Daniel Park & David Young
the monkey tales trilogy: three monkeys falling star blast from the past rapture
three monkeys Daniel Park & David Young
prologue <Good morning Sam, how are you today?> oozed the sugary-sweet voice of the Professor. Sam knew that, despite the apparent warmth of the man’s conversation, behind those eyes was the mind of a cold-blooded killer. <I’m okay, I guess.> He was far from ‘okay’. He hated the Professor, could never bring himself to trust him. No-one could be as smiley as the Professor all the time. He could see behind those seedy eyes that there was definitely something sinister going on in that head of his. He felt the sharp scratch on his arm as, once again, he was pumped full of drugs. <Do you have something new to tell me?> Even if he didn’t have something to say, Sam would have been brought to the Professor’s office and given the drugs to make him talk. There could be no resisting. Sam looked around the room and noticed
how blurry his surroundings had become. The Professorâ€™s voice began to take on its familiar booming sound that seemed to come from all directions as the room began to spin and fade. As he clung to his last threads of consciousness, he heard the final words of the Professor. <Tell me about Monkey, Sam.>
one Monkey sighed as he stared out of the window and watched as the heavy clouds threatened rain once more. The evening seemed like every other evening in Towndale and, as usual, he was spending it at the local pub with his friend and local nutjob, Zoltan the Magnificent. Yet, despite the familiarity of the surroundings and prevalence of the events, Monkey felt uncomfortable, that long-forgotten feeling of dread began to creep over him. Something was coming. Something evil. As he stared into the gloom, a mist began to form outside, swirling around like a dust cloud in a desert storm. His heart began to beat faster as the thickening fog swept through the gap below the door and into the pub. “Oh no,” he whispered, “not now, surely?” He somehow found himself on his feet and twirled around, watching his surroundings fade into a
brilliant whiteness, the noise around him fading as some unseen hand turned down the universal volume control. The cold, damp air shrouded him, chilling him to the bone. Shivering involuntarily, he looked around the whiteness, knowing that this visit was long overdue and that he was bound to be called upon again eventually; still, this was a whole lot more distressing than he remembered from last time. As the last of his surroundings disappeared into the whiteness and the last pulse of sound switched to mute, he huffed out his chest and shifted his weight nervously from one foot to the other. “Ah, Seeno,” came the familiar booming voice that seemed to come from all directions, “I see you were expecting me?” “I’m glad to be of assistance, Sir,” Monkey replied, quietly bristling. He hated anyone calling him by his given name, but never liked to correct the Big Guy for fear of reprisal. “I guess you require my services again? I take it this is a mission only I could carry out? I am glad that you have finally realised my potential and have decided to put your faith in my abilities. It really is a great honour, your Majesticalness.” “Oh, do shut up, Seeno,” came the booming voice, completely unimpressed by Monkey's ebullience and honeyed words, “I’m only asking you because the rest of the team are otherwise engaged. Holiday time is so annoying, don’t you think? Obviously, in this profession, it is difficult to get cover, especially at such short notice. So it looks as though I have no alternative but to use you.”
“Yes, sir,” came the chastened reply. “I… err… wondered what it was that you wanted me to do this time?” The voice laughed loudly. “I want you to save the world, of course! Isn’t that all I ever ask of you?” Monkey groaned inwardly. “But how? What do you want me to do? What is the threat to the world? Surely the mortals have achieved some sort of peaceful balance? After all, most of the wars these days are being resolved using mediation and compromise. I thought that you said I could come home once I had rid the world of evil?” The voice tutted and sighed. “There are many, many threats to come, the threats you are to deal with are far more sinister than anything ever seen on Earth. You must help the world through these challenges. I have heard that the Red Man's followers have found an incantation which will allow his passage out of Tartarus.” Monkey frowned. “Incantation, your most excellent holiness? I thought he would be safe in Tartarus for the rest of his days?” “Yes, Seeno. We all thought that. We never expected anyone to find this incantation. I had hidden it in such a clever place…” “Under your mattress?” Monkey interrupted. The voice paused. “How did you know?” it boomed at last. “Anyway, regardless of where I may or may not have hidden it, once the Red Man’s followers have gathered together the souls of the innocent and the blood of the many, they will read the incantation and he will be free faster than you could say...”
“The Red Man eh? Well, I'll be a monkey’s uncle!” said Monkey. “I suppose that works. Anyway,” said the Big Guy, getting back to the point in question, “you must stop them. The Red Man must never be free from limbo. You will recall what happened the last time he tried to inflict pain and suffering on the people of Earth?” Monkey shuddered. "How could I forget? He invented tax men! He really is the most evil fiendmeister! It’s just... it actually seems quite a big job for just me. I mean, how many of his followers are there? Will it take long? Zoltan and I are supposed to be travelling to Little Rigton with the darts team next week and I know he needs to visit the dentist pretty soon.” “Oh, for goodness sake, Seeno! There are only two of his followers, and I am fairly sure that even you could manage to keep an eye on them. Darts and teeth are the least of my problems right now, I have some urgent business to attend to elsewhere. Take those brothers of yours if you must. Just get out there and sort the world out!” Monkey frowned. Having the assistance of his two brothers was not exactly what he had in mind; he would have much preferred some sort of action hero type to do the job on his behalf. Still, it was marginally better than nothing, he thought. “Excuse me, your most wonderful mysticalness, might I ask for a change in appearance? I was thinking something more like an action hero department, say Bruce Willis or Hugh Jackman. And when can I come home?”
“We’ve been through this before, Seeno. Your current persona is less obvious and will draw little attention to yourself. You are welcome to come home once you have rid the world of evil. Seeno, the fate of the world lies in the paws of you and your allies. You are the only ones who can deal with the Red Man.” Monkey was uneasy at the ominous tone that the Big Guy had used (and a little peeved that he still called him Seeno). Surely the Red Man could not be such a threat? After all, it had been Monkey who had stripped him of his powers and banished that most evil creature to the abyss below Hades many years ago, and if he could do it then, he could certainly do it now, couldn't he? Sure, he was a little older, a lot more out of shape and not as sharp as he used to be but still he was surely able to cope with such threats as the Red Man? He was about to ask the Supreme Being why he couldn’t just destroy the Red Man himself but stopped himself at the last moment, believing it better left unsaid, and frightfully rude to question one’s creator. As he reassured himself of his abilities, the mist drifted back out of the door and his surroundings came back into view, just in time for him to see Zoltan drain the last dregs of beer from his glass. He decided not to tell his hapless friend too much of his conversation with the Big Guy just yet, Zoltan was a little dim and this would take rather a lot of explaining. He took another look out of the window and was relieved to see all signs of the mist had disappeared. His meetings with the Big Guy always worried him, primarily due to the fact that he was usually required 13
to do some work for a change which tended to seriously disrupt his drinking time. He noticed that it was raining again. Not one of those pathetic rain showers that you sometimes get in the middle of summer. This was a huge downpour, a more typical autumn "open the floodgates and let 'er rip" rainstorm than a miserable February day. The heavens had opened, huge booming roars of thunder set off car alarms far into the distance, flashes of lightning bright enough to make the evening seem briefly like midday. And lots of rain. The weather had been on and off like this for a full four days and nights now and it surprised Monkey that Towndale had never flooded, particularly as the entire town had been built beside the River Calder in the North of England and was notorious for bursting its banks just a few miles further downstream in Wakefield. Zoltan looked out of the window and sighed. He was glad he was not outside in the downpour. At least by the time he had finished his next beer, the rain may have stopped and he could make a dry journey home again. Besides, Anna wouldn't expect Sam to even consider venturing outside into such unseasonable weather. She had already pleaded with him to stay indoors, as he had been drenched on each of the three previous nights when he had arrived home. Zoltan was quite happy to stay indoors, although he would much rather be here than at home. Staying indoors was definitely what Anna would have suggested, and keep taking plenty of fluids. Or was that the best cure for influenza? Actually, plenty of fluids was probably the best cure for everything, in Zoltan's opinion, and he knew just what fluid he needed. 14
He got up and walked back to the bar, once again demonstrating how the laws of physics could be warped as he had been shoe-horned into his favourite football shirt. Of course, the only reason Zoltan went to the pub every night was "for the good of humanity." Without Zoltan's social presence, the pub just wouldn't have any atmosphere, he told himself. That could actually seem a very conceited comment on his part, had it not been partly true. He was indeed the centre of attention at the pub; always the bright, jolly character and people loved him. Fellow drinkers had been known to travel from miles around to see Zoltan the Magnificent, although deep down, he knew that, if the truth were told, it was not so much him that the people came to see. It was that damn monkey. "What'll it be, Zoltan?" asked the barman, "same again?" "Aye, that'd be champion," came the lazy reply. "Quiet tonight, don't you think?" "Sure is," replied the barman, "Itâ€™s the rain. Four nights running, it has been now. It's ruining my trade!" Zoltan smiled. One of those 'of course it is, and you haven't got a tidy sum put back for situations like this, have you?' smiles. Everyone knew that the guy was loaded; you only had to look at his vintage white Rolls Royce or the Rolex on his wrist to gain some idea of the manâ€™s financial status. The barman placed a pint of beer on the bar. "Usual for you too, Monkey?" he called. "That would be splendid," replied Monkey, without moving from his seat, "Zoltan is paying, of course?"
"Of course!" laughed the barman. Monkey never paid, that was the deal; Zoltan bought the drinks, Monkey kept Zoltan's acquaintances amused with his sparkling conversation and the barman happy with his increased trade. As ever, the drinks were paid for and Zoltan re-joined Monkey back at their table in the corner by the window. "Is it easing up yet?" "It most certainly is not," sulked Monkey, knowing that he would be dripping wet by the time he got home. Whilst the little guy was obviously upset by this prospect, Zoltan sensed that perhaps the rain was not the only thing that was upsetting his friend. Certainly, no-one could ever truthfully say that Zoltan was the sharpest knife in the drawer, but it was obvious to even him when Monkey was in a strop. After all, they had been living together for the best part of ten years. Silently, the two of them sipped on their beer, staring at each other. Zoltan tried to think some something interesting to say but, as usual, the ability escaped him. Monkey, lost in his thoughts, wondered what the Big Guy expected of him, and whether or not Anna would have made supper by the time they got home. Eventually, Monkey spoke up. "Zoltan, would you mind doing me a small favour?" he asked, "would you help me down from this chair? I would do it myself, but it is such a long way down for me." This was indeed true. In fact, Monkey had difficulty doing quite a lot of things on his own. That was the main drawback about being a knitted, eighteen-inch-high, tatty, threadbare sock puppet. In fact, these days Monkey did not really look much like a monkey any 16
more. These days he bore more of a resemblance to a misshapen sock with eyes. Zoltan did as his friend asked, raising an eyebrow in suspicion. “We should go,” said Monkey, “we have things to do.” “But we haven't finished our beer yet?” Zoltan was aghast but noticed Monkey's stern expression and decided not to argue, mainly because the little puppet tended to get rather irritable when he didn't get his own way. Zoltan briefly recalled how Monkey had sulked for weeks when he and his brothers had first gone to live at his house. Monkey had begun a minor revolution when he refused to share the sock drawer with Zoltan's ‘pesky argyles’, preferring instead the drawer containing Anna's silky stockings, for reasons only he knew. Instead, Zoltan decided to follow as Monkey rushed out of the pub door and struggled to keep up with the little knitted simian as he toddled off down the street as though he were on some life or death mission. Neither of them noticed the dark figure hiding in the shadows beside the pub. There were no witnesses to the tiny sparks of blue light that emitted from her outstretched hand, or how they seemed to dance as they joined together into one blinding ball of light that burst into the pub and ignited everything inside. No-one saw how she smiled when the medallion around her neck glowed as it collected the souls of her pitiful victims from the inferno. Within seconds, the entire pub was reduced to a pile of charred remains and the people that had been inside were
now just a cloud of smouldering ashes in the February night air. **** Anna was surprised to see Zoltan and Monkey home so early. It was a little after nine o’clock, and as such, she had not prepared supper, not even put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea. The rain was still pouring outside and both Zoltan and Monkey were drenched once again. She was quick to get Zoltan a nice warm towel and a change of clothes. She popped Monkey in the tumble dryer for twenty minutes, much to his annoyance. Eventually, Monkey emerged with the room still spinning and sat on the couch beside Anna. Zoltan stood by the window, staring out into the gloom, watching as a number of police cars and fire engines raced past. He watched as a crowd of people rushed past in the same direction and opened the window to catch the attention of one of the passers-by. “Where is everyone going? What is going on?” “The pub is on fire,” came the out-of breath reply. Monkey’s woolly ears pricked up. He knew that things were about to get ugly. He hadn't anticipated that they would get so ugly quite so quickly.
two She picked up a newspaper that had been discarded by an earlier passenger and casually browsed through the stories, smiling to herself as she read about a mysterious fire at a pub in Towndale. The track rose sharply as the train crossed the Pennines, one of the bleakest parts of the country, yet even here, scattered throughout the countryside were dotted beautiful little pockets of small villages, picturesque as a postcard depicting life in the North of England. Estelle Merry folded the newspaper up and replaced it on the seat beside her. She glanced out of the window. Beside the track was a steep valley, punctuated by the winding River Calder, which glistened a beautiful orange in the mid-February sunset. She stood up and walked the full length of the twocarriage train, counting heads as she went. There
were forty-two other passengers on this train, together with the driver and conductor. Not quite enough, but a good start, she told herself. She reached the door at the front of the train, behind which sat the driver. "Oh well," she smiled, "looks like we are going to be late." She grasped the handle of the driverâ€™s door and tore it from its hinges with surprising ease. The driver immediately turned around to see what was going on, his face meeting the full force of her fist, his head snapping back and breaking his neck. Such was the force of the blow that the driver's head hit the front window of the train, shattering the reinforced glass into millions of tiny fragments. None of the passengers attempted to apprehend her. No-one even acknowledged her presence, as she had already relieved them of their pitiful existence and drained them of their precious blood. She toyed with the controls and increased the trainsâ€™ speed until it was traveling much too fast, slamming the dead passengers from side to side as it struggled to stay on the tracks. In the distance she noticed another train advancing quickly towards them. Without a hint of effort she picked up the metal door, lifted it high above her head and threw it through the windscreen. In an instant, the trainâ€™s wheels made contact with the door and the entire train lurched sideways. Laughing to herself, she jumped through the broken window, landing heavily on the embankment, rolling over and over before sitting up to inspect her handiwork. She watched as the train derailed and slid in front of the path of the ever advancing train before falling 20
onto its side, sending fragments of glass in every direction, before disappearing over the edge of the hill, rolling until it reached the bottom of the valley where it landed, upside down, in the river. As the river waters quickly flowed through the trains shattered windows, the air in the carriages was forced out in huge bubbles and the entire train sank gracefully to the bottom of the deep river, taking all but one of its passengers to a watery grave. The driver of the approaching train slammed on the brakes, causing unsuspecting passengers to be thrown forward heavily. Amid the screams of terror and panic, luggage and personal belongings flew past their heads to the front of the train. The ninety-ton vehicle came to a stop within feet of where the oncoming train had completed its disappearing act over the embankment. The area was strewn with glass and debris, a strong smell of fuel filled the air. Shaking with shock, the driver grabbed the high visibility jacket from the cab and opened the emergency door. He jumped down onto the track, joined quickly by the conductor. The two men looked over the edge of the steep hill to witness the last roll and agonizingly slow sinking of the carriages of the derailed train. A few passengers followed the driver, eager to find the cause of their emergency stop, despite his pleading with them to return to their seats. Several people attempted to reach the emergency services on their mobile phones but signals were practically nonexistent in this area of the Pennines. The realization was that, being in the middle of nowhere, the emergency services would take an age to reach the 21
scene of the accident and would undoubtedly be too late to rescue anyone from the wreckage. The village they could see just beyond the river was unlikely to have the resources to effect a full-scale rescue attempt anyway. As the passengers began to formulate their own rescue plan, the driver looked along the track and saw a woman sitting on the grass, watching them in amusement. She stood up and walked towards them. "Are you ok?" asked the driver, to which Estelle nodded slowly. The driver felt uneasy as she neared him, her smile seemed unnatural and certainly not appropriate considering the accident they had all witnessed. Immediately she was faced with a barrage of questions â€“ was she on the train, how fast was the train going, did the driver let the passengers know what was happening, did she see anything suspicious. Estelle held up her hand in a gesture that seemed to ask for the questions to stop, which had the desired effect. Tiny sparks of light speckled at her fingertips. A steady stream of passengers had been disembarking and formed a small crowd, shivering in the rainy February air. One by one, all were transfixed on Estelle, watching the incredible light show on her hand, hypnotized by the light. They found that they could not move, the light having a paralyzing effect on them, yet they did not seem concerned, being engrossed by the beautiful spectacle. A gentle, warm breeze seemed to surround them, welcome relief from the night air. Briefly, several people wondered how such a warm breeze could 22
surround them in the middle of winter. The thoughts soon faded with the distraction of the light and within a few moments, no other thoughts crossed any minds. They watched with increased fascination as the sparks grew more intense, becoming a single, blinding light which began to burn the backs of their eyes. Still, none could break their gaze from it. Within moments, the light no longer hurt their eyes; it seemed to welcome them. They each felt as though they ought to walk towards it, yet their feet seemed to anchor them to the ground. Their minds were filled with thoughts of fluffy white clouds and the promise of eternal light continued to invite them towards it. The breeze was getting warmer and had become quite uncomfortable. Some of the passengers fought the will to give in to the light, tried to turn away from its hypnotic pull but were powerless to resist. The heat was now unbearable and seared the skin on their hands and faces. The light from Estelle's hand took on a solid threedimensional form. Like the legendary Gryphon, a huge creature, half lion, half eagle seemed to step out of her and walked between the passengers. As it brushed against them, one by one the passengers burst into flames, unable to scream, unable to move, eyes filled with terror. The huge creature took them each from this life to the next and releasing their souls to add to Estelle's collection, their blood pooling around her feet before rising through her body and into the medallion. And then there was silence.
When the last of the passengers had burned into charred, bloodless remains, the Gryphon faded away, yet the heat remained so intense that the train itself began to melt. The molten metal formed a silvery river, flowing down the side of the hill to meet the Calder with an immense hiss, sending huge clouds of steam high into the air. And still the heat remained intense; the remains of the passengers continued to burn until they were merely clouds of ash, whipped up by the scorchingly hot wind and carried into eternity. **** Estelle awoke alone in a stranger’s bed. She could hear the sounds of the man she met last night as he pottered around in another room, trying to be as quiet as he could. Tony Neild was irresistible to women, he told himself. He could not recall an evening when he had not had the pleasure of a woman's company within the past fifteen years and as he was about to turn thirty-five, this was quite an achievement. His apartment, on the outskirts of Towndale, was one of the more recent building developments and had been designed specifically with single professionals in mind. Soon after moving in, Tony had arranged for a jacuzzi to be fitted - for those ‘special occasions.’ Last night had been a first for Tony. They had been ‘busy’ until 5am, which was the only reason she had stayed over. Normally, he would have arranged a taxi, said goodbye to the woman and never arrange to see her again. For some reason, this woman intrigued him and he found, for the first time in his life, that he wanted something more. As soon as Tony had seen 24
her, he found himself lost in her eyes, she had smiled at him wistfully and, despite the fact she had been receiving a serious amount of male attention, he had approached her. Without a word, she had wrapped her leg around his waist and gazed into his eyes. He amazed himself at the fact that for the first time in a number of years, he hadnâ€™t needed to rely on that trusty blue pill for support, and she had obvious felt his excitement, taking him by the hand as the two left the club. The rest of her admirers had been left to rue their bad luck and with only a memory of her emerald eyes and the need to stay seated with their legs crossed for several minutes. Estelle, dressed only in her flimsy underwear, followed Tony into the kitchen. "Morning," she purred, "fancy a repeat of last night?" Tony smiled to himself. He knew he was good, but last night he even surprised himself. "Sure, why not? Why don't you get into the jacuzzi and I will find us some champagne and strawberries?" She smiled knowingly. "Don't be long," she winked as she slipped out of the kitchen. He went straight to the dining room and opened one of the garish wooden panels that lined the walls, dĂŠcor that he had fallen in love with when he first liberated it from the local car boot sale. He turned on the concealed television screen and DVD recorder that sat on shelves lined with hundreds of DVDs, each of which had been labelled neatly with the name of a woman and a date. He briefly admired his illgotten collection of self-made pornography and chuckled to himself as Estelle walked into shot, 25
apparently unaware that a video camera was filming her every move. He watched as she slipped off her remaining clothing and climbed into the pool. Congratulating himself at how, yet again, his plan had worked, he closed the door and opened another, taking out a bottle of champagne from the concealed refrigerator, placed it into the ice bucket and grabbed the two bowls of strawberries that had been sitting in the fridge since yesterday evening in anticipation of the next notch in his bedpost. “This should make for good viewing,” he told himself, as he carried everything into the jacuzzi room on a small silver tray and placed the tray on the floor by the pool. "Come, join me!" called Estelle, teasingly, "the water is lovely!" Tony didn't try to disguise his excitement as he slipped off his shorts and slyly looked toward the camera in the corner of the room, which was cleverly concealed by the fresh flowers on the table. He climbed into the water and Estelle wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Tony could not believe his luck. She gazed seductively into his eyes. “Tony?” "Yes?" “I need you to do something special for me.” He smiled at the sexual undertones of her words and reminded himself how he had to try and make her feel special, otherwise she was likely to get cold feet before he had managed to film the latest addition to his collection. “I would do anything you asked,” he said, “you're very special to me, Elaine.”
Estelle didn't correct him. “I need to add to my collection, just as you do.” He tried unsuccessfully to hide his surprise. “My collection?” “Don't act all innocent,” said Estelle, mildly annoyed, “I am not stupid. I've seen the camera, the DVD collection, everything.” This time, he didn't even try to hide his shock. “But... how? How could you have known?” Estelle shrugged her shoulders. “It's a gift I have. I can read your mind. Now, how about that favour?” Tony began to back away from Estelle. She laughed as fear exploded over his face. She picked up a strawberry and bit through the end, causing Tony to cringe as he imagined what she might do to his anatomy, given the chance. “What do you want from me? What is this collection of yours?” he asked, instantly wishing he hadn't. She didn't reply at first, instead holding her hand in a gesture that implied that she wanted him to shut up. He immediately did so, but found to his horror that he couldn't move. As she moved closer to him, licking her lips, his fear turned to terror and he stifled a scream. Had he been able to control any part of his anatomy, he felt sure he would have wet himself. At least he was sheltered from that embarrassment, he thought. Her face was so close to his that he could feel her breath on his lips, the tingling feeling of adrenaline running down his spine. “I will be happy to add you to my collection,” she whispered, “you are one person who truly deserves it.” She climbed out of the water and wrapped herself in a towel. “Think of yourself as one of the lucky 27
ones. You will not have to kneel at my masters feet when he returns. Your death will be speedy, unlike the souls that he and I will enslave when he returns to rule the Earth.” Tony couldn't reply but he could hear very well. Two faint beads of sweat rolled down from his head, the salty liquid stinging his eyes as he tried to watch her walking around the pool. Finally, she knelt down at the poolside, bit into another strawberry and allowed herself a sinister smile at the latest addition to her collection. “What’s the matter, lover? Was it not good for you? Am I not hot enough for you?” she teased. Instantly, the water in the pool began to boil, great clouds of steam rising into the room, causing paint to peel from the walls, the wooden panels to bow and split. Huge swathes of skin began to blister and come away from his body, the fear and pain in his eyes plain for her to see. As a tear welled in his eye and rolled down his cheek, she winked seductively. Within two minutes, screaming inwardly throughout, Tony was poached to perfection. Estelle stood beside the pool, smiling as she again admired her handiwork. She looked across at the video camera and blew it a kiss, not concerned that it had just witnessed and recorded a man's horrific death. She dried herself and quickly got dressed before calmly setting to work at burning the apartment to the ground. She had only a few souls left to harvest before she had to find K’vorim. Together, they would be able to recite the incantation to bring back the Red Man from purgatory. Things were going better than anticipated, she thought, giving herself a mental pat on the back. 28
**** <This Estelle lady sounds very nasty, Sam. I wouldn’t have thought anyone could possess such powers?> Sam opened his eyes a fraction. This was not the voice of the Professor but another he recognized as the man known only as ‘the Doctor’. <Believe me, she does. I have seen everything she has done with my own eyes.> The Doctor raised an eyebrow. <You were on the train?> <No, but…> <At Tony’s house?> <No. I just know that…> The Doctor moved closer to Sam, their noses practically touching. Sam disliked the Doctor even more than he did the Professor. <Sam, you know nothing of the sort. You are making all of this up. Why don’t you tell us what really happened?> Sam’s face blushed with anger. <I’m telling you everything I know! Why can’t you believe me?> <Now, now,> came the Professor’s voice, <let Sam continue. I am sure he will make us understand shortly.> The Doctor pulled away. Sam knew that the man was another head-case and certainly didn’t want to be around if he were to lose his temper. <Okay, Sam,> sighed the Doctor, defeated, arms folded over his chest as he bit his lip, turning his back on the object of his frustration, <who is Zoltan, and what does he have to do with this?> Sam closed his eyes again. <Well…> 29
three Zoltan the Magnificent was a magician, although he was not a particularly good one. In fact, as far as magicians went, he was downright rubbish. It was obvious that he could perform magic tricks; it was just that none of the tricks actually ever worked out the way he intended. He was not aware that his audiences were actually unimpressed by his magic, or that the reason they were laughing and cheering was more to do with their mockery of the poor man. He bounced his son, Raine, on his knee and told the impressionable toddler various stories from his younger days. He recalled how, one particular afternoon in 2002, he had been entertaining the children at Towndale Junior School. Children, he had thought, would be far easier to impress than adults, yet his tricks were so useless that even the smallest child had not been amused. Even Raine showed no sign of appreciation on the many occasions that he
was inflicted the honour of watching the practice runs. Zoltan had also convinced himself that he was a minor super-hero, although he had no grounds on which to base his theory. He was unable to fly, of course only comic book characters could do such things! He had neither super strength nor x-ray vision. However, despite his tragic lack of super powers, he still harbored a misguided belief that he was a superhero and that his impressive dexterity, sleight of hand and magical prowess, together with his sparkling wit and charming personality confirmed his suspicions. As Zoltan continued to replay the events of that day in 2002, he cringed, remembering how he had been in the middle of his show and had just turned a child's toy into a bag of sugar. In theory, this could have been an impressive feat, save for the fact that it was supposed to have become a fluffy white bunny. The child had been distraught - not only was there a distinct lack of fluffy white bunny, but now he had lost his favorite teddy bear, gaining instead a bag of sugar which would inevitably encourage the child to devour foods with high sugar content, no doubt leading to rotting teeth and probably giving him a nasty case of worms. This particular day was of importance to Zoltan, as it had been the day he had met his then to be wife, Anna. Just after young Walt had become the lessthan-proud owner of a bag of sugar there had been a loud crashing sound coming from the main road outside the school. Zoltan and the children had run out to see a car that had tried itâ€™s best to uproot a 31
lamppost, neatly wrapping its front end around it. Behind the wheel sat a dazed looking Anna, whom Zoltan immediately recognized from their days as schoolchildren, several years earlier. Anna had climbed out of the car unhurt and Zoltan had been quick to reacquaint himself with his friend. It was then that she had said the words that he couldn't quite understand. “I almost ran you over then, you fool!” Zoltan had protested his innocence, and with thirty snotty-nosed brats and one bag of sugar able to provide him with an alibi, Anna had concluded that she was perhaps seeing things at the time of the accident. Even to this day, five years after the event, Zoltan could not understand why she had made such an unusual comment. Zoltan broke off from his storytelling and smiled at Anna, in that loving way that made even Raine want to gag. “Do you remember what happened next?” he asked. “Of course! You took me to that cafe for a coffee and you tried to produce a bunch of flowers from inside your cape.” Zoltan had forgotten that part. Rather embarrassingly, instead of producing the aforementioned flowers as he had intended, he had surprised her with a large haddock. "I will protect you from now on." he had said. Somehow, Anna had not felt overly encouraged by this. Unless, of course, haddock were, unknown to her, renowned for their protection of humans. Which was highly unlikely, in her opinion.
"Thanks, Zoltan. You are a super guy, but there really is no need for you to be a hero on my behalf." Zoltan had noticed that Anna had used both the words 'super' and 'hero' in the same sentence, more fuel for his argument that he was indeed a superhero. "It is my duty," said Zoltan proudly, sticking out his chest to make himself look bigger, “for I am..." he got to his feet and announced with a flourish, "Zoltan the Magnificent." "But that’s not your real name, is it? I’m sure your name was…" "Shh! You will blow my cover! Do you think Clarke Kent let everybody know that he was Superman? I think not." Over the next few months, Zoltan followed Anna around, in a bid to protect her, albeit mercifully haddock-free. This came to an abrupt end one day when the restraining order finally came through but Anna had soon realized that Zoltan was in fact the man for her. Better the devil you know, and all that. They were married soon after. She knew that Zoltan had always seemed a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic and she had wondered whether the combination of his reduced mental capacity and rubbish magic could prove to be a potentially dangerous cocktail. But, despite his quirks, she decided that she loved him. Their reminiscing was rudely interrupted by a muffled banging on the door. Anna sighed heavily as the door swung open and in walked Monkey's brothers, Hearno and Speakno. Seeing the three simian sock puppets together was such a rare occurrence, Anna was immediately suspicious. 33
The three monkeys had always claimed that they had been sent by the Big Guy to guard the world from evil, though it would have appeared that recent history had not required the three to bother getting out of bed, let alone save the world. As such, they had each put on a substantial amount of weight, clearly the result of their strict dietary regime of one solitary sausage a day and, in Monkey's case, several pints of lager every night. The three brothers, who also claimed to be the original three wise monkeys, had each developed annoying traits which could sometimes be the only way to distinguish one from the other. Seeno, who considered himself the most important of the three, was a self-centred, opinionated pain in the bottom. He suffered such delusions of grandeur that he appointed himself leader and, as he tried to distance himself from his brothers, preferred to be called Monkey. Speakno often acted like a spoilt, moody teenager and only spoke when he could be bothered; believing himself to be the most intelligent but sulked terribly when things went wrong. Hearno however, was the only half-decent one of the brothers, he was kind and thoughtful, yet he suffered from selective deafness which could get rather annoying at the most inappropriate moment. The three brothers seemed to despise each other and frequently tried to outdo each other, regardless of the consequences for themselves and those around them. However, when the need arose, they made a formidable team and were fiercely loyal to their adoptive family. 34
“Hi, you guys,” smiled Anna, trying to sound sincere, “it's lovely to see you.” Speakno sniffed haughtily and sat in a chair, folding his arms and turning his back to the rest of the group. Hearno just grinned. Monkey looked worried. “We're not going to like this, are we?” asked Zoltan. “Of course not,” growled Monkey, “you don't think I'd have asked them here at this time of night if it wasn't important, surely? I have much better things to do with my time than to be exchanging pleasantries with these flea-bags. I’m missing the repeats of Diagnosis Murder to be here.” Some years ago, Anna would have been horrified with the way Monkey spoke to people but she was so used to it by now that the insults just bounced off her. Zoltan, on the other hand, frequently had heated discussions with the simian superhero over his attitude. “Why don't you tell us what is the matter?” smiled Anna, trying to relieve the tension before Zoltan and Monkey ended up trying to strangle each other again. “Well, it was the episode in which Doctor Sloan sees his double and…” “The problem, Monkey, not Diagnosis Murder. Why have you asked everyone here?” “Oh yes, forgive me. Well, I had a visit from the Big Guy. It was rather worrying.” “Eh?” asked Hearno, his selective deafness at full strength. “I said I had a visit from the Big Guy.” “Eh?” “I SAID... oh, never mind!”
Hearno looked at Monkey with a glazed expression on his face. “I thought you were going to tell them about the visit from the Big Guy?” Monkey sighed one of his long-suffering sighs. “Good idea, oh brother of mine,” he muttered. “The Big Guy told me that there's trouble coming. It sounds like someone is trying to release the Red Man.” Zoltan, who could normally be relied upon to demonstrate his ignorance at any given time, amazed everyone by asking a sensible question. “Who is the Red Man?” “The Red Man is evil. He has many names. We prefer to call him the Red Man so as not to favour any particular religion who might believe in him. Put it this way, if he gets out, the world is doomed.” “So he's some sort of member of parliament then?” asked Zoltan, reverting to his more usual standard of intelligence. Monkey sighed another long-suffering sigh. “Yes Zoltan, he is the Prime Minister of England. You know, you really are hebetudinous at times.” Zoltan smiled proudly. He had no idea what hebetudinous meant but it sounded great. “What is going on, Monkey?” asked Anna. “The Big Guy tells me that the Red Man's followers have found an incantation that will allow him to return from his prison in Tartarus. We need to find these freaks and put an end to their plans. If he was to return, within days he would be powerful enough to enslave the world and we can all kiss goodbye to our sweet little lives here on Earth.”
“I don’t like Tartarus,” mused Zoltan, “whoever decided it would go well with fish needs a slap.” Monkey sighed inwardly. “What the Hell has it got to do with us?” asked Anna. Zoltan turned to his wife. “Isn't it obvious? We superheroes need to stick together!” Monkey rolled his eyes as Speakno choked back a laugh. “We need your help, Zoltan,” said Hearno, “there are few other people we can trust with a task such as this. We have to find the Red Man's followers and stop them from completing the incantation.” Anna nodded in reluctant agreement, “but how will we know who they are? Where would we even begin to look for them?” “Yes, I was just coming to that bit, for goodness sake!” snapped Monkey, “stop trying to steal my limelight! We will know them by the medallions they wear. They use the medallions to store the souls of their sacrifices until they can offer them to the keeper of the gates of Hades in return for the Red Man's freedom.” “It all sounds a bit farfetched to me,” mumbled Zoltan. “What, and three sock puppets being sent by the Big Guy to try and save the world from total destruction, enrolling a crap magician for moral support sounds normal?” countered Monkey. “Well, if you put it that way...” “Why is this happening now, Monkey?” asked Anna, “and why Towndale?” “Oh, that’s an easy one. It’s all to do with the alignment of the planets, which must be in a certain 37
formation for the incantation to work. This alignment happens only once every 395 years or so, and this year is the end of the 13th b’ak’tun, according to Mayan calendars. The alignment can only be seen clearly from Towndale. Mayans believe this will be the apocalypse,” explained Monkey, cheerily adlibbing so as not to show his lack of preparation for such a question. “And how long do we have before the alignment of planets?” “Ah, this is where it gets interesting,” interrupted Speakno, “we have until the 21st December. The day after tomorrow.” Monkey glared at his brother. “I was about to say that. Why do you always have to spoil things for me?” Speakno tutted and turned away. “So,” continued Monkey, “all we have to do is find and kill these two characters, destroy the medallions and find another pub to drink at.” “If it were that simple,” said Zoltan, “why doesn't the Big Guy do it himself?” “Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Besides, I understand he is having tea with the Pope or something. That’s why he left me in charge.” “That's why we are all doomed,” muttered Speakno.
four <This is getting very interesting, Sam,> came the Doctorâ€™s voice, <an ancient Mayan prophecy is about to come to fruition?> Sam knew this was a little too much for the Doctor to take in. Anyone with reduced mental capacity would have difficulty following his recount of events. The Professors voice oozed around Samâ€™s ears. <Is there anyone else we should know about, Sam?> **** Steve Swimmer slouched moodily outside the library, finishing off a nervously smoked cigarette. Nervousness was not an attribute you'd normally associate with Steve, a hard, toned and muscular weightlifter with a number 1 crop and a bad ass reputation as a no-nonsense ladiesâ€™ man and general bovver boy. Nevertheless, he knew he would now have to face that genuinely disturbing librarian and tell him that he was late returning his book. It was
bad enough that he could be intimidated by a common book-shelver, but even worse that the book in question was an anthology of poetry, borrowed in a moment of weakness in an attempt to impress one of his erstwhile conquests. It had been an utter failure and he wondered why his one-time friend, Wayne had even suggested it. Wayne Marshall had trained in the gym together with him and Tony Neild on a regular basis, talked loud-mouthed lads stuff and egged each other on with dares and drinking bouts at the local. A lot of things had happened very quickly to shatter that once idyllic lifestyle. Wayne had given up drinking and had taken to knitting sweaters and arranging fruit, as well as advocating poetry as a cure-all for relationships, Tony had pulled yet another woman last night and the pub, well, that was just a pile of smouldering embers. Steve stamped on the cigarette butt and looked up at the library building. A completely unremarkable piece of 1960s flat-pack architecture from the outside belied an oddly Gothic interior, supported by giant oak beams and dark wood paneling. As he soft-shoed his way across the rich damask carpet and felt the warm kiss of flame from the burning log aglow on the huge Yorkshire sand-stone fireplace which dominated the main room of the building, he stared up at the thick forests of neatly shelved books with what you could almost call awe. For a very small town, Towndale certainly could boast a very impressive library. In his own way, the librarian himself was equally impressive. For some years now he had been without the use of his legs following a tragic fall from the 40
tremulous heights of his uppermost shelf, labeled, of all things â€˜Health and Safetyâ€™. Since then he traveled in a large, luxuriously appointed electric wheelchair which had been modified over the years and now contained an impressive array of technologically advanced attachments. He was always impeccably dressed, resplendent today in a white tuxedo with flamboyant pink bow tie and matching gardenia buttonhole. His borrowers learned very quickly to respect the library service and rare was the occasion that anyone dare break the rules, perhaps due to the way his unsettlingly emerald eyes glinted with undiluted excitement at the prospect of trying out one of his more outrageous punishments. The intimidating stare was emphasized by his monocle through which he regarded his borrowers critically, and which looked to Steve as though they would have better suited a large malevolent cat. Steve walked up to the desk behind which the librarian sat patiently, having stared at his customer unflinchingly from the first moment he entered the impressive portals of his domain. As Steve approached with the book under his arm, the librarian broke into a knowing smile. "Good day to you" he said, his chillingly calm voice belying the warmth of his words, "I believe you are a little late in returning this literature, Mr. Swimmer?" "Yes," admitted Steve, "three weeks in fact. I'm sorry." He never knew the name of the librarian, nor had it ever been offered. He certainly never had the temerity to request it of the man.
The librarian checked the date stamped on the front of the book, "Indeed it has been three weeks exactly, Mr. Swimmer." Steve shifted his weight and twitched nervously. At length the librarian replaced the book on his desk and smiled a more conciliatory smile. "No matter, Mr. Swimmer. I trust you have the necessary funds to settle the late returns fee?" "Yes, I do," said Steve, handing over a ÂŁ10 note. The librarian raised an eyebrow and stared unflinchingly into Steve's eyes. "Mr. Swimmer, you do appreciate that I cannot provide change? This is not a bank. You are aware of this, are you not?" "Yes, yes..." Steve replied nervously, "you can keep the change." "Oh I fully intend to do so," the librarian mused, "please rest assured however, that your generous gesture will be used for the benefit of increasing library stock and ensuring that those persons who do not return books at the required time are hunted down for their heinous crimes, Mr. Swimmer." "Please, call me Steve." "I prefer Mr. Swimmer. I thoroughly disapprove of informality." Steve turned on his heel, eager to conclude this disturbing conversation and leave the building. "Oh, Mr. Swimmer?" called the librarian, "might I have a word?" Steve cringed inwardly and returned to the interrogation desk. "I see you have taken but little notice of our conversation of several weeks ago? Once again, you have chosen to damage my stock by turning over the 42
corners of the pages." Again, Steve looked uncomfortable. "Do you not possess a bookmark, Mr. Swimmer?" "Why yes, I... just forgot." "You... just... forgot?" the librarian repeated, his chilling coldness seeping back into the tone of his voice. "Well, I'm sorry Mr. Swimmer but we do not tolerate dog-eared books in THIS library." He pressed a large red button on the corner of his desk and immediately a tall, floppy-haired blond youth, barely dressed in a skimpy black posing pouch and matching bow-tie descended from the ornate iron staircase behind the library desk. "Ah, Kieran, dear boy, please take Mr. Swimmer here to the damaged books section in the basement. Place him between the shelves marked pain and torture." "Err, I really have to go," said Steve, desperately trying not to stare at the librarian's near-naked assistant, "can't it wait until next time?" The librarian cackled a heart-shudderingly-evil laugh. Immediately the doors to the building slammed firmly shut. "Oh no, Mr. Swimmer. This needs to be done right now." "No really," pleaded Steve, "I'll remember for next time, I promise you." "You really don't understand, do you, Mr. Swimmer?" the librarian asked pityingly, "There will be no â€˜next time.â€™ I am about to make sure of that." Kieran gently placed his hand on Steve's arm and attempted to lead him towards the staircase. Steve struggled with him. "This isn't funny, freak! Get your filthy hands off me!"
"There's nothing to be afraid of, Mr. Swimmer. Nothing at all. Take death for example. As Kurzweil once said, a great deal of our efforts goes into avoiding death. We make extraordinary efforts to delay it and indeed often consider itâ€™s intrusion a tragic event. Yet we might find it hard to live without it. We consider death as giving meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time could become meaningless if there were too much of it.â€? "I'm sorry," spat Steve, feeling sickened by the librarian's cold soliloquy, "I had not realized that something as insignificant as a book of poetry could mean so much to you." "You refer to my books as insignificant?" the librarian fumed. "Kieran, forget pain and torture. I will destroy this... man... myself!" He opened a drawer in the desk and with a bold flourish produced a pistol, which he duly aimed at Steve's head. "May this be a lesson to you and to all those other people who dare to desecrate the pages of classic literature!" Steve closed his eyes, his heart thumping in his chest, knowing that there was nowhere to run, certain that he was about to die. He felt sure that he did not want to watch the trigger being pulled, shortly before his brain, to which he had become rather attached recently, would be spread across the library floor. There was no sound, yet Steve knew that the librarian had been a good shot. He felt the strike hit him squarely on the forehead and yet it didnâ€™t hurt. It was cold and continuous. He could hear the evil cackle of the librarian quite clearly. He tentatively reopened his eyes, just in time to see the librarian replace the gun in his desk drawer. He felt the water running down 44
his nose and watched it drip onto the carpet, as he realized that he had been shot by a water pistol. "Kieran, remove this man" commanded the librarian. Stunned, Steve offered no resistance this time, "Oh, and Kieran? Bring a cloth, there's a dear! There will be the most dreadful stain on our carpet if it isn't mopped up quickly." Kieran bowed politely and did as he was asked. He invariably did. Five years ago, fresh out of school, he had seen working in the library as a godsend. It was not the best job in the world, but it was a safe job and the bullies who had called him "queer" and "fag" at school, Steve included, well, their taunts were hushed in the silent haven he quickly grew to know and love. He briefly recalled that fateful day the rather rubbish Hell's Angel called Nigel had turned up at the library on his moped. Nigel had been returning a book on flower arranging and was sporting a rather nasty graze on his elbow, ostensibly because Big Dave, the leader of the Hell's Angels, had hidden his rather embarrassing stabilizers as it didn't help with the tough biker image. A certain sympathy coursed through Kieran's veins and, he suspected, that of his employer also. Although he had never been able to tell for sure, there was something about the melancholic nature of the disabled librarian that made him feel that he too was something of an underdog. Indeed the librarian had tried to patch up his ineffectual borrower by dabbing antiseptic cream on the wound. At that very moment however, a freak power surge, something seemingly impossible, something utterly remarkable, hit the library. A bolt of blue electrical discharge shot from 45
behind one of the shelves and sparked clean through the injured biker and into his employer and there, before Kieran's disbelieving eyes, the two men had twisted and contorted violently before melting together to become one person. Kieran had panicked, trying to help in a situation that was well beyond the realms of understanding. As he tried to pick up the prostrate body before him, he felt all his strength, his memory, his hopes and his fears drain into the man, and a mixture of their shared feelings surge back through him. Exhilarated and exhausted, Kieran had passed out, but when he awoke, he found himself being tenderly nursed by the man. "Be still, dearest Kieran," the man had said, "I now know your mind, and you know mine. Our hidden secrets shared, we are all the stronger for it. For behold, look at me now! I have become the most powerful man in the world! And as our kind has been branded evil by society over the centuries, I can hardly disappoint them, can I? I... shall... be... EVIL!" The man giggled coquettishly, "Oh dear, that won't do at all for an evil cackle. I shall have to work on that." The man before Kieran now called himself Baron von Bookshelf and duly embodied all the unfulfilled desires of three men; the evil of the Hell's Angel, the inventiveness and intelligence of the librarian, and the gay desires of all three, but most especially Kieran. And it was his sworn mission to rid the world of all good people, particularly the straight ones! Kieran had initially been scared, but as time passed, he found that the imaginative aspects of his new and 46
improved employer were being used to exact a particularly apt revenge upon those who had so mercilessly bullied him in the past, including Steve Swimmer. All that the Baron had promised was now coming to pass. Kieran quickly grew to adore and faithfully serve the man who tirelessly planned to bring about the triumph of evil: and the kinkier, depraved and more flamboyantly executed, the better! **** Within a few minutes, Steve found himself chained to a huge bookshelf. He had been manacled at the wrists and ankles and now stood spread-eagled against the shelf. He turned his head slightly to survey the rest of the room. It was dimly lit by one light bulb and filled from floor to ceiling with shelves full of dusty books. The absence of natural light and the overpowering damp smell made Steve arrive at the conclusion that this was the cellar of the library. He squinted slightly and was able to see the outline of a figure standing in a similar position, a little further down the corridor. "Hello?" he called feebly, "can you hear me?" The figure turned to him. The manâ€™s face was thin and drawn, a beard so long that it looked as though he hadn't shaved in years. His long and straggly hair covered much of his face, and he looked generally as though he had been sleeping rough for the past few months. "What are ye in fer?" croaked the man. "I'm not exactly sure," said Steve, "I only brought a book back a little later than I should have."
"Dog-eared corners?" asked the man, coughing violently. "Yes, I guess so." "Baron don't like no dog-eared corners. Bill will tell you that. Ain't that right, Bill?" There was no reply. Steve turned his head to look in the opposite direction where he noticed another figure chained to a shelf. As his eyes adjusted, he let out a shriek. "My God, he's dead! He's just a skeleton!" "Is he?" asked the man, "No wonder he ain't bin talking to me for the past few months. I though he were just ignoring me! By the way, I be Fred Crispin, so I do." “Pleased to meet you, Fred,” said Steve politely, "how long have you been here?" "Arr. About eighteen months, I reckons. Accidentally tore a page out of a book, I did." Steve was aghast. "'Twasn't even a good book," the man continued, "'twas The Legendary City of Ys, by Park and Young, see." “And the librarian chained you down here for that? He's a flamin' madman!" "Shh!" hushed the man, "Kieran will hear ye. He don't like no-one being disrespectful t'ward the Baron, so he don't." Steve began pulling at his chains as he tried to free himself. Realising that they were secure, he turned his head to get a better bearing on his position. He was able to read the title of one of the books on the shelf. "Perversions of a Madman", by Park and Young. Steve thought this was rather fitting, considering the state of the librarian’s mental health.
A chilling thought came into his head - he had indeed been filed between Pain and Torture. "Ye will not get out of 'ere," said the man, "Baron won't allow it, so he won't." Steve was beginning to believe that. **** Baron von Bookshelf continued to admire himself in the mirror. He had spent at least twenty minutes adjusting his buttonhole and polishing his monocle. He had once asked Kieran to polish his monocle for him, but frankly he wasn't very good, so the Baron decided to do the monocle polishing for himself in future. If anyone needed their monocle polishing, he was the man for the job. Kieran was dressed only in his bow-tie and shorts and had, at the request of the Baron, oiled himself even more than usual this afternoon. He was on all fours beside the Baron's desk as the impressive electric wheelchair brought his master to the desk. "Good boy, Kieran," said the Baron, stroking Kieran's floppy hair. "How are the subjects?" "All in order, your evilness!" "Any trouble?" "Not really. Mr Swimmer is a little moody. Oh, and we've had another one die on us." "Tsk, how inconsiderate. And it is only Tuesday." "Wednesday, sire." "Wednesday? Oh, so it is," mused the Baron, "which means that Mr Connell's book will be due tomorrow. I must call him and remind him so." "I'll find his number for you sire." "Please do so, Kieran, there's a good boy." Kieran sloped off. 49
The doors to the library opened, and in walked a dark-haired woman. The Baron lent her a glance, and then went about sorting his index cards into alphabetical order. The woman approached the desk. "Where are the town plans?" she said. The Baron looked at her, annoyed at her lack of basic manners. He immediately decided to make things as difficult for the woman as possible. "Good day to you," he said, "would you like to join the library today?" "I just want to see the plans." "Of course, my apologies, you did say as much," snorted the Baron, “but I am afraid that the town plans are only for viewing by our patrons. I would, of course, be happy to show them to you after you have completed a membership form.” He handed her a four page document and a pen. She sighed and began filling in the form. “There,” she said at last, slamming the pen and papers onto the desk, “now tell me where the plans are!” The Baron raised an eyebrow and bridged his fingers together, sitting back into his wheelchair. He had a feeling that he didn't like this woman very much. “If you could just show me proof of your residence...” The woman sighed and handed over a telephone bill. "There you go, proof of my residence," she smiled sarcastically. The Baron looked at the bill. "But this is Mr Neild's address?" he asked suspiciously, "are you residing there?" "Indeed I am," she replied coolly, "allow me to introduce myself. Estelle Merry, Tony's fiancée." She 50
offered a handshake. The Baron looked amused, both at the thought of the handshake and the idea of Tony Neild ever committing himself to a woman. "How did you tame him?" he laughed. "You could not possibly imagine." The Baron was still suspicious. "Mr Neild has never mentioned you before? He has been a member of this library for over six years, and I feel certain that he would have mentioned you by now." Estelle leaned over the desk. "I'll let you into a secret," she whispered, "I'm not really his fiancĂŠe. I only met him last night. In fact, I have just come from his house after spending a passionate night there, before using my supernatural powers to murder him by boiling him alive in his own jacuzzi and burning down his house, after stealing this telephone bill and wallet." The Baron laughed his evil cackle, the sound resonating through the library. "Very good, Ms Merry!" he laughed, "I like a woman with a wicked sense of humour!" "Can you please just point me in the direction of the town plans? And do you have a copy of the register of electorates? There is someone I need to find." "If they live in Towndale, I will know their address. Who is it you want to find?" "I'm looking for Kâ€™vorim." The Baron tried not to look nervous. "Is that his surname?" he stuttered. "It's his name. The only name he has." "I am sorry, Ms Merry, but I have not heard of this man before. What does he do?"
"He doesn't do anything. He is K’vorim. If you haven’t heard of him, there is no point in continuing this conversation. Where are the plans? I am very busy." The Baron was increasingly aware that he did not like this woman very much. He picked up a book from his desk and began reading it. "Try the deserted supermarket. He probably lives there," he muttered. Estelle smiled. "Yes, he probably does. Thank you for your help." She turned to leave. “Ms Merry? The town plans?” “I don't need them, thank you,” she called over her shoulder. The Baron shrugged his shoulders as she closed the door behind her. He took his mobile phone from a compartment underneath the armrest of his wheelchair and pressed a speed dial number. “Hello, Mr K’vorim?” **** Steve Swimmer had been working hard trying to free himself. He had managed to loosen a shelf to which his hands were secured, but his feet were still tightly bound. He knew that if he was able to pull the shelf out, his hands would be free and he would then be able to free his legs. Now was not the time however, as Kieran and the Baron had decided to complete a round of inspecting the prisoners and to inflict more of his own evil form of punishment on them. "Good evening, Mr. Swimmer," sneered the Baron, "I trust you are feeling at home? After all, this IS now your home!"
"Why don't you just let me go?" pleaded Steve, "You have made your point!" The Baron laughed his well-practiced evil cackle. "If only that were possible, Mr. Swimmer. I would let you go, really I would. But you see, there are plans afoot to which you are a key part. My orders are to retain you here until Mr. Kâ€™vorim arrives. He would like a word with you." "Mr. Kâ€™vorim? Who is that?" "Patience, Mr. Swimmer! Mr. Kâ€™vorim will make everything all right for you, just as he did for your friend over there." He pointed to Bill the skeleton. "Is everything to your liking, Mr. Smith?" he called. Of course, the skeleton did not answer. "See? No complaints from him. He is such a model prisoner." "You are a madman, do you hear?" shouted Steve. "I prefer the term 'evil megalomaniac' myself," called the Baron over his shoulder, as he and Kieran disappeared into the distance. Steve decided that his escape was long overdue. He pulled the shelf free, wincing as some of the books fell noisily to the floor. As the shelf became free, so too did his arms. He dropped to the floor and quickly untied his feet. Within moments, he was free. He briefly considered rescuing his fellow prisoners, but being a man of little virtue, he decided that this was a life or death situation on his part and that he really ought to look after number one. He chose to walk along the route he had seen the Baron and Kieran travel moments earlier. After all, he thought, they must have been going somewhere. As he walked along the dark corridor, he passed a number of men and women chained to the shelves, 53
some dead, many almost dead, none acknowledging his presence. Before long he heard the unmistakable cackle of the Baron coming from a brightly lit room at the end of the corridor, together with a sinister, booming voice which he concluded must have belonged to K’vorim. He strained his ears to try and make out the conversation. "... she really wanted to see you," came the Baron's voice, "but I did not know her, so I took the liberty of sending her on a wild goose chase to the deserted supermarket." “A wise idea, under normal circumstances,” came K’vorim's voice, “however, on this occasion I did need to see the woman.” The Baron's voice did not seem fazed by K’vorim and with a hint of sarcasm, he replied "a million apologies, Mr. K’vorim. I do know where she is staying, however. She is the fiancée of one of our patrons, Mr. Neild. She is staying with him." Steve edged nearer to try and make out the conversation a little clearer. “You fool, von Bookshelf, it is highly unlikely that she would give you her address and draw attention to herself!” "Mr. K’vorim, I would be grateful if you could remind yourself to whom you are speaking, and to refrain from such mindless insults and petty namecalling. Remember, I am the ultimate evil criminal mastermind." K’vorim roared with laughter. “Oh yes, I remember. My humble apologies, O evil one!”
"Apology accepted. Just make sure it does not happen again, otherwise I may need to resort to more serious methods of punishment." "If I may be so bold, your evilness, may I ask why you need me here?" asked K’vorim, a little amused. "I have another one for you. He is very full of himself. I felt that his crimes towards library stock needed punishing and, as I am aware you need to collect souls for some reason, we could reach a mutually agreeable conclusion." "Could you not have killed him yourself, presumably by using your considerably evil powers?" The Baron, not realising he was being mocked, smiled sweetly. "I do not wish to waste my considerable powers on low-life like Mr. Swimmer." "You would rather I waste mine?" asked K’vorim. "Something like that. Why have a dog and bark yourself?" K’vorim roared with laughter. "Very well, Baron," he laughed, "show me this Swimmer fellow. I am on rather a tight schedule today." The Baron wheeled his chair out of the room. Steve quickly hid behind a bookshelf as the Baron and the huge form of K’vorim went past. As soon as he thought the coast was clear, he ran into the now unoccupied room, which was sparsely furnished with a small table, a chair and a number of filing cabinets and was only lit by the faint flickering of a candle. More importantly, a door in the corner had been left ajar, and beyond the door was a crack of daylight. He bolted for the door, squinting at the brightness and found himself in a gloomy alley. He ran along
the alley, which ended abruptly where a busy road crossed it. Still blinded by the change in light, Steve did not see the road junction. He ran into the road as a car came speeding toward him. The driver braked hard, but was unable to avoid colliding with the man, who flew over the bonnet, onto the roof and rolled onto the floor in a crumpled heap. The driver got out of the car and ran to the injured man. "Oh my God, I think I've killed him," said Estelle, smiling. A small crowd began to gather as Steve lay in the road. Within the crowd, an extremely tall man stood beside the immaculately dressed wheelchair-bound librarian. "Oh dear, Mr. Swimmer," smiled the Baron, "this just wasnâ€™t your day, was it?" **** Life was never going to be the same for Steve since his 'mishap' with Estelle's car. Whilst the crowd of people had believed he had met an untimely death and that the tall man who picked him up was a paramedic, this was far from the case. True, the impact of the speeding car should have caused untold damage to his legs and the impromptu flight and subsequent crash landing ought to have finished him off, but it had not. Incredibly, Steve had emerged from the accident almost unscathed - a few scratches here and there, a few bruises and the obligatory nasty graze on the elbow were the only obvious signs of the accident. The shock of the impact had caused Steve to pass out and during his period of unconsciousness he had been 56
carried back into the library by Kâ€™vorim. As he regained consciousness however, he began to wish he had been killed after all. He found that he was unable to move, probably from shock or perhaps he was in traction, recovering in Towndale's pokey hospital. Perhaps he would be looked after by a pretty young nurse, ensuring his recovery was not as speedy as it perhaps could have been. "Hello?" he called, in a slightly croaky voice, "I'm a little thirsty here! Could I perhaps have a cup of tea or something?" No one replied. It was obvious that there was somebody in the room, a pianist playing softly in the background could barely be heard above the sound of a number of people milling around and chatting to one another. At first, he thought that the room was in total darkness before a grim reality suddenly gripped him â€“ he was blindfolded, and someone was currently untying the blindfold. Immediately he was relieved of the material, a dazzling light seemed to burn the back of his eyes and he blinked madly at the brightness. After a moment or two he began to focus on his surroundings. "No!!" he screamed. **** Baron Von Bookshelf deftly adjusted the dimple in his bow tie through the wing mirror of his amazing electric wheelchair, flashed a rakish grin and let out an evil cackle of award-winning proportions for good measure, before taking the lift up to the top floor. The working day was over, now it was playtime. Kieran, who had been particularly free with his feather duster 57
that afternoon, laid down his implement and ascended the stairs to dutifully accompany his employer. "Ah Kieran, how nice of you to join me! Shall we inspect the new acquisition?" Kieran flashed a coquettish smile and opened the door to the anteroom for the dashing Baron. Steve had been tied very comfortably between two white alabaster pillars with a strong but gentle silken rope. He looked pretty sick, surrounded, as he was, by most of the young men of the fairly seedy district that surrounded the library. Eric, a former dead-head Goth rock guitarist was sitting at a white baby-grand tinkling away at Stephen Sondheim show-tunes dressed in a frilly pink tutu whilst Terry, known throughout Towndale as an incurable thug, proceeded to give a splendid class on advanced embroidery to around half a dozen attentive lads who Steve had once known and knocked about with. "Ah, Mr Swimmer" said the Baron congenially, "I trust that we are making you comfortable?" "Well, I'm not in pain if that's what you mean, but comfortable is the exact opposite of the way I feel right now, watching this... sick... show. What the hell have you done to these people, you pervert?" "Shall we merely say that they are now more... productive members of the community?" the librarian replied, seemingly oblivious to Steve's anger and frustration, "there are so many more helpers at the old people's home, the church and the hospice these days. I think it's rather nice that young men should be putting something back into society rather than just
messing it up all the time. Aren't you proud of them then, Mr Swimmer?" "They're mindless zombies. How can anybody be proud of them?" Steve seethed, recoiled by the scene. "Rather mindless than useless," the Baron countered, still quite unfazed, "do you think that this library was converted into the beautiful building that you see before you, just by itself? Do you think I would have so many converts without the tireless efforts of my founder members? Take your friend Mr Marshall for instance, why, how could I have possibly enticed you into your literary pursuitâ€™s and thence into my web without him tempting you with totty?" Steve gasped, the penny finally dropping. "And what about him," Steve asked, nodding in the direction of Kieran, "how did you brainwash him to be your... boy?" The librarian smiled warmly and took Kieran by the hand. Kieran instantly kneeled in humble submission. "No, no, Mr Swimmer, you cannot poison Kieran against me," he said, affectionately caressing each frond of his boy's floppy golden hair, "Kieran and I will one day rule the world. He loves and serves me because he is certain that I will succeed and he knows that because we share hopes and dreams that you could never truly know or understand. Never until now that is," he added, as an afterthought. "W... what are you going to do to me?" Steve asked, his throat suddenly dry with fear. The Baron smiled and lightly tickled one of Steve's outstretched arms with a pink feather boa. "You, Mr Swimmer, are to be the jewel in the crown. My final and most powerful acquisition." 59
"I don't like the sound of that," said Steve, shuddering. "Oh, but my evil underling, Mr Kâ€™vorim, does like the sound of that. He likes the sound of that very much," the Baron chuckled, chillingly, "he merely asks that I offer you up to him as my champion on the field of battle between good and evil. Bearing in mind the kindness he has shown me by providing me with the very spark that triggered my evil genius and led to the camp creations you see before you, I feel that this is the very least I can do." "You are one sick, mad, weird, deranged pervert," screamed Steve, "but... if you let me go right now, I promise not to press full charges." The Baron, completely ignoring this desperate outburst, cradled Kieran's head in his hands, and tenderly kissed his forehead. "Such ingratitude from one so young," he commented to his charge. "It is quite indefensible you know. I wonder if Mr Swimmer would like to know that all those nasty words that he and his so-called mates taunted you with when you were at school are so soon going to apply to him as well?" Kieran gave him a wry knowing smile. "Oh sir, please may I operate the machine?" he simpered excitedly. "I thought you'd never ask," came the reply. Kieran wheeled in a large machine which the Baron had affectionately and nefariously christened the Gay-Doh. A fearful expression shadowed Steve's face as the Baron commanded Eric and Terry to strap him in tightly. â€œYou will be the next to join my league of homosexual helpers when this mechanical marvel 60
works its magic and teaches you the ways of the gays.â€? "Youâ€™re going to gay me? No! Nooooo!!" "Just lie back and think of England, dear," was the librarian's only response. "You should be done just in time for tea. By the way, do you take milk and sugar, Mr Swimmer?"
five It hadn't taken long for Estelle to find K’vorim once Baron von Bookshelf had hinted at his whereabouts. “It would appear,” snarled K’vorim, “that our harvest is complete. You have done well, Estelle. Our master will be pleased with your achievements.” Estelle smiled. “What happens next?” “Next we read the incantation and unite our medallions. After that, we sit back and watch as our master begins to regain his strength to rule the world. We do, however, have a small task to deal with at the library.” The door to the library flew open as K’vorim and Estelle walked in. Baron von Bookshelf sat behind his desk, head lolling to one side, dreaming of cosy nights on the veranda with Kieran, wishing upon a falling star that briefly flashed through the night sky. Estelle walked up to the desk.
“Hello, Baron,” she whispered, “remember me?” The Baron sat up immediately, suddenly wide awake. “Oh, good day, Ms Merry,” he said nervously, “did you find your friend?” “You bet I did!” she laughed, pointing to K’vorim. “Oh, THAT K’vorim! Sorry, I didn’t realise…” he muttered. “Of course you realised,” Estelle said sweetly, “you were protecting your kind. Very commendable.” The Baron breathed a sigh of relief. Estelle leaned over the desk, which made the Baron feel uncomfortable; not because she was intimidating, but because he had a clear view of her cleavage down the front of her shirt. He turned his eyes away. “Just one thing though,” she whispered, “If you ever lie to me again, I’ll tear you limb from limb and shove your arms and legs down your throat, ok?” The Baron nodded nervously. K’vorim walked over to the desk. “Easy, Estelle!” he whispered, “Remember that you are addressing the ultimate evil megalomaniac!” Estelle smiled sarcastically. “Sorry. Forgive me?” The Baron regained his confidence. “I shall overlook this outburst on this occasion, but please refrain from such threatening behaviour in future, young lady.” Estelle turned away, seething. “Hello again, Baron,” smiled K’vorim, “anything for me?” The Baron shook his head. “All quiet I’m afraid. I was due to get one in, but I cannot get hold of him.” “No matter. Ms Merry and I have collected enough souls for our task. Your assistance has been noted and will be well rewarded shortly.” 63
Kieran appeared from the anteroom. “Ah, Kieran,” the Baron smiled, “please could you get our guests some drinks? There’s a good chap!” Kieran did as he was asked, disappearing back into the anteroom. “You have him well trained!” laughed K’vorim. “He does as he is told. We have an… understanding of each other.” “I am very pleased to hear that. And how is your latest intake? I trust he is everything you desired him to be?” “Who? Mr Swimmer? Yes indeed, he scrubs up well. Kieran has spent a few precious hours teaching him the very latest cocktail recipes, including one with a most interesting use for a banana.” K’vorim felt this a good time to change the subject. “Baron, I have a proposition for you.” “Oh yes? Do tell.” K’vorim smiled. “How would you like to own your own city? One where you and your kind are able to live without fear? One where you would have the technological capabilities to convert anyone in the world from heterosexual to homosexual at the flick of a switch?” The Baron raised an eyebrow and K’vorim knew that he had the Baron exactly where he wanted him. “This does indeed sound a very appealing proposition, though I fear such a generous gift would require repayment of some magnitude?” “Not at all,” smiled K’vorim, “Consider this as your reward for your help thus far. My master promises you this gift and requires merely a place to stay within your city when the need arises.” 64
“Let us say that, hypothetically, I accepted your proposal. Where would this city be? And how would the ownership be transferred to me? More importantly, in my attempt to take over the world, how could I operate this machinery to alter the sexuality of people?” “Patience, my friend! The details are given on this scroll, handed to me by my master. He has advised me that you must simply follow the instructions to the letter and the city shall be yours.” The Baron greedily took the scroll from K’vorim's outstretched hand and scanned the text, smiling rapaciously. “This would appear favourable,” he smiled, “I will accept the proposal from your master. I will begin my preparations forthwith. I suppose I could easily manage this list. You know me though, Mr K’vorim, I do not like to get my hands dirty.” “They won't get any dirtier than they need to, I can assure you.” With that, K’vorim turned to leave, Estelle following close behind, still seething. As the door closed behind them, Kieran returned with a tray of cocktails. “Too late, Kieran. They have gone. Give those drinks here, there's a good chap.” Kieran handed the tray to the Baron, who knocked back the cocktails in quick succession. “I needed those,” he said, “Kieran, I need a rub-down. I have had a very traumatic experience.” The Baron was unable to relax however, as a few minutes later, the library doors swung open again. "Why it's Mr Connell. I don't believe I've seen you here for many years, not since you finished at school at the very least. This is an unexpected pleasure!"
Zoltan smiled warmly at the librarian. Despite of, or perhaps because of his less than natural academic tendencies, the man sitting before him had always been nurturing and kind. It was a shock to see him in a wheelchair, although he vaguely recalled having read about some dreadful accident in the newspapers years ago. He looked incredibly dashing in his white tuxedo and for some bizarre reason, it seemed entirely appropriate that a young man, who he also vaguely remembered having been in the papers for mugging little old ladies, but who was now dressed in a green silk ball gown, was painting the librarian's portrait in oils as they were speaking. "It's good to see you too sir," Zoltan replied respectfully, leading to a warm satisfied smile from the librarian, "I'll be honest with you, I've had a bit of a shock and I need somewhere quiet to think." "Yes, you and me both," the librarian agreed, "It has been a very eventful couple of days in town, Mr Connell. I'm glad that you decided to come to visit your old librarian." Zoltan looked around him conspiratorially. Steve was on guard outside, patrolling the bushes for "perverted straights" whilst Kieran was helping the boys upstairs in the anteroom with a particularly tricky piece of needlepoint. "To tell you the truth," Zoltan whispered, "itâ€™s the monkeys. They seem to be of the opinion that something evil is coming this way and that I am required to help prevent this." As the librarian sighed empathetically, he continued, "They say there's going to be a battle between good and evil and I have to be on the good side, what do you think of that?" 66
The Baron's brain turned somersaults. He had half a mind to hit the red button and have Kieran remove him to the vaults immediately, but something made him hesitate. Instead he asked, as casually as he could "So, are you good, Mr Connell?" "Well, now you come to mention it, I'm not sure, but I know that it's my destiny to become the most powerful wizard and super hero in the world. I am," he announced, with a flourish, "Zoltan, the Magnificent!" "Oh my, but how wonderful," the librarian grinned, "I knew you had the potential to do something bold and interesting with your life, Mr Connell. I just knew it." "Thank you!" Zoltan replied, bashfully. "Well, as you've been so frank with me, I feel it only right that I should be frank with you. Some months ago, I was hit by an energy beam and became an evil megalomaniac. I am Baron von Bookshelf, evil mastermind of the universe,â€? he bellowed in orotund tones, ending with a chillingly evil cackle. "I hope you don't mind?" he added casually. Zoltan wasn't quite sure whether his old friend was teasing him or not, but something inside told him that there was an unmistakable ring of truth to his confession. "Shouldn't you be killing me or zapping me or something, then?" Zoltan asked, slightly nervously. "Why would I possibly do that to you, Zoltan?" said the Baron warmly, "I am not aware that you pose a threat to me. Besides, as a super hero, you are far from properly attired." He pressed the red button, his faithful assistant appearing in the library moments later. "Ah Kieran, dear boy, I'm sorry to break you 67
off from your needlework. Could you please pass me the three books in our superhero costume section?" Kieran bowed humbly and hurried off, returning only a few seconds later with the relevant stock. "That's my boy," the Baron said absently, flicking through the books, as Kieran resumed his characteristic kneeling position at the Baron's side. "Would you mind if I asked you a question, Baron?" Zoltan asked as tactfully as possible. The Baron smiled encouragingly. "Why do you want to be on the evil side?" "I have special powers," the Baron replied, thoughtfully, "I can see into the future, I really can. I know that if I stay on my present course, Kieran will be loved and happy. I know that, I don't know how, but I know it," he added emphatically, as he leaned down to kiss his pet boy affectionately on the forehead. "If I changed my course, Kieran might be endangered, and I'd never allow that to happen, Zoltan." "You love him, don't you Baron?" "With all my heart and soul, Zoltan. Already his enemies are vanquished and humiliated. One day soon, Kieran will rule the world, and I just hope I will be there to see it." He nodded his permission for the young man in the ball-gown to take a break from the painting. "Oh and Barry, please take this design for a super-hero cape up to the ante-room? I'd like the boys to start work on it as soon as possible for Zoltan." "You'd do that for me?" Zoltan gasped. "It is not enough to fight well, one must also dress well," came the simple reply.
Just then the library door flew open once again. Steve entered, hauling Monkey in by the scruff of the neck. "Caught this guy snooping about, your evilness," he broke off, seeing his old mate Zoltan sitting with the Baron. "My god, Steve, you're alive!” smiled Zoltan, “I had heard that you had been injured in a car accident?" "Alive and well, thanks to my new boss." "Oh this is so great. When I heard about the accident I was so worried. Now, before I forget, I was wondering if I could possibly borrow your yellow..." "Hey, EXCUSE ME," shouted Monkey still dangling from Steve’s grip, "much as I hate to interrupt this delightful meeting, I strongly desire you to unhand me." Steve gently placed Monkey's feet back on the ground, after a wave of permission from the Baron. "Why bless me, today is getting ever more interesting, if it isn't the legendary sock-puppet, Monkey. How's Zoltan been treating you, Monkey?" "Oh not so bad," Monkey replied, matter-of-factly, "He's making me a new bed and Anna gave me some new stitching a couple of..." "You are rude," said Zoltan to Monkey, "I was trying to have a polite conversation. The librarian's been telling me something very interesting," he continued, figuring if he didn't say this now he'd probably forget, "he's now an evil megalomaniac, called Baron von Bookshelf." "Is that so?" said Monkey, knowing full well that it was true, having heard much about the librarian in the past.
"Guilty as charged," replied the Baron, letting off one of his evil cackles by means of proof. "Oh well congratulations, Baron." Monkey replied warmly, "I had rather suspected something when you started to dress in that style. It's ever so imaginative of you owning a pet boy instead of pet cat too." "Oh he's much, much more than a pet," the Baron replied, resuming his stroking of Kieran's hair, "but I thank you for your good wishes, Monkey. I knew you of all people would be happy for me." "What the hell are you saying?" Zoltan whispered. "Ssh!" "Pardon?" said the Baron. "Oh I was just saying Ssh!" said Monkey; "I've always wanted to try that in the library." "Good for you!" chuckled the Baron, "So, anything happening in the realms of evil at the moment, Baron?" "Plenty of activity," came the reply, "but precious little my way, thank goodness. Those underlings are getting too big for their boots, why one of them actually threatened me in my own library this morning." "How positively crushing for you," Monkey interjected sympathetically. "It's just the general run-of-the-mill prisoner chaining down in the basement for me, really." "You're still doing that?" said Monkey, appalled. "Why yes, what's wrong with that?" the Baron replied, slightly hurt. "Oh, I don't mean to be disrespectful, old chap, but chaining people up is just SO last year, and I know
how you like to be on top of things in the fashion stakes." "Gosh," said the librarian, "Thanks for telling me that. I'd have never guessed. You won't tell anyone that I've been chaining people up will you, Monkey? I don't want to lose my good, I mean evil, reputation?" "Your secret is quite safe with me, my dear fellow," Monkey answered, magnanimously. "Kieran, my sweet, please get the boys together and release the prisoners immediately. Give them all a nice box of chocolates too will you? I don't want them to think that I'm not generous." "But of course, your evilness," said Kieran, respectfully, as he rose to his feet. The Baron smiled after him as Kieran ascended the stairs. "Isn't he gorgeous, gentlemen? If ever there was a reason to be an evil megalomaniac, then he's it. I'd fight with the devil himself to keep that boy happy." "You just might have to," Monkey thought to himself. **** Outside the library, Kâ€™vorim and Estelle stared at each other excitedly. They each took the medallions from around their necks and carefully touched them together. Immediately the medallions fused together and a bright light engulfed the two humans. A huge and powerful wind erupted around them, dragging the litter and dust from the streets of Towndale into a funnel of debris, swirling around them like a vicious tornado. Arcs of lightning crackled across the gloomy sky, striking Kâ€™vorim as he held aloft the medallion 71
and chanted the words of the incantation. “exorior meus vinco. pario ruina. sceptrum orbis terrarum iterum.” The ground beneath their feet began to shake and a crack surrounded them, opening up into a gaping chasm. K’vorim continued chanting as Estelle turned around and around, laughing wildly as she watched the devastation develop around her. The library shook violently as Monkey and the Baron raced outside to see what was going on, carrying the pineapple daiquiris that Kieran had kindly mixed for them. They were driven back by the force of the wind and almost deafened by K’vorim's screaming voice. Monkey was aghast. “I can't believe it!” he yelled, “They have done it already!” “Done what?” yelled the Baron. “They have completed the incantation! This is not good!” At that moment, a bolt of light erupted from within the tornado and struck the Baron, causing him to fall backwards and spill his cocktail over himself. Monkey dived to the ground to avoid being struck himself. At the same time, the librarian felt a sudden sharp twang of pain as a small piece of his genetic makeup separated from his body, flew high into the air and fell back to Earth, piercing his skin and taking with it the tiniest sample of pineapple daiquiri. Monkey sat up just in time to see the flames burst forth from the chasm that surrounded K’vorim and Estelle. His heart sank as he watched the figure rise out of the ground, dust and fire whipping around it. Monkey stared, despondent. It was too soon, the Red Man could not be here already. 72
His suspicions were correct. As the dust and bolts of lightning faded, a young woman stood, beaming from ear to ear. Moments later, a bright light engulfed the evil trio, the light fading and the three disappeared. Baron von Bookshelf sat in amazement. “What happened? Where did that large hole go?” And indeed it was true, the front of the library was, as was usually the case, spotless and definitely large chasmless, “and why do I feel the urge to offer you a marzipan fruit?” “Thanks, but I don't like marzipan,” sighed Monkey as he stared sadly at the ground where the woman had appeared, “besides, I believe we have just witnessed the beginning of the end of the world.”
six The television blurted out the day’s local news as Monkey sat at the kitchen with his head in his paws. “I don’t understand what happened,” he muttered over and over. Speakno was being uncharacteristically helpful and was trawling the internet in an attempt to find any urban myths about who the woman could have been and anything that might help them prevent the Red Man from being released. It wouldn’t be easy to outwit him this time, the Red Man had been planning his return for centuries and he certainly wasn't going to be tricked into Tartarus in the way Monkey had managed the last time. This time, the Red Man would have to die. Hearno was hoping to see an item of news that might give an indication of the whereabouts of the Red Man’s trio of followers when a story caught his attention. “You guys, I think you need to see this!”
The monkeys, Zoltan and Anna crowded around the television to see the story of two bodies which had been washed up on the East Coast. Both were the bodies of young men, both had been wearing a tight black mask of the finest silk. “What do you make of that?” asked Hearno. Monkey sighed. “I have seen this before, many years ago.” Zoltan turned to look at Monkey. “What is this about, old fella?” “It reminds me of a time, many centuries ago, when we first came to help the world.” Speakno turned his nose up in disgust. “Not this bloody story again,” he moaned, “I've heard it so many times and you always get it wrong.” “I do not get it wrong, wool for brains. It is you that gets it wrong. The years have not been kind to your memory, dear brother. Now, if you would be so kind as to shut up, I can fill our friends in with the details.” Speakno folded his arms and sat in a corner of the room, sulking. “As I was saying,” continued Monkey, “it reminds me of the story of Ys, which was a city off the coast of France, in the bay of Douranenez.” “It wasn't there,” chided Speakno. “It was there,” argued Monkey, “I was there, I should know. Anyway, Ys was a city, built by the good king, Gradlon, for his daughter Dahut. It was quite the most beautiful city, built below sea level but with a great wall surrounding it to protect it from the tides. The king kept the key to the great gate around his neck. 75
“Dahut turned out to be a bit of a tart. She had a new fella every night and made them wear these strange black masks which, once on her victim, would tighten around his neck until he was dead. She would then dump his body into the sea.” “Do you think that these bodies are connected?” asked Anna. “I have no doubt,” said Monkey, “and I believe that the Red Man is connected to this too. You see, the story of Ys goes that one night, Dahut was visited by a man, dressed all in red, came to visit her. He convinced her to steal the key to the city gates, which she did. As soon as she did, a great storm grew and a wave as high as a mountain collapsed over the city, causing it to sink. King Gradlon and his daughter escaped on his horse, Morvarc'h but the king was approached by Saint Winwaloe and was told of Dahut's treachery, Gradlon was talked into throwing his daughter into the sea. It is told that she later became a mermaid. Nobody knows what happened to the man in red.” “I presume,” said Anna, “that the man in red is in fact the Red Man?” “You presume correctly,” said Monkey, “and whilst I believe that the appearance of the bodies over on the coast has something to do with him, I am not sure why. I suggest we all go over there and see if we get any clues. I have a feeling that the Red Man is hiding somewhere in the Scarborough area and we need to find him. **** The Baron sat at his desk, reading over and over again the scroll that K’vorim had given him. Each 76
time he read the words, he let out a chuckle as he formulated his plan to take over the world. “Kieran, my boy,” he said at last, “run along to that damaged books section and bring me back the book on the Legend of Ys, there’s a good chap!” “But…” started Kieran. “No buts, Kieran. Where did you learn that attitude from?” “I just…” “Never mind what you were just. Just do as you are told and bring me the book, otherwise I shall have to put you over my knee and give you a jolly good spanking! There will be no marzipan fruits for you, my boy!” Kieran went, muttering under his breath. He really didn’t enjoy going into the cellars any more. They smelled of damp and after Monkey had pointed out the fashion faux pas of chaining people up, Kieran could never forgive himself such a blunder. Still, the prisoners were all gone now; they would be happily making their way through a large box of Belgian chocolates as they reacquainted themselves with the outside world. When he returned with the book he found the Baron cackling his evil cackle at the table. “Listen to this, Kieran!” he laughed, “it says here that there is a powerful transmitter that can alter the sexual preferences of the entire population of the world!” “Oh yes?” asked Kieran, almost nonchalantly. “Yes,” continued the Baron, excitedly, “and it’s on the city of Ys.” “Ys as in ‘Legendary City of Ys’?” 77
“Absolutely. All we have to do is raise the city from the bottom of the ocean and activate the transmitter.” “Oh well, we should have no trouble at all then!” “It even gives clear instructions on how to do it. Kieran, get your suitcase together. We are going to take over the world!” “Oh joy,” muttered Kieran. “How do we raise the city then?” “Firstly, we must gather together a number of everyday items which must be offered up to the sea. Then we just stand back and admire our work!” “Brilliant!” laughed Kieran nervously, yet to be convinced, “what are the items?” “A piece of gold, a raven’s egg, an undergarment of a lady of ill repute, a pearl and a white baby grand piano. Oh, and a human sacrifice.” Kieran was taken aback by the last item, more so by the coldness with which the Baron announced it. “I’ll… err… be back in a moment…” he stammered, making a hasty exit. The Baron felt a little perturbed by Kieran's apparent instability and began to doubt whether his boy would be able to carry out the task, although his faith was restored when Kieran returned moments later. “My gold sovereign. Will that do?” smiled Kieran, offering the coin. The Baron eagerly accepted it. “One thing though,” said the Baron, “I think it would be only fair if we took turns in obtaining each of the items. I also think we should collect them in the order they are listed here, in order to maintain the historical accuracy of the scroll.” “No problem, I think we can manage that together. So what do you need to collect next?” 78
The Baron studied his list. “A raven’s egg.” Kieran giggled. “I’d like to see how you’ll manage that one!” The Baron looked puzzled. “I mean,” continued Kieran, “climbing trees in your position!” “You obviously have not witnessed the modifications I have made to this wheelchair, have you?” laughed the Baron, “now, where can we find a ravens egg?” “In a ravens nest. Don't ravens roost in the Tower of London?” “Good idea. Kieran, bring around one of the cars. We are going to London!” He pressed a small button on the arm of his wheelchair, which enabled his built-in MP3 player to blast out some very dramatic but aptly timed music. Kieran looked nervous. “Sorry, Baron. We don’t have many of the cars any more. I had a series of mishaps in them while I practiced my parallel parking manoeuvres.” The Baron paused the music. He had been proud of his extensive car collection, but decided that Kieran's driving technique could do with a little practice. “Then how do we get around in style?” he asked, a little nervously. “Oh, we have a car!” smiled Kieran. “Good! Well, bring it around to the front entrance. I can hear London calling!” He started the dramatic music again, waving his fingers in time with the beat. Kieran sloped off nervously, while the Baron finished his cocktail, picked up his tin of marzipan fruits and made his way to the front entrance. Waiting on the pavement, Kieran slouched nervously as the Baron closed the library doors behind him, the theme from
Dambusters now powering from the wheelchair speakers. “Well, where is it?” demanded the Baron. Kieran feebly pointed to a rusty yellow Mini. “Isn’t he a beauty?” he asked. Incredibly, the Baron found himself speechless. The wheelchair speakers blew. Total silence settled around the two men. A small tumbleweed rolled along the pavement in front of them. Eventually, the Baron found himself able to string together enough words to form an almost coherent sentence. “What… is… that?” “It’s Brian, my car. Don’t you like it?” asked Kieran, a little hurt. “You crashed all my beautiful cars and bought… this?” “I didn’t crash all your cars, no.” “We still have some?” asked the Baron, optimistically. “Err, not quite. I trashed two of them when I pressed the accelerator instead of the brake. I keep doing that! Oh, and one got stolen when I went on a shopping trip to Leeds. I think it was something to do with me leaving the keys in the ignition. Oh, and one ended up in the sea at Scarborough, when I forgot to put the handbrake when I parked at Peasholm Park…” Kieran decided to stop talking as he saw the colour visibly drain from the Barons face. “Err, shall we go back inside? You’ve had quite a shock!” “I think we had better. Kieran, I need a drink.” “Certainly, your evilness. What would you like?” The Baron sighed. “Anything, as long as it is long and stiff.” 80
**** An hour or so later, the Baron felt suitably intoxicated enough to face traveling in the custardcoloured rust bucket. With much puffing and groaning they managed to squeeze the wheelchair onto the back seat and moments later they were cruising down the motorway, heading for the capital. They arrived in London six hours later. It was likely that the journey would have only taken four hours, but Kieran had to stop for a number of “comfort breaks.” They managed to find a convenient place to park almost immediately. Unfortunately, whilst putting it in had been hard, pulling the wheelchair out was nigh on impossible. Eventually, however, the task was completed and the Baron was able to resume the far more respectable and familiar mode of transportation. When they arrived at the Tower of London, the Baron was surprised to discover that there were no visitors. Even more strange was the fact that there were no guards either. What neither man saw was the carnage that lay behind a nearby wall, dozens of mutilated bodies hidden from view. “Isn't this where they keep the crown jewels?” asked Kieran. “Well, I thought so,” mused the Baron, “they are not very well guarded though, are they?” “Perhaps they are being guarded by the secret service? That’s why we can't see anyone?” “You could be right, Kieran,” said the Baron. “For that stroke of genius, you may have a marzipan fruit.” “No thanks,” said Kieran. “Have one, Kieran.” 81
“No, I’m fine, honestly!” “Kieran, have a marzipan fruit!” snapped the Baron. “But I’ve just eaten!” “Then take one and save it for later!” sneered the Baron. Kieran duly obliged. As they looked around the outside of the tower, Kieran noticed that something else was missing - the ravens. “Perhaps they are at the park, or something?” he pondered. “Legend has it that if the six ravens ever leave the tower, the kingdom will fall,” said the Baron, “this is not a good sign!” He had however spotted a nest high above one of the tower windows. “I’m going up!” he laughed. He opened a control panel in the arm rest of his wheelchair and pressed the large green button marked ‘up’. The chair began making strange mechanical whirring noises as the seat itself began rising on powerful hydraulic lifts, taking the Baron several dozen feet into the air. It was, however, not nearly high enough to reach the nest and the Baron realized to his horror that he had forgotten to connect the big red button marked ‘down’. “Kieran, dear!” called the Baron, “I appear to be in a spot of trouble.” “What is the problem?” called Kieran. “Well, I had no trouble getting it up, but I can't get the damned thing to go back down!” “Oh dear!” sighed Kieran, “What should I do?” “Can you see the hydraulic unit at the back of the chair?” “I can see it, yes.”
“There’s a big red knob. Can you see it?” “Big red knob? Oh yes, there it is!” “Good!” said the Baron, “now, grip it firmly and pull it!” Kieran did as he was asked, but it would not move. “It’s very stiff, your evilness!” “Oh dear, that means it requires more lubrication.” “I’ve found the oil!” called Kieran. “Good, now squirt it all over!” Again, Kieran did as he was asked. “Right,” continued the Baron, “a couple more firm tugs and it should all be over.” Kieran put all his effort into pulling at the knob, until it finally broke off with a loud bang and hiss of escaping air. “I’ve pulled it off!” whimpered Kieran, “what should I do?” “Its fine!” said the Baron, “the compressed air will keep escaping and my seat will lower gently back down.” Sure enough, the seat began slowly to descend, eventually returning the chair to its former glory, much to the relief of both men. “I’m sorry, your evilness,” cringed Kieran, “I seem to have pulled your knob off.” “That’s ok,” said the Baron, “it certainly made my afternoon! Although it would appear that we are not destined to gather our egg in this way. Do you have any further suggestions?” Kieran shrugged his shoulders. “Egg collector?” he said, nonchalantly. “Brilliant!” said the Baron, “now, where to find one…” “Yellow Pages?”
“Genius!” laughed the Baron, “and we’ll find the Yellow Pages…” “In that telephone box?” said Kieran, pointing to a scarlet telephone box a hundred metres or so away, which neither man had noticed until now. “Excellent job, Kieran!” laughed the Baron, “I have taught you well.” He wheeled over to the telephone box. “Although I doubt whether there will be a listing for ‘egg collectors’ within the book. I’m fairly certain it is illegal.” As the Baron entered the phone box he was amazed to see a copy of the Yellow Pages sitting proudly beside the telephone. He was even more surprised to see the book open at a section marked “Egg Collectors”, for which there was only one entry. The Baron tore the page out and wheeled back to Kieran. “Let’s head back to the car. There’s a man we need to see about an egg.” “That was a stroke of luck,” smiled Kieran. They arrived outside the house of Larry Popman at around nine o’clock that evening. They struggled for twenty minutes or so as they pulled the wheelchair out from the back seat. “Remind me to buy a roof rack,” muttered the Baron. Of course, by the time the wheelchair was assembled, Mr. Popman was at the door, regarding them with quizzical eyes. “Can I help you?” he asked, nervously. “Mr. Popman?” asked the Baron. Mr. Popman nodded. “I am Baron von Bookshelf, evil megalomaniac. This is my assistant and not quite so evil henchman, Kieran. We heard that you collect 84
bird’s eggs and wondered whether you would be so kind as to show us your collection?” Mr. Popman was shocked. Why would these two deranged men be visiting him so late in the evening? They were obviously foreigners too, as they spoke with a strange accent. Possibly Russian or Argentinean. Or Yorkshire. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I believe you have the wrong person.” The Baron took the extract of Yellow Pages from his pocket. “My apologies. So this is not you, I presume?” “Oh, that. Err, yes, that’s me. Thing is, I gave up collecting quite a while ago.” “How long ago?” “I don’t know. Two, maybe three days?” “Do you still have them?” “Some… why?” “We are doing some research,” interrupted Kieran, “we needed to sketch some. Nothing sinister or anything! We are definitely not here to confiscate your egg collection, you can be assured of that.” “Oh… well… in that case,” said Mr. Popman, reluctantly opening the door and letting the two men in. “What are you researching?” asked Mr. Popman. “The nesting habits of ravens. Trouble is, we can't find any nests anywhere!” Mr. Popman began laughing. “Of course not! It’s only the start of February! Nesting doesn't start for another two or three weeks. Of course, there are the famous ravens at the Tower of London. They have
had their wings clipped and don't tend to leave the Wakefield Tower very often.” “Of course, how stupid of me!” said the Baron, a slightly confused look on his face. “Why did you not remind me, Kieran? We could maybe have tried there first! I told you it was outside the nesting season.” Kieran shrugged his shoulders. “I've not been a keen philatelist for very long, remember?” “Ornithologist, Kieran dear. Philatelists collect stamps.” Mr. Popman smiled politely. “So I take it you need to see a raven’s egg?” “Indeed we do. Would you happen to have one?” “Sure do. Wait here, I’ll fetch it.” He disappeared out of the room, returning moments later with a tray of boxes, each containing a bird’s egg. “Look at this beauty!” said Mr. Popman, handing them a tiny egg, no more than half an inch long, “it’s a ruby-throated hummingbirds egg.” “Wow!” said Kieran, “you’d have to have soldiers like matchsticks to dip in that!” Mr. Popman glared at him in disgust. Kieran smiled innocently. Mr. Popman proceeded to show them more eggs of apparent great interest. Eventually he handed them the raven’s egg. “What about that?” he asked proudly, “isn't this a magnificent specimen?” The Baron nodded. “You are certain of course that this is a raven’s egg?” “Of course I am! I’ve been collecting for a very long time!”
“Might I ask how much you would charge me if I were to purchase this egg from you?” asked the Baron, optimistically. Mr. Popman snatched the egg from the Baron's grasp. “The eggs are not for sale. If this is your intention, then I am afraid you have had a wasted journey.” The Baron was not prepared to forsake his prize quite so easily. “Mr. Popman, is there a Mrs. Popman?” he asked, cautiously. “Well, yes. Why do you ask?” “Where is she?” “She’s at the bingo. Why? What do you want her for?” The Baron reached into his pocket and withdrew his trusty water pistol. “Sit down, Mr. Popman,” he demanded, in his best authoritative voice. Mr. Popman did as he was told. “Wh… what do you want from me?” “Relax. We won't hurt you. We just want the egg,” said the Baron, calmly. “You can't have it! I have to climb a very high tree to get that! I got splinters in my hand trying to get that thing. And an angry raven pecked me very sharply on the nose.” “Then you leave me no choice,” mused the Baron, darkly. “Kieran, find some of Mrs. Popman’s nice dresses and her makeup. We shall see how she likes to see her beloved husband dressed up when she returns from her bingo!” “No!” wailed Mr. Popman, “Please don’t do that! She will be bringing her friends back home with her, including the Bishop! I promised her I would never dress up in her clothes again, especially after last 87
time! You dastardly pair! Take the egg, but please spare me!” The Baron pocketed the egg. “Thank you for your cooperation,” he smiled. “Kieran, we must be going. Thank the kind man for his hospitality and most generous of gifts.” “Thank you, Mr. Popman,” came Kieran’s sing-song reply. “Don’t mention it,” sniffed Mr. Popman, blowing his nose on his shirt sleeve, much to the Baron’s disgust. “My apologies once again for this intrusion, Mr. Popman. As some form of recompense, would you kindly accept this marzipan fruit?” **** The next item on the Barons list was the undergarment of a woman of ill repute, a task that Kieran was to undertake. This task, Kieran realized, was likely to be extremely difficult and acutely embarrassing. With Kieran having realized at an early age that he was very definitely gay, he had never had any experience with a woman. The two men cruised the streets in the Mini, hoping to find a lady of the night who would agree to sell them her knickers. The trouble was that they were having difficulty actually finding anyone at all, let alone a loose woman. The streets were strangely deserted, which was even more unusual considering it was closing time at the pubs. Of course, from their car they were unable to see dozens of mutilated corpses in gardens, in bins and down dark alleys. Unbeknown to them, someone was clearing a path for them, destroying and removing anyone who got in the way. 88
Eventually, when it seemed they were never going to find anyone, they spotted a solitary prostitute standing on a street corner. Kieran brought the Mini to an abrupt stop beside her. “Evening gents!” she whispered, “what will it be?” Embarrassed profusely, Kieran leaned over towards her. “It’s rather difficult, really,” he whispered. “Don’t worry, I understand,” she said, winking. “Threesomes are not a problem, although I do charge a higher rate.” Kieran stared at the Baron, who merely shrugged his shoulders. He knew that he was unable to offer any assistance; this was Kieran's task and for the scrolls prophecy to be realized, they had to do everything by the book, so to speak. “That… isn’t quite what we wanted, no…” stammered Kieran. “Oh, I see! You want to watch? I charge £150 for that.” “No no!” said Kieran, “we don’t want anything sexual. It's rather delicate...” “You want me to talk dirty to you? That will be fifty quid.” Kieran looked shocked. “Ok,” she said, “forty quid, but that’s my final offer!” “I’m sorry!” croaked Kieran, “we just need your knickers.” “What?” laughed the prostitute, “What are you? Some kind of pervert?” “No, no!” protested Kieran, “We need them for... an important mission.” “Important mission? What kind of mission?”
Kieran's mind began to turn somersaults. “I’m afraid that is classified information. We are… erm… secret agents.” “Not very good then, are you?” “Sorry?” “At being secret agents. You’ve just blown your cover!” “Oh believe me,” muttered the Baron, “he’s always doing that!” “And why do you need my knickers then?” teased the prostitute. “If you must know,” sighed Kieran, “we need to sacrifice them to the sea in order to raise a lost city, which the Baron here will rule before taking over the world.” The prostitute laughed hysterically. “Five hundred.” “Sorry?” “My knickers. Five hundred pounds.” “Two hundred.” “Four.” “Three.” “Deal!” laughed the prostitute, “although there is a small problem?” Kieran suddenly looked worried. “I’m not wearing any.” “What?” choked Kieran, “You’re not wearing any knickers? What are you, some kind of tart?” The prostitute practically fell over with laughter. “Listen!” she said at last, “give me a lift back to my flat. That way, you can have a rummage through my drawers and see if there is anything in there that takes your fancy?”
Kieran nodded nervously. The prostitute opened the car door and squeezed herself into the back seat beside the wheelchair. “You need a bigger car, sweetheart,” she simpered. Kieran swallowed hard as he saw the Barons fists tighten, remembering his beloved car collection. “What is this strange contraption, anyway? Some kind of sex aid?” She winked at the Baron. “Actually,” said the Baron, tiring of this woman’s drawling voice and impoliteness, “it is a custom-built wheelchair with enough nuclear weaponry and sophisticated technology to destroy a small country. I'd be happy to give you a demonstration of its capabilities when you have helped my boy in his quest?” That had the desired silencing effect. **** The Mini eventually came to a stop outside a dowdy tenement building. Kieran climbed out and helped the woman from the back seat. The Baron decided to stay in the car but promised to keep a watchful eye on his boy, in spite of Kieran’s pleading expression. Kieran and the woman walked into the building together. He looked both petrified and decidedly shifty as he shuffled along behind her, checking over his shoulder and memorising the escape route from this nightmare. The corridor stank of stale urine, the flock wallpaper was peeling from the walls, huge patches of greyish mould rising from the skirting board, the single unlit lightbulb swinging mournfully above his head has long since seen a shade, the entire fixture appeared to be held to the ceiling by the masses of dusty cobwebs. Feeling queasy, Kieran 91
focused his attention on the carpet, which had been worn to bare threads by the excessive wear it had faced over the years. This too was blessed with a number of indescribable stains. “This is my room,” she said, unlocking a door and walking in. Kieran followed her inside and found that the décor inside completely contrasted that of the corridor outside. In fact, he was impressed at the grandeur of the place. Leather trim lined every feasible surface. Huge fur-covered cushions were scattered throughout the room, which was ‘tastefully’ decorated in shocking pink throughout. Kieran actually felt quite at home. “Bedroom is through here,” said the woman, seductively, “come through!” Kieran followed her into her bedroom. This room was yet another complete contrast, very different from the main room. Items of masochistic use lined the walls; whips, chains and various other items that Kieran could not imagine a use for. He cringed inwardly. He noticed a number of strange black masks lying around the room. “These dominatrix types live a very strange sex life,” he thought to himself. He briefly wondered whether the Baron might be interested in redorating the anteroom in this style. “I take it you have never been with a prostitute before?” she asked. Kieran shook his head. “I’ve never been with a woman before. I’m not interested in women.” “Ah,” she said, knowingly, “I take it he is your boyfriend then?” “That’s right.” 92
“No matter,” she said, handing him two pairs of knickers, “will these do?” Kieran smiled. “I never asked what colour,” he laughed, handing over the money. “Take them both,” she smiled. She picked up one of the masks. “Here, put this on,” she whispered, “I want to show you something.” Kieran stared at the mask. “What do you want to show me?” he asked, nervously. “What a woman feels like,” she smiled, sweetly. “But I don’t…” “Oh, come on! You can't surely have only wanted my knickers? You must have wanted something else? Did you want me to break you in? Convert you to a straight?” Kieran felt faint and decided he really needed to make his excuses and leave. “I'm sorry, but I have to go. I have.. errr... left the oven on.” With that, Kieran ran out of the house, shrieking. Out of a corner of the room, a tall shadowy figure stepped forward. “Dahut,” snapped the Red Man, “you really are going to have to show a little more restraint with those masks! Those two bumbling fools are our key to Ys. We don’t want them to be killed just yet!” Dahut hung her head in shame, “But I have my needs!” she muttered. “Have your pick from anyone else, but leave those two alone!” Reluctantly, Dahut replaced the mask on her bed and sat down heavily. “Will it be long, sire?”
The Red Man sat beside her. â€œNot at all. My powers grow stronger with each passing minute. Once our city has been raised from the sea, we will operate the transmitter and enslave the entire world. We shall rule it together, the way we intended all those years ago.â€? Kieran had decided it was probably best not to mention the womanâ€™s advances to the Baron. He would not have been very happy and, to be perfectly honest, they had bigger fish to fry at the moment. As he left the tenement building at high speed, Kieran hadn't noticed the marzipan fruit left beside the front door.
seven Zoltan parked his car in the underground car park in Scarborough’s South Bay, the dim lighting and pungent aroma not discouraging him from leaving his car there. Monkey, on the other hand, was protesting profusely. “If you think I'm walking out in this stinky place, you are sadly mistaken!” “Relax,” said Zoltan, “I'll carry you.” Anna followed Zoltan out of the car park, carrying one of the imperious sock puppets on each shoulders. Secretly, they were all relieved to have left Raine at home with his grandparents, because he would have nattered them to death about playing on the sand or catching seagulls. As they stepped out into the brightness, Monkey was surprised to see a number of people walking past in formation along the sea front, each dressed in a white robe and their faces covered by a large white hood.
Each seemed to chanting something about Joe 41 and an elusive serpent, which reminded Zoltan of a programme he had seen about druids in the olden days. “What's this all about? Who is Joe 41?” Anna asked. Nobody knew the answers. “What is an elusive serpent?” asked Zoltan, wondering why such a large crowd was needed to catch a tricky snake. “The elusive serpent,” said Hearno, “is a great beast detailed in the Old Testament in the Book of Job, not Joe. It describes a huge creature, called Leviathan, often identified with the whale. The Bible describes it as having skin that is tougher than chainmail, so tough that it can repel most weapons. Its eyes are said to be so bright that they can be seen in even the murkiest of waters. Apparently, the thing even smells evil. It is in fact considered to be the demonic fish that swallowed Jonah. It is also said that Leviathan would be served as one of the delicacies at the banquet at Judgement Day.” Zoltan thought he remembered reading something about Jonah being eaten by a whale. Or was that Pinocchio? “Perhaps we should follow these people and see what they are up to,” added Speakno, unhelpfully. Monkey lent his brother a sarcastic smile. “I think that was what we were going to do anyway,” he sneered. They followed the parade of druid-types to a small church and went inside, taking seats at the back of the congregation and trying to look inconspicuous. The monkeys hid in the pockets of their friends. The room 96
descended into silence and soon after, a man dressed in a brown version of the druids costume walked into the church and up the aisle before standing behind the pulpit and raising his arms. “Welcome all,” he began, “and welcome too to Mr and Mrs Connell. It is always a pleasure to welcome new members to our flock. It is also good to see the three monkeys here too.” Zoltan frowned, a little concerned that they knew who he was, more concerned that they knew the monkeys were there. “Please, Mr Monkey! Show your face!” Slowly, Monkey emerged from Sam's pocket, somewhat relieved to be back out in the open. “Blimey,” he muttered, “you have some serious lint going on in there, Zoltan. And there's a used tissue stuck to my fur! We shall have words later!” “I've been looking for that for weeks,” smiled Zoltan. The head druid pointed ominously to Monkey. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the congregation, Mr Monkey here is the chosen one. He is to guide us to safety and rid us of the threat of Leviathan!” “I am?” asked Monkey, puzzled, “how is that I have not been consulted in this matter? Why am I always the last to find these things out?” “Because, Mr Monkey, only you have the ability to succeed. You guided the world through many evils and now an ancient evil has returned. You have been sent to destroy Leviathan as the prophecy foretells.” “I’m sorry,” said Monkey, “Evil murderers I can stretch to, but huge fish? Not my forte, I’m afraid. Have you tried Captain Birds Eye?”
“Mr Monkey, may I remind you that this is a house of God? Such outbursts of sarcasm will not be tolerated here.” “My apologies, sir,” said Monkey sheepishly, “Forgive me for asking, but what makes you so sure that Leviathan ever existed, let alone that he is still alive today?” “Mr Monkey, I know that you are aware of the masked men who have been washed up on these shores?” “I might have heard a bit of a rumour, yes. What of it?” “I believe that they are the work of Dahut.” Monkey paused. How could anyone else know of Dahut? “Dahut died many centuries ago,” he said at last. “Indeed. As did the Red Man. Yet he walks among us to this very day.” “I’m sorry, sir,” said Monkey, “but the dead cannot miraculously be returned to life. This is not some science fiction story, you know!” “If you insist,” smiled the man, knowingly. “You still haven’t answered my question. Why do you believe Leviathan will return? What connection does this fish have with Dahut?” “Mr Monkey, I thought you of all people would know the answers to these questions. Leviathan was Dahut’s pet. It obeyed her every command. We believe that Dahut and the Red Man have returned from the dead. And wherever Dahut walks, Leviathan will follow. We humbly ask that you and your friends find and destroy Leviathan before he kills the people of this world.” 98
The druid turned his back on the congregation and Monkey took this to mean that their conversation had ended. He signalled to his friends to leave and they stepped outside to find that it had begun to rain again. They returned to the car and were relieved to find that it hadn't been stolen or broken into, although some kind soul had keyed the driver’s side and broken the glass in one of the wing mirrors. They drove to a small pub a little further along the coast and began discussing the day’s events. “I've worked it out,” said Monkey at last, “I know what is going on.” Anna sat the little puppet on her shoulder. “Spill, little guy.” “It's like this. The Red Man intends to take over the world, which is something we knew already. But to do so, he needs to use an ancient transmitter, one which, if I recall, Gradlon had installed somewhere on Ys. As the only person with the knowledge of the layout of Ys and the desire to help him use the transmitter, he has had his minions resurrect Dahut and recruited her into his team.” The friends looked blankly at Monkey. “What? Do you not think that my theory stacks up? I suppose you all have better theories? Should I just go home and let you get on with it?” Zoltan shrugged his shoulders. “If it's right, what do we do about it?” “We go to France, to the Bay of Douranenez. I imagine that we will find Dahut there. Then we just destroy them and come home in time for tea. We need to figure out a way of getting to France without
drawing any unnecessary attention to ourselves. Any suggestions?” “Ferry?” suggested Anna, “or plane?” Monkey shook his head, “nice idea, but too expensive. And our passports are back in Towndale.” “We could swim?” said Zoltan, innocently. “Swim? Swim, you say?” snapped Monkey, “you don’t honestly believe I would intentionally wet my fur, do you? Have you taken leave of your senses? I suppose next you’ll be asking me to act as a paint roller when next you paint your ceiling? Perhaps you’d like me to muck out some pigs at the same time?” “Sorry, Monkey, I forgot!” Zoltan was about to make another stupid suggestion when a small, shabby man at the next table put down his newspaper and looked over at the group. “’Scuse me,” he whispered, “did I be overhearing ye say that ye wants to get to France?” “You might have,” said Monkey, suspiciously, “why?” The man came to sit with them at the table. This was an old gentleman, sporting a scruffy white beard and a mass of even scruffier, curly white hair. He wore a chunky-knit pullover and bright yellow waterproof trousers, held up by bright red braces. He smelled as though he was wearing that most delightful aftershave, Eau de Cod and he had been over-liberal with the fragrance today. “Arr, it be because I can take ye there,” he whispered. Monkey raised a knitted eyebrow, a little sceptical.
“Arr, I be the proud owner of me own boat, see. The good ship Remora.” The group looked at each other, feeling a little optimistic. “And how much would you charge us for taking us to France?” asked Monkey. “Oh no, I won’t be charging ye nothing, so I won't. I needs to be getting away from ‘ere, see. There be too many scary tales around these parts.” He took the opportunity to look around to make sure nobody was listening in on the conversation. “Scary tales?” whispered Monkey, also taking the opportunity to look around, “have you heard about those price increases for fish and chips on the sea front?” “No, I not be hearin' about them? It be ridiculous, the prices they be askin’. But they do be tasting lovely, being fresh from the sea an’ all that. No, I means the tales of that there Red Man and the elusive serpent. I don’t want to be ‘ere when they turns up.” “Hmm… and when do ye, I mean you, think you could take us, Mr…?” “Crispin, Fred Crispin. I be ready at any time, see.” Monkeys face brightened. “Any time… will tomorrow morning be ok? We need to get a few things ready for the trip.” “Arr, that be fine, so it does.” “Good,” smiled Monkey, “meet us here at five in the morning.” Zoltan stared at Monkey in disbelief. “Five o’clock That’s obscene!” “We have to set off before we are seen. It’s common sense! We don't want to attract any more attention to ourselves than we already have.” 101
“Arr, it be true,” added Fred, “We’ll meet ‘ere at five and set sail for France.” Fred got up to leave. “Oh, and make sure ye wraps up well. It be cold out at sea.” **** At five the next morning, Zoltan and the three monkeys waited outside the pub for Fred. Anna had agreed to go back home to be with Raine. This wasn’t the kind of trip a three-and-a-half year old should be going on, she thought. Anna certainly didn’t want to fight evil today, she had an appointment with a pile of washing and the house needed a good dusting. She didn't particularly want Zoltan to go either. Still, she had made him a nice packed lunch to take along, even handed him his superhero costume, which she made him promise not to wear unless absolutely necessary. Time passed. Then passed some more. As the clock ticked on, the group began to get impatient. They had waited for over an hour before Fred finally turned up. “We were beginning to think that you were not coming!” said Zoltan, “it’s long after six o’clock!” “Is it?” asked Fred, innocently, “Sorry, I don’t have no watch, see.” “You should have said,” smiled Zoltan, “You could have borrowed mine.” “It wouldn’t be no use. I can't tell the time.” Monkey groaned. “Shall we leave?” he sighed, “we are already late!” Fred led the group along a narrow, cobbled road to a secluded cove. “Arr, there she be,” he said proudly, “The good ship Remora. Isn’t she a beauty?” He 102
pointed to a rotting wooden rowing boat which didn’t even look bonfire-worthy, let alone seaworthy. “That is the good ship Remora?” moaned Monkey, “But it isn’t even painted!” They walked over to the boat which was miraculously afloat. One of the seats was covered in moss and there was a worryingly large hole in one of the sides. Toffee papers lined the whole of the hull. “You expect me to get in that?” snapped Monkey in disgust. “Oh, come on!” said Hearno, climbing in, “it will be a great adventure!” “And we don’t have many other options,” added Zoltan as he followed the little monkey aboard the boat. “I don’t know why we are going to France anyway, it's not even the right place,” sulked Speakno, but climbed aboard regardless. “But it’s dirty!” complained Monkey, realising he was outnumbered. He reluctantly joined the rest of the group on the boat, where he had kindly been left the mossy seat. As he sat down, a look of pure disgust spread across his face. “Yeuch!” he whined, “It’s all slimy on my bum!” Nobody took any notice. Fred raised the ‘anchor,’ which turned out to be a coat-hanger on a bath chain. He and Zoltan began rowing and within a few minutes, the Remora was out to sea. “Arr,” said Fred, as the coastline disappeared from the horizon, “where is it ye wants to be going again?” “France,” said Monkey, coldly. “Arr, that’s right, France. Err, which way might France be then?” 103
“You mean you don’t know?” shrieked Monkey. “Oh, arr, I knows. I just wanted to see if ye knew too.” Monkey and Hearno exchanged a nervous glance. “Fred, I don’t see a map in here,” said Hearno, “How do you know where you are going?” Fred thumbed the side of his nose and smiled knowingly. “I be an expert in this ‘ere sailing thing. Been doing it since last week, see? I be using the North Star for me guidance, see. ‘Tis all I needs.” “In case it has escaped your attention, Mr Crispin,” said Monkey, calmly, “it is currently the daytime. You don’t tend to see the North Star during the day.” “Arr, I knows that, Mr Monkey! That’s why I be following the sun through the day and the North Star at night, see?” Monkey put his head in his paws. “Is that right? And what does this North Star look like?” “Well, it be big and round. Sometimes it be moon shaped. Sometimes it don’t be there at all, so it don’t.” “Does it have a face, like the man in the moon?” “Arr, it does. A big smiley face.” “Stop the world!” said Monkey, “I want to get off!” At that moment, a large wave rocked the boat. The sea managed to find its way into the hole in the side of the boat and a few pints of sea water decided to climb aboard the Remora for a ride. Monkey shrieked and jumped to pull his feet out of the way. Unfortunately for him, the force of Monkeys sudden change in position caused the rotten wood of the bench to break and Monkey found himself sitting in a puddle of cold sea water. 104
“I’m… all… wet!” he sobbed, finding that even more horrific was the fact that he was sitting in a pile of toffee papers. “They’re all stuck to my fur!” he shrieked, “Get them off me!” Hysterical with laughter, Zoltan began pulling the toffee papers off Monkey. “Why on Earth would you have sweet wrappers in here?” fumed the sock puppet. “Arr, it do say so in the manual.” “It says what, Mr Crispin? What does it say?” “It says to treat the wood regularly to stop it rotting, so it does. And see, I likes toffees an' chocolates when I wants a treat.” Monkey looked up to the skies. “What have I done?” he sobbed.
eight After spending the night in the hotel, the Baron and Kieran discussed the dayâ€™s plans. The scroll had depicted that the next task was to acquire a pearl. The two tasks that were to come would prove even more difficult; they would somehow have to obtain a white baby grand piano and finally, the task they relished least of all, they had to sacrifice a human life albeit one that was of little virtue. Kieran was relieved that this would be the Barons task, as he felt sure he would not have been able to complete it. He felt a great sadness in the knowledge that anyone had to die at all. They decided that there were two ways that they could obtain a pearl. The first was to dive to the seabed and collect one from an oyster. This was quickly ruled out as an option, as the Baron had left his scuba-diving wheelchair modifications back in Towndale and Kieran couldnâ€™t swim.
The second, and more viable option, was to hold up a jewelers shop. During their night of cruising the streets of London, they had noticed several jewelers that would have the right credentials for their heist. They had opted for a quaint little shop, ‘Waffles’, situated opposite the corner of Charing Cross Road and Old Compton Street. At the Barons request, Kieran had fitted a foot-plate to the back of the wheelchair and the two of them set off to find their target. After walking up a very gradual hill, Kieran concluded that he was not nearly as fit as he had once believed. He was very concerned that his floppy golden hair was still wet with hair gel and he wished that the Baron had packed a hairdryer. “Stand on the foot-plate!” said the Baron, “I’ll give you a ride back down!” Gratefully, Kieran accepted the offer and clambered onto the back. “Argh!” screamed the Baron, as a bolt of high voltage static electricity surged through him, into Kieran and back again. “What the hell are you trying to do to me, you silly boy?” Kieran looked dumbfounded. His floppy hair had taken it upon itself to form into an “Einstein in the morning after a heavy night on the beer,” style, and steam vapour drifted casually off the lapels of his jacket. “It’s that damn polyester suit!” yelled the incensed Baron as he trundled along. “When the time comes to take over the world, I’ll make damn sure I buy you something bespoke. Didn’t I warn you that this senseless flirtation with synthetic fabric would end in tears?”
Kieran nodded his static-charged locks, suitably chastened. He had learnt an important lesson that day: megalomania and polyester don’t mix and the combination of the two could have potentially disastrous effects on neatly coiffured hair laden with hair gel. Still, now was not the time for vanity; they had arrived outside the shop. “Baron,” whispered Kieran, nervously, “what are we going to do about a getaway car?” “Don’t worry!” laughed the Baron, “I already have that covered!” Kieran was about to ask what was meant by that, but he was too late. The Baron had already entered the shop. Kieran ran in after him, still trying in vain to tame his hair. “Good morning, shopkeeper!” said the Baron in his best ‘I’m just a regular shopper, not an armed robber’ tone of voice. “I should like to see a selection of your finest pearls, if I may?” The shop assistant, a spotty youth named Gervaise, who was obviously on work experience, seemed excited about his first potential sale of the day. “Certainly sir,” he said, walking quickly to a pad of pearl jewellery, “what would you like?” he asked, his back turned to the Baron. “Oh, I was planning on giving my boyfriend a pearl necklace. Perhaps some earrings to match?” As the young man turned back with the pad of jewellery, he found himself staring down the barrel of the Barons trusty water pistol. “I’ll take the lot, thank you very much,” smiled the Baron. Gervaise froze briefly. “Do… you… want them wrapping?” he nervously asked. 108
The Baron paused momentarily. “Yes, that would be nice,” he said, “Could I have some of that shiny pink paper?” “I think that the blue paper is much nicer,” said Kieran. “Nonsense!” said the Baron, “Pink is very definitely the correct colour for the task.” “I agree,” said the shop assistant, “the pink compliments the tones of the pearls beautifully. The blue would merely dull the hues.” “Absolutely,” said the Baron, “the blue paper would be much better suited to wrapping up gold items.” The shop assistant deftly completed the wrapping in double-quick time, finishing with a pretty pink bow. He handed the box to the Baron. “Thank you!” smiled the Baron, “now, would you be so kind as to come around this side of the counter and lay on the floor whilst we make our getaway?” “Certainly!” said Gervaise, “but please, you wouldn't want to shoot me would you? It would take such a lot of scrubbing to get this place back to our high levels of cleanliness.” “Absolutely not, I am most definitely not a lover of untidiness” said the Baron, thoughtfully, “marzipan fruit, young man?” he added as an aside, offering the box. “Don’t mind if I do!” said the youth, helping himself to one. “I must say,” added the Baron, “it really has been a pleasure stealing from you in this manner. I had anticipated a scuffle or a heated discussion at the very least. Thank you for co-operating so!”
“Think nothing of it;” said Gervaise, “but thank you for making my first hold-up such a pleasant experience! I too had anticipated something different, and I would never have expected any thieves to look as you two do.” The Baron smiled. “No trouble at all! Would you please lay on the floor now? We really should be going.” “But of course,” said the assistant, emerging from behind the counter, holding a small card. “Allow me to present you with our exclusive discount card. This card entitles you to a ten per cent discount on all future heists.” He handed the card to the Baron before adopting his horizontal position. “How very kind, young man! Thoughtful indeed. Now, could I ask that you allow us a few minutes before raising the alarm?” asked the Baron, “these wheelchairs can be so cumbersome sometimes, particularly when one is committing an act of robbery.” “Oh, but of course!” came the reply, “but could I trouble you for another of those delicious marzipan fruits?” “With pleasure,” smiled the Baron, “I shall leave a selection here on the counter. Goodbye, young man!” With that, the Baron turned his mighty wheelchair, and he and a stunned Kieran left the shop. “Hop on!” said the Baron, pressing a button on his control panel. As he did, two cylindrical objects appeared on either side of the footplate. Kieran carefully climbed aboard, ensuring his synthetic suit was far away from any exposed metal, or anything else exposed for that matter. 110
“What are they?” he asked worriedly, pointing to the cylinders. “Rockets, my dear boy. You are now aboard the world’s most technologically advanced, rocketpowered wheelchair! I had Eric and Wayne fit these modifications only last week.” He fired the rockets and the wheelchair made a faint rumbling noise before flames burst from the back of the rocket cylinders and the chair lurched forward, accelerating to speeds of over 60 miles per hour. Kieran looked around excitedly, watching the streets of London pass by in a blur, before he realised that the speed was not doing much to help his already dishevelled hair. Suddenly, Kieran had a prophetical moment. “Err, Baron?” he asked, nervously, as the chair began to climb the steep hill at alarming speeds, “what happens when we reach the top?” The Baron’s face dropped. He hadn't really thought this part through properly, which was unusual for a man of his meticulous nature. They reached the brow of the hill and the wheelchair left the ground, for a few moments clearing twenty feet. Both men clung on for dear life as the chair did a graceful slow-motion somersault, before hurtling quickly towards the ground. The Baron expertly managed to pilot the chair to perform a majestic crash landing through somebody’s privet hedge before coming to rest in the middle of the garden. They both lay on the neatly trimmed lawn for several moments. Had this been a work of fiction, comedy birds would have tweeted around their heads. Fortunately, neither man was seriously injured and the wheelchair had miraculously escaped with only superfluous damage. 111
Kieran's hair, however, now contained leaves and twigs from the hedge, and his polyester suit sported muddy patches, much to his dismay. Still, they now possessed four of the six sacred items, but with only two more tasks to complete, neither man felt like facing another task right at that moment. The Baron had come over all peculiar. **** “No, that simply won't do, Kieran!” said the Baron, “It should be much more of a maniacal cackle. What you have there is less of an evil cackle and more of a moody giggle.” Kieran tried again, tiring of his evil cackling lessons. He put all of his effort into one final cackle, remembering what the Baron had taught him; start deep, take it slowly, throw your head back. “Mwahahahaha,” he cackled, a sound so convincingly evil that even the Baron was terrified for a moment. “That’s it! You’ve got it!” Kieran was pleased with himself and decided he deserved a treat. “Can I watch Neighbours now?” he pleaded. Reluctantly the Baron agreed, although he disapproved of the less than intellectually stimulating genre of so-called 'soaps'. Kieran merrily turned on the television, but unfortunately for him, Neighbours was not being shown. He began flicking through channels and was surprised to see an advertisement being shown on all stations simultaneously. Both men found themselves compelled to watch. It was a crackly broadcast, beginning with a man dressed in red, who the Baron thought he recognised, walking into view and spouting his monologue. 112
“Ever fancied walking around a secret Navy listening station? Well, now is your chance! Come and visit the station at 120 Seafront Drive, Cayton Bay, East Yorkshire. Any time, day or night, 365 days a year! Perhaps you want to hear what sound a fish makes? Maybe you would like to hear the noise of a boat cutting through the water? Perhaps you even want to listen for the faint sounds of cathedral bells from a long-lost sunken city somewhere off the coast of Europe? Hey, I know I did! Whatever you want to hear under the sea, even if it is a long-lost sunken city, you can hear it here. That address again, 120 Seafront Drive, Cayton Bay, East Yorkshire. See you soon!” With that, the transmission ended and Neighbours flickered into view. “Thank goodness for that, it has only just started!” Kieren sighed with relief, “but that listening station could come in handy,” he continued, more gullible than a gullible thing from the planet Gullible. The Baron agreed, convinced that they would be able to bribe the staff at the listening station with huge quantities of marzipan fruits. He decided that his current supply would not nearly be enough to go around. **** Twilight was just beginning to fall as Kieran drove their Mini towards the gates of the Royal Naval secret coastal listening station and stopped beside the sentry box that guarded the gates. The young soldier seemed to be asleep. “Good evening my fine fellow,” said the Baron with as much ebullience as possible to disguise his nervousness, “I am Professor Von Bookshelf and this 113
is my glamorous assistant, Doctor Kieran. We are here by prior arrangement to inspect this fair facility. May I press you to a marzipan fruit?” Of the guard there came no answer. He just slouched untidily in his booth. “I do believe he’s fallen asleep, Kieran.” “I do believe he’s dead, your evilness,” came the reply, as Kieran clambered out to take a good look at the guard. “Dead? Dead? How dashed inconsiderate! I’d spent simply hours rehearsing my speech to get in here. How dare he ruin my moment of dramatic genius? No marzipan for you, my good man! Kieran, pray drive on.” Within a few minutes, the two of them were inside the main control room, having encountered nothing but horribly mutilated corpses along the way. “This is simply preposterous,” bellowed the Baron, “I brought six boxes of marzipan fruits to distribute to these people, and just look at them! Is this what we good taxpayers fork out for, Kieran? Dead people? I’ve a good mind to emigrate and take my marzipan elsewhere!” “Yes, it’s really most unfortunate your evilness,” muttered Kieran as he stared queasily at the disemboweled remains of an ill-fated naval officer nearby. “Unfortunate? Now there’s a typical British understatement, my boy. How on earth are we going to operate the underwater detectors when all the personnel on the base seem to have been mysteriously ripped to barely recognisable shreds by some unknown yet sinister force?”
Kieran staggered a little unsteadily to the main console. There, neatly placed in the centre of the screen was a basic operator’s manual. “Looks like our luck is in, Baron,” he said, brightly. “Excellent work, my wise boyfriend,” cheered the Baron warmly, “I can always count on you to do the seemingly impossible. Does it appear complex to operate?” “I don’t believe so. Although it does require someone with very keen hearing for it to work best.” “Then I charge you, Kieran, to be the chief operator of this remarkable machine of detection.” “Really, your evilness?” “But of course, Kieran, I have every faith in you. I trust you implicitly to be fully qualified to carry out this, or any other vital task.” Kieran smiled warmly. There was something quite charming about being accorded what amounted to equal status by the Baron. It felt so good, so remarkably right that they were carrying out this great evil megalomaniac task together and he steeled himself to following through with their plans, no matter how many more horribly mutilated dead bodies he would have to confront in the future. Hesitantly donning the headphones, he began the scanning process. “It should be off the coast of France, is that right, Baron?” “Best to scan the whole continental coast, you never know what tricks history can play on geography? Continental drift could have moved the city anywhere from here to the USA. At least tonight is predicted as
stormy across the whole coastline from Iceland down to the Iberian Peninsula.” Tensely, Kieran listened very carefully whilst the Baron summoned up all his will power to stay silent during the procedure. He couldn’t help letting off a fruitily evil cackle at one point but following a warning look from Kieran, he decided it was best not to repeat it. Finally Kieran’s persistence and the Baron’s uncharacteristic silence paid off. “I’ve found it, Baron!” he cried, “Quite distinctly, I hear the muffled sound of bells underwater!” “Where, Kieran, dearest love?” “You just wouldn’t believe it if I told you,” came the saucy reply. Kieran seductively whispered it into the Baron’s ear. “Oh, oh dear me. Really?” he chortled, “this is just so remarkably apposite. How simply wonderful!” **** The Baron took great pleasure in holding Kieran’s hand as he trundled back out of the station compound. “Now,” he announced with a grandiloquent toss of the head, “we must arrange suitable transportation for our journey.” “Well, how about that?” exclaimed Kieran, pointing towards the abandoned naval dockyard. Right at the front of the quay, a magnificent 150-foot gleaming white luxury motor-yacht lolled lazily on the slowly dying storm-waves. “My, but isn’t she a beauty,” said the Baron, “what on earth would a fabulous vessel like this be doing in a dowdy dockyard?”
“That sounds remarkably like a ‘what’s a nice boy like you doing in a place like this?’ line,” teased Kieran. The Baron laughed lightly and stroked his boyfriend’s hand as they headed towards the yacht. “That’s strange,” said the Baron, once he was safely ensconced on the main deck. “What?” shouted Kieran from the steering compartment, as he turned the ignition and started the powerful motor. “I said it’s strange,” the Baron shouted, “There are a load of silver framed photographs on the top of this conveniently placed white baby-grand piano. I have a feeling I’ve seen the person in them, but for the life of me, I can’t remember whe… whoooah!” The yacht bucked back and forth and there was a hideous grinding of gears coming from below. “You sure you can steer this thing?” he hollered. “Don’t worry, I’m fully qualified to carry out this vital task,” Kieran shouted back, “if only I knew how to work this thing, anyway,” he muttered to himself, as the yacht staggered in fitful bursts out of the dockyard. Some four thousand miles away on the West coast of Mustique, Elton John could clearly be seen scratching his head and wondering precisely where they’d parked his luxury yacht that day. **** Despite all their best intentions, neither Kieran nor the Baron possessed the common sense to follow sea charts effectively. Their hoped-for clandestine entrance into the sleeping port of Amsterdam was completely ruined, and a large crowd and delegation
from the city had hastily assembled to greet their yacht. “This is most regrettable,” sighed the Baron wearily, “I really don’t think I have brought enough marzipan fruits to go around.” Amidst a cacophony of cheers, Kieran gingerly steered the yacht into the Herengracht and drew up alongside the specially erected dais. ‘Welcome Baron van Bookshelf, hero of Towndale’ was emblazoned on the banner which had been artfully draped along the canal-side. “Hero indeed,” sniffed the Baron haughtily, “Who do they think I am? I’m here to take over the world, not shake hands with a lot of dull stuffy people.” “They’ve spelled your name wrong too, your evilness,” Kieran added. “Oh yes…” said the Baron thoughtfully, “well, perhaps I should let them get away with that. After all von is somewhat overly Teutonic, and van is so delightfully Dutch, don’t you think?” “Speaking of van, you won’t believe who I’ve just spotted, Baron,” gasped Kieran, mouth agape, “I don’t think it will just be dull stuffy people you’ll be shaking hands with!” The Baron followed Kieran’s pointing finger. There, standing on the canal side with the rest of the crowd, was the figure of handsome Dutch soccer player, Ruud van Nistelhoven. “Oh love,” said the Baron good-naturedly, ruffling Kieran’s floppy hair, “you’re just so gullible sometimes. If that’s the real Ruud van Nistelhoven then I’m David Beckham. You know as well as I do that Zoltan transforms himself into the very image of 118
van Nistelhoven to titillate Anna of an evening. Do you not remember watching those many videos we bought at the car boot sale in Towndale some weeks ago?” “Baron van Bookshelf, great hero of Towndale and role model for homosexuals everywhere, we welcome you to the tolerant and friendly city of Amsterdam,” announced the Mayor grandly, once they had disembarked, “May I trouble you to say a few words to our residents?” “Certainly,” replied the Baron, warmly, approaching the lecturn with pride practically flowing from his ears. “Citizens of Amsterdam, and indeed of the whole of the Netherlands; today you should apportion yourself truly fortunate. You are my chosen people and soon you will inherit the earth!” The crowd smiled appreciatively, encouraging him to continue, “For very shortly, I shall make a bid to take over the world, and you, my people, shall be at the vanguard of my unrighteous vengeance.” The Mayor clapped him on the back, tears rolling down his eyes in laughter. “Oh, that’s hilarious;” he said at length, “English humour is so way out, man. I just love the way you do that ‘I’m going to take over the world’ act!” The Baron looked down at the assembled citizens as they roared with laughter. He turned to his ashenfaced boyfriend, and then back, with brooding irritation in his eyes. “No, no my foolish people! Do you not understand? I really AM going to take over the world! I am the great Baron, the personification of evil itself and I am 119
going to turn the entire globe GAY!” he announced, with a flourish. The crowd roared even louder and the Mayor literally collapsed on the dais, rolling around trying to hold his sides together. “Right!” snapped the Baron petulantly, “Just for that, you get no marzipan!” He turned his wheelchair and headed back down from the dais. As he descended, a hand rested gently on his shoulder. “Not now, Kieran love!” he said, then looked up and saw that it wasn’t Kieran. “Well bless me, if it isn’t Zoltan the Magnificent, come to gloat at my humiliation,” he spat at the faux van Nistelhoven who was smiling benignly at him. “Zoltan who?” “Oh come now Zoltan, don’t play games. Kieran and I both know that you’re here to spy on our evil megalomaniac schemes!” “I’m sorry, have you mistaken me for someone else?” came the slightly fazed reply. “You’re good Zoltan, very good, you’ve even perfected the accent and as for the looks…” The Baron gazed up and down the handsome figure appreciatively, “I’d say you’re probably even better looking than the real thing. What do you think, Kieran?” “Certainly brings a tear to my eye, your evilness,” Kieran agreed. “I’m sorry. My English is sometimes not very good yet. My name is Ruud van Nistelhoven, and I am a…”
“Yes you are a football player with Real Madrid, formerly of Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven, so why aren’t you doing star jumps at the Bernabéu or in some muddy field in Lancashire?” “Well, I’m over here on a visit to see my girlfriend, but I was about to say that I am a great admirer of yours, Meneer van Bookshelf.” “That’s very flattering, Zoltan. Although mentioning your vriendin is somewhat ill advised when speaking to me. If you really wanted to spark my interest you should have said you were here to visit your vriend.” “My… boyfriend?” “Why, yes of course,” the Baron shrugged, “everyone knows that Ruud van Nistelhoven is the pin-up of choice for any gay football fan with taste.” Kieran nodded his ready assent. This time the figure just stared at him in complete disbelief. Kieran began to feel a sense of dread. “You’re not REALLY Ruud van Nistelhoven, are you?” he asked sheepishly. “Well, who else would I be?” said Ruud, exasperated. “Oh… my… God!” was all the Baron could muster, burying his face into his hands. “This taking over the world lark isn’t going terribly well right now, is it?” whispered Kieran piteously. “Whilst I’m very flattered by your comments and also happy to be mistaken for someone else for a change, I’m really very sorry to say that I do not share your feelings, although I fully uphold your right to have those feelings. It’s nice to think that I’m seen in that way by gay football fans,” Ruud said, replacing a comforting arm on the Baron’s shoulder. 121
At length, the shamefaced Baron looked up and smiled gratefully, “That’s a very nice suit, Ruud,” was all he could muster at first. Then, noticing that the suit was indeed a very high quality cut, he added, “You obviously have an excellent dress sense. May I possibly invite you to host an official event for me in the future? It’s likely that I will be uncovering or opening something quite soon and I should be very honoured by your presence.” “Of course,” said Ruud, grinning rakishly, “here is my card. Just give me a call and I’ll be there for you, Baron.” “What a nice man,” said Kieran as he watched Ruud dissolve back into the crowd, after the Baron had presented him with an entire box of marzipan fruits, “I do hope we’ll see him again, your evilness?” “Somehow, I have the feeling that we will, Kieran. You know how I have the ability to predict these things sometimes,” the Baron mused darkly. **** “Ah, good day, Baron van Bookshelf, I’m so glad you could make the appointment,” oozed Brouwer’s voice. The Baron and Kieran had been escorted regally into the bowels of the Parliament building in The Hague. There was a strange lingering whiff of stale eggs in the corridor, which had intensified as they were shown into the Interior Minister’s office. Meneer Brouwer was a short stout man with a brown smudge of a goatee beard and respectively spreading bald patch and waistline. He was dressed in a very poor three-piece suit. Kieran looked at the Baron dubiously. 122
“Het spijt me,” bowed the Baron, as politely as he could muster, “but I thought we were here to see Annelies Adelheid?” “Yes, it’s most unfortunate,” simpered Brouwer, his lip curled sneeringly as his thoughts cast back to his predecessor, “Ms Adelheid had only just come out of the maternity hospital and was taking her new daughter back home in Loenen when a homicidal, rabid stag on the village green brutally gored both her and her husband to death.” “How ghastly, a little girl orphaned so tragically,” exclaimed Kieran, aghast. Brouwer shrugged, “Well, as you Engels say, every cloud has a silver lining. The fearful locals slaughtered all the unfortunate animals soon after that. The Loenen Chinese restaurant has never had it so good.” The Baron felt physically repulsed by the man, a condition worsened by thought of stag chop suey and the sweet sickly smell which pervaded the office. “Would you care for a glass of advocaat, Meneer van Bookshelf?” “Yes, perhaps so,” he agreed, figuring that a shot of alcohol would be the best form of relief available. Kieran initially refused the offer but gratefully accepted a second, and then a third, once he had got the taste. “Your… ahem… vriend, has a taste for sweet sticky liquid,” Brouwer observed with a predatory lick of his lips. Do you enjoy his friendship… exclusively?” The Baron caught this unmistakable hint, together with the lust in the interior minister’s eyes. “That’s a matter for Kieran,” he replied coldly. 123
“Hmmm… an intelligent answer indeed, Baron.” Brouwer flashed a leering grin at the boy and contented himself, for the while, with some more advocaat-related word play. “Well,” he said at length, “enough recreation, you and I need to conduct some business Baron. Do you wish to send your fancy-boy away?” The Baron gritted his teeth. It took some considerable self-restraint for him not to use his evil powers to destroy Brouwer instantly, but he knew that he was not in a position of power, not yet at least. “Kieran is perfectly safe to remain,” he seethed. “Well, I’m not sure he’s perfectly safe, not with me around anyway,” chuckled Brouwer hideously, “but I take your point, Meneer. So, you’re looking to raise and rule the city of Ys, am I right?” The Baron nearly choked on his second advocaat in surprise. “I am well aware of your plans,” Brouwer continued smoothly, with a self-satisfied look on his face, “and what is more, I fully approve of them. As I see it, what you really require is to add some legitimacy to your quest.” The Baron nodded as Kieran helped himself to another advocaat. “But how do you know…?” “I have contacts, Baron, powerful… shall we say… underworld… contacts. It would not be appropriate for me to say more.” “My boyfriend’s got powerful contacts too,” drawled Kieran giddily, “You want to be careful, Brouwer, he’s gonna take over the world.” “Hush now, Kieran,” flashed the Baron, crossly.
Brouwer chuckled. “Out of the mouths of babes,” he said, leering bawdily at Kieran, “but seriously, Meneer van Bookshelf, it won’t be any particular difficulty arranging for archaeological permission, geographical survey rights, naval protection and government backing. Everyone who could possibly raise any form of objection has already found themselves involved in some strange form of tragic accident or another. Amazing how careless some people can be with sharp objects,” he mused, a diabolically smug expression spreading over his face. **** As Brouwer had requested, Baron van Bookshelf and Kieran arrived at Rotterdam harbour early the next morning. A large crowd had assembled and they broke into a frenzy when they saw their two heroes arrive. “It’s good to see you again,” said Brouwer, shaking the Barons hand but looking deliberately at Kieran. “I have a small gift for you.” He held his arms in the direction of a large ship, the Limp Tulip. “It is to assist you in your mission. I have taken the liberty of arranging for your luggage and that delightful piano to be carried aboard.” “It is magnificent!” said the Baron, “where did you get it?” “It was another tragic yet convenient accident. The captain of the ship was inspecting the deck when he was attacked by a flock of deranged seagulls. I understand that he fell overboard and was eaten by a shoal of hungry Sea Bream. Tragic.” “Are Sea Bream known to eat people, generally?” asked Kieran. 125
“Not especially. They were probably just suffering from a collective headache or something. They are very temperamental, you see?” They climbed aboard the ship and were hoping for a quick tour but Brouwer gave the command to set sail. The Baron gave a cheery wave to the crowds from the stern of the survey ship “Limp Tulip” as it pulled majestically away from the harbour, accompanied by an escort frigate and joined by a flotilla of small yachts and other assorted craft, packed with wellwishers. “Most affecting,” smiled Kieran. “I just love these people,” the Baron agreed, “It’s no good, Kieran dear, we may just have to emigrate.” “That’d be fine by me. Just as long as we didn’t have to deal with that Interior Minister. He makes me feel dirty every time he looks at me,” Kieran shivered and hugged himself protectively. “Sit down, love,” soothed the Baron, inviting Kieran to sit on his lap and then treating him to a soft warm hug, “He’s never going to hurt you, and I swear it. You take no notice of that Meneer Brouwer. If he goes anywhere near you, he’ll answer to me: and hell hath no fury like a jealous evil gay megalomaniac!” The Baron finished this little speech with an affectionate cackle. “Ahem, Meneer van Bookshelf?” came a small, embarrassed voice from behind him. The Baron whipped around to see what appeared to be a small delegation waiting patiently behind them. “It’s just what the sailors have always maintained,” whispered Kieran teasingly into the Baron’s ear,
“there’s just no privacy aboard a ship,” before he resumed his position, erect by his boyfriend’s side. “I’m sorry to erm… disturb,” sneered Minister Brouwer. He was accompanied by a few embarrassed-looking sailors and a stout, tough looking young woman in a starched naval uniform. “The Captain of our escort vessel had expressed a desire to meet you.” He gave a ‘Lord knows why’ look to Kieran, which Kieran himself thought highly disrespectful. The young woman stepped forward stiffly. She had a kindly face, but it was apparent that the circumstances surrounding the meeting were not to her liking. After a pregnant pause, Brouwer sniffed haughtily, realising that the group were all looking at him silently and that he was the cause of the general discomfort, and sloped away, ushering the rest of the assembled group before him. “Meneer van Bookshelf, I am Gerdi van de Tuin, captain of the Frigate ‘Eindhoven’” she began, with a friendly smile. “I am honoured to meet you and your vriend, Kieran, at last.” “The pleasure is all mine,” replied the Baron, shaking her hand in a friendly, yet business-like manner. He couldn’t help noticing that Captain van de Tuin had a crushing grip to her handshake. “I hope that you will be able to join us for the Ys raising ceremony this afternoon?” “Sadly no,” she answered, with a tone of genuine regret in her voice, “I must get back to the ship, but please feel free to call upon me at any time, should you ever find yourself in any difficulty.” She concluded this invitation with a saucy wink.
The Baron smiled widely. “I think we understand each other, Captain,” he chuckled, “Don’t be a stranger, now!” Gerdi turned on her heel in an impressively stiff and crisp naval manner and was gone. “Now,” resumed the Baron, gently to his love, “let’s see if we can actually find some privacy on this ship. We’ve got a few hours before the allotted time for the ceremony is due to take place and I’ve come over all available.” **** Hush descended on the Limp Tulip as the Baron, resplendent in his white tuxedo, which had been decorated with a fresh seaweed button-hole garnish for the occasion, mounted the specially constructed gantry. Kieran stood a few steps behind, a plastic carrier bag containing sacrificial objects by his side. Proudly, the Baron spoke to his crew from his elevated position. “Ladies and Gentlemen, in just a few short moments, you will all witness something truly remarkable, as I raise from the sea, the beautiful city of Ys!” The assembled crowd mumbled quietly among themselves, an air of appreciation and anticipation waving through them. The Baron’s mighty wheelchair spun around and moments later, both the Baron and Kieran were facing the waves. The Baron gazed skywards, silently prying that the plan would work. He took a deep breath and adjusted his lapel for the seventeenth time. “All hail to thee, spirit of Dahut,” he announced majestically, as he read from the ancient scroll. “We make our votive 128
offerings to thee in the surety of the resurrection of your blessed city. Ys, appear before us, we pray!” “Ys!” chanted the assembled sailors, archaeologists and assorted dignitaries, right on cue and per the Baron’s express instructions. Kieran handed him the gold sovereign, which he duly cast into the briny deep. The two men paused briefly, their eyes sharing a look of excitement as they realised that this was their moment, this was the beginning of a new dawn, the time for change was upon them. “Accept this gold as payment for those who dwell upon the land,” read the Baron. “And accept this egg as payment for those who dwell within the sky.” He threw both objects into the water and watched as the sea seemed to fizz and bubble around them before dragging them to the sea bed. He raised an eyebrow in suspicion, expecting something to go wrong. Yet nothing untoward happened. “The pearls now, Kieran,” he whispered. “Which ones?” “Sorry?” “Do you want the necklace or the ear-rings?” “Oh,” gulped the Baron, “I hadn’t really thought of that. We do only require one pearl, as an offering for all those who dwell in the sea.” “Couldn’t we just pull one off the necklace, Baron?” Van Bookshelf’s jaw fell open. “Philistine!” he sniffed, “you would destroy the entire arrangement.” “Well what are we going to do?” Kieran responded, exasperated. “We’ll just have to throw in an ear-ring. No,” he added, as an afterthought, “we’d better make that the 129
pair; it’d be a shame to break up the set.” Kieran gulped, nodded and handed them over nervously. “Accept these pearls as payment for those who dwell within the sea,” he continued, flinging the ear-rings into the waters, again the sea seemed to greedily accept the gift. “They were worth a fortune,” whispered Kieran, mortified. “Well, we didn’t exactly pay for them, did we?” hissed the Baron, “and speaking of paying for something, it’s time for the erm… ahem… undergarments.” Kieran blushed. “Did we finally decide on the black pair or the white pair?” “The white ones, I think,” said the Baron, “they’ll show up better against the sea.” Kieran handed them over, but noticed something as he did so. “What’s the stain?” “Best you don’t think about it, dear,” said the Baron quickly, whipping them off him and continuing in his dramatic voice. “Accept these… these…” his voice trailed off. “What’s wrong?” “I can’t say that! Not out loud in front of all these people!” came the outraged reply, “It’s rude!” “No, he couldn’t attend due to playing commitments, remember?” “Not Ruud van Nistelhoven,” said the Baron, wearily, “what I mean is that it’s too naughty to say this… erm…” he paused, and then announced, “Just accept these!” He threw the knickers into the sea, with an exquisite blush on his face. 130
“You are so sexy when you blush.” “Not now, dear,” the Baron winked. He turned back to the waves, once more adjusting his attire. “Finally, accept this grand piano as an offering to St Cecilia, patron saint of music and in humble recognition of your magnificent bells.” “Beg pardon?” “You’re such a tease,” whispered the Baron. Then, in his most grandiloquent voice, he commanded, “Release the piano!” Two sailors stepped up to the gantry and swung a winch, containing the baby grand from Elton John’s luxury yacht, into position. With the instrument dangling over the side, they pressed the hydraulic mechanism to lower the piano gracefully into the waves. Only nothing happened. Van Bookshelf looked at the sailors expectantly. “I’m sorry, Baron,” shouted one of the sailors, “The mechanism seems to be jammed, just give us a minute to free it.” Time passed. And passed some more. Several sailors were now clustered around the winch, some hammering, some thinking, some shaking their heads gloomily and some rehearsing a tap-dancing routine. The crowds on the deck of the Limp Tulip began to fidget and chatter and Kieran and the Baron were feeling increasingly exposed, stuck out like spare parts on the gantry. They stayed there for as long as common courtesy would allow, until finally they could take no more.
“I’m sorry,” shouted the Baron to the crowd, waving them away dismissively, “we’ll have to resume this later.” Amidst murmurs and grumbles, the decks began to clear. When he was sure that he was alone, Baron van Bookshelf tossed his seaweed buttonhole ungraciously to the floor, in a fit of pique. “Foiled again,” he yelled, “why is it that my evil plans never seem to work? It was all going so well!” “Would the ceremony have worked anyway, Baron?” asked Kieran, as tactfully as he could. He knew that this was not the right time, but the issue had to be raised. “What do you mean, Kieran?” “Well, you hadn’t arranged for a human sacrifice, had you? It says in the scroll that we need to sacrifice a human life.” “It’s not the easiest thing in the world finding someone who’s prepared to die for you,” the Baron answered gloomily, “especially the kind of selfcentred lascivious monster stipulated by the scroll.” “But that means that the plan will never succeed.” “I was prepared to take that risk,” said the Baron, grimly, clearly becoming irritated by Kieran’s repeated questioning of his megalomaniac credentials, “we might have been able to get away with missing one object, but two is quite unsupportable.” He glowered at the winch witheringly. It had been manoeuvred in such a way that the piano could not fall into the sea accidentally, but, by the look of consternation on the faces of the sailors toiling
around it, there seemed to be little chance of that happening. “Perhaps we should call it a day, Baron.” “Yes,” he conceded, rubbing the bridge of his nose, “You’re right of course, Kieran.” “You’re being too hard on yourself, sweet,” soothed Kieran, placing a comforting arm on his shoulder, “you can’t expect to take over the world every day.” “Sweet,” echoed the Baron, “that reminds me, I haven’t offered you a marzipan fruit in… oh… hours. Let’s take a break, Kieran. I’ll come back and see how things are going with the winch later.” Together they left the lonely gantry, hand in hand. **** A few hours after the initial shock had passed, the Baron returned to the main deck to inspect the object of his frustration. Clustered around the winch, three personable Dutch sailors still struggled gamely with the mechanism. “No luck, gentlemen?” The sailors shook their heads sadly and the Baron dismissed them with a polite regal wave. He examined the mechanism. There was a hydraulic cable, which ran behind a metal partition several yards away from the winch itself which he had decided to try and sever, but of course he could not be seen to be damaging Royal Dutch Naval equipment with an almost certainly illegal wheelchair device. Dismissing the sailors seemed the most expedient alternative under the circumstances, and he set about silently cutting through the cable with his wheelchair mounted laser cutter. After all, the decks were now deserted following the bungled ceremony. 133
For some minutes he considered the problem logically, until his thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of a loud, passionate argument. “I don’t know where you think you’re running away to?” said the Interior Minister sarcastically as he made good his pursuit, “you have no choice, Kieran. Consent to be mine.” The Baron stared wide-eyed from behind the partition. “Meneer Brouwer, you know very well that I’m neither available nor interested,” protested his boyfriend desperately, as he backed onto the railings. “You refer to that stupid Engels cripple?” chuckled Brouwer, “not only did he publicly deny his ownership of you to me, as you well know, but he’s a spent force, Kieran. You yourself can see that his grand megalomaniacal plans came to nothing. Damn it! Think of the future, boy! Think of what I can offer you!” He leered disgustingly at Kieran and, whilst the boy’s mind was addled, took the opportunity to slobber a grotesque lick to his cheek. Kieran shrank away in horror. “Allow me let you into a little secret, my flighty young bird,” boasted Brouwer, “I have just taken possession of a small advocaat plant. The unfortunate owner seems to have slipped on a carelessly discarded bar of soap on a gantry within his own manufacturing unit and drowned in a vat of his confection. So sad,” he chuckled, “so you see, Kieran, dearest… I can support you both financially and well… spiritually, if you’ll pardon the pun!” “But I don’t love you, Meneer Brouwer,” sobbed Kieran quietly.
“You romantic fool,” he drawled by way of answer, “I don’t expect you to love me, I expect you to serve me!” “You mean…?” Brouwer held up a large leather dog collar, embossed with Kieran’s name. “Submit,” he ordered commandingly as Kieran began to wail in growing desperation. During this, the Baron had been manically cutting through the hydraulics, the struts, in fact anything that could conceivably be holding the winch together, with his industrial wheelchair laser. He watched closely as Brouwer advanced upon his terrified boyfriend with the collar… step by step he closed in… the Baron squinted critically and severed the final strut. It was beautifully timed. One white baby grand piano plummeted upon the Interior Minister. He just had time to look up and stare death in the face before he was crushed to a pulp; the piano’s bleeding crescendo silencing one desperate piteous scream. Kieran ran sobbing into the Baron’s arms as he trundled out from behind the partition. “Shhh… shhh love it’s all over,” soothed the Baron, stroking Kieran’s back gently, “he’s never going to hurt my darling boyfriend ever again.” Kieran gradually settled, but before them both lay the wreckage and the dead body. The Baron gulped. Brouwer had deserved it, but this took nothing away from the guilt the Baron was feeling. He had never in his life intentionally killed another living thing in cold blood. Kieran could see this terrible guilt in his love’s eyes, but knew that nothing he could do or say 135
could assuage it. Without needing to say anything, they both started to sweep and then hose the gory remnants overboard. From behind the very partition that the Baron had spied from, K’vorim was now doing the same. He gave an approving chuckle of satisfaction and disappeared. Kieran and the Baron stared at the floating driftwood and rapidly dissipating slick of blood. The Baron sighed and Kieran put an arm around his doughty shoulder. Together, they watched their dreams fade and die on the becalmed waters… and yet before their very eyes, a surging tide formed and the seas began to bubble and hiss, bucking the ship violently. “There!” screamed Kieran, pointing into the middle distance, “Baron, do you see that?” The tip of a spire pierced the surface of the water. First one tower, then a second, slightly lower one and then the roof of a mighty cathedral. Sailors and spectators were now flooding the decks, whooping for joy as the entire majestic city began to emerge from its centuries-old slumber, the cathedral bells pealing a carillon of liberation. “We’ve done it!” cried the Baron to his love, planting a well-aimed kiss on his lips, “thanks to you, Kieran, and perhaps in some small way to the ill-fated piano and the late Meneer Brouwer, the City of Ys is ours!” The Baron gave out a celebratory fruity evil cackle. This time, even Kieran joined in.
nine Monkey had been dreaming of home, sitting at the dinner table and having his favourite breakfast of sausage, then being rocked to sleep in Zoltan's arms. He smiled contently at the peaceful moment, the first he had felt for days. His keen sense of smell soon made him aware that someone was cooking and he awoke with a start. Fred and Zoltan had been fishing and had caught a number of fine whiting. They had lit a small fire and were busily roasting their bounty for breakfast. “What do you have there?” asked Monkey, sleepily. “Fish!” replied Zoltan, “For breakfast too! What a delicious alternative to all those sausages! Fred and I have been very busy.” Abruptly, Monkey found himself wide awake. “What?” he shouted, “Fish? I hate fish. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! I presume you’ve also made me a sausage?”
“You need a little variety in your diet, Monkey. You are getting very irritable. Besides, they say fish is good for the brain, you might find it useful for when we meet the Red Man. I thought you might like fish for a change?” “Oh you did, did you?” snapped Monkey, “Well, think again, lardy-boy! I don’t do fish, ok? I only ever eat sausages. Always have, always will. Now kindly make me my sausage, I am starving!” Zoltan breathed in sharply, unable to hide his guilt. “Sorry, Monkey. I forgot to bring any sausages. We didn't really have much time for packing. I haven't even brought my knotted handkerchief.” “You… forgot my sausages?” seethed Monkey. “Yes, sorry. Do you want some fish instead?” “NO I DON’T WANT ANY FISH!” spat Monkey, “I want to go home right now!” “Arr, but see, there be a problem there,” interrupted Fred. “A problem, you say? What could be more of a problem than the lack of sausages? You surely have not grasped the gravity of this situation!” “Well, I don’t know where we be, so I don’t.” “Oh great,” muttered Monkey, “lost at sea with a bunch of buffoons!” “I thought they have red bums?” added Zoltan, “I thought you guys were just monkeys?” “Not baboons, simpleton.” “Anyway,” said Fred, “We don’t be lost. I just don’t know where we be.” Monkey’s eyes soared upwards. Suddenly, a thought crossed his mind. “Err, how have you been cooking the fish?” 138
“On the fire that we be building up at the pointy end, see.” “You have built a bonfire? In a wooden boat…” said Monkey, calmly. “Might I suggest that you extinguish the fire quickly before the WHOLE DAMN BOAT GOES UP IN FLAMES?” Slowly the two men realised what they had done and began pacing up and down the boat, frantically searching for something and wailing like banshees. “What on Earth are you up to now?” asked Monkey, nervously, “get the fire out!” “We’re trying!” replied Zoltan. “Arr, we do be looking for a bucket o’ water, see?” added Fred. “So, let me get this straight,” said Monkey, “the boat is about to go up in flames. We are in the middle of the ocean. And you are looking for a bucket of water? You guys are unbelievable!” With all the noise around him, Hearno woke up. He noticed the fire and quickly scooped tiny pawfuls of sea water to douse the flames. “Arr, ye shouldn’t have done that, see!” said Fred. “Why?” panted Hearno. “That be your fish cooking on there.” Fortunately for its passengers, the good ship Remora was only singed by the carelessly-placed bonfire. Hearno’s quick thinking had ensured that they would not come to a fiery end just yet. There were two main concerns at the moment; one was for Speakno, who was suffering quite badly with seasickness, the other was for a particularly nastylooking storm which would soon be upon them.
“I thinks we might need to drop anchor, see,” said Fred. “Weigh,” corrected Monkey. “Sorry?” “Weigh anchor,” said Monkey, “that is the correct term. For a sailing type, you really have no idea, do you?” Fred pondered this for a moment, before deciding that it weighed about a kilogram. “That anchor will not hold us in a storm,” added Monkey, “we are about to take a severe battering!” Zoltan did not feel comfortable with the term “severe battering.” He was beginning to think that rowing to France was probably not one of the better ideas in the world. Particularly as it was his turn to row. Monkey suggested that they tie themselves to each other and secure the end of the rope to the boat, in case anyone fell overboard. At least that way, they could stick together and hopefully keep each other out of trouble. Everyone agreed (except Speakno, who was still retching) and used the mooring rope to make their harness. Zoltan, excited by the adventure, smiled at Monkey. Monkey however looked very worried. In fact, the worry on Monkey’s face even outweighed the look of disgust that should have been there as the sock puppet realised that he was about to get very wet. As the crew sat down an braced themselves for the onslaught, Hearno cautiously pointed out that the boat would leak like a tea strainer unless they plugged the large hole in its side. Speakno suggested that they use Zoltan's behind, a suggestion that Zoltan was not too keen on.
Hearno tookit upon himself to use his tiny body as the plug. Of course, Hearno did not fit into the hole tightly enough to prevent the water coming through. “It might be better if there were two of us?” he suggested. Speakno, who was feeling a little better, reluctantly offered his assistance and climbed into the hole, making sure he stuck his face outwards in case he decided to vomit again. “It still isn’t tight enough!” said Hearno. “Monkey, you’ll have to help us!” “I’m sorry? You want me to get in there with the two of you? You seem to be deluded into believing that I actually want to spend time with you, when the truth of the matter is that I can't bear to be anywhere near either of you! Also, you appear to have overlooked the fact that my bottom would be exposed to the sea. The sea, as in water. You know, the wet stuff?” “Oh, Monkey! Don’t be so selfish!” said Zoltan, picking him up and stuffing him unceremoniously into the hole. Monkey was about to protest further when the first large wave rocked the boat violently. Zoltan would have fallen overboard, were it not for Fred grabbing his makeshift harness at the last moment. “It be upon us already!” announced Fred, as another wave hit the boat. “You don’t say!” moaned Monkey, as the rain began to lash down and waves were whipped up by strong winds. The Remora was thrown in every conceivable direction but, much to everyone’s surprise, it managed to hold itself together. Large pools of water 141
gathered on the floor, but Fred managed to constantly scoop the water out with his hands, despite the fact that he could not find a bucket to help him. Zoltan, on the other hand, struggled with the oars, trying his best to control the boat until a monstrous wave sent him falling backwards and he let them go. Before he could regain his balance, the oars drifted merrily away from the boat, immediately out of reach and would soon be out of sight. “Oh… bugger!” he said as he sat up and watched the oars make good their escape. He didn’t feel particularly comfortable with the look everyone was giving him. Silence fell over the friends in the boat as they watched the oars float further into the distance, until they disappeared under the great waves and beyond the horizon. Lost at sea in the middle of a violent storm, travelling by rowing boat that was likely to fall apart at any moment and without any control whatsoever, everyone sat still and looked at each other with fear in their eyes. “I’m cold,” Monkey sobbed. “So are the rest of us,” snapped Zoltan. “My bum is all wet!” “For goodness sake, Monkey! You’ll dry out eventually.” “I wish I had been dry-clean only. You’d all have more respect for me then!” **** After drifting aimlessly on the heavy seas for a couple of hours, the storm finally broke. The waves diminished until they were gently lapping against the
side of the boat once more. The good ship Remora and its passengers were still, incredibly, intact. When they were sure it was safe to do so, the three monkeys climbed out of the hole in the side of the boat, dripping with water. As Monkey was about to return to his seat, everyone burst out laughing. “What are you all laughing about?” he snapped. Then he noticed it. A small colourful fish was attached to his bottom. Monkey shrieked. “Get it off me!” he cried, running around the boat as if he had been set alight. “Oh, but it seems so attached to you!” laughed Zoltan. “I can see that!” snapped Monkey, “I hate fish, for goodness sake! It’s going to eat me, I just know it!” The fish, however had other ideas. Disgusted by the ignorance of its host, it simply let go of Monkey and jumped overboard, swimming away quickly. “Ugh!” squirmed Monkey, “I smell all fishy! If I had wanted to smell this way, I would have moved to Grimsby!” “Maybe the fish find you attractive, Monkey?” laughed Zoltan, “must be your aftershave?” Speakno looked worried. “I don’t like it,” he said, “that fish looked like the Lesser-Spotted AnkleBiter.” Monkey smirked. “Yes, of course it did, dear brother.” “Go on, I’ll play along,” said Zoltan, “What is a Lesser-Spotted Ankle-Biter?” “It’s a fish that, in biblical times, was said to swim alongside Lev…”
Suddenly, Fred stood up. “Arr, there be France!” he called, pointing towards the horizon. Everyone got to their feet. Sure enough, land was directly ahead of them. “Quick, everyone! Start paddling!” called Zoltan, “we're almost there!” “I can't believe it! We’re going to live!” laughed Speakno, his seasickness now a distant memory. “It’s a bit warm though, don’t you think?” asked Hearno. “After that storm, it would be,” replied Monkey, “everyone knows that storms are caused by warm fronts.” “Eh?” “I said… oh, never mind!” “Warm and land in sight! We’re going to live!” repeated Speakno, as they were only half a mile or so from the shore. “Land! A beach! The chance to sunbathe!” laughed Zoltan. “Looks like the South of France,” said Monkey, “we are a little of course, but here at last!” Fred, however, was not joining in the celebrations. He was staring out towards the horizon behind them. “Arr, I be worried about that, see!” In the distance, a strange object appeared to be cutting through the water and heading towards them at frightening speeds. “What is that?” asked Zoltan. Monkeys face dropped. “Paddle!” he yelled, “paddle for all ye are worth!” Fred sulked. That was his line. “Why?” asked Zoltan, “what is that thing?” 144
“That there be Leviathan!” said Fred, beginning to paddle frantically, “he be looking for his dinner.” “We’re going to die!” wailed Speakno, “it’s your damn aftershave again, Monkey! I knew that was a Lesser-Spotted Ankle-Biter, but as usual, you didn’t listen!” Everyone paddled for all they were worth. The beach was getting closer with each stroke, but then so was Leviathan. Zoltan sneaked a glance behind to see the huge, fearsome fish that was closing in on them. It looked like a giant eel, at least fifty feet in length, with huge razor sharp teeth and its jaws could open wide enough to almost fit the entire Remora into its mouth. Its skin shone a bright silver colour and indeed gave the illusion that its scales were made of chainmail. Out of all the fearsome biblical sea creatures he had encountered, this was the most fearesomest. “He be almost upon us!” shouted Fred. Zoltan cringed, awaiting the impact, watching, holding his breath. However, Leviathan dived beneath the surface of the ocean within touching distance of the Remora and disappeared. A few minutes later, the sea was once again calm. The people within the boat allowed themselves a breath of relief, paddling at a much slower pace. All except Monkey. “I don’t like it,” he moaned, “it is too quiet. Any moment now, Leviathan will resurface and swallow us all. I just know it.” Zoltan gave him a friendly smile. “I’ve seen films like that. They make you think everything is ok, then shock you with a surprise attack. But I think that time has passed. Nobody in their right mind would leave 145
such a long gap between the suspense and the screamer. It just wouldn’t work.” They were within a hundred yards from the shore when the great beast inevitably resurfaced beneath the boat, smashing hard into the hull, casting the passengers and the rotting wood of Remora high into the air. Fred let out a girly squeal. The blow sent them hurtling towards the beach and everyone landed heavily on the golden sands several feet from the water’s edge. The Remora splintered into thousands of tiny pieces as it hit the ground. Leviathan looked disappointed as it seemed he was not going to have his meal just yet and turned away, disappearing beneath the surface, cursing itself in fishy language about how it should not have left such a long time between the suspense and the screamer. On the beach, everyone sat up, miraculously unhurt, although Zoltan was a little out of breath from the paddling. “I doubt we will be using the Remora for the return journey,” sighed Hearno, looking at the millions of pieces of shattered wood that surrounded them. “At least we are safe,” he laughed. His laughter came to an abrupt stop as he realised that the group were surrounded by dozens of tribal warriors, bones through their noses, wearing sharktooth necklaces and grass skirts, all shaking spears at them menacingly. “I told you this was a bad idea,” scowled Speakno. **** The five intrepid heroes were tied to and suspended from long poles before being carried through a dense jungle on the shoulders of the tribesmen. 146
“This is most undignified,” protested Monkey, “I demand to see the British ambassador immediately!” “I don’t think they understand,” said Zoltan. “If only we knew where we were!” sighed Monkey, “then we would be able to use our considerable multilingual expertise to communicate with these primitives, these savages who have toiled the land with stones, who may never have seen civilisation before, whose very survival depends on the ancient farming techniques handed down through generations of tribal leaders for many centuries. These people will be blissfully unaware of the technological advances of the outside world and many never heard of text messaging or the internet and will never have had the pleasure of a trip to McDonalds or Starbucks. Savages who…” “Oh, do shut up!” snapped one of the warriors, “I am tired of hearing your monotonous voice reverberating in my head!” “I say, Tarquin old chap,” said another, “that was frightfully rude of you!” “I agree, Ffarquar. Tarquin, you must treat our guests with a little more respect!” added a third, Marcus. “Excuse me!” shouted Monkey, a little taken aback by their use of the English language, “do you call this treating us with respect?” “Oh, he is all high and mighty all of a sudden, isn't he?” quipped Tarquin. “You may like to remember,” added Ffarquar, “that you are the ones that turned up here uninvited. This is a sacred place, not for the likes of people like you to abuse.”
“Indeed,” added Marcus, “and I suppose you will expect us to provide you with free food and accommodation? It simply won't do.” “Not to mention free transportation,” added Tarquin, “some people take such liberties. Frankly, I find it rather insulting.” “Besides,” continued Marcus, “what is all this ‘primitive’ nonsense? You don’t think we know what a wheel looks like? We’ve seen pictures of them in the magazines that Oeuf has.” As soon as he said the word Oeuf, the tribesmen dropped their captives heavily, fell to their knees and bowed ceremoniously. The captives moaned in pain. “My apologies for taking the name of the Great One in vain. I do hope he will not torture me again. I find it frightfully disturbing.” He looked at his fellow tribesmen for support. The others muttered that they would not speak of Marcus’s outburst in order to save him from the terrible punishment. Silently, they picked up their poles of moaning strangers and continued on their journey through the jungle. “Would you mind telling us where you are taking us?” asked Zoltan, politely. “To see the Great One. He is all wise and all powerful. Only he can decide your fate,” said Ffarquar. “Actually,” corrected Tarquin, “strictly speaking that is not entirely true. Anyone can decide their own fate. We are all capable of making informed decisions. Cogito ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. We do possess a little intelligence, after all.” “You are so correct!” added Marcus, “although the Great One would be slightly annoyed with us, were 148
we to do anything without his permission.” The group of tribesmen nodded in agreement. “So,” said Speakno, believing he could outwit his captors, “I presume the Great One gave you all permission to nod just then?” “Well… err… not exactly,” said Tarquin. “And what about speaking? Did he say you could speak? Or that you could answer my questions?” “Not directly,” said Tarquin, staring at his feet. “Did you get permission to breathe?” laughed Speakno, “you all look like you are breathing quite freely to me.” “Please don’t tell him!” begged Ffarquar sarcastically, “he will surely torture us!” Speakno sniggered. “Also,” added Ffarquar, “please do not think of blackmailing us, as I may find it necessary to disembowel you with my sharp spear, you nasty little monkey!” Speakno thought that it was probably a good idea if he remained silent for the remainder of the journey. After what seemed like an age, they were carried into a clearing and dumped unceremoniously onto the ground once again. “Oh great,” muttered Monkey, “now I am covered in mud and lion excrement!” “On the contrary!” said Tarquin, “this is not lion excrement. We don’t allow any wild animals in here. What do you think we are? Savages?” “Absolutely!” added Ffarquar, “this is our communal lavatory. It would be most uncivilised to allow wild animals in here.” The group of tribesmen dispersed,
laughing to themselves. None of their captives appeared to realise that they were being mocked. After a while, Zoltan found the courage to speak. “Where are we?” he asked. “At a guess,” said Monkey, “I would say that we are on the ground in a clearing in the middle of the jungle somewhere.” “So not France then?” “Somehow, I seriously doubt that this is France,” answered Speakno. “I wonder where they all went?” mused Hearno. “Probably for a nice cup of tea and chocolate biscuit,” said Monkey sarcastically, “perhaps they are even baking us a lovely sponge cake?” “More likely that they are lighting fires under big pots and are getting ready to have us for supper,” said Speakno, darkly. “I told you this was a bad idea!” Monkey was about to moan about Speakno always being right when the savages returned and continued to carry their captives through the jungle. “Sorry about that,” said Tarquin, “Tea break. We had a nice cup of tea andsome chocolate biscuits. We were just baking a nice lemon drizzle cake too.” Speakno sneered at his brother. “See, it was a lemon drizzle cake. You are not always correct after all!” “I do hope you were not in too much discomfort?” asked Marcus, “the Great One would be most distressed if you were upset in any way.” “Upset?” screamed Monkey, “UPSET? You didn’t even offer us any tea!” “How much further is it?” asked Zoltan, trying to deflect the conversation. “Further? Why, we are here already,” said Ffarquar. 150
“I demand that you let us go this very instant!” snapped Monkey, steam practically escaping from his ears, “Take us to see this Great One immediately!” “Ok, keep your fur on!” taunted Marcus, “no need for that attitude!” Once more, the captives were dropped heavily, although the natives made sure they dropped Monkey into a particularly muddy patch on the ground. As they were untied, each got to their feet, nursing their painful wrists and ankles. Zoltan noticed an old car with blacked-out windows, parked between some trees. Monkey jumped up onto his shoulder. Hearno and Speakno climbed onto Fred's. The car doors opened slowly and two huge men stepped out, dressed in sharp black suits and dark sunglasses. They looked, for all they were worth, like members of the Mafia. One of the men held open a door and out stepped a tiny figure in a pinstriped suit, carrying a metal-tipped cane. The tribesmen dropped to their knees in worship. “All hail the mighty Oeuf, Ruler of the Kingdom of Matawonga and pretty decent bloke really,” they chanted. “Kingdom of what?” Zoltan whispered. Hearno shrugged. “How should I know? I’m deaf, remember!” Oeuf raised his hand, signalling the tribesmen to get to their feet, which they did and quickly blended into the foliage as they retreated to the heart of the jungle. Suddenly, Zoltan recognised Oeuf. Monkey, in a psychic moment, also recognised him. More to the point, Oeuf recognised them both.
“Well, well!” said Oeuf, a sock puppet with fried egg shaped eyes, “If it isn't the miserable excuse of a man, Zoltan the Magnificent and his faithful sidekick, Monkey! I see you have brought some friends?” “You know this guy?” asked Speakno. “Worse luck!” said Zoltan, “Anna bought him for me, ages ago. This is Egg. He and I never got on. We argued constantly.” “No we didn’t!” argued Oeuf. “Yes, Egg. We did.” “We did not!” “Oh, alright! If you say so!” snapped Zoltan, “anyway, I sent Egg back to the shop.” “No you didn’t!” “YES I FLIPPIN’ DID!” screamed Zoltan. Everyone fell silent for a moment. Oeuf stamped his foot in temper and reached inside the car, pulling out a violin case in true Mafia style. “Don’t make me use this!” threatened Oeuf, “it would give me great pleasure to teach you all a lesson, especially after such a long time. Who says that eggs don’t bear grudges?” “Err, I don’t be thinking anyone has ever said that near me, see?” added Fred. “What do you want with us?” asked Zoltan. “Why, to kill you all, of course!” said Oeuf, matterof-factly. “You have all entered Matawonga without invitation. The penalty is death!” “And how long has this been a rule?” asked Monkey, unimpressed. “Ever since I arrived here, after escaping from the shop that you abandoned me to. And there have been no exceptions either.” 152
“Arr, it be a bit harsh, don’t it? How many have there been before us?” “Well, actually… you are the first. But a precedent needs to be set here. I have to prove to the Matawongans that I am true to my word. It will be made all the more sweet by the fact that my first victims are the very man who abandoned me so many years ago and the puppet that blackened his mind against me!” “Egg, it wasn’t like that!” pleaded Zoltan. “STOP CALLING ME THAT!” shouted Oeuf, “Egg is no more. My name is Oeuf now!” “Jeeze, you’re a bit fragile!” said Monkey, “it’s like walking on eggshells, talking to you!” “What did you say?” growled Oeuf, who had always hated people making reference to the fact that he was an egg sock puppet. “Sorry,” said Monkey, I was only ‘yolking’! Please don’t ‘beat’ me!” “Monkey, stop it!” hissed Zoltan. Oeuf was fuming. “I mean, it’s not as if we are ‘poachers’ or anything…” “Right! That’s it!” snapped Oeuf, almost hysterical. “Gentlemen, prepare the cooking pots. We’re having monkey for dinner.” Immediately, Tarquin, Ffarquar and Marcus appeared, carrying large cooking pots. “This doesn’t look good,” wailed Speakno. **** The tribe busily prepared the pots for a large stew, bringing onions, turnips, potatoes, leeks, licking their lips with every added ingredient and as they walked past the prisoners. Monkey and his friends had been
tied to trees and Oeuf walked slowly among them, chuckling fiendishly to himself. Monkey decided that he ought to try and negotiate with Oeuf. “You and I go back a long way, Oeuf. Are you not going to tell us what you plan to do, so that we can plan our escape and thwart your evil scheme? You at least owe me that,” he asked, “after all, you are an evil 'egg'-lomaniac?” “Indeed, it would be most inconsiderate of me not to do so,” mused Oeuf, rubbing his chin, “My plan is simple. I intend to hypnotise the population of France into becoming my servants and order them to declare war on the rest of the world! When we have succeeded, I will be in the ideal position to own the entire world and everything therein.” “An interesting plan, and one worthy of someone such as you to have dreamed up,” pondered Monkey, “and how do you propose to 'egg'-secute such a fiendish scheme? It sounds rather far-fetched. The French don’t tend to be the most aggressive of nations, and I doubt that they would take orders from you without good cause to do so.” Oeuf laughed and produced a frog from behind his back. “I will be using these little beauties!” he said. “Frogs?” laughed Monkey, “why frogs? Are you going to attach small explosive devices to them and deliver them to the household of every world leader, thereby assassinating them and plunging the world into chaos, without leadership, before you step up and take command of the situation?” “Not quite. You see, the oil found in the skin of a Matawongan Tree Frog has mind-altering chemicals in abundance when cooked. The French will consume 154
millions of my cut price frogs’ legs and their minds will be completely under my control! It will then be a matter of giving the instructions and my men will lead the French into battle. The country of Matawonga is so little known that nobody will be prepared for our invasion.” “Ingenious!” said Monkey, “and I suppose you have shipments of these frogs going to France daily?” “Oh yes, I have built quite a trade. One particular establishment in France has a regular order of five crates per day. My empire is expanding rapidly and I expect that I will be in position to move to phase two of my plan in a little under two months” “And when is the next shipment of your frogs due to leave for France?” Oeuf looked at his tiny watch. “In an hour or so. Why do you ask?” “Just wondered. No reason. I certainly wasn’t planning in escaping from here while hiding in a crateful of frogs.” smiled Monkey. “Where are all the frogs now?” “In several large crates, just beyond those trees. We’ve built a little airfield there; the plane should arrive any time now, really. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some errands to run.” As Oeuf toddled off into the distance, Zoltan smiled at Monkey. “Don’t tell me… you hypnotised him to tell you all that?” “Too right!” snapped Monkey, “none of you lot were offering any assistance, as usual. Seems I have to do everything on my own.” “So what is the plan?” asked Zoltan.
“Simple. We climb into the boxes and get delivered to France. That way, we get out of here and get to our initial destination in one go!” “Brilliant!” said Speakno, “except of course that we are tied to a tree, in case you hadn't noticed?” “Yes,” said Monkey, “I am well aware of that. I will hypnotise somebody into letting us go.” Just then, Tarquin walked past, arms full of various herbs for the cooking pots. “I say, Tarquin old chap, you wouldn’t be so kind as to untie my friends and I, would you?” Tarquin walked over to him. “What a ludicrously silly idea that is!” “But you really want to release us, don’t you?” asked Monkey in his best hypnotists voice. “Not in the slightest!” “Please?” begged Monkey, “I really need a wee!” Tarquin sighed. “Ok, I’ll untie you but I feel I must warn you. Any monkey business and there will be serious trouble! I am trained in the ancient art of Ikea, I must tell you.” “There won't be any trouble,” smiled Monkey. “I promise.” Reluctantly, Tarquin untied Monkey and led him to a clearing where three portable toilets stood. The first had a silhouette of a man with a bone through his nose. The second had a woman with a bone through her nose and the third, a much smaller one, had a silhouette of a sock puppet. Monkey dashed into the hut as quickly as possible. Tarquin stood outside, tapping his foot impatiently.
Several minutes passed and Tarquin was beginning to get very annoyed. “What on Earth are you doing in there?” he shouted. “Sorry, I’ll be out in a moment! I’m having trouble with my zip,” called Monkey, who was actually frantically dismantling the plumbing system, muttering to himself about how slimy the pipes were and how annoyed he was with everyone for getting him into this mess in the first place. “You have been in there far too long. I’m coming in to get you!” called Tarquin. “No!” shrieked Monkey, “I’ll be one more minute, I promise!” The pipe he was pulling at finally gave way as Tarquin lost patience and began pounding on the tiny door of the hut. Monkey jumped up onto the toilet seat and raised the pipe high above his head. If Tarquin dared come in, Monkey was ready to clobber him over the head with the pipe and make good his escape. Sure enough, Tarquin broke down the door. He shoved his head inside, crawling on his hands and knees to be able to see into the tiny room. Monkey jumped high into the air and brought the pipe down as hard as he could onto the tribesman’s head. “Take that, you fiend” he yelled. “Oww!” cried Tarquin, very much still conscious. Monkey hit him again. “That really hurts! Stop it!” demanded Tarquin. Monkey hit him again and again. “Look,” said Tarquin, feeling the bump that had developed on the back of his head, “if you want to knock someone unconscious, at least do it right! Hit me here,” he said, pointing to the back of his neck.
Monkey obliged, and Tarquin was quickly in the land of the fairies. Monkey ran back to his friends. His plan was to untie Zoltan first, then let Zoltan untie everyone else while he supervised. Unfortunately, Monkeys little woolly paws were practically useless for intricate work and he was unable to release the knot. “Curse you, lack of opposable thumbs! Zoltan, it’s no good!” he called, “you’ll have to use your magic!” “I can't!” pleaded Zoltan, “I promised Anna that Zoltan was gone for good!” “But there is no other way! We don’t have much time!” Zoltan thought for a few moments, wrestling with his conscience before finally succumbing to Monkey’s persuasiveness. “Ok, what should I do?” he asked. “Try and conjure up some scissors or a knife. Anything.” Zoltan closed his eyes. “Anna is going to kill me for this!” he muttered, before saying the magic words. A brief flash of light and a small cloud of smoke appeared and hey presto! A tub of butter. “Not quite what I had in mind, but useful all the same!” said Monkey, smearing butter all over Zoltan's wrists, enabling him to slide his hands out of the rope and free himself. “Oh bugger!” tutted Monkey, “now my hands are all greasy!” “No time for that!” urged Zoltan, untying the rest of the group. 158
In the distance, Monkey could hear an aircraft approaching. “Quick!” he said, “Everyone, let’s find these crates and hide inside them! We’ll hitch a ride to France!” Sneaking past some of the tribesmen that were busily boiling up the cooking pots, they cut through the trees to find the makeshift airfield. The day’s supply of frogs were packed in crates and lined up beside the runway, guarded by the two men in sharp suits and sunglasses. Oeuf was ordering them about. “How do we get in there?” asked Zoltan. “Watch this,” whispered Hearno, “I’ve been practising this, in case I ever needed it!” He pointed to some trees across the other side of the airfield and magically projected the image of a beautiful woman, scantily clad in a bikini. Within seconds, the two men noticed her and set off to investigate, leaving Oeuf to keep guard on his own. “Impressive,” said Zoltan, “how did you do that?” Hearno shrugged. “Each of us monkeys have special mind powers, I thought you knew that? Monkey can hypnotise, I can project images. Speakno can… actually, I’m not sure what he can do. No doubt it will be better than everyone else’s power.” Speakno sniffed haughtily. With the two bodyguards out of the way, Monkey and his friends advanced on the crates and began climbing in. Oeuf heard them and spun around. He was about to call the bodyguards back but Monkey whispered softly to him. “It’s ok, Oeuf. We are not here. You haven't seen us!”
“I know I haven't. You are still tied to the trees, aren't you?” “Yes, that’s right. We are not in these crates at all.” “Ok,” said Oeuf, “I’ll be over to check on you all in a moment. I just need to finish here.” Monkey ducked inside the crate with his brothers and closed the lid. As he was engulfed by the darkness he realised something - he was sharing a packing crate with his brothers and hundreds of slimy frogs. He stifled a scream, which was especially difficult as the frogs were now crawling all over his face. Outside, he could hear the plane landing. Worryingly, he could also hear Tarquin's voice. “Oh Great One, forgive me. The prisoners have escaped.” “Don’t be silly, Tarquin. Go and prepare dinner, as I have asked!” “But sire, I believe they are around here somewhere. They cannot be far away and I fear that they may escape the country and inform the leaders of the free world of your plans. They are probably formulating a plan to board the plane as their boat is of no use any more. Perhaps they will hide in the crates and be transported to France?” “Tarquin, they are not here. I would have seen them. And they are definitely not in these crates. Tarquin looked at him suspiciously. “Do not question me,” Oeuf growled, removing a violin from the violin case, “or I may be forced to teach you a lesson!” Tarquin hated his violin lessons. He always wanted to be the drummer in a band, but Oeuf wouldn't let him. “No, it is fine, sire,” he said, bowing politely, 160
watching helplessly as the crates were loaded onto the plane, manhandled by a group of hapless German smugglers. As soon as the plane left the ground, Oeuf snapped out of his hypnotic trance. “Right, let’s have dinner!” he said, “how are the prisoners?” “But sire, they have escaped!” whined Tarquin. “What? Why am I not told these things?” “I don’t know, sire. I will find out who is responsible and see that they are severely reprimanded.” “See that you do,” said Oeuf, “I hope Monkey enjoys his freedom, because I will find him. I’ll hunt him down to the ends of the Earth. And when I do…” “You’ll let him go again, sire?” **** While the couriers were not particularly gentle with their cargo of frogs, they were also blissfully unaware that they had five uninvited guests on board. Each of their stowaway passengers had quickly concluded that they hated frogs, particularly the Matawongan Tree variety. During the undignified journey from Matawonga to France, Zoltan had decided that, despite his wife’s reservations, he would once again assume his role as Zoltan the Magnificent, defender of all that is good and right, destroyer of all that is evil, except perhaps bank managers. Secretly, he had been wearing his lycra Zoltan outfit under his ‘civilian’ clothes and whilst inside the packing crate he had removed his outer clothing to reveal the outfit, complete with magnificent golden cape and spray painted red wellington boots. 161
Inside his crate, he had considered the whole thing extremely funny. He had never been involved in one of Monkeys bizarre adventures before and as such, being in the thick of the action was a new concept and something he was not used to. He was beginning to think, however, that when this whole adventure was over he would settle down with Anna and give up his life as a superhero's sidekick. He thought he might retire in Towndale, or maybe even France. He thought that would be a nice place to retire, spend the rest of his rather unusual life there. Fred didnâ€™t actually mind travelling with the frogs at first, as they were quite happy to listen to his stories about being chained up in cellars by deranged evil librarians and encounters with giant sea creatures off the coast of Matawonga. The frogs were not very good at making conversation however, and Fred found it rather annoying that they insisted on croaking while he was speaking, particularly at the exciting parts when he had worked so hard to build up the dramatic tension. Consequently, Fred decided that he no longer wished to speak to such unintelligent creatures; this was ironic, as it could have been argued that some of the frogs were actually more intelligent than he was. The three monkeys were all seething about having to travel with the slimy amphibians. Monkey himself was physically repulsed by them, especially as they were making his fur slimy. Hearno and Speakno were of course, arguing all the way throughout the journey. This particular argument, which was conducted through angry whispers, was over which of them had released an overpowering fart within minutes of take162
off. Hearno’s keen sense of smell alerted him almost immediately to the unwelcome aroma. While the two monkeys argued amongst themselves, they had not realised that one of the frog traffickers was sitting on their packing crate; or that it was actually he who had farted in the first place. The man, a thick-set blonde German, thought he could hear voices coming from within the crate. He listened intently as he tried to make out the faint whispers. He picked up a crowbar, convinced that someone was inside the crate. He slowly began to open the lid to peep inside. Immediately as a chink of light fell over the inside of the crate, the monkeys fell silent. “Shtop!” came a voice from behind the man, “vot are you doing?” The first smuggler turned around. “Forgive me, Herr Follicle. I vos schure I heard ze voices inside ze crate!” “Don’t be schtupid, dumköpf! Zer are only ze frogs in ze crate. Everyone knows zat ze frogs in ze crate vill be hypnotising you. Do you vont zis plane to be crawling viz ze frogs zat vill hypnotise all of us? I don’t zink so.” “Nein, Herr Follicle,” said the first man, hanging his head. “I don’t like ze frogs.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t zink I vont to be part of zis illegal schmuggling any more. I just vant ze qviet life, you know?” Herr Follicle raised his left eyebrow and stared at the first man suspiciously. “Zis is most unfortunate, Herr Köller,” he said at length, as he drew a pistol from the inside pocket of his jacket, “Zis means I vill hef to schoot you.” 163
A third member of the gang appeared and began waving his arms in panic. “Herr Follicle, if you ver to shoot Herr Köller, ze plane vill lose ze pressure und ve vill crash into ze ground, ve vill all die.” Follicle thought about this for a moment. “Ja, danke for that, Herr Schpray, I had not thought about zis. Ze conseqvences of mein actions vould have killed us all. How foolish zat vould have been.” He calmly put the gun away again. Herr Köller breathed a sigh of relief and stood up; making sure the crate he had been sitting on was still tightly shut. Inside the crate, the monkeys allowed themselves to relax. Monkey stared at his brothers, livid that they had almost resulted in the team being discovered, or worse, that they could have caused the couriers to fight and ultimately cause the plane to crash. Hearno and Speakno mouthed their apologies, before turning their backs on each other and folding their arms in a childish display. “Herr Follicle,” called the pilot, “I zink ve might have a problem up in ze cockpit.” “Vot is ze matter, Herr Dresser?” “Zer appears to be a nasty schtorm in our path. I zink ve should fly over ze schtorm because ze plane is not very schtrong and might not be able to hold together.” “I zink zis is ein gut idea, Herr Dresser.” said Follicle, as he and the other couriers sat in their seats and strapped themselves in for what was undoubtedly going to be a bumpy ride. Moments later, they found themselves flying through the storm, turbulence shaking the craft violently, making the crew and the stowaways feel very ill 164
indeed. Dresser fought with the controls as he tried to coax the aircraft to gain enough altitude to fly above the storm. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck one of the wings, setting it alight. The smugglers looked out at the wing and the colour began to drain from their cheeks as the plane dropped a few thousand feet. “Zis is not gut,” shouted Follicle, “ve hef to put ze fire on ze ving out.” He turned to Köller. “Herr Köller, you vill hef to go out on ze ving vis a bucket of vater and put ze fire out.” “Vy me?” asked Köller, defensively. “Because you are ze schmallest and ze lightest of ze group. Besides, ze rest of us are schcared of heights.” “Zis is not fair,” protested Köller, “I alvays get ze schitty jobs.” As commanded, he took a bucket of water and opened the door, half expecting everyone to be sucked out, but the plane was now flying slowly and at a low enough altitude for the difference in pressure not to affect the plane too much. Carefully, he crawled along the wing, clinging tightly to it, pushing the bucket of water along with his nose. Unfortunately, as he was about to douse the flames, a gust of wind blew the bucket over, sending it plummeting towards the ground, despite the frantic grabbings that Köller made for it. He watched as the bucket made quick its escape, then looked back toward the door, where his fellow schmugglers were watching. “Zis is again not gut,” said Follicle, “Ze vind has blown ze bucket off ze ving.” The other men groaned nervously. 165
Köller had an idea. He decided that the best way to put the fire out would be to beat it with his jacket. Carefully he removed it, being careful not to lose his balance, as he would likely fall quite a long way towards the ground were he to do so. He tentatively began beating the flames. “No, it is not so bad now, Köller has removed his jacket und is beating ze flames.” The men cheered. “Nein, it is again not good. Herr Köller’s jacket has set alight und ze fire is in danger of schpreading along ze ving.” The men groaned again. Follicle squinted as he stared out of the doorway. “Ja, Herr Köller has put out ze fire in his jacket und ze vind has blown ze fire out. But ve are having another problem.” “Vot is it, Herr Follicle?” asked Schpray, starting to tire of this whole bizarre episode vishing he hadn’t joined zis schtupid, seemingly pointless chapter of ze schtory. “Ze engine has fallen off,” replied Follicle, “Ve only hef one engine.” “I zink I can land viz one engine,” said Dresser, “but ve vill need to find a gut place to land now.” “Vot about ze fields just ahead?” suggested Follicle. “Zis is ein gut idea,” said Dresser, “but ve must get Köller back in ze plane.” Herr Follicle leaned out of the open window. “Herr Köller,” he yelled, “come back in ze plane. Ve are going to land.” Köller gave the thumbs up and began walking along the wing, back towards the door. “I zink maybe I vill not schoot Herr Köller after all,” said Follicle. 166
“Ja, Herr Follicle, he is very useful sometimes,” said Schpray, “especially if ve need to appear in another chapter of zis schtory, or maybe even ze sequel?” “Maybe I vill make him ze capitan,” Follicle added, thoughtfully. Unfortunately, that was never going to happen. As the plane descended through the storm it was suddenly the victim of some particularly heavy air turbulence. The plane shook violently, lurched to one side and Köller fell off, plummeting towards the ground. As the unluckiest man in the world tumbled over and over, his body was lit up by a huge bolt of lightning which singed him almost beyond recognition. His neatly combed hair had changed from the golden blonde he had woken up with to charcoal black, complete with wisps of smoke. Briefly, he even glowed in the gloom from the powerful lightning strike. Even then, his troubles were not over, as his descent sent him on a collision course with a passing jumbo jet, which had taken the more sensible decision to fly under the storm. Herr Köller landed heavily on the cabin roof, his hands slipping as they grasped for any kind of hold, but it was no use. Agonisingly, he slid off the side of the plane and fell again, hitting some electric cables for good measure before crashing to the ground. “Zis is most unfortunate,” said Follicle, “Herr Köller has fallen off ze ving and has landed on ze ground. He has made ein very big schplat.” The remaining crew looked at each other in silence before Schpray finally spoke up. “Can I hef his
lunch? I am schtarving and he vill not be needing it now.” “Ja,” said Follicle, “you may hef his lunch. I vill hef his appearance fee, I don’t zink he vill need to be paid any more.” Schpray thought for a moment. “Of course, Herr Follicle, zat vas not really Herr Köller, but a schtunt man.” “You had better sit down, everyone,” interrupted Dresser, “ve are coming in to land.” Follicle and Schpray fastened themselves in, put their heads between their knees and began praying, as Dresser brought the plane in to land, not particularly gracefully, but safely all the same. “Ve have landed,” said Dresser, “You can schtop praying now.” **** The crates were delivered through the back entrance of what appeared to be a classy restaurant. The couriers were as careful as ever with their handling, dropping the crate containing the monkeys a total of three times. “Good evening,” said Schpray, “I have ze delivery of ze Matawongan tree frogs for you. Please sign ze delivery documents.” The chef sighed deeply and reluctantly signed the form, watching as the frog trafficker left hurriedly. “Oh no,” said the French chef, “eet ees more of those ‘orrible frogs. Ah cannot serve les frogs to our customers. They are far too tough and do not taste nice.” “Oui, Monsieur. Ah sink les frogs should be trown away,” replied a second chef. 168
“Ees disgraceful zat Oeuf, ee keep sending les rubbish frogs to me.” With that, the crates opened and out stepped the six stowaways. “What ees thees?” asked the chef, clasping his cheeks dramatically, “Les peoples instead of les frogs? Ah deed not order les peoples!” “Excuse us,” said Zoltan, “I think we are a little lost! And please, let go of your bum, you look silly!” “Ah should theenk you are lost, monsieur. Zees ees my kitchen. Ah do not allow les peoples in ‘ere, especially les people dressed like you.” “We were just leaving!” smiled Zoltan, attempting to usher everyone through a nearby door. “Wait!” called the chef, “are they les monkeys? Zey are very much a delicacy ‘ere in France. Ah will scoop out les monkey brains and serve them with ma world famous sorbet. Ow much would you want for les monkeys?” “We are quite definitely not for sale!” snapped Monkey, “now, if you’ll excuse us…” “Zut alors! Eet ees a talking monkey! C’est magnifique! Do ze other monkeys talk as well?” “Eh?” said Hearno. Speakno crossed his arms in a show of contempt. Zoltan picked up a pastry and examined it. “What is this?” he asked, taking a bite. “Ees a speciality of mine, ees made from leper excrement.” “Eww!” said Sam, dropping the pastry back on the tray, “Leopard poo?” “Not leopard excrement!” said the chef, a disapproving look on his face, “Leper excrement.” 169
Zoltan stood agape and was about to say something else when the kitchen doors flew open and in staggered a third chef. He was by no means dressed for the occasion, his whites were most definitely not white and were covered in suspect stains, his hat had seen better days, he obviously hadn't shaved for weeks and judging by his less-than-desirable odour, he probably hadn't bathed for quite some time either. “This is Monsieur Jonsson. Ee ees le chef from Sweden.” “Hurdy Schmurdy Gurdy,” slurred Jonsson. “Ee ees acting very strange recently. It was ee who first ate les ‘orrible frog’s legs. Ee says they are very tough.” “Schnurdy hurdy hoo,” added Jonsson. “Ee says that le frog’s legs do not taste nice.” “Ask him if they have had any strange side-effects,” asked Monkey. The chef turned to Jonsson. “Schurdy hurdy hurdy schner?” “Gurdy hurdy schurdy hoo, hoy hoy hurdy hee schnerdy hurdy scherdy hoy.” “Ee says no.” “I didn’t think so,” said Monkey, as Jonsson proceeded to cover himself in garlic butter and bang his head repeatedly against the fridge door. “So how many of these frogs legs do you sell?” “We do not serve these inadequate theengs in ‘ere. Monsieur Jonsson eats them all. Eet ees a very expensive habit of his. Ah will have to cancel mah order for future deliveries.” “Schnudy hurdy gurdy!” shouted Jonsson. Monkey looked puzzled. 170
“Ee said ‘down weeth the world, vive la France!’” Monkey raised an eyebrow as Jonsson poured a bottle of red wine into his underpants, climbed into a sink full of dirty dishes and proceeded to sing the French national anthem. “Yes… well… I think it is time we were going!” said Zoltan. “Are you ‘ere for le party?” asked the chef. “Party? Oh yes, the party. That’s what we are here for!” “Eet ees through le door,” said the chef, pointing to a large door. Feeling a little disturbed by the state Jonsson was in, Zoltan and Fred decided that they probably wouldn’t order any food from this place. They walked into a crowded hall, people dancing to the booming music, people chatting in groups and people who had collapsed on the floor in a drunken stupor. A man in a sharp suit approached them. “Good evening, sir!” he said to Zoltan, “I trust you are here for the superhero conference? Allow me to introduce you to some of the other guests.” He led Zoltan to a group of very odd-looking individuals. Zoltan looked back at his friends with a worried expression. “Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to… sorry, what is your name?” “Zoltan the Magnificent,” came the reply, as he held out his hand to the others. “Captain Pow,” said the first man, dressed in a pink lycra one-piece with a bright yellow P emblazoned on his chest, “and this is my partner, Flimsy Boy.” Zoltan shook hands with both men, although Flimsy 171
Boy's arm fell off and had to be stuck back on with sellotape “Gonad Man,” said another superhero, shaking hands firmly with Zoltan. Absently, Zoltan wiped his hand on his cape. Zoltan was also introduced to Visible Man, who had the powers of being seen by most people that looked directly at him, Sticky Man, who was literally sticky from having not washed for ages and The Great Comprendez, who claimed he could understand anything anyone said from 100 yards. Fred was introduced to a group of salty sea-dogs. Each man had countless tales to tell of their encounters with terrifying sea creatures, death defying explorations and huge storms that were negotiated using just a rowing boat, three salty crackers and a bottle of mineral water; sparkling, of course. “Arr, I be seeing Leviathan, just the other day!” said Fred. “Oh, arr,” said another man, “I be catching Leviathan a month or two ago. I ‘ad ‘im caught on me fishing line but he escaped after an hour.” “Arr, see,” said another, “I be catching him also, using nothing but a straightened paperclip and some wool.” Suddenly the lights went out. The room fell silent until a voice boomed over the PA system. “Ladies and gentlemen, for your pleasure this evening, I give you the world famous Dancing Bikers!”
The stage lights came on, revealing six butch men with long, dirty beards, dressed in leathers and crashhelmets. “YMCA” began booming through the loudspeakers. As they began their dance routine they were joined on stage by the three monkeys, who were inexplicably dressed only in black leather posing pouches. The crowd cheered wildly as the three monkeys followed the infamous dance routine, backed by the dancing bikers. Zoltan turned around to see the monkeys on stage and realised to his horror what was happening. He broke off his discussions with Rubbish Man and rushed to the front of the stage. “Monkey, get down from there, this instant!” he hissed. Monkey, however, chose to ignore Zoltan's protests and carried on dancing. Fred joined Zoltan at the front of the stage, pleading with the monkeys to stop embarrassing them but still the monkeys took no notice. Finally, Zoltan decided to do something about the situation himself. He climbed up on stage and tried to grab the monkeys. Which, as far as mistakes went, was a rather large one. The bikers, who were currently enjoying their biggest crowd of their careers, decided that Zoltan was ruining the whole thing for them and threw him off the stage. It was a little like crowd surfing, but without the crowd participating. Zoltan found out for that brief moment how it felt to fly like a real superhero. He was almost impressed until he hit the ground with a thump. Stunned, he got to his feet and 173
made his way back to the stage and was about to climb back on stage to make another grab for the monkeys. Fred tried in vain to hold him back. At this point, all hell broke loose, as the entire crowd took offence to Zoltan's interfering and a huge bar brawl erupted. Chairs and tables were flying around, people hitting other people for no apparent reason. The voice over the PA appealed for calm but the fighters were having none of it. Gonad Man thumped the Great Comprendez. Captain Pow tore Flimsy Boy’s leg off and shoved it in Rubbish Man’s bin liner. Two salty sea-dogs threw straightened paper clips and pieces of string at each other. Inevitably, within moments, dozens of Gendarmes arrived to break up the fight. Several batons were wielded, several heads were clobbered and several tears were shed by Sticky Man. The ringleaders were rounded up and taken to the local police cells. Among them were Zoltan, Fred, six leather-clad Dancing Bikers and a couple of trainee superheroes, leaving the three monkeys dressed in their posing pouches to ponder what had just happened, ponder what a mess the party had been left in, ponder whether there may be intelligent life on other planets, ponder whether Manchester United would win the treble this year and ponder what all the pondering might come to in the end . They walked out into the deserted street, the evening rain reflecting an eerie pink glow from the flashing neon sign. Monkey read the sign. “Le Bibliothécaire Rosé. What a stupid name!” he scoffed, ponderingly, “What on Earth does that mean?” “Pink Librarian, I think,” pondered Hearno. 174
ten “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for attending this press briefing,” simpered Kieran, winningly, following a presentation from the Netherlands Archaeology Guild on some of the finds during the first twenty-four hours exploration of the city of Ys. “The Baron will now be pleased to take your questions.” A sea of hands swirled in the air and, with an air of saintly benediction, he passed his hand to the first question. “Baron van Bookshelf, the scientific world is heralding this as the greatest archaeological find since the discovery of Pompeii. Do you accept their findings?” asked a very studious lady from ‘La Figaro’. The Baron shrugged. “If the scientific world is enjoying the discoveries that they are making, then long may they continue,” he answered simply, “as
you well know, my primary purpose here does not involve digs for artifacts, but in the mastery of the known world for my own evil megalomaniac purposes!” He ended this speech with a wonderfully over-blown raspberry of a cackle. The assembled press tried their best to keep straight faces. After all, it was now well known that the Baron’s eccentricities regarding world domination were the only known foible of his genius, and that mocking him merely stirred up a hornet’s nest of further wild claims. This had been widely reported from the reception committee in Amsterdam, and no one wanted to make the man uncomfortable on his own land. “Baron, are you likely to be calling yourself King of Ys in the near future?” asked an eager young man from the ‘Washington Times’. “Certainly not!” came the slightly offended reply, “I’m more a Queen than a King of course, but assuming royalty is definitely not my style. When I take over the world, I won’t be sitting on a throne whilst doing it!” Kieran tried to signal another questioner as the Baron sipped philosophically on a schooner of advocaat, but the man from the ‘Washington Times’ would not be silenced. “But you’re as rich as a King, or indeed a Queen, Baron,” he persisted, “I’ve calculated that press and archaeological royalties paid to you in the past day alone have topped thirty-nine million Euros.” The Baron looked stunned and turned to Kieran, “Is this true?” he demanded sternly. Kieran frowned. “Yes, I suppose it is, Baron. We hadn’t really thought about the financial implications 176
of your discoveries. Many of these artifacts are of exquisite quality and finished to a very fine standard. There are film and documentary makers around every corner. When we get back to England, we will be doing the rounds of daytime television for months. I believe there is talk of the South Bank Show and I am waiting for confirmation on our appointments with Jay Leno and David Letterman.” “Well, this won’t do!” came the indignant reply. “This just won’t do at all. I’m not here to make money; I’m here to take over the world!” He looked back at the assembled press gallery. “Does anyone know how many national charities there are in the Netherlands?” Quick as a flash, a Dutch press officer stood up. “There are 35, Meneer Van Bookshelf.” “Excellent. Then I’ll give a million to each charity and the rest I’ll distribute to my excellent staff in recognition of all their hard work so far. Meanwhile…” A rousing cheer erupted out of a standing ovation from the entire gallery, irretrievably interrupting the Baron’s speech. He glared back at the crowd, incandescent with rage. “Damn you people, I’m not finished. I’m going to take over the world! I am evil, evil personified, you stupid straights!” he yelled, but he was drowned out by the cacophony. Realising his rage was in vain, he turned back to the one he loved and trusted. “Kieran, love, I can’t stand this. Take me away,” he groaned despondently. Barricaded safely inside the Great Library in the centre of the City of Ys, he took a few deep breaths and tried to think of nice things, like fluffy pink 177
handcuffs, but it was no good. Applause simply didn’t agree with him. “Fools!” he muttered broodingly, in the cool silence of the main chamber, “They’ll be more compliant when they bow before us, dearest Kieran. We shall have the last laugh!” Kieran surveyed the scrolls laid neatly on the shelves around them in that smoothly approving way that all librarians do when faced with perfect order. Then his face wrinkled into something very nearly approximating a frown. “What’s wrong?” “That’s funny,” Kieran replied cautiously, “The scroll second to the left on the fifth shelf seems to be out of position, as if someone has moved it for no apparent reason!” “That’s impossible!” dismissed the Baron, “No-one has access to the library. We alone are privy to its secrets. This is the one area, as you well know, that I’m not letting those grubby-fingered digging people anywhere near, at least not until we’ve learned the location of the plat… form…” his voice trailed off, as a miraculous thought had sprung to mind. “That’s it, Kieran!” he cried, “It’s a sign, don’t you see? Quickly, retrieve that conveniently ever-so-slightly displaced scroll for me!” Kieran did so, with mild irritation. Being ordered around was something he could well have done without. He knew that the Baron didn’t mean to act in a heavy-handed way. Sometimes he was so just caught up in the grand megalomaniac schemes that defined his way of life to notice the little things.
“Love the Baron, love the cackle,” he thought to himself, as he passed the scroll down. “Thank you my sweet,” soothed the Baron, as if instinctively knowing that he had overstepped the mark with his last command. Greedily he scanned the papyrus scroll, his eyes widening in megalomaniac malice. “Oh yes, oh yes indeed, Kieran!” he said at length, with an evil lilt to his voice, “Now we have the final instructions on how to trigger the platform to emerge, no-one, not even Monkey, can stop us!” The walls of the Great Library of Ys reverberated for the first time in many centuries, with the evil cackle of these two legendary lovers. “Kieran, my boy!” laughed the Baron, “it would appear that we need to gather together yet more items.” Kieran looked worried, remembering his experiences obtaining the prostitutes knickers. The Baron sensed his unease. “Don’t worry!” he added, “It says here that the items have to be given to us. As Ruler of Ys I can happily accept donations from anyone!” “How so?” “Just think how many people would want the Ys endorsement to their product. We will have them literally falling at our feet!” “You truly are a genius, your evilness!” said Kieran, warmly, “so what are the items?” “We need a candle to show the way, a vase modeled from clay, a ball to help with play and a small child to sacrifice.” “Well, that won't do,” said Kieran. “What?” “Small child to sacrifice. It doesn’t rhyme.” 179
“You are quite right, of course. Perhaps it is my translation. A small child to slay, perhaps? Besides, I don’t exactly relish the thought of sacrificing a small child. Perhaps we can overlook that item?” “I hope so,” shuddered Kieran, “I don’t fancy killing anybody either, certainly not after our last human sacrifice.” “It also says we need to build a trireme to defend the city from invasion. It just so happens that I am aware of a project to build a replica trireme at the Allard Pierson museum in Amsterdam. Perhaps we should give them a call and see if they have finished it? I am sure that they will be happy to lend us it if we were to give the museum a substantial donation and the publicity will do wonders for their visitor footfall.” “Well, let’s try to tackle the easier parts first. After all, finding an earthenware vase won’t be a problem,” smiled Kieran, “with all these fabulous archaeological artifacts strewn about Ys, we can take our pick.” He clapped his hands together and jumped up and down on the spot. The Baron cast his eyes to the heavens. “I really should stop permitting that boy fizzy drinks,” he murmured sagely to himself. “Beg pardon?” quipped Kieran, brightly. “Oh nothing, nothing!” said the Baron, breezily, “I was going to say that I actually do have a candle… ahem… of sorts.” “You do? Well excellent. Let’s have a look at it?” Kieran was presented with an object wrapped discretely in brown paper. “I erm… bought it in Amsterdam during those few pleasurable hours we spent there.” 180
Kieran stared at the very suspicious looking wax effigy and gasped with mock offense. “Really, your evilness. What were you thinking when you were buying this?” Just before the shame-faced Baron was compelled to answer, there was a brisk knock on the library door. “Don’t come in!” screeched Kieran, protectively. “But you have a special delivery from the mainland, sir!” came the muffled voice of one of the Dutch archaeologists. “Oh, why thank you my good chap,” called the Baron, “Please leave it at the door… oh, and please find me one of the finest clay vases that you have been working on and deliver it to my office in the cathedral tower. I need it for a little scientific experiment.” As soon as he thought the coast was clear, Kieran cautiously opened the door and brought the package in. “How interesting…” he mused, “this has a Spanish postmark, your evilness.” “Well, pray open it, m'dear!” smiled the Baron, magnanimously. Kieran pondered the object with some puzzlement. It was a signed football and replica shirt. He handed a short note addressed to Baron van Bookshelf to the man himself, who duly cleared his throat and announced: “Dear Baron, Thank you for allowing me to attend your most interesting speech in Amsterdam. Please accept this signed football and replica shirt as a token of my 181
esteemed respect and affection, and do not hesitate to call upon me if you require anything further. Faithfully yours, Ruud van Nistelhoven” “That’s so nice,” cooed Kieran, “perhaps we should invite him to the opening ceremony?” The Baron nodded his assent and then clutched the note to his chest with a dramatic flourish. “Faithfully mine, eh? Well, wasn’t it jolly nice of Ruud to send ME a token of his respect and affection,” he teased. Kieran seethed visibly. “It was to us both, I think, your evilness.” “Oh no, no… I think you’ll find it was addressed to Baron van Bookshelf. There’s no mention of a Kieran on here.” “Oh I see,” railed Kieran, “So NOW we know who that candle was for, don’t we? You two-timing fiend, why I ought to…” The Baron held up his hand as a signal to stop. Kieran just about managed to obey. “You silly affectionate boy,” he chuckled, “I was only teasing. You know I’d no more look at another man than I’d look at a woman!” Kieran looked at him dubiously “Well, why don’t you prove it?” he whispered softly. “With pleasure, my heart.” came the reply **** “So, a trireme,” mused the Baron in the privacy of the great library as he stroked Kieran’s hair gently. The Baron was feeling romantically inclined and holding and petting Kieran was at once both soothing
and alluring. “This is certainly a hard one, Kieran.” Kieran smiled wryly. “No, I didn’t mean it like that!” “Well you’ve some of the most brilliant archaeological and historical minds on the planet working right here, Baron. Can’t we consult them?” “Of course we can, love,” came the grateful reply, “but a Romanesque Trireme is an ancient warship with three banks of oars. Even though it was very generous of the Allard Pierson museum to donate us that full working model, we simply wouldn’t have sufficient fit volunteers available to row her… and before you ask, the scroll is very specific about historical accuracy.” “So we can’t shove an engine in,” added Kieran teasingly. “No, love, we can’t shove anything in.” “Perhaps later,” added Kieran, coquettishly. As the two of them relaxed with an appropriate sundowner on the sensual upholstery, the Baron smiled fiendishly. “Of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner?” “What is it, my four-wheeled fantasy-man?” asked a doe-eyed Kieran. “Lesbians,” said the Baron. “Pardon?” “Lesbians,” he repeated, brightly, “There’s nothing like a lesbian for pulling power!” “Thanks, but no thanks,” teased Kieran, deliberately misunderstanding. “No, not like that silly!” smiled the Baron, nuzzling Kieran’s neck, “you remember the captain of that Dutch Frigate that’s here to help us patrol Ys?” 183
Kieran sat up. “Gerdi van De Tuin? Wasn’t that her name?” “That’s’ right. Now, forgive my being over-familiar here, but surely your gaydar picked her up?” “Hmmm… come to mention it, yes, I did get an inclination.” “That’s my boy,” said the Baron warmly, resuming his restful hair-stroking routine and teasing Kieran with a marzipan banana, “Perhaps we can make ‘professional’ contact with her. She may have some interesting local connections.” “Would you trust her with our evil plans, love?” “Oh absolutely,” replied the Baron grandiloquently, “she’s as much to gain as we have if we succeed, and I’ve always had the deepest respect for my female counterparts. They have so much to put up with in life.” “Like breasts you mean,” Kieran interjected. “You’re a wicked, wicked boy,” teased the Baron in mock anger. “Oh dear me no, I’m feeling so vulnerable now,” Kieran fluttered in an over-dramatic falsetto. **** The briefing on board the trireme was as formal as a full naval war cabinet meeting. “So, these are our orders,” concluded Gerdi van de Tuin with a becalmed smile, “are there any questions?” “Erm… yes, Captain,” stuttered the plain girl, three rows down on the left inside oar. Gerdi bit her lip and tried to look encouraging and customer facing. It was a strain having to deal with civilians that did not respect her authority unflinchingly, but the idea of 184
commanding the first known all-lesbian battleship, albeit one forced to conform to a two thousand year old design specification, was just too tempting for her to pass up. “Who are we likely to be defending the island against?” “I think you will find that we are more of a token force than an actual combat unit,” Gerdi answered smoothly. “As you know, the ‘Eindhoven’ has been obliged to strategically withdraw for a forty-eight hour period to refuel and re-provision. We have merely been requested to maintain a presence around the island.” Gerdi knew that this statement was almost certainly the absolute truth, although secretly she itched for some combat, and was intrigued to know how fast the trireme could go and how damaging the ancient weapons could be. Nevertheless she swallowed her bellicose nature and graciously took another question. “Could you tell us more about the effect of the Ys platform please, captain?” Gerdi sighed inwardly, “allow me to repeat for the benefit of those who are a little hard of hearing,” she began, unable to resist at least a pinch of sarcasm, “Baron van Bookshelf will be operating a platform which will alter the sexual orientation of the entire globe from heterosexual to homosexual, and before you ask, those persons who are already fighting on our side, as it were, will be unaffected by this and will remain as they are, only with a much greater chance of a date on a Saturday night.” There was general laughter at this as Gerdi continued, “But
here’s the clever part. The platform has a blind spot. A small part of the world will be unaffected.” “That a shame,” sighed a large matronly type two rows from the back. “On the contrary!” snapped Gerdi; at once deeply offended that anyone should disregard her chain of command by interrupting, “someone needs to repopulate the earth, or the human race would die out altogether.” She scanned the faces of her confused crew. “Now let me anticipate your next question,” she said, as she paced back and forth in front of them, tapping a parade stick in her hand to increase the dramatic effect. “You are wondering what will happen to our rights if the world starts breeding again, yes?” She heard a murmur of assent. “Allow me to illustrate!” Gerdi drew down a large world map on the wall behind her. “Here you can see the approximate location of the island, and here…” she indicated with a flourish of her stick, “is the area which the blind spot will cover.” “But isn’t that the whole of our own country?” gasped the matronly type. “Precisely!” smiled Gerdi, “if the world is to be repopulated, what better race to survive and ensure that we retain our rights than the tolerant and equitable people of the Netherlands? Not only will the Baron normalise homosexuality at a stroke, but in fifty years’ time, everyone on the planet will be speaking Dutch!” “Three cheers for the Baron!” shouted several enthusiastic oarswomen simultaneously.
â€œYes, he is rather admirable,â€? murmured Gerdi under her breath as the cheering began.
eleven Morning broke in the dirty prison cells as Zoltan and Fred awoke to find that they were sharing their accommodation with Captain Pow and the Dancing Bikers. “If you have a black light bulb,” Pow was saying, “could you turn on the dark?” Zoltan wondered whether he had a point. Meanwhile, the Dancing Bikers were rehearsing a new dance routine which involved a particularly difficult piece of hip-swaying and Fred was enthralled. “I think we need to get out of here,” said Zoltan at last. “Arr, I be thinking that too, see,” said Fred, “though I don’t know how we can do it, so I don’t. We be stuck in here for a long time, so we will.” “Relax!” said Zoltan, “I’m sure the monkeys will get us released!”
Zoltan and Fred looked at each other with more than a slightly worried look on their faces. When they had last seen the monkeys, they had been dancing on a stage wearing nothing but tiny leather posing pouches and certainly had not tried to intervene when the fracas had begun. Somehow, Fred doubted whether they would be seeing the woolly trio again. Zoltan, however, refused to believe that his long-time friends could abandon him at his hour of need. They were shaken from their thoughts by the sound of keys rattling in the cell door. A rather miserable looking gendarme was standing in the doorway. “Monsieur Magnificent, Monsieur Pow and Monsieur Crispin, you are all free to go,” he announced, glumly stepping aside to allow the men to walk past. “See?” declared Zoltan, triumphantly, “I told you Monkey would sort everything out!” They were led to the sergeants desk and their belongings were returned to them. However, as they each filled in their release paperwork, there was no sign of any of the three monkeys waiting for them. “I’m sorry,” said Zoltan, “but where are the monkeys?” “Monkeys?” asked the receptionist, puzzled, “I know of no monkeys?” “The three monkeys? Little sock puppets that can walk and stuff?” “Walking sock puppets?” asked the receptionist, beginning to think that Zoltan was one of those nutcases she had been told about at police school. “I don’t understand,” said Zoltan, trying to deflect the conversation to avoid further embarrassment, “who paid our bail fee?” 189
“The young lady,” said the receptionist, gesturing towards a pretty young woman who had got to her feet and was heading across the room to greet them. “Professor Magnificent,” she said, holding out a hand to Zoltan, “I was just telling the officer how you and Doctor Crispin and Doctor Pow are here on an important archaeological dig, how you intend to find the city of Ys and release the secrets it took with it to its grave.” “Doctor Pow?” asked Captain Pow, slightly confused. “That’s… right!” said Zoltan, unusually sharp, for a change, “so glad you were able to assist Miss…” “Gradlon. Chantelle Gradlon, at your service.” She turned to the door. “Shall we? I have some exciting news for you.” The three men hurried out of the police station, with Miss Gradlon leading the way. She led them to a quaint cafeteria and ordered them each a breakfast of coffee and croissants. As they ate they decided that now would be the ideal time to ask the obvious questions. “I’m sorry,” said Zoltan, “but how did you know our names?” Chantelle smiled. “I have been following you for a while now. I saw you at the church, back in England. I thought I’d come along to help you.” “Help us do what?” “Help you stop the Red Man’s followers from raising Ys and allowing him to use its powers to rule the world.” Captain Pow’s jaw fell open, mouth full of croissant. “A real adventure? Can I come?” 190
“I believe though, you have not thought all of this through,” she continued, “I have a theory about the transmitter that the Red Man is looking to capture and if I am correct, the task in hand will be much simpler than you first thought.” “Arr, why be you getting us out of prison instead of telling the police? They be much better at stopping crimey things, see,” asked Fred. “A simple answer, really. You three are the only ones who can stop the Red Man’s followers from succeeding. Together with the monkeys, you are the only ones who know what the Red Man is planning and if I were to tell the authorities, they would surely lock me in an asylum or something. These kinds of situations are pretty rare and the police are not very receptive to the happenings of the supernatural.” “Where are the monkeys?” asked Zoltan. “They are safe. I’ve arranged for us to meet up with them later. They know I am here to collect you but they didn't want to attract more attention than necessary by turning up at the police station.” “So how do we stop the Red Man?” asked Captain Pow. “Well, Ys is no use without the transmitter. My theory is that if you take out the transmitter, you remove the threat. That way, the Red Man has no means of enslaving the world.” “And where is this transmitter?” asked Zoltan. “You mean you don’t know? You came all the way to Paris and you didn’t know why?” Chantelle laughed. “It’s at the top of the Eiffel Tower. The entire Eiffel tower construction was created as one
huge aerial for this very purpose. That is how Paris got its name – you did know that, didn't you?” Zoltan frowned. “Not really. How do you mean?” “Paris was originally called Par Ys, which means 'Like Ys.' Monkey hasn't told you much, has he? Anyway, we must get to the Eiffel Tower. I’ll take you there shortly; we will meet the monkeys there.” “Arr, the Eiffel Tower be that big metal thing, see,” said Fred, spitting croissant crumbs all over Chantelle. She didn’t seem to mind, absently brushing the crumbs to the floor. “Thank you so much for your help,” said Zoltan, trying to hide the embarrassment caused by Fred by changing the subject, “it’s nice that things are going our way, for a change!” **** They arrived at the Eiffel Tower a little after midday. As arranged, the three monkeys were there already, waiting impatiently. None of the monkeys spoke to the men and none of the men spoke to the monkeys. The monkeys were still annoyed that their dance routine had been interrupted and the men were annoyed that they had been abandoned, left to rot in the prison cells with six Dancing Bikers of questionable virtue. Chantelle sensed the animosity, which wasn’t actually too difficult to spot. “Come on, you guys,” she said, “you’ve come too far to fall out now! You’re a team; the least you can do is be civil towards each other!” “They started it!” moaned Monkey. “You looked ridiculous!” said Zoltan, “you were showing us all up!” 192
“And you don't look ridiculous in that lycra suit? We were having fun!” snapped Speakno. “You remember what fun is? Of course you do, I’ve seen the videos of you and Anna on sale at the car boot sale.” “Why you little…” fumed Zoltan, determined suddenly to throttle Speakno. He leapt at the little guy but Fred and Captain Pow had a firm grip on his arms and held him back. “Arr, best that ye calm down. He don’t be worth it, see?” said Fred. Zoltan shook himself free and straightened his golden cape. Speakno laughed mockingly. “Come and have a go, if you think your hard enough!” he teased, which riled Zoltan even more. “I’m gonna rip his stitching apart!” he fumed, again he was held back by Fred and Captain Pow. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” commanded Chantelle, “I’m tired of hearing all this! Don’t you think you have enough problems here without all this petty squabbling? You have a world to save and all you are concerned with is scoring points against each other? What kind of heroes are you? For goodness sake, chillax, why don't you?” There was a long pause. Finally Speakno broke the silence. “She’s right, of course. Let us just agree to put this all behind us. We came here to do a job. Let us get to the top, destroy the transmitter and get home. I for one have had enough of France to last a lifetime!” “As long as I don’t have to be near him,” grunted Zoltan. “Don’t you think you ought to get on with this worldsaving thing?” urged Chantelle, “Get yourselves up 193
there! You will find the transmitter at the very top, near the viewing platform. It’s about the size of a shoe box. It’s fairly easy to reach, you’ll have no trouble.” “Are you not coming with us?” asked Captain Pow. “I can't,” smiled Chantelle, “I have things to do. Besides, I’m scared of heights.” Fred nodded in agreement and patted her gently on the arm. “I be scared of bacon sandwiches,” he said, as though it were some comfort. “Will you be here when we come down?” asked Captain Pow. “When you come down? Oh, err… yes, I should be,” she smiled, “I'll wait here for you.” “Good, because I think we owe you a drink or two.” “I’ll look forward to it,” she smiled, somewhat uneasily. With that, the six heroes made their way to the lift. As is always the case when a lift is needed, the lift was out of order, due to ‘essential maintenance.’ Although, unseen by anyone, the lift engineer lay sprawling at the bottom of the lift shaft, dead from having had his throat cut and thrown from the very top of the lift shaft. This is not always the case when a lift is needed, however. “Guess we will have to take the stairs,” said Zoltan. “No, why don’t we use our trusty rocket packs and fly up?” snapped Monkey. Speakno sniggered. “We have rocket packs?” asked Captain Pow. Everyone looked at him. They headed to the East pillar and began their long walk up the stairs. Once they were out of sight, Chantelle transformed herself back into Dahut and 194
laughed as she walked away. K’vorim would be very pleased with her progress so far, she thought. After only a few dozen stairs, Captain Pow was beginning to wish he had stayed on the ground with Chantelle. Of course, unbeknown to him, she would have destroyed him violently and simply removed him from the picture completely. K’vorim had taught her that it was better to kill their enemy on an individual basis rather than to destroy them in a group, but Dahut thought there would be much less effort involved using her idea. Captain Pow hated admitting that he was out of shape, even though it was obvious to any independent observer that he had spent most of his adult life in a pub, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and eating far too many pies. He was, in fact, the answer to the age-old football chant ‘who ate all the pies.’ “Arr, be you alright?” asked Fred, noticing Pow's sudden paleness and sweaty complexion. “I’ll… be fine,” came the out-of-breath reply, “at least… coming down… will be easier.” “I remember reading somewhere,” said Zoltan, “that the Eiffel Tower was built as part of a cross-channel chairlift.” “This should be good,” muttered Speakno. “Apparently,” continued Zoltan, unfazed, “Blackpool Tower was the other end of the chairlift, although the project was never completed as they discovered that Blackpool was on the wrong side of the country.” “Brilliant!” said Speakno, “you really are quite thick, aren't you?”
“That’s enough!” snapped Monkey, “Zoltan was merely trying to make light of the situation. I’m sure he didn’t believe it, did you Zoltan?” “Well… err… no. Only a raging madman would believe that!” Speakno looked at him knowingly, raising an eyebrow. “We’re nearly at the top now,” said Monkey, “not long to go, Captain P!” “Blimey,” said Speakno, “remind me not to sit on Zoltan’s shoulder until he has had a bath, he is going to really hum after this.” “Right, that’s it!” snapped Zoltan and took a swipe at Speakno, knocking him clean off Fred's shoulder and sending him bouncing down several stairs, making satisfying groans and shrieks of pain as he bounced from one step to another. “You deserved that!” called Hearno as his brother climbed shamefaced up the stairs behind them, muttering to himself. Eventually, after climbing all 1665 steps and making even the fairly fit Zoltan out of breath, they reached the top. They each stepped onto the viewing platform and gazed in admiration at the beautiful city of Paris, determined to take in the sights for the first time. Fred was most interested in the Seine while Monkey fondly recalled his days at the Place du Trocadero (a story for another time, perhaps.) Eventually though, Hearno reminded them that they had a job to do and they each began looking for the transmitter. “Funny,” said Hearno, “you would expect that such a popular tourist attraction would have a few more safety features than this place?” As he looked around, the little simian puppet noticed that the entire security 196
fence that normally surrounded the platform had been removed. Under normal circumstances, the fence would also pass over their heads but this too had been removed. “It's the maintenance work,” said Monkey, “hence the lifts being out of order.” They were not alone at the top of the tower. Eight shabbily-dressed men looked out over the edge of the platform and didn’t seem to notice the six heroes that had just joined them. Zoltan, however, found their presence a little worrying. Perhaps it was a little of Anna's eye for trouble that had rubbed off on him but he couldn’t help but wonder why each of the men seemed to be wearing wet clothing, as though they had swum the Channel fully clothed. Added to this was the fact that they tried their best to hide their faces as he walked past them all. Zoltan decided, as he had learned in Towndale, that he ought to let Monkey know of his suspicions. “Monkey, something isn't right here,” he whispered, “I thought that this place was under maintenance but those guys don't look much like engineers. They don't even have those yellow jackets or hard hats.” Monkey agreed. He called the group together. “Ok everyone, be on your guard!” he whispered, “this just doesn't feel right.” The three monkeys looked across at the shabby men who simultaneously turned to look at the six friends, revealing that their faces were hidden by strange black masks. “Trouble!” muttered Monkey and the eight soggy men circled the group. Without warning and with an unseen command, they simultaneously launched into a vicious attack on the heroes. 197
Unfortunately, their attacks were not very successful. The black masks were obviously very restrictive and impaired the vision heavily. The zombies found themselves swinging wildly at fresh air, only occasionally making the faintest of contact with their enemies. “These are Dahut's men!” called Monkey, “you can tell by the masks!” He dodged a flailing kick, which sent the masked man reeling, stumbling backwards and falling heavily to the ground, causing his rotten left arm to fall off. “Oh, great!” said Speakno, unimpressed, “We’re being attacked by a gang of disgruntled lepers!” “They don’t look much like spotty cats to me?” mused Zoltan, knocking off another of Dahut’s mens’ arms. “Not leopards, you idiot!” snapped Speakno, “I thought we did that joke already? Dullard.” Captain Pow was busily fighting two particularly nasty-looking masked men in his best Errol Flynn impression, knocking off the right leg of one of his enemies with a swift kick of his chubby legs. Worryingly, the loss of a limb didn’t seem to stop their foes, who continued their relentless assault on the friends, swinging fists and kicking wildly in blind rage. As Monkey tripped one of the masked men, he watched in amazement as the ancient man hit the ground heavily and saw his rotten head roll from his body, finally rendering him ‘dead’. Again. “It’s the heads!” called Monkey, “knock their heads off!” Everyone nodded and began swinging wildly at the heads of the masked men with anything that was 198
within arm’s reach Captain Pow had found a piece of copper piping, Zoltan was using some of the torndown iron fencing. Fred was using a discarded chocolate bar wrapper but wasn't having as much success as the others. Captain Pow was really getting into the action hero business. He was standing on the very edge of the platform, encouraging the masked men to charge at him, stepping aside as they got within touching distance and watching them dive gracefully over the edge, falling to their dooms and shattering like china plates as they hit the ground. Within a few moments all eight of the masked men had been destroyed. Pow stood on the edge of the platform and bowed to an imaginary audience, basking in the praise that was never likely to be forthcoming. Suddenly, out of nowhere came more of Dahut's men, this time with aerial modifications. This was an impressive feat of engineering as now, not only could they fly, but they could pick up Sky Sports if they held their arms in the right direction. They had been fitted with wings made from wax and feathers, having obviously never heard of Icarus, and still had the stupidity to wear the tight black masks. One of the winged men flew straight into Captain Pow and knocked him off balance. The Captain stumbled backwards and dropped over the edge, his flailing arms reaching madly for something to hold onto. He managed to catch one of the struts beneath the viewing platform and held on for dear life. He watched in horror as the four winged men circled around him like a flock of hungry buzzards. “Help me, you guys!” he wheezed. 199
As he looked up, he saw the faces of Zoltan, Fred and Monkey peer over the edge. Without second thought, Zoltan and Fred grabbed hold of his wrists. Monkey could only watch, anxious and desperate for his new friend to haul himself back up. With a strength that neither man knew he had, Fred and Zoltan tried to pull Captain Pow until he was almost on the platform. No one paid any attention to the winged men coming in for a final kamikaze run. Two of them missed completely, crashing into the struts of the Eiffel Tower and plummeting to the ground like a Spitfire, gunned down in the war before disintegrating into a pile of dust. One of Dahut's men collided heavily with Zoltan and Fred, who both fell backward and lost their grip on the Captain, who was himself the target of the last man. The flying zombie smashed into the vulnerable Captain, knocking the wind from his lungs and causing him to finally let go and fall from the very top of the tower in eerie silence as he fell the 276 meters toward the ground. As Captain Pow fell, he realised that he was no longer afraid of death and he calmly watched the clouds grow further away as the ground rushed up to meet him. In one final act of respect for his friends, he smiled up at Monkey and saluted him, before hitting the ground and extinguishing his life forever. Monkey watched in horror as Captain Pow fell. He was shaking with anger. He hadnâ€™t known the big oaf for very long, but he respected him deeply, not least because he managed to walk up all the stairs. He hoped Captain Pow knew it. Now it was too late to change anything. **** 200
Zoltan, Fred and the three monkeys sat in silence on the platform for several hours until the sun went down. “Dahut did this,” said Monkey at last, “she and the K’vorim have gone too far this time.” Zoltan looked at Monkey. “Chantelle was Dahut, wasn’t she?” Monkey nodded. “Dahut was also Estelle, back in Towndale, wasn’t she?” Monkey nodded again, annoyed with himself for not recognising her before. “It was all a set up. Meant for all of us, I fear. I suspect that Dahut had planned that every one of us had been killed in the same way. I don't think she had considered the ineffectiveness of her army. Who on Earth goes into battle whilst blindfolded?" Zoltan shrugged, “so what happens now?” he asked, as tactfully as he dare. Monkey looked at him and smiled. “Now we find Dahut and the K’vorim and send them back to where they came from. From now on there is no more Mr Nice Monkey. Now it gets personal. Captain Pow was a good guy, he didn’t deserve to die.” “Ye be a poet and ye didn’t even know it,” interrupted Fred. Monkey glared at him. “We owe it to our friend to make sure we succeed here.” “So where be the transmitter?” asked Fred, “we never did be finding it, so we didn't.” “I don’t know,” said Monkey, sadly, “I just don’t know.”
Zoltan, Fred and the three monkeys made their way to the foot of the tower. Somehow the journey down seemed a lot harder than the journey up, despite Captain Pow’s chilling prediction. The gang decided that the best way to defeat K’vorim and Dahut would be to split up. Fred decided that he would stay with Captian Pow’s body and make the arrangements for it to go back to England. Speakno decided he would tag along with Fred, partly because of his respect for the Captain but mainly because the other option would mean he had to stay with Zoltan, and that was not a viable option. Zoltan, Monkey and Hearno found a room at a bed and breakfast and decided that they would wait until the morning before deciding how best to tackle the transmitter problem. Zoltan called Anna from his room at the bed and breakfast, keeping her up to date with the events so far. “You be careful, won't you?” she whispered, not sure whether to believe him or not. Zoltan said he would be careful and following a few brief ‘I love you’s’ he replaced the receiver. He turned to tell the monkeys that Anna sent her love but they were both fast asleep, their pillows soaked with tiny monkey tears.
twelve “I see you have acquired an unexpected bonus?” asked K’vorim of Dahut. “Indeed,” she smiled, sitting in a huge red chair, “Captain Pow fell to his death at the hands of my men.” “Yet the three monkeys continue to escape my clutches, determined to spoil my plans. Despite being heavily outnumbered by your men, they were still able to survive.” “But they still have no idea where the transmitter is,” added Dahut in her defence, “They were clinging to the idea that it was within the Eiffel Tower. The desperation on their faces was a joy to see!” K’vorim smiled at the thought of a desperate Monkey. As the Red Man’s left-hand man, the two had been fierce adversaries since the dawn of time. Each time K’vorim or the Red Man had managed to inflict a little pain, a little humiliation, a little
suffering on Monkey, he realised how enjoyable his line of work was. Over the centuries he had seen Monkey fall from one desperate level to the next but never before had he caused Monkey to fall apart. This was quite an achievement, a moment to savour. “What would you like me to do next?” asked Dahut. K’vorim pondered for a moment. “Take out Zoltan the Magnificent. Without their human companions the monkeys are useless. They draw their resolve from the camaraderie within their little group. Zoltan The Magnificent appears to be a much stronger character than Captain Pow but I still believe he should pose no threat to you.” Dahut smiled. “I have just the plan,” she said. **** Zoltan sat on the bed, still unable to come to terms with his fellow superhero’s death. He felt guilty; he had convinced himself that he could and should have had the strength to pull the Captain back over the edge of the viewing platform. Monkey tried his best to comfort Zoltan but it was not exactly working. Even worse for Zoltan was the thought of Anna, alone but for Raine. Anna was indeed saddened. She wandered around the house aimlessly for a few hours, tidying the already immaculate bookshelf, dusting the already spotless mantelpiece and straightening the already straight photographs. Eventually she went into Raine’s room and saw that her son was fast asleep, breathing softly and no doubt dreaming of teddy bears and chocolate. She opened the window and was surprised to see that for the first time in weeks, it had stopped raining. It had become a stuffy night but the gentle breeze just took the edge 204
off the heat and was a welcome relief from the miserable weather they had been used to. She sat on the bottom of Raine’s bed and smiled at him. He was the image of his father, had his father’s laid-back attitude towards life, even though he was only threeand-a-half years old. “Oh Raine,” she whispered, “I wish your father was here.” **** “I wish we had never started this,” muttered Zoltan. “Me too,” agreed Monkey, “but if we hadn't, who else would?” Zoltan knew that this was true. It was like Dahut had said, who else knew what the Red Man was up to? Who else knew that the Red Man even existed? “Listen,” said Hearno, “it looks like it will be just the three of us for the time being. I suggest we get our thinking caps on and find this transmitter. Once we have done that we can have a proper funeral for Captain Pow.” Monkey and Zoltan looked at each other. Hearno was right, of course. Save the world first, bury Pow later. Monkey sat in silence for a few moments before he had a revelation. “That’s it!” he shouted, “the transmitter! I know where it is!” Zoltan looked at him in anticipation. “It’s on Ys! It’s not just the operating platform that is there but the entire ancient system! No wonder the Red Man wants it so badly!” “So how about we sail out over the Bay of Douranenez and drop depth charges where the city lays?” asked Hearno, “destroy the thing before they even have a chance to raise it from the bottom of the sea?” 205
They all agreed that this was an excellent idea and that first thing in the morning they would put the plan into action. **** As they were about to leave the bed and breakfast, Zoltan and the monkeys were surprised to hear a muffled knock at the door. They looked nervously at each other as Zoltan cautiously opened the door to find Speakno standing there. “Morning, dimwit,” muttered Speakno as he walked in. “Pardon?” “I said it’s a nice morning, isn't it? I figured you guys would need my help more than Fred would.” Zoltan screwed his face up in disgust. “Oh great…” “Right, you two!” snapped Monkey, “Let us stop all the infighting. We have a job to do and we are going to do it for Captain Pow, ok? We owe it to him to put a stop to the Red Man. He would have wanted that.” Zoltan and Speakno shared icy glares but agreed a temporary truce while Hearno filled his brother in on the depth-charge plan. For once Speakno did not ridicule the plan; in fact he almost believed it might work. They each packed the few items they had with them, including the depth-charges that Hearno had been building overnight, and left the pokey room, heading for the Bay of Douranenez. They passed the Pink Librarian Club as they walked along Rue des Archives. It certainly looked very different in the daylight. Monkey looked at the sign that was swaying gently in the breeze. For the briefest of moments the face on the sign looked like that of Baron von Bookshelf, that homosexual 206
wheelchair-bound megalomaniacal librarian from Towndale. How stupid was that? He read the sign above the door: ‘Pierre Toulouse, licensed to sell intoxicating liquor and beef flavoured crisps. Patron Baron von Bookshelf.’ “I don’t believe it! It’s the Baron!” he yelled. “Don’t be silly!” laughed Zoltan, “since when did he get involved in running a nightclub?” “Ah, perhaps this is the next phase in taking over the world?” drawled Hearno, “perhaps he plans to get the world drunk so that they vote him as president of the world?” “Well, good for him!” laughed Monkey, “I am fine with that plan, as long as there are sausages too.” “What on earth?” exclaimed Zoltan, as he passed the window of a chic department store. There, in a display of televisions, he could clearly make out the features of the Baron plastered over every screen. “Quick!” he shouted, as he hurried inside, leading the monkeys in with him. His presence was immediately detected by a keen saleswoman. “Hello sir,” she drawled, “are you interested in purchasing a television set?” “Oh yes, yes we are!” enthused Zoltan, as he realised that the saleswoman had picked up his interest in the TV display. “What kind of set did you have in mind, sir?” “Something with a loud volume, one of my monkeys cannot hear very well.” “Indeed, sir,” said the saleswoman with a look of thinly disguised disgust on her face. ‘Another weirdo out of the asylum’, she thought, ‘still, best to humour
him rather than let him go on the rampage in the whole store…’ “Would you care to hear one then, sir?” she oozed politely. “Yes, yes!” demanded Zoltan in desperation. She turned up the volume control, her eyes tilted upwards, “The fourth one this week,” she thought, grimly. “Of course I’m very flattered by people’s comparison between myself and Indiana Jones,” was the first thing they heard from the grinning Baron, “I’m sure he’s a very nice man and I wouldn’t mind meeting up with him at some point in the future.” “Indiana Jones is a fictional character, Baron,” said one of the large number of interviewers. “Is that so? Oh that’s a terrible shame. He carries off that fedora so well. I was going to ask him where he gets them from.” “May I ask you about the Roman trireme that you’ve just launched?” asked another journalist, attempting to get the press conference back into some semblance of order. “By all means,” came the magnanimous reply. “The historical accuracy of your ancient warship is beyond reproach, but who have you chosen as your crew?” The Baron arched his fingers and gave a satisfied smile. “Captain van de Tuin of the Royal Dutch navy has kindly offered to assist me, and has been most fortunate to recruit the Netherlands Lesbian Rowing Team. They have all selflessly volunteered to protect us from invasion, bless their hearts.”
Monkey rubbed the bridge of his nose worriedly, “Hired lesbians,” he muttered under his breath, “very dangerous!” “Are you expecting an invasion, Baron?” asked the interviewer, warily. The Baron looked at the television camera long and hard. Zoltan backed away, convinced that his friend was looking straight at him. At length he settled back and calmly said “When you raise a magnificent city like Ys, you are likely to encounter certain, shall we say, jealousies?” “He’s done WHAT?” screamed Monkey, drowning out the television with his outburst, “Why didn’t anyone tell us about this? We’ve been faffing about in a rowing boat, been tied to stakes in Africa and ended up in a gay nightclub before losing Captain Pow up the Eiffel Tower, and all the time, he’s been raising Ys? I don’t believe it, I just don’t ruddy believe it!” “You, erm… know the Baron?” asked the saleswoman cautiously, almost instantly wishing that she hadn’t. “I should bleedin' cocoa!” yelled Monkey, “why do you ask?” “Well, he’s kind of a folk hero in the Netherlands right now, and his merchandising products are selling like hot cakes all over Europe.” She indicated a stand at the adjacent toy department. There on the counter were die-cast ‘Action Kieran’ and ‘Wind-up Wheelchair Baron’ figures, alternately mincing and wheeling up and down the surface. “HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD?” screamed Monkey, “He’s a cold-blooded killer!” 209
“Nah,” said the saleswoman dismissively, “he just says that, you know.” “Then why don’t you believe him?” shouted Monkey, “Why is everyone in this damn country so monumentally stupid?!” “Right, that’s it!” said the security officer, having witnessed Monkey’s tantrums for far too long, “Out you go!” he growled, hurling all four of them out of the department store by the scruff of the neck. “See, I told you he’d try to take over the world again,” mocked Speakno, sulkily, as they lay in an untidy heap on the pavement. “WHEN? WHEN DID YOU SAY THAT?” screeched Monkey, jumping up and down like one of the Matawongan tree frogs. “Well, if you’re going to speak to me like that, I’m not going to say!” **** “Hello, Kingdom of Ys, Baron van Bookshelf at your service?” “Baron, its Zoltan here,” replied the lycra-clad superhero. “Oh Zoltan, how simply enchanting to hear from you, dear heart! Kieran, I’ve got Zoltan on the phone!” Kieran sidled up to the Baron and pressed the speaker function on the telephone carriage. “Hi Zoltan, how are you?” simpered Kieran. “Well, not in the best of health right now,” came the reply, “I’m currently stuck in a telephone booth with the three monkeys and it’s somewhat erm… airless.” “Have you just farted?” Monkey demanded of Hearno. “Eh?” 210
“I SAID have you… oh forget it,” grumbled Monkey, “You’ll be conveniently mishearing that for hours.” Several shooshings later, peace was retored. “Listen, Baron,” continued Zoltan, “we saw your interview on television.” “How kind of you to watch our programme,” cooed Kieran. “Yes, yes!” continued Zoltan, impatiently, “is it true you and the Baron plan to take over the world… again?” “Of course it is,” smiled the Baron magnanimously, “It’s nice of you to have noticed Zoltan, nobody else ever seems to take us seriously.” “Baron, now listen,” said Monkey, who had climbed up onto Zoltan’s shoulder and now had his head down the telephone, “we’re in Paris.” “Ah, Gay Paris!” interrupted the Baron wistfully, “I had a nightclub named after me there, you know. I wonder if they still do that lap dancing routine.” “They do,” said Zoltan, blushing to even think about it, “but I have some tragic news. A friend of ours is dead, Baron. Murdered at the top of the Eiffel Tower.” “That is indeed tragic,” gasped Kieran, deeply moved, “Have you called the police?” “What do you think you floppy haired buffoon?” snarled Monkey, “of course we’ve not called the police. They’d never understand that we’re trying to save the world!” The Baron made an arch with his fingers and looked worriedly at Kieran. “You are saving the world? From whom?” he asked, carefully.
“Well, from you right now,” snapped Monkey, “You do realise, Baron, that you’re being used, you’re being controlled by the Red Man to do his evil bidding?” “Red Man?” queried Kieran, “I’ve seen no Red Man, have you, Baron?” “Not at all. And anyway, that’s a rich comment coming from a sock puppet, Monkey!” added the Baron, in a hurt tone of voice, “I thought you and Zoltan liked us, that you were our friends?” “We ARE your friends,” Monkey assured them, “that’s why we’re warning you that you are being controlled, that someone is manipulating you, helping you to a certain stage and then they are going to kill you.” “Oh, how frightful,” gasped Kieran. “I’m not being controlled, Monkey,” the Baron answered warmly, “Ys is part of my destiny, I can feel it. You know I have that power, don’t you, Monkey?” “Yes,” said Monkey, “and it may be your undoing, Baron. What are you planning to do in order to take over the world?” “Well really we shouldn’t be telling you,” said Kieran sulkily, “you’re not being very nice to us, but I suppose the Baron can’t resist, as usual…” Indeed the Baron was rubbing his hands together with glee and had started his marzipan fruit offering routine. Kieran knew his boyfriend’s megalomaniac tendencies only too well. “It is my intention,” he announced dramatically, whilst twirling a marzipan orange around in his fingers as if to emphasise his point, “to turn the entire 212
world, with the exception of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, GAY!” “And Lesbian,” added Kieran as a useful afterthought. “Thank you, love,” said the Baron, patting his boyfriend’s floppy hair affectionately. “But… but what about me? And Anna? Do you not want US to feel anything for each other anymore?” pleaded Zoltan, winningly. “Typical straight!” said Kieran off-handedly, “Always thinking about himself.” “Zoltan, if you’re in Paris, I would strongly suggest you cross the border into the Netherlands, and bring Anna and Raine with you,” said the Baron, “That way you will be perfectly safe.” “But what about everyone else in the world?” “NOW he thinks about other people,” sniffed Kieran in righteous indignation. “Remember, Zoltan, that Kieran is part of me and I am part of him,” the Baron began, “He was very cruelly used by Steve Swimmer, and he will have his vengeance or my name isn’t Baron van Bookshelf!” “van Bookshelf?” queried Monkey. “Yes, I changed it to sound more Dutch-friendly, do you like it?” “Hmmmm… yes it does rather seem to suit you, Baron. It’s quite delightful really. I wonder…” “Never mind about the name!” spat Zoltan, “Are you honestly telling me that you’re going to change everybody’s sexual orientation just because Kieran’s having a hissy fit?” The Baron held a finger up to his mouth, in order to prevent Kieran using expletives, and counted quietly 213
to five, to let them both cool down, before saying simply “Well, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.” “Ugh, don’t talk to me about eggs,” said Monkey, feeling queasy just thinking about his disturbing experience with Oeuf. The telephone call ended abruptly. “Hello? Hello?” Zoltan shouted down the telephone receiver. “You appear to be out of change, old chap,” drawled Hearno, unhelpfully. “Well, what are we going to do now?” asked Monkey, after ascertaining that they were indeed skint. “I’m going back to England to get Anna right now, that’s what I’m going to do,” announced Zoltan, “This time the Baron really means it, I feel sure of that! Poor Anna, I must get over… ANNA?” Outside the telephone booth, Zoltan could see his wife running towards them. He leapt out as if he was a superhero emerging after a quick-change routine. Anna was quite clearly in tears. “Anna, what is it?” “It’s Raine, love,” she sobbed, “he’s gone!” “Gone?” smiled Zoltan, waiting for the punch line, “gone where?” “I don’t know. He has just gone!” Monkey realised that this was no joke. “Anna, slow down. Tell me what has happened?” “Oh Monkey, it’s terrible! I just don’t know what to do. I fell asleep at the bottom of Raine's bed and when I woke up, he was gone!” Zoltan threw his arms around her and tried to comfort her. “Did you call the police?” he asked calmly. 214
“Of course I phoned the police!” shouted Anna, “who else would I call? The local kebab shop?” “Don’t be silly,” smiled Zoltan, “the kebab shop would have been closed. Besides, Raine doesn’t like kebabs…” “Somebody gag him, will you?” snapped Speakno, “so what did the police say?” “Nothing. They just said he will turn up. But he won't, will he? He isn't even four years old yet. He could be anywhere.” Monkey jumped up onto Anna’s shoulder, placing a comforting paw around her. “Is anyone at home, in case he does turn up?” “Yes, an old lady from the village. She said it was all the work of the Red Man. That’s why I came to find you.” “You should have called me,” said Zoltan, “I would have come straight home.” “I tried,” said Anna, “but it just kept ringing.” Zoltan suddenly remembered; he had left his phone on the bedside cabinet back at the bed and breakfast. No use going back for it now, it was bound to have been pocketed. “What are we going to do?” asked Anna. “We’ll find Raine,” said Monkey, “I have a feeling I know a couple of people who might have some knowledge of this whole thing.” “The Baron?” asked Zoltan. Monkey nodded. “I knew you were the Monkey for the job,” smiled Anna, a little relieved. She looked at Zoltan. “By the way, why are you wearing that ridiculous costume again?”
thirteen Soon after arriving in Holland it became obvious to Monkey that Baron van Bookshelf was more than a local hero in these parts; the Dutch people worshipped him like a God. This man was planning to turn the entire population of the globe gay and now that he was the ruler of Ys he had the means to do so. The ancient technology within his recently acquired city was capable of unknown powers, powers which the Baron was eager to use at the earliest possible opportunity, yet Monkey doubted whether the Baron was aware of the consequences of his aspirations. As they walked through the fishing village of Tzummarum, Zoltan, Anna and the monkeys saw the aftermath of a ticker-tape parade, streamers and confetti lining every inch of the pavement along the narrow streets. Posters and photographs of the Baron and Kieran were pinned to every door, displayed in every window and pasted onto every lamppost.
“Someone likes him!” laughed Monkey. “Likes who?” asked Zoltan, shivering with cold, wishing he had brought a nice, woolly cardigan with him. Or a tank top. That would have gone very nicely with his lycra Zoltan costume. “The Baron. Everyone loves him!” “Speaking of everyone,” said Speakno, darkly, “Isn't a town of this size supposed to be fairly busy?” “He has a point,” said Anna, “where is everyone?” The streets were totally deserted, not a single person could be seen. The pigeons had taken over the streets and were the only evidence of life within the town. Every shop was closed and in total darkness, every house was locked and the curtains drawn. “It looks as though everyone has gone on holiday at once!” said Hearno. “Perhaps they have,” mused Monkey, “maybe that is exactly what has happened?” “How do you mean?” asked Zoltan, “do you think they got a package holiday to Greece?” “What, all fifteen hundred of them? Perhaps everyone has gone to a nearby city to marvel at the ancient architecture? Perhaps a city that has recently been rediscovered after being lost for many centuries? And one which would provide untold numbers of new and exciting job opportunities? ” “You don’t mean…” began Zoltan. “But of course!” “But why would they have all gone to Bradford?” asked Zoltan, puzzled. “NOT BRADFORD, YOU GREAT LYCRA-CLAD BUFFOON!” yelled Monkey, “I was referring to Ys!” 217
“Hey, there’s no need to get personal, mothball!” snapped Zoltan, “since when did we resort to petty name-calling?” “Honey!” soothed Anna, “calm down! People might see us” “He started it!” came the petulant reply. “I did not!” snapped Monkey, “you are too oversensitive! You need to chill out a little. Let your ying and yang balance out and take deep breaths. Let your feng shui merge with your aikido and open your mind to the calming influences of the sea.” “How will that help?” whispered Hearno. “It won't. But it might shut him up for a minute.” “Monkey, I think we are all tired. Can we find somewhere to rest?” suggested Anna. “I think we should,” agreed Monkey, “some of us are a little CRABBY and IRRITABLE.” He shot a look towards Zoltan, who returned the gesture. “We could try this guest house?” suggested Hearno, noticing that the entrance door was open. They all agreed. Inside, the guest house was just as deserted as the streets outside. A quick check of the booking-in sheets revealed that there hadn't been a single guest in the past four weeks. “Spooky!” sniffed Monkey, “it would appear that we have this wonderful establishment to ourselves!” “It’s very dusty,” grumbled Anna, somewhat unimpressed. Monkey and Hearno were looking at a map on the wall in the foyer. “Well, that's interesting,” said Monkey, "if you draw a straight line from Tzummarum, not only does it pass directly through 218
Ys, but straight through Grimsby too, exactly where the masked bodies had washed up.” Hearno obliged and drew a line on the map. “I wonder...” he thought, and continued the line further. The two brothers stood, slack-jawed at the map. “Coincidence?” “I don't think so,” said Monkey, “straight through Towndale. And I would like to place money on the idea that the line will pass through the church at Grimsby and the library at Towndale. I also think that if we follow the line, it will pass straight through the place we will find the transmitter.” Speakno sidled up to his brothers. “What are you saying, dear brother? Are you telling me that you were wrong when you said you knew where Ys was? You were wrong and I was right? Is that what you are saying? Could it be that perhaps you ought to have listened to me all along?” Monkey sneered at him and turned to Zoltan. “I'm hungry.” “I am too. I hope there is some food somewhere!” said Zoltan, looking for the kitchen. “Sausages!” drooled Monkey, dreamily, “please, let there be sausages!” He followed Zoltan into the kitchen, all animosity temporarily forgotten. Great whoops of joy came from the kitchen as Zoltan and Monkey found all kinds of wonderful food. And sausages. “We’re going to eat well tonight,” called Zoltan. “Arr, I hope there be fish in there too, so I do!” came a voice from behind them.
Hearno spun around to see a salty old sea-dog standing in the doorway, looking as scruffy and beardy as ever. “Fred! Am I pleased to see you!” called Hearno, “where have you been? What are you doing here?” “I been following ye for ages, see. I been asking around after ye. Found a traumatised shop assistant who said ye was in Holland, so I did.” “But I thought you were travelling back to England with Captain Pow’s body?” Monkey asked, emerging from the kitchen. “I were, but a nice young couple agreed to go in my place, see.” **** After a hearty meal they each retired to the rooms of their choice. Zoltan and Anna took a double room, which was the cleanest Anna could find. The three Monkeys found quaint single rooms as far apart from each other as possible. Fred slept in the broom cupboard as it reminded him of a hut he once stayed in on Grimsby docks. It didn’t take long before the entire gang had fallen to sleep. In the early hours of the morning, Zoltan was woken by a gentle tapping on the bedroom door. He got out of bed as quietly as possible and tiptoed to the door, turning around to see Anna still fast asleep. He opened the door and almost ruined the silence, trying hard to stifle a blood-curdling scream and impressed himself with the control he found over the contents of his stomach. “Hello, Zoltan!” smiled Captain Pow, “you are looking well!”
“So… are you!” stammered Zoltan, “especially for a dead guy?” This was a blatant lie - he looked terrible. His impact with the streets of Paris had shattered most of his bones, making his body horrifically distorted and twisted. His face was pale through the huge loss of blood and although the pathologist had done his best to make his corpse look presentable, huge purple bruises and massive scars still covered his body. “I have to speak to you, Zoltan,” continued Captain Pow, his voice barely audible, “follow me!” Without hesitating, Zoltan followed him along the corridors and down the stairs to the reception desk. Zoltan marvelled at how well the dead guy could get around without actually moving any of his body. He seemed to glide along, completely without sound. He did smell a bit though. “It’s about my death,” said Captain Pow, as they reached the reception desk, “it wasn’t an accident. It was Dahut’s fault.” “I know, Chantelle was really Dahut.” “Oh,” croaked the Captain, sounding a little disappointed, “I know how to find her though. She was followed. I managed to contact someone on your side of the life fence and she can lead you to Dahut.” “But how could you do that? You are dead!” “Well, technically I am, although I cannot pass over to the other side until my business on Earth is finished. I need your help to release me.” Zoltan knew he wasn’t going to like this. Even less than the putrid smell. “And what is your business, Captain Pow?”
“To lead you to Dahut. Zoltan, let me introduce you to someone. This is Marie.” With that, a pretty young woman walked into the reception area. Zoltan nervously shook her hand and smiled. This woman was far too good-looking to be hanging around with dead people, he thought. “Marie is a medium,” the Captain explained. “Are you really?” asked Zoltan, a stunned expression on his face, “I would have said you were a small, to be honest.” “Not that kind of medium,” said Marie, patiently, “the kind of medium who can contact the dead.” “Oh, I see!” Zoltan lied, “that makes sense! Silly me!” “Captain Pow contacted me and told me that you needed to find Dahut?” “Apparently so,” said Zoltan, “not that I want to find her, you understand. It’s just, well… she did this to my friend, and she needs to face justice for that.” Captain Pow smiled thinly, his blue lips cracking slightly. He seemed to be rotting away far more quickly than he had been a few minutes earlier. “Let us go somewhere quiet,” said Marie, “I work better when there is silence.” Zoltan thought briefly about this; there was very little noise where they were but Marie took the keys to the bridal suite and began leading Zoltan towards the stairs. “Are you coming, Captain?” he called. The corpse shook his head. “No, my friend,” he replied, his voice croaky and not really sounding like his own anymore, “I have an appointment with the afterlife. Good luck!”
Zoltan nodded and gave him a final wave then followed Marie up the stairs to the bridal suite. Captain Pow let out a sigh. “Such a nice lad,” he muttered, “yet incredibly stupid.” His body fell clumsily to the ground, K’vorim standing over it. At first, he hadn't believed Dahut's plan would have worked, but it would seemed that with Zoltan being the dimwit he appeared to be, it was working far better than even Dahut had believed. **** Marie paused outside the door to the bridal suite. Zoltan stood beside her, the briefest flicker of doubt entering his mind; should he speak to Monkey, let him know where he was? He decided quickly not to bother. He was old enough and wise enough to deal with this alone. Marie opened the door and the two of them walked into the room together. As soon as the door closed behind him he realised that he had been wrong to try and do this alone. Basically, the room wasn’t there and he was surrounded by a brilliant whiteness. Where there should have been beds or tables, there was nothing. There were no walls, no ceiling, and no floor. Everywhere Zoltan looked was a brilliant, bright white. Zoltan and Marie were quite literally standing in the middle of nowhere. Zoltan spun around, hoping to open the door he had just come through but the door was not there. He and Marie were trapped in a world full of nothingness. “Zoltan?” wailed Marie, “where are we? What is happening?” Zoltan shrugged his shoulders. “I’m
scared, Zoltan!” she whispered, “What are we going to do?” “Don’t worry,” smiled Zoltan, trying to hide his terror for the second time tonight, “I’ll think of something!” “It is so cold, Zoltan. And so quiet!” Zoltan nodded, feeling a little nauseous. He was acutely aware that he was not standing on the ground. And if he wasn’t standing on the ground, he must have been falling, although he could never hit the ground as there was no ground to hit. “Zoltan!” pleaded Marie, “what are we going to do?” Hysteria. That was the last thing Zoltan needed right now. He was in half a mind to slap her around the face like they do in the movies, although he could never bring himself to hit a woman. He thought about it though. “Right!” called Zoltan in a flash of inspiration, “you’re a medium. Get in touch with Captain Pow. Ask him if he knows where we are. Tell him to get Monkey to come and help us!” Marie smiled. “Maybe that will work,” she said, trying to sound optimistic. She closed her eyes and muttered a few words before calling “Captain Pow! Are you with us, Captain?” There was no reply. She tried again. “Mr Pow? We need your help! Are you with us, Pow?” “Try anyone!” whispered Zoltan, hoarsely, “see if you can tune into anyone else?” Marie nodded. “Is anybody here?” she whispered. Still the silence was deafening. Which was a rather impressive oxymoron. And an oxymoron being
ironic, considering how much of a moron Zoltan was. “Spirits of the afterlife, lend us your presence!” Zoltan briefly wondered why ghosts would need presents and why they would lend them out willynilly. Marie turned to Zoltan. “It’s no use,” she whimpered, “I cannot get through to anybody!” Zoltan was all out of ideas. He sat down in his little patch of nothingness and tried desperately to think of a plan. Marie sat beside him. “I’m so cold,” she muttered, shivering. **** Anna woke in the early hours of the morning with a sudden feeling of dread. It was still dark, but she could see the mound of duvet beside her which she knew was her husband. She smiled to herself, feeling a little more confident that they were at last going to find their son and return to some sort of normality back home in Towndale. She put her arm around Zoltan and was surprised at how cold he felt, considering the weight of the quilt wrapped around them. Come to think of it, he seemed to have been putting on quite a lot of weight since he began the quest for Ys. “Zoltan, honey?” she whispered, but he didn’t answer. This was most unlike Zoltan. He was a very light sleeper and usually would have woken as soon as Anna said his name. Stranger still, he seemed to have finally rid himself of that annoying snoring habit of his. Tonight, Zoltan slept silently. Anna switched on the light and let out a terrifying scream. **** 225
Within a few moments, Fred, Anna and the three monkeys were standing beside Anna’s bed, each staring silently at Captain Pow’s corpse which lay motionless beneath the quilt. “How did he get here?” asked Hearno. “No idea,” answered Monkey. “Eh?” “I said no idea” “Eh?” “I said… oh, never mind!” Speakno turned to Fred. “I thought you had sent the body back to England?” “Arr, I did, see,” replied Fred, “a nice young couple agreed to take him back for me, so they did. I telled you this before, see?” “And did you get their names?” snorted Speakno. “No, but I knows what they looks like, see.” Monkey groaned inwardly. “Go on then, Fred. What did they look like?” “Well, see. She was very pretty, face like a mermaid. He be kind of sunburned, looked like he was a lobster. He be very…” “Scary?” Monkey interrupted. “Arr, scary, he was.” “And could he have been called K’vorim?” “Arr, that were his now, aye. What be your point?” “The point is,” Anna added, calmly, “that my husband is missing, having probably being abducted by the Red Man’s minions! He could be laying in a gutter somewhere, horribly mutilated, perhaps even decapitated or disembowelled. ” “Arr. That be a good point.” “So what do we do, Monkey?” asked Anna. 226
“We have to find Zoltan. We search this place first, and then we search the rest of the town. We will search the whole damn Nether regions if we have to!” “Netherlands,” corrected Speakno. “Whatever.” **** Zoltan and Marie huddled together as the temperature in the middle of nowhere dropped rapidly. “Are we going to die here?” Marie sobbed. “When I agreed to help your friend, I didn't expect I was going to die. Are we dead now? Is that why I can’t contact anyone?” “We are not dead, nor are we going to die, I will get us out, somehow,” Zoltan smiled, trying to comfort her. He looked into her desperate eyes and felt hypnotised by her. Soon he was lost in there, the iceblue of her eyes seemingly flowing in a torrent of emotion into his mind. Marie edged closer to him and Zoltan felt a need to get closer to those eyes. They seemed to beckon to him, call out to him, as if they were guiding him home following years away in some far away land. Gently, their lips met, a brief but tender kiss, a feeling rushing through Zoltan like an electrical storm. Marie ran her fingers through his hair and they kissed again. For the briefest of moments, Zoltan was lost in there and never wanted to find his way out, until a sudden flash of guilt poured cold water over him. He pulled away. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I cannot do this. I have a wife and child to think about.” Marie seemed unfazed. “I won't tell if you don’t,” she purred, tugging at his golden cape and watching as it 227
floated away. Zoltan was finding it impossible to resist Marie, yet something told him that he just had to do it. He reached out and touched Marie's face. “Oh, Zoltan!” she whispered, “I want us to make this special. We might never get out of here. This could be the last time either of us make love to anyone!” She began unbuttoning her shirt. He was compelled to do as she wanted. “Zoltan, we should close our eyes, imagine we are somewhere special, instead of here!” Zoltan smiled. “It’s a bit difficult, what with this white light everywhere!” Marie's face lit up. “I have just the thing to help!” she smiled. She rummaged in her handbag and produced what initially looked like a black bag. “Put it on!” she whispered, handing the material to Zoltan. “What is it?” he asked. “It’s just a mask. It will help to black out the light. Then everything will be alright.” Zoltan took the mask, turning it over in his hands. He was about to put the mask on when the faintest glimmer of a memory entered his head, he remembered the men he met on the Eiffel Tower. He threw the mask behind him. “It’s you again, isn't it, Dahut? Or Chantelle or Estelle, whatever you are calling yourself these days.” he spat, “you killed my friend, and now you are trying to kill me! You almost got away with it too!” “Zoltan, don’t fight me. You cannot get away from here. Only I know how to get you back to your friends and you know what you have to do to get that sort of information out of me.” 228
“Sorry, Dahut. It isn't going to happen. Sleeping with a woman that is a couple of years older than me is not too bad, but someone who is several centuries older… and dead… well, that’s just perverted! I can only imagine your wrinkles in my worst nightmares.” With a look of faux disappointment, she smiled a half smile. “Oh Zoltan, it looks as though we will have to do things the hard way then!” She pointed into the distance where a small black dot had appeared, standing out like a beacon in the absolute whiteness. As he watched, the dot grew larger and soon Zoltan realised what it was that was coming towards him at frightening speeds. It was Leviathan. The great beast had missed out on its breakfast the last time their paths had crossed and it was not going to be outdone this time. “Not so magnificent now are you, Zoltan?” laughed Dahut, “my baby will destroy you!” Zoltan tried to run but found he couldn’t even move. He looked over his shoulder to see Leviathan only a couple of hundred yards away, huge and fearsome. Suddenly, just in front of him, a door opened and in the doorway stood the familiar figures of Fred and Monkey. Seeing the fast approaching Leviathan, Fred made a grab for Zoltan’s collar and dragged him through the door, slamming it shut. The three heroes dived to the floor, hoping to avoid Leviathan’s crushing jaws but nothing happened. Leviathan failed to burst through the door and swallow them. Cautiously, Fred opened the door a touch, and then threw it open. “That weren’t there before, so it weren’t!” he said. Zoltan and Monkey looked into the bridal suite, 229
beautifully laid out in pristine white lace, a fourposter bed dominating the bedroom. In the middle of the floor lay Zoltan’s cape. Fred went in to retrieve it and handed it to Zoltan. “I guess that Dahut was here too?” asked Monkey. “I guess so,” croaked Zoltan. “She almost got me, Monkey. I can't believe I didn't see it coming. How could I have been so stupid? Best not to tell Anna what just happened here, don’t you think?” “I guess you’re right,” said Monkey.
fourteen Dawn broke over the fishing village of Tzummarum and none of the current residents of the guest house had slept since Zoltanâ€™s safe return. It was agreed that things had gone on for long enough and they should invade Ys at the earliest opportunity. After a hearty breakfast, Fred, Zoltan and Anna followed the three monkeys to the village harbour, hoping to find a small boat to carry them over the sea on the short journey to Ys. â€œIt does look beautiful,â€? whispered Anna. Indeed, the city was magnificent. It stood a little over a mile out to sea and was surrounded by a large wall with a number of tall buildings standing high above it. Tallest of them all stood the magnificent cathedral, whose bells had been heard underwater for so many centuries. The spire was lent a strangely eerie look by the early morning mist which conjured images of fairy princesses and brave knights.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” said Speakno, “but there appears to be a distinct lack of boats of any description here?” He was quite correct; not even a small rowing boat remained moored in the harbour. It seemed as though the entire population of the village had taken every available boat to Ys, searching for (and finding) permanent, well-paid employment. Baron van Bookshelf had proved himself to be a highly intelligent adversary and shrewd businessman, recruiting enough employees to strengthen his city, its finances, defences and trade links with the rest of the world, all within the space of a day or two. “How are we going to get over there?” asked Hearno. “Well, see, I got an idea,” said Fred, “we can use these here empty oil barrels and paddle across.” Monkey stared first at the collection of oil drums and then at Fred in disgust. “Run that past me again?” he spat, “you want me to get into a greasy oil barrel? Not only that, but you expect me to paddle? As in ‘get my fur wet?’ Which planet did you fall from, exactly?” “Oh no, Mr Monkey, I don't be from another planet. Least, I don't thinks so.” “I don’t think there is much alternative,” said Anna, rolling a barrel into the sea, Zoltan and Fred followed with more barrels. Even Speakno and Hearno joined in. Finally, realising he was in danger of being left behind, Monkey relented and hopped into the barrel with his two brothers, complaining all the way. “Ok, Fred! Lead the way!” called Zoltan. “Oh great, we’ll end up in Cape Horn if we follow him!” Speakno groaned, as the four oil barrels set sail for Ys. 232
**** “Oh, what a bother!” protested Baron van Bookshelf, as the telephone tinkled at a thoroughly inopportune moment, “would you mind getting that please, Kieran love? I’m half-way through a particularly luscious marzipan lemon!” “Kingdom of Ys, Kieran speaking.” After a moment, he turned to the Baron. “It’s Captain van de Tuin; she says has some unfortunate news for you.” “How devastating,” said the Baron, swallowing the remainder of his marzipan treat in a thoroughly unsatisfactory manner as Kieran pressed the speaker feature on the telephone handset. “Yes, Gerdi?” “Baron, there's a series of small oil barrels rapidly closing in on our position,” reported Gerdi in that rather stiff, naval way of hers. “From the description you left with our lookouts, I do believe that Monkey and his colleagues are attempting an invasion!” “Well, bless my soul, but he’s a resourceful little sock puppet, though his arrival is deeply ill-timed. The platform ceremony cannot commence until this afternoon!” “Tell me about it,” Gerdi sympathised, “it’ll be several hours before the ‘Eindhoven’ returns. What are your orders, Meneer van Bookshelf?” The Baron looked at Kieran, his face betraying how difficult his choices had now become, how torn he was between his detestation of violence and his determination to achieve his ultimate megalomaniac ambition. Whilst he could never call Monkey his friend, he did consider the sock puppet as someone of 233
equal intellect and therefore deserving a certain amount of respect. Also, his friends Zoltan and Anna were members of the flotilla of barrels. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “Captain van de Tuin?” “Yes, Baron?” “My orders are… to attack!” “Yes sir!” barked Gerdi, with relish. “Go forth my brave Captain, and destroy them!” charged the Baron. Gerdi clicked off her mobile with an evil smile of combat-fever on her lips. “Right now, you horrible little lot!” she bellowed at her rowers, “commence your attack run, NOW!” Kieran shook his head at his boyfriend sadly. “I had to do it,” said the Baron, simply, “we’ll never get another crack at this.” “But they are our friends!” “Friends don’t stop other friends from taking over the world.” concluded the Baron, sagely. **** “What in the world is that?” exclaimed Zoltan, breaking for a moment from his paddling. “Arr, that be one of those there ancient Roman triremes, so it be,” Fred answered, “I haven’t seen one of those since the last time ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ was on the telly.” Monkey paused for a moment from his incessant complaining and smiled wistfully to himself. “He was a very nice chap you know.” “Who?” “Jason, of course! Intelligent, cultured and uncommonly kind to his footwear and 234
undergarments. It was his curiosity that got the better of him though. I told him repeatedly not to go ashore when there were Cyclops about, but would he listen to Monkey?” “I’m beginning to know how he felt,” thought Zoltan, grimly. **** “Battle speed!” barked Gerdi, now in her element, “Arm topside!” Several of the crew were now assigned to loading and lighting the giant balusters that lined the decks. “Open fire upon my signal!” she commanded. “My God,” gasped Anna, “Great balls of fire!” “I’d rather you didn’t remind me of him,” said Monkey, “he was awfully large and sweaty, especially towards the end. The number of smalls that were soaked and stretched beyond recognition… he certainly had a lot to answer for!” “No, not Elvis!” said Anna, “look!” The group watched in horror as a flaming projectile hurtled towards them. “I get the feeling that trireme’s not very friendly,” said Hearno. “You don’t say!” Monkey answered, sarcastically. “Eh?” “Oh, do shut up!” snapped Monkey. “Look out!” yelled Zoltan, as the huge fireball smacked into the sea with a deafening hiss. The displacement of the boulder carried a small tidal wave over Monkey’s craft and, more importantly, Monkey himself.
“Agh! now my fur is all wet again!” he screeched, “I hate the water. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! When this battle is over, I never want to go near water ever again. You’re to keep me in a hermetically sealed bag from now on, you hear, Zoltan?” Zoltan nodded. ‘Perhaps I can find a sound-proof one’, he thought, with a wry smile on his face. “Damn!” shouted Gerdi, “which one of you calculated the trajectory of the shot?” A small, studious woman raised her hand. “Sorry Captain,” she smiled, nervously, “it’s just that the instructions are in imperial measurements and I’ve only ever used metric. I’m not sure how to convert them.” “Is that so?” snapped Gerdi, “in that case, I have no place for you on my ship! Leave this vessel immediately!” “But Captain, we are out at sea!” whimpered the woman, the smile melting from her face. “Do you not think I am aware of that? I have been sailing for quite some time now; I think I might just know when we are at sea. Get off this ship at this very instant!” “But Captain!” pleaded the woman, “I will get it right this time!” “I don’t mean to be rude,” said Gerdi softly, “but if you do not leave this ship at this very instant, I will personally THROW YOU OFF!” “But Captain, I can't swim! I was only drafted into the rowing team when the fourteenth oarswoman on the left twisted her ankle when she tripped over the
laces of her untied Doc Martens. I… I’m not even a lesbian!” “Not a lesbian?” screamed Gerdi, “what is this world coming to when you cannot trust your own staff? Girls, take this woman below deck and give her what for! When the Baron operates his machine, she will at least have some idea what to expect.” With that, four very large, muscular oarswomen picked up the studious woman and carried her, screaming, below deck. “Are there any more of you that don’t row for our team?” shouted Gerdi. There was no reply. “Good. Perhaps we can now complete our mission?” She gave the order for another shot to be fired. “Incoming!” yelled Zoltan as the fireball flew towards them. Fortunately Gerdi had still not yet judged the distance correctly and the shot landed several yards short of the group, again causing large waves to wash over the top of the barrels. “I’m seriously peeved now!” moaned Monkey, “just look at the state of me! And our barrel is taking in water each time one of those shots comes in!” “Can't you monkeys do anything?” pleaded Anna. “I could try for a distraction?” mused Hearno, “maybe one of my projections might help?” “Anything! We just need some time!” Hearno tried to project an image of a large frigate onto the horizon, hoping that its presence might scare the trireme away. “Ship ahoy!” came a shout from the crow’s nest. Gerdi spun around to see the image of the frigate in the distance. 237
“Strange,” she mused, “the ‘Eindhoven’ isn’t due back for at least four hours!” She paused in thought for a moment. “Set sail for the ‘Eindhoven.’ We shall board her at sea and use the sophisticated weaponry on board to destroy the enemy and complete our mission!” “It’s working!” smiled Zoltan, as he watched the trireme alter its course. “Good. Now paddle!” snapped Monkey. The fleet of oil barrels were closing in on the shores of Ys but the pilots were becoming increasingly agitated at being shot at, worried for Raine’s safety and understandably nervous about the potentially catastrophic capabilities of the machinery that was currently in the hands of the seemingly deranged Baron van Bookshelf. It seemed, however, that a slightly more immediate problem waited for them on the shoreline. The unmistakable figures of Dahut and the K’vorim watching as they paddled, impressed by the resourcefulness of their adversaries. Monkey was the first to notice them. He realised that out at sea, they were each sitting monkeys, should K’vorim so desire. Yet, much to Monkey’s surprise, he made no attempt to attack them. “Be on your guard!” he called, pointing in the direction of K’vorim and Dahut, who turned away and disappeared through the huge gates in the wall surrounding the city. Just as it seemed as though they were about to make it safely to the shore, a loud roar came from behind
them. Nervously, Monkey turned around to see the advancing Leviathan. “Oh... bugger!” he called, pointing in the direction of the huge fish. Just as it got to within touching distance of the barrels the great fish dived beneath the water and disappeared. “Where did it go?” asked Speakno. The silence was deafening. Suddenly, Leviathan resurfaced from beneath Zoltan's barrel, remembering the mistake it made before about delaying the screamer, sending Zoltan high into the air. The great fish snapped wildly at Zoltan but missed, gravity pulling it back into the water and it hit the sea with an enormous splash and disappeared back under the surface. Zoltan landed in the sea close to the water’s edge and quickly swam to the shore, shaken but unhurt. He looked out over the water where he could see his friends paddling frantically towards the shore. To his horror he could also clearly see the underwater shadow of Leviathan hurtling towards them at great speed. “Look out!” he screamed, but it was too late. Leviathan resurfaced beside the barrel of monkeys, causing huge waves to capsize the rest of the barrels. Quick as a flash, Hearno leapt high into the air and landed on the great serpents head. He threw himself over the beast’s eyes in an attempt to block its vision. Without the use of its eyes, Leviathan was unable to make an accurate attack on its prey and dived beneath the water without devouring anything other than an empty oil barrel. It shook its head furiously, trying to dislodge Hearno, but the little sock puppet held on for dear life. 239
“Swim!” yelled Zoltan, as the rest of the group swam the last hundred yards or so to reach the shore. As soon as he was able, Monkey stood up and looked out to sea, frantically searching for Hearno. The sea was very calm; there was no sign of his brother at all. Leviathan too was gone, and Monkey slowly realised that his brother had given his own life to save the lives of the others. **** Leviathan had not resurfaced for over an hour, yet Monkey still stared out to sea, clinging to the hope that his brother would paddle ashore at any moment. “He’s gone, Monkey,” Zoltan whispered. “Yes, I know,” sighed Monkey. “I’m so very sorry.” “Yes, me too.” “Shall we go?” asked Zoltan, trying his best to take Monkey’s mind off the loss of his brother whilst urging him to complete the task in hand. “You go,” sighed Monkey, “I’m staying here.” “I’m sorry?” “I’ve had enough. I don’t want to do this anymore. Everyone I ever manage to get close to dies. Captain Pow and Hearno. They are just the latest in a long line of people I've loved and lost. Sooner or later I will lose all of you as well. Before long, I’ll only be a tatty old sock puppet, alone in the world but for my own dodgy memories. I cannot be held responsible any more. So I've decided to get out while the going is good. First thing tomorrow, I'm going to ask the Big Guy to let me back upstairs and leave this sorry mess behind.”
“But Monkey, we depend on you. You are our guide. We are so close now, I can taste the victory. I need you, Monkey, and I need your help to get my son back. The Baron could yet do anything at any time. And what about the rest of the world? Don’t you care about them?” pleaded Zoltan. “My dear friend,” soothed Monkey, “I know you mean well, but it really isn't going to do you or anyone else any good. I’m not interested in saving the world any more. Let Speakno take over the reins for a change. He always thought he should have been in charge after all.” “Fine. Stay here and sulk. So you’ve lost your brother and we all feel very sorry about that. But what about Anna? She’s lost everyone. Even our own son. We know the Red Man is behind all this and I’m going to get my boy back, with or without your help.” “Yes, whatever,” dismissed Monkey, “who do you think you are? You are nothing special. You can't even dress yourself properly.” “That’s where you are wrong, Monkey. I am…” he announced with a flourish, “Zoltan the Magnificent.” With that, he turned away and joined the rest of the group. “Come on,” he announced, “we are on our own now.” They set off towards the great gates of Ys. Only Speakno stayed behind briefly. “I told the Big Guy you were not the monkey for the job,” he sneered, then ran after the others. **** They reached the gates of Ys at around noon. The city walls towered high above them and there was no
obvious way to get inside the city, other than through the gates. “How do we get in?” mused Zoltan, “the gates are locked and the walls are too high to climb.” “Try your magic,” smiled Anna. Zoltan looked at her, astounded. Anna never liked her husband to adopt his superhero persona, and she disliked him using his magic even more. Still, their son was somewhere behind the wall and if it took Zoltan’s magic to get them in, so be it. “Are you sure?” asked Zoltan. “Sure. What other choice do we have?” “You could try the secret door?” came Monkey’s voice from behind them, “I knew you wouldn’t get very far without me!” “Secret door, Monkey?” asked Zoltan, smiling inwardly, without turning around. “I told you before, I helped design this place. I had Gradlon put a secret door in, just in case he needed to leave in a hurry.” “Go on then,” scoffed Speakno, “where is this secret door?” Monkey walked over to the wall and mentally counted the bricks, calling upon every reserve of his memory in an attempt to recall which of the ancient bricks was the secret switch that would open a door for them. He pushed one of the bricks. At first, nothing happened but soon a large patch of ground began moving beneath their feet. “Oh dear,” said Monkey, casually, “wrong switch!” “Never mind,” said Zoltan, “press another.”
“No, you don’t understand. I’ve done something really stupid. It might be a good idea if we all left the area fairly quickly.” Anna grabbed Monkey by the t-shirt and shook him violently. “What have you done, Monkey?” she yelled. “I’ve called upon the guardian of Ys.” gasped the sock puppet. She took in a deep breath. “And that is…?” she growled. “Well, have you heard of Cerberus?” Anna looked worried. “Isn't he the three-headed dog in Greek mythology that guards the gates of Hades? Don’t tell me you’ve just called up Cerberus?” “Well, actually, it isn't Cerberus. When we chose the guardian, we went to the same ancient pet shop that the Red Man got Cerberus from. There was only one animal left, so we had to take it.” Just then, a loud squeaking noise came from within the hole in the ground. Anna let out a loud shriek and dropped Monkey on his head. “What is it, Monkey?” she screamed. “It’s Gerberus. The giant three headed gerbil.” Gerberus climbed out of the hole, squeaking wildly. It stood around five feet tall, each of its three heads armed with fierce looking jaws with row upon row of razor sharp teeth. One of its three heads lunged at Zoltan, who dived quickly out of the way and causing the great beast to collide firmly with the ground. It let out a piercing squeak of pain but launched itself at the two monkeys. It caught Speakno in its teeth and shook him violently, like a puppy with its favourite toy. The huge creature then let go and Speakno flew, 243
screaming hysterically, over the great wall of the city, across the huge courtyard and slamming into a window in the tower high above the magnificent cathedral. Kieran looked in the direction of a faint thud to see Speakno, spread across the window and sliding slowly down. “Speakno? Get down!” shouted Kieran, “You’re smearing the glass!” The Baron looked up from the scroll he was currently studying and saw the tiny sock puppet hanging on by his little woolly paws. “Don’t just stand there Kieran, help him!” the Baron demanded. Kieran ran over to the window, Speakno shaking his head frantically. Kieran threw the window open, suddenly realising why Speakno was shaking his head. The window opened outwards which knocked the puppet from his precarious position, sending him falling from the tower to the ground. “Oh sh…” began Speakno, his sentence cut short by his unceremonious landing on one of the Barons prized rhododendron bushes which had been specially imported from Towndale. “Tsk,” sighed the Baron, “how inconsiderate! He could have landed a couple of feet to the right and… what on Earth?” He was looking over the wall of the city to where Fred, Zoltan, Anna and Monkey were battling Gerberus. “Kieran,” he whispered nervously, “what is that hideous creature over there?” Kieran looked out. “That’s Fred Crispin. We had him chained up in Towndale.” “Not that hideous creature, Kieran. The other one!” 244
“I’m not sure, Baron. It looks like… a giant threeheaded… hamster?” “My goodness,” exclaimed the Baron, “they’ve taken those Dolly the Sheep cloning experiments too far now, haven't they?” Kieran stared at the Baron blankly. “Whatever it is, I don’t want it in my city. It will scare Ruud away! And if Speakno was able to breach the city defences, you can guarantee that Monkey and the others will find their way in also.” “We are running out of time, your evilness!” “My thoughts exactly, Kieran. We must create a diversion. What is likely to be the first place they will look for us?” “Well, the library, I should imagine? We are, after all, librarians. By definition, it could feasibly be assumed that we would look after the library.” “Exactly. Kieran, my boy, take the biggest box of Belgian chocolates you can find to the library. If they are as hungry as I imagine they will be, the chocolates should buy us an hour or so at least!” “But Baron…” The Baron held his hand up, indicating his assistant to be silent. “Kieran, you are quite right, of course. Take some of these marzipan fruits as well.” **** Gerberus had never been required to defend the city before now, and had lain dormant for many centuries. In addition, each of its three heads was chasing a different target and soon became clear that it was struggling against Monkey and the humans. Monkey's plan was to tire the beast out until it fell asleep, although in reality it was the humans who 245
were tiring the fastest, particularly Fred, who was sweating profusely as he still insisted on wearing his thick woolly jumper. Suddenly, something hit Gerberus on one of its noses. The huge beast stopped its assault for a moment, shook one of its heads and looked around to see what was happening. It was about to launch another attack when a second object bounced off its back. Zoltan bent down to pick up the object. It looked like a small, green marzipan apple. He stepped back from the wall to see Baron van Bookshelf frantically hurling marzipan fruits at Gerberus from one of the windows of the cathedral. “Get off my land, you hideous creature!” he called, as a marzipan slice of melon cut through the sky like a fruity boomerang and striking the beast between one pair of its eyes. Gerberus was stunned by this sudden barrage of confectionery. One of its heads began eating the sweets, the other two began fighting over it. It seemed to enjoy the sweets so much that it decided it needed more, having not had a substantial meal for several centuries. Then, in one mighty jump, Gerberus leapt over the wall and ran towards the cathedral tower. “Yikes!” bawled a breathless Kieran, freshly returned from his candy-trap excursion. Slowly, inexorably, Gerberus clambered his way up the ancient cathedral tower towards the source of his annoyance. “It’s heading towards us, your evilness!” “Leave this to me,” blustered the Baron. As Gerberus reached the halfway mark, he made his move. “Take 246
that, you beast!” he bellowed from the tower window, casting a hailstone of marzipan down the side of the tower. The dreaded creature gave an earpiercing shriek as it found its grip loosened by the small scuttling sweets, causing the huge beast to cascade down the length of the tower and plummet unceremoniously to the ground below, with a reassuringly earth-shaking splat. “Oh wonderful,” seethed Kieran sarcastically, after seeing the Baron’s handiwork, “I do hope you won’t be expecting me to clean that up, dearest?” he asked archly, his arms securely folded. “But… but it was the only way!” came the protesting reply. “Oh, spare me the excuses! This whole damn island is a mucky mess now,” Kieran sobbed hysterically, “and I’d just started to get it straightened out too!” “Figuratively speaking, I hope,” quipped the Baron, a look of hope on his face. Kieran shrugged his shoulders. “Oh well, I suppose I’ll just have to buy some more disinfectant,” he concluded. The Baron kissed his boyfriend tenderly for his forbearance and returned to view the ensuing chaos below. “This is just like the movies,” he groaned, “Why is it that no matter how many precautions an evil megalomaniac puts in place to prevent his enemies from reaching him, they never seem to work?” He pulled his head back out from the tower window and lapsed into a brief period of contemplation. “What are we to do, your evilness?” asked Kieran, his face full of concern. 247
“There’s only one thing we can do,” came the reply, “pray collect the sacrificial objects, we must operate the platform immediately!” “But we don’t even know where the platform is yet, Baron?” “I realise that but perhaps collecting them together will encourage the platform to reveal itself to us?” “Erm… one final point, which I am loath to raise,” Kieran cast his eyes downwards and pawed the ground with his foot, “we have one erm… object still missing?” “Yes, I know too, Kieran, dearest, but how could we possibly collect a child to brutally slaughter? There are some things that are well beyond even our evil. Besides,” he continued, brightening, “we’d never find one now at such short notice!” “That’s where you’re wrong!” a booming voice sounded from within the chamber. There, by the door, as if miraculously transported from another plane, a tall menacing man wearing a red cloak with eyes of burning flame stood. In his arms he carried the body of a small boy. “My my, if it isn't the Red Man?” challenged the Baron angrily, “How did you get past my guards and what are you doing with that child?” “I materialised into this room of my own volition and I’m doing nothing to this child at all. The sacrifice is yours to take. Once you have done this deed, I shall rule the world, and you, well if you please me I may spare you together with your boy to amuse me whilst I destroy every living thing on this planet!”
“Deranged man!” cried the Baron, pointing at the Red Man, “there’s a deranged man in my quarters! Guards!” The Red Man laughed softly at the pair of them. “Did you really think that you could find your way to Ys so easily without my guidance, you weak-minded fools? It was I who planted that phoney scroll to guide you here. It was I who arranged for your unopposed entrance of the Naval listening station. It was I who arranged for the luxury yacht to get your pathetic little hides over here in the first place. It was I who planted Meneer Brouwer as one of my minions, to assist you with the Dutch government and bureaucracy!” Kieran and the Baron gasped together in disbelief. “Actually you did remarkably well to kill him off so spectacularly,” the Red Man added in a more conciliatory tone, “you should have no problems at all killing this child, especially as he is the offspring of your enemy.” “My enemy?” The Red Man handed the sleeping boy over into Kieran’s waiting arms. “It’s Raine, Zoltan’s son, your evilness!” Kieran stammered as he cradled the child. The Baron’s eyes grew wide with terror. “You can’t mean us to carry out this despicable act?” “Besides,” Kieran added quickly to the Baron, “Ruud van Nistelhoven isn’t due to attend the platform opening ceremony until late this afternoon.” The Baron sensed Kieran's attempt at stalling tactics and ran with the idea. “Couldn’t we phone him and see if he could get here a little earlier?” he asked, 249
trying his best to ignore the fact that the Red Man was beginning to seethe. “Well we could but you know I’m sure he’s a very busy man indeed…” “That’s true, let me see if I can find his mobile phone number.” The Baron duly rummaged around in his pockets. “No, I fear it must be in my good suit still, which also reminds me, I can’t possibly activate the platform in this entirely inappropriate apparel.” “Absolutely,” agreed Kieran, “and you bought me that lovely pin-stripe number for the ceremony, which I’ll need to change into. It’s such a flattering cut too, I think Meneer van Nistelhoven would be proud of it, I certainly know I am, as I am of you!” “Well that’s very kind of you to say so, dearest!” “You’re more than welcome, your sweet evilness!” “Oh you say the nicest things somet…” “SILENCE YOU IDIOTIC BUMBLING HOMOSEXUALS”, screamed the Red Man. “Sacrifice this child, NOW!” In a flash of smoke, he disappeared, for Monkey was fast approaching. “Well, how rude!” “Yes, AND he’s woken Raine up with his shouting,” Kieran replied, “erm… Baron, how do you speak to a toddler anyway?” Baron van Bookshelf gulped. Child-care was definitely not one of his areas of expertise.
fifteen “So, where to, Monkey?” asked Anna, anxious to find her son. “I’m not sure. I’d suggest we try the library first. No doubt the revered Baron van Bookshelf, or whatever he now calls himself, will have set up his evil base there.” “I be going there,” nodded Fred, “it be like old times, me in the library. You be looking somewhere else.” “Ok,” said Monkey, somewhat nervously. He couldn’t exactly imagine Fred being much of a threat to the Baron if the need arose. “Meet us back here in half an hour or so.” “Arr,” said Fred, walking away. “Err, Fred?” called Monkey, “that sign says the library is the other way?” “Arr, I knew that. I was testing your memory, so I was!” He headed off in the opposite direction. Zoltan turned to Monkey. "Was that wise?"
“Absolutely. I don’t think we will see him for a day or so,” laughed Monkey, “best if we keep him out of the way.” “I doubt if you’ll ever see him again,” came a voice from behind them. Monkey spun around. “Where did you come from?” he asked the Red Man. “Oh, you know me, Monkey! I like to drop in every now and again just to make sure you are all doing as you are supposed to.” Monkey looked puzzled. “But your followers haven’t used the transmitter yet. How can you have been released?” The Red Man laughed. “Monkey, you should know me much better by now. They did not need to use the transmitter at all. That is the tool I need for world domination!” “Is this the Red Man?” screamed Anna, “what have you done with my son?” “Done? I haven't done anything to him! He is over there!” The Red Man pointed a bony finger in the direction of a shop. In the window sat Raine, waving happily. Anna clasped her hands over her mouth and stifled a squeal of relief. She ran over to the shop to collect her son. “Aww, look at that!” said the Red Man sweetly, “mummy and baby reunited. It’s lovely to see, don’t you think? It certainly has brought tears to my eyes.” “What are you up to?” sneered Monkey. The fur on the back of his neck stood on end, as the feeling of anger overpowered him. “Me? Why, Monkey, I am disappointed in you! I’m up to nothing at all. I am merely assisting a dear 252
acquaintance in his quest for world domination. Where is the harm in that?” “You mean the Baron? Why did you have to include him? When it comes to being evil, the Baron is about as scary as a Teletubby with PMS. I know you are behind his plans to take over the world.” “Again you disappoint me, Monkey. I am behind everything evil in the world! It was I who made the librarian aware of the transmitter here on Ys and fed him the idea about altering the sexuality of the globe. It was I who raised Dahut from the sea and reunited her with Leviathan, and it was I who trapped the laughable magician in the alternative dimension. It was even I who stole the child.” “But why? What could you possibly want the Baron to take over the world for? Why would you need to steal Raine? None of it makes sense?” “Do I have to explain everything to you? Can't I just kill you, here and now?” “Don’t be stupid! Every evil person has to reveal their evil plan before killing the good guys!” The Red Man sighed. He knew it was the truth. “Very well. You and I both know that the battle between good and evil will go on until the end of time. The Baron thinks that the transmitter will turn the world gay, but in fact it will enslave the global population under my own ruling. I will use it to turn the entire world evil, rid the world of anyone even remotely good, thereby beating you and your boss at last!” “And Raine? Where does he fit in all of this?” “You know as well as I do, Monkey, he is the chosen one. If I can remove him, you are destined never to 253
win. While you are busily trying to rescue the child, the Baron has almost completed the task in hand, sacrificing him for his own greedy cause and I will be within touching distance of completing my objective.” Monkey shuffled nervously. It was true that he had felt Raine might be the chosen one and that one day, he would save the world. It seemed sensible that the Red Man should remove the child from the equation before he was able to fulfil his destiny. “Why is it that I don’t believe you?” “Whether you believe me is of no concern to me. Neither should it be a concern to you either, as the time has come for me to destroy you all. I would like to break you all first, one by one. By the time I have finished with you, I want to hear you begging me to kill you!” “One last question, if I may?” interrupted Monkey, “why such a convoluted plan? Why didn’t you just raise the city or destroy the child yourself?” The Red Man roared with laughter. “And miss all the fun? I have enjoyed watching you stumble from one epic failure to the next. Besides, why should I do all the hard work when I could have my own bumbling idiots do it for me? And now, it really is time for you to die.” “Please,” said Zoltan, “not in front of my boy. I don’t want him to see his father die. It isn't the sort of thing a child should see." “Your boy? Oh, you mean him?” said the Red Man, gesturing towards the shop window, where Anna was currently cradling Raine in her arms. “That isn't Raine! Right about now he will have been sacrificed 254
by the Baron and his ineffective sidekick for the good of their cause.” “What do you mean it isn't Raine?” began Monkey, as he watched the boy’s body grow before his eyes and become the familiar form of Dahut. Anna dropped her as soon as she realised what was going on. “Now, gentlemen, as I will soon be the ruler of the entire globe, I should like to see you kneel before me!” boomed the Red Man. He raised his hand and Zoltan and the monkeys found themselves brought involuntarily to their knees. “Now, watch as before your very eyes, we destroy yet another member of your precious little band of good guys!” Zoltan wanted to shout to Anna but found that he couldn’t speak and was unable to move. He was paralysed in the kneeling position beside the two monkeys, and with none of the friends being able to help it seemed that he was destined to watch his wife be destroyed by these two evil characters. **** “I guess you must be Dahut?” asked Anna, calmly, “my husband has told me all about you.” “You guess correctly,” came the reply. "I must admit, you are slightly less ugly than I had imagined." Dahut began slowly circling Anna, grinning manically. “What have you done with my son? Where is he?” “He will be in the tower of the great Cathedral, I should imagine,” came the cold reply. "Thank you," said Anna, backing carefully towards the door. Immediately, the shop door slammed firmly shut. “You didn’t think you were going to just walk out of here, did you?” laughed Dahut, “this city 255
belongs to me. Neither you nor your friends will prevent me from reclaiming it. Together, the Red Man and I will rule the world.” “Actually,” corrected Anna, “it belongs to Baron van Bookshelf, a good friend of mine!” Dahut laughed. “The great Baron? Why, he is merely the Red Man's puppet in all of this! A puppet like those woolly monkeys you have become so attached to. A puppet like the pathetic man you married!” “I’m sorry, what did you say?” seethed Anna. “I said that your husband is pretty hopeless. He is woollier than those socks you hang about with.” “I should knock your teeth out for that!” growled Anna. Like Monkey, she found the heckles at the back of her neck stand on end. “You wouldn’t have a prayer! I could snap your neck in an instant and you wouldn't have a chance. I could destroy you here and now with a simple flash of light from my hand.” Anna drew in a deep breath. “I’m not going to rise to you. You are a sad, lonely old hag who cannot keep a man for more than a day. Why don’t you just go back to the sea? In my opinion, you should have drowned there long ago. Besides," she said, eyeing her up and down, “what on earth are you wearing? Tatty grey shreds are so last year!” Now it was Dahut’s turn to be angry. Before Anna’s eyes she transformed herself into the image of Kathleen, Anna’s mother. “You shouldn’t talk to people like that, munchkin!” she taunted. “How dare you!” shouted Anna, “you could never hold a patch to my mother.”
“Oh yes, that’s right. Your mother was killed for the cause of the Red Man. From what I heard, it was a long, painful death. Probably a blessing, considering the long and painful life she must have suffered to put up with you and your father for so long.” Anna wasn't sure how Dahut could know about her parents; they had died when she was only a teenager. She took a step towards Dahut, her fists clenched tightly. “Oh, just try it!” laughed Dahut, “in fact, why not bring your husband in as well? Let him tell you about how he and I spent the night together in Tzummarum, that night at the guest house. I have to say, he might look pretty stupid but he certainly knows how to satisfy a woman.” Anna could bear it no longer. A red mist descended before her eyes and in a blur of fury, she picked up the nearest heavy object, a large plank of wood, and swung it wildly at Dahut. She made heavy contact with Dahut's stomach and sent the shape shifter reeling backwards, causing her to lose her balance and fall heavily onto her back. Anna stood over Dahut, who help her arm in front of her face. "Please, don't hurt me," whimpered Dahut pathetically. Anna sucked in a deep breath and shook her head. She lifted the plank high above her head and brought it down hard over Dahut’s outstretched arm, the wood shattering with the force of the blow. Dahut yelled in pain, holding a hand in front of her face. Tiny sparks of light began dancing around her fingertips.
“Oh no you don’t,” growled Anna, picking up a spade and smashing it against Dahut’s face. “This is for my mother!” she screamed, kicking the evil woman in the leg, “and this is for my father!” she yelled, kicking again. Dahut tried to curl into a ball to defend herself from Anna's relentless assault. This wasn’t exactly how she had planned things. In her time, it was not seen for a woman to fight like a man and as such, she was totally unprepared for Anna’s assault. She rolled to her side and onto her hands and knees, trying to catch her breath when Anna kicked her in her stomach so hard that the evil hag cleared several feet of air before smashing into a display of pottery, clay items shattering all over her. “This…” Anna sneered, “This is for my baby!” She lifted her foot high into the air and was about to stamp down hard on Dahut’s face when the door behind her flew open. “Cease!” came the voice of a man in the doorway, “this is not the way!” Anna spun around to see a large man smiling gently at her. “Please, don’t interrupt me,” said Anna, “this woman is evil. She has something to do with the disappearance of my son.” She turned back to Dahut, raising her foot again. Dahut cowered beneath her. “I am aware of this. I am aware of all her evil doings,” said the man, calmly, “I believe it is my turn to punish her?” Anna watched as Dahut crawled out from under her foot and hugged her knees like a scalded schoolchild. “Forgive me,” said Anna, “but this is my fight and we have some unfinished business. There is no need 258
for you to get involved.” “Oh, but there is a need, child,” said the man, “Dahut! On your feet!” he ordered. Gingerly, Dahut got to her feet. “Father?” she asked wearily, her face swollen from the beating Anna had given her. “Dahut, yet again you disappoint me. I command thee to return to the sea with me!” “But father, I have business to finish here! It is time for me to reclaim the city you built for me.” “You have no business here. You have no right to leave the sea! You have no claim to the city any more, you gave up that right when you betrayed me.” “Father, I am needed here, in the very city you built in my honour. This is where I am destined to be. It was requested of me by the Red Man!” “The Red Man has led you astray for many centuries, Dahut. Monkey will deal with him now. Let us return to the sea where we can rest in eternal peace.” He held his hand out to Dahut, which she cautiously accepted. The king turned to Anna. "Hurry, you don't have much time. Save your son, for he will ultimately save you." Anna watched the two of them fading away as though they were mist on a hot day until they were no more than a memory. Stunned, Anna turned back to where the Red Man stood over Zoltan and the two monkeys. “Oh no,” she growled, “You are not going to get them as well!” She picked up another heavy piece of wood and ran out of the shop towards her husband. “Oh look,” mocked the Red Man, “here comes your wife, right on cue to see me destroy you!” 259
He circled his prisoners and got down on his knees in front of Monkey. “What’s the matter, Monkey? Nothing to say about it? That isn't like you!” He got to his feet and walked over to Zoltan, leaning close into his face. “Aww, does Zoltan the Magnificent feel like Zoltan the Insignificant?” “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” screamed Anna, swinging the wood and striking the Red Man squarely on the back, sending him sprawling to the ground in an untidy heap. The spell over his prisoners was broken and Zoltan jumped to his feet and ran to Anna. He grabbed his wife's hand and the two of them began to run toward the shop. Speakno jumped to his feet and ran to hide. The Red Man got to his feet and snarling, took to the skies with a beat of his powerful wings. He flew after Anna and Zoltan, pointed teeth bared in a vicious snarl. His speed was frightening, as he swooped towards them. Anna turned to face him, pushing her husband to the ground with one hand and swinging the wood with the other, hitting the Red Man squarely in the face and sending him crashing to the floor again. Dazed, the Red Man propped himself up on his arm and pointed to the ground beneath Zoltan. Immediately, a large hole appeared and four small imp-like creatures jumped out, their fearsome looking teeth sinking into Zoltan’s arms and legs and pinning him to the ground. Zoltan screamed in pain as blood began to seep from the wounds and the imp creatures injected acidic drool from their teeth into his limbs. The Red Man got to his feet and stood over Zoltan. “I am far too clever for you, mortal! My creatures will
destroy you in a matter of minutes as you bleed to death from their bites.” he boomed. Anna ran behind him with the plank above her head. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Mrs Connell,” he growled without turning around. Stunned, Anna was about to swing the wood once more when it transformed into a number of large vines, wrapping themselves around Anna’s wrists and ankles, dragging her to the ground, face up beside her husband. As she struggled to free herself, more vines grew from the ground around her and wrapped themselves around her waist and neck, between her legs and around her head, rendering her completely unable to move. “Deary me,” smiled the Red Man, “you really are all as stupid as each other, aren't you? I never thought it would be this easy to destroy you!” “You make me sick,” choked Anna, “you have to fight dirty all the time. No wonder no-one likes you!” “No-one likes me? I’m hurt!” sighed the Red Man, “and I thought I was such a likeable chap!” “Let her go,” shouted Zoltan,” she has nothing to do with this!” “Oh, please!” said the Red Man, “can't you just die quietly?” He walked back over to Monkey, who was still on his knees. “Monkey!” he announced, “I should like to present for your pleasure, well, for my pleasure actually, the magnificent beast, Leviathan! Gasp as he systematically devours each of you! Marvel at his skill at completely destroying your plans of ever beating me! It’s quite funny really. If your friends are not killed by the rising water, or by bleeding to death 261
or even asphyxiated by the vines, they will be devoured by Leviathan. What a delightful day this has become." The hole in the ground beside Zoltan began flooding with water which lapped around Anna and her husband. Zoltan immediately looked over at Monkey and realised in a surreal moment that the sock puppet would be furious at having his fur wet yet again but who, incredibly, stayed silent on the subject. “Don’t get too cocky!” growled Monkey, “it isn't over yet!” “Oh, but it is!” laughed the Red Man, as Leviathan reared up through the hole, its eyes still covered by Hearno’s tiny paws. Hearno fell to the floor, very soggy but most definitely still alive. Before anyone had a chance to welcome Hearno back, Leviathan turned to look at Monkey. It snapped its huge jaws together and let out an ear-splitting roar which seemed to rock the entire city. Suddenly, without thinking, Speakno raced from his hiding place carrying a huge rock. He dived at the Red Man, who had completely forgotten about the little guy, hitting him firmly on the chin and sending the evil man staggering backwards into the path of the lunging Leviathan. With a terrifying snarl, the great beast smashed into the ground, mouth open wide and swallowed both the Red Man and Speakno in one mouthful. Monkey rolled out of the way, but having finally had something to eat, Leviathan lost interest in the sock puppet and his friends, disappearing through the new hole in the ground it had just made.
Panting, Monkey turned to Hearno. “I thought we’d lost you!” he smiled at his brother. “Eh?” “Oh, never mind!” The creatures and ties holding Anna and Zoltan down broke free. Zoltan struggled to his feet, blood seeping from the wounds on his body. “Hearno? How did you survive being underwater for so long? We thought you were dead!” Hearno shrugged his shoulders. “I’m a sock puppet, silly. I don’t breathe! Water doesn’t affect me in the slightest. Although I am a little soggy.” Water was still flooding through the holes in the ground at an alarming rate but Leviathan was gone, and with it the destructively evil powers of the Red Man and Dahut. There remained one evil; one that still had the intention - and the knowledge to turn the world gay. And he had Raine.
sixteen “So, we’ve established that you don’t want to play, you don’t want a story, you don’t want any juice and you don’t want a marzipan fruit.” “That’s right,” said Raine, “what’s your name?” he persisted with the Baron. “I’ve told you already!” “Baron’s not a real name, what’s your real name? You know mine, tell me yours?” insisted the child. “Okay, okay,” said the Baron, “anything for a quiet life!" He looked around himself nervously, hoping nobody else would hear him. "It’s Bernard,” he whispered. “Bernard?” exclaimed Kieran, “your real name is Bernard?” The Baron sighed. “Yes,” he said, sheepishly. Raine giggled at all the fuss. “Ha… Bernard Van Bookshelf! Now there’s a name to conjure with!” giggled Kieran. The Baron cast a
warning look at his boyfriend but didn’t dare say anything with Raine present. “So, Uncle Kieran, are you and Uncle Bernard married?” Now it was Kieran’s turn to look embarrassed. “Erm, well… no.” “Why not?” persisted Raine. “Well, because two men legally can’t get married. They can be joined together in a civil partnership, but it's not quite the same.” “Why not?” Raine repeated. Kieran shot a ‘help me out here, please’ look over at the Baron but after the ‘Bernard’ incident, the Baron wasn’t feeling inclined to offer either help or sympathy. “It’s the law,” said Kieran, although he knew full well that this was a pathetic excuse. “Well, I think you should get married, like in Sleeping Thumbelina,” concluded Raine decisively, “and I’d turn a pumpkin into a carriage and some mice into horses and… ooooh look, pretty!” Raine suddenly rushed towards the window, pointing excitedly. “Be careful, Raine, dearest!” called Kieran as he rushed protectively over towards the boy. Raine popped his head out of the window and looked up at the strange golden glow which radiated from high above them. Kieran poked his head through and looked upwards. Above them, the entire spire was opening out, creaking noisily as it went, a golden light emitting from the centre. “I think it’s the platform, Bernard,” Kieran said pointedly, “it’s appeared above us!” 265
“That’s on the very top of the belfry though? Surely there's nothing there but the pointed roof?” “That’s just changed,” Kieran countered, "it looks as if the entire spire has opened out and created a platform of sorts." The Baron’s eyes widened excitedly. “My word, well we just have to get up there, Kieran! This is our last chance! Soon Monkey will appear and thwart our evil plans… to the staircase!” Raine giggled for joy and clapped his hands together. “Raine dearest, promise me you’ll stay here?” said Kieran as he hastily shuttered the open windows and locked the doors. “Yes Uncle Kieran and Uncle Bernard,” came the sing-song reply. Kieran began bounding up the stairs. The Baron activated the levitational jets on his wondrous wheelchair and floated through the door to the spiral staircase. He started to follow Kieran up the stairs but around halfway up he realized to his horror that the walls of the tower stairs were growing narrower and narrower. Eventually, the wheelchair could travel no further and wedged itself tight between the walls. Kieran scampered back down upon hearing the Baron’s piteous cries. “Oh Bernard, love, what are we to do?” he said desperately, "I don't see how we can get the chair up any further." The Baron closed his eyes, tears of frustration seeping through his eyelids. “You’ll have to go on without me Kieran,” he said at length. “What? But I can’t do this without you!” “You can, my boy, you know you can. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Have you not at 266
least learned that through all you’ve done for me in this great evil campaign?” Kieran’s eyes welled up. “Can’t you shuffle up the staircase… erm… on your bottom?” he suggested, “I don’t want to do this without you. This was your dream as well as mine. You have to be there!” “I’ll try Kieran, of course, but it will take me too long. Monkey will be upon us in next to no time and our chance of megalomaniac glory could be lost forever if you don’t take that chance right now!” “But, but the sacrificial objects… and Raine… they’re downstairs, and I can’t get past you!” The Baron cradled Kieran’s head gently in his hands and kissed his forehead. “Oh my sweet, lovely boyfriend,” he soothed, “does it matter? It’s obvious now that we are just the pawns of that evil Red Man, as Zoltan tried to tell us. The scroll was his device and it’s probable that those objects are completely superfluous. Moreover, any plan that involves the sacrifice of an innocent child has no place in our schemes. Just go up there, love. Go up, and do whatever you think is best. I have every faith in you. Whatever you try is the best that you can do. Trust in yourself Kieran. Now go, and make me proud, love!” he charged. Kieran sighed. Never before had he felt so confident or so trusted. Boldly he ascended the stairs and at the very top, a sight of breathtaking beauty greeted him. The tower steeple had indeed unfolded to form a stable platform and in the centre a mighty console connected to a throne was radiating blindingly iridescent gold beams in all directions.
Beneath him, Kieran could see the battle as Monkey and the Red Man clashed and saw how the sea water was flowing up through the great hole in the ground and he knew in an instant that the Baron was right to send him ahead. He saw the last moments of the Red Man as Leviathan took him to the bottom of the sea inside its stomach. He felt a rush of adrenaline as he noticed the worrying amount of water that was now flooding in through the holes in the ground and as he watched Monkey and his friends run towards the tower, having seen the platform open. What he didn’t know was whether he really wanted to operate the device. It was, after all, the Baron who wanted to turn the whole world gay. If he had been given the choice, would he have wished to do the same? In the distance, he could hear the scraping sounds of his love, painfully dragging his body up the stairs. Kieran closed his eyes, bit his lip and seated himself at the huge golden throne. Before him, there were several large glyphs but, although they seemed strangely familiar, he could not decipher them. As he heard the sound of the Baron growing nearer he shouted “there are some buttons, what should I press?” “Press them at random!” came the echoing reply, “if that scroll has any truth to it, your brainwaves will carry out the transformation!” Kieran pressed three buttons and sat back, his eyes tightly sealed shut, praying that he was doing the right thing. Seconds passed. Nothing seemed to be happening. He opened an eye experimentally just in time to see the Baron dragging himself towards the console. A moment later, the tower, and indeed the 268
whole island, began to shake uncontrollably. As it did so, archaeologists, diggers and combatants alike stared in awe at the resplendent golden beacon atop the main cathedral belfry, then marveled at the huge pieces of masonry that began to fall from some of the buildings. “Oh crumbs,” wailed Kieran. “It’s okay love,” soothed the recumbent Baron gently, taking his hand, “I’m with you now!” “As am I,” growled a familiar voice nearby. Kieran and the Baron turned their heads towards the sound and saw the decidedly peeved figure of Monkey staring up at them. “Cease this evilness immediately, gentlemen, or face my wrath unleashed,” he announced. “Oh no,” the Baron replied vehemently, “you’re not getting away with your threats this time Monkey. This is our big chance to change the world forever into a better, and indeed, gayer place!” “I could try reasoning with you, I suppose,” Monkey countered philosophically, “I could try telling you that you actually have no idea whatsoever what this platform is capable of, but that wouldn’t really work, would it?” The Baron shook his head. “No, you shall not cross me this time, Monkey,” he blustered, as haughtily as he could from his somewhat ignominious position on the floor, “with Kieran by my side, I defy you to the last!” He struggled to a sitting position. “This,” he pronounced proudly, “will be our finest hour”, forming a Churchillian ‘V for Victory’ sign for added emphasis.
“Give it up!” warned Monkey darkly, “It’s all over, Baron. Bereft of your powerful wheelchair, you are no match for my powers.” The Baron gulped. For all his fine rhetoric, deep down he knew Monkey was right. He would be close to powerless in the face of an onslaught from the heroic sock puppet. Then, suddenly, a movement behind him made him turn. “Then fight me!” spat Kieran, rising from the throne with fists clenched by his side. The Baron stared wide-eyed at his boyfriend. Kieran was incandescent with rage. “I’ve no quarrel with you, boy!” growled Monkey, “stay out of this!” “Then I’ll start a quarrel!” yelled Kieran, tears of rage in his eyes, “how dare you speak to my one and only like that? He and I have spent many hours of hard work drawing together these plans of world domination: he and I have worked in the perfect partnership and I’ll be damned if I let you and your ‘holier-than-thou’ attitudes destroy them now.” The Baron beamed with undiluted pride. “By all that’s pink triangled,” he exclaimed, “but you’re gorgeous when you’re angry! “ “Not now dear,” smiled Kieran, “I have a Monkey to thrash.” “Oh, is that so?” mocked Monkey, “and how, pray tell, do you plan to do that?” “Like this!” came the defiant reply. Quick as a flash, Kieran rushed up to his woolly adversary, slapping him with both his hands in a deadly earnest but beautifully poised sissy-fight.
Naturally being slapped slightly caused no physical harm to Monkey whatsoever, but it did serve to embarrass him beyond measure… and for causing embarrassment, Kieran had no serious rivals. “Bravo, my brave boyfriend!” cried the Baron, applauding the shaming of his nemesis. The sock puppet raised himself to full height, snorting indignation. “Ha, ha!” laughed the Baron, “you sound more like a bull than a Monkey now!” Seizing upon this inspired analogy, Kieran whipped off the pink jacket of his polyester suit, taunting Monkey with it, like a matador’s cape. Trembling with anger and shame, Monkey charged uncontrollably at the offensive garment at full pelt. “Toro, toro!” laughed Kieran as he waved the jacket coquettishly. Monkey rushed at the garment and rammed into the concealed side of the platform’s operating console at top speed, with a hearty clang… causing a massive electrostatic charge, catapulting Kieran back to the throne, whilst both Monkey and the Baron were sucked up against the high-voltage console. The Baron immediately saw the cause of their calamity, still stuck to both Monkey and the console. “Damn it, Kieran,” he gasped, as sparks of electricity coursed through all three of them, “we’re going to have to talk seriously about this polyester fixation!” Kieran wept tears of frustration, pinned in the throne, as he looked out on the shabby remnants of their dreams. He closed his eyes and dreamed of a happy ending. “Help!” cried the Baron, “something’s happening to me, I’m scared!” 271
Monkey felt a certain sympathy for the Baron, who seemed to be receiving a relentless assault of static electricity but was unable to help as he was held tightly against the console as if he were a magnet. As they all struggled, huge clouds of a strange white powder erupted from the tower, blowing over the assembled crowds. Zoltan and Anna, staring up from the ground, knew that there was no escape from this onslaught. They stood silently, grasping each other’s hands just in case this was the last time they would feel anything for each other again as they too were covered by the powder. The great clouds of powder rose high into the air, picked up by the strong winds within the troposphere. The Baron laughed his trademark evil laugh as his ultimate plan had finally come to fruition, watching as the wind carried the powder far into the distance. “Behold!” the Baron gasped, exhausted from his impressive cackle, “my evil machinations are truly fulfilled! You have failed, Monkey!” On the ground, the crowds were looking at each other in a new light, wondering at the amazing change. “Yes, my people, change, change!” the Baron cried, encouragingly. And indeed an amazing change had occurred to each and every one of them. For behold, their grubby, muddy clothes were now sparkling clean, an incredible, brand-new cleanliness, which inspired gasps of disbelief. Kieran stared at the Baron in undiluted shock, then at the clouds of powder dispersing throughout the world and finally back at the symbols on the console. In a terrible moment of realisation, he recognised the
glyphs. “That looks like a ‘do not bleach’ sign,” he groaned. “This one looks like a 40 degree wash,” added Monkey. “And this one looks like we don’t have to tumble dry,” the Baron concluded wearily. Kieran turned to the Baron with a look of confusion. "Baron, it looks like we have invented the world’s first evil… detergent!” “No, no, no, no!” screamed the Baron in undiluted rage, “This just isn’t happening, do you hear? Where’s the restart button?” He looked up at Kieran, who was sitting pensively on the golden throne with an almost lavatorial expression of consternation on his face. “And what, pray tell, is up with you?” he demanded. “I just don’t understand it,” replied Kieran, shaking his head, “the glyphs on the console didn’t look like washing instructions before I operated the platform. If they had done I would surely have recognised them.” The console finally released its static grip on them and Monkey and Bernard fell to the ground. Monkey clapped his forehead with a stubby paw. “Of course! Now I remember what the transmitter does!” Kieran and Bernard both turned to face him, with similar looks of outraged curiosity. “Would you care to explain then for us, Monkey?” asked the Baron, venom oozing out of the sugary politeness. Monkey smiled at them. “The Ys platform has the ability to make any person’s fondest wish come true. The Red Man wanted to enslave the world, you 273
wanted to gay the world and Kieran, well… what precisely were you thinking at the time you sat on the throne, Kieran?” “I was thinking about how monumentally shabby and grubby this entire situation had become,” Kieran pouted. “As I thought,” sniffed Monkey smugly, “you do rather have an affinity with housework, don’t you?” “Now hang on a minute there, Monkey!” the Baron interrupted, “leave our domestic arrangements out… of… this. Oh. Oh my God!” he gasped, realisation dawning on him. “Kieran, you’ve dry-cleaned the world!” “But, but how come it worked at all?” asked Kieran, desperate to change the subject, “the Great Library scroll commanded us to make certain sacrifices which we failed to deliver!” “Including killing a child, no doubt,” added Monkey. The Baron looked up from his gloom. “How on earth did he know that?” he said to Kieran. “The Red Man wanted two things from you, Baron,” Monkey explained, “firstly; he wanted the platform to use for his own evil ends. His powers had not yet been fully restored and he was unable to raise Ys on his own. He planned allowing you to raise the city; no doubt his intention was to kill you once the console was visible; that I denied him just now, by imprisoning him forever in the belly of the giant fish. The second thing he wanted was to ensure that Raine was out of the way forever, as he must have seen the child as a threat to him. That is why he invented the scroll. To persuade you to kill Raine once he had kidnapped him, for he lacked the power to kill the 274
child himself. Evil megalomaniac that you are, Baron, you quite clearly could not bring yourself to kill Raine, and so the Red Man had already lost his greatest battle.” “Oooh, Monkey,” whispered Kieran, “How could we ever harm Raine? We love him too, you know?” he cooed, broodily. “Most touching,” said Monkey, “but by planting his creature, Meneer Brouwer, into your lives and forcing you to kill him, the Red Man thought you would have no compunction in killing again to get what you wanted. He was sure your power of farseeing would force you to operate the platform no matter what, Baron.” Baron van Bookshelf shook his head sadly. “I am foiled again,” he said at length, “but I should rather fail than kill one innocent child. My destiny is not worth any person’s life. Evil though I am, I never intended killing anyone. I just wonder why I ever believed the platform was part of my life story?” “Who knows?” soothed Kieran, taking the Baron’s hand and pressing it to his heart, “perhaps in our quest we have learnt something important about each other, Bernard dearest.” “Bernard?” laughed Monkey, incredulously. “Don’t go there” snapped the Baron. **** “There was one other thing I was thinking at the time,” said Kieran, as he and Monkey helped Bernard down the spiral staircase, much to the delight of Raine, who was jumping up and down shouting “Uncle Bernard’s stuck up the chimney!” “Oh, and what was that?” asked Monkey. 275
“I was thinking how I wished that Bernard would get rid of that rather annoying marzipan fruit obsession. To be honest, it was really starting to bug me." “Which explains the feeling you got when stuck to the console,” said Monkey, “it was obviously curing you. Have you felt like offering anyone a marzipan fruit, Bernie, old chap?” “Don’t you Bernie, me,” growled the Baron ominously, “Though if you must know, I’ve thrown all my sweets away.” Indeed Bernard van Bookshelf was telling the truth. He had done so in order to stuff his marzipan fruit tin with some of the white powder that had spilled from the platform. After all, it simply didn’t seem right and proper for a megalomaniac to go away from the scene of an evil scheme, albeit one that had flopped as spectacularly as his boyfriend’s hair, empty-handed. **** “Mummy, Daddy!” yelled Raine, as Zoltan and Anna entered. Anna ran toward her son, arms outstretched, tears streaming down her face. “Oh sweetheart,” she wept, gathering Raine up into her arms, “How I’ve missed you! Are you okay?” “Oh yeah,” said Raine, matter-of-factly, “Auntie Kieran and Uncle Bernard have been playing with me, and there was this big gold thing on the top of the tower and then Uncle Bernard’s wheelchair got stuck up the chimney and then…” Anna smiled and nodded as Raine prattled on for what seemed to be a good five minutes whilst Kieran sighed at them wistfully, the sense of broodiness welling up within him. Meanwhile, Zoltan was 276
exchanging his usual warm pleasantries with the Baron. “Hail fellow, well met!” charged van Bookshelf ebulliently, “glad to see you could make it to this, my unshakeable and everlasting evil Kingdom, at last!” Zoltan blushed. “You know how to make a superhero squirm, don’t you Baron?” he replied, teasingly, “but seriously, thank you both for looking after Raine. Anna and I are so relieved he’s okay.” “Think nothing of it,” blushed the Baron, “It was a pleasure looking after him, and we had no problem at all finding excuses why we couldn’t brutally sacrifice him for the Red Man,” he added. Zoltan blanched at the thought, “oh and I almost forgot,” he continued, “I saved you my final marzipan fruit, Zoltan.” The Baron handed it over with a dramatic flourish. “How unusual,” gasped Zoltan, “a marzipan tomato!” “But a tomato isn’t a fruit!” protested Monkey, "Why would you have a tomato in a box of marzipan fruits?" "It most certainly is a fruit," countered the Baron. Suddenly a tremor beneath their feet turned the petulant argument to an instant silence. Raine, who had spent the past few minutes playing merrily with the signed football, sent up a wail of terror. “What’s going on?” demanded Anna, nervously. “I can’t be certain of course,” drawled Monkey superciliously, “but if some ‘people’ operated a piece of equipment that had lain dormant and underwater for several centuries, they might find that the architecture around it was unable to cope.” He glared at Kieran and Bernard darkly as he said this. 277
The Baron cast his eyes to the trembling ground sheepishly, but Kieran unexpectedly discovered a rich seam of defiance deep within him. “I’ve just about had enough of your condescending attitudes, Monkey,” he flashed. “No-one asked you to be here. Ys is our kingdom.” “Yes,” agreed Zoltan, sadly, “but it’s not unshakeable now, is it? I suggest we get out of here before the entire cathedral collapses on top of us.” Anna let out a shriek of fear at Zoltan’s doom-laden prophecy, and Zoltan instantly regretted his poor choice of words. In the meantime, whilst Kieran tried to buck up his boyfriend’s shattered spirits, Monkey was swinging merrily from the tower window like a flag. “Zoltan’s right!” he declared, “Come, see for yourselves!” Zoltan and Hearno, who was currently listening with great attentiveness, bearing in mind their lives were at stake, joined Monkey at the window. Slowly, inexorably, the waters were reclaiming the outskirts of the city. They watched as people were taking to boats, rafts and anything else that could carry them, but they of course were currently stuck up the highest tower on the island. “Right!” snapped Monkey, “That’s it, we’re getting out of this death-trap right now!” Zoltan opened the door to the staircase, guided Anna and Raine through it and would indeed have followed them were it not for Monkey barging in front, with Hearno trotting on after him, sobbing, “Wait for me, dear brother!” “What a nasty little family of sock puppets they turned out to be!” thought Zoltan, wryly. 278
In the corner of the tower room, Kieran was speaking softly to the Baron but neither of them was moving. “You coming?” asked Zoltan, his voice showing his concern. “I am not,” came the polite reply, “but please take Kieran with you, if you would be so kind.” “For pity’s sake, how many times to I have to tell you, Bernard, you don’t have to go down with the ship!” Kieran said, passionately. “But… but how can I face Gerdi and all the others who trusted me to deliver? I promised them the world, and all I’ve given them is a free dry-clean! I shall never be able to hold my head up in public again!” “So, we’ll go to a deserted little desert island somewhere where you don’t need to,” came Kieran’s desperate reply, “I’m not leaving you here!” “A desert island…” repeated the Baron, fondly. “That sounds like a very agreeable fantasy, Kieran, my love, but I always thought you didn’t like desert islands?” “Well only because I can’t swim,” said Kieran, “but I mean, all those beautiful beaches to catch a tan on, and the unlimited privacy to do just what we wanted to, would be just too tempting to pass…” “What did you say?” interrupted the Baron, instantly snapping out of his blue funk. “I said all those beautiful beaches to…” “No, not that part. Did you just say that you couldn’t swim?” “That’s right, I’ve never been very good with the water, that’s why I stood behind you at the raising ceremony, remember?” 279
“Well, why didn’t you say?” said the Baron, exasperated, “We have to get you out of here before the place sinks!” He grabbed Kieran by the hand. “What are we waiting for?” he shouted, as he reactivated his wheelchair jets and followed a grinning Zoltan down the stairs. By the time the group had descended to ground level, waves were beginning to lap against the shattered cathedral door. Monkey squeezed his eyes together in anticipation of the discomfort. “Please!” he said to himself, “please don’t let this mean that I have to get my fur wet all over again!” As far as the eye could see, the sea was taking back the city. The great wall that had for so long protected the city began to crumble and fall away. Just then, a familiar figure floated past them. “Arr, it be a wild and choppy one out here, so it be!” groaned Fred, shaking his head. “Fred, you’re a godsend!” said Monkey brightly, “have you brought us a boat?” “Oh no!” said Fred, matter-of-factly, reaching the doorway and climbing into the building. “Well, how did you manage to find your way here without one?” challenged Monkey. “I used this here big box of Belgian chocolates see, as a floatation device, so I did.” “Good to see you took care of it for me,” said the Baron, warmly, “my dear old friend, how are you?” Fred walked up to the Baron and bowed respectfully, tugging at his tousled forelock. “I’m good thank ye, your evilness,” he replied, shyly.
“Well, please feel free to keep the chocolates,” the Baron said, magnanimously, “I can see that you have used my gift well.” “That’s handy,” said Fred, “as I’ve eaten them all, except of course for the coffee ones.” “As a nautical cove, perhaps you can assist us?” the Baron continued, “Bearing in mind our lack of appropriate aqueous transportation, how do you suggest we proceed?” “Beg pardon, your evilness?” “He means how are we going to get out of here alive without a boat, you dull pilchard!” snapped Monkey. “Well, you gotta get out of this ‘ere building for a start. It’s just like a sinking battleship. It’ll pull you under in it’s wake, so it will.” Kieran and Anna exchanged fearful glances. “And then?” prompted Zoltan. “And then we float about a bit until help arrives.” “Doesn’t sound like much of a plan to me,” grumbled Monkey, “sounds like you’ll just hang onto that box of chocolates whilst we sink like stones.” Anna began to sob. “Monkey!” hissed Zoltan, outraged. “This box of chocolates is all soggy now anyway,” said Fred, “it’s no good as a floater no more.” “Perhaps there’s something else here that we can use to keep us afloat?” suggested Kieran, brightly. “Yes!” said Anna, still holding Raine tightly in her arms, “we’ll help you look.” Even if they found nothing, at least Anna knew that by taking advantage of Kieran’s invitation she wasn’t acting like a helpless victim in this disaster.
The rest of the group waited in frosty silence. Zoltan was annoyed at Monkey for scaring Anna, Fred was annoyed at Monkey for showing him up in front of the Baron, Monkey was annoyed at everyone for not finding him an honourable way to keep his fur dry, the Baron was angry at himself for starting the whole situation off in the first place and Hearno was far too scared to worry what any of them were angry about. Just as the trickle of seawater seeping through the holes in the door began to form into a more substantial stream. Anna and Kieran reappeared with a couple of worm-riddled, barnacle-encrusted altartables. Monkey pulled a face. “Yuk, they’re all slimy!” he sneered, “I’m not sitting on one of those.” “You’re not going to,” snapped Anna, tiring of Monkey’s selfishness, “these tables are for Raine and Kieran.” “But what about me?” “You can take your chance with the rest of us,” said Zoltan, smiling approvingly at his wife. “As a sock puppet, you don’t need to breathe like the rest of us.” “Huh, I get it,” huffed Monkey, sorely, “I singlehandedly save all of you from the dangerous plans of the Red Man and the hare-brained schemes of the Baron and this is how you repay me?” Monkey and Hearno stomped off into a corner, sulking, as the others strapped Raine and Kieran to the table-tops. Zoltan thought the legs might make sock puppet floats. “Do you want a leg, Monkey?” asked Zoltan. “No,” came the defiant reply. Zoltan shrugged.
“All right now, see,” said Fred, sagely, “we goes out when the waves are going away from the door, so that we don’t get sucked in again.” “And how pray do you plan to do that?” asked Monkey, petulantly, “you couldn’t even find France!” “I’ve another suggestion,” said the Baron, as he released himself from his wondrous, but in the present situation, useless wheelchair, “we could dive in after three?” “Barely an improvement!” Monkey sighed, “But at least it’ll be over quickly. Go for it.” With an untidy splash, the group launched themselves into the sea, Anna and Zoltan held tightly on to Raine’s makeshift raft pushing it along for all they worth. Fred and Bernard held on to Kieran’s, but without the use of his legs, Bernard found swimming very difficult. After a few minutes of furious paddling, Zoltan looked around him. The cathedral was now rapidly disappearing beneath the waves again, the bells tolling piteously as they were swallowed up in seawater, but aside from this chilling yet spectacular sight, there was no sign of another ship to help them. A few moments later and the entire city had been reclaimed by the sea. The world was flooded by silence, aside from the soft grumblings of Monkey, as he mourned his sodden fur. “Help!” shouted Zoltan, as loudly as he could, “Help, Help, Help!” The rest of the group joined in, even Monkey and Hearno found it comforting.
Ten minutes passed, and Kieran began to comment that he was getting very wet. Zoltan examined the altar-table. “Oh no!” he exclaimed, “The worm-holes are letting in the water, they’re getting heavier. Quick, untie him, Baron. Raine too!” he said to Anna. “Is that possible?” asked the Baron, “I thought wood floated regardless of its condition?” “Seems not,” replied Zoltan. He and Anna held Raine out of the water as best they could but Kieran was a different proposition. The Baron was having enough difficulties staying afloat and Fred was struggling to hold the two men up. At length, Kieran turned his face to his boyfriend’s and whispered “Let me go, Bernard!” The Baron shook his head, sternly. “You are not leaving me. If you go, I go.” “There’s a limit to what even you can do, my sweet,” Kieran persisted, “sheer force of will and love can’t keep us both afloat.” Bernard smiled and, with a rakish glint in his eye, quoted from the Bible, “many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Kieran, I cannot believe that you and I were put here in order for me to lose you or for you to lose me right now. I have foreseen this. We have many years of life and love left to us. We all have,” he said, turning to his stranded and despondent companions, “I swear it. Do not lose hope.” “My, what lovely sentiments,” sneered Monkey, pouring cold water on the cosy little scene, “but forgive me if I say that your predictions have been just a tad off-colour lately. You didn’t conquer the 284
world with Ys and I don’t see any ships on the horizon either, do you?” “Monkey, be quiet!” snapped Zoltan, “you’re scaring Raine!” He turned to Kieran and Bernard, both of whom were fading fast. He passed Raine to Anna, removed his cape and filled it with air, tying the bottom off to form a makeshift float. He passed it to Kieran and the Baron, knowing that it wasn’t going to last very long, but could buy them a few minutes at least. Monkey continued his incessant moaning about his current state of sogginess. The Baron continued berating him, reminding him of the predicament they were all in. “Please!” begged Kieran, stop this…” His sentence was cut short when the cape flotation device finally deflated, sinking to the bottom of the ocean like a graceful underwater parachute. “He started it,” groaned the Baron, putting every last ounce of his energy into dragging his boy above the water for one final time. Kieran stared lovingly into the Barons eyes. The Baron felt a sudden coldness as bizarrely he imagined Kieran's face to be mutilated, eyes blinded by countless sharp objects. This was not an image he wanted to remember his boyfriend by. “Kieran, love, I’m tired. What do you say that we go somewhere we will be welcomed, accepted for who we are, forgiven for all we’ve done?” Kieran nodded his head and closed his eyes. They both welcomed the blinding light that surrounded them, the loud whistling noise that filled their ears. The large float that hit them on the head. 285
They both looked up to see a bright yellow helicopter hovering above them and began securing the float around their waists. As they watched, a man was winched from the helicopter and began, one by one, to pluck the heroes from the water and carry them back inside the aircraft. Their rescuer smiled at them from beneath his helmet as the helicopter flew them all safely back to land. A few moments later it landed on the beach. Anna, Zoltan and Raine climbed out, falling to their knees and hugged each other in relief. Fred was suffering with terrible stomach cramps after eating the huge box of chocolates and swimming so soon afterwards. Kieran and Bernard decided that they would probably not try and take over the world again for a while, and the two monkeys decided that they were far too soggy to worry about the future and simply lay on the beach to dry out. Grinning, their rescuers joined them on the beach, removing their helmets. “My goodness!” said Zoltan, “if it isn’t Flimsy Boy and Gonad Man! How did you guys find us?” “More to the point,” said Monkey, “what took you so long?” **** A lot of decisions were made on that day. Anna and Zoltan returned home to Towndale, whereupon it was decided that they would renew their wedding vows and never get involved in another of Monkey’s crazy adventures. Zoltan had decided (with Anna’s permission) to resume his alter-ego of “Zoltan the Magnificent,” providing that it was only when he was working as a children's entertainer. 286
Raine would hopefully grow up to be none the wiser about his adventures on Ys, which pleased his parents no end. Fred spent some time in Scarborough before moving to Amsterdam, where he became something of a local hero. With the permission of Monkey and the others, Fred told many tales of how he single-handedly defeated Leviathan using only an elastic band and three safety pins. In reality, the huge creature had returned to its place of rest. Without the influence of Dahut and without Ys to patrol, the great beast simply burrowed into the sea bed and both it and the city itself were once again lost to legend and local folklore. Bernard van Bookshelf and his ever-faithful boy, Kieran, decided to turn over a new leaf and adopt a life of good deeds. They also decided to return to the great library in Towndale, where they intended to spend the rest of their lives together. Before they could do this, however, they had one more task to complete.
epilogue “Dearly beloved, we are gathered together to join together in the bonds of matrimony these two good people, Kieran and Bernard.” Monkey snickered under his paw, “Bernard the evil megalomaniac!” he whispered cynically. Zoltan tried his best to ignore him. It was turning out to be a lovely ceremony and he was determined not to let Monkey’s asides spoil it. Since returning to Towndale, the Baron had analysed the white powder he had salvaged from the City of Ys and discovered that its detergent properties were nothing short of miraculous, but rather than keeping the patent for himself, he had handed it over to the Government of the Netherlands by way of apology for the premature sinking of that important archaeological site. By way of reciprocation, he had been granted three wishes that were worth more to him than all the riches in the world.
Firstly, and most importantly, he had been granted the Freedom of the City of Amsterdam and, as an honorary citizen of the Netherlands, he was given inheritance rights over the evil Minister Brouwer’s unfairly won advocaat factory, thus making Kieran very happy. In addition, he was allowed to marry his boyfriend under Dutch law, making Kieran incredibly happy, and finally he was granted permission for the newlyweds to adopt the Adelheid’s baby daughter, Cressida, from the Loenen orphanage, making Kieran ecstatic with delight. Standing by the side of the happy couple, in the main hall of the Buers Van Berlage, the former Stock Exchange in Amsterdam, was their Best Man, the ever-helpful Ruud van Nistelhoven, grinning from ear to ear, as well as Steve Swimmer, who had been appointed as Chief Usher. Newly promoted Commodore of the Royal Dutch Navy, Gerdi van de Tuin, was trying her best to play the blushing bridesmaid, whilst scanning the audience for someone special to talk to during the reception. Awaiting the pair, in the glamorous Hotel American conference room, was an immense three-tiered wedding cake, complete with two little men, one resplendent in a white wheelchair, on the top. Together with his acquisition of a spouse, a daughter and a factory that was even now bottling the first few hundred crates of ‘Dutch Megalomaniac Advocaat,’ the Baron also seemed to be developing a conscience. During the ceremony, two men were opening their post in England. One jewelers shop work placement student named Gervaise discovered a cheque written to his employers for the most phenomenal amount of 289
money, and subsequently received a permanent position as a reward for his honesty in handing it over to them and a one-off payment that would keep him in anti-bacterial face wash for the rest of his natural life. One retired egg collector received not only a considerable remuneration for the loss of one of his prized specimens but also a pair of prostitutes knickers, which he stole away into his pocket with a sly grin as his wife sipped at her tea and discussed tactics for her busy bingo night. The ceremony was tinged with a little sadness though, as Zoltan remembered his friend, Speakno. He felt sure that Monkey didn’t miss Speakno though, his sulking and tantrums, although often Monkey himself was little better in his attitude. As a reformed super-hero, Zoltan was ever cautious that evil might rear its head once more, but with the Red Man being slowly digested in the belly of Leviathan, he couldn’t see there being a crisis in the near future. Still, he vowed to be vigilant and keep his golden cape safe and freshly laundered, just in case. Perhaps the only person who could foretell the future for sure was the man who had managed, by some miraculous fate, to predict his own destiny but, for the while, he was too busy making it to worry about predictions. “And so it is,” concluded the officiator, “that by the powers vested in me, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss each other now.” “Yeach,” groaned Raine, as he saw his own little ‘happily ever after’ prediction come true but in that
sloppy girly way that he could never forgive, “have they stopped it yet, mummy?” he asked. “Yes, dear,” Anna answered patiently. And that, as they say, was that. Zoltan smiled, knowing that all the loose ends were tied up and everything was as it should be. As the wedding cars drove Bernard and Kieran van Bookshelf and their honoured guests to the hotel reception, Zoltan noticed an advertising hoarding, which made him smile: “Use Ys Detergent, for clothes as clean as a megalomaniac.”
fancy a sneak preview of the next adventure for Monkey and his friends? Turn over for a sneak preview of the second book in the Monkey Tales trilogy, â€œFalling Starâ€?
prologue The three brothers lingered for a moment, gazing around at the death and destruction that had been the subject of legend since time began. The grounds of Hades glowed an angry red, flames burst through cracks in the floor and walls, the agonizing screams of tortured souls rang through the air. It was exactly as the brothers remembered. Ahead of them stood the imposing fortress that Satan himself liked to call home and it was he that the brothers had been summoned to see. “He is still as modest as ever, I see,” said the first, unimpressed, “and why does he call himself ‘Red Man’ these days? I would have thought ‘Satan’ was a far more sinister name for him.” His brothers shot him a look of derision and he fell silent. “What of this deal he wishes to make with us?” asked the second, “what could he possibly offer us that we do not already have?” “If you both shut up for more than five minutes, we might get to find out,” answered the third, striding forward and through the massive wooden doors that stood open before them. His two brothers followed without another word. 293
They found themselves inside a courtyard, every inch of the walls lined with human skulls; jaws open in an eternal scream, all manner of indescribable creatures crawling between the eye sockets and through the noiseless screams. Beneath the ground they could hear the roar of fearsome unseen creatures as they tore into the flesh of the damned, tearing the unfortunates limb from limb. The brothers looked at each other and smiled. “Gentlemen!” called their host as he crossed the courtyard before them, “so glad you could make it!” “Quite,” said the third brother, “it is rare for us to receive an invitation to your palace these days, although it remains a true honour.” The Red Man forced a weak smile. “I hope you like what I have done with the place,” he said, “it reminds me of the good old days. Come, let me show you around!” “To be honest Satan, we have much work to do,” said the second brother, “as much as we would love a guided tour, we think it would be more beneficial if you could get to the point and tell us what you want us for.” The Red Man laughed heartily, “You never were the most patient, were you, Charon? I often wonder why the Over-Worlders get the impression that you never speak?” Charon shrugged his shoulders. “Not much call for conversation in my line of business.” “How true you are,” said the Red Man, turning his back on the brothers, “if you would care to follow me, we can discuss my proposal in comfort.” He 294
walked across the courtyard towards another large oak door, followed by the three brothers who were, by now, growing a little uncomfortable. It was not the surroundings or the stench of death that made them uneasy, they were used to those things by now. It was due to the reputation of the Red Man these days, ruthless and devious as ever, but now more determined and bitter in his never-ending quest to destroy Earth. The tales of his never-ending battles with Monkey the sock puppet were legendary. His reputation as the Lord of the Underworld had become tarnished over the years, the Gods had begun to ridicule him because of his inability to outwit a sock puppet. And, as the Red Man had requested the brothers specifically to assist him in his next attempt to rule the world, that could surely only mean trouble. And possibly a large rather stain on their own reputations. Through the door, they found themselves inside an expansive banquet hall, lined with vermilion velvet. A huge oak table ran through the centre of the room, almost entirely covered in food and wine presented on silver chargers. Charon immediately tore into a roast of wild boar and sat to the table. He gazed around the room almost in awe of the sheer audacity of the interior design, which bordered on Neo-Gothic meets Elton John. Dozens of flaming torches adorned the walls and a huge chandelier hung from the ceiling, catching the light from the flames and sending it dancing throughout the room. The Red Man, seated at the head of the table, signalled for the remaining brothers to be seated. â€œI sense your reluctance,â€? he growled, â€œthough I can 295
assure you, what I am offering will be of mutual benefit to us all. Please, allow me to explain.” “Before you explain,” said the first brother, “what is in it for me?” The Red Man smiled, staring into his lifeless eyes. “For you, dear Thanatos, the world.” Thanatos felt a little uncomfortable as he returned the stare for several minutes until he found that he could no longer keep it up. He slumped back into his chair. “I’m listening,” he muttered. “Gentlemen, I need your help. For far too long, Monkey and his friends have prevented me from achieving my ultimate goal, to rid the world of all that is good. As you have no doubt heard, I have found it difficult to destroy him on several occasions.” “He kicked your arse, you mean?” snorted Charon. His brothers looked at him coldly and he fell silent once more, tearing another slab of boar from the bone. “Indeed,” said the Red Man, “although this time, I shall not be defeated.” The third man leaned forward, frowning, “Forgive my ignorance, Lord Satan, but why would you need our help? You are the all-powerful ruler of Hades and we are but minor Gods. If indeed you are having difficulties in defeating Monkey, I should imagine we would find it equally as difficult, if not moreso.” The Red Man nodded in agreement. “As ever, Hypnos, you are correct in your thoughts. However, I believe I have the perfect plan to destroy Monkey and his friends and I need you to serve as a distraction while I complete my preparations.” 296
Hypnos sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin in thought. “Tell me more of this plan,” he mused. The Red Man smiled. He knew that if he could convince Hypnos to help, the others would quickly follow. “Well, gentlemen, I have in my possession the legendary Book of the Past.” The brothers looked at each other in silence and the Red Man paused, revelling in the admiration that ought to follow for acquiring such a book. The brothers, however, failed to drop to their knees in worship at his achievement and he felt a little deflated. “As you know, the volume itself is most powerful, allowing me to change any single point in history,” he continued, “however, I am led to believe that the Book of the Past has the ability to lead me to the Book of the Future and, once both books are reunited, I will have the power to alter history and the future. The possibilities this will present me with are endless!” “Until Monkey kicks your arse again,” interrupted Charon. “Yes, I hardly think your attitude is helpful,” growled the Red Man, “though it does lead me to an important point. Monkey will quickly become aware of the Book of the Past and as such, I will have little time to find the Book of the Future.” “You want me to kill Monkey?” asked Thanatos, excitedly. “A charming thought, however I believe that killing Monkey at this stage would hinder my plans. I hold the Book of the Past here in my fortress and, were Monkey to die, his soul would pass through the 297
Underworld and he may find an opportunity to retrieve the book. No, instead, I need him alive and out of the way.” Thanatos tried to hide the disappointment by looking around the room. He noticed a vase of black roses at the opposite end of the table and decided to examine them more closely. “So, let us say that my brothers and I were to distract Monkey for long enough to find the Book of the Future,” he said, without looking up from the blooms, “what happens next?” “Quite simply, I rewrite the past, present and future in the books and delete all that ever was, is or will be good. With no guidance from the forces of good, the world will descend into chaos and anarchy, leaving the world free for the three of you to rule.” Thanatos picked up one of the roses, which instantly withered and died with his touch. He cursed himself, that sort of thing happened every time he touched a living thing. “Sounds interesting,” said Hypnos, “and whilst we appreciate the offer, there is something not quite right about it all. What exactly do you get out of this?” The Red Man laughed, “merely the satisfaction of destroying Monkey and his friends. Simply by turning the world evil, I will have achieved my objectives and I will have no further use of the world. As evil will prevail, the Underworld will be the only path for souls to travel and I will rule over them in death, just as you rule over them in life.” Thanatos re-joined his brothers at the table, wiping the remains of the dusty rose on his trousers. Everyone remained silent. The Red Man sat back into 298
his chair and smiled warmly as he turned up the charm offensive. “Just one thing,” said Charon at last, “do you really think that Zeus will allow you to do this? If he finds out, he’ll kick your arse harder than Monkey ever could.” A wide smile spread over the Red Man’s face. “Zeus will not interfere,” he said, reaching into a drawer in the table. He took out a large envelope and threw it onto the table in front of Charon. Intrigued and slightly amused, Charon opened the envelope to find a series of photographs inside. He browsed through the photographs, eyebrow raised in amusement and laughed heartily. “So Zeus has been a bad boy, huh? Who is the woman?” “That, dear boys, is Aphrodite, goddess of Love and Beauty, wife of Hephaestus. Of course, infidelity is a sin, and sin is punished in the afterlife by spending an eternity in Hades with me. Poor Zeus, even he is not above the law, I have him over a barrel. He neither wants to spend an eternity here in purgatory nor face Hephaestus. So you see, gentlemen, I have everything covered. I just need your approval and we can set the wheels in motion.” The three brothers looked at each other and nodded. “We’re in,” said Hypnos, “what do you want us to do?”