Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:25

I apologise for the length of this, and, like Tiff, I would have liked to put it away for a while and then ruthlessly edit it, but I'm out of time, so apologies and enjoy!

Major J. C. ‘Biggles’ Bigglesworth
Captain A.M. ‘Algy’ Lacey
Captain J. N. K. ‘Crump’ Parkinson
Miss Phyllis Parkinson, Parkinson’s sister
Miss Ruby Marsden, Parkinson’s cousin
Miss Dorothy Leigh, Phyllis’s guest
Major T. J. Clarke, an author
Captain R. S. Forrester, a barrister
Mr T. H. Sandiland, an actor
Lieutenant P.P. Derbyshire, an architect
Captain A. Ashton, a mill manager
Mr L. Simpkins, Parkinson’s gardener
Mrs R. Simpkins, Parkinson’s cook
Mary, Mrs Simpkins’ niece
Corporal H. Jackson, Parkinson’s general factotum.


‘Do you remember Parkinson of 339?’ Biggles asked, looking up from the letter he was perusing at the breakfast table.

Algy frowned in remembrance.

‘Crump Parkinson? Fellow who tried to land on a hanger and was still swearing it was because of the excellence of the camouflage and nothing to do with his eyesight even as he was packed off to HE?’

‘Got it in one,’ Biggles grinned. ‘Well, he’s inherited some old abbey that’s supposed to be haunted and is making up a house party to investigate the ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. It sounds fun. Fancy coming along? He’s invited both of us to join him.’

‘If it won’t interfere with my beauty sleep,’ Algy yawned. ‘There’s a limit to how much running around in the middle of the night that I’m willing to do now the war is over.’

‘What a fellow you are for thinking of your comfort,’ Biggles exclaimed, neatly snaffling the last slice of toast from under Algy’s outstretched hand. ‘You’re getting lazy and stodgy.’

‘It’s very restful,’ Algy agreed, filling up his cup with the last of the tea before Biggles could polish that off too. ‘I never want to watch the sun rise again and if you promise me that Crump Parkinson won’t expect us to spend all the night hours running around after creaks and rattles, I’ll come and sleep in his haunted room for him with pleasure.’

Crump Parkinson’s inheritance was of great antiquity and that was the most positive thing that could be said about it. It lay deep in a wooded valley at the end of a long rutted track that made Biggles fear for the suspension of his Bentley. He picked his way along it in a low gear whilst Algy gazed in open-mouthed astonishment at the overgrown woods flanking and encroaching onto the optimistically entitled driveway. The prevailing wind had blown the trees into twisted, hunched contours that, shrouded in ivy, rose out of a shrub-choked wilderness. The air smelt damp. He could feel the moisture in it and suspected streams and ponds and swampy patches lay within the woods to ensnare the unwary. He caught a glimpse of a small, ruined church and graveyard enclosed by rusted iron railings which were losing the battle to remain vertical.

‘Dear gods,’ he breathed. ‘What a mess!’

Biggles grinned as he negotiated a particularly fine set of ruts.

‘I can see this place being haunted by every folklore boggart ever imagined. The house will be a letdown after this.’

The house, when they reached it, was not a letdown. Biggles steered round the odd stones which littered the area in front of it, pulled up on the grass which grew right up to the house walls, and got out, staring disbelievingly at the structure in front of him.

‘I’ve never in my life clapped eyes on anything like this,’ he remarked, standing by the car door and lighting a cigarette, as he took in the full glory of the half derelict structure.

‘No one has,’ grinned Parkinson, walking out from behind a tumbled wall to join them. ‘As far as I can tell, every medieval Tom, Dick and Harry built a new bit of wall, slapped the latest window in, then left it strictly alone until some early Victorian built a balustrade around the place to tie it together and knocked the more rickety bits down to make a romantic ruin.’

Biggles ran his eyes along the pale stone walls, their expanse broken by mismatched windows, a balustrade with urns perched incongruously atop them, the whole covered with creepers. Some of the walls were complete, others broken and roofless with shrubs growing within.

‘Is it habitable?’ he asked.

Crump laughed. ‘One wing of it is. The rest is in varying states of disrepair ranging from leaky to likely to collapse after the next heavy storm. Come in and I’ll show you around the habitable part. Derbyshire is already here and the others are due tonight.’

It was a most peculiar house. There were large halls, medium sized spaces and cupboard sized rooms that none of them could guess the original function of. The early Victorian renovator had boarded off part of a large room by the kitchen to make a bathroom on the ground floor. A couple of lavatories had been plumbed in immediately above on the first and second floors in tiny rooms which barely contained them.

‘We’re roughing it, I’m afraid,’ Parkinson apologised, his eyes full of laughter behind his thick spectacles. ‘There are washstands in all the rooms and Mary is going to heat water in the copper and bring it round for you to wash in. Otherwise it’s a cold bath, I’m afraid.’

Biggles looked at the room he was to sleep in, monastic in its simplicity: an iron framed bed with white sheets; a red eiderdown folded at its foot; faded green curtains hung without elegance at the window; a plain wooden chair, an old washstand and a row of pegs on the wall.

‘It’s fine. I’ve slept in much worse,’ he laughed. ‘As long as a nameless horror doesn’t crawl from under the bed in the night so you find me a white-haired, gibbering lunatic in the morning, I’ll be OK.’

‘We wouldn’t notice a difference,’ Algy assured Biggles before inspecting his own room. He had faded blue curtains, but it was otherwise identical.

‘How do you do for staff here?’ Algy asked. ‘Do they run like the blazes from being in the middle of nowhere in a gothic ruin like this.’

‘Actually, it’s not a problem,’ Parkinson responded, rather to their surprise. ‘I’ve the Simpkins who are a married couple. She cooks – very well I might add - and he gardens adequately. They live in a little cottage on the back path to the house, which belongs to the estate. They worked for my uncle and are quite content to carry on for me. I have dailies in from the village for what they euphemistically describe as cleaning, and Mary, who is a niece of the Simpkins, is obliging whilst I have visitors. We’re miles from the road by car, but there are various rights of way across the fields which mean I am actually quite close to the nearest village. Jackson, who was my batman, acts as my general factotum. He’s a bit of a history buff and he likes it here.’

The sound of a horn drew their attention to the window. A battered sports car had drawn up next to Biggles’s.

‘Clarke and Forrester,’ Parkinson identified. ‘They’re good fellows. Come and meet them.’
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:28

Parkinson refused to be drawn on the details of his ghost hunt until after dinner, by which time they had been joined by the final members of the party, Sandiland and Ashton. Biggles looked around him as dinner drew to an end. Mrs Simpkins was a very good cook and he was feeling comfortably full and lazy as the coffee was brought in. All the men at the table were quite young, beginning to make their ways in their various professions rather than being at the top of their trees, and all seemed to be single. A bachelor party suited Biggles very well. He spooned sugar into his coffee and waited for Parkinson to start explaining why they were here.

Parkinson rattled his teaspoon against his cup and called for order. Conversations ceased and seven pairs of curious eyes turned to regard him as he stood at the top of the table.

‘You all know, to a greater or lesser degree, something of this place,’ he began, ‘goodness knows I’ve mentioned it often enough over the years. My uncle bought it on a whim at the end of the century for reasons no one is sure of: he wasn’t interested in antiquities or local history or ghosts and he could have been twice as comfortable for half the money anywhere else. He was a misogynist of the first order so maybe he took it because he thought it was a place women would refuse to visit. Certainly, my mother was reluctant to do so.’

‘As a kid, I was fascinated by the place. It’s a maze inside with rooms leading from rooms, corridors which don’t go anywhere, blocked up windows and doors. Sometimes, I’d have sworn that the rooms re-arranged themselves between visits and lay in a different configuration each time. Derbyshire is an architect so I’m hoping he might be able to tell me a bit more about the place. He’s done some poking around today.’

Derbyshire, a plump, fresh-faced man grinned disarmingly. ‘No one could ever make sense of this place,’ he stated. ‘It’s the most confusing building I’ve ever seen. I’m fascinated but I need to do a lot more looking before I can come up with even tentative ideas of when each bit was built and why.’

‘As you can imagine,’ Parkinson resumed, ‘there are a lot of stories told about this place in the village. There are the usual tales of wicked monks, although in actual fact, I have no idea if the place ever housed any. It doesn’t seem planned enough to have been any sort of abbey or monastery, although the villagers will have that it was a dissolute priory. There’s no library here, but I’ve bought a few privately published books and pamphlets about the local bigwigs and the history of the area. You read History, didn’t you, Clarke? You might like to look them over for a bit of light bedtime reading to see if you can spot anything. All the spellings and names change from one page to another, and I’m hopelessly confused as to who did what with whom and when. A trained eye is needed.

Clarke, dark and saturnine, nodded.
‘I don’t know how much help I’ll be as it’s not my period, but I’ll certainly cast my eyes over them for you.’

‘Thanks, old chap. I’m not much of a hand with old records, especially with my eyesight, but my man, Jackson, is interested and has puzzled out a few entries from the Church Registers. The vicar is happy to meet anyone who wants to inspect them – I know you like fusty old things, Forrester.’

Forrester, a barrister, waved a hand magnanimously. ‘I wouldn’t want to deprive Clarke of all his fun but I’ll help out. Does the vicar know anything?’

Parkinson shook his head.
‘No. Only the same local legends that everyone else repeats. And he doesn’t like folklore – discourages it, in fact, - so you get a better tale from the village.’

‘The main stories are of a mad monk – possibly walled up alive as a punishment for intimacies with a local girl; a female shape seen walking along corridors wringing her hands, name and reason unknown; a moving cold spot which induces absolute terror; and a secret room containing a monster. The village is full of tales about this secret room and what it contains. They gave me nightmares as a toddler, and I’m determined to get to the bottom of that one.’

‘Anyway,’ Parkinson continued, ‘I’ve been talking for rather longer than I intended. I think we need a glass of something and then I’ll explain what I’m planning to do about investigating these phenomena.’

His guests refreshed, Parkinson continued.

‘There’s not much more to say. I’ve been in contact with the National Laboratory of Psychical Research and spoken to an investigator on the best way of going about this. He had a few suggestions.’

‘To investigate the cold spot, I’ve ordered a job lot of thermometers. Jackson has hung them at intervals along the corridors and will be recording the temperatures every hour during the night. I’ll do it during the day, when he has to sleep.’

‘Derbyshire is looking at how the place is built and where any unaccounted for spaces might be. Clarke and Forrester are looking at the records to see if they can find any historical basis for the tales. The rest of us are eyes and back up. If anyone sees or feels anything out of the ordinary, make a note of it. The more data we can gather, the better.’

The formality of the gathering broke up after this. They moved into a space which may once have been a Great Hall, in which a local lord had lived and slept with his men, but was now furnished with a ragbag collection of furniture scattered haphazardly around the room in small groupings. Battered wooden panelling covered some of the lower part of the room, only patches of it having survived the centuries. Shields, worn and chipped with time, were carved into the stone of a fireplace big enough to roast an ox, A long bench sat against one wall, flanked on one side by a sideboard which could have been built by the carpenters who worked on the first dwelling on the site and on the other by a late Victorian bamboo whatnot topped with a dusty glass dome containing a stuffed bird of paradise. Biggles and Algy wandered around, chatting to the other men both generally and more specifically of Crump Parkinson’s intentions.

Biggles, whilst favourably impressed by the attempt to apply science to the ghost hunting, was sceptical about the possibility of actually seeing one and said so. He was far more intrigued by a secret room, and admitted it, although he cynically suggested that if one was found, it would probably be filled with long forgotten junk rather than mouldering bones and treasure. Sandiland, an actor round of face and bearing a certain resemblance to a rubber ball with his bounce and suggestion of unsquashability, enquired what they would do if a spook appeared in their bedrooms to disturb their slumber.

‘No such thing as ghosts,’ Biggles responded firmly. ‘If something wakes me up, it will be flesh and blood and dealt with accordingly.’

‘How very violent of you,’ grinned Sandiland, turning his enquiring face to Algy.

‘What can a spook do to me?’ Algy asked, very reasonably. ‘If it makes me cold, then I’ll pull an extra cover on. I don’t think it will able to do more than moan a bit and I got used to sleeping through that sort of stuff at school. It won’t be anything for me to lose sleep over.’

Later, Biggles, his clothes hung neatly on the pegs on the wall, was not quite ready for sleep. He lay on his back, his arms folded behind his head, considering the evening and his fellow guests. He thought that Parkinson had invited people very deliberately for their skills. You didn’t accidentally end up with people who could read ancient documents and understand mediaeval building practices just when they would come in handy. Planning was involved. He wondered about the others. What use had Parkinson for an actor, or himself, or Algy? Ashton, too, had not had his purpose revealed.

Biggles went on to consider what else Parkinson had not mentioned, and that was who had seen the apparitions? He’d mentioned as a youngster being scared stiff by the thought of sleeping in the proximity of a haunted room with a monster walled up inside. Biggles thought that very understandable. He thought sleeping in the vicinity of such a thing would have disturbed his sleep as a kid, too. But otherwise, Parkinson had not mentioned details. Who had seen the ghosts? Who had felt the cold spots which supposedly produced such terror? Parkinson had only suggested village tales, not firsthand experiences. Biggles thought he’d ask some questions in the morning. He thought there might be a reason for the ghost hunt which hadn’t been explained. Biggles fell asleep still listing the details he was curious about.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:29

Biggles ate a solid breakfast. The local sausages were exceptionally good, as was the home-made marmalade. He foresaw an active day and intended to provide himself with a good ballast before starting it. Parkinson was first arranging with Clarke and Forrester how they would organise their researches and then deep in discussion with Derbyshire. The others half listened to them and half listened to the vague enquiries being made into how each had spent the night and if any of them had been disturbed.

Ashton insisted he had had nightmares. He described dreaming he was in a small dark room with Parkinson, lit only by a small, stuttering candle which turned their shadows into grotesqueries. He was frightened because he knew there was a monster there, even though there was nothing to be seen in that tiny, enclosed space. He had looked at Parkinson and watched his face start to run and melt whilst his body hunched into the shape of his shadow. And then he was lying on a bed with the gargoyle-like Parkinson perched on his chest, leaning forward so his rank breath choked him. Tentacles were growing from the gargoyle’s face: short, stubby arms which twitched and waved to the direction of an invisible puppet-master, each arm filled with rows of sharp little teeth running down the inside as far as he could see. ‘And then his face changed again,’ Ashton said solemnly, ‘and I saw it was Elinor Glynn and I realised just how much trouble I was in.’

There was general laughter at the denouement. Clarke and Forrester moved off together to collect their outdoor trappings, intending to visit the church in the village and the vicar. The day was overcast, but they thought the rain wouldn’t arrive for some time. Derbyshire left to carry on his survey of the house and attendant ruins and Parkinson turned his attention to his remaining guests.

‘I thought we’d start off our search for a secret room by seeing if there are any windows which aren’t in a known room,’ he announced. ‘I’ve got a collection of small towels and candles. Working in pairs, we are going to open every window which will open and hang a towel from it. Windows which cannot be opened will have a lighted candle placed in them. We will do the entire house in one go. I’ll take the top floor as I’m best acquainted with the disrepair up there, Sandiland and Ashton can cover the first floor and Biggles and Algy can do the ground floor. When you have marked every window, stand outside the front door, where the cars are parked, and once we have all met up, we shall walk around the outside of the house together to see if there are any windows without a towel or a light.’

Biggles approved of this plan. It was nice and simple and it would be easy to interpret the results and decide what other action should be taken afterwards. He accepted his bundle of old towels from Parkinson, letting Algy take the box of candles, and began his rounds.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:34

They went round the structurally sound part of the house first. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as Parkinson had described: there were windows on staircases that required marking and a couple of strange, tiny rooms at the top of their own winding stair. Biggles marked them all, even the ones that more fairly fell into Sandiland and Ashton’s purlieu. ‘Better to be safe than sorry,’ he remarked. ‘They can check on our work and we on theirs.’ Mrs Simpkins in her kitchen was most reluctant to have her windows disturbed. They came to an agreement that Biggles would lay a towel on the ground outside every window of her domain; Algy would stand in each for Biggles to see so no mistake could be made. Having done this, they moved onto the more ruinous portion of the house, and equally carefully marked each window of that.

They were the first to finish and reach the meeting place at the front of the house. Biggles lit a cigarette before scanning the windows on the front. All the windows were marked, either by a towel or a candle.

‘Do you think we’ll find a hidden room?’ Algy asked.

Biggles shrugged. ‘Who knows? But this is more entertaining than going for a long tramp over the fields.’

Sandliland and Ashton appeared from the rear of the property, carrying the few towels and candles that they hadn’t needed to use, and a few moments later, Parkinson came out of the front door. They all stood smoking for a few minutes, commenting on the confusion of the house layout and speculating on what they would find, then moved round to the right side of the house. There, to their great surprise, was an unlit window, almost hidden by the ivy, about half way up the wall in a narrow turret midway along. Parkinson muttered to himself as he worked out its approximate location inside the house.

‘Come on,’ he said in excitement. ‘Let’s investigate.’

‘Hold hard,’ Biggles interrupted. ‘Shouldn’t we check the other windows first?’

‘Yes, you’re right,’ Parkinson agreed, containing his excitement. ‘Let’s do the thing in order.’

They walked around to the rear of the property, and to their further amazement, another window, above the kitchen, was unmarked.

‘How many secret rooms do you have?’ Algy joked ‘Have you got an entire tribe of monsters hidden in there?’

Parkinson was looking shell-shocked. ‘I didn’t really expect to find one,’ he admitted, ‘never mind two. This is a bit of a facer to be honest.’

Inspection of the rest of the building and the ruins, revealed no more windows without towels or candles.

Excited, the men returned to the back door and entered the kitchen. Parkinson orientated himself and pointed. ‘The window is above there.’ They looked along the wall for evidence of the door or staircase, but none was apparent. What, indisputably, was there was a huge dresser, loaded with miscellaneous plates and serving dishes, standing sturdily against the stone.

‘It must be behind that.’ Ashton stated the obvious. ‘It’s going to take ages to empty enough stuff off to lighten it sufficiently to move.’

Algy moved towards, ready to start. He was always willing to get stuck in. Biggles grinned, struck by a sudden thought. He thought Algy might have been invited as a strong back and willing pair of hands.

‘What are you playing at in my kitchen,’ demanded Mrs Simpkins, who so far had remained silent. ‘There’ll be no getting underfoot and disturbing me if you want to be fed tonight.’

‘It’s all right,’ Parkinson soothed. ‘We just need to find out what’s behind the dresser.’

‘Why don’t you ask, like a Christian gentleman, instead of coming in and disturbing me?’ demanded Mrs Simpkins. ‘It’s an old door opening to a twisty stone stair going to a tiny room that’s not big enough to swing a cat in, if anyone wanted to do such a foolish thing. Well, it was no use to man nor beast being exceptionally inconvenient to reach and having no benefit to anyone, so I got Simpkins to put that old dresser across it, being as it was the only place it’d fit, and that is of use. Now, are you going to carry on disrupting my kitchen or can I get on with making your dinner?’

The men looked at the size of Mrs Simpkins, imagined her running up and down a small, inconvenient, spiral stone staircase to collect potatoes or cheeses or whatever other comestibles might be stored in a tiny room, then retreated in good order through the back door to return to gazing at the other unmarked window. This was much more promising.

Parkinson frowned. ‘You know, I’ve no memory of that turret on the inside of any of the rooms. I think access to it must be blocked from all the floors. Let’s find Derbyshire and see what he thinks.’

Derbyshire was found in the most ruined part of the building.

‘I think,’ he announced, rubbing his nose with one begrimed hand, ‘that this is the oldest part. Animals would have been kept on the ground floor – look at the edges of the big door here. They’re rounded, which is always an indication. You can see the marks up there,’ he pointed to some small, regularly spaced holes with protuberances beneath, ‘of where the beams went to support a floor, for storage and sleeping.’

‘Never mind that for now,’ broke in Sandiland, bouncing a little on his toes, ‘We’ve found a window that there’s no access to from the inside.’

Derbyshire was suitably excited, and hurried to join in the inspection of the window. He started planning where they should measure from to find where the window and turret were inside the house. Suggestions came thick and fast from the others.

‘Shouldn’t we shut the windows and blow out the candles first,’ Biggles suggested. ‘That window isn’t going anywhere now we know where it is, but a candle knocked over by a rat could send the whole place up in flames and I have no desire to be burnt in my bed. Look, one’s gone out by itself already.’

Biggles pointed at a window which indeed no longer showed a flame. The others automatically turned to look.

‘What’s that?’ Sandiland asked, pointing at a higher window. I thought I saw a face.’


No one else had seen anything, although Algy thought he’d caught a glimpse of a movement.

‘Come on,’ Biggles said abruptly. ‘Let’s get tidied then we can talk about faces at windows.’

Biggles was disturbed to find, as he retraced his steps collecting towels, shutting windows and blowing out candles, that several candles were no longer burning and two towels had been moved from the window to the floor. He looked at an extinguished stub and frowned. He could see no reason for it to have gone out. There was no draught and the candle was of sufficient size to have burnt for another hour. He felt in his pocket for his lighter and relit the stub. It rekindled easily; burning with a steady flame which barely flickered. Biggles watched it for a moment then pinched it out.

‘What’s up?’ Algy asked.

Biggles shook his head. ‘Nothing much. It just seems peculiar that some of these candles should have blown out. There’s no wind to get to ‘em and the towels must surely have been moved by human agency.’

‘Cats, rats, breezes from doors opening and shutting, or maybe that factotum of Parkinson’s was responsible. He’s prowling around taking temperatures,’ Algy suggested.

Biggles nodded and finished collecting the markers. He waited in the Great Hall for the others to return. Derbyshire was already there, taking eager measurements with a tape measure which Algy was soon pressed into holding the other end of. Sandiland and Ashton dumped their piles of towels and candle stubs on top of Biggles’s and went to join the measurers. Parkinson appeared and followed their example. They dodged in and out of the Hall, into the rooms adjacent and then moved upstairs to continue. Biggles remained aloof for another few moments and then slipped out to walk around the house, checking all the windows. All the markers had been removed. He returned to the front, lit a cigarette and paused. A small towel was now showing at a second floor window. He was definite it hadn’t been there five minutes ago. A figure moved past a first floor window, distorted by the small panes and stone traceries. Even so, Biggles didn’t think it belonged to a member of the house party, who were busy on the other side of the building. Clarke and Forrester returned from the village to find him finishing his smoke so they went in together.

Derbyshire sat at a table, drawing his measurements into a plan of the side of the house containing, or rather not containing, the walled off turret. Parkinson had gone to discuss the temperature measurements with Jackson before he went to sleep for the afternoon. Some of the others, Algy amongst them, were optimistically knocking on walls, trying to find a hollow spot indicating a doorway. Biggles sat and smoked and thought until lunch, half-watching Derbyshire whilst listening vaguely to Clarke and Forrester describe the records they had examined in the church with the vicar.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:37

After lunch, Biggles decided to accompany Parkinson as he visited the thermometers to record the temperatures they displayed. He wanted to see where they were located so he could decide if the figure he had seen move by the window, and the face Sandiland claimed to have seen, could conceivably have belonged to Jackson, as he moved around the house carrying out his recording duties.

Additionally, he wanted to know where the other members of the ghost hunting party were sleeping. It was conceivable that Mary had been in one of their rooms for legitimate housekeeping reasons and it was her they had seen. Against that, Biggles thought that someone would have exclaimed ‘That’s my room!’ or some similar ejaculation if a possible spectre had been sighted in his room.

Another reason he wanted to get Parkinson alone, was to find out why they were ghost hunting? What had made him think of doing so?

‘This is really a most unusual residence,’ Biggles began, as they walked through three rooms leading one from another to reach a corridor which ran alongside and gave access to none of them. ‘What are you going to do with it?’

‘Live in it as it is, I suppose,’ shrugged Parkinson, pausing to read the first thermometer and record the temperature it displayed. ‘I can’t afford to do any major renovations and there’s more than enough of it serviceable for my needs. I’m quite fond of the old place, really. I’ve opened a dealership selling Morrisses in the local market town and I’ve got a good chap in charge of that but it’s not going to bring in the sort of cash that will rebuild this place. And anyway,’ Parkinson grinned, ‘I quite like the quirkiness of it as it is.’

Biggles continued chatting as they took the temperature readings, meandering along corridors and through rooms. He learned everything he wanted to about which rooms people were sleeping in and where the thermometers were located, but Parkinson was rather elusive about his reasons for the ghosthunt.

‘I thought it would be rather fun, don’t you know,’ he told Biggles.

‘Is it firsthand experience that’s making you investigate?’ Biggles asked.

‘Oh, there are more things in heaven and earth, don’t you know,’ Parkinson responded vaguely. ‘Some of the things that Harry Price bloke has done are most interesting. What do you think of this neck of the woods? Have you visited this part of the world before?’

Biggles admitted he hadn’t, and the walk back to the Great Hall was filled with generalities concerning the scenery and climate.
Derbyshire had finished his plan drawing of the house and was smoking whilst tapping his pencil against his teeth. Biggles wondered if he ever got his hands confused so he tapped his cigarette and drew on his pencil, but on this occasion, he didn’t observe a mix up.

‘I’m not sure that there is an entrance to this part of the house from the turret,’ he greeted Parkinson. ‘Have you got a longer ladder than the one I’ve been using? I think that the easiest way to see where it goes is to climb in through the window.’

Algy and Parkinson went to visit the gardener to find out. His longest ladder – a rather rickety old Victorian one – was carried away and put up against the wall. It was about three feet too short. Sandiland made facetious remarks about forming a human pyramid atop the ladder whilst Ashton went to investigate the furniture to see if there was a table the ladder could be erected upon. He found one, and a sturdy bookcase. He sent Parkinson for rope and called for Algy to help him carry. The furniture was moved outside, the bookcase being emptied of its contents first, then the bookcase was solidly lashed on its back, shelves pointing skyward, to the table and the ladder placed between the top shelf and the plinth of the bookcase. A man stood at the very top of the ladder would now just be able to see inside the window.

Derbyshire eyed the ladder with reluctance. ‘Anyone lighter than me fancy having the first shufti?’ he asked. All eyes fell on Biggles, who nodded, his dislike of heights not viewed from a seat in a plane being far outweighed by his curiosity as to what was inside the turret. He slipped off his coat, pushed a heavy torch into his trouser waistband, clambered onto the table and hence lightly up the ladder. Reaching the window, he announced that it was unglazed, and then, pulling out the torch and shining it inside, that there was nothing to be seen. Ignoring all demands to explain what he meant by nothing, Biggles returned to ground level and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

‘I mean exactly what I say,’ he reiterated, ‘There is nothing inside except a space, stretching down as far as I could see and up, I think, to an opening at the top. I thought I could see daylight.’

Derbyshire rubbed his chin, too. ‘It could be a chimney, or I wonder if it was some sort of look out post,’ he suggested. ‘Robert the Bruce got this far south in 1322, and there were other raids before and after. It’s facing north, which is the direction the raids would have come from. If it is, then there should be an entrance under all this ivy at the base. Can we use the gardener’s tools to chop some of it down, Parkinson?’

The unfortunate Simpkins was disturbed from his labours once more and his tools borrowed. Simpkins came along to supervise their use. He didn’t trust a load of gentlemen to treat them right. They wouldn’t have to spend hours re-honing a blade afterwards to get it sharp again.

Derbyshire seized a crowbar and thrust it through the ivy. It grew thickly at the base of the turret and Biggles wondered for how many centuries it had been growing there. Some of the branches were as thick as tree trunks. There was a ring of stone as the bar hit the turret. Derbyshire withdrew it and tried another spot. He’d not made more than half a dozen thrusts when he shouted ‘Here. There’s an opening here. Not even a door in it by the feel of things. Where’s the axe?’

It was hard work cutting through the ivy, which, of course, was full of sap. A tree saw proved a better tool than the axe but it took some hard graft and several of the men were hot and sweaty before the opening was cleared. Derbyshire looked hard at the open arch and its surround, but the others were more interested in what was inside. This was disappointing. The space, which seemed to run straight up to the roof, was only big enough for one man to stand in. The floor was filled with debris from birds’ nests which had fallen down. Biggles seized a rake and dragged it out into the light of day, where it could be examined.

It contained mainly twigs from the nests, but there were fragments of an ancient, almost fossilised wood which Derbyshire seized and examined. ‘I think these are from a ladder,’ he announced. ‘The architecture is consistent with a late thirteenth century construction. I think it’s a lookout tower, built onto an existing wall to save time and money in its construction. We’ll have to have all that ivy off to be sure, though. Is there access to the roof, Parkinson, so I can inspect it from the other end?’

‘Not today,’ Parkinson answered, beating a hasty retreat inside with his companions as heavy, cold drops of rain began to fall. ‘Maybe if the weather stays dry for a while.’
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:39

Conversation was general over dinner. Biggles listened and laughed at the anecdotes and stories and developed a sense of how Parkinson knew everyone. Himself and Algy from the RFC, of course. Forrester, Sandiland and Derbyshire from school. They had all attended Stoneyhurst College nearby and were local men, their families being well-established in the area. Forrester and Clarke had met as undergraduates at Oxford, Forrester originally introducing Clarke to Parkinson when both visited Forrester’s family and now they roomed together in London. Ashton had moved to the local town to manage a mill and met Parkinson at meetings of the newly founded Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Algy knew a man who had been at school with him, and Biggles had played bridge with a cousin of Derbyshire’s. The connections, big and small, were revealed as they chatted. Biggles had attended a thousand similar gatherings.

After dinner, Parkinson invited Clarke and Forrester to give an account of their day and to divulge any interesting findings they might have made. This didn’t take long, being more an exercise in what they didn’t find.

There was no unbroken run of births, marriages and deaths recorded for a family living in the house, only odd snippets, mostly records of the deaths of servants. Clarke suggested that it had not been the principal residence for a family; that they were seeing a pattern of servants maintaining the house and grounds but it was only intermittently being lived in. He suggested that if Parkinson wanted to know more, he’d have to employ a genealogist to investigate the names they had found, to link them to other families and holdings. They would go to the town library the next day, to consult the reference books there: the vicar had told them that a great many historical documents were held in their collection and the librarian was a great antiquarian.

Biggles wondered why, if that was the case, Parkinson hadn’t consulted him already. He tucked it away as one more slightly odd fact.

Forrester announced that one of the more gossipy local histories he was skipping through, told of a secret tunnel from the small chapel in the grounds and a priest’s hole. Derbyshire laughed, pointing out that if the family living here had remained Catholic through the Reformation, then their lack of money for new building was explained – it would all have gone in fines.

‘Maybe your monster lives in the Priest’s Hole’, Algy suggested, to groans and laughter. ‘Shall we hunt for it tomorrow?’

Two tables were formed for bridge in the Great Hall, and the rest of the evening was spent playing cards. Late on, Ashton, dummy at one table, left the room. This occasioned no one any surprise: the men had been leaving to visit the lavatory, stroll outside for a breath of fresh air and so on whilst dummy all evening. What did surprise them was the scream.

Biggles, the other dummy, was first to reach Ashton who was white with shock. ‘Pull yourself together, man. What’s happened?’

Ashton took a deep breath and the colour began to return to his face.

‘I think I’ve seen your ghost. It was ghastly: just a distorted face that shone in the dark, hanging over the banister there.’ He pointed, but there was nothing to be seen.

‘Too late to go chasing after it. It could be anywhere in this maze of a house now,’ Biggles mused. ‘Where was the rest of it? Why only a face?’

Parkinson shrugged, looking almost as shaken as Ashton.

‘I’ve no idea. I’ve not heard any stories about a phantom face. Could it have been the lady who walks wringing her hands or the monk?’

Ashton closed his eyes and thought. ‘I didn’t get any impression of height or build, beyond it wasn’t a dwarf or a giant or immensely fat. I think there might have been a body, swathed in a heavy, dark material, but it was very, very indistinct. I suppose it could have been wearing a monk’s robes or a woman’s gown but I couldn’t say for definite. That dreadful face took all my attention’

The party broke up after this. Derbyshire stepped out for a final smoke – he slept better if he blew the cobwebs away last thing, he explained. Biggles joined him, leaning against the bonnet of his car. Parkinson had offered to put it in the old stable he used as a garage, but Biggles had taken one look at the ramshackle building and decided it could take its chance out in the open. He frowned, wondering if he had glimpsed a light in one of the rooms he knew to be unused. He wasn’t sure: it could have been a reflection of some sort from elsewhere, caused by the peculiar internal geometry of the house. He watched another moment then, as there was no further sign of it, went to bed.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:41

Lying between his starched sheets, Biggles tried to make sense of the points that were puzzling him.

Why was Parkinson having this ghost hunt? It was an amusing concept, certainly, but Parkinson was both taking it too seriously and not seriously enough. Why hadn’t he consulted the knowledgeable local librarian? Why hadn’t he asked the vicar for copies of the relevant entries in the Registers in advance? Why hadn’t he already drawn up a measured plan of the house? Biggles supposed that his eyesight problems might account for that, but he wasn’t convinced. Why had he been so surprised to find a couple of blocked off spaces? Surely he’d been expecting to find one, at least, and should have been pleased? And why had he been so startled that Ashton saw an apparition? It was as if Parkinson wasn’t expecting to find anything, but if that was the case, why was he looking? Biggles considered this but drew no conclusions before sleep found him.

The morning dawned bright and clear. Biggles, hearing mutters, pulled on his dressing gown and went to investigate. Although the voices were only a few feet away, he had to walk along a narrow passage, up a few steps, cross through a small room and go down more steps to reach the corridor the voices came from. Parkinson and his man, Jackson, were peering at a thermometer with concern. ‘It’s rising now,’ he heard Parkinson say.

‘What’s happening?’ Biggles asked with great interest.

The others jumped, so intent on the thermometer that they hadn’t heard his approach. Jackson replied.

‘I was making my rounds of the thermometers, sir. Everything was normal until I got to this one which was degrees below where it should have been. Nearly at freezing point! Covered with ectoplasm or something, too.’

Biggles looked for himself. The thermometer was showing a temperature below the ambient temperature of the corridor but rising in front of his eyes. The wooden surround was definitely clammy, but although he had never experienced ectoplasm, Biggles didn’t think he was doing so now. He thought it felt like ordinary dampness. He looked down at the floorboards and thought he saw a small, dark mark, as if the thermometer had dripped. Dropping to his knees he touched it and brought his finger to his mouth, not without an inward qualm in case he was wrong. But no, it had no colour and no taste. It was water and he said as much.

‘Not another leak,’ groaned Parkinson. ‘I’ll be washed away in the night if the house leaks anymore. I wonder where that one is coming from? Perhaps you could have a look later, Jackson, after you’ve finished with the thermometers? In the meantime, breakfast.’

If it was a leak, then Biggles couldn’t see why it created only one small mark under a damp thermometer with no wetness above that he could see. But he remained silent.

After breakfast, Clarke and Forrester left to visit the reference library; Derbyshire announced his intention of investigating the roof – Sandiland volunteering to help him – whilst Algy wanted to visit the ruinous chapel. Preparations were underway for these activities when a loud shriek and even louder crash of crockery reached their ears. Immediate investigations showed that Mary, clearing the breakfast things, had witnessed something which had caused her to drop her tray.

She was hysterical and it took some time to calm her sufficiently to find out what she had seen. Exhortations to get a grip of herself and to quieten down like a good girl were ineffectual, and it was not until Mrs Simpkins threw a glass of cold water into her face that her screams lessened into sobs and hiccoughs. A description of a terrifying face, distorted and glowing eerily, emerged.

‘I had just picked the tray up with the teacups on,’ sobbed Mary, indistinct through the apron she was holding to her face, ‘and I turned around, and it was there, in the doorway.’ She nodded towards a small, dark doorway.

'I’m not staying in this house a moment longer, not even to oblige you, auntie. It’s haunted, that’s what it is, and my Ted will back me up. I’m sensitive, I am, and always have been, from being a child.’

‘That,’ said Mrs Simpkins awfully, ‘was the best teapot what you’ve gone and broken. Made before the war it was, and who’s going to find another like it? I’ve been here, day and night, for twenty five years and I’ve never heard such nonsense. Ghosts, indeed. You’ve been listening to the silly tales in the village. Now go and fetch a dustpan and brush and clear up this mess that you’ve made.’

Rather to everyone’s surprise, Mary sniffed, swallowed, wiped her blotched face with the corner of her apron, and went, still somewhat tearful, to do so. Mrs Simpkins turned to leave for her kitchen, but Biggles intercepted her.
‘Have you heard about anything like this happening before?’ he asked her quietly.

‘Not in all my born days,’ she snorted, ‘and now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve work to do.’

They returned to their various preparations whilst speculating on what Mary might have seen.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:44

Algy picked up the handles of the wheelbarrow, liberated from a reluctant Simpkins, which they had filled with tools they might need whilst exploring the ruined chapel and set off down the drive, addressing the ruts with a fine disdain.

‘Careful driving that,’ Biggles warned. ‘We don’t want to break it and have to carry everything.’

The tools bounced and rattled as Algy crested a ridge but he moderated his pace somewhat. He knew who’d be doing the carrying.

Once at the chapel, which was even more ruinous close to than when viewed from the driveway, they weren’t quite sure what to do. It stood in a small clearing, on a knoll of slightly higher ground, surrounded by the overgrown woodland on three sides, with undergrowth on the fourth, between it and the drive.

Ashton picked up a small wirebrush and announced his intention of investigating the tombstones, to see who was interred here. Algy took the crowbar to tap flags and stones to see if he could find a hollow one which might indicate the presence of a priest’s hole. Parkinson joined him, though without much visible enthusiasm, whilst Biggles elected to help Ashton.

There weren’t many stones in the little graveyard: a couple of the table top variety listed seventeenth century members of two families, a couple of whom had reached a ripe old age but most hadn’t survived their childhood. Biggles consulted his memory and decided the dates covered the times when Catholicism was not only illegal but captured priests risked execution. If the family was buried in the grounds of a private chapel and not recorded in the Anglican Church records, that indicated they might be practising Catholics and the possibility of a priest’s hole became that much stronger. He remembered Forrester, as he summarised his investigation into the Church records agreeing with Derbyshire that there were many recusant families historically in Lancashire.

The other gravestones recorded nothing of much interest. Looking at the spaces between the surviving stones, Biggles thought that there might have been more burials not surmounted with a stone. He supposed that there must have been a written record once, and wondered what might have happened to it. He was about to go inside to join Algy and Parkinson, when he heard a car crawling up the drive and stopped to watch, curious as to who was visiting.

The car stopped by the track from the drive to the chapel. Two young women emerged, dressed as close to flapper fashion as they could manage whilst living in the country.

‘Hello, Mr Ashton,’ the darker of the two smiled. ‘Is Johnny around or is he up at the house?’

Algy popped out of the chapel like a rabbit from its burrow, Parkinson following behind.

‘Hello, Phyll, Ruby. Could you not keep away?’ Parkinson was resigned. ‘Is Miss Leigh with you?’

‘No, of course we couldn’t keep away.’ Phyllis and Ruby were laughing. ‘This is the most exciting thing that’s happened around here for ages. It’s so mean of you not to let us stay at the house and join in, though I suppose with Dorothy refusing to set foot in the place we couldn’t. What have you found? Lots of bloodcurdling ghosts, I hope.’

Introductions were made. Phyllis was Parkinson’s sister and Ruby a cousin. The Miss Leigh so frightened of ghosts that she wouldn’t accompany them, was a schoolfriend of Phyllis’s. Biggles thought that Parkinson seemed rather interested in Miss Leigh, whereas the young women were clearly much more interested in the ghost hunt. Certain ideas began to click into place in his mind.

Algy was assuring them that he would certainly support their inclusion into the house party, when Ruby’s attention was caught by something behind him. ‘Who’s that?’ she asked, puzzled. Automatically, they turned to see.

Standing by a tree at the edge of the woods was a figure dressed in a monk’s habit. Its hands were tucked into voluminous sleeves; a rope belt was tied loosely around its habit; its face was obscured by a capacious hood. Seeing itself observed, it turned and melted into the overgrown woodland.

‘A ghost,’ Ruby sounded excited rather than frightened.

‘A ghost my left foot!’ Biggles dashed out of the gate, which was, needless to say, on the opposite, driveway, side of the graveyard to that where the figure was, and started to make his way around to the point where it had disappeared into the wood. Algy clambered over the railings to their considerable detriment and disappeared into the tangled woodland himself.

As expected, the wood was an unkempt mess. The ground was soft underfoot; trees lay where they had fallen, roots pointing skyward; untended rhododendrons were everywhere, combining with brambles and nettles to make impassable thickets and the ivy grew impartially over everything.

‘He’s been through here,’ Biggles said decisively, after hunting around for a few moments. ‘Look, you can see the marks of his passage. Well, I’d say he knows these woods better than us and we’ll find nothing from following his trail. He’ll have slipped out of the woods and his robe by now, with no one the wiser. I’ve torn myself enough on this undergrowth and I’ve found what I came for. That was no phantom but a man. Ghosts don’t leave marks of their travels.’

They left the woods to find Ruby waiting at their edge, eyes shining brightly. ‘Did you catch him?’ she asked, rather breathlessly. ‘Was it a real ghost?’

Algy gallantly offered her his arm to walk back, assuring her that it had been a man. She was disappointed by this. Algy, having less interest in whether it was a ghost or a man, than in holding the attention of a pretty girl, encouraged her speculations.

By unspoken mutual consent, they packed up their tools and returned to the house, Phyllis kindly transporting the tools on the rear seat of her car so Algy had only an empty barrow to push.

‘She’s like a terrier,’ Parkinson remarked glumly. ‘Once she’s got her teeth into something, she won’t let go.’ Biggles presumed he was referring to his sister.

‘Was the ghost hunt her idea?’ he asked.

‘No, no.’ Parkinson denied it. ‘But once she got wind of the idea she was mad keen to join in. It’s been hard work making her stay away. Do you have any sisters?’

Biggles confessed that he didn’t.

‘Lucky devil,’ Parkinson remarked, with feeling.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:48

Back at the house, Phyllis was ringing for tea. It seemed that she was a favourite with Mrs Simpkins. Biggles listened to her interrogate Ashton on their discoveries and profess herself disappointed with their findings.

‘Look here. You’re not to go home and frighten Miss Leigh with stories of seeing a monk, Phyll,’ Parkinson interrupted. ‘It must have been a trick of the light or something like that.’

Algy opened his mouth to object, but Biggles was close enough to catch his attention by kicking him unobtrusively on his ankle. He frowned at Algy to keep him quiet over the matter of the monk’s corporality. No doubt Ruby would tell Phyllis what Algy had said and she and Phyllis would discuss on their way home whether Algy had been truthful or soothing by claiming it was a man, but at this moment, only the three of them knew it had left physical traces of its passage through the trees. It was unfortunate for Parkinson, that before he could convince Phyllis to say nothing to her guest, that Derbyshire strode in.

‘You’re going to have to do something about that blasted phantom of yours,’ he complained. ‘I was up on the roof just now, minding my own business as I poked around the chimneys, when I turned around and it was practically within touching distance. I give you my word that I nearly came down by a faster route than the stairs. It’s not fair on a man’s nerves to have a thing like that hanging around the place.’

Sandiland, entering behind him nodded. ‘It had the most ghastly face, that of a soul in torment.’ He sounded as if he had enjoyed the experience.

Phyllis and Ruby were wide-eyed. ‘You’ve been holding out on us, Johnny. What’s all this about a phantom?’

Biggles watched the resultant carnage with interest. He thought he had several pieces of the jigsaw sorted now.

He waited until Phyllis and Ruby were ready to go then slapped his pocket.

‘I think I’ve left my cigarette case at the chapel,’ he said ruefully. ‘Any chance of a lift down so I can collect it?’

As the women stopped by the chapel to let Biggles out, professing hopes that he would find his case and offering to help search, Biggles apologised.

‘I’m afraid I’ve brought you down here on false pretences. But there’s something going on and I need your help.’

Swiftly Biggles ran through the events that had occurred since his arrival.

‘I know it’s absolutely none of my business, but I rather thought from what’s been said this afternoon that Parkinson is interested in Miss Leigh and all this ghost hunting malarky is to show her that there aren’t any. If that’s the case, someone is playing silly devils to convince her that the place is haunted and the question is why?’

Phyllis and Ruby looked at each other and came to an unspoken agreement to answer Biggles.

‘No one round here really takes the tales of the house being haunted seriously,’ Phyllis said. ‘I’m sure that my uncle invented half of them, to keep people away. But Dorothy is just the sort of girl who likes to believe in these things. She always wants to have her fortune told, and claims she can’t sleep because she’s read a ghost story and frightened herself silly and stuff like that. I was puzzled when Johnny suggested a ghost hunt, as he’s never been any more interested in history and spooks than my uncle was and you’re quite right. This is just the sort of scenario he’d come up with to try to convince someone that the place isn’t haunted: rational and rather half hearted.’

Ruby joined in. ‘I think he is interested in Dorothy, too. He asks about her and drops in more often when she’s visiting. You’ve remarked on it. But,’ she frowned, ‘I’ve no idea who would want to play a practical joke on her or Johnny. I mean, I know everyone visiting, except yourself and Captain Lacey. I’ve been knocking about with most of them since I was a scrubby schoolgirl. I don’t suppose it could be Captain Lacey, could it?’

Biggles laughed. ‘I’ll go bail that it’s not Algy,’ he said cheerfully. ‘I don’t see how the spook could be anyone at the house,’ he added thoughtfully. ‘Ashton was alone when he saw the phantom face, but I swear he was genuinely shaken, not acting, and everyone else was in the same room, playing bridge. I suppose it could be Jackson or Simpkins, but if it is, their motive eludes me completely. I simply cannot think of one.’

‘I can’t either,’ Phyllis agreed. ‘It would only be either of them in a poor whodunit, one of those where the writer picks the least likely person and doesn’t bother giving them a real reason for them doing it.’

‘What I’d like to do,’ Biggles suggested, ‘is to set a trap. If Miss Leigh turned up at the house, I’m sure our practical joker wouldn’t be able to resist showing himself in his phantasmagorical disguise, and then, being forewarned, it should be possible to capture him.’

Phyllis and Ruby nodded with pursed lips as they thought.

‘Are you the Major Bigglesworth who rode camels during the War?’ Ruby asked.

‘I flew Camels,’ Biggles replied cautiously. ‘Lawrence of Arabia was the man who dashed about the desert riding them.’

‘You don’t look like I expected,’ Phyllis complained. ‘Still we needn’t tell Dorothy what you look like, just that you’re here. She’s got a thing about dashing aviators. I’m sure being able to fly is all my brother has going in his favour and he can’t anymore because of his eyes, poor thing.’

Biggles swallowed the insults manfully. ‘Algy’s a dashing aviator,’ he offered, ‘much more dashing than me. He flew Camels too.’

‘He’s that Captain Lacey?’ Ruby said incredulously. ‘Well, I never. He seemed quite human when I was talking to him. I’d never have guessed. I suppose you were both quite quick off the mark though, weren’t you, when I saw the monk.’

‘How much notice need we give the phantom face?’ Phyllis asked. ‘I mean, it’s no use dragging Dorothy up here without giving him enough time to get ready to show himself to her. He’ll only gnash his teeth and get all frustrated and we’ll be no further forward.’

‘How about coming for elevenses, tomorrow morning,’ Biggles suggested. ‘I’ll announce that you’re going to drop in when I get back so there’ll be plenty of preparation time. You’re good sports. Now I better get back before they send out a search party.’
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:50

The rest of the day passed quietly. Biggles, after announcing the intended visit of Phyllis, Ruby and Dorothy, had found an opportunity to draw Algy aside and to update him with his suspicions. Accordingly, Algy joined Derbyshire and Sandiland who had returned to clambering around the roof and ruins, where he took full advantage of the many opportunities to scan his environs for signs of interlopers.

Biggles remained mainly with Parkinson and Ashton, of whom he asked many questions regarding the local area and its population. This soon confirmed Phyllis’s assertion that her brother had little interest in history and further showed that he wasn’t too interested in his neighbours. He prowled around the house, memorising the routes between rooms and the various places where the house could be easily entered and exited, checked the thermometers with Jackson and ventured down into the kitchens to annoy Mrs Simpkins with some enquiries.

Algy popped into Biggles’s room as they changed for dinner to report the lack of any apparition.

‘I did think, once or twice, that I glimpsed movement in the distance, just out of the corner of my eye, but it could have been a bird or an animal that caused it.’

Biggles nodded. ‘I had much the same experience. A feeling that there was someone around as much as anything. Drop by at bedtime. I should have a plan for catching our prankster by then.’

The evening followed the outline of the previous one. The food was excellent; Clarke and Forrester gave an enthusiastic summary of their researches which Parkinson received with less interest than he should have displayed; two tables were again set up for bridge in the Great Hall. All the men, once darkness had fallen, spent a moment longer than was their usual wont looking into the blackness of windows and the deep shadows of the entrance hall before moving, but no ghastly faces revealed themselves.

Algy waited for the house to fall silent before slipping into Biggles’s room. Biggles was waiting for him, sitting on the edge of his bed, smoking and frowning.

‘I think that word will have got to our phantom now that he needs to put in an appearance mid morning tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about his hauntings so far. Apart from the time he was a monk in the woods, he’s only shown himself when there are one or two people present. Ashton was alone, Mary was alone, Sandiland and Derbyshire were together. Each time, he’s been in shadows. So, tomorrow, I think he’ll show himself at the top of the staircase in the entrance hall, either when the women arrive or when they leave. It’s the darkest place and he can leave to the left into the unused part of the house and then he’s several options to get out and conceal himself. No one’s sleeping on that side and there aren’t any thermometers for Jackson to check so he’ll think himself safe.’

‘Now, if you conceal yourself in one of the embrasures or whatever those tiny cupboard rooms are that lie to the right, you should be able to pounce on him when he does his business and I’ll come and join you from where I’ll be waiting in the hall.’

They discussed their plan a little further, and then retired to their respective beds.

An hour later, they were awakened by a shout and loud crash. There was a certain amount of confusion investigating, due to the absence of any lights, but soon lighters had been found, and a light switch; the more curious surrounded Sandiland, who had caused the commotion, whilst the remainder grumbled their way back to bed.

Sandliland was visibly excited rather than frightened. He used his actor’s powers of description and tricks of emphasis to draw a vivid word picture of how he had awakened feeling chilled to the bone with the sense he was not alone but in the vicinity of an implacable and ancient evil; how he had forced open his reluctant eyes to see a depraved and degenerate face leering into his own, glistening with the rot of the tomb. For a moment, he had lain paralysed with fear, then, suddenly regaining control of his body, he had yelled out and thrown his cigarette case at the ghostly visitation which had then promptly disappeared. Biggles exchanged a speaking glance with Algy then returned to his own bed, to sink back into a deep sleep until, at four am, the house was awoken once more by wild yells.

This time it was Clarke, who had awoken himself and was sat up in bed by the time the first rudely-awakened enquirer reached his room.

‘Sorry, a bad dream. I got buried in a shell hole during a push at Ypres, and if my sleep is disturbed I have a silly habit of thinking I’m back in there,’ he apologised. A few nods, and the men who had come to investigate melted back to their rooms, leaving Clarke to his personal demons.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 02 Sep 2018, 11:54

Morning came, and with it a sense of ending. There was a general feeling that they had come to an end, at least temporarily, with their research.

A detailed plan of the house had been drawn by Derbyshire, annotated with numbers linked to short notes on dates and probable order of construction. Clarke and Forrester had listed the people known to have lived or worked in the house, with relevant dates and sources. Mentions of the house in local histories had also been noted, alongside possible avenues of exploration in the future. The hourly temperature readings had been neatly recorded in a chart. There was much more that could be done, but it didn’t require a gathering of young men to carry it out. A dedicated researcher with the ability to read old writing and a good knowledge of the proceedings of the antiquarian society was worth half a dozen enthusiastic amateurs now.

Forrester, much more enthusiastic about the upcoming visit of Parkinson’s sister, cousin and friend than Parkinson himself, suggested making a short presentation of their findings to the women over morning tea and that then that it would be time for him to return to London. This idea found general favour.

Biggles, Derbyshire and Clarke walked down to the chapel with Algy, who hadn’t completely given up on finding a priest’s hole. Biggles would have preferred to remain in the house but didn’t want to run the risk of preventing the phantom from setting up his performance. Forrester and Ashton decided to stretch their legs walking through the fields to the village. Parkinson announced the necessity of running an errand. No progress was made in their search for the priest’s hole or secret tunnel.

They were all back in plenty of time to have a wash and brush up before the arrival of Miss Parkinson’s party. Algy slipped quietly into his hidey hole; Biggles, in the Great Hall, was watching for the arrival of the car for his cue to move to his position in the entrance hall. He saw it crawling up the drive then moved through the dining room, into a corridor and round to the dark recesses at the back of the entrance hall. The door opened and a voice gaily called out,

‘We’re here!’

Anything else it might have said was drowned out by a shriek rivalling that of an oncoming freight train in a tunnel. Without a glance in that direction, Biggles raced up the stairs to join Algy, who had his arms wrapped around a struggling figure in dark robes, surmounted by terrible face. Biggles reached out and pulled the mask off.

The man ceased struggling and grinned.

‘It’s a fair cop,’ he said cheerfully. ‘I hoped I could keep it up until everyone went home but the pitcher went to the well once too often.’

Algy let go of the man who shrugged out of his robes and hung them carelessly over the balustrade.

‘I’m far too hot in these and they smell disgustingly of mothballs.’

He paused, revealed as a tall, slim young man, strikingly good looking with a mobile face, winged eyebrows and laughing blue eyes. ‘Excuse me,’ he said politely, and ran down the stairs to where Miss Leigh was prostrate in the arms of her friends. He possessed himself of her hand:

‘I’m so sorry to have distressed you. I would never have done it if I’d thought you would take it as anything other than a jolly jape. How could I want to frighten someone with the beauty and sensitivity you are so obviously endowed with. Please say that you forgive me?’

Miss Leigh liked this form of address and unwilted visibly whilst everyone else felt slightly nauseated. He helped her tenderly to her feet and ushered her into the Great Hall where Mary had set out the tea things before anyone could object to his impudence or investigate just who he was.

Biggles picked up the robes and the mask and carried them to Sandiland, who was gazing disbelievingly at the doorway through which Miss Leigh and the phantom had vanished. ‘Yours, I believe?’ he suggested quietly, thrusting them into his hands. ‘Why did you do this?’

The bounce was missing from Sandiland. ‘It was only a joke. I just wanted a chance with her. I thought that if she believed this place was really haunted, she wouldn’t want to live here and that would put Parkinson out of the running. How did you work it out?’

‘I don’t believe in spooks,’ Biggles shrugged, ‘and once I was here I could see that Parkinson didn’t, either, and that he had a different reason for organising the ghost hunt. So then I wondered why a ghost was being supplied where none existed and who could be responsible. It couldn’t be someone actually in the house party as things were being seen and moved when all of us were accounted for. I considered everything and everyone that I’d seen and heard about and concluded Miss Leigh seemed to be connected to my first question, and you to the second. As an actor, you had the connections to obtain costumes and make up and to be able to hire another actor for the role of ghost. As a local man, you knew the house, surrounding area and people and could both use these to your own advantage and to instruct your hireling. Additionally, you were excited when you saw and spoke of the phantom face whereas Ashton and Mary were shocked. You can’t fake that sort of physiological reaction. C’mon. I need my tea.’

That was the end of Biggles’s ghost hunt. The party broke up after their tea was consumed, each member making their way home. Biggles was relieved that his attraction as ‘fighter pilot of note’ had been well and truly trumped by ‘leading man acting the ghost,’ and he hadn’t been called upon to entertain Miss Leigh over tea. It should be noted at this point that the temperature drop recorded by the thermometer had been caused by the actor unhooking it after Jackson had recorded the temperature on one of his rounds and plunging it into a beaker of ice water before re-hanging it just before his next round. The water seen by Biggles was from this procedure, not a leak.

Parkinson lost all interest in Miss Leigh after realising she had decided to risk visiting a haunted house to meet a guest of his but not himself, and by her reaction to the actor. He settled into ways as solitary and misogynistic as those of the uncle from whom he’d inherited, before surprising everyone and marrying the nurse hired to look after a great niece who’d contracted polio when he was in his late fifties.

Biggles didn’t give his host or fellow ghost hunters another thought once he was driving home but argued with Algy as to how long a female would be distracted for by a man covered in chocolate.

‘She’d be impelled to clean him up,’ Biggles maintained, trying to keep a straight face. ‘As soon as she saw him, she’d get out one of those ridiculous bits of lace and lick it and wipe a little chocolate off then lick it again. Cleaning a man would take hours. It would be far more effective a way of stopping her than tying her up or locking her into a room. Modern females would be out of any fetters in minutes. But chocolate. That appeals to something primitive inside them. They wouldn’t be able to help themselves.’

‘I think they’d shriek and run away,’ Algy argued. ‘In case it got on their clothes.’

‘Anything else, but not chocolate,’ Biggles averred. ‘Let’s try it when we get back. We’ll go down to Brooklands and smear you with chocolate and see what happens. You know more about women than I do. What brand do you think they’d like best? ’


The End
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Fairblue » 02 Sep 2018, 12:34

I apologise for the length of this, and, like Tiff, I would have liked to put it away for a while and then ruthlessly edit it, but I'm out of time, so apologies and enjoy!


If you're apologising because it's too long, then don't. These sort of stories an never be too long. This is lovely, Kismet. Biggles up to his usual excellent sleuthing standards, as usual.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Tracer » 02 Sep 2018, 13:10

Spiffing stuff, Kismet! Thank you.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby kylie_koyote » 02 Sep 2018, 14:18

I quite enjoyed this one! Well done.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Foolscap » 02 Sep 2018, 15:49

Excellent work:-)
I enjoyed the camel confusion:-p
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby alderaanian » 03 Sep 2018, 03:10

Wow! I'm always so impressed by these elaborately-described stories with a cast of characters and an atmospheric setting.

That reference to chocolate out of nowhere, and Biggles' idea of the female psyche, though! :lol: No, Biggles, don't waste good chocolate, just give it to us in a bar :roll:
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby StoneRoad » 03 Sep 2018, 12:22

This has repaid a couple of readings, Kismet !
Beautifully complex, entertaining and just the right length.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 03 Sep 2018, 13:06

alderaanian wrote:That reference to chocolate out of nowhere, and Biggles' idea of the female psyche, though! :lol: No, Biggles, don't waste good chocolate, just give it to us in a bar :roll:


It was teatime on Saturday. I was about to go out to a birthday party for the evening and I still hadn't got my chocolate reference in. I was getting somewhat desperate, Alderaanian.
'Major Bigglesworth' said Von Stalhein coldly, 'there are times when I seriously wonder if you were created by the devil just to annoy me.'
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby alderaanian » 03 Sep 2018, 15:30

No, just teasing! Not criticising the master... It's a very good story and the blood, sweat and tears has paid off! :)
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Kismet » 03 Sep 2018, 16:12

alderaanian wrote:No, just teasing! Not criticising the master... It's a very good story and the blood, sweat and tears has paid off! :)


Thank you. I was definitely sweating by the end trying to get it finished. It baffles me how an author can write to a given length. It's not a skill I possess.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby tiffinata » 06 Sep 2018, 23:16

Finally got a chance to read it!
Love a good ghost hunt.
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Re: Biggles Pulls It Off by Kismet

Postby Indian Civil Service » 08 Sep 2018, 18:56

Great fun!
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