Tel awoke, sat up and rubbed his eyes. Last nights events were fuzzy and surreal, strange and distant memories that evaporated as soon as he grasped them. However there was a change within him, a knowledge previously hidden and unused; a purpose he could not understand but knew to be true.
“I’ve got to do something.” He said aloud.
Deciding that it was time for him to take charge, to be a man of action, to stand up and be counted, to live up to his hitherto unknown responsibilities, he leapt energetically out of bed. At least he was about to, when he realised that it was quite early and he could get another half an hours warm snoozing in.
It was still early and the bungalow was silent and calm when he arose. He threw on trousers and shirt and padded downstairs, hoping that Bob wouldn’t mind if he helped himself to coffee and cereal. Even if he did mind, being who Bob was Tel assumed that he would find it easy to turn the other cheek. Pottering silently about the kitchen Tel considered the events of recent days and the role he obviously had to play. He soon came to the conclusion that some research was in order to acquaint himself with the main players and events in which he was embroiled. So, his breakfast made, he carried it through into the study where he had been a couple of nights previously and shut the door behind him. There he found a notepad and pencil and began to jot down his thoughts.
Soon he had a long, coffee splattered page of notes about the nature of the six Earths, Bob’s creation of them, the Doctors role in running them, Bubb’s role in disrupting them and his own role in protecting them. On the next page he jotted down those things for which he had no explanation – the Fat Lady who’d sabotaged Old Betsy, the man he’d seen being abducted when they were in the park, and his own strange escape from the police.
He dwelled on the last one a while. It was obvious to him that subconsciously he had named the Bibble, thinking he was sending that thug of a policeman on a wild goose chase. Then when Tel and Steve were being released the copper had returned with two innocents in tow.
“Of course” Tel exclaimed aloud, “The bearded guy that the Ghost of Music Present kept showing me! That’s who that stupid copper arrested – he was staring at me in the police station. That’s Bubb!”
Feeling that he was making progress he jotted this down. Perhaps he had subconsciously got Bubb arrested to thwart some plan of his. However he still had no explanation for the Fat Lady or her companion, or for their abduction of the man by the park. Tel sat back in his chair and began to scan the many titles in the bookcase in front of him. There were names like ‘Grouchtitters Compendium of Mythic Creatures’, ‘An Encyclopaedia of Satan’s Minions’ and ‘Bob’s Big Book of Monsters’. He began pulling them down and leafing through them, looking for references to Fat Women or mopeds. Unsurprisingly there were none in Grouchtitters Compendium and only a passing reference to a Vespa in the Encyclopaedia. Ignoring Bob’s children’s book of monsters Tel began pulling volumes down from the shelves, suddenly intent that the Fat Lady, her companion and their actions were somehow central to the whole situation; he felt sure that there was more to it that just Bubb.
He pored over ‘The Rough Guide to Hades’, flicked quickly through ‘A Brief History of Tim’(which turned out to be a rather poor biography of a mediocre tennis player), before realising that in his haste he had forgotten that a copy of the Bibble was right in front of him. Pulling it down, he selected a comfy chair in the corner of the room and began to read.
Why smiled peacefully as he sat alone in the bus, a pleasant tune titillating his ear. He felt that he had gained an upper hand in the situation yesterday, and today he was looking forward to checking up on his latest protégé. He too had risen early, almost bumping into Tel in the hallway. However, understanding that Thelopius was likely to be in thoughtful mood today he had opted for discretion and allowed Tel the run of Bob’s kitchen. Once the study door had softly closed Why had headed out of the door to the bus.
Soon Crawford Why was strolling nonchalantly through suburbia with a whistle on his lips and a jaunt in his step. He paused to remove a stone from his shoe and the jaunt disappeared; however the happy whistle remained. Sauntering up the driveway of the Bonaparter residence he rapped smartly on the door three times with the tip of his cane. There were vague sounds from within, until a young woman in a baggy jumper answered.
“Have you come to interview me?” She asked
“Good morning to you, my dear. You obviously don’t believe in preamble.”
“I’m sorry, I was expecting the police. You’re not them then?”
“I’m afraid not – I am me. What could the police want with a lovely young girl like you?”
“There was a bit of a crime spree a couple of days back at the shop where I work. The police said they’d come and interview me yesterday.”
“Yesterday? But it’s today now.”
“I know that and you know that. The police originally told me that it would be tomorrow.”
“So why were you expecting them today?”
“Well it was a couple of days ago that they said tomorrow, which obviously at the time meant yesterday, but when I rang them yesterday they said they’d be here today but they didn’t turn up.”
“The days not over yet – it’s barely begun.”
“But yesterdays over, and that’s when they said they’d be here today.”
Why was silent as he processed the information.
“What was the nature of the crime?” He changed tack to avoid further brain ache.
“Well it started with a bunch of odd blokes coming into the chemists – most of them were fairly old men with a musty scent to them, but there was one guy who was alright. He spoke to me quite a lot.”
I think I know the source of this crime spree, thought Why.
“They had some story about Snifflin’ Clive – he’s a regular customer – being kidnapped outside the chemist. I spoke to the nice bloke for a while, told him what Clive’s like and stuff. That’s when they must have done it.”
“Done what?” Why tried to hide his concern at what his errant colleagues might have perpetrated.
“Light fingered old gits. I can’t tell you the amount of stuff that was missing – antiseptics, aerosols, all sorts of stuff. Normally we have to stop the teenagers from swiping it all. They even whipped some suppositories.”
What is a bit shy about that particular ailment, Why mused.
“Bunch of harmless looking old geezers like that – I didn’t expect that to be a set-up!”
“Perhaps they meant to harm – I expect they’re mentally unwell.” Why spoke from experience.
“Well, the funny thing is that apparently they might be right.”
“The kidnap. I haven’t seen Clive for a few days, and he’s normally in every day. I told the police and they went round his house – can’t find hide nor hair of him.”
“Are they investigating?”
“Oh yes. To be honest they seemed more interested in that than the old blokes, although I still think it was a set up. But the police went after Clive – I got the impression that a kidnap was more exciting.”
“I suppose it is.”
“Guess so. Sorry, I’ve started going on a bit. What was it you wanted?”
“I was actually here to see Darren – is he in?”
“I’m afraid not. He’s gone away for a while.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?”
Why smiled apologetically.
“Dr Why – please call me Crawford. I helped to teach Darren the guitar. I just thought I’d pop in to see how he was getting on.”
Sky smiled at him.
“I’m Sky Bonaparter – no jokes please. Darren’s my brother – you must be the bloke he told me about. You gave him that book.”
“Yes, yes, that’s me. How’s he finding it? Last time I spoke to him he was saying something about a record deal.”
“That’s where he’s gone. Somebody contacted him about being in a band, him and four other lads. He’s gone off to practice with them.”
“Somebody is putting a band together? He’s not started it himself?” Why was perturbed.
“That’s right. Apparently a producer contacted him – said he was looking for lads ‘of his sort’.”
“Any idea who this person was?” Why had an inkling that he already did.
“I never spoke to him – Darren said he was a bit slimy, but seemed to know his stuff. I told him he’s probably some kind of pervert, but off he went anyway.”
“I don’t suppose Darren told you his part in the band?”
“No – just that he reckons they’ll hit big quickly. That’s what the slimy bloke said any way.”
Why’s fears were all but confirmed.
“I don’t suppose you have an address where Darren can be contacted?”
Sky shook her head.
“He’s pretty independent and does his own thing most of the time. Mum and Dad are away at the moment – they’ll kill him if they find out he’s shot off like this.”
“No phone number?”
“No… hold on, wait a moment. Darren wrote down the slimy guys mobile. I think it’s still on the phone pad.”
She ducked back into the house. Why heard the sounds of rummaging before she returned carrying a slip of paper.
“Here you go.” She read out the number.
Dr Why made pulled a pen out and pretended to write the number down, although there was really no need – he had this particular telephone number memorised already.
“That’s a great help. I should get off now – if I get hold of Darren I’ll ask him to call home.”
“That’d be great.”
They exchanged farewells and Dr Why walked off.
“Sly bugger,” he muttered, “I knew he was up to something. I’ll have him yet!”
Tel put the heavy tome down on the desk and sighed.
“Cod in breadcrumbs. Who would have thought it?”
He looked down at the page of jottings before him. He had scanned through the Bibble several times, picking up the odd snippet here and there, reading this passage or that one. He was interested to see a chapter called ‘Palms’ – it seemed finger-painting was a speciality of Bob’s. However the book had not helped him to identify the Fat Lady or her lunatic companion. Standing and reaching up he slid the volume back into its place on the shelf and sat down again, his fingers pointed pyramid style beneath his chin, contemplating his copious notes.
Shortly he stood and looked again at the titles on offer, searching for a title that hinted at large ladies with mopeds. Finding nothing, on a whim he grabbed a copy of ‘The Children’s Pop-Up Book of Hades and its Fiendish Minions’. He sat and idly flicked through it, contemplating his next move as red-faced demons and screaming souls leapt out from the page towards him. He had heard the rest of the Doctors dragging themselves downstairs amid much muttering and swearing and supposed he would be disturbed before long, but as yet he had not found anything that helped him decide what to do next. Exasperated at his lack of progress he dropped the book on the desk and decided to go and speak to Why for some advice. Glancing back at the desk he paused; something in the book he had just dropped had caught his eye. He looked closer at the page that fallen open; the centre pop out figure was of a large, fat creature with features that would have looked oriental had they not been red, with flames spurting from his nostrils. Glancing at the text Tel recognised the demons name as one that he had read in the Bibble; he was one of Bubb’s high ranking lieutenants, a particularly nasty piece of work who had devised various liver eating and rock pushing activities for those souls in his care. Tel glanced around the rest of the page, and his eye fell upon one of the background figures; a large, red, angry but unmistakably female creature with curled horns either side of her head. The horns were in fact so curled and flattened that they could almost be mistaken for a motorbike helmet.
“Fat bird!” Tel exclaimed.
He pored over the rest of the page for more detail. He was rewarded with the information that the Fat Lady (for that’s how the book referred to her) was an enforcer, kept to do the bidding of the demon who she worked for. That demon was the oriental beast whose paper form leapt out at Tel from the middle of the page; his name was listed – somewhat improbably Tel thought – as Li Ping.
Tel read the rest of the text, scanty though it was. It stated that Li Ping was well known for locating humans with warped minds and using them as aides in his nefarious deeds. Although it mentioned nothing of Scottish lunatics or mopeds Tel felt sure that this accounted for the Fat Lady’s partner in crime.
Tel spent a while longer re-reading the Bibble for mentions of Li Ping until he felt he had gleaned all the information he could, then decided that it was time to take his information to Dr Why and discuss a plan of action. He stepped out of the study with his notepad in his hand and a look of determination on his face.