This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Midnight silence was broken by the gentle purr of a car engine, headlights offered a cautious beam of light across the driveway outside Melody Mansion. With assured stealth the silver Roll’s Royce drew to an eventual halt.
Slowly the back door open and out stepped a man, a great man, a man called Orpheus Keates. His large frame casting off an even larger shadow as the automatic lanterns fitted either side of Melody’s doorway activated at his presence.
He wore a fur coat skinned from a brown bear that he himself successfully hunted, armed with only a toothpick. Pulling his coat tight around him he felt the distinct chill of a twilight gasp. He walked slowly towards the mansion door to meet the man who was standing there, waiting expectantly.
‘Hello Wayne.’ said Keates, his eyes flickered up at the large three floor building, its walls painted a brilliant shine of white. Against the backdrop of deep darkness, the mansion glimmered with a spiritual glow.
Wayne returned the greeting an impatient nod, ‘Come in.’
He pulled open the thick light brown wooden door and ushered his guest into the hallway. Directly ahead was a corridor leading towards the back of the mansion,and to the right were the stairs.
Wayne gave the stairs one quick reassuring look before opening the door to his right, ‘Its okay they are in bed.’
‘Good,’ said Orpheus, ‘I don’t think your father would approve and heaven help us all the trouble your mother could cause.’
‘Exactly.’ agreed Wayne grimly, he closed the office door behind him and turned the key for extra peace of mind. He switched on the light to reveal a cube like room of reasonable dimensions. The walls painted white, a couple of printed Magritte pictures adjourned its barren surface. The carpet was a deep green, in truth not a pleasant colour, it gave off the impression you were standing on thick congealed swamp water on a late autumn afternoon.
‘Come on take a seat.’ he said to Orpheus, looking at the large man. Orpheus his reported age was in his early seventies, though due to almost pure baldness save the white hair remaining at the sides he looked older, near enough eternal. His beard again coloured like a winter scape upon a Christmas card was neatly trimmed to a symmetrical perfection. His eyes a torrent of wild grey were large, almost Owl like behind his smaller insignificant glasses. There was an impressive air about him, large, bombastic, confident. A man you could admire to the point of worship yet loath to new depths of hatred.
Without taking the chance to remove his large bear skin coat Orpheus lowered his heavy muscular frame down upon the chair.
Satisfied that the hasty arrangements of this secret tryst appears to have been successful. His parents were upstairs asleep and any awkward, unforeseen interruptions from the outside would remained duly suppressed. He finally went over to the other side of his desk and sat down.
‘Okay Orpheus, what is the big secret that will make everything okay?’
Orpheus lent back in his chair, he held silence for a moment while he allowed the younger man to absorb the expression of superiority upon his countenance. His grey eyes staring at Wayne, can eyes sneer? Apparently Orpheus murky opticals can.
He could see Wayne getting impatient across the table. Wayne twenty nine years old, his short dark brown hair usually quite neat in a partial spiky wave now looked tired and dishevelled. He certainly had good looks, though his features reflected an intense hardness.
‘Before I show you the answer, you must remember what will follow won’t be easy. The solution you seek is hidden, deeply hidden and I am unsure who you know will have the skill to uncover such revelations.’
Wayne rubbed his brow, amplifying the stress lines a little more. Normally he had little control over his patience. To play riddles when so much was at stake caused his temper to boil beneath the surface. He felt the sensation within, he forced himself to inject a calming wave. The whole situation regarding the company and Penguin Hollow was critical, it would be disastrous for all if the cracks split beyond repair.
‘I suppose it’s simply too much to ask if you just told me what it is you know?’
The heavy chest of Keates lifted and his face briefly illuminated with a short yet genuine chuckle. Instead of reply to the question, he countered swiftly with a query of his own.
‘Do you recall the details of that meeting this afternoon?’
Wayne did indeed recall the meeting he had that afternoon Along with three other company directors, two people who represented the highest position in government and a motley crew of lawyers and advisor’s. It was all that he could think of for the rest of the day.
‘You didn’t give me an answer to our problems after that meeting. I was hoping now, you might have something to offer.’ replied Wayne to Orpheus coldly.
Orpheus put his hand in his side pocket, the large paw disappeared into a pouch hidden completely by real bear hair. He withdrew his hand carefully, holding an old 7inch vinyl contained safely in a plain black sleeve cover.
Carefully he pushed this record across the table to the astonished young man, leaning back in his chair with the air of a man who’s done a thoroughly good job, he stared across at Wayne glowing with satisfaction.
Unable to utter any words Wayne picked up the record, he looked at the centre where a circular hole was cut to reveal name and artist upon the actual record.
DAVY CATAPILLER AND THE LETTUCES
ROCK AND ROLL KITTY KAT
He knew Orpheus reasonably well or so he thought. It was around eight years ago when this mysterious rich man offered to buy shares in the company. Wayne recalled how all the directors at that time wished nothing more than to reject his proposal, but with his impressive track record it was impossible to do so. He had links with government departments, powerful industries and other unknown bodies. Was he influential? Was he a genius? Was he a fraud? Was he something else? There were many times his behaviour, by action or by the words he spoke, would confirm all theories but revealed none.
If anyone else pulled a stunt like this then his temper would have overloaded violently. Orpheus was different, so much so he didn’t even enquire whether this was a joke. He knew full well Keates never jokes, the closest he ever got was cutting sarcasm.
Wayne placed the record down on the table utterly confused.
‘Do you know the story of this band?’ asked Orpheus quietly.
Wayne really wasn’t much into the sixties era, growing up he was quite attached to the indie scene and some area’s of rock and metal. He certainly heard of Davy Caterpillar and the Lettuces. In their five years of super stardom, their success in the swinging sixties was comparable only with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Wayne relayed this scattered knowledge back to Keates and added, ‘Didn’t Caterpillar kill himself or something. You know drink and drugs that sort of thing.’ He concluded with more than a touch of contempt for those that followed, ‘At least when he did it, it was original.’
‘Original or not,’ said Orpheus, ‘the end result is still the same, death.’
‘Let me think,’ muttered Wayne thoughtfully, despite the fact he was completely set off track from his original position he found himself slowly becoming more interested into this myth. ‘Davy Caterpillar was into occultism wasn’t he? Didn’t he go mad or something? Claimed he that he was some kind of god? Didn’t he kill himself with a load of his other loser followers in a ritual gone wrong?’
‘Your mode of text may need modifying if you were to give a University lecture on the subject.’ smirked Keates, ‘However that is quite an accurate record of things as we know it.’
Orpheus then added, lowering his tones to a confidential boom, ‘You may not know this but his suicide took place at Misfortune Mansion.’
This revelation startled Wayne. He knew of the old mansion house well. It was an infamous dwelling that was located in a quiet country village called Craven, about twenty miles south from Penguin Hollow. What’s more intriguing was that he also knew the property was now in ownership of the man that was sat before him.
Wayne activated his laptop and remained silent. He vowed to himself not to let his own ignorance play some sort of entertainment for Keates. After punching in his password he then accessed You Tube via the internet. He typed in the band name, many a list appeared of a number of their songs, rare performances and interviews. He clicked the option at the top of the page, moments later a recording started to play.
He turned the laptop sideways to allow Orpheus to see the screen, though suspected that he already viewed this footage before.
The host of the show Ed Sullivan announced to his audience, ‘All the way from Manchester, England are the latest and hottest band from across the pond. Ladies and Gentleman with their number one smash hit I’m Going To Take You Home its Davy Caterpillar and The Lettuces.’
Ed Sullivan slammed his hands together in applause and the camera cut to an all white empty studio set. Empty of course for the band, four men dressed in black and white tuxedo’s.
At the front was Davy Caterpillar holding a guitar, his hair was oil slick black cut into a bowler style. His face fresh with the joys of youth, there was no sign of age marks or even the need to shave. He was handsome that was for sure, boyish certainly. He looked to carry quite a strong frame under his suit, to an amateur’s eye he certainly had an athletic body.
However he sang his song with a smile, his large round eyes bouncing around, twinkling with a cheeky flirt at the camera. Behind him were the other band members, one sat behind a piano, another playing base guitar and further back still was the drummer who by music tradition no one ever cared about.
The camera moved back to reveal that the band were not alone upon this white wasteland, for studio lights perched upon high stands were strategically placed to glow upon the musicians. Along with the old black and white recording and emptiness of a white background these lights shone so brightly that it gave the band an almost ghostly appearance. They appear to fade and distort slightly beneath the intense brightness. To watch was quite unsettling upon the eyes, the image of the group started to appear other worldly.
However the song bounced along cheerfully in the well known theme of sixties pop. The lyrics and melody was far too gentle to be classed as pure rock an roll.
Davy his voice smooth like layered honey sang, ‘I’m going to take you home tonight. I’m going to take you home. I’m going have that dance tonight and then I take you home.’
When the song faded the audience applauded like an asylum of screaming banshee’s. Davy still holding to his guitar flashed a smile of beaming clean teeth and then the video clip ran its course.
‘Their first hit.’ commented Orpheus, ‘Of course Davy had black hair then, I think its around the second album he decided to dye it green. A master-stroke in my opinion.’
‘This is it?’ asked Wayne in disbelief, ‘I’m sorry for appearing so stupid but I fail to see how this connects to the issue of our very delicate and probably fucked up business deal.’
Orpheus wave a nonchalant hand, ‘Oh don’t apologize Wayne. Stupidity isn’t your fault, its something all you people are cursed with.’
Wayne clenched his fists, he could feel himself seething inside. His patience was held together only by his respect for this mercurial man. Unfortunately now, the well of forbearance was running dry.
‘You haven’t answered my question Orpheus. How does this help with our situation? We don’t have time to piss around playing games you know. This company, if you haven’t noticed is on the brink of something major and we need help, real help, to achieve it. What we don’t need is some pointless mystery from the sixties that no one cares about or even remembers.’
Orpheus lent forward, in a low voice he said, ‘Trust me on this Wayne. The less you know right now, at this stage is for the better. The answer to your problems really does lie with Davy Caterpillar and the real truth about his life,’ the great man paused for a brief moment, before concluding, ‘and his death.’
‘What is it you suggest? That I go to Misfortune Mansion and dig up clues on this guy? You know I can’t do that. I’m needed here for work. I can’t disappear on some stupid fucking treasure hunt.’
″Oh no you can’t go,′ agreed Orpheus, ‘You will have to send others.’
Wayne considered what others he could send, the prospects were not promising. Catching a near smirk upon Keates face he knew precisely who he had in mind.
‘You don’t mean Lord Stallion?’
‘Of course, his involvement is vital to this.’ said Keates, ‘Also I would get Eric Brook-Brookes involved as well. With our delicate negotiations with the government so finely balanced it would be prudent to have him out of the way. Besides if we are sending idiots to do the job of intelligent people, it maybe wise to take one intelligent person.’
Eric Brook-Brookes the sixth and final director of the company. His personal business was the running of the local media. He owned the newspaper and independent television company for the Eldershire region.
Eric was indeed intelligent, he had a sly cleverness, this along with his slippery personality made him to be the most untrustworthy individual Wayne ever came across. Like grabbing an eel from a tank he was just so hard to catch, and he always had the ability to slime his way from a grip just when you thought at last you nabbed him.
‘Good idea,’ agreed Wayne. Even at the very start of this project two years ago, Wayne and his mother argued passionately to exclude both Stallion and Brook-Brookes from having any knowledge about their wild scheme.
Their case was good. Clearly the need for top level secrecy was required, otherwise the government would not even hazard a reply let alone discussions. Adam was fundamentally against this underhanded scheming. He was a man of stern principal and whilst he completely agreed with what his son and wife suggested it was still in his mind the wrong way to act. However Wayne and Yvonne managed to get their way with support from Keates. Even to this very day the deception not to involve the two remaining board members remained a prickly affair.
‘We need a plan,’ Wayne said after a momentary pause in thought, ‘How do we convince those two its for all our benefits to go and stay at Misfortune Manor? We can hardly say its a holiday, not even Stallion would fall for that.’
‘I got a ruse that should solve that little problem.’ replied Keates assuming his air of natural smugness. He then proceeded to tell the details of his proposal. Wayne listened on in silence, the volume of cleverness coming from Orpheus was loud, over-bearing and downright annoying but he couldn’t help but be impressed. It was a gorgeous tasty fit up and he had to acknowledge only a man like Keates can make a simple idea to be so good.
‘They do need some assistance though.’ Wayne added, he couldn’t help feel a little put out how minimal his involvement and idea’s were used here. ‘I have some people we could use who can beef up the party.’
Orpheus waved a dismissive hand, ‘Yes I leave the tradesmen to you.’
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