of Watts and the Dwat
Copyright Carolyn Horn 1993
All Rights Reserved
this is what you do when my back is turned," Arkwright was shouting
at Cicely, "a slight disagreement, and-"
"Slight! Ha! `Better
if we split,' you said. `Not a sound basis for commitment,' you said.
And you think a bunch of sodding roses is enough to-"
with every Tom, Dick or-"
Bryarus looked at Arkwright,
and then at Cicely. Then he strode to the sitting-room, and peered inside.
There was nobody in the room.
"How dare you!" Cicely
picked up the roses, which matched her red face, and flung them at her
fiancÚ. "Oww!" she said, and sucked a finger, "You've got a filthy mind,
Arkwright Pottle, and I never want to see you again."
"That's fine by me,"
Arkwright started to splutter through the roses, and then his eyes glazed
over; pound signs flickered behind them, through his brain. What little
chin he possessed flapped about a bit, and made gagging noises. At last
he managed: "Umm, Cicely - dear,"
She stamped her foot,
and broke the heel of her shoe. "Don't you `Cicely-dear' me, you overgrown
calculator-" she began.
Bryarus spoke. "I hate
to interrupt this loving get-together," he said, "but I'd like Cicely
to let me past. I have to get back to my room and scream a little. I
can't work out whether to sell the house and work my bollocks off for
the rest of my life, or just to give up now and go to a debtor's prison
for ever." He stalked up the stairs.
Arkwright looked after
him, and then back at Cicely. "What's he talking about?" he said.
Cicely remembered the
letter in her hand, and shook it at him. "Your `brilliant' idea about
tax; I tried it, in the end. And look what's happened now!"
The council had produced
a masterpiece. "Dear Madam," ran the letter, "Thank you for bringing
the matter of tax avoidance to our attention. The shop which operates
from the museum at Lower Postleton is to be taxed, as from this date,
at business rates; a standing order form is enclosed, to facilitate
payment of your half of the account. "However, there is a further matter
of outstanding back-tax for the past 49.5 years. A lump sum is therefore
due to us, calculated on the mean business rates for the period involved,
and including compound interest as appropriate.
"Finally, there is an
additional charge which is mandatory in cases of long-term tax avoidance.
"Please send your remittance
as soon as possible, to prevent further build-up of charges. If we can
be of any further assistance to you, please feel free to contact us;
yours sincerely etc etc."
Arkwright read the letter;
and did a double-take at the accompanying bill, over which zeros trailed
like streamers. "Oh," he said, and wiped a few rose-petals from his
jacket. He smiled vaguely, and hurried back down the path. Cicely threw
her prized, art deco hat-stand after him.
slumped into his chair, and more of its stuffing seeped out onto the
Djehuti looked up from
the books which riffled around him in the corner, and raised his eyebrows.
The ibis-head, which dangled from his shoulder, flipped another page
over and carried on reading. Ra, nostrils plugged, was holding Uraeus
out of the window and feeding him on titbits of decayed, writhing meat.
It was very humane, really; the maggots asphyxiated quickly.
Bryarus groaned, and
put his head in his hands. Djehuti came over, ignoring the indignant
squawk from his ibis, and patted the man's shoulder. "He'll, ah, finish
feeding Uraeus soon."
Bryarus gave a crack
of laughter. "It's not that," he said; "I'm getting quite used to holding
my nose. No, I'm trying to work out what the hell to do with an impossible
bill for half a million." The door slammed, and Cicely's shoes clacked
away, down the path. He jerked his head and gave a wry grin. "She's
the one that dropped us in this; at least she's got caught in it, too!"
He caught sight of the drinks cabinet, which was snoozing in the corner.
"I could do with a drink, come to think of it - here, Boozo, here!"
Half a glass later,
the doorbell rang. The vicar stumbled up the stairs behind Bes, and
popped into the room. He glanced around with an eager light in his eyes,
which dimmed slightly when he noticed the absence of the goddessly twins
but brightened again when Bryarus offered him a drink.
"I'm drowning my sorrows,
Bingo, mingling my tears," said the host.
"My dear fellow! What
is the matter?" Willey lowered himself onto a pile of cushions, and
read the letter. "Whatever is Derek Hartman up to?" he said, "This seems
quite out of character." He paused, and tapped his cheek with the envelope.
"Well, I'm sure there is a way around this; I'm quite an expert in my
small way. Why don't you phone Derek, while I think about it, and ask
him to give you time?"
Bryarus drained his
glass and stood up, nodding. "It can't hurt, anyway," he said, and bounded
down the stairs.
When Derek answered
the phone, his voice sounded embarrassed. "I'm so sorry that you've
been bothered by this, Mr. Watts," he said, "the secretary was only
supposed to send a copy of that bill to your sister. We really don't
intend to take it further, but I did want to see what she would do next.
We've had a little difficulty with Miss Watts, you understand. She keeps
phoning us, and, well, I did hope that a brush with bureaucracy would
get her off our backs."
Bryarus grinned at the
wall in relief. "I know the feeling, Mr. Hartman." He said. "I don't
think I'll bother telling her about this call. It'll be nice to have
her on my side, even if for only an hour or so!"
An hour and a celebratory
drink later, Bryarus listened to Willey weave his way down the stairs.
Cicely bounced in through the front door just as he reached the hall.
"Ah, Reverend," her voice had lost some of its crispness, "perhaps you
will know someone who can help me? Arkwright won't even try; and Barney
& Loophole don't want to know. Have a cup of tea, do, and look at this..."
Bryarus grimaced to
himself as her voice faded into the sitting-room. He wondered which
of his ingenious - and increasingly outrageous - solutions the vicar
would offer her.
Monday's crisp, sunlit morning reflected a rare Effingham-Luton mood.
He bounced into his office, just as Cicely had finished wiping the rat-shit
off his desk. He rubbed his hands. "I hear that you'll be selling the
museum?" he said, and chuckled.
Cicely bit her lip,
and frowned. She shovelled the droppings into a paper bag. "We would
have had to; and everything else," she said.
"Ah, well, that's life,"
E-L sat in his chair and leaned back, hands behind his head. He beamed.
"That brother of yours - what did you say?" He sat upright with
"And everything else?"
He flapped his hand
so hard that the rings jangled. "No, no, that bit's okay. You said:
`would have had to'?"
"Yes," Cicely closed
the bag, looked up, and smiled, "we were very lucky - dear Reverend
Willey found a way out for us. Something about the shop being `incidental
use' only. Of course," she pouted and walked toward the door, "it does
mean we've still got that ghastly museum." The door clicked shut on
her last word.
E-L sat still. He thought
for a minute and began to drum his fingers on the desk. He glowered
out of the window, and the sun scurried behind a bank of clouds. After
a few minutes, he growled to himself, nodded, and muttered: "That's
the answer. Show this upstart film-maker how we beat him on contacts;
depress him, and buy him out. See if I can't buy the roof from over
his head, too. There's more than one way of killing..." He smashed his
fist onto the buzzer. When Cicely poked her head back around the door,
his mouth cracked into a grin. "How would you like to get rid of the
"The museum, E-L, sir?
Oh, sir, if you could only get Bryarus to sell!" Cicely stepped forward
"Emily's throwing a
party; fancy dress, all that rubbish, tomorrow night. Bring him along.
I'll get him to sign, for sure." He wriggled his pudgy fingers. "Bring
any friends of his, too; that film-making idiot, for instance."
Cicely's face was one
huge smile. "Oh, E-L, sir, thank you! Yes, yes, of course I'll tell
Bryarus." She floated back to her desk. She hugged herself - a chance
to mix with the cream of society; not just Arkwright's polo-playing
accountants... She day-dreamed for the rest of the morning.
E-L, however, got down
to some serious telephoning. At least, he tried to, and spent a frustrating
hour or so. In the end, he had to leave his number and wait. He stomped
over to the window and glowered at the naked trees. When the telephone
finally rang, he pounced on it and barked out: "Yes? Ah, Visect," his
voice calmed into an oiled confidentiality, "You were complaining about
drug-testing restrictions, the other day-"
A burst of angry twittering
erupted through the earpiece: "-Hamstrung by a bunch of moralistic idiots-"
E-L grinned. "-Well,
I think I can help you. It's a new project - hush-hush, you know, absolutely.
Yes, well; there's a VIP, we won't mention names here, who wants to
see a field test done; they want an obedience drug."
The telephone twittered
with little squeaks of excitement, and a flow of long words.
E-L frowned. "Motor
neurone whatever - yes, yes, I'm sure that'll be the one. The idea is
to see if an enemy spy, at, say, a party, can be made to do something
against his wishes. No, you don't have to create the conditions; just
come along to a party at my place tomorrow night. Bring the stuff -
oh, and by the way, it's fancy dress."
E-L put the handset
down, and his chins wobbled to a chuckle. His rings clattered as he
rubbed his hands. It never entered his head that Bryarus might refuse
to come with his friends.
In fact, he was correct;
Bryarus' words, when Cicely passed on the information, were: "Something
free out of the old miser? Wouldn't miss it for the world. Hey, gang,
it's a come-as-yourself party! Er - all except you, Min; you'll have
to wear a loin-cloth or something."
Goshawk's instincts were twitching. Plenty of weird things had been
happening lately, and he wanted to know why. There had been that wave
of strange posters and that MI7 man. He had a hazy recollection of the
Watts' house full of something disgusting; also, there was this new
TV film director who shacked up in the worst part of town. The journalist
had a feeling that the government was trying to keep the wraps on some
amazing story. He nosed around Lower Postleton. He was searching for
dirt. He was in the right place; Marco's cafe was just the same.
Or rather, it was slightly
different - it sported a gaily checked set of new table-cloths. However,
only the foolhardy would try to lift the cloths and see what lay beneath.
Prosperity had been
dragged along to Lower Postleton by Dwish's filming activities, but
the tramps treated it with caution. As Nathan said: "Giving old Dwish
a hand with things now and then is kinda fun, and you get a few perks.
But money, now, that's complicated stuff; it drops out through the holes
in your pockets, and where are you then?"
Joe and Nellie nodded
their heads in agreement; they were sitting around the table and stuffing
themselves with the latest "perk" - a free meal.
Murdo yawned as he plied
his tramps with beer. They chatted. Five pints later, the journalist
was wide awake, his mouth wide open in shock. He choked on a few flies.
He brushed them away.
This was it. The scoop of the decade. Aliens and gods, no less!
was enjoying a relaxing half-hour, before getting ready for Emily's
party. She grinned as she imagined E-L's reaction to her arrival; he
couldn't throw her out, though. Kind little Emily had asked her. She
sank into a furry purple chair, and stroked the arm of it. It began
to vibrate, and she settled back to read a short story. She looked up
and frowned, as Bast waddled across the room toward Codswallop and boxed
his ear; the goddess was definitely too fat, Olwyn thought. Bast's temper
didn't seem to be improving, either - her ears flipped back and she
spat when Codswallop gave an exploratory sniff. He pulled his head back,
and sat with a surprised tilt to his whiskers. Bast glowered around
the room and stalked back into the kitchen. Olwyn shrugged and got on
with the book.
Two minutes later Bast
streaked across the room, leaped onto Olwyn's lap, yowled loudly and
gave birth to three kittens.
Olwyn gazed down at
the mewling, heaving mass on her skirt. She felt something wet dribble
through it and between her legs. She gulped and said: "I thought cats
were supposed to give birth in dark cupboards or something? And um,
Bast - I hate to disturb you and your babies, but I do have to get ready...
Bryarus said seven-thirty..."
Bast blinked at the
woman; she washed her babies and purred.
Effingham-Luton was looking forward to her party. She flushed with excitement
as she put the finishing touches to her makeup. She stepped back from
the mirror and twirled; laughter gurgled up from her throat. The slim
form which smiled back at her with sparkling, black-rimmed eyes, shimmered
in an Egyptian queen's dress. She swirled out of her room and cannoned
into her husband's bulk. She stopped, her skirts swinging loosely about
her ankles; the smile trembled on her lips and died.
When the Watts party
arrived, it was received by an Emily who drooped - a dead-eyed Cleopatra
- near the cocktail-lounge door. She knew that her costume hung in limp
folds around her, and she'd had to rouge her pale cheeks into bright
patches. At the other end of the sparkling room, E-L's voice thundered
and grumbled over the babble of sound; her eyes darted toward him and
flickered away again at each shout.
Heat beat outwards from
the upper-crust bodies and the rancid smell of dripping grease-paint
slithered along with it. E-L's "Henry 8th" silks showed great dark patches
of dampness already, and his chins were streaked with powder.
Emily glanced back at
her guests and she smiled. "Olwyn dear," she said, "I'm so glad you
came." Her hand went to her mouth. "Oh but - do keep away from Jarrold,
he's still mad at you..." She glanced around nervously, and Olwyn smiled.
"You look beautiful;
all ethereal and regal," she said.
Emily's lips twitched.
"Thank you dear, but I know I look awful; Jarrold told me. I feel like
a washed-out rag."
"That brute! Oh, I'm
sorry - I know he's your husband, but why do you listen to him?" She
turned to Min and grinned at him. "It's all rubbish, isn't it? You tell
E-L's voice sounded
louder and closer, and Emily jumped. "Drinks; do help yourselves..."
Her hands fluttered; one was caught in a firm grasp, and she glanced
up into Min's warm gaze. She could feel her eyes dilating.
"Is beautiful, yes,
Olwyn. Is sad too. Is priestess, yes?" He nodded. "Yes. Is true priestess.
Is sad, so sad." He lifted her hand to his lips, still holding her eyes
with his. Emily felt herself blush.
Through a mist, she
heard Bryarus' voice say: "Hold it, Min - this lady's married. Min!
Oh, hello, Mr. Effingham-Luton..."
She glanced around;
her husband ignored her. His arm was flung around Bryarus' shoulder,
pulling him away from the group. Her eyes snapped in rebellion. She
turned to the god and smiled. "A priestess, you say? Exactly what would
my duties be?"
Min's eyes laughed back
at her. "Is somewhere quiet for us to discuss, yes?"
It seemed the most natural
thing in the universe, to lead him out of the room and into her own
warm conservatory. Jarrold hated her flowers.
had been trying to shake Min's arm, when his soft and sweaty host had
bumped into him.
"Ah, Bryarus!" E-L heaved
an arm across the man's shoulders and drew him away. "Jarrold, my boy
- call me Jarrold. Come in; have a drink. Which of these," he jerked
his head toward the small group of gods which was already heading thirstily
into the room, "is the film johnnie?" The host thrust a double malt
into his captive's hand.
Bryarus raised it to
his mouth to blot out the stench of sweat and halitosis, and took a
deep gulp. His ears began to thunder with the waves of chatter which
beat against them. "None of them, Mr, er, Jarrold. Dwish couldn't come,
E-L frowned, and his
arm tightened before relaxing again. Bryarus wondered whether the smell
of the other's sweat would ever wash out of his own skin. E-L pinned
the smile back on, and continued: "I've been meaning to talk to you.
This museum nonsense; who is this pipsqueak who's making films there?
He's not got a gnat's chance of surviving. Let me explain, my boy. In
the television business, you need contacts; it's not just a matter
of making films, you see, you have to know the right people.
Now, if he were to come to us, learn a bit from us... Throw him out
of the museum; you'll be doing him a service."
"No," said Bryarus.
"Now, look here..."
Bryarus let the words
flow past his ears. His gaze wandered around. Nearby, two honeyed voices
caught his attention. The twins were sitting on a sofa, on either side
of a Harlequin. Isis carried a bowl of fruit, and Nephthys had got hold
of a bottle of wine. She was re-filling his glass. The man grinned,
and looked from one filmily-clad goddess to the other. He was the type
to pride himself on his way with women and horses. "Ladies," he began,
and then choked as Isis popped a grape into his mouth.
She rubbed her hand
on his thigh, and leaned across to her sister: "This one would last
longer, don't you think?"
Nephthys felt his biceps.
"Hmm," she said, and nodded; "I'm sure this one wouldn't scream when
His eyes took on a puzzled
expression. This approach was obviously new to him. He finally swallowed
the grape, and managed to say: "Ladies," before the breath was knocked
out of him. Isis sprang onto his lap, and bounced up and down.
"Yes," she said, "he'll
Drivula had backed a
florid young man into a corner nearby. He was dressed as Pinocchio,
and the hand which held his glass shook. He had a bad case of hiccups.
Drivula's tongue flickered
over her lips. She picked up his wrist and took his pulse. "Your blood-pressure
is high," she said; "have you ever tried leeches?"
"Hic," his voice squeaked,
"Blood-letting is an
age-old treatment; it's my - speciality..."
"Really?" he said, and
cleared his throat. "Hic, warm in here, hic, isn't it?"
Bryarus could feel for
the man. He dragged his attention away; E-L was still burbling on in
his ear: "So, you see, with the whole area improved, expansion and so
on, people like your friend would have more opportunity. You owe it
to them to sell-"
"No," Bryarus said,
and took another sip.
E-L glowered. He stomped
off, yelling: "Visect! C'mere!"
rat was foraging under the buffet when E-L tracked his quarry down.
The scientist was alone, gorging himself on expensive food; caviar juice
dribbled down his chin. He had come dressed as a laboratory scientist.
His artistic imagination was a bit limited.
"Well?" E-L said, and
grabbed the plate out of his hands. "Come along, we haven't got forever.
Watts has to be given the drug now, he won't suspect a thing. Well,
have you got it or haven't you?"
"Hush!" Visect was pale,
and he glanced around. "People can be so narrow, yes, narrow; why they
won't let me experiment on criminals, yes, criminals, I'll never know.
I admit, yes, admit; there have been some - difficulties. Half of our
rats did indeed go mad, yes, mad, but-"
"Yes, yes," E-L shook
the man by the shoulders, "but you have the drug? We can put it in his
The men moved away,
and the rodent beneath the table twitched his ears. He sat up and washed
his whiskers thoughtfully; then he shook himself, and disappeared into
the private rat passageways.
eyes widened as she looked at the magnificence which swung between Min's
legs. "Oh!" she said, "how - I mean, it's very big, isn't it; won't
there be a problem..."
"No problem," said Min;
he unclasped the brooch at her breast and slid the soft fabric from
Her breath quivered.
"Oooh!" she said. "What about, well, protection?" She held out
a little packet which she'd snaffled from Jarrold's bathroom. "
`Protection'? Is new
They sank down onto
the soft moss amongst the passion-flower stems. Shortly after, a god's
wild laughter rang out, followed by a nervous giggle: "I don't think
you're supposed to do that with it!"
was puzzled. E-L had come back, his face wobbling with smiles again,
and plied him with more drink. What did the old fool want?
The room tilted, and
Bryarus blinked. There was a roaring in his ears; he wasn't hearing
so well. Somebody was holding his hand, leading him across the heaving
floor, through a door which pulsated alarmingly. Someone kept telling
him to do something, and he wanted to do it, he couldn't bear not to.
There was a paper in front of him and a pen in his hand; where had they
come from? Never mind. Whoever had given it to him knew best.
His hand was guided
to the space at the bottom of the museum-sale authorisation, and he
smiled up at Visect and E-L.
"Your name! Sign!" barked
the latter; Bryarus nodded, and looked at the pen. He was going to sign
away his livelihood...