Chapter 2: A dangerous proposal

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 234
Comments: 3

“Mrs Baston-Sharp  will see you now, Mr Cotton” Her secretary showed Silky into her Ritz Hotel suite where she lay in the bed. She looked awful. He face was chalk white and the sparkle was gone from her eye. Her face clenched periodically as she was clearly struggling to suppress groans. In a weak voice she greeted him with all civility. “Take a seat Mr Cotton. Its very good of you to see me.”

“Not at all. And my friend s call me Silky, so please do.”

“I think I should be honoured –“ She paused and winced, evidently suppressing a cry of pain, then grinned, ”honoured to be regarded as one of those. If only we had meet before I encountered Mr Appleby.”

“I’m sure the doctors will have you on the mend soon.”

“No. The doctor says I’m done for.” Mrs Baston-Sharp smiled bravely. “He tested what was left in my teacup and its very strong stuff. The poison has spread throughout my system and I’m too old to fight it.”

Silky pounded his fist on the arm of his chair. “Confound that devil M. He’ll get the noose for this, Mrs Baston-Sharp,  don’t you worry. I’ll see to that myself.”

“As regards my murder I have full faith in the police. It is for other matters that I require a gentleman of your more specialized talents.” The little old lady’s tone had turned businesslike. “I expect you are baffled as to what all this is about.”

“It is a bit of a puzzle.”

“And I only have half the pieces to it I’m afraid. This situation came out of my husband’s work. I’ve never fully understood it.” She sighed and shook her head.

“What did your husband do?”

“My husband of the Midlands Baston-Sharp’s  as in Baston Textiles. They had hundreds of factories but John never had much interest in the business. He loved golf and bird-watching and he was also a keen amateur archaeologist. He was at his happiest in some muddy trench sifting through pieces of broken pottery. It strange to think such a harmless hobby could become dangerous but it did. You see Mr Cotton – Silky – it was at digs at various sites around the world that my husband became aware of something very sinister. Portents. Signs.”

“What sort of signs?”

“Signs of doom. Of an unspeakable, unfathomable evil on its way.”

Diplomatically, Silky kept his tone from expressing his scepticism. “Surely all cultures have their apocalypse myths.”

“That’s what I said to him. But John was convinced that this was something different. These were cultures that had no connection but yet were very precise in the nature of the threat. Ancient cultures usually stress the ancient nature of evil all of these were very definite that the evil unleashed would be something completely new. They were very precise in the timing too – described using astral movements and the like. The prediction was that this entity would burst into its first life in our own time. Just over thirty years ago.”

Silky tried not to be dismissive. He smiled. “In that case we are safe. The world didn’t end thirty years ago.”

“The prediction wasn’t that it would end but that this awful entity would be born then. The newness of this new century disturbed John greatly. The inventions: so many things that would transform our world were all born into being around the same time as they were clustered around the stroke of midnight that brought in 1900. The flying machines that made the air part of man’s landscape, the moving image, recorded sound. These weren’t just inventions, John said. They were transformations in our relationship with reality.” As she spoke a tram passed in the street outside: the harsh screech of steel  against steel . “And then of course there was the war. Horror like nothing the world has ever seen before.”

“Horrific yes. But right triumphed in the end.”

“I see you are not convinced by my husband’s theory, Silky. I confess I wasn’t at first either. But I assure you John wasn’t a superstitions man. He was convinced his ideas were solidly based. He sold his interest in the family business and dedicated his life and fortune to pursuing the truth of his theory. No-one believed in it except him and he was convinced only he could stop this evil force becoming dominant. It was then that I had to take John’s beliefs seriously because it became clear that someone had begun shadowing my John’s work.”

“How so?”

“He was followed. It wasn’t his imagination. I saw them too: cars trailing us, dark figures skulking in doorways. Our home was burgled and his papers ransacked. Then, there were threatening letters and phone calls. They promised to do all kinds of things to him – and to me – if he didn’t stop his research. Once when I was out a car mounted the pavement and tried to run me over.”

“Good grief! Sounds like Howard – the cowardly wretch. Did you tell your husband that he should stop?”  

“Certainly not,” said Mrs Baston-Sharp sternly. “After the car incident I told John to double down on his work because clearly it had made some wicked people angry which could only be a good thing. As for Howard – or Appleby- he is only one of many hired hands. The person behind it all has very deep pockets and has a reach that can stretch around the world. Have you heard of Angus Nordragon.”

Silky’s brow furrowed. He had tangled with some of the most notorious villains in the world over the years but the name Nordragon had never came up even peripherally in any criminal or espionage cases.  ‘Well I’ve heard of him, of course but only from the papers. He’s a bit of a joke isn’t he. “The Most Evil Man in the World.’ And all that.”

Nordragon’s grotesquely fat face and huge bald head had peered out from the pages of the newspapers for decades. Every few years or so he grabbed the headlines with some attention seeking caper: prancing around Stonehenge at midsummer in a druid’s cloak, parading his dozen wives, sacrificing a goat outside Buckingham Palace. Silky remembered from his childhood, society had initially obliged Nordragon by being shocked by his antics. Since the war, however, the world had decided there were more important concerns than this type of buffoonery and, if Nordragon got any attention at all, it was derisive laughter.

Mrs Baston-Sharp pointed to that day’s edition of the Daily Mail which lay on the bed beside her. “I think some of the most dangerous threats can seem to be clowns at first glance.” The front page read Hope for Germany as Strong new leader appointed Chancellor. The odd little man with an odd little moustache in the picture reminded Silky of Charlie Chaplin.  

The lady sighed. “Unintentional Clowns seek the harshest vengeance on the world. The screams of their victims need to be very loud to drown out the laughter that’s been directed at them their whole lives.”

“How did you find out about Nordragon’s involvement?”

“I’m not sure exactly. My husband said his name kept coming up when he was doing his researches. Wherever in the globe he went Nordragon or his money had been there first…then John died in Romania”

“I’m so sorry.”

“The authorities there said he fell from a balcony while drunk. My husband never touched a drop in his life, Silky.” Her voice cracked with emotion. She wiped at her eyes. After a pause to compose herself she russled through some papers by her side and handed a letter to Silky.  “In his last letter to me John detailed several things. First, that he now knew for certain that Nordragon was behind the threats against us. Whereas John wanted to find the source of the approaching evil so that he could stop it. Nordragon wanted it so that he could harness it. John said he had obtained prof that the self-proclaimed Most Evil Man in the World – the buffoon, as yourself and most others see him - was responsible for several deaths in pursuit of his goal and John would turn in the proof to Scotland Yard on his return to England. He also detailed – as you can read- the expedition he intended to undertake to capture the key artefacts which were the source of the evil.”

As Silky read the letter the place names mentioned made his head spin. He had explored some deadly spots in his time but the places that John Baston-Sharp wrote of intending to penetrate were beyond what Silky would brave.

“As you can read the first port of call for my husband once he left was the island of Rangi RuRu in the South Seas.”

Silky gasped. “The first port of call! Dear Mrs Baston-Sharp – “ Silky paused and rubbed at his forehead as he tried to think how to explain it to the good lady. “Rangi RuRu very existence is barely know of. It’s a few miles south of the fourteenth parallel and west of Tahiti, the worst hurricane spot on the globe. It’s not on any maps. We only know of its existence because…’

Mrs Baston-Sharp interrupted. “Because numerous ships have been wrecked on its reefs and the handful of survivors who have made it out on rafts have described the most voracious cannibal population in the world. Oh, I know all that.”

“But then how on earth…did you really expect to make this voyage yourself?”

Mrs Baston-Sharp snorted. “Certainly not on my own. That’s why I advertised for a professional adventurer to accompany me. Mr Appleby claimed to be an Olympic sailor. I suppose that was another lie. Do you sail, Silky?”

Silky was rubbing at his moustache in incredulity. “Erm… well I can. I wouldn’t say it is foremost ability.” He was last out on the waves during a sail around the Isle of White with his Dick a few months ago. He found that a bit hair-raising once the wind got up.

Mrs Baston-Sharp wagged her finger at him. “There was no option for me but to go. You see, we know from one survivor that the Dutch ship, Amphora, is wrecked on Rangi RuRu. Amphora had amongst its cargo a precious stone, the Laurena Ruby. John identified it as the key element, the artefact that the prophecy centred on. It was essential that John secure its possession to prevent the evil future from coming to fruition. My husband was no sailor, Silky but he determined to try. Frankly, I would have expected no less of him.”

Silky couldn’t help but admire the lady’s spirit. “So, once your husband had the ruby the world would be safe?”

“No if you read on you will see more was required.”

Silky took a sip of whiskey to calm him after the mention of Rangi RuRu. This was a mistake, as the next place name he read in the letter made him splutter his drink out. “Mores Angelos.”

“Yes. You’ve heard of it.”

Silky nodded, bewildered. “Yes, but why would anyone want to go there except to break their neck? The place is a ruin.” In the seventeen century some Spanish monks decided, in a show of devotion to god, to build a monastery, Mores Angelos, on an insanely high Andean peak. They had quickly found the environment unsurvivable. 

Mrs Baston-Sharp shook her head. “John became certain that Mores Angleos is actually inhabited. He discovered the existence of a secret society of morally corrupted monks. They have created a book that has been centuries in the writing: a black bible. It is said to contain all of man’s knowledge of evil. That knowledge combined with the power of the jewel is what will bring about the coming apocalypse. John discovered that this society have chosen Mores Angleos as the hiding place for their wicked bible.”

“Well, it’s certainly the perfect hiding place: its eighteen thousand feet, up sheer cliffs.”

Mrs Baston-Sharp nodded thoughtfully. “I must admit, John would have had some trouble with that.He suffered from vertigo. We went up Blackpool tower once but we quickly had to come down because John got so dizzy.”

“And you do realize that Bolivia and Paraguay are at war? The route to Mores Angelos goes right through the Chacos battlefield. And there some hideously dangerous river voyaging after that.” Silky had sat in a dockside, Buenos Aires bar and listened to a hardened sailor describe, with trembling voice, his journey up the Amazonian tributary, Los Blanco. It was known on the continent as the white foaming death.

“And then, when he had the jewel and the book…”

“There’s more!”

“It’s over the page.”

Silky didn’t want to turn the page. He braced himself for the next destination but he still reeled with shock when he saw the name. “Vijayayer Thansavli.”

Mrs Baston-Sharp began: “Now, that is a remote kingdom in central Borneo. It is very deep in the jungle and its ruler is somewhat…”

Silky couldn’t help but laughing: he was concerned to hear a slightly hysterical edge to it. “No need to go on Mrs Baston-Sharp. This is one location I know personally. I suppose that at least I’ll know the way this time.”

Mrs Baston-Sharp frowned in confusion. “You’ve been there. But John said, no white man had ever been there.”

“He was almost right. No Europeans but my friend Dick Brown and I have ever had the honour of the acquaintance of the ruler of Thanvasali.” He could feel the blood draining from his face at the memory. It would take too long to recount to her the horrors of that adventure. The jungle trek, the imprisonment, the torture, the scenes of unspeakable depravity that the mad king inflicted on his people.

“Oh, I am pleased.” Mrs Baston-Sharp’s lovely smile lit up her sick features. “Did you see the Snake-Moon Temple.”

Silky nodded wordlessly, remembering the stone carvings of hideously deformed creatures on the temple walls and the pile of mutilated corpses in its courtyard: sacrifices demanded by the mad king to celebrate the Blood-Moon festival.

“The temple must be destroyed,” said Mrs Baston-Sharp firmly. “That is the third crucial element that John identified. If the power of the Laurene jewel and the knowledge of the Black Bible are brought to that location then the world is doomed.”

“Mrs Baston-Sharp, this was a quite extraordinary challenge your husband set for himself. I’m sure he sincerely believed his..um.. theory but a such a journey purely on such a basis seems rash.”

Silky was relieved to see the lady did not look offended. She asked, “I should assume you are not a believer in the supernatural, Silky?”

Silky thought of the encounter with the henchmen of the voodoo priest in Guadeloupe: the blank eyes; they did seem uncannily like animated corpses. He remembered the extraordinarily prophetic dream he had while malarial in Lahore. “I wouldn’t say I truly believe in it. Nine out of ten supposedly otherworldly things I’ve seen could be explained by mental trickery and deception. There is that other one in ten though that aren’t so simple.”

“My attitude exactly. I’m not afraid of black cats and I’ll happily walk under a ladder but I keep an open mind. My husband was a good man. But he was no fool. If he says the fate of the world rests on finding those artefacts and stopping Nordragon then I believe him,” said Mrs Baston-Sharp. “After my husband’s death I took the ferry over to the Isle of Man with a pistol in my handbag. I was going to Nordragon’s villa there to settle accounts. When I got there I found he had left the country. My enquires found he had prepared for quite a substantial expedition.”

“You think he intends to make the journey that Mr Baston-Sharp planned? Find the book and the jewel and take them to the temple.”

“I’m certain of it. I was determined - right up until today –  to make the journey my husband had planned and was thwarted from. But it seems I have been thwarted too. That’s my only regret about dying, Silky. I’m an old lady. My time was almost up anyway and I’ve had a good life.” Mrs Baston-Sharp’s brave smile as she said this broke Silky’s heart. “But I regret bitterly not being able to complete my husband’s work. If I cannot go on the expedition someone must.”

Despite all Silky’s trepidation about what such an extraordinary expedition would involve, this little old lady’s quiet courageousness settled the matter in his mind. Wild horses couldn’t have dragged him away from getting involved. “Consider it done.”

Mrs Baston-Sharp smiled. “I thought I might have to convince you. I’m so glad that’s not the case. Since you tried to warn me about Appleby, I had my secretary make some inquires about you. It seems you are the type of man I was looking for all along. I took the liberty of booking passage for you on a ship that sails for Australia tonight. Now there is just the question of your fee…”

Silky interrupted firmly. “There is no fee. This one is most definitely on me.”

 


Submitted: March 30, 2016

© Copyright 2022 Crowefoot. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Nikki Evans

Wow! Silky's work is sure cut out for him. Three wild and weird places to go to defeat this unspeakable evil and to top it off he's in a race with Appleby and that weirdly creepy Nordragon.
This was a really creepy chapter and you set up the atmosphere and what's ahead perfectly. Great job! I'm off to the next chapter!

Wed, June 1st, 2016 3:13am

Author
Reply

Yes there's lots of wild weird stuff ahead...but possibly its not going to go the way they are expecting!!! But i won't give anymore away. I'm so glad you are enjoying the story and thanks so much for all your enthusiasm and support!!

Thu, June 2nd, 2016 5:23am

Chris Green

This is really good, Crowefoot.It is very filmic in the way Indiana Jones or Rider Haggard stories are. I may not have time to read all of it but should I not do so, good luck. You are on to a winner here.
Regards
Chris

Fri, June 17th, 2016 12:36pm

Author
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Thanks for all you're encouragement. I didn't expect you would be able to read all of it. Your reading and commenting on these chapters alone is much appreciated. Thanks again.

Mon, June 20th, 2016 12:00am

Amy R. Beckett

Sounds like an adventure! I hope Silky's up to the job, although he seems like a nice and competent guy.

Mon, June 20th, 2016 6:02pm

Author
Reply

Yes, there's quite an adventure ahead...although it doesn't quite go the way expected. Thanks so much for reading.

Wed, June 22nd, 2016 7:40pm

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