A shaft of lightning smacked the ground in a resonating roar, illuminating the graveyard into an eery half-shadowed glow.
A banshee-like wail of “It’s a sign!” erupted, piercing the darkness, then echoed across the grey headstones reverberating back and forth.
Whispered irritation emerged from a freshly dug hole, “Will you shut up!”
Wrapped in a mud-stained cloak, Boris West, a local lad who up until this point had only been accused of some five-finger discounting, looked up with wide glassy eyes to the inky night sky; terror gripped his only slightly stained heart in its cold, clammy hands as Boris mumbled insanely. “This is wrong; this is so very, very wrong.”
The shovelling stopped as the head of Barry (another local five-finger discounter) popped out of the hole; “Think of the money, ya stupid plonka." Was whispered harshly. "Think of all the lovely, lovely money we’re gonna get when we hand over these fresh fingers to his Lordship!”
Lord Harold Der-Arzt was interested in many things, biology, science… money, to name a few. But he had only one activity that absorbed most of his time, thought and inheritance. Entering a Cordon Bleu cooking school and becoming a world-renowned chef.
His mother, Lady Der-Arzt, who was busy peering out from the lounging room lace curtains, did not agree with this interest, but she had always been one to allow her son room to breathe. “Harold, a dirty little oik is ringing our front doorbell. Kindly set the dogs onto him!” Her upper-class accent rang out around the lounging room, as unappealing in its tone as a Saint Bernard’s fart is in its bouquet.
“We don’t have any dogs, mother.” His Lordship’s monotone board response barely made it over the top of his paper. “Banks will deal with them.” The Times was ruffled to straighten its pages and show his annoyance.
“Banks. BANKS!” his mother bellowed quite unladylike but non the less very ladylike because she was, in fact… a Lady. “They are dropping their dirt on my flowers, Banks; call the police!”
“Oh, Mother, really!” Lord Der-Arzt threw his paper to the floor and stood up, adjusting his smoking jacket with a manicured hand. “I will not have the neighbours talk. Banks tell them to go to the bank door, where I shall address them.”
“Sorry to disturb you, Mr Der-Artz, my name’s Sargent G. Ramsey number 66. We’ve caught two suspicious characters near here.”
A smirk appeared on Der-Arzt’s face. “Lord Der-Arzt constable. Let me guess two ruffians, one named Barry and the other Boris; both of questionable nature. Boris has a scar on his left cheek, and Barry walks with a limp.
“Sargent, your ‘onour, and yes, that's correct.” announced the middle-aged officer, his greying temples a mark of years of police service.
Der-Arzt’s smirked at the officer, whose acumen was obviously no match for his own. “Do they have my acquisition in their possession?”
"Well, if you're talking about a big wooden box that looks suspiciously like a coffin, your lordship.” The sergeant raised his heels slightly, allowing him to swing backwards and forwards on the spot; always a sign he was trying to hide his feelings from the person he was speaking to; better to swing than to punch. “Then yes, they do have your goods. Did you instruct them to dig in the graveyard your ‘onour?
“What? Of course I did. I need big juicy specimens, and where else can I get a lovely set of fingers from at this time of year?”
Lord Der-Arzt was either very bad at reading facial expressions or was now gripped by his obsession and didn’t give a hoot what anyone said or did. “Constable, make haste to your station; I will meet you there momentarily. Time is of the essence.”
Sargent Ramsey began to swing his truncheon ever so nonchalantly. “Fingers, your honour?”
“All shall be revealed, my good man; meet me at your station.” His lordship leant into the kitchen and bellowed, “Banks! How long to get the horses into the carriage and iron my suit?”
A muffled answer led his lordship to become visibly flustered and frustrated. “Really, Banks? That long? My goodness, man, you need to smarten up your attitude, or it’ll be the workhouse for you.”
His lordship turned with an aggravated smile as a shrill squeak grew in a tempo behind him. “It will take Banks a while to get himself organised.” After a quick eye-roll, Der- Arzt stepped back into the kitchen and yelled, “Oh for goodness sake, Banks, oil your Zimmer Frame. That squeak is dreadfully annoying; more importantly, it will startle the horses!”
By looking over his Lordship’s shoulder, Sargent Ramsey was able to see a thin, snowy-haired Butler stagger by as he leaned heavily on his Zimmer Frame. “Is he alive?” popped out of the officer's mouth before he had time to think.
“What?” Der-Arzt’s eyes widened as his train of thought was derailed.
Ramsey nodded towards the shuffling, mummified little man making his way up the back staircase one painfully aetheric step at a time.
“Oh, Banks! Yes, definitely. Mother had him tested last month. She can’t be having with the undead.”
His Lordship strode over to Banks; then fireman lifted him over his shoulder before turning to the wide-mouthed police officer. “We will meet at your station on Baker Street in an hour and a half. Make sure my box is kept in your cool cellar; I don’t want anything going off!” And with that, he climbed the staircase with his elderly Butler over one shoulder and the Zimmer frame being hoisted noisily up the stairs with the other.
“Right, you are your Lordship.” As the policeman turned and walked off in the teaming rain, Sargent Ramsey made a swift decision. This mess was well above his pay grade. He would write down everything said and all that had happened in his little notepad, then hand it up to the Station Captain. Who, if he were smart, would then read his notes and hand them up to the Lieutenant.
“My good man.” Lord Der-Arzt jumped down from the driver’s seat of his open carriage handing the reigns to a young officer who stood outside and under the blue light of Bakers Street’s police station. “Help my Butler to look after the horses.” And with that, strode into the open station's door.
The young officer turned to look at a bundle of tartan blankets which held a sleeping white-haired mummified man with his driver’s top hat tied with a pink scarf tightly onto his bony head.
“Right, you are governor.” Was his only logical choice of reply.
The front counter of Baker Street Station was banged loudly by the now very excited Lord.
“Where’s Berty? Send him down so he can deal with this quickly.”
The grey-haired, rotund and very short-tempered Desk Sargent sat still, watching the performance. “And you are?”
Lord Der-Arzt’s eyebrow rose dangerously high. “Get Berty, and he can sort this little issue out. Now there’s a good chap.”
The Desk Sargent took his time writing his customer’s name down in his neatest handwriting. “And Berty is?” He paused with the nib only slightly elevated off his crisp white page.
His Lordship tapped the Desk Sargent’s counter with his alumni ring, “Bertrude Grose-Perucke, Police Commandant and very good school chum of mine.”
Desk Sargent painstakingly wrote the name down and then sluggishly looked up into his customer’s wide blue eyes. “Commandant Grose-Perucke doesn’t work here as a rule. In fact, I don’t think he even knows our little station exists. So, my poncy lad, I doubt his high and mighty self would get off his high and might backside to come down here and deal with your little issue.”
It had to be said that there was a certain type of freedom that being one month out from retirement gave an officer.
His Lordship did not get angry nor vindictive. He simply did as anyone from his class would do. He ignored the annoying little man behind the counter and looked around for someone with more stripes on his arm. Unfortunately for Captain Kupfer, he had more stripes.
“You, there. You. Yes, you, man! No, there’s no need to turn your back on me. Yes, you! The one with the duck in his hand. Yes, I’m looking at you. No, don’t try to chase the duck under the table and hide; I know you’re there.”
“That’s Captain Kupfer.” The Desk Sargent smiled as a dagger-loaded death stare was sent directly to his heart by the scruffy Captain, who rose slowly from the floor, brushing off dirt from his knees.
“How can I help you, sir?” Kupfer then addressed the desk sergeant as he walked up to the counter. “Sergeant look after the duck; she’s already assaulted the station’s cat twice, and he won’t come down from the rafters.”
“Captain, I have a box of fingers in your cooling cellar which I would like to retrieve before they go all mushy. Would you be a dear chap, nip down there, bring them up and load them into my carriage next to my butler? I will wait outside as the smell in here is quite unique!”
“Fingers, you say?” The station office went quiet as all ears turned to the discussion.
“Yes. Hopefully a whole box full!”
“A case of fingers is in a box in the station’s cooling cellar, which belongs to you.” The captains reached under the counter ever so slowly for the shotgun, which the Sergeant always kept loaded and secure.
“Yes. That’s it exactly.”
“What do you plan on doing with the fingers?” Kupfer’s finger was now resting gently on the trigger.
“What any sain person would do. Eat them!” Lord Der-Arzt quaffed his humour into the surrounding room.
“Eat them, you say.” The gun was lifted ever so gently from its cradle.
“Well, I was wondering if a nice creamed blue cheese sauce would work, but on second thought, I think I’ll just tell chef to use a garlic butter sauce.”
“Oh, a lovely chap by the name of Tod. He’s just opened up a new restaurant down the road from me called ‘ Si c’est Chic! I’ve told him I’d get the fingers if he’d have a bash at cooking them.”
“Ahh lovely, we meet, at last, Lord Der-Arzt” The Lieutenant walked into the office space with her manila folder under her arm, “I think you can relax, Captain.” She patted the tense man on his tight shoulder. “Shall we go down to the cellars and check your little collection out? Captain…” she turned and summoned the two biggest constables in the room to follow her.
“Oh, how novel?” smiled his Lordship, the desk sergeant, “Someone who listens!”
The cellar lived up to its purpose; if its purpose were to be cold, dank and horribly eerie.
“Have you people not paid your electricity bill lately?” his Lordship did not enjoy shadowy environments.
“We don’t have electricity, your Lordship. The city can’t afford all its public buildings to be warm, dry and sanitary.” Lieutenant Ehrlich, who held the only candle, opened the door to the station’s morgue. “And plus, your honour, the dead don’t care if it’s light or not.”
“Yes, well,” murmured his Lordship, “I like to see, especially if there are dead people around.” He looked into one of the small chambers as he walked past and was quite happy to see the white-tiled room empty. “My case Lieutenant Ehrlich; I hope you haven’t stored it near anything icky!”
“No sir, definitely not. We haven’t opened it, just stored it. In fact, I was waiting for you to be standing right next to me when it was opened. Just to make sure we do everything to the letter of the law!” She beamed at his Lordship's blushing response. “Please, Lord Der-Arzt, open your casket and let’s see all those lovely fingers you’ve been collecting.”
“With pleasure, madam!”
Lord Der-Arzt threw the lid open with the two police officers standing behind him and smiled broadly. “Well done to Barry and Boris, they’ve cut off an impressive number of digits. I’m very impressed. We’ll have a fine banquet tonight!”
The younger of the two police took one look and fainted on the spot. The older officer, who’d been around for a while and consequently seen a few things, took a closer look.
“You gonna eat this guv’nor?” he turned to take in Lord Der-Arzt’s beaming face.
“Yes. Yes, I am. And I’ve decided to sauté these little fingers in butter and garlic with a nice Italian red wine.” His Lordship sucked away at his teeth, imagining his impending meal's delicious taste.
The older officer smirked towards his Lieutenant, who shook her head. “Well, if I were you, I’d have a bucket right handy, so you can puke ‘em straight back up. These Lil buggers are poisonous. Apart from their look,” he reached in and drew out a mushroom which looked decidedly like a zombie’s finger, “they’re called dead Man’s fingers for a very good reason!”
“No, Tod has been working on a method to remove the toxins; his research has cost me an arm and a leg. But he’s perfected the method. We’ll be the talk of the gastronomic world!” Lord Der-Arzt’s pointed his well-manicured finger at the officer. “He has purchased a veritable treasure trove of very expensive equipment.”
“What’s this Tod’s name then, your Lordship?” The officer stepped back and over his younger colleague, who was still out like a light.
“Tod Falsch of Si c’est Chic restaurant down on Runners Lane.” His Lordship’s temper was beginning to rise.
“Oh. Oh him. He packed his bags and took off last night.” The older officer nodded to his Lieutenant. “He’s the geezer young Guter here,” they all look at the prostrate officer on the ground, “gave his first ever speeding ticket to.”
The Lieutenant leaned forwards into the ear of his Lordship. “Oh, dear sir, I hope you didn’t get your fingers burnt?”
Lord Der-Arzt smiled, “It’s perfectly fine, Lieutenant. I’m sure my contacts will find this ruffian. I’ll get Banks onto it right now! He’s like a bloodhound when he gets the sent.”
Tod Falsch thought he was clever.
He thought his Lordship was not.
That was his first mistake.
Never steal from someone who’s got enough money to afford revenge.
“Tod Falsch isn’t your real name, is it?” His lordship wheeled Banks Zimmer Frame to the side of the cellar, then carefully slid the old Butler off his shoulder, ensuring the old man had both hands firmly placed on the frame handles before turning to face his foe.
Tod was tied to an old chair right in the middle of the root cellar of Der-Arzt Mannor. Barry and Boris had proven to be equally capable of ferreting out people as they had deadly mushrooms.
It was a little difficult for poor Tod to answer as Barry had thoughtfully stuffed his mouthful with one of his socks. Which was pretty ripe, as he only changed his woollen pair at the end of winter.
His Lordship slipped out a black material roll from his jacket and laid it on the table. The sliver of metal held within glittered under the electric lights he had installed recently.
Tod began to test his bindings.
“You know Patter always instructed me very clearly; he said, Harold, always take a risk in life, follow your dreams, your passions. And you know Tod, I’ve done just that.” A small sharp paring knife was drawn out from the material. “But you, Tod, took advantage of my passions, stole from me, Tod, and that is not a done thing in polite society.” Lord Der-Arzt tested the point on his finger, drawing a tiny bead of rich ruby blood to the surface of his skin. “Yes, this I usually carve pumpkins with, but in the instance, it shall do nicely.”
Tod swallowed as best he could and began shaking his head furiously from side to side.
“No, Tod, it’s too late to explain. I’ve already decided your fate. I’ve decided to let Banks deal with you.”
Tod looked at the resting mummified geriatric and began to laugh from the depths of his soul. These aristocrats and their stupid ways. What was this old geezer going to do, point the finger at him and tell him off crossly?
“Oh, I see. My threat carries no weight.” Lord Der-Arzt lent forwards so he could speak right into Tod’s grinning face. “I’m so glad you’re bound and gagged because I really don’t want to disturb Mother.”
And with that, a tiny little nick was scratched with the end of the paring knife, allowing one tiny spot of blood to ooze down Tod’s cheek slowly.
Lord Der-Arzt turned on his heel and strode out of the cellar locking the heavy iron blots on the door behind him.
Tod shook his head. Weird, rich and dumb. Just the way he liked his targets to be.
As the last blot slid into place, a low, quiet growl grew in the echoing cellar. Banks was awake. Truly awake. His red eyes glowed with hungered lust.
Lord Der-Arzt ignored the screams that snuck out from under the heavy door. “Good old Banks, you’ll be as fit as a Malley bull and raring to go once you’re all filled up again.
“Harold, what is that terrible irksome noise?” Lady Der-Arzt bellowed down from the top of the stairs.
“Nothing, Mother, just feeding Banks.” Was called back as patiently as his Lordship could muster.
“Well, it’s about time. He was looking like a dried-out sultana. It’s very wrong of you to let him go so long before a good meal.”