DR FRANK JACKSON, 59A, PRINCES ROAD, BRIGHTON, EAST SUSSEX BN2 3RH
TEL. mobile 07982 032974
text and images throughout copyright
The Revenge of Doctor Wrist
The Brotherhood of the Hand, a small society, dedicated to mystery, consists of four elderly men, in equally elderly grey suits, who correspond to the fingers of the human hand. Simon and Annie, brother and sister, have become members of the Brotherhood, as have their friends, Indira, Pei-Ying and Mariko. There is also Adrian the seagull and Sniffer the dog, the eyes and nose of the Brotherhood. Sister Teresa, a nun with some very strange powers, and Pat, an Irish poet and scholar are also important. A new member is Morag, half-policewoman, half-faery. Together they fight a war against their arch-enemy, Doctor Wrist, and his associate, Venoma. The scene is the seaside city of Brighton.
‘Thump, thump. Crash. Rattle, rattle. Thump thump. Then a sound of wings flapping urgently against the window. Simon raised himself slowly from his pillow, and gaped in a rather bleary way at the alarm clock. Six o’clock. Morning? He suddenly noticed that it was bright outside, and it was a July morning. The flapping at the window grew more insistent. He groaned, slid out of bed, padded across the bedroom floor, and pulled the curtains back. There, outside, flapping frantically against the glass, was Adrian the seagull, mouthing something at him with his beak.
Simon sighed dramatically, and then opened the window wide, Adrian flew in, brushing Simon aside, and perched on the unmade bed.
‘Do come in, Adrian, won’t you? remarked Simon sarcastically.
Adrian was looking around Simon’s bedroom with beady eyes.
‘Bit of a mess, in ‘ere, ain’t it? You’ve got a lot of toys, ‘aven’t you?’
‘They are not toys! Ouch!’ Simon had just trodden on his Ipod. He sat down on the end of the bed, and rubbed his foot.
‘To what do I owe the pleasure of this untimely visit? At approximately 6.05 am in the morning? I’ll have you know I was quietly meditating, as is my wont at this time’.
‘No you weren’t. You was deep in the land of snores. I thought I’d never get you up. But look, mate, this is dead serious. Caliban’s just been blown up!’
‘What about the Four Fingers of the Brotherhood!’
‘They’re OK, as far as I know. Look, Sniffer’s down at the front door. He’s come as well’.
Adrian and Simon turned round. Adrian uttered a loud squawk. Simon screamed, but not loudly.
A figure with a bright green face, and dark malevolent eyes, glared back at them.
‘Annie, it is you in there, isn’t it? Speak to me!’
‘Of course it is! This is just an overnight face-pack I put on, before I was so rudely interrupted!’
‘What’s that for?’ asked Adrian suspiciously.
‘To improve my complexion, and make me look pretty, if you must know!’
‘Well, it’s fighting a losing battle’. said Simon maliciously.
Annie’s eyes gleamed bright and hard, making her look even more like a demon from a Chinese play. Then she turned and stormed out of the room.
‘Let’s get Sniffer in’. suggested Adrian, quickly.
Downstairs, Simon unlocked the front door. Sniffer ambled in.
‘Adrian told you about what’s happened?’
They both nodded.
‘We’d best get down there quick. Morning, Annie. You’re looking good today’.
‘I’m glad someone thinks so’. replied Annie bitterly. Then she remembered what had happened. ‘Where is everybody?’
‘Outside Sister Teresa’s’. Sniffer said. ‘That’s where it happened’.
There was a mill of activity outside Sister Teresa’s bungalow. Policemen, forensics experts in their white overalls, and in the midst of it, the sorry carcase of Caliban the car, the chosen vehicle of the Four Fingers. Its huge grey bulk sat there, still smoking, tyres burnt off, and the interior charred and blackened. It was no longer the roaring monster that they knew. Now it just looked sad and forlorn.
‘Oh, no!’ groaned Simon. ‘Poor Caliban!’
The front door of the bungalow opened. Sister Teresa came down the steps, her massive figure dwarfing the slender build of Pat , and the small fat figure of Little Finger, each side of her. She saw them and waved. Little Finger saw them too, and held up the fingers of his hands to tell them something. then he pointed south.
‘Meeting at nine o’clock, on the beach’. muttered Simon.
Annie ignored him. her eyes fixed on the smouldering car.
‘Come on now, move away! There’s nothing to see any more!’
Simon looked at the policewoman standing in front of him. It was Morag. She recognised him at the same moment, and then looked back quickly. Behind her the bulky shape of her superior, Detective Inspector Melrose, was coming down the steps of the bungalow. Morag raised her voice for his benefit.
‘Come on, you children should be back home! Move on now!’
Simon pulled at Annie’s sleeve. ‘Come on. Melrose is coming. We don’t want to talk to him again’.
Annie suddenly shook off his hand in a quick, vicious gesture. She stared at Morag, who stepped back involuntarily in shock. Annie’s eyes were blazing at her in cold fury.
‘Don’t you ever tell me what to do, policewoman!’ she hissed. She stared at a startled Morag for another second, then turned and strode away. Simon made an apologetic smile at Morag, and then followed Annie. Melrose strode up.
‘Everything all right, Morag?’
‘Yes, sir’. But it wasn’t.
No-one else had noticed, except Sister Teresa, who watched Annie’s departing figure, with her sharp brown eyes, and pursed her lips thoughtfully.
‘I must say we were terribly lucky!’ sadi Little Finger. ‘We had just got into Caliban, with Index Finger, who was going to drive. He turned on the ignition, which was totally unnecessary, since Caliban was already roaring and ready to go, and then there was a terrible explosion! We didn’t know quite what had happened, but we got out again very quickly, I assure you! Caliban, the car I mean, had suddenly become so hot, it was like an oven! We were all rather singed, I might add. Caliban was burning away, so we called the fire brigade and the police’.
‘What was it?’ asked Simon.
Some sort of an explosive device, that had been attached underneath Caliban’s chassis. Unfortunately, for the assassins, or assassin, they had not realised that Caliban is built like an armoured vehicle….’
‘Like a tank?’
‘Exactly’. Index Finger smiled rather thinly, having supplanted Little Finger as a narrator.
‘But he has been rather damaged’, began Third Finger, ‘ so we shall be rebuilding him. Needless to say, Caliban is rather cross, and will not be in a good mood for some time. But you and Annie are living proof of his ability to survive such things’.
‘By the way, Caliban would like to express his apologies for having crashed with you inside last time. He complained that it was not his fault at all. In fact, he expressed his affection towards you, by sulking for several days after he was repaired, and refusing to take us anywhere’. added Middle Finger.
‘Well, that’s good to know’. replied Simon. He looked across at Annie who sat, with a face like stone, looking straight ahead, around the beach table that they normally occupied. She had sat, pointedly, a yard away from him. He looked at Morag on his left. She must know all about this he thought, but she doesn’t dare to say anything. Morag simply sat and stared at the table in front of her.
The atmosphere around the table was apprehensive and anxious. As Simon looked around, he saw what was in their faces. The Four Fingers looked worried and uncertain. Pat’s face was troubled. Indira, Pei-Ying and Mariko seemed edgy and concerned. Adrian shuffled up and down the edge of the table, occasionally flapping his wings. Sniffer had buried his head in his paws and seemed to be asleep. Only Sister Teresa sat upright, next to him, a small smile on her lips.
‘ I suggest’, said Index Finger, nervously, ‘that we must pursue vigilance at all times.We must keep contact with each other. We must check our possessions for anything out of the ordinary. We must…..’
Annie suddenly got up from the table and walked away across the beach, her feet scrunching the pebbles. They saw her walk down to wards the sea and sit down close to the waves rippling gently in to the shore, and clasp her hands around her knees. There was a sudden silence around the table.
Sister Teresa leant over towards Simon, and rumbled gently into his ear, so that no-one else could listen. ‘Go after her, Simon. Go and make peace with your sister’. Simon nodded and then got up and walked slowly down the beach to where Annie was sitting, throwing stones, one after the other into the water. Sister Teresa watched him for a moment, and then turned back to the table. ‘Enough of business for the moment. Pat, go and get us some more things to eat and drink!’ Pat obediently rose and hurried to the bar behind.
Simon sat down on the beach two or three yards away from Annie, who now sat cross-legged, throwing stones into the sea. She didn’t look at him, or even give any indication that she had noticed his presence. He watched her silently, throwing pebbles, each one picked up with care, so that it would make the biggest splash. After a minute had passed, Simon decided on what he might say.
‘All right, Annie, I’m truly sorry that I’ve made you angry. All I can think of, is that you’re angry because you still feel guilt about Venoma, that you’re really infuriated that everybody takes you for granted, that they don’t recognise the pain and grief that you’ve gone through – and I’ve gone through – and about being betrayed by our parents. You feel you seem to be fighting forces on your own without any recognition, by anybody else, of what effect it might have on you. Everybody seems to think, including me, that you can do everything. But you can’t. You want some space for yourself. And you don’t want to be insulted by me or anybody. Everything’s gone too far now, and you want support. Is that about it?’
Annie continued to stare at the sea, still mechanically picking up pebbles and throwing them with small, vicious movements into the water. Then she spoke without looking at him.
‘You insulted me Simon, and I’m not going to take it. I know that we’re brother and sister, but we are no longer children. Our childhood disappeared a long time ago. We have responsibilities far beyond anything we ever imagined. No-one is going to treat me like a child any more!’
Simon shivered, despite the warmth of the sun, overhead.
‘Don’t you think I know that, Annie’.
Annie remained silent, and picked up another pebble. She spoke again, rather sadly.
‘Simon, you’re a young boy, and I’m a young girl. I want to live a normal life, having crushes on boys, and listening to the music I want. All the things that you and I would like to do. I really want to feel that I’m attractive, and pretty, and not have to worry about the next crisis that comes around. I would just like to be myself, not worrying about jobs and careers, at least for the time being. I would just like to be valued for myself, not for someone who has to go out and kill someone! Do you understand?’
Simon bowed his head and remained quiet.
‘I’m strong, Simon. I’m really strong. Especially since I came back. But I still want to be what I am, rather than having to react to terrible things that happen. I know we chose this path, and I’m not leaving it, any more than you would. But I haven’t any loves of my life, like you do. I’m on my own!’
You’re not on your own, Annie. I’m with you’.
Simon sat staring at the pebbles on the beach between his upright knees. A shadow suddenly fell across him. Annie was standing up, next to him.
He looked up. ‘Annie!’
‘I think you are the most beautiful person I know’.
Annie smiled radiantly down at him.
‘I think that is the most wonderful thing anybody has ever said to me. Thank you’.
Annie extended her right hand to him, the talisman glistening on her finger. It looked like a gesture of peace.
‘Come on, get up! We’ve got work to do!’
She hauled him up with more strength than he thought she had. They walked back together, arm in arm, talking quickly to each other. The Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) members all looked surprised and relieved.
‘Right! Time for a plan of action! It’s about time that we started fighting back’.
‘Annie’s right. Attack is the best form of defence! Are you with us?’
This was Simon. To the others they had come back refreshed and strengthened. They were working as a unity. The spirit around the table had suddenly become both more relaxed and purposeful. Sister Teresa leaned back with a small smile on her face. Everybody leaned forward, now intent, imbued with Annie’s confidence.
‘This is the plan. We all have responsibility for each part of it, and for each other. The Four Fingers are our intelligence officers, as Simon would say, who gather together all necessary information that we might need. Everyone reports back to them. Agreed?’
‘But, Annie, we are the founders of the Brotherhood, and…..’
‘Sisterhood as well, and don’t interrupt! Agreed?’
The Four Fingers dumbly nodded. Sister Teresa happily chortled to herself, as did Pat.
‘Mariko, Indira, Pei-Ying. We need to keep you in reserve. But you must keep aware of anything that goes on, that you feel is important. Tell the Four Fingers if you see or hear anything that might affect us. Is that fine with you?’
‘Pat. You are the historian. If you can, find out anything in your researches that might help us, and be useful. Is that all right?’
Pat nodded. ‘Ready when you are, skipper’.
Annie ignored him.
‘Adrian and Sniffer, you are our eyes and nose. Please keep sur villon…… ‘Oh, rats!’
‘Thank you, Simon. I knew that. Anyway, we rely on you to do the… reconnaissance’. She looked triumphantly at Simon
‘Yeah, no problem. I’ll have the boys on it as well’.
‘Thank you. Morag!’
‘Morag, can you please act as our security officer? To make sure that what we do doesn’t go public?’
‘Yes’. she muttered.
‘Hold on’, interrupted Pat. ‘what are you going to do, if I may be so bold?’
Annie glanced across at Simon. ‘What we agreed. We are going to send a message to Doctor Wrist. We are going to challenge him. We are going to draw him out from his shadow. It doesn’t have to involve any of you. In fact, we would prefer it that way’.
Simon nodded. His face was grim. Nobody said anything.
Sister Teresa spoke.
‘You have taken on the most dangerous part, together. What of me? Do I have any part in this?’
‘You do’. Simon said gravely. ‘You are our secret weapon’.
Sister Teresa burst out laughing. ‘Well, I never! I do like that!’
Then she stopped, and looked around at the others.
‘Believe me, this is not a fantasy game. It is a matter of life and death. We are involved, whether we like it or not, in unknown territory, where our normal world, such as it is, collides with other worlds. That is the truth. I know this. People have died already. Battles have been fought. This is no strange joke. We are all engaged in a matter of good and evil. Annie and Simon are part of this. We must help them. The stakes are too high for us to do otherwise. We have no choice, any of us, now. Let us stay together, and be as one. That is all I have to say’.
On that note the meeting broke up, and they all departed to begin their new missions. Morag went sadly home. She would have liked to have talked to Annie and Simon, but they went away so quickly after the meeting. Only Sniffer looked at her, and grunted ‘You’ll be all right, lass’. It wasn’t very much. She just wished that she might find out why Annie seemed to distrust her.
‘You were not very nice to Morag, you know’. remarked Simon as they sat on the bus together. ‘Is there something about her that you don’t like?’
‘We can’t be nursemaids to her, Simon’. Annie said sharply. ‘She’s got to realise that this isn’t just a game. I know what I’m saying is really harsh and cruel, but I don’t know where her feelings lie. She’s a policewoman on one hand, and a faery on the other. Where does she stand? I don’t think she knows herself’.
‘She saved my life’.
‘Only because she was there at the right time, because I asked her to. I know, Simon, it sounds so bad of me. But we do need to know what her real agenda is. Is it for real commitment to us and what we stand for, or is it just revenge for her mother? I wish I knew the answer to that as much as you. And she does make me angry with her policewoman ways. I know she can’t help that, but it really infuriated me!’
‘Don’t take your own anger out on her though. I understand what you mean, but it doesn’t help you and I, or any of us’.
‘I’m not….’ Then Annie checked herself. ‘You’re right, Simon. I shouldn’t judge people in that way. But don’t forget. She approached us in the first place. Why?
‘The Brotherhood approached us too. Why shouldn’t she do the same?’ You’ve said that you trusted her before! I heard you!’
‘Let’s just see what happens’.
As they opened the front door, Simon’s foot suddenly kicked against something. He looked down. There were two little packages, wrapped in what looked like vine leaves and bound up with plant stems. Puzzled, he picked them up and followed Annie into the kitchen, setting them down on the kitchen table.
‘Christmas seems to have come early this year’. He remarked.
Annie frowned suspiciously at the two little packages. On one was written “Simon”, and on the other “Annie”.
‘Our birthdays have already come and gone. Do you think we should put them in a bucket of water, just to be safe?’
They’re too small for bombs. I have a better idea. Why don’t we just open them?’
They began to carefully unwrap the two small packages. After a few seconds they both gasped. Simon looked down at a small, beautifully shaped white oval stone, so fine it seemed to be translucent. Inscribed on it in gold, was a single letter – “R”.
‘Well, who’s a lucky boy then? A little love token from Ragimund, your faery paramour? I do love seeing you blush’.
‘All right, let’s see yours, then! Is it from one of your various secret lovers that I’m not supposed to know about?’
Annie opened her hand, Simon gasped.
‘It’s an emerald! It must be worth a fortune!’
They both gazed down at the small, brilliantly green gemstone that lay in Annie’s palm. It was no bigger than Annie’s thumbnail, but it contained deep mysterious depths, as if they were looking down in to the depths of the sea.
‘It’s from Leila, my dragon-sister. Only she would give me something as precious as this’. Over the past year, Annie and Leila, the mate of Dabar, the leader of the dragons, had formed a close and affectionate bond, as if dragon and human really were sisters.
‘I wonder why they should give these to us, at this particular time?’ asked Annie, still admiring the glistening jewel.
Simon looked carefully at the inscribed stone he held. ‘I think that these must be some kind of talismans, to protect us in times of danger. That’s why they gave them to us now. They must know that there might be trouble ahead. The problem is, we won’t know if they have any powers..’
‘Until they’re put to the test’. Annie finished for him. ‘But I think we should carry them with us, wherever we go. Just in case’.
I think so, too. But what wonderful gifts!
‘They really are’.
One person who was not quite so contented, was Morag. She had spent a long and frustrating day behind her desk in the police station, wearily filling out forms and reports that swamped what remained of its surface, trying to clear the backlog of paperwork that being a policewoman entailed. As a consequence, she had only just arrived home late that evening, tired, and dejected. She still felt miserable about Annie’s lack of trust, and apparent hostility to her. She felt insecure enough already without that. Even worse, she didn’t know what to do about it. There was no point in having a bitter row, particularly since, in some strange way, she felt it was up to her to prove herself. But how?
She threw down her coat on her one and only armchair, and walked into her tiny kitchen. This flat was so poky! Hardly room to move, even with a minimum of furniture. I suppose I’d better eat something, she thought, but I’m too anxious and wound up to feel hungry. Just as she was taking the eggs out of the refrigerator, the doorbell rang. Damn and blast! Who’s that at this time of night? Ignore it. The doorbell rang again, quite insistently.
Morag groaned and went to the door and opened it. Nobody there. She looked up and down the corridor. Empty. Just what I need, she muttered inwardly. Somebody playing practical jokes. She suddenly shivered as if something had just brushed past her. Must be a draught from somewhere. She closed the front door again, and went back into the kitchen.
She began to crack eggs into a saucepan, then stopped. There was something wrong. She felt a coldness on the back of her neck, as if someone, something was in the room behind her. She suddenly turned around. There was nothing there. She looked around the flat. There was still nothing. My nerves are really going to pieces, she thought. But she still felt uneasy as she turned back to the stove.
The invisible presence glided up softly behind her. It paused for a few seconds and then struck. Unseen bony hands fastened around Morag’s neck. Caught by surprise, she reacted violently against her attacker. She stamped down hard on an invisible foot, drove her left elbow back into her assailant’s midriff, and swivelled left to drive a punch into it’s face, if it had one.
‘Ooooowww’ she screamed as her fist connected with something hard and bony. For a moment, the attacker loosened its grip, and Morag reached out frantically for the saucepan as some form of weapon. But the deadly fingers tightened around her throat again, forcing her down to her knees. Her left hand caught the saucepan that clattered to the ground, spilling sticky egg-yolks across the floor. Waves of darkness swept over her. Try as she could, she couldn’t prise those fingers from around her throat. The fingers were digging cruelly into the soft flesh of her neck. The pain was terrible! She was being forced down towards the floor, barely able to see through the blackness that was now descending upon her, slowly and inexorably.
With one last effort she twisted sideways and brought her right arm around behind her, and thrust the talisman into the face of her invisible attacker. There was a sudden high-pitched scream of agony. The bony grip loosened and let go. Morag fell forward, and lay face down on the floor, unconscious. The front door slammed open. All was quiet again, apart from the gentle hissing of the gas burner on the stove.
Annie sat, with her legs curled up beneath her, trying (and failing) to solve the crossword in the newspaper on her lap. Simon was idly watching the television, occasionally flicking channels when he got bored. They were both having a quiet evening in the living-room. Their father and mother were both upstairs in their respective studies, preparing next week’s lectures for their students.
‘I wish you wouldn’t do that’, muttered Annie.
‘Keep changing channels. It’s very distracting when one is engaged in intellectual thought’.
Simon was just about to make a sarcastic retort, when the telephone in the hall suddenly rang.
‘I’ll get it’. Simon switched off the television with the remote control, and ambled out into the hall.
“Angel-like”. I wonder if that’s “seraphic”. mused Annie. Eight letters. Could be right. Something in the tone of Simon’s voice outside caused her to put down the newspaper and listen. A few seconds later, Simon rushed in.
‘We need to get down to Morag’s right now. Someone, or something has just tried to murder her! She sounds in a bad way!’
They ran out of the front door and down the Ditchling Road, past Upper Hollingdean Road, past the Downs primary school, until they reached Princes Road, with the Red,White,Rose off-licence on the corner. It was a long and tiring route, and they were both panting by the time they had run up the hill, and turned right onto Crescent Road. At the bottom of Crescent Road, they turned left onto the junction with Richmond Road. Opposite them was a small dark passage, flight after flight of steps leading down. This was locally known as the ”Cat’s Creep”, originally meant to be a street, but too steep to be anything other than a dark descent onto Round Hill Crescent, where Morag lived.
They turned right at the bottom, and found themselves in front of a row of large, slab-faced terraced houses, built in 1865, and now turned into flats. Morag lived on the top floor of a grey-coloured one, in the middle of the row. They rushed up the front steps and rang the intercom buzzer for Morag’s flat.
‘Morag, it’s Simon and Annie! Let us in!’
The front door buzzed and clicked open, and they frantically ran up the stairs, until they came to her dark-panelled door, with a little spyglass built into it. Simon rang the doorbell, and then banged hard on the door.
‘Morag! It’s me, Simon! Annie’s with me!’
The door opened. Morag stood there. Both Simon and Annie groaned with dismay as they saw her. There was a large bruise above her left eyebrow, and her left eye was already half-shut. She was shaking, even though it was warm. But they both looked at the deep angry welts around her neck, where something’s fingers had dug in, with such force that they had drawn blood. Poor Morag, who was normally so pretty, with long dark hair tucked back behind her ears, a slightly acquiline nose and wide full mouth, now looked a mess. Simon was uncomfortably reminded of the stricken Caliban.
‘Go and sit down, Morag. Do you have a first-aid box?’
She nodded. ‘In the bathroom’. It came out as a harsh croak.
‘Simon, can you get it? And also, can you make her a warm drink? Something like honey and water’.
Simon came back moments later with a small first-aid box, and disappeared back into the kitchen. Annie began to patch Morag up. Simon came back in with a bag of frozen peas, which Annie gently pushed against the bruise on Morag’s forehead. She was crying soundlessly, tears running down her cheeks. Simon came back with a warm mug, and gently pushed it into Morag’s hands, supporting her as she drank from it. Neither of them said anything.
Morag finished the mug. She looked at each of them, still clasping the frozen peas to her head. They sat on the arms of the chair, each side of her.
‘I suppose you’ll want to know what happened’. Her voice was still faint, hardly a whisper. ‘Something, I don’t know what, got in here without me even realising it. Then it started to throttle me. I fought back, but it was too strong. But I remembered the talisman, and hit it, or whatever it was. It screamed, and ran out of the door. Then I fell on the floor, and hit my head. It must have been only a few seconds later that I woke up, and then I called you. I didn’t know what else to do!’
They looked down at the talisman on her finger. It was glowing gently, as was Annie’s. ‘It saved your life’. said Annie quietly.
‘I know that!’
‘Have you called the police, Morag’. asked Simon.
‘No, and I don’t intend to. Do you seriously think they’d believe me, being attacked by an invisible assassin? No. I’m not going to do that. Nor am I going to hospital. I’m staying here. It may not seem much to you, but it’s my home. I stay here, and that’s final’. Morag stared down at her empty cup.
Simon and Annie looked at each other, above her bowed head.
‘Morag, at least, come back with us tonight. You don’t want to stay here. Mum and Dad won’t mind. Do you want to?’ Simon asked.
‘No! I mean it! Nobody, not even that rat-bag assassin, is going to drive me out of here! Do you understand?’
Annie and Simon exchanged glances. They both knew that Morag had shifted from her original shock into anger. It was best to leave.
‘Morag, I want you to take this, at least for the time being’. She held out her hand with the glistening emerald in her palm. ‘I think it will protect you, and stop anything from coming in to harm you. I would feel happier then’.
Morag stared at the deep green gem that Annie held out to her.
‘I can’t take this, Annie! It’s too precious! Where did you get it?’
‘Don’t start the policewoman nonsense with me. It was a present.
Annie shut the door softly behind her, leaving Morag still staring at the emerald in her hand.
‘I think she’ll be safe now’, she said to Simon who was waiting outside. ‘We’d better go’.
Inside her flat, Morag thought about what Annie had just said. “You’re one of us, after all”. She felt happier. She got into bed and fell into a dreamless sleep, still wearing the talisman on her right hand, and clasping the green emerald in her left.
‘This is what I’ve written’ said Annie as they settled down in the kitchen for lunch. ‘It’s a challenge to Doctor Wrist. Let’s see if he’s brave enough to turn up’.
Simon looked at the note that Annie had passed over to him across the kitchen table. It read:
You have insulted and abused us enough. You have tried to murder our friends. This time you have gone too far. We hate you, your family, and all that you stand for. We will no longer tolerate your crimes, or your evil. This is not a warning, but a statement. Meet us tonight at Blakers Park at midnight. You can answer to us then for your deeds. Do not disregard this message. You will pay the consequences.
Annie and Simon, members of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Hand.
‘I see I’m involved’.
‘Do you want to be? You don’t have to’.
‘Are you joking? After what happened to Morag, and the Four Fingers? I want a reckoning as much as you do!’
‘Thank you, Simon, Annie said sincerely.
‘You’re my sister. I have to look after you’.
Annie snorted, but appreciatively.
‘There’s one thing though. How are you going to send this message?
Annie looked down at the talisman on her hand.
‘The talisman will send it’.
She pointed the talisman at the note lying on the table. It glowed and flashed, almost as if it was reading the message. Then it flashed briefly twice, and became dim.
‘Message sent’. remarked Simon. ‘How did you think of that, Annie?’
‘Just intuition. I’ve come a long way since I…went away’.
‘I think it’s time to go and see how Morag is. Poor thing, She must be feeling miserable. We should take her some flowers and chocolates’.
‘She’s not in hospital, Simon!’
‘No, but she’s had a bad time. Because of us’.
‘I know, Simon. Because of us’. Annie said sadly.
An hour later,they knocked on Morag’s door. After a few seconds it opened. Morag stood there in a white dressing-gown. He left eye was still swollen, and she wore a long green scarf around her bruised neck. Simon, as volatile as ever, gave her a hug, and handed her the little bunch of white roses, and a large box of dairy chocolates they had bought. Morag was delighted. ’Chocolate! Just what I needed!’ She looked at Annie who stood, hesitatingly in the doorway.
‘Come in, Annie. I’ve given up biting people’.
Annie came in and hugged Morag hard. Morag was very pleased.
‘Simon, could you make some tea? I’d do it myself, but I’m still feeling fragile’.
Simon went to the kitchen to make tea.
‘Annie, I had the first good night’s sleep I’ve had for ages. Thanks to your emerald. I really felt it was watching over me, and it wouldn’t let any harm come to me. Thank you’.
‘Morag, Simon and I have arranged a meeting with Doctor Wrist tonight. We want to confront him. It’s time’.
Morag stared at her. ‘You can’t! Don’t do it on my behalf! I can look after myself! You mustn’t do this, Annie!’
‘Oh yes we must. And we will’.
There was a sudden knock at the door.
‘Are you expecting anybody?’ Annie said in a low whisper.
Morag shook her head.
The door opened. A large figure stood in the opening. It was Detective Inspector Melrose, Morag’s superior. They all stared at him in amazement.
‘Sorry to drop in on you like this, Morag. Just thought I’d drop in to see how you were. I see you’ve got our two car thieves for company’.
‘We’re not car thieves!’ Annie burst out indignantly.
Melrose chuckled. ‘I know, I know’, he held his hands up in mock surrender. ‘I just wanted to make sure my officer was all right. Don’t worry about getting back to work, Morag. You look a bit laid up to me. Just come back when you’re ready. I’ll make sure it’s OK’.
‘Thank you, sir’. said Morag awkwardly.
‘I’ll be off, then. See you back soon, Morag’.
As he went out, Melrose whispered to Simon out of the corner of his mouth to Simon. ‘A word outside, please’.
Simon followed him out into the corridor, and gently shut the door.
Melrose turned to face him. ‘Don’t worry’. he said quietly. ‘I’m just very concerned about the lass. She’s been attacked, hasn’t she?’
Simon decided there was no point in lying. Besides, he was rather beginning to like Melrose, who seemed both a shrewd and intelligent man.
‘Yes, she was’. he replied. ‘But not by anything that you or I know’.
Melrose sighed. ‘I could tell. Don’t worry. I’m not going to interfere with whatever you’re doing. She’s a fine officer, just like her mother. Her mum told me a lot of things about herself and Morag, so I know quite a bit more than you think. Her mum confided in me, so I want to tell you two things: don’t break any laws, and look after her for me, you and your sister. She’s one of our own’.
Simon looked back into Melrose’s blue eyes, without blinking.
‘We can promise you that’.
‘Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. Thanks’. Melrose began to walk down the corridor. As he turned the corner, he looked back.
‘Don’t forget. She’s one of yours as well’. Simon could hear his chuckle as he went down the stairs.
Simon went back into Morag’s flat. Both Morag and Annie stared at him.
‘How?’ Morag cried. She began to rise painfully from the armchair. ‘I’ve never told him that I’m a faery, I swear to you!’
‘No but your mother did’. Simon replied.
Morag sank back into her chair. ‘That explains a lot. Melrose and my mum were always close. Small wonder he keeps an eye on me’.
‘What is he going to do?’ asked Annie sharply.
‘Nothing. That’s what he said. Just don’t break any laws’.
‘Do you believe him?’
‘Yes, I do’.
Annie opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it. If Simon said it was true, then, as far as she was concerned, it was true. She trusted her brother.
‘We’d better get going’. she said matter-of-factly. ‘We’ve got a lot to do tonight’.
They both looked back at Morag, who sat, woebegone and miserable, in her armchair.
‘Cheer up, Morag’, Simon had poked his head around the door. ‘Old Melrose said that you were one of them, and also, one of us. Bye’.
Morag smiled at the closed door. She looked down at the emerald still clasped in her hand, and her smile faded.
I hope that this isn’t the last thing that I’ll remember you both by. Dear Mum, please help keep them safe.
They sat huddled together, their backs against the large clock tower in Blaker’s Park, a small but pleasant green area off Preston Drove. It was dark around them. Virtually every house surrounding the park, had switched off their lights and their occupants gone to bed. Apart from the occasional cry of a seagull, it was deadly silent. They had been there an hour, and there was still no sign of Doctor Wrist. Surrounding them was a small iron fence, that enclosed the clock tower, with small bushes that hid them from sight. It was a good place to avoid an ambush, and they had a good view of the old trees that hung low over the grass, next to the empty tennis-courts.
‘I wonder if that’s Adrian up there, with his mates?’ remarked Annie peering up into the dark blue night sky.
‘Long past his bedtime, and ours. I don’t think the nasty Doctor Wrist is going to show up. Do you think he actually got the message’
‘I’m sure he did’.
Well, he’s taking his time. Do you know how old this clock tower is?’
‘No, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me’.
Well. it was completed in 1896, and its fifty feet high, paid for by the same man who donated the park. He was…
‘Simon did you hear something?’
They froze and listened intently.
‘Perhaps it wasn’t anything. Go on then, who donated…’
They listened again. Now they could hear something. It was a faint chittering sound. It was coming from all around them, but it was too dark to see where it was coming from. The night had suddenly grown darker. The chittering was getting more noisy by the moment. They slowly stood up, keeping their backs against each other. They felt very cold. They had heard that sound before.
It grew louder and louder. They pulled out their long heavy torches to use as weapons, if necessary. There was a sudden scurrying above them from the clock-tower. Simon looked up.
Before he knew it, something had landed on his back, digging its small hard claws into his neck. He yelled and reached behind desperately to try to drag it off! It clung onto him, the chittering almost deafening in his ears. Behind him, Annie was shouting, swinging her torch in wide arcs around her, trying to fend off their unseen attackers. There was a sudden Crack, as her torch hit the head of something. It sounded like splintering glass.
Simon, in a sudden fury of panic, tore the creature from his back and hurled it away from him. He heard it screech as it struck the ground. Almost at the same moment, he felt two sharp stabs of pain in his left leg, as something sharp hit him. He yelled, and instinctively reached into his pocket, for some reason. Then he knew why. His fingers closed round Ragimund’s stone, that felt hot to his touch.
Instantly he could see, though only dimly, small capering and twittering figures around them. He heard Annie squeal in pain, as some kind of small blade embedded itself into her right arm. He yelled again as he felt another sharp pain in his left side.
‘Hold my hand Annie! I can see them!
He felt Annie’s hand grip tightly around his.
‘I can see them now! But not clearly!’
There was a sudden blinding flash of light. Annie had managed to switch on her torch. Around them were small chittering figures, who ran like monkeys to escape. Some ran on all fours, others stood upright, blinking and bewildered in the brightness of the torch beam. They wore ridiculously small, ill-fitting black suits, from which small hairy arms and feet protruded. But their heads were white ovoids, with no face and completely blank. One lay groaning, its head cracked and shattered from Annie’s blow.
But beyond them was another shape, much taller, with enormous arms and long fingers. It had no real shape. They could only make out its outline as a gleaming silhouette. It made no sound, but it was gesturing to the little assassins. They raised their paws and fired their small blades. Two of them hit Simon in the chest. As Annie turned, two more hit her in the back. They fell onto their knees, but Annie swiped viciously with her torch at one that came too close. Her blow cracked it’s ovoid head, as if it was a glass vase. But they were going down under the relentless attack. Blades snapped and ricocheted against the cast metal of the clock tower, or embedded themselves into the trunks of the overhanging trees.
The thing that looked like a silhouette threw something small. As it flew through the air, it extended into a black cloak that spread open and fell onto their heads, enveloping them! Instantly they were smothered in its folds, that wrapped closely around their faces. They were beginning to suffocate! Simon and Annie gasped and cried out, but the cloak pressed itself against their faces, so that they couldn’t breathe! It was as if death itself had descended upon them!
Annie felt herself sinking into the black oblivion of the grave. She was helpless, unable to raise her right hand with the talisman. She knew with almost dreadful certainty: this was the end. No Brotherhood, no life. All gone. She felt herself sinking, the black cloak smelling of death and decay. The chittering that she could dimly hear, seemed to rise in volume.
Another sound reverberated through the night air. It was the sound of a wild banshee, screaming down from the sky. Its menacing shape, wings outspread, swooped down, hissed through the overhanging trees and smashed into the shining, silhouetted figure of the assassin leader. The impact was enormous. The outline disintegrated with a terrible shriek, into a thousand glittering fragments. The great black figure, its arms outspread, alighted on the ground, drew in its cheeks with an almighty gasp, and then blew like a fierce north wind.
The monkey-like assassins flew, whirling over and over, into the sky, amidst a fine rain of glass, and disappeared in the fierce torrent of wind far, far into the distance, further than eye could see. The black cloak that smothered the two humans, melted and disappeared in floating ribbons and strips into the foliage of the trees. The great black figure stopped and gasped for breath. It looked down at the prone figures of Simon and Annie.
‘Well, that wasn’t very clever of you was it?’ it remarked, chuckling in a deep voice. ‘Let’s have a look at you’.
Simon began to crawl towards his sister. Then he looked up.
‘The things I have to do for poor sinners like you’ Sister Teresa sighed. Then she looked more sharply at each of them, and her face tightened.
‘You are badly hurt, both of you. No, don’t do that!’ she cried, as Simon reached to pull out one of the blades from his leg. ‘They are probably barbed! You will need the talisman for that. I cannot take you home in this state. Is there a safe place for us to go, so that you can be healed?’
Simon was still dazed and shocked. ‘I..I don’t know. Morag perhaps? But she might be asleep’.
“If I know Morag, she will be awake, worrying. Which is not surprising at all, given how foolish the pair of you are. We will go there’.
‘I don’t think either of us can walk’. replied Simon. ‘Is Annie all right?’ His own voice seemed faint and far away.
‘She will be. I will take you. A special treat for you, Simon. I am now about to become a helicopter’.
She bent down, and carefully, but without apparent effort, picked Annie’s inert body carefully, and tucked her under her robed arm.
‘Now you’. She gripped Simon around the waist and held him securely against her.
She lifted herself effortlessly into the air, higher and higher, until they were above the treetops. Then they began to move swiftly southwards, towards Morag’s home, still standing upright.
‘How do you do that?’ gasped Simon, painfully.
‘Aha. It’s a trade secret, known only to myself and the
They alighted at the front door of Morag’s building. Both Simon and Annie could stand, but only just. They leant against Sister Teresa, who held them firmly. The door opened and Morag peered out, wrapped in a white dressing-gown. She took in the strange sight on her door-step, and gasped in horror.
‘Hallo, Morag. Are you willing to take in a few little waifs and strays that I picked up earlier this evening?’ said Sister Teresa, good-naturedly.
Morag said nothing but shut the front door behind them, and rushed up the stairs to open her flat. She dragged out her spare mattress, that she kept in the hope that friends might come to stay the night, into the living-room. Sister Teresa laid Annie gently onto it, so that she lay on her side. Simon limped across to the armchair, and remained leaning on it with both hands. Morag stared from one to the other, and then burst into tears.
Annie lay on the mattress, her breathing heavy and uneven. Both she and Simon were covered in blood, and several small, gleaming blades were deeply embedded in their bodies. Two wicked blades protruded from Annie’s back. Simon looked little better. His face was white, and he clutched his side, where two more blades were lodged.
‘There is no time for that, Morag. Make some tea. Always the best thing to do. And bring your first-aid box. Do it now!’
Morag hurried from the room, still shocked and weeping. As she did, the intercom buzzer sounded on her telephone.
‘Let them in Morag. It will be the Brotherhood’, said Sister Teresa, without looking up, from where she was gently tending Annie.
A few moments later, there was a banging and scrabbling at the door. In burst a smelly dog, who Morag recognised as Sniffer, a large seagull, that flapped past her face, and perched on the armchair next to Simon, Pat carrying a large holdall, and last of all, the Four Fingers, their faces pale and anxious. They stared in shock and dismay at the two bloodstained figures. Sniffer ambled over and gently licked Annie’s face with his bright, pink tongue.
‘Blimey!’ squawked Adrian, looking, for a seagull, very shaken. ‘You have been through the wars, and no mistake!’
‘Morag! We need you now! cried Sister Teresa. ‘Never mind the tea! You see to it, Pat. Have you got your talisman? Good. Now apply it to their wounds and let it heal them!’
‘I can’t move my right arm’. Annie mumbled.
‘Do it now, Morag!’
Morag knelt down by Annie. She was trembling.
‘Do it, Morag. I need you to’. whispered Annie.
Morag pressed her glowing talisman, against Annie’s wounds one after the other. Annie made no sound, but she was biting her lip so hard that Morag could see her lip bleed. The blades simply disappeared. The wounds just simply seemed to heal up, as if they had never existed. Annie’s breathing returned to normal, and her face began to regain its normal colour.
‘You’d better do me next, Morag. Its only like going to the dentist’.
Morag gently did the same for Simon. Like Annie, he made no sound, though he clenched his knuckles tightly. But both now looked far better. Annie even sat up on the mattress.
Sister Teresa straightened up with a sigh. ‘That’s all right now. Pat, some tea for these two!’ Pat came in with a tray of cups.
‘I have a better idea’, he grinned. ‘I’ve brought some little goodies with me’.
‘This is no time for a party, Pat’. Sister Teresa rumbled.
‘There’s always time for a party. Sorry, Morag. You’ve been invaded. Hope your neighbours don’t mind’.
‘I think they’re away, thank goodness’.
‘Great, even better. Have you got any glasses, Morag?’
She got up miserably and went to fetch wine-glasses from the kitchen cupboard, those she hoped that friends, any friends, might drink from, in the parties that she hoped she might have. She laid them on her small coffee-table in the centre of her tiny living-room.
Pat began to unpack his bag. The table began to disappear under plastic plates of golden croissants, curled Danish pastries, sweet French apple tarts, garnished with redcurrant, rolls of bread, pots of sweet butter, and several glinting bottles of wine, that shone in the light. There was even a carafe of freshly pressed orange juice.
‘We have brought some provisions as well’. said Little Finger cheerfully. He began to unload a number of small jars and plates. ‘Sweet olives, figs, and our homemade jams and preserves. Oh, and also,’ he dived into another bag, ‘More bread, but our own! Flavoured with honey and cinnamon! And our own spiced chutneys! We are, I must say, rather proud of them. And’, he produced two bottles with a flourish, ‘our very own elderflower cocktail!’
Everybody burst into applause, or those that could.
Morag sank down next to the armchair, close to Simon. She felt dazed and her thoughts began to boil inside her. Without even thinking she shouted.
They all did, frozen in whatever they were doing. Pat’s hand, in the act of pouring a bottle of wine, stayed in mid air, the wine still dripping into the glass below.
‘This is all so stupid! How can you burst in here, take over my flat and start having a damn banquet! Annie and Simon came in here, badly wounded! They were nearly killed! I’ve been nearly strangled in my own home, and stuck with arrows before that, and what do you all do! Start handing out wine and cakes, as if it’s all a big joke! You horrible, callous bunch of morons! You just don’t care, do you? It’s all just a big game to you! Don’t you realise people have died! Just like my Mum…’
She buried her face in her hands, and slid into a heap against her armchair, its comfortable bulk against her back. Simon slid slowly and painfully down next to her. He reached out his hand and gently turned her tear-stained face to look at him.
‘Morag, your mother’s dead. You can’t bring her back’.
Morag’s eyes welled with tears.
‘We knew your mother well, Morag’. It was Index Finger that spoke.
Morag turned her head to stare at him.
‘How..how did you know my mother?’
‘Because we shared the same ideals. We met her many times’.
He broke off, but little Finger continued. ‘Your mother was a wonderful person, Morag. My brothers and I all shared a great fondness and affection for her. And terrible sadness and grief for her passing’. He, too, paused.
Third Finger, who had not spoken at all, looked steadily at Morag.
‘Do you wish to leave the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Hand? You have every right to do so, given what you have already endured. We will not prevent you. If that is what you want, then we will leave now, and not trouble you again. But you must tell us’.
Morag looked around. Sister Teresa watched her, inscrutably, but said nothing. She glanced at Annie, who stared back at her with her large dark eyes. These people are no strangers to grief, she suddenly realised. Without even thinking about it, like the sudden click of a door opening, she made up her mind.
‘I’m with you, wherever it leads. I’m not walking away. I’ve got unfinished business with this Doctor Wrist, like you. Count me in’.
The room erupted with cheers.
‘Now we’ve got all the soppy business finished with, can we get down to some grub? I’m wasting away ‘ere! Adrian squawked, flapping his wings impatiently.
‘At last!’ cried Pat as he sprang to his feet with surprising agilty.’Do you realise, our lovely darling Morag, that we are having a surrealist party! Forgive me truly, but I feel that you don’t do much entertaining. Tonight, we do! Imagine, we are back in Montparnasse, in the artists’ quarter in Paris, in the 1920s! A wild bohemian party is in progress! We have all the ingredients! Look around you, Morag! Would anyone believe you? A rude seagull!
‘A scruffy dog, who claims to be an ex-foreign legionary in the Gallic army!’
Sniffer raised his head from his bowl of guiness. ‘I was, too!’
‘Four elderly gentlemen. of indeterminate background and income, who own a wild, rabid car!’
‘A mad, Irish poet and scholar, who knows not what end he seeks!’
Laughter this time.
‘Three beautiful young girls, who are conspicuous by their absence, but are here in spirit! I refer you, ladies and gentlemen to Indira, Pei-Ying and Mariko, and all their friends!’
Great cheers again.
‘And we are blessed with a holy sister of the Lord, who also happens to fly in her spare time!’
He tipped his glass to Sister Teresa, who responded with a snort of laughter.
‘And finally, to our three intrepid heroes, who have braved the might of Wrist, and have come back to us, unscathed! Well, nearly unscathed. I give you Simon, Annie and Morag! In no particular order!’
This time, there were huge cheers, and applause.
‘To the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Hand!’
Huge applause. Pat stood dramatically, arms outstretched, a full wine-glass in each hand.
Morag began to giggle helplessly. She couldn’t help it. She felt Annie slip down against the armchair next to her. Pat suddenly loomed over her.
‘A glass of wine for our beautiful half- faery policewoman! Orange nectar for our Annie1 Don’t forget you’re under age!’
‘Don’t worry, Pat, I can’t stand the stuff. More than I can say for you’.
‘Ah, I wanted to lighten the mood’. He crouched down. ‘I’m very happy that you’re here. We could’nt bear it if we had lost you’. He straightened up and went back to a boisterous conversation with the Four Fingers.
‘Dear Pat’. said Annie affectionately. ‘He likes to be the life and soul of the party’. She giggled.
‘Look at them, Morag. Feared warriors of war and strife’. Pat was busy trying to persuade Little Finger to try his panama hat on. Simon, Adrian and Sniffer were engaged in swapping friendly insults. It all looked ridiculous.
‘You’re only about eight years older than I am, Morag. You don’t have any brothers and sisters, do you?’
Morag still couldn’t get used to Annie’s direct questions. She looked down at her glass.
‘No’, she said quietly. ‘Mum couldn’t have any more children after me. I wish she had’.
Annie looked around at the members of the Brotherhood. She grinned.
‘Well, Morag, you have now. Perhaps not the ones you expected, though’.
‘They’re more than good enough for me’. Morag said, unexpectedly. ‘That reminds me. You must take this back’. She held out her hand with Leila’s emerald in it. Annie stared down at it.
‘No, you keep it. It’s a gift from one sister to another’.
Annie smiled at her suddenly.
‘I mean it. I’m happy that you want to stay with us’.
Morag said nothing but suddenly hugged Annie very hard, with all the emotion she felt.
‘Ouuch! Be careful! I’m still a bit tender’.
‘Mind if I join the girlie group?’ Sister Teresa sat, or rather crashed, down next to them. She held out a tray of large plump biscuits. ‘Have some of these, before I eat them all’.
She sighed and leaned back, then she spoke sternly to Annie.
‘You and Simon were extremely careless tonight, not being prepared! You should have realised that Doctor Wrist would never dare face you! He sent his servants instead!’
‘I know now, Sister Teresa. But I will not back away!’ Annie said fiercely.
Sister Teresa sighed again. ‘I too know that, Annie. You, Morag, look around you! Despite what you see, these members of the Brotherhood will fight to the death, if need be, for each other! It is not about revenge for your mother, it is about fighting evil! We have lost many along this path already. But we fight together, with faith in each other. This not a crusade, but something that we have to do. Annie, you and Simon must pursue other ends and allies to fight this cause. You have to!’
I hear you, Sister Teresa’. Annie said quietly.
Sister Teresa sat back. ‘End of sermon’. She chuckled. ‘Let’s just enjoy the party’.
Morag could barely remember when the end of the party was. It was just about dawn, she realised, when Annie had still been asleep on her shoulder. Everyone had gone. She got up and looked around. Everything was clean and tidy. She peered into the kitchen. Her wine glasses were washed up and standing proudly in the sink. Bless Simon, she thought. He would have done that. She crawled into bed, and for once, did not think of her mother. As she fell into a deep sleep, she had forgotten that the emerald that her new sister had given her, lay clasped tightly in her hand.
Frank Jackson (19/07/10) Word count – 9853.
2. The scene of their fight with Doctor Wrist’s creatures.