Jesus!- spitting- fat- arghh!- my- hand- arggh!- my- eye- Jesus!- arrrgghh!- ophobia: fear of frying
Front- of- the- queue- at- last- except- hold- on- did- I- bring- my- wallet- please- let- me- not- have- forgotten- my- wallet- oh- the- shame- ophobia: fear of finding oneself cashless at the checkout
I've- already- bought- one- from- one- of- your- competitors- honestly- I- have- see- how- I- check- I- my- watch- to- indicate- my- lateness- for- being- elsewhere-ophobia: fear of catching the eye of a Big Issue seller
Get- the- hell- from- behind- me- will- you?- I- just- know- I'll- trip- over- a- paving- stone- or- start- to- mince- or- something- ophobia: fear, when ahead of an attractive person, that you will entirely forget how to walk
It was only by chance that I happened to be in Stochastic Manor that night. I had been visiting a magician in London in a consulting capacity when my car's petrol broke down while travelling along a windy - and also windy - country lane. Clearly, a windy, windy country lane was no place for an aging Belgian woman to spend the night, so I made my way towards the lighted windows I could see atop a hill some distance away. I was exhausted by the time I reached the cottage, but it turned out to belong to a family of poor, farm labourers, and unless I wanted to spend the evening listening to their silage anecdotes before slipping gingerly between ill-washed sheets, I had no choice but to carry on to the next set of lights, atop the following hill.
These lights, fortunately, shone from a large country house that the Fourth Earl of Devonshire had built in Norfolk. It was now family home of Giles Dee - an entrepreneur who'd made a fortune in import/export by moving things in and out of the country. Dee was holding a dinner party and was anxious that I should not simply find shelter in his house but also join in the merriment. He guided me to the table where the other guests were already seated. They shuffled around to make room for the unexpected arrival and a stool was brought in from another room for me to sit on - a great relief after my long walk, though, being a bar stool, it was rather high and meant I had to eat by reaching down between my knees to the table.
Besides our host, there were six others dining: Timothy Hewell - a former business associate of Dee's who, by the state of his cuffs, appeared to be not doing so well nowadays; Virginia Ginia - Dee's fiancée and an Italian lady, with all that implies; Gerald Potomac - a handsome young American and a new client of Dee's (it was in his honour that the party was being held - though he appeared to be repaying this ungraciously by fussily picking at the food on his plate); Colonel and Mrs Haverly-Haverly - a rather staid, middle-aged couple who were apparently only there as they were friends of Potomac; and, finally, the Bishop of Lichfield, who (Dee confided) had been doing his rounds and got invited simply to avoid it looking like a snub.
Noticeably, there were no servants.
"Mmmm..." nodded Dee, when I raised this point, "they've all left. Made the food, set the table, and then away they went to their homes in the village. None of the servants can be persuaded to spend the night in this house, not one of them."
"They believe it's haunted?" I asked.
"No. The central heating's broken - the place is freezing."
The evening passed off well. The Colonel had some exciting tales of his fighting in India and then fighting there again later, after he'd joined the army. The Bishop of Lichfield took to the piano and played a medley of songs from the music-halls. Miss Ginia got out some of Dee's thin baby pictures and entertained us by running her fingers over them, gulping down wine and babbling in Italian until she had to be led from the room, weeping. (Miss Ginia is about thirty-five years old.) I cleared two pounds, six shillings over the course of a few hands of whist.
Eventually, it was time to retire and Dee showed us to our rooms, which were all along a single hallway on the third floor. I was between the Haverly-Haverlys (to my right) and Miss Ginia (to my left). Opposite us, in order, were Mr Hewell, Mr Potomac and the Bishop of Lichfield. Dee himself had a room alone at the end of the corridor. We said our goodnights and separated in good spirits.
At a little past 2:15am the sound of a gunshot snapped through the air. It was the shot that ended the life of Giles Dee.
Unfortunately, I'd drunk at least half a bottle of sherry and slept through the entire thing. It wasn't until after nine the next morning that I was awoken by Colonel Haverly-Haverly knocking repeatedly on my door and asking loudly if I was all right. I hurled on some clothes - my stomach was a little upset, I'm not a regular drinker - put them aside for washing, and got dressed in some others. Outside in the hallway all the guests were standing, muttering nervously. The Colonel laid a hand on my arm. "It's Mr Dee," he said calmly but firmly. "The fellow's dead. We've called the police, they said they'll be here just as we're beginning to wonder where they are." He turned and I followed the line of his eyes. The door to Dee's room stood open and beyond it I could see Gerald Dee himself, lying prone in the middle of the room. There was an ugly red flower, now drying and sticky, on the back of his nightshirt.
"Who put that flower there?" I asked.
"Couldn't say," replied the Colonel. "It was like that when we found him."
I walked slowly into Dee's room. His bed had been slept in, the sheets were crumpled and the pillow indented to the size and shape of his head. Nothing in the room appeared to have been disturbed. Dee's body was positioned with his feet pointing towards the door of his room and his head some one or two feet from a full length, dressing mirror by his dressing table; his dressing gown lay on the bed.
I turned to the guests, who had assembled behind me. "Tell me all you know," I said. "I want you to give me a full description of what happened, leaving out no detail, however misleading."
Read Chapter Two.
|EXISTENTIAL POP GROUP JOURNEY
All About Eve
Faith No More