“Lord Der Ärzte, I hope this morning finds you in good health?”
“Ah, Lieutenant, thank you. I am fighting fit.”
His Lordship, who sat by the grand open window of the Bone Valley Gentlemens Club, placed his newspaper gently on the coffee table, then smiled at the standing Lieutenant and her two coppers.
“I see you’ve brought my old friends. Did they receive the gift baskets, including the excellent hand moisturisers I sent them?”
A low-level buzz was rolling through the seated membership. Never before had a …woman dared enter the hallways of the hallowed Gentlemen’s Club.
…Admittedly, the original halls no longer existed, thanks to the witches and their little power struggle with the Dragon Queen. Sadly, now the halls resembled sandbags with lime-painted daub rubbed on them. But at least they had a roofed retreat to… withdraw from their wives and mothers. The fact still remained; this was no place for a lady. Bushy affronted eyebrows were beginning to rise.
The larger of the two police officers clad in his heavy dark blue woollen cloak nodded, his custodian helmet in hand. “Indeed, yes! Thank you for your kindness, your Lordship, very thoughtful. The wife commented this morning that she thought there was already a significant change to the supple nature of my calluses’.”
The Lieutenant continued to smile, her green eyes twinkling below a blond fringe cut straight with little thought of fashion. “Yes, your Lordship, very kind, but there’s been a complaint that we need to address.”
“Has there!” was exclaimed in a crescendo from his Lordship’s surprised face. “About what pray to tell Lieutenant? And could it not have waited to be addressed when one was not at one’s club?”
Innocence reeked from Lord Der Ärzte’s clean-shaven face, his blue eyes radiating nothing but the truth and upstanding ignorance.
“Oh, most definitely, your Lordship, but where would the fun be in that?”
Lieutenant smiled at the broader community, which made up the smokey and disgruntled ‘Gentlemen’s Club of Upper Bone Valley’.
“I see…” Lord Der Ärzte crossed his long, lean legs, laced his fingers together and smiled, bracing himself for the Lieutenant’s diversions. “I didn’t realise that the suburb of Gusty Parcel came under your beat?”
A cloud of expensive smoke enveloped the Lieutenant and her men. “Really, Lord Kiffer, must you blow your second-hand filth in my direction!” His Lordship sat forward in his chair and pushed the window open a little further, holding the rest of the gentlemen’s cigar smoke at bay.
The two police constables who stood behind the Lieutenant shifted ever so slightly. They, in their years of service, had witnessed one or two individuals leg it through open windows and, surprisingly, one or two attempts at legging it through a closed one. Even though his lordship didn't seem to be the type you never knew with the rich, they had ways, unlike ordinary folk.
“Yes, that’s what Constable Blusher said when I informed him we were coming here for a little visit. Not in our district. But, as I explained to the Council of Five, crime does not respect political, geological or socioeconomic boundaries. We go where the scent leads us.”
She looked around the smoking room and its disgruntled corps, “And Lord Der Ärzte, the scent has led me back to you! Why do you come here if you don’t like the smoke?”
His Lordship sat still for a moment. No deep thoughts ran through his mind, but he felt that taking time before he spoke always added an air of intelligence. If he had bothered to ask the Lieutenant, she would have informed him it only added an air of suspicion.
“Really, you followed my scent; how strange. I bathe every day! Even though Banks complains loudly about my cleanliness obsession. I always say, ‘Banks, I don’t care how heavy those buckets of hot water are; you’ll carry them right up to my bathroom, you’ll fill my bath, you’ll put my rubber duck and clean loofah in it, and then Banks you’ll make sure the bubbles are at least 10 cm high, and after that, you’ll wash my back. He can be a real little whiner when he gets going! But,” his Lordship held up a finger to the sky, “cleanliness is an essential business. Got to keep all those little microbes as far away from me as possible. And as far as coming here to sit in a smokey room when I detest the dirty habit. Well, Lieutenant, even though the atmosphere disgusts me and, in fact, once I return home, I tend to strip down to my naked glory in the kitchen where Banks takes all my clothing and boils them ready for my next visit. I attend these smokey halls because… Have you met my Mother yet, Lieutenant? Because, if you had, you would understand why I choose the lesser of the two evils.”
“Where do you get your water from?” enquired the Lieutenant.
Lord Der Ärzte sighed, unsettled at the strange question. “Our well, of course; where else?”
“Oh, the well that draws up from the river, which everyone evacuates themselves in? You live just downriver from Crappers Bridge, don’t you?”
“Your point, Lieutenant?”
“Nothing, your Lordship, but I’ve ensured that I, all my lad’s houses and our new cop shop have water passed through ‘John Snow’s Water Purifier’ before we use it.”
“Your point, Lieutenant?”
The Larger constable stifled a snigger before announcing, “You and your gentlemen friends should try it, your ‘onner; I know I likes me bath and more to the point me drinking water free of microbes, piss and turds.”
A murmur of disagreeable complaints rippled through the club.
“Well,” his Lordship tightened his laced fingers, “it seems I can do no right. Please, Lieutenant, make haste with your business.”
A smile grew, pulling the lieutenant's mouth up at its corners. “Certainly, your Lordship. Mr Tarty made a complaint about you this morning and the way your butler assaulted him.”
“Did he!” erupted from Lord Der Ärzte’s mouth like an affronted old Nana and reader of Daniel Dafoe’s scandal sheets.
“Yes, he did, in fact, Mr Tarty stated.” The Lieutenant signalled to the immense constable beside her, who took out his blue notebook and began to read in a thunderously loud and clear voice.
“Mr Mori Tarty claims that on the night of the 25th of Hot Month One, that Lord Harold Der Ärzte did; lock him in his basement against his will. Tie him up whilst he was asleep. Force women's underpants into his mouth. Set an elderly butler, who was akin to a wild animal with bright green glowing eyes and who drained him of all his blood and killed him. Mr Tarty also alleges that Lord Der Ärzte also threatened him once he Mr Tarty was dead by saying that if he Mr Tarty ever annoyed his Lordship again that he, his Lordship, would make Mother Harper and all her medical antics look like a children's game for stupid children who were too thick to understand not to pick on the big boys who have an ample supply of cricket bats. And that Mr Tarty would be best to bugger off somewhere cold, dull and uncomfortable but suitably far, far away from his Lordship. But before he Mr Tarty left town, Mr Tarty was to make sure that payment for an annual subscription to National Geographic, including the collector's binder, had been paid for, outta Mr Tarty’s own money and put into his lordship's name. ”
“Err, Lieutenant, just one simple enquiry before you continue.”
“Yes, your lordship.”
You stated that Mr Tarty, of whom I have not had the pleasure, as he was not at home when Banks and I wrapped on the door of his little butcher's shop, made this statement when he was… dead.”
“Yes, your lordship.”
“Did he send the message from the grave?”
“No, your lordship, he made it in person.”
“An Ouija board then, perhaps?”
“No, your lordship, he stood before the Desk Sergeant this morning and also put a claim in against you for a fine tailored suit, which you stole from him during the said abduction and murder, along with his extremely expensive wallet with a thousand smackers in it.”
“And he stated he was dead… whilst standing and complaining to the Desk Sergeant about a load of old poppy cock.”
“Yes, your Lordship.”
“Interesting.” Lord Der Ärzte tapped at his chin thoughtfully before continuing in a contemplative tone, “Have you considered the fact, Lieutenant, that most dead people are not known for being very talkative or even walking into a police station to lay a complaint once death greats them.”
“Yes, your lordship, I am aware, but as Mr Tarty has a medical certificate that states he’s dead, who am I, a mere woman, to question the wise words of the medical fraternity led by a whole bunch of well-water-drinking men?”
“Exactly, but would this lack of typical dead behaviour, therefore, not exclude my butler or myself from being murderers?”
“Well, it would your ‘onner, but after Mr Tarty had a cup of tea and half a packet of Mother Merriweather’s butter biscuits, he said he felt much better and would be dropping his accusations. And I’m sure you would be most happy he did; otherwise, you’d be in chains and enjoying John Snow’s purified water whilst being deloused.”
“Well then, that makes me very grateful for butter biscuits and the fact I won’t be reintroduced to your men’s newly moisturised hands.” His Lordship nodded to the two police officers once more. “Is this all you wished to speak to me about today, Lieutenant? Since you are not charging me or dragging me in for a delousing?”
“So far, it is your Lordship. Please refrain from leaving the limits of our fine city until my investigation is officially finished. I really wouldn’t like to have to hunt you down like a feral rabies mad dog!” A smile was given, which sent a shiver up Lord Harold Der Ärzte spine. “And by the way, your Lordship, I'm sure the bruising around your eyes and nose will improve if you apply heat to it. Blood-worst sausages can be so dangerous in the wrong hands. “
“My dear Lieutenant, let me assure you, I have no plans whatsoever of going anywhere. And please assure Mr Tarty that I hope he recovers fully from his death. I simply don't understand what you mean by sausage as I was at home all night with my mother reading my National Geographics, which anybody would know is my favourite book as I purchase a copy every week from Blind Freddy’s newspaper shop, and have acquired quite publicly a large collection of antique national geographics. ”
“No offence, your lordship, but you're a terrible liar. You don't have the eyes for it.”
The young Lieutenant nodded, then turned on her thick leather-soled shoes and sauntered out of the club, ensuring she eyeballed several gentlemen on the way out, giving them enough greeting so that most knew, she knew, who they all were.
“Hmmm.” Was his lordships only quiet musing?
“Your Lordship.” A six-foot-seven blond god of a man stood holding a silver tray with a little glass of sherry and a small cube of cheese on it.
“Ahh, thank you, Banks, you’re a dear.”
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If you’re reading Lord Der Ärzte and The Last Dragon - Bone Valley… you may be wondering… Waaa?
So, both novels were born from short stories around the same time. And somehow… one story looked over the shoulder of the other, and then I realised they were actually being written in the same setting - the wonderful, if slightly charred, city ‘Bone Valley’.
Chronologically - The Last Dragon comes first, and then set a year or two later is Lord Der Ärzte.
Is it wise to write two books at the same time whilst re-editing a third…
But, if we only do what is wise, most dreams will never be achieved.
About the Creator
I have a dark sense of humour, which pervades most of what I write. I'm dyslexic, which pervades most of what I write. My horror work is performed by Mark Wilhem / Frightening Tales. Pandora's Box of Infinite Stories is growing on Substack