Charlie spark villain.., p.31
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       Charlie Spark - Villain Extraordinaire, p.31

           J M S Macfarlane
 

  The church's front entrance had a carved oak door case decorated with skulls, cross bones, hourglasses and winged cherubs, to brighten you up on a cheerless rainy Sunday morning, thought Sir Harry.

  Snaggs led them down to the crypt where there was a single pew, in front of which stood a long table and some chairs.

  Spark whispered : "This is like some film where Dracula flies out of his box as a bat and sinks his choppers in."

  At that moment a side door opened and in walked none other than Lord Loathbery, Piers Loathbery, Simon Cadwaller, Jean Pierre Bulot and Helmut Schwager, each looking as if they had outwitted the combined defence of West Ham United and scored their twenty eighth goal in so many minutes.

  "Blimey, it is Dracula," said Spark with a start.

  Chapter 89

  What Was Said In the Crypt

  "Well, well, well, well....well. So here we all are, gentlemen. It must have been truly fated and such a strange coincidence that you ran into my colleague, Mr Snaggs. Oh ? Didn't you know ? We're business partners. And so everything unfolds now as you see, Sir Harry. I hadn’t the faintest intention of bringing you in with us – it successfully deceived you – when you were trying to deceive us. And it masked our own theft of almost everything in the Manor House vault."

  At the news, Sir Harry yawned.

  "And you conveniently provided the perfect cover – by robbing the same vault approximately twelve hours later. I knew of your scheme from the very start and there were countless warnings to us of your plan to blow up the vault....ah, you fools. Even though it was nearly empty when you got there, we're grateful for your invaluable efforts. Now the blame will be yours entirely – and so richly deserved may I say. Mr Snaggs told me all about you. Oh, and there were certain reports I received from Fleet Street editors – such a perfidious history and in such squalid surroundings. Now, enough of the pleasantries – let us get straight down to business, gentlemen. You also happened to rob my guests of a substantial amount of money and jewels which was something we hadn't bargained for. Firstly, I want all of it returned now, immediately, this very minute. At the same time, you jeopardised our business interests which may take some time to repair – for that you will pay dearly. Such ghastly form, Sir Harry."

  At that point, a side door swung open and a tall, thin balding man with large black spectacles, poked his head around the corner and nodded at Richie Snaggs. Everyone looked at him without saying a word.

  Snaggs effused : "Vicar. Wot a s'prise to see yer 'ere. Oh, uh by the way, fank you so much fer allowin' us the use of your crypt fer our Sat'day prayer meetin'. Ackshally, I fink we could all do wiv a cup o' cha – that's 'xstremely kind o' yew."

  The vicar gave another brief nod, held up his finger to indicate he would return shortly then quietly closed the door.

  No-one said anything until they were quite certain they were alone. Then, like a bear with a bee-sting, Snaggs rushed at Sir Harry and Charlie Spark, shrieking insanely in a high-pitched squeal : "Come on then...Where is zit ? Wayull ?"

  With the calmest and sweetest expression on his face, Sir Harry turned to them and said : "I'm most awfully sorry but you see...it's all gone – all of it....And there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it."

  "Whaddaya mean 'gawn'. Yer've stashed it all away, ain'cher ? I know you, 'ol' boy'," shouted Snaggs hysterically. "You’re lyin'."

  The others hissed at him to keep his voice down.

  "As you well know, Lord Loathbery, our efforts only turned up jewels made of paste and glass – and your safe was practically empty. There was nothing of much use to us so we threw it all into the river at Lashem."

  "Those weren't the only things you thieved from me, you rogue."

  "They were the only things of apparent value worth noticing – are you saying there was something else ?"

  Loathbery squirmed in his chair and fidgeted with a pen. "Villain, I have a list reaching down to my knees. But there was one thing of especial note….which I am rather anxious to recover….its value is trivial – as a family memento and could be of no possible use to you. If you co-operate in its recovery along with everything else you've stolen, it will go much easier for you."

  Sir Harry squared up to the wicket : "Why are you so interested in this particular piece of property ? What about all the notes ? Why were you keeping so much cash in your safe? Does the tax man know about it ? Could be rather embarrassing if it turned up suddenly and questions were asked. Was any of it counterfeit perhaps ?"

  All of this was pure surmise and Sir Harry was merely guessing that Loathbery had been financing his operations with dud money.

  "Impertinent to the last, Sir Harry. Well, where you're going, it won’t matter in the least if you know one way or the other......yes, you’re quite correct….the forgeries have helped Obsydian finance its operations for quite some time and will continue to do so. However, the item I am seeking was a family heirloom given to me by my great grandmother in her dying moments – purely of sentimental value only and entirely worthless to anyone else – an antique rosewood box....now, without further ado, where are the jewels, the notes and the box ?"

  Numerous beady eyes were riveted on Sir Harry as he drew an Inflatando Grande Pantalones cigar from his coat pocket, struck a match, ignited it and said, "I'm most terribly sorry – I have no idea at all where either the notes or the box you’re talking about or anything else could be – they might have been with some of the things we threw in a council dustbin...."

  "Whhaaat ?" said Helmut Schwager who until then had held his mouth clamped shut. "That is ganz unglaublich. You are not believable."

  Although no one dared mention it, in reality, the antique box contained several unique and irreplaceable codes to hundreds of Obsydian's offshore bank accounts which were stuffed full of money hidden from assorted tax authorities around the world during the past forty years or more.

  Schwager’s panic that it could have been lost, arose from his recently-acquired majority stake in the Obsydian Group which was now worth less than a brass farthing.

  Snaggs stepped forward. "I'll soon 'ave 'im singin' like a parakeet."

  Just as suddenly, the side door opened and in stepped Chief Obobo, grinning enigmatically from ear to ear.

  "Good Lord."

  "Gawd Struth," and

  "Strike a light," they all cried.

  "Chief...? What are you doing here ?"

  "Lord Loathbery – let us cease playing this futile charade…." said Obobo in a rather different accent from his distinctive Nigerian tones. "I must confess to you that I am not who I pretended to be – my real name is Nigel Fitzyew-Herbert – that is, Inspector Fitzyew of Scotland Yard Special Branch. The building is surrounded – any further resistance is quite, quite useless, I assure you."

  Snaggs was apoplectic. "You wot ? You sayin' you're undercover plod ? Har har har. You’re ‘avin a larf."

  "I am who I said I was – and I am not having a laugh, as you put it. And precisely who might you be ?"

  "Me ? I'm the only undacover plod in this ‘ere manor and I'm arrestin' them," said Snaggs, pointing at his two delighted prisoners. "You can't arrest me."

  "Don't be absurd. You're all under arrest – including you, whoever you are."

  "You can't do that to me, you poncey stuck up…” (and a host of other choice words to describe Fitzyew).

  This exchange was interrupted by a knock at the side door which was opened by the vicar bearing a tray of teacups and biscuits.

  "This is the least I can do for our greatest benefactor, Mr Snaggs," said the vicar. "You know, if it hadn't been for your bounteous generosity this year, the roof would have fallen in on us, I'm sure."

  "S'not worf mentionin'," said Richie Snaggs whose face was glowing fifteen shades of red to match his hair. "Fankyou for the tea vicar, was very kind o' you, now we're just explorin' th' furd sarm, so if you'd 'scuse us..."

  All at once, they could hear in the street above them, the sound of
running feet and shouting and the noise and distant thundering movement of a massive crowd which seemed to be approaching nearer with every passing moment.

  "What on earth is all that brou-ha-ha outside ?" asked Lord Loathbery.

  Everyone in the crypt almost swivelled their ears as they listened closely to the row growing louder in the street above them.

  "There are to be mass demonstrations at the Bank of London today," said the vicar. "I imagine those poor, distressed souls are on their way there now through Lombard Street..."

  "Yes, you're quite correct, vicar. There was a demonstration in support of the miners which was in full swing on our way here," said Sir Harry, having by now to raise his voice above the din of chanting, roaring and clapping above them in the street outside.

  Richie Snaggs seized the initiative from Inspector Fitzyew-Herbert-Obobo and raced up the stairs, saying : "Quick, vicar. Close the front door or they'll be in 'ere liftin' everyfing they can lay their fieving hands on."

  Snaggs’ prediction came true for as soon as he'd spoken, a flood of thirty or forty protestors milled into the church chanting slogans perfected over the eighteenth pint at the university bar the evening before.

  Schwager and Bulot began babbling a stream of French and German which Sir Harry understood to ask whether they were going to have their throats cut. Being inquisitive, Lord Loathbery was standing with the vicar at the bottom of the stairs awaiting dispatches from Snaggs at the front who by this time was in a tussle with fifteen crusties.

  A nudge in the arm and Charlie Spark took the hint as he and Sir Harry rushed past the vicar, the peer and Inspector Fitzyew, to bound up the stairs and into the vestry and nave as though an earthquake had erupted and the walls were wobbling on all sides. The two villains ran past Snaggs who was pinned to the floor by the crowd and both of them dived headlong into the human tide flowing forcefully down Lombard Street with a momentum of its own.

  Chapter 90

  Stop the City

  As he was about to yell “Stop them,” instead Lord Loathbery stopped himself and chose to bide his time, not least due to the emergence of the inquisitive Inspector Fitzyew who would have to be bought off, somehow or other.

  In Lombard Street, the two villeins were soon indistinguishable in the crowd of vagabonds, travellers and beggars who led their lives, roaming unhindered, eking out a living, mostly from everyone’s small change.

  The long haired, skin-headed and ear-ringed mass which also numbered juveniles and old grannies, all wanted to twist their crowbars in the front doors of every bank they passed. There were commissars and fanatics of almost every persuasion, some hurling insults at their factional opponents. These included the boot boys with crocodile grins who marched in formation like some private army.

  Beside the class warriors and trades unionists were the peace activists singing hymns, untold groups of squatters with sheep and dogs on leads, churchmen debating religious philosophy amongst themselves, fanatics in trances, bikers spoiling for a fight, putrid tramps, a prostitutes collective, hordes of gawping tourists of all nationalities snapping photographs of everything in sight, singing gypsies, street vendors serving ice cream as they walked with the crowd, chanting football hooligans, several bemused Members of Parliament and scores of stray dogs enjoying the disturbance and gobbling up scraps of food left on the streets by the crowd.

  Of course, the scene would have been incomplete without the presence of hundreds and hundreds of apprehensive police in uniform or in plain clothes, dotted about in the crowd or on motorcycles, in special patrol vans, entire busloads in riot gear, some mounted on horseback, some dressed as look-outs and perched with long-range cameras on top of buildings, in helicopters, peering out of manholes but everywhere and as far as the eye could see, lining Gracechurch Street and the route leading to Threadneedle Street.

  Aside from Sir Harry and Charlie Spark who were being carried along in the flotsam and jetsam, the march now included Richie Snaggs, Simon Cadwaller and a contingent of rugger roughnecks who were out for blood and sport. In the air, hundreds of placards and posters were being waved about and the procession moved onward down Gracechurch Street, like the mob in the Peasant's Revolt.

  "Rather like a school picnic, eh ?" yelled Sir Harry to Spark.

  There were several different accounts of what happened at that stage which ran something along these lines : one of the anarchists (who advocated a return to Dark Ages communalism) broke away from the head of the march to unleash a head-on assault at two rows of police who had their truncheons drawn.

  The noble gesture of self-flagellation was supported by his comrades who all surged forward to sacrifice themselves in true anarchic futility. In the midst of the turmoil, Sir Harry and Charlie Spark were pushed along as the tide of protestors pressed to revenge itself and convert the Royal Exchange into a defensive redoubt.

  Not far behind them, Richie Snaggs and his associates, Norman and Bobby were knocking heads like ninepins to edge their way through the crowd and grab the runaways. Behind them, Piers Loathbery, Simon the Cad (supported by the rugger mob) and the frustrated Inspector Fitzyew were in fast pursuit from different directions.

  As the crowds emerged from the junctions at Gracechurch, King William, Lombard, Leadenhall and Threadneedle Streets, the numbers of demonstrators overflowed as other groups of hot heads and malcontents spilled out of the adjoining avenues, making a headlong rush to mob the Exchange and break open its doors.

  Bricks, petrol bombs, bottles and other missiles were flying through the air like the charge of the Persians at Thermopylae. However, this time the Greeks had planned their special patrol group tactics well in advance : all of the intersections at Bank Station were tightly secured including the alleys and side streets and the protestors were caught like rats in a trap.

  Suddenly, Spark saw Snaggs and Cadwaller in the distance. It seemed that only a miracle could save him and Sir Harry.

  The crowd were all roaring at the top of their voices ; a beggar in a sedan chair floated along on the sea of marchers ; all of the lamp posts became viewing-points for crusties ; the anarchists began lighting fires ; and all around them were blue lights flashing and the police water cannon at the ready. Squads of armed polis with riot shields were thinking that there had to be better way to earn a living.

  Some Trotskyists were digging up the flagstones (re-living the barricades of 1848) and breaking them up and throwing them as the riot police were ordered to man the junctions to segment the crowd into different areas.

  When that happened, the mounted police led a batons charge, the water cannon sprayed off in another direction and snatch squads ran into the mob and dragged out the ringleaders. It was apparent that the protest had got out of control but the police command wanted to encourage an orderly exit despite there being a circus-carnival atmosphere with coppers and anarchists furiously beating each other.

  Cadwaller and his rugger friends were fast closing in from one direction as Sir Harry and Charlie Spark disappeared into a crowd of revellers in fancy dress and which included a pantomime horse. Spark yelled in Sir Harry's ear in the middle of the row, "Let's get in this," and they tackled both ends of the horse, overpowered its occupants and forced them to jump out and hurriedly took their place. Then they galloped away by cutting through or around some of the rowdier elements of the crowd.

  It was typical bad luck that the blue-spotted horse got caught up in a wave of anarchists who were battling the riot police. At the same time, one of the crusties decided to use the horse as his charger. With a leap, he landed on Charlie Spark's back (which was the rear section and began bucking like a wild bronco) as the crowd pushed them onward. Someone trod on Sir Harry's corns, sending him wild with pain but the pantomime horse was forced onto the police lines where a ferocious exchange was going on around them. Through the eye holes in the horse's head, Sir Harry thought he saw an escape route through the middle of the police line of shields but in the attempt, they were immedia
tely seized, prodded and pushed towards an open police van which was already filled to the gunwales with injured protestors nursing their wounds.

  "There ain't room in here for that," shouted the class warriors as they pushed the pantomime horse back out again. "Put it in a horsebox." But suddenly, while the battle was raging around them, the startled coppers and the two sweating equine villains heard, "Unhand my trusty steed, you fascists."

  Chapter 91

  A Proposal

  Before anyone could say, "Who's the girly in the gypsy costume ?" a wave of unwashed squatters and anarchists descended on the police van, led by the Queen of the Crusties herself who leapt straight onto Spark's breaking back and spurred the pantomime horse out of the area of battle, yelling "Faster. Run, faster – unless you want to get caught again."

  When they'd clopped as far as their rubber hooves could take them and merged with a Buddhist peace procession, the Boadicea of the beggars dismounted and said, "It's alright now, you can get out of the horse – they won’t find you."

  As he removed his horse's head, Sir Harry looked at their rescuer in amazement.

  "You...what are you doing here ? Surely you know they’re after us ?"

  "Of course I know. Everyone knows. But you have something I want."

  And after feigning ignorance and swearing that they didn't know what she was talking about, at last they decided that for the sake of getting away quickly, they would pretend to give the Crusty Queen whatever she wanted and then disappear.

  Instead, they were met with a wry look.

  "You think you can get away with the jewels and the rosewood box, don't you ?" said Marie-Sainte or Queen Mariesta as she was known to her Crusty followers. "But what you don’t know is that I have all of the gold bullion and untold millions of pounds which were in the vault before you blew it open."

  "You ?" responded Spark in a muddle. "You're having me on. How could you have got hold of it ?"

  "Oh, I have it alright. I shifted it yesterday afternoon from the Manor House cellars where my father had it secretly stored. We took it when the jugglers and acrobats were performing. It was only a few hours after the wedding – I was still shifting some of it when you blew open the vault. And I'm the only person who knows it's location. Clever, aren't I ? But I have an important proposition for you – and it's something which I've thought about long and carefully.....you already know that I'm an agitator and it's only by direct action that we'll defeat our enemies.....but I need help from professionals."

 
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