EXTRACTS FROM ‘CRY OF THE MACHI A Suffolk Murder Mystery’
A stone figurine hung limply from the buttress of a Suffolk village church tower. Although some of its sharper features had been eroded by centuries of weathering, it had survived there, attached to the stone work, since circa 1350 at the height of the first outbreak of the Black Death. The Mephistophelian creature had a melancholy countenance, yet this was combined with a hint of twisted smile making the effigy both sinister and extremely disturbing to the eye of the beholder. Nobody seemed to know how it had been put there except that there were vague stories, handed down through the generations. One such yarn attributes the hideous monstrosity to one of the few survivors of the plague, a certain non-Christian medieval nobleman, Hugo De Waldegrove a Baronial Lord of middle Suffolk who was appalled at the devastation of the Black Death which had obliterated his workforce of serfs and villeins as well as most of his subservient yeoman farmers, squires and knights. De Waldegrove dabbled in the dark arts. Apparently, he might have commissioned his last surviving stonemason, to carve the satanic figurine to be hung at the church to signify the epidemic as the work of the devil, as a warning to all of the power of evil and the need to pay constant homage to it. Other tales strongly indicate that Hugo and the stonemason were later burned at the stake for heresy and witchcraft. However, no records or grave were ever discovered to support this. Many thought the whole saga was purely hocus-pocus and nobody had ever really bothered to have the thing removed. Few ever thought that De Waldegrove would ever seek revenge.
A rarely seen Puma was shot dead in Temuco, Chile; whilst high in the remote sub-Andean forests another mauled and very seriously wounded a Mapuche Indian. The man was cured by the Shaman ‘Machi’, a kind of female witch doctor, after a British missionary Doctor’s medicine had failed. The excitable Chilean news media enjoyed the fantasy conjecture that the mountain Cougar was possibly acting in revenge for the death of its distant cousin. There was some confusion as to the exact order of the two events separated by mountains and forests that, even in the modern age, were steeped in ancient tribal mysticisms and legends associated with dark forces.
A baby boy was found by the vicar, abandoned in the porch of his church, at Widecombe In The Moor. Here, also, a strange hideous gargoyle appeared on the side of the wall above the porch. The cleric was most distressed upon the discovery of the infant’s body and particularly alarmed at some disturbing markings which were identical to symbols that he had seen in his theological college books that mentioned the black arts. He conducted a secret exorcism before handing the child over to the social services who eventually found adoptive parents for him. The mother of the baby was never discovered. A year later, the vicar died a most horrible death. The baby eventually grew into a very disturbed man.
In a high class Jewellery establishment in London’s Hatton Garden, the customer allowed himself a smile which was not a trait that he was noted for. He had previously visited the premises a few weeks before with a photocopy taken from a newspaper cutting showing a detailed picture of a small silver pendant upon a chain. It was an unusual piece and having an exact replica made from such relatively little detail cost a small fortune. However, it was one which the very frugal man, who spent very little of his money on anything else, could afford. He had come to the best in the land and they had made an excellent job of it. He smiled again as he handed over five hundred and twenty pounds in used bank notes, thanked the proprietor for his trouble and said that he neither required a receipt nor to have the item wrapped. The jeweller noticed something very odd about the customer. When handing over the money, it was apparent that the middle two fingers of this left hand were joined together. Later, in his garden shed, the man prepared a crude, lethal, poisonous concoction. He would ask his Lord for a sign to begin the process of elimination with the killing of one of the more prominent members of the side. This would spread as a warning to all of those who dabbled in centuries old activities bordering the dark arts as entertainment; mocking his master. On a wider scale, highly organised crime would take care of the process worldwide.
Outside an East Anglian village pub, a strangely clad group of men cavorted about in a weird choreography of disjointed movements that bore no resemblance to anything that could be labelled as ‘dance’, in the modern sense. Their vividly bright attire with, most notably, bells worn upon legs accompanied occasional rhythmic, singing incantations and one of them was concealed within the sinister facsimile mock-up of an animal. Another sported a top hat and frequently hit the animal, a stoat, with what appeared to be a balloon upon the end of a stick. Most of the participants had little idea of what their activities symbolised, much less did the crowd who applauded. Their antics, modified over the centuries, had worldwide origins in the mists of time, especially the Middle Ages. One of the ‘dancers’ understood and some of his deep knowledge was terrifying. There was an occasion when the stoat, keeled over on to the ground and the audience, thinking it was part of the performance, laughed. They did not realise that the person inside of it was dead and that this was merely the tip of an iceberg of evil.
FURTHER EXTRACTS FROM CRY OF THE MACHI
Looking out upon the Green, on lovely summer evening, Charlotte supposed, the scene could easily have been in Winchester Massachusetts, instead of a remote niche of East Anglia; specifically, mid Suffolk. All of the ingredients were there. Bordering the pond was the church with its perpendicular spire and close by were white, weather boarded little houses. Some were comically leaning over as if wanting to swim in the cool water where the discerning eye would observe some roach and golden carp occasionally rising to the surface. Some small boys with a net tried to catch fry to put into an old jam jar.
It was very hot.
“But not as hot as New England, at this time of year,” she muttered to herself.
The stunning straw blonde wondered what she was doing here, far from her native America. It had been a long journey in more ways than one. Her husband, the busy New York tycoon, had proved to be a total bastard and despite the luxury of a Manhattan apartment and the holiday retreat in the Hamptons, on the super rich Long Island, she had left the swine to his whores, his drinking, drugs and perversions.
At over one thousand two hundred and fifty feet high, the Empire State was evenmore impressive now that it had reverted to its former predominance. Since the tragic disappearance of the previously neighbouring, and much younger, twin towers it was king of the New York skyline once again. Carl sighed at the horrendous memories of 9/11 yet marvelled at how the city had revived. At night, he watched small birds flutter about outside his window attracted by the bright floodlights which dramatically revealed the building’s famous summit to the whole world.
The air out there was now a lot purer following the severe restrictions imposed upon public smoking. He smiled at the recollection of walking around the outside promenade of the 86th Floor Observatory and smelling the pungent aroma of hundreds of thousands of Marlborough cigarettes wafting up from the cafés, bars and sidewalks way below. Hypocritically, Carl Rossini smirked even more as he took a long drag upon a huge cigar. Whilst his employees in the surrounding offices were prohibited from smoking, Mr Rossini still enjoyed indulging in his inner sanctum. The palatial suite, some two thirds of the way towards the top of the Empire State building, was his business home in the sky. It incorporated a spacious apartment, complete with bedroom, bathroom, lounge and kitchen as well as the actual office, secretarial office and conference room. Indeed, it was where he spent most of his time when he was not clubbing, womanising, drinking, snorting coke or travelling the globe conducting more deals. This was his world, his power base and no goddamed Mayor or municipal authority were going to tell him what he could or could not do in his own fucking office. In any case, directly or indirectly, he owned a substantial part of the city and considerable parts of the wider America with assets throughout the rest of the world.
Carl Rossini was a legitimate businessman yet, as his surname suggested, he was connected to Old Italian families of Sicilian origin and, when the occasion arose, he was not beyond using those connections to their fullest advantage.
Rossini picked up the telephone and spoke to his male Private Secretary.
“Georgio…where the fuck is my wife ?”
After the rude awakening of Maggie’s early morning call, Charlotte had decided that a brisk walk was urgently needed to clear her head and put thoughts into perspective. She had taken a quick tour around the village. This would also give her a slight appetite for a hurried breakfast of toast and marmalade with gallons of strong coffee before attempting to get ready for an assignation that she was not particularly looking forward to yet, concerning which, she was curiously intrigued.
After skirting around the pond and passing Lionel Palfrey’s house, the American came upon the Church which she had never really had a chance to explore although now certainly was not the time to do it. Nevertheless, looking up at the tower, she was a aware of a sinister figurine strangely attached, in an unexpected position, to one of the support buttresses It was more than just a gargoyle and, even more fascinating was that its quite large face reminded Charlotte of somebody that she encountered in the area. She shuddered a little as, most frustratingly, she could not recall who the face belonged to. There had to be some explanation. Maybe Ms Driscoll would have some knowledge of it.
Charlotte did not know why she had hurriedly dolled herself up. She was not going to be swept off her feet by some gorgeous hunk or, maybe, even Corin Farnsworth who she found quite attractive. Instead, she was to be obviously wooed by a plump lump who she suspected might have a preference for her own sex to that of men. In which case Maggie would be sadly disappointed because Charlotte Rossini was dead straight with no messing ! Nevertheless, feminine pride had transformed her into looking the million dollars that would no doubt have Ms Driscoll drooling into her Guinness. Her chic leather bomber jacket covered a seductive little silk top, revealing some bare midriff which was complemented by a pair of skin tight leather trousers tucked into knee length stiletto heeled boots.
As the Drama teacher’s old Mark 1 spitfire roared into Charlotte’s driveway, a pair of eyes peered from behind some bushes.
“You l..l…ook f..f…fucking b..b…beautiful,” stuttered the voice below the eyes.
The church clock tower struck three o’clock. It was that early hour of the Suffolk morning which fitted between the two main time zones of Thorpe Amberley’s human activity. The late night illicit ‘O.T’ drinkers of Edwin Garner’s bar propping buddies at the ‘Cat’ had long since departed towards their alcoholic slumber. And, the extremely early morning work schedules of the farming milking routine, the milkman’s round and the sorting of the newspapers and post in the village stores cum post office had not yet begun. In all probability, the village was still blissfully asleep apart from one solitary soul.
As the moon briefly appeared from behind a troublesome dark bank of cumulonimbus which threatened a later morning downpour, its bright translucent, pale blue light illuminated the figurine on the church tower buttress. The kneeling body, below, implored to the effigy as it nodded assent.
“Give me another sign, master…I know what I must do…his name is Farnsworth…just the right choice…a popular leading member…”
In a state of semi-consciousness, Farnsworth thought he had received a severe blow to the head. He was vaguely aware of a human shape standing over him and thought he recognised it. Some form of liquid was being forced into his mouth. Before his eyes closed again he thought the figure was holding something that resembled a spade and was also aware of severe pains shooting through his body from the area of his stomach. As he began to drift off, his last recollection was the howl of a large dog.
FROM THE MEMOIRS OF DR. LIONEL PALFREY PhD, B.A (Hons) LLB.
I had travelled inland through forested valleys, from which popped up smaller mountains that appeared blue, shrouded in misty clouds, below the higher snow capped volcanoes and the Andes themselves. Here, in these menacing remote communities, resurrecting disturbing childhood memories, I now fully learned the basis of ritualistic killings and cures some of which were too horrific to think about such as the Machi ordering the severing of arms and legs and sticking the mutilated torso into the sand to be washed away by the waters of the Pacific.
“Meezta Lionel” a shrivelled, wizened life form, squatting in the doorway of her Ruka, had rasped at me.
The Machi barely spoke English but the old lady’s remarkable powers recalled, from seeing me, the man before her, the face of the small boy who, thirty years ago, had sat upon his father’s knee who, as a Doctor, had failed to cure one of the tribe yet witnessed an amazing resurrection of life from certain death.
The 747 had finally taxied to a halt as McQuaid had yawned and woken from his mixed, disturbed snooze and reverie. It had been a strange period of diverse emotions. He had scratched around in Winchester and could have won an Oscar for his acting ability, masquerading as one of Charlotte’s old Harvard Tutors to her suspicious parents. Finally, he had convinced her more gullible younger brother that he needed to contact her regarding a monetary award that the University wished him to present to her, belatedly, in respect of an outstanding Thesis that she had previously written. Thus the young man had given Kelvin the contact details that he had needed and, within hours, as Rossini had said to spare no expense, he had found himself in the lap of luxury in the first class upper deck of the British Airways Jumbo bound for Britain.
The Martlesham H.Q immediately notified DCS Thomas, already at the nearby scene of the two other crimes, that another victim called Farnsworth had been discovered.
“You must be joking,” Thomas screamed into the mouthpiece upon receiving the news. “It’s turning into a fucking massacre…never had anything like this in all my years in the Force…more bodies than the bloody Falklands conflict !” With fresh findings seemingly appearing by the minute, his mind was immediately racing towards the reality of a skilled manpower problem and he would probably need to call upon assistance from other Forces, possibly from Scotland Yard, itself.