LEINIGEN & THE LAMBETH TREASURE
A Twitter adventure told in portions of 140 characters or less.
Part Twenty-Three: A Villain Makes His Play!
I often pause to thank my extensive reading of adventure serials and detective novellas, both when young and when becalmed in doldrum seas.
Such revision proves its worth when dramatic moments choose to play themselves out. As now, in the hollowed-out volcanic plug, with Moon.
Suffice to say, thanks to such bountiful masters as McNeile, Buchan and De Mille, I felt right at home, even in such diabolical surrounds.
Moon appeared on his balcony, carved into the living (or dead, but not being a geologist, thank God, I wasn’t sure) rock of Tavis Knoyle.
‘Good lad,’ I thought. ‘Knows how to make an entrance. Now for the curious unspooling of his entire plot, to set up the tale’s climax.’
I was not to be disappointed – for the Reverend Francis Gibbous Moon is, or rather was, nothing if not a commendably orthodox supervillain.
He raised his hands – as indicated before, I know, but it pays to reiterate when speaking to the curiously part-literate masses – and spoke.
‘Brothers, Sisters,’ Moon brayed, his piping contralto pinging off the crater walls like a pea in a tin. ‘Friends! Our moment approaches!’
I grimaced with distaste. Moon, oblivious, continued. ‘For long years you have laboured, my children,’ he said. ‘For years you have toiled!’
‘But your moment is at hand. Oh, my children, the Church of England will rise again! The Church of England will be born again! In Scotland!’
Further reaction, ironic comment or biting satirical aside, was lost to me in an answering roar from the waiting YMCE throng. ‘Hallelujah!’
I don’t know if you can summon to mind your average Church of England shindig; if you know the general lack of vim and gusto in the hymning.
Put simply, if a massed cry of triumph from a gathered crypto-fascist horde could ever sound wan, unenthusiastic and dull, this one did.
‘Really,’ I thought. ‘This ain’t going to be a very bloodthirsty coup.’ But what did I expect from a gang of Grey Shirts, rather than Black?
Eventually the drear roar ebbed, and Moon spoke again. He detailed his plot (the replacement Archbishop, all that) to general approbation.
I stared at my boots, at my captors, at Vespa. My fellow prisoner, I thought, was rather quiet. I nudged her, whistled. She did not respond.
‘I say, old girl,’ I said, although that was as far as I got before one of my guards whacked me over the bonce with the butt of his gun.
I understood from this that Moon, on his balcony, was getting to the point. My eyes swimming a little, I looked up. Moon waxed lyrical.
‘Children of the YMCE,’ said Moon. ‘In a moment I will reveal to you the author of our fate, the person behind my plan to take us to glory!’
‘Hullo,’ I thought. ‘Must be time for old Holman-Hunt to whip off his cloak and do a spot of magic with his celestial lamp.’ Moon continued.
‘But first, dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish to introduce your…’ he paused, a rictus of divine unction playing around his chops… ‘sponsor!’
This was a turn up for the books, although it bore inspection. The whole volcanic plug crater set-up couldn’t have been cheap, after all.
Moon gave his ‘sponsor’ chappie a reasonable preamble: it being our Swiss industrial megalomaniac chum, he started banging on about Calvin.
I rather zoned out and, cursing my inability to listen in class, failed to notice the guard who reached for the cuffs that held me to Vespa.
I did not notice the soft click as he released my companion from her shackle, or the second click that subsequently cuffed the guard to me.
Up on his balcony, Moon continued. ‘Children, none of this’ – he swept the crater, military hardware and all, with his hand – ‘came cheap.’
‘None of you’ – he indicated his sullen legions – ‘could be here without our sponsor. We could not march without Galanthus Industries!’
Of course! Galanthus! Swiss industrial cartel. Huge. Chemicals. Metals. Guns. Tanks. And the cuckoo clock, of course, as the fellow said.
Not widely known, true. But familiar to any who knew the world. No one who’d fought dirty war in African jungles could not know Galanthus.
Galanthus supplied industrial knowhow and hardware to anyone with a chequebook and impure intentions. Where evil lurked, Galanthus invested.
Their chief was one Max Galanthus. Shadowy, furtive. A recluse. Rumoured to live in a revolving restaurant on the Schilthorn. Face unknown.
I’d fought his lot before: defending trade concessions in Peru; hopping from junk to junk in Hong Kong harbour, torching contraband cheeses.
And I knew, from weary experience, the canard that went with ’em: that Switzerland was and ever would be a neutral, peaceful nation. Pah!
I didn’t like ’em. Not a bit. Couldn’t stomach Gruyere. I laughed, harshly. I should have known Galanthus Industries was behind Moon’s evil.
I supposed the Calvin stuff Moon was pouring out explained the ideological co-travelling. It didn’t bear close inspection, but it figured.
Once again, however, such close reasoning with myself blinded me to hideous and dread reality, and I almost missed Moon’s grand reveal.
But not quite. On his balcony, Moon shrieked loud enough to gain my attention. ‘Brothers and Sisters! Meet your sponsor! Max Galanthus!’
The electric lights in the crater of Tavis Knoyle clicked off, and then clicked on. The spotlight was no longer on Moon. It fell elsewhere.
It fell surprisingly close to me. It fell to my left. I turned. Vespa did not stand, shackled, next to me. A YMCE guard stood there instead.
Vespa stood further away. She stood oddly erect. As Moon’s arc lamps created an aureole of beauty about her, she reached up to her hair.
Vespa pulled off a long, dark wig. Vespa’s hair was ash-blonde. Vespa turned to look at me. Vespa’s eyes were no longer brown, but blue.
‘Vespa’, for the first time since disguising herself as William Blake’s charlady, acquired a set of quotation marks. My stomach pitched.
‘Vespa’, with Moon’s connivance, had been revealed to be Maxine Galanthus, Swiss industrial megalomaniac, sponsor of all the world’s evil!