Friday, 30 July 2010

Episode 50

Teatime was not happy with the range of options currently open to him. On the one hand, he felt it would be sensible to stay with the stupid OGS humans and help them locate Harold – they had tracked him down once before, after all, maybe they could do it again. On the other hand, if these fake UPS fellows were part of the organisation responsible for the disappearances of various infernal and heavenly folk, then this was the first real break the investigation had had, and therefore it might be useful to try and get them to take him along with them.

The first option was the safest for himself, but it was argumentative whether it would bring results. The second option was more personally risky, but would give him a better chance of finding out more about what was going on – oh, and maybe of rescuing the amiable dullard as well. Well, there was nothing for it, he decided to take a gamble and see if anybody wanted a nice, cute, pet monkey.

Loathing himself for what he was about to do, Teatime ventured out from behind the sofa and attempted to look like something that even the Disney Channel would reject as being too gooey. He minced his way to the centre of the floor, where Garcia and/or Thompson would be sure to see him. Garcia spotted him first.

“Where’d he come from?”

“Who?” Thompson had been gazing out into the back garden and had his back to the room, his dump truck sized body blocking out a fair portion of daylight.

“The monkey here,”

Thompson turned around in time to see a small grey-furred monkey, clad in waistcoat and tiny bowler hat capering and simpering on the charcoal-coloured carpet.

“Must be a pet. Don’t let it distract you.”

India and the others could only look on helplessly. Garcia had ordered them all to sit on the floor with their backs against the wall, and had sternly warned against any talking. What on earth was the monkey-thing up to?

“Aw, he’s not doing any harm,” said Garcia, “Are ya, little fella?”

Upon being addressed directly, Teatime cocked his head to one side and assumed his most hopeful expression. This might just work…

“Ha!” laughed Garcia, “It’s like he understands what I’m saying.”

“Cut it out, Garcia, we’re working here.” Thompson aimed a grumpy half-hearted kick at Teatime, more to scare him than anything else. Seeing he was not likely to make any further headway, the little monkey scuttled over to where the OGS agents were sitting, insinuating himself between India and Prada.


What was it the humans said when they were nervous? I’ve got fireflies in my digestive system? No, it was more earthy than that. Oh, yeah, that was it: butterflies in my stomach! Harold did not have a stomach as such, but he was certainly a little nervous about what his immediate fate would be. Much more powerful demons and angels than he had been made to vanish into thin air somehow, and now it looked as though he might be next.

Well, Teatime wasn’t here to help now, so he’d have to shift for himself if he was going to get out of this in one piece. He had been prodded at gunpoint into the back of the UPS truck where another fake UPS person was waiting. He supposed he could have made a run for it then – it wasn’t as if they could have killed him, but there were the humans and Teatime to consider. Some demon he was, worrying about the safety of mortals. He could imagine what his father would say about that – the words would be sharp and at considerable volume.

There were no windows in the back of the truck so Harold had no idea where they were headed. The vehicle rattled along, swaying around corners and lurching to a stop at the occasional traffic light. Harold applied his attention to the plastic cable tie securing his wrists and began to cause the plastic to soften. Carefully does it, he warned himself, the humans must believe the tie was still intact. When he had finished, a few bumpy minutes later, he knew the cable tie would offer no more resistance when pulled apart than chocolate to a hot knife. Now he just had to await the right moment.


Garcia looked at his watch. “OK. We’re done here, let’s go.” He stood up and, followed by Thompson, walked out of the room. The agents heard the front door slam, followed shortly after by the sound of a car engine starting up and driving away.

The agents looked at one another.

“Well that was weird,” said Prada, clambering to her feet. “I thought we were at least going to be killed or something, not just ignored for an hour.”

“Oh, Gee, you want me to call them back?” said India sarcastically.

“OK, people, focus.” Said Mercury, “First, we need to get untied. Mr Teatime, could you possibly assist us?”

“I’m not sure I can, old bean,” said the monkey, hopping up onto the table. “I think your human knives and scissors will be too big for me to wield.” He waved his tiny black hands.

“Well, could you not, you know, gnaw the plastic or something?” This was Prada.

“Gnaw the plastic?” Teatime was scandalised, “Gnaw the plastic? Like some common animal?”


“Very well,” he sighed, “But I’m only doing one of you then that one can free the others. Now, who’s it to be?” Honestly, he thought disgustedly, they’d never have asked a human to do such a demeaning thing.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Episode 49

“So, are we happy with this list?” asked Mercury. Othello and Box indicated their agreement. They had, between them, worked their way through the complete list of OGS agent files Othello had downloaded from the OGS system – some one hundred personnel files.

“So who’ve we got?” asked Prada from her place at the window.

“Agents Cobalt, Sabre, Callisto, Oak and Ruby.”

“Ruby?” Prada was incredulous, “You’re kidding right? I went to his birthday barbecue last month. I taught his daughters jump rope. He’s solid, I’d bet my life on it.”

“You’re probably right,” said Mercury soothingly, “but at this stage we’re just pulling out anyone with anything unusual in their background. Ruby’s family is significantly wealthy, so he might be able to buy stuff other folks couldn’t. The family owns a chain of jewellery stores. Remember, we’re not accusing anyone of anything yet.”

“Cobalt’s background is in mining, that’s why he’s on the list,” added Othello, “he might have been able to get his hands on explosives.”

“And Sabre?” asked Prada, “What’s your justification for including her?”

“She has a gap in her history of about six months, which is very unusual - OGS is usually very thorough. It’s probably nothing, but nobody else had any gaps.”

“And Oak had a fairly long-running bit part in a soap opera.” Othello again.

“How is that relevant? I know some soap operas are criminally bad, but, even so.”

“Well, I suppose we’re clutching at straws here,” explained Othello, “but I was thinking about acting ability and how someone who was good at dissembling might be our traitor.”

Harold was only half listening to the agents’ discussion, he was enjoying looking at the garden. Box’s mysterious friend obviously had green fingers if this pleasant and well-kept space was anything to go by. At this time of the year, many of the plants were in bloom, adding splashes of colour here and there and the plants themselves looked to be in a lot better shape than the hot-housed, wilted specimens Harold had sometimes seen on sale in filling station forecourts. Of course, this garden, as fine as it was, was not a patch on that other one, the very first one… He stopped his thoughts right there, before they could take a turn down a rocky and painful road, to coin a figure of speech.

He wished he could be more help with the task in hand. Spotting a traitor in one’s midst was never easy, such a one was hardly likely to leave any obvious clues. Of course, Harold himself did not know any OGS agents apart from the ones in the room, their boss, Opal, and that young agent, Moon. All of them seemed super-duper squeaky-clean to him. Humans were masters of deception though, so you could never tell. He smiled to himself: talk about calling the kettle black.

“What’s tickling you?” asked Teatime, seeing Harold’s grin.

“Oh, nothing much,” Harold replied, “just the huge and fascinating ironies of life.”

“I do wonder about you sometimes, old sock, I really do.”

The doorbell rang.

“It’s a delivery guy,” said Prada quietly, “I’ve been watching him. He’s just been to the house across the street, but it looks like they’re not at home. I guess he’s looking to see if we’ll take in the package. Ours is the only house with a car in the driveway, so he probably thinks there’s someone here.”

“Does he look legit?” asked Box.

“He’s wearing a UPS uniform and his truck has the right livery.”

“I’ll get rid of him,” said Othello, standing up.

“Why don’t we just ignore him?” said India, “Surely that would be safest.”

Othello was already at the door. From the living room, they heard a brief low-voiced conversation. Othello then came back into the room, followed very closely by the UPS guy, who had a silenced gun pressed into the small of Othello’s back.

“Everybody keep calm and nobody will get hurt,” he said loudly and clearly. He gave Othello a push. “Face down, on the floor, all of you.” His voice dropped to a more normal level as they scrambled to comply, he was addressing an unseen colleague via an earpiece, evidently. “OK, I’m in. Garcia. Thompson. You’re up. Andrews, inform Mr Peck.”

A few moments later, Garcia and Thompson appeared. They too, were sporting UPS livery, earpieces – and guns.

“What’s going on?” demanded Mercury, “who are you people?”

“No talking.” Replied the first fake-UPS guy, whose name-tag identified him as Jeff. “Garcia. Get all their phones and those computers. Thompson, tie them up.”

Harold had briefly considered rushing Jeff before the others appeared. Bullets would not kill him after all, but, in a rare bout of think first and act later, he realised that there was a high risk of the gun going off and injuring or even killing one of the humans. By the time he had worked though this logic, the moment had passed anyway, so he followed Jeff’s instructions. Teatime jumped off his shoulder and ran behind the sofa, doing his best to act the dumb-monkey-who-is-no-threat-whatsoever-to-anyone-no-sir.

Garcia and Thompson were briskly efficient, and soon everybody was phone-free and wearing the latest in plastic cable-tie bracelets.

“OK, good,” said Jeff, when they had finished, “Now you, blond guy in the leather jacket. On your feet, you’re with me. The rest of you stay nice and quiet for my colleagues here.”

Harold got to his feet with some trepidation. Was he about to join Baron Samedi, Susan, Illyriel and all the rest?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Episode 48

“I’m pleased to see you‘ve taken on board the gravity of the situation, Doctor Flowers.” The voice was deep, but thin and tinny, as though it came from a long distance away.

“I certainly have,” replied a second voice – Flowers’s, presumably. “Arranging the logistics of the move is pure aggravation, but a sensible precaution given what we’ve been hearing.” This second voice was higher-pitched, distorted to almost a mosquito-whine. The listener could barely make out the words, but the words were all that existed in the listener’s world – there was neither light nor shade, neither warmth nor cold, and – up till now, at least – there had been no sound. Memories stirred lazily in the depths of the listener’s mind, like fish in the depths of a frozen pond. It had not always been like this. The listener struggled to recall what exactly it had been like, but the effort was exhausting. The first voice was speaking again.

“Have you done the ten o’clocks yet?”

“I was Just about to do them, sir. Would you care to see?”

“Yes, I would, actually. Lead the way.”

The voices fell silent, leaving the listener alone to wonder if it had imagined them.


“I wonder how long this heat wave is going to continue,” grumbled Prada from her post by the front window, “it wouldn’t be so bad if we had air-con or something.”

A couple of hours had passed and the mysterious telephone truck was still parked, apparently deserted.

Behind her, in the living room, Othello stood up and stretched, a few joints popping as he did so.

“Seen anything yet?” asked Box, who was indulging his sweet tooth with the jar of jelly beans from the kitchen.

“Nothing that jumps out at me,” sighed Othello.

“Me neither,” added Mercury, sitting back from his computer and rubbing his eyes. “Let’s take a break and come back to this, my head’s buzzing.”

“I could take over if you like,” offered Box. Mercury gave him a be-my-guest wave and wandered into the kitchen in search of a cooling drink.

Remembering not to stand in full view, Harold wandered over to where India was watching the back garden.

“I could watch for a while if you need a break.” He said. India favoured him with a killer stare, but then seemed to reconsider and, mumbling her thanks, walked after Mercury.

“I think she’s thawing,” Harold whispered gleefully to Teatime. “She didn’t even insult me that time.”

“I think the final hours of the universe will be but a distant memory before she ever warms to you, old button.” Teatime replied

“I live in hope.” Grinned Harold.

“Then it’s a jolly good thing you’re immortal.” Was the monkey’s dry response.


The voices were back, closer and louder this time. With an effort, the listener dragged together the shreds of its diffuse attention and tried to focus on what was being said.

“…pioneering work was first done in Scotland,” the one the listener dimly remembered was called Flowers was saying.

“Oh, yes,” agreed the first, as yet, unnamed voice, “Shark-something and Webber, or something, wasn’t it?”

“Sharkey and Webster, sir, yes.” replied Flowers. “Brilliant researchers, both, but sadly not given the credit they deserve. It was tragic the way they were killed before they could publish, truly… Oh hello.”

“What is it?”

The voices were very close now; the listener did not have to struggle at all to make them out.

“The reading’s are a bit high on this one.” Flowers explained, “Could you just hold on to this for me, while I change the settings? We don’t want to go the way of Shark-something and Webber, now do we?”

The two voices laughed together quietly for a moment. There followed a rapid series of clicks and suddenly the listener forgot itself once again.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Episode 47

“… and I used to dream that the spiders living under my floor boards would come out at night and lay eggs in the carpet,” Prada was saying as Harold re-entered the living room with the coffee tray, “Took me years to work up the nerve to walk barefoot in that house. Ah, coffee!”

Harold smoothly placed the tray of cups and the coffeepot on the table.

“Right,” said Mercury, “Down to business. The way I see it, we have two things to worry about: our original investigation into the disappearances, and the fact that there may be someone in our midst working against us.”

“No ‘may be’ about it,” muttered Box into his coffee cup.

“This could actually work somewhat to our advantage,” piped up Teatime.

“How could that possibly work to our advantage?” said Prada, disbelievingly, “All it’s done so far is messed up our investigation.”

“Well,” said the little monkey, “Our ‘traitor’ is a definite link to Enigma – in fact, the only real link we have. If we can identify him – or her – then we may be able to use that to get to the bottom of things.”

“Yes,” agreed Othello, “That’s a good point. Thinking about it, I bet Agent Emerald was killed because he was either getting too close to the traitor or had uncovered something about the resurrection of project Dynamo.”

“I’m willing to bet,” chipped in Mercury, “that Emerald had some suspicions of his own and felt threatened, else why go to the trouble of setting up clues in his apartment the way he did?”

“Pity he didn’t leave any clues as to who he thought the traitor was.” Said India.

“Maybe he did,” said Othello, “but we didn’t know to look for them. Let’s face it, we almost didn’t find the Dynamo clues. Maybe if we went back there and looked again…?”

“It’s an idea,” agreed Mercury. “We have to be careful about the places we go, though. We don’t want to find any more presents waiting for us.”

“That’s a point,” said Teatime, “Who at OGS would have known where we were going?”

Othello pursed his lips, “Our mission wasn’t exactly secret, so anyone who could log onto our system could pull up our case notes and plans. Plus, we haven’t exactly kept our verbal discussions private – anyone could have overheard them.”

”Are we assuming then that our traitor is local – based at Aunt Aggie’s?” asked Prada.

“I think so, although we should beware of leaping to that conclusion too readily,” replied Othello, “Emerald worked out of Aunt Aggie’s, though, as do we. Add to that the apparent speed with which our traitor was able to organise his little surprise party and it’s a not unreasonable assumption – at least for now.”

“Whoever it was also moved quite quickly to intimidate Reverend Box,” said Harold.

“Yeah,” growled Box, “The guy was dressed in a nice suit and tie – I thought it was one of you at first, having arranged to meet you. Wouldn’t have let him in otherwise.”

“What exactly did he look like?” Mercury asked.

“He was about five-nine, average build. Black hair, brown eyes.”

Othello got out his laptop and brought it purring to life. “Give me a minute here,” he said, “There’s a site on the web that lets you do your own e-fits. It might be useful.”

About twenty minutes of clicking, pointing, pursed lips, wrinkled foreheads, tutting, squinting sideways and correcting later, a face stared out at them from the computer screen.

“Don’t recognise him at all.” Said Mercury. “If he’s OGS, he’s not from around here.”

“That would have been too easy,” grumbled Prada.

“I’m not sure he was actually OGS anyway,” said Box, “More likely, he was someone hired to warn me off helping you. Makes sense to use hired help when you think about it, nobody can point the finger at you later on.”

“How annoyingly far-sighted of him,” said Teatime. “He must have access to a fair amount of resources to hire his own goons – and have bombs planted on request. You chaps do background checks on your people don’t you? Are those records kept anywhere we could get to them?”

“We do conduct background checks and there are records, of course, but they’re only accessible to Directors. Why do you ask?” Said Mercury,

“Well, our traitor might have things in his background – occupational connections, maybe, or family ones – that might give us a clue.”

“There must be a hundred agents working out of Aunt Aggie's,” said Mercury, “Even if we could access their records, it would take time to go through each one’s background. Anyway, we can't access them, so it’s not an option.”

“It might be,” said Othello. The others looked at him. “A while back, Director Opal was having some computer problems and I helped him out. I had to use his password to log in.” Othello’s fingers did a rapid QWERTY two-step. “I told him to change it immediately after, but I’m betting….” His fingers danced some more, tapping in m-o-o-n-s-h-i-n-e-2-1. The login screen, bearing the crossed crook and key of the OGS crest, disappeared, to be replaced by a menu. “Gotta love human nature,” sang Othello, “His last password ended in two-zero. I just knew he’d do the absolute minimum to change it. Now, let’s see… It should be possible to download the records onto my laptop. Box, do you still have your laptop?”

“I do,” replied Box, “I’ll just go and get it.” He disappeared upstairs.

“ If I copy the records to a CD and give them to Box, then two people can work on the records at the same time on two machines. I don’t want to have to stay logged in here for any length of time – if Opal tried to log in now, he’d be told that he was already logged on. The system only allows a user to be logged on once at any one time.” He dug in his laptop bag, retrieved a CD, flipped open the transparent jewel case and placed the shiny disc into the computer’s drive.

A short time later, Box came trotting back down the stairs, laptop in hand.

“I don’t want to worry anyone” he said, “but when I was upstairs, I looked out the bedroom window and there’s a telephone company truck parked just down the street.”

“What of it?” said Mercury.

“It’s only just turned seven a.m.” The little man said, “Since when did the telephone company ever show up this early in the morning?”

“Might be nothing,” said Mercury, “Maybe we should keep a lookout, though, in case. Prada, you take the front. India, the back. Is that CD ready?”

Othello handed the CD to Box and explained quickly what they were about. Box started up his machine. Othello began scanning records on his computer while Mercury did the same on Box’s.

Having nothing else to do, Harold wandered over to where Prada was looking out of the front windows.

“Don’t stand in full view,” she scolded, “stand so the curtain hides you.”

“Sorry,” he said, “Haven’t exactly been trained for this.”

Outside in the street, all was quiet.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Episode 46

"Doesn't look like much, does it?" said Prada, parking the car outside the very ordinary-looking residence corresponding to the address that Harold had texted.

"Probably why it was chosen," said Mercury, "It's not like you'd want to post signs outside saying 'Safe House This Way'."

Prada shrugged and got out of the car. The others followed suit and they walked up the drive to the charcoal-coloured front door. Othello pressed the bell and they were rewarded with the first few bars of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, played on what sounded for all the world like some kind of adenoidal Patagonian nose-flute.

"Quaint," he murmured.

"I was thinking of going with tacky," commented Teatime from Othello's shoulder, where he had taken to riding, "But quaint is more charitable, I suppose."

Harold opened the door and stepped back to allow them all to enter.


Mr Teeth was squinting at the maddeningly small text printed on the packaging of the new muscle-growth supplement he had just bought. He was really going to have to get some reading glasses one of these days. The package blurb claimed the powder had been used successfully by eastern European gymnastics coaches with minimal side-effects, and the list of chemical ingredients was worryingly long and unpronounceable. It looked like his credit card had got him DuPont's annual output and had almost maxed out doing it. Oh well, easy come, easy go, he thought, pouring the unappealing grey powder into a jug.

The phone rang.

"This is Peck."

"Go on,"

"My associates have tracked your quarry to an address in the suburbs, where the other people he's been associating with have joined him. There is also one other there – a small, bald male, rides a motorcycle."

"I don't recognise him from that description."

"No matter, my associates are watching the house now. How would you like this to play out? We can put together an operation at the house or we can intercept them if they leave."

"I actually just want to talk to the punk for now," replied Mr Teeth, "and don't want to go stirring up trouble that might attract attention."

"My associates are very discreet and very competent." Peck's voice was smooth and cool.

"I'm sure they are." and expensive too, I bet, "OK, see what you can do. Call me when you've got him to the address I gave you."

"As you wish." The line went dead with a soft click.


"We thought you'd sprouted wings and flown away, old sock." said Teatime, hopping onto his accustomed place on Harold's shoulder once more.

"Not quite," laughed Harold, "although I did spend a small amount of time in the air when the bomb went off. Luckily, Reverend Box came along at just the right time." Between them, Box and Harold filled in the missing pieces of the night's events.

"OK," said Mercury, when they'd finished, "We need to work out how to flush out the traitor in our midst – maybe he or she will lead us to whoever is causing us so much trouble."

"I've been thinking," said Othello, turning to Box, "Your Dynamo records, did you really send them away and, if so, where?"

"I never actually had any," said Box, "I made all that up so I could give you the Osprey building's address. Sorry"

"So there are no records left then? You mentioned an Agent Iris having some, but there was no such agent in our database."

"Ah," Box smacked his hand against his forehead, "I'm such an idiot. Iris was the joke name I used to call him back then, on account of his surname."

"Which was?"

"Rainbow – his name was Mark Rainbow. Iris is a messenger of the goddess Hera and the personification of the rainbow, you see?"

"No wonder I couldn't find him." Othello rubbed his eyes, "Any coffee around here?"

"I'll make some," volunteered Harold, who quite fancied a cup himself. He went into the kitchen and began fiddling with the coffee maker. After a few moments, he heard the kitchen door open. He turned around and was surprised to see India coming into the kitchen.

She held something out to him.

"Thought you might want this," she said, curtly. It was Harold's backpack, containing his trumpet.

"Wow!" he cried, "Thanks! I thought I was never going to see this again, that was really – "

But she was already closing the door on her way out.