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Sympathy for the Devil- Chapter Five 3/3

 

 

Unconscious, the monster slumped over his wife's grave. He'd wake up later with the worst headache of his life, and probably a few chipped teeth, but that wouldn't change the fact that he would have the definite option of waking up later– as opposed to the alternative.

 

Angel limped over, and pressed a bit of rope into his open palm. "All yours," he said. "Well done, Frank."

 

Frank clapped him warmly on the shoulder in silent response to the praise. He took a moment to unload the bow, forestalling the possibility of any Tom-Weaver-style nasty unexpectedness for anyone in the near future, then dropped it and hauled Frank Buttleman off Catherine's grave, trying his hands behind him. He felt very awake all of a sudden, despite the creeping numbness and the pain in his side. Intensely alive, flooded with something that the rock-solid conviction of his delusions had never been able to give him– the feeling of knowing he'd managed to uphold the Law, just like he'd sworn to do all those years ago. No lies. No deception. No death.

The feeling was painful, abrading the knots and scars of guilt on his tattered conscience, but it was a good, worthwhile, companionable ache. The kind of pain you could live with. By comparison the memory of that other feeling– that blazing, twisted righteousness– was like biting into an apple and finding it rotten.

 

It was like waking up from a long, dark dream.

 

It was like coming home.

 

Welcome back, sir, said the inner voice, weak with relief. A few bats in the belfry, and– the warm slick of blood inside his shirt swelled as he shifted on his feet, he could feel it slipping down his side –and I think we've sprung a bit of a serious leak down there, but other than that, everything's just as you left it.

 

“Well…” He looked around, from the slumped body to the wrecked front of the church, to the drift of scattered debris trailing off up the hill towards town. “I'd say that went quite well, wouldn't you?”

 

"Yeah," said Angel, grinning. "Haven't lost anyone, have we? That's enough of a miracle in itself."

 

To Danny, still struggling in the cloistered window, he called, "PC Buttleman, take off your body armour. It'll be a lot easier to get through that window, and I don't think anyone's trying to kill us anymore. Of course, there's always the off-chance someone'll try to hang us for blowing up half a church and inciting anarchy…"

 

Some people were starting to filter out of the closest houses during the silence, possessed by the small-town drive to gather information and pass it on to someone else with a few tailored additions.

 

"But I think they're done. Think they'll write a ballad about it, later?"

 

Danny stopped trying to ram the windowframe with his shoulders and dropped back out of sight. “Coming,” he yelled, slightly muffled.

 

There was a pause of about a minute, and then a clatter from the front entrance as he kicked his way through the debris and jogged hurriedly round the church to join them. He didn't say anything immediately, just stood by Nicholas's side and looked at his father, face-down and handcuffed next to his mother's grave.

 

Nicholas smiled, and more out of impulse than processed thought caught Danny's hand in his own and quickly squeezed it before letting go.

 

"Thank you, Danny."

Danny looked at him, startled. Then he blinked and– unconsciously mirroring his great-great-great-great grandson– patted him on the shoulder, a movement which would have looked curiously gentle to anyone who had seen him kicking his way through all those bloody great big planks a couple of minutes before.

 

“Glad it's over, Nick,” he muttered.

 

Frank took the opportunity to sit down, carefully, on a mossy hump of grass which might have originally been a grave. His hand was clamped to his side now, to the wet scarlet patch spreading on his shirt– placing it there had been only instinctive in the first place, but now it felt as if letting go would have genuinely nasty results. His vision was going fuzzy, darkening gradually through the imperfections of his borrowed glasses.

 

"Oh, Christ," swore Nicholas, suddenly noticing Frank's pained position around the sudden gathering of warm fuzzies of sense-memory association in his brain– he'd more than seen his fair share of sudden grimacing, crouchings, and the hand, that horrible hand-movement clamping over old scars, over the last year.

 

"Frank, what is it? Let me see it–"

 

Frank waved a blood-spotted hand impatiently at him, shooing him back. “It's nothing, don't fuss. I think I've the won the right to enjoy being on top of things for a minute without it turning into an episode of Casualty.”

 

"Don't be stupid," snapped Nicholas, "My partner had a gut injury– you think I don't know how dangerous they are? Danny, help me out of this thing so I can use my arms properly." He held his hands over his head impatiently like a child, rather than struggle it off over his head and further jostle his rib.

 

Frank rolled his eyes in resigned annoyance, then slipped onto one elbow, winced, started to cough– a deep bad-luck sort of sound– into his free hand. Danny gave him a worried, apologetic look, then got hold of the sleeves of Nicholas's stab vest and tugged the close black shell of it up over his head.

 

And it was rather unusual, because when people take clothes off, they generally stay the same person, only a little colder, with more exposed skin. They don't usually get hair where it's been burned off, or have a lot of scars disappear, or get a very slightly different face. Angel had a thin sort of face which looked like the skin on it was stretched over the underlying structure until he smiled. This new person had sideburns, had a bit more pudge to his cheeks, and the puzzled sort of expression which suggested that it was going to get very alarmed very quickly.

 

"W… H'what's going on, then? Who's big idea was this?"

 

Danny started, and dropped the stab vest, staring at this strange new Angel-1000 model. His stomach gave a sinking lurch, and he scrabbled for words.

 

“Er… I…”

 

He glanced around, and saw to his alarm that there were a lot of people now converging on the church– a lot of worried, murmuring, curious people– and not only that, but Frank seemed to have missed Angel's sudden transformation. He was doubled quietly over on the grass, his eyes closed.

 

Danny Buttleman suddenly felt very alone.

 

“I think you… had a bit of a bang on the head.”

 

Among the talkative, jabbering Sandfordian mob descending upon the wreckage in the church, and the three people standing (one slumped) in the graveyard, one broke away from the crowd, and sprinted long-leggedly towards Danny.

 

"Is Const'ble Angel gone away?" asked Will Messenger, glancing at this new person, who'd just noticed that his leg was hurting and bleeding, and was currently involved in hopping around whimpering.

Danny stared at the pogo-ing Angel for another moment or two. He was beginning to realise that all this could all get very complicated very quickly. He thought he could see Toby somewhere at the outskirts of the little crowd, hanging back as if he was slightly ashamed of himself, which was in fact the case. Where Toby was, Tom wasn't going to be far behind, and with three of them they would have a chance of exercising some proper crowd control.

 

Nicholas had told him about crowd control.

 

“Never you mind, Will,” he said. “Run over to Constable Turner over there, will you, and tell 'im that PC Buttleman says if him and Constable Paver don't shift their arses over here they'll both be standing everyone down the Crown for th'next month.”

 

"S'just, he said to give you this," said Will, shoving a small package into Danny's hands, "when he went away. If he went away. He gave me it in Doctor Cleaver's house, said it was my first delivery. Gave me three shillings for it, he did. Funny, you being right there and all."

 

And then he darted off back into the crowd to seek out the rest of Sandford's decimated police force, and relay instructions.

 

Danny barely noticed him leave. He turned the little package over in his hands, then glanced up. At the moment, nobody was paying him any mind. As he watched, Toby and Tom stumbled over and started to shoo off the few enterprising villagers who had started to advance on his unconscious father, probably with unkind intent. Several concerned people had clustered around Frank, and Angel's attention still seemed too entirely concentrated on his injured leg to take in any of the many other peculiarities around him yet.

 

Danny hesitated, then opened the package, carefully.

 

There was a letter tucked in among the contents of the package. You could see the edge of it poking out of a leather-bound book of newspaper clippings.


To be opened by Daniel Buttleman, upon Constable Angel’s Leave of Absence,
it said, in writing that scrawled and blotched its way across the paper, and Angel’s drunken attempt at a wax seal.

 

The inside didn’t look much different. It looked, in fact, very much like Angel’s first experience ever with a pen that dipped in ink that ran out mid-word and had to be held at a certain angle, and would occasionally drip, sputter, and explode over his words.

 

His writing style was different than anything Danny had ever seen, no impressive curls, not even strung together, but suggested that aside from the medium, it would render rather cleanly, almost like a child, or rather, a child who had grown up writing this way his entire life, and it was just as clipped, precise and isolated as the character himself.


 

 

Danny,

 

 

If you’re reading this, hopefully I’ve gotten home– you know when. I’ve no idea how I got here to begin with, so I assume going back would be much the same sort of business. I won’t be sad to have left– you also know why, and why I carefully omit the reason– but you were also the best sort of man I could have run into, and I’m glad to’ve had you at my back. I think you’ll do a fine job running the service in your time as I do in mine.

 

I can only really give you advice or suggestions, can’t I? You don’t have to listen to anything I say at all, you’re certainly free to make your own mistakes through life– though for the sake of yourself, I’d recommend that you try to listen to me acting like I’m your bleeding mother. Don’t drink out of anything made from lead, in fact, don’t even paint your house with any of the stuff– it’s slow-working poison that can affect your hearing and neurological processes, especially in children. Don’t take any laudanum you can avoid taking, and never start smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or drinking to excess– however, a few pints a week aren’t that harmful. Never let a ‘doctor’ put a leech on you or do any bloodletting. Get in a bit of exercise, perhaps jogging or riding a bicycle a mile a day. Always brush your teeth every night. Believe it or not, women are just as intelligent and capable as you or I– they just haven’t had the opportunity to show it yet. People are innocent until proven guilty, and please, despite what the law says, try to arrest people for what they’ve done, not for who they are, for things they can’t help. For that matter, hire and promote based on competency and incorruptibility, nothing else, nothing less.

A few heads up, from copper to copper:

 

\ 1. The Irish Potato Famine – This is possibly going to be the most influential event in your lifetime. In 1845, a plant disease hits Ireland, wiping out the entire crop of potatoes for the country. A famine starts, and the response for help is severely underwhelming, to say the least. None of the politicians do anything, or at least anything useful, because Ireland is still turning a profit, and it would be unprofitable to send aid back. 750,000 to 1,500,000 Irish die, of starvation and poor sanitation and disease, landlords throw people out of their cottages and burn them as they leave, and the country doesn’t get itself back under control until 1849. This affects EVERYONE. Another several million leave Ireland forever, for America and England, Scotland and Australia. The fact that most of these immigrants are so impoverished when they arrive means they settle into the cheapest housing available, especially in the slums of London and the poor countryside, eventually creating the economic conditions for number 3.

 

2. Don’t ever, ever, EVER think of joining the army for a war in Afghanistan, in 1838. Out of an army of 12,000 British men, only one walked home. Everyone else, and I am not pulling your leg, was killed. Even officers.

 

3. You’ll be an old man by this point, with any luck, but in 1888, England’s first highly-publicized serial killer debuts in White chapel, London and kills five, possibly eleven women, all sex workers. He’s never caught. It is a major turning point for the British police service as it modernizes, becomes more efficient.

 

There’s so much else I’ve probably forgotten to tell you, but it doesn’t matter. You’ll find out for yourself eventually. What an amazing, scary, incomprehensible world we have. Have some kids, settle down, use your brain, and never take your life for granted.

 

 

God save the Queen,

 

 

Inspector Nicholas Angel

 

Sandford Police Service


PS. Don’t stop reading. This is Charles Dickens, who’ll be amazingly popular as a novelist one day. I’d also recommend Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle– although I’m not sure of the publication date- might be too late. Jules Verne is another great author– I’m pretty sure the man invented the basis for the science fiction genre. Mark Twain is an American author who is fantastically funny, writing about adventures in the Southern States, and, now that I think of it, I think he wrote the first book about time-travel. And, although it sounds childish, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.


A tiny scrap of paper had been torn off the bottom, balled up, and stuck in the middle of the letter. If Danny had ever seen a fortune cookie, it would have looked remarkably familiar. When Danny picked it up from where it had dropped among the dew-laden grass, it unfurled to read, in tiny, embarrassed letters;


PPS. The phrase ‘courting with a bloke’ is possibly the most brilliant, absolutely bloody adorable way of putting it I can imagine.


Danny couldn't help but smile, although there was a heavy sort of ball of goop stuck at the back of his throat and he found it hard to look up from the letter for a while. There was still a lot to be done to put everything to rights, and sooner or later he knew that there was probably going to be a lot of tricky explaining on the horizon, but for the moment it felt good to lean against the wall in the crisp winter sunshine, the letter in his hands, not thinking about very much in particular, and just look at Nicholas's neat, precise, slightly maimed handwriting.

 

Eventually, the sounds of the rest of the world filtered back in, and he stirred and transferred the contents of the packet into his pockets. Later, he could decide how he felt about all of it, and try to work out what on earth some of it meant. Right now, he had a job to do.


Danny reread the small scrap in his hand, grinned to himself, then tucked it into his pocket and set off into the chaos of the sunny Sandford churchyard, and a future of his own.

continue...

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
bakaknight
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:32 pm (UTC)
This is such a completely and utterly fantastic read. I adore how you've gotten right into the minds of all the characters - and the letter, and taking off the stab vest and turning into past!Angel!
But Frank! Ooh, Frank, what's gonna happen to him I wonder?
Cannot wait for the next chapter.
random_nexus
Jun. 15th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
OMG I swear, I'm all trying not to be sniffly. Holy Craptarts! So much damned good stuff!

I can't wait for the next bits, but it looks like I'll have to. *does the junky shuffle and frets*
soul_bonnie
Jun. 15th, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)

I've been reading this for about 3 hours now and I'm absolutely amazed. This is such great work, I'm loving it to pieces!!!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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