LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less
Part Eighteen: An Enlightening Experience
In the stage-right store cupboard outside the grand hall of Teviot Row House, I crouched still and pressed my eye harder to the keyhole.
In the hall, the Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon clapped his hands once – or twice, actually – again. The light dimmed. The audience murmured.
A spotlight hit the caped figure on stage; the murmur of the stolid Scotch crowd became a hubbub and the hubbub became an expectant thrum.
The two YMCE drummers on stage struck up another military beat. I watched, frozen in place, as the caped figure raised its arms to its hood.
My heart, forgetting its Inuit training (hunting bowheads under pack ice, the pulse slows) raced. Without knowing what, I knew this was it.
It was Moon’s big moment. The point of his rally, of his dabblings with the dark arts of the Taxus Brevifola, of his spiralling insanity.
As it turned out, I was wrong. This was not the apex, apogee or apotheosis of the Reverend Moon’s plot. But it seemed like it at the time.
The tall caped figure, centre stage, grasped the cloth of its hood. Scotch voices caught in Scotch throats. The YMCE’s drums grew louder!
The drums stopped. The spotlight clicked off. The crowd stilled. Only the eerie luminescence from beneath the figure’s cloak lit the room.
Moon’s odious voice rang out. ‘Brothers and sisters,’ he preached. ‘Behold your new hope! Behold your new leader! Behold your new saviour!’
And with that, the cloak hiding the Reverend Moon’s guest speaker dropped to the bare, cigarette-burned boards of the Teviot House stage.
There was silence. Then the crowd of middle-aged Scottish churchgoers gasped. I’ll allow that an involuntary ‘Swipe me!’ escaped my lips.
‘I give you our guest speaker,’ said Moon. ‘The most honourable Mr Holman-Hunt!’ The crowd gasped again. At my keyhole, my mind raced ahead.
Holman-Hunt – if that was his name, which it wasn’t – did not speak. He did not need to. His mere appearance precluded all words or deeds.
About six-four, I guessed, Moon’s guest wore a long sheathed robe of what I had to suppose, not being up on couture, was silver damask.
Over the shoulders of the robe, in what I thus also had to suppose was an intriguing example of layering, he wore a long crimson cloak.
He wore a golden crown, studded with rubies, garnets and countless other gewgaws and baubles. He was bearded and his brown hair was long.
And in his hand, explaining the odd luminescence that had leached from the folds of his bigger, blacker cloak, he held a burning lantern.
Did I need to say the guest’s name, to confirm his fabulous identity? I did not, any more than did the bowed mass of people in the hall.
Moon’s guest surveyed the crowd with a look of infinite patience and love. Behind him, the dread Reverend stared heavenwards, eyes closed.
Of course, I knew – if only from basic reasoning, not the hardest proof – that this chap was not the real thing. He was a mere apparition.
A ghost, a ghoulie. An oddly solid one, no doubt, but conjured from the pages of a book rummer than Mr Brown’s latest popular entertainment.
The Taxus Brevifola. Moon would have opened it, chanted his art-historical mumbo-jumbo and magicked up the geezer who stood before me now.
With long, graceful movements of an arm, the guest speaker cast the light of his lantern over the hall. Where its beams fell, Scots swooned.
Unconscious Edinburghian bonces bounced on hard linoleum. Swathes of Scots fell where they stood, or bowed, or kneeled. My mind boggled.
The speaker stayed silent as he carried out his curious operation. Soon none in the audience were alert. The speaker smiled, beatifically.
He turned to Moon, who opened his eyes, unclasped his bony talons and smiled back. That was enough. In my cupboard, I resolved to act. Now.
Before Moon and his guest could confer, I kicked down the flimsy door between me and the madhouse scene I had seen unfold on the stage.
As splinters flew and Moon turned in white surprise, I let out a roar – one of my specials, guaranteed to stun any foe for a vital second!
The two YMCE drummers froze. Moon laughed in mocking amazement. The guest speaker whose name I did not need to mention gazed towards me.
A while back, I mentioned my old trick of hypnosis – the way to make a beserk water buffalo, elephant or civet cat kneel and rage no more.
Under the guest speaker’s gaze, I knew how the poor beasts felt. My revolver, raised on my explosion from cover, seemed to lower itself!
My knees weakened. The guest speaker’s lovely, calming brown eyes bathed me in understanding, peace and universal love. It was horrible.
I strained, fought to find my wits, but they were going under. Dammit, I was too. My gun dropped with a clatter. The guest speaker smiled.
I was paralysed, and as I stood, stock still, the Reverend Moon spoke. ‘Brother Leinigen,’ he said. ‘Welcome. I knew you would follow me.’
‘Cardinal…Wolsey?’ Under an imprisoning tide of loveliness, I strained to speak. ‘A test, a test,’ chuckled Moon. ‘Well passed, I must say.’
Flattery would get him nowhere. I supposed he knew that. Though I was getting nowhere either. Which was why his next words were a mistake.
‘But you will not pass this test,’ said Moon. ‘You will bow before this greater power, as all England, Scotland and even Wales will too.’
At such condescension, such presumption, I felt a twinge. In the pinkie of my right hand. Against the guest speaker’s power, it moved.
Moon didn’t notice. ‘Yes, Brother Leinigen,’ he said. ‘You shall join Sister Vespa on an excursion I have planned. A trip to the Highlands.’
‘You see, this little spectacle,’ – he motioned to the sleeping crowd – ‘was just an experiment. A bit of fun, yes.’ My whole hand flexed.
‘My project, of which you have learned something, will come to fruition in the north.’ Moon laughed. Powered by revulsion, I formed a fist.
‘I dare say you know my guest,’ said Moon , gesturing to the passive lantern-holder. ‘He shall be coming with us, oh yes, to the Highlands.’
Moon reached his climax. ‘After all,’ he said, ‘if I’m going to bring about the end of the world, the Judgement Day, I shall need a judge!’
His laughter was the final fuel I needed. Summoning every sinew and tendon, roaring louder than before, I broke the guest speaker’s spell!
My bellow filled the hall! Moon stepped back! The YMCE members blanched! Only the guest speaker stood his ground, his calm gaze unwavering!
Unsure of the best action – and unable, directly, to reach my gun or the cowering Moon, Simon and Selwyn – I lashed out at my nearest foe!
Which is how, dear reader, told with no particularly enormous sense of pride, I achieved the singular feat of punching Jesus in the face