To the north of Slaughter Park, nestled next to the rusting gas works containers was the church of Old Saint Beelzebub’s. By the winding road of Murder Lane that wiggled its way up to the younger Kreeps’ school, the churchyard was so overgrown and the trees surrounding it so dense that it was almost impossible to see that a church was there at all. The late Reverend Kipling used to say the camouflage, “Kept out the rabble!”
Then the late Reverend Kipling was known for his outspoken ways... even after his untimely death.
It was the view from the back of Old Saint Beelzebub’s that transported it into another world. Across the clogged churchyard was the mass of dead vegetation that marked the edge of the Park, with the family of Ravens ever circling those trees and calling out to one another. Through this devastation, ran a small path. Down this path, every night about the same time, Mondays to Fridays, Marco Kreep pushed his ailing motor scooter with much wheezing and coughing. The scooter let out similar noises too.
On this very special Tuesday (ringed mysteriously on the family calendar in the kitchen, showing a picture of the Bratvarian scenic railway – by night. All two kilometres of it), Marco Kreep was a little distracted and had actually pushed his scooter all the way from his place of work at Ira Ramsbottom's famous Dandelion and Burdock bottling plant.
He still wore the ridiculous red crash helmet that perched on the top of his head, balanced on his main of red hair like a ripe pimple. The helmet had come with the bike and Marco hadn’t quite managed to get around to exchanging it for one the right size.
So, wrapped in his double-breasted overcoat, with helmet wobbling in place, he had panted like some old dog up the hill from the other side of the gas works and reached the concealed opening to the churchyard.
Marco Kreep was a wall of a man, built from breezeblocks rather than normal bricks. Everything about him was just – big. He had huge hands that were very hairy, a massive wide head sat on monster shoulders. His overbite was an under bite as his lower jaw jutted out, allowing the odd stray tooth to chew on his top lip in moments of confusion/passion/constipation/dire danger. But it was that hair that was Marco’s pride and joy. Lots of it; bright red and hanging over his collar, being swept back in a mighty ginger quiff, growing in two hedge-like sideburns and topped off by a pair of beetling eyebrows. Plus, ten minutes after shaving every morning, the slightly blue shadow of returning stubble could be seen across his jaw and upper lip.
In fact Marco tended to shave once in the morning, at half eleven, three in the afternoon and around seven at night. His long-suffering wife cut his hair for him to help the problem – about three times a week. But she left him to trim and file his own finger and toenails; as there were just some things beyond a wife’s love and duty.
So, Marco was trapped inside a stray thought when he entered the tiny path through the churchyard. The ancient church stood like an arrow pointing to the sky, the occasional bush trying to root in the gaps between its stone work and slate roof tiles.
One of the ravens landed on the corkscrew spire and eyed Marco suspiciously. From somewhere near the vestry door, rather ungodly language and the sound of a blunt scythe being swung finally brought him back to reality.
Young Reverend Hardy appeared, red faced with the rusty old scythe in one hand and mopping his brow with a red spotted handkerchief with the other.
“Ah, good evening Mr. Kreep!” he enthused.
Old Saint Beelzebub’s was Reverend Hardy’s first parish. His bubbling eagerness to serve a congregation that consisted of seven people was second to none. But as the ghost of his illustrious predecessor often smirked, “He’ll learn!”
“Evenin’, Reverend Hardy,” Marco grunted, wiggling his majestic bushy red eyebrows in some form of ancient greeting, exaggerated by his northern accent.
“Please, please call me Dan,” the young Reverend gushed. It was the modern church. Dan Hardy wore workers boots, jeans and an old tartan shirt with his sleeves rolled up, over his dog collar of course. His hair, in complete contrast to Marco’s heady bush was shaved at a number one setting giving him a rather yobbish appearance. Not that Marco Kreep would have ever been rude enough to tell him that.
Also in the hand griping the scythe, the Reverend was holding what looked like bright red tulips, which trailed three or four feet of stem and root behind him. As Marco watched, the faintly twitching roots began to reattach themselves to the nearest object – which just happened to be his scooter.
“Still having a spot of bother with these red flowered weeds...” Reverend Hardy prattled on. “Tried to identify them at the local history library, but they only look like a species that vanished before the last Ice Age. Most peculiar.”
Visions of a certain laboratory explosion twenty years previous and clouds of mutated seeds billowing out from the number 13 Bleak Street made Marco shudder slightly.
“Is that so?” he flannelled, trying to untangle his mudguards from the terrible vegetation. “I’ll ask me brother if he can come up wi’ some sort of natural weed killer for you – gerroff! – Must be going. Family meal an’ all that! Grrrrr!”
Trailing yards of flailing plant behind his precious red scooter, Marco bumbled off at a fair speed for such a large man. He was certain his brother could find a cure for the Reverend’s horticultural problem... seeing it had been Ivan who had created the strain of red weed in the first place.
As the young Reverend scratched his shaven head and watched Marco go, doing his little dance as he tried to kick off the amorous weed, which was starting to wrap itself around his right leg, he got that chilling feeling he was being watched again.
Which was actually perfectly true. The spirit of the late Reverend Kipling with his explosion of white hair and tiny round black glasses was staring over Hardy’s shoulder at that very moment.
Once you settled near Slaughter Park, you often stayed... long past the time you were welcome. There was something about the soil that wouldn’t let go of old memories.
By the time Marco had reached the well-kept sign of the local Ghost Watch, (116 poltergeists and spirits counted so far, and rising!) he had rid himself of the pesky weed and was heading for home at a merry gait. As he ran, pushing the small red scooter along side, he panted like a big dog in a coat and a stupid looking helmet.
There was something in the air that evening. Marco’s keen sense of smell managed to cut through the stench of the black lake and had picked up a stranger. For the forth time that month he had the distinct impression he was being followed.
Easing his scooter through a gap in the broken down stonewall, he crossed over Bleak Street. Pausing only to glance at the vandalised milk float and side step the broken glass, he bustled and fussed until he had parked his scooter behind the great wooden gates at the side of the house. Glancing furtively about, he unlocked several padlocks on what used to be the entrance to the coal cellar and opened up one of the leaf covered doors set into the concrete. In a second he was gone, closing the cellar door behind him.
Whilst across the road in the dried up bushes, something rustled.