Hello! And welcome to the start of more Homunculus nonsense and anarchy! You have taken time to visit Hugh Paxton blog and as a reward here is the first chapter of the next Homunculus novel. Over eighteens only.
HOMUNCULUS TWO: SECOND HAND SOLDIERS FOR SALE!
PART ONE: JACK’S BACK
CHAPTER ONE: CHUMP ONE.
The door bell chimed. Father Jack, still wearing the robes of a Catholic priest which he was not, (but it had become a habit) cracked his knuckles and suppressed a vulpine smile as he marched down the dimly illuminated hall to greet his caller.
The smell of freshly ground and recently brewed coffee was gently suffusing the air. An enticing whiff.
And a little more than that. A gas attack.
Jack, who had conducted lengthy experiments on nasal stimulation and its effects on the human brain (with a view to enhancing the tracking potential of hunter killer Homunculi) had reached the conclusion that simply smelling coffee put a person at ease and invoked feelings of warmth and a state of immediate (un-noticed) vulnerability.
Release a few fumes in the right context and you had on your hands a nifty little trick, he’d decided. Then, after his experiments, he’d realized the coffee technique was probably already employed by people who sold houses with rising damp to unsuspecting first time buyers.
Jack had decided to capture an Estate Agent with experience and tweeze out a few more home truths. He hadn’t got round to that yet. But in the house sales department he reckoned he wasn’t doing too badly.
Jack slicked back his tousled red hair. It didn’t help. His hair bounced back. It re-tousled itself as it always did. He’d been born with a triple crown and no amount of oil, cream or alchemy kept it in order.
Che Sera. Whatever shall be shall be! Coffee smells. A little chocolate chunk beside the cup. A comfy chair. A crackling fire. Then a brandy or two.
Jack suddenly noticed a blood stain on the wall.
“Bugger!” said Jack. He adjusted a light. The stain was now virtually unnoticeable. He shifted a small table. The stain was now concealed. He rearranged the freshly snipped roses on the table.
The smile was back. He modified it slightly with the help of a leaded-glass mirror and a few grimaces and experiments. It became less of a leer.
But the leer was still there. Just below the surface.
He opened the door.
“Mr. Livingstone I presume?”
Mr. Livingstone (Chump One) chuckled good-naturedly. A fat man, but tall, he was in his early thirties and had a pipe tucked into the top pocket of his Tweed jacket.
“Cup of tea? Glass of brandy?” suggested Father Jack. “Come on in sir, come on in. A brisk day. Very brisk.”
“A tad nippy,” agreed Mr. Livingstone in a plummy Home Counties accent. “And I’ll take you up on that offer of a snifter. These woods of yours, a trifle damp, what?”
“It’s the tarn – Black Tarn it’s called. It gives off mists and fumes. But you should see it on a sunny day. The way it gleams and twinkles. It is a delight and seduction to the eye! And the coarse fishing is to be recommended. Pike, tench, rudd, eels in season… And there’s a carp pond behind the property.”
“You have me hooked already,” laughed Mr. Livingstone.
That I have, you fat bastard, thought Father Jack.
“Come on inside,” said Father Jack. “I’ve a lot to show you.” And he escorted Mr. Livingstone through the portal.
“Well,” said Livingstone half an hour later. A fire was toasting his feet, a well stuffed chair supporting his bulk. Soft cushions were behind his back. Livingstone was a man at ease.
“Well, well, well. I’ll tell you straight and man to man I like the property, sir. I like it, damn me if I don’t. It has character, sir. Yes, I will, perhaps one more. But not too much. I’ve a bit of a drive ahead of me back toBeaconsfield.”
Jack refilled the man’s glass.
“And you say that the estate comes intact? With all furnishings? Furniture?”
“What you see is what you’ll get. On my word you may rely.”
“I like that.”
“There may be surprises, too.”
“I’m not much of a fellow for surprises. Bit of a bluff sort of cove my wife says. Call a spade a spade, that’s me. I’d have to have the surveyors in before I could make a decision. I hope you understand. Don’t want dry rot or damp. Old property like this. Needs a thorough medical before changing hands, what? Don’t want to find I’ve bought a wailing woman in the West Wing or rotting shingles on the roof.”
Jack laughed, too. “Wailing women in the West Wing! Hah! That’s ripe! That’s rich!”
Jack stopped laughing and assumed a serious expression. “No ghosts here, Mr. Livingstone. And the roof is sound.”
“Of course it is. Of course it is. No hard feelings, what? Just need to set my mind at rest. Hope you understand.”
“I understand you,” said Father Jack.
150 percent, you devious shite, thought Father Jack.
But was Livingstone too fat? Did he need that sort of bulk? The brain was working well. Very convincing. Livingstone was good. But the fatness of the man hinted at potential medical problems. The heart might be unusable and have to go. And the brain? Was it too good?
“So you’re heading out for theAntipodes?” enquired Livingstone in an off-hand fashion. For the second time.
“Indeed I am. An uncle has left me a sheep station near the Atherton Tablelands. I’ve always had an interest inAustralia, particularly the north east Tropics. And I believe that at my time of life change can be nothing but beneficial.”
“Very much so. Very much so. And you leave next week, you say?”
“Simply a recce. I wish to inspect the station, speak to the foreman, and that sort of thing.”
“Quite. And you will be leaving this property unguarded in your absence? Is that entirely wise?”
“My dear Mr. Livingstone, you may have it on my good assurance that crime in this neck of the woods has never been an issue of concern. Indeed I don’t think that I have locked door or window in the last ten years of my residence. And I don’t hold with these new fangled alarms.”
Mr. Livingstone’s expression remained doubtful.
“But a place like this, furnished with so many objects of artistic interest and value…if I do decide to purchase the property intact…I would hate to see an incidence of burglary in your absence and before we could complete the transaction to our mutual satisfaction. No matter how remote the chance might seem to you.”
“Rest assured, Mr. Livingstone. The property and all its contents are safe.”
Father Jack paused as if in thought.
“Your caution and concern might be reduced,” he said and snapped his fingers. Suddenly inspired. “I have had an idea. Why don’t I leave you the keys?”
“No,” said Mr. Livingstone in alarm. “I could not be held responsible! My dear fellow! You barely know me!”
“Perhaps you are right,” Jack back tracked. “I wouldn’t wish to impose.”
“No, my dear sir. You keep the keys. But set my heart at ease and do lock up thoroughly.”
“I shall try to remember,” said Father Jack.
“I must be going,” said Mr. Livingstone. “But we shall be seeing each other soon.”
“I look forward to it,” said Father Jack.
Meaning it. Most sincerely.
CHAPTER TWO: The Toy Shop
To be continued!