LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Twenty-One: A Foregathering of Fates...
We moved off at first light, which is the kind of thing one only ever reads in adventure stories but which was true on this day nonetheless.
As we struck camp (or, in fact, sloughed off the grisly sheets of Mother Dare’s lousiest bunk) the first glimmer of dawn flared in the east.
Or it did as much as it ever can in Scotland. In the chill, needling five-am soak, some of the rain looked less dark than the rest of it.
Still, there we were. Vespa and I were prodded upright from the bed, handcuffs chafing our wrists, before we were prodded rudely outside.
On the road, a jeep idled. Moon’s truck, with the caged Archbishop of Canterbury and lovelily malevolent picture of Jesus upon it, was gone.
Two of our YMCE guards, whose names I had not learned, hopped in the front of the jeep and other bundled us into the back. All held Stens.
And, in short order and as Mother Dare snivelled at the hatch to her hovel, we set out once again on our journey to the farthest far north.
Now, Vespa and I were not covered by blanket, tarpaulin or organic macramé throw. But for cuffs and guard, we were free to see our road.
We were not free to talk, however – I tried asking our guard for a boiled travel sweet or a game of pub cricket, but he hit me with his gun.
And so we travelled in silence and took a thorough soaking, for the delightful Scottish weather grew only more lovely the further we drove.
We passed shaggy cattle and mossy crofts and mossy and shaggy crofters, the last lurking by the road and pointing with crooked sticks.
The rain formed a kind of sharp mist that, after doing its job of soaking within seconds, prompted only a kind of weary and damp admiration.
Vespa’s hair dripped; my moustache held droplets as a cobwebbed hedge in a winter morning’s dew. The YMCE pulled their berets tighter.
It was a miserable, cramped drive, made worse as, eventually, our road narrowed and twisted and climbed as the Highlands rose around us.
The sound of civilisation (or the vestiges of it, and a pretty mean civilisation at that) dropped away. No cattle or locals lowed us by now.
Rocks fell from crags that reared in front and behind us; the lone cry of the curlew, I supposed, haunted from sheer scree and deep loch.
In a brown study, my brow furrowed to catch the rain and form a small lake for midges to drown in, I was put in mind of the Sierra Nevada.
I realised that was a silly place to be put in mind of, given its extreme dryness next to the peat-splashed swamp through which we drove.
So I thought instead of Everest, of ice and snow and brute wind, and of my sherpa’s screaming face as he fell. No, that wouldn’t do either.
Vespa was no help, as she huddled up to the metal door of the jeep, seeking what warmth she could find in a ball of damp and chilly misery.
So, in the way of things, as we drove on for long drear hours, upwards and northwards towards death and insanity, I took refuge in thought.
I was heading for the climax of my extraordinary adventure. I knew that. After my landing in Lambeth, after my discovery of the Labyrinth.
After poor Sam Phraxby’s death, in the tunnels. After Vespa’s appearance. After our discovery of Moon and the book. The Taxus Brevifola.
After Moon’s unveiling of the Clockwork Archbishop of Canterbury; after my death struggle with the Homicidal Portrait of Cardinal Wolsey.
After other unlikely events, including a brawl in an Edinburgh drill hall with a bunch of bully boys and a painting of Jesus made flesh.
Resolution approached. It had to. For one thing, I was running out of previous adventures to refer to, in order to prolong my unusual tale.
I thought of another time when such deep thought had saved me: when I’d played chess for my life in a White Russian jail in Archangelsk.
But that was forced. I struggled for clarity. As we drove, I searched my aching brain for answers. Possibilities, at least, began to form.
In the hall in Edinburgh, Moon had spoken of the end of the world, of Judgment Day, of Mr Holman-Hunt (if that was his name…) as a judge.
In the cisterns below Lambeth Palace, Moon had mentioned a megalomaniac Swiss industrial billionaire, and said we’d be meeting him soon.
The jeep creaked up on to a chill mountain plateau, around which Highland winds howled like the Furies. Swiss. Mountains. It made sense.
The end of the world… Judgment Day… I racked my brains for clues. The Taxus Brevifola… art made flesh… apocalyptic art? Bosch? I was close.
And what I was close to was not good. It could not be. I shuddered, even more than the plunging temperature and now sheeting rain demanded.
My thoughts were rudely interrupted. At the entrance to a ragged, unremarkable Highland cave, the jeep stopped. The YMCE guards leapt out.
Vespa and I, numbed to the edge of incoherence, were prodded from our seats by cold, chilled metal. Sten guns jutted. Our guards glared.
We were here. At the heart of the Reverend Moon’s madness. Our adventure had reached, literally, its apex. We entered the mountain cave…