Tuesday, 12 May 2009
A Thrilling Saga Begins! Probably
Thraxton Whelk and the Rather Tricky Moment
It was on the third day of J--- in the month of ---ber in the year 189- that I found myself in ----olotl Avenue in the L-nd-n borough of ---ders Gr--n. I had decided to visit my old friend Thraxton Whelk, England's greatest occult detective. Or, more properly, to renew my acquaintance with the psychic sleuth; for we had not seen one another or communicated in any way - even by whistling in code in different bits of a maze - since we parted after Whelk so nearly met a grisly end during the Extraordinary Affair of the Vampire Penguins.
I confess to feeling a little trepidation as I hauled the bell-pull out of the door frame, tried to replace it, then hid it among what may have been begonias. I call Whelk my friend, but he is notorious for his changeable moods. One minute he can be Hail-Fellow-Well-Met, the next he is chasing you trouserless through a Chinese laundry, wielding a sword-edged bayonet and drooling disconcertingly.
It was for this reason I asked his housekeeper, Mrs Rummage, whether the great man was in good humour. She paused, as if in thought, before replying:
'I dunno, he's been singing about a Dickie-Di-Do and knocking back the port something awful.'
This was a moderately good sign. Leaving my hat, coat, stick, lamp, parrot and lobster pots with Mrs Rummage, I made my way up the narrow, ill-lit staircase to Whelk's apartments. I waited for a moment before rapping smartly on his door and calling:
'I say old fellow! Can I come in?'
For a moment there was no reply. Then, with a crashing report and splintering of seasoned oak, a large calibre bullet emerged from a door panel and embedded itself in the wall plaster a few inches to the right of my head. I let out a sigh of relief. He was in a good mood.
I entered and, having what remained of the door behind me, surveyed the psychic sleuth's domain. It was untidy, chaotic even, yet a discerning eye could spot a few obvious indicators of the kind of genius that resided in this dimly-lit chamber. For a start, there was the desk bearing the little sign reading 'Thraxton Whelk, Occult Detective and Personal Exorcist to Lord Salisbury's Valet', along with a list of charges. I noted with approval that he had bumped up his charge for casting demons out of larger spinsters.
'Well, park your arse if you're staying.'
The typically terse greeting came from a languid, aristocratic figure who lounged by the blazing fire, picking his toes with a harpoon. I recognised the implement at once, and as I seated myself in the understuffed armchair opposite Whelk I wondered yet again what would prompt a Canadian whaling skipper to impersonate a prima ballerina while neglecting to remove his oilskins.
'So, Whelk, I find you alone. No clients?'
He looked at me for a moment with an expression I had learned - after a few false starts - to interpret as grudging respect tinged with a somewhat rough-edged kindness. He spoke:
'Well, I have for some minutes been expecting the arrival of a short, malodorous, retired army major with a bogus qualification in pharmacy and a strange fixation on the larger crustacea.'
Not for the first time, I was astonished by my friend's uncanny perspicacity.
'How do you do it Whelk? Scrying glass? Second sight? The Amulet of Amun-Ter? Or perhaps you obtained this intelligence by way of one of your small army of informers - Whelk's Urchins?'
He sighed in exasperation, then drove his fist against his high, noble forehead with considerable force before replying.
'I heard you coming up the stairs you stupid git! Give me strength...'
'Amazing, Whelk! I don't know how you do it.'
To Be Continued...