Tuesday, 16 February 2010


This is not a story set in our world, it is set in a world much similar to our own, but different in two important respects. Firstly, it may refer to things that exist in our world but only to the extent that allows me to make fun of them, but not to the extant that they can sue me for this. Secondly it is much, much sillier. Things exist there that are unlikely to happen in the near future in our world. For example, Brussels Sprouts actually taste nice, politicians tell the truth, and most shockingly of all the extra channels you get on freeview aren’t full of programmes you saw half an hour ago. However peculiar and alien this seems, it is worth remembering that everything in the following story is entirely factual, entirely factual that is, apart from the bits that have been made up.

Adept readers may note that Ye Olde Detective Agency abbreviates to Y.O.D.A. Of course, this has nothing to do with the character from a famous sci-fi film, its just a cheap stunt to try and get more people to read this. Obviously this is likely to fail as any intelligent readers will notice this almost immediately. But I digress… hopefully you’ve either been intrigued or I haven’t insulted you too much and either way you’re going to read this.


The castle sat on a small rise in the middle of the valley floor. It was quite noticeable, and if you’d asked any of the locals for directions they’d say, “Aye!” in a rather deep and booming voice if they were male, “the castle’s first right a’ter McGregor’s farm.” But it didn’t seem to figure at all in terms of Avysmere’s attractions. You’d probably get told about the ghost in the church (in reality a white cloth with an electric fan blowing it about), the fine Edwardian cobbled streets (quite why anyone would use cobbles after tarmac was invented wasn’t really discussed), and Jimmy McGregor’s five eyed fish (three of the eyes were fake, apparently he’d just sown them on for the extra tourist trade) he supposedly caught down in the local loch. Everything but the castle would be mentioned, it’d ruin the quaint Scottish village look.
Thus it wasn’t too difficult for Hans to find the castle. In fact it really shouldn’t have been a problem, but Daniel, the estate agent who’d originally looked at the property, had forgotten the way back. Hence the journey had been filled with several interesting detours, such as nearly driving off the end of the loch’s single pier, driving the wrong way through the village’s one way system and Daniel’s constant belief that driving through a herd of sheep meant you were taking a shortcut.
Hans was, of course, sat in passenger seat throughout this, fearing for his life. He’d observed that the car was one of those typical businessmen cars; a grossly oversized saloon in a murky maroon/brown colour that any sane person would vomit at the sight of and that was without the muddy splatter on the car after their earlier escapades. He’d also hung one of those pathetic supposedly pine–scented trees on his rear view mirror, in which Hans could see the ‘My Other Car Is a Ferrari Too’ sticker. Presumably Daniel hadn’t realised that you were meant to put that sticker in a Ferrari. ‘Oh well,’ supposed Hans, ‘just because the guy has taste in buildings doesn’t necessarily means it extends to anything else.’
Hans was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t realise they’d arrived at the castle until the car came to a halt in the centre of the gravel courtyard. The castle was more of a keep than the traditional motte and bailey design. The outer wall formed a square with all the buildings on the inside. The gatehouse on one side, a large building extending out of the opposite one with two smaller buildings protruded out of the other walls.
Both men clambered out of the car, stood up, and began taking in the immensity of it all. “Welcome, welcome, welcome, to your new home, Hans,” said Daniel, in his camp Canadian accent. Hans wasn’t listening though, he was scanning the courtyard. The medium built man, with the crew cut standing at the other side of the car knew what he was looking for, though, as Hans had spent several hours stressing the importance of it not being damaged in transit. “Your bike’s in the garage in that building there,” he said pointing behind Hans. He personally preferred his car, it was more spacious and comfortable, but he didn’t like the colour. However, all the other estate agents in the country had that colour, so he guessed it must be a sign of the trade. He had considered getting a nicer colour to symbolise his status as more of a relocation expert than just an average estate agent, but he had his motto for foreign lands. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
Hans knew where his priorities lay, his bike, his pride and joy. As soon as he heard where it was, he began heading in the direction Daniel had indicated, wanting to be re-united with it. He was unfortunately curtailed by shouting from the opposite side of the courtyard. Hans turned around and began walking back towards the car, spotting a thin man of medium height, wearing a mud stained tartan over-shirt and brown corduroy.
Hans walked back towards the man. They met; the man stroked his ginger-grey beard carefully, and then offered his hand. “Hans, this is Mervin, the groundskeeper,” said Daniel. “Well, look at the time, I’d better dash,” Daniel said as he hurriedly went to get in the car.
The vehicle spend of backwards as Mervin scowled and shouted, “An’ about time too! Aye, I’m glad to be making your acquaintance, sonny. This way, I’ll show yeh around then,” he said, pointing to a doorway in the large building opposite the gatehouse. “Yeh don’t mind me asking just one question though.”
“You just did, didn’t you?” replied Hans following Mervin to the door.
“Well I just wanna know why yeh sent me a crate of lard?”
“I don’t know, Daniel mentioned you seemed pretty keen on lard, you kept dropping it in conversation quite a bit, he even said you blessed it! I just thought it would be a nice gift!”
Mervin was furious. “Pretentious git!” he said spitefully as he clenched his fist, “All his bloody yeh canne speak yeh own accent, yeh’ve gotta speak proper English and all thaa twaddle. Poking and probing round the place, picking faults with every little last thing. He should talk, he canne tell the difference between Lord and lard, grr!”
Hans decided it would be best to remain silent for a little while.

Welcome to Avysmere Castle

The castle, well, looked quite castle like to be honest, which wasn’t much of a surprise. All the walls, floors and such were made out of stone, and the doors were of the big oaken, almost impossible to move, creaking variety. Some improvements had been made, though, for a start it was heated, and there was electricity in it too. Hans liked what he was seeing.
The tour quickly swept through the kitchens, great hall, bedrooms, hallways, scientific laboratories (quite why they were here confused Hans, but then so had the rest of what he’d seen today) and libraries. It was all done at quite a pace, so it rather surprised Hans when Mervin came to an abrupt stop outside one particular door. He turned to look at Hans with a face that reeked of seriousness, and warned, “You’d do well to cover yeh eyes, laddie.”
Hans didn’t bother he’d seen some pretty odd stuff around the place; it wasn’t exactly like one more room was going to hurt him. Even so, Hans drew breath as Mervin opened the door with a long droning creak.

It was worse than Hans could imagine. The chapel (if indeed it was supposed to be one, Hans thought it looked quite chapel like, the large crucifix was a bit of a giveaway) was a certain nauseating shade of bright pink, with orange splatterings here and there. And he didn’t dare focus on any of the furniture long enough to see what had been done to them.
“I take it yeh want me to sort out that mess then,” said Mervin.
“Of course,” replied Hans, “how on Earth did it get that awful?”
“The previous owner was part of some crazy religious group,” Mervin answered in disgust. Then raising his voice added, “’N’ look what he did to such a special place, it’s a disgrace!”
Feeling scared, Hans nodded in agreement as Mervin led him back the way they’d come and on through several more passage ways. He’d been saving the best part of the tour ‘til last, because this guy deserved it. He wasn’t some pompous, beer-bellied, crazy religious cult, lottery winning millionaire, he seemed to just be an ordinary bloke, admittedly not the sharpest knife in the draw, but not some dysfunctional electric chopping device that only ever seems to manage to chop into you rather than anything else. Yes, this guy was a vast improvement.
As he reached the door at the end of the corridor, he opened it slowly (more because it was slightly stuck, rather than for dramatic effect) and with a look of pride announced, “The Garden.”
They strode out into the lush green space; gravel paths stretched this way and that in front of them. Above on iron sconces extending from the walls hung candles, illuminating the ground below. They walked to the centre of the garden where yet another large candle stood proud atop a pedestal.
“So,” said Mervin, taking a long pause for effect before continuing, “Whaa do yeh think o’ my garden?”
“Well,” said Hans, trying to buy time so that he didn’t say anything stupid like usual. “It’s err... very nice and err... colourful, yeah,” he bumbled. “You’ve got this kind of sweeping effect,” he added as he waved his arm to demonstrate, smashing straight into the pedestal.
At this point three things happened. The first was that Hans arm caught fire and he began flailing around like, well, someone with their arm on fire. The second was that the pedestal fell to the floor, also setting fire to the plants around it. Thirdly, and rather less significantly, in a nearby city, a drunk, unshaven man stumbled across of 48 bottles of beer, and decided that if he was conservative they might just last him two days.

Mervin had seen the disaster unfold in front of him, he knew he had to act quickly, and so he reached into his pocket, pulled out something that looked drumstick shaped, and waved it in a circle in front of him, shouting “Brie and Camembert Sandwich!”
The rain began falling heavily immediately, taking little time to both put out the fires and soak the two men in the garden. Hans carried on smashing his arm against the floor for a minute or so before realising it was no longer on fire. He stood up straight, and then began to run to the castle for shelter from the rain, but after only a few steps he stopped. There was no rain here, yet just a few metres away, Mervin was still being drenched by it, something clearly wasn’t right. He stretched out his hand to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating, and yes, particles of water did bombard his hand. He stopped to think about this and failed to notice Mervin cross his arms before his body and shout, “Cease!”
Thus it rather startled Hans when it stopped raining before his eyes. What startled him even more was that Mervin was pointing a stick at him.
Hans dived for cover; there was something unsettling about someone you barely knew pointing at you.
“Eliminate,” shouted Mervin.
In mid air Hans was shocked to discover that all his clothing had suddenly become dry, but seconds later when he hit the floor, it went back to that damp feel again. He pulled himself to his feet, feeling like a bit of an idiot, and dusted himself off. Quite why he did this he wasn’t sure, as it didn’t serve any kind of purpose; you can’t exactly dust off water, what with it being a liquid.
“Sos... I guess I’ll stay put this time then,” said Hans apologetically.
Mervin grunted, then pointed what Hans had now realised was his wand at him and shouted, “Eliminate!”
This time Hans remained dry, so he turned himself to the other inconvenience from the fire accident. He grabbed his arm, and for failure of being able to think of any other words that would grab Mervin’s attention, said, “Erm.”
“Yes, well we’re just about to go to a library to look up the words for that,” answered Mervin hurriedly, reading his mind.
“Oh,” replied Hans. Feeling vaguely powerless and bewildered as to what was happening he resorted to the regular human practice of following the person who looks like they know what they’re doing. It couldn’t get much worse, he thought to himself.

Into the Library

The situation didn’t. More out of a want not to be clichéd than any kind of realism considering that a character like Hans is around. Instead it decided to be boring and let them get to the nearest library and prayed something interesting would happen there.
Mervin rushed into the room, towards the furthest of the four book lined walls. The shelves stretched from floor to ceiling and had one of those sliding ladders that you get the urge to race around the room on whenever you see them. In the middle was a small table, upon which Hans decided to sit unmajesticaly.
Hans sat there wondering why it looked the same as the three other libraries he’d been shown earlier today. Not just similar but physically alike. The main features of the room obviously, but there was the same notepad next to him on the table, the same oversized book hanging precariously out of the top shelf, and a random garden gnome on a lower shelf for no particular reason. Finally he plucked up the courage to ask Mervin.
“It’s a magic door, all the libraries basically exist, but in different places at different times, and they move about to where you want them to be,” answered Mervin.
“How does that work then?” asked Hans
“Yeh’re telling me you don’t know something as simple as that?” replied Mervin
“No, I don’t.”
“But everyone knows that!”
“Well I don’t, so just tell me,” said Hans getting a little wound up.
“But it’s so obvious!”
Hans realised what was going on. “You don’t know, do you?”
“Ah,” said Hans. Deciding that it might be worth his while to try out this door, he was going to be here for a bit. He walked over and stared at it. It certainly didn’t look magical; in fact it looked pretty similar to every other heavy oak door in the castle. Oh well don’t judge a book by its cover he thought as he began to play with the handle expectantly.
Nothing happened, so he decided to run his finger around the edge of the frame, nothing there either. He even began to start undoing the hinges before Mervin spotted him.
“What on earth do you think yeh’re doing?” he bellowed. “Yeh need to use the light switch to get it to work,” he added, tutting. Muttering about bloody southerners he carried on scouring the shelves. He muttered the names of each one, moving meticulously across the shelves. As he glanced over his shoulder, he saw Hans looking astounded by the view in front of him changing from first floor to third. “Aye, said to yeh it’d do that,” said Mervin, though privately thinking what on earth he expected to see. It wasn’t as if it was going to take him to some weird and wonderful alien world, it was just a simple magic door after all.
Mervin eventually found the book he wanted, which had been wedged into the last place he looked in the manner of anything you are ever desperately searching for. He set it down gently on the table and dusted it down. Flicking through it he found the page he wanted and began addressing Hans. However after a quick glance up from his scanning of the page he realised he had a huge problem. Hans had gone.

The Cure

It hadn’t taken Mervin long to work out where Hans had gone. He simply had to imagine he had the intelligence of a senile goldfish, the curiosity of a small child and had no understanding of magic whatsoever. Perhaps, not so simple after all, but Mervin knew Hans had just found out how the magic door worked on one side, so he’d probably tried the other. It didn’t take too long to find Hans, and when he did, Mervin began a long and particularly loud shouting session. Admittedly, this was mostly due to Mervin wishing Hans hadn’t brought that annoying Canadian along with him, not that he’d messed around with complex magic technology, but it felt good to finally relieve that anger.
There was a more serious reason to be yelling at Hans apart from the therapeutic ones. The castle has thirteen separate libraries that technically exist, but only the physical space for four of them, so that most of them exist in some limbo like state. As you may have by now guessed, Mervin decided to stop shouting and speak very slowly to try and help get the message across, it didn’t help. He tried to explain that anyone stuck there would not physically exist. Not physically existing is rather a traumatic experience for a human, especially when you get an itch on a neck that doesn’t exist. Some cases have been reported where people have been stuck in there for days, however most last for a few hours which is still enough time to drive most people completely mad. So it wouldn’t probably do Hans any harm anyway.
Mervin decided the best thing to do in this situation was probably to ignore the author’s rants and get on with the story. He sat Hans down and prepared to cast the spell. He took out his wand, outstretched Hans’ arm and rubbed the wand over the burns. To say this hurt Hans would be an understatement, but just before Hans was about to snap and hit Mervin, he shouted, “Flamenco deus.” The spell began rejuvenating Hans’ damaged cells immediately, the healing sweeping up his arm like a Mexican wave of skin.
“Whoa!” yelled as he jumped back, half in awe, half in fear at the wriggling of his skin. The pain had gone, so had the black burnt skin, if it was someone else you could have said it was back to normal.
Hans was more than impressed, he stood there for what someone with no sense of time would call aeons with his mouth gaping wide open like an imbecile. Mervin looked back at him, scanning up and down, searching in vain for some magical side-effect explanation for the behaviour he saw in front of him. Seeing nothing, he asked Hans if he was alright.
With all the excitement of a giddy school kid, Hans sprung to life. “How did you do that?” he asked Mervin.
“Well I used magic, dinna,” said Mervin, wondering how Hans managed to be rich enough to buy this place, but still dumb enough to not spot the obvious.
“I know that,” said Hans, “it’s just, well, how?”
“Well, it’s got a lot to do with other dimensions, micro-particles and a hell of a lot of other science mumbo-jumbo?”
“You do know you’re rubbish at making stuff up when you don’t know what on Earth you’re on about!” exclaimed Hans.
“Well, yeah,” said Mervin. He could see that he’d have to explain this in some explicit way that Hans could actually understand. “When you were at school did you get really excited in science class when you dissected the pig’s eyeball, but then proceeded to just chop it to tiny little pieces without listening to why you were supposed to be doing it?”
“Erm… no.”
“Oh, just me then; well you get the point anyway.”
“That you’re more of a practical man.”
“Just a little,” Mervin retorted sarcastically.
“Oh,” said Hans. “Can you please teach, me, please?” he added sounding like a small hyperactive child.

The Magic Moose Room

“We’re here,” announced Mervin as he reached the end of the corridor.
Hans looked around himself; all of the stone walls surrounding them were bare, except for a solitary flickering candlestick affixed to the wall before them. He began to wonder if the old man was going senile when he reached up and pulled the candlestick down.
The next minute Mervin was gone. The wall had spun around in an instant, leaving him facing an extinguished candlestick now.
Hans grabbed it almost immediately, the pull of inquisitiveness dragging him onwards where common sense would have told him to cry out for help.
The room he emerged into was covered various painting of moose. He gazed past Mervin around the room, seeing that every wall was littered with those images, and they all seemed to watching him, their eyes piercing his flesh.
He turned away from them to look directly at Mervin, as he said “Yeh’ve just entered the Magic Moose Room,” he said in a rather jolly voice, chuckling a little.
“What’s so funny?” asked Hans, missing the joke.
“Yeh know, it sounds like them drugs… oh, never mind,” said Mervin, realizing he’d be there ‘til next Tuesday if he waited for Hans to get the joke, and reached into his jacket instead. “Right in my hand I have a type 57B wand made from unicorn hair, ash and with a frog thigh bone core,” he continued spinning the wand around in his hand as he did. “Now I find thaa this kind of wand helps concentration a lot, that’s what it’s all about really belief, the power of yeh mind.”
“Alright, so why do you say the words if then, you seemed keen to look them up for my wound?” questioned Hans a little more confused than usual.
“Ah, now yeh’ve got there, another concentration aid to make you think about the spell, all yeh do is say something you associate with the spell, an’ then adjusting the volume of your voice and level of concentration determines the power and location of the spell. Anyhoo, we’re just gonna do some concentrating to build up our belief to start with, now grab thaa wand off the side and hold it out whilst yeh concentrate.”
It made sense now why the words Mervin was looking for were contained in a book called Max the Dog’s Big Adventure. He wasn’t sure whether that revelation worried him more now than it did then.
After standing there feeling like a bit of a fool for a few minutes, Hans plucked up the courage to speak, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel anything.”
Mervin mused upon this for a second, and then said, “There’s a tin a’
Treacle on the shelf over there, go an’ dip your hand in that.”
Hans did so, but felt even sillier than before. “Erm... all I feel now is this slimy treacle.”
“Well yeh did say you wanted to feel something,” replied Mervin with a light chuckle.
Hans sighed; it was going to be a long day.

A Nightime Encounter

It was one of those nights. The kind where no matter how hard you try to get to sleep, you can’t help thinking about what chicken actually tastes of. The number of times people come back off holiday and tell you that the local speciality tastes of chicken are remarkable, but no-one can ever seem to be really sure of what chicken itself tastes of. Hans thought it might be snake.
The proposition made perfect sense to him. Snakes had obviously been around for a long time. After all, it wasn’t a chicken that offered Eve an apple in the Garden of Eden was it? Not that Hans was particularly aligned to any one religion, if anything he favoured Buddhism because he liked the robes; but the reference in a document this old must been they’d been knocking around a fair few years.
All that remained for him to do now was test his theory. He’d had enough of lying on his back in this bed anyway. He pulled on a shirt and some jeans and went out to see if there was a phone anywhere in this castle.
His plan relied on their being a takeaway open at 3am that would deliver snake; not likely he thought, but this was the kind of problem that would prey on his mind if he didn’t try and resolve it immediately. There was, however, some chicken in the fridge to test it against, making this test slightly easier, but not much.
It didn’t take Hans too long to find the phone, but the problem then became that as he thought, no-one served snake, hardly surprising as there isn’t that much of a demand for it in Scotland. As he turned the page in the phone directory, he looked up and was surprised to see a woman in a red dress pulling along a vacuum.
Not quite sure what to make of this he decided to lift up the phone at the woman in as threateningly. Well, as threatening manner as he could given that he was holding a telephone and not an actual weapon. As he moved forwards he saw her more clearly, she was in her mid-twenties, with medium length dark hair and a body to die and, given he’d probably wouldn’t get the courage up again, he decided to find something else out too.
“Two questions,” said Hans, “What are you doing here in my castle and, if you don’t answer that with something that scares the life out of me, what are you doing on Thursday night?”
“You’re asking me out on a date?” she replied, feeling slightly perplexed by the situation.
“Ah!” said a voice from the end of the corridor moving towards them. They both spun around to see Mervin approaching them. “Erm, Hans this is my daughter, Chloe. She does the cleaning.”
“At this time of night!” exclaimed Hans
“Well …err,” began Mervin
“I’m sort of a half vampire, okay. I can’t be exposed to daylight, no that’s a lie. I can, but it hurts a hell of a lot if I don’t protect myself,” blurted Chloe, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do.”
As Mervin and Hans went back to bed, Hans found himself pushing aside the matter of what she meant by half vampire and instead tried to work out whether she’d said yes to him or not.

Han's Tale

The kitchen looked rather modern for the castle, pine furnishings around the walls with a table in the middle. The morning light radiated in through the ancient castle window onto the room, lighting it up. Hans was seated at the table, stirring cornflakes with his spoon. “Are yeh gonna eat them or not?” barked Mervin, who was leaning against the worktop with a slice of toast in his hand. ‘Sometimes I wonder if he remembers that I’m his boss,’ Hans thought as swallowed a mouthful of his cereal.
“I’ve been wondering how yeh managed te buy this place,” said Mervin.
Hans looked up, stroked his chin for effect then said, “Well it’s a long story, but you’re not going anywhere, so I’ve got time to tell it. It basically started when I went to America for a year, and hitchhiked across the country. I’d taken a gap year from university to go with some of my friends that I’d made in the previous year. We ended up in Vegas with nothing to do, so being students we decided to get drunk.”
Thinking he’d heard Mervin say something sounding rather like ‘bloody students’ Hans stopped. In retrospect, it would have been better if he’d carried on, as the pause released a tirade of mutterings about the old days, fancy schooling and the like.
When Mervin finally finished Hans continued. “So I was in Las Vegas blind drunk, and I stumbled into this casino, and rather stupidly staggered up to this Baccarat table and challenged them to a game for fifty million dollars. Most of the men laughed at me, realising I was legless, but there was this one man who decided to take me up. So I ended up playing this game that I’ve never played before for a million times the amount of money I had on me.”
“And let me guess, yeh won,” said Mervin, a little dismayed at the lack of quality of the story.
“No, of course I didn’t win, I’d never played the damned game before had I!” replied Hans, “So I took the next logical step and shouted out ‘Double or nothing’. That time I won, which was a surprise to me at the time. Luckily my friends found me soon after that and stopped me from trying to eat the cheque the man had given me. And that’s how I ended up absolutely loaded.”
“And what happened to your friends?” asked Mervin.
“They died in a plane crash on the way home,” said Hans mournfully.
“And you didn’t?”
“Well, duh! Of course I didn’t. They went by private jet, cos I guess I must have given them some of the money that night, I was pretty drunk after all. Bet they wished they hadn’t now though. I decided not to waste the ticket I’d already bought for the return trip, you’ve no idea how much private jets cost these days!”
Hans was sure he heard Mervin something under his breath, but he didn’t worry, it was plain to see that it was commonplace.
“Dammit!” he shouted as he looked up at the clock, he was going to be late to pick Jane up.

A Kidnapping

Driving through any city during rush hour is never a terribly good idea, especially when you’re meant to be meeting someone at a set time. The city I question, on this occasion, lived up to the expectations of its fellow cities and became thoroughly gridlocked.
Hans was weaving his way through in a hire car he’d got for the week. He’d been following the signs for the airport for two hours now and he was sure he’d driven past it several times already, but after yesterday’s experience he thought it best to stick to the sign posted route.
Right now, however, that left him stationary, packed in from all sides by other vehicles. Thus it was a little surprising when what could only be described as a drunken tramp ran across the road towards his car, shouting something and finally diving over the bonnet and knocking himself out on the windscreen.
Hans clambered out of the car and stared at the man. He wore several layers of clothing, a tattered woolen hat and a vacant expression. His face, well, was more like hair with a face attached to it, and he had the world’s most ridiculous moustache (well it would have won if such a competition existed). None of this offered any clues as to what the man was trying to tell him, so Hans did what seemed to be the logical thing to him; he put the man slumped across the back seat of the car so he could ask him later, and drove off.

Finding the Car

Hans had been feeling rather pleased with himself, he’d managed to find Jane without too much hassle. She’d welcomed him with a hug and they begun chatting about how Hans had acquired his castle. It was at this point that Hans begun to become slightly less pleased. Although he’d forgotten where the car was parked that wasn’t so much a problem as that he’d forgotten what the car looked like.
So he did the mature male thing, and picked a random direction and set off walking that way, in the vague hope that he might stumbled across the car before Jane realised what was going on. About a minute or two later she did. Whether it was his vacant expression, the gazing in each and every direction, or maybe just that he’d walked into a lamp post mere seconds before.
“You’re lost aren’t you Hans?” she said as she leant against the nearest car, tired from dragging a suitcase halfway across an airport car park. (She wasn’t sure it was halfway across, as airport car parks seem to encompass an infinite area, but it sure felt like it.)
“No, I know exactly where we are,” Hans lied.
“Oh yeah, go on then.”
“Err…” stalled Hans,” We’re err… here, in the airport car park.”
“Well done, Einst… eek!” screamed Jane.
Hans was pretty certain about what Jane had just seen. “That’s the car there,” he said putting one and one together and not getting 5.6 for a change.
“Hans is there something you should be telling me, cos it’s not normal to drive about with an unconscious bloke on your back seat! Are you a closet kidnapper or something, cos if you are I’m out of here?”
He related the tale of earlier that day to Jane, and they both climbed into the car, she wasn’t in the mood to argue anymore.
Instead she changed the subject. “How far is it then to this castle I’m supposed to be breaking into,” she asked, glancing back nervously at her shoulder.
“Oh, not too far, we shouldn’t be long at all,” said Hans confidently as he started the car up.

The Mystery Man

It took Hans an hour just to find the exit to the car park, and then another two before they were back at Avysmere. In accordance with Jane’s wishes he dropped her off here in preparation for her evening attempt to scale the castle walls.
He was now driving the car back into the courtyard, he would have been handing the keys back in a few minutes if Jane hadn’t decided to hire the car for another two weeks herself. Hans felt pretty glad about that as there looked to be some bad weather setting in and he’d be glad to not have to spend it all riding around getting soaked thoroughly on his bike, or more to the point he’d be glad it wouldn’t risk the chance of rusting.
He parked the car; he had one more thing to do before he started getting on with cooking dinner. The guy in the back of the car, whoever he was, had just begun coming round. Hans began to wonder why he hadn’t just left him there, then realised he was just far too curious. He remembered the incident when he used to work in that factory back home and he’d pressed this big green button just to find out what it did. It had been the fire alarm override, and the whole building was evacuated; he’d been fired on the spot.
The man was clearly confused. He was dazed too, but confusion was asserting itself for a change, sick of always having ‘dazed and’ always stuck before it. This time it was going to stand on its own two legs and break off the chains of marriage to that neglectful word. ‘Dazed’ was useless, it never washed up and always took all the covers in bed.
He snapped out of it, and realised he was sat in a car; he decided to stay there as it was the most comfortable place he’d been in a while, and besides no-one ever wants to get up when they’ve got a hangover. Then he noticed that Hans was stood over him, “Who on Earth are you?” he asked.
“Hans Little’s the name. It looked like you wanted to talk to me earlier?”
“No, I just wanted money to get pissed up again, I can’t cope otherwise.”
“Oh, fair enough then. Who on Earth are you then?”
“Ted Periwinkle, last survivor of Dunnuffin,” he introduced himself grandly.
Hans was taken aback, he hadn’t realised Periwinkle was a last name; he’d always thought it sounded too silly. Not even a work of fiction would dare include it. Then he remembered the rest of what Ted had told him. “Where is Dunnuffin by the way?”
“Erm... somewhere I suppose, in the sea, all I remember was that I got called away one night on a plumbing job and when I went back the whole of Dunnuffin village had fallen into the sea.”
“Bloody ‘ell,” exclaimed Hans “Well you’re welcome to stay here instead of living on the streets,” said Hans. He’d suddenly become peculiarly charitable of late, Hans supposed it was just his way of coping with the vast sum of money he’d acquired.
“Cheers, it’ll be nice to be warm for a change,” replied Ted.
Hans hid a grimace; much as he liked the guy he didn’t half smell of rotten cabbage.

The Bet

Jane heaved herself onto the battlement. The whole breaking into the castle thing originated from a conversation they’d had on a school trip years ago. They were on the way back home and Hans had just blurted out his dream to live in either of a castle, a windmill, or a fake volcano. Almost as impulsively she’d bet him that she’d break into it. She had no idea why, or how you could live in a fake volcano for that matter, but she was glad Hans had given her that phone call a week ago.
For too long now she’d spent her days in melancholy. What else would you do if your one true love gave his life trying to save you from a psychopathic terrorist cell that demanded equal rights for plants? She’d waited in hope that one day he’d walk through the door and everything would be okay. He didn’t and all the time she’d sealed herself into isolation.
That was the first time she’d had her visions. They were premonitions of the future, of what was to happen, or more correctly the exact opposite of what was going to happen. She’d had such a lovely dream about them enjoying their trek through the Amazon basin, instead it had turned out to be a living nightmare where her life it all went wrong.
But now she was here. The ascent up the wall hadn’t taken long at all, the weathered rock made great handholds. It felt good to be back out actually doing something for a change, she thought as she secured the rope around the crenellations. She was sick of having to listen to those silly moaning daytime shows every day. At least the worst show of them all, Killjoy, wasn’t on any more, you were supposed to get emotional about the problems the guests brought, but you found yourself getting more and more wound up by his irritating behavior. Even so, the loss of that program hadn’t made it much better.
Jane began abseiling down the inside of the wall, deep into the darkness. Nearly there, she thought as she glimpsed what looked like the courtyard beneath her, but at that moment she saw what looked like a person stop directly below her. She tried to slow her descent, but it was no use, she just couldn’t bring herself to a halt quick enough.
Ted looked up, and was startled to find the figure of Jane looming above him, motionless, frozen in the air. He wasn’t sure which scared him more, the woman hanging in mid-air above him or Mervin walking towards him and ordering him to grab the woman by the legs.
Either way, Mervin’s voice was authoritive enough to get him to do exactly what he said. Between them they lowered her down to the ground. Mervin stood back, pointed his wand and shouted, “Tarantula!”
“Do you know how long I waited to fulfill that bet? And now you two goons come along and ruin it, and just when I was beginning to feel better about myself!” she screamed storming off to find Hans.
“Well don’t say thank you or anything,” mumbled Mervin under his breath. He stood in the middle of the floor, grumbling for a while longer, but this was more to disguise the fact that he’d completely forgotten what he was actually doing out here. Not that this is an atypical behavior for people but when you are reaching Mervin’s age people starting talking about senility, and decide to send you to care homes. The mere thought of spending all day listening to those oh so captivating war tales that old folk seem to enjoy boring people to death with made him shudder. Perhaps, thought Mervin, they told them simply because they wanted a nap, and felt guilty about doing that whilst other people were around, so they tried to get them to fall asleep too!
All these thoughts were completely off the point anyway, when he remembered what he was meant to be doing.
“Yeh’re Ted, aren’t yeh?” he inquired.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Hans wanted everyone to gather in the kitchen, it appears he’s got a surprise of some sort cooked up for yeh.”
Mervin saw Ted wander off, and pitied him. From what he’d heard Chloe talk about this it was probably something that would all end in tears, definitely one to miss. A card game involving spoons, it just sounded wrong!


It was Ted’s turn to deal. He deftly flicked up the cards out of his hands to each of the players. Jane sat next to him, neatly arranging the spoons in the middle of the table. Spoons was the name of the game Hans was playing with them, it was interesting and so far the game was fairly even.
Hans knew that they got dealt four cards each and then had to pass a card each to the player next to them. He passed to Chloe, then she passed to Ted, he passed to Jane and then finally back to himself again. Quite why he had no idea, but everyone else seemed to be make a fuss about having four similar cards or something. All Hans knew was that as soon as someone went for a spoon he had to grab one or he lost. He felt too embarrassed to ask what the rest of the rules were, all he’d done was gather everyone and then Chloe had rattled them off at too high a speed for him to properly comprehend, besides, so far he’d been doing rather well.
Instead he asked Chloe where her father had gone.
“He’s gone to the local wizarding union meeting, they meet in some church hall with a load of people who think they’re wizards. Apparently it’s quite a laugh. Then the real wizards go to the pub afterwards for the actual meeting,” she answered.
“Oh, didn’t know there was one,” he said feeling left out.
“Don’t worry, neither did I,” replied Chloe. “In fact, I swear he just makes these sorts of things up as an excuse to go to the pub,” she added, lunging for a spoon.
Hans reacted quickly, grabbing hold of the end of a spoon and pulling it back hard towards himself. Unfortunately Chloe was holding the other end and she fell into him, sending him flying backwards onto the floor with her on top.
They lay there for a second before Hans let go of the spoon. It was more than his life was worth to hold on, he thought.
“Thanks,” said Chloe and pecked him on the cheek, before excusing herself for a few minutes.
Hans looked back across the table, Jane and Ted hadn’t really spoken to each other since the incident earlier. As he was about to try and break the ice between them, Ted spoke.
“Sorry about what happened earlier, lass, my heads not been in the right place for a while. So, how do you know Hans then, is he a close friend, old flame, exotic relation or what?” he asked. “Only, I wish you’d talk a bit more, you know, its not like someone’s just shot the love of your life in front of you is it!”
Jane slapped him and stormed out of the room.
Ted stared at Hans, as if to ask what he had done wrong.
“Well, you kind of hit the nail right on the head just then.” Ted was shocked, a more posh people would have been flabbergasted, but you’ve not got that much choice when you’ve been living on the streets for year. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.
“You know it probably didn’t help that you kept leaning more and more towards her, what are you trying to do chat her up or something?” Hans said, seriously.
“Geez, I certainly got a knack for putting me foot in it, ain’t I?” said Ted as he got up to find Jane.
He started out the door but never made it on account of walking straight into Mervin who was coming the other way.

The Plot Thickens

Jane shot an awful glare across at Ted, the kind of glare that you know instantly how low a regard that person has for you, the kind of glare that for some reason made Ted feel happy that person was there. He didn’t know why, but for some reason he always felt comforted by glares. This phenomenon had been around his whole life, not that he actually enjoyed the fact that he was obviously upsetting these people, mostly because it meant that they weren’t ignoring him. Eventually he went to see a shrink about it, who far from actually addressing his problems started telling him about hers; it led him to conclude that they were the ones with the really serious problems. It was all making him feel rather depressed, fortunately he got another glare when Jane realised he was gawping at her.
The others were all deep in conversation about Mervin’s news, something big was up; someone had been seen moving unicorn horns out of the town. Hans wasn’t sure why it was such a big deal, I mean, so what it might just be in season or something, but Mervin’s tone made him think differently about it. The fact that Mervin then added that he owned part of a local stock at McGregor’s farm, which was the only place where these horns could have come from too, probably explained that.
“Look, I know yeh’re all staring at me cos yeh’ve got no idea what I’m going on about, but yeh’ve gotta understand this. Unicorn horns help to concentrate magical power, and if yeh can assemble a load of them yeh can cast some pretty nasty magic.” preached Mervin to them.
“But why do you own some unicorns?”
“They’re a good investment, yeh know it’s a bit like wine, the older it gets the more powerful a horn it can produce. I thought it would set me up nicely for my retirement, well I needed summat after that Debonshyle bloke decided that all us old miners pensions would be better spent on his gambling habit, then promptly dying with ne heirs and ne way to recoup it when he died.”
“But how do you manage to keep unicorns on someone else’s farm without them knowing about it?”
“Well, this was thi clever part of it all, we created a fish magically and added two extra eyes, and then lured McGregor out fishing for the day, whilst I replaced all his stock of horses with our unicorns, and then made all their horns invisible. Then just having such a weird fish, and all the tourism you get from having people visiting the ‘Famous Five-eyed Fish of Avysmere’ kept him distracted from the different behavior of the unicorns, simple really.”
“You do know fish normally only have two eyes, don’t you?”
“What, really!” replied Mervin, quite astonished. “Just watched this fish in cartoon a few days before and that had three, so I just assumed that they do, I’ve never seen a real live one to compare with.”
“But…” began Jane, eventually giving up on trying reasoning it out, instead she had another question, “So what did you do with the horses?”
“Well, we created a stable around the back of the castle to house them and then made that invisible too.”
“But wouldn’t it just have been simpler to put the unicorns there in the first place,” suggested Hans, making a sensible comment for a change.
“Never really thought about it tha way, though my plan did boost thi tourist industry yeh know,” mused Mervin, but then drifted back to the point. “So, are any of yeh gonna help me or just sit around doing nothing much like usual.”
“But what do you want us to do about it Dad? It’s not like you’ve assembled the greatest magicians of all time!” exclaimed Chloe.
“I know, I know, I canne expect yeh to go in some magical duel with whoever this is, but they are partially owned by me and I do have part of the responsibility in tracking them down.”
“Oh, wow, I could be like, Hans Little PI, I could get an office in town and get a pet dog to guard it that I’d share all my secrets with, just like in the books I used to read as a kid,” said Hans, quite excited by the idea.
No-one else was. Instead they just stared at him, in the kind of puzzled expression you reserve for when someone is clearly talking complete and utter nonsense.
“He’s got a point,” announced Jane, somewhat unexpectedly. The others looked at her with the same look they’d just given to Hans. “No, listen to me, I could do with something to keep me occupied during the day, and I suspect so can Hans and Ted, why not start a detective agency?”
“Look all I want yeh to do is help me track down these unicorn bandits, yeh don’t need to go through all this setting up a detective agency business, I just need a little help looking around a bit, can you do that?”
“Aww... but I really wanted to have a detective agency, I’ve read loads about detective work and I’ve always been interested,” replied Hans.
“Like what?” asked Ted.
“Well, I’ve read all the cases of Sherlock Holmes, and all those of Poirot, you know they solved so many crimes between them I’m surprised neither of them tackled the case of Jack the Ripper!”
“Hans, they’re fiction!” replied Jane
“What, Jack the Ripper is fictional!” said a shocked Hans.
“No, Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, you idiot!”
“Ahh… well the ideas are the same aren’t they? Just need to follow logical deduction and stuff don’t you? We can do that can’t we?” pleaded Hans, looking around at people.
Just as Mervin was about to iterate that he only wanted to find some unicorns, Chloe decided to speak up, “Okay if we’re gonna do this we need to do this properly, this seems a simple enough case to cut our teeth on, but we need a name and then we need to get to work.”
Various names were then bounded about from Hans Super Detectives, which sounded too silly, to Detection Inc, which sounded too serious, too Private Detectives Anonymous, which sounded too much like a rehabilitation group.
“Look what we need is some kind of simple name that tells people what we are and makes it look like we’ve been around longer than ten minutes,” interrupted Chloe.
“What you mean something like Old Detective Agency,” contributed Hans.
“No, that sounds too generic, needs to be authoritive and individual, not sure how though,” said Jane.
“The,” said Hans, gathering confused looks. “Well use ‘The’, you know something like ‘The One And Only,’ how much more unique can you get.”
“Stick with ‘The’ for now, but although ‘The Old Detective Agency’ says old, it doesn’t feel like it if you know what I mean,” said Chloe.
“Simple, use older words,” said Mervin who by now had given up on simply going out to find the unicorns, “Look Ye has the same meaning as The and yeh can just stick an e on old, to get ‘Ye Olde Detective Agency. Right, now we’ve solved that can we please get on wi tracking down these unicorns!”

The Lover's Retreat

The unicorns would have to wait until the morning, everyone apart from Chloe and Hans were far too tired, and they couldn’t remember where they’d left the car keys anyway. No doubt they’d be somewhere really obvious, like when someone is looking for a hat and it turns out they’ve been wearing it all along.
They couldn’t be bothered to look however, and decided to go sit and watch the thunder storm outside from the top of the tallest tower. It wasn’t really the tallest tower, more that it was the only tower, but it sounded more impressive when people called it that. The castle was originally supposed to have two towers but before the second one had been built, the owners had changed their minds and decided to build a bridge across a bog just north-west of the castle. No-one knew why, not even Mervin (though it was equally likely that he’d forgotten, you could never tell).
They were sat across the window seat looking out across the fields surrounding the castle. Hans had his back against the wall, holding Chloe who was sat in front of him. She felt comfortable when he was around, she had no idea why, it made no sense, he was a bumbling oaf if true words were to be spoken, but he was so much more than that.
“So when did you become a half vampire?” asked Hans politely, they’d got onto the topic of this earlier and she explained that she could go outside during the day but only really well covered up, or else she’d get a kind of extreme sunburn. Most people in town thought she was a muslim, and once one guy who had completely lost the plot gave her a carved wooden Buddha, thinking it would be a nice gift.
The answer to the present question was something that Chloe thought a little embarrassing, she’d been attacked by a stranger when leaving the pub she’d worked in. She’d reported the attack to the police but they just thought she was a weirdo who’d self-inflicted the wounds and they’d referred her to a mental health institution, which she’d escaped from and fled here. The previous owners didn’t know about her, but she’d helped her father maintain the place at nights. The change had happened whilst she’d been on the run from the asylum, but she hadn’t noticed until she’d got here as she’d traveled during the nights anyway.
“Oh,” was all Hans could say, he felt it prudent not to say anything else to save himself sounding either condescending or uncaring. “Ask me something then.”
Chloe wondered why he’d decided to live in Avysmere castle rather than anywhere else. It wasn’t as if it was the most well known castle in country, in fact people were far more likely to tell you it didn’t exist, or that it wasn’t in Avysmere at all, it just happened to be rather near it. But instead of asking him, she just gazed out into the night sky.

The Case of the Missing Unicorns

Trying to find a group of unicorns is not the easiest task in the world. For a start, it’s not like trying to find your local pub, they don’t stay still for a start and they certainly don’t advertise their existence in tacky travel brochures either. This is because officially they don’t exist, as you may well have noticed and believed for quite some time. Whilst unicorns are not necessarily anti-social, they tend to be shy unless there are any young female virgins handy. They’ve also seen what humans have done to elephants with their tusks and don’t really want to go down that same path.
On the other hand, finding a group of unicorns that have had their horns removed is a like trying to find a corrupt former MP in the House of Lords, it won’t take two minutes. In fact it took Hans and Jane twenty minutes after they left the castle, however most of that time was spent arguing over who was going to drive.
Their destination was McGregor’s farm and when they arrived it wasn’t difficult to spot the unicorns rampaging around. To be honest someone should have realised it was a bit odd having 20 bright white horses in the same place, but then again you do tend to get a little distracted when you catch a five-eyed fish.
They decided to split up and search for clues, which however many times it works in children’s television programs, is generally not a good idea with someone like Hans around. After scouting around for a while Jane called Hans over to show him a piece of pink ribbon she’d found. Hans in turn showed her rather excitedly a set of tire tracks he’d found.
“So all we need to do is match the tread and we’ve got them!” exclaimed Hans.
“Yeah,” replied Jane, “that would be great if these weren’t from our car.”
“Oh,” said Hans feeling rather dejected. “Oh well, let’s get back then. I’ve got something rather important to get ready for.”

Cats and Dogs

“Are yeh sure yeh’re okay?” asked Mervin.
“I’ll be fine, but you’ve got to do something,” Jane said in a tone that you just wouldn’t ever want to defy.
“What? Why?” cried Mervin, perplexed by the whole situation.
One minute he was in the kitchen washing up after dinner, and the next thing he heard was this horrific shriek from the sitting room. He’d hurried to find out what was wrong and had found her strewn across the floor, frothing at the mouth. That wasn’t confusing; why she was acting as if nothing had happened was though.
“Look,” she said in a commanding voice, “you want the best for your daughter and Hans don’t you?”
He had to think about this. Chloe didn’t half pick them, firstly that vampire chap, and now a guy who contradicts the saying ‘When you make a foolproof item they make a better fool’, because he already existed. However daft he was though, Mervin had taken quite a liking to the guy and so answered an unhesitant, “Yes.”
“Well you see, Hans has this habit of messing up on first dates, and I just had one of those premonition things.”
“One of those that we’d been talking about earlier?” Mervin asked. Jane had been having visions about getting into the castle as well which had turned out to be false. After a bit of rummaging around the libraries, they’d found True Premonition Syndrome a disease that occurs in non-magical families, and instead of being what you would think, actually meant all her visions were completely inaccurate.
“Yes those, and I just saw them having a good time and enjoying their meal.”
“So what’s wrong with that, enjoying themselves isn’t a bad thing. Is it?”
“Yes,” she screamed, Mervin blatantly hadn’t been listening to a word she’d spoken, so she’d have to make it clear to him. “It’s not going to happen, he’ll do something stupid, I can feel it, hell I just collapsed because of it, so come on then, magic them happy or something, you’re the bloody wizard aren’t you!”
He sighed. “I wish I could, but it’s just not possible, I mean I can alter yeh physical things, temperature, movement, weather and the like but not emotions, yeh just can’t alter them, they’re too unpredictable.”
“You said weather then didn’t you, hmm, hasn’t Chloe got a fear of water?” she asked expectantly.
“Aye, but how’s that gonna help?”
“Well if you get it to rain cats and dogs, y’know, really heavily, splashing on just about every surface, add a swirling wind if you want, just for artistic effect, she won’t be able to leave then, I mean it’s the least we could do!”
Mervin felt uneasy about this idea, he was sure that it wouldn’t work out how she imagined it would; he believed it was quite harsh thing to do. He protested, but it was no use, she’d won.
“It’ll be fine, you’ll see,” said Jane confidently as she strolled out of the room, leaving a rather resigned Mervin behind.

A Less Than Ideal Date

The evening had so far been a success. Well a success if you’d had a three year run of bad luck, I suppose. Coming here on the bike had been a mistake for a start, he was sure Chloe had enjoyed the ride, but every time he’d tried to turn a corner, he’d lean in to it, and Chloe would try to counterbalance him by leaning the other way. He’d had to stop twice to explain why she shouldn’t. That had put a damper on the evening before they’d even arrived at the Jolly Roger Restaurant. It was a small place run by a man with a peg leg, called Geoff, who had greeted them at the door. The décor of the interior was like the deck of a ship, with waitresses coming in and out of a hatch on the floor, which presumably led to the kitchen, or galley as Geoff liked to call it.
Geoff by the way had dressed himself up like a pirate, as had he got all the waitresses to follow suit. He’d gone as far to put an eye patch over a working eye, and was considering having his eye removed to make it look more realistic. The waitresses seemed to be festooned with pendants and clothed in garments that could only be described as suggestive. It wasn’t this that caused Chloe to storm out of the restaurant though.
No, that was due to the inordinate amount of time Hans spent staring into their waitresses eyes whilst attempting to order snake unsuccessfully. Her eyes were really interesting, he thought. No-one could possibly have them that colour, a really pale green. He was about to ask Chloe what she thought, when he realized she’d left the table.
This took Hans rather aback; surely she would have been more polite and asked his leave before going to the toilet. The waitress had gone now, after she’d served him steak, though it was hardly surprising they didn’t serve snake here. He wondered if anywhere actually would. He spent five minutes pondering this, and by this time Chloe had returned to the table with a look of fright smeared across her face.
“Yeah, I thought that waitress’s eyes were freaky too,” said Hans absently. “They were just the wrong shade y’know.”
“What the hell are you on about Hans?” asked Chloe. “Why don’t you take a look outside and see what just landed on me.”
“That waitress, I was going to ask your opinion,” replied Hans, then realizing what she’d said, “but out the window you say? Look you really need to cope with this fear of getting wet.” He didn’t turn around to look outside otherwise, he would have interrupted himself by crying out, “Jesus, you didn’t get hit by one of them Alsatians did you?” He did cry that out when he did turn around to look, in the midst of trying to explain that rain was only water, and it could hardly harm you.
Chloe would have then given him the lecture that dihydrogen monoxide is one of the most lethal substances on the planet. It can be fatal if inhaled and is a major component of acid rain. Many elderly people break bones falling because of dihydrogen monoxide and it causes many road accidents too. Water is deadly and Hans would have to wake up to that fact.
This of course didn’t happen because Hans saw that animals were falling from the sky. For once something dawned on him straight away, and he realised that dead animals don’t usually litter the floor. It was a horrible sight, cats and dogs littered the floor, with pools of blood lying beside each unfortunate creature, it was even worse than the face of a man with a very large grizzly beard, who has cut himself attempting to shave it off because its been so long since he last had a shave he can’t remember anymore. A few seconds later he finally got the actual point. People often said it rained cats and dogs but he never really thought it could actually happen.
“What the hell do we do about this?” asked Chloe, looking ever increasingly worried by the situation.
“Well unless you fancy a death by cute animals, I suggest we stay here and have dinner,” he answered, desperately relieved that fate had stopped him messing his personal life up once more.

A Strange Evening's End

Try to imagine the scene. You are waiting for your boyfriend to come back from the toilet. Around you is the general hub-bub of your average pirate themed restaurant; chests full of decidedly plastic looking gold, a rather annoying electric parrot, which is cued to say such insightful things as 'Polly wants a cracker' every single time the waiting staff time the waiting staff enter the kitchen, and to top it all the world's worst acrobats attempting (and failing miserably) to perform stunts from the various pieces of rigging wrapped around the 'masts' in the centre of the building. So far they had managed to get entangled in the ropes most of the time, apart from one occasion when one of they attempted a jump and one missed the catch whilst the other plummeted onto a passing waitress.
Outside, medium sized furry animals plunged to their doom from the heavens above. By now a sizeable pile was forming on the streets, and you begin to wonder why the freshly fallen animals aren't surviving due to the cushioning effect of those below them. The sight of all of this is, of course, enough to well and truly put you off your meal, but even if it hadn't the complimentary weevil infested ships biscuit would.
Now add to this your boyfriend, who as he returns makes several gesticulations and eye movements that make slightly less than no sense to you. In response to your inaction his movements become more vigorous, adding head movements to the mix. What would you do? You could scream at him and demand to know what’s going on or you could leave and pretend to ignore him completely.
Instead Chloe leant over to him and whisper into his ear words to the effect of, “Have you gone mad?”
The answer should probably have been yes, but Hans explained that he’d seen a man wearing a pink ribbon, and they needed to follow him as discretely as possible come what may.

Thus ten minutes later they were tailing the man down the streets. Chloe was about thirty metres behind him, sticking to the footpaths whilst simultaneously dodging cats and dogs. Hans however, was determined to trail him in a much more sophisticated spy like fashion, and so was rushing between lampposts, flattening himself against them in a manner that looked utterly ridiculous for a grown man.
After tailing him for five minutes, the man entered a strange looking building. Given they had no way in, they decided to find out more about this place and come back later.

The Decoy

The sign they’d seen outside the medieval building (at least that’s what a newly fitted plaque declared its age to be) decreed it to be ‘The Holy Institute of the Knaic Decree’. Jane had gone into the library to look up information, and through a muddle of old documents, scrolls and rather nicely decorated bookmark that had being laying around had discerned that this was a religious group who’s principle belief was that the whole universe was actually the womb of god’s female counterpart, Sheila. They also believed that god’s first name was Bruce and he spoke in an accent that was crossed between Australian and a West Country farmer. However, there had been many disagreements down the years as to whether the couple’s surname was Smith or Smythe. The arguments had led to open war in some quarters of the institute, resulting in their leader being assassinated in a plot involving 3 tonnes of rotten kippers. Nevertheless, it was improbably here in this small town that this group with the emblem of the pink ribbon based themselves, and here they’d find out more.
Hans spent the day practising two new spells with Mervin in the Magic Moose Room. He’d just got over the portrait eyes following him around the room, when he noticed that the floor tiles were constantly moving, as if doing a Mexican wave. More magical fallout explained Mervin, but Hans was worried as to what freakish occurrence he’d notice next.
Now it was time to implement the first of these. Hans concentrated hard and said, “Blend”. He, Jane and Ted became transparent instantaneously. Disorientated, they began walking as if they were severely drunk, but soon got the hang of it.
“So, this was that new weight loss program you were on about, Jane,” joked Ted.
She, however, had decided to ignore pretty much anything Ted after the other night’s debacle, so a dull, empty silence settled in as they waited for the next part of the plan to spring into action, all should be well if Chloe carried out her plan properly.
A few more minutes of uncomfortable silence passed. Not that the silence itself was uncomfortable, just that a hail storm had suddenly whipped up and, invisible or not, hail is nothing but painful. A more religious person would see this as God attempting to protect his place of worship, but Hans saw it as just bad luck.
Finally, what they had been waiting for arrived. The man walked up to the door and knocked heavily on it. They moved around the back of him while he waited, to get to the other side of the door. Nothing happened. Then the man knocked again, and cries of “Alright, alright, I’m coming,” could be heard from inside.
A man, who could quite simply be described as a Scottish version of Mr. T, came lumbering to the door, heavily built with a small Mohawk and big heavy, fake gold chains dangling around his neck. “Evening, what do you want?”
“Got a pizza delivery here, for the Institute of the Knaic Decree, signor,” replied the weedy delivery man, attempting a rather bad Italian accent.


The inside of the building was as dark, dingy and cavernous as the outside had made it appear. Mould grew on the damp walls, there were pools of standing water all over the floor, a rickety old table with a lamp atop it and chair tucked underneath it were positioned next to the only other doorway apart from the entrance.
They’d sneaked in whilst the Mr. T look-a-like had paid for the pizza, which had subsequently knocked him out when he’d eaten the slices they’d spiked.
“And this wa really worth all tha time and energy!” exclaimed Ted as he surveyed the room. The room was vast but virtually bare apart from a chair and table that the guard had obviously been sat at and a random cupboard in one corner of the room. “Yeh sure this was tha rite place?”
Hans ran over to the cupboard, “There’s more to this building than this,” as he grabbed hold of it and failed miserably at trying to move it. “Okay, so maybe it doesn’t move then”.
“Or, you’re just a weakling,” said Jane as she pushed it along the grooves she noticed along the ground and it slid away easily to reveal a doorway.


The three of them clambered up the stone spiral staircase that lay through the doorway and as they reached the top they heard voices talking and saw a bright light coming from the top of the stairs. Hans turned round, and began to put his finger to his lip to warn everyone to keep quiet before he realised that he was invisible and they wouldn’t see it.
As they reached the top of the stairs they could hear two voices speaking, but not quite clearly enough to make out what they were saying. They had to get closer, but the door was not ajar enough for them to squeeze through.
“Hans, I’ve got an idea,” said Ted, “make me visible again.”
Hans hesitated for a second, but then went ahead anyway as it wasn’t as if he actually had a better plan.
Ted immediately proceeded to walk straight into the room. “So where’s the leak?” he asked loudly.
The men were sat either side of a desk at the other side of the room, they wore pink hooded robes and both turned round as they heard the door creak as Ted entered.
“Who the hell are you?” they both asked.
“Plumber, can’t you tell from my moustache? You did call me didn’t you? Nevermind, I’m just doing a quick check first, won’t cost you anything if I didn’t, it’s covered in the cost of the call out so if it’s a prank then its been an expensive one.” said Ted.
He walked over to the solitary radiator in the room and started tapping the pipes to make it look like he knew what he was doing. Of course he used to be a plumber, but he didn’t have any tools with him.
“Don’t mind me,” he shouted over to the two men by the desk, who were whispering, asking each other who’d called the plumber out.
“Well, its not costing us anything Bill,” said the one sat behind the desk.
“I guess so,” replied Bill, leaning over the desk towards the other man, revealing a scar down the left side of his face. “So, George, kippers was an awful way to go for the old man wasn’t it.”
“Well, he had been suggesting the surname was Smedley – I mean after all the trouble with the Smythe lot he should have known that would make him a target.”
“But George, he didn’t deserve that though.”
“You’re right there Bill – but Agent X is in charge now, he says he found some books that have given him an idea for how to implement the plan. He reckons he’s only a day or two away from completion”
“That close, well I suppose one good thing is that Agent X is a damn sight better looking than the old man.”
“But either way Bill, we’d have got rid of all these scars all over our faces. The only thing I’m worried about is whether we’ll end up sounding like he does too. Agent X is a bright guy and all, but he has the most irritating voice ever”
“Yeah,” replied Bill, then turned and asked Ted if he’d finished yet.
“Just leaving now,” Ted chirped, realising that if he stayed any longer the game was up.
“Right, time to pray to glorious conformity George, do you want to lead the prayers?” asked Bill. But he got no response as Hans shouted “Ice” and cast the second spell he’d learned and froze them in time.
“There’s got to be some more info on this Agent X person somewhere in here,” said Jane urging the other two to search the office.
Eventually Hans surprised everyone and pulled a file out of a cabinet in the corner of the room that actually contained the information they were looking for. It didn’t have a picture or any biographical information. But it did give an address, 12 Crackpot Street, Dunraer.

The Journey to Nowhere

All cars have a peculiar tendency to break down at the moment their owners need them the most. Hans found this to be particularly true of hire, and after trying numerous different arrangements of attempting to fit five people on a motorbike, they gave up and headed for the bus station.
Avysmere bus station was akin to any neglected rural bus station. It had several flimsily constructed bus shelters, with complimentary leaking roofing, and a mostly boarded up fast food shop that sold nothing a strange grey under-cooked meat-like product served in something which could be inaccurately described as bread. Rumour had it that a major chain was coming to take the place over, the only difference would be that when you placed an order they’d ask you if you wanted chips with that several times over, even if you said yes.
It was over an hour before three shiny new buses rolled into the bus station straight after each other, all heading in completely the opposite direction to the one they wanted. They all felt as if some arrogant god was taunting them and as if to rub it in, rain began tumbling down (real rain this time though).
Finally, their bus arrived. It was a rundown thing, engine spluttering as it pulled up, full of tattly upholstered seating and sporting a gaping hole halfway up the walkway. The driver waved them their fares, he was glad of actually having someone on the bus for a change. The service wasn’t actually designed to have any customers; the company just ran the service for the sake of the million pound payout for providing a ‘rural service’.
Once they’d set off, the driver attempted to give them a guided tour of the route, including every last detail to the last minutiae. Needless to say, they soon drifted of into an inharmonious chorus of deep throated snores, which was only halted by them breaking down in the middle of nowhere. By the time they realised their predicament, the driver had already gone outside and had the engine cover up, muttering something along the lines of, “this is the third time I’ve broken down in this particular spot, now if you look to your left…”
“Can you not do something about this, Mervin?” pleaded Hans, desperately. Time was of the essence, not only did they have a madman to stop, but Hans was sick of hearing how many sheep usually populated a certain field, and how many times various cattle grids had been replaced.
”Aye, should be easy enough,” replied Mervin as he brought his wand out of his jacket and uttered, “I canne wait all day.” The driver looked up at the sky, then back at the engine bemused, but deep down glad that he might actually get home on time for a change. He boarded the bus, and continued pointing out the least interesting features of the surrounding landscape.
Hans looked at Mervin with both an expression of gratitude for fixing the bus, and also one of annoyance for not doing anything about the car earlier. Indeed all of them did, but it took Ted to ask the obvious question. Mervin pondered this for a moment and then answered clearly, “Well yeh dinne ask, did yeh!”

The Search

Relief swept over the group as they left the bus, Jane had managed to stop the driver’s constant ramblings, but only by attempting to get everyone to sing Auld Lang Syne. Only attempting of course, as actually singing it is of course impossible because no-one can ever remember anymore than the first verse, after which point the singing becomes more of a sort of low mumble of utter embarrassment. But now, freed at last, they stumbled out into the hamlet that was Dunraer.
As they lay collapsed on the ground the realisation that they still had twenty or so houses to search dawned upon them. Sure it was fantastically noble and all that trying to stop a madman bent on doing something, they weren’t sure of what yet, but it had to be something crazy thought Hans. Diabolical too, and probably mad, but definitely evil. Then it dawned upon him that just thinking of random, malicious adjectives were probably getting him absolutely nowhere.
Chloe, however, had begun organising people. She’d sent Ted and Mervin off in one direction, and Jane in the other, she realised Hans was gonna be a bit of a handful at the moment. She knew it wasn’t that he didn’t have the motivation, he was just naturally lazy, and things seemed to happen to him rather him causing things to happen. Hans had by now rolled over and was he was grimacing and holding his back. Just what Chloe needed right now, not only was he being his usual lazy self, but he wanted her to be all sympathetic to his blatantly fake injury. “Give up!” she said in a rather no-nonsense attitude.
Hans felt hard done by, he’d just landed on top of a rather weirdly formed rock, and now instead of trying to do something about the considerable agony, Chloe was far too busy moaning at him. “Look,” he said as he pulled the rock out to show her, “I’m not kidding!”
She just stared at it, then him.
“The least you could do is to apologise!” said Hans, rather upset.
Instead Chloe turned round and shouted after Mervin, Ted and Jane, “We’ve found it!”
“Where?” asked Hans
“Sometimes I wonder if you actually have a brain in there,” Chloe replied tapping his head. “Did you even bother looking at what you’re holding? I don’t know about you but I haven’t seen many unicorn horn-shaped rocks before.”


They were finally going to find out who the person that been causing them all this trouble was. Sure they were now being held captive by this person at gun point, with several burly looking men holding those guns on them, and most importantly those same men were tying their hands together behind their backs. Nevertheless, at least they had a better chance now that they would soon find out who their foe was. Better then what, it was quite hard to tell, but in some way they thought that knowing who they were up against and where they were, was somewhat been better than lost in some remote village with barely half a clue as to what was happening.
“You weren’t expecting me, were you?” asked Daniel, rhetorically as he removed the mask from his face. “Well, I sure got the better of you Brits, with your silly tiny cars, stiff upper lips and all. Make me feel weird will you, huh!”
“You’ll never get away with this,” chipped in Hans in cliché like fashion. Not that he had any idea what Daniel was trying to get away with, but it presented an opportunity to shut him up for a minute.
“Oh, and you guys are gonna stop me, I don’t think so!” retorted Daniel, adding in some jerky head movements, that he’d probably stolen from some D-list celebrity who’d wanted to become a singer, to give his dialogue that extra bit of attitude. “In thirty minutes a spell will be cast from my giant unicorn horn wand, and then everyone will look identical to me. No more days of seeing people in their pitiful excuses for fashion, days where people wear green and purple together will be ended. A world of perfect taste awaits, mwahahahahahahaha!!” he cackled in a deep and booming voice that both surprised everyone else in the room for the fact that Daniel was able to do it, but also for the very sudden a physical shaking of the house above them.
‘How did we get into this mess?’ thought Chloe in a manner that proved to be a perfect opportunity for a flashback. They’d been outside the door just after Hans had found the horn, attempting to sneak into the house quietly, but Hans refused to stop complaining about his back. She had to silence him and fast, so she leant gracefully over to his face, ran her hands gently through his hair and promptly gagged him with her headband. It was too late however, as when they stepped into the building; several big burly guards surrounded them, pointing huge assault rifles straight at them. Quite why they needed guns was lost to Chloe; all of them were at least three times bigger than she was. It was probably compensation for deficits elsewhere, she reckoned.
The guards had forced them down a set of steps to their left, they’d followed their lead but still been shoved every two seconds, particularly Hans who unusually was probably attempting to say something useful, but was only vocalising sounds such as ‘bluurrgh’ and ‘mwaable’. Chloe stumbled across one idea why the guards behaved like this, they must obviously be in some kind of obnoxiousness contest, in a similar way to how she’d observed guys on nights out having pulling contests, though these were being irritating on purpose.
The basement when they reached it was cramped to say the least. Not only did it have the usual assorted junk that people saved ‘just in case’ (like a punctured inflatable Santa Claus or giant chess set with half the pieces missing) but there was also an object that looked like a stack of unicorn horns, presumably arranged in some particular secret arrangement, but it looked more as if someone had just dropped them there then just left them to rot. On the walls hung heavy looking chains, who knew what for; except one wall, which had been painted to make the room look twice as big as it was, but really just looked like a badly painted wall, particularly because of the unpainted fuse box in the middle of it.
Chloe snapped out of her reminiscing as she heard Daniel speak again. “How does it feel to know you’ll soon look as stunning and gorgeous as me Hans?” he asked, before cackling again. “Answer me!”
“You’re mad; you have absolutely lost the plot. Not only do you have some truly weird obsession with freakish fashions, but you want everyone to look like you, in some kind of demented power craziness. It’s not just a stupid, horrible plan, it’s downright unoriginal. All you’ve done is watched some sleazy b-movie and copied off that, I’ve trekked all this way, and to be honest I expected more,” ranted Jane, feeling quite the critic.
“Ooh, you bitch!” replied Daniel, clearly hurt. “Restrain them!!!!” he called to the guards, using an excessive number of apostrophes.
Hans gulped, he now realised what the chains were for.


“Hans,” whispered Mervin, “how far away are yeh from that wall?”
“You what?” Hans quietly replied, sincerely puzzled.
“How far is it?” Mervin whispered back, “Cos if it isn’t too far, mebby I can levitate summat.”
“32 what? Metres, yards, football pitches?” (Although seemingly irrelevant football pitches are becoming an increasingly popular measurement of objects on such things as the news, but frankly ‘it’s bloody massive’ would quite happily suffice)
“I don’t know, it just says that number next to me, it’s got to mean something, hasn’t it?”
Mervin gave up, there was no way he could spring them from this. He gazed over at his daughter in desperation but she was preoccupied listening into a conversation between Ted and Jane.
“Jane, look, I just want you to know how deeply I feel…” began Ted, but Jane cut him off before he could finish.
“I’m not interested, you may be a nice guy, but my heart belongs to someone else.”
“Excuse me; I don’t get why you needed to say that?”
“It’s obvious you fancy me, I mean just look at how you’ve behaved over the last few days!”
“Ohh, you think… and you thought I meant… ahh, I see!”
This utterly bewildered Jane, what was she supposed to have thought, and also, what did he think that she think that he implied. Not only did this confuse her, but her thoughts were sounding like the bickering of high school gossipers.
“I just wanted to place the farce that has been our squabbling behind us and be friends.”
“And you don’t have some sort of underlying crush on me then.”
“No dear, I’m gay.”
“Ahh… but weren’t you married?”
“No whatever gave you that impression. But even if I had, people change, or in some cases regress like that buffoon over there.”
The last comment sparked Daniel’s attention. “Buffoon, you call me!” he cried out angrily. “I am a genius, soon everyone will be like me, the world will be just how I want it; it takes more than a buffoon to do that!” he added before cackling in a even more deeper and menacing voice than before. It shook the walls, harder than last time, but he carried on so engrossed in it as he was. The floor above began to creak, suddenly, and a grinding sound could be heard.
Daniel stopped, looked up and muttered some word, but no-one could make out what it was as the ceiling above him collapsed in, deafening everyone. They were clear of the cave-in but the dust was choking them. The last thing any of them saw before passing out was a grand piano sitting atop the rubble.


Hans and Chloe sat outside on the balcony, gazing up into the night sky. The sea breeze whipped them gently in that pleasing way that forces people to differentiate it from the regular blow heavy rain into your face type of wind. It was nice to get away from the castle for a bit of a break, especially after what had just happened.
“So what do you reckon then?” asked Chloe.
“Nah, it just didn’t feel right. To be honest it was just a bit too strange,” replied Hans.
“Oh, shame really, you seemed to enjoy it too,” she lamented.
“Yeah, well enjoy it yes, but no, it’s not right and it won’t ever be. Even covered in cream it wouldn’t!”
“So what do you want to do then?”
“Well, I obviously should have tried to track down exactly what type of snake was present at the garden of Eden then, shouldn’t I. Cos obviously not all of them are gonna taste the same are they.”
“I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a start,” commented Chloe. She stretched and then stood up. “Fancy a walk along the beach before bed?”
“I’m not that tired,” replied Hans instinctively then, realising what she’d actually said. It certainly took him by surprise, he usually had to beg and plead for hours, and that was just for a kiss. Mind you these days if something weird and completely confusing didn’t happen it was pretty unusual day. At least it was a fair bit better than some of the shocks he’d had of late.
Then he got another, Chloe had vanished. He panicked; people didn’t vanish into thin air (or thick air for that matter). This wasn’t supposed to happen; he’d done all the heroic malarkey, so he should just get the girl and disappears into the sunset. 'Why did these things always happen to him?' he thought as he sank to his knees, or at least tried to but he couldn’t move at all.
“Snap out of it,” he heard a somewhat distant yet near voice call out to him. He was sure it sounded like Chloe. It could only mean one thing... now he was hallucinating, fantastic, things just couldn’t get better. This was the moment when the cold water splashed all over him.
He suddenly became alert to his real surroundings. He was still chained up in Daniel’s basement, soaking wet and one of Chloe’s fangs was jabbing him in the ribs. “I’m glad you’re finally awake”, she said, looking up into his eyes playfully, “I thought the two of us could go away somewhere for the weekend.”
Hans groaned.

PS. ‘Dazed’ and ‘Confused’ have seen a marriage counsellor and are now back together after Dazed promised to go out and get a job instead of sitting around watching repeats of Corrie all day. ‘And’ is now completely out of the equation and is looking to sue.