Part Ten: A Plot Thickens... Considerably

A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or lessPart Ten: A Plot Thickens... Considerably

I looked at the twenty young men, who stood at a kind of boneless attention. The paramilitary wing of the reborn Church of England, indeed.

‘This is all getting a bit silly, isn’t it?’ I said. ‘Not so,’ said the Reverend Moon. ‘The YMCE, to use their proper title, are not silly.’

‘YMCE?’ said Vespa. ‘The Young Men’s Church of England,’ said Moon. ‘All organisations, even crypto-fascist ones, need a tidy letterhead.’

Moon pointed to a viciously anodyne youth, who seemed to lead the silent YMCE platoon. ‘Simon,’ he said. ‘Show our guests… what you do.’

Simon, if that really was his name, reached into the pocket of his snug-fit cable-knit cardigan and pulled out a fountain pen and a comb.

I snorted. By now, I’ll cheerfully admit, I should have known that to snort, honk or pshaw in derision could only presage something nasty.
The YMCE kapo smiled an ingratiating smile, then whipped his arm back and forth with alarming speed. The comb whistled inches past my ear!

The comb buried itself in the wall, quivering loathsomely. Keeping my cool, I cocked an eyebrow at the cadaverous Moon. ‘That all?’ I said.

Moon looked to Simon. Slowly, he unscrewed the cap of his fountain pen and turned to Vespa. ‘I don’t think we need continue,’ said Moon.

Nor did I. ‘The YMCE are useful,’ said Moon. ‘Street fights with Methodists. Slot-machines and coffee mornings. Brutes, yes, but useful.’

‘All right, Moon,’ I said. ‘You’ve made your point, disgusting as it is. You have Vespa and I well and truly cornered. What’s your game?’

‘My game?’ he said. ‘Oh, Brother Leinigen, I have no ‘game’, oh, no, not so.’ ‘Fine,’ I said. ‘What are you up to, then, Reverend Moon?'

Moon chuckled. He didn’t actually produce a hairball, but the affect was much the same. ‘I am up to all sorts of things,’ he said, smiling.

Vespa spoke. ‘The Taxus Brevifola. What do you want with it?’ Moon fluttered his hand. ‘Ah, yes,’ he said. ‘The book. A charming toy.’

‘The Taxus Brevifola,’ Moon said, ‘is, for the Church of England, the most dangerous volume in the world.’ I could see that. I nodded.

Moon continued. ‘To prove the non-existence of God and the superiority of the artistic mind would not serve the Church’s, ah, purpose.’

‘So now you’ve found it and proved its potency,’ I said, ‘you will destroy it.’ Moon looked at me, askance. ‘Not necessarily,’ he said.

‘The Taxus Brevifola,’ Moon said, ‘can be used for some rather diverting fun.’ It was my turn to bristle. Phraxby’s death hadn’t been ‘fun’.

Moon shushed me, a finger to his lips. ‘The book can be employed, using only basic artistic and literary knowledge, to considerable effect.’

Vespa twigged before I did. ‘Basic artistic and literary knowledge?’ she said. ‘But you studied divinity. How can you then use the book?’

I growled. ‘One fiction’s as good as another. He might as well have studied the romantic novel.’ Moon glared at me. ‘Not so!’ he said.

Moon might have slapped me. Fair enough. But prayers don’t figure when you’re lost in the bush with only a nest of puff adders for company.

Moon continued. ‘I have a masters in art history,’ he said. ‘From the Sorbonne.’ It figured. His pallour indicated years of lamp-lit study.

‘Enough,’ he said. ‘Let us return to the plot.’ About time. ‘The Taxus Brevifola,’ Moon said, ‘does not have to be used atheistically.’

In short, Moon planned to use the Taxus Brevifola against itself, aiding the rebirth of the Church rather than helping to bring it down.

The semiotics of it were a little too rich for easy digestion, but there was a megalomaniac Swiss industrial billionaire involved somewhere.

We’d meet him, Moon promised, soon enough. I grasped eagerly at that – evidently Moon did not intend to dispose of Vespa and I just yet.

As I digested this, Vespa asked: ‘How did you find the book?’ Moon told us: the Archbishops of Canterbury had always known of its location.

They had, naturally, kept it secret. The Taxus Brevifola had been kept in this specially constructed subterranean chamber since Blake’s day.

But on learning of the book’s existence, Moon said, he had simply made the current occupant of Lambeth Palace an offer he could not refuse.

Thus, aided by Simon and the YMCE, had the Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon unearthed a treasure that had been hidden for two hundred years.

And thus, reaching for long-forgotten essays on Blake, Gillray and Fuseli, had he magicked up the Flea, the Gout Devil and the Night Mare.

It was beginners’ stuff, as Vespa had suggested, but she and I and poor Sam had turned up and proved ourselves excellent laboratory rabbits.

And so here I was, menaced by goons in a cistern deep below Lambeth Palace, a priceless medieval treasure in the hands of an evil lunatic.

‘It is all rather simple, no?’ said Moon. He didn’t give me a chance to answer. ‘Simon,’ he said. The YMCE leader clicked his booster heels.

'I think it's time to take our guests above ground.' Moon paused, and looked from me to Vespa and back. 'It is time to meet the Archbishop!' 

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