LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Twenty-Six: A Shattering Climax Nears!
At the door of the earthen chamber within which my quarry plotted, I clamped a hand firmly across the Archbishop of Canterbury’s mouth.
I wasn’t totally comforted by my action – his beard itched, for one thing – but His Grace took it, appropriately, with considerable grace.
Flattening myself to the rock wall of the tunnel within the volcanic plug known as Tavis Knoyle, I listened in to a chilling conversation.
‘March… south… Westminster… armoured columns… rendezvous… pincer movement… total victory… mopping up.’ That was Galanthus, icy and precise.
‘Firm government… control… retribution… Bible study… coffee mornings… executions… hangings… burnings… garrotted first, for mercy.’ Moon!
The blackguard was set on a vicious C of E theocracy that would have made Savonarola blanche! I gripped tighter on Archbishop and Sten.
My thoughts, as often in situations when blood boils and my prey, stalked for days or even months is near, tended towards violent action.
I could whirl round the corner, leaving the Bish to his own devices for a second, and strafe the lot of ’em with my trusty purloined Sten.
I’d seen such nasty little firearms make ’em pirouette, on fields urban as well as rurally martial. Capone, I can tell you, was a tiger.
Fortunately, experience and a spell with a flotilla of monk chappies at the top of Nepal in twenty-two kicked in. I held my passion tight.
Releasing a slow, careful breath, I poked my head around the rock-hewn frame of the door. As they connived, none inside the chamber saw me.
My foes stood at a rock table, not unlike an altar such as used for early Christian rights or black masses in the loucher parts of Chelsea.
Galanthus, Moon, Holman-Hunt (if that was his name, and so on) and Simon of the YMCE. Quiet, they gazed at something perched atop the altar.
I knew what it was, of course. The Taxus Brevifola, that damned medieval codex, that accursed tome, that volume of hideous black depths.
Were they going to start Project John Martin? Was this it? Was this the moment when my adventure reached its point of literally no return?
Events subsequent were to prove, as events subsequent often do, that this was not the case. But at the time at hand, I could not know that.
It turned out, I was to find, that the Taxus Brevifola could only be used locally; it’s affects took effect in situ. It had to go to London.
Possibly the YMCE planned to use it as they travelled south, laying waste to England like some horde of painted medieval Scots nasties.
I did not know that. I could not take a chance. You’ll remember my waffling on about single viewpoints and the lack of an omniscient author.
There was irony in that remark, viz: Moon and his theocratic imaginings, had I but chosen to remark it then, instead of now. Had I had time.
I had not, and no such thoughts entertained my teeming loaf. Instead, pulling the Archbishop closer, I clicked off the Sten’s safety catch.
‘All right, children,’ I said, affecting the voice of a stern, disapproving and, importantly, armed geography master. ‘The party’s over.’
Here, my old friend ‘events subsequent’, even pursuant, took over. And as happens when that happens, what happened next was rather blurred.
I shall try to reconstruct them here – for one thing, the publisher’s contract demands it. But the fog of war has not lifted over time.
When I appeared, toting jutting gun and gibbering Archbishop, Galanthus, Moon and the rest looked up in what seemed considerable surprise.
Galanthus smiled. Simon the YMCE kapo reached, quite naturally, for his gun. But then, rather oddly, the Reverend Moon told him to drop it.
I don’t suppose I meant to appear to hold the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage. I had not uttered the words ‘Freeze, or the Bish gets it!’
After all, student of the life adventurous that I had become, five years at a Welsh Methodist boarding school had not been all for nought.
But still it rather seemed, possibly reasonably given the hot confusion, that he, Moon, thought that was what I, Leinigen, had in my mind.
There ensued what Hollywood film types call a Mexican stand-off, though given that only one of us had a gun, it was possibly only Honduran.
Nonplussed for a mo, I soon twigged. Moon, though having deposed his Archbishop and replaced him with a robot, was still a man of the cloth.
Thus, seeing the old beardy threatened, a sort of mother hen instinct had been pricked. This, disarming Simon the kapo, gave me my chance.
I seized upon it in a vivid flash. ‘Hands up!’ I cried, wildly. ‘Yes, all of you!’ All of them, somewhat surprisingly, complied. Even Jesus.
‘As I said,’ I said, ‘the party’s over!’ I edged into the room, dragging the Archbishop. Galanthus, Moon and Co edged away from the altar.
I motioned them towards the doorway and circled till I stood by the book. The Taxus Brevifola! The key to ending all this madness for good!
‘Leinigen, my dear,’ said Galanthus, her voice and gaze set steady despite her raised hands and plain sight of the oily muzzle of my piece.
‘Save it, sister,’ I said, gripping the Archbishop tighter. Galanthus ignored me. ‘Leinigen, what is it that you are meaning to do now?’
I would have thought that was obvious, but I spelled it out. ‘Destroy your plot, destroy your damned book and destroy you! Yes, all of you!’
Galanthus laughed. I’ll own that I did a little double take. It was Vespa’s laugh, throaty and dark, made of Turkish cigarettes and danger.
‘Leinigen, darling,’ she murmured, seductive. ‘Do not be so hasty. Do not forget our love. Do not forget that night the Peloponnese burned.’
I hadn’t the foggiest what she was on about either, but no matter. Moon, at the door, looked disapproving. Simon sneered. I jutted my jaw.
‘Your lascivious tricks won’t save you,’ I said. ‘It’s the end of the road!’ With that, I let go of the Archbishop and reached for the book.
Which was a mistake. As soon as I did so, Moon motioned to Simon of the YMCE. The kapo reached swiftly for his gun, picked it up and fired!