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BlackEagle Girls
and The Quest to See

Chapter 18 - The Plot Thickens, in more ways than one

'Part two of The Hen of the Ghaspervilles,' Announced Henry, when all were finally settled again.

'An ear-splitting howl echoed through the fog as the buggy, driven by the oily-voiced Morris, drew up at the misty doors of Ghasperville Hall.'

'What the dickens was that?' Exclaimed Watson.

'Oh, not to be alarmed good Doctor,' said Kathrill Holmes, removing his fingers from the indentations in her arm, 'merely the front doorbell/early warning alarm system that Sir Godfrey Ghasperville installed just after his entire family were scrambled to death by... The Chook!'

'Too true, hail and welcome,' said the latest occupant of the hall, as he took Kathrill's hand and escorted her within. 'Oh and you two men, get the horse to the stable. You'll find a bucket of slops and a nose bag there.'

'You expect me to feed the nag?' said Watson affronted at being thought a common hand.

'Not at all, you common hand. They are for the both of you. Bon Appetit.'

The front door slammed shut.

'Well I never!' spluttered the doctor.

'You have now,' answered Morris. 'Walk this way. We'll have to use the rear entrance.'

'If I walked that way, I'd be looking for the men's room.' Muttered the Doctor, following.

Some time later, Watson appeared in the Great Hall where a roaring fire lit the vast stone walls, paintings and draperies in vivid yellows and reds.

'Ah, there you be my very good Doctor!' said Sir Godfrey, sweeping his arm toward an inviting chair beside Miss Holmes. 'Please except my boundin' apologies, meant nothin' by...'

'Too late for meaning nothing!' said a voice from behind the draperies.

'Who goes there?' cried Sir Godfrey, reaching for an ancient sword in its wall-hanging scabbard.

'I'll be the best judge o' that!' Cackled the ancient hag, emerging.

'Ark! Best judge o' what!' squawked another hidden voice.

'A little Nacht Music,' suggested Kathrill Holmes, tinkling the piano forte (Or was it fifte?)

'Holmes!' Cried the Doctor, looking around in wonder as if expecting Sherlock to suddenly appear and make sense of so much nonsense.

'Mister Holmes will not be attending our little get together this night, my dear Doctor Watson.' said the ever-more slimy voice of Morris at his back. 'No. this is high time for high tea. And tonight's high tea will be both Miss Kathrill Holmes and your goodly self Doctor. For you both have walked into our trap!'

'Not so fast Mister clever-dick!' said L.J.Silver, emerging from behind a potted palm and brushing some crusted remains from his shoulders. 'I be havin' a stake here too!'

'But, I say! Wait up everybody!' said Teddy Teddleton entering through the Austrian windows... or... the... whatever. 'Look here! I have in tow a grubby urchin late from the local village sweet shop, hold steady lad!' He lifted a filthy wrist in his grasp, and the child behind glared, wild-eyed at all those gathered. Then... Just at that moment... The sound that made all quail, quail, and quail again, boomed across the More-or-less mire. 'BOOC, BOOC, BOOC! CHEEP-CHEEP!'

There was silence for a few moments and then the terrifying sound of someone... or something...dying in awful agony.

'Wot was tha?' Said the grubby urchin.

'Sounded like someone or something dying in awful agony.' Watson uttered, horrified.

'Precisely, my good fellow. Most likely one of the hard-boiled locals doing a bit of poaching.' Stated Sir Godfrey, stirring up the fire.

'Egzackly!' Said the old hag.

'Gosh! Well, glad that's over. Bridge anyone?' said Teddy, shuffling a few cards up his sleeve.

'It's not over until the fat lady sings.' Offered Watson.

'No fat lady.' This from Silver.

'How about a parrot?' From the parrot.

'How about we resolve this gathering of suspects and the mystery of the Ghasperville Hen!' Demanded Kathrill Holmes from her perch at the piano.

Wide-eyed, the others sat and stood... where they sat and... you know.

'Ever heard of the term HENchmen? What about the place known as StoneHENge? Do any of you know where I'm coming from?' said Kathrill, rising.

'I say yes, rather, from the piano...'

'Oh do be quiet Master Teddleton... Or should I say, Inspector Lestrade!'

'Blimey!' said the policeman, 'Ow'd ya know that?'

'All in good time Inspector. Now as to the term HENchmen, they are an ancient order of Coopers...'


'Chicken-Coopers. A secret society dating back to the time of the Druids and the building of that StoneHENge, not as some conclude, a solstice temple, but the earliest known Chicken House! And, the Hen of the Ghaspervilles is a direct descendant of those bred free-range across the rolling plains of prehistoric Britain. Now,' she turned a withering eye across all those in the room, 'regarding the smuggling business through The Back Passage. Not a case of out, but in! The cargo? Secret herbs and spices from the Orient!'

'But wot abaht tha Wreckers?' Queried the Inspector slipping into a cockney accent and wondering why.

'Merely a convenient front to hide the truth.' said the Doctor radiating supreme confidence... and wondering why.

'Oh come come, surely this isn't simply about herbs and spices.' Blustered Sir Godfrey.

'It is about any number of things,' replied Miss Holmes evenly, idly playing with a finger thimble. 'To begin with... you Mister L.J.Silver! Surely you didn't think such a weak disguise could mist my eyes for long?'

'Couldn't fool us at all,' offered Watson, trying desperately to read the game.

'And you, old crone, have played your last deception. As for you Sir Godfrey, how could you have allowed yourself to sink into such a situation?'

'Utterly disgraceful.' Added Watson for good effect.

'Finally, we come to you Morris, my own man: driver, gardener, general dogsbody. Of course I knew you for what you were when you presented your papers. "Mister Arty, late of the Crimea, seeks work as manservant to any high lady who wishes to remain in seclusion far from... " '

'The madding crowd?' offered Watson.

'The maddening brothers.' Completed Kathrill. 'But of course there is more.'

'Much, much more.' Said the Doctor emphatically, with a look of utter bewilderment.

'To begin with, Mister Silver. You are actually a police detective stationed down here by Inspector Lestrade to observe the comings and goings of the so-called Wreckers and what they were actually smuggling in. As for the parrot, he is simply a clever glove-puppet device aimed at authenticity...'

'Arrk! Ohh I am not! Pieces of poo! Pieces of poo!'

'He means pieces of two. Just gone a little haywire and I told you he came from a poor nest.'

'Have it your way,' Miss Kathrill answered coolly, 'and as for you my faithful Manservant! Did you think that I was so foolish as not to see through your subterfuge Master Arty? Or should I say Morrie Arty!'

'Curses!' exclaimed the butler, sneering through his moustache and producing from behind his back a large sack. 'I am undone!'

'I surely hope not.' Muttered Watson, blushing.

'But you'll never take me alive!' Shouted Moriarty, pelting Lestrade and the other men with red and green capsicums before diving through the Chinese doors and escaping across the gardens.

'After him!' Roared the policeman, and at once L.J. Silver, A.K.A. Lestrade's man, set off in pursuit, the parrot squawking 'The plank, the plank!'

'Come come my dear Lestrade. Even if he is caught, what charge could he face?' Asked Sir Godfrey.

'Assault with peppers, for a start.' Growled Lestrade, turning back to the others.

'Ahhh! Ha ha haaa!' The old crone screeched, bounding through the Swedish doors on the west side, 'I be free! Free! Come to Mamma Ducky! Ducky! Ducky! Thar ya be! Kill them all Ducky! Go in through the Lithuainian doors and peck away! Nooo! Ducky! Noooo! Not yer Mamma! Noooooh!'

The hag's strangled scream died away and a broody... brooding silence followed.

Silver blundered back into the hall. 'Lost Moriarty, but the Hag's haggis. Severe case of Hen Pecking.'

'What of the bird?'

'Made off back across the More-or-less Mire in the same direction as Moriarty.' Reported Silver, the parrot now wilting on his shoulder.

'And now,' said Kathrill Holmes, advancing menacingly with her thimble raised accusingly on her darning finger. 'It is time to unmask the ring-leader of this dastardly plot. You! Sir Godfrey! You are the High Druid and Keeper of the Sacred Chicken! The old hag was merely your loony gran-mama and foil. She it was who kept it penned away across the mire and let it loose to rend its victims.'

'My dear Miss Holmes, are you quite out of your mind?' Protested Sir Godfrey in a placating tone. 'After all, it is I who am... are... is... whatever, the victim here! Dash it all, I mean to say, the monstrous creature has ravaged and destroyed all my family...'

'And left you Lord of Ghasperville Hall, and secret Grand Poo-Bah o' HENshmen, not ta mention Smuggler King o' Penzance an' beyond!' piped up the Sweet-Shop urchin.

'Shut your mouth, you filthy little gutter-snipe!' Cried Sir Godfrey, turning to the grubby waif. 'What could you possibly know?'

'Enough ta put ya behind bars fer tha rest o' yer life. Got it down pat. Now Inspector Lestrade, it is your time. The handcuffs, if you please.'

'Very good sir!' said the inspector, snapping on the bracelets.

'Oh Lestrade! You can be so tiresome. Not on yourself. On him!'

'Holmes!' shouted Watson, suddenly coming alive. 'Which one, er, are you?'

'The one who has spent the entirety of this story on his knees!' said Holmes, rising from the floor and stripping away his disguise as a small boy/come sweet-shop sweety-seller. 'Well sister Kathrill, we finally meet again.' he continued, dusting himself down and eyeing her dubiously.

'I should have known better!' she replied archly. 'Wherever goes Doctor Watson, Sherlock Holmes will not be far away.'

'Elementary my dear... Ummphh!'

'Keep it as a memento of this, our final meeting! Gentlemen. I bid you all goodbye, and good riddance!' Kathrill Holmes stormed out of the hall in high dudgeon, making for the front door and any possible conveyance of escape.

'Seems she's actually not all that fond of you old boy.' Opined the good doctor, employing his medical forceps to extract the finger stall from Holme's nostril.

'Mpay-mback for when...ohh! When, as children, I used the stem of Papa's pipe to inspect her inner ear... and it lodged there.'

'Must have discommoded your Pater, great difficulty in lighting up, what!' Guffawed the Doctor.

'Beyond the walls of Ghasperville Hall, across the miles of pathless wastes and bogs, a spectral cry arose: 'BOOC! CHEEP BOOC! CHEEEP BOOC- BOOC!'

And with that somewhat prophetic cry, night fell with a resounding thud!

The Hen of the Ghaspervilles had yet to be stuffed. But who could afford all those loaves of bread?'

The players bowed in a most cheesy manner and the audience broke into a ragged round of clapping, cheers and jeers. Henry looked suitably satisfied.

Later in the evening, those that remained repaired inside to the Black household Drawing Room. Monique's mum and dad Monica and Jean-Michael were there, as was Stefan Mans and his friend Jonathon, Narenda and her sister and their mother, Rachael's agent Cathy Render, and her former Musical Director from 'The Cat's Meow,' Peter Samos. Marsha, her Mum and John-Boy were there too, along with Henry's mates Brodie and Vincent and their parents, and Henry's current squeeze, Rosalind and her folks.

Mathew, slightly affected by his intake of wine, took the stage behind the cocktail bar. 'It's been a very big New Year's eve afternoon, after a very big year. So much has happened, so much unfolded or been made clearer. As a family with such good friends to help us through the hard times, we are so very fortunate. I'd like to take this moment to thank you all for your support, I'll wear it always. No! Just kidding folks. Really, really, I want you to know that the Black Family are so appreciative of your kindness during difficult and emotional events, like the Police Cold-Case enquiry, the eventual exhumation of Loretta's remains and the Coronial inquest that followed.

It was an extremely harrowing time while we all awaited the Coroner's findings, not made any easier when the story was somehow leaked to the newspapers and for a while we had to deal with the press on the doorstep. When, at last, those findings were revealed with the disclosure of the blood and fibre DNA report, my Family felt an overwhelming sense of relief. It was as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from our shoulders. Something that had been kept a secret for too many years has been shown up as a misconception, a lie that had masked the truth. An injustice. A terrible slur upon my first wife has been swept away and she has been proved innocent of what we... I... thought...'

Mathew faltered, wiped at his eyes, and continued, 'Except that providence and good fortune prevailed. My dear Mother kept a box of Loretta's works, which I had already dismissed or maybe in my distress had overlooked. As you all now know, that was where the clues to the entire, monstrous crime were hidden, in two little diaries that Loretta had kept from her childhood. If Amelia hadn't chosen to tell our Princess here, and Priscilla hadn't gone through that box of writings and drawings, who knows how long it might have taken before the diaries would have come to light? Perhaps never? Instead, exposed, was a vile crime: a number of vile crimes, all of them leading back to someone yet to be apprehended and punished. This evil child molester and murderer may never be caught. He may be, if he is still alive, continuing on his merry way, but the police now have him in their sights. He's older now, and probably hiding away somewhere... under some rock.' Mathew heaved a great sigh and looked directly at Henry and Priscilla. 'Too old to trouble us now. I fervently hope that one day the authorities dig this... this murderer out and make him pay for all...' He halted, clearly not able to continue, tears at the corners of his eyes.

'Darhlings!' Exclaimed Rachael, swiftly coming to his side, champagne cocktail in hand. 'Matty always wanted to outdo me in the drama department and here he has clearly excelled! Oh how I hate to be upstaged! Please, let's just say again, thank-you all for being here for us. Do have some more drinky-poos and munchies. And...' She waited for a moment. 'I want you all to settle down again, because our Daughter Priscilla has something further to add.' She turned with a flourish of her free hand. 'You now have the stage Priscilla.'

Priscilla stood up and came, somewhat nervously, to the forefront next to the cocktail bar, holding some pages of notes.

'I want to...'

'You'll have to enunciate Dear!' Called Stefan Mans from the back.

'Speak up Cilla!' Monique, nearby, prompted.

Priscilla cleared her throat nervously, then began, speaking resolutely yet growing in confidence and volume. 'I want to tell you about Henry's and my Mum Loretta, through my words and then hers. As you know now, she left us a legacy of her drawings, paintings, writings and visions. She was a brilliant burst of light that tore through the depths of despair. I've put her thoughts and dreams and ideas into this collection of her works. Maybe one day, someone will publish them, but for now I'll just read what I've said as the foreword, and then what she, Loretta: Mum, Mother, has to tell us.'

Priscilla paused, took a big swallow of air, and began.

'Too Brief To Own A Shadow. The short life of Loretta Aruda/Black. Part personal memoir, part diary, part art.

Foreword. By Priscilla Black.

Life begins when you can't wipe your own bum, and ends when you can't wipe your own bum. In between, you can. That's where fun and trouble happens.

At the beginning and at the end, you simply go with the flow. In the middle, you fool around.

Our Mother never got the chance to do much fooling around. She was trapped soon after the beginning and her childhood was destroyed by a monster.

This is her short-lived story.

Here are her own words and feelings, her outward observations of the wonders of Nature's world and maybe of things she thought that she had witnessed or just dreamed. Here are her paintings, drawings, brief sketches, tiny thumb-nail jottings, tile-designs, wishes, hopes, prayers and the simple homely thoughts of a new, young Mother. And set against these are the hard, cruel facts of her early, abused years which continued far into her teens. The first part of the story is derived from her own portfolio of work, preserved by Amelia Black, our Grannie, and passed on to me. And amongst that jumble of bits and pieces, that I have hopefully assembled into some kind of order, was discovered her two un-read diaries. These were the actual, dated, journals of her real life from about the age of seven until her sudden death. I, as a little child, along with my infant brother Henry, was there when it happened; helpless to save our Mother of course.
Read and judge for yourself.

I dedicate this book, on behalf of Henry, to the memory of our Mother. And to my family: Dad, our Brother Louis and Granny Black. And to Rachael.
You have been the best Step-Mum for me and Henry.
Now I'll read on.
Loretta has lots to tell us.

"When the horizon is more than a hundred and eighty degrees across and the sky is a zillion feet high and the air is crystal-champagne with tinges of oak and pine and filled with the subtle nuances of a boy's brown skin and a girl's golden hair... it is not a good day to die. It is a good day to live!

Life, and this story, begins..."'

Harry quietly wended his way between the feet of those listening to Priscilla's reading and wandered out through the back of the house. His doggy-door clunk-clunked behind him and the perfume of the night filled his alien nostrils. He trotted round the end of the house and headed down the side-way drive toward the front garden. 'Civic duty,' he muttered to himself. 'Watering time for the roses, I think, and maybe a cat scare or a passing pooch bark.'

He was indeed propped on three legs, the forth uplifted, when he became aware of a vehicle parked against the curb, a short distance down the street. What caught his attention was the dark outline of someone standing quite still beside the vehicle. The glow of a cigarette told him the direction the figure was facing. The shadow remained motionless until the faint glow of another cigarette showed Harry that someone else was sitting in the driver's seat.

Curious that two people seemed to be watching his house, Harry made his way down the drive and along the footpath with his usual little hoppity-skip gait.

'Looks like maybe that's their dog.' Growled the low voice of the standing figure.

'I knew they had one, but if it's him he's just a mutt!' Hissed a second voice from behind the wheel. 'He won't be a problem. You can take him out when you do her and the others if he gets in your way. In fact, better to do that before. Barking dogs? No way. Let's travel.'

Harry had come close enough to get a quick odour-sample at the standing man's shoes and trousers. 'For later identification purposes my dear Watson.' he thought.

'Hey! Ya little shit! Don't come sniffing around me! Piss off before I wring yer neck!'

Harry growled at the abuse and the flung-out foot and turned tail, running quickly back to the safety of the house driveway. But he didn't bark, even when the utility behind him growled into life and snarled away.

He didn't have to.

What nobody else knew, except Harry, was that there were now two people who wanted to cause some terrible outcome to Priscilla and her family, and he feared that it was all because of what had befallen Loretta. The man who had become her father, the man who had stolen her real father's identity, who had killed her mother and, eventually her, was back to continue his persecution.

And now he had an accomplice...


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