, turned to face her and said, 'This is what it has to do with all that stuff.'
Whatever it was, he handed it to her. She studied it, but all the object produced from her was a frown. 'What is it?' she said.
'An address and phone number.'
'I can see that but whose?'
'Liz's boss. She gave it me in case of emergencies. You've failed with her? Tough. Get upstairs and pick out your best clothes.'
'Because, first thing tomorrow, you've got a job interview.'
Now Joe was gone, Liz climbed off her bed and headed for the door. She shut it and turned the key. She grabbed her laptop from among her luggage and climbed onto the bed with it.
She planted the laptop before her, opened it and called up the files Lou'd sent her before she'd left home. They told her all she needed to know about Tom Radcliffe, an accountant from Edinburgh; Daniel Robinson, an architect from Cornwall; and Dr Seevers, the man who'd put her on this course in the first place.
None of them had a black mark against his name, any track record of infamy or involvement in the Dark Arts. Nor did the recently deceased seem to have had any known enemies.
As for Valentyne Delgado, he'd had enemies all right. That was half the problem. He'd had so many that finding his killer had been like trying to find a twig in a forest.
According to his murder file, his death had happened just like she'd always heard it had. He was stabbed to death in the entrance hall downstairs, in his ceremonial robes and mask. His killer was never caught and the murder weapon never recovered, The file contained a list of his associates and enemies but none of it got her anywhere. Nor did it tell her why whoever'd killed him would want to kill his successors.
Right now, she had other things to do - the main one being to attract an attempt on her life. She'd made her first stab at that by placing an announcement of her arrival in the local paper. That should alert any would-be killers to her presence but that wouldn't appear till the next day, and ideally she wanted results tonight.
For that, there was only one course of action.
She was going to have to get noticed.
Liz pulled her van to a halt outside a general store and climbed out. She was in Hangerton, the village you had to pass through to get to Delgado Manor. Because the few people she saw looked to her urban eyes like refugees from The Shadow Over Innsmouth, she switched her van's alarm on then looked for a likely venue.
That didn't take much doing. The Moulting Ferret was an old-style pub on the corner, with a tree stood opposite and a cracked sign that either suggested near dereliction or a surplus of character.
When she walked in, it was hardly what you could call jumping but there were enough people in it to make sure she could get noticed. Though, by the way all heads had swivelled towards her when she'd entered, getting noticed was going to be the least of her concerns.
She stood there a moment, the subject of universal scrutiny then shut the door behind her and - watched all the way - she headed for the centre of the room.
There, she grabbed a spare stool from by a table occupied by three men, planted it in the open and climbed up to stand on it. 'Ladies and gentlemen...' Herself aside, there were no women in the place except the barmaid. '...can I have your attention please?'
She already had it.
'My name's Alison Parker. I'm twenty two-'
The barmaid snorted at that claim.
'-And, from my dress sense, you may have noticed I'm what people in cities call a bohemian. I believe in free love, expensive cars, New Labour and banning all forms of hunting. I'm also your new neighbour because I've just moved into the big house on the hill. Delgado Manor I believe it's called. I'm just here to announce that, from now on, as mistress of the house, I'll be staying there.
'I'm also a big-shot film producer and'll be making a horror movie there just as soon as I'm settled. That means I'm asking you to tell all your friends and family that I'll be auditioning for zombies within the month. So if anyone fancies Hollywood stardom, I'm the woman to deliver. Thanks for your time and enjoy your drinks.' She jumped down off the stool, put it back where she'd got it from, gave the three men at its table a wink and headed for the door. If telling the whole village that the new owner of Delgado Manor was a free-loving, Blairite who was making a horror movie didn't get tongues wagging then nothing would.
When it came to farming, Liz Sanford didn't know her arse from her elbow. She knew even less about Dranton Farm. It might have been a dairy farm or a sheep farm. It might have been a horse farm if there were such things. Maybe it grew wheat or corn or barley. Maybe it did none of the above.
All she knew was it was round the back of Delgado Manor - just on from the base of its stark black slopes. That made its owners her neighbours and that meant she was at its farmhouse door, pressing the bell.
A few moments later, the door opened, answered by a chunky looking woman in her mid-forties.
Liz took one look at her. 'Mrs Dranton?'
'My name's Alison Parker. I'm your new neighbour - and I do LSD.'