Crown Infernal




Chapter 6

It was still raining in the morning and looked as if it had set in for the day. Pel had sunk into a mood of self-absorbed gloom. He drank half a cup of thick black coffee gazing dolefully out at the rain dripping off the trees. Otherwise he by-passed breakfast.

Lamfada arrived at six-fifteen and came upstairs. He took one look at Pel, raised his eyes skywards and glanced questioningly at me. I shrugged. His gaze rested on Pel again, more thoughtfully. Pel lowered his eyes as if he couldn't bear to look Lamfada in the face - which was understandable. It wasn't going to make the rest of the day very easy though. Still no-one said anything. How do you open a conversation in these circumstances?

We picked the Prof. up as planned. "It's a rotten morning," he said brightly, obviously having forgotten the events of the previous day. The memory came flooding back equally obviously as he took in the sombre looks all around. "Oh— Sorry."

"No," came a forlorn voice from the depths, "it's not you who should be sorry, it's me."

"And are you?" asked Lamfada gently.

"I guess so," he admitted despondently.

"Then we'll forget about it - put it behind us, and get on with today. We've a lot to do still, though we did better than I expected yesterday. Greg's coming back in the afternoon, so I want to get the rest of 'Walking on the Edge' put down, and, if possible, the whole of 'I'll Put a Spell on You' before he comes. Do you think we can manage that?"

"It won't be for want of trying," said Pel, marginally more cheerful. We did it before noon, and we weren't happy with it. It lacked life somehow. It didn't sparkle. Technically, it was as near perfect as we were likely to get, but—

We all knew what the trouble was. Pel remained in a state of desolation. He wasn't sulky or sullen. He did everything that was asked of him with a docility that was as unnerving as it was unnatural. He was making painful efforts to be pleasant, too. It was like working with an android.

Edan called an early halt for lunch. It was a hamper again, like yesterday. Pel looked as if he were going to refuse the wine again, possibly for a different reason. He accepted it meekly, however, and sipped at it with all the decorum of a schoolgirl at her first communion.

I despaired. The Prof. didn't look too happy either, and Edan was deep in thought. Eventually he stood up and said, "On your feet, Pel."

Pel complied, puzzled but willing. Edan took a step towards him, took Pel's face between his hands and kissed him full on the mouth - hard.

Prof. and I gawped. It was a hell of a kiss. I felt almost jealous. On the other hand, Pel's face was frozen into a mask of horror and revulsion as Edan stepped back.

"That's just to say I'm sorry I hit ya last night."

Then Pel snapped back to life.

"You bloody fuckin' queer!" he squawked, dragging the back of his hand across his mouth. "Don't you ever do that again!"

An impish grin hovered around the corners of our vocalist's mouth, while the Prof. and I fell about laughing.

"Oh Pel, you should've seen your face!" I choked.

An enraged Pel threw himself at me with a view to throttling the life out of me when he suddenly saw the funny side of it. This was fortunate from my point of view, as I was in no position to defend myself.

"It wasn't me," I protested, "Get him!" I pointed at Edan.

Pel made as if to do so, then held out his hand with a grin. "D'Artagnan strikes again," he said.

Edan looked nonplussed but shook the proffered hand, then said, "Okay folks, let's get back to work - see if we can run through the last two again before Greg arrives."

This time it fairly sizzled. With the adrenalin flowing, Pel was right back on form. Greg walked in on the last chord. He nodded to Pel.

"I heard you were indisposed yesterday. I hope I see you well now?"

There was a note of genuine concern in his voice that caused Pel to look a little shame-faced, but, "Fine, thanks," he responded, "couldn't be better."

With Greg's guidance, the songs grew in stature. It was a long and painstaking job, re-recording bits that weren't quite right, adding bits, swapping different versions around to see which sounded best. By six-thirty, we were satisfied with the results - and that was just the first number...

Edan decided to call it quits then. "We should be able to wrap the other three comfortably next week. Let's go and eat now - my treat. We'll pack up later. Can we go in your car, Greg? It'd be more comfortable than the van."

The bright little restaurant that Edan had found was half an hour's drive away, but was well worth the trip. It specialized in Caribbean and Central American cuisine - hot 'n' spicy. I prefer oriental food myself but a change is always welcome.

We spent nearly three hours there in comfortable camaraderie. The storm had blown over - it had even stopped raining - and a cosy peace reigned. We talked easily about nothing in particular as a warm glow infused the veins - probably helped along by a number of bacardis and pina coladas. Pel, provocatively, dismissed these as pretentious. It was only a token gesture though, and he joined in readily enough.

It was with a real reluctance that we left - tired but happy as they say - and returned to the studio to load the van. We bade Greg a fond farewell until the following weekend and set off for home. That night, we slept the sleep of the just.

The following week passed much as the previous one had done. In the evenings, the Prof. came round and we practised, or penned more lyrics - we felt that this was what Edan would expect of us in his absence. Pel had also contacted his cousin about the art-work. The cousin, Giles Waring, was not only willing, but positively keen to be involved.

Lamfada didn't appear again until Thursday afternoon, explaining that he'd been to a race meeting to replenish his bank balance. Nice if you can do it that way. Edan apparently could.

He brought the compiled publicity folio, which he wanted to have printed - hence the flutter on the gee-gees, and the tape of the Science Dept. disco, which he'd meant to bring earlier but had forgotten. We listened to the tape with magnum interest.

It was both better and worse than it had seemed at the time; better, because we were more aware of the life in the performance and the enthusiasm of the crowd reaction; worse, because every little flaw seemed to leap to the ear. I cringed at one or two of my most obvious fluffs, and similar pained expressions crossed the faces of Pel and the Prof. from time to time. Edan, of course, had heard it before and so remained unmoved.

The general impression was favourable thanks to the reception we got from our public, and Edan pointed out that we spotted the errors because we knew they were there. The casual listener probably wouldn't notice even half of them.

"Not that that's any excuse to rest on our laurels. The paying punter wants the best for his money and won't tolerate sloppiness for long. Now, about our publicity brochure. We need to work out a logo tonight if pos., so I can get it to the printers sometime tomorrow."

"Sure you don't want it done yesterday?" asked Pel.

"That would be ideal, of course, if you've some way of achieving it?" came the response.

We knocked a lot of ideas around till we settled for a lettering style based on triangular shapes. They looked rather like runes, which was in keeping with the name. 'Enchanter' started with a large capital 'E', similar to the Greek letter sigma, and the lower case letters diminished in size and tailed off in a flurry of multi-coloured little stars. The lettering itself was to be scarlet shading into electric blue.

"We could use that as the name for the C.D.," the Prof. said suddenly.

"What?" I asked, all at sea.

"Electric Blue."

We thought about it. "It's a very good idea," Edan agreed, "too good in fact. We'll save it for our first album." The conceit of the man!

"Great! We'll arrange a tour and call it, 'The Electric Tour.' How does that grab you?" Pel was all enthusiasm.

"Slow down, you two," I begged. "We still haven't finished our first recording yet. If not 'Electric Blue,' we'll have to think of another name for it."

Edan bit his lip. "Um... I already have," he confessed.

"Okay, let's have it." Pel's voice was devoid of any emotion.

"'Spellbound' - by 'Enchanter'," he declared boldly.


"You what?" Edan looked dumbfounded - not surprisingly. We all gazed at Pel in amazement.

"I said 'Great'," he repeated unconcernedly and went back to his doodling. The rest of us exchanged speaking glances. "For Chri'sake, I'm not that unreasonable!" he protested.

"No? ! " came the chorus.

"No," he said with a show of offended dignity. We laughed. All that remained was to finish off our draft. We rejected all sorts of enclosing shapes, spiky and smooth, and settled for an imaginary pennant shape, fluttering in the wind as at a mediaeval tournament. The gentle curves this entailed in the overall shape seemed to soften the angular letters. We liked the contradiction.

Edan then had Pel ring his cousin again to see if he was free that evening. He was, so the pair of them disappeared downstairs and into the Jag., which in turn disappeared in a cloud of exhaust fumes and burning rubber. That fellow doesn't hang around, I tell you. It was just like the Devil himself was on their heels.

They were back before nine-thirty, so considering Abingdon's over fifty miles away as the crow flies, they must have been going some. Pel was looking kind of wild-eyed and grinning like a maniac. He loves speed and gets very frustrated driving the van. It's not as old as the Jag., but it's in a much more advanced stage of decay and needs nursing carefully.

I didn't think Edan could've have done anything better to get himself into Pel's good books. I found out later that he had. He'd let Pel drive his precious Jag. He went even further and took us out for a drink at our local, the 'Pied Piper' —beer!

That week-end followed the same basic plan as the previous one, but without all the alarums and excursions. The four of us and Greg Douglas beavered away solidly, and were pleased with the results.

We spent another pleasant Sunday evening at the same little Caribbean place after putting the completed master to bed. We gave the Green Man a very wide berth!

Over the mango sorbet, Edan remarked, "I think someone should re-work 'Nightshade'. It's our weakest song, but it has some good points."

"Aw. That was our first ever song, that was. We wrote it together." I said wistfully.

"Yes, and it shows," he replied tartly. I sought enlightenment. "Togetherness is all very nice, but it stifles creativity. You were working like a committee, you know, and it's been said that a committee is that shady avenue into which good ideas are lured and quietly strangled." We chuckled. "Well think about it," he pressed. "Could 'Bo Rhap', for instance, have been written by a committee? Or 'Mull of Kintyre'? Or 'Bat Out of Hell'? Or 'Imagine'? Or— "

"Okay, okay, we take your point," I said. "So who's going to re-write it?"

"I thought you might do that, my friend," he replied and continued ruminatively "It might be more in keeping with the new image if we could change it to 'Enchanter's Nightshade' but do what you think."

I thought about it and nodded. "I'll see what I can do."

"We could really do with a video," he went on, "but I'm afraid that's out for the time being. Either you do it on an amateur basis with all that that implies, or you employ professionals, and that entails a very high cash outlay."

"Shame on you," cried Pel, "are you losing faith in us already?"

Edan laughed ruefully. "Well, if you can come up with the money... "

"Couldn't we hire a video camera," suggested the Prof., "and set it up to film us performing those four songs? Like you recorded our last disco?"

"Hmm... It's a possibility I suppose." Edan conceded. "We'd need to hire a hall too." He considered it with furrowed brow. "I don't think it would show us at our best though, without the lift we get from a live audience. And we couldn't really have an audience with video equipment in the middle of the floor— Unless we could hang the camera from the ceiling somehow, out of harm's way... Ye-es, it might work. I was thinking of something on a bigger scale— "

"No! We'd never have guessed!"

Edan ignored the interruption from Pel and went on, "but it would at least be within our budget. We'll all have to look around for suitable premises. What about the audience?"

"I don't think that'll be a problem," I assured him. "We didn't tell you about the feedback from the last disco, did we? There are quite a lot of people hoping to see us again. I'm sure they'd be happy to bring their friends to a free show. By the way, just as a matter of interest, what is our budget? I think we must owe you quite a bit?"

"Don't worry your pretty little head about it, sweetie." He was back in flamboyant mode. "Your sugar daddy's got it all under control."

"Be serious!" I snapped. "So far, our financial contribution has been close to zero, and I don't choose to be beholden."

"Oooo, hoity toity!" he laughed, then reverted to normal. "Seriously— I've been keeping an account of all I've laid out - which you may see any time you want - and I will be reclaiming my expenses when we hit profitability. Okay? Which reminds me, we ought to have an accountant, too."

There seemed no end to it. It occurred to me that when we set out with our wild dreams of conquering the world of rock 'n' roll, we really had no idea of what we were getting into. We thought only of the glamorous side, the successful gigs in front of screaming crowds, wild parties, fast cars, hordes of admiring fans with beautiful bodies, begging us to fuck them.

Since we met Lamfada, it seemed more like a flaming business studies course! Where would it all end?

Chapter 7

The following day was Bank Holiday Monday. The Prof. came round wearing his chairman's hat.

"I don't know if you'd realized it, but it's four weeks today since we put Edan on a month's trial. I can't remember whether we specified that period, or a calendar month, but either way, we ought to be thinking about it. You can bet your bottom dollar he won't have forgotten and he'll be round here demanding an answer before we know where we are."

"So what is the answer?"

"Well, that rather depends on you, Pel. I have no objections personally. As I see it, he's done very well by us so far."

"Too well," I said, heavily.

"You still worrying about the money, Alex? He said it was okay, so what's the problem."

"I don't know, Prof. I just have this niggling feeling that we're being bought. I mean, a guy doesn't shell out the dosh the way he's been doing without expecting some return on it. I can't help wondering if the repayments might not be too high for us. Suppose we don't make it... "

"Alex," Pel expostulated, "are you feeling all right? Of course we're going to fuckin' make it. How can we fail?"

"With Lamfada, I'd say we couldn't. That's the point."

"Huh? I don't get you."

"He's made himself pretty well indispensable, hasn't he? Bought his way in, in fact. Use your brain, Pel. What happens if we drop him now? Everything we've done since he joined us goes down the pan - everything. We're right back to square one. It could be months before we could pay him back, and we'd have to find more money of our own to market ourselves. Damn it, we can't afford to drop him."

"Who says we're going to?" Pel asked nonchalantly. Prof. and I goggled.

"You mean, you're happy for him to stay?" Prof. asked, unbelieving.

"Well, I wouldn't go that far," he hedged, "but I agree we're better off with him than without him. You don't look overjoyed about it, Alex. Is Mr. Wonderful getting to you, too, or are you just getting cold feet?"

"Not really, I suppose. I just wish we had a free choice, that's all. And I don't like the idea of being exploited."

"It could equally be said," came the Voice of Common Sense, "that we have been exploiting him. In any case, I don't believe he'd come after his 'pound of flesh' even if we did fail - or if we dropped him. We made no commitments to him, and he did say he's a gambler. If you're not prepared to lose now and again, you don't gamble do you?"

"S'pose not."

"That's all right then. We keep him."

And talk of the devil, who should arrive at that point but Edan Lamfada.

"Hullo. We were just talking about you." Subtle as a brick, our Pel.

"Oh? To what end?"

"Your month's up."

"Ah... You're giving me the order of the boot then?" He spoke pleasantly, but I'd have been happier if there'd been the tiniest hint of apprehension that perhaps we might be about to do just that.

"Actually, no," I said levelly, "Isn't that a nice surprise?"

One raised eyebrow acknowledged the irony, then he grinned. "I haven't been wasting my time today then."

"Why, what have you been doing?" I asked warily.

"It's still not too late to change our minds, you know." Pel warned, eying him steadily.

"I haven't committed us to anything, but I have found a suitable hall. Well, it's a church hall actually, next door to St. Aidan's church."

"I think I know it," mused the Prof. "Isn't it that old ruin off Chantry Lane? The church that is. Can't say I've noticed the hall."

"That's right. The church was deconsecrated years ago but the hall's still in use. I couldn't do anything about booking it today, but I happened to bump into the caretaker, who told me it's probably available on Thursday morning. Apparently, they had a cancellation. What do you think?"

"It's half-term for schools of course," I said, "so the Prof. wouldn't have to skive off - which would be very awkward, seeing as he's in the middle of 'A' levels right now - but - we might have difficulty getting an audience at that time."

"I've just had a good idea," Pel announced. "If that church isn't used any more, we could do the show there - a ruined church - it would be a great setting!"

I could see him visualizing it. The trouble is, he doesn't allow practicalities to interfere with the vision.

"Where's the power coming from?" - I sniggered. - "God doesn't live there any more."

Pel looked abashed, Edan thoughtful. "It's a brilliant idea, actually. The church is in precisely the right stage of decay. A power supply is the problem, but it needn't be insuperable. We'd need to take cables from the hall - it's reasonably close. We'd also need permission from the hall authorities to use their electricity, and permission to use the ruin too, probably. Someone must own it, I suppose. Why don't we go down there now and work out the possibilities?"

No sooner said than done, as is Edan's style. It really was a superb venue - full of atmosphere. The roof was long gone, of course, though some roof timbers remained. Others, broken off, pointed jagged black fingers at the sky. The squat tower had crumbled and nature had tastefully clothed it with ivy and moss. The pews were missing. Gone too was the altar. The raised area where it had once stood would make an ideal stage, though.

"You know, Alex, we're stupid,"

"Speak for yourself, Pel."

"No, seriously. And you're as much to blame, Edan. You've got us relying on you so much that we've forgotten how to think for ourselves. Jerry Leventhal!"

"Of course! We should've thought of him before!"

"I hate to be a bore, dah-lings," breathed the Stage Personality, "but the Prof. and I are still com-pletely in the dark."

"The Media Arts Soc.," I explained. "It's a student society dedicated to the - take a run at it - 'cinematographic and allied arts'. Jerry Leventhal is its president or whatever. Last year, he won an award or something for a short film he made. Don't know much about it. We move in different circles. Anyway, we could have ourselves a film crew. It's not definite, of course, but it is possible."

"I don't think we've time to do a wide screen epic, but if this guy has experience of video cameras, as seems likely, then he would be ideal. I dare say he has access to lights too. Could you sound him out, one of you? We would make it worth his while, naturally."

"Sure thing."

"That just leaves the 'legalities'. I presume this place still belongs to the Church." Edan's lip curled in distaste. "Ah, well. It won't be the first time I've dealt with clerical authorities. I'll sort that side of it out. By the way, do we still require an audience? I'm inclined to think they might be more of a liability than an asset if we're going to do a video properly."

"I think you're right." This from Pel! "We - or Jerry - would have to direct them, too, which could get kind of complicated."

"Okay Let's get this sorted, then. Ideally, we want to get it done this week, especially while we've got this fine weather. It should last till the end of the week, but... Thursday's probably best day, assuming everyone we need is available, as it sounds as if the hall's free during the morning. That should reduce the number of sight-seers nosing round and getting in the way. Much as I like the eeriness of night, I think daylight would probably be better. We'd need less in the way of lighting. Hmm... Thinking about it, even if we do start first thing, chances are we'll run on into dusk in any case. That could be a good thing. We'll get different lighting effects anyhow that way— Yes, and I'll try and get hold of some fireworks... "

"I thought you said we weren't doing an epic production, friend," Pel commented, somewhat sarcastically.

Edan responded with a wry smile. "Well, you know yourself, if we want to get anywhere, we've got to think big - at least, as big as we possibly can within the constraints upon us. Come to that, it's better to think bigger still. Wherever you pitch your target, you're almost certain to fall short, but the higher the target you aim for, the higher you're going to shoot— 'Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?' "


"Browning. I didn't think we'd be able to stretch to a reasonable video, but you've proved we can. You took the idea further than I did initially, so you can't really complain, can you?"

"I wasn't complaining!" Pel protested.

"No? My mistake - an understandable one, I believe?"

Pel threw up an arm in mock surrender. "Pax," he grinned.

The following evening, we finally ran Jerry Leventhal to earth in the gym at the Y.M.C.A., would you believe? He was none too keen at first, being in his final year. Still, money talks as they say. He drove a hard bargain, and we hoped Edan's seemingly limitless funds could stand it.

Jerry also objected to Thursday, on the grounds that it was rather short notice, but we held out on that one and eventually he capitulated. I think he was rather intrigued by the idea of making a "pop" video, which genre he hadn't touched on before. Pel and I resolved to keep that bit of information to ourselves.

As we explained what we had in mind, he became much more enthusiastic. He loved the idea of setting it in a ruined church, and as Pel reconstructed his earlier vision, I could see Jerry stepping into it. Together they embroidered the theme. Think big? Move over, James Cameron!

I suspect Jerry saw potential for his own advancement if we hit the big time. Well good luck to him, too. I appreciate people who want to get on in the world. Like to like, I suppose. We took Jerry back to the flat with us after he'd showered, and found Edan pacing the pavement outside.

He'd brought a couple of the finished publicity booklets with him - glossy, quarto-sized brochures full of pictures of us - 'Enchanter' - the four of us together, the four of us separately, by the Thames, on bridges, on river craft, swinging from lamp-posts, draped over cannons and castle walls— Jerry was impressed. He and Edan hit it off immediately and set to, making battle-plans for Thursday.

Edan's endeavours had met with equal success to our own. The church was ours for the day, and we also had use of a small back room at the hall for the duration. It was equipped with a sink and kettle as well as a power supply, so that was a bonus.

On the debit side, the main part of the hall was taken over by a mother-and-toddler group on Thursday afternoons. Worse still, in the evening it was the venue for the local youth club. I wondered if we ought to hire a couple of "heavies" to guard the fireworks and thunder-flashes.

"Just get Pel to glower at the little brats," was Edan's suggestion, and nearly got flattened for it. I was pleased to see that the attack was mounted in fun, not fury, and that relations between the two were improving.

The youth club was potentially a big problem, however. If the lights didn't attract them, then the sound sure would. We'd already decided to do without an invited audience because of the difficulties involved. Uncontrolled young hooligans roving round, trying to get in on the act, were in another league altogether.

I was still pondering the impending complications when Jerry offered a solution - for a price. The price shouldn't be too high he thought. With luck we'd get away with free drinks at the nearest pub afterwards.

I've already mentioned that we found Jerry in the gym. He goes weight-training there regularly, not that he's another Arnold Schwarzeneggar by any means. On the other hand some of the other regulars are. Most of them train out of a desire for peak physical fitness, some out of vanity so they can display the body beautiful, and one or two to maintain their imposing presence as "doormen".

Jerry thought he would be able to find enough volunteers to dissuade all but the most boisterous, and to "sort out" those few foolhardy ones remaining.

"Just so long as our minders don't want to keep waving at the camera and shouting 'Hello Mum!' as well," said Pel sceptically.

"Actually, that's not a bad idea," Edan commented, mentally agile as always. "Not to have them messing around, I mean, but we could use some of them in shot in the guise of minders. It gives an intimation of success. In fact, when I pick up our gear from Valentine, I'll see if I can't find some sort of uniform for them. It'll give them the appearance of our employees. We can at least look rich and famous!"

That settled, we had coffee, then went down to the garage - sorry, rehearsal room - for a short run-through to show Jerry what we'd be doing. It wasn't his sort of music, he said, but he could appreciate talent when he heard it, and was looking forward to contributing to our ultimate success. You can really warm to a guy like that.

Chapter 8

The weather managed to hold out until Thursday. It's a minor drawback that a clear blue sky is not really spooky, but it's a vast improvement on a heavy downpour, especially when you've a load of electrical equipment to set up.

Jerry brought a couple of friends with him, as he'd promised, to help on the technical side. Judging by their T-shirts - Sepultura, Kaiser Chiefs, Linkin Park - an interest in cinematography wasn't their only reason for being there. Ah, well, at least they'd know enough to keep out of the way.

We had arrived at half past eight and found the caretaker, Joe Dodds, waiting for us. He was very pleasant and helpful, not at all like the archetypal caretaker, and showed us where everything was. We shouldn't have any bother, he said, as nobody needed to come into our little room. He'd probably be somewhere around if we wanted anything anyway. We thanked him and got down to work.

We set up the first number on our programme, 'Magic in the Air'. The sun shone through the remains of the stained glass window above where the altar had been, giving a striking lighting effect.

The inventive mind had been at work again and its owner produced a couple of bags of glitter, the sort you find stuck on Christmas cards. He had Jerry's assistants, Paul and Gary, climb the masonry outside and throw handfuls of the stuff over the wall to float down in front of the window in the sunlight. The effect was almost magical as we launched into the number. Jerry was delighted, and so were we. It was a piece of cake.

By the time we got on to 'Hunter's Moon', the sun was high in the sky and shining down on us over the wall. Jerry had set up a gantry so he could film looking down on us. He started as the sun reached Pel at the back of the 'stage'. His golden hair blazed in the bright light as he began his drum lead-in. The elements were working well for us.

We had half the work done before two o'clock and it was looking really good. We stopped for lunch - yet another hamper - and watched the mothers-and-toddlers arriving. I don't think they even knew we were there, which was what we wanted, of course. Once they'd all arrived, there would be enough racket inside the main part of the hall for them not to hear us.

As the last ones disappeared inside, we returned to our own business - or tried to. We had rejoiced too soon, and now ran into a series of technical hitches that held us up for over an hour. Mr. Dodds, as Edan always called him, solved one problem for us. We'd lost power completely, and couldn't understand why. Mr. Dodds could.

It turned out that one mum, having arrived too late for her cup of tea from the playgroup's urn, had used her own initiative. Unfortunately it hadn't stretched to replacing our plugs once she'd finished. Our initiative hadn't gone beyond the confines of the church.

By the time we were ready to roll again, it was clouding over and the clouds didn't look too friendly. There was a breeze getting up, too. Edan and Jerry thought an approaching storm would be a wonderful backdrop for 'Walking on the Edge'. The Prof and I were more concerned about not getting electrocuted! Such fears concentrate the mind wonderfully and another song was in the can.

Mr. Dodds returned to open up the hall for the youth club as we were making ourselves a drink before starting our final number.

"You shouldn't have any trouble with the children from the youth club, sir," he told Edan, "they're good kids on the whole, and do as Mr. Peterson tells them. He's the Youth Leader, Mr. Peterson is, and he don't stand no nonsense, but we 'ave been 'aving a bit o' bother with them bigger kids 'anging around outside, waiting for some of the girls. Right load o' yobs if you arsk me. Anyway, I'd just keep me eye open for them if I was you."

"Coo-ee, Mr. Dodds," a girlish voice called softly from somewhere in the main hall area.

"I'm just through in the little kitchen, me duck," he called back.

"Oh. Can Mr. Peterson have - oh, sorry, I didn't realize you had someone with you." The teen-aged invader smiled at us, wide-eyed. She looked to be about thirteen going on twenty-four - adult in appearance, childlike in manner. Edan looked at her like a fox that's just clapped eyes on rabbit in a snare. I wasn't sure I cared for that look.

I soon found I was wrong about his motives when Mr. D. went off to see Mr. P., and left her alone with us for a few minutes. If I was impressed by her dainty appearance, she was knocked out by ours. Edan could have really wound her up if he'd wanted to. He laid it on a bit thick as it was, and I could see Pel was as nauseated as I was. Jerry looked on in amusement as Edan pitched into her.

"You know, my dear, you are the answer to my prayer. My colleagues and I are in the process of making a video for our forth-coming record release, and I desperately need a leading lady to sing to. I can see you're very busy here, but if you could find it in your heart to spare us a little of your time, we would be eternally grateful." He took her hand in his, raised it to his lips and kissed it. "Eternally."

Then she turned to us— "Is he for real?" she asked. We cracked up.

"Yeah, he's for real," I said, when I'd regained control of myself.

By then the idea had taken root, and we realized that Edan had struck gold again. The song needed a subject, and she was pretty, willing - after a little persuasion - and neither as shy nor as young as I had first thought.

Her name was Angela. She was sixteen and came more as a helper than youth club member because she wanted to go in for youth work when she left school. There wasn't much for her to do except look decorative and, well, enchanted I suppose, but she did it very well anyway.

We did a couple of run-throughs first, for her to get the feel of the song, which was considerate of Edan. The heavy mob arrived during the second run-through, and had donned their gold-coloured 'security' shirts and peaked caps, ready for the shoot. There were no problems after that, not technical ones anyhow...

We were packing away some of the things we'd finished with, while we waited for it to get dark, then we'd set off the fireworks. Dark? Heck, it was dark enough by that time anyway, with sullen storm clouds building and roiling overhead.

Angela was helping, and I mean helping, when the yobs we'd been warned about showed up. It was then I realized that we'd moved quite a way from our heavy 'roots', and I was glad. Is this a sign of age?

There were about a dozen of them, scruffily dressed with a scattering of studded leather gear among them and enough metal work in their body piercings to build a battleship.

One who took to himself the role of leader came over to me - why me? - with his henchmen gathering round. "What you doing wiv my girl?" he demanded.

I looked at him like he was something that'd just crawled out from underneath a stone - in a sewer.

"For the hundredth time, Eddy, I am not your girl, and I'm never likely to be."

"That's not what you said before," he growled.

"That was then. This is now," she said primly, "I must have been temporarily insane, but I'm all right now."

I stared at Angela, then at him, then at Angela again. If she'd ever encouraged that one, she must have been insane. More likely she hadn't said 'no' forcefully enough, like with a knee in the groin. By the look of him, though, he would probably have construed that as encouragement.

"Come on, darlin', I'll walk you 'ome," he said menacingly, grabbing her by the arm.

"Take your hands off her." The words came slow and hard. The diamond-edged tone would have cut through sheet steel. I'd never heard Lamfada use it before. It was not the sort of tone you ignored lightly.

Eddy turned round sharply to see who spoke but retained his grip on Angela's arm, while she struggled to get free. "You gonna make me?" he sneered.

"If need be, yes."

"You an' 'oo's army?"

"This army," said a quiet voice, which nevertheless carried very clearly. Funny how it's always the big men who have the softest voices.

Lamfada was now backed by our 'security men', facing Eddy and his mob, like some bizarre game of chess. It was a stand-off. Nobody moved. Then Angela stomped hard on Eddy's foot. It didn't do him any harm, but something else did.

A flailing arm flew over Angela and the blade of a hand scythed into the side of Eddy's neck. I was vaguely surprised not to see a decapitated head lying on the ground. I was exceedingly surprised to see that the hand belonged to the Prof.!

It broke the spell, however. Eddy's gang backed off as a couple of them collected the fallen remains of their leader. "We'll be back," one of them spat out savagely, "an' we're gonna get you!"

Then they were gone. I turned to the Prof. with a new respect. Angela was looking at him in open admiration.

"What are you?" I asked, "The Karate Kid in disguise?"

"I don't know what you want us lot for, with that thing on the loose," added our softly-spoken friend with a grin.

The Prof. looked at once bashful and gratified. It turned out that in his childhood he had been very keen on karate, had attained his second dan in fact. Then two things happened; after his old sensei had moved away, the new one didn't have the right karate spirit - and he'd picked up his first guitar. The Prof. stressed that he had no intention of making a habit of it - flattening thugs, that was. He only used his martial arts skills when the occasion warranted it.

"And preferably not then," cut in Lamfada, Mr. Responsible. "You shouldn't risk your hands— We need them!"

We decided to declare it dark enough for the fireworks, as we wanted to get finished shooting for the day before our friends returned, possibly with reinforcements. This we did.

The last aerial bloom merged into a brilliant blue flash of real lightning with a simultaneous crack of thunder. We were deaf for minutes afterwards. We stood there, stunned, as the sound died into silence.

The peace was only momentary. We were galvanized into action - got the last of the equipment under cover as the first big drops fell. Another crash of thunder acted like a signal. A horde of screaming savages broke from cover. Eddy and his gang had returned.

What happened next was a pitched battle that overflowed into the graveyard on the other side of the church. The wind had got up. It howled vengeance around the ruin - an eldritch backing vocal to the furious clamour of the attackers. I thought I heard the faint the tolling of a bell. Then the heavens opened.

I'd seen the Prof. duck back into the hall with Angela. Now I looked around for Pel and Lamfada. In the gathering gloom it was hopeless. The earth seemed to be heaving with all the bodies thrashing around in the mêlée. It was horrifying.

I thought I saw Pel. I shouted but my voice was whipped away by the wind. I ran from the sheltering ruin into the storm - grabbed a chunk of wood as I ran - probably a remnant from the roof.

Pel was going down fighting when I found him. Two thugs were laying into him. I slammed one of them across the head with my club. He dropped in mid-swing. It was very satisfying.

With one of his assailants out of the way, Pel took heart. He made a diving lunge at the other, catching him squarely in the belly. The punk doubled over with a groan. Pel dragged himself to his feet. He was all for wading back into the fray. And after all Lamfada had said!

I dragged him away and into the church. He was in a bad way. Once the light of battle had died out of his eyes, I could tell he was beginning to feel all the assorted injuries he'd acquired. I dumped him in the tower.

Most of the ceiling was intact there, giving some shelter from the rain. It showed no sign of abating. Thunder continued to rumble around the sky, but thankfully seemed to have moved away. I left him and went off to find our vocalist.

Lamfada was standing on his own bellowing an impressive stream of obscenities at the attackers. They were backing away, leaving three of their companions at his feet. I wished I'd seen that little confrontation, and was very glad he was on our side! He, too, was reluctant to leave the battle while the outcome remained unresolved. And after all he'd said...

Our lads seemed to be gaining the upper hand however, so he followed me back to the tower. Pel was sitting on the floor with his head in his hands. He looked up as we entered, and groaned, holding out a hand. Edan walked over to him.

As he was pulling him up, a bolt of lightning struck the tower - sounded like an bomb going off. The next three seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. Chunks of wood and stone fell through holes in the ceiling. I watched, frozen in horror, as an enormous bronze bell followed them through, hurtling down towards Lamfada.

As he pulled Pel to his feet, Pel continued moving. He bull-dozed Edan backwards away from the deadly missile and collapsed on top of him. Thus we remained for what seemed like hours but wasn't. Then I sat down abruptly. The realization of what had happened - and what hadn't - suddenly removed the power of support from my legs.

"I never knew you cared," came the gently satirical voice of the rescued one as Pel sobbed on his chest.

Pel choked and then we both started laughing hysterically, and I'm talking genuine hysteria here. Edan eased himself out from under his rescuer, aimed a vicious kick at the bell, which reverberated dully, and went outside.

When I could, I followed him. He was screaming curses at the sky - at least I think they were curses. I couldn't recognize the language. The fury in his face made him look almost inhuman...

Then the real world reasserted itself as two burly black shapes reached out of the darkness and grabbed hold of Edan by an arm each. He struggled violently until he recognized his captors.

The police had joined the conflict which was still raging. Someone took hold of my collar from behind. Not knowing who it was, I ducked and twisted, and found myself free, leaving my little blue weskit behind. I took off across the graveyard dodging groups of skirmishers. With relief, I slipped out of sight behind an ornate tomb.

It looked like a small mausoleum and was well away from the débâcle. There I surprised a young couple sheltering from the storm and ran on. Screams followed me, growing more hysterical by the second. It was obviously the night for it.

I learnt afterwards that with my white clothing, pale blond hair and a face drained of all colour by the incident with the bell, I'd been mistaken in the dim light for a ghost. This was no consolation for what happened next however.

A smart rugby tackle round my knees brought me flying to the ground. Winded, I felt cold metal snap round my wrists. A voice close to my ear was yelling, "You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so— "

You know the rest.

[ Chapters 1 - 5 ]

[ Chapters 6 - 8 ]

[ Chapters 9 - 12 ]

Part 3 updated 14 MAY 2009

Feedback welcome: e-mail Sue HERE

Crown Infernal