Month: January 2018

Sinister Dexter : The Chief Inspector Gains The Upper Hand

For you, my dear readers, a little snippet from the upcoming installment of PorterGirl – Sinister Dexter, where we welcome back a favourite from The Vanishing Lord, Detective Chief Inspector Thompson…

It never does to keep The Dean waiting, but I do take a moment to wash the cream and jam from my hands and face before leaving the Lodge. If he thinks we’ve been having cake without him, there could be trouble. The condition of my waistcoat is perturbing, but there is little I can do about that right now. I imagine I shall have to order a new one. Still. I doubt The Dean will notice such a thing.

Stepping out from the Porters’ Lodge, a chill wind nips at my ears. The only downside of the bowler hat is that it does little to protect the ears from the elements. I am given to thinking that perhaps a deerstalker might be better this time of year and would certainly be appropriate for investigating all the mysterious things that happen around here. Mind you, I doubt that the miserly purse strings of The Bursar would stretch to additional hats, considering his cost-cutting measures where essentials such as tea are concerned. And that’s another thing. Although I am grateful for the embezzled brew purloined by Hershel, the police really do drink substantially second-rate tea compared to that of the fine selection provided by Head of Catering. It’s given me wind. I can’t imagine it can be the cake. Cake can’t be blamed for anything.

The smallest of shudders tickles my spine, but it isn’t the cold. A familiar creeping oiliness puts my teeth on edge and I look around me. There he is, swaggering towards me with his rakish pearly grin and the icy blue eyes that never quite look you in the face.

“Professor Palmer, what an unexpected pleasure,” I say through gritted teeth. The Dean seems sure he has the means for revenge upon the vile creature so I had best maintain a pretence for now.

“Yes, Deputy Head Porter, I’m sure it must be! What are you doing out here all alone?”

“I’m on my way to see The Dean,” I reply, forcing a smile.

“Oh, The Dean, really?” Professor Palmer positions himself so close to me that I have to tip my head in order to avoid talking to his chest. “While you’re up there I don’t suppose you could measure up for curtains, could you? I’m thinking of going for a Regency theme, actually. You won’t recognise the place, Deputy Head Porter, it will be beautiful – very inviting and comfortable for discerning ladies such as yourself.”

“I like The Dean’s rooms quite as they are,” I reply, quickly tiring of diplomacy. “They serve very well for the business of being The Dean. They are not generally used for entertaining ladies, discerning or otherwise.”

“They will be when I get in there,” snorts Professor Palmer. “Besides, you seem to spend quite a bit of your time up there. I do hope this is something that will continue during my tenure? Keeping on the good side of The Dean of College can be very beneficial, as I’m sure you already know.”

“The Dean doesn’t really have a good side,” I point out. “I find it best to ignore his sides and simply maintain a safe distance.”

“You’re not wrong there, the man is stark staring bonkers! All this nonsense about Russian spies. You would think he had more important things to worry about.”
“What do you know about Russian spies?” I ask, narrowing an eye meaningfully.

“Enough to surmise that they are unlikely to be paying Old College much attention,” Professor Palmer smirks. “It’s no wonder The Master wants to find a replacement. The man’s a liability.”

“A liability maybe, but at least he has a proper degree.”

I wish I had been brave enough to say this but I cannot lay claim to such a riposte. It seems we have been joined by the stealth-like Detective Chief Inspector Thompson and he appears in no mood for Professor Palmer.

“Do you mind!” shrieks Professor Palmer. “I am a member of The Fellowship and you are merely a policeman. How rude!”

“I don’t mind at all,” replies the Chief Inspector, dry as a bone. “Being a policeman has all sorts of interesting benefits – being rude to people is one of them. I’ll thank you to run along, now, I want to speak to Deputy Head Porter.”

“You can quite clearly see that I am already speaking to Deputy Head Porter,” huffs the Professor. “Not that such social norms usually stop you, as I recall.”

“The young lady in The Albatross? Police business, Palmer. As is this, because, as you so cleverly pointed out, I am a policeman.”

“A likely story!” Professor Palmer squares up to the detective, who looks rather pleased about the matter. “Tell me, Chief Inspector, is it because you can’t find any female company of your own that you insist upon stealing mine?”

“It certainly says something about your company that I find them so very easy to steal,” DCI Thompson gives the Professor possibly the smuggest look I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some pretty smug looks, let me tell you. “Come on Deputy Head Porter, walk with me.”

DCI Thompson strides past, his sturdy shoulder clipping the Professor’s as he does so. I trot along obediently behind, doing my best to keep up and giggling girlishly at the prospect of being ‘stolen’. But the Chief Inspector has little time for giggling. We head over the Bridge and into the cloisters of Old Court and find ourselves alone. I wait politely as DCI Thompson silently looks around the empty courtyard, taking in the stoic grandeur. The light of the day is beginning to fade but the frosted flagstones still find themselves able to twinkle in the dusk. Although the air is cold, there is a warmth of sorts in the courtyard that is difficult to explain. Old College doesn’t hold with the laws of nature, so perhaps it just isn’t in the mood for winter this evening.

“I can see why you stay here, Deputy Head Porter,” says the detective. “The place certainly has its charms.”

“It does rather get to you after a while,” I reply. “Also I really like the hat.”

“Is that why you left the police? Because they did away with proper hats?”

DCI Thompson is referring to a recent amendment to the uniform adopted by several forces, where the traditional hats of officers have been replaced by baseball caps. An absolute travesty, in my opinion, but something that occurred after my departure.

“Something like that, Sir.”

“I looked into your background, Deputy Head Porter. By all accounts your career seemed to be going rather well. What made you up sticks to The City and join Old College?”

Well. This is uncomfortable. 

“It’s a long story, Sir.”

“Just what is your story, Deputy Head Porter?” the Chief Inspector asks. “There’s something about you that doesn’t quite… fit.”

My story? Now there’s a question. Really, I could write a book. But here and now are neither the time nor the place. I’m expected by The Dean and discussing my personal life with a senior detective isn’t high on my list of priorities. I decide to distract the Chief Inspector with information regarding the investigation.

“I’ve been speaking to some of the students, Sir,” I say. “It seems that The Dean was right – there is an occult connection between the deceased. How relevant that is, I couldn’t say – although I’m sure you know more about it than I do.”

“I would hope that I do, Deputy Head Porter, I am the lead officer in the case after all!” the DCI laughs as he removes his pocket notebook from his jacket. “Nonetheless, thank you, this is certainly useful.”

“How are things going, in the investigation?” I ask, watching as DCI Thompson makes notes in his little book.

“Oh, I think I’ve gained the upper hand,” he replies. “I always do. Sooner or later.”

I can believe it.

The detective snaps shut the notebook and returns it to the jacket, turning to me with a concentrated frown. I’m sure he intends to ask me something awkward, but is thrown off course by the sudden eruption of the chorus of Sweet Home Alabama from his trouser pocket. I suspect that this is his personal – rather than work – phone and he scrabbles to answer it. I take the opportunity to escape to the relative safety of The Dean’s rooms while I can, making vague pointing gestures to indicate my departure. The Chief Inspector displays utter disinterest, throwing a cursory wave over his shoulder as I scuttle off along the cloister.

Sinister Dexter : Prologue

I am very much looking forward to the release of new PorterGirl novel, Sinister Dexter – so much so that I can’t actually wait. Here, have a little look at the prologue…

Old College; Winter 1448

“Didn’t I warn you? Didn’t I tell you, Humphrey, never to mention their name!”

“But who are they, Mister Gunby? Who are The Vicious Circle?”

Roger Gunby pulled the brim of his hat down low over his eyes and shuffled towards the Lodge door, extinguishing the candles with a frosted breath and muttering to himself. Groping in the dark with numb fingers, the very first Head Porter of Old College fumbled with the latches until he was satisfied that the portal was secure. Dragging his feet in the manner of one who would rather be anywhere else, he returned to where Humphrey cowered at the back of the Lodge.

“This College has stood for not yet a year and already trouble stalks the cloisters,” hissed Gunby, his spittle-drench speech somehow managing to convey menace with barely a whisper. “Sit down.”

Humphrey dragged a three-legged stool to the scrubbed wooden table that served as desk, dining table and postal counter in the Porters’ Lodge. Gunby sloshed the dying dregs of tea in its pot, pouring himself a muddy mugful, but offering his subordinate-in-training nothing. Pulling up his own seat – one with arms and an extra leg, no less – something occurred to Gunby.

“I say, Humphrey – are there any of those little hard bread-things left in the tin?” he asked. “Those things that Maud from the kitchens brought to you the other day?”

“Maud calls them gingerbreads, Mister Gunby. She says they are for the purpose of aiding the digestive system,” Humphrey replied. “There are none left, I am sad to say.”

“No matter. Our digestion is the least of our worries.”

Humphrey sighed. After years as serving as dogsbody for The City Minister, he thought that joining the new and forward-thinking educational establishment of Old College would provide a welcome respite from the cruel and archaic ways of the church. Little did he know that the Order of the Lesser Dragon, the shadowy and secret society that founded Old College, had ways about them that were crueller and even more archaic; an institution older than even organised religion that was now seeking to reclaim the power and influence it believed to be rightfully its own.

The fresh and innovative educational methods – which focused on science and facts, shining bright lights into the dark corners and shaded recesses inhabited by those led mindlessly by the ignorant hand of religion – had upset many within The City and beyond.

Grumblings and grim words against Old College spewed forth from the church and even the palace, but The Master, the fearsome Lord Arthur Layton, was adamant that the will of the Order of the Lesser Dragon was pure and they sought only to lead a new generation to prosperity through enlightenment.

None of which was of much interest to Humphrey Babthorp, who had taken the role of Gunby’s assistant with the hope of fewer early mornings and three square meals a day from the College kitchens. In fact, he got a great deal more from the College kitchens, thanks to the freely available hospitality of the maid, Maud. Such things had never been on offer at Little Saint Mary’s Chapel and, indeed, if they had been he would no doubt have found himself condemned to an eternity of fire and brimstone. The church was quite keen on fire and brimstone, but as a prospect it always seemed to feature in a dim and distant future. The fiery wrath of the Order of the Lesser Dragon was forever just around the corner.

“Chidiock Folifait, him that digs the holes, it was him that made mention of them, Mister Gunby,” Humphrey whispered in the dark, the outline of his companion only just visible in the gloom. “When that young Ralph Eels ended up in one of his holes, he said it was The Circle that put him there.”

“And well they might, for his sins,” replied Gunby, sipping at the cold and stewed tea.

“But I thought it was him that painted that magnificent portrait of Lord Layton?” said Humphrey, creasing his brow. “It was a fair work of art, that, I’ve never seen a likeness so beautiful.”

“Aye, you’re right, it is at that. And it’s not only the likes of thee and me that think so. Lord Simon from next door was most taken with the handiwork of young Eels.”

“Lord Simon? The Master of Hawkins College?”

“Aye, the same. He was so impressed by the painting of his good friend Lord Layton that he asked him to send the artist to him right away, so that he could have his own likeness committed to canvas in a glorious manner similar.”

“What wonderful news for Ralph,” exclaimed Humphrey. “To have his work so admired and to be in such demand by the notable dignitaries in The City!”

“Alas, no!” Gunby shook his head. “It was dreadful luck for young Eels. You see, Lord Layton is a vain and selfish creature, who could not bear for anyone – not even his own friend – to share in such a flattering talent. He wanted his painting to be the finest in the land and so refused to send the artist to Lord Simon.”

“How very mean-spirited!”

“But worse was to come,” Gunby continues. “When Eels got word of Lord Simon’s wishes, he went there himself to seek the commission. When Lord Layton heard of this, he was furious. He believed Eels to be slighting his honour and accused him of malicious intentions towards the reputation of Old College…”

“But that cannot be right, Mister Gunby!”

“Maybe it isn’t right, but it was what Lord Layton declared. And the Order of the Lesser Dragon does not take kindly to besmirching against them.” Gunby leaned his bulk across the little table until his lips were almost touching Humphrey’s ear. “Within their ranks there are those who… eliminate such besmirchers.”

“You mean The Vi…”

“Hush, you fool!” growled Gunby. “Even the mere mention of their name can bring them running! Their unswerving loyalty to The Master makes them most dangerous indeed. Even one of their own Order, an unfortunate fellow named Faldo, could not escape their reach. You can find him now beneath our very feet, in the foundations of this very building.”

Humphrey gasped and shivered against the cold, but it was the chill within that shook him most.

“But Mister Gunby, The Master says that Old College is for the new ways, to teach what is right and proper to the next generation!”

“And that is so, Humphrey. That is so.”

“But this… revenge and… it’s all just so very wrong!”

“Hush once again, idiot! The Master is never wrong.”

“But you agreed that what he did wasn’t right?”
“Just because something isn’t right, Humphrey, doesn’t make it wrong.” Gunby’s breath hung in the air between them.

“The opposite of right is wrong, Mister Gunby,” said Humphrey, quizzical in the darkness.

“Not always,” Gunby replied. “Sometimes, the opposite of right is left. It is all a question of perspective, Humphrey.”

Gunby placed his palms flat on the table and hauled himself to his feet. He shuffled over to the door and fumbled once more with the latches. Heaving open the wooden door, icy knives of night air stabbed their way in from outside and Humphrey shivered again. Stepping across the threshold, Gunby turned to his assistant once more.

“Remember that, Humphrey – it is all a question of perspective.”

Introducing – Poet Kevin Morris

Secret Diary of PorterGirl is delighted to welcome poet Kevin Morris, who would like to tell you a little about himself and his work. His latest highly acclaimed anthology has just been released in audio format.

mociw-for-acx-cover-2-small

I have long been a fan of Lucy’s writings, avidly following the adventures of Portergirl and Lucy’s wonderful Poirot parodies! I was therefore honoured to be invited to contribute a guest post to Lucy’s blog. Thank you Lucy!

I was born in Liverpool (UK) on 6 January 1969. The year in question is, of course best known (and celebrated) for my birth, although a few individuals do contend (wholly erroneously I may say) that 1969 is better known for the moon landings!

I lost the majority of my eyesight at 18-months-old due to a blood clot.

I am a braille user and have happy memories of leafing through “The Oxford Book of English Verse” and other poetry collections in the school library. (I attended The Royal School for the Blind, followed by Saint Vincent’s School for the Blind, both of which still exist and are located in Liverpool).

I read history and politics at University College Swansea and graduated with a BA (joint hons) and a MA in political theory. During my time at Swansea I participated in the student’s sailing club and have pleasant memories of swimming in the sea when the boat capsized!

In 1994 I moved to London where I now live and work.

The first poem I recollect having written was entitled “The Snake” and was banged out (literally) on a Perkins Brailler (a kind of braille typewriter, still in use to this day, for the production of braille. Braille is produced by a series of pins which punch holes into thick paper making letters which can be read by those familiar with the arcane art known as braille)!   Fortunately “The Snake” is forever lost to the reading public, I no not where!

I began writing poetry seriously in 2012. Much of my poetry is inspired by the environment. I am lucky enough to live close to an historic park in the Upper Norwood/Crystal Palace area (a suburb of London).

Upper Norwood derives it’s name from the Great North Wood and remains one of the greenest parts of greater London.

Being visually impaired I use Job Access with Speech or JAWS software which converts text into speech and braille enabling me to use a standard Windows computer or laptop.

 

Melting Ice 

Under the once-solid ice sheet

We meet

A demon some persist

In maintaining does not exist.

Deep in his throat, he rumbles;

And humanity stumbles

As yet another ice sheet crumbles.

(Taken from “My Old Clock I Wind And Other Poems”).

“My Old Clock” was recently released as an audio download and is available from Audible:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Arts-Entertainment/My-Old-Clock-I-Wind-and-Other-Poems-Audiobook/B077VYT3X6 (UK),

https://www.audible.com/pd/Drama-Poetry/My-Old-Clock-I-Wind-and-Other-Poems-Audiobook/B077VS5CTN (US).

“My Old Clock” can also be obtained (in ebook and paperback) from Moyhill Publishing http://moyhill.com/clock/.

It is also available (ebook only) in the Amazon Kindle store https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0735JBVBG.

You can also find “My Old Clock” on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35445316-my-old-clock-i-wind-and-other-poems.

For details of all my published works please visit https://newauthoronline.com/about/.

Blog and Social media

Blog/website – https://newauthoronline.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/drewdog2060_

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6879063.K_Morris