He had been following him for several days now around the streets of Kensington, before heading home at twilight to prepare for his night in the West End working.
His adversary only worked by day, when the good working folk of the suburb were at work or spending the days in leisure attended by their servants.
Huddled behind a Hansome Cab in the High Street, Aristophanes Brown spotted the fellow he was after as a church clock struck three. He was indeed a furtive sort of man – a quick look through a pocket telescope revealed a dark coat, a grimy beard, and eyes well used to darting around in search of Peelers.
He couldn’t strike yet. He needed evidence. He needed proof.
He had to keep an eye out for Peelers himself, as he was perhaps loitering rather, so he darted across to a newsboy, and occupied himelf reading the Times, hoping rain wouldn’t come to smear the print across him. Over the top of the society pages, he saw the man dexterously pick a townhouse lock, and disappear inside, as of he owned the place.
He had been alerted to these happenings by reports of bird skeletons being found on the doorsteps of the rich and well to do in areas such as Kensington and Mayfair, goldfinches, linnets and exotic canaries had been yanked from their cages and subjected to a grim fate before being discarded, much to distress of the lady of the house. He wasn’t working for a fee, he was working out of a sense of civic virtue. And the fact that his mechanical genius Alexia Laplace was a tremendous lover of songirds. Who had threatened all manner of violences if he hadn’t sprung to action.
Aha, here he comes, thought Aristophanes. The felonistic fellow had reappeared in the street. And in his hand was a pathetic mass of bone and feather. The golden wing primaries of a goldfich were falling to the paving.
About his mouth was blood and shreds of tiny flesh.
“My god, he is indeed eating them! My god!”
Aristophanes was sprinting now, sprinting across the street…the eater of birds saw the fair haired theatre critic coming at him, coming for him, and began to run himself, up the hill, up the High Street. But he was no match for Aristophanes, who in his lightweight tweeds designed by Miss Laplace could reach a fair lick of speed in comfort.
As he caught the man, he sqaured up to him in a rustic boxing stance. Aristophanes was no boxer, but he had his own weights of fighting. He boffed the fellow smack between the eyes with his telescope, and smiled with satisfaction as he sank slowly to the street like a sack of cotton at the docks. Now, he was rather keen to attract the attention of the Police.
* * * *
“Dratted thing is dented” he said, passing the telescope to Alexia Laplace as she gave him a cup of tea. “But I got the chap.”
Alexia took it, had a look, and lifted her visor clear from her mass of auburn hair. “I’m sure I can fix it. Can’t have the scourge of sinister bird murderers without his extra eye. Did you find out what he was about?”
“He’s in Bedlam now. Seemed to think that by eating our feathered friends he himself would gain the power of flight. Fixed to the dank walls of our own special hospital, I think he may now know that is not the case. Sometimes I think our world is too harsh upon dreamers.”
Alexia Laplace took a hearty pull of her tea.
“Aristophanes, you’ve been watching too many milksop plays again! He ate defenceless little birds, not designed Da Vinci flying machines!”
“You’re right of course, Alexia,” sighed Aristophanes Brown. “And true indeed, this man was a villain. But surely there are others we judge too harshly?”
“Like that actress you referred to as having the voice of a barking seal the other night?”
Aristophanes smiled. “Theatreland is different. We critics are as vicious as murderers.”
They both laughed.
Copyright Mulberry Lightning 13.10.14
This piece was written in about 60 minutes – well Only Connect was on, the retro quizzers favourite – inspired by the two bird skeletons found in the attic